What to dump?

by Yule Heibel on December 24, 2005

The asshole theme must be going around…. Frank Paynter emailed me a pointer the other day to the You’re an Asshole filmstrip, and Shelley has a philosophical entry about assholes (her maxims being “The world is full of assholes” and “sometimes you’re one of them”). In German, incidentally, Arschloch is a worse swear-word than shit or fuck, even though shit comes out of assholes and assholes can be fucked (verb & adjective, both). Scheisse and beschissen are routine, salonfähige words, i.e., fit for polite society, while ficken is a merely archaic reference to the agricultural practice of plugging stuff that can germinate into the earth. Arschloch on the other hand carries true venom, perhaps because the asshole, with its powerful sphincter muscle, can go on strike, betray you, or even fight back…

I think it’s a gatekeeper problem, actually. That muscle has control, and it’s very well connected to all sorts of pleasure centres, which is why it’s so interesting as a two-way street (“why don’t we do it in the road” — John Lennon). When I was a graduate student I had a friend who once told me that his sessions with his psychiatrist were getting out of control, for him, because whenever it came time really to delve deeply into his sexuality and to discuss his mother (and let’s just say she sounded like she could make Joan “no-more-wire-hangers” Crawford look like Mother Goose), he felt this compelling urge to “take a dump,” and he’d have to interrupt his session to go and do just that. So, there I was, an academic who had read most of what George Bataille (anal fetishist) had ever written, and I didn’t know the expression “take a dump.” “Take” a “dump”? What the hell is that supposed to mean? (…Oh, have a bowel movement, I see! )

Lately I have immersed myself in readings about usability. (Note that I’m referencing Wikipedia, which now includes Shelley Powers, who, together with Frank’s email inspired this …entry.) I believe that assholes have to be thought of in terms of affordances (another Wikipedia reference!), which of course puts the sphincter muscle’s abilities front and centre (particular in terms of constraints). “Taking a dump” is a rather rude way of describing the affordances of the asshole, which is after all capable of delivering warm, well-formed objects, although, like so many initially shiny things, they grow cold rather quickly, and fact is: no one wants them, eventually not even their producer. Naturally, this can be upsetting, but it needn’t be — we must learn to “dump” that sort of cathexis. The problem with the people we describe as “assholes,” however, is that they are upset, and their gatekeeper then becomes too fixated on keeping things in or under control (lest the world disrespect their objects). Perhaps this explains why people-who-are-assholes have shit for brains.

Coda: My inner asshole, to which I am attached via the things I ingest, including the written word, tells me that Shelley should indeed be in Wikipedia because her contributions merit it; she’s an excellent writer and a terrific photographer; she’s a theorist and a practitioner. And I’d like to see more women included: I’d like to see Janine Benyus have more than a “stub” entry, and I’d like to see Margaret Wertheim, along with scores of other women who merit an entry, included. But I think that Shelley’s suggestion that Jeneane Sessum or Halley Suitt merit an entry was a momentary lapse into the realm of the “shit for brains” world of assholedom: Shelley, what were you thinking? Retailing information isn’t exactly culturally notable, is it? Which is exactly why the inclusion of Robert Scoble (or some of the other male bloggers) is laughable, too. Those guys shouldn’t be in Wikipedia. Whether any of these people are swell is completely irrelevant: as I said, shiny well-formed things don’t hold one’s attention for as long as their producers believe. Blogging-as-retailing-information is too close to the equivalent of taking a dump, and if that’s going into Wikipedia, pardon me if I flush….


joseph duemer December 24, 2005 at 8:24 pm

Many years ago, whe I was a bartender at the Blue Moon Tavern in Seattle, I used to watch the two best afternoon pool players go up against each other. A skinny older guy who owned a used book store & a kind of fat young woman with bad teeth. They had completely different styles of play, which they themselves discussed in the unusual metric of asshole tightness. The skinny bookman would blast away at everything, hitting every shot as hard as he could, spraying balls all over the table & frequently onto the floor. The fat girl, on the other hand, had a delicate touch. The bookman used to taunt the girl, saying she “played with a tight asshole,” to which she would reply, “At least I’m not a complete, fucking asshole.” It is a metric I have sometimes applied (silently) in faculty meetings at my university.

Yule Heibel December 25, 2005 at 3:39 pm


Meh, it could probably also be calibrated to guage “brain farts,” what do you think? Yikes, I think I have to drop this line of inquiry right now and go wash my hands! Peace on earth, and all that…

The Happy Tutor December 26, 2005 at 5:46 pm

Burningbird gets my vote too.

Yule Heibel December 26, 2005 at 6:14 pm

Absolutely, except that I can’t see my way to actually “playing” on the Wikipedia stamping ground. Its affordances, coupled with the constraints on my time, make the whole thing a design nightmare for someone like me. Hence, it’s left to the people who do have the time (and the interest) for it, which in turn kind of skews things, …in so many different directions, too.

It’s nutty. When I visited the “articles for deletion” page, I saw a reference to Ariel Lade, a name that sounded familiar. Checked it out, and it turns out it’s the Green candidate for my riding here in Victoria. Why oh why should Ariel Lade ever get (or even be considered for) a Wikipedia entry? What has he ever done, except run for office? It just confirmed that there’s an awful lot of lobbying happening, done by people who have the time and interest to do it. (I believe something similar happened with Ben Isitt, who has run for mayor twice — and he’s only in his 20s. He may have an entry, I should check. It beats me why he should have one, though.)

That said, I enjoyed reading the “feature articles” page, and consequently visiting the Frankfurt School page (well done indeed), as well the “autism” page (excellent — just excellent: better than the Frankfurt School page). Makes me think that for concepts, and written (collaboratively or not) by experts and aficionados, Wikipedia is really good. When it gets to bios of living people …well, that’s a whole different kettle of fish. Eg., if I had the time, what would I do about the fact that my PhD advisor is mentioned on a list of Situationists International, but doesn’t have his own entry? Does he merit one? Many in my field would say yes, without reservation. Would I want to write it? Not on your life. Do I think a famous art historian merits an entry? Depends on how you feel about the merits of art history…

Shelley December 28, 2005 at 8:55 pm

I think Yule gets my vote. You are also an author, and at a cut above toaster manuals.

BTW, a little Noded bird said to say Happy Day of Birth to you. It’s rather rude to add this message to a post talking about a**holes and shiny stuff, but it’s all about life, so that’s okay.

Yule Heibel December 28, 2005 at 9:20 pm

Thanks for the birthday greeting, Shelley — I’m a square this year! (Try stuffing that in that round hole! Ooops, there I go again…;-o)

I should try writing a toaster manual, actually — it might be more remunerative than what I’ve written so far! Of course, after this entry, I’ll probably be able to run banner ads for p0rn sites, what with all those a-words. I can’t wait to see this haunt me months from now, in the referer log’s weird google searches. “Toe cleavage,” for example, is still an occasional hit. (sigh)

Winston December 30, 2005 at 6:51 pm

What an inspiring and educational post! Not being a scholar of Germanic language, would it be safe to assume that ‘arse’ is an Anglicized ‘arsch’?

I have always wondered about how ‘take a dump’, ‘take a leak’, and ‘take a whiz’ came into usage, when we are actually giving, not taking. It is far more blessed – or at least relieving – to give than to receive. I feel a blog post coming on…

Cavalor Epthith December 31, 2005 at 7:22 pm

Humanity does have quite a fascination with its emissions, but alas difficulty in truly giving. Only in birth is the giving accurately represented. Humans ingest to survive all manner of liquids and solids but they give the dump and the whiz not they take them as they take the victuals and waters that sustain their lives.

Taking is control the thing Man most desires especially over Time and Death; giving is to acknowledge the passing and in that to pass a little closer to that great asshole that awaits all humans.


Yule Heibel January 1, 2006 at 2:00 am

Winston, I think Arsch and arse definitely share a root (kof) origin, but somehow arse doesn’t sound as nasty in British English as Arsch (especially with the Loch appended) does in German. Don’t know why, though. Your ruminations on the give and take of giving/ dumping/ receiving are …fascinating, and Cavalor certainly gobbled up those nuggets most adeptly. Seriously, this is obviously a most malleable and …interesting subject.

Cavalor, thanks for the birthday wishes! Happy new year to you and all your jolly wizard friends in the nether regions…

Winston January 1, 2006 at 8:04 pm

Yule, I had such fun with this one that I wanted to make sure you discovered it. Check out:

Jim Roberts at noded.com has been one of the gurus I follow, and I found you through him. So we can blame all this on JR…

Come on over and see me sometime…

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