Wednesday, July 21, 2010

my thoughts, as captured by a porn star.

I had been thinking about women, beauty and sexuality for a few days. Then I found this quote on "Sex is Not the Enemy" (NSFW) that very succinctly corralled my scattered thoughts.

"The prevailing message women receive is that sexual aggression is unfeminine, that a woman’s primary sexual role is as regulator of male desire — to say yes or no, but not to pursue desires of our own. Women are still often taught that sexy is the same as “pretty,” that it means dressing a certain way and then waiting to be approached"

Here is a link to the larger interview, Lorelei Lee interviewed on about the recent John Stagliano obscenity case:

While I certainly find the John Stagliano case to be important, I'm much more impressed with the the quote above. It captured something that had been bothering me recently.

What bothers you, some might still ask. It's that entire notion, that the lone tactic a woman might have in her sexual arsenal is to look pretty and wait for suitors. That works my nerves on a couple different ends for me, since I don't really like to risk the rejection of asking someone out, and since a part of me wants to be approached by someone interesting and pretty.

For the last few days, I've had the song "Pretty Women," from Sweeney Todd stuck in my head. Here it is:

Monday, July 5, 2010

Rise and Fall

An excerpt from 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom, by Alan Moore:

Sexual openness and cultural progress walked hand-in-hand throughout the opening chapters of the human story in the West, and it wasn't until the advent of Christianity, or more specifically of the apostle Paul, that anybody realized we should all be thoroughly ashamed of both our bodies and those processes relating to them. Not until the Emperor Constantine had cut and pasted modern Christianity together from the loose scraps of Mithraism and the solar cult of Sol Invictus, adopting the resultant theological collage as the religion of the Roman Empire, did we get to witness the effect of its ideas and doctrines when enacted on a whole society.

If we take a traditional (and predominantly Christian) view of the collapse of Rome, then conventional wisdom tells us that Rome was destroyed by its decadence, sunk beneath the rising scumline of its orgies and of its own sexual permissiveness. The merest skim through Gibbon,* on the other hand, will demonstrate that Rome had been a heaving, decadent, and orgiastic fleshpot more or less since its inception. It hgad fornicated its way quite succesfully through several centuries without showing any serious signs of harm as a result. Once Emperor Constantine introduced compulsory Christianity to the Empire, though, it barely lasted another handred years.

Largely, this was because Rome relied on foreign troops - on cavalry from Egypt, for example - to defend the Empire against the Teutonic hordes surrounding it. Foreign soldiers were originally happy to enlist, since Rome at that point took a pagan and syncretic standpoint that allowed recruits to worship their own gods while they were off in northern Europe holding back the Huns. Once the Empire had been Christianized, however, that was not an option. Rome's new Christian leaders decided it was their way or the stairway, and si consequently, off in distant lands, recruitment figures plummeted. The next thing anybody knew, there were barbarians everywhere: the Huns, the Franks, the Visigoths, and worst of all the Goths, with their white contact lenses and Cradle of Filth collections. Rome, effectively, was over, bar the shouting.

* I'm not personally sure who Gibbon was at the moment. - Neil

Friday, July 2, 2010

A thousand invocations of Del Close

After reading Charna Halpern's two books, Truth in Comedy and Art by Commitee, I've been soaking up as much improv history and reading as I can. One figure whose name keeps returning again and again is the late Del Close. Apparently he was a key figure in American improvisation, especially in the Chicago scene after the 1960s. He taught at Second City and co-founded Improv Olympic with Charna Halpern in the early 80s. A lot of funny people that you may have heard of have studied under him, including John Belushi, Mike Myers and Tina Fey.

In conversation with my pal Mike, he likened Close to Socrates, in that he taught a lot of students and they carried on with their own traditions, but always invoking Close's name. I imagine Del Close as a bit more modern, like Aleister Crowley, the Great Beast himself. His entire mission in life might have been to fuck with the status quo, and generations after him take it for granted and can't even remember his name.

This is a promo for Follow the Fear, a tribute to Del Close.

An odd footnote (and one that I want to follow up on), I own a lot of the Wasteland comics shown in the clip. I was at IO West last week and noticed a name on one of their old cast lists that might not mean anything to any of my improv friends, Kim Yale. The other writer for the Wasteland comics was a guy whose work I admired a lot, John Ostrander. He had married Kim Yale, I remember and mostly I remember the tribute he gave her when she died. I really want to dig into this little side-story. If Ostrander shows up at Comic-con this year, then I'll have to chase him down.

Here's a radio tribute to him done for public radio: Studio 360.

This week I've been devouring a blog filled with interviews of notable improv luminaries. For those seeking an oral history of improvisation, Improv Interviews is invaluable. The site has gone dormant, but there are at least a few years of interviews available there. They include Ian Roberts and Matt Besser from the Upright Citizen's Brigade and Charna Halpern.

This is an amusing bit from The Devil's Dictionary of Improvisation.

In the meantime, I've just ordered Second to None and Something Wonderful Right Away. Much more to watch and read.