Gentlemen (ladies, you want no part of this), today we fart.
In his new book, Curious Behavior, Yawning, Laughing, Hiccuping, and Beyond, Robert R. Provine examines flatulation from both scientific and artistic perspectives. Provine, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, confesses that he was initially skeptical of his subject matter.
"My foray into fart science is a bit timid. The mere inclusion of the topic threatens to lower my intellectual tone. A confluence of circumstances forced the subject on me.", explains Provine in an excerpt of his book presented in Salon.com. But Provine's no shrinking violet, and we as men are better for it.
His fart-based work ranges from the surprisingly sublime to the predictably ridiculous. Provine profiles Joseph Pujol, a Frenchman who performed at the famed Moulin Rouge under the stage name Le Petomane (translated as 'fartomatic'). Pujol was the most famous and highly compensated performer in Paris at his peak in the late 19th and early 20th century. I tried figure out how to paraphrase Provine's description of Le Petomane's act, but I don't know how to top this:
Le Pétomane’s act was full of novelty, comedy, and virtuosity. At his peak, Le Pétomane easily outearned the great actress Sarah Bernhardt, his closest contender. And what was the act of this artist who “pays no author’s royalties”? He would begin with a series of ordinary farts, describing each in turn— a little girl, a mother-in-law, a bride on her wedding night (weak) and on the morning after (loud), tearing cloth, cannon fire, and thunder. With a tube inserted in his rectum, he would smoke a cigarette or attach a flute and play tunes. But his real artistry was accomplished au naturel.The author's treatment of the subject is wide-ranging and thorough, spanning Roman laws against flatulence to detailed descriptions of the biological causes and variety of farts, and name-checking Louis Armstrong and Wynton Marsalis. Writes Provine with respect to the latter, "An adventurous musical acquaintance acknowledged that a tone can indeed be produced by farting into a trumpet, creating a middle C, but further details were not forthcoming from this wary pioneer of the butt-trumpet."
Le Pétomane’s repertoire included animal sounds— a rooster crowing, a puppy, a dog with its tail caught in a door, a blackbird, an owl, a duck, bees, a tomcat, a toad, a pig, and musical instruments including violin, bass, and trombone. The climax of Le Pétomane’s performance was a stirring rendition of “La Marseillaise” that brought down the house. He made audiences delirious with joy, writhing in their seats, tears streaming, with some fashionably dressed and corseted women so overcome that they were carried into hallways to be revived. Amazingly, no part of his performance was faked, as he once demonstrated in the nude before a panel of earnest and curious physicians.
|I bet Peter Konz can clear a room|
Humans aren't the only animals that fart, as anyone who's ever had a dog knows well. But Provine tells of a creature so advanced as to use ass-gas as a communications mechanism. "So far, signaling by fart is reported only in certain herring."
Which is a shame, because there will come a time this afternoon when Matt Ryan puts his hands under Peter Konz's taint and the Superdome crowd is in full throat, making verbal communication next to impossible. A well-timed burst of gas could speak volumes.
If only Ryan were an herring.