Monday, July 31, 2006

Soap Opera

The action so far: Robertson of Darwin's Cat is in a fantasy baseball league. He has done a trade that several in the league think is unfair, and accusations of malice and collusion are being exchanged via email.

It's kind of fun, but maybe it's not.

The great truth remains that email is a blunt instrument for the exchange of incivilities. There's a nuance in a loud argument face to face or by phone, even if it's furiously done. There's give and take. There's a rise and a fall. There's the satisfaction that comes from making your point and immediately getting a reaction. There's exhaustion and reconciliation.

It's like the wrestling scene in D. H. Lawrences "Women in Love," though I think I better make clear to those of you who aren't D.H. Lawrence fans that it's not women who are doing the wrestling in that scene. It's guys. In the movie version of the novel from oh so long ago Oliver Reed and Alan Bates were doing the wrestling. (My god that was a long time ago.) D. H. Lawrence was a graduate school god at Duke in the sixties, so my wife and and I oh so seriously paid our dollar and went to the movie.

Talk. Talk. Talk. Grapple. Grapple. Grapple.

I told my wife that the wrestling match was symbolic of the way men in our culture strain to establish intellectual and emotional relationships, given the straitjacket of male identity. It wasn't naked men grappling. It was metaphor. My wife said, Oh why don't they just get a room.

Friendships between men are tricky. A friend of mine was in this fantasy league for some years, and now we aren't friends anymore, and I've often wondered why. Ah, could it be because six or seven years ago some of the league members suggested he was, uh, "forgetting" to hand out the prize money, and I piled on? On the other hand, more recently I got into a furious argument with another friend of mine -- who was *also* in this very league -- around certain league issues. I seem to recall he said I was a fool, a boob, just plain stupid, deeply self-deluding, said it more than once. We actually threw him out of the league, though to be honest he was more or less screaming -- in email; lots and lots of CAPS -- that no we weren't throwing him out, he was quitting and that we were, I guess gross moral and intellectual incompetence was the nicest thing he saud about us.

But two months later we were the best of friends again; that is, he seemed to regard the whole league dispute as something that took place on another plane of reality. He subtracted it from our fund of mutual experience: "That was in another country, and besides the wench is dead."

Keeping in the spirit of the last quote just let me say, "League, thy name is dysfunction."

Addendum: Here's the trailer. And Larry Kramer wrote the screenplay. In the words of the Peacock Sage, that's weird wild stuff.

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