30 December 2007

The chauvinist guide to feminism, part 1

Introduction


Feminism. To some of us, just like other excuses for ineptitude, not a religion but a way of life. To others, it is one more reason not to speak your mind, not to honour your true feelings and slowly wither under the weight (and they do have the weight advantage) of political correctness and equal opportunity. Similar in frustration to being stuck in a confined space with a religious nut, trying to put the Christ back in Xmas, when there was no Christ in Christmas in the first place. After decades of cooking our own meals, doing our own laundry and in some extreme cases, even watching soapies, it is time for one formerly advantaged chauvinist to step back and determine how relevant feminism is today, with our negative first world population growth and third world population boom. What exactly is negative growth anyway? It either grows, or it shrinks? Make that first world population shrinkage. But first, he has to try and comprehend what this feminism is.

A definition of feminism


Merriam-Webster defines feminism as either a "theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes", or an "organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests". Sounds simple enough, but we shall see that there are about as many feminisms as there are feminists.

For the sake of this argument, all the different branches of feminism are lumped together. Please realise that I am not an expert on feminism. I used a quick glance at the Wikipedia article on feminism with the purpose of providing a brief overview of the history of the movement.

Similar to alleged alien invasions, feminist invasions occur in waves (not to be mistaken for blow waves, as only mentally conditioned females partake in preening).

First Wave feminism


This wave deals mainly with the Suffrage movement. Mary Wollstonecraft gave women the notion that they too can make up their minds about the leaders of their country. Come to think of it, they see their children sent off to war so maybe this notion is not too far fetched. Or maybe some lilly-livered mama's boys just wanted mammy to vote them into parliament? It's Nero all over again. In Britain, the Suffragettes were only concerned with their own voting rights, but in the United States, the girls also clubbed together against slavery once they got their voting rights. You can never please girls.

Because men had monopolised violence since the invention of the club and then hid its mysteries from women, first wave of feminism was characterised by the writing of essays, mass demonstrations and denying nookie to their spouse. Cunning stunts.

Strength
They did not need strength. They had the numbers, they had the manipulative ways.
first wave of feminism

Dexterity
Reading, writing, bitching, moaning. Not bad for a bunch of girls.
first wave of feminism

Constitution
Women were still rearing kids and doing the housework. And they did it well.
first wave of feminism

Intelligence
They got what they wanted, and in all fairness they were right. Although I can't admit that girls are right, that is breaking the guy code.
first wave of feminism

Wisdom
They didn't turn to violence and they were still sleeping with the enemy.
first wave of feminism

Charisma
Convinced the men of their time, albeit with a bit of tough love.
first wave of feminism

Hit points
Radical transformation for all society.
first wave of feminism


Second Wave feminism


In the public mind, when you say feminist you immediately think of someone burning a bra, thanks to the second wave of feminism. This wave started in the 1960s. The peanut gallery began equating feminism with a matriarchy. This may or may not be accurate, since certain old boys clubs still run corporations and pay women disproportionate salaries for doing the same work as men.

Now the bra is a male invention, they say. Just like the bra limits the movements of a lady, males limit the achievements of women. Second wave feminism argues that your role as a woman is dictated to you by men. This is where the term women's liberation originated. It is abbreviated women's lib, but might as well be women's lip.

If women have such a problem with wearing a bra, they should stop wearing them. In fact, Levis were invented by a man. They should stop wearing jeans too. Just to be safe, all women should go naked and be truly liberated. Wear only what mother nature designed, decorated and designated to you. Women know what is best for women!

For the brainiacs, The Personal is Political, an essay by Carol Hanisch , and The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan sum up the sentiments of this era.

Giving the devil her due, I agree with the notion of equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender or race. However, I still maintain a laissez-fair system is more valuable than one where a government enforces equality on its people. Now if feminism could achieve a laissez-fair system, I'd marry one and make my own fucking sandwiches.

Strength
Organising mass actions, getting unions behind them and brassiere arson.


Dexterity
Well, it boils down to bitching and moaning.


Constitution
Women started neglecting the household at this stage.


Intelligence
Universities were implemented and strategically targeted.


Wisdom
Didn't manage to loosen the stronghold the old male sages have on this one quite yet.


Charisma
All that braless mass actions took its toll.


Hit points
Some feminists have a valid point, some want to see women as sex objects, some would skin testicles with their bare teeth if they didn't belong to men. That's the testicles belonging to men, not the women.



Third Wave feminism


Well, you see now, actually. Third wave feminism started at some vague point in time, trying to achieve well, something non-descript. The methods they used were not quite as barbaric as burning your own clothes. The movement used methods of well, see, there are talks of post-feminism. And when something is post you know it is over. By now, anyone who is still a hardcore feminist is probably just prejudiced and trying to blame external forces for their own shortcomings. Somewhere along the line, they managed to make men turn to bitching and moaning. Guess it comes with the territory of cooking and cleaning.

During this wave, feminism stumbled upon the notion of female writing. This is a trap! Writing is good or bad, just like science is valid or invalid. Just because a woman wrote it, doesn't make it any more significant than when a man wrote it. During this wave of feminism, it went from being considered equals of men, to being considered better than men. Whatever, standing up pissing or lighting your own farts will never be a neat party trick for a girl. Well, maybe at some of my parties. But that's hardly the norm you want to aim for.

Strength
Of a bear, like Womarshall Bravestar!


Dexterity
Some women are dexterous, some are useless idiots. Same as your average man, really.


Constitution
Dude, seriously. Women don't want to cook, most men can't cook for shit, and McDonalds and Steers are not exactly going to give you the body of a goddess.


Intelligence
Some women are smart, some are useless idiots. Same as your average man, really


Wisdom
Come on, haven't you realised it by now? If you have a stronghold over a man's nutritional intake, you have leverage over the poor hungry bastard. No cooking, no cleaning, no wisdom. But have one wisdom point from a man, because we have some to spare.


Charisma
I'm going to give all women a good charisma score, because some women are simply spanktastic.
Even in Levis, with a bra underneath their tops.


Hit points
Nothing special.


Want to read part 2?


Read The chauvinist guide to feminism, part 2 - Where feminists are wrong here.

27 December 2007

The Terminator (1984)



Director
James Cameron

Cast
Michael Biehn
Linda Hamilton
Bill Paxton
Shawn Schepps
Arnold Schwarzenegger

Plot
The film takes place in 1984. A robot is sent back from the future to assassinate a woman. Her unborn son is destined to lead a rebellion against the future robot leaders of the world. This son also sends back someone to protect his mom and himself. The robot and the soldier end up ruining half the economically active population in their battle for the woman's life, but all is fair in love and war. Even time travelling and big poodle hair.

Review
This is a superb twist on the 1984 Big Brother theme. Imagine being stalked by an indestructible cyborg from the future with an Austrian accent to boot. Of course, the pitiful machine is up against Linda Hamilton. Even “the Governator” Arnie doesn't stand a chance against that much testosterone.

Brad Fiedel deserves a special mention for his creepy synthesiser soundtrack. While the film has aged badly, it remains a classic. The dialogue is stuck in the middle of the eighties, but the storyline is impeccable. I particularly enjoy the twist of making the bad guy the good guy in the second film, because in this one the bad guy is seriously bad.

Conclusion
If you are concerned about the low educational value of Sci-Fi films with body counts as high as this one, consider the indispensable recycling lessons, particularly in the closing scene.

Rating


Coming soon: The chauvinist guide to feminism.

24 December 2007

Evil Dead (1983)



Director
Sam Raimi

Cast
Betsy Baker
Bruce Campbell
Richard DeManincor
Ellen Sandweiss
Theresa Tilly

Plot
Five college students decide to make vacation in a cabin in the woods. The desolate forest leads them to do what college students are inclined to do, namely indulge in a little occult ritual in addition to making hanky panky sexy time.

They stumble upon an audio cassette player (it's like the iPod of the eighties that works with a steam engine) that summons evil spirits. If you remember audio cassettes, you can summon spirits with them by playing the tape backwards, or if you let the tape lie on your dashboard in the sun and then play it. Of course the only persons with enough mojo to play a tape backwards were Satanic musicians and evangelist preachers. Interesting connection they share.

This cassette contains passages from the Necronomicon, a mythical book invented by H.P. Lovecraft as part of his ploy to mock religion. The Necronomicon of Evil Dead is not so innocuous, and evil spirits start to haunt the cabin. The Bruce and his consorts have to battle the spirits with McGuyver-like ingenuity.

Review
In the year of our Bruce - well, Bruce can make it any year he likes, at any given time – Sam Raimi documented the pristine manner in which to deal with an undead attack. It is true that one Romano first brought us knowledge of the existence of zombies, casting his lots on their side. Alas, this had been before the coming of our Bruce. Generous helpings of whoopass and chainsaws put these metaphysical entities in their place. Evil Dead should be passed from generation to generation to ensure our children and our children's children - even the test tube ones - know how to prepare for an attack from the undead. The Bruce should be made a saint and honoured by having one hand of our firstborn replaced with a chainsaw in his homage.

Conclusion
The Bruce deserves to be further immortalised in the mind of the public with his own strand of poor attempts at humour, from the same genus as those of The Hoff, The Chuck and The Shat. Maybe not The Shat, but Evil Dead is superawesome!

Rating

23 December 2007

Ministry - Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs


Personell
M Balch – Keyboards, Programming
Paul Barker – Bass, Programming, Vocals
H Beno – Programming
Gibby Haynes – Vocals on "Jesus Built My Hotrod"
Al Jourgensen – Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Hypo Luxa – Producer
P Manno – Engineer
J C Newell – Engineer
Hermes Pan – Producer
Bill Rieflin – Drums
Mike Scaccia– Guitars
Louis Svitek – Guitar

Track listing

  1. N.W.O

  2. Just One Fix

  3. TV II

  4. Hero

  5. Jesus Built My Hotrod

  6. Scare Crow

  7. Psalm 69

  8. Corrosion

  9. Grace



Review
When Ministry recorded this album, they were rising superstars of the er bludgeoning industrial scene. Although they do not make industrial in the strict sense of the word, they do employ studio wizardry to infinity and beyond. Aggressive and more like 10 000 punches in your face than Nine Inch Nails would ever muster, this appeals to me although I mostly like my metal.

You might wonder who Hypo Luxa and Hermes Pan are. Hypo Luxa is a pseudonym for Al Jourgensen, and Hermes Pan is the alias of Paul Barker. Maybe this was their way of screwing the record company out of more money? Good, because record companies deserve to be screwed. Not in the lights down low listening to Barry White kind of way, in the yo wigga you mah bitch now prison sex kind of way.

Conclusion
This is the primordial soup that spawned all the hedonistic messiahs of the nineties and beyond. Ever pondered what prompted Reznor to put that Mellotron on overdrive? Or what prompted Manson to take up the theremin? Next to being abducted by three breasted aliens, this is as close to a religious experience as you are ever likely to get.

Rating

21 December 2007

The Golden Compass points in the right direction

The Golden Compass (actually Northern Lights) is part of a trilogy by novelist Philip Pullman. The trilogy, His Dark Materials, is designed as an Atheist alternative to the Christian children story Chronicles of Narnia.

The Catholic Church removed the book from its school libraries because it did not contribute to Catholic philosophy. Their statement was carefully worded to prevent their action from appearing like another witch hunt, and there is nothing wrong with the Catholic Church censoring the content of its libraries. After all, one goes to Catholic school to learn Catholic thinking, not to learn freedom of thought, freedom of expression or other dangerous intellectual pursuits. One goes there to become one of them, to think as they do and to do as they say.

More recently, Nicole Kidman starred in a film adaptation of the award winning novel. This film caused an uproar in the Christian community. The Vatican condemns the film, claiming it "promotes a cold and hopeless world without God."[1]. Closer to home, the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP - a party with minor support and even more minor influence) called for a boycott of the film because it "might open the door to the dark side".[2].

Fortunately, state and church are separated at this point in time, otherwise the ACDP and the Vatican might open the door to the Dark Ages again.
I have not seen the movie nor read the book but I intend to do both simply because Christianity warns against it. History proves that Christianity tends to demonise the best in life. Among these demons are wine, women and song. Literature is certainly no exception.

Conclusion
The Vatican has the final word on Atheism, but I disagree with their view. Says the Vatican in their statement: "In Pullman's world, hope simply does not exist, because there is no salvation but only personal, individualistic capacity to control the situation and dominate events." This individualistic capacity to take responsibility for your own actions and influence events is exactly why atheism offers hope, and religion robs us as human beings of any hope. Thankfully, the burning times are over and we enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of expression. There are more advantages than disadvantages in maintaining freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of religion. In my view, there are even further advantages in maintaining complete freedom from religion. Thanks to these freedoms, you are free to disagree with me. Thank the gods for that!

19 December 2007

Cryptopsy - Once Was Not


Personell
Lord Worm - Vocals
Alex Auburn - Guitars and backing vocals
Eric Langlois - Bass
Flo Mounier - Drums, percussion and backing vocals

Track listing
1. Luminum
2. In the Kingdom where Everything Dies, the Sky is Mortal
3. Carrionshine
4. Adeste Infidelis
5. The Curse of the Great
6. The Frantic Pace of Dying
7. Keeping the Cadaver Dogs Busy
8. Angelskingarden
9. The Pestilence that Walketh in Darkness (Psalm 91:5-8)
10. The End
11. Endless Cemetery

Review
Canada has long deserved extermination due to the crimes against humanity Celine Dion commits each time she has a concert. Fortunately, Cryptopsy redeems Canada. Capable of skinning a ferret alive by sheer sonic force, Cryptopsy is perhaps the most intense band on this planet, and possibly a few others. As a teaser, there is a very tranquil guitar intro before the marsupial stripping brutality commences. Lord Worm returns with his trademark incoherent splutter. Older, wiser, and meaner, his voice does show some wear and tear. Then again, the man managed a 28 second gargle before, so even a worn down voice equals the most incinerating tar pit this side of Hades. Their touching rendition of Psalm 91 will warm the coldest of cadavers just enough to grin.

Conclusion
Absolutely brutal! This is recommended for those with leather ears, or anyone who wants to unleash their inner ferret.

Rating

15 December 2007

Iced Earth - Dark Saga


Personell
Jon Schaffer - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
Matt Barlow - Lead Vocals
Randall Shawver - Lead Guitar
Dave Abell - Bass Guitar
Mark Prator - Drums

Track listing
1. Dark Saga
2. I Died For You
3. Violate
4. The Hunter
5. The Last Laugh
6. Depths Of Hell
7. Vengeance Is Mine
8. Scarred
9, Slave to the Dark
10. A Question of Heaven

Review
The Spawn cover created by Todd McFarlane suggests that this is a highly cultured band. With their minds steeped in such fine literature as the popular comic book, the fire and brimstone permeate every track. Perdition is after all a fine topic for a metal album. Matthew Barlow handles vocal duties. His voice can be described as a masculine Geoff Tate, which would render Iced Earth into Kingsrÿche, if you will. Sparse yet effective lead guitar parts are pasted over some emotive vocals while the guitar rhythms can give you razor burn. This is a fine album by the band poised to fill the throne abdicated by Metallica. Singing along to someone's perdition never felt this good.

Conclusion
An imperial heavy metal album as only Iced Earth could make one.

Rating

12 December 2007

Dragonforce - Inhuman Rampage



Personell
ZP Theart - Lead and backing vocals
Herman Li - Lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals
Sam Totman - Lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals
Vadim Pruzhanov - Keyboards, piano, backing vocals
Dave Mackintosh - Drums, backing vocals

Track listing
1. Through the Fire and Flames
2. Revolution Deathsquad
3. Storming the Burning Fields
4. Operation Ground and Pound
5. Body Breakdown
6. Cry for Eternity
7. The Flame of Youth
8. Trail of Broken Hearts

Review
Cheese warning! Straight from the Camelot of Camembert, this is nothing but the leanest, meanest, fastest, purest, geographically shaped axe-wielding power metal twenty pieces of silver could buy. With a vocalist whose practice regime consists of shattering glass goblets with his voice and a guitarist who has more blisters on his fingers than Celine Dion had death threats, how wrong could you go?

From the first track, you want to play air guitar and pull your nose like you stepped in the manure of your favourite noble steed.

Conclusion
Take up thy broadsword and walk!

Rating

10 December 2007

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)


Director
Wes Anderson

Cast
Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Angelica Huston, Bill Murray.

Plot
Steve Zissou (Murray) is an oceanographer and documentary film maker. To say he is eccentric is to describe fascists as angry people. When his partner, Estaban (Seymour Cassell), dies due to a shark attack, Zissou sets off to avenge his partner's death. Known only as the "jaguar shark", Zissou and his gang face illegitimate children, not so legitimate illegitimate children, former wives, pirates and each other's eccentricities in their quest to kill the creature.

Review
This larger than life comedy proves how little mankind knows about aquatic life. In particular, it proves how little a man named Steve Zissou knows about aquatic life. Follow mister Zissou on a journey of debauchery, piracy, pregnancy and even bankruptcy.

This film is critically misunderstood, commercially unsuccessful and highly underrated. Anderson studied philosophy at the University of Texas. His plays on meaning are similar to those of David Lynch, except Lynch plays with signifiers and the signified from a horror/thriller perspective. Anderson takes the lighthearted approach by dealing with questions about truth and meaning with a healthy dose of dry wit.

For entertainment value, the film has ups and downs at a very appropriate pace and the delivery is right on the money. Cate Blanchett is her usual glamorous self, even donning khaki clothes and a pregnant belly. Luke and Owen Wilson are entertaining enough, but the star of the show is undeniably Bill Murray. He looks so convincing in his role as Steve Zissou that one wonders whether this isn't actually a documentary film.

You will need to watch this film a few times to catch all the fake aquatic species, the more subtle jests and just to enjoy the dry humour again.

Conclusion
If you enjoyed Anderson's previous film, The Royal Tenenbaums, prepare yourself for something completely different. You do not need a red cap and a speedo to enjoy this film, but it helps.

Rating

06 December 2007

Black Sabbath - Heaven and Hell (1980) review



If you follow the "no Ozzy, no Sabbath" philosophy, you will miss out on this essential heavy metal landmark. With Ozzy booted or quit, depending on whose version you believe, the Brumbies team up with Ronnie James Dio. One of the world's greatest singers teams up with one of the world's greatest bands. With his miniature Gandalf stance, Dio helped to forge Heaven and Hell, Mob Rules and Dehumanizer at different periods in their career.

Ozzy sustained himself on a diet of spandex and pigeons. Dio sustained Black Sabbath with a diet of Elvish magic. His Dioisms are encoded in Quenya and then translated into English for our pleasure. One of Dio's magical abilities is transcending the boundaries that space and time infringe on us mere mortals, as with the phrase "throw away the key, and lock the door". By employing the logic of the imagination first described by Elliot, Dio manages to defy even logic. Indeed, Dio laughs in the face of logic, as with "love isn't money, it isn't something you buy". To you and I, money is not something you buy either, but Dio can buy money.

Couple this ingenuity with the Camel sponsored cherubs on the cover and the supreme groove machine that is Black Sabbath, and you possess one ring-shaped disk to rule them all!

Interesting facts
Dio gave heavy metal its trademark mano cornuta or devil's horns sign during his first tour with Black Sabbath. Drummer Bill Ward can allegedly not remember recording this album due to drug problems. Ozzy thought he recorded this album due to drug problems, but later realised it was Dio instead. Ozzy then referred to the new Black Sabbath as "Blackmore Sabbath", referring to Dio's former band Rainbow. Rainbow featured Richie Blackmore on guitar, and from there the snide name.

Rating

04 December 2007

Strapping Young Lad - Alien



Lead singer and guitarist Devin Townsend is hyperactive on a quiet day. In addition to several side projects, he fronts an amalgamation of pure genius that is Strapping Young Lad. This album kicks off with all cylinders firing at maximum overdrive, and doesn't show mercy for even a second. Well, maybe for the pastures green interlude in Two Weeks.

Shop for Strapping Young Lad albums at Amazon.com!

Townsend suffers from bi-polar disorder. Disillusioned by the chemical lobotomy he has to live with due to the medication for that illness, he decided to quit his medication in an experiment to see what it does to his creative output. Alien was conceived and recorded during this period of chemically (well, at least medical chemicals) stoic habits.

Lauded for his production abilities, Townsend offers an amazing choir consisting of overdubbed vocals with the aid of Sharon Clark. As if this is not enough, the rest of the lad consists of some road-worn heavyweights such as drummer Gene Hoglan and bassist Byron Shroud.

Gone are the days of singing glam-metal sing-along anthems for Steve Vai. Townsend has a voice that resembles a school of piranha going to work on Bambi, and it serves Strapping Young Lad very well. Recommended for fans of Fear Factory and groundbreaking metal.

Rating

02 December 2007

The Ninth Gate (1999)



Director
Roman Polanski

Cast
Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Lena Olin, James Russo, Emmanuelle Seigner.

Shop for Ninth Gate on DVD at Amazon.com!

Plot
Meet Dean Corso (Johnny Depp): book seller; raconteur; conman extraordinaire. He capitalises on his extensive knowledge of rare books, the ignorance of those in possession of these and his skills to manipulate people. Never too busy to pass by an opportunity to increase his fortunes, he decides to look for prints of a book called The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows on behalf of Boris Balkan (Frank Langella). There are three known prints of this book. Balkan already owns one, and Corso has to find the others to verify their authenticity. If he believes them to be real, he must acquire them at all costs. All expenses paid!

Corso manages to track down the remaining two, and finds discrepancies in the illustrations. At first, Corso is lead to believe that the discrepancies mean the books are counterfeit. A series of unfortunate events and a female consort known only as the girl (Emmanuelle Seigner) lead him to believe the discrepancies are deliberate. The girl and Balkan seem to be locked in a race to gather all the copies of the book in order to perform diabolical rites successfully, and Corso is not sure whose pawn he is. Who will be first to open the mystical ninth gate, and is it really that much better on the other side?

Review
Based on The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Polanski reportedly chose only one of the many sub-plots of the book for the film. In step with Pérez-Reverte's writing style, the film focuses in detail on the doings of one central character, namely that of Corso. The book is allegedly a bibliophile's dream, with references to classic literature throughout. As the title suggests, the book deals extensively with the methods of Alexander Dumas, while the film chooses to virtually ignore this link. Instead of offering a multi-faceted surreal world of endless possibilities, the Ninth Gate is the equivalent of the tunnel vision one has sliding down a water slide that runs out of water around the last bend.

While you can expect the same visual feast as in China Town, Polanski does not offer nearly the same complexity and suspense in the plot of the Ninth Gate. Upon further reading, it seems that his intention was to ridicule those who believe in the occult, while at the same time presenting a film riddled with occult references both obscure and bluntly obvious. It seems that Polanski considers his audience to consist of 15-year-olds who discovered the writings of La Vey. The film has a comic feel, and it does tend to drag at points. Some interesting concepts such as the nature of supernatural powers of the girl are treated with nonchalance, hovering somewhere between not quite explicit and not quite implicit enough, while other avenues not nearly as interesting enjoy fare too much attention. Still, with this fool's gold plot and strong performances by most actors, coupled with the fantastic score by Wojciech Kilar, the Ninth Gate is not devoid of entertainment value.

Conclusion
Compared with the recent outbreak of American creature features, it is refreshing to find a film nearly in the same who-dunnit tradition of Dario Argento. Polanski certainly has the experience and the flare to pull of a very stylish suspense thriller, yet somehow does not manage to do so here. It boils down to Johnny Depp to carry the film. The on-screen chemistry between him and the rest of the cast is worth watching, and the visual aspects of a Polanski film alone merits at least a second viewing. Not a bad film at all, just a poorly executed film for Polanski.

Rating

01 December 2007

Faust: Love of the Damned (2001)


Director
Brian Yuzna

Cast
Jeffrey Combs,
Andrew Divoff,
Mark Frost,
Jennifer Rope,
Monica Von Campen.

Synopsis
John Jaspers (Mark Frost) is a struggling artist (aren't they all?) spending some quality time with his girlfriend when they suddenly become victims of an armed robbery, which leaves his girlfriend dead. The motive for the robbery is unclear, but it gives Jaspers motivation enough to sell his soul to a mysterious character named M (Andrew Divoff). M - short for you guessed it, Mephistopheles - grants Jaspers the power to turn into a horned demon who has a penchant for being a very bad person. Armed with supernatural powers, Jaspers sets off to avenge the death of his girlfriend, only to discover a much more sinister plot. M plans to release a far more fierce demon by opening the gates of hell on a hot midsummer night. Not content with avenging his girlfriend's death, Jaspers spends the rest of the film gathering new floozies and preventing the impending apocalypse.

Review
This film is based on the macabre graphic novel by Tim Vigil and David Quinn, only less macabre. You can expect the same graphic violence and sexual overtones as found in the comic, but there is something missing. While the actors generally deliver captivating performances, the shots are awkward. Seemingly a trademark of Yuzna, the shots are not composed with the same care as that given to the props and effects. The costumes and effects, although very good, are not without their flaws either, with the most noticeable faux pas (or is that 'Faust pas?') being the latex horns of Faust himself. In its defence, the original comic has a Faust which bears a striking resemblance to a red and blue Wolverine - sans horns. The horns seem to be some mask, which doesn't really make sense since the man sold his soul to Mephistopheles to have infernal powers. The father of lies strikes again and delivers a less-than-natural supernatural outfit for our hero. Now Jaspers has to seek vengeance in dangling latex body armour. Hark, fear the wrath of my awkwardly dangling latex horns, devoid of any function if not for aesthetics.

These inherent flaws in the Faust visual design are dealt with fairly well. Yuzna knows his strengths and he knows what his audience wants. His weaknesses are hidden fairly well and this film does deliver on its own. I am not familiar with the story of the graphic novel, so I would not know how comic book fans feel about this film.

The script is quite solid, with a very comic book style descent into madness. There are two characters who show a catharsis, which is quite effective considering they are caricatures with an overdose of supernatural interference. These characters, one male and one female, provide a juxtaposition and they become entwined in more ways than one. Other than this female character, the film features portrayals of women who serve the ideals of patriarchy all too well. I'm convinced there isn't a single fem on set who would not look good in latex clothing, and most of them prove it on screen. It is after all a comic book brought to life on the silver screen. The ideals of feminism are accepted (the female lead is a very smart doctor of psychology) as long as those wielding their bras are hot. I like it.

Conclusion
The devil always had the best tunes, and the soundtrack features some brutal Fear Factory tracks in step with that tradition.

An ample supply of women in latex clothing, almost enough compromising sexual scenarios and almost enough buckets of blood.

Rating


External Links
Faust: Love of the Damned at the IMDb
Wikipedia page on Faust: Love of the Damned (movie)
Wikipedia page on the Faust graphic novel

Note
Following the recent discovery of the Playground Movie Review, I decided to standardise the format of my DVD reviews. Feel free to read that blog, it is one of the best film review blogs I have seen. I took the Playground format and blended it with the Eat My Brains format to come up with my own. It is more user friendly, it has a rating system which features skulls and it is generally better. Enjoy!

29 November 2007

Spine chilling film scores: Music of Christopher Young

The other night, while watching Nightmare On Elm Street 2, I couldn't help but be enthralled by the brilliant score, which was done by Christopher Young. Unlike the film score Jerry Goldsmith did for The Omen, which sometimes becomes really mushy and over sentimental (although it is still good music, I don't think it always works in the film), the scores of Christopher Young tend to blend in with the background. This morning at 3, I watched Exorcism of Emily Rose and became paranoid. Certainly it is a scary movie but it's not all that creepy, and at some point I realised the reason why I am having a panic attack is the music! I checked the blurb of the DVD and much to my delight the score was also done by Christopher Young.

A drummer by trade, mister Young graduated from Massachusetts Hampshire College with a BA in music. After this he did a post-graduate at North Texas State University studying big band writing and classical composition. He noticed a record by the great Bernard Herrmann in a record bar one day, and purchased it. The master's horror themes (Vertigo, Psycho) he did for another master, Alfred Hitchcock, struck a chord with mister Young (no pun intended, har har) and it changed the course of his life. Young started doing film scores shortly after, achieving notable success first by scoring Clive Barker's imaginative Hellraiser.

To illustrate his versatility, one can listen to the sado-masochistic violins building tension in the horror scores like Exorcism of Emily Rose and contrast it with DJ Paul Oakenfold collaborations on Swordfish. Due to his jazz/big band background, mister Young also has a fondness for what he calls the "great American song". Young even incorporated Celtic elements in the score for Shipping News. These abilities to blend in and be versatile contribute to his success as a film score composer.

Unfortunately, Christopher Young has not received a Grammy nor an Oscar for his brilliant abilities. This is not to say he is not recognised as a great film score writer. It probably alludes to the fact that genre entertainment - particularly horror - is often looked down upon as nothing but genre entertainment. Often box office sales reflect the public appreciation for these films, but the Oscar powers that be would rather have girl-next-door faces on their stage. Mister Young has thankfully been nominated for a Golden Globe. I hope he wins an Oscar soon - he certainly deserves it!

References
The official web site of Christopher Young
Wikipedia page on Christopher Young

28 November 2007

George Hurrell - a study in glamour

This may come as a surprise to you, but my blog is rated as one with genius level content:

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Don't worry, it comes as a surprise to me too. Now back to the genius content:

When the word Hollywood is mentioned, images of glamour are automatically conjured. In fact, Hollywood and glamour could be synonyms. Even in this age of three named teeny boppers and politically correct Disney drab, the mention of Hollywood puts stars in your eyes.



Photographer George Hurrell is largely responsible for creating this image of glamour associated with Hollywood. During the golden age of Hollywood, he authored publicity photos of all the big names. Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart, Norma Shearer, Rita Hayworth and even less glamorous ventures like the United States Army all gained benefit from Hurrel's eye for composition and the intricate play of black and white portrayed in his work.

Following his work for the United States Army, Hurrell worked for fashion magazines in New York. During the seventies, he returned to Hollywood to photograph the leading stars of the day including Raquel Welch, Farrah Fawcett and John Travolta. One can't help but wonder how he kept the gaping black hole that is John Travolta's chin from sucking all the studio light in, or even bending it. Maybe his magical Scientology abilities prevented this.

During the mid-seventies Hurrell officially retired as a photographer, but still took photographs of newer stars he felt were interesting. During the eighties, Joan Collins(aged 50 at the time) was asked to appear nude in Playboy, and agreed on the condition that George Hurrell would be the photographer. With nerves of steel, Hurrell survived the ordeal and produced the now famous 12 page layout for Playboy. I have no idea what they look like. I like my horror, but I do have my limits.

Shortly before his death in 1992, Hurrell gathered a galaxy of new stars once again. This time he had them dressed in the thirties style and took photos to resemble the glamour of that period. Sean Penn, Julian Sands, Eric Roberts, Sharon Stone and once again Raquel Welch are among those who posed for his period piece portraits.

References
Hollywood Photography of Hurrell, with examples of his work
Wikipedia page on George Hurrell

27 November 2007

Come on, Hollywood! Remake these films already! Part 2

This is the second part of my list of films I want Hollywood to give a face-lift.
You can find the first part here.



Spiderman 3
Venom makes his entrance into Sam Raimi's Spiderman series. Exciting, since the first two films of his series delivered the goods. The casting for the first few was right on the money, so the appearance of Venom would be awesome! Or not. I know girls who fell asleep during this chick flick. Girls who love seeing beefcakes in spandex. Sam Raimi of all people should know better. Was he trying to impress us with an Evil Dead 3 brand of surreal humour again? If so, I don't get it this time. Just go back and read the Venom comics. In fact, just read the series of six comics I have gathering dust here which feature the origins of Venom, then try again.

The Sisterhood (2004)
A bevy of busty teenage sorority girls are being seduced by an even more buxom beauty who is actually a vampire. How exactly can you fuck this up? The blaring techno soundtrack, for starters. Just because a film has a limited budget, does not mean it has to be cheap. Besides, the filming and editing were quite flashy. That does not look cheap. Why did they give the actors such tacky makeup and clothes? Why do they speak of days before the full moon when the full moon is clearly visible in the background? Even the script is quite solid, the film was just poorly assembled from it. Back to the drawing board guys. Watch Vampyros Lesbos, learn Theatres des Vampires lyrics off by heart, hire Lerue Delashay to compose a proper soundtrack and at least you can sleep easy knowing you tried to do the script justice. A few buckets of blood couldn't hurt either.

Scanners
This is treading on hallowed ground. The other Cronenberg titles in my collection are centrepieces and I heartily recommend them, except for Crash which is too close to a respectable art film for my liking. This is the legendary one with the amazing exploding head scene. Basically I would love to see the technology references updated, provided they keep the exploding head scene latex and not CGI! Fuck PETA, you need cow and/or pig blood for that scene. Buckets of blood!

Driller Killer
It looks like I am getting my wish, since IMDb mentions a 2008 release for a Driller Killer.
Abel Ferrara is one of my favourite directors, thanks to The Funeral and possibly my favourite film of all time, The Addiction. This being his first film, it is not his best work though. A novel idea for the plot, but it drags on and on and doesn't really go anywhere. You want senseless, gratuitous violence? You can see it on the South African news. Or in Driller Killer. The loathsome punk band featured does not help to justify the film any either. To me, horror has to provide a means of escapism to be entertaining. Some supernatural elements are required. The original film provides no escapism, no supernatural elements and subsequently no entertainment. It does however have buckets of blood!

Spawn
Spawn takes the number one position on my list of films that need a remake. Mark Dippé directed this steaming pile of crap. It comes as no surprise that he also directed Gigi aka the worst film of all time and managed to somehow help render the life of Alexander the Great into a celluloid snoozefest. Rumour has it his son was 8 years old when Dippé was assigned the Spawn project. He asked his son if he knew this Spawn character, because he had no idea who it was (something which becomes more apparent when one watches his film). His son was very excited that his dad was the director of the film of one of the coolest comics of all time, but probably not so much when he got beaten up at school for the same reason. Thanks, mister Dippé. You managed to take the Faust of our times, and turn it into a Looney Tunes cartoon. John Leguizamo should be commended for at least delivering a great performance in an otherwise dismal waste of celluloid. Thanks for the inspiring work ethic, John. Thanks for helping me catch up with REM sleep, mister Dippé.

26 November 2007

Come on, Hollywood! Remake these films already! Part 1

Inspired by a recent Bloody Disgusting feature, I decided to make a list of films I want to see remade. Granted, there are few things more idiotic than remaking classic Horror films. Recent drivel such as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Wicker Man and The Omen remakes continue to shame their predecessors and serve as a case in point, but that is another blog entry waiting to happen. I decided to take off my usual De Bono's black hat and tried to be positive about remakes. Positively speaking, one can't help but think the remake recipe could be useful for a few films. Here is the first part of my list:



God Told Me To
This film has a few brilliant ideas and they are executed pretty well throughout, it is just dated. There have been rumours about a brand spanking new Larry Cohen remake doing the rounds, but nothing has come to fruition yet. The 1976 film does have a certain charm, even with the dated effects and outlandish fashions by today's standards. I do not fault the film much, as I enjoy the unorthodox editing and unorthodox shots it features. It would just be interesting to see what Larry Cohen makes of the ideas in his film 30+ years later in a more modern setting. Realise that this was made before the Nike cult got beemed up in a mass ritual suicide, before the mass ritual suicide of Jonestown and long before the FBI decided to do a little evangelising of its own brand among the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. The hindsight of these events could lend the story more weight and maybe make the plot a little more interesting.

The Brain That Wouldn't Die
Another film that is basically flawless considering the time it was first released. The uncensored version is the one I have, and it is gripping despite being filmed in black and white. The black and white component is where the remake idea comes into play. People are far more receptive to full colour, surround sound and CGI lately. I am not a big fan of CGI and I adore vintage black and white, but again the hindsight of modern technology could enhance the progressive ideas in this film today. This film - released in 1963 - still speculates about organ transplants. Since the first heart was only successfully transplanted in 1967 for the first time (and no brains yet, although I am convinced there are brains that could be removed without the hosts even noticing), the setting of a more modern laboratory could be more eerie than the cabin in the woods employed in this film. Hollywood is going to struggle to beat the stellar performance of Virginia Leith as a decapitated head, but that is the only major obstacle in remaking this classic.

Shock
Another black and white film. More recently, Jennifer "she of Gigi, second only to Catwoman as the worst film of all time" Lopez starred in a film with a few parallels (The Cell) and despite J-Lo's involvement, that film is pretty good. Shock on the other hand has more of a classic horror feel than a groundbreaking effects phantasmagoria, but it boasts a similar clever plot. A psychiatrist treats a young woman who is in a catatonic state after witnessing a terrible event - a murder. When she recovers from this state, she recognises the psychiatrist as the culprit, and the rest of the film is based on the good doctor trying to conceal is guilt by keeping her docile. Not a great film to begin with, but it deserves cult status because it stars the original king of horror, Vincent Price. I can imagine Christian Bale doing a decent job in his role.

The Last Man On Earth
Last black and white film too. Noted for the performance of Vincent Price, this film stars the man as the last man on earth. No prizes for guessing that one. The twist is he is the last normal man on earth. The rest of humanity has been turned into brain dead zombies who lurk around at night looking for fresh brains. It could be argued that Danny Boyle did recently remake The Last Man On Earth with his 28 Days Later. He did a fine job too, making a gripping horror with loads of suspense and buckets of blood, so I will settle for 28 Days Later. However, I would still like to see a remake of this film in full colour, surround sound and with more blood. Buckets more!

Friday the 13th
In my quest for building a prime collection of horror, I have gathered quite a few gems. I left the Friday the 13th series to fairly late, even though I think Jason Voorhees is a great boogieman. The point is, I do know what makes a good film. I also know what makes a bad film, and I love bad films more than good films even though I know better. For a guy who likes bad films to say that Friday the 13th is so bad I do not want to collect the rest of the series without renting them first, is a grave insult. The problem is not in the performance of the actors, or even in the editing and filming department. My big gripe with this film is that it is about as scary as a campfire horror tale, and the plot appears to be the result of a late night camping brainstorm by director Sean Cunningham and writer Victor Miller. Fortunately, there is a remake in the works. Unfortunately, Marcus Nispel who misdirected a Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake is behind the whole thing. At least this time, it is possible to beat the original. I hope mister Nispel redeems himself!

You can get the second part of my wish list of Hollywood remakes here.

IBM invents DVD advertising for The Man

I read about this on the Pure Distortion blog. It is a very impressive blog and rightly won a blog of note entry recently. It is written by the geek for the geek, so enjoy.

"A method wherein contents of DVDs may be restricted based upon purchased certificates is provided. The certificates allow for secured information on playback. Specifically, whenever a DVD is to be played, a certificate is consulted to determine whether the content of the DVD should be played with or without commercial interruptions. If the certificates provide for commercial interruptions, then commercials can be obtained from an online service that renders commercials on demand, or from the DVD itself. In such a case, the content of the DVD may be interspersed with commercials."[1]

Now that is useful. Considering that I do not go to the cinema nor watch television because I dislike advertisements I can't control. Considering that I built a collection of DVDs partially because the DVD rental shops in my area think I am a shady character and because I would like to own the untainted films in all their DVD quality splendour - sans ads.

I have been an IBM fanboy to some extent. They build super dooper computers and then run Linux on them. They provide the Joker to Micro$oft's Batman. Or at least they did. This is outrageous, and like all the other industries where they tried insane technological hampers (particularly CDs, I still dare you to ask me about rootkit software), it will only serve to piss a dwindling consumer market off even further.

They are planning this little word from their sponsors on HD-DVD systems. Since one of the specs for a compatible HD system is an Internet connection, they see no problem with using that connection for pausing your movie, then downloading certain advertisements[2], shoving them down your throat and then proceeding with your HD-DVD. You know, the one you paid for because it has better digital quality than your local cinema could ever muster with their analogue reels. The one where you thought you could determine your own bathroom breaks and adjust the volume level as you see fit. The one you bought because the television screenings have advertisements every 10 minutes and you are tired of little old ladies with their cell phones next to you or some lonely housewife with her hell-spawn offspring deciding the cinema is a good place to have a feud.

So now you upgraded your television monitor to a HD compatible one, you purchased a HD player, you have the whole thing set up according to the specs with an ethernet connection and 5.1 surround sound, only to see Now for a word from our sponsors "insert brand names here".

To add insult to injury, South Africa has among the most expensive bandwidth rates in the world. We do not have free Internet here - even our dial-up lines are sucking us dry. In effect, we pay for HD advertisements by buying an HD version of our favourite film, and then pay for the advertisements again by paying Telkom's ransom. Ransom, because they hold your paid-for line ransom. You can hardly call that rental or payment for services rendered. Have you ever tried to phone Telkom's customer care line? The panpipes will cause an instant angina.

I have been vocal about piracy in the past. It is unethical and all that jazz, but from a consumer perspective, if I download a cracked version of my favourite film, I get all the benefits of having a DVD copy minus all the inconveniences like region encoding, dual-layers that none of my DVD-ROM drives can grasp, trying to play MPEG format on Linux (that comes from my masochistic side so I take full credit for that), paying through my nose (new DVDs sell here for about R200 or roughly $29, with older titles going for about R80 or roughly $12) and soon - advertisements. If they carry on like this, the list of minor inconveniences will outweigh the list of conveniences sooner or later - in fact, they already do and we haven't even seen a full acceptance of the HD/Blu-Ray format on our shores. Sooner or later, the pirates will have the last laugh.

References
[1] Zats Not Funny! Blog
[2] Ars Technica - no, not butt cheek technology

24 November 2007

Two Alice Cooper DVDs

I recently got these 2 DVDs of live performances by Alice Cooper. Typically, I am drawn to the older Alice Cooper with a stable kick-ass band lineup that diluted due to megalomania - something necessary to both the survival of a band and its downfall - and the tolls of the rock and roll lifestyle. This lineup captured a performance on film, but that's not one of the ones I got hold of, unfortunately. The first solo tour of singer Alice Cooper after the band Alice Cooper became defunct is offered on the first DVD, while the second DVD offers an Alice Cooper from the eighties when his antics proved a hit with the ümlaut heävy crowd.

Welcome To My Nightmare
Alice Cooper started in the sixties as one of the first ghoulish leather-clad shock rock mayhem makers, and not as a stunt double for The Crow as rumours may have you believe. Welcome To My Nightmare hosts one of the most compelling and influential performers of all time battling his way through props comprising gigantic spiders, skeletons, concerned parents and most ruthless of all - journalists.

Alice Cooper Welcome To My Nightmare DVD cover from Wikipedia

It would not be a self-respecting seventies show if there were no bass or drum solos. These are thrown in for good measure, plus the bassist has a Brakpan snor and does some porno grooves which stretch the spandex of all the dancers just a tad. As an added bonus, there are many pärking lot scenes with audience members all claiming the genius of Alice Cooper in foreign accents and mock-Cooper face paint.

The Nightmare Returns
The eighties. A decade of decadence. Following the precedent set by Led Zeppelin, bands like Mötley Crüe went hellbent for leather and tried very hard to destroy themselves. Alice Cooper on the other hand rediscovered Jesus and sobriety and subsequently some of his short term memory. Like where he put his old spandex.

The Nightmare Returns features a much more confident Alice Cooper with a pseudo-virtuoso band and less intervals between the songs. The audience would tolerate none of that anyway. This time the enemy comprises of boa constrictors, plastic dolls and nefarious makeup, but worst of all - he confronts it with ten years more worth of sagging skin in what appears to be the same spandex. Except it grew an exoskeleton.

Wait at least two hours after a heavy meal before watching.

22 November 2007

Lady Frankenstein (DVD)

The nubile Lady Frankenstein returns from boarding school where she achieved her medical degree. She follows in the proud footsteps of her father, also Dr Frankenstein, by animating freshly deceased animals like rats, burglars and rapists. He looks more like a hair-plug infested soap opera star than a doctor, which is all good because soap operas do need to animate corpses from time to time.

Lady Frankenstein film poster from Wikipedia

Soon, Lady Frankenstein improves on the controversial methods of her father and starts animating corpses left, right and centre in a hapless attempt to satisfy her lust. See, the Lady loves the dead, in more ways than one.You can tell the animated corpses from the normal humans by their gigantic latex heads, but that looks almost as wrong in print as what it looks like on screen. The lady might as well call her town "Frankenstown" after a short while, and if you care for a plot, you might lose what pray little there is between the body swapping, the retired porn stars, the gigantic latex heads and last but not least, the retired porn stars.

The film is directed by Mel Welles, who is perhaps best known for his creepy performance in Little Shop of Horrors (1960). His acting career did not always fare so well, but his fluency in 5 languages proved to fare very well in Europe. This is how he came to direct Lady Frankenstein (actually entitled La Figlia di Frankenstein) in Italy.

Cult writer Edward di Lorenzo writes the script, which is often considered the zenith of his artistic achievement. He currently teaches script writing at an American university. Many argued that Lady Frankenstein provided a feminist alternative to the Frankenstein films, with many opposed to such arguments on account of the female nudity. I guess feminists do not like getting naked, and judging by the looks of some, I do not want them to get naked either:

Radical feminist Andrea Dworkin.
Andrea Dworkin, the radical feminist. I would love to see Mike Tyson try his dating tricks on her.

The controversial essay by Serj

One of my pet hates is Mall-core (well, that is what I call it, you know it as Nu-Metal).It follows that I have a special vial of pet hatred stashed for System of a Down (well, that is what you call it, I know it as Syndrome of a Down). This is my take on the controversial essay posted by Serj (lead syndrome of a down singer) shortly after the 11-9 attacks (well, that is how we know it here, since we know the date first and then the month, you probably know it as 9-11, you imperialist bastards).

System of a Down. The mere site of them makes me think America should adopt Ann Coulter's immigration policies

The only reason why I even bother commenting on this is that SonyBMG found this essay significant enough to remove from their web site. They are the honourable record company in the privileged position of sporting such drivel as System of a Down releases - or at least some of them. The vial of poisoned hatred I have for record companies and SonyBMG in particular (ask me about rootkit software, I dare you) is far more potent than the Mickey Mouse one I have stashed for Mall-core, so in this Serj and I are on the same side of the fence.You can find the entire essay which resembles one of my poorly assembled blog posts more than an actual essay here. I will only comment on the particularly poor parts.

BOMBING AND BEING BOMBED ARE THE SAME THINGS ON DIFFERENT SIDES OF THE FENCE.Terror is not a spontaneous human action without credence. People just dont hijack planes and commit harikari (suicide) without any weight of thought to the action.[sic]

This raises the question how violence started in the first place. Is it really safe to assume that our prehistoric ancestors were less spontaneous than ourselves? I don't think so. I would love to think that ever since our neighbours saw something we worked for and were too lazy to work for it themselves, there was violence. This violence would have been thought through. Somehow, I do not think violent acts are necessarily thought through, in fact, in my personal experience of violence most of it is not thought through and quite spontaneous.We are violent beings in the same vein as we are sexual beings. I am not suggesting that violence is always necessary, but that violence is part of our nature.Electricity and cars kill people, and in much greater numbers than guns, but we do not moralise them. No, we moralise guns and video games and pornography and the Alice Coopers and the Marilyn Mansons and the Ozzy Osbournes of the world, because they spawn high school shootings and terrorists. Right...

Hari-kiri in particular occurs without much weight of thought to the action. It is a spontaneous thing to avoid falling in the hands of the enemies. It is not particularly beneficial to the person committing hari-kiri, but it is preferred by his superiors who do not like him having his guts spilled in a metaphorical sense, since state secrets could be revealed then. Point being, it is spontaneous.

After WWI, secret back door deals by our State Dept. yielded oil rights from then defeated Turkey to fields in what is now Iraq and Saudi Arabia, in return for looking the other way at a crime against humanity, the Genocide of the Armenians by the Turks. Oil profits have been the motivating factors behind many attempts at counterinsurgency of democratic regimes by the CIA and the U.S in the Middle East (such as Iran in the 1950s, where the Shah replaced the Prime Minister who refused to give up oil rights to the U.S., and since the people couldnt deal with the Shah, an extremist government headed by the Ayatollah Khomeini ultimately prevailed). [sic]

It is speculated that WWII was also based on controlling oil, but since we are making a case against the current status quo, Serj needs at least a
[citation needed]. Supposedly this essay is less spontaneous than human violence, so this speculation had to originate somewhere. In his treatise on the history of the SS, Heinz Hohne speculates that Germany wanted to send all its Jews back to Israel first, years before their Final Solution was even on the cardsI know, [citation needed] but I am appealing to fans of Serj, so what's good enough for him is good enough for me.Germany was met with considerable opposition from Britain with this plan, because the Brits controlled the oil fields at the time and feared an influx of Jews could render the area unmanageable. Would it have been a better plan to send the German Jews back to Israel? Arguably, a less violent plan if Britain did nothing about it.Would WWII be avoided by such action? I do not think so. We would have had a Gulf War in the fifties instead of in the nineties, and perhaps Germany would have been an ally to Russia in the Cold War against the allies. Hey, we are speculating here.

PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST WILL LEAD TO HIGHER OIL AND GASOLINE PRICES. Lets not also forget the power of the Arms industry, disguised as defense, that still sells billions of dollars of weapons to the area. [sic]

The world buys oil in American dollars. This means - yes, higher oil prices means a demand for more dollars. Stability in the middle east usually leads to lower oil prices. The middle east raises oil prices to raise funds for war it wages against America. It is true that America supplies arms to the Middle East, to who it deems allies - friendly guys like Saddam and Osama. You know, guys trained by America as CIA agents and then it turns out they were Muslim extremists after all. Doh! So, what we have here is an America that wants an unstable middle east because it wins when oil prices go up: on one hand there is an international demand for more Dollars and on the other hand there is a Middle East in demand of more weapons - both which benefits America. It follows that peace in the Middle East does not benefit America.

During the war between the then Soviet Union and Afghanistan, the U.S. armed and supported the Taliban, a fundamentalist Muslim organization, and allowed them to export opium and heroin out of their country to pay for those weapons.[sic]

Yes, that is an Internet conspiracy theory. I would love to see some credible sources on this. Come on Serj, your music proves that you have a gullible audience, why not back up your talk? Oh wait, you don't have to with a gullible audience.

People in Serbia, Lebanon, Iraq, Sudan, and Afghanistan to name a few have seen bombs fall, not always at military targets and kill innocent civilians, as the scene in New York city yesterday.

Innocent civilians? Civilians in America vote for their president. Civilians in Iraq can't vote for their leader because America puts up a puppet government for them. Civilians are responsible for their leader, but in reality, when is a leader ever accountable for his actions? The World Trade Centre is the symbol of where the middle east gets exploited by the west. These are not innocent civilians, but hapless accomplices in the latest chapter of the age old crusade saga. The only difference is that the west does not march in on noble steads, they march in with indoctrination highlighting the benefits of Democracy and equality of the sexes to nations who have no need for it and have not needed it in thousands of years.It is immoral to teach those people the benefits of political correctness for their own good. We have no right to stipulate to them what is right and what is wrong, it is disrespectful to their culture.If we could do that, then we as Westerners should be executed for portraying caricatures of Mohamed the Prophet. Our rules do not apply to them, because their rules do not apply to us. To assume that America has innocent civilians when they choose their leader in a Democratic fashion is absurd. OK, I will meet Serj half way - only Republicans are not innocent American civilians.

This does not mean that we should not find the guilty party(s), Bin Laden, or whoever they may be, and not try them. Put simply, as long as a major injustice remains, violence precipitates to the surface of life.

Wait a minute, "BOMBING AND BEING BOMBED ARE THE SAME THINGS ON DIFFERENT SIDES OF THE FENCE", remember? Serj, surely you mean turn the other cheek on Osama? That's the way to prevent major injustice! Or not. Actually, we do not have corporal punishment to teach people morality. We have it as a big old finger wagging in their faces. It is a kind of blackmail, and it works. This is why bombing and being bombed are not the same thing at all. Yes, you do need to try those who commit major injustices, but not because it clears the moral tabs. If that were the case, there would be no turning cheeks, but an eye for an eye and a tower for a tower. Trying guilty parties is a means to maintain superiority and to instill the ideology that justice prevails.

Native American folklore, the Bible, Nostradamus, and many other major religious beliefs point to this era with the visuals of yesterdays disasters, and conditions of ecological disasters we experience daily in our lives today.

Last time I checked, there were only four major religious beliefs in the world, and Native American folklore and Nostradamus were not among them.

The U.S. should stop sidestepping the U.N. Security Council, and allow U.N. Peacekeeping troops and missions to the Middle East. Stop the violence first.

Newsflash: the U.N Security Council IS the U.S. It is the way the U.S abolishes itself from accountability. If the U.N does it, it is perceived as sound because the richest nations in the world agreed to it. If the U.S does a peacekeeping mission on a limb, it is not sound? Despite having veto powers in the U.N? Same pudding, different sauce Serj.

As shown from yesterdays events, you cannot stop a person whos ready to die.[sic]

You can, by killing them. The more people who are ready to die in the middle east, the more likely the war will carry on. The longer the war carries on, the higher the oil price climbs, the stronger the dollar gets, the more pissed off people who are ready to die in the middle east buy weapons... the longer America has its coffers full. Simple, eh?

The truth is that someone like Serj has to thank his lucky stars and his hammer and his sickle that there are civilians who are willing to fight this war on his behalf. It enables him to sit and bitch and moan about it back home, produce his cacophony and brandish his label-tarnished clothes, of which each item has a virtual genocidal story of exploited labour to tell. These brave souls put him in a position where he can tell fans to steal his albums. By being part of the American dream, exploiting it to its full capacity and then pretending to be against it, Serj doesn't have much moral leverage over his fellow innocent civilians.

21 November 2007

The amazing pavement Picasso

Julian Breever is an artist who employs trompe-l'œil techniques to create extraordinary 3D effects on an ordinary pavement - with chalk.








The technique most employed by Breever is anamorphosis. Anamorphosis involves using a distorted projection which requires a particular observation point to be effective. To create this illusion, Breever uses a camera on a tripod and keeps checking every mark he makes. Breever's pavement artworks usually take 3 days to produce. He works for the sake of entertainment and a satisfying photograph providing conclusive evidence of his labour at the end.In his quest for making objects appear out of pavements, he faces many challenges from the elements as well as the authorities, but generally his efforts are accepted well.

"Art shouldn't be locked away in galleries and libraries and books. Art should be for everybody and not just art boffins, historians and so-called experts."

That is true. I just wish the wannabe graffiti artiste in my neighbourhood would spend some more time with a pad and a pencil before he scribbles on our walls.

Here are a few links with more on Breever:
Julian Breever (official web site)
BBC pavement Picasso feature
The page with the time-lapse video showing Breever creating the whitewater rafting scene

20 November 2007

Commentary on "A Gentleman's Pornography" - real men don't exfoliate

This is an interesting account of pornography in its softest form. You can find the article in its entirety here, at GWS - Feminist Knowledge.

Playboy (it was originally going to be called Stag Night), was similar to other pornography in that it objectified women for the purposes of male masturbation
It is best to prevent getting caught up indefinitely in definitions, but the Merriam-Webster definition of pornography makes it clear that pornography is material intended to cause sexual excitement. In the style of Wikipedia, the assumption that pornography is meant exclusively for a male audience as a jerk-off aid requires at least a [citation needed]. Pornography in the broad sense enjoys a rough 50/50 at worst and 60/40 demographic division between male and female consumers at best. In many categories, such as adult dating, free sex and "teen sex"(?!?), there are more female consumers than male ones. It is also interesting to note that most consumers of porn are between 35 and 49 years of age, which is outside the target market of GQ. Considering the time this article was published (roughly 2000) as well as the topic, it may be irrelevant to base the argument on 2006 pornography statistics. However, it should be clear that traditional pornography is not intended to objectify women exclusively for male dominion. It simply can not be, with at least a 40% female consumer demographic. Making pornography for the sole purpose of objectifying women would be bad business, and this is the true purpose of any kind of pornography - to make money.

While pornography, as the term is currently understood, has its origin in the invention of the camera - a process marked by industry, innovation and egalitarian ideals (in the Rousseauean sense) - gentleman's pornography is intimately connected to the nineteenth century's creation of a new recondite social space, which Walter Kendrick (1987) calls "The Secret Museum". The former led to mass-production and mass-consumption of the obscene, and the latter to its concealment in a cloak of acceptability. Where conventional pornography "pours out … into the city streets", in the words of Linda Nead (1992:487), gentleman's pornography confines the obscene to the sanctified passages of high culture.
Judging by this 2006 and 2005 Pornography United States Industry Revenue Statistics, pornography as the term is currently understood should rather have its origin in the advent of the Internet. With regards to the topic of the article, it is rather gentleman's pornography in the forms of GQ, FHM and Playboy which pours out into the city streets. Conventional pornography like Hustler still occupies the "recondite" territories: the plastic covers on the top shelf at the book shop; the sleazy sex shops but mostly the hidden domains of the Internet. Granted, gentleman's pornography does a good job at cloaking itself in acceptability, but it is not hidden away in "the secret museum" like conventional pornography.

Subtle references to the genteel customs of old (hunting and hand-tailored suits) are employed to remind the reader that "gentlemen" are their demographic, thus encouraging aspirational branding and shrouding sexualised objectification in the exalted aestheticism associated with elitist class and artistic ideals. Within the confines of the "artistic", the so-called "obscene" and "acceptable" thus become likely bedfellows.
Speaking of "subtle references to the genteel customs of old", consider this objectification of women from those times:
The Venus de Willendorf
Note the distinct lack of the classical reclining nude pose, or even the seated nude pose. Also note the distinct lack of gaze. Was this image a portrayal of an objectified woman, ready for conquest by the elite conditioned male? Perhaps in light of the conventions of that time, this statue graced the womb of a "secret cave". The purpose of this cave was to condition males to conquer rather the more muscular females capable of giving birth while being threatened by lions, tigers and bears. As the conventions of femininity change, their portrayal in pornography change to reflect these demands. Analogous to modern times, it is not far fetched to speculate that in their day the women in those hunting-gathering times who did not meet the requirements of femininity kicked up a storm and questioned the challenges posed by femininity of their times. One imagines a faction manufacturing slim, reclining statues with direct, fetishist gazes as a reaction to the plump, full-bodied, blind conventional portrayals.

I propose that the parallels between the genteel customs of old and the gentleman's pornography portrayal of hunting objectives are one and the same. One should note that the audience is male and adolescent. It is merely the conventions that change, not the methods of conditioning full-blooded males necessary for survival of the species.

It is thus not the purpose of gentleman's pornography to make pornography socially acceptable. In fact, it is the purpose of gentleman's pornography to distance itself from the obscene pornography in order for it to be poured into the city streets along with glossy female actuality magazines. The mere medium of gentleman's pornography - namely glossy magazine in plastic cover - puts it on the same level as female actuality magazines.

In order to strip the body of its obscene history, these Purist photographers refused the sexual charge of the mythic gaze and fetishised accessories and, instead, abstracted the body. It could be argued that the further one ventures from the obscene history of explicit portrayals of the human body, the more one ventures into fetish territory.
For a fetish to be effective, the viewer needs a real or imagined presence of an object or body part which provides psychological sexual gratification.

My understanding is that the Purist photographers explored the limits of their media with little or no regard to previous artistic conventions. They avoided nude bodies in the same way they avoided the still life or landscapes. Their purpose was not to de-sexualise portrayals of the body, but to let the viewer of their work appreciate the new explorations offered by a new medium at the time.

The model touches herself in a teasing manner, reminiscent of Titian's Venus of Urbino (1538). Her ecstatic pose denotes her willing participation in the viewer's voyeurism. The emphasis on her abstracted torso ostensibly elevates the image to the status of art.
GQ certainly does attempt to imitate accepted standards of Art, but it does not try to be either Art nor pornography. It is, for lack of a better term, softcore pornography - indeed the gentleman's pornography. While anyone would object to carnal deeds being portrayed in magazines in public distribution, nobody can really object to a conventionally beautiful female in an ecstatic pose - even if her hands and feet are not always in full view. One must bear in mind that many photographers are frustrated artists, trained in the fine arts, and they are certainly familiar with more artistic conventions than what their commercially driven jobs call for. Furthermore, by easy definition of a voyeur, the object of desire has to be unaware of being observed in the first place. Accordingly, it is incorrect to claim "willing participation in the viewer's voyeurism", because that would not be voyeurism. It is rather the portrayal of the willing participation of an individual the viewer would never have in similar participation in reality - not in a voyeuristic sense, but in a plain everyday sexual encounter. Just like the desire evoked for the Mercedes on the following or previous page, the male hunter-gatherer is conditioned to aspire to objects which are not within his reach. He thus adapts to conventions which enable him to attain those objects. Does this make the Mercedes less of a work of art? No, it certainly does not. The same applies to the objectified girl. It is correct to presume that the sexuality of the viewer is more important than the sexuality of the object, since this is the purpose of the publication. It is a manual on how to be the man's man, the man who has it all. It shows you the forbidden fruit, and then proposes supposed tried and tested methods of purveying those same forbidden fruit.

Umberto Eco (1986:57) explains the medieval understanding of beauty as ethereal rather than material.13 The most obvious and most pervasive symbolic representation of the kinship between godliness and beauty was thus light.
It should be noted that the medieval understanding of beauty was moralised by the church. It is thus unfair to take the portrayal of beauty in medieval times as the portrayal accepted by the layman at the time. The portrayal of beauty in medieval times is merely the one accepted by the church and not an accurate representation of the understanding of beauty in medieval times.

Another interesting fact about the understanding of beauty in medieval times is that it is purely patriarchal, instilled by the church. Despite the lack of reclining figures, elongated spines and lustful gazes (despite a lack of sexuality all together), the medieval portrayals of beauty were instilled purely by the patriarchy of the church. This brings the argument that pornography is the purposeful exploitation of feminine forms by male viewers in disrepute.This particular view is not an accurate definition of pornography, and relies too heavily on biased views of the feminists in the 1970s.Julian Cope notes that Western society relies on women who are empowered by revealing their breastsI know, I know, [citation needed]. It should be noted that both feminist and accomplice in exploitation (or slut, for lack of better term) are both empowered by setting their bosoms free. The assumption is that neither feminist nor slut are above what mother nature gave them, or above the social conventions. Whether you succeed in meeting the expectations of your genes or your memes, you can question them but you can not transcend them.

The perception that gentleman's pornography, whether the canonised art of the gallery or the commercialised "art" of GQ, is harmless because it is more subtle than conventional pornography, is a flawed one. It is a perception that resulted from the notion that the extent to which sexualised material is harmful, should be measured in terms of how much it "shows", instead of the message it communicates.
Agreed. Sexualised material is not harmful because it is sexaulised. In the same vein, violent material is not harmful because it contains violence. It is the context of violent material which matters. Despite many researcher claims, there is still no conclusive evidence that violent computer games or films cause people to be more violent. There is more correlation between heat waves and reported violent crimes (based on my own research)I know, I know, [citation needed]. There is more direct correlation between difficult upbringing and violent behaviourI know, I know, [citation needed], but the psychologist can't tell his clients that they are wrong. A psychologist can't tell someone who claims to have been abducted by aliens that it didn't happen, the psychologist treats the symptoms and not the cause. The psychologist treats his abducted as if he were abducted, aliens or no. Similarly, human beings are sexual beings and it is healthy to learn about the conventions of sexual expression. Know the rules of the game, learn to play the game, thereafter criticise the game.

It is sometimes difficult for me to follow the argument of this paper, because it has in my mind an aggressive stance towards the traditional male way of looking at the world. I feel it is written from a feminist viewpoint, and this brings the objectivity of the paper in jeopardy. However, I can not agree more with the conclusion. I am not versed well enough in the jargon of visual communication to follow the arguments, even though I am familiar with the references and their theories at least in outline. In short, I agree with the conclusion but the argument does not have a clear enough trail of breadcrumbs to persuade those like me who are conditioned to be gung ho males lurking in the garage in case the female of the species needs a bulb changed, oil checked or a roll in the hay. Gentleman's pornography is about spreading ideology more than making pornography itself acceptable. It is this that could be problematic, if taken out of context. The same danger in assuming that all men objectify women is the danger of assuming women portrayed in GQ are exploited. These girls exploit the male in their target audience more than what he objectifies the portrayed women. After all, he has to pay for the magazine before he can open the plastic cover to enter the "secret museum" and this in itself is not enough - he has to buy into the whole ideology too. This same ideology gives the male a sense of power when in reality it empowers the female who allows herself to be objectified. Yes, real men do NOT exfoliate but allow themselves to be sucked into a web of intrigue spun by a femme fatale.

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