Saturday, September 19, 2015

Untitled (3)

Rob Brezsny's advice for this week is to get naked and "cast a love spell on yourself." I might just do that. Maybe a spell is what I need to put an end to this endless stream of tears and self-loathing.

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BTS at the Harper's BAZAAR "ICONS" photoshoot


Have I ever been this pale? I think I like it. It makes me look the way I feel. Like a ghost.

Who knew anemia could be so fun? With this pale skin and all this hair loss I feel like I'm in a j-horror movie.


Nicole Dollanganger - Angels of Porn

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I've been in such a strange mood for months and I just want it to stop. And this has become so whiny that I can't stand it anymore. I'm thinking of moving to tumblr although I don't know what makes me think that a tumblr blog won't be just the same waste of space / time as this thing here. I don't know, I guess I just want smth new. A change. No matter how small.

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Sophie Calle asks: “What sets you apart from everyone else? What is missing from your life?”

What is missing from my life sets me apart from everyone else.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

La rentrée

This playlist from Les Inrocks opens with a song called Envie d'ailleurs.



My ailleurs (Cluj) is so close and at the same time: so far away.

And yet on Sunday, when I had plans to go to Cluj (I had bought a theater ticket and everything), I changed my mind and decided I'd rather spend all day in bed watching Halt and Catch Fire. Yes, I'm back to my old habits (not going out, chaotic sleeping patterns ~ "je tourne en boucle"). But it's more than that. My trips to Cluj are a constant reminder that I don't belong there. That I'm a failure.

*

Halt and Catch Fire (season 2, episode 5: "Infiltrator")

(The entire basis of consumer culture, basically.)

I love the passion, the FIRE of everyone in Halt and Catch Fire. It also makes me wonder why I don't have it. Sure, there will be days when I am so hungry - I want to read all the books, watch all the movies, write all the essays. That doesn't last long, though. I get so tired, so fast. First: my eyes. And soon: my entire body collapses into a deep sleep. Waking up is always so difficult.






Brève traversée / Brief Crossing (Catherine Breillat, 2001)

Waking up would be so much easier if I were able to keep that fire burning for more than a day.

(I wanna be Cameron so badly. Weird and crazy and brilliant. But this is also part of the not-going-to-happen. Too slow, not smart enough, etc.)

Also:



*

However:

Fall has the power to renew my hopes. Even though for a brief time, things seem possible again. I make plans and lists. I get a new appetite for learning. (I've started re:learning Japanese for the nth time, and although Past Evidence says the contrary, I do think this time I'll be able to stick with it. I have to.) (I'd tell myself "ganbatte" but I know my best is not enough.)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cruel Summer



Each and every summer since I was 13. Since she left me. And I'll never know why. Or why all of our common friends (my only friends, that is) decided to side with her and disappear from my life. Literally overnight. O. was the only one who stuck around for a few more months but by winter, she would be gone too.

I'll never know why people stop liking me / don't like me. And it's definitely not smth you can just ask. And would knowing really help? I lack too many things, and it's too late to fix myself. (I hate it when people say "it's never too late." For some things, for most things it is too late.)

*

From a book I haven't read:

"Friendless! Friendless! It lingered like a curse."

*
Pretty Little Liars (season 6, episode 6: "No Stone Unturned")
*

In the trailer for the second season of The Affair, Alison (Ruth Wilson) says:

"Sometimes I feel like I'm not a real person, like no one sees me."

This is what it all boils down to: being seen. Being seen as the only way of knowing that your existence isn't merely an illusion. That your existence matters. (This is exactly one of the reasons why I've been so obsessed with Fifty Shades. So much of it is about being seen.)

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Whenever I get this insecure I go and read my old blog posts or my Twitter feed, etc. As a way of reassuring myself that yes, I'm mostly boring, and yes, I can say some really dumb stuff, but also: I can be funny, and I can have good taste. I can be pretty awesome sometimes and fuck everybody for not noticing. But then the same nagging questions return: why did this or that person disappear? why did they lose interest? what's wrong with me?

From Jenny Hval's That Battle Is Over:

"everything I write begins with the question, WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME?"

*

Then again: it's easier this way. Loneliness and isolation make it easier to live with my many imperfections, with this disgusting blob of flesh that calls itself my body. And I do enjoy dancing on my own way more than I would enjoy dancing in a club or at a private party. And I do love watching movies by myself. So maybe focus on extending this list instead of obsessing over what I can't have, the not-going-to-happen? Ha. Whom am I trying to fool here? Obsessing over the not-going-to-happen is what I do. I just hope I'll get part of it out of my system and not let it get in my way. Fall is just around the corner and I need to start doing the things I promised myself I would do.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Zombie

iZombie (pilot)

+

Mac DeMarco - Salad Days

actin' like my life's already over

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Margins / Marginalia

Note to self, 21/06/2014, at Electric Castle

*

RETOX at Fabrica de Pensule on Monday evening. So much of what's been on my mind. So much of what's always on my mind. How to be in this world? Trembling lips mine,1 on the verge of tears for most of the performance. The mirror as an obstacle. You standing in your own way. The incapability of an encounter with your self. Which is also: the incapability of an encounter with the Other. The Other also being Love. Band-aids. Not enough band-aids in the world for our wounds. The wounds we inflict on our selves and on each other. Thinking again of Adam Phillips's lecture "Against Self-Criticism." The "I drink..." bit after I had been listening to Kendrick Lamar's Swimming Pools on a loop in the morning. Loving this line from the extended version: "All I have in life is my new appetite for failure." Also: "Okay, now open your mind up and listen to me, Kendrick / I am your conscience, if you do not hear me, then you will be history, Kendrick" - similar to the beginning of this performance ("I'm the voice in your head"). The gay man in love with his homophobic best friend. And his incapability of love. Of allowing himself to love another man. The last thing I read from Yasmina Reza's Heureux les heureux / Happy are the Happy while waiting to go in was from Philip Chemla's entry:


*

a collage I made for M, on the occasion of the release of his book in CJ. (even before having read the book, I could already guess what elements I had to play with: bears, the gender binary, and sexuality)

M's book became a scrapbook. Marginalia, train tickets, movie tickets, chopstick wrappers from Nobori.

Reading his book: I got angry, I laughed (both with him and at him), I got sad. And I got nostalgic. Elements in one of his stories reminded me of our early emails. Things he'd mentioned in those emails ended up in this story. To Be or Not To Be, which he sent me. A National Geographic documentary caught late at night. It's nice to know I've been the witness - one of the witnesses - to his planting the seeds of this story, but at the same time, it's bittersweet.

This is already the second time this year that smth has sent me to our early emails. In my email drafts (aka the repository for my WORD VOMIT), after having read all of our emails, I wrote: "gosh, i miss you so much. but you know that means: i miss your self circa 2009."

And this last week, reading about I'm Very Into You has brought to surface so many insecurities. About that time, about now. Back then, I never wrote you a rushed email, felt so self-aware and yet they were still incredibly awkward and dull. I wanted to rise to your level so badly. (From "Blood and Guts in Emails:" Haley: "In some ways I do want to seduce you, I promise!! Seduce you intellectually. Seduce you as a friend.") But of course that wasn't / isn't possible.

Emma: "I think this is a really easy book to project a lot of your own internal biz onto." Also: how easy it is to project stuff on sm when most of your communication is written. And I have been doing that, on and off. And it's not fair. Not to you, not to myself. (Haley: "Like: the person who emailed me, for example, is very much alive and not a ghost, but there's no way they could know or really understand what kind of emotional impact their words would have on me.")

one of those Cluj days when you wear no mascara because you anticipate the possibility of crying in public. on trains, or on your way to the train station when the darkness of the night can easily hide your tears.


(1) the influence of Eimear McBride's GIRL, which I still haven't finished.

P.S. How to know when "fragmentary" becomes... "messy?" It worries me that this is the only way I can write, that my writing will only get worse instead of getting better.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Untitled (2)

Early this morning, a blood orange sun like I've never seen before and thick fog. And yet I can't truly enjoy the view. All I can think of is how deeply corrupted it feels. Because I'm not just passing by, this is my prison. A temporary prison, but a prison nonetheless. Is this what life is? Exchanging one prison for another? I wish I weren't such a bad student, I wish I could learn freedom from bell hooks.

And now, listening to Simon Joyner's Grass, Branch & Bone. The perfect soundtrack to my mood.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ugly and Unfuckable

Of course someone like Jamie Dornan wants to be seen as more than just a pretty face. But it's exactly because of that pretty face that he's given the chance to prove he can be more. 

Girls like me, ugly and unfuckable (+), have no other choice than to be more than a face, more than a body. So what to do when you can't rise above mediocrity? When you stay stupid. In more ways than one.

Reading interviews like this one with Meredith Graves of Perfect Pussy doesn't help either. When beautiful people talk about their insecurities, on one hand, like Fariha Roísín says, you don't wanna be dismissive of their feelings, but on the other hand, it's always hard to suppress an eye roll. Because if they're so insecure, then how the fuck should I feel? I should just lock myself in my room, shouldn't I? (Well, I guess I sorta did that for 3+ years, on and off.)

I've been driving myself crazy thinking of this. I wrote my fucking thesis on body image issues. I should know better than to give in to this negative self-talk. At that time, doing the research, writing about media representations, and focusing on ED and plastic surgery - I'd never felt that had anything to do with me.

I now realized I had been downplaying my insecurities for years. I think I was actually proud of myself for being able to look at women's magazines, wishing for a second I looked like those girls / women, but being aware it was their job to look like that, never feeling like I needed to go on a diet or to a beauty salon. But while I was telling myself all these things, the girls around me - already pretty - internalized the message of all those images all too well and they did go on diet after diet and they did subject themselves to expensive,  time-consuming beauty treatments. So now I don't even have to look at photos of models and actresses to feel bad about myself. It's enough to look at the girls / women around me, or on my tumblr dashboard, or on Instagram, etc. (Basically, my thesis has become, in a really short time, a historical account of media representations of the female body and its effects on girls / women. It's completely out of touch with what's going on now.)

I feel like all those insecurities that have been somewhat dormant have now come back with a vengeance.

*

"You get the face you deserve." I can't even pinpoint the origin of this quote, I've heard it in so many places. And no matter how many times I hear it, it still has the power to destroy me. It's a reminder of how stupid I've been about my face. Not taking care of it. Playing it tough and saying "it doesn't matter." 

And it really wouldn't matter IF -

If I were a good writer. If I were a better reader. If I had a job that I liked / were good at, or: If I knew how to do the freelance thing. If I were financially independent. If I had my own place in Cluj. Etc. etc.

"Good" would still not be good enough but at least it's not "bad" / "mediocre."

*

(+) I guess I stole this from Jessa. Besides some random posts at The Hairpin and The Toast, she's the only one who talks about the women that interest me. Spinsters. She's also the one whom I can count on to provide a list of inspirational reading material. A collection of books and quotes that I hope will turn "ugly and unfuckable" into fuel. Fuel to push me further. To become a good writer, to become a better reader, to think more, to think better.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

An Addendum to Psihopați, Fifty Shades și anxietăți feministe (3)

Do you trust me?

The hottest moments in Fifty Shades of Grey are merely tangential to the sex. The moment before he ties her hands for the first time, when he asks her "Do you trust me?" and she nods affirmatively. Her leaving after the negotiation. In the Red Room, when he hits her for the first time and asks "How did it feel?" and: eyes downcast, a naughty smile on her lips, she answers "Good, Sir."

*

Dakota Johnson's performance outshines Jamie Dornan's, there's no doubt about that. And after having seen him in The Fall, his performance here is rather disappointing but I wouldn't go as far as to say it's a disaster, like most reviewers seem to suggest. In fact, I think he brings to surface smth essential, that I don't know how many people have noticed. At the end of the third book, there's some bonus material: scenes from Christian Grey's perspective - from his childhood, but also the first two times he meets Ana. It's where we finally see his insecurities (Is she gonna be into what he has in mind? What's the best way to approach her, let her know he's interested? Is she interested in him?). I don't know how much this might have informed Dornan's performance, or how much of the credit is due to Sam Taylor-Johnson's notes, but I do think he's played Grey's vulnerability really well. Moreover, when he's about to take her to see the playroom for the first time, his hand is shaking. And I'm sure that's just Dornan's body reacting to sleep deprivation, or whatever, but it's one of those details that makes all the difference. After coming across like such a cold lover ("I don't make love. I fuck. Hard.") the light shaking of his hand allows me, as a viewer, to think he's still nervous about revealing his secret.

Dornan is tall, he's 32, and yet there are moments in this movie when he almost looks like an insecure teenager falling in love for the first time. It's as if the suits he's wearing are the suits the teenagers from 80s movies are wearing - a symbol of adulthood and nothing more. Fifty Shades of Grey is, in spirit, a teen movie. In the same way Sofia Coppola's movies, even those with adult characters, are inherently adolescent. Naturally, Fifty Shades of Grey doesn't reach the level of sophistication of Coppola's movies (mostly b/c of the source material). But the thread that connects this movie - that so many are quick to dismiss as junk - to Coppola's work (besides Jamie Dornan) is the lack of cynicism and condescension. It was only when I read Sylvia Day's Bared to You, which did contain a considerable dose of cynicism, that I realized why I responded more positively than negatively to 50 Shades. How rare it is to find smth devoid of cynicism these days! Even the irony in the movie - directed at the source material - is so light that on screen it's translated into sweet playfulness.
 
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It's certainly been interesting to see how people have reacted to the movie. To see who's willing to do what I call "an exercise in intellectual humility," and who's forgotten to leave their 21st-century cynicism at home. Who's gotten stuck at a first level of feminist interpretation, and who's willing to acknowledge the ambivalence and the gray areas that come with diverse expressions of female sexuality.

The best text that I have read is by far Richard Brody's The Accurate Erotics of "Fifty Shades of Grey." Thoughtful and nuanced. Critics that take their work seriously will write like this no matter how much they like or dislike a certain movie. I was particularly impressed and moved by the reference to Godard. How generous. And how appropriate - since Godard's Nouvelle Vague films are so much about blurring the line between high culture and pop culture.

I suspect this review is also an attempt on Brody's part to acknowledge the good work of female directors. And Sam Taylor-Johnson did do a good job with this one considering - again - the source material. I don't think this has been a bad career move, as other reviewers have said. I do hope she gets the chance to direct movies based on better material, though. I see her directing movies like Point Break, or Women in Love. Movies about strong male bonds. Men who love each other but who are ultimately incapable of expressing their love.

On feminist blogs, the best text I've read is this one from Bitch.

As for jokes on 50 Shades, most of them are so tired. Seriously. If you're gonna make a joke about a mass phenomenon, at least make an effort. I mentioned the Vaginal Fantasy book club in the first part of this addendum. As Kiala said in the latest episode, she talked about 50 Shades when she was a guest on this podcast. I laughed so much listening to this. Once you think of Christian Grey as a hoarder, it's impossible to go back. I mean, can you imagine him on an episode of Hoarders? That would be hilarious.

As a rule, when writing a review, it's maybe a good idea not to insult the audience of that movie in like every single paragraph. I'm refraining from linking to a review that does exactly that because then I would have to quote one of my favorite writers, and I guess part of me thinks it would be insulting to quote her in such a context. Also, when reviewing a BDSM-themed movie, do not use the word "perversity," even if you don't mean it in a negative way. Just don't.

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As it happens with obsessions, one becomes more attuned to things one wouldn't normally pay attention to.

Like this Anne Sexton quote that I stumbled upon:
About three weeks ago, he said to me, "Were you beaten as a child? I told that I had been, when I was about nine. I had torn up a five-dollar bill that my father gave to my sister; my father took me into his bedroom, laid me down on his bed, pulled off my pants and beat me with a riding crop. As I related this to my doctor, he said, "See, that was quite a royal strapping," thus revealing to me, by way of my own image, the intensity of that moment, the sexuality of that beating, the little masochistic seizure - it's so classic it's almost corny.
(So far, I've thought of spanking as infantilizing, but what if it's the other way around? What if spanking is essentially sexual, and parents - clueless as they usually are, and in denial about kids' sexuality (Guy Maddin's movies would be relevant here) - don't even realize they're doing smth seriously fucked-up?)

Or like when I clicked on this link - I didn't pay attention to the main article, because my attention was drawn by what was in the sidebar: Nick Broomfield's Fetishes, about a BDSM dungeon in New York. (I haven't had the chance to see it in full as it's already disappeared from youtube. Digital ghosts and all that.)

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The only genuine alternative to 50 Shades is actual BDSM erotica. Like Maria Beatty's films. I discovered her a few years ago, reading the Wiki page for John Zorn (whose music I still haven't really explored). What I've seen from her films is definitely more extreme than 50 Shades (pretty much everything that's on their list of hard limits), but at the same time so elegant. It's odd that I've mentioned Guy Maddin earlier, because now that I think of it, their style is pretty similar. Imitations of German expressionism, silent films, and all that.

John Zorn's music for Maria Beatty's film The Elegant Spanking


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I wish I had insisted more on female agency / sexuality / desire / gaze. And maybe for a minute I actually thought I could have done that. But the truth is I still have so much to read. I'm particularly interested in the female gaze. Is it truly possible? And when does it become a lesbian gaze? Do these questions even make sense? I guess my problem with feminist theory and gender theory is that the more I read, the more confused I get about certain concepts.

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I'm not done thinking and writing about and around 50 Shades, but to end this three-part addendum (an unintentional trilogy):



You're suspending me up
With a feeling
From up here
I do surrender
In the trust that up high
Lie here together

Sunday, March 1, 2015

An Addendum to Psihopați, Fifty Shades și anxietăți feministe (2)

Secretary seems to be at the top of the list when it comes to alternatives to Fifty Shades of Grey. I have no idea why. These are two very different movies. Secretary is a quirky odd little movie, so I get the appeal. I get why people would root for the indie movie and not for the blockbuster. My biggest problem with Secretary is exactly what I've said in the previous post: a professional power dynamic reproduced sexually makes me want to vomit. Then: what year is this supposed to be? It is so retro-sexist. The secretary who gets spanked for typos. One thing that 50 Shades has managed to do is make me accept that spanking can exist in an erotic context and not be sexist. Up till reading the book, I could not get past the association of spanking with those sexist ads from the Mad Men era, which encouraged men to spank their women if they weren't the perfect housewives. When Lee first gets spanked, the whole thing is rather infuriating - even though she's into it. There's no discussion whatsoever about limits or safewords, and the bruise she's left with is appalling.

One of the things 50 Shades gets criticized for a lot is the fact that it seems to suggest that only people with some sort of past trauma or who are damaged in some way can be into BDSM. But then why not extend the same criticism to Secretary, and Nine 1/2 Weeks (as read through Ingeborg Day's biography), and The Story of O, and Sylvia Day's Bared to You, and so on? Is 50 Shades getting singled out b/c of its massive popularity? I guess so.

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50 Shades is primarily a feminine fantasy. But it's also a masculine fantasy. There's the materialistic aspect - the cars, and private jets, etc. There's the power, obviously. And then there's the waiting. Having a woman waiting for you. Doing nothing else but waiting for you. That's the thread that connects 50 Shades, Nine 1/2 Weeks and Secretary. In 50 Shades, this is not so transparent. It's just for a few minutes, in the Red Room, and mostly just to build up the anticipation. He doesn't make her wait for an entire day (Nine 1/2 Weeks) or for days (Secretary). These two movies - Secretary & Nine 1/2 Weeks - instantly made me think of Don Draper, in the 6th season, asking his new mistress to stay at home and wait for him. He doesn't even allow her to read a book! What an a-hole. (I kinda have a problem with this male, sexist perspective on waiting because "waiting," as a theme, is very important to me.)

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I suppose I took my text for DV to a rather dark place with the whole bit on psychopaths, and I almost took it to an even darker place. What stopped me was my memory. It is so frustrating to be so sure of a memory and then discover that oh, actually... no, you're not remembering it right.

The first BDSM scene I've ever read (well, as far as can I remember; now I'm not sure of anything) was in Paulo Coelho's 11 Minutes, back in high school. Coelho was really popular back then. Everyone would recommend The Alchemist. I even had that book on my reading list for the universal lit class - the result of a negotiation between us and our (female) teacher (I was glad my suggestion, Wuthering Heights, got on that list.). We didn't get to discuss The Alchemist because by then we had a new (misogynistic) teacher who gave us a new reading list made up only of male authors. So anyways, I wasn't really into The Alchemist, I didn't get what all the hype was about. But 11 Minutes... yeah, I definitely remember liking that one. Except for this one scene that made me feel extremely uncomfortable.

Re:reading it now I've noticed that it's actually really similar to the first scene from the Red Room. (I've just googled "cravaşă" just to make sure it's the equivalent of "riding crop" and I've got one question: does one buy riding crops from the horse shop for their BDSM needs? Oh, this reminds me of that scene from Nine 1/2 Weeks in which he's buying a riding crop and hits her right there, in the store. Their vulgar exhibitionism was yet another thing I hated about this movie.)

Getting back to 11 Minutes: at the time, I was also reading quite a bit on torture methods. I was more interested in witches and the Inquisition (and read the only book I could find at the school library; I don't even remember its title or author) but I also read a bit from Procesul de la Nurnberg. So my memory was that the BDSM scene from 11 Minutes made me feel really uncomfortable because Maria finds pleasure in a sexual act that was also a method of torture used on women in Nazi camps. In the weekend when I finished my fragmentary text for DV, I must have spent two or three hours on the floor, mostly on my knees, flipping through Procesul de la Nurnberg, crying, but also getting angry at myself because I couldn't remember where I had read about a riding crop used to torture women. Which is fucking insane. How can you cry reading about torture and at the same time feel detached enough / so self-centered as to worry about your failing memory? Then I started a googling session that contained some seriously fucked-up search terms. And I finally found it. The testimony of a woman in which she describes getting sexually abused with a riding crop. It was 1940s Poland alright, but her torturer was a communist. I'm not linking to the testimony because meanwhile, I've forgotten her name again and I don't want to look for it. I couldn't stomach another search like that again. Now I wonder: where the hell could I have read about this in high school? Have I heard of it in a tv documentary? Where?

Reading the scene with the riding crop in 50 Shades might have reminded me how the same scene from 11 Minutes made feel ten years ago, but it also made it clear that in my head there was finally a distance between BDSM scenes and torture. Even so, the question still remains somewhere in the background: how can a woman's torture be another woman's pleasure? And here's smth I don't think men really understand. I've heard plenty of lesbians saying that the greatest thing about being a lesbian is knowing you can give another woman pleasure. That's where the real power resides: giving a woman pleasure. Not in controlling her or dominating her. So men who think that humiliating and degrading a woman equals power make me sick. They make me lose faith in humanity. They make it difficult to trust other men. Yeah, that Andrea Dworkin quote (#NoShortageOfKitchenKnives).

*

I do wonder if BDSM is maybe easier to make sense of in a lesbian relationship. Yes, even in such a relationship there might be a power imbalance, but at least they're free from the historical weight of misogyny. That's why I'm looking forward to seeing The Duke of Burgundy. If you want an alternative to 50 Shades, this is it. Although I could argue that the first 50 Shades book / movie falls a little outside of heteronormativity, The Duke of Burgundy is the real deal. It's queer desire in its purest form.



(To be continued...)

Friday, February 27, 2015

An Addendum to Psihopați, Fifty Shades și anxietăți feministe (1)

I resist a mass phenomenon until I don't.

With 50 Shades, it was two things:

(1) I needed a light read b/c I was already reading two difficult books. One that I don't even plan on finishing any time soon: The Second Sex. Finally! And one that I'm still enjoying in small increments: Eimear McBride's A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing. 50 Shades might have (and give) many orgasms but this book is so freaking good that it doesn't need sex scenes to be orgasmic. For the very first time I've found myself thinking the style is more important than the content.

(2) Jamie Dornan. He's my new Ryan Gosling. Jamie Dornan is to blame for my obsession with 50 Shades. That's actually the secret to making the terrible prose bearable: just read it with Jamie in mind. When I first heard of this trilogy, it aroused no interest from my part. A CEO, helicopter rides - YAWN. Obscene displays of capitalist-patriarchal power are a definite turn-off. The moment I walk into a building like Grey House, or however the hell his company is called, I become Ana - inadequate and wanting to get the fuck out of there as fast as possible (actually, I don't walk into buildings like that; I actively avoid them). Plus, I had misunderstood how their relationship started. I thought the interview was a job interview for a position as his assistant, and a professional power dynamic that is reproduced sexually makes me want to vomit. But anyhow, Jamie Dornan! I'm refraining right now from using a ton of objectifying adjectives.

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This is an addendum to my text from this week's Dilema, which I have written before having the chance to see the movie, before having seen some of the movies I will talk about here.

*

In general, I insist on the fact that a book / movie / etc. does not exist in a vacuum. It must be analyzed in a larger context. With 50 Shades, I'm tempted to make an exception and say it makes more sense to analyze it in the context of romance books. (But of course: part of the fun is to put it in a much larger context. Taking a bad text like this and projecting whatever the hell you want on it is one of the reasons why I love media culture so much.)

In 2012, I discovered Felicia Day's Vaginal Fantasy Book Club. I have never had any interest in romance novels. They just sounded boring as fuck. But throw in some vampires, werewolves or something like that and you've got my attention. It still felt like a total waste of time to read those books. I suppose what really drew me to them was the fandom. It's always fascinating to discover that so many people are so into this very specific thing. I myself remain a spectator because I get distracted, I'm interested in different things, so it seems impossible for me to stick to one subculture and get so immersed into it that I feel compelled to contribute to discussions on forums and post comments and so on. However, I do tend to get addicted and for a short period spend way too much time obsessing over stuff that I will barely remember a few years later.

I haven't read many books picked by the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club, but I think I've read enough to know a thing or two. The first two were steampunk romance: The Iron Duke (Iron Seas #1) and Soulless (Parasole Protectorate #1). The Iron Duke has a seriously problematic sex scene that can only be described as rapey (and let it be noted that this word is appropriate only when discussing fiction). Soulless also has a sex scene where her consent falls in a rather gray area. And after having read the latest alt pick for Vaginal Fantasy, Sylvia Day's Bared to You (Crossfire #1), I am convinced the articles decrying the abusive relationship in 50 Shades are completely blown out of proportion, and I also came to the conclusion that romance books have created a safe space. Romance novels are written by women, read by women, discussed extensively on forums etc. so I suppose it's considered by many a safe space where anything goes. Even violence and patriarchal power dynamics. This might not completely gel with my feminist views, but I do respect safe spaces created by women for women and I do think there's value in discussing these books. Just watching the latest Vaginal Fantasy episode, which discusses the main pick for February, The Story of O, is enough to be reminded that trashy books are one of the best starting points for discussions about female sexuality / agency / desire. (It's also important to note that a lot of women who write or read romance are feminists - all the more reason not to dismiss these books as junk.)


Sylvia Day's Bared to You is a very strange book in that it's incredibly similar to 50 Shades. Like some people on goodreads have said, it's almost as if Day made a bet she could write a better 50 Shades. And indeed, it is better. It would be difficult to write smth worse. Prose-wise at least. Because the content itself is worse. The very fist sex scene in Bared to You is already problematic [I really do need to erase this word from my vocabulary, it's getting annoying]. Wherein 50 Shades is all about consent, this first sex scene from Bared to You perpetuates the classic misogynistic myth that "NO" means "yes." Plus our handsome dark prince is even more fucked-up than Christian Grey. He gets all rapey in his sleep. Yeah. Some feminists were talking about gaslighting in 50 Shades. I seriously cannot think of anything in the books or the movie that could be considered gaslighting. Instead, that can be found in Bared to You. After plenty of vanilla sex, out of nowhere, he tells her he's into BDSM and wants her to be his submissive. She's obviously reluctant but he keeps insisting she's a natural submissive. It's another classic example of misogyny: you might say or even think you're not submissive, but your body is telling me smth different. That's exactly why I love the negotiation scene in 50 Shades: she wants to leave, he points out that her body is saying the opposite, they play a little sexy game, and... she leaves. He asks if she's sure she wants to leave but he doesn't insist, he's not trying to turn her "no" into a "yes." He has no choice but to let her leave. It's the best representation of desire-doesn't-automatically-mean-consent.

Concerning the other two literary alternatives to 50 Shades, via Vaginal Fantasy:

(1) The Story of O. I have not read this book, but after having watched the Vaginal Fantasy episode I think I might. Even though I couldn't even watch the movie. It's... it's so clear that she's getting raped again and again that I just don't think I can stomach it. The only reason for which I'd want to read / see The Story of O is just to have a clear picture of BDSM fiction. Any type of erotica written by women should be mandatory reading for a feminist. Besides, to a certain extent, I think I understand what it's about. It's about the erasure of the self. If I knew a thing or two about Eastern philosophies, I would probably understand this better.

Also: the end of Story of O reminds me of a Mexican movie, Año bisiesto / Leap Year. The year this movie played at TIFF, it got bad reviews from film bloggers - mostly, they seemed to have a problem with Monica del Carmen's body type and the type of sex her character was into. So exactly what made the movie so special. To see that body type (my body type, I suppose) in a sexual context was so new. To see a judgement-free representation of female sexual agency was also rather new. The only scene that revealed the sad fact that despite her agency she still couldn't escape sexist gender roles was the one where she had to clean up his mess, even though, technically, the role playing was over. The end is very close to The Story of O - she asks her lover to kill her during sex. Strangely enough, her request didn't shock me. It made me think of Marilyn Manson's concept of romanticism that was at the basis of Eat Me, Drink Me. Consuming each other. Literally. Needless to say, I was glad Laura's lover did not go through with it. Año bisiesto is a very sad movie, with a sexual yet vulnerable female character. Even though I didn't love it, I still don't think it deserved all the vitriol it got.



(2) Kushiel's Dart. I remember so little from this book. It kinda pissed me off. I wanted to like it b/c it was fantasy, and I was desperate for an alternative to Game of Thrones written by a woman, but this was just so freaking long and I hated the dialogues. I guess Carey was trying to replicate the French spoken at Court during Louis XIV or... who the fuck knows what she was doing? Her prose is overwritten and ridiculous. Had it been shorter, I guess I would have liked it more b/c there are some interesting aspects in there (the wicked Melisandre - she brings her pain and pleasure but she also betrays Phèdre; I think I'd give this book/series another shot just to see where these two end up; there's also a male character who is some sort of knight, I think it was Joscelin, and who obviously is a virgin and who obviously falls in love with Phèdre).

*

Last weekend I watched Nine 1/2 Weeks for the first time ever. I had forgotten who directed it, but I didn't even need to see Adrian Lyne's name to know it was his work. It's the same misogynistic paranoia about women's sexual liberation, just a little less obvious than in Fatal Attraction. If a woman wants to explore her sexuality she will be punished and humiliated. She must know she will never have the sexual freedom of a man. That's what the ridiculous scene with the suit is all about. It's about knowing she cannot have the same freedom.

To be fair, yes, the movie is based on a book written by a woman: Elizabeth McNeill, Ingeborg Day's nom de plume. (However, this doesn't change my interpretation of the movie.)

I was unpleasantly surprised to find out that Ingerborg Day worked for Ms. Magazine. That sm who is supposedly a feminist can get into such a toxic relationship with a man is rather difficult to accept. Reading it through her biography (I've never been a fan of "Nică nu e Ion Creangă"), the relationship from Nine 1/2 Weeks really does seem like a form of self-flagellation - for her father's past, for her own anti-Semitism.

John (at first I was like: oh my gosh, there was a time when Mickey Rourke was cute, but then: what's up with that serial-killer smile? what a creep!) is not interested in negotiating. They never discuss limits and safewords. For him, it's not just about control. It's definitely not about her trust. He gets off on her humiliation. I almost expected to hear some BS about how he didn't think he deserved her love and that was why he pushed her limits more and more till she would finally leave him. Like Adam did in the 2nd season of Girls, when he got all rapey with his new girlfriend, Natalia. He was feeling miserable about himself, so yeah, sure, "why not abuse this sweet girl just to make her hate me as much as I hate myself?" And speaking of rapey scenes, of course there's one in Nine 1/2 Weeks as well, right at the beginning when he knows she's been going through his things. I mean, just the thought that he's been somewhere out there spying on her for hours is so scary. That's exactly why none of the sex scenes in this movie are actually hot - as a viewer, I'm constantly afraid for her.

I've never felt scared for Ana. Of course it's heartbreaking to see her cry like that at the end, but even then you know it's not just about the physical pain. In that moment, she realizes their relationship can't work. Their sexual compatibility only goes so far, he's not willing to do the emotional work. She's fallen for him and the impossibility of an "us" breaks her heart. Honestly, it would have been great if the book had ended there. I wish they at least didn't make the sequels. Everything that works in this first movie will be completely ruined in the next two.

(To be continued...)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lately

Trying for the nth time to learn the basics of coding and failing. This time is Stanford's Programming Methodology and Karel the Robot Learns Java.

Watching The X-Files.

Having as a favorite item of clothing a thrifted sweater that is probably from the 80s / early 90s.

All this conjures up that early 90s feeling - when there's no getting out of this small town, when I can't see beyond it, when everything is a dead end. The result is twofold: apathy (why bother doing anything at all when there's no getting out?) and alienation (I can't connect to these people who are too caught up in their mediocre little lives).

*

The same old question is gnawing at me:

Longing. Would I be longing for the same things if I didn't read the books I read, didn't see the movies I see, didn't listen to the songs I listen to?


 +

There's this quote from Barthes's A Lover's Discourse, a famous one, that I've been trying to find for days. It's about books shaping our desire for love. I think. Because now that I can't find it I wonder if this is not a false memory. (I've recently discovered I've had a false memory about a book and now I'm worried it might not be the only one.) So I went back to Eugenides's The Marriage Plot where I first read it but I still can't find it. What I do know is that it's definitely time to re:read A Lover's Discourse.

*

And in this loneliness, all the things I'll have to be for myself:

the knightess {1}
the one who tells me "girl, you know, you gotta watch your health" {2}
the boy / girl with the band-aids {3}
the boy who emails me: GO TO SLEEP {4}
the one I tell: I don't want to let you down {5}
etc. etc.

{1} from M.T.'s & E.C.'s writing; Joan of Arc; Shin A-lam
{3} from manga, both yaoi and yuri
{4} from Fifty Shades of Grey

*

Even though I'm more than well acquainted with loneliness, I still have to learn how to be alone. Especially in public.

I have conquered aloneness in movie theaters and theaters a long time ago, concert venues as well (the ones with seats and tickets sold in advance at least). But I still have a problem with concerts in clubs. Restaurants and cafes are especially problematic. Last year, when I first went alone to Nobori I was feeling so self-conscious the whole time. This time though, I was braver. I took the table next to the window, read from M's book and enjoyed my green tea and sushi - oishii, as always. All the while reveling in the anticipation of seeing Fifty Shades of Grey (that cam dubbed in Spanish I had already seen was somewhat satisfying but definitely not enough). And then going back to the hotel and having the room all too myself. It was a pretty good evening. The only thing that made me rather uncomfortable was the crowd at Victoria. I wasn't in a hurry at all, I even stopped at Librarium Universității and got Brecht's erotic poems (kinda disappointing so far). I seriously did not expect so many people to show up for a Tuesday screening. I actually asked if they still had tickets. I only have to ask that question at film festivals.

(Even though I felt like a total creep doing this, I braided my hair before the movie started. I love that feeling of going into a movie knowing what it's about, and having a detail in your outfit / appearance as a reference to the movie. Like when I went to see Attack the Block at Casa TIFF and wore a hoodie. It doesn't always have to be about the outfit. Like last year, when despite being bone-tired and despite my multiplex-phobia I went to the mall to see The Grand Budapest Hotel because in class that day we had talked about marketing for hotels.)

*

Selfies as feminist acts of self-love (?)

{1} cheap hotels
{2} favorite sweater
{3} The X-Files, season 1, episode 8: "Ice" (the episode that reminded me of Greg Rucka's Whiteout)
{4} Tadayoedo Shizumazu Saredo Naki mo Sezu by Yoneda Kou
{5} Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo (This Love from I Can't Remember When) by Morinaga Milk
{6} overdue haircut. when the hairdresser pulls your hair and you have to tell yourself "don't be a creep. do not think of 50 Shades. DO NOT be a creep." (at this point I'm just laughing at myself b/c I've never thought I would obsess over smth like that) also: tired, tired, so fucking tired.




Tuesday, February 3, 2015

fucked up

Watching a late interview (his last?) with Ted Bundy - because that's where the text I'm trying to write has taken me - and somehow... some of the stuff he says makes more sense than my today. Than my last year. Than the way I've been expected to live my so-called life during this past year.


Jenny Holzer

Monday, February 2, 2015

Dear Francesca


Dear Francesca,

How many years of dishonesty can a person endure?

Love,
A.



The Mountain Goats - This Year

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Recharge & Revolt

This last week has been a haze. I don't know when I last slept so little. College, probably.

Part of me is angry I haven't used this time for smth productive. (I haven't done anything else besides reading and thinking of Fifty Shades. But that's another post.)

Part of me is so pleased to know I can still do this. I can still go without sleep for 24 hours. 

*

On Monday evening I took a train to Cluj for the first time since November. I went to see a band that, if I'm not mistaken, I had discovered back in my MySpace days. The Raveonettes. Seeing them all these years later - it's somewhat bittersweet. It feels like it's a bit too late. At The Shelter (yet another first), I was glad I could find a good wallflowering wall, and I had a good view as well. I was already so tired, had a headache, and was worried I wouldn't really enjoy the concert. But by the end: it was exactly what I needed. I was right next to some speakers and I could feel the sound vibrating through my body. Plus the blinding artificial light bathing my face - white, red, blue, green, yellow. And during the encore - always the most intense moment of a concert - I finally danced like I meant it. Being bone-tired, letting go (a bit), the music - the feeling was intoxicating. I didn't even wash my hair that night because I wanted to still smell the cigarette smoke impregnated in it. I wanted to have at least an olfactory memory of the concert to hold on to all throughout Tuesday, at that THING that is making me so miserable. Maybe this is the buzz from Fifty Shades speaking but: going to a concert in Cluj on a weeknight made me feel like a naughty schoolgirl. After all, I'm an eternal teenager. Recharge & Revolt.



Sunday, January 11, 2015

#CharlieHebdo: An Ongoing Draft

On the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, free speech, PC, religion, and t3rrorism. An ongoing draft because there are too many things to say. An ongoing draft because these random thoughts I've been having since January the 7th are too raw and I need to work on them. The first step is to jot them down. Then: a ton of research.

11/01

I'm starting to think we've all been incredibly myopic about what has happened in Paris this week. This attack has very little to do with a bunch of cartoons and everything to do with t3rrorism. I mean, what is the purpose of t3rrorists? To create a stable, safe society where everyone thinks alike? No. Their only purpose is to spill more blood, to cause more t3rror. Why? I have no idea why. Why do men (and now also women) from supposedly civilized countries join the army knowing that at some point they might have to kill another human being, that the drone they control from a safe distance might kill innocent civilians? Maybe because we still buy into the good guys / bad guys binary?

Artists and journalists are easy targets. Their death is supposed to be a message. They also rank higher in "the hierarchy of death." The outrage caused by their death will be huge and the t3rrorists are counting on that. They're also counting on the fact that nationalist a-holes will not repress their growing hate of Muslims. As a consequence: a few Muslims will grow sick and tired of putting up with this hate, become radicalized and eventually join the ranks of a t3rrorist group. And it only takes a few to cause so much damage.

Context, context, context! Context is everything. In this case, if we really want to understand anything at all, we have to look at the bigger picture. We have to look beyond Charlie Hebdo, beyond "the right to offend."

*

The self-sufficiency with which some people have been expressing their opinions these days (on FB - b/c that's where I've been for the last three days) is simply depressing. AFK, I'm surrounded by toxic mediocrity and I would hope that at least online I can exchange a few ideas with people (who share some of my interests) in a smart and interesting way. But no. Sure, part of that failure is my fault. But when all I see is arrogant mansplaining and dismissal of different opinions as irrelevant or just stupid - all this from people who are, in general, way smarter than me - I dunno... I simply refrain from commenting. Or I write the FB equivalent of a subtweet. Or this: bring my thoughts to my safe corner of the Internet.

13/01

"Nothing is sacred.
Except: free speech."

"We have to defend 'the right to offend' everyone and anyone.
Except: the dead."

Well, make up your fucking mind about it already.

I didn't adopt the "Je suis Charlie" slogan for a very simple reason: I wasn't following this publication. I guess I first heard of it sometime in college when I had to research the controversy surrounding the Danish cartoons, decided I didn't like their style, and didn't return to their website. Later on I mentioned it in the chapter on political satire in my thesis and then completely forgot about it. So: wouldn't I have been a hypocrite to suddenly declare "moi aussi je suis Charlie?"

But why the need to declare "Je ne suis pas Charlie?" Because instead of taking a stance against t3rrorism [period], people were going on and on about free speech, about how these people died for free speech. Because a ton of idiots on social media were already calling for the death of all Muslims in the name of Charlie. Because, normally, we all should have waited for their bodies to get cold before having these cultural wars, but by now we know how the media works. We know the conversation needs to happen NOW, before the media will have moved on to next tragedy or controversy.

We really want to believe these journalists died for something bigger than themselves, bigger than all of us. Admitting that they died simply because their killers had a death wish and they were so selfish and so filled with hatred that they wanted to take innocent people with them, or because they were victims of an invisible war (invisible at home) - that would make this whole thing incomprehensible. It wouldn't make any sense. So we believe the "you've offended the Prophet" excuse and tell ourselves that the journalists died for free speech. That is a narrative we can make sense of.

And then comes the irony: the "Je suis Charlie" people who argue that the freedom of speech is absolute - they become so inflexible that they'd wanna silence anyone who disagrees with them. If I can't say "I stand in solidarity against t3rrorism, but 'Je ne suis pas Charlie'" b/c it's not the proper thing to say out loud, then the "Je suis Charlie" people n'ont rien compris and I'm afraid these people have indeed died in vain.

I suppose the frustration from the part of the "Je suis Charlie" camp comes from the fact that others do not share their level of outrage. And gosh, don't I know how frustrating that can be. As a feminist who occasionally expresses her outrage online, I've gotten used to people not only not sharing my outrage, but simply ignoring it.
*

What bothers me about some of these "Je suis Charlie" people is that they've flooded their FB feed with posts, but when Ferguson happened: nada. Crickets. My feed was instead drowning in posts about the stupid ice bucket challenge.Yes, there's a "hierarchy of death" and I don't have any illusions about it dissolving into thin air. Empathy is not an infinite resource. You just can't care about every single death you hear about. Besides, there are days when you just don't care about the news, no matter how tragic and horrible. Responding differently to different deaths doesn't make you a monster. But at least let's not act as if this "hierarchy of death" doesn't exist. Let's be honest about it.

*

It was just a few days ago that I remembered I had a chapter on satire in my thesis. The thought of flipping through such an old, silly thing was scary. Only today I've finally taken out my thesis because I've been kinda curious to see what I had written about Charlie Hebdo. Turns out: not much. Like I said above, I merely mentioned it. However, I was surprised to see that I had included a Charlie Hebdo cartoon in my chapter on Sarkozy. Not only that but it's also a cartoon by Charb. And it's a good one. I laughed so hard that for a moment I thought I might've been wrong about them. But as soon as I caught that thought, the Boko Haram cover popped in my head. That cover (which I've recently seen for the first time) is utterly disgusting. A lot of cartoonists have made this point more eloquently than I could: satire is supposed to be about "punching up," not about "punching down." It's just like rape jokes: if you really must make them, the punchline needs to be the rapist / rape culture, never the victim. Unless you know, you really wanna prove you're scum.

Sarkozy protects his private life
Sarkozy: "Three steps behind!" The woman: "Mais, minou..."


But I have laughed out loud. That cartoon is freaking hilarious. And yes, it doesn't just make fun of Sarkozy, it makes fun of Muslim fanatics as well. I cannot tolerate intolerance. I can't tolerate Muslim fanatics who treat the women in their families like their personal property just as I can't tolerate Christian fanatics who are misogynistic, homophobic, racist, hate-mongering a-holes. But let's get things straight: there are Muslim fanatics, there are Muslims who follow religious rituals just to please their parents, there are Arabs who - if asked - declare themselves Muslim but don't actually practice the religion (there was a time when I used to declare myself a Christian Orthodox even though I sure as hell wasn't stepping in any churches), and there are Arabs who are - ah, gasp! - agnostic or atheist. I am beyond disappointed that some people (again, people whom I generally consider way more intelligent than this moi) seem to make no distinction between Arabs and Muslims. I mean, are you fucking kidding me?!

14/01

I'm starting to regret taking a position on Charlie Hebdo. Should've remained neutral because the truth is I feel caught b/w the affirmative and the negative. Just as "Je suis Charlie" has its idiots who wanna see Muslims dead, "Je ne suis pas Charlie" has its Christian fanatics / cry babies who are obviously always offended by religious jokes, always against any other religions but suddenly Friends of Islam? (Don't get me wrong, if this were the beginning of an interfaith dialogue, that would  be great, but this hypocrisy is simply insulting).

I guess what pushed me towards the negative was the insistence on free speech above anything else (and that "anything else" is responsibility for the Other, which in my book is: not contributing to a pattern of discrimination), and the refusal of all "buts" (therefore: the refusal of nuance, like: yes, some ppl have suggested "they had it coming" and fuck those ppl b/c victim blaming is despicable BUT by blaming or merely suggesting that ALL Muslims are to blame for this you are just as despicable; put the blame where it belongs: t3rrorism).

15/01

In order to understand why non-religious French Arabs turn to Islam and become radicalized (some more than others) it might be helpful to look into why so many African-Americans converted to Islam during the Civil Rights Movement. I first read about The Civil Rights Movement in my senior year in high school, so ages ago. It's about time I started reading about this again. I need to dig deeper, go beyond the facts.

*

Yet another distinction people aren't willing to make these days is that the ones who lack humor are fanatics, and not ALL Muslims. (I already feel ridiculous repeating "not ALL Muslims" b/c no one should have to say smth so obvious; I didn't need to read a book on a cognitive-behavioral approach to depression to know that absolute generalizations like "all [insert group of people]" are indicative of a flawed logic; but maybe some ppl could use such a read? anyways.) So, this inexplicably super-popular blogger (also a writer and a filmmaker? ugh, who gives a sh-- ?) who seems to be an expert on everything under this Sun and beyond (not a  generalization, a hyperbole *wink*) made a HUGE discovery: he looked up the equivalents for humor, irony, and sarcasm in a Persian dictionary and - lo and behold - he didn't find them. (And what am I supposed to understand from this? That Muslims have no sense of humor?) Maybe he should look up "ridiculous" cause I'm sure he'll find this word. With his picture next to it. How can you conclude these words don't exist in a language just because you couldn't find them in a dictionary? Wouldn't smth like oh, IDK, logic (?) require you to first question the source, i.e. the dictionary that is surely incomplete, and then do more research before you draw your conclusions?! Seriously! Besides: satire is a special kind of humor - it's about mockery, and as this guy pointed out, there is an equivalent for this in his little useless dictionary. Moreover: just because you can't find linguistic equivalents for words like humor, irony and sarcasm, that doesn't automatically mean that the concepts are unknown in that culture. I take Satrapi's graphic novels as an indication of that (yes, her education is very French, but most of the hilarious dialogues in her graphic novels are b/w her Iranian relatives in, you know, Iran).

(Also: making assumptions about an entire culture based on your encounter with that culture is not only intellectually dishonest but also dangerous. It's the type of thing that - when compounded - leads to failure after failure in the intercultural dialogue. If you experience a cultural clash, keep in mind that about 50% of that is a failure on your part. I should know it.)
*

This is the best random find at this moment: When Satire Conquered Iran. I still can't get over how perfect this is for the point I've tried to make above. More and more convinced racism / misogyny / homophobia etc. come from an unwillingness to bother reading a few lines that challenge your preconceptions about the Other.

*

This little exercise of mine is already wearing me down. It is already a failure. Instead of doing my research, I keep getting fixated on and responding passive-aggressively to random stuff I see on that stupid FB. Sigh.