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Camille Paglia

The vast majority of us have snoozed through a lecture-center presentation or two in our time. For some it was the Etruscan vases that put us under; for others, the jargon-dense drone utilizing 15 different foreign terms—ennui, weltschmertz, malaise—for deadly-effing-dull. But then, statistically speaking, the vast majority of us never had Camille Paglia as a professor.

When Paglia’s first book, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, hit the marketplace in 1991, it was met with hue and cry rarely afforded academic works. The pro-porn, lesbian, libertarian art historian/philosopher raised eyebrows and hackles with her examination of “perversity” in art and literature, gaining a nomination for a National Book Critics Circle Award in the process. Later books—Sex, Art, and American Culture; Vamps and Tramps: New Essays; and an examination of Hitchcock’s The Birds—reinforced Paglia’s reputation as a firebrand cultural critic.

Her newest work, Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty-Three of the World’s Best Poems, sounds comparitively tame. Don’t count on it.

Camille Paglia will speak in the Reading Recital Hall of UAlbany’s Performance Art Center (Uptown Campus, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany) on Wednesday (April 6). Admission for the 8 PM presentation is free. 442-5620.

Men Fake Foreplay

Just because popular culture has abandoned any sense of class, its audience doesn’t have to follow suit. “What put me over the edge was when people started calling strip clubs ‘gentlemen’s clubs,’ ” says Mike Dugan, the Emmy-winning writer, comedian and creator of Men Fake Foreplay. “Are you kidding me? Who’s supposed to be keeping an eye on that?”

Fearing that respect for the opposite sex—and the healthy relationships that result from it—might be easing itself into extinction, Dugan crafted Men Fake Foreplay, a humorous look at the forces that keep men and women together and the cultural paradigms that have a nasty habit of driving them apart. While the subject matter for Foreplay—both the live show and the book that Dugan wrote while touring the show through Europe—might initially seem a bit cliché, he’s quick to point out that this isn’t just another variation on the Men Are From Mars routine.

“There’s no shortage of male comics that make fun of women and female comics that make fun of men, but there are very few male comics saying, ‘Yeah, women have their idiosyncrasies, but they’re actually pretty cool,’” he explains. “You don’t need to complain about men leaving the toilet seat up or women getting PMS to explore human relationships in a way that’s going to make people laugh.”

Dugan, who won television’s most prestigious award while writing for HBO’s Dennis Miller: Live (“Before he became a fascist,” Dugan laughs) says the live version of Foreplay is far from being your standard clip show, despite sampling liberally from the book.

>From morning shock radio to reality television and daytime talk shows, Dugan doesn’t shy away from the targeting the trends that, he says, are all part of the problem when it comes to developing healthy relationships.

“[Men] have to overcome their adolescent impulses and appetites in order to have successful relationships, but we have to do that in a media and advertising culture whose survival is 100-percent dependent on men continuing to live in those appetites,” he says. “The real whores,” he adds, are shock jocks like Howard Stern, whose career has developed into a monologue of fart jokes and requests for female guests to shed clothing. And unfortunately, he sighs, “The assholes are winning.”

So instead of ignoring the trends (which he compares to “the boorish drunk at a dinner party . . . whipping his dick out and pissing in the punch bowl”), Dugan says he wants to address them head-on—with the hope of showing people how ridiculous many of the negative influences on male-female relationships really are. What started out as an attempt to “figure women out,” he explains, quickly became a more introspective project.

“I’m just trying to reconcile some of those things that we think about and ask, ‘Why is it like that?’ or ‘Why did I do that?’” he explains. “Because it’s pretty clear that my sex drive doesn’t always have my best interests in mind.”

Dugan will bring Men Fake Foreplay to the Egg this Saturday (April 2). Tickets for the 8 PM show are $25, but they’re selling fast—so call 473-1845 as soon as possible if you want a seat.

—Rick Marshall

Extra-Ordinary: The Everyday Object in American Art

If the old put-down about abstract art is that anyone can do that, the philistine’s critique of the new show at the New York State Museum may be that everyone already owns that.

Around the midpoint of the last century, artists such as Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg (his Giant BLT is pictured) and Jeff Koons began co-opting—in earnest or in irony—imagery from sources more mundane than sublime: Warhol’s ransacking of the idiom of American advertising is well-known, and pop and domestic culture proved similarly rich veins of material. Now, whether this approach was uninspired charlatanism or a dada-beholden means to “illuminate the unfamiliar and poetic aspects of the familiar, the extraordinary within the ordinary, and encourage us to reexamine our surroundings with fresh eyes,” is a subjective call; but we all think a giant BLT sounds pretty good right now. And we’re thirsty, too: Anybody remember where we left Luncheon in Fur?

Extra-Ordinary opens in the West Gallery of the New York State Museum (Empire State Plaza, Albany) on Saturday (April 2). The show runs through July 10. 474-5877.

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