Friday, September 01, 2006

On the nature of Civil Disobedience, The Hypocrisies of Nudes, Dudes, Prudes and War...

A curious conjunction of events prompts this morning's opening volley: in short:

* (a) a group of teenagers who staged a completely peacable public protest two weeks ago in nearby Brattleboro by sitting in the local business district parking lot, the aptly-named Harmony Lot, in the nude, prompting little immediate consequence (there's no public ordinance against nudity per se, and the students were uniformly -- pun intended -- perfectly well behaved);

* (b) the unexpected international ripples and national news attention to the above event, culminating in pending TV coverage and even a visit to Brattleboro (hereafter "Brat") from none other than Dr. Phil;

* (c) a New York Times editorial asking, "where's the protest movement?";

* (d) the arrival yesterday via UPS of Top Shelf's utterly exquisite publication of the complete, three-volume slipcased Alan Moore/Melinda Gebbie erotic comic classic Lost Girls;

* (e) a home screening of the stunning Vietnam War documentary Winter Soldier, and;

* (f) this week's aggressive election-season rollout of pro-Iraq War speeches (and very ominous deja vu overtures to war with Iran) from Donald Rumsfeld and President George W. Bush, before targeted and "friendly" tried-and-true American Legion audiences, overtly linking WW2 with their neocon agenda and the rise of fascism with any criticism of said neocon agenda and the Iraq War.

Which is the "obscenity" worthy of media ire and attention?

Well, it looks like it's teen nudity in Brat, folks. Never mind that just a week ago in his staggering performance before the nation during his Monday press conference Bush unabashedly denied ever having linked 9/11 and the Iraq War -- in less than a month, he and his cronies are doing so again with more manic energy than they've given to the task in almost a year.

Meanwhile, the trial of the Marine(s) accused of the precalculated rape and murder of a teenage Iraqi girl and her family is going down, almost invisible from the public at large. The ongoing assertions that these kinds of atrocities -- from Abu Ghraib to Pfc. John J. Jodka III and his six fellow marines and one Navy corpsman rape & murder of Hashim Ibrahim Awad and execution of her family -- are aberrations is difficult to sustain. As the Vietnam veterans's "Winter Soldier" February 1971 testimonials (documented in harrowing detail in the film
  • Winter Soldier, which I most heartily recommend)
  • demonstrated then, and the mounting evidence and patterns emerging from the current Iraq War show, sanctioned and institutionalized xenophobia, racism, demonization and dehumanization of 'the Other' as a targetted 'enemy' inevitably breeds institutionalized sadism, brutality, torture and murder.

    It is sickening, the ongoing spectacle of Bush and his cabinet trying to maintain complete deniability, while arrogantly stumping for their fucking war(s). But, hey, what do I know? According to Rummy, I'm clearly a Nazi sympathizer.

    "Ears for beers," as one of the Winter Soldier testimonies so bluntly put it, referring to the practice of cutting off body parts to prove inflated enemy body counts: soldiers returning with ears, heads, etc. were rewarded, while units not yielding the needed body counts were penalized (as one Winter Soldier's choked testimony asserted, relating how his battalion was punitively starved by their superiors for failing to deliver the goods). Ears for beers.

    Ears for beers indeed -- American Legion vets applauded Nixon, too, at that time. Their President talks, and they listen. Drink up, Legionnaires! Applaud as Bush and Rumsfeld spill their hateful, fear-baiting poison and create tens of thousands of new vets, shorn of limbs, organs, eyes, faces, having sacrificed all they can afford to this war that has nothing to do with 9/11, by our President's own blunt admission a mere week-and-a-half ago.

    There are
  • many sites (here's one) perpetuating the Nixon Administration's smear tactics against the Winter Soldiers,
  • and
  • here's another, just to spare nay-sayers the posting,
  • but intensive followup demonstrates that the nay-sayers have been unable to discredit the testimonies, and in fact
  • "To date, no records of fraudulent participants or fraudulent testimony have been produced."
  • Among the buried news stories of the summer was the quiet release of previously-sealed US military documents
  • which have included documentation of US military investigations of all the Winter Soldiers' testimonials, and verification of them, which of course the military did not acknowledge -- even to the vets who testified,
  • as reported in
  • The Los Angeles Times,

  • The Nation,

  • and arguably building upon these Pulitzer-Prize winning 2004 articles in the Toledo Blade.
  • But is anyone drawing the correlations between the past and present on the most prominent national media stages? Of course not. There is no connect-the-dots between Bush & Rummy's reinvigorated campaign of terror this week and the trial of Pfc. John J. Jodka III, save for Rumsfeld's shameful preemptive strike against any who question the neocon warmongering agenda.

    So, where is the randy restless eye of international media attention turning?

    Well, ten miles from my home.

    Right on the heels of the defiled corpse of the Jon Benet Ramsey foofarah being raised and hastily dropped, the warmer bodies of still-living teen flesh have caught the media eye. Thus far, though, there's little apparent regard to why and what the protest was about -- just the issue of public nudity.

    Typical American puritan bullshit, in short.

    Ignore the man in front of the curtain, spouting more fascistic rhetoric about war and fascism: what is it with these nude kids in Blue-State Vermont??

    I'll spare you the spin, which is everywhere and readily available online, and send you immediately to
  • the source article in the August 19th Brattleboro Reformer,
  • noting too that the teens involved are well known in town and great folks.

    Since then, Theresa Toney has taken it upon her outraged self to complain to the town selectboard and demand the town do something to clothe the youths and outlaw such displays, and the letters have been coming fast and furious to the town newspaper.

    No surprises, there -- but invites from Morton Downey Jr.-like Fox News mad dog Bill O'Reilly to the Brattleboro Chief of Police John Martin, Dr. Phil to Theresa Toney, and the news hitting the globe from The London Times, BBC etc. to New Zealand? Astounding. And (though I could be wrong) I'm not seeing any attempt to cover the protestors point of view. Why talk to kids?

    The most rational local response, which I hope is mirrored internationally (though I doubt it), was forwarded to me by HomeyM, via an LOC authored by "Linaelin" on Saturday, August 26 2006 @ 04:26 PM EDT:

    "Freedom, or Insanity?

    What really has sparked the debate has been the nude actions of the young men and women downtown. To them the adult world seems insane especially right now. What did one say, "We have a nuclear power plant a few miles away and a ridiculous war in the Middle East, countries getting bombed. So why's it such a big problem if we chose to get nude?"

    They are making a good point in a non-violent way. They could have decided to spray paint buildings and cars, or get drunk and throw up in someone's mailbox. But they chose not to frighten people, especially the children. And Miss Toney, rather than turn off her attention to the matter, seems more to have been turned on by her attention to the matter. Shame on her! Think of the children."

    Would that they were so focused -- "Freak power!" is the operative phrase in all this, I think, that freak power as random and unfocused as it often was in the late '60s and early '70s, per my own high school experience -- still, this form of civil disobedience is harmless, a tempest in a teapot, and is likely to become more common as global warming inevitably asserts itself.

    We are indeed a nation at war, under the reign of a President who assumed power via two still-disputed elections, and there is indeed Yankee Nuclear mere minutes from downtown Brattleboro, one of our country's oldest plants that was supposed to be off-line by now but is instead up and running at 24% increased capacity, the radioactive flower in Entergy's corporate crown. So, fuck it, I can't blame these kids: why not take off your clothes and stage a protest? The country, their state, the town is going to hell in a handbasket. It's as sane a reaction as any to the insanity of the world they've inherited.

    Once again nudity -- sex, in the eyes of many, though there was nothing sexualized about the sit-in -- not war, is the hot-button issue staunch conservatives are quickest to get riled about, as demonstrated by last election season's relentless exploitation of gay rights and abortion to divert attention from the debased and debilitating Republican rape of our own economy and reckless warmongering. "Reckless" nudity is more infuriating than reckless war -- are we still such prudish idiots?

    We are.

    So into this environment comes at last the calculated art bomb of Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls, which -- given its intensive exploration of sexuality, in fantasy and in the flesh -- was most likely the most single provocative series to have emerged from Taboo, which is saying something, if I may say so myself.

    Launched in 1991 in the pages of my own 1990s horror anthology experiment Taboo (running in serialized form from volumes 5 thru 7, Lost Girls's initial serialization terminating as Tundra and SpiderBaby Grafix severed relations and ended the initial run of the anthology). It debuted in one of our most sexually explicit volumes -- featuring stories like S. Clay Wilson's gay coprophilia opus "This is Dynamite!", Michael Zulli's horrific adaptation of Ramsey Campbell's shocking short story "Again", Tom Marnick/Foxmarnick & Denis Ellefson's chilling meditation on the Black Dahlia murder "39th & Norton" (with a lively intro by none other than James Ellroy), and Matt Howarth's genuinely disturbing "Baby's on Fire", among others -- which was fitting: Lost Girls was Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's grand erotic graphic novel, and Taboo's one and only color series. Melinda's warm palette and abundance of variations on flesh tonalities lent a rich patina to the entirity of the rest of Taboo run, breathing life and fecundity into the whole via its radiant glow.

    The decision to showcase their epic erotic effort in the context of Taboo was a calculated decision, and utterly appropriate: now having read the completed novel, 15 years later, I've no doubt had Lost Girls completed its run in Taboo, it would have been our single most controversial component, most likely prompting more legal action than anything in Taboo brief lifetime ever did.

    Lost Girls's heartfelt exploration of all facets of human sexuality emerges from its immediately provocative location of that quest in the meeting of a trio of female fantasy literature icons: Alice, Wendy and Dorothy, now adults and far in time from their respective Wonderland, Neverland and Land of Oz, but never far from them, really, in their most intimate memories and fantasies, "the realms of our sexual awakening and fulfillment," as Top Shelf's descriptive promo text puts it. As the ominous clouds of pending war (what will become World War I, a choice more relevent to our 21st Century reality than even Alan could have calculated 15 years ago) converge just outside the comfortable retreat of a luxury Austrian hotel, Alice, Wendy & Dorothy share their deepest secrets and fondest and most feared fantasies, and the clash between Western notions and dread of sexuality vs. Western fantasies and fomenting of war seethes beneath the whole, culminating in one of the most potent concluding pages to any graphic work I have ever experienced.

    Where is the obscenity? In the abundance of richly-colored orifices and protrusions, cocks and cunts, tongues and semen, or in the glistening finality of a fatal wound, the finality of death and inevitable consequence of war? Alan & Melinda make explicit the obscenity of this hypocrisy, the villification of sex vs. the glorification of war, with Lost Girl's heartrending final page.

    Check it out yourself, in any case. Working in concert with Alan & Melinda, Top Shelf publisher Chris Staros has done an impeccable job of showcasing this masterpiece: Lost Girls is packaged as three 112-page ovesized hardcover volumes in a gorgeous slipcase, and the color reproduction throughout is simply staggering.

    [BTW, here's where to find both:
  • the pair of Taboo 5 and the complete Top Shelf Lost Girls slipcase edition are both available here from,
  • or you can purchase Taboo 5 directly from me (feel free to email me at, and I'll reply.]

    Tomorrow, back to the relative comfort of Home Movie Day: Part the Fourth, then more on Lost Girls, and the Taboo connection...


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