26 May 2007

the only thing green

is my face, from nausea, upon reading the latest on the american government reaction to the german-led proposal on climate change put before the g8. read the proposal here and weep.

15 May 2007

sleep mask


i usually try to keep track of my dreams and nightmares as a way of analysing possible base causes of waking thoughts or anxieties. while i was away this weekend, i had ana experience that's happened to me only rarely- a nightmare bad enough that i woke myself (and my mother) up with my own screaming.

there's no point in trying to explain what happened in the nightmare, since prose always robs them of their sinister power and reduces them to low-brow comedy, but i do find it strangely appropriate that the nightmare should have involved an enemy wearing a mask.

after all, dreams themselves are masked, with familiar, sometimes farcical imagery serving as a cover for underlying meaning. but what is more interesting to me is that the wearing of masks is actually just as common in waking life as it is in dreams. we all have disguises that we wear, an image that we project to impress or intimidate others, or something that allows us to defend ourselves, blocking access to our true interior workings.

popular culture is replete with images of masks. in a mainstream variant, all our superheroes are forced to hide their identities under ordinary exteriors. in perhaps his most brilliant work, edgar allan poe has death infiltrate the home of prince prospero wearing a disguise in order that he might blend in with the guests who are orgiastically celebrating their immunity from him. stanley kubrik, in his debatable final work eyes wide shut features a mysterious group, who gather to act out their fantasies in anonymity, where the greatest fear/ punishment is to be unmasked.

possibly my favourite example, and the one closest to the tone of my nightmare, of the use of a mask in film, however, is onibaba, where the hideous disguise eventually becomes more powerful than the person wearing it.

sweet dreams...

gender blending

i've been given the opportunity in the last few days to think about my grandmother and ruminate on my impressions of her. being a quick-witted, smart-mouthed type, i often wonder what she would have become if she had been born in another era, or in another geographical location. born in her own time, but in a large city instead of a small town, i can easily picture her donning a suit and sneaking out to drink and smoke cigars with the guys. since she did live in a small town and likely felt the pressure of expectations, she became a wife and mother, perhaps a little more uneasily than others.

for what she might have turned out like in the modern era, i need only look in the mirror. i consider myself fortunate that i'm free to do bar shots, make off-colour jokes, stay out past my bed time and generally behave as badly as anyone, without fear of ostracism from either family or community.

however, there are sometimes signs i get that things aren't quite as smooth between the genders as we'd like to believe. a particularly good example happened some years back, when i was involved in a conversation and one of the people made the comment that he "wouldn't say this if there were women in the room". even i missed the implication for a beat.

now, i'm not indicating that this person was so obtuse as to have failed to realise that i was (and remain) female, but the comment does indicate that he didn't think of me as being the female in the same way as, say, his girlfriend was. somehow, from associating with men and establishing a comfort level, i'd also managed to establish myself as a member of a third gender.

gender dimorphism is not something that has been unquestioned. castrati, castrated males prized for their singing from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, enjoyed a social place outside the confines of gender (examined melodramatically in the film farinelli). hijras in south asia are intergendered and play a role that is neither male nor female within the society (don't take my word for it.) these examples are both very separate from questions of sexual orientation, which is a whole other issue.

an excellent resource on this is the intersex society of north america (which deals primarily with issues facing those born without a clear gender) or gilbert herdt's excellent historical and sociological study third sex, third gender.

the battle of the sexes is beginning to look a little more complex than most people would imagine.

06 May 2007

04 May 2007

still waters run deep


music review :: nebris :: bleak angels :: dystonia ek

this is one of those releases that could be termed "ambient music" at a cursory listen. that's normally a polite way of saying that something functions as background noise, but lacks the personality to stand by itself. and what a sad mistake it would be to leave it at that.

the fact is that the album's three lengthy tracks show chthonic depths and an alternate world's worth of organic, expansive sound churning beneath the seemingly placid surface. this is music to listen to when you're ready to examine the inner landscape of your mind.

the album's first two tracks in particular are models of restraint, forcing the listener to focus or be left behind, compressing an atmosphere's worth of pressure into just over thirty minutes. the final, and longest, track raises the ante. the textures become more shrill, more abrasive, more unsettling, which, after the sensory-deprivation-chamber-hallucination ambiance of the first two tracks, can be heart-stopping.

as aggressive, unsettling and natural as the shifting of techtonic plates.
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