31 October 2007

Halloween Sluts

OK, OK, stop cheering. There are no actual Halloween sluts here. (I know, I just lost all my readers...) I'm talking about the phenomenon of Halloween sluts. You know, the thing where dress-up party season rolls around, and so many independent, modern feminist, liberated women say things like, "I think I'm going to be a nurse. But, a sexy nurse!"

In theory, when you're playing dress-up, there's no point in dressing as who and what you are, unless you have an extremely overactive irony gland. Dressing as who you are is like any other day. Costumes are about being something you're not. So what does it say that so many women want to be Sexy Something for Halloween? And, perhaps more importantly, how did sexy get moved off the body, and become simply another element of costume? Just like there are costume pieces that say "rich" or "poor" or "violent" or "infantile"... certain costume pieces say "sexy". So, it's no longer about the woman's body--it got transferred to her closet.

Is intrinsic sexiness no longer a commodity women possess? Consider all the cultures in the world that do or have required women to stay covered, stay hidden, stay away from stranger's eyes. The theory is that women are inherently desirable, and the sight of the smallest part of her corporeal self will incite riot. Not the body, only. Women have, in different times and places, been obliged to bind their hair, cover their gaze, and live entirely apart from others in their community. That sort of attitude speaks of a dangerous kind of appeal, the sort of uncontrollable power that must be mastered at all costs.

Has that power, at least in the western world of power suits and superwomen, been expended? Have women relinquished so much of their magic, in the drive for so-called* equality? Has the feminine mystique become so dilute that we need to pretend to be sexual creatures once a year, because it would be fun to pretend, but not to actually be sexual creatures for real?

To be perfectly plain, I believe what is referred to as "sexiness" in the sense of the sexy costume is a license to command attention. It is a pass on all the things women so often apologize for, a long list often including such transgressions as: having sexual desires, having ANY desires, having skills and abilities men don't have, wanting power, position, and compensation, having opinions, having goals, not always being able to fulfill the supportive role but sometimes needing support instead, and of course the inevitable crime of having expelled the boys from the womb in the first place. (This is a crime of which all boy's mothers are guilty, and can never be forgiven.) In some regards, women live their apologies for these issues. So, on Halloween, when a female type person decides that, just for this one night, it's OK to play the role of the temptress at whose patent-leather, spike-heel clad feet the men must inevitable crawl... she's reclaiming just the tiniest taste of her power.

I support that, actually. Some people will say it's perpetuating sexism. Disagree! I say, those other 364 days, when women are suppressing their interest in being sexy, in owning that power... those days perpetuate repression of women and their power. Please observe: it's incredibly rare that men choose Halloween to give free rein to their inner gigolo. Quite the contrary, Halloween is the time that men are playing dress up and exploring their cross-dressing side, their 80s look, their love of togas, their secret fascination with serial killers. Things men are not addressing the rest of the year. Why? Because men already own up to their sexual nature. It's not necessary to pretend to have it once a year, they don't have to unbutton the top 3 buttons of their shirts and flex their muscles for an audience on just one night of the year, they can do that all the time. (Not saying that's how all men express their sexual nature, but that's more or less the equivalent of the Sexy Cheerleader costume.) Aside from, perhaps, "dead," I can't think of a single theme that unifies mens' costume choices, the way "sexy" unifies womens'.

Anyway, for the one person who is still reading this, I offer you a fun little video about where to go to get your very own Sexy Something costume. Or, frog.

* Equal rights, yes, but we are biologically a sexually dimorphic species, actual male-female parity is gonna be a long, long row to hoe...

30 October 2007

one for the fridge

It amazes me sometimes, how I can descend into inky madness. I remember sitting down with the pots of ink, and the new brush, and the clean sheet of paper. I neatly made a border around the page, and I set to work. I made one mark, and then another, and then more and more and more. Some time later, I was knocking my chair over backwards in my haste to get away from the desk. What had I done? What kind of monster had I created?

I'd be hard-pressed to tell you what this supposed to have been, and I'd be lying if I told you this is how it was supposed to look. But I am strangely pleased with this photograph of the drawing that didn't go well. I don't know if it's ironic, or fitting, or just tedious, but I often like pictures of works that didn't work, and I generally do not like pictures of those that have gone well.

29 October 2007

I need better portmanteaux.

I need something between "profound" and "faux"... Fauxfound doesn't cut it, even though it's a good sound-alike. Profauxnd is more the right idea, but still not quite on. I'm referring to this, which I read in Chuck Palahniuk's latest, Rant, last night:
If you ponder the thought, no one ever closes a thoroughfare due to the death of an individual. You can still drive over the spot on which James Dean died, or Jayne Mansfield, or Jackson Pollock. You can drive over the spot where a bus drove over Margaret Mitchell. Grace Kelly. Ernie Kovacs. Death is a tragic event, but stopping the flow of traffic always seen as the greater crime.
So, on the surface, this seems deep. "Yeah, wait a minute! Those were serious things. I mean, you can still drive down the the street where Kennedy was assassinated, and sure that has about about great an influence on the future of America as any street-death since Archduke Franz Ferdinand." And, hell, also, every time you get on the road, you're probably going to pass at least ONE spot where someone died. If you multiply that out by how much driving most people do, that actually a little foul.

But, back up a step. Why in hell would you close a road permanently because someone--even a famous someone--died there? And, more to the point, how is the death of ONE PERSON, even a famous person, actually a tragedy? People die; it's in the charter. The *circumstances* of death can be a tragedy, sure. But seriously, if someone fails to die that is far more interesting to me, than all those other people who are doing what they're supposed to.

I realize that Palahniuk is (to understate a thing) fond of hyperbole. I realize that he's making a comment about a certain mentality, with this line. But what alarms me is the possibility that there are folks out there who will read a thing like that, or hear a thing like that, and be swayed by it. They will actually succumb to the Fauxfoundity of it all, repeat it to their friends. Submit a petition to the highway commission about it. That's really, really depressing.

28 October 2007


Tonight we watched a documentary from 2005, Rize. I've wanted to see this film since I first saw a trailer for it. Like Scratch and Dogtown and Z-Boys, Rize promised a window into a world that simply does not include me, and I find that intriguing. The intriguing aspect is not that it doesn't include me, lots of things don't include me. But that it's a world that so removed from my own that I almost cannot understand the explanations given, in plain English, of what's going on, and why. Director David LaChapelle visits the camera on many people, most of them younger than 30, and a few older relatives (mostly mothers, fathers were conspicuously absent), as they participated in and talked about their passion for dance.

The basic idea is that, in the ghetto neighborhoods of south Los Angeles, there is an alternative to gangs. There is an alternative to living in fear, surrounded by the symptoms and manifestations of disadvantage. There is an alternative to spiritual poverty. That alternative is a dance form that is as rhythm-bound as any tribal ceremony in the world, as formalized as any ballet, as expressive as any Noh performance, and as nakedly driven as any rave in the world. The director repeatedly likens it to African tribal movements, but there was so much more to it. The whole range is there, from the stripper's booty bounce, to the astonishing elegance of an elite martial arts exhibition. Clowning and krumping, it's called, and for reasons that are more obvious and also more inexplicable that you'd guess. More than *I* would have guessed, and I have seen the explanation! It does, in fact, involve clown-style face painting and rainbow wigs.

Perhaps what fascinates me most about the world of clowning and krumping is that this is a physical rebuttal to the harsh realities. No less real, and in many ways, no less harsh. Shouting back at the world. It is pretty clear that the young people involved in the dance want outsiders to understand, but are glad to have their mystique, too. They like the fact that you wouldn't understand, that you can't relate to it; that's OK, it's not for you. They want to be recognized as athletes, as artists, as positive forces in their world, but also, they like their position on the outside of the outside. It's one thing to be marginalized by someone else's mainstream, it's something else to choose to step away from the margin, into an abyss of your own choosing. More powerful yet, to discover there is solid ground to be had there.

Maybe I will never understand, really, what it all means. Hell, I'm technically a part of the mainstream that those dancers are twice removed from. But it's strengthening, to see that there is something beyond the light outside the cave entrance.

26 October 2007

Miracles DO Happen

I speak of the Miracle of the Second Post, that is. I haven't seen the weeping virgin burned into my monitor. Yet. This picture is not particularly interesting, but I am trying to learn the ways and means of picture posts here in Blogger, because an art blog is at least 45% of what I want to do here. I want to know things like how it looks, resizing tactics and limitations, and so on. One thing I haven't worked out yet is how to have a picture in thumbnail size, with the option to click on it to see the full size. Also, I want to know how much of a page gets filled up by what amount of text + picture. I am, in the vernacular, a wordy mofo.

Crocuses are, of course, a different kind of miracle. They show up in the spring just when you're thinking that if there is another rainy, cold, shitty, windy day, you're probably going to have to throw yourself off a height. A crocus is the little splash of color that causes you to bend down, closer to the ground, thus preventing suicide by flinging.

25 October 2007

Gratuitous First Test Post

As required by internet law, I'm beginning this blog with a test-post, consisting of no substance whatsoever, and a picture of the cat.

OK, I give, there's going to be a tiny bit of substance: I'm trying to figure out a way to have everything I want from the internet all in one place.
I want a place to write about crap I see, here, think of, create, make photos of, and want other people to think about. I want not to have to go to 4 different web sites to get that done. I want it to look less like crap than when I tried to write my own web site from scratch. And I want it to be less, hmm, canceled, than some of the other venues I've been using for these purposes.

There is a non-zero chance of me never posting here again after this post, but maybe it'll work out. We'll see, won't we?