The Nakedness Question

Collage: God introduces Eve to Adam in R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis Illustrated;   poet Allen Ginsberg holding a flower, standing in front of life-size photograph of himself, by  “Allen 2 (Portrait – Two Polaroids)” by Elsa Dorfman, 1986 ; Professor Farnsworth in Matt Groening’s Futurama;  Sally Eaton, Barry McGuire, and Hiram Keller from the musical Hair, photographed by Kenn Duncan for After Dark Magazine, December 1968, via Hair – The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, backed by a Hair poster that was also the album cover of the original cast recording; an illustration depicting tactics used by the Spanish Inquisition to compell confessions from accused heretics, via The Cutting Edge.

Maybe we overlook this question because it is so taken-for-granted, but when exactly, in the book of Genesis, did God tell Adam & Eve that nudity was wrong? The answer is, he didn’t. It is almost as if Adam & Eve assumed it, and God decided to let them go on believing it.

After eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve hide from God. 

The book of Genesis says, “Then the Lord God called to the man (Adam), and said to him, ‘Where are you?’

Adam answers, “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid myself.”

To which God replies, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Well, first off, God asks presumably asked, “Where are you” like a parent humoring a young child, pretending they can’t find the toddler hiding under in an obvious place. God sees and knows everything.

Secondly, God could have said, “Your bodies are nothing I haven’t seen before. I made you. I designed the whole reproduction process, remember?”

But God drops that subject and moves on to the fruit and the serpent, ultimately banishing the couple from the garden of Eden, but not before making some garments (of skin, not leaves) for them to wear. It doesn’t say what kind of skin God used for the garments, but we know cows and sheep were in for a rough time in the books that followed.

From that point on, the Bible assumes that people should not look upon each other naked, but it never really explains why.

I personally think that during the Dark Ages, some of the priests kept themselves covered because they were ashamed of their bodies, possessing either scrawny or flabby frames and in some cases, tiny penises, but that didn’t stop them from stripping the clothes off of accused heretics in front of leering, bloodthirsty crowds. Why is it that every time somebody was thought to be a heretic during the Inquisition, or a witch during colonial times, it was okay for the church people to strip off their clothes in public? See, that just seems counter-intuitive.

In favor of nudity, we’ve had Allen Ginsburg, the Age of Aquarius celebrated in the Broadway musical, Hair, and even Forrest J Ackerman, the editor of Famous Monsters Magazine in the sixties & seventies, who proudly proclaimed his membership in a nudist colony. And I don’t know this for a fact, but I’ve always thought that Professor Farnsworth, on the animated series Futurama, is based loosely on Ackerman, especially after watching the episode in which the Professor lauds nudity as natural and healthy.

On the other hand, widespread nudity would put even more people out of work (I’m thinking of clothing manufacturers, but yeah, porn producers, too).

But I’m not here to discuss the appropriateness of going without clothes. The release of R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis Illustrated has simply made me curious about the origins of the taboo. William S. Burroughs would probably say it’s another control tactic. On the other hand, I like wearing clothes, so there is no urgency to figure it out.

Forrest Ackerman 11/24/16 – 12/08/08

Click here for The Guardian obituary,

And here is an excerpt from something I wrote a few months ago:

The August 1963 issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland featured a lengthy interview with its editor, Forrest J Ackerman. This enthusiastic, scholastic fan of the fantastic opened my eyes and legitimized my deep interest in weird genres. Suddenly I was not alone – the magazine even published letters from other kids! Don’t get me wrong, I had plenty of friends who liked horror, science fiction, and fantasy, but I wanted to study it, collect it, and create it! I finally met Forry in 1999 at a convention known as the Monster Rally in Crystal City, Virginia. Since I live in Florida, I asked him to autograph the photo where he pretends to carve a stuffed alligator in my dog-eared copy of that same August 1963 Famous Monsters magazine.  – Bill Ectric

 

And Dennis McLellan, in the Los Angeles times, says:

For Ackerman, a native Angeleno born Nov. 24, 1916, it all began at age 9.

That’s when he stopped at a drugstore on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Western Avenue in Hollywood and bought his first copy of the science-fiction magazine Amazing Stories. 

Ackerman was helplessly hooked.

By his late teens, he had mastered Esperanto, the invented international language. In 1929, he founded the Boys Scientifiction Club. In 1932, he joined a group of other young fans in launching the Time Traveler, which is considered the first fan magazine devoted exclusively to science fiction and for which Ackerman was “contributing editor.”

Ackerman also joined with other local fans in starting a chapter of the Science Fiction Society — meetings were held in Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown L.A. — and as editor of the group’s fan publication Imagination!, he published in 1938 a young Ray Bradbury’s first short story.

During World War II, Ackerman edited a military newspaper published at Ft. MacArthur in San Pedro. After the war, he worked as a literary agent. His agency represented scores of science-fiction writers, including L. Ron Hubbard, Isaac Asimov, A.E. van Vogt, H.L. Gold, Ray Cummings and Hugo Gernsback.

In 1954, Ackerman coined the term that would become part of the popular lexicon — a term said to make some fans cringe.

Read entire article

Autographs Tell Stories

I don’t consider myself an autograph hound, but these three signatures are special to me because they each have a story behind them.

The August 1963 issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland featured a lengthy interview with its editor, Forrest J Ackerman. This enthusiastic, scholastic fan of the fantastic opened my eyes and legitimized my deep interest in weird genres. Suddenly I was not alone – the magazine even published letters from other kids! Don’t get me wrong, I had plenty of friends who liked horror, science fiction, and fantasy, but I wanted to study it, collect it, and create it! I finally met Forry in 1999 at a convention known as the Monster Rally in Crystal City, Virginia. Since I live in Florida, I asked him to autograph the photo where he pretends to carve a stuffed alligator in my dog-eared copy of that same August 1963 Famous Monsters magazine.

 

I faced a quite a dilemma when I checked out Jeff VanderMeer’s Veniss Underground from the public library. To my surprise, it was a special limited edition, only 750 printed, and each one signed by the author. I didn’t want to return it to the library! Someone suggested I tell the library I lost this beautiful hardbound volume and offer to pay for it, but the idea troubled me. I actually did that once, by accident, at the University of North Florida when I couldn’t find Witchcraft At Salem by Chadwick Hansen. I had to pay for it before the college would release my grades and then found it a year later in a box of Christmas decorations where it had fallen. But in the case of Veniss Underground, I thought, what if the library doesn’t purchase another copy? I would hate to take even one book out of circulation. On the other hand… 

Jeff VanderMeer is such a brilliant writer, I think meeting him would be like meeting Borges, Poe, Nabokov, Lovecraft, Tolkien, and DeQuincey all rolled into one. His tour-de-force City of Saints and Madmen, is destined to become a classic, and the sequel, Shriek, is sublime. His non-fiction book, Why Should I Cut Your Throat, whisked me back into the space-time continuum of writing, publishing, and promoting weird literature. I also recommend The New Weird, an anthology of stories by other writers, edited by Jeff and his wife, Ann VanderMeer (the fiction editor of Weird Tales Magazine).

Fortunately, I came to my senses before the book was due back. I found another signed copy for sale on Amazon.com, ordered it, and returned the library’s copy so someone else could enjoy it.

Alexis Korner, John Mayall, Cyril Davies, and Long John Baldry are the founding fathers of blue-rock. In 1961, Korner and Davies formed a band called Blues Incorporated. Musicians who performed with Blues Incorporated, at various times, include Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Graham Bond, and Dick Heckstall-Smith, and most of the Rolling Stones.

One of the best concerts I ever attended was Alexis Korner opening for Humble Pie. It must have been around 1971 or 1972 (I know that Dave “Clem” Clempson had already replaced Peter Frampton in Humble Pie), and both bands ROCKED. When the show ended and the crowd was leaving out the front doors, my friends Roger Bolen, Bruce Showalter, Mike Lancaster, my brother Jeff, and I all gravitated toward a backstage entrance. The cop at the door knew Roger, whose dad was also a police officer. He let us pass. Not only did we meet all the members of Humble Pie (Steve Mariott, Greg Ridley, Jerry Shirley, Clem Clempson) and the legendary Alexis Korner, we chatted with them excitedly for about twenty minutes and they were all extremely cool. Korner said, “There comes a time when you have to follow your heart and do what you want to do.” As an afterthought, we got all their autographs, and I’m glad we did.

Note the numbers in the upper right corner of the card. This was the combination to my wall safe – a little post office box door that my father brought home and helped me install in the wall behind a row of books on my bookshelf. Dad’s regular job involved repairing typewriters and adding machines, but he did locksmithing on the side. The Post Office paid him to open post office boxes that were stuck, and for some reason they gave him one of the doors. He knew secret doors were right up my alley!