Zina was our cleaning lady throughout my childhood and teenage years. She was from a Portugal and had a family to which my mother gave hand-me-downs and other extra and leftover things. She was kind and caring, and I am sure that I was a jerk to her.
I came home one day to find my bed changed and nicely made, as Zina always did, and then suddenly realized that I had left a Playboy magazine under the pillow. I figured that Zina would have thrown it out and probably told my mother, and removed the pillow to find it still there, neatly replaced.
And of course Zina never said anything to me about it.
Zina was also the only person I remember crying at my father’s funeral. She wrapped her arms around me and sobbed. Nobody else did that. We were a stoic family and didn’t do such things.
She wanted to leave the party for the tour of the Mali pavilion so that we could steal their catalogs. I was terrified because I had just seen a documentary about how they kept criminals confined with their heads strapped together. But she was insistent, leaning forward, tightening her pants.Traffic was bad, both getting there and then with all of the magazines falling over from their stacks, and there was a roadblock at the bottom of the hill.I cursed her for getting me into this, and I almost turned off into the bushes. She laughed at me. “They don’t care about us.” And she was right.
The crowd was larger, people up both walkways, chants and holograms everywhere. A bright orange drone floated above, slowly coming down.
“Hello, how are you doing?” It was the man from the Hive, now dressed and atop a glider, floating behind the drone.
“Want me to smash that thing?”
“We’re making a film,” he replied.
“Name’s Norich.” He raised his eyebrows at her as he glided down. “How would you feel about me filming you now?”
“For your personal pleasure?”
“Sort of Cinema Verite.” The camera-drone, an orange sloped contraption, floated down over his shoulder. “I’m examining the nature of The Hive for the Ark News. The impetus of that, right? I’m thinking individually, right? Why do we do the things we do?” He looked half drunk, the way he glanced back and forth between them. “Like, what is to experience it?”
Dee shrugged. “Go ahead and try it.”
He landed, leaning forward, wincing at the effort to think of an answer that could not be deflected. “Wisdom, knowledge, that is very human.”
Dee studied his long face, almost earnest, knowing he wanted to listen, his hands open in front of him, waiting for something. “Sex, that’s what I think you’re after, sex and more of it.” Norich nodded back at her. “You know how people say that men want to have sex with young women to avoid their fear of death? That gorgeous taut flesh, so primal and real, the dream of the boy through the old man, it’s got nothing to do with dying, my friend. It’s just being alive, that sexual drive, mindless and direct. But to avoid death? No, it’s not that. Everything is to avoid death. Eating, drinking, going to the bathroom—”
“What about good driving habits then?” Dee added.
“That’s sure as hell part of it, awareness of what you are – your limitations, that you have a perspective, that you’re aware that we tend to think that we know something—”
“Us people. That we know something that no one else can exactly understand. Even with as much as anyone might know, in their mind for a certainty, whatever is gathered through books and media, experience, relationships, there’s only that, only that perspective.”
“Humility then,” Dee ventured.
“Yes, that’s part of it.”
“I think what you really mean is sex,” Dee concluded. “And the answer is no.”
“It’s more our limitations.” Norich tried to pat her on the shoulder. “It’s all about being aware of that.”
“So we’re in agreement then.” Dee went past him into The Hive.
Alexander Weinstein’s moral is as clear as white light in his collection of short stories, Children of the New World, that technology is no replacement for the real world. The stories suffer from what Weinstein terms in Cartographers as “nothing but white light”, broad strokes, many of those poorly thought, and no effective detail.
Sentences such as “Can’t beat a cold beer,” I said, taking a swig (13), ‘(I) traveled endless hours, numbed by bad sleep and bland airplane food (67), surrounded by pressurized air and bland airplane food (80), ‘I stopped talking, hating the clunkiness of words (190) are the clunky norm. Worse is his adolescent portrayal of sex, the male character – let’s call him Misogy – obsessed with sleeping with porn stars (38), being fucked so good (112) and fully exposing the vulva (136), leaving the reader to wonder if technology might actually be better than having to read this.
Davis stood in the back corner of the convenience store, nervously eyeing the owner. She was old, an Asian woman, who probably didn’t care. Or maybe she did. Maybe she would lecture him and call his step-mother.
Heart pounding, he snapped the Penthouse from the rack and approached. The woman took the magazine, slid it into a paper bag and waited to be paid. He walked outside, pausing at the corner of the parking lot to slide the magazine into his pant leg.
“Hey.” His step-brother, Flynn, appeared behind him. “Can I see that after you’re done?”
Davis redid his shoelace. “Huh?”
Davis couldn’t understand how he had appeared, where he had come from. “Yeah, okay.”
It was a good issue, four pictorials, lipstick lesbians, the centerfold Pet leaning back with a cigarette in her hand. He took the magazine to Flynn and went back to his room, laying uneasily on his bed. He never spoke with Flynn. They had nothing to say to each other. And now this. Was this some kind of turning point? Would they talk about the naked women? Which was best? What they liked? What they did as they looked at them? What were they supposed to say? There was a knock. Davis sat up abruptly, crossing the room and opening the door to find the magazine, face down on the beige carpet, Flynn’s door closing down the hall.
In the continuing quest for inspiration in writing my science fiction book Aqaara, I was recommended the graphic novel series Saga by Brian Vaughn and Fiona Staples.I was most interested in its apparently profound treatment of sexual themes and imagery, and yet was disappointed to realize that it is neither thought-provoking nor titillating. The work is nothing more than a morass of simplistic morality propped upon a landscape of superficial sexuality in which – surprise! – a transgender character recently appears. The story-line is vapid, the dialogue interminable to say nothing of the farcical content. But worse of all are the references to the authors’ own process themselves, their love of books and killing off their babies. Which they never did and really should have.
What one must aim for in the struggle to control the desires was the condition of “ethical virility” according to the model of “social virility”. In the use of male pleasures, one had to be virile with regard to oneself, just as one was masculine in one’s social role. In the full meaning of the world, moderation was a man’s virtue.To be immoderate was to be in a state of nonresistance with regard to the force of pleasures, and in a position of weakness and submission. In this sense, the man of pleasures and desires, the man of non-mastery (akrasia) or self-indulgence (akolasia) was a man who could be called feminine.*
Anne Imhof’s “Faust”, German’s 2017 entry at the Venice Bienalle, offers little on the surface, except the surface. It’s more about the people watching than the performers – all the legs passing by.And the arms and hands. And then it is high above on a glass platform.