HEARD ANY GOOD DICK JOKES RECENTLY? You're living in one. The mainstream media's sudden abandonment of hardcore pornography after the yearlong Defcon5 Blowjob Alert has left millions of citizens stranded in a simmering vat of voyeuristic sexual tension, unable to keep score on American Gladiators. Congress stripped and teased and got down on their knees for us. We fell into a passionate marketing trance, in which we purchased magazine-shaped forests of slinky, hot 'n' sweaty tidbits and paid billions in gag money for talk-show writers to write 6,000 varieties of the same tired semen joke. And after all this time and money, the whole thing just goes flaccid. No release; just rolls over and falls asleep. Yes, Impeach for the Children: The Miniseries has been pulled from prime time, and while a replacement is certainly in the works, if we look down just past our navels, it's quite apparent that the past year's goshing and gollying has left quite a swelling. (Test No. 1: By a show of hands, how many have read the Starr Report to evaluate the testimony and scrutinize the legitimacy of its conclusions?)

Our red, white and blue symptoms — identical to those realized by staying up past 3 a.m. having orgasmless sex and then almost but not quite falling asleep and then finally giving up on sleep around 5:30 a.m., making coffee and turning on CNN — may require some treatment, but they are temporary, nothing to worry about, nothing to bust a nut over.

Enjoy a weekend of bliss at the Blue Ball Hotel (https://www.cottcons.demon.co.uk/bpages/blueball.htm). The Blue Ball's implicit serenity might be just the thing to let loose the inevitable spermatoceles from the national epididymus. Built on the site of another hotel that burned to hell in 1647, the Blue Ball — once the White Heart — has a fascinating history summarized brilliantly on this simple and/or lovely page of Web: “In 1830,” for example, “Anne Kettle and Son Limited operated a carrier service which left the Blue Ball on a twice weekly service to Shaftsbury.” Never ones to preach, the proprietors of this site leave it to us to imagine all the zany Dickensian hooligans, ruffians and/or scalawags Anne and Son might've encountered on their heroic journeys. More recent modern features include rooms with both hot and cold water, color television, tea- and coffee-making facilities and regular visitations from John Steinbeck in the midst of The Grapes of Wrath.

Perhaps we just need to gawk at something — anything — as a group. “At the beginning of the hypnotic induction,” Dr. Christian Ziegler writes in a recent installment of the European Journal of Clinical Hypnosis (https://www.ejch.com/ziegler.htm), “you may stare at a point until your eyes hurt. You do not understand, you do not feel comfortable, you are doing some (unnecessary) activity, and the unconscious mind takes the freedom to initiate a more comfortable trance state, where you think you do some meaningful activity.” Or maybe we need to stare at something until it hurts. About a year ago, on February 26, 1998, a solar eclipse occurred from about 15:47 UT (Universal Time, the mean solar time of the prime meridian plus 12 hours) until about 19:09 UT. According to Dr. Louis Frank of the University of Iowa, “The path of the eclipse's shadow began near the equator in the southern Pacific Ocean west of South America, progressed across the northernmost tip of South America, crossed through the southern Caribbean islands near Montserrat and ended over the Atlantic Ocean. The southeastern United States experienced a partial eclipse. From southern Florida, nearly 50 percent of the sun's disk was blocked by the Moon.” If you missed the eclipse, why not download your favorite 26 February, 1998 Solar Eclipse Shadow QuickTime movies from Iowa (https://www-pi.physics.uiowa.edu/vis-data/solar_eclipse.html), courtesy of Frank and NASA's Visible Imaging System. Choose from various resolutions (“from each according to his connection speed, to each according to his patience”), then set your QuickTime player to loop, and stare with retinal impunity at the moon shadow rolling over Halloween Earth, all orange and black.

White enough for you? Preparators at art galleries and museums sometimes spend entire days painting white onto white, blending plaster patches into drywall, matching textural subtleties most of us would never notice. When they've finished, scars of the last hanging are indistinguishable from the exhibition space's original white plains, and the preparators themselves will explore bold white afterimages for weeks and retinal damage that lasts a lifetime. Now you try: An off-white page called New Jersey Churches (https://kph-ent.com/chur/nareg/njchur.htm) explores possible separations of church and state in an elegant, uncluttered pattern of misspellings — four rows of five — surrounded by the quietest, least aggressive off-white noise available. Pretend it's a collaboration between Barbara Kruger and Ellsworth Kelly, and save a screen shot — makes a great desktop background!


If the swelling persists, even after we've tried other, perhaps more traditional, sublimations (how can a nation beat off?), we can try the fundamentalist approach: “If thine eyes offend thee,” the religious zealots from X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes (https://www.brooklynposters.com/_borders/manxray.jpg) taunted Ray Milland, “pluck them out.”

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