Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Elementally Yours

Your Element is Fire

Your power color: red

Your energy: hot

Your season: spring

Like a fire, you are full of power and light.
A born leader, you easily draw people toward you.
You are full of courage and usually up for anything dangerous.
You have a huge ego and love to be the center of attention.

A born leader? Who'd be fool enough to follow me? Anyway, I'm not surprised: I've been seeing a five element acupuncturist for about a year, and we tend to deal with fire issues for the most part (with frequent wood and occasional water issues for . . . well, a lot of smoke).

As usual, I was torn on the questions; but the brevity and specificity of the questions seemed to speak to the notion of where you are right now, so I'm gonna leave it (especially since it coincides with what my acupuncturist tells me).

(Full disclosure: I went back and took the test again, changing the answers on any questions that had me wavering, after I just said I wasn't gonna do that . . . and I'm still fire. How about them apples?)

Incedentally, my element as a Gemini is air; having been born in the year of the rat, my element is water. In addition, different years have different elements on the Chinese zodiac aside from the sign attached to said year; but the year of my birth, 1972, was a water year in itself. So I'm a double water on the Chinese zodiac. Hmmm . . .

Monday, September 19, 2005

Political Tests (And Such)

You are a

Social Liberal
(73% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(26% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

These are always interesting . . . but are they informative? I don't know. I think I thought of myself as being a little more libertarian than this . . . but then, we live in politically confusing times. "Liberal" doesn't really mean what it used to, does it? Anyway, here we are.

My greatest exception to this test is the lack of "undecided" or neutral stances on matters. Economically speaking, I both benefit from and am stifled by large corporations and mass production; so mightn't I answer question relating to such things with an air of determined neutrality? Instead, I have to qualify my moderation by declaring opinions on matters on which I have no opinion. There were also questions asked which didn't affect my score that probably should have, survey questions like whether or not I support the drug war (I hope it's obvious that I don't).

Of course, if I designed the test myself, it would most likely fail to provide a useful and objective view of my own political preoccupations. Perhaps my frustration with the test is precisely why it worked, and the way I mitigated my answers says more than I like about my political leanings.

I'm probably just bitter because I hoped I'd be something less . . . vanilla than a Democrat. Oh, well.

Friday, September 16, 2005

An Unholy Terror

The Devil Card
You are the Devil card. The Devil is based on the
figure Pan, Lord of the Dance. The earthy
physicality of the devil breeds lust. The
devil's call to return to primal instincts
often creates conflict in a society in which
many of these instincts must be kept under
control. Challenges posed by our physical
bodies can be overcome by strength in the
mental, emotional, and spiritual realms. Pan is
also a symbol of enjoyment and rules our
material creativity. The devil knows physical
pleasure and how to manipulate the physical
world. Material creativity finds its output in
such things as dance, pottery, gardening, and
sex. The self-actualized person is able to
accept the sensuality and usefulness of the
devil's gifts while remaining in control of any
darker urges. Image from The Stone Tarot deck.

Which Tarot Card Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Apparently, I'm The Devil. Granting that I had a hard time answering some of the questions, I took it again, clicking the alternative answers I rejected on the basis of essentially flipping a coin. Given a second reading, my tarot card came up as "The Moon" . . . which, funny enough, is my wife's card. But I suppose that's not in the spirit of the enterprise. The random choices we make in the moment are part part of the Tarot mystique.

On the other hand, since we're playing with pop metaphysics, maybe there is something to my indecisiveness and sense of duality. I am, after all, a Gemini, a bundle of oppositional forces. So while I'll let The Devil take my top spot, I think anyone who's inclined to look at these as ways of peering into personality should look at the other as well. So here's that:

The Moon Card
You are the Moon card. Entering the Moon we enter
the intuitive and psychic realms. This is the
stuff dreams are made on. And like dreams the
imagery we find here may inspire us or torment
us. Understanding the moon requires looking
within. Our own bodily rhythms are echoed in
this luminary that circles the earth every
month and reflects the sun in its progress.
Listening to those rhythms may produce visions
and lead you towards insight. The Moon is a
force that has legends attached to it. It
carries with it both romance and insanity.
Moonlight reveals itself as an illusion and it
is only those willing to work with the force of
dreams that are able to withstand this
reflective light. Image from: Stevee Postman.

Which Tarot Card Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Funny how both of these cards appeal to the intuitive and spontaneous. Camille Paglia, in her opus Sexual Personae, divides human endeavour and personality into two spheres: The cthonian, associated with Dionysus, god of wine and revelry (but also of violence and animalism) driven by nature and lust, and representing the earth-cult of pagan conciousness; and the apollonian, associated with Apollo, god of music, science and discipline, driven by a desire to supercede nature, and representing the sky-cult that would later form the basis of later western religions, particularly in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Most philosophy, of course, falls somewhere on a continuum between the two. I'm thinking of the Marquis de Sade, whose violent acts of sexual perversion and will-to-annihalation had all the formality of the most rigidly apollonian rituals; or Nietzsche, whose belief that greatness is inborn and measured by fullness of appetite and intensity of animal vigour pointed, almost paradoxically, to the foundation of vividly hierarchical social constructs.

I often try to pass myself off as an intellectual, and try to fuel my credibility with copious reading, analysis and cross-referencing. At the end of the day, though, my passions, my rage, my ennui, my desire, my need, my hurt and my love tend to rule my decisions. I'm ill-equipped for the spontaneous because I've had to strive all my life to stifle my spontaneity in order to make going to school, working with others and maintaining relationships possible. Yet I'm equally ill-equipped for the intellectual, so driven am I by a need for visceral experience, affection and intensity; and so deeply in awe am I of the mystical, the intagible.

My recent foray into gnosticism is, more than anything, an attempt to reconcile these ideas. The neo-/proto-Platonic thought of Hermes Trismegistus postulated that the divine and eternal were reflected in the grossly material. Giordano Bruno believed that reality and the flesh were simply the equations by which God can be seen and understood, and that we are both mathematical and emotional functions of the divine. William Blake believed that the poetic imagination was the point of reconciliation between the physical and the spiritual, and that daemonic energy was, in itself, a physical manifestation of a divine will. So perhaps this dichotomy is a necessary part of my current journey.

Anyway, fun little exercise. Anyone wanna give it a try? Just click on the link.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Yes, There IS Other News . . .

For the record, I'm as torn up about the Katrina and New Orleans as anyone . . . I think. And I'm not thrilled by either the federal response or the state/local failure to prepare. Obviously, a lot of people royally screwed up on many levels. If I had any money, I'd contribute to the relief effort; when I do, I probably will. That, I fear, is all I have to say on the matter.

Meanwhile, other things continue to happen in the world.

I'm a little surprised that this [] isn't bigger news than it seems to be. I'm actually surprised that I couldn't google more articles (or better ones) on the matter.

A common conservative complaint regarding issues of gay rights is that all recent advances have been made at the judicial level. Here we have a democratically elected body--the California legislature--taking a historic step.

Now the matter will go Governor Schwarzenegger's desk. Funny thing is, Schwarzenegger supports gay marriage (he IS an actor . . . of sorts); but has said he may veto the bill because he believes the matter should be decided by the citizens or by state courts.

Here's my question: How does Schwarzenegger's suggestion that this issue belongs in the courts jive with his party's hostility to judicial activism and insistence that this issue be solved democratically? And if allowing the elected legislators to decide this issue isn't democratic enough, should all civil law--not just marriage, gay or otherwise; but speed limits, land use, business regulation--be subject to referendum or initiative? What interests me is the question of what channel is appropriate for creating law on the matter if a republican defers the matter to a body--the courts--where the rest of his party doesn't want to see it solved, i.e., what does it mean to effect change democratically?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

So What Does That Make Me?

I recalled reading something in "Savage Love"--a sex advice column by Seattle-based media personality Dan Savage--regarding a study on bisexual men. I haven't found a link to the study, but you can read Savage's article here.

What do you make of this? I've self-identified as bisexual for the better part of the last decade; but I have found that my attraction to men is limited with regards to what sort of man attracts man, how often I'm likely to meet such men, the percentage of such men who who are gay, bisexual or bi-curious. Indeed, the type of man I find attractive is, generally speaking, straight; and the mechanisms of my attraction, and the way I manifest it, more closely resemble the cryptically homoerotic overtones of rugby and Fight Club than the proto-metrosexual aesthetic sold to and by the gay mainstream.

While there's much that the study would seem to fail to take into account--I mean, presumably there's more to erotic attraction than a simple measure of what gets your dick hard--I find it interesting.

And while we're on the question . . . What does it mean to be bisexual, anyway? Someone whose identity I won't reveal without permission has discussed this with me at length. She is attracted to women far more than I am to men, if taken in sheer numbers and variety (curiously, she tends to like girlie-girls; I'm the one who can't resist the riot grrrl types); but where I can actually imagine myself being in a long-term romantic relationship with a man--were I not already married to so fine an amazon goddess as my incredible spouse--she can't imagine herself in such a relationship with a woman. Of course, we have to temper this speculation with the understanding that I really have no idea whether I could carry on such a long-term commitment: We're operating purely on theory here. So, given all that, which of us is the real bisexual?

Some Sprouts Have Deep Roots

It wasn't very long ago, it seems, that 'Stine and I saw "City of God". In a nutshell, "City of God" follows the rise of gang warlord Lil' Ze, a brutal thug living in a squalid, unpaved slum of Rio De Janeiro in Brazil. With a kinetic style, peppered with post-music-video aesthetic flourishes, the young director Fernando Meirelles had announced the arrival of a new talent. His low-budget marvel shared certain similarities in both story and style to Martin Scorcese's Mean Streets, while his use of mixed film stock, saturated color, flashy editing and copious zooming and titling called to mind both a less polemical--though no less political--Oliver Stone and a more hard-nosed, less campy Baz Luhrman. But to be fair, his style was as much a part of the new wave in South/Central American and Mexican cinema as it was an nod to his stateside aesthetic forbears. Like fellow Brazilian director Karim Ainouz--who's Madam Sata is a masterpiece of gay, biographical, martial-arts and crime cinema all at once (featuring an astounding tour de force of a performance by Lazaro Ramos in the title role of real-life thief/bandit/drag-queen/capoeirista Joao Francisco dos Santos)--Meirelles had told a story that was very much of his country and his background. Like Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the director of the potent Mexican drama Amores Perros, it was also a journal of urban decay, a paradoxically sensual, yet relentlessly dystopian, portrait of an inner city that strives, vampirically, to suck its denizens dry of all hope.

And, inevitably, like Inarritu--who would go on to direct the flawed but powerful drama 21 Grams with Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro--Meirelles was given the reigns to a domestic release. On Wednesday, The Constant Gardener, an adaptation of a John Le Carre thriller of the same name starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, opened to great acclaim. The acclaim is more than deserved. In what amounts to both the best romantic drama and the most exciting spy thriller of the year, Meirelles and his flawless cast have given us a tremendous gift: A film that is visceral, smart, poignant, colorful and alive. And while I usually hate it when reviewers say this, I can think of no other film that not only earns this compliment, but truly renders it complimentary: It is resolutely and unapologetically a film for adults.

In broad strokes, the story: Justin Quayle, a humble, nebbishy diplomat, played to perfection by Ralph Fiennes in what may be his career-best performance, is called to identify the body of his wife, Tessa (Rachel Weisz, who has never been stronger, sexier or more nuanced), found brutally murdered by a rural road in a remote region of Kenya. Combining flashbacks, flashforwards and present-time narrative to tell two stories--that of the events that transpire from the couple's initial meeting to the murder, and that of the investigation by Justin into the truth behind her death--The Constant Gardener immerses us in a world of international corporate malfeisance, corruption, espionage and genocide.

This world is Le Carre's, of course. But by applying to this story the same disjointed time frame that he used in City of God, Meirelles, along with screenwriter Jeffrey Caine, deserves credit for injecting the formula with new life. And where Le Carre's novels famously take place in parlours, restaurants and studies, Meirelles sets his in the vibrant hubbub of his truly foreign locations. Like Steven Soderbergh in Traffic, Meirelles color-codes his locations: England is gray and grainy, while Africa burns brightly with fierce red sands and explosive local plumage. Much of the camera work is hand held; but Meirelles cinematographer, Cesar Charlone, doesn't push for the jittery theatrics usually associated therewith (except, of course, when it's called for). The film is both exquisitely flashy yet coolly restrained, a skillful paradox which may soon make the young auteur a household name.

With strong supporting performances by Danny Huston, Bill Nighy and Hubert Kounde (a new face to me, Kounde plays the native doctor in Nairobi who guides the strident activist Tessa through the local intrigue that will draw her deeper into peril), The Constant Gardener satisfies on so many levels that it's impossible to elucidate all of the levels on which it clicks. And critics who have previously dismissed Meirelles as an all-flash-no-substance upstart should be surprised, if not outright shamed, by the emotional through line that sits at the warm, beating heart of what could easily have been a slick exercise in a genre not known for its human drama (full disclosure: tears were shed by both the 'hound and 'Stine at this one). One could go on ad nauseam about the craft at work in this picture; and this young hotshot in Brazil, along with his artistic team and screenwriter, deserve any kudos we can cook up for their competent treatment of the source material. But it's the soul of this very soulful piece that makes it art . . . and art it most assuredly is.