L’Enfer, C’est Les Autres


by James Killough

Well, it appears that I’m stupid.  Or at least not nearly as intelligent as I think I am.

That’s no surprise.  My father once asked me, after telling me my whole life what a genius I was, “Has it ever occurred to you that you’re not as smart as you think you are?”  This might have had something to do with dropping out of college for the second time.  I don’t remember.  I just tucked the statement away in my trophy cabinet of family resentments—it falls to me to keep them shiny and updated—and only vaguely recollect the circumstance, just how his face was red and his jowls were shaking.

We must, of course, lead with a picture of Mama G. shashaying in her favorite nougat muu muu. I never got to comment about how she kept a scrapbook of clippings dedicated to her obsession, Condoleezza Rice. Had the revolution never happened, Rice was going to be her Halloween outfit.

I joined Facebook very late in the game and still remain extremely ambivalent about it.  No, I’m not ambivalent.  I think it’s… Not my thing, to avoid other invectives.  I find it really creepy, for instance, that it seems to know that I have some connection to someone I do have a connection with, but Facebook couldn’t possibly know given my current friends list because there are no mutual friend connections to that other someone.  Facebook just knows.

Viveca Lindfors and Rita Gam in Ted Danielwski's adaptation of Sartre's "No Exit," which might have been partly directed by Orson Welles, from whence comes the famous line "L'enfer, c'est les autres." Hell is other people.

Perhaps it can reach into some email memory bank on my laptop and see that I emailed that person at some point.  I have no idea how Zuckerberg’s mind works, what algorithms he has invented to send spiders crawling around my life to find out who I know.  Since he played Jesse Eisenberg in that movie, my natural paranoia about him has increased exponentially to the number of Oscar nominations it received.  Maybe he is sending his spiders into my mind at night.

For instance, I know I have no even secondary FB friend connections with my tattoo artist Xed Le Head.  Yet Zuckerberg knows.  So I was obliged to send Xed a friend request, which he has yet to approve, even though I’m sure I’ve paid him for all the work he’s done so far.

Maestro Xed Le Head. He's really far more fearsome than he looks.

You must know by now that, according to a new study, which couldn’t possibly have been supported by Zuckerberg or his minions because it was done in London, the more friends you have on Facebook the smarter you are, which makes a modern misanthrope like me a dummy; not only was I late in joining, I only have slightly over one hundred and twenty friends with my two accounts combined (I have a PFC page, which I rarely visit, and a personal page, which I check mornings and evenings).

So far, I use Facebook to post updates to this blog.  I rarely post links to anything else, although I do comment on my friends’ links.  I’m weird about doing the posting links thing, for some reason.  I would rather do that here, or on Reddit.com, which I find far more of the kind of democratic online mud wrestling match that I came to enjoy from my former days idling away in chat rooms, provoking bitter old queens to put me on block/ignore and trying to dazzle the handsome.

My back, by Xed Le Head (work in progress). It says "love" in Arabic, my answer to 9/11.

All statements about being a modern misanthrope aside, I know that I like every one of my friends on Facebook in varying degrees, and that I do know them personally.  I take a perverse pride in that.  Perverse because the whole social media accumulation of friends thing is utterly meaningless for someone who is pretty much done with tweenaged social anxieties.

One person who is not my friend in real life or on Facebook is my evil twin Andrew Sullivan, who wrote a post yesterday on his Daily Dish blog about writing in general, which I took as a personal affront; God knows, I’ve smacked him around enough, it’s about time he returned the favor:

There’s a difference between making everything about you and infusing yourself into everything you write. The former is lazy, narcissistic and all too common. The latter is how you develop and define the unique voice that endears you to an audience and makes your words instantly recognizable in a sea of sameness. It’s difficult to strike a balance between TMI and being a cipher, but being compelling involves putting some of yourself (even if it’s only obliquely so) on the page.  You need to figure out how to make that work in your genre through a trial and error process.

First of all, my genre is the pre-memoir social humorous opinion blog thingy, so if I don’t write about myself I’m, well, not doing what I set out for.  I do inject myself into my fiction writing quite a bit, but that’s because you’re supposed to write what you know, and when I don’t write what I know, then it had better be sci fi or fantasy because otherwise it’s bound to be crap.

The biggest difference between me and Sullivan is I'm just too middle class to post something like this online, or even have it taken in the first place.

I love Sullivan’s use of the word “cipher.”  It reads like copy for an ad of a perfume he’s about to launch.  “Being compelling involves putting some of yourself (even if it’s only obliquely so) on the page.”  Yeah.  He’s even using ‘oblique’; rhymes with Lalique.  It’s definitely a men’s cologne, at the very least.  For that compelling, cipherous marketing allure to his target customer, I suggest he call it Trou de Cul, French for “the hole of the ass,” which would be putting something of himself in there in an obliquely chic way seeing as his own hole is such a major preoccupation.  (For a perfect example of why I crap on about Sullivan being a hypocritical bottom bitch, here is his profile from the cruising site Bareback City.)

My former partner Dr. Jonathan Kemp—whose new book, Twentysix, is getting rave reviews—said about my blog in a private Facebook message, “I could never write about my life like that.”  As far as I’m concerned, if I can talk about my life like that to a stranger at the gym ad nauseam, then I can write about it online.  And never obliquely.

For those who have been following the blog since the very beginning, I called it early about Mama Gaddafi, so named because the only way I could talk about such egregious evil was turn him into a disgruntled black drag queen who had been rejected from RuPaul’s Drag Race for the fourth season and was wreaking vendetta on her people as a result.  Alternatively, she was a radical black 60s feminist playwright most noted for her masterpiece, For Bedouin Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Sand Dunes Are Too Ruff.

Mama G., we shall miss your insanity. Thank you for being the ultimate accidental punching bag. I'll have to make do with Sullivan from now on.

I had hoped that Mama would end her days strung up upside down in public like a drying salami, the fate of another former dictator of Libya, Benito Mussolini.  We seem to live in more genteel times now than they were at the end of World War II.

Although Saddam Hussain had to go, although Afghanistan has always been a problem and will continue to be until we drag the Taliban’s sociopathic medieval asses into modern times, the action in Libya was not only just and right, it was above all done properly, with measured persistence, international cooperation so that we didn’t look like the evil empire sending in our stormtroopers again, and a minimum of ground involvement and casualties on our side.

Benito, mistress and friends waving goodbye.

This is an outstanding testament to our current, much beleaguered leadership.  Much as we would like to blame the black guy for all the government’s perceived inaction, for all of his compromises with unreasonable people in Washington—just how do you negotiate with the insane, anyway?—for all of our current woes that are clearly going to get worse before they get better, Obama is the best we can hope for right now and we shouldn’t waver from continuing to support him.  We cannot rock our sinking boat any further.  Just grab a bucket and keep bailing, and stop grumbling about the captain.

Hopefully, Obama will now own the OWS movement.  I believe that when it reaches a certain critical mass, he will step in for a more meaningful role, just as the Republicans were forced to acknowledge the Mad Tea Partiers.  It was politically expeditious of him to compare OWS to the Tea Party, but in fact OWS is a movement the conservatives should embrace as well.  It has also affected and inspired disaffected people worldwide, which the Tea Party certainly hasn’t done.  All it did was draw more justified derision and incredulity from other countries, which cannot believe that the world’s most powerful nation actually allows this kind of rhetoric to influence its political process.

And let's not forget the operation's project manager. Well done, Hills.

Between OWS and Libya, finally, for the first time in my life, I am starting to feel proud to be American.  I honestly never thought I would write those words, much less think them or believe them.  It’s certainly been handy being an American citizen, but there was little to actually be proud of in my view, having lived most of my life outside the country and not just seeing but experiencing our shenanigans firsthand.  Once, during the Reagan era, when I was so fed up I threatened to renounce my American citizenship and just keep my Australian, my mother launched into a diatribe on the phone that began, “Don’t you dare.  Don’t you even think about doing that, you hear?”

I’m glad I stuck it out.

When I heard about Mama G.’s death, I instantly thought about Jowdat Rifat, my friend from high school, who may or may not have been assassinated in London at the age of nineteen by Gaddafi’s hitmen for refusing to return to Libya.  Jowdat, brother, rest in peace now.  And Mama G., although you should have died ten thousand deaths for the wrongs you have done, my only regret is there isn’t really a hell for you to rot in.  Slowly.

Comments: 3

  • oldancestor October 25, 20119:50 pm

    Your father talked to you? Lucky stiff!

    Two things.

    1. I am not on facebook, which means I must lack a cerebral cortex entirely. I’ve got the brain of a reptile. What was I just saying? Never mind. I’m hungry.

    2. If there’s one thing I can’t stand (there are actually a lot of things I equally can’t stand), it’s when someone who gets paid to write lecures the reader on the difference between good and bad writing. I glanced at a book in Barnes and Noble called something like ‘Why you aren’t published,” written by someone I never heard of in the publishing biz (I’ll take her word for it that she’s The Shit). The one-page chapters bore titles like “Your characters are one-dimensional” and “Your plot has been used a million times.” She went on to explain how she sees professional work all the time and the difference between paid writers and the idiots who are reading her book boils down to the readers being bad writers.

    Are you kidding? Has this woman seen the drek that gets published (other than her own book)? Don’t get me started.

    Ah, to hell with it.

    That’s the best thing anyone ever said. “Ah, to hell with it.” The quote belongs to some old grumpy guy who lived in a previous apartment building. The glass door to the lobby was smashed and stayed that way for months. One night I was puching the code and the old guy came up. I said, “Heh. Are they ever gonna fix this broken glass? I feel like an idiot punching in the security code.”

    The lock buzzed and he pulled the door open. “Ah, to hell with it.”

    That’s the only way to live.

  • Pure Film Creative October 25, 201110:09 pm

    I prefer “Yeah, well.” If there were an emoticon for a shrug, it’s the only emoticon I would ever use. Could it be this?: nOn. That’s a very round head like Tintin’s in between two raised shoulders.

    If Andrew Sullivan weren’t so much smaller than me (yet better hung) and not HIV poz, I would take a swing at him. But hitting a Poz person is like hitting a guy with glasses used to be, AND Sullivan wears glasses. He’s British, too, and they have a ways of disarming you before kicking you in the nuts and charging you double for them.

    This is one of my favorite of the solitary comments you have left on one of my long-winded diatribes. I need to start reviewing films again.

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