June 2011 Archives

            When the Ol' Bloviator is off on a research mission, he operates all day in a frenzied state of extremely focused activity, and upon getting the boot by the archivists at quittin' time, he descends immediately into a semi-vegetative state where he makes contact with what passes for  the real world these days for only a few minutes each morning courtesy of MSNBC or CNN or the local Channel 8 Action News Team. These little jolts of information (or not) are occasionally supplemented by the wonderful Ms. OB (with whom he has recently celebrated forty-two years of wedded bliss), who sends along stories or headlines she deems likely to be of interest to her ol' podner 'n soul mate. Thus it was that when he received a missive the other day headlined "Hefner's Bride Breaks It Off," the severely addled OB's first response was "Well, it was bound to happen sometime, I suppose, but ol' Hef sure got a lot of use out of it while it lasted."

Only with further investigation did the OB discover that the reference was actually to the cancellation of the eighty-five-year-old Hugh Hefner's impending nuptials with Crystal Harris, a lady some sixty years his junior. Alas, the years--meaning at least the last thirty or so--have not been terribly kind to Hugh Hefner, who always  pursued a caricatured lifestyle, but, like most of his ilk, proved utterly incapable of recognizing, or at least acknowledging, the point when his sex-obsessed persona slipped first from "hip" to "ho-hum," then plummeted to downright "pathetic."

Though it seemed utterly scandalous when it kicked off in 1953 with Marilyn Monroe adorning the cover of the first issue, the photographic content of Hefner's Playboy magazine was really only a nipple or two north of many of the pin-ups of the World War II era. Moreover, beyond taking most of the mystery out of the mammary, Hefner actually set out early on to offer interesting interviews and some superb fiction by the likes of Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke and James Jones, thus sustaining the standard cliché about guys claiming to subscribe to Playboy only for the articles.  The best support for this shaky-at-best claim came in 1970, though, when the National Library for the Blind began publishing Playboy in Braille. As one of our astute graduate researchers around here points out, for all the snide comments about its content, the magazine did serve as an arbiter not only of what was hip, but what was manly. Despite targeting the upwardly mobile young bachelor demographic and exalting the masculine pursuit of pleasure, sexual and otherwise, Hef and the guys came down fairly hard on men who trifled with women's emotions or made commitments, marital or otherwise, that they did not intend to honor.

As both an agent and a manifestation of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, Hefner's publishing venture was flying high until that revolution became, well, more revolutionary than he anticipated and Playboy's fare suddenly started to seem a little too tame and dated. Up until the late 1960s, in revealing the female form Hef and the guys had generally drawn the viewing line just north of pubic valley, a demarcation long since breached by the raunchier brown-wrapper, skin mags. Yet where  Playboy had achieved relative social acceptability and  even a certain cachet, these publications awaited walk-in purchasers (presumably clad in raincoats) on the back shelves of the newsstand and definitely could not be left lying around anywhere they might be seen by anyone a reader wanted to impress or deceive. In 1969, however, fresh from his success in the U.K., along came Bob Guccione, and the American version of  Penthouse, where pubic hair was standard fare from the get-go and the shared sexual experiences and fantasies, which frequently seemed indistinguishable were as graphic as it got in the pre-dot.com era.

With Penthouse cutting into his market share in a mighty way,  it was only  a matter of months before an humbled Hef had to trade in his artistic high horse for a Shetland pony, and photograph-wise, it was suddenly a jungle down there. For a while, it seemed that the "pubic wars" with Penthouse were actually good for business as Playboy's  monthly circulation peaked at more than 7 million in 1972. Then, of course, the defiantly more hardcore Hustler joined the fray, but all would first be undercut by the increasingly ubiquitous nudity in film and even on the tube and then meet their ultimate undoing in the arrival of the pornucopia  that was the Internet.

       It is sadly fitting that with his fabled smoking jacket now looking not only ratty but ridiculous, and his magazine's monthly circulation down to 1.5 million, Hef lost one of his main squeezes a short while back after she admitted to engaging in "cybersex"  via Skype with a virile young NFL star. Once upon a time, not only was Hugh Hefner the ultimate personification of  American male virility,  but a stint as one of the live-in "Bunnies" at his lavish Playboy mansion was a stepping stone to at least a decent shot at a mainstream movie career. As both Hef and his gimmick grew tiresome, however, the opportunity ceiling for his voluptuous co-habitants slipped to stripping and soft-porn. Speaking of slipping, the recent "kiss (or at least fake orgasm)-and-tell" revelations of some of the old boy's  bed-buddies suggest a slightly smelly and decidedly saggy, Viagra-gobbling old weirdo who would make even a one-night stand seem more like waiting for death to "part" you from Methuselah.

            A generation or so back, concerned social critics were warning that there really is no such thing as "casual sex." Let's just say that whatever the hang-ups were that might have made that true back in the 1970s, they don't seem to be grabbing hold of many folks under forty today.  Anybody recall that unspoiled little Monica Lewinsky whose icebreaker to ol' Billy C. went something like "Hey, Mr. President, Wanna see my thong?" At least that sort of thing seemed to be confined to interns back then. Now we've got congressmen tweeting (after tweaking, one suspects) their privates and "sexting" like mad. This is a far cry from the infinitely more personal practice of two individuals furtively "flashing"  one another just for the pure-tee titillation of it.  The Internet's utterly ludicrous boilerplate assurances of privacy notwithstanding,  it has become nothing less than a vast, brilliantly illuminated, and for some, irresistibly seductive stage for exhibitionism on a grand scale. How many future Favres or Weiners will we have to endure before these folks at least abandon the excuse that the offending messages or photos were intended only for a single set of eyes?

For most of us of the male persuasion, a standard precautionary rule of thumb might well be:  "Before you point your cell phone or camera 'down there,' ask yourself whether you would want the image you are about to create to be viewed by roughly as many people as attended the last twenty Super Bowls."  Unfortunately, for some of us--make that some of "y'all"--the real honest-to-Pete answer to such a query seems to be "Damn Straight, The More The Merrier!"  An actual case in point comes from Claire Howorth of The Daily.com, who draws on her own disturbing experience with "Fernando," a young Argentine studying business simultaneously at Columbia and the London School of Economics.  Regrettably for Claire-- and maybe even more so for "'Nando," he simply presumed she would enjoy seeing his really happy "Wando," (Bless me, Father, for I am about to sin again) pop up on her cell phone.  Thus it was over before it started for Claire although 'Nando's offending  member clearly missed the memo and would continue to show up on her phone for quite a spell.   Guys who do this sort of thing  are obviously not terribly worried  about keeping their privates private, and we might even guess that in fact they hope this will not be the case.

 Claire Howorth has thousands of readers at The Daily.com and clearly requires no introduction from the likes of the OB, who nonetheless feels compelled to reveal with genuine pride that he once knew her as the terminally cute little daughter of the OB family's longtime buds, Lisa and Richard Howorth of the famed Square Books in Oxford, MS.  Claire definitely does her esteemed gene pool proud when she simultaneously brings the hammer and the microscope down on what she refers to as "junk males":

 "Fernando has something in common with the other men, public figures, who we now know to be aficionados of phallic photography (would-be, could-be Anthony Weiner; absolutely Brett Favre), or takers of cheesy beefcake self-portraits in fluorescently lit suburban bathrooms (former Congressman Chris Lee), or even dudes who sprinkle their pubic hair on Coke cans (sorry, Justice Thomas -- I was 10 when it happened and am unlikely to forget).
They are cocky, pun unavoidable. They are successful, smart, powerful, or some combination thereof, and in their minds, in a deeply Freudian way, penis/muscles/pubic hair = evidence of that. Thus, "Hey, I wanna show ya just how much!"

 This incisive appraisal simply shows that the massively egotistical Hef was once as far ahead of his time as he is woefully behind it now.  The only mystery here would seem to be why we have never been treated to the gaudily exhibited privates of one Donald John Trump. After pondering this matter at some length, and consulting with several reprobate acquaintances as well, the OB thinks he has this one figured out, and in keeping with the generally degraded tone of this discussion, his theory is pornographically derived.  Anyone who recalls the sad physiological anomaly afflicting one Linda Lovelace of "Deep Throat" fame surely cannot rule out the possibility that "The Donald" suffers from a comparable sensory transposition in which the nerve endings that belonged down in his groinical region actually wound up on top of his head.  Thus, every time he appears in public sporting that flamboyantly grotesque 'do of his, he's actually showcasing his masculine portfolio.  Wonder if Sarah Palin picked up on that?

The Internet's privacy fences are equally porous in both directions, of course.  If you can't resist gawking at this kind of stuff, somebody's going to know what you've been up to, whether it's a wily marketer of commercial porn or Viagra or some other sexual endowment-enhancer or--infinitely worse yet--your Mom!  Come to think of it, it's truly ironic that the Web has done so much to bring old Hef's empire to its knees, given that it was actually a damn sight easier to hide a favorite Playboy or two under your mattress or behind your dresser than it is nowadays to keep somebody from discovering  that you've been checking out  "Fleshbot" or "MrSkin."*

 

*The OB vows and declares that he is operating purely on hearsay in this area has no direct knowledge of these two popular and reputedly pornographic sites, and don't you let any lyin' little tracking cookie try to tell you different!

 

Thar's Gold in Them Thar Drawers!

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For those of you wondering why you've seen so many folks of late  wearing sandwich boards emblazoned with something like "Tammy's Tanning--We Buy Gold,"this week brought some clarification in the form of a Los Angeles Times story on people like good old Mike Pitts, a typically forward-thinking member of the South Carolina legislature who introduced a bill in April that would make "gold and silver coins legal tender in the state." Naturally, we here in Georgia ain't about to see ourselves out-did by South Carolina, especially in competitive displays of egregious stupidity, a category where we have always run [red] neck and neck. Hence, one of our esteemed solons has come up with a measure that would "require the state to accept only gold and silver for all payments, including taxes, and to use the metals exclusively to pay all of the state's debts." The Baptists can claim no monopoly on this sort of witlessness. Out in Utah, the Mormons have actually gone and enacted a new law restoring old gold and silver U.S. coins to their former status as legal tender. Indeed, the "money funnies" are currently playing in several other states, "fueled by Tea Party support and antipathy toward the federal government."

According to the scribes (regrettably the Pharisees were unavailable for comment), the ultimate aim of these galoots on the loose is "to return the nation to the gold standard, in which every dollar would be backed by a fixed amount of the precious metal." Naturally, although "economists of all stripes say the plan would be ruinous," that view is of scant concern to the likes of Pitts. and others who "believe that returning America to the gold standard would force the government to live within its means, curtailing runaway spending and inflation."

These are worthy goals to be sure, but the ol' Bloviator thinks that a brief--but not necessarily painless--dose of history would come in mighty handy right about here. There was a big push throughout the late nineteenth century to expand the currency supply by coining silver as well as gold, with the stoutest pushers being perpetually indebted farmers and--as Gomer Pyle would surely say, "SURPRISE ! SURPRISE!" --the silver miners.  The matter was temporarily settled in 1900 with the Gold Standard Act, which required that every U.S. dollar in circulation be redeemable in gold. All of the gold-hoarding attendant to the Great Depression, as well the international drain on our gold reserves spurred by European countries who had already abandoned the gold standard, led FDR to follow suit and order  Americans to surrender by May 1, 1933, all their gold holdings in excess of roughly $100 in value for purchase by the government at a fixed rate of about $21 an ounce. Needless to say, this move brought a massive outcry from the ideological ancestors of today's gold-drunk Teabaggers. The following year, the Gold Reserve Act pegged the value of an ounce of gold at $35. Coming out of World War II, the Bretton Woods agreement featured a commitment by the United States to buy the gold of participating nations at $35 per ounce. In a sense, then, the new standard for international currency exchange was based not on gold, but on the dollar and a shared faith in its strength and value against gold. This faith had begun to wear fairly thin by 1971, however, as among other factors, the Vietnam War set inflation to soaring in tandem with the rapidly rising U.S. balance of payment and trade deficits. Alarmed to see the U.S. government presses running non-stop, stamping out dollars as if they were Domino's pizza coupons, several nations began to demand that their dollar holdings be redeemed in gold, placing none other than that sly ol' scamp Dick Nixon  in something of the same position occupied by FDR in 1933. In response, Nixon announced that the United States was rescinding its commitment to redeem dollars in gold, a move that effectively meant that, untethered from any finite source of valuation, the international exchange rate would thenceforth "float." And so it has from that day forward, subject, of course, to the effects of attempts by individual nations or groups of nations to manipulate the value of their currency for their own economic benefit.

What stands out most prominently in this brief little historical accounting is how vulnerable the dollar's ties to gold have left the United States in times of international economic crisis. It's not hard to see legitimate reasons why anyone would like to see our government conduct itself with more discipline in the future, but even in the unlikely event that should come to pass, there is still the matter of addressing the legacy of the fiscal foolishness of the past. Unless somebody, and the OB means somebody in a hurry, finds a way to turn kudzu into gold, even if we stripped our government down past its underdrawers and put it on the Calista Flockhart diet, there is simply no way to make the gold standard workable. For example, if we figure that our current government gold reserve is about $400 billion, that number amounts to less than 3 percent of the national debt, or as one statistician put it, a mere "rounding error" in the calculation of that GI-NORMOUS sum. Beyond that, let's just say we were on the gold standard again, and as nations have certainly done in the past, one of them, maybe China, for instance, suddenly demands that its holdings in dollars be redeemed in gold. Give or take a Benjamin or two, China has about 1.15 trillion of our bucks, meaning that we would essentially have to triple our current gold reserves just to pay them off, and believe the OB, they ain't the only furriners out there holding our paper.

One of the things that's most intriguing about the government-hatin' Teabaggers' desire to put us back on the goal standard is the fact that it would undoubtedly entail the government taking possession of practically every fleck of  gold to be had within our borders. Yet these same people who are hollering for every dollar to be backed by gold are the folks who would be most intent on getting hold of as much gold as they could themselves and hanging on tighter 'n Rush Limbaugh gripping a bottle of OXY.  Let it suffice to say that the ruckus that FDR kicked up when he confiscated all that gold in 1933 would be a Sunday school picnic compared to what would happen among these folks if the Feds tried anything like that today. The OB can certainly see why someone who bought at $900 per ounce in 2009 is feeling pretty darn  good with it hovering around $1,540 per ounce and ripe for unloading right about now. But truly puzzles him though is why so many folks, including some he knows to be extremely intelligent and rational, believe that gold represents their best guarantee of survival after all those god-awful, gothic, futuristic, planet-ravaging horror movies have been played out in real life and it comes down to just them and Qkeekheg, who is the only person left between them and starvation. Just what is it about your gold,  that's going to make the wily ol' Qkeek-dude slice you off some of his precious yak jerky in exchange for it?  It is the OB's considered opinion that in this particular circumstance, you'd have been a lot better off to have hoarded Budweiser instead.

If there is relevance in this latter day gold rush to the contemporary political scene, it might well be in the question it poses for those who would really like to see the Republicans reclaim the White House in 2012, namely, "How in the hell do you propose to retain the support of these Goldfinger-wannabe Teabaggers without pledging yourself to support something whose very mention prompts an irrepressible snicker from anyone to the left of people way to the right of Glenn Beck? It is a pity for the Repubs, in a way, for even with their declared and  undeclared unelectables taking potshots at what right now seems to be an exceedingly short list of people who stand at least a ghost of a chance, ol 'Barry O's becoming more vulnerable by the day as his post-Osama liquidation cred melts away in the face of new figures suggesting  speculation that recovery could well be underway in the employment and housing sectors  might have been just a tad premature.

Ol' Oby isn't getting a lot of help from his supporting cast right now either, as it has become abundantly clear that "wiener" problems are not exclusively the province of the GOP. We refer here to liberal New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, who allegedly tweeted a photo of his noticeably bulging boxers to a female follower.  Weiner has finally 'fessed up, after maintaining that he and the lady in question had both been victimized by a hacker and refusing to deny/confirm whether the skivvies in question (and presumably the contents thereof) were actually his.

_weiner crop shot.jpg

(Ripped off from Gawker.com, who doubtless ripped it off somewhere else)

From where the OB sits, the congressman's best hope of terminating this Weiner roast before someone ultimately comes up with more " s 'mores" on him would be to call himself another humongous press conference, announce that he's switching parties, and explain to the gold-drunk Teabaggers, that he was merely showcasing his own extremely clever strategy for protecting his doomsday investment portfolio by storing both his gold and his family  jewels in the same convenient package.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 




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