29 January 2009

Buns of Steel

Vanity is either bizarre or hilarious to everything but the participants. Consider the mating displays of the various colorful bird species on Planet Earth, or the Comtesse Dash in her Memoires de autres (1896-7) commenting on Alexandre Dumas “... he was a fine figure of a man, tall and well-made. In those days, it was still the fashion to wear breeches to certain balls, and Dumas was only too pleased to show off a pair of well-turned calves.”

Bell-bottoms. Cravats. Leotards. Parachute pants. Colorful waddles. An impressive inflatable throat pouch. Sexual selection not only reveals the strangeness of aesthetics, but also the enormous cost a species is willing to accept in order to appear sexually superior. Many male birds, such as the peacock, have tails as long as is possible without being completely crippled by them.

Buns of steel. Pecs of adamantium. Calves of Damascus steel. If “objectively hilarious” wasn't an oxymoron, it would be the perfect description of sex and all things related. The endlessly amusing non-fiction book, Dr. Tatiana's Sex AdviceTo All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex by Olivia Judson illustrates this point very well (it's also funny that the TV documentary was broadcast in the UK, Canada, Australia, and France but was “too risqué” for the US). 

No, I really don't have anything serious to say. But I did overhear a convenience store conversation that went a little like this: 

“Can I get my smokes now? I didn't get my smokes.” 

“Oh, you wanted smokes? I didn't hear you ask—I didn't charge you anything, see? Sorry, bro.” 

“It's all good, bro.”

“Let me ring this guy up real quick and I'll get you your smokes, bro. What kind was it?”

“Marlboro Reds.”

“Sure thing, bro.”


Peter McCombs said...

A bit of Adam Smith for you:

"Vanity is very frequently no more than an attempt
prematurely to usurp that glory before it is due.... The great secret of education
is to direct vanity to proper objects."

Dave said...

That's a very good quote. It took me a while to understand it, but if I understand correctly, he's saying vanity is often an attempt at attracting respect or admiration before having done something worthy of respect or admiration. If so, that's a really good definition.

It's also a really good secret of education.

I want to write an entire vampire novel about vanity from that perspective. This idea of being young forever and somehow more attractive for being uncontrollably bloodthirsty, and how vampires in popular stories not only look like teenagers, but still act like them. I want to write a story that gives proper dues to responsibility, age, experience, and wisdom, while satirizing the increasingly narcissistic youth-based culture. It's all about undue vanity.