Overweening Generalist

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The "Family Jewels" and What's Contained Therein: Some Notes

I remember reading New Directions publisher James Laughlin's account of being a student of Ezra Pound's; Laughlin was looking through some of Pound's books in Ez's place in Rapallo, and took from the shelf his copy of Herodotus, which, like most of Pound's books, contained vivid marginalia. And in one place Pound had simply written "Balls!" Apparently Pound was of the (probably?) majority opinion that Herodotus, the "Father of History," and a proto-itinerant journalist/investigative reporter, was also the "Father of Lies."

I suppose it might be more accurate to just say the Father of History was gullible, and that the fine stories he was told were colorful enough to stand alone. I love Herodotus...

                     The delicate orchid. Hitler only had one testicle; a medical 
                     term for this is "monorchid." Hmmm.

The term "balls" used as an expletive, has, sadly, faded in my microsocial region of the world. Growing up I heard British people hurl "bollocks!" as invective. I'm not sure if it's still all that hot, not being "up" on my sociolinguistics.

Anyway: In this blogspew I'll touch on balls, testicles, semen, condoms, etc. It's likely either you or a loved one has these Things, so please consider the info to ensue as pertinent.

I thought of using the title "Have a Ball With Your Family Jewels," but it seemed to lack a brassy gravitas I sought.

Some Basic Physiology
Testosterone, a steroid hormone made from the most basic dietary constituents coupled with an uber-complex set of genetic instructions, is secreted in the testicles of males and the ovaries of females. It has been studied extensively and arguments over some scientific findings have made their way into academic brouhahas and various political and social science arguments, which have seeped into our newspapers and popular magazines. The rise of feminist theory has done much to make testosterone into a rockstar hormone. In the early 1970s, one might pick up a feminist rant about militarization or the Vietnam war or some stupid thing a male said, and hear or read a feminist ejaculate, "It's testosterone poisoning!"

Indeed, testosterone is also an anabolic steroid. It builds muscle and gives those muscles more endurance. It's associated with risk-taking and selfishness...and seeking to punish those who have behaved selfishly toward us. More basically, it's heavily involved in the masculinization of physical features and is very heavily linked in its effects on attention, spatial performance, and memory. Men's blood will show about seven or eight times more testosterone than a female's blood sample, but men metabolize it so often their daily production of the stuff is about 20 times that of females.

The Semantic Unconscious and "Truck Nutz"
Dig this story about a 65 year old woman who got into a legal tussle over her truck nutz. Written in requisite Gawker style, I think it begs many questions. The writer linked the imagery of testicles dangling from the bumper of one's truck to the American South, trucks filled with guns and anti-Obama stickers, the possible hypocrisy of South Carolina here and ex-Governor Mark Sanford, jerky and lottery tickets, and an overall hint at backwardness in the South. To whatever extent any of this is true, trucks and guns do seem to go with the physiological effects of testosterone, and their phenotypic signifier, testicles. What I found most funny was that a 65 year old woman is the one dangling those signifiers.

Maybe it's me, but this is one I can ponder all day (okay, maybe a third of a day): a problem for the lady was the display of something deemed by community standards as obscene due to reference to "excretory functions" "sexual acts" or "parts of the human body." We don't want to be reminded of what's true...because...sex is exciting? We ought be reminded of it by the covers in all the magazines in the Quik-E-Mart, but not by the danglers hanging from the truck parked in front of the Quik-E-Mart?

Just ponder how many men choose to hang Truck Nutz from their vehicles (I have yet to see them hanging from a Prius, by the way, just an observation) and the number of cops who look the other way. Could it be...sexism here? Perhaps the unstated rule was: if you're gonna hang truck nutz, you better have nuts for realsies? A 65 year old woman? That's...indecent! Violates community standards. And so, the local Buford Pusser strikes out for Justice.

Aside from a multitude of pregnant surmises about the paradox of guns, trucks and territorial aggression in driving, anti-Obama bumper stickers, and Lynyrd Skynyrd (or better: Charlie Daniels Band?) blasting from the truck: these truck-nut things "are" indecent! I wrote "paradox" but that implies something open. Indeed, hypocrisy seems to not fit here, either. This is why I used the term "semantic unconcious," and it's a topic of surpassing interest to me: the seen-but-not-noted everyday, right in front of you aspect of "reality." (I've written on it in other guises HERE.)

Quick side note: I actually like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Charlie Daniels Band. It's complicated.

Bullz Ballz: the True Face of Murrrka. Why go second best when you can have 2nd Gen Brass and Chrome ones for only $49.95? Go ahead! Live a little and let your neighbors know your political attitudes. Let 'em hang out, you Bad Ass! No diplomacy, which is for pussies. So are gun permits. No wonkiness or pragmatism, or concern for the environment: Might Makes Right, and you have the premium Truck Nutz to show it! You'd like us all to think that, wouldn't you, Jethro? And, like the Murrrkin flag's colors, you won't run, either. (We'd like to think you're joking, but are afraid you're earnest. Oy!)

I know I seem like just another truck-nutz hatin' liberal, but really people: if you're gonna dangle your truck nutz? To borrow from Ben Franklin's spirit: do it proudly. Amen.

                                            Kiwi fruit, one of my favorites. 

A Joke From My Childhood
The first jokes or riddles I was exposed to stuck with me for reasons I can't understand. I remember being six or seven and immensely enjoying the riddle, "What do you do if you find Chicago, Ill?" The answer was "Find a Baltimore, MD." Does this hint at my future geeky-bookishness?

At 14 or so, using my rapidly changing brain (under the influence of testosterone and a panoply of other androgens), I was exposed to a joke in quasi-ritualistic tones:

Q: What's the very definition of "macho"?
A: When a guy jogs home from his own vasectomy.

As I headed towards physiological viability (i.e, "My boys could swim"), my friends and I were encouraged (often by our moms, who Knew Things) to buy these padded things called "nard guards" to affix to the handlebars of our bicycles. The guards fit right in the middle of the handlebars - an area roughly called "the gooseneck" - where, if you were to crash head-on into some relatively immovable object, the pads would...insure the family jewels. Small price to pay to get that bit of alloy padded. We were vaguely aware of the longterm consequences of such an injury, but more immediately: how a smash there would hurt!

Later, I pondered Michaelangelo's David. I wondered how I measured up. Then: junior high and the showers.

I was okay.

                                    David says, "Hey Goliath: my eyes are up here."

Serious But Not THAT Serious? Two Different Street Fights
So a Chinese woman in her early 40s tried to park her scooter in front of a store, but the 40-ish proprietor said no. A scuffle ensued. The woman called her husband and brother, who escalated the unpleasantness into a fistfight. Then the woman grabbed the shopkeeper by the balls, squeezed, and killed the guy. What a world we live in. Testicles Squeezed In Street Fight Causes Man's Death.

What got me about this story: the husband and brother had been called in, and yet it was the woman who went for the junk.

I imagine women and men read accounts like this and it sets off very different cascades of neurotransmitters and hormones within them. (It set off my Bullshit Detector. China? Okay...But let's take the story as is, if only for pedagogical purposes?)

While I find dying this way horrendous - especially over a parking space - other similar stories bring out the worst in me, like the cleric in Iran who saw a woman on the street who he thought was insufficiently covered up. He confronted her. And she beat the asshole to a pulp. I felt guilt over the amount of glee I felt with this one. Maybe if more priests and clerics and imams and rabbis got their asses kicked by the Faithful a bit more often, things would get a tad more Real. Maybe? Probably not...

I think some women have more testosterone coursing though their systems than maybe I do.

Ultrasonic Blasts to the Testicles in Lieu of a Male Birth Control Pill
Here's the story. It seems painless and cheap, but much more research will need to be done. We don't know if blasting your balls with the ultrasound frequency - which does lower sperm counts to "infertile" levels in test animals - is long lasting. Or if there's long-term damage. Or if it's reversible. And the most worrisome: if ball-blasting like this damages sperm, which could produce a damaged baby.

Even though this form of birth control leaves it as the male's responsibility, it still might not be available to those without insurance, so if you're thinking you can borrow your girlfriend's Joni Mitchell CDs and  attach your headphones to your sack and turn it up to 10 for a "treatment"? I'm no doctor, but I would advise waiting for better research to come in. Besides, some of us sensitive guys enjoy Joni Mitchell (I love her), and I think this self-experimentation may backfire, and you'd end up with triplets, all girls, who later grow up to be beret-wearing artistes, working in galleries and coffee shops with huge student loan debts, when all you were trying for was prophylaxis. Dude: condoms still work! (Okay, okay, if you're gonna experiment, why not just go with Dio or Anthrax? Where did Joni Mitchell come from? Oh yea: The OG just wanted to mention Joni in a blog post about testicles. Am I the first?)

Condoms still work really well. Yea, but it's like trying to take a nice soothing hot shower after a long day's work, but you're wearing a deep-sea diving suit.

I hear ya, man. O Science! Why hast Thou forsaken us?

So far?

Speaking of Condoms...
This breezy article speculates on links between a bad economy and condom use. Note that the subject matter is like catnip for writers. We can't help it with the puns. We just can't. Most of us, that is. So I'll sack up and talk turkey: rotten economy and condoms? Should you invest? Are you kidding me? We'd like to believe most people are so rational. But I have my doubts. Overpopulation being a seminal problem for those of us in the Human Condition, my preliminary diagnosis is that we have a long, long way to go here. And <ahem!> we do need to go all the way. We really do. If you're not ready for kids, use birth control. I dare ya.

There Is No God: Male Longevity and New Research
Okay, I've been beating around it all post, but the latest on Korean eunuchs was what prompted this entire blogspew. A recent study published in Current Biology got splashed all over popular science articles on the Web last week. A researcher found that records of the Korean Royal Dynasty from 1392 till around 1900 showed that, of 81 eunuchs, three lived to be 100 (which was oooooold for pre-1900 times!), and on average they lived 20 years longer than their testicalled brethren.

The idea that we could reach, say 70, go the castrati road late in the game, and it would help us make it to 100? Probably totally wrong. Because the Korean eunuchs got theirs chopped at an early age, which influenced puberty, maturity, and a bewildering complex of other hormonal interactions at an early age. They were probably old men-children and who wants that? We already have enough of those as it is, and they're often seeping with untoward testosteronal side-effects. Guys just now qualifying for Social Security and their bachelor pads reek of androgens and beer. You know the type. (I hope to be one, one day.) If it seems too easy, it's probably too good...wait a minute...WHAT AM I SAYING? I don't think "elective surgery" like castration is worth a few extra years.  And I seriously doubt I could jog home from something like that. Even the Dos Equis guy would probably hail a cab.

(Although: think of the conversation-starter your funky new lava lamp would bring!
You: Notice anything odd about my new lava lamp?
Her: I was going to ask you...those look like...are they...did you ask to keep your...? Oh wow...it's getting late, I gotta...go...I got a...thing.)

Scientists have long known that women lived longer than men, and it's long been suspected male hormones have something - perhaps a lot - to do with this. This study hammers home hard that viable nuts - dense, lively and energetic "man juice" - decrease our (male) lifespans.

It's been noted that if you're 100 you have had less children than most people, sometimes none. Fertility equals earlier death, in the most basic terms. Still believe in God? What's with this "procreation" game? It's about ego, right? Thou shalt pass on thine own DNA into the foggy future, no matter what. The Darwinian Imperative. Hell. Gimme an extra few years of doing things like dissolute sitting.

The problem is, or one of the problems, as I currently see it: how to have our sex drives, high-quality prophylaxes, and still get to 100, preferably still hitting the Farmer's Market and wearing tennis shoes while doing it. No going the eunuch route, which I will charitably describe as "overly enthusiastic." We patiently await some miracle from Science.

Okay commenters: the balls are in your court. OG: out.

Edit to Add: As soon as I finished this post on juevos, I clicked on Salon and saw this.


Eric Wagner said...

Great stuff. I remember hearing this joke from a substitute teacher in third grade:
"What's the richest country in the world?"
"Ireland, because the capital's always doublin'."

Your story about Iran made me think of the graphic novel Persepolis, which I recently read and enjoyed.

In Joyce's story "Counterparts," someone makes a response "after the manner of the liberal shepherds of the eclogues." Some folks at the North American James Joyce Conference last year thought this meant "Balls."

On other notes, what do you think of Rossi's The Psychobiology of Mind-Body Healing, especially the notion of lying on one's right side to switch to right brain dominance for a few minutes. I know the science may seem twenty plus years out of date, but Bob Wilson loved this book for a while.

Lastly, reading G. B. Shaw's The Perfect Wagnerite last night, his discussion of gods and heros in the Ring Cycle made me wonder what sort of Viconian insight you might have into the Ring.

Eric Wagner said...

The opening of the first episode of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" includes this line from Honey Boo Boo's mother about her baby-daddy,"We have too much estrogin in this house. We need some testosterone."

michael said...

Yep, those folks are always doublin their mumper.

I read Persepolis when it came out, upon the urging of an Afghan friend. It reminded me of Czech writers who wrote/talked about samizdat under Soviet rule, but from a kid whose parents were intellectuals POV.

I spent an hour last night reading in Rossi and didn't come upon the switching hemisphere stuff, but wow! what a rich book. My current understanding of techniques like this is that they're probably mostly self-hypnosis. I'll write something on hemisphericalization in the human brain soon.

I have no Viconian insight (almost all Vico scholars use "Vichian") into the Ring. Wagner has stumped me on Wagner, alas.

I'll check out Honey Boo-Boo after finishing a book on Poincare's Conjecture...The Boo-Boo quote reminded me of an Onion headline: "Richard Simmons Fighting For His Life In Estrogen Tent"