Anatomy, Big Daddy, Bile, Blood Meridian, Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West, Boobs, Borderlands, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Corey Taylor, Cormac McCarthy, Creative Non-Fiction, Creative Writing, David Foster Wallace, Dead Babies, Dead Baby Tree, E Unibus Pluram, Eraserhead, Eraserhead Baby, Essay, Family Guy, Family Guy Ipecac, Film, Human Body, Human Memory, humors, Ipecac, Medieval Physiology, Mr. Torgue, Nicki Minaj, Pain, Parabola, Physiology, Prime Numbers, Slipknot, television, TOOL, Two Girls One Cup, Vomit, Watching, Writing
THOSE READERS WHO BELIEVE THEMSELVES OF FIRM CONSTITUTION SHOULD PROGRESS, BUT THOSE READERS THAT ARE EASILY DISTURBED MIGHT JUST GOOGLE KITTENS OR PLATYPUSSES INSTEAD. ANY AND ALL READERS ATTEMPTING TO FIND A POINT OR PURPOSE IN THESE WRITINGS SHALL BE SUBJECT TO A $273 FINE AND A STERN TALKING TO.
–Management, White Tower Musings
My dog Sonya, not Huckleberry because he’s actually well behaved, is a silent vomiter. On at least three separate occasions she has yakked in my car, actually my sister’s car she’s letting me borrow Mr. Torgue, that’s what she calls her vehicle and I try my best not to yell “THE BADASS CRATER OF BADASSITUDE” while I’m driving in it, and on each of those three occasions I have never actually heard her make a sound while she ralphs up what could constitute enough food to feed three dogs. It’s also an oddity to discover at this point in my life that picking up dog vomit does nothing to actually phase me. I am not terribly bothered when the heavy clumps of partially masticated food pellets soaked in the chalky stomach acid squeeze between my fingertips, and apart from the smell which is often sterile and basic leaving no impression of faintness on my part, I am often able to simply lift the “puddle” in my hands and drop it apathetically into the grass by the driveway.
The frail body on the unknown baby creature in a gif (pronounced “jif” pronounced “gif”) from the movie Eraserhead by David Lynch leaves me uncomfortable and terrified to go to sleep. There’s something about the way the face of the creature is so alien and yet so human. It’s a baby, and by and large, rotting babies tend to unnerve people. It’s grotesque. Grotesqueness shouldn’t exist. At least not for babies.
Corey Taylor, the lead singer of Slipknot, use to vomit in the sack mask he’d wear on stage. That’s the first Slipknot album so at that time his mask was a burlap sack with holes where his dread knots would come out. He eventually lost that mask because his dreads would melt in the heat of the electric lights into the sack. As for the vomit, Taylor’s vocal cords weren’t prepared for the level of intensity that was being placed on his throat. The producer of the album kept telling him “deeper, harder.” He spent most of the time recording the first Slipknot Album throwing up between takes. Then, once the album was mixed, he had to repeat it on the road. He would usually throw up, but it wasn’t just that. He would throw up but huge chunks would get stuck inside his mask. So along with being hot, having a sore throat, and having to perform in an uncomfortable burlap sack, he also had puddles of vomit collected in his mask close to his mouth and eyes.
I have yet to review Blood Meridian: Or, The Evening Redness in the West. The book, apart from being one of the darkest novels published in the last forty years in American fiction, is philosophically heavy and so one has to be at a high point before approaching that monster. There is one passage, in particular, that is impossible to forget:
The way narrowed through the rocks and by and by they came to a bush that was hung with dead babies. They stopped side by side, reeling in the heat. These small victims, seven, eight of them, had holes punched in their under-jaws and were hung so by their throats from the broken stobs of a mesquite to stare eyeless at the naked sky. Bald and pale and bloated, larval to some unreckonable being. The castaways hobbled past, they looked back. Nothing moved. (57).
I have tried writing fiction since reading this passage, and while I have written passages that have attempted to convey malevolence in certain characters, I have yet to really produce anything that surpasses the potency of this images. The little jaw bones haunt me.
I had no idea what Ipecac was before I watched Family Guy. It’s apparently a syrup developed to induce coughing and actual vomiting. Peter challenges Stewie, Chris, and Brian to chug it and whoever can go the longest with puking gets the last piece of pie. Chaos eventually ensues as one by one they all begin to vomit over and over again. Watching the scene for the first time I nearly came close to vomiting myself, and I wonder at that physiological reaction. It’s not uncommon for people to throw up themselves when other regurgitate, but where does that come from? Is it the sound of a person upchucking? Is it the sight of vomit erupting from the lips? Is it an almost traceless smell that is produced? But it must surely be the sound and the image of vomit because watching Family Guy I didn’t smell anything. I could only picture my early experiences vomiting. I have since watched that scene at least thirty to forty times and every time I can’t watch it and not laugh. The physicality is just too perfect.
It’s fascinating to see “reactions” become a content and discourse all their own. To wit. The Two Girls/One Cup video became famous not so much for the actual content, but because people discovered it, suffered the initial reaction of watching it, and then began to show it to their friends and family almost always recording the reaction to the video. It became a game unto itself and the pleasure of watching other people react to something you yourself had already seen became a new kind of experience in entertainment. Where before watching something was a way of sharing the experience, the language had become so deconstructed and weak that the only means of eliciting recognition between fellow human beings was to watch their reactions to watching the video. This watching of watching is something that I wish was an original observation but David Foster Wallace beat me to it. He notes in his essay E. Unibus Pluram that this watching of watching is not only a common phenomenon, it’s actually generational. His generation, which I believe is generation X, grew up on television, and while defending the regular watching of television he observes how people tend to feed off the watching of one another for lack of the ability to converse:
The plain fact is that certain things having to do with fiction production are different for young U.S. writers now. And television is at the vortex of most of the flux. Because younger writers are not only Artists probing for the nobler interstices in what Stanley Cavell calls the reader’s “willingness to be pleased”; we are also, now, self-defined parts of the great U.S. Audience, and have our own aesthetic pleasure-centers; and television has formed and trained us. It won’t do, then, for the literary establishment simply to complain that, for instance, young-written characters don’t have very interesting dialogues with each other, that young writer’s ears seem “tinny.” Tinny they may be, but the truth is that, in young Americans’ experience, people in the same room don’t do all that much direct conversing with each other. What most people I know do is they all sit and face the same direction and stare at the same thing and then structure commercial-length conversations around the sorts of questions that myopic car-crash witnesses might ask each other— “Did you just see what I just saw?” (44).
I think the grotesqueness of the Two Girls/One Cup fed into this same concept, for while the initial reaction of the ingestion of feces and vomit for the sake of eroticism repulsed us, we found in this bile a connection to other people because watching someone else gave us first a sadistic pleasure of horrifying someone else, but then also validated us as we acknowledged the fact that what we were watching was absolutely repulsive.
Watching TOOL videos is an exercise because each video challenges the viewer. Often the challenge is explained in the sentiment, what the actual fuck did I just watch? This initial reaction subsides and one is able to eventually pick at certain elements until meaning becomes clear. That and Wikipedia provides “meaning” behind the lyrics of certain songs and so looking at the videos again one is able to find meaning.
Parabola is a little difficult. Most of TOOL’s Aesthetic relies either upon Eastern religious imagery and philosophy or else upon Mathmatical concepts. In the case of a Parabola it is a curved line formed on a Cartesian graph. Because I know nothing about math I had to look up a satisfactory definition and found the following on a site called Purple Math:
The parabola is the curve formed from all the points (x, y) that are equidistant from the directrix and the focus. The line perpendicular to the directrix and passing through the focus (that is, the line that splits the parabola up the middle) is called the “axis of symmetry”.
Looking at TOOL’s lyrics, I’m able to decipher, or at least how this mathematical construction could help create meaning:
We barely remember who or what came before this precious moment We are choosing to be here right now Hold on, stay inside… This holy reality, this holy experience Choosing to be here in… This body, this body holding me Be my reminder here that I am not alone in… This body, this body holding me, feeling eternal All this pain is an illusion Alive! In this holy reality, in this holy experience Choosing to be here in… This body, this body holding me Be my reminder here that I am not alone in… This body, this body holding me, feeling eternal All this pain is an illusion Twirling round with this familiar parable Spinning, weaving round each new experience Recognize this as a holy gift and celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing A chance to be alive and breathing This body holding me reminds me of my own mortality Embrace this moment, remember, we are eternal All this pain is an illusion
The song celebrates the body while also hinting at the sublime power of the spirit to transcend the body. There’s some cognitive dissonance here as almost every TOOL video makes the viewer observes the frailty of the body when set against such supernatural forces . At one point three blurry men wearing suits cut open an apple before vomiting black slime onto the table. Their bodies lift up off the ground and, still vomiting, they revolve around the table making a circle.
And here’s the thesis soaked with ingested slime.
The idea of humors is an outdated medical concept. We possess entire libraries explaining the gastric process and how regurgitation is done. There is no mystery, yet for this knowledge many are still disgusted by vomiting. Simply watching or hearing someone vomit is enough to induce vomiting. Even thinking about the sound or sensation of vomiting can sometimes induce this process and so the question that needs answering is: What is it about regurgitation that so bothers us biologically and psychologically?
It is because vomiting is physically and psychologically traumatizing. It is painful to vomit because the act of regurgitation brings partially digested food, but also stomach acid up the throat and so it feels as if our throat and mouth are burning afterwards. It also occurs that often we vomit often as children and the experience, at least it was for me, is horrifying the first time and every time afterwards it is awful reliving this previously horrific experience. Food is supposed to go down and stay down and leave out one end. Vomiting is a reminder of the drawbacks of our biology.
Yet looking at TOOL, I cannot deny the fact that vomiting is a physical act that reminds me that I am alive. There is no sensation so powerful as pain, and vomiting is simply that, pain. My reader may ask then, what good is it observing this pain? To this I can only provide a quote from the play A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Big Daddy is suffering from the cancer that will kill him and when his son offers him medicine he rejects it. His excuse is one I’m fond of:
Brick Pollitt: [Offering Big Daddy morphine] It’ll kill the pain, that’s all.
Harvey ‘Big Daddy’ Pollitt: [Wincing with pain] It’ll kill the senses too! You… you got pain – at least you know you’re alive.
I’ll never forget vomiting for the first time, or watching those blurry men vomit the black slime, or watching Sonya carefully as I drive her anywhere, or that scene in Family Guy with the Ipecac, because those moments were possessed by a fierce carnality that is impossible to forget. In this postmodern, pseudo-Modern period, Whatever-the Fuck Period we live in, it’s easy sometimes to forget the body because so much of life is wrapped up and experienced in screens and technology. The moments that are making up our lives are in screens.
I’m not railing against technology, nor suggesting all these “gadgets” are divorcing us from our bodies, I’m simply remembering a few moments when I was reminded of my body, often at another’s expense. Connections are where our memories are embedded and established, and while it isn’t as pleasant as remembering your first kiss, or your wedding night, or your first ice cream cone, the first time you vomit is a sensation that lasts in memory, and there’s most certainly a story behind it.
Here you’ve been through a lot. Here’s a picture of Nicki Minaj bouncing her boobs out for…you know I’m still not entirely sure why this was a thing in the Pound the Alarm Video. Hope you enjoy nonetheless: