November 10th, 2011 / 3:27 pm

Cumera obscura

There is a moment when a human being walks into a camera’s view which, devoid of any narrative we might honor it, is simply that, a moment, a dot on a timeline as a bee’s stinger suspended above a meadow. Yet it is profound, the semblance of immortality. The same camera which killed painting is insentient, judgeless, uncaring — yet turned into an ethical machine, as we appoint it objectivity, the auspices of “what happened” via residual files inside a memory card smaller and smoother than a cat’s tongue. We expectantly look and point at shapes similar to us, no longer inside the camera, but displayed on screens by signals detached from the original event, now portrayed in numbers, binary code, recollated into bands of color, thru four channels, or something, physical parameters we barely understand like the spill-shaped universe itself. And here, somewhere in a parking lot, in the western hemisphere, at some point in this current century, two people displaced light’s refraction, inadvertently asserted their contours, the man observing the evolutionary pause of his member’s intraface with his partner’s mouth, how funny and endearing that act is, and multiple men weeks or months or years later would semi-emotionally reappropriate these images by funneling them into their minds, to the smaller universe between their synapses, forever lodged in some lobe in their brain, some desperate corner, the original event now something greater, surgically deeper. This is porn.

Semen is like gum on the sidewalk, nodes offered by men to commemorate their time here, a game of connect-the-dots, flying chromosomes, and cross wires of lies. Whenever my leg accidentally graces a hotel/motel bed cover, I cringe imaging a 220 lbs. hairy man, oddly always Persian, “blow his wad” on the same area I am touching; then, to soften the imagery, I imagine a demure 14-year-old boy masturbating in a hotel room while his parents shop for Burberry bags, and quickly realize that is me frever. It’s funny the terms we employ: wad, load, spunk, splooge. They are cartoon sounding, perhaps because the male orgasm, with its simple minded obviousness and chaotic evidence, looks somewhat absurd, like stepping on a pack of mayonnaise.

I wonder who these people are. In our (or my) deep pathos, it is only erotic if this is cheating. Two lovers in a committed relationship “doing it” is as boring as having brunch with them, though the “wife” category in porn, whose main conceit is unconditional and perennial Sunday fellatio, I find compelling. A cynical view, I suppose, is that you either need to cheat, or be cheated on — like some cosmic skepticism that the earth’s route around the sun is childlike and wobbly, resentful and scared that the sun may go out at any moment. Semen on a cover whose bed neither the emitter nor recipient could wait to enter suggests that passionate oversight, the haunting imperativeness of that transaction. Sadly, it is to be alive again. Two hands on an ass spreading cheeks open is the greatest book being read, a cylindrical bookmark inserted at the best scene. Inside every hotel room drawer lies a bible, for that is where people swear to God they didn’t cheat, as if God would be phased by the word fuck.

“I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom,” goes Humpty Hump in the “The Humpty Dance” (1990), which ended its ascent at № 11 in 1990’s U.S. Billboard Hot 100. I was 14 years old then, and the phrase always struck me as a little disgusting. I’d imagine a woman on her knees, her wide palms planted on the urine splotched greasy tiles, the notable redolence of said establishment induced diarrhea earlier that afternoon, mixed with bleach, and a man with a Groucho Marx mask and blueberry-sized wart on his member pumping away at the fish filet with extra tartar. Then, as I got older, having gone through some personal not-so-proud-of sexual experiences, I understood the allure. We define our desires by their very indiscretion, their transgression. I watch hidden cam and public sex (i.e. “discovery fantasy”) porn in a flaccid state, my query less erotic than nostalgic. I create stories for these people who resemble a short story, the ones of modest integrity anthologized by a xanax-subdued editor on the 24th floor of a New York publishing house, looking out her window at the rat-sized people and the ant-sized rats, all coursing like the river they try to have you imagine in yoga class. It’s a tunnel of loneliness I like to venture in, 2:00 am-ish on a Saturday night, the SNL and Pinot both finished, my lips bruised purple like some woman who likes to be punched in the face. I find that rap helps.

The Japanese (these are the masters of porn) invented a bicycle whose gears are attached to a dildo; as the woman pedals, the dildo moves up and down through a hole in the seat on which said woman sits. They film her, often crying, riding this boutique bike through the woods, with a camera attached at such an angle to best convey the smiling-frowning-smiling-frowning labia. My favorite parts are when she goes over a bump, or some rough gravel, and the camera joggles the terrain induces. Watching the screen shake, I am taken away from the idealized image, and reminded of the material constraints and palpable aspects of this world. Porn is the miracle of seeing something which actually happened, happen as it happens. The calming effect of something so simple as a tepid patch of flesh, slightly post-it sticky with sweat, a square reminder of something we forgot.

Camera obscura (latin, “dark chamber room”) is a device preceding photography’s role of recording, inside which light from the outside world is reflected and projected onto a flat surface. There was no way to save or record the image, other than drawing from it. When asked why not simply draw from the actual world, save the complicated angles and mediation, the 17th century Dutch etchers and painters who were its proponents said it was easier to draw from an image that was already flattened, instead of abridging a 3D world into interpreted shapes, that the eye and the mind tended to work against each other. The responsibility of interpretation was too formidable; they would rather just color inside the lines. Since the beginning — its first principles established as early as c. 300 BC by the Chinese — the flattened, borrowed, mediated, and disjointed image has been preferred over the reality portrays. Put simply, things seem more beautiful when you’re not around. From the caves of Lascaux, to Plato’s, it seems we are merely madmen pointing at shapes, discovering our roles in them. I love watching other people love each other, their loneliness collapsed by a wad, the secret understanding between complicit bodies that other hearts will be broken, the rubbers and pills which aim to stop the life-sentence of life, all before the calm universe reaches its fingers out again, conveyed by bands of light of both the sun and inside your screen, your friend pushes play.


  1. Erik Stinson

      i get the purple lips real bad

  2. deadgod

      the > function is broken in this blogicle

      so what’s with all the writing is it plot or some hot action or what

  3. Lilzed

      porn is for spaceships

  4. will c.

      Great piece/words, Jimmy

  5. Lilzed

      Porn is the miracle of seeing something which actually happened, happen as it happens.


      While I was reading this article there was a faint buzzing atmosphere created in my mind. Maybe I was getting the feeling of you finding your distance. Seemed to function in an organic associative way as your writing often does. With this one in particular, the aesthetic worked particularly well. It’s the way you give yourself access to things.

  6. yellow and anonymous

      fazed, unless i’m missing some wordplay–i point it out because i see this misuse more and more often
      amusing post

  7. Lilzed

      could you be more specific

  8. yellow and anonymous

      sry…just before the third image:

      Inside every hotel room drawer lies a bible, for that is where people swear to God they didn’t cheat, as if God would be phased by the word fuck.

  9. Jimmy Chen

      wow, i don’t think i knew ‘fazed’ was even word, always spelled it ‘phased’ w/o actually thinking about it; maybe like ‘one is only phased for a while,’ meaning, during a unique phase in time, maybe that was the internal logic. i like it when projected and/or erroneous logic justifies or influences perceived spelling. there must be a word for that

  10. JSA Lowe

      It’s called an eggcorn…but personally I like to call it, wrong. Great piece!