(Reposted) Sebastian Horsely: Patron Saint of Gutter Decadence

Because the Muse (that divine bitch) and I are ignoring each other’s texts at the moment, I have decided to repost one my personal favorites. I posted this seven years ago, so most (two, three, four?) of my current readers may not have encountered this sultry submission. I have made a few edits and added a few videos; enjoy.

“Let us pay with our bodies for our soul’s desire.” Theodore Roosevelt

As with the sordid-beyond-words/odors person of diarhetic shock punk rocker GG Allin, Sebastian Horsley was another mess of flesh and bone and soul, poetry, blasphemy, drug abuse, and infinite longing with whom we should become acquainted, if for no other reason, in order to remind ourselves that the human condition cannot be neatly explained in behaviorist terms of environmental influence or in parallel simplistic spiritual categories. In other words, let us gape at the abyss that resides within each one of us.

Sebastian incarnated vintage British odd. While in America we tend to over-medicate and lock away the emotionally and mentally lopsided as a public embarrassment (or at least shuffle them away to the nearest public library or to my community college classes), in Britain a peculiar paternal pride is taken in the off-beat, as they have bestowed upon them the much more benign appellation of “eccentric,” as opposed to “sick.” (Think Evelyn Waugh.) One such eccentric was the self-proclaimed and self-styled (I suppose the two oft go together) gutter-dandy Sebastian Horsley. As an art school drop-out, this painter made himself a household name by writing a regular sex column for a popular London paper, but he found his column axed when he decided to ruminate on sodomy one Easter morning. Apparently, even tolerant Anglican England has its bonny limits.

Such a turn of events was nothing new for Sebastian. He once made millions on the stock market through deft financial manoeuvring (tipping my hat toward the British spelling), only to lose most of it to the machinations of various pharmaceutical companies, namely Heroin and Cocaine LTD. Let us not be too harsh, though; he probably needed the drugs in order to maintain his stamina for the 1000 prostitutes whom he engaged over the course of his lifetime. Prostitution is one of the world’s oldest professions, and it was also Sebastian’s. For a spell he was a male prostitute, and, while under the sensual spell, he was buggered by one of Britain’s mass murders. Did he believe that prostitution should be made legal? No, because, as he maintained, that would take away the allure.

His junkie desire to pursue an absolute sensation wherever it might lead is nowhere more shockingly seen in his drive toward aesthetic transcendence. For a series of paintings on sharks he felt that he should swim with sharks, so he did. For a series of paintings on the Crucifixion he felt that he should be crucified, so he was.

In 2000, Sebastian traveled to the Philippines to be crucified in a gruesome re-enactment that takes place every year during Holy Week. In the process that leads to this annual replay of Calvary, flagellants whip themselves bloody while vendors sell souvenir whips and, of course, Coca-Cola. Three inch nails are pre-soaked in a disinfectant solution to prevent infection and, once crucified, the victims are allowed to hang for only ten to fifteen minutes. Those who volunteer to undergo crucifixion are usually Filipino men who do so with the hope that God will heal a loved one or to mortify of the flesh or to plead with God not to send floods. (An aside on the topic of the mortification of the flesh: if we still believe that there is an immortal aspect to our being, then does it not make sense to devote one’s energies to developing this aspect even if it might require short-term suffering? Let us look at it from another angle. We are willing to subject ourselves to all types of silly practices, namely, exercise or secular fasts, that is, dieting. For what? A healthier life? Maybe, but a healthy life is still rather insignificant compared to eternity. Yet, we usually admire those who are sufficiently disciplined to exercise on a regular basis with an emphasis on the temporal while, on the other hand, we recoil in horror at the thought or image of a self-flagellant who has his eyes on the everlasting. As for me, my sympathies go toward the yogi aesthetic or self-flagellant, not to the Adkin’s dieter or paleo practitioner or gym rat.) Back to Sebastian…In quite a twist, he denied himself painkillers. After being hoisted on the cross, his footrest broke away, and he fell off the cross. Had his wrist straps not snapped, the nails would have ripped through his hands—not good business for a painter. Sebastian saw this as a sign of wrath from the God he did not believe exists. I see this as a sign that God has a particularly cheeky sense of humor.

Horsley died on June 17th of 2010 because of an overdose on heroin and cocaine. He claimed to have slept with a pistol next to his bed with the muffled hope that if the telephone ever rang while he as was asleep, he might accidentally pick up the gun and shoot himself instead. [As an aside, I, too, sleep with a gun in my bed, but for less dramatic reasons.] He wrote in his autobiography that he had “decided to stop living because of the cost.” Perhaps he decided to make good on that claim.

For all the self-posturing, decadence, and theatrics—no, because of it all—Sebastian seemed to have had an gnawing awareness of the futility of a life not grounded in the infinite. He rejected the inane phoniness of those who act as if the existence of God is a mere trifle of an issue. Sebastian seemed to understand the stakes. His own hidden despair was a testament to it. Yet, as Horsley himself once said, those who are mired in nihilism are closest to faith.

Here he is in all his infernal cheekiness:

 

Dandy in the Underworld:

 

Back in the UK:

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Never Forget–Just Don’t Learn

Given the ease with which the media now traffics in the term “conspiracy” whenever Russia or Putin is discussed, one might be led to believe that the term has been rehabilitated for polite political discourse. However, in this media-controlled discourse, the term’s referent is what matters: if we are referring the machinations of the Slavic people, then we need to take stock of the sober reality of a historically un-sober people and their insidious ways. If we are talking about the untrustworthiness–if not vile transgressions–of the US government against its own people, then those who dare contemplate conspiracies need to be “slut shamed” Big Brother style.

9/11.

With all that has been revealed through Wikileaks if no other source, the fact many still cannot fathom the possibility that the US government may not be a government for the people by the people baffles me. I do not intend to turn this post into an exploration into the arguments for 9/11’s being an inside job of some sort; those sites and videos can (still as of yet) be readily found. However, I will post this one, for I think that it cleverly and succinctly brings up the many, many inconsistencies and lingering questions involved without launching into a more paranoid who-done-it:

Also, when one thinks of the numerous governmental benefits (read: extensions of power) that followed in the wake, one should wonder if this convenient day of infamy, this second Pearl Harbor (much like the first one), was a little too convenient.

 

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Sometimes a Little Dose of Anti-Civilization Is Just Want You Need

I wish that I could tell you that I spend my disposable time (as if time were truly disposable in the first place) trying to learn Baroque-period pieces on my mandolin. I have attempted that, and I do fancy Renaissance-period madrigals, too. However, I do not spend too much time trying to learn either the mandolin or mandolin Baroque-period pieces, and I have, yes, an abiding, though somewhat embarrassing, attraction to the anti-civilizational music of punk. My first concert was a punk concert at some dirty dive in Hollywood at which a drunken idiot was spouting white nationalist taunts toward a touring Japanese punk band–one that probably could not understand him anyway. (This was long before the rise of the dreaded liberal bogeyman group, the alt-right, and far, far from the South.)

This past week has been an excruciating one for me work-wise. I had over a hundred essays to grade, so I had to rely upon ingesting chemical stimulation (nothing illegal, snowflakes) and listening to punk–in particular, (The) Misfits. (How can you not like a band that makes it a requirement that one lift in order to be considered?)

As much as I appreciate the vision and grit of Glenn Danzig and his evil-Roy-Orbison-by-way-of-Robert-Johnson sound, I think that Michale Graves was the much better vocalist. Graves brought a more doo-woppy/50s-ballad feel to the band, infusing it with an energy that it–I dare say–lacked prior to him.

Compare the following:

Glenn Danzig:

Michale Graves’s rendition:

The song that I have had on repeat has been the following tune: a weepy-50s-esque rock ballad of love and murder. I believe that two are never far from each other. (Relax–I am guilty only of one.)

Studio version:

No direspect to Danzig, though. Check out this video and then tell me that you would have messed with (very short) maniac in his prime.

Given that the first CD I ever purchased was an album by The Ramones, I will leave you with this. After this past week, this is all I want (well, that and the busty cutie-pie nurse in this video who comes into view at the 0:57 mark):

 

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Eye and Ear Candy

I have exhausted myself on dreadfully serious posts as of late. If I had more people who would spit into the abyss with me, then I could keep spitting to polish these gloomy gems. However, most do not know how to respond to my peculiar brand of twilight twitter when I am soberly reflective.

Epicurus, come on down!

I am sure that I have probably posted this video before, but it is befitting that I revisit this melancholy melody.

I have luxuriated in the work of Mazzy Star since the 90s, and I have pined after Hope Sandoval, well, since the 90s. However, because no true love can satisfactorily be consummated in this world, I pine for the Hope Sandoval perpetually trapped in her mid-90s form.  Like this:

~ The ever stunning Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star ~

That is the kind of beauty that drives a man to senselessness, to numbness, and to despair–available to only a select group of men, and even those who come close to possessing it–for who can possess an ideal?–must cherish it before its physical manifestation fades and withers and is forgotten.

Most of what appeals to me would be deemed chauvinistic by today’s standards, so I must say what they are: her long raven hair, her pouty lips, her large luminescent eyes, her diminutive frame, her demure waifishness, her fragile voice, her aura of sadness, her effortless [if a woman ever truly does anything effortlessly 😉 ] gypsy-esque seductiveness. Though she is Hispanic, she looks vaguely Eastern European (Romanian or Georgian–damn you, Georgia, and the heartache you have caused me), and there is not much, dear reader, that I would not attempt for a pretty Eastern European gal.

*photo credits*

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Stuck in the Middle with You

We are a generation of clowns and jokers performing during the intermission. A flummoxed flux facing the farce as it finds itself fleeing an afflicted entrance and flowing into an absurd exit.

I read Cyril Connolly’s The Unquiet Grave like I once used to read my book of Catholic prayers–often and everywhere. He writes, ” Three requisites for a work of art: validity of the myth, vigour of belief, intensity of vocation.”

What reigning and sovereign myths do we still collectively hold apart from some vague sense of the democratic value of the individual?

Vigo(u)r of belief? The only belief that we still vigorously share is some nebulous notion of individual rights.

As for vocation, a belief that one can be called unto something would require the relational idea that there is one who calls and directs and gives accordingly. Even those who do accept this premise may chafe in the tight-fitting teleological pants prescribed.

I have come to believe that we are a transitional people. By we, I mean we moderns. Our constitutional insipidity–our lackluster core–prevents us from greatness, whether in spirituality or art.

Leon Bloy writes that “[t]he only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.” Connolly, echoing him in thought but not in vision, writes that “[t]he more books we read, the clearer it becomes that the true function of a writer is to produce a masterpiece and that no other task is of any consequence.”

Unfortunately, we do not possess the spirit either for sainthood or for masterpieces. All we can do, perhaps, is bear witness to later generations. I am prevented from using the analogy of the phoenix because that analogy requires a fire that burns only to recreate. We have no such firing burning in our souls. If there is a hope, then future generations who will reclaim and restore what it means to be human must rise from the dirt that has accumulated on humanity’s porch of lethargy, indifference, and listlessness.

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At Any Moment

Few little things give me as disproportionate an amount of pleasure as finding notes–commentary, poetry, or fiction–that I have left in my books and have since forgotten, only to be discovered by a future self. Came across this one in Walker Percy’s Signposts in a Strange Land this morning:

The lady kept staring at me as if she hoped that, at any moment, I would turn into somebody she once loved.

Now if I could only figure out what in Percy’s collection of essays prompted me to pen that.

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Every Semester

As I nervously prepare for another first day of teaching, I am reminded of Michel Houellebecq’s spiritually-exhausted, andropausal, soon-to-be-Muslim convert, Francois, in Submission. As a Huysmans’s scholar who cares only for his research (and online porn and TV dinners), he admits, “I’d never felt the slightest vocation for teaching–and my fifteen years as a teacher had only confirmed that initial lack of vocation. What little private tutoring I’d done…soon convinced me that the transmission of knowledge was generally impossible, the variance of intelligence extreme, and that nothing could undo or even mitigate this basic inequality.”  At beginning of every semester, I wonder if this is the semester in which students will see through my ruse; if this will be the semester in which they will see that I lack a true vocation for teaching.

I wonder, too, as such is the natural state of man, if this is the semester that I will publicly confess that modern academia is broken. Educational practices rest on a proper conception of man; without such a foundational conception, any attempt to draw out what is inherent in a person will be doomed to a fumbling futility, usually at the taxpayers’ expense and at the cost of the irretrievable time of children. What is the proper of end of education? Well, all that depends upon what we believe is the proper end of man. If a person is nothing beyond what he/she can contribute to society, then the educational regime that needs to be instituted is one through which a person will be trained to function as the smoothest, most compliant cog in the system. The commissars of this educational “vision” find their success to the degree that agency and self-learning and wonder are depleted from–if not made inaccessible to–students. This is the current educational paradigm. What can I do with those who have suckled at the teat of Mother Government for twelve years? Demand that they suddenly eat steak and potatoes with a father they have never met? Likewise, if education is nothing more than an extension-filling exercise of the ego, then what is the point in demanding that students take courses that will challenge, infuriate, and frustrate them? Courses that may ruin their career-dependent 4.0 GPA? Courses whose value they may not recognize for years–if at all? Why demand that they learn to dine in public if eating in front the computer is all they want?

The smart students do not need me; they simply need the conferring accreditation. The others, label them what you will, will not profit, truly, from anything I can offer. Perhaps I can relay a much-needed word of encouragement or provide a strategy for temporary success, but I doubt that I am equipping them with the academic tools that they need–tools that they have been told their entire lives to avoid and to leave to the experts.

Why do I continue to teach? Am I really an example of those-who-can-do, but-those-who-cannot-teach? I often suspect this. Graham Greene once wrote that a writer’s default emotional frame is that of thinking that one never does anything well. At least Graham got published and is now recognized as one of the most insightful writers of the twentieth century. I cannot help but believe that any slightly self-aware teacher must realize that there is little we can do–and what we do is usually not done well.

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