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What’s Not to Link? (Day Three)

To: Jonathan Ames From: Amanda Marcotte Subject: John Waters, Eco-Prigs, Pregger Fundamentalists, and Camille Paglia Dear Jonathan, I’ve been enjoying the more light-hearted tone of this exchange, so it saddened me to see that the first three of our assigned … Read More

By / March 15, 2007

To: Jonathan Ames From: Amanda Marcotte Subject: John Waters, Eco-Prigs, Pregger Fundamentalists, and Camille Paglia

Dear Jonathan,

I’ve been enjoying the more light-hearted tone of this exchange, so it saddened me to see that the first three of our assigned blogs had depressing content at the top of the page. Jewlicious’s top story was about two Palestinian kids who lost their mother when she killed herself and five others in a suicide bombing. The new content at The News Blog is all about Steve Gilliard’s continuing surgery issues. Gothamist has a terrible murder at the top. All of this is too fresh for a writer to really be irreverent about it.

And I really cherish irreverence. Last night, one of my major heroes of irreverence, John Waters, was on “The Daily Show” promoting his new show on Court TV about spouses who murder each other. I rarely turn on the TV to do anything but play video games when left to my own devices, but I may have to watch this show. The favored description for Waters’ output is that it’s “life-affirming”, and I whole-heartedly agree. It’s hard to see initially why a show that revels in spousal murder could be considered life-affirming, but as Waters said on “The Daily Show” last night, he really considers the show to be “pro-divorce”, which demonstrates why having a healthy sense of irreverence is an important feature of a truly life-affirming worldview.

You mentioned in your last letter that your only real political issue is the environment. Environmentalists (like feminists) have this rather unfair reputation of being overly reverent, sanctimonious types, and in my experience that’s simply not true. One would almost suspect that some conservatives in a think tank somewhere created this stereotype of environmentalists in an effort to get people to dislike them and therefore dislike their cause. There’s some truth to the idea that there’s some environmentalists who are prigs, but that’s probably true of any political movement you join. Even the movement to legalize drugs has its share of prigs, which is hard to believe if you consider that they are organized around the idea that everyone should chill out and get stoned legally once in awhile.

Environmentalists often have an irreverent streak, once you get to know them. It’s hard to avoid irreverence when the theory underpinning your work is that humans are, as you put it, a uniquely destructive animal, especially since environmentalists are trying to save the planet in part to save the lives of this uniquely destructive species. You get a sense of humor about that contradiction or you lose your mind and start wearing hemp in a self-punishing way, as the modern equivalent of the hairshirt.


The Revealer has no new posts up at the time I’m filing this letter. It’s too bad, because the blog is all about religion, so that means that 95% of their stories are about people doing illogical, ridiculous things. The other day, Kathryn Joyce of The Revealer emailed me and reminded me about this piece she wrote for The Nation about religious people doing ridiculous things. In this case, it’s about a bunch of white Protestants who have got it in their heads that God gets off on watching white men keep their wives permanently pregnant. They call themselves the Quiverfull movement, and yes, they spell it that way and it’s grating.

Which isn’t to say that most religious people are especially ridiculous. In fact, the definition of “mainstream” religion in my book is that the people who follow it understand the importance of keeping the ridiculous nature of religion under control.

Maud Newton hasn’t updated either, but she’s on route to Austin, so her ability to rip herself from her blog for a day is understandable. In her sidebar, I did catch a link to this column, a satire by John Warner of Camille Paglia’s writing that’s almost too accurate to be funny. That’s almost—it’s actually pretty damn funny, especially since the premise is that Paglia is coming out of retirement for the 5,000th time in order to comment on the cultural and political importance of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, after almost losing her will to live after Anna Nicole Smith died. If you’ve managed to avoid Paglia’s writing so far, this column won’t make a good deal of sense to you, but if you’ve ever suffered even a paragraph of it in the past, this column will offer a humorous solace.

Sincerely,

Amanda

P.S. I do hope you enjoy your stay in Austin. Bring bug spray and a bottle of allergy pills. We try to pretend that we aren’t living in an area that’s one step up from a bog, but with global warming making steady inroads, that lie is getting harder to tell ourselves.

 

To: Amanda Marcotte From: Jonathan Ames Subject: Sad News, Showtime, Greenpeace, and My All-Around Nutty Friends

Dear Amanda,

In response to your first paragraph, I went to the Jewlicious story, and then I scrolled through The News Blog, and then went to Gothamist, and I feel sick. This is why I don’t read blogs. It’s like the treatment for the guy (Malcolm McDowell) in Clockwork Orange.

So I can’t make any intelligent commentary about children who have lost their mother and yet who are guided to think that she is in heaven for killing Jews. It’s tragic from every angle.

I skimmed/scanned The News Blog and read something about some conservative think tank/meeting, and there was part of a quote from Newt Gingrich somewhat blaming the residents of the 9th ward in New Orleans for not being smart enough to flee, and the whole thing seemed like a real absurd and gross gathering (Ann Coulter was there, I take it). My general stance in life is: “I’m wrong and you’re wrong.” But conservatives do seem to be more wrong.

And about the triple-murder at Gothamist – last night I was walking through Manhattan after being in something called “The Rejection Show,” and there were all these ambulances and police cars and circling helicopters by St. Vincent’s Hospital (Seventh Avenue and Greenwich Street), this was around 9:50 p.m., and I asked someone what was going on and they said that some cops had been shot. And it was March 14th and mild and balmy and everyone was happy with the weather, except we should have nights like this in May, not March. And there does seem to be more violence in NYC lately. Don’t know what to attribute it to. And the two cops who were killed were unarmed auxiliary policemen…

On a lighter note… about the Rejection Show: it’s put together by this guy Jon Friedman, who must be Jewish and so it’s good to mention him here on Jewcy, and he features acts who in some way address a rejection in their life, often a rejection in the entertainment field, though it can just be a general rejection. I showed a clip from my rejected TV pilot, “What’s Not to Love?”

In the clip, I box a naked guy in a hotel room (pre-Borat). I made this pilot in late 2004 for Showtime, but it wasn’t picked up for a series. But the people in the audience really enjoyed the clip, and I recently had a screening of the pilot at this nightclub in New York, Mo Pitkin’s, and that audience really liked it as well. Granted, it’s something of a hometown crowd playing it for these NY audiences, but it’s fun that it gets a good reaction.

Instead of my show becoming a series, Showtime went for a series based on the movie Barbershop, but I think it only lasted one season. If I knew how YouTube worked, I guess I could put my pilot up on YouTube, and then people could watch it. But what’s the point of that? Then again what’s the point of anything I do? Not much point. Oh, wait, my usual rationale – I’m a clown and the world has always needed clowns.

About the environment: you said that environmentalists are often stereotyped, most likely by conservatives, as ‘sanctimonious prigs’; well, if anyone could be/should be sanctimonious it’s an environmentalist – wanting to drink clean water and breathe clean air and not cause the extinction of millions of species is definitely something you can get on your high horse about. That said, it is just conservative propaganda to label environmentalists in a negative way, just as they falsely put forth that environmental actions are bad for economies, when usually it’s just the opposite – new environmental technologies will create more jobs, sustainable environmental practices (like green approaches to logging) will insure jobs down the road.

A few years ago, I spent two weeks on a Greenpeace boat in Alaska. They were up there because Bush was repealing the roadless rule and America’s beautiful rainforest, the Tsongas, was and is in danger, along with all the salmon, whales, eagles, bears, and everything else that is up there that needs the rainforest, including the human beings who survive off of fishing and hunting. It was the usual mess.

I was on the boat, covering this trip for Harper’s, and I loved being with the Greenpeacers. To me, they are true 21st century bohemians – people living on the edge; people living out their ideals. I was very inspired. But then I couldn’t write the article. It was so meaningful to me that I had my first case of writer’s block. It really broke my heart that I failed. Anyway, check out www.greenpeace.org. I wish someone from Greenpeace would come clean up my apartment. I wish my mother would come clean up apartment. It’s really toxic in here, but I’m becoming a more and more insane bachelor as I get older.

About bohemians: in this modern world, modern economy, it’s hard for people to just live for art and survive, especially in New York. I would like to acknowledge three of my friends in New York, who despite the insane rents, still manage to live here and make wild and beautiful things: Dean Haspiel, Patrick Bucklew, and Reverend Jen.

Dean is an illustrator, cartoonist, and all-around nut, and we’re collaborating on a graphic novel for DC Comics, The Alcoholic, which will come out in 2008. I wrote the thing and Dean is doing the artwork and bringing my words to life. I finished writing it in January and Dean has started in on the artwork.

Patrick is a painter, sculptor, performance artist and all-around nut. We’ve collaborated on a lot of things together. If you go to his website, there might be some disturbing images, but also a lot of beautiful paintings.

Reverend Jen is a writer, performer, performance artist and all-around nut. She has a troll museum in her apartment.

Anyway. I’ve been reading this book, Perfume, the last few days and I’m loving it. I’m at this point in the novel where the protagonist is living in a cave in a mountain for seven years. I’d like to do that. Just hide and sleep forever and yet not die.

You mentioned Camille Paglia, because of a link to a satire on her, and no I haven’t read Camille Paglia, or Ann Coulter for that matter, but I have watched UFC fights and they’re quite brutal and thrilling and horrible. I probably shouldn’t enjoy them, and if I saw the exact nature of the brain-injuries that these guys suffer, I probably wouldn’t enjoy the fights, in the same way that it’s hard to enjoy meat once you’ve seen an animal slaughtered.

Well, this hasn’t been the cheeriest of entries. Oh, yesterday you described what RSS is and my head began to spin, like the girl The Exorcist. That’s sort of a religious note and for more religious notes one can go to The Revealer (I think we’re supposed to mention each blog.)

So do come to this Spaulding Gray play in Austin and we can meet in person, if you like.

All the best and none of the worst,

Jonathan Ames

Previous Movable Snipes:

John Derbyshire and Daphne Merkin [James Wolcott, Reason's Hit & Run, Design Observer, Kesher Talk, Matt Yglesias]

Michael Helke and Fiona Maazel [, , , , ]

Spencer Ackerman and Melissa Lafsky [Captain’s Quarters, Feministing, TNR's The Spine, Jossip, Wonkette]

 

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