JVL Elsewhere
December 2nd, 2014

I did a long interview with Gayle Trotter, which is published over at Townhall. It’s nominally about The Seven Deadly Virtues, but focuses more on the writing life, book publishing, and the world of journalism.

Obligatory Star Wars Post
December 2nd, 2014

So the teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out. You’ve probably already watched it six or twenty times. A few thoughts:

First, if you haven’t seen the “George Lucas Special Edition” version of the trailer, go right now. It’s a work of genius.

Second, our buddies at Red Letter Media have a little analysis of it which is also worth your valuable time:


Moving on:

* It’s probably just me, but nothing in the new teaser did anything for me. Nothing in it is visually interesting. There’s no hint of story. Honestly, the most compelling shot is the terrified face of the Black Stormtrooper at the opening, which provides the only visceral sense of excitement or expectation. (More on this in a minute.)

* Say what you will about the Lucas prequels, but the teaser trailer for Phantom Menace was bad ass. No really. Strip away the disgust you now have for Jake Lloyd and Jar-Jar and revisit that trailer with fresh eyes and it’s infinitely more exciting and promising:

* You want to know how great that trailer was? It was first released as a teaser running in front of the awful Meet Joe Black. The Phantom Menace was such a big deal that at D.C.’s flagship Uptown Theater, they were advertising the trailer on the marquee with the feature presentation.

And I went with an unnamed companion, whose name rhymes with Mictorino Vatus, and paid good money to see Meet Joe Black, just so we could see the trailer. And we were blown away.

But here’s the real measure: The theater manager told the audience that he was going to run The Phantom Menace trailer again after the movie finished. So we sat through the entire, interminable movie just to see it again. And we were thrilled.

* For me, The Force Awakens trailer inspired about the same level of interest as any generic sci-fi teaser in recent years. It might as well have been the trailer for John Carter of Mars.

* This isn’t a value judgment, mind you. We care about the quality of the movie, not the trailer. There’s a rich history of trailers which over-promise terrible movies (Pearl Harbor had one of the greatest trailers, ever) and which under-promise amazing movies (The Dark Knight trailer barely hinted at the movie’s greatness). So none of what I’ve said is meant as a complaint.

Rather, it’s meant to explain just how much damage the Lucas prequels may have done to the popular imagination. When The Phantom Menace came out, you could legitimately argue that it was the biggest event in the history of cinema. I have never seen that level of cultural obsession about a movie. I can’t even think of anything that comes close. But the prequels were so terrible that they demolished a very large part of Star Wars’ cultural legacy–to the point where people have retconned their own Phantom Menace obsessions out of existence.

The question the new trailer raises for me is whether or not it’s possible to rebuild the cultural legacy of Star Wars,  even if the J. J. Abrams movies are very good. I’m not sure.

* Finally: The black Stormtrooper. As I said, for me, he’s the only interesting part of the trailer because he’s got such a great face. If the original Law & Order was still in production, John Boyega would have been given a special guest part because they had a knack for casting actors with wonderfully interesting faces.

Now, as Santino has noted, the internet quickly cracked back against all the racist complaints about the existence of a black Stormtrooper. Except that there were no racist complaints about the existence of a black Stormtrooper. What’s missing in all of the pieces responding to the “criticism” of Boyega’s casting as a black Stormtrooper are any real examples of criticism of Boyega’s casting as a black Stormtrooper. Buzzfeed, to their credit, found three tweets from random people who thought a black Stormtrooper didn’t make sense. Good for them! It’s further proof that on the internet, you can find anything. This does not amount to a single bean, let a lone a hill of them.

I think this might be a seminal moment. Over the last couple years, progressive internet mobs have gotten very good at manufacturing outrage to real, or perceived, grievances–Chic fil A, Brendan Eich, Justine Sacco, etc. But with The Force Awakens trailer they’ve learned that they can deploy the internet outrage machine even in the absence of any grievances. And it works just as well. In a way, it works even better–because there’s no one out there pushing back.

It reminds me, in a way, of how the radical left used to argue that the United States military was always inventing imaginary enemies in order to keep the public scared and their Pentagon funding intact.

* Exit Statement: I suppose the counterpoint to my argument about the destruction of Star Wars’ cultural legacy is that I could never be bothered to see John Carter of Mars, but I’ll almost certainly plunk down my $22 to see The Force Awakens, even if I have no real interest in it. In that sense, you could argue, the cultural draw of Star Wars is still immensely powerful.

Ferguson Reminder
November 25th, 2014

Riots are bad. People should not riot. But bad cops are worse, because they break the law while acting in the name of the state.

Darren Wilson may very well have been justified in his shooting of Michael Brown. And he may also be a bad cop.

Palette Cleanser
November 25th, 2014

Now that you’ve finished reading about mare-friends, here’s a long, amazing interview with William Goldman who is, to my mind, the great screenwriter of his generation.

It is awesome.

About Rick Santorum
November 24th, 2014

Update: My mistake–this piece is from New York Magazine, not the NYT Magazine. I must have had blinders on. Post edited below.

Remember when Rick Santorum was the Worst Person in the World because he made the argument that the right to privacy created by Griswold opened up a Pandora’s box from which all sorts of things would eventually emerge–and that while we’re talking about homosexuality today, eventually we’ll be talking about “man-on-dog”?

That was back in 2003. And obviously Santorum was a kook and a bigot because it took forever for us to have other stuff start popping up–like eleven whole years!–and when it did it wasn’t “man-on-dog.” Because that’s just crazy talk.

It’s man-on-horse.

From New York Magazine–and just for clarity’s sake, let me emphasize–New York Magazine–“What it’s like to date a horse”:

. . . later I’d go to pre-internet online dial-up forums and that’s where I came across bestiality porn. And I didn’t realize it was abnormal at that time, but the comments attached to those pictures were all going on about how disgusting it was. I was 13. So that would be when I was first aware that I was different. I grew up in the city, so I didn’t have much access. I always was on the lookout for horses when I was traveling. I saw farms that I’d have loved to go explore, but they were never near my home. Sometimes I wonder if I just lacked the courage.

Did you date at all?
I did ask a girl to the prom. Now that I look back, I feel so sorry for her. We sat at the table and didn’t dance. I don’t even think we hugged. As much as I later experimented with people, I was always sure I wanted horses. It was never a case of “I’m just giving this a try to see if I would prefer humans.”

When was your first kiss?
My first kiss was from a man named Mark. He was aware of my sexual preference and interested himself in dogs after a fashion. That was about two months after I lost my virginity, so I was about 22. In all honesty, I’ve never liked kissing men; rough beards do not turn me on.

So you had your first kiss after you lost your virginity? Did you lose your virginity to a horse or a human?
A horse.

There must have been a lot of buildup.
Yes, the pressure builds and builds and builds. And losing your virginity is important to becoming a “real” zoophile because you’re joining a very select group of people, and if you haven’t actually “done it,” people wonder if that’s your real sexuality. So there’s some hazing that goes on. I’d wanted to have the sexual experience as well as the street credit among my peers — the zoophiles I’d met online — because they were my closest friends, really.

How did you find a sex partner?
One of my friends had access to a nice female pony, and he let me have sex with her. She was a Shetland-cross, and she had dorsal stripes — the black line across the spine — and that’s something that’s turned me on ever since.

What’s that, you say? You want more? Why of course. But back to New York:

What was it like?
My friend was there at the time, and he was holding her head. He didn’t have to do that — it’s not like we were doing things that she wasn’t enjoying — but he was there to protect me. He had his back to me, and he was holding the lead rope to make sure that she was okay and also to prove that I’d actually done it. The sexual experience itself was incredible. To this day it was the best sex I’ve ever had. But in some ways I regret that first time.

Because I didn’t get to know her first, and I’ve since come to understand that enthusiastic participation makes the experience better. So I kind of wish it had been different. I think a lot of people build up that first experience and whether they are straight or a zoophile.

So, how do you have sex with a mare? Do you always develop an intimate relationship with her first? Is there foreplay?
I’ll tell you about the first time I had sex with my current mare friend. It’s sort of a comedy of errors. So I’d had her for about a year. I had her in the barn. I’d given her food. I’d brushed her, cleaned her under her tail, and cleaned her face. I’d scooped snot out of her nose — we know each other very intimately. We were in a barn with all the lights out and a nice warm heater; it was lovely. So, she was settling in for the night, and I went to the stall and I just sat in the corner. I let her come to me, and that’s one of the things I am very adamant about: I never use a halter or any kind of restraint.

So, she chooses to come with me, and I leave her food and she puts her head on my chest and we snuggle and I whisper sweet nothings in her ear and rub her cheeks — what she likes. By this stage, she knows I’ll rub her thighs. She really loves the area between the back of her legs touched. So, she turned around and she actually backed into me while I’m sitting down. I slip my hands up a little further up and play with her genitals.

Let’s keep going. It’s worth the payoff. I promise:

I take it you disagree with the idea that it’s abusive to have sex with animals?
Each time I have a conversation about this I see other people’s darkness projected onto what I do. Yes, anyone could tie up a horse to make sure it couldn’t hurt you and then do whatever they want to it. And, of course, that does happen. But I’ve met maybe 150 to 200 zoophiles, and I’ve never seen that. There are some people whom I would never want to associate with because they are not good people, but there are bad people in life in general.

Sex with animals is just so poorly studied. We are a varied community: city folk, country folk. The popular image of that person on the farm who goes and abuses animals because there’s no other outlet, that’s not the case. That’s just not always what happens.

So far, so good. Except that the zoophile in question then commits a little bit of a thought crime by insisting that sexual preferences aren’t hard-wired, but are changeable:

You associated the trauma of your first love dying with your homosexual experience?
It was raw trauma. When I heard the news I was in upstate New York with some friends. I remember everyone was trying to console me, and I left the house and went out to the pasture and just screamed. I was bawling. He didn’t know he was infected. We didn’t know until after he died. But yes, that was definitely traumatic. He was the first person I ever loved. That’s how I know sexuality can change, because mine changed. My gender preference changed.

Before we go on, let’s pause and go to the New York Times on January 9, 2012. Here’s Andrew Rosenthal:

At a forum for college students in Concord on Monday, a student asked Mr. Santorum why he opposed same-sex marriage rights. Mr. Santorum replied testily, “So anyone can marry anyone else.” Yes, that’s exactly the point.

Mr. Santorum should have stopped there, but he did not. “So anyone can marry several people?” he said, adding later, “Well, what about three men? If reason says that if you think it’s OK for two, then you have to differentiate with me as to why it’s not OK for three.”

Is there anyone on the national stage talking about legalizing polygamy? That wasn’t a reality-based comment so much as a not-so-subtle dig at Mitt Romney. He’s a Mormon. Many wives. “Big Love.” Get it?

Again, Mr. Santorum could have stopped. But, no. “I believe we are made the way God made man and woman, and man and woman come together to have a union to produce children, which keeps civilization going, and provide the best environment for children to be raised.”

He added: “I think that is something society should value and should give privileged status over a group of people who want to have a relationship together.”

At least he didn’t compare same-sex partnerships to “man on child” and “man on dog” sex, as he did back in 2003.

Get it? So Santorum is just crazy to have posited that we might be headed to not just bestiality, but polygamy, too. Okay, back to New York:

Are you monogamous with mares?

Yes, currently. I have two mares, and one is my mare friend and the other one is just a mare. I’ve never done anything sexual with her.

Does your mare friend have a name?
I usually call her Sexy Knickers, but her name is Ms. C.

How long have you been together?
Five years. I picked her up for $100 because she was going on a meat truck. She’s an Arabian. I’ve never had a relationship with a horse that was as in-depth as the one I have with her. I much enjoy her company; it’s really not just about sex. That’s something that a lot of people don’t understand.

Do you see her as a partner in human terms? Or is the human model the wrong way to think about it?
That’s sort of how I see it, but I guess it’s silly to project human-relationship standards onto an animal. You see, I’ve been married to a human woman for 19 years. So I would say I’m in a polygamous relationship, or at least an open relationship.

And finally, we get to the cherry on top–the call to be out-and-proud:

Do you wish you could be out and proud?
Absolutely. I’ve always been a very political person, and one of the reasons I started seeing a therapist is because I found that lately I’m having trouble with what people say about zoophiles. The same arguments over and over again, and nobody can support me because they get labeled. It’s been very hard dealing with those emotions and the heaviness of what it would be like to get caught and what’s being said and done to zoophiles, and the fact is, rather than actually engage with us, people would prefer to ignore us.

What have I done? I am a normal, average, hardworking guy. I pay my taxes, I make fairly good money, I have a nice house. I have dogs, I have ferrets, I have cats, a couple of rats, chickens in my backyard I’ve saved from places where they were just going to get killed. What have I done that’s so wrong? What is so wrong about physical contact between my penis and a mare’s genitals? And it does bring a weight. The experience of being a zoo adolescent was extremely lonely. I had no one to turn to, nobody to ask questions, and even if I had trusted someone I feel now like I would have gotten bad, heteronormative advice. It was a silent day-to-day struggle.

The only thing worse than heteronormative advice is white heteronormative advice. But take courage, my friend. Your day will come. Even sooner than Rick Santorum thought.

‘Seven Deadly Virtues’ Update
November 23rd, 2014

So it’s a good-news, bad-news kind of thing.

The good news is that over the weekend The Seven Deadly Virtues shot up to #128 on Amazon. Which is great.

Even better, Amazon is selling the book for cheap right now–just $16. Which is $4 off the usual price. Super-great.

Bad news: They still don’t have the thing in stock. But I believe that this will change pretty soon. If you haven’t ordered a copy, now would be a good time.

Stuff White People Hate
November 21st, 2014

Here’s Will Oremus at Slate talking about the failure of Google Glass:

So what went wrong? In hindsight, it’s easy to blame Google for tone-deaf marketing. It announced the device with much ballyhoo in 2012, setting off waves of hype, only to keep it largely under wraps for months afterward. When it did release a prototype, it made it available only to app developers and other tech-industry insiders. Surprise: Socially awkward white males turned out not to be the ideal brand ambassadors.

White people are the worst. On the list of things they have to answer for, we can now add the premature death of Google Glass.

‘Interstellar’ Thoughts
November 20th, 2014

I have several of them, but I can’t really figure out how to talk about the movie without spoilers. So I’m going to wait a couple weeks.

But in the meantime: I can’t be the only one who wants a T.A.R.S. action figure for my desk, can I? Whatever else you want to say about Interstellar, I think TARS is easily the best robot in the history of cinema.