I love this picture so much of Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie dancing!
Julian and Cara showing off their Fiendish Devices. The larger one I previously detailed. The smaller one is another circuit board from the same stereo, housed in an iPhone 5 box, with indicators made of findings with pins inside. Continue reading Julian’s primary and auxiliary Fiendish Devices
The end of Chapter 15. Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 15.4: Resigned
Appearing on the Haserot family tombstone in Cleveland, Ohio, the Angel of Death Victorious is a fitting companion for the Angel of Grief. The verdigris tears of black make the figure all the more striking. Atlas Obscura has clear photos. Forgotten Ohio has creepier, more atmospheric photos.
I want one! No, seriously, I want one of these in 1:6 scale…
I worked a little on Julian’s Fiendish Device 2.0 today. I made a case for it out of a wall-mounted curio shelf. I had been keeping the shelf around for a 1:6 scale bookcase, but I never did anything with it, so today I took out the interior shelves. I then mounted my largest circuit board inside the frame. It just fit, so I hot glued it in there. Then I bent some of the loose wires around the back and in various configurations, gluing them there, so they appear to be plugged in. I added some unusual plastic capsule things [they kind of look like ornate vacuum tubes] at the top of the circuit board and the shelf decoration. That grille-like thing in the back is the base of my HT Princess Leia stand. More to come.
Please note that Julian now has glasses on her face and TWO pairs of goggles on her head. She figures that it’s a logical place to store them until she needs them. 😀
Heart from @natalunasans. Dialogue from, of course, my twisted imagination. Continue reading Fritillaria finds a heart…
Araminthe currently wears a dress made by @dollsahoy that I got about 10 or 11 years ago, around the time when I got my first 1:3 scale BJD. Because this dress not only encompasses my love for bright colors, obnoxious patterns, and short skirts, I have wedged a succession of my BJDs of various sizes into it, all with amazing results.
Unfortunately, however, the dress is sagging around the shoulders, making it real easy to take a look at Araminthe’s pointy grey cleavage. To obviate this, I constructed a crude camisole out of a stretchy wristlet from @natalunasans, with straps of ribbon in my favorite colors: magenta, slightly darker magenta, and more magenta. I then pinned Araminthe’s dress to the back straps of the cami.
I have now achieved a twofold result. 1) No more sagging dress. 2) Araminthe’s outfit is now even MORE meretricious!!
Even my dolls are involved.Continue reading Small-scale political activism on my desk today
You can tell he’s enraged because he’s snarking instead of shriveling. O_O I was trying very hard to balance his expression between sadness and anger.Continue reading Jareth goes off.
Isabel scares herself. Continue reading Zombeville Chapter 15.3: Desperate
I made palazzo pants for my HT Princess Leia, following Nadira037’s guidelines. Of course, since Nadira037 is very polished and glamorous and I am not, the pants came out looking mediocre. However, I am proud to have successfully sewn my first pair of pants, thus proving that I can make bottoms as well as tops. Other wardrobe elements include default boots, tank top from unknown commercial source, and hoodie by Glissando on Etsy.Continue reading Leia has pants!
HR7, passed by the House earlier this week, codifies the evil Hyde Amendment and further restricts access to abortion by prohibiting abortion coverage through multistate insurance plans. Millions of people could lose coverage for abortion. Obviously this is an incursion on human rights and bodily autonomy that could, if passed, could jeopardize people’s bodies, health, and lives. Anyway, I called Senator Peter Welch and Senator Bernie Sanders at their district offices to tell them this and to ask them not to let it get through the Senate.
Note: This was my first set of live calls, so I was very nervous. Therefore I made a quick script with the key points I wanted to make: my name and address, the fact that I objected to HR7, my biggest problem with it [restriction of abortion access and thus threat to constituents’ bodies, health, and lives], and what I wanted the Senator to do about it [filibuster it and keep it from passing the Senate]. I stuck to the script and made the calls very quickly, in like under 2 minutes each.
In both cases, I expected to just deliver my speech and walk away, but it didn’t happen. Anyone who calls a Congressperson’s office and gets a live response should be prepared for a little bit of conversation. Here are some aspects to a live call that you might not have considered:
- They might ask who you are and where you live again, even if you state that in your intro. The staffers specifically asked for my name and town again, which I gave. [I think they were making a record of that.]
- They might ask for your contact info [mailing address, phone number, and/or E-mail]. Leahy’s staffer asked if I had called the office before; I said no; he asked my contact info, which I gave because I am okay with being on a mailing list.
- They might ask for clarification. Leahy’s staffer was unfamiliar with HR7, so I added that it passed the House earlier this week and codified the Hyde amendment with even more restrictions on abortion.
- They might put you on hold. Sanders’ staffer said in the middle of my spiel that she had another call and had to put me on hold. She came back shortly after, and I finished my speech.
- Remember to be polite to the staffer and thank them!
To modify for Leia.
I am so late to the party on this, but I love this song. I’m always interested in villains’ songs; this sounds kinda like the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and @natalunasans introduced it to me with accompanying images of Roger Delgado playing the Master in Doctor Who, and Roger Delgado is nearly up there with Pete Burns in terms of scenery chewing and fun having, only with more eyebrows.
Posted on Facebook and Tumblr about The 65.
The 65, taking its name from the at least 65 million US voters who rejected the current President, offers one way to act for liberty and justice for all.
With its tagline, “Making Congress Work for Us,” the 65 posts Weekly Calls to Action, topics on which people can call their Congresspeople. Suggested scripts are included, as is contact info for your local leaders.
…is that it scales and degrades really easily. T_T Since such a fate has befallen my 1:6 scale fetish nun dress, I decided to give it a last hurrah before consigning it to the dust bin of history. Continue reading The Truth About Pleather…
Isabel hits them in her attempts to find food. Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 15.2: Dead Ends
Once there was a vainglorious and mediocre man who wanted to rule the land. So he used his talents for trickery and promised the people that he would make their country great and powerful, if only they would let him lead. He’d defend the land from foreigners without and suppress the influence of evil woman within. He scared people enough that they chose him as their leader.
The vainglorious man set himself up in the capital city. He made his home in a opulent mansion with servants at his beck and call. He postured and blustered at them, and they scurried to obey his whims. His lackeys could not recognize the man’s insecure bullying for what it was, for he had the power of appearing strong.
Realizing that he couldn’t fool everyone by intimidation alone, the vainglorious man used different tactics on the capital city’s inhabitants. He developed reality distortion fields and forced everyone to use them. Through these devices, the capital denizens perceived the world as rich, prosperous, safe, and successful — all thanks to the vainglorious man. He had surrounded himself with unquestioning adulation, and life was good.
Then he began to hear reports of the girl. They started as whispers, but soon gained momentum; soon news of her exploits was on everyone’s tongue. Even among his most fervent admirers, gossip surfaced about the young woman and her agenda of democracy, transparency, and honesty in government. She was on the road straight to the capital city and the vainglorious man’s door.
No one really knew where the kid had come from. The first news of her appeared in a remote rural district that had, until lately, been under the authoritarian rule of one of those nasty women that the vainglorious man so despised. Citizens of that district claimed that the girl had pulled a deus ex machina and neutralized the dictator, but the vainglorious man couldn’t believe the word of such credulous people. The girl was probably the mascot of an underground terrorist cell that had chosen that particular moment to demonstrate its might. The formerly oppressed citizens mistook her for an assassin just because she happened to be nearby. Surely she could have done nothing.
But other incredible stories joined that one, and a picture soon emerged. Despite [or perhaps because of] the calamity that had left with pretty much nothing left to lose, the girl was fearless. Nothing stopped her. A lion menaced her pet, so she yelled at it and punched it in the nose. She entered an opium den, the ambient drugs of which felled even the fiercest of beasts, but somehow she, a mere kid, emerged unscathed. The vainglorious man was forced to revise his opinion. She was no mere figurehead, but a frighteningly competent agent, perhaps even the leader of the resistance herself.
Later stories confirmed the young woman’s disturbing militancy. In yet another district, yet another nasty woman had brutalized her way into command and compelled the once-free inhabitants to serve her. This second autocrat kidnapped the young woman in an effort to gain the terrorist’s strength for herself. I mean, who wouldn’t? the vainglorious man thought. The kid clearly had an almost magical invulnerability.
But then, something happened; the vainglorious man was not sure what, as intelligence was unclear on this point. In any event, the young woman spoke truth to power, and the second autocrat essentially shriveled up and melted away. No longer under her tyranny, the citizens of the second autocrat’s district enthusiastically supported the girl. They sponsored a flight for her and her friends that brought them even closer to their target: the capital city.
There was the real problem with the kid, the vainglorious man mused. –Her friends. With a combination of charisma, kindness, and straightforward friendliness, this death-dealing terrorist charmed suckers effortlessly. He could sort of understand how all those bumpkins, sick of being under the thumb of their respective nasty women, easily transferred their affections over to their savior. Less comprehensible was the rumor that non-human animals [besides the dog] now followed her, and even inanimate objects [?!] supported her grassroots democratic movement.
Now the vainglorious man had grown up in Tornado Alley, and he knew well those whirling storms for which his region was named. Intense in their focus, relentless in their pursuit, they swept up everything with irresistible force and destroyed all obstacles in their path.
In a skin-tightening clutch of terror, the vainglorious man knew then that there was a tornado bearing down upon him now. It would shatter his sphere of fawning flatterers, lay waste to his reality distortion devices, and destroy his illusions. In short, it would reveal him for the trumped-up humbug that he was.
And the Wizard of Oz feared that tornado, for her name was Dorothy Gale, and she had the power of truth.
Other Minds by Godfrey Smith.
Posted on Facebook and Tumblr about Black Lives Matter Vermont and tagged some locals on Facebook.
The fledgling Black Lives Matter Vermont group http://blacklivesmattervermont.com has hit an obstacle. They have spent recent months renovating their space, coordinating actions, recruiting and training volunteers, obtaining merchandise, etc., and now they have unfortunately reached the extent of their resources.
BLMVT needs our support more than ever now. Vermont is one of the whitest states in the nation, so BLMVT might seem irrelevant to some folks, but that’s not true. We absolutely need a diversity of social justice groups like BLMVT if we are going to make this state respectful of human rights and dignity for ALL people.
You can empower BLMVT to continue the important work for which they have built a foundation. The best way is to head on over to BLMVT’s Web site and become a sustaining member for $23.00 a month: http://blacklivesmattervermont.com/sustaining-membership/ That way, we can guarantee the financial stability that BLMVT needs to flourish.
If you cannot give monthly, you can make one-off donations here: http://blacklivesmattervermont.com/membership/ Every little bit helps!
There are other ways to get involved as well. Check out BLMVT’s Volunteer page: http://blacklivesmattervermont.com/volunteer/
Here’s the Events calendar: http://blacklivesmattervermont.com/events/
And here’s the store: https://squareup.com/store/black-lives-matter-vermont
Thanks in advance!
This wig, of 4 alternating curved panels of tricolor fur, suits her much better than her rainbow stripe one from last night, I think. Continue reading Fritillaria’s confetti hair
Sent letters to Morton County [ND] Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and ND Governor Jack Dalrymple, calling for humane treatment of NODAPL water protectors. Mailing addresses from YES magazine. Letter based on Amnesty International template.
I write urging you to respect the human rights of all water protectors gathered at Standing Rock in opposition to DAPL.
US citizens, including American Indians, have the right to express their opinions. Don’t demonize peaceful public assembly.
–Impress upon law enforcement that they should facilitate, rather than restrict, assembly.
–Don’t use riot gear unless absolutely necessary.
–Disperse assemblies only when there is no other way to avoid violence.
–Don’t use chemical irritants to prevent peaceful assembly.
Again, respect the human rights of ALL people in your jurisdiction.
It took me all afternoon, but I successfully altered a size 6-7 fur wig to be a size 7-8 for Fritillaria, whose concept is vacillating somewhere between clown of death, doll, jester of death, and escaped marionette [of death, natch]. The wig was originally orange, yellow, green, and blue. I added red, magenta, and royal purple. Results look promising! Continue reading Fritillaria’s rainbow patchwork hair
All my dolls as of 01/15/2017.
Tags denoting which universe dolls belong to are as follows:
- [No tag: Not assigned to any universe.]
- Bug[s] me: my universe.
- LHF: Love Has Fangs.
- M3: Me and My Muses.
- SciAdv: Julian the Scientific Adventuress.
- Zville: Zombieville.
Isabel’s dream is not particularly metaphorical. Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 15.1: Brain Drain
Specifically, the glasses included for the Kelly doll fit Julian, which just goes to show you how comparatively small and narrow the She-Ra head is to an average Barbie head. P.S. I love you, @natalunasans!
Continue reading Glasses from Eye Doctor Barbie fit Julian!
I purchased Barrett back in the summer of 2013, well before Zombieville started, because I thought that Isabel might fit into FR dude clothes. Also the secondhand price of something like $75.00 MIB for a London Calling Kyu was a great bargain.
Continue reading Barrett, the heavily modded FR guy: a custom 3.5 years in the making
I suppose it’s a testament to the detail and realism pursued by Hot Toys that I thought that the Sweeney Todd barber chair really did function, with movable footrests, armrests, and back, only to find out that NO, it doesn’t. Everything that looked articulated was, in fact, cleverly molded and perfectly stationary plastic. So I broke it. Stay tuned for modifications so that footrests swing in and out and the back goes up and down, as they both should have in the first place…
Incidentally, I don’t understand why HT would go to all the trouble of modeling all the individual pieces and pistons and gear teeth, only to make them stationary. It seems like it would be an easy enough modification to go just a bit further for real swinging action. >:
Behold Julian and Cara as they currently stand! For those of you that haven’t been following, Julian is the center of my latest 1:6 scale universe. Wry, Gothy, and lonely, she’s a brilliant inventor with an affinity for steampunk. She became rich when she developed a personal carebot for people with mobility impairments, of which her clockwork friend Cara is the more sophisticated and independent prototype. With the luxury of economic stability, she devotes her time to the invention of steampunk devices to make the lives of other disabled people not only easier, but also infinitely cooler.
Because she has spastic hemiplegic cerebral palsy, Julian can move only her head, neck, and right arm [and her right leg if she gets really angry and has to kick someone]. Thus she uses a power wheelchair, which she, of course, has steampunked out, for mobility. She is nonverbal, so she communicates with a tablet computer for text-to-speech.
Julian is a Mattel She-Ra heavily modified to reduce height and increase poseability. Repaint and wig by me. The base of her power chair is a Hot Toys Sweeney Todd barber chair. Cara is a Character Options Clockwork Droid, currently default, except she doesn’t have a face mask. The Fiendish Device 2.0 with which they are messing around is part of the innards of a record player/stereo/tape deck combo that I salvaged.
Jareth thinks it’s nice outside. The weather begs to differ. This story is inspired by earlier this week, when the temperatures had warmed up by morning enough to melt much of the ice, but not all of it. Thus invisible ice lurked beneath the puddles, making my walk from the bus stop to the office extra slidy. Continue reading Jareth and Jennifer in an object lesson in not judging the weather by the window
I harbor deep suspicion about the YAY INTROVERTS trend that has gained some traction in recent years in mainstream US culture. For the purposes of this mini rant, an introvert is a person who derives physical, mental, and emotional nourishment primarily through time spent in solitude, and an extrovert is someone who derives it through socializing with others.
General US culture values many traits of social extroversion and pathologizes many traits of social introversion. Indeed, it’s really not much of a stretch to claim that we culturally maintain the belief that introversion is a disability.
Because introversion is treated as a disability, depictions of introverts in popular media tend to have the same objectification and paternalistic curiosity as depictions of people with disabilities. And my suspicion of the YAY INTROVERTS trend derives from seeing the same condescension and objectification in the movement that the movement is ostensibly trying to overcome from the mainstream culture.
The New York Times misses the story yet again. In a piece about the Women’s March on Washington movement, Farah Stockman focuses on white women whining about having to deal with the intersectional feminism propounded by women of other races. The white women become upset when the women of other races tell them that their racial privilege inures them to trials that women of other races face, so they take their toys and go home. God forbid they take the opportunity to learn anything about their privilege, how to acknowledge it, how to speak and think about it, and how to use their unearned powers for good. No, their individual hurt feelings matter more than the systemic, programmatic, societal, wholesale oppression of entire colors of people.
I don’t care about the whiny white women. I want to hear the story of this event developing from a narrowly focused, exclusive event, to a more intersectional one, with a broader base. The white feminists should not be the focus of coverage. The women of other races should.
On a personal level, I’m not sure how I feel about this event. Participation on some level would certainly bring me together with other people who feel similarly impassioned and wish to change the world, as I do. But it’s still a Women’s March, and I don’t care how inclusive their principles say they are, because it still looks to me that it privileges people who are white, and/or non-disabled, and and/or women over people who aren’t one or several of these things.
I’m testing out a new sock sweater design. Mainly the front comes from the sock, while the grey parts are T-shirt material. This design makes the front graphic stand out more boldly. The result also looks more like an actual real live shirt [that I cut up and crudely sewed together], as opposed to a sock that I cut up and crudely sewed together. Continue reading New sock sweater design, modeled by Julian
With information handily provided on Kara’s “We’re His Problem Now” calling sheet, I left a message for Senator Bernie Sanders thanking him for speaking out against Bannon and other Prez-Elect-appointed appointed bigots. Reminded him to oppose the following at Senate confirmation hearings this week: Jeff Sessions as Attorney General because he’s a racist and bigot, Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State because of his COIs with Exxon, and Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education because of her lack of experience.
Left a message for Representative Peter Welch thanking him for speaking out against Bannon and other Prez-Elect-appointed bigots.
From Fight for America, here’s a quick E-mail [modified from template] that I sent to the GAO to support Senator Elizabeth Warren’s call to investigate potential COIs in the Presidential transition team:
Since the transition only lasts officially till January 20th, I support the Senator in asking your agency to please investigate the topics above and other potential COIs as soon as possible.
My experimental project to stick a Storm Collectibles Dennis Rodman head on a Hasbro Classic GI Joe body is complete! That was fun. I sure wish I could find more cheap articulated dolls at Goodwill…
Continue reading Lakaysha done!
I was looking for evocative diagrams of steam-powered things to decorate Julian’s walls, and I came across the von Sauerbronn-Davis steam velocipede of 1883. [Not sure why it’s termed a velocipede, incidentally, as a velocipede, by definition, runs on human power created by pedal pushing. There are no pedals on that thing.]
The von Sauerbronn-Davis machine looks like a bad idea on wheels, especially with the user’s seat directly over the freakin’ boiler! Nevertheless, the design, with two large wheels in front and the smaller swiveling wheel in the back, appeals to me. Therefore I will be constructing Julian’s steampunk power chair in the same style, but with much smaller tires and a much cushier seat. Continue reading Inspiration for Julian’s steampunk power chair: 1883 von Sauerbronn-Davis steam velocipede
I have discovered the perfect base for Julian’s steampunk power wheelchair: the barber chair from the Hot Toys Sweeney Todd figure a few years back!!! Like a real power wheelchair, the barber chair has adjustable footrests, adjustable armrests, and a reclining back. It also has Victorian connotations with its worn leather upholstery and embossed lion decoration. It is pretty damn cool and worth every penny of the $65.00 I paid [which is more than I paid for Julian…]. I think that, once I finish this steampunk chair, Julian will share it with Polly, who, while not part of the same universe, was also originally conceived as a steampunk power chair user.Continue reading Base of Julian’s steampunk power wheelchair: Hot Toys Sweeney Todd barber chair
Pictures below. Continue reading More She Ra body mods
Mattel She Ra doesn’t have a very articulated torso. There’s a ball joint under the bust, but she arches her back much better than she hunches. In fact, you can’t get much more than 90 degrees of forward bend. Continue reading Increasing She Ra’s poseability
I tested some alternative bodies in my stash for my Mattel She Ra head. I’m using the head for Julian, my steampunk inventor. Julian has a slender, frail, delicately built body with little muscle mass, especially in her lower body. As I put her head on various bodies, I was looking for, in order of importance, a) proportionality, b) articulation, c) nearness to Julian’s physical build, and d) color match. Results below.
I picked up a Canon PowerShot SX1001IS digicam yesterday so that I can take quick photos of my projects without having to set up my umbrella lights, tripod, white backdrop, and all my photostory shooting supplies. Apparently this camera was pretty sweet about a decade ago, and it works perfectly well for my purposes a decade later. Pictures below were taken with this new device, which I acquired off Craigslist for $10.00.Continue reading Miscellaneous: new camera, sweater fronts, and Fiendish Device 2.0 pieces
Yesterday I developed the idea for two characters in Julian’s universe, Clementine and Fuchsia. They are dicephalus parapagus conjoined twins, and they ride a motorcycle. Of course this means that they have to have a motorcycle and the appropriate gear, particularly helmets. This is a bit daunting, as finding realistic helmets for sixth scale dolls is right up there with finding realistic power wheelchairs in terms of difficulty.
I think of New Year’s resolutions as recipes for failure and disappointment. I do, however, like to use the occasion of a new calendar year to establish a list of things I want to accomplish in the next 12 months.
Goals for this year include the following, in no particular order:
- Obtain satisfying job that pays what I’m worth, provides diversity of tasks and intellectual engagement, offers career development and opportunities to work with respectful, friendly people, does good in the world, and is less than 45 minutes away one way.
- Move out of parents’ house and in with sister.
- Promote social justice. Donate monthly to nonprofits promoting civil rights. Volunteer in person monthly for a nonprofit promoting civil rights. Harangue goverment officials and other public entities weekly. Blog about actions.
- Sew. Make as many sweaters as possible out of current hoard of novelty socks. Use sewing machine wherever I can. Make at least 5 collared shirts out of the fabrics I bought about two years ago. Also make leggings.
- Finish BJDs in progress, Delmar and Fritillaria, or sell them. Faceups and wigs are first priority. Outfits are lower priority.
- Do Zombieville regularly. Keep main plotline and Meanwhile going. Repaint Isabel.
- Get Julian and her lab up and running. Complete Julian. Complete Julian’s steampunk wheelchair. Complete Fiendish Device. Post stories about Julian.
- Play with other doll lovers. Run VTDL, publicizing, recruiting, and inventing themes for meetups. Attend 2016 NERDS doll show in Lowell, MA in March.
- Improve digital skills. Catalogue all 2016 acquisitions. Avoid discount club memberships and spending orgies as in 2016. Find better way to organize content. Work more with Carrara. Model a simple thing in Carrara. Learn how to render Carrara scenes quickly and efficiently. Do a mini universe photostory using Carrara digital assets for the set.
Ever since I got the idea for a doll version of my steampunk inventor Julia/Julian, I’ve been brainstorming scientificish stuff and characters for her and her lab.
For characters, there’s the Clockwork Droid, who helps her with personal care. There’s also Viktor, who is more of her friend.
There’s Julian’s wheelchair, which is going to be an overstuffed wingback chair, a hearing aid case for the main electronics, some wheels, and various steampunk scrapbook supplies.
There’s Julian’s tablet, which does text to speech and also functions as a universal remote. :p
There’s the Fiendish Device, made primarily of record player innards.
And, in my latest brilliant idea, there’s a bunch of Julian’s smaller machines made from diecast pencil sharpeners. Metal knockoffs of the original Spanish Play Me brand can be had for relatively cheap. I’ve identified the following as useful steampunk elements: coffee grinder, Roman numeral clock, sewing machine, table fan, phonograph, box camera, balance with weight, blowtorch, pot belly stove, kerosene stove, candlestick phone, French phone, cash register, floor safe, slot machine, bingo cage.
While I’m thinking of it, other things that look scientificish include music box innards, calculators/innards, circuit boards, vacuum tubes, radios/innards.
Now wearing pants, she can stand unsupported and does not tip backward under the weight of her skirts. Continue reading Dead version of Isabel back together
@natalunasans passed along one of her early Coo Model skeletons, the type with plastic joints, not metal [as used currently], so I upgraded the dead version of Isabel’s body. Unfortunately, I broke both Coo hip joints, so I decided to swap out the Coo pelvis and thighs for a set from a Sideshow male body that I had hanging around. Since this area will be covered by the dead version of Isabel’s clothes, I don’t really care what it looks like.
I used my new friend Instamorph plastic to hold the Coo spine in the Sideshow pelvic girdle. Instamorph also holds the knee sockets onto the bottoms of the thighs and fills in the thighs to make sockets for the Coo knees and calves. She still needs her head and the rest of her clothes.
I made some quick and dirty knee joints for one of my Curvy Barbies today, just as a proof of concept. [I previously modded Jessyann by removing her feet and articulating her arms. For the latter, I thought about adding elbow joints by using extra ball-jointed wrist pegs, but then I found some Obitsu 27cm lower arms with Obitsu slender male hands in my raw dolls bin. Since the skin tone was an approximate match, I hacked off Curvy’s arms above the elbow and drilled out her upper arms to make sockets for the pegs of the Obitsu lower arms. I put some Aves Apoxie Sculpt in the sockets so that the Obitsu arm pegs fit by friction alone.]
To give Jessyann articulated knees, I started by cutting her legs apart. I angled the cuts so that I preserved the kneecaps in front. I started off using a hand saw, but then discovered that I could get much easier and smoother cuts by softening up the plastic in boiling water, then using a craft knife. After removing rough plastic from the cuts with some sandpaper, I made angled cuts out of the top of the calves to accommodate 90 degrees of bend. Again I cleaned the edges of the cuts.
For knee joints, I used some spare Classic GI Joe hands. I cut the hands off just above the base of the palm, then stuck the stumps into the Curvy calves. I used Instamorph plastic to fill the space and secure the stumps in their sockets. [Side note: Instamorph is a plastic with a low melting point that turns clear and pliable if stuck in boiling water for a minute. It may then be molded for projects such as this, then cooled in place till it turns opaque for a good, tight fit. It can be removed, remolded, etc., if it’s heated to clear again. It’s like a combination of quick-dry epoxy putty and hot glue, and it’s so cool!]. I also used more Instamorph plastic to fill the bottoms of the thighs and make sockets for the GI Joe wrist pegs. These allow swivel motion of the calves as well.
Proof of concept works, demonstrating that Jessyann and any other Curvies can bend their legs if you have the time and inclination to hack them up. Like most of my mods, the joints don’t look great, but they function as intended. Jessyann’s a little wobbly, but that might be because I just hacked off her ridiculously small feet and wedged her ankle stumps into shoes. Something to think about for further attempts at this body mod…
For this project, I started off with a Hasbro Classic GI Joe [$2.00 from Goodwill] and a Storm Collectibles Dennis Rodman head [$7.99 from Good Stuff to Go]. I planned an experiment in extreeeeeeeeeme body modding, which, if all went well, would yield a more realistically proportioned body with narrower shoulders and shorter limbs. If nothing worked, well, then I was only out $2.00, and I could always find another body for the Rodman head.
After much modification, behold Lakaysha. She’s about 10.5″ tall, down from 12″ originally. Since the Rodman head didn’t have much neck attached, I carved down the default GI Joe head and mounted the Rodman head on the remaining base. Hot glue kept it in place. I cut the sides of the chest off, scraped down the raw edges, then reattached the arms, sealing raw areas with hot glue and Instamorph low melt plastic pellets, which are like moldable hot glue and the coolest shit ever! [Thank you, @natalunasans!] There was no substantial reduction in width, maybe 1-2mm, but the torso’s proportions improved instantly.
I hacked out sections of both thighs and calves, redrilling holes for ankle pegs and smoothing raw areas on reattached thighs with more Instamorph plastic. Knee swivel motion was lost, but I don’t care.
I hacked off a section of the wrists, thinking that the arms needed to be shortened. However, they did not, so I removed the hands, which I had to do anyway, and reglued the cut-offs back on. I spent most of my time carving out the upper arms to get more than 90 degrees out of the single-jointed elbows.
Why yes, it looks like one of my usual rushed hatchet jobs, but you know what? None of it shows when she has clothes on! Stay tuned for pictures, once I hem her pants, find her some hands, add hair, and touch up her goatee.
Make up your own caption! Continue reading New small populations etc. from Nataluna
Who’s biking in this weather? Not Isabel! Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 14.4: Where to Buy Brains
@natalunasans shipped me 10 lbs. [?!?!?!?!?!] of 1:6 scale stuff the other day, including a Big Chief Studios headsculpt of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor mounted on an early BCS body. Since I have a crush on David Tennant as that character, I was very happy…at first.
Then I tried to find him some pants. The BCS body, being a slender sculpt, did not fit any of the standard male pants I tried on. Just for the hell of it, I tried a pair of sparkly Barbie leggings that Nata had included, and he managed to slither into them! Of course, he can’t sit down, as his pants will fall down, but sitting’s overrated when you have stuff to strut.
While I originally planned for this doll to be a jerk anti-PWS politician in Zville, he and his pants apparently did not want to be a jerk politician. He would rather be a fuckin’ fabulous guy. Okay then. I couldn’t think of a name for him, so he went by FFG for about 24 hours until I used those initials as a starting point and came up with Farrier Frederick Giroux.
Farrier’s in his 30s, ABD in something mathematical. He spent an inordinately long time on his thesis, only to have a recent crisis in the realization that he has pretty much limited his career prospects to academia, and yet he hates academia. Still reeling from the feeling that he’s wasted most of his life, he’s working as a cashier in an upscale grocery store and trying desperately to figure out what his next move is.
Farrier both runs on anxiety and doesn’t give a fuck. He tried to blend in when he was younger; he was beaten and sexually assaulted in the boys’ locker room in high school on account of being a “fag.” In college, he changed his style to more of the one that he wanted. The first night he dressed the way he wanted, he was mocked and sexually assaulted by a bunch of sorority members. He then decided that he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t, so he might as well be himself as long as he could before the next time he was attacked. So that’s how he dresses, and that’s why he has a gun in his purse [and under his pillow], and that’s why no one ever touches him unless he lets them. [Plus he has Reynaud’s syndrome, and his hands are always cold, and he’s excruciatingly self-conscious about that.]
Regularly assumed to be gay and/or a drag queen and/or flamboyantly sassy, Farrier is actually none of these. He swallows his annoyance everytime someone makes one of these assumptions, but he feels like he’s been eating bombs. One of these days, he thinks, he’s not going to be able to be polite anymore, and he’s going to explode.
EDIT: Farrier’s head, body, pants, and magenta sweater details come from @natalunasans. The sweater is, of course, one of my notorious novelty sock sweaters, modded to be a crop top turtleneck [to hide the Long BCS Neck of Doom]. I’m pretty sure that the BCS Facebook group would really love these pictures. >:}
Lumberjack shows scale on some 1:6 scale drug packages I made. The bottles are white electrical tape, wrapped around cores made of glue sticks. I just wrapped the tape thicker for the tops. I put a few layers of tape on the top and bottom to cover up the core. Then I downloaded labels from online, deliberately going for pharmacist bottles, as opposed to prescription bottles. I scaled down the labels, printed them out, then taped them onto the bottles. The bottles are probably oversize, but check it out — you can read the labels, at least enough to see what drugs they are!
As for the Fentanyl patches, those were easy. I just found a picture of a package online. Since it showed both front and back, I found out the actual size of a 50 mcg patch and scaled the patches to approximate size. I printed them, cut them out, folded them in half like greeting cards, then laminated them with tape.
Trying to splice Storm Collectibles Rodman head with neck from a Hasbro GI Joe. Still haven’t figured out how to fill and smooth the gap.
Exploration aborted due to acrophobia.
Wordless photostory. Continue reading Touralyn Comes Home
Touralyn, a ball-jointed doll in 1:6 scale scratch-built by DragonGems [a member of Vermont Doll Lovers], has finally returned. When I first received her about a year ago, her torso cracked, so DragonGems took her back with the promise to make her a new, improved body. Away at school for most of the year, she didn’t have time to do as much as she wanted to Touralyn, but she finally returned her in better condition than when I last saw her.
Here she is, with naked shots to show her peculiar proportions. She was the second in this size that DragonGems made, so she demonstrates the gangly proportions of a learner’s effort. I mainly got her, though, for her head, hands, and feet. As I’ve stated before, what she lacks in engineering finesse she makes up for in distinct personality, as you can see below. 😀
Back about a decade or so ago, I lived in an apartment on the third floor of a house. The landlord collected stuff. I got the innards of an old record player, as well as some vacuum tubes, from him. These, along with a circuit board from a calculator, as well as the halves of some plastic Easter eggs, some ball-headed pins, and some pipe cleaners, became a 1:6 scale Fiendish Device.
I originally thought I’d use it as a piece of equipment for my Frankenstein-like scientist Janet. However, the Device took up too much desk space to be a truly usable background element. Also it was really heavy, so I eventually ditched it before moving.
I’ve always missed the Fiendish Device. Sadly, though, the only record I have of it survives in this small photo of crappy quality in which Will, dressed up as Frank in prep for a midnight showing of RHPS, pretends it’s a sonic transducer.
I should remake it. It was the best vaguely ominous, sort of scientific-looking thing ever. Continue reading The Fiendish Device: a 1:6 scale piece that I wish I still had
Shot for a Figurvore challenge. Continue reading My favorite Christmas carol verse depicted in 1:6 scale
After our discussion yesterday, during which Jareth let me know how vital this outfit was to his continued existence, I bought it for him as an early Christmas present. Here’s a crappy render of him in the decidedly non-crappy outfit. Continue reading Short skirts now and then: Jareth as Rolling Diner Waitress
Storm Collectibles came out with a 1:6 scale Dennis Rodman a while back. To better approximate the basketball player’s various styles, it included 10 snap-on hairpieces and at least 2 headsculpts, one neutral, one with sort of a sneer. There was a 3rd preorder exclusive with heavy purple makeup, just to make things interesting. I have no interest in Dennis Rodman and every interest in beautiful headsculpts, so, when I saw the purple head parted out at Monkey Depot for $7.99, I decided that I needed to make it into a character. Continue reading Storm Collectibles Dennis Rodman: one weird [but also fabulous] sculpt
Jareth: “I neeeeeeed this.”
Jareth: “Two words: short skirt.”
Me: “I thought I just got you the shortest skirt on record — that Oculic thing.”
Jareth: “You don’t think I could do with just one short skirt, do you?”
Me: “You have more than one. In fact, I’ve lost count of how many pieces of skimpwear I’ve purchased for you. I think skimpy stuff for you forms the largest part of my runtime.”
Jareth: “I think you’re right. I also think you should add this to it.”
Me: “You have yet to provide justification. Furthermore, may I point out that you already have this Carhop for Genesis Female outfit, which is the same damn thing?”
Jareth: “No it ain’t. The Rolling Diner Waitress has a lower neckline and a shorter skirt with more flare. Also the cap has a brim.”
Jareth: “Plus the new one has a sit morph in the skirt and better posing controls than the earlier one.”
Me: “Well, that would definitely make it easier to use than the Genesis outfit.”
Jareth: “Also comes with four textures.”
Me: “Okay, okay!”
Jareth: “Besides, it’s like $8.52 with your extra 30% off discount.”
Me: “Okay! Jeez! I’m getting it!”
Jareth: “Thanks! You should get Jennifer something too.”
Me: “Good Lord! Like what?”
Jareth: “The wood-paneled station wagon is on sale. I think she needs one.”
Me: “Yeah, but I can’t tell if the doors open. If the doors don’t open, I don’t want it.”
Jareth: “Okay, well, I found one with working doors and trunk on Renderosity.”
Me: “No wood paneling, though.”
Jareth: “You could add some.”
Me: “No, I know! I’ll get her a camper.”
Jareth: “She already has the Airstream.”
Me: “This one’s a teardrop.”
Jareth: “Eeeeeeee, so cuuuuuuuuuuuute! Is it gonna be pink?”
Me: “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Jennifer’s interests lean much more toward the blue and grey side of things than the pink.”
Jareth: “How ’bout periwinkle with magenta trim?”
Me: “Do those even go together?”
Jareth: “They do if you put them together!”
Me: “I’ll consider it.”
I have a character in the mini universe, Julian, an inventor and tinkerer who steampunks out mobility aids. She has spastic hemiplegia, so she uses a power wheelchair. She can make sounds, but is mostly non-verbal, so she communicates largely by her tablet, where she types phrases, which are then translated with text to speech. Because she moves mostly only her right hand and her head, she plans steampunk mods and then enlists help in the construction. She has been working most recently with her sister Heidi, but Heidi talks over her so frequently that Julian has Yakkety yak, don’t talk back! on speed dial so she can interrupt her, so they don’t get along well.
Anyway, Julian is obviously really cool, and I’ve long wanted to make a 1:6 scale steampunk power chair. Furthermore, this weekend I was talking Zombieville, zombies, and neurodiverse and disabled characters with Nataluna. We got onto Monster High and agreed that our favorite character is Ghoulia Yelps, the deeply nerdy, intelligent, awkward, canon autistic zombie. I regretted not getting a first edition of her when she was initially released, but I’ve always held off on Monster Highs because the big-headed aesthetic doesn’t work for me.
All the aforementioned elements came together, and I decided to do a realistic doll version of Ghoulia for Zombieville…or wherever the hell she wants to be. Named Julia Phelps, she would have as much of Ghoulia’s style as I could realistically replicate on a person who obviously needs help dressing and adorning herself, plus Julian’s personality, steampunkery, and spastic hemiplegia.
So far I have…the head. Mattel’s 11″ She-Ra figure has the perfect pointy features, so I got one, despite limited edition prices. She’ll need a repaint, especially of the eyebrows, since I love Ghoulia’s quizzical ones. She’ll also need some blue hair, which I can easily produce with a faux fur wig.
I’m wondering what to use for the body, as I have a very specific body type in mind for her. I want her to be frail, spindly and underweight, with narrow limbs. Her head should seem slightly large for her neck. I also have a very specific vision of her posture in her chair — head tilted to the right, left arm bent up to her chest with her wrist cocked and hand clenched, torso slanting to the right, knees bend and also pointing to the right — so I want a body that can fold and hunch into this position.
Oh yeah…also of relevance to the custom is that she drools, so I think I will put some glossy varnish coming out one side of her mouth. She will also have a wrist band to wipe away saliva.
Original edition of Ghoulia being incredibly cute below. Continue reading Julia Phelps, the steampunker of mobility aids
Isabel goes back to Rumpy Pumpy. Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 14.3: Nor’easter Prep
Araminthe, Polly, and Timonium went to VTDL yesterday, where they joined in the small-scale feast.
Today I increased arm articulation on two of my 1:6ers. One of them, Marabou, is a 12″ Playmates Uhura figure. She is a scaled up version of a 3 3/4″ mini action figure by the same company, with all the odd proportions, solid limbs, and simple joints that this entails. Her solid, chunky construction works to my benefit, however, since she has no delicate fiddly little parts to break during my modifications.
Anyway, Marabou has gone through a few mods since I acquired her. I removed her original hands, which had only wrist swivel articulation, and swapped them for hands with hinge/swivel ball joints. Last year, I added upper arm and upper thigh swivels and also took a good chunk of height from her thighs. For the modicum of articulation she had at that point, she actually assumed some realistic postures. Continue reading Adding arm articulation to two 1:6 scale figs
While I’m making little shirts, I need to produce the following for Zombieville:
- I BITE
- I’d rather be hunting zombies [and ensuing controversy]
- I eat brains. [Don’t worry — you’re safe.]
I’m pretty sure Lumberjack wears the last one. :p
Tina Nguyen sets a new bar for critical reviews with her sharply written article on eating at Trump Grill[e], which is a restaurant somewhere in New York City. It’s full of amazing phrases like “a campy version of Jingle Bells [jackhammering] in the background,” a bathroom that encapsulates “the experience of desperately searching for toilet paper at a Venezuelan grocery store,” a steak “slumped over to the side of the potatoes like a dead body inside a T-boned minivan,” a burger and fries described as “a sad little meat thing” and “overcooked woody batons,” and “free cake, still frozen in the center, that tastes like Tums.” It’s a perfect example of demonstrating kitschiness and vulgarity through well-chosen details, rather than blatantly stating, I found this place offensive on gastronomical, aesthetic, and philosophical grounds.
My dolls follow mainstream fashion insofar as the clothes they wear are recognizable as modern, culturally acceptable wardrobe elements such as shirts, pants, and shoes. Beyond that, though, they merrily deviate from the norm with their own definitions of what’s cool. Latest crop of sweaters made from novelty socks illustrates this well. Pictures below. Continue reading More sweaters, no fashion sense, and a repaint
As I noted about 4 years ago, Big Chief Studios makes some really cool 1:6 scale Dr. Who action figures, but their name and logo are a racist pile of crap, which is why I’ll never buy anything from them. I was discussing this sorry state of affairs with Nataluna, a dedicated Whovian with many BCS figs. She eventually got so disturbed by BCS’ stereotypes that she wrote to them on the subject. She mentioned that she knew people [i.e., me, I suppose] who wouldn’t buy from them on account of their imagery, so I decided that my first-person testimony might be slightly helpful. That way they’ll have at least two people to ignore instead of one.
This is what I wrote:
I’ve been following your work since your first acquisition of the Dr. Who licenses. I love your sculpts. As much as I love your stuff, though, I’m sadly unable to buy any of it because I have a problem with your company name and logo.
The name Big Chief Studios rubs me the wrong way. The logo’s red dot, which I presume is supposed to be an Indian’s head, is a literal depiction of the term “redskin,” which has been a derogatory insult to American Indians for centuries. While you may not have intended it this way, your logo contributes to a long history of objectifying Indians.
I understand that, for you, BCS is just a name and a graphic, but please consider that there are at least 3 million people in the United States who are American Indian. They struggle for civil rights and self-determination every day. A company name and a logo that turn them into stereotypical symbols, rather than real human beings, worthy of respect, just make it that much harder for them to be seen as people.
Please consider changing at least your logo to something that doesn’t dehumanize a whole group of living, breathing people.
With all the laudatory reviews surrounding the recent release of
Star Wars Part 4 Million and 2 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, I notice a distinct lack of discussion [at least in published reviews] about Chirrut Imwe [Donnie Yen], one of the dudes who joins protagonist Jyn Erso [Felicity Jones] in her attempt to steal plans for the Death Star. Namely, Chirrut is a horrible mishmash of stereotypes.
Chirrut Imwe, according to Lucasfilm President and Rogue One producer Kathleen Kennedy, is a classic “warrior monk.” This in itself is a trite beginning, but it worsens because Chirrut’s not just any warrior monk. He’s a blind warrior monk. The fact that he has no functional vision apparently forms an integral part of his character, as Entertainment Weekly summarizes him as someone who “has used his spirituality to overcome his blindness and become a formidable warrior.” We’ll return to that nasty term overcome later…
I don’t need to see the movie to know that Chirrut Imwe embodies a crapload of romanticized bullshit tropes associated with so many fictional depictions of blind/visually impaired people. Let’s count them, shall we?
1. Visually impaired people can’t see at all. Statistically speaking, this is not true. People who are visually impaired have wide ranges of vision capability and loss; in fact, a WHO stat sheet estimates that 285 million people worldwide have visual impairments, with about 14% of them being blind, or completely without vision. Thus the vast majority of visually impaired people can see to some extent. Vision isn’t a binary trait, though popular culture portrays it as such, and visually impaired people don’t just have their eyeballs switched to OFF.
2. Blind and visually impaired people look weird. Though played by a Hong Kong Chinese person, member of a group in which blue eyes are very uncommon, Chirrut has blue eyes. His blindness is literally written in his eyes, but this is actually not the case for all blind or visually impaired people. Surprisingly, you can’t always tell by looking at someone if they are blind or visually impaired! It’s also noteworthy that Chirrut apparently has no pupils. With lack of pupils commonly used in pop visual media as a visual shorthand for Something is really wrong with this character!, Chirrut’s pupillessness thus makes him seem strange and inhuman.
3. Blind and visually impaired people are, like, so deep, man. The trope of visually impaired person with great spirituality goes back at least as far as Ancient Greece, in which Tiresias, prophet of Apollo, was blinded by Hera when he said that women enjoyed sex more than men. He’s a seer, but he had too much insight, so she took away his vision — get it? People have a longstanding tendency to turn people with visual impairments into figures of speech. Sight is equated with intelligence and competence, while visual impairment and blindness are equated with ignorance and poor judgment. And yet a character’s lack of physical vision is almost always an opportunity to develop some metaphorical [religious, spiritual, prophetic] vision. This trope turns characters with blindness or visual impairments into Important Thematic Symbols, depriving them of opportunities for robust representation.
4. Blind and visually impaired people need to get over their disabilities. Entertainment Weekly, clearly picking up on the messages in the promo materials, describes Chirrut as “us[ing] his spirituality to overcome his blindness,” whatever that means. His disability is shown as a problem, but fortunately he has “spirituality” to cancel out this little obstacle. The world doesn’t work like that, though. People have disabilities and live with disabilities. They don’t do things despite their disabilities; they do things while being disabled. Their disabilities affect their lives, and a blind character who cancels out his disability with his “spirituality” isn’t really a character with a disability at all. He’s a stereotypical superhero whose romanticized depiction of blindness does a dehumanizing disservice to actual blind and visually impaired people.
Why would Isabel do such a thing? WHY?!?!?!?!?!!? Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 14.2: Goodbye, Old Friend
I made four more doll sweaters this week. The one with hamburgers and fries on it does not, sadly, appear in this photo because I somehow fucked up the armscyes. Anyway, from left to right, here’s Carter [in snowflakes on black field], Novella [in forest critters on blue field], and Barrett [in vampire fangs on black field]. Barrett is not particularly subtle, but, then again, no one in Zville is. :p Carter is an Elfdoll Doona Ryung head on a 5StarDoll toddler body — basically the same as Isabel, though she has longer arms. Novella is a Soom Mini Gem Uyoo, so she basically has fashion doll proportions. Barrett is an Integrity Fashion Royalty Homme that I hacked at least 1″ out of height wise.
Jareth and I check out BlueTreeStudio’s House of Escher! Or at least I try to. Jareth has reservations. Continue reading Jareth and me in the Escher Room [sort of]!
After recently taking a swipe at straight white cis bourgeois dude off-gassing disguised as movie reviews, I’m happy to report that I’ve found someone whose film crit I can indeed endorse: Kaye Toal. Specifically, Toal’s commentary on toxic masculinity in
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Harry Potter, the Prequel, Part 1 of N, Where N is an Exhaustingly Large Number cheers me up with its down-to-earth tone, intersectional considerations of masculinity, misogyny, and race, and its overall good writing.
Oh, who am I kidding? I was prompted to write this entry because the author describes the antagonist Grindewald as “played by longtime alleged domestic abuser Johnny Depp in styling and makeup that looks like somebody’s high school OC from a bad Harry Potter Livejournal roleplaying community.” That’s the most perfect burn on an overacted, self-consciously theatrical weirdo that I’m still chuckling. Since there was another movie review, which I can’t find a link to, sadly, that compared Depp’s portrayal to David Bowie for some reason, I assume there’s heavy face painting, dramatic intonation, and general scenery chewing involved. Too bad I can’t stand Rowling, Depp, and the entire Harry Potter media juggernaut, or else I might actually watch the movie for said scenery chewing.
EDIT: Ah, here we go. Jeffrey Bloomer, in an article about gay not-so-subtexts in the movie, writes [emphasis added], “Alas, the end of Fantastic Beasts will not put an end to the speculation about Grindelwald’s sexuality. When the real man is finally revealed, he’s played by a snarling Johnny Depp, his hair dyed platinum and his manner suggesting a deeply alarming cross of David Bowie and Milo Yiannopoulos. We get only a few moments of his giddy Aryan flamboyance, but the performance so far certainly seems … suggestive.”
Okay, never mind. Given that Milo Yiannopoulos’ insufferable smugness provokes violent rage inside me, I think I’ll pass on investigating the scenery chewing further.
I dropped the idea of V4 bodies with G2F prop heads because I couldn’t figure out how to apply materials. Plus they looked like crap.
So I took a different tack. My main complaint is that Daz Studio native files take 500 million billion gazillion years to load and save, particularly G2F. The greater the number of morphs in a file, the longer Carrara takes to import the file.
I stripped down my files in the following way. First I created a lightweight version of G2F base by removing hundreds of morphs/pose controls unrelated to me, Jareth, Jennifer, and the faces I want us to make. Then I simplified the hair figures by turning them into character-specific props, thus dispensing with all the extraneous rigging and morphs. Finally I returned to those second-skin outfits that I spent so long on, using them instead of more Daz native clothing mesh files. In fact, the only Daz native clothing items I’m using are shoes. I’ve tested the results on me and Jareth, and the likenesses definitely save and load much more quickly than regular G2F + Daz native hair + Daz native clothing.
Tonight I need to whip up a second skin outfit for Jennifer. I’m thinking a dark blue T-shirt, arm warmers with black and white checks, and white and blue pinstripe pants. Need to add rear pockets and some sort of fly on the pants.
As posted to Carrara board:
Last night I set up a V4-based character in Daz Studio. I dialed in the shape, added materials, then also hid the model’s head, substituting a prop head, which I parented to V4’s invisible head. I saved as a duf. Everything was behaving nicely in Daz Studio.
Then I opened the duf in C8.5. V4 + prop head loaded, but with some problems. The FBM that looked fine in Daz Studio came through, but seemed to distort and break the mesh in C8.5. Also the prop head moved from the precise location where I had parented it so there was a noticeable gap between neck and head. [AND none of the materials came through on the prop head, but that’s easy enough to fix.]
Does anyone have any ideas on what’s happening? I thought for sure that V4-based figures would load faster and work better in C8.5, so this obstacle is very disappointing.
On the plus side, I used default lighting and cameras to render a beautiful shot, just like the main promo, of HowieFarkes’ World Gardens Maze, which reminded me why I’m trying so doggedly to learn this software in the first place. ^_^
Someone told me that I had to remove all the magnets from V4, so I’ll try that this evening.
Very disappointing is an understatement. I’m really pissed off by the amount of time this back-end prep is taking. First there was the likeness problem, which required down-porting morphs, adjusting rigging, and making the G2F bases look as much like the G3Fs as possible. Then there was the texture problem — making sure that the G2F textures roughly matched the G3F ones in tone. Then there was the pokethrough problem, which required a dead-end detour into second skin clothing and was eventually solved with fitting clothes to a bodysuit. Then there was the excursus into texturing a standard outfit for everyone. Then there was the business of consolidating duplicate shaders, followed by getting fed up with how long it takes Carrara to save any changes to a G2F-based character. This was followed by an attempt to do V4-based bodies and prop heads, which required creating a G2F prop head with all requisite morphs, approximating characters’ body shapes with V4 morphs, making morphs for upper arm fat and for bulge in pants, converting characters’ G2F materials to V4 UVs, then adding custom character shapes to clothing with the help of Wardrobe Wizard. Just when I thought I had finally found a way to load my people easily and quickly into Carrara, this goddamn mesh distortion happens. ARGH, ALL I WANT TO DO IS PLAY WITH DIGITAL MODELS!!!!!!!!!
I feel like I’m never going to have my characters satisfactorily up and running in Carrara at this rate. -_-
I participated in an Amnesty International Write for Rights event this weekend. I sent a letter to the president of Malawi, telling him to take a stand against the murder and dismemberment of people with albinism for medicinal/charm purposes. I also send a letter to the prime minister of Canada, telling him to oppose a dam that would flood First Nations hunting/fishing areas, cemeteries, and sacred sites in Peace River Valley, BC.
Trying to figure out how to best support the water protectors at Standing Rock, ND. While the Army Corps of Engineers has denied the construction company a building permit, the fuel company has no plans to reroute or ultimately halt the pipeline. Thus the situation remains precarious and this victory partial.
I successfully got my G2F digime and materials into Carrara, but G2F takes an incredibly long time to save — time that I could be playing with models, but in which I have to wait for the program to quit thinking. This is very annoying.
The Carraravangelists on the Daz boards say that duf-based figures like G2F take much longer to load than cr2-based figures like V4. Thus I got the idea this weekend to hybridize figures with V4 bodies and G2F heads.
Actually, it’s a modified hybridization because I’m not loading a G2F and a V4 into the same scene. Instead I made a prop out of the G2F head and added to it all the necessary expression morphs, as well as morphs for me, Jareth, and Jennifer. Then I morphed a V4 to approximate each of my character’s body shapes, hid its head, and parented my G2F head prop, appropriately morphed, into place. Look — all of the expression and accuracy of G2F combined with all of the quick loading of V4!
I would like to take this opportunity to state how much I hate V4. There seems to be no realistic way to smoothly distribute fats across the model. There always seem to be noticeable lumps with borders corresponding to the borders between body parts. Major morph packages also neglect key areas of fat, such as upper rib cage [between sides of breasts and armpits], elbows, wrists, ankles, and feet. There’s also something very, very wrong with the shape of her weirdly conical front upper thighs, which prevents the formation of a broad, columnar thigh with consistent girth. It’s just ugly and hard to work with.
On the plus side, though, I have scads of V4 textures, clothing, and poses, as well as utilities to make clothing fit my custom body morphs, so I don’t have to buy anything more. V4 also has two advantages over later figures: 1) Clothing hangs much more realistically around, between, and below breasts. 2) Fetish wear! Most of the fetishy digital assets I have are for V4, and they require lengthy, tedious conversion up the generations. Even then, the extreme shapes of some items don’t convert really well. [Ballet heels? AH HAH HAH HAH HAH!] But now I can use this stuff on the figure it was made for — a novel concept.
I should note that I have not yet tested my V4-based figures in Carrara yet. I should probably do that, huh? They should work fine, the only problem being the gap between G2F prop head and V4 neck.
Isabel has a job besides making snarky remarks. Who knew? Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 14.1: Isabel at Work
I have come across an utterly cool embroidered patch of a purple-grey skeletal mermaid writhing around an anchor. I really really really want one, but all the marketing I have found for this patch associates it with Dia de los Muertos. Despite the recent fashion trend for appropriating sugar skulls and other trappings of the Dia, I refuse to co-opt the holiday’s imagery for my own use.
However, I remain uncertain about this mermaid. Does she represent actual Dia tradition? Or are all the advertisers of her jumping on the sugar skull trend and using keyword spam? More research is needed. Either way, I really wish this trend would fuck off so I can find colorful, skull-embellished things without the risk of committing cultural appropriation.
Recent events in the mini universe demonstrate that Caddie the reanimated cat is, of course, as infuriatingly adorable as ever.
Sam, the large rat, has her origins in the magical labyrinth in the cellar of the pied a terre. She has apparently adopted Jennifer, who has accepted her company because she’s full of good advice. :p
I’m pretty sure that Jareth conflates Halloween and Christmas into a two-month excuse for ghoulish Yuletide imagery. [Jareth: “That’s the only way it’s bearable!”]
I’ve been focusing on digital for so long that I don’t even recall the last time I posted about doll-related creative projects! I’m shifting, though, away from an all-consuming obsession with digital to my first love, actual dolls. Right now I’m working on Zombieville stuff, but [eventually!] I’ll get to those BJDs who have languished, unfinished, for a year or more. [I’m sorry, Delmar and Fritillaria!] In the meantime, see below for details on Isabel’s wardrobe and workplace. Continue reading Isabel’s shitty sock sweater and in-progress office
Anyone who knows me knows that I like reading books or articles of the so-bad-it’s-good type. As I have previously noted, Slant, a site dedicated to the fevered mental off-gassing of a bunch of straight white cis dudes who think they’re movie critics, provides copious entertainment. For today’s jollies, we turn to Chuck Bowen’s review of Anna Biller’s Love Witch.
Well, perhaps review is too generous a term. That implies a result both descriptive and analytical. Yes, there is [exhaustive] description in Bowen’s lucubrations and some ostensibly evaluative discussions. Mostly, though, it’s an incredibly intense experience orchestrated by an author that either a) won six consecutive Most Overheated trophies in the Annual Euphuistic Society’s Awards for Godawfullest Prose, b) needs an editor with a better bullshit detector to put a damper on that, c) gets hopped up on hella cough syrup before sitting down to the computer, or d) several of the above.
Basically, Bowen argues that, in the case of The Love Witch, form follows function. The use of bright, sensual Technicolor and other objectifying techniques from classic 1940s and 1950s films evokes the sensual pleasures of objectifying the performers. At the same time, the constant insertions of modern details remind the viewer of the messy, dehumanizing results that come from uniting objectification and desire. He could have just said that, of course, but did he? Nooooooooo.
Instead we have to slosh through a bunch of fucking metaphors [literally]. Bowen demonstrates his “cleverness” with statements like “Desserts are emphasized by Biller with a carnality that also rivals Elaine’s allure, as she rhymes sex and violence with immaculate pastries and sauces.” He caps his pièce de résistance with the claim that “The Love Witch is an earnest and haunting dramatization of this war [viz., between self-loathing because of one’s desires and the joy in gratifying one’s desires]. Appropriately, it’s both a pastry and a dildo—dipped in acid.” What the hell are we talking about here — a condom-wearing eclair that’s taken a bleach bath? How would the puff pastry shell maintain its structural integrity if it were soggy with hydrogen peroxide solution? Why is no one asking these important questions???
This review is the textual equivalent of Paul Jenkins’ infamous Lamborghini Gallardo stuffed with pudding and flying off the edge of a cliff. It’s ludicrous wankery created by a smug criticaster who thinks that overdoing it = cleverness.
As posted to the Carrara forum on the Daz boards:
I finally spent some substantive time in Carrara 8.5 this weekend.
Continue reading Carrara endeavors this weekend
Playing with ambient lighting. Continue reading See? It gets better: more Carrara renders
Yay! I finally got something out of Carrara. I can only improve from here. Continue reading It can only get better from here: pathetic first Carrara renders
Yamarrah and Never the Less discuss menu options, with special appearances from Submit and Araminthe. Continue reading Dolls survey 1:3 scale food in prep for next month’s feast.
So apparently there’s a hierarchy of effectiveness in ways of communicating with one’s Congresspersons.
Some of the least effective ways include Twitter, Facebook, ranting blog posts, and other public, untargeted means of communication. E-mail is okay, but, like postal mail to a Congressperson’s Washington D.C. office, it doesn’t have the same immediacy and force as other methods. Writing their regional office is a recommended means, but calling the regional office highly increases one’s chance of a) actually talking to a staffer and b) having some attention paid. I suppose that the ultimately effective tactic is to buttonhole one’s Congressperson in the flesh, but that’s a rare opportunity for people on the national level. I’m not a fan of phone calls, but they look like the best way to reach the national Congresspeople, with letters to regional offices being a somewhat distant second.
Be that as it may, Paul Ryan [Speaker of the House] is getting a postal mail letter to his district office. I called his Washington D.C. office on Friday and filled out a phone survey in favor of the Affordable Care Act [and thus in opposition to Ryan’s attempts to gut it]. I also wanted to leave a message, but his voice mail was full and not accepting messages. Hah! That’s why I’m sending him a letter.
At some point in the future, I will probably run out of restraint, decency, and eloquence. I’ll just bombard my government officials with barely coherent outrage made up mostly of swears, but right now I’m still forming complete sentences, as seen below. [Obviously I retooled my anti-Bannon letter from last week.] Continue reading To the Bat Fax II: Haranguing Government Officials on…ACA repeal and Steve Bannon [again]
Marketing for digital models at Daz, Renderosity, Renderotica, and the ilk trades heavily in stereotypes. For example, there are the stereotypes of empty, objectified, conventional white cis femininity. There’s also the perennial portrayal of WOC as primitive and bestial, as well as the broken English that appears along with ads for Asian characters. And there’s the sexism, racism, ableism, and transphobia built into the programs we use to make our art. In conclusion, it’s pretty racist out there.
That’s why FeralFey’s products attract my attention. This vendor specializes in realistic poses for figures and regularly does packages associated with particular cultures/ethnicities. To see what’s so refreshing and respectful about FeralFey’s stuff, check out their V4 and V5 Voodoo Magic Poses; compare and contrast this package with Capsces Digital Ink’s Madame Mojo Poses for Monique 6. Both sets are linked to WOC characters, V4 Mama Brijit for the Voodoo Magic, G2F Monique 6 for the Madame Mojo, but they each treat their subjects differently.
- FeralFey’s promo shots depict a WOC as active, confident, and powerful, while Capsces’ promo shots depict a WOC as dehumanized, lacking in power, and pointlessly sexualized. FeralFey’s product promos have Maman Brijit dancing, invoking, drawing, and tipping her top hat in dramatic, full-body poses reminiscent of dancing. Her intense gaze and the strong angles of her posture demonstrate strength; even in poses named Entranced and Enthralled, her stances remain solid, balanced, and compelling. By contrast, Capsces’ promo shots show Monique pretty much naked, with goofy body paint. The near nudity combines with the character’s arched back and high-heel foot poses to place her in the pinup category. More subtly, Capsces’ decision to roll Monique’s eyes back in her head and open her mouth for many of these poses connotes an altered state of consciousness that may or may not be orgasmic. Plus there’s a snake or two in there for some reason. In other words, with unintentional double entendres like “parent snake[s] to Monique’s hip before applying pose,” Capsces’ promos show the tired old conjunction between a WOC and a transgressive, excessive, bestial sexuality.
- FeralFey’s product shows the results of accurate research, while Capsces’ does not. FeralFey’s promo text uses the correct vocabulary of Voodoo, and the product even includes accurate veves [diagrams] used to summon various loas [interceding spirits between people and deities]. Meanwhile, Capsces’ product bills itself as “voodoo and witch doctor inspired,” which is code for “based on imaginary stereotypes.”
- Finally, FeralFey’s promo text describes Voodoo differently than Capsces’. Capsces’ text settles for evocation of a stereotype, with “Monique…cast[ing] some dark mojo,” blah blah blah “voodoo,” blah blah blah “witch doctor inspired,” blah blah blah. Note the equation of Voodoo with “dark mojo,” which most consumers will probably translate as “incomprehensible black magic,” and “witch doctors,” most readily translatable as “evil wizards.” Basically Capsces says that Voodoo = evil magic. By contrast, FeralFey says only that “…the magic of voodoo enthralls the curious and ensnares the imagination.” There’s a distinction made between Voodoo itself and how outsiders perceive it. It might seem like puzzling sorcery to the clueless, but the information in FeralFey’s promo text reveals that Voodoo contains, in part, rituals to call on intercessors and/or deities so that people can gain advice and help. In other words, practitioners of Voodoo do what many other people in many other religions do. In implicit rebuke to Capsces’ exoticizing portrayal, FeralFey’s text insists that Voodoo is a religion like any other. Sure, it’s not perfect; FeralFey does use the adjective “visceral” in the description, which is code for “primitive,” but, overall, FeralFey’s Voodoo Magic Poses demonstrate respect and realism in opposition to Capsces’ stereotyped, demeaning cliches.
I was so overjoyed when I noticed the distinction between FeralFey’s stuff and everyone else’s that I sent a thank you note to them, saying much of what I noted above. In a sea of lazy, sloppy, unresearched, and racist characterizations, their [much more] respectful illustrations stand out as an example of what people should be doing. I get so sick of calling out racist bullshit that I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to congratulate someone for respect and inclusivity. I can tell that FeralFey works meticulously on all aspects of their creations, carefully crafting them for realism and respectful portrayal. I wanted to let them know that I recognized and encouraged their efforts. They wrote back and thanked me, which made me happy.
At the same time, I have the same sort of meta-reaction toward FeralFey’s poses as I do toward Dead or Alive’s gender-unmarked love songs or Queen’s respect for women. In all of these cases, the respect and decency of the artists toward their characters is really rather basic. And yet, because we live in a societal cesspit of racism, heteronormativity, and misogyny in which people are denied basic humanity because of their race, sexuality, and/or femininity, a modicum of authorial respect is mind-blowing. I don’t want to be surprised by Dead or Alive’s gender-free love songs. I don’t want to go into raptures over the love and equality in Killer Queen. I don’t want to write a thank you note to a digital artist for treating WOC like people. I want gender neutrality and equality of the sexes and respect between the races to be the standard, not the exception. And yet they aren’t, so my momentary happiness is outweighed by a greater structural disappointment.
Isabel takes a lollipop and runs. Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 13.5: Escaping Peter
Like many things in life, my perspective on letter writing as a form of activism has been deeply informed by Calvin & Hobbes, the seminal comic strip of my childhood, by Bill Watterson — namely, the particular strip from which the title of this entry is pulled. However, I have decided to employ this tactic regularly, given the cesspool of which the incoming President seems determined to make of the national government. This week’s Bat Fax, addressed to Representative Pat Leahy [D-VT], Senator Bernie Sanders [I-VT], and Representative Peter Welch [R-VT], concerns the future President’s appointment of Steve Bannon to position of White House Racist in Chief. Text below.Continue reading “Quick! To the Bat Fax!” or, Haranguing Government Officials on…Steve Bannon
After toiling away for hours on second skin outfits and thus postponing my escapist adventures into the bucolic Carrara scenes I have waiting for me, today I discovered a product that should obviate almost all pokethrough: the3dwizard’s G2F Ultra Bodysuit. It’s a full-body leotard with lots of morphs and material zones to make it look like everything from armor to underwear to casual clothes. Thus I could use it as an easy source of clothing.
But the most helpful trait of this bodysuit is the sheer volume of adjustment morphs it contains. I can fit the suit to my G2F-based characters, then make it invisible, then fit all other clothing directly to the bodysuit. After that, I can use the suit’s adjustment morphs to selectively move the clothing mesh so that it doesn’t intersect with the characters’ mesh. This process seems like it will address Carrara’s woeful lack of smoothing modifiers.
I’m very annoyed that I spent hours on second skin manufacturing, when I could have been playing in Carrara now, if I had just employed the Ultra Bodysuit instead. However, during the course of my second skin project, I did learn a lot about constructing textures. The information will serve me well in the future, and I actually quite like texturing, which I suppose I should have gathered from my enjoyment in creating shaders of loud, tacky patterns.
Well, now that my urgent drive to get my characters Carrara-ready has died down, I can relax and focus on other creative projects, like preparing for next month’s VTDL feast-themed meetup, working more on Delmar and Fritillaria, playing around with some of the hordes of new digital assets I picked up in the recent sales, reading books, etc.
Araminthe and Thalia accompanied me to last Saturday’s meetup, pictures of which are on the blog.
I can’t wait to use Carrara, but even the luscious digital scenes of HowieFarkes cannot tempt me to go into the program without properly prepared digital people to inhabit the imaginary landscapes. Thus I have, indeed, been forced to wait, as I go through the laborious process of preparing digital me, digital Jareth, and digital Jennifer.
As I previously mentioned, my prep has taken a sharp detour into second skin clothing as a means of avoiding pokethrough. Second skin refers to clothing textures applied directly on the figure’s body that, with clever use of bump, displacement, and normal maps, as well as some morphs, can pass as semi-realistic outfits.
With no free or commercially available second skins out there for the V5 UVs, I started my own from scratch. Scanning my jeans and reconstructing them on the V5 UV seam guidelines bored the hell out of me, though, so I switched to working on the shirts. Once I found that approximating clothing is much more fun than faithfully reproducing, I abandoned my real-life jeans and headed into more improvisational realms.
I worked on Jareth’s outfit first. I began by matching as many clothing seams as possible to actual UV seams on the V5 textures. For example, the collar of his shirt matches the UV seam line between neck and shoulders, while the cuffs of his shorts match the UV seam line between thighs and legs. However, since the waist/hips UV seam is rather high on V5, I purposely dropped the waistline of the shirt. Displacement makes all these hems have depth in renders.
While I worked with some seams, I avoided, camouflaged, and/or omitted others. I didn’t add seams along the undersides of the sleeves and the inner and outer edges of the pants, as those digital seams would have crossed actual seam lines in the V5 UVs. While programs do exist that allow easy texturing across UV seams, I don’t have one, and I sure don’t want to make designs match across UV seams manually. Thus I decided to suggest clothing, rather than accurately replicate it.
Progress shots of Jareth’s and my second skin clothes are below. Continue reading Second skin outfits in progress
hameleon’s promo shots for Soft Expressions for G3F exemplify that fallacious belief that a limp face, half-lidded eyes, and jaw floating slightly southward denote allure. The ad claims that the expressions are made from real women [in the same way that Soylent Green is people, I assume =P ], but that’s clearly not the case, as every real person I’ve ever encountered, even those with limited control over their facial muscles, has much more expressive features. Hell, I’ve seen mannequins with more character. The aesthetic of vacuity deeply disturbs me, as it is predicated on the belief that a woman is attractive only as a dehumanized, objectified thing, evacuated of personhood and individuality.
Another 103% true story of life in the gender blender. Scripted before November 8th, but actually serves well as my response to the whole election debacle. Continue reading The only thing we have to fear…
Posted to the Carrara forum on the Daz boards, though I doubt anyone finds the vicissitudes of my creative process that riveting:
After initial excitement and installation of Carrara 8.5, I hit a wall last month when it seemed like someone’s materials weren’t applying correctly. Well, the materials were actually fine, though there were duplicate shaders. I was just looking at the scene in a view that was NOT texture shaded. Once I figured that out, everything looked much better!
I haven’t been in Carrara much these days because I’ve been doing lots of back-end preparations.
1) I reduced the size of the G2F file by removing unused morphs. It definitely loads faster now.
2) I’m in the midst of modifying textures for my G2F versions of my characters so that they match the G3F base textures in tone and detail.
3) I made some custom textures for Ravenhair’s G2F Casual Jeans and T-Shirt for everyone to wear.
4) I encountered poke-through and Carrara’s lack of smoothing modifiers.
5) I added the ExpandAll morph to Casual Jeans and T-Shirts to override pokethrough.
6) I decided to forego morph-based or plugin-based solutions to pokethrough in favor of a 100% reliable solution: second skin clothing. That’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while anyway.
7) I discovered all of zero paid or freebie options for second skin clothing based on the V5 UVs [which all my characters are using], so, after a frustration digression with my V3[!]-based Clother by Zew, Texture Converter 2 by 3DUniverse, and Daz Studio’s Map Transfer function, I realized that I wouldn’t get satisfactory results from either V3- or V4-based second skins. I had to make my own.
8) I scanned my jeans, as well as my shirt, last night, downloaded SnowSultan’s V5 seam guides, and began filling in the maps with cut and pasted elements from the scans. I now have a waistline, fly, front and back pockets, and belt loops for the jeans, as well as a hemline for the shirt. The neckline is in progress.
It stinks all the way around. Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 13.4: The Cold Choice
Sean Williams, author of the brilliant But I Want It column in Slate in which a parent disputes with a child, strikes again with Nice Things and Why We Can’t Have Them. In this column, the kids call their parents to an eminently reasonable discussion about the aforementioned topic, making such indisputable points as, “Then you said we could watch videos [on the computer] alone, but not while eating—which, we’d like to point out again, did not preclude drinking.” Genius.
Better late than never… Isabel learns that all alternative sources of brains stink equally. Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 13.3: Not an Option
So cute! But where’s Ghoulia? I want Ghoulia! D:
Sometimes I find things in the Daz catalog that translate with little alteration into Jareth’s aesthetic. Case in point below. Continue reading Damn, Jareth. Just…damn.
Curioddity by Paul Jenkins is about a P.I., Wil, who killed his imagination long ago when his kooky scientist mom died. He lives his days in miserable routine until he is hired to recover a box of levity missing from the Museum of Curioddity. Standard Issue Modern Fantasy Plot 11-J-X5 ensues, in which blah blah blah his eyes are opened blah blah blah to a second world of wonder blah blah blah that only a gifted few can see blah blah blah and he embraces the world of imagination blah blah blah and brings back joy and adventure to his days blah blah blah and his mom’s not dead after all blah blah blah. Well, okay, I’m only on page 64, so I haven’t confirmed the last supposition, but I betcha anything it’s the case.
I’m down with Standard Issue Modern Fantasy Plot 11-J-X5 if it’s done with verve, originality, a sense of humor, writing skills, talent, and/or some combination of the foregoing. Shame that Curioddity doesn’t just lack these qualities, but contains their antitheses in such quantity that it’s an actively sucking vortex of badness. Reading this book is the literary equivalent of watching someone, convinced that he’s an expert with guns, repeatedly blow bullet holes in his feet. Though Jenkins believes himself a talented writer, he’s actually not, although I suppose the argument could be made that his delivery of consistently excruciating prose could be some kind of anti-talent.
There’s something wrong on nearly every page. Here’s a sampling:
P. 4: “Wil settled into a medium-paced trudge, which soon took him across an old stone bridge in the center of town. … Each passing vehicle rattled the bridge in such a way that Wil was reintroduced to every single one of his silver filings as he crossed. Up ahead, an old brown edifice loomed on the skyline like a fungal growth of brick and mortar: the Castle Towers. Wil’s office on the nineteenth floor was the only place in town where he could afford the rent, and from which he was under constant threat of eviction. He glowered at the Towers, and they glowered back at him. It was Wil who blinked first. He sighed, feeling inadequate. If his life had a soundtrack, he imagined, it probably sounded something like this: Trudge, trudge, trudge…KLONNG.”
Jenkins often tries to be witty with his descriptions, but they end up as abstract vacuities. Case in point: Castle Towers. First described as drab and hulking, it then takes on characteristics of Wil’s melancholic worldview and becomes a “fungal growth.” Okay, fine. But then he has a staring contest with the building, and it wins. This might make sense if Jenkins personified the building, establishing that Wil perceived it as an enemy with personality, before it glared at him. But all we have to go on is a prior comparison to fungus, and fungi are not people. Fungi have many traits to use in metaphors — their quick growth, their sudden appearance, their proliferation during damp, the close resemblance of edibles with poisons, their smoke-like spores — but they have neither eyes nor temperaments. I’m left puzzling over contrafactual mushrooms with eyes, which do not exist and, as such, provide no interesting or useful metaphoric information about Castle Towers.
And then there’s that bit about Wil’s life’s putative soundtrack. I can understand the source of trudge trudge trudge, since Jenkins uses the verb in relation to Wil a godawful number of times in the first few pages alone. However, while the word does have a heavy, dull sound, it’s not really onomatopoetic. Thus it doesn’t work as a soundtrack element. By contrast, a verb like galumph, being imitative, would fit as an element in the music of someone’s life.
While I see where the trudge comes from, I have no idea about the KLONNG. Obviously, this particular word is onomatopoetic, but what is it referring to? It sounds like a ringing noise, but there are no clocks, bells, or any metal-on-metal impacts in the preceding paragraph to which it might conceivably be associated. And it’s certainly not the cars on the bridges or Wil’s filings in his teeth making that sound. These are portrayed as rattling, not issuing a sonorous single tone. At first, I thought that Wil had walked into one of the bridge pylons and conked his head, but nope. I suspect Jenkins might be trying for an Existential Knell of Doom, but there’s not enough textual information to support this interpretation.
Pp. 5-7: Wil visits Mug o’ Joe’s, “an isolated pool of happiness in his world” [p. 5]. Jenkins notes that Wil resented the cafe’s temporary name change to Ye Olde Towne Cafe so much that he boycotted the cafe till it changed its name to Koffee Korner. Wil orders coffee, rejecting the cafe’s lingo [Hefty] and insisting on a “large” [p. 6]. “I’m not using your terminology because it doesn’t make any sense. … Just because someone in marketing happens to own a thesaurus, and just because your shareholders insist all of your drink sizes must appear bigger than they are, and just because you are between liberal arts colleges … , it doesn’t mean I have to join in[,]” he says. Less than a minute later, he’s “glowering in the general direction of the Castle Towers,” reflecting that the “daily dose of caffeine confrontation … was beginning to grate” [p. 7].
What we have here, folks, is a paragon of self-serving entitlement whose unhappiness stems from the fact that the world nastily refuses to cater to his whims. Plenty of people roll their eyes and/or make jokes about the size of fast-food drink containers and their names. However, only a very few take these corporate decisions as a personal affront and upbraid the counter staff. And you know why only a few people deliver venomous rants to clerks who are doing a demanding, thankless job, earning minimal pay, and exerting no control whatsoever over their business’ beverage names? Because most people have a modicum of politeness, decency, and care for their fellow human beings that prevents them from spewing bile on others. Also most people understand that the fast-food restaurant that they choose to patronize does not have a personal vendetta against them, as expressed through product names that people might find absurd. That’s because most people have some small understanding of the relative priorities of the world, which, amazingly enough, does not revolve around them. Wil’s pointless boycott of Ye Olde Towne Cafe is accompanied by the sententious observation that “one had to make a stand somewhere” [p. 6], so Jenkins is trying to make Wil an acerbically witty, admirable teller of those little truths that are universally acknowledged, but never spoken. Nope, sorry, Jenkins — your protagonist is just an asshole who flies off the handle at innocent college students trying to do their jobs.
P. 20: The source of the KLONGG finally appears: an off-kilter clock tower that raises a cacophony and doesn’t keep proper time. “Wil hated this monstrosity more than he had ever hated anything in the known universe, not to mention a substantial portion of the undiscovered bit.” I dunno — he seems to hate the old stone bridge, Castle Towers, Mug o’ Joe’s, baristas, coffee, and all that is virtuous, shining, good, and happy a whole hell of a lot! Also the clause about the undiscovered bit doesn’t help. I’m sure it’s supposed to be a witty authorial flourish, but it just brings me out of the story and onto a tangent about the concept of the known universe — which, now that you mention it, is a lot more interesting than this book.
P. 34: Mr. Dinsdale, curator of the Museum of Curioddity, introduces himself. I’m beginning to think that Jenkins had one good idea — the portmanteau word of the title — and decided that was evocative enough to build an entire book around. Sure, it’s a great foundation…but only if you have more than a single good idea.
P. 42: Wil finally encounters the Museum itself: “ornate Ionic pillars … wide marble steps … massive lead-lined windows [suggesting] an expanse of space within. The building screamed ‘museum’ in much the same way a stadium with a diamond-shaped playing field might scream ‘baseball.'” You’d think Jenkins was being paid per word or something, as the whole last sentence could be replaced with It looked like a quintessential museum. Nothing would be lost, except for Jenkins’ odd preoccupation with failed personifications.
P. 47: Inside the museum, Wil feels intimidated by the sexy, but blase, desk clerk: “He’d never been very good at talking to members of the opposite sex, and whenever he attempted a genuine compliment it usual led either to a slap across the face or worse, an angry and enormous boyfriend approaching from the opposite direction.” Socialized masculine entitlement rears its head. He wasn’t hitting on them, honest! He was just “genuinely” telling them how nice they looked, and then they slapped him for no reason he could figure out. They just can’t take a compliment — too uppity. Or they sicced their hulking boyfriends on him. Women are so mean. How’s a Nice Guy like Wil supposed to get any action? This insufferably arrogant whingeing reads like the author’s self-insertion.
P. 49: Mary, the cruel desk clerk, strikes again: “His lifetime of reading women’s disdainful body language told him that Mary Gold’s ‘uh-huh’ could roughly be translated as, ‘You’re off the hook for now but one false move and I’ll call the nearest security guard employment agency and hire one just so that I can have you thrown out on your ear.’ Quite a mouthful, Wil thought, considering so little had actually been said.” Apparently it’s not enough for Jenkins to mention Mary’s loud, obnoxious gum chewing, her “disdainful” stare [p. 48], and purposely limp handshake [p. 49]. No, he has to go further and explain in painfully minute detail just how hostile Wil perceives her to be. Lacking confidence in the reader’s ability to draw conclusions from the information provided, Jenkins explicitly informs them exactly what conclusions they should make. Translation: he thinks the reader is a dolt. Strangely enough, I don’t particularly like it when my fiction insults me.
P. 65: “To Wil, events were now flashing by like a pudding-filled Lamborghini Gallardo that had been driving off the edge of a cliff. The whole thing was moving too fast, and while everything appeared to be headed directly toward a very damaging conclusion, he reasoned that the experience might at least be fun in the few moments it would take to arrive.” This simile makes no sense, and it’s not even interesting or entertaining nonsense. It’s just inane. I assume that pudding is supposed to connote fun here, but the author seems to have overlooked an obvious result of his hypothetical wacky scenario. Namely, it’s impossible to have fun in an out-of-control car, even if it is filled with dessert, for the simple reason that the car is out of control and will soon become a fiery explosion of death and dismemberment. I don’t know about you, but, if I were in this situation, I would be too busy screaming and flailing to enjoy any of the mousse slopping all over the passenger’s seat. In other words, a pudding-filled sports car en route to the bottom of a gorge is a mess, a terrifying mess…you know, kinda like this book.
I bought the latest lite version [Manga Studio 5] of what was formerly Manga Studio, and the creators REMOVED the word wrap feature within text balloons that was available in Manga Studio EX4. I don’t care if Manga Studio 5 can import 3D models and allow people to poses proprietary puppet-like figures in the panels; it’s a useless piece of shit if it doesn’t have such a basic feature as word wrap, which is STANDARD on all other comic software I’ve run across. I am extremely frustrated.
Now that Pete has died, the usual commentary about his appearance has renewed with a vengeance. Pete had a long, long history of cosmetic surgery. He started off with a rhinoplasty around the time that You Spin Me Right Round peaked and continued with more facial mods. He suffered complications from his rhinoplasties, as well as extensive infection, hospitalization, bankruptcy, and depression following a thoroughly fucked-up lip job. [He appeared on UK TV’s Channel 5 Celebrity Botched Up Bodies with some truly disgusting details of how his body started disintegrating after surgery of dubious quality.] He also had countless reconstructive operations, and pretty much everyone on the Internet thinks that he looked much sexier before said surgeries, and they’re not afraid to trumpet this belief in offensive terms.
Anyway, a certain segment of the post-Pete mourning appears to be nothing more than the usual “He was so ugly when he died!” whingeing. The Mirror [UK] provides some representative samples. “Pete Burns was so handsome before surgery!”: fans shocked by his appearance as a young man, for example, contains quotes from irrelevant people saying things like, “Such a good looking chap back then. What possessed him?” Another Mirror article, One of the last pictures of Pete Burns shows shocking changes that left him like “Frankenstein” before his death takes the judgmental tone, with the author describing his recent fame for his “shocking” appearance as “sadly for the wrong reasons.” Thank you, Mirror — I was waiting with bated breath for your magisterial pronouncements on the moral acceptability of Pete’s more recent notoriety.
Those who condemn Pete’s latter-day appearance do not care about his bodily autonomy, bodily integrity, or his self-directed, informed choices. He explicitly stated on Celebrity Botched Up Bodies, “I realized that I was a visual entity and that I had to look good.” For him, the pursuit of this goal entailed surgical body modification. He seems to have been motivated in part by anxiety about his formerly broken nose [which left him “self-conscious” in front of photographers], the aforementioned belief that he “had to look good,” and the desire to keep his face from falling off after the bad lip jobs. Though his self-modification seems to have had its origins in deep dissatisfaction, Pete said, “I’m Frankenstein [sic!]. I’m feeling wonderful. … People might think I’m the ugliest son of a bitch alive, but I want to maintain this appearance.” In other words, he emphasized his conscious choice and embrace of his body.
This proprietary bloviation about Pete’s body pisses me off because, at base, it’s a form of gender policing. He was publicly acceptable “back then,” i.e., in the mid-1980s, because he was performing masculinity in a culturally acceptable way. Though his long curly hair and pouty lips were often read as transgressively feminine, his deep voice, dick-accentuating tight pants, and mediocre hit of heteronormative desire You Spin Me coded him definitively in the masculine category. His style in later years disrupted this coding. With his extensive plastic surgeries, he participated in an activity designated as feminine. Furthermore, the results — cheek and lip implants — altered his face in ways that were considered feminizing. His interests in wigs and heavy makeup were also seen as feminine. Thus, as he abandoned symbols of culturally acceptable masculinity and began performing in ways associated with culturally acceptable femininity, he messed up people’s nice, neat binaries. They felt uncomfortable and projected their discomfort onto him by calling him ugly for transgressing unspoken strictures on gender roles. Hey, look, folks — that’s some industrial-grade transmisogyny right there!
Gender policing like this happens pretty much everywhere. For example, when Angelina Jolie had an elective prophylactic double mastectomy in 2013, some people mourned the death of her boobs as if they themselves were personally entitled to them. In my own experience, when I first began to cut my hair shorter and shorter, some people reacted with sadness, insinuating that I was “prettier” with longer hair. Well, I was “prettier” insofar as “prettier,” a comparative of an adjective that is gendered feminine, connotes feimininity. I offer no coherent conclusion beyond frustration.
57. Cardiac arrest. My heart goes crack crack crack crack…
The Guardian’s obit says the following:
Burns became famous for his androgynous style and his progressive approach to gender. He often wore women’s clothes and, speaking to the Guardian in 2007, said: “Everyone’s in drag of some sorts, I don’t give a fuck about gender and drag. I’m not trying to be a girl by putting on a dress – gender is separated by fabric. I was brought up with an incredible amount of freedom and creativity. Society has put certain constraints on things.”
I find this quote curious because it’s not quite true. He evidently gave a whole bunch of fucks about gender…or at least his, since he defined his own and performed it with great joy, consistency, and relish until the day he died. More precisely, I think he didn’t care for the inevitable labels [crossdresser, drag queen, transsexual, f****t, etc.] that I’m sure accompanied public notice of his gender. I think this quote is more about him saying, “Y’all are so hung up on what I am or am not. You think I’m some weird deviant pervert. Well, I’m me, and you’re the weird deviant perverts for being so obsessed about it.”
Also The Guardian’s comment that he “often wore women’s clothes” doesn’t make any sense either. Reminds me of the Gender Aptitude Test in Kate Bornstein’s Gender Workbook. One of the questions was as follows:
Have you ever worn the clothes of “the opposite sex?”
a. Hey, give me a break. No way!
b. Yes, but when I wear them, they’re for the right sex.
c. What sex in the world would by opposite of me?
d. Several of the above.
I think D would apply to Pete here.
P.S. The Gender Aptitude Test has lots of entertaining answer choices, but I especially like this one:
Which of the following statements most nearly describes your feelings about gender?
a. My what about gender?
b. I guess my feels range anywhere from anger and frustration to happiness and exhilaration.
c. Gender confuses me. I don’t know why it is the way it is.
d. I feel… I feel… I feel a song coming on!
Peter tells Isabel about the brain shortages. Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 13.2: The Brain Chain
This mini universe digital photostory first came to me when I heard that Hivewire 3D was developing a new house cat model. Cat-loving digital artists rejoiced, as the models that we have been using, the Poser 4 Cat and/or Daz’ Millennium Cat, are woefully inadequate for today’s current standards of articulation, texture detail, and sculpting.
Anyway, the idea further began to cohere when I decided that Jennifer had a lab where she practices her questionably scientific experiments. Though Jennifer’s primary interest lies in chemistry, rather than biology, I figured that her curiosity could impel her to dissect one of the animals commonly used for dissection, i.e., a cat.
The idea really got rolling when I thought of Jareth poking in Jennifer’s lab and seeing a cat in mid-dissection. Being exactly who he is, he would do exactly what he has done below. In other words, The Cat Came Back was inevitable! ^_^
This year, Adam Cohen came out with Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck. Buck, a white, working-class Virginian, was raped by the nephew of the Dobbses, the bourgeois couple in whose house she was working. The Dobbses thus had her categorized as “feebleminded” and institutionalized in the Colony for Epileptics and the Feebleminded. There she attracted the attention of various assholes [Albert Priddy, director of the Colony, Aubrey Strode, the lawyer who drafted the Virginia law, and Harry Laughlin, veritable Nazi who served as expert witness for the prosecution] who wanted to use her as a test case to secure the constitutionality of Virginia’s recently passed eugenics law.
Like many other states at the time, Virginia was caught up in the burgeoning enthusiasm over eugenics. Ostensibly about improving the human race through selective breeding, eugenics was actually about breeding more straight, white, cis, able-bodied, rich, smart virtuous WASPs like us and keeping those defective, vicious, disabled, vacuous, non-white people out. Anyway, Virginia’s law allowed state-sponsored sterilization of people with various “mental defects.” Despite the evidence being made up entirely of unscientific, sexist, racist, ableist, classist lies, the Amherst County Supreme Court upheld it.
The assholes, however, wanted their law to be ratified by even higher authorities. Buck’s “defense” lawyer, who was so in cahoots with the opposing counsel that his picture appears in the dictionary under the definition of moral bankruptcy, appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. The higher court upheld the appeal in 1925, and still the assholes carried bravely on. In 1927, Buck v. Bell went before the United States Supreme Court. The highest court in the land ruled in favor of state-sponsored rape, with a ringing endorsement coming from Chief
Justice Asshole Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Three generations of imbeciles [Buck’s mother, also institutionalized at the same colony, and Buck’s daughter included, though no one had really tested Buck’s daughter’s mental abilities] are enough!”
Buck was re-institutionalized, given a nonconsensual salpingectomy, and not at all informed about the consequences of the operation. She was also deprived of the chance to form a relationship with her kid, who, for some reason, was being raised by the Dobbses, who institutionalized Buck in the first place. She was eventually released from the institution; she then worked intermittently as a household cleaner and seasonal orchard picker, married twice, apparently loved her husbands, and, when she heard about what the salpingectomy had done to her, always grieved her inability to have kids.
Laws such as the one tested in Buck v. Bell gained popularity, peaking in the late 1920s. The stock market crash of 1929 drew attention away from “mental defectives” and toward a horrendously tanking economy. It also didn’t help that the guy who served as eugenics expert witness in Buck v. Bell, Harry Laughlin, enthusiastically sucked up to the rising Nazi regime. Despite these factors and the expose of eugenics as junk science, legal eugenic sterilization persisted in the United States till at least 1983, when Oregon finally dissolved its Board of
Institutionalized Bigotry Social Protection. In fact, Buck v. Bell remains “good law,” according to Cohen, and courts continue to cite it, even in this millennium, as justification for sterilization of disabled people. Indeed, the current fetishization of the genome and the rising popularity of genetic testing for disease markers both raise the unsettling possibility that the eugenics movement will pop up again.
Anyway, not only is reproductive rights a timely topic, but Buck’s story is a dramatic one, so Cohen has potent, pertinent material here. In measured, well-documented prose, he tells the story of Buck v. Bell with two chapters each on Priddy, Laughlin, Strode, and Holmes, bookended on either side by a chapter on Buck. He applies keen analysis to some aspects of the story, but totally misses other significant opportunities. Thus it’s an uneven book.
Cohen excels at his treatment of socioeconomic class, his analysis of Strode, and his takedown of Holmes. In terms of class, he is always attentive to the ways in which class pressures and expectations shape the players’ lives. He observes that the Dobbses’ push for middle-class respectability required the disposal of their working-class servant in a “colony” for the “feebleminded” when she had the audacity to be raped by the Dobbses’ nephew. He also demonstrates the influence of class in Holmes’ life; born among the socially conservative, neo-Puritan snobs of the Boston Brahmin class, he owed every single advancement in his life to the behind-the-scenes connections fostered by this good ol’ boys’ club. With details like these, Cohen ably proves that Buck v. Bell exemplified contemporary concerns about social class — in particular, the nasty poor people, with all their vices and feeble minds, becoming too numerous and steamrolling the awesome rich people, who were naturally smart and good.
Also particularly strong is Cohen’s portrayal of Strode, the lawyer who drafted the original Virginia bill and followed it all the way up to the Supreme Court. Scion of one of Virginia’s elite families and avowed Confederate sympathizer, Strode might at first glance seem to be a garden variety Southern bigot, especially with his hand in having nonconsensual sterilization enshrined as the law of the land. However, Cohen shows Strode as a complex figure, progressive in the areas of women’s rights and higher education, who probably didn’t even support eugenics at all. He purposely drafted the initial law to be as narrow and restrictive as possible, and, unlike Holmes, who wouldn’t shut up about his magnificent majority opinion, barely mentioned the whole subject of eugenics in his life afterward. Cohen makes these points not to garner sympathy for Strode, since Strode clearly chose to draft the bill and serve as prosecutor for the case, all the way up to the Supreme Court. Instead, Cohen’s portrayal of Strode’s ambivalence neatly encapsulates the country’s own ambivalence on the subject of eugenics.
Finally, Cohen does a masterful job of replacing the saintly ideal of Holmes with a more accurate picture of the man’s full character and motivations. While Holmes may be remembered for his aphorisms on free speech, Cohen argues that his upbringing as a member of the hierarchical, ancestry-obsessed, self-important Boston Brahmins largely shaped his political views. He was actually more of a pro-business, anti-civil rights conservative who regularly struck down or dissented on cases of reducing work hours for laborers or improving working conditions. He had an essentially passive, reactive view of the law, which was basically that it shouldn’t be socially activist in a way that changed policy, but that it should just execute whatever was passed until someone stepped forward to challenge it. This passive, socially disengaged perspective extended throughout his life; for example, he bragged about never reading newspapers and seemed to make a virtue of being clueless to events and trends occurring beyond the tip of his nose [except for eugenics]. Enamored with his self-concept as a brilliant, eloquent, accomplished genius, he chose to ignore the fact that his brilliance was completely untempered by compassion and social consciousness, his eloquence called into service for arrogant, venomous, mean-spirited
opinions attacks, and his accomplishments largely the result of the socioeconomic class in which he was born. Cohen uses both close analysis of Holmes’ opinions and a close reading of Holmes’ private letters to effectively puncture the myth of Holmes as practically perfect. It’s very satisfying.
All this said, Cohen only tells part of the story. He fails to include material that would make his book even stronger and more convincing. His treatment of Buck, disability, and race are ultimately unsatisfying. In terms of Buck, though she has two chapters, just like all other major players, they are ultimately scant. For example, though Cohen refers to Buck’s elementary school report cards as evidence of her average mental capacity, he quotes them only once. Even more egregiously, when he has the chance to use Buck’s own words, he doesn’t take it. He uses the most direct quotes in the final chapter, describing Buck’s later years, including her efforts to have her mom de-institutionalized. Yet he also refers to Buck’s letters in general, commenting on the neat penmanship and only sporadic grammar mistakes. This leaves the impression that Buck produced a lot of firsthand documentation of her post-trial years that Cohen omitted, except for a superficial comment on Buck’s ability to hold a pen. For someone so insistent that Buck’s voice was never heard at all in these cases [beyond her statement at the initial trial “that her people” would “take care” of her, which suggests that she had no clue what was going on], Cohen certainly devalues Buck and her experiences.
My close reading of Cohen himself reveals telling details about why he silences Buck. He wants to depict her as a pathetic, innocent victim who did nothing wrong whatsoever and was totally betrayed by mean, rich men. To this end, he is obsessed with the adjective “helpless,” one of his most-used descriptors for Buck. Indeed, Buck was helpless before the straight, white, rich, cis, WASPy men who used their privilege to rape her, but she also had agency in other areas of her life. I understand that this book focuses more narrowly on the Buck v. Bell case, but Cohen’s exaggeration of Buck’s supposed helplessness turns her into a bit player in her own life.
Cohen not only fails Buck personally, but he also fails in his portrayal of eugenics in general by inadequately addressing the ableism and racism at work in its rise. Yes, I am aware that Cohen is telling the story of a white woman, Buck, who has no intellectual or physical disabilities. That doesn’t excuse, however, his omission of the ableist and racist implications of eugenics, as well as the ableist and racist purposes to which the United States put eugenics laws.
Beyond being a way for rich people to try to literally cut poor people out of existence, sterilization — and indeed the whole eugenics movement — was also against people with mental and physical disabilities. Cohen gestures toward this when he follows the history of sterilization laws, in which blind, deaf, and or “crippled” people were sometimes included as eligible populations. For the most part, though, he strenuously avoids a disability rights analysis. For example, his preoccupation with arguing that Buck wasn’t “feebleminded” seems particularly wrong-headed. Her mental capacity is important insofar as all the pro-eugenics people flat out lied in their claims that she, her mom, and her daughter had intellectual disabilities. But even if Buck and her family members were intellectually disabled, re-raping her via salpingectomy would be morally repugnant as a breach of her right to bodily integrity. Again, Cohen alludes to such ableist violations when quoting some anti-eugenics rulings, but he doesn’t face the infantilization and objectification of disabled people head-on. He seems more interested in stoking reader outrage by harping on Buck’s average intelligence, the implication being that institutionalization and forced sterilization of a person without disabilities is worse than the same fate for a disabled person. I smell ableism — and not just in the historical record, but in the historiography itself.
Finally, the whole concept of eugenics is a racist fallacy, pitting white/Anglo-Saxon/Aryan proponents against people of other colors with other racial identities. Cohen illustrates this well in his discussion of Laughlin’s sucking up to the Nazis, who, inspired by eugenics work in the United States, expanded the racism to genocidal proportions. Strangely enough, however, Cohen leaves out the racist practices fostered by Buck v. Bell that occurred in the U.S. As Nancy Gallagher capably shows in Breeding Better Vermonters: The Eugenics Project in the Green Mountain State, eugenics/sterilization laws disproportionately burdened not just poor people and/or people with [real or imagined] disabilities, but also people who weren’t white. In Vermont, the Abenaki Indians were seen as the racial undesireables and so particularly pursued for sterilization, but, in other states, other populations were victimized. Lack of attention to the racial minorities in the U.S. who were persecuted gives the unfounded impression that eugenic racism only happened over there in Germany, with those evil Nazis. No, it happened here too, and it’s vital to emphasize that it happened in the U.S. — indeed, pretty much started in the U.S. — because part of Cohen’s conclusion warns that the currents of eugenics may be at an ebb right now, but could easily swell again.
P.S. Cohen’s title, Imbeciles, also really rankled me. As I mentioned earlier, Buck was never categorized as an “imbecile,” but as a “moron,” both of which were official categories back then referring to putative mental age and ability. I assume that Cohen’s title derives from Holmes’ “three generations of imbeciles” bullshit and also the fact that “morons” just doesn’t flow off the tongue like the slightly longer “imbeciles.” Still, it’s a rhetorical flourish that’s factually incorrect. Furthermore, the placement of “the Supreme Court,” a group of individuals, right after the colon transfers connotations of “imbecility,” along with contempt and negative judgment, to the justices. Thus Cohen uses the tired ableist tactic of turning a term of intellectual disability, albeit outmoded, into an insult. In conjunction with Cohen’s problematic treatment of Buck’s intelligence and his general omission of eugenics’ ableist consequences, the title exemplifies Cohen’s own problematic perspective on disability.
Getting tired of the limited options available in Adobe PhotoShop Elements, mostly the lack of tails on speech bubbles. I’m thinking that it might be time to return to Manga Studio. It’s up to version 5, and it has apparently much improved since the previous version, with its obtuse GUI and complete lack of helpful documentation. There are also English-language reference books [something I didn’t encounter for version 4], such as Manga Studio 5 Beginner’s Guide and Manga Studio for Dummies. Hmmmm…Given that I do lots more photostories, doll and digital, than I used to, this may be a sensible investment.
EDIT: Okay, I’m convinced. There were very few tutorials online for Manga Studio 4, but a search quickly turned up hoards for version 5. For example, this tutorial in template creation is not only easy to follow, but it’s also by a fellow online comics artist who was previously using an Adobe product before switching to Manga Studio 5.
No one ever taught me how to use makeup. I therefore have always approached it as FACE PAINT. I don’t believe in makeup that idealizes one’s features subtly and does not advertise its presence. I believe in makeup that screams, “Look at me — I’m paint for your skin! Look at my nifty colors and specularities and textures and special effects! Aren’t I awesome?!” I also believe that, as long as you’re painting your face, you should put paint all over it. None of this dusting of eyeshadow and slash of lipstick business; I want layers. I want lipstick and lip liner and lip gloss and lip sealant [which, if it doesn’t exist, should] AND foundation and blush for the highlights and blush for the lowlights AND mascara and eyeliner and eyeshadow AND eyebrow pencil. Show off the PAINT!
NB: I also don’t use makeup on myself. I seem to really like designing it for my characters, however.
Isabel confronts the person she almost ran over. With bonus sophisticated special effects! :p Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 13.1: No Harm, No Foul
Never the Less and Yamarrah attended. More at the VTDL blog.
I have had a deep and unrestrained loathing for the song Celebration by Kool and the Gang, ever since I saw it in the 1996 English remake of The Birdcage, for which I also have a deep and unrestrained loathing. The song is now indelibly associated in my mind with the climax of the movie, in which the conservatives disguise themselves to escape paparazzi staking out the gay bar — hence the Gene Hackman in bad drag. I must say that he did very good bad drag, along with truly memorable Oh, sweet Jesus, what am I doing here?! body language, but I still hate the song…and the movie, the plot of which is predicated on a venomous level of internalized homophobia. Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack.
Excerpted from an intro post on the Carrara section of the Daz boards:
I’m a longtime Daz Studio user who just took the Carrara plunge last night. PC+ brought 8.5 Pro < $30.00, and the PA sale send-off allowed me to get Maple Meadows and World Gardens Maze very affordably. With all the included content in 8.5, plus its varied capabilities, I figured that was a deal too good to pass up.
I blame Howie Farkes for bringing me to Carrara. :p Maple Meadows, for example, is the only digital set I’ve ever seen that accurately replicates the area where I live [the Champlain Valley of Vermont], with its gentle, rolling, rounded hills. I am also a huge labyrinth [and Labyrinth] fan, so I just had to get World Gardens Maze. I haven’t seen any landscapes like these two matched anywhere else by any other software, so you might ultimately say that it was Maple Meadows that did me in. 😀
After using Daz Studio for several years, I have great familiarity with it. I basically use it as a way to play with digital dolls that I dress up to my liking, then place in various settings to act out multi-panel sequential stories [oh okay, comics!]. I’d love to use my Daz [and Poser] content in Carrara for the same effects. And here I come to my questions…
I read the Carrara 7 manual [except for the parts about animation, which does not interest me], but note that it does not cover using Gen1 and G2F content in Carrara. Are there tutorials specifically about using these new figures in Carrara? Do duf files even work in Carrara, or would I have to set up my characters from scratch in Carrara? Are there Gen1 and G2F things that DON’T work in Carrara?
I have to say that I’m really excited about using Carrara. After reading the manual, I think that the program seems clear and logical and maybe even intuitive in a way that Daz Studio isn’t. Daz Studio does so much, but its lack of documentation makes getting beyond a beginner level challenging. It also hides things in illogical places. Carrara’s rooms, plus its wizards to help you make terrains, for example, just make the software more approachable. Of course, a manual helps too, even if it is for 7. After reading that thing, I want to run my characters through World Gardens Maze and design some fantastical trees with heart-shaped leaves and do some spline modeling of jewelry and make some snowy terrain and import 3ds files… You get the idea. 😀
I amuse myself sometimes by making up fictional companies, usually of three surnames, the names of which throw entertaining connotations.
For example, in LHF, Anneka worked as an admin/copyeditor for a marketing firm called Popinjay, Curry, & Fawn. Curry and Fawn are, of course, legitimate surnames, but Popinjay is an obsolete term for a conceited airhead. Thus the company name suggests a ridiculous level of groveling and sucking up.
I thought up another one recently: Steele, Irons, & Paine. This is either an engineering firm doing sinister things in their basement or an aggressive, mercenary team of lawyers.
I recently encountered a person with the first name Gray. English language mostly reserves color-based names for feminine first names [Rose, Violet, Pearl, and other floral or jewel names] or surnames [Black, Brown, Gold, Gray, Green, etc.], so I wondered the story behind their name. The answer was that their birth name was some “hippie” moniker that did not represent them, so they made a new name of their parents’ surnames. In this case, Gray was a surname transposed to first-name status.
This immediately made me think of a character who started off with a very unusual name like Rainbow Sunflower and then, as soon as legally possible, traded it out for Grey in an attempt to reduce noticeability. However, since the name Grey is unusual, just in a different way, the character would still gain attention for their name.
Daz recently had its annual
Orgy of Consumption Premier Artists’ Festival, during which new products and related old ones hit the stands with a variety of deep discounts. I got quite a few things that I’ve been desiring, the following of which are my favorites:
- DG Toon Style Hair Shaders. Combining ease of use with flamboyant color combinations, this product allows me to indulge my love of meretricious hair shades on pretty much any hairstyle in my runtime.
- Any G3F pose collection by ironman13. I picked up Road Trip, Chat Collection, Steakhouse, Implications, Ornate Bathroom [with poses], On the Rails, and Emotions Running Wild. Though I dislike the feet on tiptoe and the arched back endemic to nearly all G3F poses, this diversity of poses makes translation of images from mind to screen much easier. G3F has way more bones than older Daz figures, so pose conversion utilities only get me part of the way there. I have found it much more expedient to stock up on poses designed for the G3F [or G3M] base.
- DesignAnvil’s DA Let It Snow Shader. Haven’t used it yet, but it looks like a great way to easily add snow to existing scenes without a lot of tedious retexturing.
- Oskarsson’s G3F/G3M Autumn Jackets. Finally, some realistic winter clothing for the digital Vermont winters that my people can wear when the Let It Snow shader attacks.
- Faveral’s Medieval Market. I’m not really interested in the medieval part, so much as I am in the baskets of produce, with which I could conceivably make a convincing produce section, as part of my ongoing quest to replicate a realistic grocery store in digital.
- Luthbellina’s G3F Broken Doll. A little bit frilly, a little bit silly, a little bit militaristic, and a little bit mecha, this outfit — with bonus robo arm! — is a whole lot of cool.
- Valea’s Gen1 Pretty Basics Ballerina Flats. Simple, easy, widely applicable.
- Arki’s G3F/G3M Eagle Guard Armor and G3F Rune Outfit. I normally don’t go for armor, but the Eagle Guard claws and shoulder pads, as well as the Rune cape, made me spring for these. Both sets in combination look like something from the Goblin King’s closet, if he were a little pointier and more vicious. ^_^
- ImagineX’s Cozy Breakfast Nook. When I first saw this, I immediately knew that, with a different backdrop, this glassed-in booth formed part of Jareth and Jennifer’s pied a terre.
- Blondie9999’s Gen1 Sports Clogs. I might as well have a pair of the kind I wear as house shoes all the time.
- Stonemason’s Streets of Old London. In my ongoing quest to approximate downtown Burlington in digital, I have called into service the 19th-century brick buildings in this set, modeled by the master of built environments. Consumption Orgy discounts brought down the price from $42.95 to ~$18.00, making it much more attractive.
- RawArt’s G3F Silent Sally. Totally tentacular and eeriely faceless, this character is a beautiful exemplar of sculpture, texturing, and poseability. Long segmented things don’t have a great track record of being easy to manipulate digitally, despite the so-called E-Z Pose technology that allows for mass rotation of segments. However, Silent Sally’s tentacular arms are relatively easy to position in realistic ways. I’m currently working on some hierarchical poses for her and her tentacles, and she’s just so much fun to play with!
I found this gem of passive aggression on the shared drive at my current workplace. Apparently the former receptionist disliked the messes people were leaving in the kitchen, so created a job description for PERSON USING KITCHEN, printed it out, and left it on the kitchen counter.
I have copied and pasted the
job description barely disguised rant below, changing only the identifying details of the company. Punctuation, boldface, and formatting come straight from the original.
Job Description: PERSON USING KITCHEN
The person using the kitchen has primary responsibility for the day-to-day clean-up of the Acme Corporation’s Building A kitchen, with the goal of increasing both the cleanliness and the general appearance thereof. The kitchen user also works closely with fellow staff to manage all aspects of the kitchen program, including the sink, surfaces, fridge and floors. The kitchen user reports to everyone else in Building A at the Acme Corporation.
60% Wash your dishes. Don’t leave them in the sink. Put them in the dishwasher or wash them and put them in the rack to dry. Even dry them yourself. Put them away after they air-dry. Don’t put away other people’s dishes. This just encourages them not to put away their own. Proactively load the dishwasher. All employees take equal ownership in a TEAM APPROACH to our COMMUNITY KITCHEN including loading, starting/running the dishwasher as well as unloading it. This is no single person with this responsibility – we should all do this freely. If you do not know how to turn it, on please ask a co-worker!
25% Partner with your colleagues to keep the fridge pretty clean. Friday is a good day to give it a once-over. It’s actually kind of fun to find what other life forms have found fuel in neglected lunches. Finding someone else’s ancient salad will let you feel superior for a few minutes, too. On the other hand, don’t take someone else’s food, even if it is just a few tablespoons of salad dressing.
10% Play an active, effective, team-oriented role in developing and implementing your own strategy for cleaning up after yourself. You know what to do.
5% Other duties as assigned.
Specific standards of performance will be captured as metrics in an annual kitchen plan.
MINIMUM SKILLS & ABILITIES
- Team-oriented style combined with the ability and desire to achieve a high level of cleanliness.
- Strong interpersonal skills and experience in exercising discretion in a potentially germ-infested environment.
- Ability to motivate and manage our team to do the same.
- Evening and weekend work is required to fulfill job responsibilities, except you don’t have to clean the kitchen on the weekend. Do that at your own house.
PREFERRED SKILLS & ABILITIES
- Higher standards.
- Experience living closely with other people.
- A demonstrated ability to clean up after yourself.
- Comfort with dishrags, kitchen towels, scrub brush and ice maker.
- Ability to run a dish washer.
- Willingness to ask if you do not know what the proper community kitchen etiquette is.
This masterpiece contains so many grace notes [?!] that it’s impossible to call them all out, but let me highlight a few favorites.
“Wash your dishes. …Even dry them yourself.” You can just hear the writer muttering, “Novel concept, huh?”
“All employees take equal ownership, in a TEAM APPROACH, etc., etc., etc.” Boldface and caps lock = srs bzns. So basically this entire document could be boiled down to “Use the goddamn dishwasher!!!!!”
“Finding someone else’s ancient salad will let you feel superior for a few minutes, too.” Author invites readers to share sneering contempt.
“5% Other duties as assigned.” I shudder to think.
“…experience in exercising discretion in a potentially germ-infested environment.” Some of these parody lines are actually kinda funny.
“Preferred Skills and Abilities: Higher standards.” Oh burn!
I was reading Wikipedia the other day and I came across an exhaustive article on The Corset Controversy. I read all the testimonials, arguing pro- and anti-, in various 19th-century periodicals, and I was like, “Is this for real? It sounds like something out of Penthouse letters.” My question occasioned an entire essay on the subject, cast in the form of a dialogue between me and Jareth. I’m just excerpting it here because I don’t feel like rewriting it univocally.
Me: Maybe you can help me.
Jareth: Certainly! Shall we parse the intricacies of Georgette Heyer’s complex portrayals of her female characters? ^_^
Me: No, but it’s tangentially related, insofar as I was reading about the Regency period on Wikipedia. Then I moved on to fashion in general, which, of course, got me into corsetry, which ended me up at an article called The Corset Controversy.
Jareth: Is this like The Woman Question?
Me: I dunno. What are you defining as The Woman Question?
Jareth: Oh, all that piss going back and forth in the latter part of the 19th century and the early 20th about women’s rationality, educability, legal rights, suffrage, etc., etc., etc.
Me: Not directly, although the two overlap chronologically. The Corset Question was a debate that ran on from about the 1790s to the 1890s. It was, of course, a disagreement over whether women should wear corsets, which was also referred to as tight-lacing or figure training. Detractors said that corsetry caused pain, squished the wearers’ bodies, reduced their lung capacity, muscle strength, and stamina, and ruined their health. Proponents said that, if practiced correctly, wearing corsetry was physically enjoyable, harmless to health, strength, and posture, and also fashionable/sexy.
Jareth: Are you sure that debate is over? –Because I don’t think it is. Whenever the subject of corsetry comes up online, usually in the context of costuming, Ren faires, and/or kinky clothing, there are always people who sound off on how disgustingly restrictive, painfully disfiguring, and generally evil corsets are. Then there are always people who are into corsetry who counter with something about it being perfectly fine if you do it right. Boy, is it tedious…
There are certain subjects, I think, that people have learned are bad through received wisdom. Like you should never put metal in a microwave because it will cause a nuclear detonation and wipe out your house. Or you should never trust a stranger who asks you for directions or offers you a ride because they’re clearly a child-molesting pervert who’s going to kidnap you, rape you, and leave you in a ditch. And you should never do any illegal drugs ever because they will either kill you the first time or damn you to a hell of escalating addiction and misery.
…I’d put people’s unreasoning objections to corsetry in the same category as stranger danger and the War on Drugs. People have worked themselves up into such a froth about the putative damage caused by corsets that they won’t stand to hear any actual information on the subject. Of course, the received wisdom is also so pervasive that it’s very hard to figure out what is true about corsetry.
Me: See – that’s kind of my problem.
…Reading selections of letters in the Wikipedia article makes me suspicious – specifically, all the pro-corsetry ones. Seriously, they all sound the same, especially when they insist over and over again that it was painful at first, but they quickly got used to it, and now they enjoy the “snug,” “tight” fit.
For example, there was a whole protracted argument in the Toronto Daily Mail about corsets, especially for girls and teenagers. It was in a weekly section called Woman’s Kingdom, and it started off on April 7th, 1883, with some mother asking if tight-lacing could be done without damage. There were the usual pro- and anti- sound-offs, and then there was a sidetrack about preventing girls from cutting the laces of their corsets overnight.
Here’s where I get suspicious. This is directly from the May 19th, 1883 Toronto Daily Mail in the Woman’s Kingdom section, page 5:
HOW TO PREVENT LACES BEING CUT.
“Mother” asks how to prevent her daughters taking off their stays during the night. I must confess I am a disciple of the old school, and believe in the efficacy of corporal punishment. The “severe punishments” …were whipping, which I administered. They were severe, but they served their purpose. Two applications prevented any further interference with the staylaces. I would recommend “Mother” to try the rod with her daughters. –STAYLACE.
I have a very simple plan to prevent my children cutting their laces when they are first put into tight stays, to obtain a temporary relief from the pain which is undoubtedly severe at first. When one of my girls disobeys me by removing her stays, I adopt this plan: After retiring, I fasten her wrists together with a silk handkerchief. This keeps her hands out of mischief, and she soon gets accustomed to the stays. –A.B., KINGSTON.
And here’s some more on the subject from the next week, May 26th, same paper, same section, same page:
CHILDREN AND STAYLACES.
I can entirely endorse what “A.B., Kingston” says, that the best way of punishing children cutting the laces of their stays is by confining their hands. Instead of a silk handkerchief I use a small leather strap, with which I fasten the wrists together at night to keep the hands away from mischief, and as a punishment I fasten the hands behind the back for the greater portion of a day. I find that a week’s restriction, which means a good wholesome position for the hands, induces a respect for the laces for all time to come. –A.R.
I positively smiled at the plans suggested to prevent girls under training removing their stays, such as whipping them or tying up their hands. Mothers, listen to my plan. I get a small chain and a little padlock. When the stays are laced, I put the chain round the waist and fasten it with the lock, and put the key in my pocket, and there the stays have to remain till I remove the chain. Is that not simple? –COMMON SENSE.
Jareth: O_O Are you fucking kidding me?
Me: No! I’m legitimately getting this from pdfs of scanned Toronto Daily News microfiche that are freely available on Google News. Here’s a link to the head of the Woman’s Kingdom section for the May 19th quotes; go read it for yourself:
Jareth: *clicking, reading*
Holy shit, you weren’t kidding. Wow, that makes me so sad.
Me: Yeah, but do you think that’s true?
Jareth: Are you seriously doubting the existence of corporal punishment?!
Me: I’m doubting the existence of bunches of people practicing what sounds weirdly like kinky bondage fantasies, combined with corsetry fetishes, on their kids.
…To me it sounds suspiciously like people getting a thrill from airing their fetishes in public through the medium of fictional letters.
Jareth: Oh… I was looking at it from a child abuse viewpoint. I can believe that it’s true because people visit all kinds of of horrible, degrading, painful treatment upon their kids.
I can also believe it’s true because of the simple fact that people wore corsets regularly at that time. That includes kids! I’ve seen the ads for kids’ corsets, so it’s not like it was a rare phenomenon. Also there was a whole spectrum of attitudes toward corsetry for children, so naturally there would be people toward the extreme end who would lock their kids into stays at nighttime.
…I’m sure that some of the pro- letters were just elaborate whack-off hoaxes, but you say that this Corset Question went on for over a century, with pretty much the same arguments back and forth. I don’t think a 120-year-long whack-off hoax campaign over multiple countries, through multiple media outlets, is really likely. I think it’s much more probable that people were just coughing up the same pro- and anti- arguments at each other. Some of the pro- testimonials, I bet, were distortions and outright lies, and some were accurate reflections of how the writer perceived their experience. But I’m inclined to judge it a real controversy with real beliefs, real people, real stories, and real experiences behind it, even if it sounds pornographic.
By the way – I think you’re imposing your own modern judgment on this whole subject.
…Nowadays, pretty much no one wears corsets; they’ve gone from ubiquitous articles of clothing to costume-like things associated with extreme sexualization and kinky sex. You’re probably reading kinky sex back into the Corset Question because that’s what corsetry signifies to you, the modern reader.
Me: Mmmm, true. That makes sense. At the same time, though, I also see the Corset Question as intimately related to the Woman Question. If the Corset Question is about women’s physical freedom, then the Woman Question is about women’s legal and political freedom. The social body thus literally becomes a site for conflict as various people try to control it via the Corset Question, thus expressing their answer to the Woman Question.
Jareth: …So the Corset Question really is the Woman Question. Interesting.
Hey, can we talk about Georgette Heyer now?
Me: How ‘bout later? Writing an essay on the Corset Question just tired out my brain.
Jareth: Okay! I’ll hold you to that! ^_^
Last night’s bus driver was extremely hung up on policing my gender, presumably to determine if I was performing female impersonation to avoid a $1.25 bus fare. The whole conversation was incredibly odd, especially since I told the driver three times that I was the transfer in question and also because the driver directed all questions about my gender to the woman who ended up apologizing to me. [Later conversation with the passenger indicated that she clearly identified as a woman with feminine pronouns, so I feel confident in gendering her as such.] Apparently I was both dubiously gendered and invisible.
It’s bad enough that people clock me as female and/or a woman, but I have a special loathing for being addressed as a lady. As the counterpart to lord, lady connotes high status, nobility, and superiority. Thus it carries with it the worshipful objectification that women have suffered for centuries from the perspective of men who could not see them as fully human and equal beings. To be called a lady is to be objectified and dehumanized against my will, an experience of which I am really not a fan. That is why I hate the term.
Following Jareth’s encounter with Mr. Ding-A-Ling in Ill-Advised Nomenclature and his and Jennifer’s run-in with Mr. Ding-A-Ling’s icky cousin in Artisanal Cones, it’s now time for a whole flotilla of ice cream vans, a milkshake of dubious name, and some close reading of an innocent [?] 1950s pop hit.
Side note: Through no fault of their own, the ice cream eating kids took a huge amount of time and labor. Everything went smoothly until I looked for a digital model for their headscarves. To be accurate to the style that many people around here wear, the digital model had to fit closely around the face and neck, with edges thrown back over the shoulders, covering all the hair [of course]. There are plenty of neck scarves, hoods, and head kerchiefs, but approximately zero headscarves of the type I was looking for. [I considered Oskarsson’s Gen1 Modern Muslim Girl and G2F Modern Muslim Woman, but both have little room to accommodate hair underneath them.] I ended up using Lyrra Madrill’s V4 Draped Hood, which I worked over tediously with D-Formers to make it follow the lines of the face closely.
Side note 2: Speaking of clothes, it entertains me greatly that Jareth almost always looks like he has just walked out from some other genre of story. This time it’s some Star Trek-like TV show, obviously. :p Jennifer, on the other hand, has a more mainstream style, but it’s still kinda weird.
Apparently Mick Jagger expressed interest in the lead role of Frank in the movie version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but Tim Curry got it instead.
My first thought on learning of this was, Well, if that had happened, we wouldn’t have been able to understand the lyrics. Seriously, I think Mick has a little contest with himself to see how unintelligible he can make his words every time he sings them. In a musical where the songs form an integral part of the plot, characters, and story, I shudder to think what he’d do to…oh, pretty much any of the words.
My second thought was a question. Why would the head of the [arguable, self-billed] World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band be interesting in taking time out from his busy schedule of writing songs, subsequently mangling the lyrics in concert, wielding his pelvic in a manner specifically calculated to freak out the straights, and rolling in dough to star in a cheap pastiche of B movie horror?
I’ve found two related answers. First, Mick has a side interest in acting, the same way David Bowie did. The role of Frank, with its hammy lasciviousness, fits in with Mick’s performing persona, so it’s a good match there too.
Second, I guess the Rolling Stones’ popularity waned in the early and mid 1970s. Though they remained popular with listeners, they didn’t sell as well as they had in the later 1960s. The rock establishment tended to regard them as irrelevant sell-outs.
In this context, Mick’s interest in Rocky Horror makes a little more sense. Contrary to my assumption, I guess he wasn’t busy being a superstar — or at least he had more free time around 1974 than he did about ten years earlier, when I Can’t Get No Satisfaction came out. The Stones’ comparative lull of the mid 1970s gave Mick time in which to entertain alternatives, including cut-rate, campy movies based on successful stage shows.
Isabel and the person in Rumpy Pumpy discuss the power of cult movies. They also, much to their embarrassment, eventually recognize each other.
Jareth’s appearance has changed over time, the permutations most easily tracked by the differences in my renders of him. Continue reading Jareth’s revised digital likeness
Last night I sprang for the long-limbed, big-eyed Star 2 for G3F by LadyLittleFox, Cake One, and Traveler. All the renders on the Daz boards made her look irresistibly adorable, especially when blended with other G3F characters. I wanted to see how my digital people would look if Starified. Continue reading Bishoujo style Jareth?
I grew up in Essex Center, Vermont, and, on my frequent travels through the state, cracked up at the highway sign announcing an exit to Middlesex. Being a etymology nerd, I thus had ample time to contemplate the two -sex towns in my state. Where did their names come from?
The most immediate antecedent to both Essex and Middlesex is England. Like so many New England names in the region, the towns of Vermont recapitulate place names of Old England. Essex is a county in southern Old England. Middlesex is another.
But what do such town names mean? Again the map of England holds a clue. Besides Essex and Middlesex, England also has areas by the names of Sussex [East and West]. Additionally, Wessex was historically a kingdom in southern England. Furthermore, while there is no contemporary place name of Wessex, Thomas Hardy’s fictional Wessex has had such an influence on the region that it may be used today to describe the region in the southwest of the country. In conclusion, Essex, Wessex, Middlesex, and Sussex all cluster in the same southern region of England.
At one point, I stared at all the -sexes I knew and realized that they followed a pattern. They each denote a relative direction. Obviously Middlesex is “the middle -sex.” Essex is “the east -sex.” Thus Wessex is “the west -sex” and Sussex “the south -sex.” The prefixes of the –sexes function as geographical markers.
Having solved a long-standing [at least in my own head] mystery about the sources of the -sexes, I then moved onto the next logical step: the meaning of -sex itself. The Oxford English Dictionary, quoted in the article on Wessex, says that -sex derives from the Old English Seaxe, meaning “Saxons.” The -sexes then point out the geographical distribution of various Saxon settlements: Essex for the Saxons to the east, Wessex for the Saxons to the west, Sussex for the Saxons to the south, Middlesex for the Saxons in the…uh…middle.
This information only led to a further question. Extant -sexes represent three cardinal directions [east, west, south] and one relative one [middle]. But what about the missing cardinal direction? Shouldn’t there be a “north –sex?” Presumably it would be called something like Nussex or Norsex, by extension from Sussex, but it doesn’t exist.
Though the absence of Nussex has pissed me off for years, I have finally figured out why it doesn’t exist. There is no Nussex because it is the default -sex. In other words, it was the Saxon settlement used as the original reference point for the names of the rest of the -sexes. In the same way that the state of Virginia has no geographical adjective, but the later and geographically relative state of West Virginia does, so the -sex used as the point of comparison for all others would remain uninflected. Only those –sexes developing chronologically after and in relation to the original -sex needed geographical adjectives after all.
There — now you know everything I know about the four -sexes.
I love words of Latin origin for turning and going and progressing, which brings me to the cluster of diversity, deviance, perversion, and transgression. Interestingly, all of these have negative connotations, except for diversity, which has somehow escaped the specter of badness.
Let’s start with deviance. It’s from de-, Latin for “away from,” and via, Latin for “way” or “path.” Thus deviance means “going off the beaten path.” In its primary, popular definition, it means “disgusting, immoral criminality and/or sexual behavior.” Example: The deviance of pedophilia represents significant sexual dysfunction. In conclusion, deviance is gross.
Perversion is pretty close to deviance. From Latin pervertere, “to overthrow or overturn,” and thus from per-, “away from,” and Latin vertere, “to turn,” it means “turning the wrong way.” Perversion has never had positive connotations; it’s always about making changes for the worse. More recently, it has also developed connotations of deviant [har] sexuality, thanks to the sexologists of the end of the 1800s who used pervert to mean “someone who has sex in other than a prescribed heteronormative manner.” In conclusion, it’s another word of bad progression.
We now come to transgression. This is from Latin trans-, “through, across, or beyond,” and gressus, “going.” The sense is of “crossing a line” or “going beyond a [legal] limit.” Transgression thus connotes egregious behavior. More than that, it connotes sin, as it tends to be associated with the Christian characters Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil after God told them not to. Oh look — another term of disgusting degeneracy!
These few examples suggest that English words of Latin origin in which people lose their way tend to be loaded with negative judgment. So what’s up with diversity? Coming from Latin de-, “away from,” and vertere, “to turn,” why isn’t it like perversion and deviance? The source material for diversity is very similar to that of perversion and deviance, but somehow diversity has now ended up as a neutral English noun meaning “great variety.” Furthermore, diversity may even signify a positive celebration of the many differences, particularly among a group of people.
The deviation of diversity from the perverted connotations of its cousins becomes more puzzling when one learns that it used to have a negative definition, which is now obsolete. Diversity meant “contrariness or perverse adherence to something wrong” in English from the late 1400s and through the 1500s, but was out of use by the 1600s.
I wish that I had some definitive answer to the question of diversity’s goodness. I don’t, but it’s still fascinating to ponder.
I just watched the latest Steven Universe episode, Mindful Education, which features my absolute favorite character of the whole series: Stevonnie. Stevonnie is a magical fusion of protagonist Steven and his best friend Connie. Together they make one person, Stevonnie, who blends characteristics of their source material, both physically and characterologically. For example, Stevonnie has Steven’s gem located at their navel, and they also have Connie’s lithe physicality. Personality-wise, Stevonnie seems to be more mature and reflective than either Steven or Connie on their own, suggesting that the two bring out the best in each other. Also, interestingly enough, Stevonnie is much more at home with magic, transformation, teleportation, flying, etc., etc., etc., than either Steven or Connie separately, possibly because they’re a product of magic themselves. Also they’re incredibly cute!
Aaaaaaanyway, with thoughts of fusions on my mind, I returned to a fusion character of my own that I thought up 17 years ago: Nova, which was me + Frank. Now that I have Daz Studio and all the appropriate tools, I can mess around with morph dials and actually create digital representations of such blended characters, so I did! I made a digital Nova, who is not appearing here because she’s not my focus.
My interest this evening was in doing a digital combination of me + Jareth. I’m digging the result, shown below in the middle with me on the left and Jareth on the right. I’m actually thinking that Jareth should be looking a little more like the middle facially, so maybe it’s time for me to change his digital likeness.
Isabel finally enters Rumpy Pumpy!! Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 12.5: Anyone Home?
Instructables instructions on how to make a clip-on tie.
These do not seem to take much fabric, so they would be a perfect use of some of those meretricious pieces of fabric that I got for Isabel’s shirts and have not yet used.
Obviously I need to make clip-on ties with all my skull fabric [especially the flowery skulls!], my spiderweb fabric, and possibly my graveyard fabric. Those will definitely look business professional. :p
If I could afford to replace my entire wardrobe at once, which I can’t, I would probably get a bunch of the following: dress shirts, clip-on ties, vests, and pants. Ideally all the pants would be in tan, navy blue, black, and all the shirts would be in loud solids, like magenta, bubblegum pink, blood orange, carmine red, that sort of thing. If I could find a source for loud dress shirts for people with breasts, that would be a start…
EDIT: Someplace like this, Six Star Apparel and Uniforms, might satisfy my need for dress shirts and vests for people with breasts. Prices look reasonable too, and they even have plus sizes! Hmmm…
EDIT 2: Oooooh, I’ve just discovered Six Star’s mother lode of tacky, affordable vests!!!!!
Shiny gold floral with notched collar!
Dark red jacquard “symphony vest,” whatever that is!
Simple vest that comes in a variety of more and less obnoxious colors!
And my favorite, shiny purple stripes and polka dots!
Also dress shirts in a variety of colors!
The corollary to Mr. Ding-A-Ling, this experience is based on an encounter with a local parlor’s odd flavors. Sometimes unusual flavors can be delicious — I myself have had wonderful cucumber sorbet, wasabi ice cream, and strawberry basil ice cream — but sometimes I get the feeling that the makers are just being weird for weird’s sake.
Side note: You can tell that it’s coming along autumn when Jareth breaks out the combo of slit throat choker and phalanges jewelry! ^_^
Side note 2: My favorite expression in this story is Jennifer’s in panel 8. That’s disappointment and revulsion all rolled into one if I ever saw it!
Lured by the promise of cult movie merchandise, Isabel quits dithering and does something!
Jareth encounters an oddly named ice cream van. Yeah, ice cream. That’s what this photostory is about: ice cream. :p
P.S. There is a real, actual, 103% true ice cream van by this name that drives around Winooski. I am not making this up. [My fictional ice cream truck would probably be something like Creemees 2 Go or Artisanal Cone Productions, Inc.]
Dead or Alive frequently looks and sounds to me like a New Wave version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show , except, to use the immortal words of Rantasmo, with “more gay.” For example, the music video for Something in My House  provides many echoes of the whole Rocky Horror movie and especially Sweet Transvestite. It would be a crying shame not to use all the screencaps I already generated from my Something in My House audience participation snark, so let’s see some of them again, shall we? This time, they’ll be accompanied with screenshots from similar moments in Rocky Horror.
First things first. Here’s Sweet Transvestite, featuring words ‘n’ music by Richard “I Hate Myself” O’Brien, as well as enough bananas on ham to feed the entire state of Vermont, contributed by Tim Curry [Frank], Susan Sarandon [Janet], and Barry Bostwick [Brad]. And here’s Something in My House, featuring words ‘n’ music by Dead or Alive, as well as drama and histrionics contributed by Pete Burns [singer] and Steve Coy [drummer]. Look; listen, and learn. Continue reading The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Dead or Alive — parallels
The title says it all, folks. The music video for Something in My House epitomizes Dead or Alive’s combination of playfulness, silliness, and camp so high that it’s smoking pot somewhere in the stratosphere. Speaking of bananas on ham, there are actual bananas in the video [and maybe actual ham, although I’ve never gotten a close look at the smorgasbord], which means that Pete is quite literally chewing the scenery. I feel that this is what The Rocky Horror Picture Show should have been like — a goofy celebration of flirting with and mugging for the crowd — instead of being a toxic pile of transmisogynist waste that derided the over-the-top character it supposedly centered around. Hmmmm, I smell another essay in the works about camp in RHPS versus camp in Dead or Alive.
Anyway, this entry is mainly an excuse for copious screencaps and sarcastic comments…Continue reading Something in My House, bananas-on-ham fit throwing, and the sheer beauty of Pete Burns’ melodramatic petulance
Worst of McMansions, which recently debuted on the Tumblr scene, unites architectural savvy with humorous sarcasm to devastating effect. Kate’s clever potshots at the bloated houses built during the real estate bubble of the 1990s through mid 2000s are comedy gold; check out her photo annotations on this Mclean, Virginia monstrosity. I’d love to link to her autobiography, but I can’t find it.
EDIT: I found it.
Being the third in a multipart essay on a) the queer aesthetics of Dead or Alive, b) the effects thereof on the band, and c) the effects thereof on Pete Burns, with AIDS panic and transmisogyny for good measure!
I previously engaged in long, hard study of Dead or Alive’s performances and music to bring you the penetrating news that, first, they were all about the gay imagery and, second, they were all about the gender-bending. Now we’ll examine the effects of said performance and reputation on Dead or Alive’s popularity. Basically I argue that the homophobic and transmisogynist hostility to Dead or Alive hampered their mainstream success.
An in-depth view of You Spin Me Round Like a Record — and, more specifically, what it conspicuously lacks — demonstrates the cultural prejudices arrayed against Dead or Alive. You Spin Me, as I mentioned in Part I, is the song for which the band is best known, at least in the US, UK, and Canada [which all are, of course, the center of the world 😛 ]. Analysis of the reasons for its success leads me to the conclusion that it succeeded mostly on the strength of being neither homoerotic nor generally genderqueer. Yes, folks, I’m saying that the song topped the charts due to the sheer power of its mediocrity.
Now I’m not arguing that lack of homoerotic and genderqueer content automatically makes You Spin Me dull; instead I’m arguing that it charted because it was one of the least queer, most heteronormative, least innovative, and generally commercially safest in Dead or Alive’s oeuvre. In no particular order, here are my reasons for the song’s boringness:
- Musically speaking, You Spin Me demonstrates a conservative dependence on other artists’ work. According to Wikipedia, Pete’s autobiography states that the song arose from his mental mashup of Luther Vandross’ I Wanted Your Love and Little Nell’s See You Round Like a Record. I don’t count this as much of a strike against the song, as it’s got a good beat, and you can dance to it, but I know that Dead or Alive can do cool, creative reinterpretations of others’ songs [ref. their cover of That’s The Way I Like It]. However, You Spin Me, which is neither original or daring, doesn’t come anywhere close to That’s the Way I Like It.
- Furthermore, the lyrics play it straight. A significant number of Dead or Alive’s songs either leave the identity of the singer’s lover ungendered and/or insinuate that the singer is a dude singing about another dude. By contrast, You Spin Me has a male singer addressing someone as baby, a feminized diminutive, thus implying the male singer’s interest in a female person, i.e., heterosexual desire.
- It’s not funny. I earlier derided Dead or Alive’s lyrics as generic, but that was before I detected the sly humor at work in some of their stuff. This wryness appears in Brand New Lover, in which the peripatetic singer frankly wishes for “someone who will lie to me” and pretend not to notice his constant infidelities. Many of the homoerotic double entendres are also pretty entertaining, as when the lyrics of Something in My House wonder “what might have been / If I’d never met that wicked queen.” Queen qua regal woman or queen qua gay guy? I opt for b), given the total context of Dead or Alive’s preferred imagery. Anyway, the point remains that You Spin Me, with its simple, generic declaratives, has none of this humor.
- Even the supporting material is unusually subdued. The music video, for example, features the band mostly singing into the camera, occasionally tied up in ribbons and sometimes waving flags, with breaks to show an out-of-focus disco ball. Pretty much nothing happens in it, although we do see Pete
dancingwiggling slightly, as some people’s hands, adorned with golden nails, appear from behind him. I understand [from the Wikipedia article again] that they did this on the cheap, but it completely avoids the energetic abandon of all other music videos of theirs I’ve seen.
To summarize, You Spin Me eschews all those potentially controversial aspects of Dead or Alive’s music and image: the homoeroticism, the genderqueerness, and the tongue-in-cheek humor. The song plays it safe melodically with its homage to other artists’ hits. The lyrics describe a thoroughly average experience of heteronormative lust. The song is completely without the humorous glints of self-awareness and/or homoerotic allusions prevalent in other songs. More than that, even the music video shows Dead or Alive in a quiet, physically restrained [literally, by the ribbons!] physical presentation. Pete’s purple loungewear aside [seriously, what is that revolting thing?!], the video showcases nothing remarkable. In other words, You Spin Me gains significance for those qualities conspicuous by their absence in it, not because it has some positive greatness.
You Spin Me is both Dead or Alive’s least quintessential song and also their most popular and commercially successful. I acknowledge that some of their other songs did chart and achieve popularity, particularly in the UK and Japan, but mainstream culture regards the group as a one-hit wonder with You Spin Me as their emblem. That’s because, in the homophobic 1980s, during which people were having moral freakouts over the AIDS crisis, Dead or Alive’s ebullient, flamboyant homoerotic image, genderqueerness, and playful, funny performance of sexuality had little appeal. Only when the band toned down or even excised these aspects could they achieve a chart-topping hit.
The case study of You Spin Me suggests that the homoerotic and genderqueer aesthetics of Dead or Alive manifested in some ways as absences. They played up these aspects in many of their songs, videos, and concerts, but the presence of such tropes led to a mainstream cultural censorship. We found Dead or Alive too hard to handle in the 1980s, so we ignored them, denied them popular and commercial success, and thus absented them from widespread familiarity. When they evacuated their signature aesthetics from You Spin Me in a sort of creative absence, we rewarded them by acknowledging their existence and granting pop cultural success. These absences at play conjure up the metaphorical space of an artistic closet, a homophobic construction created when the audience willfully avoids things it doesn’t want to accept and the artists go along with it by pretending not to evince said traits.
Tune in next time when I focus my attention on Pete’s image in particular and the ways in which homophobia and transmisogyny have played out more recently in his life.
Other parts of this essay:
When I find a song that I particularly like, I play it over and over. There’s a reason I’ve referred to endless repeat elsewhere on this blog — because my new favorites go into heavy rotation. While heavy rotation in radio station terms seems to mean playing the same song once or twice an hour for six weeks, the same phrase in MW terms means playing the same song over and over, several hours a day, for two to six weeks.
I listen to song until I know every note, every silence, every enunciation and slur of the vocals, all the reverbs on the percussion, every nuance of the lyrics, every single minute detail. The song becomes so familiar that it becomes as customary to me as my own thoughts. It’s like breaking in a pair of shoes and starting off with the pinch and pain, but then making them comfortable, so that one can then revel in the pure flow of walking movement without interruption. I play the song so often that it softens and disintegrates, becoming part of me. The song melts down into background noise, an ambient sea of sounds and connotations.
Then, somehow, the song hangs around for so long, unexamined, that I inevitably bring it back for a closer look. It loops back around into novelty, whereupon I begin to inspect it more closely. Now I can compare the baseline to others songs from the same period; now I can detect the subtle, self-mocking humor at work in the words; now I can identify why I find that pitch change right there so irritating… I look at something that I haven’t thought about in a while and realize why I sent it temporarily down to another level of my consciousness, only to later retrieve it. By dint of pure unstinting sensory feed, I absorb a close understanding of the musical text.
Apparently this is not the way that the vast majority of people listen to music. Apparently this joyously repetitive immersion and breakdown overlaps a lot with the stimming practiced by neurodiverse people. Huh. So how do the vast majority of people listen to music?
Just like any other group of fetishists that doesn’t desire who or whatever they lust after so much as what connotations they afford to their fetish, so devos seem not to actually be interested in amputees themselves. Nah, instead, the devos seem to prefer a sexualized combination of immobility, helplessness, passivity, diminution, and humiliation with which they associate people with amputated body parts.
And yet — surprise surprise! — amputees are not essentially immobile, helpless, passive, diminished, and/or humiliated! They’re [gasp!] fellow human beings, with a wide variety of various temperaments, traits, skills, abilities, and inabilities, just like everyone else in the species. I have a special loathing for devos because their fetish so blatantly illustrates the objectification and dehumanization that many disabled people struggle with every damn day.
On a tangentially related subject, I remain highly disappointed that I haven’t figured out a good way to render amputees in digital, especially Fay. She has a BTK amputation of her left leg, and there are no realistic socket prostheses anywhere on the market. I’ve resorted to hiding her left leg from the knee down and parenting a lower leg from my vast collection of robots to her left thigh. This is inaccurate all the way, as well as limiting to the type of clothing I can make her wear, as I don’t want to show the unrealistic join between end of [hollow] leg mesh and beginning of metal prosthesis. I could also do with some sort of attachments that would realistically turn plug the [hollow] open ends of figure mesh to create convincing stumps, but I haven’t seen any of those either. Thhpfft.
Wolfking is issuing a 1:6 scale action figure, the Female Clown, which is a loose interpretation of Heath Ledger doing the Joker in The Dark Knight Rises. I always liked the palette of the costume, but I would have only modified the stuff to put on my favorite dolls. Thus I’m happy to see a similar palette with clothing better fitted for the type of 1:6 scale body I have the most of.
Anyway, I think this doll is pretty cool, especially her $125.00 MSRP for an entire dressed doll with accessories! If I got her, I would get rid of that wretched rooted hair and put on a fur wig, swap out gloved hands for ungloved or half-gloved, exchange skirt for short shorts, remove tie, and do something with all those bulky layers up top. Maybe I’d get rid of the blue base shirt entirely in favor of a dickie, adjust the vest fasteners somehow, and/or shorten the coat so her shorts could be seen from the rear. A top hat is also a possibility, and that headsculpt is really crying out for some bananas-and-ham makeup enhancement.
I haven’t seen anything 1:6 scale that I’ve wanted in a long time, but then this Hot Toys likeness figure of Margot Robie as Harley Quinn from recent turd The Suicide Squad came across my radar. Despite the movie being crap, this figure looks promising, at least in prototype. If the actual figure looks as decent as the previews, I would love to get a parted-out head, rip off that horrible hair for a wig, and make her a REALLY LOUD AND PERKY character.
After a hiatus because I was sick, Zombieville returns as Isabel meets up with a street activist. Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 12.3: Political Leanings
Not in my actual physical life, as I can bump and grind pretty well myself, nor in my imagination or the videos I watch, but in digital. My digital assets sorely lack poses of people dancing from the hips. Thus I had to make some my own, which involved a lot of posing in front of the mirror, telling myself things like, “Hands left! Hips right!”, going back to the computer and shoving around the model, trying to replicate the desired pose in my chair [a difficult task], watching a little Pete Burns, repeating the whole process, etc., etc. Jareth demonstrates results below. Continue reading Need more pelvic thrusting in my life.
Ever since I read someone describe a wild, unpredictable, over-the-top, and entertaining anime as “bananas on ham,” I’ve decided to use that phrase in reference to my signature style as much as possible.
Anyway, Jareth and Jennifer are on a road trip. They’re going out to eat at a fancy [?] sushi restaurant. Jareth, who is on a Pete Burns kick because his creator is on one too, is dressing up in his interpretation of whatever the heck Pete Burns is wearing in the I’ll Save You All My
Kisses Boners vid. Continue reading Bananas-on-ham Jareth all duded up for a fancy dinner out
Back when I was discussing Dead or Alive’s mischievous deployment of homoeroticism in their music and videos, I completely passed I’ll Save You All My Kisses, from Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know . I’m here to rectify this unforgivably grievous omission because, not only is the video for it hilarious, but it’s also so extremely homoerotic that I could have used it as my sole piece of evidence.
In the vid, Pete is dancing with his back to a fence, from which guys in tight jeans are hanging avidly. Steve Coy and Mike Percy patrol the ground, smacking baseball bats into their hands menacingly, presumably to keep the groupies from touching Pete. I doubt the groupies would be able to touch much, though, as Pete’s leather jacket is armored with approximately 700 zillion rhinestones, and his embossed steel codpiece/chastity belt/jockstrap thing is firmly chained to said jacket. Pete makes faces at the camera, deliberately pointing away from the groupies. The members of the audience grow increasingly excited, straddling the top of the fence and ripping off their shirts. After all this preparation, the video ends.
I have to say that, whenever I watch this video, I feel like I’m watching some crappy commercial cut edited down for length or unobjectionability. I feel like there was a moment to which all the fence climbing and baseball bat whacking was building, some confrontation between groupies and guards, of which I was tragically deprived. Phooey.
Other parts of this essay:
…is that then it’s hard to get everything about them out when I realize that I’ve gotten into, say, transmisogyny too [which is my main subject of wrath these days on account of its sneaky evil insidiousness].
Sexuality, gender, and the performance thereof are very personal right now, so it’s very easy to take what sexuality- and gender-related role models do [or fail to do] very personally.
In other words, I would just once like some role model who isn’t a transmisogynist/rapist/asshole/ disgusting pervert/disappointment.
Yes…but…no one is perfect.
My favorite Slate columnist, besides the new Prudence, is Miz Cracker, who writes occasionally for Outward, which is one of Slate’s topical blogs on people outside the heteronorm. A few days ago she wrote about the relationship between queens and activism. There’s something interesting here, but, frankly, I’m a) exhausted and b) preoccupied with Pete Burns’ pants still, so I’ll come back later, I s’pose.
Jareth and Jennifer, motoring west,
Find that the Galaxy’s condition isn’t the best.
Automotively clueless, Jareth freaks out.
Jennifer, chill, says there’s no need to shout.
The following pointless presentation
Sits below the cut for delectation.
If this ain’t your prideliction,
Go and read another section. :p
Being the second in a multipart essay on, first, the queer aesthetics of Dead or Alive, second, the effects thereof on the band, and, third, the effects thereof on Pete Burns, with AIDS panic and transmisogyny for good measure!
I previously demonstrated that Dead or Alive regularly used performance of gay male eroticism as part of their image. They also employed a more generally queer aesthetic of gender play, endearing them even less to the mainstream US. Continue reading Dead or Alive, Too Hard to Swallow — Part II — The Genderqueering
Being the first in a multipart essay on a) the queer aesthetics of Dead or Alive, b) the effects thereof on the band, and c) the effects thereof on Pete Burns, with AIDS panic and transmisogyny for good measure!
For the purposes of this essay, Dead or Alive constitutes a British New Wave dance pop band most prominent in the mid-1980s. Lead singer Pete Burns, drummer Steve Coy, guitarist Wayne Hussey, and bassist Mike Percy formed the group during their years of greatest exposure. They really hit it big with their second album Youthquake, from which You Spin Me Round Like A Record charted to 1 on the UK singles chart, number 11 in the US, and number 1 in Canada. Further albums had chart success in the UK and Japan, but never hit mainstream popularity in the US.
Okay, so…rad New Wave band with a danceable groove, fun songs, and super sexy members — what’s not to love, right? I theorize that Dead or Alive was way too hard to swallow [pun intended :p] for a homophobic 1980s United States. The societal forces of homophobia and transmisogyny militated against Dead or Alive’s US success. Furthermore, it’s arguable that the same prejudices also nearly did in Pete Burns himself.
The official music video of Dead or Alive’s In Too Deep has everything you could ask for:
- Obviously gay merman pining after Pete
- A fish tank in front of the lens about 90% of the time
- Set dressing made primarily of colored cellophane
- Lots and lots and lots and lots of glitter
- Pete Burns in a clamshell
- A WTF? ensemble from Pete Burns, featuring peach loungewear, mirrored eyepatch, and white socks
Looks nice, and I can understand the lyrics, but I like the live version from Rip It Up more.
Wow. I’m surprised that the music video for Dead or Alive’s My Heart Goes Bang Bang includes a blue handkerchief pinned to the right rear of Pete Burns’ jeans, and, as far as I can tell, no one made a stink about it.
Maybe very few people knew about the hanky code in 1985? Anyway, the hanky code, an innovation associated with gay dudes in the 1970s, developed as a way to signify predilection for certain erotic activities. The color of the hanky denoted the category of activity, and the side on which someone wore their hanky indicated what role they preferred in the activity.
To use the example of Pete Burns’ hanky in this video, dark blue refers to anal sex. Right side says that the wearer prefers the submissive/penetrated position. So, as far as I can tell, this is as obviously homoerotic as the Verlaine/Rimbaud Sonnet to the Asshole [which is exactly about what the title says, as you can tell from this very well done English translation], but I guess either people missed it and/or no one watched the video. I thought that, for sure, in the age of the AIDS panic and the Moral Majority, something like this would would cause strenuous objection.
Dead Or Alive did two concerts in 1987 for their Rip It Up release. Last night I watched an intercut of the two performances. While the video quality was grade Z, the video itself proved extremely educational. Here is what I learned:
- Pete Burns is like a combination of Freddie Mercury and Ivan Doroschuk. He’s got Freddie’s glee of staging himself and Ivan’s complete inability to stand still when singing. He also has the same tendency that both Freddie and Ivan have to let go and just start flailing in glee. Like Freddie, like Ivan, like Lesley, like Shirley, like Michael, he doesn’t so much sing as much as he emanates an irresistible combination of music, power, and joy. I will always find the tension between controlled performance and irrepressible musical abandon incredibly hot.
- There is, however, such a thing as too much Pete Burns. The camera spent way too much time on him and not nearly enough on the other band members. It’s not a solo show, people! Where’s Steve Coy [drummer]?!
- I figured out why Pete Burns’ hair is like that — all the better for whipping around during instrumentals.
- Good backup makes or breaks a concert. I’m talking, of course, about the several guys in sparkly jockstraps who were pretty much doing high-intensity aerobics for a full hour while getting manhandled by Pete Burns [hah!]. I remain irritated that I saw a lot more of them than, you know, 75% of the actual band, but I have to admit that they matched Pete Burns rather well in terms of energy and amount of sheer fun they were having.
- Concerts where people onstage take off their pants are infinitely more entertaining than the same performers on stage avec pantalons.
- If you’re really good, not to mention a little tired from all the singing and dancing, you can take off your pants during an instrumental, turn your ass to the audience, bend over, and stay like that for a few minutes. The crowd’ll go wild.
- Dead Or Alive’s lyrics and melodies are just…mediocre. Generic like hotel room upholstery. As exciting as water at room temperature. Abysmally unexceptional without the visuals. The aggressively homoerotic scene dressing works mightily to compensate. “Sure, we sound like vanilla pudding, but take a look at those guns!” Sometimes it succeeds.
- It’s a pity that the amazing vanilla has become linguistically synonymous in English with boringness, but that’s another entry…
I’ve figured out why I don’t go to the gym. All I see is people fleeing in place. The exercise rooms are conspicuously lacking in individuals like the following:
On one hand, it’s a light boppy electronic flashing 2D advertising blitzkrieg reinterpretation with vocal stylings [and general style] from Pete Burns with backup from Steve Coy! Apt fusion of style, substance, and subject, whoop whoop!
On the other hand, Dead Or Alive just works better as a complete band. I feel like the presence of the other members would have made it harder, tighter, and stronger. It needs a little more slam, bang, and twitch [“Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww wham bam thank you ma’am”? :p], also more Steve Coy looking absolutely deadpan.
Otherwise known as My List of People That I Have the Hots For and Who Are, So Far As I Know, Decent Individuals, Plus The Reasons They Are Hot. Please provide info if I am mistaken!
Shirley Bassey: Sings like magma, moves like a wave, and smirks.
Lesley Gore: Sings like magma again, obviously loves what she does, queer, feminist.
Pete Burns: Moves all body parts with a fascinating sinuousity, sings, clearly enjoys being about as hammy as a deli sandwich, has carefully curated and super creative signature style with zero fucks given about what anyone thinks.
Freddie Mercury: Magma, wave, can’t resist air-guitaring, radiates joy on stage, loves cats.
Ivan Doroschuk: Totally bad-ass image belied by flailing enthusiasm for making music, straight white cis dude feminist!
Peter Dinklage: Dry, sarcastic sense of humor, immense acting talents, floppy hair, soulful eyes, general embodiment of sexiness.
James Marsters: Good actor, thoughtful, smart, witty, seemingly humble, sharp cheekbones, nice smirk.
Robert Pattinson: Good actor, fascinating nose, tantalizing hair, entertainingly tongue-in-cheek perspective on Twilight franchise success.
Kristen Stewart: Immense acting talents, intense eyes and mouth, very few fucks given stylistically speaking, refuses to smile on command.
Janelle Monae: Immense talents in singing, doing concept albums, genderfucking, dressing snappily, and articulating her artistic philosophies.
People I Have The Hots For Who Are Problematic Individuals, Plus The Reasons They Are Problematic
David Bowie. Rapist. Racist [i.e., do not try to tell me that China Girl, both song and video, aren’t].
Kate Winslet. Rape apologist for Roman Polanski.
Emma Thompson. Rape apologist for Roman Polanski.
Tilda Swinton. At the very least, cultural appropriation in Doctor Strange.
(O_O) Now I am edified and completely distracted with lust. I don’t know where to look first — the hips, the lips, the limbs, the chins, the lips [again], the hair, the eyebrows…
Extra super amazing bonus points for the woman with the updo dancing in front of the “Keep my body strong” weight-lifting segment. Double plus bonus points for the eyebrows. Everyone in this video is having a huge amount of fun, which makes it even sexier.
Lead of Dead Or Alive = Pete Burns apparently.
I’m pretty sure that Dead or Alive spent a grand total of $5.00 on the official You Spin Me Round [Like a Record] music video, broken down as follows:
That purple thing the lead is wearing: 25c [from a garage sale]
Gold semaphore flags: 75c
Fake nails: $1.50
Hair spray: $2.50
Isabel works hard to convince herself. Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 12.2: I Don’t Need People!
Had an entertaining conversation with a kid this weekend, reproduced here in digital photostory form. The photostory is about 85% true, with the exception of the last picture, which is how I wish I could have summed up the conversation. [It actually ended with the previous panel.] The conversation also occurred with me reading Demon Lover on my front porch and the kid on the front sidewalk, but I transferred it to powerage’s Fantasy Library, which saved me the trouble of trying to approximate my front porch in digital. The Fantasy Library also has infinitely cool rolling ladders, none of which can be seen in this story, but which add a certain je ne sais quoi nonetheless. :pContinue reading Modern Wizard: causing heternonormative heads to explode since at least 1978!
Zombieville rides again in yet another episode in which Isabel stands around thinking! Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 12.1: Looking for the Others
We went to the Fourth of July book sale in Williston, a yearly extravaganza in which Alling Library volunteers stock the gym of Williston Central School with tables of books, organized roughly by category, and then stand back and let the hordes descend. The library raises money, and the horde gets cheap books. Fun for all!
This year I acquired, among other things, Demon Lover by Juliet Dark, which is either the best or the worst pseudonym for a paranormal romance novelist, depending upon which second I’m making the judgment. It combines the inexplicable fetish US authors seem to have for folkloric fairies of the British Isles with the inexplicable fetish that people from outside New England and northern New York have with small, elite, liberal arts colleges in these locations. It follows 26-year-old assistant professor of demon sex visited regularly by — you guessed it! — a sexy demon. Plot ensues.
Okay, this is cool. I’m all up for academic types running up against the fictional objects of their research actually existing. Then you get the chance for them to deal not just with reality shifting, but a particularly personalized clash thereof. You also get the chance for the academic type to apply their intelligence and knowledge to the situation at hand in a way that, one hopes, would be more interesting than the response of the average person who knows nothing about, say, sexy demons.
Well, not with this book you don’t. Instead we have the Triple B — that is, a Badly Boring Book. How do you make a book with such a cool premise a tedious slog? I’ve provided a handy numbered list below.
- Make the main character’s entire existence revolve around the male love interest in the most egregious way possible. Main Character [MC, since I can’t be arsed to recall or look up her name] studies sexy demons because one started hanging around after her parents died. She wrote a book about demon sex based on her research, and her book got her a job at Adirondack Fairy U, and now she teaches about demon sex. Her life is driven by the sexy demon, but we’re not done yet; we have to suffer through an entire book about MC’s present-day, demon-motivated activities. At this point, MC comes across as the emptiest of ciphers, with no motives, personality, or significant relationships of her own, unrelated to the sexy demon. Here we have the sexist trope of fictional woman as nearly irrelevant appendage of male love interest taken to a stupefying extremity. I remain crashingly indifferent to MC and to the sexy demon, who has predetermined the entire narrative by grooming MC since puberty to be his alarmingly devoted partner. Where’s the plot, character development, exploration, surprise, or pleasure in that? It’s uninteresting and screamingly pedophilic to boot.
- Give the main character expertise in characters like the love interest, and then prevent her from applying that expertise. MC is supposedly an expert in sexy supernaturals, but this seems to have no effect on her own experience with one of ’em. She teaches a class full of books on demon lover-like characters, but these only appear as name drops without affecting MC’s self-awareness or insight into her predicament. She knows, for example, that this type of sexy demon will eventually exhaust her with sex and kill her, but she never seems particularly alarmed. In fact, MC might as well not be an expert in sexy demons because, the one time she needs specific info on the aforesaid sexy demon, she turns not to her own research, library, or personal associates, but to the Fairy Queen, who dropped a vague passing reference to the sexy demon having been human once. The author writes many opportunities for MC to demonstrate individuality, assertiveness, or, at the very least, a fleeting modicum of original thought, and then stonewalls every single one of them. You can literally see the author forcing her ostensible heroine into passive, ineffectual, clueless twittitude, much as the sexy demon does. I’d feel sorry for the main character, but she’s not enough of a person to really merit any sympathy.
- Railroad the sexy supernatural for a significant portion of the story. For a while there in the beginning, MC and the sexy demon have rapey encounters [still not clear on whether she consents to any of this, especially as she thinks it occurs in her dreams] and subsequent dramatic conflicts. Then MC tries banishing the sexy demon, and the story just flattens out, even when a dreamy new prof appears, and MC starts getting it on with him. Of course, to the surprise of absolutely no one who has been following the moonlight imagery associated with the sexy demon, the new prof is the demon, just in human form and totally not banished at all. Yet this is incredibly boring because all MC and the new prof do is…uh… have lots of hot, consensual sex. That’s it; that’s their entire relationship. No character development! No explosions! To be clear, I’m not campaigning for persistently rapey love interests here. I’m just saying that we read paranormal romance for dramatic conflicts and sexy supernaturals, and the author provides neither for long enough so that my mind wanders.
In summary, this treatment of the demon lover trope greatly disappointed me and, even worse, bored me. Hey, even though Father of Lies disappointed me [probably even more], it approached the same subject more engagingly — in much better prose too.
I’ve had a penchant for digital fair/carnival/midway stuff ever since my first multipart digital photostory occurred at one. I thought up a really cool ride, the Tentacular Spectacular, but didn’t show it in that series, as I didn’t have a model.
Well, I just found one: Simon 3D’s Otis Carnival Fun Octopus Ride! So cool! Too bad the digital me would digitally puke after digitally riding one. I can’t stand anything more exciting than a merry-go-round or a Ferris wheel these days.
Digital stuff I collect:
- Realistic cemetery stuff
- Dead people
- Books, bookshelves, libraries
- Realistic contemporary cars
- Corsets, collars, gags
- Hilarious skimpwear
Better late than never, I suppose, photos appear on the VTDL blog. Dorothy, Jeff, and Honorine played in the sandbox!
Grim Reaper puppet clown!!!
She needs the following:
- Face paint like the Clown option for MadDelirium’s V4 Dolly character.
- Eyehooks in back of hands and top of head with frayed ribbons trailing from them.
- Blouse with some of my seven zillion skull beads as embellishment.
- Separate ruff, possibly paper, with bells.
- Jester’s cap with more skulls and bells.
- A marotte with a skull wearing a jester’s cap.
She’s kinda like Thalia and Never the Less, though subtler in both the skull department and the mask department.
I think Fritillaria is my next BJD in line for completion. Sure, Delmar’s been waiting longer, but I have Fritillaria hanging out with the other BJDs who bug me in the living room. Thus I stare at her multiple times a day, feeling guilty about her being faceless, hairless, and eyeless among her finished friends.
For BJDs who bug me:
Delmar needs faceup, hair, restringing, and tail. Faceup stalled.
Fritillaria needs faceup, eyes, wig, outfit. Temporary outfit completed, eyes acquired, along with final bloomers, stockings, and shoes. Shirt, ruff, jester cap, wig, and faceup stalled.
Mellifer needs a complete do-over. Fuck it. I’m gonna sell him.
Never the Less needs faceup, wig, clothes. Done!
Polly needs a seat belt. Stalled.
Thalia needs a shirt. Done!
Timonium needs a new wig cap and new hair. Working on wig cap. Done!
Touralyn needs a new body and clothes. Body in progress.
For Zombieville denizens:
Doctor Z needs her own body with appropriate neck. Ordered! Done!
Sylvia needs a new fat body. New base body procured and cut down. Fats need sculpting.
Note that Jareth is, of course, singing Labyrinth by Oomph! It’s no accident that the lyrics he’s quoting go [roughly], “When I penetrate your soul / And exploit you for my lust / Then I’ll blind your senses…”
Here’s Jareth showing off his new cape from Meshitup’s G2M DM Suit, which ripples better than any other cape I’ve ever seen. Set is FirstBastion’s Lost in a Labyrinth, location for much of my music video photoshoot based on the song Labyrinth. Click to enlarge.Continue reading Jareth im Labyrinth
I didn’t know until today that many of the people who died in the Pulse massacre were Latinx and/or people of color. Thus my statement about “50 of us [sic]” being killed is not really accurate. I have some similarities with the people who died, but, because of our races, our types of privilege and oppression interacted and manifested differently. My initial emotional reaction might be to take the attack personally, but it ain’t really about me; it’s about them.
I would like to add to my enraged editorial the following:
Mateen was a part of a society that promoted his murders through the institutionalized oppression of people based on sex, sexuality, and gender, the valorization of toxic masculinity, officially sanctioned anti-Muslim racism and xenophobia, institutionalized devaluation of Latinx and POC, and easy access to largely unregulated war-grade machines of death, just to name a few influences. Analysis, commentary, and action on this massacre must account for these factors if we are going to create a more humane and just future where stuff like this doesn’t happen.
…Thinking and praying alone will accomplish nothing. We need to challenge the anti-marriage campaigns and the bathroom police and rule their legal wangling unconstitutional. We need to focus on and celebrate the beauty and awesomeness of people of color and Latinx in our novels, our poetry, and our songs. We need to make movies about men who face life’s challenges with compassion and honesty, rather than blowing up everything in their path. We need to stop supporting war in and/or invading Muslim countries and then regarding the refugees as vermin. We need to enact some serious blanket bans on guns. In other words, we need to do something else besides the same old shit.
My point is not that people don’t do these activities. It’s just that rhetoric remains empty without proof in action.
Below, 49 Pieces, a mini universe photostory. Click to enlarge.
My digital T-shirt, besides being a virtual model of something I will eventually have in real life, also serves as an efficient metaphor for my raw emotional state. The graphic derives from an illustration in Juan Valverde de Amusco’s 1560 textbook Anatomia del Corpo Humano. Known as an écorché [French for flayed person], the skinless figure proved a popular way to depict human musculature. Interestingly enough, this one appears remarkably sanguine for just having peeled off his skin. He is a lot calmer than I am at the moment.
Yaaaaaaay! Another $100.00 music video by Men Without Hats, this time for Moonbeam. [$25.00 clearly went to space rental, $25.00 to safety harnesses, and $50.00 to dry ice. See commentary on Pop Goes the World video for budget breakdown on that one.]
I feel like this is what Major Tom was doing before he got strung out. :p
For comparison and contrast, see David Bowie’s also obviously cheap video for Space Oddity.
I’ve been digging the Strumbellas’ studio version of Spirits for a few months now, but recently just found a live version. It has even more passion than the studio version! [Also please note lead singer wearing socks. 🙂 ] This song feels appropriate, especially with its celebratory memorial parade in the video, in the wake of the Pulse massacre.
Now that at least 50 of us have been slaughtered in an Orlando, FL night club two days ago in the worst mass killing in US history [at least until someone else gets an AR-15 or eight and decides to go after, say, people using the “wrong” bathroom], so many public statements trot out the usual tired rhetoric, all of which I’m going to compile in a single sentence:
We don’t know why this disturbed lone wolf perpetrated such senseless and unimaginable violence, but our thoughts and prayers go out to all those people touched by this tragedy.
To hear such statements, one would think that it’s a complete mystery why this happened. Omar Mateen was completely isolated from all societal context and cultural influences. This atrocity is so puzzling that we literally cannot think about it; our minds fail when we try to encompass it. In response, we are not going to do anything except for think about all the victims and their families and wish they wouldn’t be so sad.
I have a few responses to this bullshit. First, Mateen may have operated without official connections to a terrorist group, but I object to the phrase lone wolf. That epithet implies that he came up with the idea of killing a bunch of us all on his own, which he didn’t. He was a part of a society that promoted his murders through the institutionalized oppression of people based on sex, sexuality, and gender, the valorization of toxic masculinity, officially sanctioned anti-Muslim racism and xenophobia, and easy access to largely unregulated war-grade machines of death, just to name a few influences. Analysis, commentary, and action on this massacre must account for these factors if we are going to create a more humane and just future where stuff like this doesn’t happen.
Second, the term unimaginable reeks of denial to me. Mass killings happen with such horrible regularity these days that, by now, they’re news, and they’re shocking, but they’re neither rare, nor unique, nor strange. We know how they go. They’re anything but unimaginable; in fact, we can all too readily conceive of them. We just don’t want to because then we would have to confront the horror of hatred and terror embodied in a man and enabled by the very culture we live in.
Finally, thoughts and prayers aren’t enough here. Sure, let’s wish all we want for peace on behalf of the victims and their families. However, contrary to the deleterious lie promoted by this bootstrapping culture, in which desiring something a lot automatically translates into success, thinking and praying alone will accomplish nothing. We need to challenge the anti-marriage campaigns and the bathroom police and rule their legal wangling unconstitutional. We need to make movies about men who face life’s challenges with compassion and honesty, rather than blowing up everything in their path. We need to stop supporting war in and/or invading Muslim countries and then regarding the refugees as vermin. We need to enact some serious blanket bans on guns. In other words, we need to do something else besides the same old shit.
Oomph!’s music video for the song is nothing novel, and the amount of time lavished on Marta Jandova acting like she’s in a third-rate shampoo commercial is abysmal when compared to the amount of time we see Dero Goi tied to the bed. There should be at least four minutes of the latter and two seconds of the former.
That being said, I, as usual, find Goi’s scenery chewing melodrama irresistibly hilarious, especially in this video, for some reason. I think it’s probably the bodily emphasis on his attempted rejection of the Macht of Sex: flailing, pushing, lurching.
You know, main character — if you’re slam dancing in denial, you might wish to re-examine the sources of your vehemence. I’m not advocating for a capitulative landslide here, but for the realistic appraisal of your interest in the subject, as clearly your zealous attempts at repression aren’t benefitting you.
But seriously…could the imagery in this video be any duller and more trite? And could the lyrics any further epitomize Baudelaire’s favorite trope, the Misogynist DeathSex? [Sample lyric: “Du blutest nicht genug für mich / Küss mich noch ein letztes Mal.” “You’re not bleeding enough for me / Kiss me one last time.” Implication: …Before I kill you.] Snore!
And now, for an antidote, Poi Dog Pondering’s Blood and Thunder.
Someone on MWD asked what mine was. Since I recently consulted with a Green Mountain Camera employee who came over to my house to give me advice, I have improved my studio based on some of his recommendations. The setup below includes those innovations that I recently incorporated.
As for my photography setup… I shoot in a 9×9′ room with a door and one exterior window. Walls are light cream, ceiling white, carpet navy blue. I have a single-panel, black, insulated blackout curtain over the window, and I shoot only with artificial light.
I set things up on an unfinished desk on a white cardboard flat to cover the yellow unfinished desktop. The backdrop is a folding three-panel magnetic screen, covered in canvas, to which I affix various pieces of fabric or paper with neodymium magnets. A pale blue or pale pink sheet of art paper, mounted on cardstock to stiffen it, serves as my green screen.
For light, I have two umbrella lights that are supposed to be the Kelvin of natural sunlight [hah!]. When I say “umbrella lights,” I mean two light bulbs on tripod stands with white umbrellas for shades, the whole rig of which, including stands, bulbs, umbrellas, and carrying case, cost me less than $100.00. Each is set up so that the bulb is about 5′ off the ground and the umbrella is pointing out and away from the desk. Both lights are tilted up so that they shine down on the desk from a bit above, like they are satellite dishes receiving signals from my dolls. :p Each umbrella light points in at a 45-degree angle toward the center of my set.
To set the room up for shots, I use natural light or crappy overhead light to arrange things in the set. Then I turn off the overhead light and shut the shade, making sure that it is tacked to the window frame for better darkness. Then I turn on the two umbrella lights and move them around so that they mostly cancel out the shadows behind figures. I just started with this setup, so I’m not sure if I need more light.
I currently use a Canon EOS 30D 8.2MP Digital SLR with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens and no tripod. I have a 60mm macro lens, but I don’t use it as frequently. The camera was used when I got it about 5 years ago, so it is nowhere near the latest and greatest.
As she tells Isabel, she has found one with Lumberjack. Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 11.6: Brandeis’ Home
Oh ho ho, I just unearthed my renders from the short period during which LHF went digital. Some things have changed, and some have stayed the same. Examples and commentary below. All pictures can be clicked to be enlarged, though I’m not sure you’d want to.
A followup to the list in January.
After I finish Never the Less, I find a mask for a 1:3 scale BJD that would have worked for her outer mask. It’s from Ringdoll, your friendly purveyors of the perverse. I’ve almost bought Ringdolls twice [once a Frankenstein, once a Zombie Amy], but the seller of the Frankenstein never wrote back, and I couldn’t persuade myself to fully go for Amy’s sculpted decay. I’m interested in this mask, though, partly for the novelty, partly because it has a classic ball-jointed bébé sort of look.
Hmmmm…I just got an interesting idea. I could make another masked doll with a Ringdoll Mona head and this mask over it!
Mona has long intrigued me, given my love of open-mouthed sculpts with unusual expressions. However, while I can reinterpret Araminthe’s ferocious bared teeth as general crabbiness and even Yamarrah’s protruding tongue into ice cream eating, I find Mona’s face less versatile. She’s either in pain or about to sneeze, the latter option of which would actually be a hilarious expression for a doll. I couldn’t have her hanging out in my living room, constantly on the brink of tears. However, if she wore the bébé mask most of the time, then she could at least have another expression. It would be, in effect, a faceplate, as Never the Less has.
If I decide to do such a doll, she’ll have to wait. I have several BJD projects waiting before I consider purchasing a whole new doll. Poor Fritillaria needs kitting out, and Delmar’s still in pieces!
There’s a verse in the German Labyrinth that goes:
Wenn ich in deine Seele tauche
Und dich für meine Lust gebrauche
Dann word ich deine Sinne blenden
Das Spiel kannst nur du selbst beenden
Oomph! changed the lyrics for the English version to:
When I possess your soul, I’ll say things
And use you as my personal plaything
The time will come — I’ll dull your senses
If you don’t stop, this game is endless
That is one of the most flaccid translations ever. What the hell, Oomph!? How can you translate that verse with a screamingly obvious lack of, well, oomph?
Here’s a more literal translation, courtesy of yours truly:
When I plunge into your soul
And use you for my lust
Then I will blind your senses
Only you can end this game
And my less literal translation, still a work in progress:
I’ll go deep inside your core
And I’ll use you as I please
I will blind you and benight you
Only you can end this game
See where Oomph!’s stinks? This is a verse that needs short, sharp, declarative words — concussive stuff, assaultive language, precision. But instead Oomph! goes for the multisyllables [“possess,” “personal plaything”], which, while plosive, attenuate the brief force of the German.
Also…seriously, Oomph!? You’re gonna go all generic in a verse that needs specificity? The original indicates a targeted inward strike, followed by exploitation for lust, and then a complete sensory overpowering. The speaker says exactly what’s going to happen, while, in the English, we have just a vague “possession,” during which the speaker will “say things,” followed by “dull[ing] senses.” In the original, we have complete physical and mental ruination precipitated by rape, after which comes sensory implosion. In the English, it sounds like the speaker is casually planning to set up shop inside the listener’s skull and talk about, you know, some stuff, while fucking around a little bit, which might cause blurred vision.
They’re so good with other parts of the song too. For example, Klopf klopf, lass mich rein / Lass mich dein Geheimnis sein is literally Knock knock, let me in / Let me be your secret. But the English goes, Knock knock, let me in / Let me be your secret sin, which captures not only the rhyme, but also the shame and humiliation for which the speaker is aiming. Too bad they couldn’t sustain it.
I read an essay in Smithsonian years back in which the author described childhood war games. When the author and friends were being Nazis, they used their imaginative interpretation of German. In a memorable turn of phrase, the author describes this fictional German as being made up primary of Achtung and lots of spit. Whenever I think of this, I snicker.
Given my recent NDH Ohrwurmer, the phrase Achtung and lots of spit comes to mind again. It’s actually a fair approximation of the percussive enunciations that at least Rammstein likes to use [“Rrrrrrrrrrein rrrrrrrrrrraus…”]. Oomph! does it too, but with less growling and more banging.
NDH: making German sound like a self-parody since whenever the genre developed. ^_^
This is what ensued. Continue reading I distributed my 1:3 food amongst my dolls today.
I feel quite proud of myself. I used my new [to me — found it by the side of the road a few years back] sewing machine today, successfully threading the thread and the bobbin, then hemming Thalia’s shirt. As previously mentioned, I used a pattern Lyrajean told me about — one she has used for her own BJDs. I modified it by leaving off the neck ruff and tying off the cuffs with raw fabric instead of ribbon. I also used a long piece of raw fabric as a belt, with the tails pinned like a sash over Thalia’s left shoulder.
Hooray! I have completed my first piece of 1:3 scale clothing!!!!
With regret and nausea, I’m going to suspend the assumption that Oomph! eschews Rammstein’s metric fuckton of misogyny. I mean — they’re both in the same genre [Neue Deutsche Härte, a.k.a. NDH, “New German Hardness,” or, more metaphorically, “A Good German Bang” or possibly “Teutonic Stiffie”]. Indeed, Oomph! was even seminal enough [see what I did there? <_< ] to influence Rammstein. Also they have a 2011 album called Wahnsinns fette Beute [“Insanity’s Junk in the Trunk”], so whoop de doo; I don’t particularly want to listen to that.
I really think there’s an opportunity here for NDH about something other than Misogynist DeathSex. I’m sure it exists; maybe I just haven’t found it.
Soooooooo SeventhBard and Roland introduced me and Jareth to Oomph!, a German slammer band. They don’t have the musical, uh, oomph of Rammstein, but that have tons more humor and more fun, not to mention a scenery-chewing complete hambone for a lead singer. And none of the sicko Baudelairean perverted Misogynist DeathSex [so far]!
Naturally, I downloaded Oomph!’s Labyrinth. The song and music video together are clearly the result of a bangin’ threesome between Labyrinth the movie, Alice’s Adventures Underground, and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, the sexcapades of which were then followed by a viewing of Pan’s Labyrinth and dramatic readings of Blake’s Sick Rose, as well as Dickinson’s Me from Myself — to Banish, with Rammstein’s album Mutter for a little mood music, not to mention a compendium of knock knock jokes for a chaser. Yes, knock knock jokes. ^_^
Aaaaaanyway, in the immortal words of Howard Dean speaking to the Governor’s Institute class of summer, 1994, this song grabs me where I like to be grabbed, so I’m planning an accompanying photostory. Below we have Jareth as one of the players. Please ignore the shirt intersecting with the pants and all such crap.
I just saw this article in today’s
sorry rag Burlington Free Press. It discusses an attack on a 38-year-old homeless trans man that occurred on Pine Street in Burlington near the Barge Canal.
“Why don’t you and she touch bases and find where the connection points are so we can have a discussion around how to leverage the synergy?”
Well, okay, I just heard the phrase leverage the synergy, but people are always touching base, finding connection points, and having discussions around things in my workplace, so it’s eminently plausible that this sentence has come out of someone’s mouth.
I just can’t use touch base. It sounds like a grade Z euphemism for something objectionable. Don’t touch my base! Keep your hands to yourself!
Lumberjack demonstrates kindness [?] to Brandeis. Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 11.5: You Stink
The following conversation occurred at work the other day:
MD executive [jokingly, to HR executive, holding up document]: This is like that book 50 Shades of Grey!
Me [to MD executive’s assistant]: Did he just say what I think he said?! To an HR person?!
MD executive’s assistant: Yeahhhhh…he doesn’t know what that book’s about.
Me [later, after some thought]: Did he mean that it was confusing and hard to understand, like it wasn’t black and white, but shades of grey?
MD executive’s assistant: Yup, and, while that’s technically correct…
Me: Jeez, I really hope that document wasn’t like grade Z erotica.
I expect there was some subtlety lost in translation too, as the MD executive’s primary language is not English.
And here, my dear readers, we have a great illustration of the difference between connotation and denotation. If I say in an exasperated voice, “Ugh, this stinkin’ document is 50 shades of grey!” it is eminently plausible that I’m annoyed at its endless sfumato murkiness, and I could certainly use the words to denote that — that is, to indicate it definitionally. However, such a remark now currently carries associations with certain pieces of grade Z erotica, so, even if I mean something frustratingly ambiguous, no one will interpret my remark that way.
Speaking of grey, apparently une éminence grise does NOT mean an old, respected, redoubtable person, but a power behind the throne. I always thought it referred to an old eminent person, with the grey alluding to the person’s grey hair, but apparently it refers to Francois Leclerc du Tremblay, the advisor of Cardinal Richelieu. Leclerc was technically not due the title of Eminence, as he wasn’t a cardinal, but people called him the Grey Eminence in respect to his power. The grise denotes not the color grey, but Leclerc’s beige friar robes. I guess beige was called grise back then. Makes me wonder what the French for beige was.
“And…uh…make like a trowel and hit the bricks, okay?” The immortal words of Janine, Valley Girl narrator of Esther M. Friesner’s classic short story, The Blood-Ghoul of Scarsdale, adequately sum up my response to Fox recently coughing up a teaser trailer for their rehash of Rocky Horror. The other part of my response was a barely coherent, “Laverne, nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Your makeup looks great, but noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”
I’m gonna go reread The Blood-Ghoul of Scarsdale to console myself. It’s a self-aware parody of classic horror, but at least it’s not a festering slag heap of [trans]misogyny.
Brandeis explains how she met Lumberjack. Continue reading Zombieville 11.4: Meeting Lumberjack
Before VTDL, I took advantage of the sunshine to shoot Never the Less outside our usual venue, Brownell Library in Essex Junction. Continue reading Never the Less at Brownell Library
I am currently making a digital changing room for use at one of my favorite mini universe events to recreate in digital — a kink fest. First I thought it was going to be a vintage theater dressing room with a well-lit vanity and old playbills on the walls, but I didn’t feel like spending money on this set. Then I thought maybe old circus posters, but I couldn’t fit good ones with high resolution and unrestricted reproduction rights.
And then I discovered freevintageposters.com, which has a whole section of freely reproducible circus posters. Great! I’d hit the trove for all my circus poster needs! Then I noticed that, interspersed with the circus ephemera, were ads for magic shows. Obviously, methought, magical characters partaking in an event of illusion and performance should try on disguises in room decorated with signs of sleight of hand. I began to download….
Check out the Circus/Magic category on freevintageposters.com, and you too might be hooked. The vibrant lithographs promise sensuous delights by which modern advertising’s porno gloss loses luster in comparison. Kellar will [neatly, bloodlessly, and without disturbing the accuracy of the portrait rendition] perform “self-decapitation” in “his latest mystery!” Neff’s “Midnite Ghost Show” abounds in “speed, flash, thrills, color, surprise, beauty, action,” presumably all embodied by the “beautiful girls with ‘hex’ appeal!” Thurston, “the great magician,” will leave crowds asking, “Do spirits come back?” [In an unintentionally amusing juxtapositional riposte, the archive also includes a poster for the actually truly great Harry Houdini, in which he performs “magic — illusions — escapes” and calls bullshit on “fraud mediums:” “Do spirits return? Houdini says no and proves it!” Harry Houdini, folks — skeptic, realist, and scientific realist extraordinaire!]
And, in my favorite of the bunch, the clairvoyant Alexander “sees your life from the cradle to the grave.” A lovely macabre illustration shows a skeletal hand holding a crystal ball that encompasses the sacraments of heteronormativity. There is no way the content of such a show could even begin to approach the awesomeness promised in that poster.
The tension between image and reality forms part of my fascination with these posters. Produced before rigorous standards of truth in advertising were developed, these ads make claims upon which they cannot possibly deliver, implying that the magic is real. Note, for example, that the Kellar levitation poster doesn’t even stipulate magic, just simple “levitation,” as if it’s a plain and simple fact that Kellar can shoot lightning out of his fingertips [?!] and raise someone off the ground. Note also that Alexander is billed as “the man who knows” in another poster, with no hint that he’s performing illusions based on cold reading for entertainment and diversion. In such instances, the ads raise audience expectations so high that any gaps between said expectations and the actual performances will be likely be glossed over. The audiences, hoping for spirit communications or levitation demos or whatever and conditioned by the posters to look for them, will convince themselves that they are seeing those things instead of illusions. In some way, the images perform the ultimate sleight of hand.
Isabel figures out how Brandeis ended up in Toxic Waste. Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 11.3: Lumberjack the Misanthrope
A minor key version of String’s Every Breath You Take, done by Chase Holfelder. Musically speaking, this sounds so much more beautiful and compelling than the original. Even though it’s very tonally pleasing and Christian Grey isn’t, I still deem this version his theme song because it connotes more danger, doom, and despair than the original.
Here’s my entry, based on the timeless principle that humorous interpretations are almost always an improvement over “straight” ones. ^_^
Delphinia McAllister, junior career counselor at Land-o-Fae Tech Center, shook her head. It was supposed to be a simple, straightforward final project — “When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a Woodland Fairy.” Indeed, most of the students had taken it that way [much to Delphinia’s relief], offering essays and artistic interpretations of their futures as sprites of the glade.
And then there was Rhododendron Jones. An inveterate troublemaker, she slouched in the back of the class, seeming never to pay attention. But then she’d pipe up with a snarky remark that was so on point that everyone cracked up. As Delphinia surveyed Rhododendron’s willful misinterpretation of her directions, she wondered if the kid was just a smart aleck. Or maybe Rhododendron was too smart for her?
Judging from the proud and gleeful expression on Rhododendron’s face, Delphinia surmised that the answer was a little bit of both.
I haven’t done a 1:6 scale me for years. Anneka Elizabeth was sort of one, but the one I’m thinking of is was from like 2002. It was a blond helo Jane base, customized as follows:
I used colored pencil to redo the eyebrows, widen the mouth, and add my distinctive facial moles and scars.
I sculpted short spiky hair with modeling paste, painted it ex-blond, and put glitter in it. [Glitter appeared in a lot of my customs at that stage — I also did a drag queen with individual pieces of glitter for each sparkly nail…!]
I sliced a foam earplug in half lengthwise and glued it to the crotch for the appropriate bulge.
I painted a gold band around one of its fingers and used a red bead to simulate my ruby ring [later tragically lost 🙁 ].
I repainted some clunky black Ken shoes tan to represent my most frequently worn footwear.
I commissioned Andrea to make a white poet’s blouse integrated with a black vest decorated with flames. She also made a cape. I found some black Ken pants to use for the bottoms.
Of all of these pieces, only the shirt/vest remains in my possession. [I also have lots of foam earplugs, but not glued down action figures’ pants. :p ]
A recent thread on Figurvore about 1:6 scale dolls of oneself got me thinking that, with the cheap 3-D printed likenesses available from purveyors like actionfigure2002, along with my advanced skills [?] in body mods and clothing construction, I could totally make a decent mini me!
The head would be a 3D print from actionfigure2002. I just need to get someone to take photos of me, preferably after I’ve just shaved my head. I would probably enhance the print to make it look more caricature-like.
The body would be a DML male body, preferably in the light pink skintone [as opposed to the brownish orange they seem to favor]. I’d need to hack down arms, legs, and torso to approximate my height and then break out the Aves Apoxie Sculpt for appropriate fat distribution.
I can definitely make a shirt for it. Not sure about pants.
It would actually be pretty easy!
I had the joy of writing the following phrase today: UVM Health Network Regional Transport Leadership Structure Analysis. It’s actually pretty cool the way in which English can just drop prepositions and go from An Analysis of the Structure of the Leadership of the Transport System for the Region Overseen by the Medical Center Affiliated with the University of Vermont [26 words] to UVM Health Network Regional Transport Leadership Structure Analysis [10, counting University of Vermont as three]. Sure, it doesn’t dance trippingly off the tongue, but it’s succinct and informative.
I ran my theory on Goblin Market by my learned friend, who offered the following comment:
But I also wonder if it is sort of sex mixed with religion, seeing who she is.
More like a pseudo-lesbian eucharist.
Hmmmm, the sacrament of cunnilingus? Certainly plausible.
According to Afropunk, “Mychel Beckhtold and Lucas Souza absolutely kill it, showing off their flexibility and athleticism all while wearing stilettos and crop tops.” Yes, yes, they are absolutely killin’ it. Excuse me while I feast my eyes….
This popped up in my FaceBook feed with a title about “gender non-conforming models,” but that grabs my attention less than picture 4, in which one of them is doing that “my leg is straight-up parallel to my torso” pose. That’s some contortionist/gymnast/performer level of stupendousness right there.
Hey look — people wearing outside of my head what a certain someone regularly wears inside!
I was going to write an extensive essay, with line by line analysis, about how Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market can be read as a warning to queer women not to mess around with hetero sex, as represented by the goblins. Then I decided to cut right to the chase and just present this particularly torrid passage below. Continue reading “Did you miss me? / Come and kiss me”: Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market is totally queer!
Isabel encounters Brandeis again. Where has she been? Find out! Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 11.2: Update from Brandeis
I’m currently on a digital toon kick, and I discovered this exceptionally cute toony classic car, Mr. Beep, for free over on TurboSquid. Created by squir, this is an unrigged model, but it’s so adorable that I have spent several hours this weekend breaking it up into separate morphable doors, trunk, and bumper, making more expressive eyes and movable geoshell pupils for it, and rearranging the material zones for more customization. Here are some of its new faces below. It’s so cute that I want to develop some digital photostories specifically featuring it… 😀Continue reading Mr. Beep, the adorable and pointlessly gendered toon car model
Robert Herrick writes six lines Upon Julia’s Clothes:
Whenas in silks my Julia goes
Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.
Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free,
O how that glittering taketh me!
I’ve pondered this poem for decades, mostly because the “liquefaction of her clothes” is just about the bestest description of some long, heavy, sweeping, sussurant, layered garment. Last night, however, I realized that the poem can also be easily read as a description of a man watching a woman masturbating, turning herself on, and having an orgasm.
I derive the turn-on from a crashingly literal interpretation of both the sweet flow and the “liquefaction of her clothes” — i.e., her lubricating her clothes from the intensity of her desire. The “brave vibration each way free” connotes an expansive release, reminiscent of the way that some people flail and fling all their limbs out when they hit orgasm. The “glittering” could easily be flashes of perspiration glinting as the woman exerts herself, or the shine from her wide-open eyes, or even the speaker’s dazzled perceptions.
The assumption of masturbation requires a little more explication. The poem sets the scene as one between two people, Julia and the poet. If we’re going with the orgasmic interpretation, let’s assume that Julia is somehow getting turned on. However, we have no indication that the speaker is interacting with Julia in any way that contributes to her desire [although she could arguably get off on being watched, I suppose]. Thus, for this reading, process of elimination suggests that Julia is taking matters into her own hands.
I don’t know what the pharmaceutical marketing teams are thinking when they come up with drug names like Dysport, which is an injectible drug used to treat spasticity in arms, hands, and fingers. It’s also used to temporarily remove frown lines. [Botulism toxin is everywhere these days! I really wish botulism-based drugs were covered by more insurance companies as antispasmodics.]
Dysport, like its cousin Botox, is yet another example of a great drug with a wretched name. Honestly, who thought it was a good idea to give Dysport a first syllable, dys-, that connotes something problematic or difficult, as in dysfunction [poor function], dystopia [bad imaginary future], and dysphoria [unhappy feelings]? This makes Dysport sound like either a bad port or a bad sport. Maybe they were going for homonymy with the rather outmoded verb disport [to frolic], but, since the negative connotations of the dys- prefix seem to have utterly escaped them, I really doubt that anyone on the naming committee knew about disport.
As a bonus, here is a slightly less unfortunate drug name: Gleevic. Gleevic is an extra super expensive drug used against various types of cancer, particularly chronic myeloginous leukemia. It’s an improvement over Dysport in that it has more positive connotations [hell, it starts with glee!]. However, it’s not a complete success, as it still sounds like the noise that a frog makes when you step on it.
And we’re back after a two-month hiatus! Isabel thinks about the philosophical implications of her bus pass. Continue reading Zombieville Chapter 11.1: Yellow Pass Warning
I’ve been listening to Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit because it was on Says You last weekend [in a round about songs that people know by informal titles that aren’t their actual titles — I guess people know it as Go Ask Alice]. Also for some reason I ended up at a trailer for Alice Through the Looking Glass, a sequel nobody wanted for a movie nobody liked. Pink was covering it with an interesting raw, rocky edge, but I was much too distracted by Johnny Depp’s whingeing and Sacha Baron Cohen’s scenery chewing. I have therefore been listening to the album original and then the version done live at Woodstock. In the latter, one can watch Grace Slick in all her barefoot, fringe-bedecked, frizzy-haired glory, plugging one ear with a finger, grasping the microphone tight enough to strangle it, and singing with an intensity both joyful and piercingly focused. She is the personification of groovy — she has a groove, and she’s grooving in it, and she’s amazing. [For further illustration of Grace groovin’ in her groovy groove, check her — and the whole Airplane crew — doing Somebody to Love! Wow!]
Ahhh, this is wonderful — David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly practicing in costume and like trying to dance down steps or something — you can see him saying, “Don’t trip!” and she’s saying, “Whoops — got it!” More expression in two seconds than she shows throughout the entire film. Continue reading Ahhhh, this is wonderful — David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly dancing
There’s a lot of diaphanous blue in that cape there… I can dig it. Continue reading Sparkly capes are the bestest.
You can arguably translate A Celle Qui Est Trop Gaie to To a Bitch Who’s Too Hot for Her Own Good. And then it goes into a particularly virulent permutation of Baudelaire’s favorite theme, the Misogynist DeathSex. I mean, seriously — I don’t even want to write about it — it’s that repulsive. Let’s just say that I was woefully underinformed when I made the sophomoric judgment [literally] that this individual was the best poet of the French language.
Media I can no longer bring myself to partake in:
- anything having to do with Rocky Horror
- pretty much anything by or about Charles Baudelaire the racist, sexist, classist, misogynist wonder
Okay, I’ll make exceptions for the following:
- Correspondances for the synaesthesia
- Spleen for the sheer Gothiness
- Le Revenant for evoking the dubious allure of the sexy vampire in just 16 lines
- Femmes Damnees because of the queer women, some actual character development, and the fact that I got word-drunk on it and wrote an exhaustive paper about it, and I AM IGNORING THE LAST FOUR STANZAS, OKAY?!
- La Chevelure for giving my French teachers a legit means of classroom introduction to the concept of sexual fetishes, as well as exoticism, and also for introducing me to a beautiful word that I really wish we had in English
…And stand on a path and take some panorama shots. I also need to get some panorama shots of rolling hills.
I say this because my digital backgrounds are sorely lacking. Whenever content creators make mountains, they assume that mountains = jagged, pointy rocks. They never think that mountains = rounded lumps. Thus most of my shots of people out walking don’t really look like they’re walking in the Champlain Valley of Vermont. They look like they’re out west somewhere, and it really distresses me.
Since no one seems willing to make the background images I would like to use, I have to generate them myself:
- Forest [Allen Brook Nature Trail, Tanglewood Trail, trails in Winooski]
- Rolling hills [somewhere on Route 7 between Shelburne and Middlebury, maybe also along the ridge of the Tanglewood Trail]
- Reservoir or pond [ideally Indian Brook Reservoir, but could also accept Colchester Pond]
Ideally I should do shots in all seasons, which means, if I break out the camera soon, I’m just in time for spring…
Using schm- to substitute for the first letter of the second word in a reduplication automatically makes the resultant phrase dismissive and contemptuous, neatly encapsulating, for example, my feelings about the lingering cold weather: Winter schminter!
Apparently this comes from Yiddish, where the word + sch- + [word minus first letter] concatenation performs exactly the same function.
I’ve upgraded my most-used digital characters from the Genesis 2 Female base model to the Genesis 3 Female base model. The G3F model benefits from a vast array of facial “bones” that make subtle nuances of facial asymmetry and expressions easily achievable. This is mostly awesome!
I can make the model have all sorts of expressions, but I just can’t make it smile convincingly. The top lip doesn’t roll up and thin easily, and the corners of the mouth don’t become as deep and as pointy as they need to.
On the other hand, the Genesis 2 Female has expressions based on hand-crafted morphs. Some of my favorites include the correct nuances of lip flexion in smiles, creating results on G2F that G3F can’t come close to.
Here’s an example:
Miscellaneous thought 1: My identification of Lucian as a psychopomp owes much to my own psychopompic story character, Lucian, who pesters Ellery over in Me and My Muses. [Insert link to his first appearance in the comic, during which he utters the immortal lines, “Hello, my name is Lucian. Let’s have sex.” Actually, I’m much more a fan of “Ta dah! Now let’s do the horizontal mambo!” myself, which comes in the episode after. But I digress.] Interestingly, though, given that I first read Father of Lies when it was published in 2011, i.e., before I started working on Me and My Muses, my Lucian quite possibly owes something to Turner’s Lucian.
Miscellaneous thought 2: Lucian could be an imaginary character and function of Lidda’s mental illness, or he could be an actual supernatural entity who has chosen to associate with her. I have to admit that the possibility of him as an actual supernatural entity would help to explain some of the odd implications of previously quoted statements. For example:
- P. 4: “It is lonely here… I yearn for warmth…to be in a living being…” Possible implication: He’s a discarnate spirit looking for a host.
- P. 114: “I have knowledge beyond your wildest dreams, you poor child, stuck in this backwater of a town.” Possible implication: He’s much more widely traveled, urbane, and experienced than Lidda could imagine.
- P. 118 [when Lidda asks where he comes from]: “That does not matter. You do not need to know that.” Possible implication: He’s a being separate from her who wishes to keep his true origins a secret.
Of course, I do not think that Turner supports a supernatural origin for Lucian. For one thing, Turner shows that Lidda’s universe contains no magic whatsoever. Despite the Salem residents’ claims of magical persecution and spectral torment, Lidda perceives that conspiratorial human malice drives the panic. Turner’s materialist, societal explanation of the witchcraft outbreak implies that any other supposedly supernatural phenomena in the book — i.e., Lucian — may also be adequately explained as functions of human behavior.
Second, Turner argues more directly that Lucian is a figment of Lidda’s mind, rather than a magical being possessing her. In fact, Lidda herself gestures toward this idea when she compares her “fits” to those of the accusers, concluding that the accusers’ come from external cues [i.e., secret gestures to coordinate behavior or the influence of ginned-up xenophobia], while hers come from “within” [p. ????] — that is, from inside her. Furthermore, Turner’s afterword, About Bipolar Disorder, notes that hallucinations symptomatic of the disorder may have a “dark, demonic appearance” [p. ??????]. A threatening presence [at least at first] in Lidda’s life that most people around her would deem devilish, Lucian fits the description perfectly of a sinister illusion. He’s not an unreal, magical demon. He’s a real, imaginary hallucination.
Miscellaneous thought 3: This book isn’t perfect, of course, but several things keep me coming back: Lidda’s overall dignity as a mentally ill person, Lucian as the quintessential psychopomp, the strong, ambivalent relationship between them, and, finally, the writing. Whatever her failures with historical accuracy, Turner sure knows how to write well. Her style remains clear and straightforward throughout, but she constantly hits grace notes when she evokes Lidda’s perceptions in immersive clarity. [Check out Lidda’s first full sight of Lucian, which I quoted in part III, or her synaesthetic experience of colored music, which I quoted in part IV.] The specificity and immediacy with which Turner transmits her protagonist’s sensations facilitates the reader’s sympathy for and identification with Lidda. Ultimately the good writing subserves Turner’s overall characterization of Lidda as unusual [because mentally ill], but also understandable [because human — just like the reader], and thus contributes to the book’s strengths.
Miscellaneous thought 4: Since historical Salem, Puritans, and witchcraft outbreaks represent Turner’s largest failures, I think Father of Lies would be greatly improved by changing the setting to the present day. All the well-done elements could remain essentially the same, and it wouldn’t be that difficult to find some other repressive bullshit for Lidda to speak out against. If Turner wanted to sustain the socio-religious conflict, Lidda could be a child of evangelical, Dominionist Christians objecting to the limited possibilities available to her as a young woman. Or she could involve herself in intersectional feminism and the Black Lives Matter movement. She could agitate for anti-racist causes on account of debates on Islamophobia and increasing numbers of refugees. Hell, she could even propound the truly radical notion that trans people should be allowed to use the bathroom. [You can see where my interests lie… :p ] She could be the exact same person chafing at the exact same prejudices in the community around her, and we could even have the exact same ending of her running away from home and Lucian coming back. However, there could even be a realistic glimmer that she might survive and even thrive — perhaps not in her culture of origin, but in some other subculture. If Turner wanted, she could create a more convincing hopeful conclusion.
Monica Hesse writes in the Washington Post about Kelsey Beckham and their non-binary or agender gender, as well as their relationship with their mom. And of course this story is covered by a staff writer for the Style section because that’s where all the discussion of people who aren’t straight white cis rich dudes should go. Hisssssssssssss.
Whenever I see pretty much anything by powerage or Exnem, I’m like, Damn — that’s gotta chafe! I certainly understand that one of the main points of digital is that it don’t chafe. I mean, heck — that’s why I have a whole section of my digital wardrobe devoted to fetishy stuff. But it tends to be more like models of things I’ve seen in real life, as opposed to stuff like, uh, this [Exnem’s G3F Spike and Chain].
Wtf is that? I mean, I know what it is, and it looks like a disaster waiting to happen. Just about as useful as putting buckles on underwear. Whyyyyyyy? I guess injury by clothing is t3h sexx0rs. Or something.
Been listening to some New York Dolls, the eponymous album only, in the last few days. Also been trying to figure out what’s going on in Frankenstein, since I can only understand about 50% of the words, and it drives me up the wall. Let’s see if I can follow along with the lyrics…
We start off in New York City. Something [bad] must have recently happened. All the kids are fucked up. Probably has something to do with Frankenstein.
The person to whom the speaker is singing used to be pretty cool, dancing, tripping, figuring out what was what. Behind that nonchalance, though, lurked the listener’s sense that Frankenstein would start controlling their life.
So now Frankenstein’s back, trying to run the listener’s life, telling them that everything they’re doing is wrong. The listener feels like shit because of Frankenstein’s treatment and takes it out on the local scene, trying to manipulate it in the way that Frankenstein manipulates them.
Is it wrong to fall in love with someone like Frankenstein? Maybe the listener could use a friend. Sure, Frankenstein might be misunderstood, but still — he makes the listener feel trapped in their own home.
The listener knows they’re not alone, right? Even though the role doesn’t quite fit, even though the listener’s gonna get it, the speaker can’t keep quiet. It’s time to scream this story in the streets.
The speaker concludes with a single serious question: Does the listener really think this is going anywhere?
Hmmm, okay, now I clearly understand what the song’s about. Looking at the lyrics, I read it as a description of an abusive relationship, as observed by the sympathetic singer. The singer contrasts the listener’s earlier, pre-Frankenstein happiness with their behavior since meeting the nasty Frankenstein. Desperate and control freaky, the listener seems to be using Frankenstein’s own tactics on their social circle. The speaker perceives that the listener feels some sort of attachment to Frankenstein, but also feels lonely and oppressed. The speaker says that it’s okay to have friends besides Frankenstein and foresees nasty events in the listener’s future. Even though they love Frankenstein, Frankenstein ain’t ever gonna love them back.
The Wikipedia article on the album offers interpretations of the song about Frankenstein as New York City itself, working a transformative number on naive young people who flock to it.
My friend drew a portrait of Jareth looking kind of like a cowboy. He and I liked the results so much that I reinterpreted them digitally. Continue reading Just a touch of the cowpoke…
Fairyland recently blogged a preview of its new FairyLine 60 line. The preview includes shots of a 60cm mermaid with an articulated tail in lovely translucent yellowish-brown resin. The number of tail joints seems to be greater than that of Soom’s mermaids, but less than that of Asleep Eidolon’s. I’m indifferent to the generically pretty head, so I’d definitely swap it out for something cooler, like an AOD Hui Xiang.
So there’s a 1:3 scale mermaid in my near future….
There are at least three of them beyond Jareth’s B&E, and most of them occur to Sarah. Continue reading More rape scenes in Labyrinth
I detest characters who think that no means yes [fuckin’ Lovelace… >_> ], but I must admit I have a special depth of hatred for characters who manipulate others’ ambivalence.
For example, in no particular order:
- Christian Grey. As I’ve discussed ad nauseam [most recently here], Ana thinks Christian’s pretty hot. However, he also terrifies her. Christian gives exactly zero shits about Ana’s terror. He assumes that her lust for him means that she wants him. He equates the presence of her lust with consent to sexual activity. Thus, in his mind, he is perfectly justified in raping her.
- Frank from Rocky Horror. In my discussion of rape scenes I’ve missed, there are successive parts of RHPS in which Frank rapes both Brad and Janet. Both of them express distress in these scenes, as well as some indications that they’re turned on. Some twisted logic in Frank’s mind, same result.
- That pervert in that movie who’s obviously watching that girl’s house, just waiting for her to give him an excuse to break, enter, scare her, and wangle her into his mind games. [Which movie? Find out below the cut.]
I have a particularly violent loathing for scenes according to the following template:
Protagonist [all by herself]: Hmmmm, should I do make this statement?
Protagonist: I really shouldn’t.
Protagonist: I mean, it’s not very nice…
Audience: Don’t say it!
“How about Sam Antic and the Semantics?”
“Mmmm, too obscure.”
“Is that legal in this state?”
“Floating Signifier and the Semioticians.”
“Now you’re just trying too hard.”
After having read Clarissa, which handled the whole rape
scene plot in a frighteningly realistic manner, I repair to 50 Shades of Pooooooooo, chapter 12, location of a rape scene that I’ve apparently missed all the times I’ve looked at it. Continue reading 50 Shades of Poooo, book 1, chapter 12: not missing it this time
…When I miss the rape scenes because I’m so inculcated, acculturated, and inured to depictions of normalized sexual assault that I gloss over them as examples of…well, not unproblematic sex, but at least not-rape scenes.
Rape scenes I have missed:
- The bit in Rocky Horror where Frank tricks Brad into sex by pretending to be Janet and Janet into sex by pretending to be Brad.
- The one in chapter 12 of 50 Shades of Poooooooooooo. Hat tip to Cliff Pervocracy for identifying and deconstructing it.
I’m reading them from Clarissa’s perspective, in which all the women should be respected and allowed to live their lives on their own terms, without the male characters steamrolling them and assuming that the women really, truly want their hot bods, even if they express ambivalence or lack of interest. Let the women make up their own minds without being coerced.
Meanwhile, other people, who enjoy them much less critically, are reading them from Lovelace’s perspective. This point of view, in which intent is magic and we can obviously skip all the negotiation because they both know that, deep down, she really wants it, has a powerful hold on people, but…but…it’s just not how the world works.
…is not actually the rape scene, in my opinion. It’s the scene in which [yet again] Clarissa has escaped Lovelace’s clutches and found refuge in some nice person’s house.
Lovelace finds out where she is and barges in. He claims that Clarissa is his wife. In excessive anger over a disagreement, she, the silly thing, is now denying their marriage. He has, however, come to take her home now.
Clarissa, understandably vibrating with fear and barely able to support herself at the sight of her jailer and abuser coming after her [yet again], says that she is not his wife. He is not her husband. He’s vile, horrible, contemptible, and mean, and she wants nothing to do with him.
And the women who stand between Clarissa and Lovelace, guarding Clarissa, don’t know what to do. They hold their ground in compassionate defense of the obviously terrified and distressed Clarissa. And yet they can’t dismiss Lovelace out of hand. He has cleverly predetermined the situation so that every statement of Clarissa’s may be interpreted as the unreasonably incensed blather of a hysterical wife. Plus he’s a straight white cis aristocratic dude, and, just as the women are used to deferring to him and his ilk, so he is used to receiving deference.
That, right there, is the horrifying crux of Clarissa: the realization that straight cis white rich dude privilege may be employed to break links of compassion, altruism, and resistance so that even allies start thinking that they should betray each other for a man’s favor. It’s this sort of scene that demonstrates the chilling omnipotence and inevitability of straight cis rich white dude privilege.
In such a setting, Clarissa’s choice to opt out of the toxic system entirely by dying appears less like the Instructive Apotheosis of Virtue and more like The Only Thing She Really Could Do. I pretty much loathe Heroine Deaths for the Promulgation of Moral Sentiment, but I can accept Clarissa’s death because, besides being morally sentimental, it arises straight out of Clarissa’s character, conflict, and setting. She chooses to die because, as the bulk of the novel demonstrates, it’s the sole action she can take on her own terms. It’s not a happy ending, obviously, but, given the fictional universe and its populace, it’s right and fitting and good. [The happy ending is when Lovelace dies. > :p ]
No one really knows how long Samuel Richardson’s epistolary novel Clarissa, first published in 1748, is. The exhaustive story of a young rich white woman’s struggle for self-determination is, however, considered the longest novel in the English language. If you’d like to follow the story, I’ve modernized, condensed, and dramatized it for you in a single blog post below! You’re welcome. Continue reading I finished an abridged version of Clarissa last night.
From here, with my commentary.
- The middle of the road is the best place to stop your car and take pictures of the leaves! We like to complain about leaf peepers as much as we complain about the weather. We’re also sometimes uncertain why they’re taking pictures of the leaves and why, if they like them so much, they just don’t take them back with them.
- Who are those two guys that started that ice cream company? Ben and Jerry! We’re still sad that they sold out to Unilever.
- I’ll take all of my groceries in plastic bags, please. This is implying that Vermonters tend to go for paper bags, their own bags, or no bags, but I dispute this, having seen plastic bags in use ubiquitously.
- What’s your area code? ‘S’all 802, buddy.
- You should probably shave your beard. I guess we don’t remove our facial hair here?
- I wish more people would get married in rustic farm barns. “Rustic farm barns” is a tridundant phrase; we just call them “barns,” and they’re not some vintage shabby chic wedding destination in our view. If we’re talking wooden barns, those are the dilapidated structures all over the state that people either use as makeshift garages/sheds or just allow to slowly decompose by the side of the road.
- I’d love some vanilla soft serve. It’s a vanilla creemee, not “soft serve,” and local tradition decrees that it [and any other flavors] must be advertised via large, handmade wooden cutout of a creemee in a cone.
- I need something to put on my pancakes. Please pass the Aunt Jemima. We don’t use racist water, sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, here. We use what comes from sugar maples — so-called “REAL maple syrup,” the adjective being there to distinguish it from the swill that almost everyone else in the country counts as syrup.
- No, I don’t know any farmers. Most of us know farmers…
- You just moved here from Connecticut? Oh, you are definitely a Vermonter now. People who have moved here from out of state are called “flatlanders.” We tend not to consider people Vermonters unless they were born here, along with their parents, etc.
- I bought so much stuff at Target today! We have no frickin’ Targets in this state, but plenty of Wal-Marts. What gives, Target?
- There is no such thing as Champ the Lake Monster. We take our cryptid seriously.
- I don’t own any flannel. Better statement: “I don’t dress in layers.”
- Did you see that great billboard advertisement on I-89? We don’t have billboards in the state, so we always experience the shock of their ugliness whenever we cross the borders.
- I never run into anyone I know! Vermont: a small town cleverly masquerading as a state.
- I’ll pass on the craft beer; just toss me another Bud. Microbreweries proliferate.
- I’ve never met anyone who smokes weed. I guess it’s ubiquitous, like real maple syrup.
- I don’t eat organic food. I guess it’s ubiquitous, like real maple syrup.
- This restaurant only serves local, farm to table food? No thanks. Locavore and farm-to-table movements have great support here, to the extent where we assume that all locally based restaurants should participate.
- What’s a fiddlehead? It’s the unripe, rolled-up frond of certain types of fern, edible steamed or in salad.
- Vermon-T. We swallow the T and insert a glottal stop.
- Moun-T-ain. Insert glottal stop instead.
- Spring is the season that comes right after winter. Nope, that’s mud season.
- The weather here is so predictable. The only thing predictable is that we complain about it.
- Rain in January? Yes! January is statistically our cold month; though we may have some rain for January thaw [or at least we did when our weather was more regular], we tend to get lots of snow then.
- You have gluten intolerance? Good luck finding a restaurant to eat at. We apparently have lots of gluten-free options.
- We are proud supporters of the University of Vermont football team! UVM doesn’t have one. We’re all about hockey instead.
- You’re from New Jersey? Wow, that’s so cool! Flatlanders…! >_>
- Let’s leave the beer brewing to the professionals. See statement on Bud.
- Let’s go to Stowe for an inexpensive weekend getaway. Stowe is not cheap at all!
- I’ll just quickly run into the store and grab what I need. I won’t talk to anyone, promise. See “small town” comment.
- No more kale! “Eat more kale!” [Corollary: HISSSSSSSSSSS to Chick-Fil-A.]
- The leaf peepers are leaving for the season? Nooooooooo! See comment on taking pictures of leaves.
- I wish my neighbors lived closer. They live so close that they won’t go away.
- I hate that we have to drive so far to go hiking. Getting anywhere is pretty much a hike.
- Let’s move to Massachusetts! Some of us moved to get away from Massachusetts and have no desire to return.
- I think I’ll just stay inside all weekend. We tend to like to frolic outside.
- It’s snowing out, looks like school is going to be closed. Snow does not necessarily guarantee school closure; lots of ice and crappy back roads, however, tend to shut it down.
- What’s Town Meeting Day? It’s when the local government gets stuff done.
- Phish got started in Vermont? I had no idea. We tend to have some idea.
- I sure wish there were more Subarus in this parking lot. Four-wheel drives like Subarus really help in the winter.
- People go on vacation here? Really? Why? Some of us have deep, unreasoning love for this state.
- The air is so dirty. I guess it’s cleaner than other places, but it’s really not that great over all.
- This state has nothing going for it; I think it’s time to leave. “Deep, unreasoning love.”
- Bernie who? The politician we’ve all been on a first-name basis with since the 1980s.
Jareth with anime hair and what may or may not be a shirt, depending on your definition of the word… Continue reading The power of the anime hair!!! or, What, philosophically speaking, is a shirt?
Never the Less made her debut at today’s VTDL meetup. I posted her photostory below, while the full complement of VTDL photos is, as usual, on the blog. Continue reading Vermont Doll Lovers St. Patrick’s/Easter meetup, 03/12/2016
Welcome, folks, to part IV of my enumeration of the strengths and weaknesses of Ann Turner’s YA novel of Salem witchcraft accusations, Father of Lies. Though Father of Lies founders under loads of anachronisms [particularly protagonist Lidda’s feisty feminism and her imaginary friend Lucian’s shirtless sex appeal], it accomplishes things that I have rarely seen in fiction. For one thing, Turner treats Lidda with respect and empathy, instead of the rank ableism seen in so many descriptions of people with mental illnesses. For another thing, Lidda’s relationship with Lucian depicts the exhilarating, ambiguous messiness of having a guide/guardian/friend/pest/sex object character in one’s head.
Though Lucian manifests as he does in large part because of Lidda’s mental illness, I’m referring to exhilarating, ambiguous, messy characters more generally. I’m talking about Lucian as one of those characters created by people — who may or may not have mental illnesses — in a desperate attempt to learn more about themselves. Let’s call them psychopomps, after those supernatural entities supposed in many religions to guide a dead person’s soul on its travels from its body to the realm of the dead. Anyway, when creators like Lidda personify unknown aspects of themselves as psychopomps, they can only go so far with their characterization. After all, we can’t delineate in detail what we don’t know about ourselves. We thus end up with imaginary people encompassing our unknown aspects and, as such, behaving in ways that we can’t fathom. Their unexpected actions and obscure [at least to our conscious minds] motivations make these characters seem like independent, separate beings. The knowledge that they provide can bring comfort and a sense of security. At the same time, their apparent otherness destabilizes the order that they were ultimately created to support. Throw some experimentation with sexuality and/or gender identity in there, and it’s an ambivalent whirl of excitement and panic. Turner never explicitly identifies Lucian as a psychopomp, but he acts just like one.
Lucian works as a wish fulfillment for Lidda. For example, he represents himself as older, smarter, and wiser than her. He sets himself up as a subversive teacher, claiming, “I have knowledge beyond your wildest dreams, you poor child, stuck in this backwater of a town” [p. 114]. In this way, he functions exactly as Lidda wants. Scared and confused by her unique perceptions, she wants to know why they occur, where they come from, and what they mean. She wants to be understood and to understand herself. Lucian, who implies that he has a handle on everything and a particular investment in Lidda learning his skills, is the ultimate wish fulfillment for a 14-year-old girl who has heard all her life from authority figures that she should sit down and shut up. In other words, he’s a person with power who treats Lidda as someone with potential and promise of her own.
Though Lidda gives Lucian traits of her fantasy authority figure, he’s mostly her match, her equal, her counterpart. To illustrate this, Turner makes him similar, but not identical, to his creator. Lidda experiences the world less through language, analysis, and word-based thought and more through full-body perceptions of sensation. In a particularly illustrative scene, she thinks of Lucian singing, but she’s not really paying attention to the content of his song, so much as what it looks like: “Lidda felt the notes slide down her arms and legs, and circle up through her head; they had colors like sky birds — orange, yellow, blue, purple, and a kind of green almost beyond imagining, like the tiniest, brightest, newest leaf just before it unfurls, all curled in upon itself. That kind of green” [p. 151]. She concentrates on what words feel like and look like. Lucian has his own linguistic interests, but more based on semantics [e.g., what his name means]. Lidda senses intuitively when people are propagating bullshit around her, and Lucian gives her the words to precisely call it out. When they get along with each other, they form a team that gives Lidda enough confidence and courage to make her voice heard amidst the clamor of the witchcraft outbreak.
Even Lucian’s manipulative button pushing rings true for psychopompic characters. Lucian reassures Lidda that, whatever’s rotten in the state of Salem, it has nothing to do with her vaguely preternatural ability to detect bullshit and everything to do with feuding villagers lathering each other up into senselessness. Thus he turns her sense of isolation into a virtue of analytical detachment. At the same time, he urges her to laugh, dance, and behave in ways that earn her censure. In other words, he sometimes gives her a sense of comfort and security that she craves, while simultaneously provoking her to actions that make her feel frustrated and humiliated. His alternating niceness and snideness correlate to his status as both known and unknown creation. Lidda made him to help her make sense of the world; when he gives her answers, she looks on him favorably. However, when she reaches the limits of her knowledge, Lucian highlights her ignorance and seems nasty and arrogant. Being a part of Lidda, he knows exactly how to flatter her and make her feel good, but he also has enough intimacy to know where she’s most vulnerable, so he knows as well how to wound her. And yet she made him have what she wants — “truth and lies…and the wit to tell the difference” [p. 39] — so, even though he regularly irritates and unnerves her, she can’t stay away from him.
The cracks in Lucian’s facade of masterful superiority also help to characterize him as Lidda’s psychopomp. My favorite exposure of his limitations occurs when Lidda asks where he comes from. As Turner puts it, “There was an answering silence, then something that sounded almost like a cough, and a muted reply: That does not matter. You do not need to know that” [p. 118]. This is a moment that’s at once hilarious, pathetic, and realistic. It’s hilarious because, at least for a moment, Lucian quits acting like some omnipotent, omniscient magical being and suddenly comes across as an fallible person who’s embarrassed and possibly ashamed about something. It’s pathetic because, being part of Lidda, he obviously partakes of her self-examining anxiety, but, even though she bares the inside of her head to him, he doesn’t reciprocate. Instead, he keeps from her the source of his perturbation. Finally, it’s realistic that he avoids answering Lidda’s inquiry about his origins because Lidda, who made him, has no idea what said origins are. She can’t answer the question that she created Lucian to answer, so of course he’s going to squirm out of a point-blank response.
As a figment of Lidda’s mind tasked ultimately with helping Lidda [though his methods often seem infuriating and questionable], Lucian works desperately on her behalf to assuage her worst fear: that she’s going to be alone forever. When her mental illness causes her suffering, it literally separates her from the rest of the world. At several times in the novel, she tries to escape hallucinations by running outside, away from the dinner table and her family to the outhouse. To put it another way, at her most miserable, Lidda sits in a stinking shit heap, sobbing, overwhelmed by inarticulate confusion that she can share with no one. Thus Lucian’s first words — “It is lonely here… I yearn for warmth…to be in a living being…” [p. 4] — basically describe the chill sense of divorce with which Lidda associates her lowest points of depression. Because he’s part of her, he knows exactly what such excruciating despair is like.
Like Lidda, Lucian has no interest in remaining in a frigid shit heap, so he does everything he can to ensure that he and Lidda avoid such a fate. That’s why he says to Lidda, “Yes, girl, I am here, with you always” [p. 56]. She fears being alone, with its stench of sadness [and shit], so she makes up someone who, even though he doesn’t always answer her summons, proves a more constant companion than the fickle townsfolk. That’s why he says, “I do not wish you to marry. …Because you belong to me” [p. 38]. Realistically speaking, if Lidda did not marry, she would end up without a husband, without the opportunity to have legitimate offspring, without children, without a family — in some sense, she would be without context, without identity, without a place in her Puritan society. On the margins of the community, she would face general suspicion, disapproval, and a certain measure of ostracism. Single life would bring some of the loneliness that threatens her so much. Terrified by that possibility, she tries to change it from a negative absence of family, friends, and community support to a positive presence of an internal companion, guide, and friend. Lucian is such a strong, vivid creation in part because Lidda wants so much not to be alone that she attempts to make herself a friend out of a piece of her mind.
As Father of Lies closes, Lidda interrupts the hearings at the Court of Oyer and Terminer, describing the witchcraft outbreak as not Devil-induced suffering, but lies wielded on purpose by people who want to harm others. Fearing that she will bring accusations of witchcraft upon herself or, at the very least, that she will subject her family to ignominy if she stays, she runs away from home. She plans to travel on foot to Boston and obtain “a position in some household” [p. 235]. Her brother gives her a little money to help her. Lucian, who has been absent for a while, reappears, congratulating her for her bravery, and — scene.
In other words, at the end of the book, Lidda separates herself from her family and social supports. Now on the aforementioned margins of society, she faces an uncertain life. With “a strange excitement,” Lidda contemplates the possibility of being herself, “with no one to criticize her” [p. 235]. However, the fact remains that her worst fear — solitude — has come to pass. Furthermore, since her behavior has reduced her already limited prospects as an unmarried young Puritan woman in Massachusetts Bay Colony, her chances for an expansive, uncensored, liberated existence remain dubious. I think Turner is trying for a happy ending here, but I don’t buy it.
Over in my [cynical] head, I imagine that the book stops at this particular moment because Turner doesn’t want to look several years into the future. In a few years, Lidda may have found a place as a servant, but her masters abuse her physically and emotionally. Upon perceiving her symptoms of mental illness, her masters berate her as “distracted in her wits,” which was the term back then for being mentally disturbed. The family she works for claims that no one else would accept such an unreliable worker, and they use her fear to keep her with them as a convenient punching bag. Dancing, laughing, and speaking up now seem like luxuries for Lidda, who expends more effort on mere survival. Lucian no more promises delights, but he does teach her skills of dissociation, which help with the pain. At the same time, even though she vowed in the past not to consider it, marriage to a fellow servant ten years older is looking good. He lacks any sort of “spirit,” as Lucian would say, but he’s unobjectionable, and he has nearly saved up enough to strike out on his own. Right now, that looks like the best she can hope for. The [much more realistic] end.
Failure and disappointment abound on multiple levels here. First of all, Richard O’Brien is apparently an essentialist transphobic stinker who thinks he knows what people are better than the people themselves.
Second of all, Gay Star News, source of the subject line of this post, completely misses the actual story. The actual story is not that Richard O’Brien disappoints people. The actual story is that Richard O’Brien ranks right up there with Germaine Greer in transmisogynist bigotry. They’re locked in deadly serious competition for who can drag the worst concepts from the 1970s into the 2010s.
As a related aside, O’Brien’s statements illustrate the direct connection between transmisogyny and queer coding, at least in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. As I have noted elsewhere, queer coding is a process whereby a fictional character, almost always an antagonist, is loaded with stereotypical signifiers of non-heteronormativity as a way of making them look even worse. Male characters typically suffer queer coding in the form of caricatures of femininity.
In RHPS, the original script and lyrics to which were written by transmisogynist extraordinaire O’Brien, Frank, l’antagoniste, is queer coded through a performance of negative femininity. Just too much in all the wrong ways, Frank wears too much makeup and too little clothing. His heels are too high, his reactions too hammy and unhinged. Excessive in vanity and overly voracious in sexual appetite, he epitomizes the worst traits associated with femininity. Because he’s too femme, he’s seen as silly, vapid, and trivial. Queer coding makes him more contemptible, demonizable, and dehumanizable.
Besides reducing antagonists and making them easier to dislike, queer coding can even go further and narratively justify bumping off an antagonist. Frank ends up so overdetermined with transmisogynist traits that the characters easily move from despising him to killing him. Riff Raff [who is, significantly, played by O’Brien] connects Frank’s queer coding with his demise in the following lines: “Frank N. Furter, it’s all over / Your mission is a failure / Your lifestyle’s too extreme.” For “lifestyle,” read “gay lifestyle,” and the queer connection becomes apparent. Queer coding thus contributes to a variant of the trans panic defense, in which the movie would like you to believe that Frank was asking to be murdered because he was just so…well, you know!
Anyway, it’s sure nice of O’Brien to make his rotten transmisogyny so obvious. It makes pointing out the multifarious problems of RHPS way easier.
Anyone who pulls the “It’s just a movie” riposte clearly has never hated themselves for years and years after watching queer coded antagonists contend with vast amounts of narrative transmisogyny.
I rescind my “trans yay” tag, applied several years ago to a discussion, also on Gay Star News [and also with an inaccurate tag line], about Richard O’Brien’s supplemental hormone use and statements about himself.
Welcome back to the third part of my extensive rant about Ann Turner’s Father of Lies, a YA historical fiction novel about a teenager, Lidda, with mental illness and a very interesting character inside her head, Lucian. This book does some things horribly and other things excellently. As I’ve detailed, Turner’s version of 1690s Salem during the witchcraft outbreak falls apart under multiple anachronisms. At the same time, the author gives Lidda and Lucian dignity and seriousness almost never granted to fictional people with disabilities, especially when said people are written about by authors without disabilities. Reading Father of Lies is an exercise in frustration, as it’s the novelistic equivalent of the little curly-haired girl of nursery rhymes. When it’s good, it’s very, very good, but, when it’s bad, it’s horrid!
Sometimes, just to put my poor emotions through the wringer, Father of Lies manages to be very, very good and horrid simultaneously, mostly as far as Lucian is concerned. As Lidda’s most active hallucination, he shares her restless contempt for the restrictions of her small-town life, as well as the repressive model of Puritan femininity to which Lidda is supposed to adhere. At the same time, he crystallizes Lidda’s often-inchoate tendencies toward physical rebellion [dancing, tree climbing, not wearing her stays] into an articulate stance of license in all respects. He mocks the villagers’ petty, dissembling behavior; he pushes Lidda to speak out in favor of the truth. He even challenges Puritan religious orthodoxy when he asserts that he has nothing to do with God and then helps Lidda to the conclusion that witches do not actually exist. While he directs her fidgetiness into intellectual rebellion, he also adds sexual aspects to Lidda’s disobedience, as, for example, whenever he appears half naked and then comments that she would look good naked [“You would like being naked, girl. No stays or petticoats to trap you like a snared rabbit” (pp. 102-103)]. In response, Lidda views the smart, sly, sexy, borderline blasphemous Lucian as a private ally, imperceptible to everyone except herself, and spends a lot of time trying to figure him out and please him. His running commentary on her experiences and her disputes with him form the entertaining, engaging core of the book.
As the overview in the previous paragraph intimates, I think Lucian is a wonderful character, but he also has serious flaws in his construction. Just as Lidda is essentially modern into her proto-feminist critique of Puritan beliefs and culture, so Lucian seems to have time traveled from the 21st century back to the tail end of the 17th, a fact most apparent when you take a look at his appearance, described in breathless detail on page 88:
“Then, like something becoming clear under the surface of a rushing stream, piece by piece the creature assembled himself so that Lidda could see him in the darkness of her head: He unfolded his body, starting with his long, elegant feet; up his lean legs, encased in shining black breeches; his bare torso became visible, gleaming as if from distant firelight; then his long smooth arms and hands with exquisite pointed fingers; and last his head, which was frighteningly handsome, more glorious than anything she had ever known, with black hair cascading down his back, waving in an invisible breeze. Complete, there, unlike anything ever seen before in the drab confines of her village.
“But his eyes! Silver like a running stream — a straight nose — and a mouth that curved in an intimate smile over pointed teeth.”
Given that your average Puritan man wore layers of clothing, including a hat, at almost all times and regularly tied his hair back or wore a wig, where does this hatless hottie come from? And what’s with the dramatic, flowing locks, sharp teeth, and silver eyes? Lucian looks like the bishonen fever dream of someone who’s been reading too much vampire romance manga. His sexiness is discordantly ahistorical. [“Hey, everyone, it’s Discordantly Ahistorical Sexiness, opening for Lucian and the Bishonen Fever Dreams!” I imagine both of these groups as New Wave in sound, though Discordantly Ahistorical Sexiness looks like Cotton Mather by way of Adam Ant, while Lucian and the Bishonen Fever Dreams looks like William Stoughton crossed with classic V-kei. Incidentally, both of these groups sound awesome!]
Just as I wonder where Lidda’s image of Lucian comes from, so I wonder where she gets his personality. Lidda uses Lucian as a way to consolidate and refine her iconoclastic thoughts and practices, some of which do have some grounding in her own experience. For example, Lidda’s criticism of Puritan life derives from contrasting it with what little she has heard about the practices of local Native Americans. When Lidda resents wearing her stays, she reminds herself that Indians don’t wear such uncomfortable clothing. Since the Puritans at large were scared shitless by the Indians, whom they regarded as marauding tools of Satan, I can’t believe that a Puritan teenager would admire the dress of the natives. However, that’s what Turner writes, and, while Lidda’s distaste for Puritan fashion rings false historically speaking, it works in a certain way. Lidda’s contrast between Puritan and Indian dress gives a real-world context for her annoyance with restrictive clothes. Thus Lidda’s — and thus, by extension, Lucian’s — interest in loose clothing and the idea of naked frolicking [as well as, now that I think about it, Lucian’s penchant for hanging around in the equivalent of underwear] makes sense.
I can see where Lidda gets Lucian’s concepts of physical rebellion, but I remain at a loss to explain Lucian’s [i.e., Lidda’s] proto-humanist critic of the Puritan religion and worldview. Obviously people other than Puritans lived in and around Salem in the 1690s who could have provided alternatives to the Puritan perspective. Turner mentions two possibilities in Father of Lies: the local Indians and then Tituba and John Indian. The New England natives, however, appear only in the context of a clothing contrast, so they do not serve as a philosophical counterpoint. Likewise, Tituba and John Indian, characterized as dark-skinned servants of Samuel Parris who look and speak differently than the white people, function as contrasts of appearance, not as contrasts of thought. Turner does not set up either Indians or Tituba and her husband as possible influences on Lucian’s anti-Puritan perspectives.
The most historically believable model for Lidda and Lucian’s proto-humanism would have been the Quakers. The Puritans mistrusted the Quakers as they mistrusted the Indians, but, since the Quakers were supposedly civilized and also white speakers of English, like the Puritans, the Puritans tolerated them somewhat more. According to the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony, however, Quaker beliefs posed a significant threat to the Puritan establishment. Puritans viewed religion as a hierarchical chain of command with God at the top, who then imparted His Word to the [male] ministers, who then imparted it to the people. Quaker theology eschewed the patriarchal rigidity of Puritan practice because it emphasized each individual’s direct, personal experience of God. Both men and women, in Quaker belief, had the capacity for Inner Light — their term for personal knowledge of the Divine. Several aspects of Quaker belief — their insistence on a unique, individualized knowledge of God, their potential for equality of men and women before God, and their resistance to being ordered around from the pulpit — could have convincingly correlated to to some of Lidda and Lucian’s contrarian views. However, the Quakers do not appear in Father of Lies, and so my question remains. With no in-world role models for her modern, anti-Puritan rhetoric, how in the hell does Lidda develop Lucian’s sophisticated, occasionally ironic analysis and detachment?
While I’m discussing Lucian’s failures as a character, I would just like to say that I still can’t get over Lidda’s easy acceptance of him as a non-demonic entity. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, this makes no sense, as both devils and angels were real and ubiquitous to your average Puritan. Therefore, if someone like Lucian appears out of thin air and starts chatting with you [and he’s not someone you recognize and thus a spirit], he’s either a devil or an angel. Although devils may disguise themselves as angels and try their hardest to fool you, you can usually determine the nature of an apparition by its topics of discussion. Is it, for example, giving you advice on a cure for your sick family member or exhorting you to renew your commitment to God? If it encourages you to support Puritan society, it’s an angel, and you can trust it. If, however, it recommends swimming naked, doubting the existence of witches, and otherwise contradicting the tenets of Puritan society, it’s a devil, and you should resist it by quoting Scripture, praying, and loudly proclaiming your devotion to God. In other words, everyone around Lidda would, at most, interpret Lucian as a demon and tell him to shove off or, at the very least, have serious reservations about him, but she doesn’t.
Lidda’s welcome of Lucian represents a problem insofar as her entire culture would read him as a devil and a generally bad, unwanted thing. It’s also a problem because Lucian characterizes himself as demonic, but Lidda doesn’t really seem to care. He tells her very early on [p. 12], “Heaven has nothing to do with this, girl,” implying that the other place, Hell, does. Slightly later, when Lidda asks who he is, he says, “You may call me Lucian, light bringer. … I deal in truth and lies, and to you I give the wit to tell the difference” [p. 39]. He might as well say, “Hi, I’m Lucifer, and I’m a fallen angel,” especially since Lucifer, another name for the fucking Devil, means light bearer in Latin. Of course, at this point in the story, I’m screaming at Lidda, “He just equated himself with the Devil and told you he was a sneaky bastard — don’t trust him! And, if you want to be historically accurate, run to your nearest minister for spiritual guidance!” But nope — fictional characters never listen when I yell at them.
As an aside, though, I suspect that Lucian’s oblique comparison of himself to Lucifer constitutes another historical inaccuracy, mostly because I don’t think Puritans referred to the Devil by that name. I’ve read an exhaustive amount about the Salem witchcraft outbreak, and I remember primary sources referring to “the Devil” and “Satan.” Even when warning that the Devil could deceive people in the appearance of an angel, the clergy commentators at the time apparently didn’t remark on the Devil as “the fairest of the fallen” — or, at least, not as far as I know. Then again, I’m not conversant with the history of appellations for the Devil, so I could be wrong.
Yet again, I have gone on much longer than expected and hit my bedtime. More later. Maybe, in the next section, I’ll finally get around to what I think is so awesome about Lucian.
I attended the NERDS Show to meet fellow doll fans and new dolls. I hoped that I would sell some stuff, preferably enough to break even, and maybe find some doll stuff to buy, but I didn’t really expect to. I was therefore happily surprised to a) offload some stuff I didn’t want and b) acquire some stuff that I did.
In terms of riddances, I sold a Sleeping Elf/Tinybear Bon Bon [$125.00] and a fur wig [$5.00]. I got rid of a pair of Dikadoll jointed hands in a sale [$30.00] + partial trade [wig]. That was more than enough to cover the expense of table and room rental [$35.00], and I even got a small chunk of change to put toward taxes.
In terms of acquisitions, I picked up two freebies: a leotard and a sparkly overskirt. The second will work for Isabel, but the first may not be adequately modifiable for her, though it will certainly fit a narrower 1:6 scale doll. No pictures.
I took pictures of my more exciting acquisitions.
The owners from Sacred Stones Studio in Connecticut were kind enough to give information about owner, maker, and sculpt for all their dolls, as well as credits for wigs, faceups, and outfits, not to mention character sketches for a significant number. Very entertaining! All information about Sacred Stones dolls comes directly from said signs.
Lyrajean and I conveniently sat next to the most popular area of the show: the swap table. Besides things available for sale or trade, the swap table also held a bunch of dolls belonging to Missi. Continue reading NERDS Show, Lowell, MA, 03/05/2016: swap meet table, CatalystFlours, and Holy Calamity
Lyrajean and I started bright and early for Lowell, MA, yesterday, leaving my house at 7:00 AM for the long-awaited NERDS Show. I brought Yamarrah, not for sale, but to attract attention to the various clothes and small resin items I was selling. Lyrajean hauled along a few display peoples, but mostly a yard sale’s worth of furniture in various scales, as well as clothes she had made.
We traveled without incident until we approached Lowell. The city, which started off as a mill town, features densely packed, narrow streets, the lay-out complicated by canals and the Merrimack River. This lay-out probably worked fine before cars, but it’s a clusterfuck for automotive traffic. Because it’s so hemmed in by water, Lowell cannot easily expand its streets for the usual complement of cars + bikes + pedestrians, so it accommodates all modern-day travel by creating a labyrinth of one-way streets. Somehow this gets people where they’re supposed to go, but in a manner that is neither logical, nor expected, nor easily discernible by the casual visitor. Let’s just say we had some difficulty getting around in Lowell. Fortunately we had budgeted time for getting lost, so we arrived at the Western Ave. Studios before the show began.
But we made it! Western Ave. Studios, a previously light industrial space converted into a warren of artists’ studios, reminds me favorably of artists’ studios in the South End. The NERDS Show set up in the Onyx Room. Painted black, windowless except for a skylight, and strung with disco balls and paper lanterns, the Onyx Room looked like a great place for a dance party or theater in the round. Round display tables, where people could show off their dolls, were distributed in the entry way, while about ten rectangular vendor tables, including ours, lined the inside perimeter. Some clusters of upholstered chairs in the center provided a space for mini meetups. Right by the off-street parking, the bathrooms, and all the studios participating in the Western Ave. Studios’ open studios event that day, the Onyx Room was optimally situated to attract not just doll enthusiasts, but also people who came for the open studios. In short, the Onyx Room proved the best possible place to have the show, with the sole reservation being that the lack of natural light made photos a challenge.
Lyrajean and I set up our wares all over our table. Good thing I had much less stuff than she, as her stuff was literally stacked in layers. As I have never staffed a vendor table, I did not know what to bring beyond my goods, my tablet computer [in case people wanted to use Paypal], cash, and my camera + memory card, of course. Thus I tossed in paper, pens, plastic bags, tent cards, an extension cord, water bottle, snacks, painkillers [as I fell on the ice last week and banged an unpadded part of my ass], even my cell phone [which usually never leaves my house]. That seemed to be a comprehensive array of supplies, although, in future, I will also bring hand cream and a snot rag. I will also eat a substantial lunch [not a bag of Deep River rosemary and olive oil chips, however delicious they may be] before the event starts.
I set up Yamarrah on Jareth’s “crotch stand” [i.e., a stand of adjustable height with a U-shaped clip that a doll can situate their crotch in] with one her favorite creemees to attract attention. As Lyrajean observed, she did a very good job of it. Her bright and unusual styling caught the eye of passersby, as did the fact that she was standing up in a naturalistic position. Anyway, I have decided to acquire more “crotch stands” for my 1:3 scale BJDs. They’ve been sitting around [literally] for years and years, as I’ve always been worried that standing them without support would lead to shelf dives, but they just look so much cooler when upright occasionally!
I just reread Father of Lies by Ann Turner, and I both love it and hate it in equal measure. Briefly put, it’s about Lidda, an unconventional Puritan girl who lives in the time of the Salem witchcraft outbreak. She feels compelled to denounce her town’s mass panic over the supposed machinations of Satan. Her developing relationship with an invisible man inside her, Lucian, who encourages her defiant, rebellious behavior and claims to give her the power to see the truth of the witchcraft accusations, makes her life somewhat more complicated. Much to my dismay, Turner completely misrepresents Salem, a failure that I have discussed earlier at great length. As the Goblin King would say, “What a pity,” because Turner does so well at other aspects of the story. For example, her depiction of Lidda and Lucian’s relationship — indeed, Lidda’s mental illness in general — is powerful, sensitive, nuanced, rich, and basically everything that I wish her treatment of Salem was.
Regarding Lidda’s mental illness, it is neither a surprise nor a spoiler that she has one. The Library of Congress data at the front of the book categorizes Father of Lies as a book about “1. Manic-depressive illness — Fiction,” even before “2. Trials (Witchcraft) — Fiction.” If that ain’t explicit enough, Turner dedicates the book to “all those with bipolar disorder who work so hard to make lives for themselves.” She also includes an afterword entitled About Bipolar Disorder, in which she makes it clear that all of Lidda’s strange and frightening perceptions [racing thoughts, seeing auras, uncontrollable movement, hallucinations] may be adequately explained by the disorder. Though she concludes with an open question about Lucian’s reality, Turner obviously characterizes him as a hallucination, an unreal product of Lidda’s imagination, and thus the most salient symptom of her mental illness.
Okay, so Lidda has a mental illness, and she directs much of her time, energy, and interest to Lucian, a person who does not exist outside of her head. Now, if this were a typical book written by an author without a mental illness and/or characters in their head, Lidda’s mental illness and her relationship with Lucian would be horrible barriers to happiness, fulfillment, or satisfaction. Lidda’s inability to be like everyone else would cause her no end of distress; her relationship with Lucian would just highlight for her what she was missing in relationships with people outside her head. In other words, she would be wretched and miserable because of her mental illness. She would only attain peace through managing her symptoms, denying her unique perceptions, and almost certainly killing off Lucian. And the narrative would stink of condescending pity for the poor little mentally disabled protagonist.
But this is not your typical book written by someone without a mental illness [and, I’m assuming, without characters like Lucian in her head]. Nope, in fact, Turner takes both Lidda and Lucian seriously in Father of Lies. While definite that Lidda has a mental illness, of which Lucian is a particularly egregious manifestation, Turner accords Lidda robust characterization without ableist authorial pity. Because of her mental illness, Lidda suffers physical and emotional pain that those around her do not: when she feels chilled and overheated in rapid succession, for example, or when she panics upon seeing flames emanating from her sister’s head. Yet she also experiences unshared joys: the sense of flight and freedom in a wild onrush of thoughts, the secret solace of a friend inside her who admires her for those traits that people around her chastise. As Turner writes it, Lidda’s mental illness makes her life different from that of most people around her, and it frequently contributes to the difficulties she faces. However, Lidda’s mental illness is never shown as inherently bad, wrong, pathetic, or burdensome. It may be disabling on occasion, but mostly it’s just a difference upon which the author places no negative judgment.
Turner’s respect for Lidda comes across most subtly and pervasively in the way that Lucian is written. As noted, Turner’s descriptions of Lucian as a voice in Lidda’s head, a sensation centered in her belly, and sometimes a shifting, flickering form on the wall demonstrate to the reader that he is an imaginary, unreal hallucination and byproduct of Lidda’s mental illness. To Lidda, however, he is a true, concrete, separate individual with his own agenda and personality. She jokes with him, argues with him, asks his advice, wonders where he goes when he won’t talk to her, fantasizes about him, and otherwise treats him like a real person. Turner reports all of Lidda’s interactions with Lucian in a straightforward, matter-of-fact manner. Turner never looks down on Lidda for believing in Lucian, nor does she invite the reader to do so. Avoiding the evaluative and contemptuous distance endemic to so many portrayals of people with disabilities and/or mental illness, Turner’s portrait of Lidda shows that she is mentally ill, but also fully human, fully sympathetic, and fully dignified.
I must note that Turner’s treatment of Lidda isn’t perfect, verging as it does on the stereotype of Super Crip with Compensatory Powers. In the concluding paragraph of the afterword, Turner writes, “Was Lidda mad, or was she saner than the villagers? You decide” [p. 239]. Ignoring the artificially binary choice, we can discern that Turner wants us to answer yes to both questions. She wants us to think that, yes, Lidda was “mad” or mentally ill, and, yes, she was “saner” — or, more precisely, more reasonable and accurate in her analysis of the witchcraft outbreak — than the villagers. In fact, because Turner has Lucian tell Lidda that he gives her the wit to separate truth from lies, Turner effectively argues that Lidda’s reasonable, accurate analyses derive directly from her mental illness. Like Daredevil, Professor X, Daphne in Heroes, or any other superhero who loses some capacity, but then gains a magical ability that allows them to do way more than they ever did and thus basically renders the lost capacity irrelevant, Lidda has the superpower of seeing the truth. Her superpower comes from her mental illness and reinforces her unfortunate status as an insufferable Visionary Before Her Time Doomed to Pass Her Days Among the Small-Minded Masses. [See my analysis of this anachronistic concept in part I.] In other words, Turner risks defining Lidda by — and thus reducing her to and objectifying her with — her disability. Turner’s sympathetic and respectful treatment of Lidda ensures Lidda’s full humanization, but the deleterious authorial tendency to objectification yet remains.
Despite my caveat, I generally approve of Turner’s deployment of mental illness in Father of Lies. Though it occasionally smells like a crashingly obvious metaphor that Turner uses to highlight the “true” “madness” at play [i.e., the anti-witchcraft panic], Lidda’s mental illness mostly functions with a refreshing realism. Sometimes it contributes to her distress, sometimes to her happiness, always to her unique interpretation of reality. While Lidda’s mental illness sometimes estranges her from people and causes her difficulties because her perceptions don’t accord with others’, Turner does not ask the reader to pity Lidda because of her disability. The matter-of-fact way in which Turner reports on Lidda’s treatment of Lucian demonstrates that Lidda recognizes her difference from other people, but does not think any worse of herself for it. In a culture where the treatment of people with disabilities defaults to snide objectification, Turner’s well-rounded, compassionate characterization of Lidda is a radical [and depressingly uncommon] argument for disability rights.
Well, it looks like I don’t have time tonight to expatiate about Lucian and the Bishonen Fever Dreams. More later….
Two kinds of books automatically draw my interest: 1) those about the Salem witchcraft outbreak and 2) those about girls or women who talk to people in their heads and fear that they might be going insane. A book about a girl who talks to someone in her head and fears that she might be going insane in the context of the Salem witchcraft outbreak will thus make me drop everything and read. Since Ann Turner’s Father of Lies — featuring fourteen-year-old Lidda as the girl in question and Lucian as the ambiguous person inside her — combines both of these interests, you can see why I snatched it up eagerly. Unfortunately, Turner uses these combustible, promising subjects to tell what I consider is the wrong story.
First, a little plot summary. Lidda, as I have mentioned, lives in the Puritan colony of Massachusetts, on the verge of the eighteenth century. She has no desire to comport herself as expected; she does not want to be a sober, modest, God-fearing wife. She likes the tales of murder and flirtation in the Bible, but has no patience for the apocalyptic visions of doom and punishment that the ministers conjure up regularly. She would rather dance, wear bright colors, climb trees, and speak her mind. She wishes that she lived someplace more exciting than Salem.
As if Lidda’s inability to accept any aspect of the Puritan status quo wasn’t enough, two other complications mess up her life. First of all, she has these episodes with inconsistent symptoms. Sometimes her thoughts race, and she can’t control them; sometimes her bodily sense of temperature is off, or she sees burning auras around people, or she can’t help but yell, laugh, or dance. During these episodes, this man, Lucian, appears inside her at intervals, alternately mocking and complimenting her. He claims that he has given her the power to tell truth from falsehood, but Lidda’s not sure what to do with that.
Lidda’s Lucian-granted power of discernment would certainly be an asset in the case of the second complication, which is, to put it simply, an infestation of evil. Starting with a few girls around Lidda’s age, people all over town have been falling into fits, tortured by the specters of witches. Most people believe that, indeed, devils and witches live among them, lurking, waiting for the chance to ambush and torture. But Lidda, who has overheard the afflicted girls planning their accusations, knows that there is no witchcraft here, only petty vengeance and a sense of self-importance magnified by a panicked mob mentality. How can she speak out against this dissembling without being called a witch herself?
…And here we arrive at the problem. Turner frames the central conflict of this story as the struggle of an insightful, independent-minded, rebellious girl to tell the truth in a repressive, ignorant, and sexist setting. Not just any repressive society either, but the Puritans, who, as conventional wisdom tells us, were quite possibly the most uptight, humorless, judgmental, prejudiced, irrational, retrograde, philosophically constipated, and generally miserable people in the history of the United States. In other words, Turner is writing not The Father of Lies, but The Tragedy of Lidda Johnson vs. the Evil Puritans, with Bonus Salem Witchcraft Outbreak to Illustrate Just How Evil the Puritans Really Are. And that’s the wrong story, mostly because it’s a historically inaccurate crock of shit.
If we want to be historically accurate [and much more interesting] about this, the theme of the story should be something like one girl’s struggle to identify good and evil in a society ravaged by war, violence, and political instability and characterized by fundamental uncertainty. And, just to make things even more difficult, let’s throw the entire community into a crisis of faith and pitch the girl into her own personal crisis about the nature of reality and her experiences. Woo hoo! Now step back, and watch the action begin.
Turner’s simplistic concept of the Puritans diverts her from one of the most salient aspects of the setting: the constant terror. Her portrayal of the witchcraft outbreak as cruel games orchestrated by some power-drunk girls, which were then enhanced by gullibility and rabble-rousing, completely ignores the levels of pain, suffering, and fear that these people lived with on a daily basis. First of all, they lived in a culture of rudimentary, ineffective medicine and high mortality [especially of mothers and kids], when so many babies died young that they just recycled the dead kids’ names for the next ones to be born. Second of all, they lived in New England, which, with its long, snowy, cold winters, impassable mud season, and short, hot summers, is a climatological craphole. Third of all, back then, Salem was on an unstable, war-torn frontier, isolated from what the Puritans considered civilization [i.e., Great Britain] by an entire ocean. People died in wars against the French and Abenaki all the time. Indians kidnapped, tortured, and killed settlers just miles away. Everyone knew someone who had died in such violence. In summary, Salem was not a good place to live; physical suffering was ubiquitous.
Puritan religious beliefs compounded the bodily suffering by adding spiritual and emotional dimensions. The Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony believed that they were born sinful. They would not know if they were part of the elect — that is, if they would go to Heaven — until they died and actually ended up there. God determined who was saved and who was damned according to some secret process that no human could fathom and that no human could affect. Not even good works and piety could guarantee one’s place among the elect. Furthermore, assuming that one was saved was arrogance of the worst sort. One should always interrogate oneself, looking inside for signs of worthiness. This left your average Puritan in an endless introspective recursion of helpless anxiety, vacillating between hope that they were Heaven-bound and terror that they weren’t.
With this information in mind, we can see how the Salem witchcraft outbreak is not primarily about silly, superstitious people being easily whipped into a pointless panic, as Turner would have it. It’s more about people who, already on edge, physically miserable, and emotionally tortured, find themselves besieged by their worst nightmares. Let’s face it — if, on top of the shitty weather and the high mortality and the dubious health care and the upheaval of frontier life and the casualties of war and the threats of Indian invasion and the fact that you’re a born wretched sinner and the possibility that, no matter what you do, you might not go to Heaven, you also have to deal with your neighbors having fits and your friends and enemies hurling witchcraft charges at each other and the Devil taking other people’s shapes and invisibly tormenting people and an ever increasing number of townsfolk confessing to alliance with the Devil, you might be slightly concerned that reality as you know it appears to be coming apart at the seams. Please note that I am not discounting the superstitions, racism, classism, sexism, religious bigotry, and socioeconomic factors that shaped the Salem witchcraft outbreak. The point I’m trying to make here is that every single person affected by the Salem witchcraft outbreak faced a fundamental, epistemic terror that led them to see witchcraft as both a personal and a community threat.
While the historical Salem and environs labored under a burden of fear, Turner’s Salem lacks such pervasive anxiety. Lidda herself epitomizes this anachronistic insouciance. For just a few examples:
- The Puritans hated the Indians, feared them, thought them subhuman, murderous monsters, and elided them with the Devil, but Lidda does not see them as a threat. “Perhaps she would run off and join the Wabanaki Indians farther north,” Lidda thinks [p. 11]. “Were they as cruel as the tales said? She thought people exaggerated…” Instead, she fantasizes about running away to live with them because they don’t make their kids wear corsets.
- Puritan society, including the ministers, who were considered general experts and role models, had a complicated relationship with magic. Even though belief in God and the Devil predominated and was supposed to exclude a belief in magic, the principles of sympathetic magic circulated as general cultural knowledge. Not everyone practiced magic, but Puritans thought that it could be a good supplement to more Godly activities — a way to hedge bets, so to speak. At one point, however, Lidda concludes that the baking of a witch cake, a piece of folk magic designed to identify the witches in their midst, arises from a combination of “fear, lies, and stupidity” [p. 83]. Lidda’s harsh condemnation of the cultural vocabulary of magic thus seems unconvincing.
- All the Puritans in Massachusetts Bay Colony worried about the state of their souls. They wondered incessantly about their damnation and/or salvation. While the Devil was always a real and imminent threat to them, the witchcraft outbreak turned him into a particularly personal adversary. You had to watch out for him because he was going to do everything in his power — corrupting your neighbors and family, sickening your animals and crops, sending nightmares and physical pains, even taking the shape of innocent people and plaguing you — to turn you to evil. However, the Devil does not seem to bother Lidda. When Lucian appears in her head, inciting her to rebellious behavior and implying that God has nothing to do with him, Lidda barely entertains the thought that he’s demonic. In fact, she rejects that conclusion: “How seductive he was, how beautiful, just as Reverend Parris spoke of the Devil, except she did not think Lucian was evil. Something else, but not — the Evil One” [p. 56]. She interprets him as her friend and a flattering source of evidence that she possesses perspicacity that everyone else lacks, even though Turner gives Lidda no reason for her conclusions.
In other words, Lidda is a thoroughly modern fourteen-year-old, inserted into Puritan Salem solely to foment righteous indignation at her plight in automatically sympathetic, modern-day readers. Ugh. The Noble Struggles of the Feisty Proto-Feminist in a Time of Sexist Bullshit is one of the least nuanced, least accurate, and least satisfying interpretations of any historical event ever. It’s also a cheap, lazy authorial ploy to gain reader engagement at the expense of sophisticated character development and historical depiction. Worst of all, it flattens out the glorious messiness and ambiguity of history into a boring linear teleology of increasing progressiveness, of which we — O glorious, enlightened moderns! — are naturally at the apex.
I’m so very disappointed that Father of Lies turns a volatile subject, full of my favorite narrative elements [marginalized women and girls, magic and magic users, the power of storytelling, endless self-examination, queries into the nature of perception and reality, moral ambiguity, existential dread], into a simplistic morality tale. In fact, my disappointment feels particularly acute because, for all that she botches the historical part of her fiction, Turner does a virtuoso, amazing, fascinating, suggestive job with the other part of her fiction: viz., Lucian. Tune in next time when I discuss the strengths of Father of Lies in a little segment I like to call Lucian and the Bishonen Fever Dreams. [Hey, that’s a great name for a band…]
May you suffer from ill-fitting shoes.
Context: Three pairs of insoles and one pair of Achilles tendon cushions later, I’ve just about had it with these shoes. I just need to accept that I bought the wrong size, and I need to go get another fucking pair.
I’ve long known about the Puritan virtue names that appear occasionally among New Englanders until about the mid-1800s; I mean hell — when one has a Submit as one’s greatx8 grandmother, one does have an incentive to learn where a name like that comes from. While some virtue names like Charity, Chastity, Faith, and Hope are used even today, others have died out.
Puritan virtue names that have died out include Submit and Thankful, but also two that I recently learned about: Silence and Desire. I’m sure the Desire is something like “desire for God’s love” or “desire to be saved.” The first seems more about not expressing and the second about expression, though. I find it especially interesting that, in the context where I learned these names, Silence and Desire were sisters.
Such names have always gotten me thinking, particularly Submit. Verb names, much less imperatives, are pretty rare [although, around these parts, we are familiar with Remember Baker, Green Mountain Boy and cousin of Ethan Allen]. Was having a command as a name considered odd back then? Did Submit and Remember go by nicknames or by the one-word sentences that served as their first names? What did Submit think of having that name?
Submit, Silence, and Desire just beg for me to write a story about them — well, mostly Submit. It would be a modern-day story about a modern person named Submit and her struggles with family, ancestry, expectations of femininity, and irritatingly overdetermined nomenclature. I envision Submit as coming from a long line of women with Puritan virtue names and being particularly pissed that she didn’t get something like Faith or Hope…or, hell, even Chastity, because at least you can shorten that to Chaz. But noooooo, her mom had to name her ironically in some sort of feminist statement [????]. I get the sense that she rattles off her standard greeting — “My name is Submit Delacroix, sierra-uniform-bravo-Mike-India-tango, like the verb” — through gritted teeth every single time, and if someone says anything more than “Oh” or “Okay,” they receive the Death Glare. >:(
If you put a gingerbread house, the feast scene in Pan’s Labyrinth, and any sort of Barbie furniture sets made by Mattel into a blender, something like like Scott Hove’s Cakeland would emerge. It’s a dizzyingly bright and confusing milieu of artificial sweets, flounced and swagged with endless curlicues of fake frosting. It’s — sniff! — so beautiful! This is definitely my aesthetic, though I feel that there need to be more skulls [human and avian] and switchblades.
P.S. That chandelier is making me HUNGRY!