I’ll try to keep this short; it’s late and there’s not much time left. Please forgive me if you’ve heard parts of this story before.
For me, it started with an old box of science fiction. I tore through Samuel R. Delany, Joanna Russ, Gene Wolfe, and others, reliving stories old by the time I cracked the pages. I didn’t care.
To my mind, the New Wave had it: the future was something to play in. This status quo was the most transient of things, its passing viewed with a sense of infinite possibility. If there were other cultures out in space, forward in time, why not here? Why not now?
I lived in one of those amazing, barely-clinging corners of the country too many ignore when they talk about culture of any variety. No metropoli there, just a scattering of people trying their desperate best. By the time I busted open the box full of old books, I had already faced a fair amount of poverty, hardship, and even death.
But here, as the years wore on and I read my way through an uneasy adolescence, was something else: here was hope, in the most dangerous fashion. Somewhere out there, people changed their personalities, moved in unison, turned boundaries into blurs transitory as old blood on a highway.
By that point I did not care about ridicule, and laughed when someone threatened me, but this I was terrified of, sure that the half-described scenes — goths, ravers, activists, and more — faced possibility with a courage I felt I’d never know.
Heads up, though; I just received an alarming message from Sxip Shirey, conveying word from his friend Greg Squared who’s volunteering in some of the most devastated burroughs of New York. Sxip says, “Our city is NOT back to normal. People need help. Please help. READ.” Here is Greg’s from-the-trenches assessment of what’s going on right now:
“Okay. Now that the election is over, can we get back to what’s actually important: the state of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy? The Rockaways, the Jersey Shore, Coney Island, Red Hook, Staten Island all need your help. They’re having trouble getting food, FEMA and the Red Cross seem to be completely absent, and there’s a big storm bearing down, scheduled to hit Wed., and bring snow on Thurs. I urge everyone that’s celebrating Obama’s victory tonight not only to call on their Congress people to get some shit done vis-a-vis the pitiful federal response, but to take an active part by donating urgently needed material and financial support. One place you can do that is at the link below. Furthermore, a couple of Occupy Sandy kitchens that have been supplying something like 20,000 hot meals for people without electricity are very close to being completely out of food. If you live in the New York area and want to donate food, please bring it to one of the distribution centers listed at interoccupy.net/occupysandy/.”
Stay warm, stay kind, stay mindful, comrades. We’ve still got a long, dubious winter ahead of us.
“A hurricane has swept through Sesame Street and everyone is working together to clean up the neighborhood. When Big Bird checks on his home, he is heartbroken to find that the storm has destroyed his nest. Big Bird’s friends and neighbors gather to show their support and let him know they can fix his home, but it will take time. While everyone on Sesame Street spends the next few days cleaning up and making repairs, Big Bird still has moments where he is sad, angry, and confused…”
While there’s still never been a black model on the cover of Gothic Beauty Magazine (in fact, having looked the past twelve years of covers up close, it’s clear that even models with brown eyes appear to be a rarity among the blue- and green-eyed cover ladies), and while most spooky fashion designers still prefer white models for their branding, a host of blogs dedicated to multicultural dark fashion are bringing greater visibility to the people that these venues ignore. Just on Tumblr, there’s Darque & Lovely, DarkSKIN (subtitled “I was so goth, I was born black), and Black Sheep Goths. On Facebook, groups such as Black/African American Goths foster lively discussion.
Of the Tumblr communities, Black Sheep focuses most specifically on people who are othered (providing a platform for “queer/fat/trans/non-binary/disabled/POC” goths), while DarkSKIN delves most deeply into different time periods (from Victorian photographs to seventies album covers to a friend’s most recently-uploaded snapshots), pop culture personalities taking a turn for the macabre (from Eartha Kitt singing “I want to be evil” to Aaliyah playing a sultry Anne Rice vampire) and media (from high-end fashion shoots to grainy self-portraits)
Many of the images come with empowering and, at times, defensive captions. It seems that even in 2012, some try to claim that the goth scene belongs to white people only. One caption on the Darque & Lovely blog, below an image of tattoo artist Roni Zulu, reads: “this is for the chicken-shit anon who said black people shouldn’t ‘do’ goth or punk. At certain points in history to be black in America was (still can be) a pretty gothic experience, to say the least.”
Is the goth scene unfriendly to people with dark skin? What do non-white goths think about the fetishization of paleness in the gothic subculture?
“The only time I experienced anything racial in the scene was at Death Guild [a San Francisco goth night],” says Shamika “Meeks” Baker, a San Francisco-based writer, artist and model. “A guy walked up to me, shouted ‘scuse me!’ and shoved me aside. Of couse, when I grabbed the back of his Fun Fur coat and yanked him back to demand an apology, he started screaming ‘get your black hands off of me!’ Happily, after I finished scaring him and turned around, I discovered several of my friends behind me and ready to back me up. [Other than that incident], I’ve found that the goth scene has been really welcoming and open.”
“For me, the fetishization of paleness in beauty in general is very much a class issue as opposed to straight race,” says New York-based artist/maker Numidas Prasarn. “The ‘ideal gothic beauty’ of being pale comes from this sense of otherness. When mainstream de mode is tanned beach babe, the pale contrast is taken up as the signifier of an Other that defensively puffs itself up. The problem is that it’s a microcosm that doesn’t necessary carry the sense of self-awareness to realize that it’s also othering people.”
Asha Beta, a sculptor, jewelry designer and musician currently living in Prescott, Arizona, comments on her invisibility within a community that borrows aesthetics from her cultural heritage:
The “traditional” ideal of the scene as the pale-faced, black-clad individual definitely never applied to me, but because of my instant and deep connection and attraction to the music and atmosphere of the scene I had to set that aside. I always felt that I was not perceived to be as attractive, as beautiful or even as “goth” as girls who were paler than me. I never attracted many suitors and I reconciled myself to never being able to approach the “gothic ideal of beauty” very early on, although I felt within myself that my personal way of being “goth” was very sincere and creative and very much true to what “goth” was all about. The one part of the scene that obviously made me uncomfortable was the military/Nazi/Aryan faction of it, although I understand that for many of those people it was a fetish or history obsession type of thing, and not necessarily based in racism.
Many of the aesthetics of goth culture are taken from my cultural heritage (Asian/East Indian/Middle Eastern, African/Egyptian/Voodoo/Haitian-Caribbean) so I still felt and feel strongly that my connection to it is natural and instinctive and powerful. It was achingly difficult to be a minority within the subculture I deeply loved because it’s within these that we find acceptance and understanding where the larger society rejects us. I was a loner within the scene just as I was in society. I found a personal solace and creative outlet, but I never found the community I was searching for. I am overjoyed to finally see our subcultures mirroring the multicultural quality of our world, and so glad to see the younger generations of subcultures finding and creating communities to connect with and support one another.
Meeks Baker agrees. “I love that more emerging blogs/sites focus on us dark-skinned gothy types. To be honest, I never really cared much for gothic beauty magazines because they didn’t really reflect my aesthetic, but I did still feel marginalized. To this day I am thrilled to see ethnic diversity represented in alternative culture.”
In early 2012, the Russian feminist punk band/avant grade group Pussy Riot staged several disruptive performances in Moscow. Inspired by Oi! bands, the riot grrrl movement, and an diverse slew of cultural thinkers, the band donned colorful ski masks, armed themselves with electric guitars, and sang in protest of the devastating violations of civil rights happening under Putin’s regime.
Back in February, Mer blogged about the band’s “Punk Prayer” – an incident in which the band stormed Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral for an impromptu performance. The lyrics of the song criticized the Orthodox Church’s corrupt alliance with Putin’s government, asking Mother Mary to deliver Russia from Putin’s third term. “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist,” the girls sang before they were dragged away by the authorities.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mariya Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, the three jailed members of Russian punk collective Pussy Riot
After the performance, things got dark for Pussy Riot. Three members of the group were arrested, thrown in jail, denied bail, and held without trial for months. They have been charged with “hooliganism,” and are facing up to seven years in prison. At time of writing, the women have spent 117 days in jail, with the trial postponed for months longer. This is without any family visits, despite two of the girls being young mothers.
Shit is fucked up and bullshit in Russia. Putin has just exponentially increased the anti-protest fine, riot police are savagely beating anti-Putin protesters, and the homes of opposition leaders just got raided. Moscow has just placed a 100-year ban on LGBT pride parades, and St. Petersburg has banned any images of “gay propaganda.” Meanwhile, Russia’s Kremlin-controlled media has done its best to sway public opinion against the girls, painting them as “blasphemous” criminals bent on destroying the entire Russian Orthodox religion. In this climate, it’s likely that the three members of Pussy Riot will be convicted. In fact, just 7% of Russians believe that the band should not somehow be punished.
What can you do to help? For one, spread the word. Organize a local benefit, or donate to their legal fund (note: at time of writing, the site freepussyriot.org where you can donate is down, but most of the time it’s running). Take action with Amnesty International, urging the Prosecutor’s Office to drop the charges and release the band. Stage a protest at your local Russian Embassy or Russian Orthodox Church. Take pictures. Show the band that they are not forgotten.
J.G. Ballard one said that his biggest fear was that the future would be boring. He feared the future would be “a vast, conforming suburb of the soul.” The notion, as applied to the Internet, was recently explored in two pieces on the changing face of internet culture.
Thanks to the French poet Charles Baudelaire and the German critic Walter Benjamin, both of whom viewed the flâneur as an emblem of modernity, his figure (and it was predominantly a “he”) is now firmly associated with 19th-century Paris. The flâneur would leisurely stroll through its streets and especially its arcades — those stylish, lively and bustling rows of shops covered by glass roofs — to cultivate what Honoré de Balzac called “the gastronomy of the eye.” … it’s easy to see, then, why cyberflânerie seemed such an appealing notion in the early days of the Web. The idea of exploring cyberspace as virgin territory, not yet colonized by governments and corporations, was romantic; that romanticism was even reflected in the names of early browsers (“Internet Explorer,” “Netscape Navigator”). …
In the second half of the 19th century, Paris was experiencing rapid and profound change. The architectural and city planning reforms advanced by Baron Haussmann during the rule of Napoleon III were particularly consequential: the demolition of small medieval streets, the numbering of buildings for administrative purposes, the establishment of wide, open, transparent boulevards … But if today’s Internet has a Baron Haussmann, it is Facebook. Everything that makes cyberflânerie possible — solitude and individuality, anonymity and opacity, mystery and ambivalence, curiosity and risk-taking — is under assault by that company. It’s easy to blame Facebook’s business model (e.g., the loss of online anonymity allows it to make more money from advertising), but the problem resides much deeper. Facebook seems to believe that the quirky ingredients that make flânerie possible need to go. “We want everything to be social,” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said on “Charlie Rose” a few months ago.
Evgeny Morozov writes from Palo Alto, a Californian charter city established by the founding father of Stanford University, at which Morozov is a visiting fellow. Palo Alto, nestled in a dewy corner of Silicon Valley, has been at various times home to Google, Paypal, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard: a prime piece of sun-drenched, Nor-Cal sprawl. Social media is to the Read/Write Web what sprawl is to the metropolis of modernity: a homogenous, cancerous, rhizomatic junkspace that expands exponentially outward on a sludgy wave of strip malls and sponsored links, greed and induced demand. This ruthless modernization produces miles of “junkspace” — a term coined by the architect Rem Koolhaas, who wrote that “more and more, more is more. Junkspace is overripe and undernourishing at the same time, a colossal security blanket that covers the earth in a stranglehold of seduction…
Junkspace is like being condemned to a perpetual Jacuzzi with millions of your best friends. Seemingly an apotheosis, spatially grandiose, the effect of its richness is a terminal hollowness, a vicious parody of ambition that systematically erodes the credibility of building, possibly forever.” Koolhaas was referring to the airport and the strip-mall and the single-zone sprawl, but he could have been talking about Facebook…. If space is a practiced place, then collective navigation produces the commons. Like mall rats flipping tricks in a parking lot, users exhibit a feral fluency in the use (and transgression, as it is reimagined daily) of this common timespace: we tune out the ads and get on with the serious business of flirting, hustling, hanging out and talking shit. We know that this serious business is affective labor which produces capital for the custodians of netspace; indeed, meme culture (including but not limited to YouTube parody, stock photo art, cut-ups and image macros) can be seen as the user asserting a subjectivity that exists and thrives despite (and beyond) her status as targeted marketing demographic. Like the Occupy movement, these activities amount to a kind of politics of the public (virtual) body in (virtual) space. We may never own the means of production as such, but will continue to assert, pervert and subvert the commons anyway: a gesture of post-corporeal territorial pissing which necessitates neither phallus nor spray-can nor html.
Effective immediately, we’ll be shutting down until midnight tomorrow to protest two pieces of blacklist legislation - PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate, and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House.
Coilhouse (and countless other publishers, businesses, and activists) could never thrive in a world where SOPA and PIPA were considered reasonable. We oppose the concept of the MPAA (or any corporate sponsor, for that matter) actually writing legislation. We oppose a room full of politicians who don’t understand how the Internet works making vital judgements about its future.
Some relevant quotes:
“If the ████ SOPA [and PIPA] bill passes, ████████████ we’re all kind of ████ed.” – Marina Galperina
“I’m not by any means an enemy of intellectual property, and in fact keep a roof over my head because the conceptexists. But I think that SOPA as it stands now, or as it stood beforethey paused to think about it, is extremely ill thought out, and abasically crazily Draconian piece of legislation.” – William Gibson
“Our freedom is more important than your dying industry. Period.” – @mikeestee
“It doesn’t get much better than working from a war room dedicated to shutting down Wikipedia.” – overheard by @sfslim at the offices of Wikipedia
“These bills were written by the content industry without any input from the technology industry. And they are trying to fast track them through Congress and into law without any negotiation with the technology industry.” - Fred Wilson (Union Square Ventures)
“When ideas are blocked, information deleted, conversations stifled and people constrained in their choices, the Internet is diminished for all of us. There isn’t an economic Internet and a social Internet and a political Internet. There’s just the Internet.” – Hillary Clinton
“The potential for abuse of power through digital networks – upon which we as citizens now depend for nearly everything, including our politics – is one of the most insidious threats to democracy in the Internet age … This is no time for politicians and industry lobbyists in Washington to be devising new Internet censorship mechanisms, adding new opportunities for abuse of corporate and government power over online speech.” - Rebecca MacKinnon (New York Times)
“We’re furthering our corporate interest by taking down our website + ads, to stop a law that the MPAA says can’t harm us.” - Rob Beschizza in response to MPAA butthurt
When was the last time you saw “The Internet” agree about something? It’s beautiful. Thanks, #SOPA! - @raindrift
Intellectual property theft is a problem for artists, and additional safeguards may be needed. As avant-cellist Zoe Keating tweeted earlier today, “I’m against #SOPA, but meanwhile I’m issuing a 7th, ineffective & useless DMCA against @grooveshark. #devilinthedetails” (Grooveshark is notorious among music streaming sites for refusing to pay artists their fair share.) There are no easy solutions. Whether it’s collaboratively fine-tuning the OPEN Act (and it turns out that Rep. Zoe Lofgren, one of the act’s sponsors and SOPA’s biggest opponents, actually listens to feedback) or working out some other method of protest (perhaps a huge internet campaign to educate fans on which sites most fairly compensate the artists they love?), we can work together to construct an Internet where innovation can thrive and artists can fairly profit their work.
SOPA and PIPA cannot pass. The stats are scary: we currently have only 6 Senators opposing PIPA, and we need 40. Only 12 House Members oppose SOPA, and we need 214.
Get involved. Some tips from Congressman Jared Polis and the EFF:
Call your Senators and Representative and tell them to oppose Protect-IP and SOPA, respectively. Click here for some suggested talking points. Then tell your friends about the call on social media sites.
Contact Congress through EFF’s action center. Customize your letter to explain who you are and why you are worried about this bill. If you’re outside the United States, try this petition from Fight for the Future instead.
Are you an artist? Showcase the dangers of censorship through art and music, and use your art as a way of reaching people who might otherwise not know about this issue. You can make stickers, posters or patches, create a YouTube video, or hold an open-mic night around censorship.
Write a blog post about the blacklist bills. Whether it’s a candid explanation of why you oppose the legislation, a discussion of the effect on human rights, or a call to filmmakersto protest the blacklist, there are plenty of things to say about this scary legislation. Help us get the word out by writing articles on your own blog, your school blog, or on blogs that take guest contributors.
If you work for a tech company, approach the leadership at your company and explain to them your concerns. Urge them to join you in speaking out. These companies (PDF) already took a stand.
In case you weren’t sure if there was a contest for everything, Metropolis TV is here to assure you that yes, indeed there is. The above preview of their new season on masturbation spotlights Masanobu Sato who one both the 2008 and 2009 Masturbate-A-Thon, held by the Center for Sex & Culture in San Francisco. Both times he set a record, the current being 9 hours and 58 minutes, a time that sounds as impressive as it does painful.
In an especially surreal moment we get to watch Soto begin his day with a 2 hour “practice session”. There he sits, cross-legged on the floor, peacefully watching the news while his girlfriend sews, all the while casually working an artificial vagina over his turgid member. His girlfriend, for her part, sees this as a hobby, not unlike her sewing, She even helps him “train” by timing him, a decidedly different reaction than I would probably get from my girlfriend if I decided to jerk off on the couch in front of her every morning. There is also a harrowing moment in which their cat climbs on his leg to investigate, running the risk of being pulled into the thresher like vortex created by Sato’s inexorable pumping.
Things turn even weirder, though not unexpectedly, when we accompany Soto to his favorite adult video store. Here he explains his particular taste in pornography: specifically adult anime, explaining that a “real female” can be both smelly and/or dirty, whereas, conversely, the women in anime are nice and clean. Which is true, but really, it’s not something we should be saying out loud. Just let those dirty, stinky women live in ignorance. Better to suffer in silence like a gentleman than complain aloud like a man best known for stroking his dick for nearly 10 hours at a time.
Credit where credit is due, though. A lesser man than Soto would no doubt collapse around the one hour mark, exhausted, frustrated, and horribly, horribly chafed. There are worse things, I suppose, than being known as the world’s premiere practitioner of the autoerotic arts. Better to be recognized for a talent than have none at all.
“boy·taur \’boi-tawr\ n 1 : a guy with four (or more) legs 2 : a guy with any of a variety of multilimb or other transformations 3 : a guy who enjoys the company of boytaurs, and is thus a boytaur in spirit”
“There’s something wildly, almost primally, attractive about a guy with four legs: the crowding of long, sculpted thigh muscle, the four calf muscles bobbing and working in rhythm with his four-legged walk, the four strong male feet supporting his powerful boytaur body. Boytaurs know this attraction well, and it is our constant joy, both to have and to share.”
“Of course, many boytaurs don’t stop with four legs. Some add more legs, going six-legged or more. Some add extra arms. And many, enjoying all their boytaur feet, decide to go wristfooted as well.”
“Other boytaurs have completely different transformations, or none at all, but are still boytaurs in spirit, enjoying their augmented bodies, and sharing that joy freely. boytaur.net is dedicated to helping that sharing go on across the internet, all around the world.”
In 1940, Disney released Fantasia; an epic animated film consisting of several shorts set to classical pieces. If you haven’t seen it, it’s perfect for the holidays. There are fairies and unicorns and dancing mushrooms.
And, of course, Fantasia includes the Pastoral Symphony. As a child, I was happily unaware of the heteronormative, gender essentialist overtones of this piece. I was just excited to see all the centaur boobs and watch the fashion show unfold. Multicolored centaurettes wearing hats made from lotus flowers, birch bark and even live white doves. Exotic mythical creatures lazing around all day, spending the beautiful sunset hours eating grapes, swinging on giant swings, and bathing by the waterfall. It was just lovely. Looking back, it’s clear how ridiculous the whole thing was. A post at Nectarade provides a hilarious, pitch-perfect overview (click through to the site, it’s better with pictures):
There’s a centaur meetup and the ladies are “dressing up” so it’s not so obvious they’re all clones of each other in different colors. The males are also clonic, but they don’t give a shit about looking alike because they’re there for the mare pussy (well, that sounded funny). Also, there are some weird “little cherubs” playing as sassy gay friends of the girls, matchmakers, makeover artists, and creepy voyeurs. My first reaction: “Why are there cherubs in Olympus, anyway? I suppose they’re sort of little cupids without the bow and arrows, but it’s still fucking weird.” I did my homework, and those things are called putto (plural: putti) . Oh, okay, it makes sense artistically then. It’s still weird because they’re little creepers in this movie, but I’ve learned something new today!
…meanwhile, the clonic Ken doll centaurs get their own catwalk show from which they pick the girl they want to fuck senseless take to the prom. I don’t know if it’s racism or narcissism or fashion taken to the extreme, but I can’t help but notice that all the pairings have similar color palettes. Red/pink/brown/yellow goes with red/pink/brown/yellow, blue/purple goes with blue/purple. That’s very disappointing. You can also tell how much the couples want to have sex as soon as possible, but they can’t because there are little kids watching (and depraved putti stalking them).
Seriously, they have to settle with a lot of second-base touching and inane activities such as playing in swings and eating grapes and just hang out, sitting here consumed with lust for the rest of the evening. But OH NOES!! EMERGENCY!!! DISASTER!!! ONE OF THE CENTAURS IS ALONE! Don’t worry, guys! There’s a centauride who’s also alone! And in the same color scheme! We’re saved! How convenient that there was the same amount of boys and girls! So our team of putti, like fanbrats who feel compelled to pair every character up in the bad fanfiction they write, set them to a date by playing their phallic flute-trumpets. Thankfully, our two dorks liked each other and were actually the ones with less libido. Actually, they’re quite sweet and old-fashioned, and I’m glad for them. I mean, as happy as it can be since the putti are still stalking like Edward Cullen in Bella Swan’s period days, and even when they drop the curtain (literally) they’re still peeking over the centaurs. Eww, GTFO!
The above review of Pastoral Symphony was pretty complete… except, HELLO, WHAT’S THIS:
That’s right. Disney originally included a character named Sunflower – a half-donkey, half black girl servant figure who polished hoofs, brushed/decorated tails, and carried garlands for the centaurettes. It’s not surprising that Nectarade didn’t catch them; the scenes haven’t appeared on any release of Fantasia since the 1960s, and are hard to come by in high quality. Most versions on YouTube look like they were taped off a television. Here is the best-quality collection of all censored scenes. Sister Suffragette adds, “there’s also the possibility that there are more Sunflowers; the movie shows Sunflower with a couple different hair styles which could mean that they actually represent several servant/slave half-asses. It’s hard to tell, though, because the difference in hair style is the only distinguishing feature … of course she was happily shining the hoofs and fixing the tails of the non-black centaurs and there’s not even any thought or explanation given as to why she’s the only one that doesn’t meet a mate by the end of the segment. The others females are chosen by the males who picked them out of the lot after the females paraded and posed in front of the males.”
The real kicker is that, according to severalsources, Disney adamantly denied that Sunflower even existed up until somebody finally dug up the footage and put it on the internet (despite the fact that you can find her chowin’ down on watermelon, in stereotypical fashion, in the Fantasia cut-out book. Perhaps Disney was counting on the fact that it’s solidly out of print).
Recently, artists have been reclaiming and re-imagining Sunflower, so perhaps there’s a silver lining to all of this (as an aside, people are also reimagining some of the other Fantasia nubile centaurettes in a very – how shall I put this – non-heteronormative, non-monogamous way. Thanks, Rule 34. Thanks, Internet). People are imagining Sunflower (or Sunflowers) as a strong, confident young girl. Or a self-aware, independent woman. Or even painting her as a servant, but with much more emotion and character. If Disney won’t make this right, the people will. More remixes of Sunflower, after the jump.
Sunflower by AtomicFireball: “This is not a fanart. It’s a little wishful thinking of my own. This is my Sunflower, who never served a mistress.”