Category Archives: Books

The Seven Million Vote Margin of Victory



Joseph Biden: 81,283,670 — Percentage of popular vote: 51.3
Donald Trump: 74,222,383.– Percentage of popular vote: 46.8

MARGIN OF VICTORY: 7,061,287 (Seven million, 61 thousand, two hundred and eighty-seven votes)

(POST-SCRIPT: One month later, on January 9, 2020, I consulted the vote tallies once again for any update in the final vote count. With the affirmation of the Electoral College early Thursday morning, the totals now read: Joseph Biden 81,268,757; and Donald Trump 74,216,722. The margin of victory is still over seven million votes.)

It is now five weeks since the last legal ballot was on its way to a vote counting center and the tabulation of the presidential contest is more or less wrapped up. Joseph Biden won the popular vote by more than seven million votes. On November 20th, the margin of victory was more than six million, and by November 24th, over 80 million voters had said that they would prefer someone else – anyone else, in fact – to be president of this country. During the first week of December, Joseph Biden’s popular vote increased to over 81 million. Nothing is going to change Biden’s margin of victory.

Let me emphasize again that the polls of the past four years seem to be have been very accurate, within the margin of error. Trump’s approval rating held fairly steady at 44 percent over the past four years. If one allots for the standard margin of error, then the percentage of the popular vote for Trump reflects the accuracy of those thousands and thousands of surveys. If the polling of individual states in the Fall, 2020 proved to be inaccurate, that reflects how polls can vary in relatively short periods of assessment.

On the other, the disapproval rating for Trump over a four year period hovered around 52 percent. Biden received 51.3 percent of the popular vote, while others who disapproved of Trump chose third party candidates, most of them opting for the Libertarian candidate. One can hardly compare the poll numbers and Biden’s vote and claim that the polls were wrong. The disapproval numbers over four years correlate with the votes that have been counted during the past five weeks.

As for Trump’s dismayed supporters, I would remind them that one should entertain very little hope of winning an election with less than 47 percent of the popular vote. I know it must be hard for those who supported him to accept that their hero is intensely loathed, so I ask them to remember how much they disliked Hillary Clinton; and then I ask them to imagine disliking someone two or three times more intensely than that. Only then will they be able to comprehend why over 81 million people said that they were fed up with a twitter shit-storm of prevarications. It’s not just policies, though they are often loathed, too. It is the very quality of the person we object to, and this time the majority should rule.

For the second election in a row, Trump has not broken the 47 percent ceiling of the popular vote. Take a hint, folks. He is never going to break the 47 percent mark and if you think that someone deserves to be reelected who receives less than 47 percent, then you should move to a country in which its version of democracy functions with the perverse mathematics of tyranny.

The unfortunate political reality in the United States right now was summed up by Michelle Goldberg in a recent article: “only one of our political parties needs to win an overwhelming national majority in order to govern.”

This is not to say that the Republican party cannot win a majority of the popular vote in a presidential election. George W. Bush won such a majority in 2004, but that is the only time that the GOP has won the majority in the past eight elections.

The next eight elections will take us to mid-century’s living room. I am not optimistic that this country will realize that it needs to have political leaders capable of being renovating architects. I fear that all we will get is interior decorators. Perhaps, though, the best that we can hope for is the popular vote winner does gain legitimate access to the power of lawmaking.

The voters of the United States have chosen to affirm the constitution of the United States and rejected a candidate who represents an attempt to dismantle the social contract implicit in that constitution.


Here are the percentages of the popular vote that GOP presidential candidates received in this century’s elections:

Bush (2000): 47.9 percent
Bush (2004): 50.7 percent
McCain (2008): 45.7 percent
Romney: (2012): 47.2 percent
Trump (2016): 46.1 percent
Trump (2020): 46.8 percent

The Republican average is 47.4 percent of the popular vote.

December 8, 2020: The 40th Anniversary of John Lennon’s Assassination

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

“The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”

It was a Monday night, just barely over a month since Ronald Reagan had become President-Elect by winning a smaller percentage of the popular vote than Joe Biden did recently. Most of the white males who had voted for Reagan were watching Monday night football. I was watching “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” at Cathay Gleeson’s apartment on Idaho in Santa Monica. The film was made in my birth year (1947) and held up surprisingly well, or so my memory of it is, even though the broadcast was interrupted by the announcement of John Lennon’s assassination.

John Lennon’s dead.
John Lennon’s dead.
I can’t get it through my head.
Though it’s been so many years,
John Lennon’s dead.

Sometimes those lines echo in my mind’s ear as I think about his song about his mother, who died when Lennon was twelve years old. She was a pedestrian run over by a drunk off-duty police officer.

“Even the dead are growing old,” wrote Phil Levine. In my life, Lennon is older than I ever expected him to be.

On the Pandemic Value of Old Age

Monday, December 7, 2020

Ezekiel Emanuel and the Pandemic of Ageism

A year ago, the longevity tables had maintained a fairly steady trajectory in terms of predicting life spans. For a white male born in 1947 and who was still fairly healthy at age 65, it would not be unreasonable for that person to believe he had a fair chance of another dozen years to live. No guarantees, of course! “Life is a rental agreement without any lease.”

At this point, I have about five years left, if the average holds. But short of an unexpected medical diagnosis, there is no way of knowing how long my life will actually be. It would certainly make things easier if I knew. Even though my bucket list of writing projects is far too long to get finished, no matter how much time I am given, at least I could bear down on the most important ones and not get so easily distracted by the temptation to work on rough drafts of poems that may or may not turn out to have deserved that much attention.

While making creative choices has always been a process imbricated in the contingent, the indifference of young people to the plight of the elderly during the pandemic has been a sobering counterfactual. The majority of young people are not wearing masks. They really don’t care whether my generation lives or dies. Actually, I think they would prefer if we just caught covid and died at home. In their best case scenario, we should not put any strain on the medical infrastructure whatsoever. Just get the bleep out of the way.

The evisceration of my age group begins with justifying our lack of making useful contributions to the world. Ezekiel Emanuel is on record to this effect: “There are not that many people who continue to be active and engaged and actually creative past 75. It’s a very small number.If you look at really smart people, there aren’t that many writing brand-new books after 75, and really developing new areas where they are leading thinkers. They tend to be re-tilling familiar areas that they’ve worked on for a long time.”

At first glance, one might say that there is a preponderance of evidence to back up his Venn diagram of old age and intellectual breakthroughs. The relatively muted response to these ideas, especially from young scholars, tells me that I am not imagining the seething hostility towards the elderly that finds ample additional benefits in downsizing the baby boomers. Emmanuel might use a neutral tone of voice in stating that “One of the statistics I like to point out is if you look at the federal budget, $7 goes to people over 65 for every dollar for people under 18,” but behind the “objectivity” of a bean counter is a social planner who would prefer to put one particular sack of beans into a pot of water and get them ready to cook.

At the risk of being accused of special pleading, therefore, I offer the following response:

Almost all people, no matter how acutely gifted, play it safe. Risky intellectual inquiry, in fact, has a high attrition rate. It’s a rare person, at any point in their life, who cross-examines unfamiliar propositions. Even in a cohort of “really smart people,” most turn 50 years old without having written a book that reconfigures the basic assumptions of their intellectual domain.

If, however, one evolves into a leading thinker who only slowly becomes pertinent in their area of discourse, it is likely that they will continue to develop the implications of their ideas well into old age. Such detail work is to be encouraged as an essential outcome of starting out at the margin. The worth of the life of such a thinker, at an advanced age, is not to be measured by whether they are capable of producing a new book, but by that person’s presence as a living thinker whose unanticipated insights still seem new in their relevance.

But one doesn’t need to be such a thinker to deserve a longer life. Emanuel regards “play” as not being meaningful activity, and that makes me suspicious of what he might regard as important intellectual work, for at the heart of thoughtful endeavor is a sense of play. If one does not value play as an essentially meaningful activity of old age, I doubt that play was enthusiastically present in the correlating youth of such proponents.

And what of those people who gave up playfulness in service to their country, Dr. Emanuel? What of the military veterans who put in 20 or 25 or even 30 years — and remember that their families serve with them, too, eh? What of their old age? Do they not deserve to play in their old age, who endured severe restrictions so that you in middle age could exercise the right to free speech on behalf of civilian chauvinists everywhere. “Proud C.C., stand back! Stand by!” Such is the counsel of Dr. Emanuel.

“Ezekiel J. Emanuel is Vice Provost for Global Initiatives and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. From January 2009 to January 2011, he served as special advisor for health policy to the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. ….. Dr. Emanuel has written and edited 9 books and over 200 scientific articles.”

*. *. *. *

Civilian Chauvinism and “Military Brats Matter”

Identity is constrained by a multitude of factors: racial or ethnic affiliation; gender orientation; class residency. Given each peculiar instance of the combinations that this trifecta can generate, “white privilege” is the category that can seem easiest to critique as the source of many of our country’s most grievous offenses against human dignity.

In all the critiques of “white privilege” in the Academy, however, I have never once heard anyone ever mention their status in regards to “civilian privilege.” If privilege is that which is most obnoxious when it is so taken for granted that it never occurs to the possessor of privilege that they are privileged, then civilian privilege is right near the top in being part of the reason I feel so alienated in this country. It permeates everything I come into contact with in the civilian world; and, sad to say, bringing it up only makes people uncomfortable. “Don’t we have enough discrimination problems to deal with without you bringing this up?”

Just as sexism is gauged by the degree of self-assumed privilege that males indulge in, and such individuals are called male chauvinists, those who have had the privilege of growing up in a civilian household are more likely to have succumbed to the blandishments of civilian chauvinism. It never seems to occur to people who grow up outside of the confines of military culture in general, and of career enlisted military culture in particular, that the cultural capital they have acquired is not just a matter of class as a matter of economic resources, but of the emotional and intellectual mobility that civilian stability assumes as its natural habitat. Civilian privilege, in particular, exercises its benefits most clearly in the domain of education, and becomes ever more visible the higher one moves up the teaching ranks.

Simply ask yourself this: what percentage of tenured college professors between 1970 and 2020 are the offspring of career enlisted military personnel?

My guess is that it’s less than one-tenth of one percent of those born between 1940 and 1970.

Why did such a shockingly low percentage of the several million individuals in this subculture grow up and not attain the preeminence of intellectual accomplishment? In large part, this is due to circumstances that are unfathomable not just to those who are middle-class, but even to many in the working class. The disadvantages inflicted on military brats are so pervasive, I’m afraid, that even those most encumbered are unaware of the structural disparities that play out in their lives. Unfortunately, as long as this nation maintains that its destiny is to be the center of a global empire, there will be no diminution of civilian privilege. If anything, there will only be an even more stringent acquiescence demanded of the youngest unofficial but de facto members of the U.S. armed forces. The permanent impact of deprivation on their personal character will of course puzzle those outside the subculture, but not enough to make them ever question the basic premises of civilian privilege.

*. *. *

“Military brats matter.”

The November, 2020 Roll-Call of Past Posts

In addition to my political commentary, here is a list of the people and cultural items I have posted entries on at some point in the past several years and that caught my readers’ attention in the months of October and November, 2020. Should you be new to this blog and wish to get a quick sense of the range of my topics, you would probably be best served by typing my name and one of the following five dozen or so names or subject headings into your browser:

Self-Quarantine Poem Number One: Walt Whitman’s Hammock on Pine Island
Interlitq: the California Poets Issue (Part 1
Best U.S. Poetry Books of this Decade (A List in Progress)
Suzanne Lummis in the “New Yorker”
Hold-Outs: The Los Angeles Poetry Renaissance, 1948-1992
“The War in Heaven”: Steve Kent and Sam Shepard (1943-2017)
The Garden City Horse Sculpture
Holly Prado (1938 – 2019)
Papa Bach Bookstore
Chatterton’s Bookstore
“The Gossip of Ideology: Sexual Jokes and the Tumescence of Power”
“The Comedian As Letter N” on MAGRA RADIO
Pruebas Ocultas — Publishing Update
Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center (Venice, CA)
Beat Scholars’ Wish List, 2020
The W-E Bicoastal Poets of the Pandemic Reading Series
Blue Collar Review
UNAM Poetry Workshop; FILU in Xalapa
AI “Drivers,” Truckers, and the Long Haul of “Jobless” Training
Encore: Trump’s “Concession Speech” — November 4, 2020
Grand Jury Indictment Time for the Trumpsville Express
157,000,000 Votes in 2020: The Constitutional Referendum
The Direct Election of the Next L.A. Poet Laureate
“Struck by Lightning: A Tribute to Robert Mezey” (1935-2020)
(Post-script to “Subjects”: Films reviewed in the past include “1917”; “Roma”; “Struggle”; “Born Again”; “Parasite.”)

Wanda Coleman
Kate Braverman
Holly Prado
Harry Northup
Paul Vangelisti
Bob Flanagan
Harryette Mullen
Kevin Opstedal
Alexis Rhone Fancher
Ron Silliman
Eloise Klein Healy
Michael McClure
Suzanne Lummis
Viggo Mortensen
Art Beck
Austin Straus
Robert Mezey
Philip Levine
Charles Bukowski
Charles Harper Webb
Laurel Ann Bogen
John Thomas
Beth Ruscio
Carol Ellis
Scott Wannberg
Lewis MacAdams
Hey Sook Park
Gil Fagiani
Christopher Buckley
Sam Shepard
Lewis Warsh
Brian Jones
Andrew Tonkovich
Eileen Aronson Ireland
Frank T. Rios
Eugene Ruggles
Ed Smith
Paul Violi
Patty Zeitlin
Joseph Hansen
John Harris
Bruce Andrews
Margaret Tynes Fairley
John Prine
James Tate
Louis Simpson

The context for writing blog posts that cited or discussed the above people (not all of whom I knew on a personal level, to be sure) is my familiarity with the following people, most of whom extended at some point in their lives a degree of friendship or supportive affiliation I never would have thought possible sixty years ago, when I was a bereft adolescent. Along with my spouse and her siblings and nephews and nieces, as well as my own extended family and a handful of discerning colleagues a CSULB, I hope this gesture of gratitude suffices for the moment. Happy holidays, and a much happier new year!

Brooks & Lea Ann Roddan
Bob & Judy Chinello
Jim Krusoe
David James
Alicia Ostriker
Harley Lond
Anthony Seidman
Michael Lally
Cecilia Woloch
Robin Myers
Laurence and Nancy Goldstein
Jack Grapes
Kathryn MacMahon
Mark Weiss
Gail Wronsky & Chuck Rosenthal
Nancy Grace
Ronna Johnson
Peter Levitt
Marsha de la O
Phil Taggart
Terry Braunstein
Dinah Berland
Joan Jobe Smith
Fred Voss
Phoebe and Ron Ozuna
Ron Koertge
Doren Robbins
Will Alexander
George Drury Smith
Anselm Berrigan
Paul Tayyar
Standard Schaefer
Timothy Steele
Deborah and Wayne Clayton
Susan Hansell
Audri Phillips
Nicole M. Street
Michael Hannon
Larry Smith
Jose Luis Rico
Mineko Grimmer
Carol Colin
Ted Waltz
Amy Uyematsu
Ioanna Warwick
Rick Lupert
Brendan Constantine
Christina Zawadiwsky
Mark Salerno
Michael Kincaid
Max Benavidez
Murray Mednick
Walter Hadler
Lynn McGee
Ellen Sander
Jim Cushing
Pete Fairchild
Marie Lecrivain
Juan Delgado
Jordan Jones
Molly Bendall
David James
Kevin McNamara
Michael Davidson
Donald Wesling
Steven & Risa Axelrod
John and Susan Grove
Alan Golding
Stephen Motika
Ann Robbins
Joyce Jenkins
Robert Peters
Joe Safdie
Kit Robinson
Jed Rasula
Edward Brunner
Rae Armantrout
John Lowney
Meeson Pae Yang
Craig Bolotin
Terence Diggory
Daniel Tiffany
Brian Kim Stefans
Natalie Gerber
Frank Kearful
Barrett Watten
Lyn Hejinian
John Whalen-Bridge
George Hart
Michelle T. Clinton
Martha Ronk
Dennis Phillips
Douglas Messerli
Michael C. Ford
Joe Safdie
Jim Moore
Patricia Hampl
Robert Mezey
David St. John
Exene Cervenka
John Doe
Rod Bradley
Ellen Bass
Douglas Kearney
Marilyn Nelson
Gail Newman
Eileen Myles
Celia Carlson
S.A. Griffin
Barbara Maloutas
Marie Thibault
Jim McVicker
Terry Oates
Tom Lux
Cathay Gleeson
Brent Maddock and Patsy Wright
Kathi Flood
Jim Conn
Patty Zeitlin
Liza Richardson
William A. O’Brien
Claude Zachary
Quentin Ring
Michelle Bitting
Dale Herd
Sandra Tanhauser
Brad Westbrook
Susan Anderson
Marshall Davis
William Slattery
Lee Rossi
Consuelo Marshall
Kimberly Enedy
James Grabill
Fred Dewey
Lenny Durso
Jack Skelly
Dennis Cooper
John Bonero
Steve Davis
Carl Sedon
Dennis Ellman
Glover Davis
Janet Cornwell
Tim Reynolds
Aleida Rodriguez

William (“Koki”) Iwamoto, founder, Chatterton’s Bookstore
Leland Hickman (1934-1991)
Peter Schneidre (1947 – 2008)
Manazar Gamboa (1934-2000)
Len Roberts (1947-2007)
Larry Colker (1947-2018)
Marine Robert Warden
David Antin
Austin Straus (1939-2017) 1
Larry Colker (1947-2018)

“The Gossip of Ideology: Sexual Jokes and the Tumescence of Power”

Sunday, November 29, 2020

M/C Journal

Edited by Paul Denvir and E. Sean Rintel

Vol. 6 No. 5 (2003): Joke

The Gossip of Ideology
Sexual Jokes and the Tumescence of Power
• Bill Mohr

How to Cite
Mohr, B. (2003). The Gossip of Ideology: Sexual Jokes and the Tumescence of Power.
M/C Journal, 6(5).

A discourse, according to Alan Sekula, is “an arena of information exchange, that is a system of relations between parties engaged in communicative activity.”1 Sekula immediately qualifies his definition by pointing out that “the notion of discourse is a notion of limits,” and arguing that “it is this limiting function that determines the very possibility of meaning.” In the capacity of testing the acceptable limits of any possible subject, jokes often reveal contradictions or ambivalent feelings about the meaning of power relations. This seems especially true about jokes involving sexual or erotic situations. In this paper, I will examine several jokes about sex that I have heard at one point or another, and consider how these jokes reveal the ideological dialogue interwoven in phallogocentric power.

For many years I made my living in Los Angeles as a blueprint machine operator in an architectural office and as a typesetter for weekly newspapers. All machines eventually break down, and repair workers are often welcome simply because they provide a different face within the routine. Since repair workers are moving from site to site, they are also in a position to pass on the latest economic rumor about another company, or to repeat a joke that someone has just told them. These jokes can range from a variant of the three-guys-on-an-island routine to a story about the Pope being driven to Yankees Stadium in a limousine. I am not especially good at remembering jokes, but the following one stands out, in part because I was surprised that the repairman felt comfortable enough about the work environment he was in to tell me the joke. In retrospect, I guess he looked at the five-to-one ratio of men to women in the production department and figured that there were equivalent odds in anyone being bothered by telling me the following joke:

A man’s at a party and he starts talking with a very beautiful woman. After about a half-hour of bantering and chit-chat, the man says, “Would you sleep with me if I gave you ten million dollars?” The woman looks at the man, pauses, and says, “Ten million for one night? Well, yes,” she says. “How about a million dollars?” says the man? “Maybe,” says the woman. “How about a hundred dollars?” says the man. “No way,” says the woman. “What do you think I am? A whore?” “Oh, we’ve already established that,” says the man. “We’re just quibbling about the price.”

The man who told me this joke as he fixed the typesetting equipment I worked on thought this was fairly funny, and I remember trying not to make it look as if I were smiling instead of scowling at what seemed to me a fairly nasty joke. As hostile humor goes, it could perhaps be conceded that it is fairly successful. The effectiveness of the joke aside, what impressed me was the sincerity with which he told the joke. It seemed as though the put-down told some kind of truth that he was not able to find expressed in any other way. The stereotype that the joke is built in is the assumption that all women are mercenary in regards to their sexual behavior: underneath the veneer of sexual attraction is a process of coy bargaining. The joke suggests that men and women might as well drop all pretension that any other motives are at work. In “quibbling about the price,” the repair person’s joke is attempting to reestablish the exchange of commodities in a capitalist society in terms of gendered domination. At its core, the above joke is meant to attack women who believe that they have any power in their lives other than sexual availability.

One crucial aspect of these jokes as thumbnail sketches of domination is that they serve as information that revolves through a culture with the casual insouciance of rumors. At the time, it Did not occur to me to ask the repairman where he had first heard the joke, though he probably would have said from somebody working at the place where he had been. If I had contacted that person, I no doubt would have been referred to yet another person. Even if I had managed to find a print version of the joke, it probably would not have an individual’s name attached to it. In circulating without specific attribution in regards to authorship, the anonymity of jokes allows them to function as the gossip of ideology. If, as Alan Sinfield suggests, the point of ideology is to make an explanation of social reality plausible,2 sexual jokes in particular repeat categorical ideas, e.g., all women are basically prostitutes in terms of their sexual agency, and make the implausible believable. If the purpose of ideology is to make the logic of a social system cohere, jokes point up imperfections in the arrangements, and allow us to estimate how much change would have to occur for the flaws in that logic to become acceptable, if not at least somewhat more tolerable. Jokes permit us to express our doubts about the distribution of power or to suppress incipient doubts, and in quelling them, mold the energy of doubt into more acceptable projections of normativity.

Given that ideology is fundamentally patriarchal, most sex jokes are about the disproportionate relations of power, control and authority. Male fears about the interminable unreliability of their value as reproductive agents are a large part of the trumpery of social life that provides the foundation for jokes about sex. For men, part of the baggage they lug around as that trumpery is a concern about the size of their penis. Phallic jokes almost always involve an objectification of women. A co-worker at the same newspaper where I heard the first joke told me the following one at the tail end of a fourteen hour shift.

I have to confess that I laughed more at this one, and I will not use exhaustion as an excuse. A man is taking a walk with his new wife, and up ahead he sees her first husband walking towards them. As they start to pass each other, the ex-husband says, “Hey, how does it feel to be with used goods?” “Very lovely,” replies the new husband, “once I get past the used part.”

The male gaze in this joke is focused completely on the genitals of all three of the characters. The woman is portrayed as common property, and her worth is only gauged in relationship to the transience of phallic power. The woman in this joke doesn’t even get to protest her status, but even when the woman is given the punch line, as in the following joke, the sexual agency at the core of the joke is portrayed as gratifying the ideological assumptions of power and possession. A woman gets into bed with her new husband on their wedding night, and says, “I’ve got something to tell you, dear.” “What’s that, sweetheart?” “I want you to be very gentle. I’m still a virgin.” “That’s can’t be possible,” the husband says. “You’ve been married three times before me.” “Well,” says the wife, “The first husband was a gynecologist, he just like to look at it. The second was a psychiatrist. He just liked to talk about it. The third was a veterinarian. He just coughed up hairballs.”

I would rate this as a far better joke than the first two, in part because it has a stronger coil of a starting point. Jokes, like poems, have their own peculiar logic, and jokes often work best when they begin with an absurd situation. A woman still being a virgin as she starts her fourth marriage is a blatantly absurd proposition, and yet and yet that which appears to be contradictory is quickly explained by involving the absurd amount of power we cede to those at the top of the masculine pyramid. The first three husbands would all seem to be at the summit of discourse in that they are trained as doctors, and theoretically are potent agents of domination. The absurdity of the joke’s initial proposition is a necessary component for pointing up how the contingency of the desire for erotic pleasure meets its limits in the imbalance of power created by male control of professional life. The joke plays out the full ramifications of the power of the male gaze in objectifying women. In contrast, the woman’s power in this joke is only in the passivity of her virginity. If the men are not able to have erections, the woman does not assert herself either in that she gives no indication that she enjoyed in the slightest degree the cunnilingus of the poem’s final punch line.

Perhaps the most insidious part of sexual jokes is that it’s very hard to resist their allure. We might regard ourselves as seeing through all the machinations of an interpellative society, and yet in spite of intellectual insights, can find ourselves enjoying humor that is effective only because it is playing off stereotypes of gender and power to which we are very susceptible. A huge number of jokes are about the costs and rewards of sexual power, and to that extent are the jagged nodes of domination. As with gossip, the distortions are repeated one person at a time. The cumulative effect of this circulation is to close off or limit the possibilities of other ways of organizing social life. Jokes, in that sense, contain and control the discourse generated by the doubts that ideology inherently raises. If laughter mutes these doubts, it also springs the traps that power sets for itself and us in maintaining its grip on the comedy of life.

Citation reference for this article
MLA Style
• Mohr, Bill. “The Gossip of Ideology” M/C: A Journal of Media and Culture
APA Style
• Mohr, B. (2003, Nov 10). The Gossip of Ideology. M/C: A Journal of Media and Culture, 6,

M/C Journal: “Joke”


EditorialTheme one: Transgressive Joking
Paul Denvir, E. Sean Rintel

• On Sexism in Conversational Joking
Example 1: Stan and Dave
Phillip Glenn


• Problems with the Attitudinal Endorsement Theory of Joke Appreciation
Aaron Smuts

• Viagra and ‘Getting it up’It’s a joke if you can’t and it’s a joke if you can!?
Tiina Vares

• The Gossip of IdeologySexual Jokes and the Tumescence of Power
Bill Mohr

• Performativity and Metacommentary in Jewish American Mother Light Bulb JokesNotes
Diane R. Wiener

• Sitting Targets and the Joking Relationships
Robert V. Lloyd

•. That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore: Zizek, Cynicism and Laughter
Gemma Blackwood

• Big ThingsLarrikinism, Low Art and the Land
Stephen Stockwell, Bethany Carlisle

M/C Journal and “The Aging Comedian as Letter N”

Saturday, November 28, 2020

As I was working on my dissertation at UC San Diego back in 2003, I noticed a call for papers on the subject of humor from a peer-reviewed journal coming out of Australia. Here is their self-description:

M/C Journal
M/C Journal was founded (as “M/C – A Journal of Media and Culture”) in 1998 as a place of public intellectualism analysing and critiquing the meeting of media and culture. M/C Journal is a fully blind-, peer-reviewed academic journal, open to submissions from anyone. We take seriously the need to move ideas outward, so that our cultural debates may have some resonance with wider political and cultural interests. Each issue is organised around a one-word theme (see our past issues), and is edited by one or more guest editors with a particular interest in that theme. Each issue has a feature article which engages with the theme in some detail, followed by several shorter articles.

I have no idea of how I ended up seeing a CFP (“Call for Papers”) for M/C Journal, but I remember quickly pounding out a first draft of what was basically a personal essay and sending it off. “Uh, where are the footnotes?” the editorial staff asked. They were interested in my approach to the theme of “joke,” but wanted at least a touch of an academic tone. I really didn’t have time to do much research, so I worked up a pair of citations and that proved to be enough.

I’m going to post the article tomorrow, but wanted to give this background information first. In a certain way, I can see how this article served as a creative bookmark. I recently wrote a long prose monologue, “The Aging Comedian as Letter N,” which Paul Vangelisti recorded for Magra Radio. One of the jokes that is cited in the article in 2003 turns up again in that monologue.

I like M/C Journal very much and wish I had time to read every issue. I admire the way that the editorial control shifts with every issue, so that the magazine’s participation in the ideal of “open access” is a viable actuality.I would love to see a volume of the “thirty best” essays, followed by a list of other representative essays that have achieved some distinction or even notoriety.

For those who would like to contribute to a magazine that takes popular culture seriously but doesn’t talk down to its reader, then I would highly recommend taking a look at it. If you might even consider writing something yourself, you should know that the next three issues will be on the theme words of: “BUBBLES”; “DARK”; and “ZOOM.”

The current issue (Vol. 23, No. 6 – 2020) is on the theme of exclusion and is edited by Susanne Eichner and Corinna Luthje.

Past theme words include:

Resilient (Vol. 16, No. 5 (2013)
(Please note that in this issue – Vol. 11, No. 1 – 2008), one of the articles is entitled
“Couchsurfing, Delocator, and Fallen Fruit: Websites Respond to a Crisis of Democracy”)
Joke (Vol. 6, No. 5 – 2003)

Lewis Warsh (1944-2020): “Leaning against a door frame”

Post-Script at the Start
Saturday, November 28, 2020

After I posted the entry on Lewis Warsh this past Monday, I remembered that Phoebe (MacAdams) Ozuna would probably be the only person I could ask for a personal recollection of him. She just wrote me and shared this image of him:

“The long lean figure of Lewis Warsh is gone, from the world but not from my mind. I hardly knew him, remember him with Anne when they published Angel Hair, and lived in the apartment on St. Mark’s Place, a great gathering place. I think of him leaning against a door frame. Later he was with Bernadette Mayer, publishing United Artists Magazine in Lenox, Mass. Recently I have been reading about him: writer of many books of poems, publisher, active supporter of young poets, beloved teacher at Long Island University in Brooklyn, father, grandfather.

Farewell, Lewis, lean figure of my youth, one of the people I wish I had known better.”

Phoebe added, “Strangely, the best write-up I have found about him is on Wikipedia. He deserves better than that!”

Indeed, I would love to hear from anyone who knew Lewis and would care to share their memories of him.

Monday, November 23, 2020

I’ve been waiting for the New York Times to recognize the death one of the most important literary lives on their local scene in the past half century, but nothing has yet appeared except for the standard “Legacy” column. I would urge William Grimes to write a formal article about Warsh. He is at least as important as Paul Violi, the subject of one of Grimes’s featured obituaries almost ten years ago. It’s not just all of Warsh’s accomplishments that deserve recognition. It’s also that he collaborated with writers and literary activists whose passing will most certainly be noted down the line. Even people who receive the homage of a journalist’s summary often never have their names cited in other obituaries. Eventually, though, when Anne Waldman and Bernadette Mayer make the debut of their “closing night” on the Obit page, Lewis Warsh will be once again present in those recitations.

I never met Warsh and I feel no personal loss, other than the wish that I could have spent some time up in Northern California when he lived there. Given all the work he did on behalf of other writers, it’s astonishing that he got as much writing done and published as he did. I can think of very few people who made full use so many of the impact points on Darnton’s communication circuit. His capacity to simultaneously contribute to a scene as a writer, editor, and publisher was extraordinary and demonstrated in an exemplary manner what it means to live fully committed to the imagination’s recuperative powers. I send my condolences to his family and his colleagues and all of his former students. The students, in particular, were more lucky to know him than they ever realized at the time.

Of the following poems by Lewis Warsh in POETRY magazine, my favorite is “Message,” which is in the first link.

Finally, it’s hard not to reflect on the list of male poets and playwrights born between 1941 and 1950 as it grows longer and longer.

Tom Clark (March 1, 1941 – August 18, 2018)
William Matthews (1942-1997)
Sam Shepard (November, 1943 – July, 2017)
James Tate (December 8, 1943 – July 8, 2015
Lewis Warsh (November 9, 1944 – November 15, 2020)
Leslie Scalapino (July 25, 1944 – May 28, 2010)
Paul Violi (July 20, 1944 – April 2, 2011)
Lewis MacAdams (October 12, 1944 – April 21, 2020)
Wanda Coleman (1946 – 2014)
Thomas Lux (December 10, 1946 – February 5, 2017)
Steve Dalachinsky (1946–2019)
Larry Levis (1946 – 1996)
Jerry Estin (1947-1993)
Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)
David Citino (March 13, 1947 – October 17, 2005)
Len Roberts (1947-2007)
Ai (1947-2010)
Ron Allen (1947-2010)
Frank Stanford (1948-1978)
Sekou Sundiata (1948-2007)
Jim Carroll (1949-2009)
Janice Gould (1949-2019)
Michael Gizzi (1949-2010)
Kate Braverman (February 5, 1949 – October 12, 2019)
Steven Jesse Bernstein (1950-1991)
F.A. Nettlebeck (1950-2011)
Deborah Digges (February 6, 1950 – April 10, 2009

L.A. Poets at Beyond Baroque, Summer, 1997

PREFACE: For some reason, my post “Paragraphs by Walter Lowenfels” is getting a surprising amount of attention. Most curious.

Sunday, November 22. 2020

In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected to the Presidency with less than 50 percent of the popular vote. When he failed to break 50 percent when he ran for re-election, it was in part because people were angry that he had broken his promises about job training programs for laid-off workers. That broken campaign promise, followed by the trade deals he negotiated that led to factories closing down in the United States, is one of the main reasons that we ended up with Trump for four years. The decision to concentrate on health care reform in 1993 instead of job training programs was his major political debacle. The Lewinsky scandal got more press, but Clinton’s famous comment to a potential voter in 1992 — “I feel your pain” — was just make-believe empathy. He didn’t give a shit about anyone other than Bill Clinton. He conned working people, and set them up to be conned by an even more audacious confidence man.

My first wife, Cathay Gleeson, and I had both lost our jobs by the mid-point of 1995. By that time, we had separated, and I ended up moving to San Diego two years later to begin studying for a Ph.D. at age 50. It seemed to many people at the time a very odd move, but many friends gathered at Beyond Baroque in the summer of 1997 to wish me farewell. Laurel Ann Bogen had written me when I was staying at Dorland Mountain Arts colony in the winter of 1997 and asked if I would still be around town long enough in the summer to drop by Beyond Baroque and see everyone before I left for San Diego.

Lea Ann Roddan took some pictures of the gathering, and I want to thank the Roddans for sending me the negative. These photographs are (c) Lea Ann Roddan and any permission to use them might be obtained from her in writing.

The people who appear in the following photographs include:
Brooks Roddan
Paul Vangelisti
Jim Krusoe
Fred Dewey
Laurel Ann Bogen
Suzanne Lummis
Michael C. Ford
Ellen Sander
Holly Prado
Cecilia Woloch
Phoebe MacAdams
Tim Reynolds
John Thomas
Philomene Long
Peter Levitt
Dick Barnes
John Harris
Jimm Cushing

Beth Ruscio: An Interview with the Actress-Poet

Saturday, November 21, 2020

“Confident and poised, (her poems) own the stage of these pages. I am on my feet, applauding them and their maker.” — Gail Wronsky, author of Imperfect Pastorals

Mariano Zaro recently interviewed the actress-poet Beth Ruscio, whose poems I first remember hearing at an open reading at the Poetry Festival in Idyllwild back in its glory days, when it was being run by its co-founders Cecilia Woloch and John Maguire. Beth first attended a poetry workshop at Idyllwild when she won the Patricia Bibby Scholarship the second year it was awarded. Unlike many people in Los Angeles County who have only a very vague notion of how to get to Idyllwild, Beth was familiar with the place because also her playwright spouse, Leon Martell taught at the Idyllwild summer arts program. Martell is one of the best and most under recognized playwrights in the country and currently teaches at UCLA Extension.

Beth Ruscio’s first full-length book of poems, SPEAKING PARTS, was the winner of the Brick Road Poetry Prize and has just been published by Brick Road Press. Anyone making a list of the year’s best books of poetry needs to read SPEAKING PARTS before making their final choices. If you don’t bother to read it before making such a list, you have no excuse but laziness that verges on curiosity reduced to imaginative illiteracy. There are a number of books that I would add to this list of required reading, including Susana H. Case’s DEAD SHARK ON THE N TRAIN.

It would help Beth’s cause, of course, if she could give readings. Unfortunately, the pandemic has shut down any public presentations, but Beth will be giving a reading on Zoom on December 6. In the meantime, enjoy her company in this interview.

To get Beth’s book in time to give it as a holiday present:

Beth Ruscio
As a daughter of actors, and part of a working class family of artists, actors, teachers and writers working in California, my poetry has been honored with Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations, as well as finalist honors: The Wilder Prize, The Sunken Garden Poetry Prize, The Tupelo Quarterly Prize, The Ruth Stone Poetry Award and The Two Sylvias Prize.

“Buoying us fearlessly through theatrical make-up sessions, costume changes, death, love, and itchy wigs, the luminous poems in Beth Ruscio’s debut collection SPEAKING PARTS speak to us in a language that’s inviting, insightful, and alive. Even while acknowledging that ‘sorrow bleaches us,’ and observing that here’s a ‘grammar of anger in the color of ice,’ these poems somehow always uplift. Confident and poised, they own the stage of these pages. I am on my feet, applauding them and their maker.” — Gail Wronsky, author of Imperfect Pastorals

“The elegant enactments and lyrical meditations of SPEAKING PARTS remind us that to speak for others also allows us to speak most eloquently for those many interior aspects of ourselves. In this inventive and precisely staged book oof poetry, those disparate voices braid together into a single luminous choir.” — David St. John, author of The Auroras

“In Beth Ruscio’s ingenious, turn-on-a-dime poems, performance is all. There is no ‘true’ self for her speaker to uncover, and no canned epiphanies for readers, either. There are only the unsparing imperative of improvisation — timing, cunning, abandon, ruse. Each moment’s desire met and then deflected. Wha does it take to play ou/selves Everything.” — Dorothy Barresi, author of What We Did While We Made More Guns