Thursday, December 1, 2016

Look what i got!

I have a pinterest page now!

Being an atheist is okay. So is shaming religions.


The following text is certainly appropriate for this time of year:

http://pin.it/NoLwuti

It says:

Being an atheist is okay.

Being an atheist and shaming religions and spirituality as silly and not real is not okay.

Being a Christian is okay.

Being homophobic, misogynistic, racist or an otherwise hateful person and blaming it on your religion is not okay.
Being a reindeer is okay. Bullying and excluding another reindeer because he has a shiny red nose is not okay.
No.

Whoever posted this, has yet to learn the difference between an ideology and a person.

Religions and spirituality are silly and not real. We can disagree about that, but why would it not be okay to point it out?

The wording is clearly bad, too. You cannot shame a religion. It's a system of thought. It has no rights or feelings.

Shaming religious or spiritual people, on the other hand, is certainly wrong. Not only is it not okay in the ethical sense, it is factually incorrect, plain and simple.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

So now you elected Donald J. Trump...

Dear electorate of the U.S. of A.,

after four years, when you find that you are far worse off than before -- who will you blame then?

Sincerely,

S.T.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Rocky Horror Picture Show 2016: A Very Incomplete Review

I will say flat out that I don't go into this unbiased. My love for the original is too intense for that, and I guess most of us go into remakes of beloved classics with a certain sense of impending doom, dark stormclouds, heavy, black, and pendulous. My first impulse when I heard that they were doing a remake was somewhere in-between "oh no" and "so what". A mental mind-fuck can be nice, right?

So I only saw the few bits that Fox put on youtube. I won't watch the whole thing. What I have seen was quite enough.

Every bit of it feels like plastic dolls walking awkwardly in a perfect doll's house. It feels like something straight from the pits of the marketing department. It feels like something that should be a bit shoddy, a bit worn down, but has been re-edited, re-shot, re-synthesized into perfection until it was so perfect as to make everyone puke.

Let's talk about "Science Fiction / Double Feature". The singing is close to perfect, as far as I can tell. And Ivy Levan sure is a stunningly beautiful woman. But there is a distinct lack of dirty in this version. It sounds like soul music. The role of the singer as an usher is ironically fitting - she's there to preserve order and keep those messy kids from putting their shoes up on the backrest. And, while she acts sexy, and as I said above she is definitely very pretty, somehow she really does not come off as sexy at all. It's like a sideshow act after it was processed multiple times by the marketing deparment's washing mashine.

The same goes for "Sweet Transvestite". So, now we have to talk about Laverne Cox. I actually think she did a terrific job there. It was not her acting that was wrong, nor her singing. What's wrong is the context. (It is in all the details: The elevator versus that... whatever... ramp thingie. The tights compared to that... weird... whatever... mask.)

I remember when I first saw - nay, experienced Rocky Horror. I must have been 14 or 15. There was a distinct feeling of doing something forbidden, of crossing a line of some sorts. Well, the whole thing had the word "Horror" in its title. Back in the 80s, this was not a clear sign for a teenager to go for it. There was danger in the air.

Enter Tim Curry as Dr. Frank'n'Furter.

He was in drag. He was under heavy make-up. He wore suspenders and a corset and stockings. He was dominant, domineering, excentric, fabulous and, well, ahem, extremely attractive.

And that was what made his appearance so delightfully charming: it confused the hell out of me, without me even realizing it until very much later.

Laverne Cox, on the other hand, is a woman. A transgendered woman (well, duh), and a black woman (again, so what). And she's singing about being a "sweet transvestite", which is wrong on many more levels than I care to count.

Not only can I clearly hear the marketing guys who controlled that whole production going "Hey, how do you think we're gonna one-up the original?" - "Ah yes I know, we'll cast a black transwoman!" Only, this does not work. At all. There is nothing intrinsically challenging in that for anyone -- except, I guess, for Fox Network execs, which is a point of unintentional irony in and of itself. Back in the 70s and 80s, a guy in drag, to most of us, felt somewhat wrong. We might have felt a bit like we were caught in the act, and it was a double trap: On the one hand, we felt dirty for our attraction for someone we were not supposed to feel attracted to (they may do some more folk-dancing); on the other hand, there was a little bit of shame for our hypocrisy in precisely that feeling of doing something wrong (I'm a muscle fan!). The film made all that rather obvious by the simple device of an utterly manly guy in drag. You cannot achieve that easily in 2016, and you can definitely not achieve it by casting a woman as Frank.

The new casting also completely takes away one of the most interesting aspects of the show: The huge difference and conflict between Brad and Frank, Janet's internal troubles being caught between those two, which triggers her transformation. By the ending credits, Brad ("help me mommy"), in all his clean-cut, suit-wearing, career-promising unglory is completely defeated. But neither does Frank win -- how sentimental, and even pretentious of him. The real winners here are Riff Raff, Magenta, and Janet. The first two, who have overcome the physical and financial oppression by an egomaniac leader, will go back to the planet of Transilvania and our whole world will do the Time Warp again! -- while the latter has grown into acceptance of her own sexuality, and superheroes come to feast, and is a far way from relying on Brad's brittle protection or indeed his career. *)

This was very relevant in the 70s when they created the show, and the 80s when I first watched it, and it is still relevant today, albeit in different ways. And The Rocky Horror Picture Show totally achieved all that, probably, without even trying.

I have no clue how they try to resolve that issue in the remake; but, sadly, my guess is that they simply don't. It doesn't have to be relevant or vibrant or alive, as long as it's shiny, conformant, and nonthreatening.

Ultimately, I think, this is my verdict about the New Rocky Horror Picture Show: It is totally nonthreatening. In art, this is a death sentence.

The New Rocky Horror Picture Show is to Real Rocky Horror Picture Show precisely what Brad is to Frank: a product of prude sexual repression bound to live a sterile beaurocratic life, bring home the money and die without anybody taking note. A result of postmodern prudery, brought on not by political machination, but by capitalist pondering to the lowest common denominator in the name of profit.

Quite ironic, that.

--------

*) I guess a point could be made just by observing who lives and who doesn't: Rocky's dumb maleness, Eddie's macho attitude, and Frank's over-the-top arrogance don't make it; Dr. Scott, Riff-Raff, Magenta, Brad and Janet survive; but only Janet is transformed in a positive way by her experience

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Nitpicker's Corner: "Colors" by Laleh

Just because it's black in the dark
Doesn't mean there's no color
I absolutely love the song in question. To be honest, I love pretty much everything by Laleh.

However, we have to talk about those two lines of the chorus.

Color is what happens when light of a certain wavelength within the visual spectrum interacts with the eyes, or whatever similar organ, of a living being. Objects reflect only parts of the visual spectrum due to their physical qualities (which I do not pretend to understand in detail), and that is why we get objects of different colors.

Color is not an intrinsic property of objects, but the result of those objects reflecting light. If you direct a source of red light on a green object, then (if I'm not completely mistaken), the green object will absorb, i.e. not reflect that light, and it will appear gray or even black.

So, in the dark there is indeed no color. It is black exactly because of that fact.

With a more subjectivist philosophy in mind, one could even argue that color only happens when said light interacts with a light-perceiving organ, i.e. an eye which is connected to a working, living brain. Without light to shine on them and an eye to percceive them, the physical properties of the object are still there, of course, but nobody cares. They are, one might quip, potential colors, not actual ones.

So, after all, colors appear to be there before they are hit by lightwaves, waiting to be perceived, like buds that have not opened yet. Just like the acorn is, in a way, a tree in waiting, so is unperceived color a sense perception that just has not had the chance to happen as of yet. The green object hit by red light would, then, be a sadly missed opportunity.

Simply because I'm such a literature buff (and because, by pure chance, I am just at the right time, namely right now, re-reading James Joyce's Ulysses), I shall have to quote the opening lines of the Proteus episode to you:

Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot. Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: coloured signs. Limits of the diaphane. But he adds: in bodies. Then he was aware of them bodies before of them coloured. How? By knocking his sconce against them, sure.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Narrative Appeals of BDSM

It has long been my view that one of the appeals of BDSM is its inherent narrative structure -- its dramatic capacity.

Take, for instance, the classic "9 1/2 weeks". Both the novel and the movie were bestsellers back in the day (I think); even if bdsm practitioners will tell you (and they are right) that they're lousy examples of actual BDSM, because everything in them is based on non-consensual acts, or abuse for short. What titillates the most is not Kim Basinger's body, or Mickey Rourke's smile, but the drama of a woman who falls for an abuser, enjoys it for a while because it is so erotic, and then tries to escape his iron clutch. We may protest the inherent sexism, and rightly ask why anyone would like to make out in the cold rain (without catching the common, absolutely unerotic cold!), but few of us can help feeling slightly aroused by the hot action in there.

Never-ending happiness is endlessly boring, just like mindless fucking.

Even in the simplest bondage scenario, there is a sub struggling against the ropes, crying in "pain", sighing pleasure. There is a dynamic, there is dramatic structure, there is tension and climax and payoff. Of course, simple phantasies will never fully exploit the potential therein -- but it is there, nonetheless.

This is why 90% of BDSM porn is about non-consensual violence, rather than politically correct, SSC-conforming scenes. Knowing you can safe-word out of your predicament is great in real life, but in our imagination, we want the racy stuff. Those cries better be for real. Those sighs better be just as real, too.

Of course, the narrative thrill is there in real life, too, because of our tendency to get lost in the game and ignore its game-like characteristics. It's what can make long-term games and mind-games so appealing. Many a sub completely forgot that there even was a safe-word agreed upon. So lost were they in the crazy world of commands, humiliation, and ropes.

Will the chaste sub make it to the end of the set period of no-action? Will he come out at the other side, a changed person? Will he be able to fulfill all the tasks he was given? Will the domme finally grant him his well-deserved release, or will she find some excuse to prolong his suffering?

These are the sort of questions that drive a well-written story. Character arc, challenges, pro- and antagonists... it's all right there.


The appeal of BDSM is not necessarily "just" pain and cruelty, even when simulated. Our inborn craving for well-told stories is just as good an explanation as any.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Stripping the Gurus

No, the title is not in reference to any kinky activities, though some of the personalities mentioned on the website below might (have) enjoy(ed) them a lot.

"Stripping the Gurus: Sex, Violence, Abuse and Enlightenment" by Geoffrey D. Falk
It is about the odd and abusive behaviour that lots of "holy men" engage in,. Holy men ranging from Ramakrishna to the Dalai Lama to Paramahansa Yogananda.  To some, this might be shocking news, for others just interesting reading material.

It didn't tell me anything particularly new, and I don't know if I agree with some of what he writes (plus, honestly I only browsed it), but I thought it was probably interesting for others, so I'm posting the link here.