"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 4 January 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Man Handled


[ the great guys at 'say cheese' got me drunk last night when i went to buy my parents their christmas cheese. ]

Men are such assholes. And we

all know where we'd be without

assholes. Indeed, every

gastroenterologist - and at

least one children's book - is

glad to point out the vital

biological function played by

the anus. It ain't pretty. But

it ain't exactly frivolous



Eight years ago, Robert Bly

convened his back-rubbing brand

of manhood as a rejoinder to the

widespread outbreak of identity

politics. If black lesbians and

Catholic libertarians could have

their own proud political

agendas, hand-holding rallies,

and undergraduate seminars, then

what was keeping white,

middle-class men from getting in

touch with their inner Iron

Johns? Aside from the obvious

subtext that Bly thought men

ought to be circling the wagons

for the coming decade of siege

warfare, though, the unanswered

question for many was what did

the men's movement accomplish

that Monday Night Football

wasn't already taking care of?

The fundamental flaw of so much

New Age twaddle was this: Men do

not bond, except to buy beer or

to gamble. There are exceptions

to this rule, Bly, the soused

bulwark grunted back toward the

drum circle, and they are called



[luckily, i didn't end up like john the local 'drunk' who consumed a bottle of brandy while clinging to a small christmas tree he was trying to sell.  ]

Thank goodness Tom Wolfe rescued

the males of the species from all

those retreats and saunas. A Man

in Full reestablishes the

pointless and deluded dignity of

the stronger sex without

apology. Although Wolfe is

himself a confirmed dandy, his

new novel harks back to the

machismo of a bygone era. Given

his penchant for composing

characters with no more depth

than the paper they're written

on, he's not so much a

postmodern Balzac as a

Victorian Tom Clancy. And in

spite of his tin ear for manly

cultural signifiers like

blue-collar labor, jailhouse

buggering, and hip-hop jive, his

self-indulgent epigram to Jann

Wenner and his inflated

descriptions of haute couture

are by themselves worth the

price of admitting that his book

is a bold anachronism. Like his

protagonist, Charlie Croker,

Wolfe seems to have reluctantly

absorbed the language of the

1990s. But together, their heads

are stuck where the sun don't

shine - somewhere back in the



It was a nice try, but if you're

dying to high-five the new

manhood, you'd be better off

subscribing to Maxim and

Details and watching these two

ersatz glossies get into the

ring with each other. It's a

barehanded match - not so much

for landing a brutal haymaker on

the opponent's chin as for

vigorous self-service in the

home team's lap. Taking a cue

from the insanely misogynist

British newsstand, American

men's magazines are trimming

their jibs for, well, more trim.

Of course, they're still

considerably less gratifying

than the Victoria's Secret

catalog. But there's some real

cultural profit-taking to be had

here. It's good old-fashioned

hydraulics: More hot babes in

the girlfriend-approved titles

on the magazine rack means more

audacious hard-core in the

whack-mags under the mattress.


[he took his second trip to the hospital in a week. ]

Or on the hard drive. Last

month, Yahoo Internet Life

announced that Cindy Margolis

has again won the dubious honor

of "most downloaded woman" of

the year. If you've been

watching like we have, you'd

know this is a three-peat for

Margolis. Yahoo claims her image

has been downloaded more than 28

million times in the past three

years. Setting aside the

question of how many of these

downloads we were personally and

professionally responsible for,

that makes Margolis the most

widely disseminated computer

file in history. Of course, it's

not clear what percentage of

Yahoo's tally included

Margolis.gifs that bore

the photo-chopped head of Gillian

Anderson and whether these

counted toward the total. But

the fact that Yahoo issues such

a shameless press release in the

first place says volumes about

the resurgence of testosterone

as a cultural force.


It's not just the meteoric rise

of Viagra and the tumescence of

the presidency. Everywhere we

look, we see the proud flower of

manhood blooming again like a

glorious beer fart. With the

International Space Station

being hammered together by

extraterrestrial he-men, light

trucks selling better than ever,

Tom Brokaw writing books about

war heroes, brisk holiday gun

sales unimpeded by sissy

legislation, and Gloria Steinem

safely in remission, it seems

plainly evident that the angle

of our dangle is being

triangulated on every front.

courtesy of E. L. Skinner