Knatz.com spun off; pknatz blog tries to regather. This was one of the first posts, 2005 01 30, to get edited from IonaArc blog to K.
Knatz.com already describes my own particular brand of channel surfing. Soaps, commercials, sitcoms, news, games, cops, and car chases go by in a blur. Top seeded tennis players will stop me cold, as will any PGA tournament, and certain players or teams from the NBA. I’ll watch the British Open from dawn here to dusk there. Come May and the playoffs I’ll rivet myself to three whole games in a row. A made for the theater movie will pause me till I assimilate the genre, the ensemble. Any second of any classic will stop and hold me: unless I’ve already seen it too too many times: e’en so, it will slow my blur momentarily. The commercials that precede or interrupt professional sports are laden with promises of the mayhem to follow. Thus I may watch thirty seconds to a minute and a half of beer or brokerage house to determine what’s on the other side of it.
Understand: I’ve seldom looked at a schedule, seldom know what time it is, or even what day, even whether or not it’s a weekend. Day, night, Wednesday, Sunday … go by for me without distinction; but some absurd situation about a guy shaving may make me sense football to follow. In the same way I’ll pause my lure in the water, not sure what if anything has contacted it (or whether my lure has bumped some debris). I may pause my lure if I so much as feel that a fish is looking at it. I may be wrong more often than right: still, it’s amazing how many times I’m right. Hoowee, and hold on.
There have been sitcoms which I’ve learned to respect, typically years after cycles of repeats, and I’ll lock the channel and absorb whatever remains till the end of the episode. Thus I’ve seen the last ten minutes, the last twenty minutes, of many Taxi episodes: even occasionally schedule a whole one. Commonly the beginning will be new to me, the body and end familiar. Seinfeld ran long enough that I caught new shows in its later yeas.
Other, dinner hour, repeats I’ll have flashed on often enough to feel like I know the situation, know the cast, without ever having seen more than a minute of any episode: Lucy, Mash … Friends.
Where’s my theme of segregation? It’s coming.
Last evening was unusual. Part of a Seinfeld that was unique to me was followed by other parts I’d seen. Kramer, apparently experimenting with short naps to replace nights’ sleeps, is necking with some woman, climbs on top of her, and falls asleep. Her cell phone summons friends who, believing her that he’s dead, roll him in the blanket and dump him in the river. Hysterical: Kramer in the river is already a funny theme. I’m chewing my hamburger with a thick slice of tomato, and the next thing I know I’ve actually seen a bit of Everybody Loves Raymond and heard for the first time a couple of the lines. Characters I well knew were in the show have now cameoed their natures to me. The bits added up to two household generations of women with menstrual symptoms and men in the dog house. Quality comedy, but what was I doing? I flipped the channel and the Friends were playing football. Still thinking how good the Raymond situation was, how well it was done, and wondering why I’d bailed out, I saw the football to the end. Normally the TV would have been shut back down long before then and I’d have been juggling hamburger with one hand and the library’s fat copy of Jared Diamond’s Collapse in the other. Last evening though Diamond remained in the bedroom, my tongue tried to untangle gristle from a tooth and gum line, and I contemplated Friends.
The show would have us suspend our disbelief that young men and women can be friends: live together, play together, have assorted affairs together: and be friends. Not in my generation, not in my parents’ generation.
Oh, it’s always I don’t doubt possible for a man and a woman to be friends; but not typical: and certainly not in packs. But then social circumstances may change over mere years. In graduate school after the army I met young women, that-many-years younger (with no female draft), who seemed to come from a different world: they had gone to high school hanging with guys, gone to colleges with integrated dorms. But could they really be friends with their male contemporaries? the way guys — or gals — were friends when I was in school? Does pk, with his own experience, know what was true of his own contemporaries?
When I was a kid sure girls were playmates. But as puberty approached girls were aliens. Then they were prey; or objects of fear: objects of confusion. Why hasn’t that cute girl from another neighborhood yet made any fuss over me? Is she stuck up? I bet she’s rich. Many of my male friends were rich, but their familys’ wealth was familiar to me. There was more than one culture in my town, more than two.
In school boys and girls were put together: it was the teachers who were segregated. In grade school the teachers were segregated by men being wholly absent. A single male appeared by the seventh grade. In high school there were several. I know that schools had recently segregated coed faculties not just by numbers but with separate lounges.
The English upper classes long segregated their upper classes into many sub-divisions. The joke went that the duke’s club was so exclusive that he was the only member.
College reversed everything. There were no women in the faculty. Barnard had both men and women in its faculty, but they kept to the other side of Broadway.
When I was in highschool, when I was in college, no football game, not a pickup game, no touch football would admit a female onto the field. Girls had their silly awkward hockey.
The first time I ever saw males and females play together was at Cheng Man Ch’ing’s tai chi dojo on Canal Street. I sat to the side of the gym with my jaw dropped as the men pushed with forearms and hands against the woman’s chest. The women smiled and pushed back. Had there been a Seinfeld episode in 1963 where Elaine shoved Jerry against his chest, it would have been daring, but not impossible. No, the impossible would have been for Jerry to push Elaine against her chest.
The breast you see was a sacred object. Of course you touched it: that was the whole point; but in private, with the lights out.
Somewhere in the 1960s I began seeing men and woman play touch football, but it was a completely different game from the men’s touch football. In the latter it’s expected that the player will go all out: for the touch, even as the tackle is avoided. But in coed, only the women may go all out for the touch: and they’d damn well better avoid your gonads.
What if they didn’t? Did it ever happen? There’s no physical law. Accidents may occur. Not that anyone ever saw: and if they saw it, their seeing it didn’t register. [2013 09 14 “Seeing” is not a function of the eye: it’s a function of the visual cortex! eye edited, interpreted (censored) by brain, the emergent mind conditioned.]
So: the genders segregate themselves, but the genders segregate themselves differently between this and that culture, this and that century, this and that decade.
Nowadays you can’t see Shakespeare on the stage where some crone doesn’t conspicuously knee some geek in the balls. (I don’t remember that stage direction from the book.) Now a year can’t go by without a five minute stretch of bloopers of baseball players wishing they had worn their cup. In the movie, the virgin knees the devil. But I haven’t seen any bloopers where the girls spear the guys in the nuts. Taboos ebb and flow, but the ocean hasn’t yet emptied.
All of a sudden in the 1960s we were asked to pretend that Diana Rigg was throwing the stunt men acrobats through the window. By 1982 Sandahl Bergman’s Valeria in Conan the Barbarian looked like she might actually be able to fight.
If segregation is total then segregation is likely to be invisible to the segregated.
By the time Michelle Rodriguez did Girlfight there really were women boxing and boxing well. And I certainly don’t mean that women were never able to fight before the year 2000. Women used to be warriors: in some cultures. I don’t imagine anyone expected many individual women to be some individual man’s equal on the battle field, but most battles are not fought by individuals. Amazons would team. And some individual women didn’t need to worry about parity: they were absolute terrors. Jorge Luis Borges writes of a female Chinese pirate the peer of any legend. Of course she, once her pirate mate was killed, became a general. Still I bet she was mean with the blade.
(Scorsese’s Gangs of New York depicted a terror of a street fighter, female. Apparently history can show a bunch of them.)
But even with the pretense, why should we have trouble? We had long been asked to believe that Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade could quickly and easily take Wilmer’s guns away from him.
I adored believing that the Lone Ranger could shoot the gun from the villain’s hand. That Toshiro Mifune and his katana could face eleven soldiers, one of them carrying a firearm, is as central an article of faith as I have.
We believe that Pythagoras was smart: Euclid, Shakespeare, Newton … Why should it be impossible for so long to imagine that Booker T. Washington was smart? By the 1940s how many could see that Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk … were geniuses?
We segregate by more than one measure. We integrate at very different rates.
I loved Diana Rigg: in Shakespeare. I loved Sandahl Bergman in Conan, Michelle Rodriguez in Girlfight. I was embarrassed for Diana Rigg in The Avengers. I was embarrassed for TV, for the audience. note
I don’t need to be willing to suspend my disbelief in this and that situation: it’s automatic. I can’t, and am not willing, or anxious, to suspend my disbelief in another situation. I believe that Jane Austen was smart. The evidence is in line after line, in the situations, the characters. Who should have a problem with Marie Curie? But I will not believe that the woman at the Traffic Bureau is smart no matter what her name plate says.
But the situation, in general, on TV, that I refuse to believe the most, even though I know I have scant experience with my own society, is the suburban barbecue where the WASPs hand a hotdog to the black, and he takes it, as though he’s one of them.
PS 2005 03 21 These past couple of months have seen an increase in my consumption of TV. I’ve now seen more of the dinner hour reruns than I had when I wrote the above: including Friends, but also Seinfeld. The friendships of Friends remain alien to me, but I ratify that I adore the friendships (and enmities) of Seinfeld. Who wouldn’t want to have a friend like Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Elaine? I wish I had. And I think Dreyfus may be as wonderful a comic actress as I have ever seen: a national treasure.
2013 05 16 I have to take some of the above back. These days I do have women as friends, not just as lovers, potential lovers, or ex-lovers. Partly it may be because I love Jan so much, partly it may be that my dance partners now, in their seventies, and eighties, have had enough lovers, don’t need to fuss for another, see that I’m Jan’s, and share me, share themselves: on the dance floor, bed not necessary.
One friend I lusted for like crazy but still held myself in check. Now I’m still attracted to her but don’t bother to lust. Now a new friend does make me twitch; but, if we stay in check, I may calm down about her too.
Embarrassed for the Audience:
2005 02 16 Just now is my first dip into Cleopatra Jones: blacksploitation 1973. At least Diana Rigg, over and above making no claims to being an athlete, had the excuse that it was for TV. Hollywood is supposed to employ the resources to get the shot right. To pretend that this actress can do anything, the action has to move as if it’s immersed in glue. By The Matrix and Kill Bill, things have really improved for the thespian amazons.
there are other segregation pieces not yet blended: search
Segregation (from IonaArc)