Young Man, Contemplating Infinity


No longer just the terrified cry of Bostonians lost in the Castro, this nifty little turn-of-phrase has become a catch-all in fields ranging from Film Theory to Mystery Method and has slowly weaved its way into our collective fabric with the mucilaginous persistence of a sea-slug army. While the concept has been oft-remarked upon by the sort of luminaries that one might mention in pun while trying to pick up a mega-hottie at a highfalutin poetry reading (Samples: “Hold on, I’ll go with you, let me just grab my winter Foucault,” “Don’t tell you’re feeling Lacanic tonight,” and of course, “According to Freud my quasi-imminent sexual arousal is pre-natal in origin, now let’s get some coffee first or I might get drowsy during.”), I’m thinking here about the concept of the Male Gaze set forth in Laura Mulvey’s Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. And I’m thinking about it A LOT.

Now, with my access to JSTOR coldly denied and mounting evidence that the much ballyhooed blogosphere requires less bibliographical effort then a coked up tenth grader’s downloaded essay on “Heavenly Bodies” in Romeo and Juliet, I think I can be as deliciously vague as I please about this, so let’s just say that according to Mulvey the lens of the camera can be seen to align with the male spectator/director and that there is an inherent dominance implied when it focuses on a woman, who in theory is in a far more submissive relationship with the camera than the authoritative male protagonist. Now, this has all been heartily attacked by everyone on the planet in recent years, but interestingly, the idea has also been co-opted to represent the oppressive checking-out that occurs when young men are within .75 miles of any woman dead, alive, or in-between. My series of neurotic questions is this: This is all well and good for the lurking, ubiquitous bros who will happily own up to their oppressive glares with cocky nods and well ironed clothing and the usually unfulfilled promise of blueberry waffles in the morning, but what of the meek ones, those of us who hide behind our flannel shirts or our square glasses or our faux love of Billy Crystal, where do we third wave feminists who are aware of the gaze and desperately seek to avoid employing it fit into this framework? Well me, this is my lucky day, because here’s a fun list of Beta Male gazes to answer my questions!

1. The Terrified Eye Brush Look Away

Here’s a stream of feelings summary of how this usually goes: “ Hey she has really cool checkered pattern shoes that an old person or a lame-ass wouldn’t wear I bet she maybe could be fun to talk to for the next two minutes ogod maybe I could just glance upward for like half a second just to make sure she doesn’t have an eye shaped like a hangnail or something ok I’ll do it even if she punches me she’s prolly fairly petite and I’m wearing two sweaters anyway and no one face punches if they have even some semblance of combat awarenessjesus we just made eye contact she knows quick quick pretend you know the person behind her shitfuck the person behind her just waved back and ohlord I knew him in high school he’s the weird kid who did capoeira and heroin”

2. The “oh we are reading the same thing crazy right?”

It has oft occurred to me that if I stuffed my rapidly disintegrating messenger bag with the en vogue books of the day (say, Elegance of Hedgehog, Oscar Wao, Obama biography, 2666) ready for rapid deployment that my potential for meeting people who don’t know my remarkable slew of crippling shortcomings could approximately triple. Having the same book as someone is essentially the only excuse the passives have to make legitimate eye contact unless they realize the person across from them is bleeding and unaware of it. The etiquette of this novelistic process leaves me continually staggered…I think you’re probably supposed to just sort of raise your eyebrows, nod sagely, and continue pretending to read while figuring out how you can coyly drop a handkerchief or flutter your eyelids or whatever, but I usually end up holding the book spine out four feet from my face with a madman’s grin and my eyes darting around like an over-stimulated Yorkshire terrier. Um. Hypothetically of course.

3. Reflectors, reflections

The negative space that is embodied by the reflection offers the perfect opportunity for a reversed polarity of confidence; while it is true that we can never inhabit the eerily hollow world that floats in the shared space outside windows and inside mirrors (except, perhaps, in dreams), the realm can nonetheless give us license over the still burgeoning urges that societal conventions have callously damped down over decades of subtle molding. Or something. Actually, horny thirteen year olds have been doing this for centuries but SOMEONE should incorporate the blog theme before we change the entire operation to writing catty reviews of Bravo reality shows.

4. Legitimately sketchy (PUN!!)

So the other day I was riding the subway and somehow clambered onto an A train going in the wrong direction, probably because I was thinking about Chinese Democracy again, meaning that my eventual ride home was about three times its normal length. As Axl Rose’s trenchant sampling of Martin Luther King Jr. ripped its way through my remaining synapses, I realized the man sitting next to me, about 40, somewhat shabby beard, tattered overcoat, was sketching a picture of the woman sitting across from him, an attractive middle-aged African American woman with a ringless left ring finger and what looked like a pulpy murder softback that was probably bought in a grocery store check out line. The woman was aware that she was being drawn and was clearly disturbed by it, so she delved still deeper into her book and only glanced up when the would-be artist looked down at his (frankly mediocre) effort. The train pulled to a stop rapidly and she wisely got up to switch to a different car, but my attention was grabbed by the man’s sketch-pad, which briefly flared open as we screeched to a halt to reveal a flipbook-like montage of about 50 pictures, all long-haired dark skinned women sitting on a subway car glancing away, or down. I wonder if he ever gives any of them away to his unwilling or unaware models.

Anyway, let’s prove the potential of the internet (to allow us to avoid endings) by making this a collabo…what other examples can you the reader (mom, carrinario) contribute to this burgeoning list? And welcome!


I guess my biggest issue is with the recent lack of Billy Crystal films.

See, the whole presidential deal was quality fodder for a while but the other day I noticed that I just might be in bit of a rut. Unsure of what star my cosmic compass was guiding me towards I started ogling up everything I could get my eyes on. Newspapers weren’t enough, Judge Judy seemed quite unfair and watching reruns of Jeopardy felt too much like studying. And then I found it. In a fit of gold lust elbow deep in the bargain bin I tapped into the main vein and pulled up the crown jewel of Blockbuster’s clearance section: City Slickers.

After working out a fair deal with the purple shirted natives and paying only the attention necessary to remember that I must, more than anything else in the world, download the film for free on the Internet when I got home I gave a solid thumbs up to the employees and bought a box of Nonpareils on my way out.

Something kicked in on the walk home. Arms at my side, head poking out well ahead of everything else pecking at the air in front of me just to keep on keeping on I felt a magic. They call it Wild Bill’s Wild One. They say it shines like gold, shimmers like the sun and causes more hernias from laughter than kittens in kimonos and Johnny Carson combined. I was intoxicated and soon became lost in the haze of oases along my path home.

In what would became quite the epic quest in its own right I stopped and picked some oranges up from the Asian produce market. Then I saddled up at the guitar store and played every sick lick I could. After four minutes of shredded history-we’ll-never-get-back I interrupted a conversation between a dreadlocked employee and a guy who I was certain had a pocket full of stolen guitar picks. I asked for a price on the amp, bobbed my head, clicked my lips said “sweet” then left pretending the paycheck just hadn’t come yet.

Now I’m not particularly sure about the next few hours. I most likely spent them looking up slugs species on Wikipedia. What I can tell you though is that later in the evening, as the final percentages of that long awaited torrent trickled in, oozing its way through a sludge of smut and Rosetta Stones that will surely never be installed, I amused myself by listening to the comedy engine that is Billy Crystal idle all over the Internet. Hopping from one beautiful lily pad of pure genius to the next amidst a swamp of smut and skateboarding accidents I watched a real man in a real suit tell a real joke and host a hell of an award’s show. And then it really took off.

There’s little I enjoy more than a well told Jew v. Desert tale. If I were a wagering man I would bet that had Crystal been born into bondage he would most certainly slice through every last fetter with the keenly honed wit and witticisms. Crystal, you are the one.

Perchance Cloud 9 is up there but if by some miracle Cloud 10 is too, well, I would not be the least bit surprised if it’s been collecting for years on the updrafts of Billy Crystal’s exhalations precipitating down all kinds of quips and gags. Maybe if were lucky and we make our own peace with the Lord we can live in that cloud one day and eat it up from the inside like cotton candy gum ball soup until we laugh our airy bellies empty.

Until then, I write to you Billy with lament and longing. Stop whispering from behind those animated characters. Quit the bullshit on Broadway and get to making Analyze Those! and Analyze These! I know you’re out there somewhere drinking it up with Daniel Stern trading McCauley Caulkin tales and finger picking croissants crumbs out of each others’ beards. But Billy there is comedy gold yet to be mined! So get spelunking soon.

Immaculate Conception

December 29, 2008

“They’re entitled to any innovation technology brings. Whether it’s ten percent more of it or fifteen percent off of it. They’re entitled to one of four important new ingredients. Why should anyone have to clean their teeth without important new ingredients? Why the hell shouldn’t they have their CZT? How dare some smutty Marxist carbuncle presume to deny them it? They love their CZT! They want it, they need it, they positively adore it, and by Christ, while I’ve got air in my body they’re going to get it! They’re going to get it bigger – and brighter – and better. I’ll put CZT in their margarine if necessary; shove vitamins in their toilet rolls. If happiness means the whole world standing on a double layer of foot deodorizers, I, Bagley, shall see that they get it! By God I will. I shall not cease, till Jerusalem is built here, on England’s green and pleasant lands!”


How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989).