In this post are photos of Jim Riley’s sweaters with rude designs. Most involve dogs pooping. His advice to artists in search of a design – “A dog poopnig is always a good idea.”
Riley is in good company with his dog-poopig art. Etsy features popular items for pooping dog art. The Web Urbanist has a page called “Poop Culture: 11 Examples of Excellent Excrement Art.” Fine Art America today has 139 pieces of “Dog Poop Art.”
Riley is pushing a boundary here. I’m not sure that many are on his side of the boundary, but we know a risk-taker when we see one. How about this – the Lenny Bruce of Hand-Knit Sweaters?
I have been a lawyer since 1976 – 43+ years. Imagine that! I will now undertake a pro bono defense of Jim Riley’s scatologic obsession. I mentally think of my argument as “Shit Gets Real About Shit.”
I concede at the outset that “shit” is among the seven words that George Carlin first identified in 1972 in his monologue “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.”
“Shit” had had a rough legal go at the time of Carlin’s list. In 1962, the City of Boston banned sales of Naked Lunch by William Burroughs. It was one of the last books banned in Boston. “Shit” was cited as a ground for the ban.
“Shit” was one of the words that got Lenny Bruce in trouble in New York. In the Criminal Trial Court of the City of New York, Nov. 4, 1964, Bruce was charged with obscenity on the basis of performances at the Cafe Au Gogo, 152 Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, in the spring of that year in which Bruce words that the State deemed obscene about 100 times. Among the offending words was “shit.” Bruce was convicted. The Judge wrote: “The monologues contained little or no literary or artistic merit. They were merely a device to enable Bruce to exploit the use of obscene language. They were devoid of any cohesiveness. They were a series of unconnected items that contained little of social significance. They were chaotic, haphazard, and inartful.”
We have lightened up a little since 1972. The October 14, 1999 episode of Chicago Hope became the first show (excluding documentaries) on American network television to use the word “shit” in uncensored form when Mark Harmon said “Shit happens.” It has been all downhill since then.
A 2001 episode of South Park that used “shit” 162 times. That’s what I’m talking about -downhill!.
For my first witness, I call James Joyce. I will ask him to read his description of Leopold Bloom in the outhouse. He does – “Quietly he read, restraining himself, the first column and, yielding but resisting, began the second. Midway, his last resistance yielding, he allowed his bowels to ease themselves quietly as he read, reading still patiently, that slight constipation of yesterday quite gone.”
For my second witness, I call Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. I will ask him to read an excerpt from Chapter 20 of Part I of Don Quixote in which Sancho relieves himself while in close proximity to his master during the long night of fear and storytelling that he and Don Quixote pass. Ricardo Padrón is an Associate Professor of Spanish at the University of Virginia. He wrote this about the scene: “Sancho’s shit provides an instance of carnivalesque inversion. The squire subverts the rule of his master, even if only temporarily, providing a necessary reprieve from the trials of his subaltern position.”
Jonathan Swift will be my final witness. I will ask him to read from his 1732 poem “The Lady’s Dressing Room” containing the following lines (115 through 118): “Thus finishing his grand survey// Disgusted Strephon stole away// Repeating in his amorous fits// Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits!”
Before closing, I will ask the Court to take judicial notice pursuant to California Evidence Code § 452(c) of President Trump’s perfect public statement about immigration in January, 2018 – “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”
I rest my case as I hand each juror a free copy of Dave Praeger’s Poop Culture: How America Is Shaped by Its Grossest National Product.
You get the point. Jim Riley takes his place in the pantheon of the world’s great writers. If the President of the United States with the full support of evangelical Christians can say “shit,” why can’t Jim Riley knit shit?
When I showed my friend the draft of this post he made a hissing noise. “Aren’t we forgetting something???? If you are going to wax eloquently on shit, how can you ignore this???????”
The Youngbloods released the album Elephant Mountain in 1969 with a pile of (presumably) elephant shit front and center on the album cover. The actual mountain depicted behind the pile of shit is Black Mountain (locally called Elephant Mountain), located west of the Nicasio Reservoir in Marin County.
My college friend Peter Korn and I listened to this album just about endlessly. It was pretty righteously good. In the July 12, 1969 Rolling Stone, Lester Bangs wrote: “This is one of the most encouraging albums I have heard in months… This album exudes that supremely rare commodity in these dark, bored, destructive times – joy. These men obviously love what they’re doing, and their music is knocking them out as much as it does us… Suffice to say that this is an album that you’ll come back to again and again, and that the Youngbloods are three non-bullshit musical workmen with a genuine feeling for the textures of life and sound. May they have a long life together.”
“What else did you and Peter listen to during your freshman year?” you ask. I’m glad you asked. We listened to the Best of the Buffalo Springfield, the Rolling Stones Let it Bleed, the Beatles Abbey Road, Volunteers by the Jefferson Starship, the Band’s Music from Big Pink, the self-titled debut album by Crosby, Stills and Nash, the self-titled Blood, Sweat and Tears, the self-titled 1967 Moby Grape (Peter had a strong personal connect with the song “8:05,” Laura Nyro’s Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish, and Cream (Disraeli Gears and Fresh Cream). We’d listen and play checkers (he won almost every game) and figured out how to (1) lose our virginities (answer: Nadine and Carol) and (2) end the war in Vietnam.
My friend knows – he visited Penn a few times in the fall and winter of 1969-1970.
“You two listened to ‘Sunlight’ over and over and over. And over. I’d think you would remember the album cover.”
He had a point. I thanked him for reminding me about the album and the song and my good times with Peter and the album cover. And then I asked him – what about the post on Jim Riley’s rude sweaters?