Friday, March 31, 2006

V for Vendetta

Emma and Dave joined me to see V last friday. As much as I have anticipated the film's release, I wanted to wait until I'd finished my day job to see it so I could be relaxed and fully enjoy the experience - whatever it brought. I was dreading a total hatchet job of the story, so made sure I went in with an accepting state of mind, as I usually do with most films, with the aim of getting whatever I can out of it.

It was an incredible live action realisation of the story. I've loved it dearly since my youngest days. I originally read the story, by accident, when I was at the tender age of ten. It was some time after the story had been serialised in the comic Warrior. I was at a holiday camp with my friend's family and they - bizarrely - had a comic book shop there. So, of course, I spent all of my pocket money on as many comics as I could.

My parents would have totally spun out if they'd known what I was reading back then. Pornography was difficult to get hold of at the time, and I - thankfully - had already developed a keen interest in reading and stimulating my mind in other ways too. On reflection I think my mother might have preferred that I'd got hold of more pornography as a young kid.

Seeing the film will give you a substantial taste of the radical flavour of the comic book story, but nothing will replace the intensity of reading it for yourself. As well as being an engaging and incredibly moving story, it's also an incredible introduction to the philosophy of anarchism. I can trace it back as my first truly radical influence. I hadn't realised what a huge influence it had been on me - and other comics and stories like it, which I then developed a taste for - until I read it again when I was twenty. Since then I've re-read the story again every year, along with Moore's almost as amazing 'Watchmen' and Wilson's 'Prometheus Rising' (my 'desert island' book for those of you who don't already know).

The one scene that affected me very deeply when I first read it was the prison scene. It was a tough thing to deal with as a kid. I found the handful of hobbesian (nasty, brutish and short) sex scenes in the story tough to handle, partly because I was so young and naiive I had no idea it was actually depicting normal adult behaviour. They were nothing compared to the prison scene though.

I swear it opened something in me then that I couldn't find words for. It was a concept I could clearly experience, but couldn't express clearly. It also made me feel very lonely as I only had a couple of peers at the time who might have been able to understand its impact on me and want to discuss it. Adults at the time still seemed to me distant islands, and besides I already had the nagging doubt that they might stop me reading this stuff if they knew what it was about....

Anyway, year on year the power of the story and the prison scene in particular was increased many times as I invested more emotionally in the story and how much of it I could relate to. So, the depiction of that scene in the film was make or break for me. And what a catharsis it was for me. They got it just right.

I sat there with Emma on one side and Dave on the other bawling my eyes out. I don't think the film depiction of it will ever lose that profound tug on me. They were as much tears of happiness for the poetic justice of such a key moment depicted so sympathetically as they were tears from a very deep sadness inside me linked to it. I think I was gripping Emma's hand so tight she must have been in some discomfort.

Some of the modernised elements were nice touches too, such as the inclusion of words like 'rendition' and 'collateral' in Valerie's story - new words entering the lexicon and heralding the beginnings of true Orwellian Newspeak.

While the film missed out on some of V's anarchist monologues, it conveyed many of the most important elements. And the fact is, as the film highlights, many words have become cheapened or changed and members of the audience may have been turned off by a V monologue explaining his actions and passions. We've come to the point of the society of spectacle, where it has become the only true means of communication through a thoroughly plebiscised mass media.

V introduces the idea that the people are more important than the government, that the correct (or rather, a more correct) application of power is from the ground up and not the top down. It raises the specter of deliberate government deceit, the government that pursues its own health and power through attacking its own citizens directly, staging false flag "terrorist" operations. This is still an alien idea to many; hopefully the film has given it wider currency. False flag operations are all too real - and commonplace since the beginning of the twentieth century.

Perhaps most importantly, it shows that an individual with courage and intelligence can change the world. It shows that both 'the people' and the individual matter - and that there is an ineluctable relationship between the one and the other in terms of commonality and individuation (some aspects of which are explored in the piece Phoenix and myself wrote together on self-expression).

I loved the film so much I had to go see it again on Sunday with Carrie. The prison scene got me again. Carrie really enjoyed it too, which I was pleased about as she also really liked Munich (another film I need to watch again - especially for the upsetting and gut-renching scene where the lead Mossad agent is having sex with his wife and having flashbacks to all the violence. Anyone who has had any serious experiences of violence in their life will totally relate to that scene).


Carrie took me to a Salsa session that night at the Union. I was fascinated by watching how everyone moves, I was struck again by the realisation that I often see women who I wouldn't generally look twice at, but if they can move well on the dance floor I suddenly find myself attracted to them. Must be an atavistic response to gyrating hips......

It was also interesting observing some of the people prospecting for dancing partners. Many people were there just to watch (as we were). Watching one bloke pick up a woman from the side of the dance floor and get her dancing totally fuzzed my attraction radar. Because they were already in rapport, and lots of touching was necessitated by the dancing style I really couldn't tell if they were attracted to eachother. Carrie couldn't either, which was helpful to know, as women are generally regarded as having much more finely tuned senses with regard to body language (in large part, I suspect to differences in socialisation as identified by feminist Carol Gilligan). It would be an interesting area of research (how far this extra sensitivity is socialised and how much is genetic), but I just don't have the time. I'm too busy working on my own acuity is this typically underdeveloped skill for men.

It looks like fun so I'll probably try it. As usual I'm trying to work out how it would be advantageous to other areas of my life. Will it help to improve my martial arts? My dancing? Carrie reminded me that I need to have a good time and stop thinking so much about specific life goals and skill development. She has a point. Both her and Emma frequently remind me of this in their own ways which is one of the reasons I really appreciate them being around.

Still - I can't help making the calculation. After all, practicing some Alexander technique posturing has definitely helped my dancing - keeping my back straight and leaning back excessively from my hips when dancing has enabled me to pull off some crazier jumps and spins. It's definitely going to help with my kicks too once I've loosened my hamstrings up again.

Anyway, thanks for reading - more anon.

More updates as we get them....

Welcome folks. Here it is. My first blog. And long overdue I would say. I've sat in ambivalence land with my writing for too long. If you're something of a perfectionist you will know what I mean. I've often found myself wanting to publish more material on the web, but what goes up on our sites has to be high quality and a quick, opinionated screed on the topics currently whizzing through my head just wouldn't meet the criteria.

So it looks like blogging is my halfway house for updating friends, family and colleagues in addition to acting as something of a catharsis for me. A word of warning - if you're easily offended you might not want to read these entries....

Anyway, it's been quite a week.

Shopping List Girls

Something that's become a bane of my life - and I suspect many other men's. Scratch that - I know it's the bane of some of my male friends lives, - the relatively high incidence of 'shopping list girls' encountered in social environments. They generally exhibit a similar overall pathology, but with two types of shopping list, which I can illustrate with two examples from this weekend just gone.

Two girls approach me at the club and tell me I look like JayKay (ok, I've lost count now). We have a bit of banter back and forth and I find myself getting bored of them quite quickly, so I start qualifying the alpha of the two. I'm not sure how we got onto the topic, but it involved how many people she'd slept with. She asked me to guess so I said - 'hmm... I'd pick a number between one and one hundred and seventy five'.

I didn't know (though I can hazard a fairly accurate guess) what response she was expecting, but she immediately started emphasising that she wasn't a whore and that she'd only slept with six people. I immediately emphasised in turn that I didn't care and she could sleep with whomever she wanted. She then asked if she could sleep with Jay Kay. I said 'sure, tell him I said hi when you meet him and say thanks for the great time I had in Edinburgh'. She then lent in to me and said 'no, can I sleep with Jay Kay'. 'Oh! You want to sleep with me? Well you're going to have to impress me, I've only known you twenty minutes', I said.

She then said that her friend and her wanted to have a threesome with me. Her friend seemed to give some kind of silent acquiescence. I said I thought threesomes were overrated and were like trying to drive two cars. I spent a couple of minutes describing in detail why this was an appropriate metaphor. This seemed to stump them and clearly wasn't the response they were expecting. At which point, with nothing else to resort to I got the first type of shopping list...

The lead / alpha of the two began trailing off a list of things that their potential threesome partner has to have, this included - bizarrely enough, being a smoker. She got to about item three and I said good luck finding him and ejected from the conversation.

In case you haven't picked up the pathology I'm alluding to, I'll explain it at the end of the next example.

Shopping List Girl vs Sepultura

I hit the club early on Saturday to catch the Seps playing. Its the first time I'd seen them live. I'm not normally a gig person unless it's a band that really moves me, who's lyrics and music set my blood on fire (such as Senser). I can't say the Seps lyrics move me particularly (though they are one of the few remaining metal bands with a political slant), but those detuned guitars and Brazilian drum rhythms make me want to throw myself around like a crazy man.

I found myself hoisted up on a bench at the back with the club management who kindly made some room for me. The impact of the seps music through the PA was awesome and I was really enjoying the vibe - especially as it was so full - when along came a shopping list girl.

Now bear in mind that I was already somewhat inaccessible being stood up on a bench. I clearly had my attention riveted on the band. She was also very short which didn't help matters. She was quite pretty and - in the shopping list girl way - was under the distinct misapprehension that because she was a pretty female and was talking to me that I would automatically be interested in what she had to say.

She made quite an effort to get my attention despite the fact I indicated clearly at least three times that I was busy watching the band. She was reeling off her shopping list (this is type two) of what she had done during the day. It was - as it usually is - an inane torrent of boring shit. After a solid ten minutes of this (I timed it because I purposefully got my watch out twice to indicate non verbally my boredom as my other attempts at communicating evidently failed). She then gave me a jab in the stomach and an offended look, disappearing into the crowd.

So - this is the pathology in both cases: Shopping list girls assume that you are interested in whatever they want (type one) and / or whatever they have to say (type two) on the grounds that they are pretty females and you are a heterosexual male. I've gradually been encouraging some of my friends to become resistant to this. Gods know when the point in my life occurred where I switched from just being interested in pretty females to being interested in women who had a lot going on inside (and yes I know I've sometimes purposefully rolled with some proper bunny boilers - I'm telling you its the tortured artist / saviour complex appeal in those cases), I'm just glad that point occurred many years ago.

Unfortunately I still see at least ninety percent of the men around me in the same trap. I watch them laugh and smile and nod and lean in and supplicate to and be grateful for the attention of shopping list girls. It doesn't matter what shopping list girl is saying, all that matters to the man in question is that he has - if just temporarily - got a pretty female talking to him.

My fellow men - get some self-respect. You need to disabuse yourself - and these women - of the notion that this behavior is acceptable and/or desirable. You do yourself no favours and you certainly do them none by indulging their narcissism. Never fear raising your standards - the psychology of plenitude is key to your success as a human being. I guarantee that for every shopping list girl you eject from your life, however pretty, you'll find another hundred just around the corner who are just as pretty, but with some substance to them as human beings. You owe it to yourselves and to them. If your standards go up, so do theirs.

If you don't believe me then by all means join me for a night out and I will show you that there are many high quality women out there to meet. My ratio of one in ten still applies. Some people misunderstand why I speak to so many women. Other than the fact that I'm generally quite sociable, there's also this specific ratio at work. I find I have to speak to ten women to find one woman I consider a high quality human being who I might want to spend time with. Sometimes this ratio can rocket up to one in five in an environment where I happen to have something key in common with the women around me (fanboy conventions are great for this as despite the low ratio of fangirls to fanboys, most of the fanboys haven't a clue how to approach and talk to their fangirl compatriots. Damn it guys, you've already got something in common with them, it couldn't be easier....).

The ratio is never higher than one in five though - and if I start thinking it is higher, then that's my litmus test for dropping standards (or perhaps a testosterone spike, or a full moon, who knows). I have no fear of speaking to, or approaching women and a large part of this is because I'm very demanding. If you're an unhappy man in this area, just raise your standards and keep them high consistently, I guarantee your life will improve. Women - you need no advice from me, you've got your own well established social and intelligence network......

I have several amazing and wonderful women in my life at the moment - thank the gods - and that is in large part to my not tolerating the shopping list pathology for more than a few minutes ever.