Mutant Sci-fi Dahlias: The 2006 Christian Dior Paris Runway Show

Dior01Oh…

my…

God.

Dior2You know, I get that high fashion — Paris runway-show high fashion in particular — is not about making clothes that people will wear. It’s an art form that works in textiles and is displayed on human models… but other than that, it bears no real relation to what people might wear so they’ll look good and won’t be naked. And it’s not supposed to. It’s an art form. I get that. That’s fine.

But good Lord and butter.

Dior3There’s a slideshow of the Christian Dior 2006 Paris runway show that is rendering me nearly speechless in both wonder and hilarity. The outfits look like ideas that the costume designer for Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace considered and then rejected as being too over-the-top. They look like what the original Star Trek series was going for with their costume design and only failed to achieve because of their low budget. I have a friend who’s planning to attend the WorldCon sci-fic convention Masquerade in a homemade knockoff of these designs… which I think pretty much says it all.

Dior4I’m particularly struck by how unhappy the models look. Of course, runway models always look unhappy. But in the photos of this show’s most extreme excesses, they don’t just look bored and impassive and hungry like they always do. They look miserable. They look actively embarrassed to be there. They look like they wish they were anywhere else in the world. Which, considering that they’re on the runway of the Paris show exhibiting the Christian Dior collection and are therefore pretty much at the pinnacle of their career, is a little odd when you think about it.

Dior5_1What I really like about the slideshow is the ebb and flow of it. The wild flights of absurdity periodically settle down into stretches of something resembling beauty and grace, with clothes that I can actually almost imagine wearing to a fancy party, or to something other than the Saint Stupid’s Day parade, anyway. If I were six feet tall and a hundred pounds, that is.

Dior6But then it blossoms again, like a dahlia contaminated by nuclear waste that’s been dormant through the winter, and is now blooming dementedly and attempting to pollinate with peacocks and landscaping equipment. And you remember: Oh, yeah. This guy is insane.

I actually sort of love it.

BTW, thanks to Ruth for pointing this… thing out to me. Good luck with the costume at the Con, and be sure to take pictures!

The Erotic Illuminati!

Bay_guardianYippee! According to the San Francisco Bay Guardian Best of the Bay 2006 issue, I am part of San Francisco’s “erotic illuminati.” It’s a little mention in the Best Parliament of Perverts award they gave to Femina Potens Gallery for their “Sizzle Erotic Open Mic” (which they totally deserve, btw). And I quote:

“In the past 18 months, Sizzle has already featured many of the city’s erotic illuminati, from Carol Queen to Greta Christina… Come prepared for skin-tingling sexuality, but also for breathtaking insights.”

I now feel strangely compelled to write occultist conspiracy-theory porn about the number 23. Anyway, it’s a nice little plug, so thanks to the Guardian for thinking of me. I’ll do my best to live up to the honor, and continue to erotically illuminate.

Transcendental Skepticism: My Letter to Mark Morford

MarkmorfordSo Mark Morford (the SF Gate/SF Chronicle columnist) wrote this column last week about how pathetic it is when people can’t relate to the mystical energy of inanimate objects, and it really honked me off. I normally like Morford a fair amount — he’s smart and he’s funny, and he convinced me and Ingrid to stop shopping at Safeway, for which I will be eternally grateful. But this piece had my blood boiling, in that special way that won’t let me sleep until I’ve written a calm-but-passionate, closely reasoned, blisteringly eloquent reply, pointing out in careful detail exactly why someone is wrong.

Here is that letter. Enjoy!

*****

Dear Mark,

DecayIn your column of 7/21 (“Please Kiss Your Old Toaster”), you wrote at some length about people who don’t believe in the mystical divine energy of physical objects. You had many harsh things to say on this topic, most notably that this lack of belief “reeks of a sort of deep sadness, a sort of spiritual decay, a savage limitation of perception.”

I’m generally a fan of your column. But with all due respect, I must strongly and passionately beg to differ. (I was originally going to write, “With all due respect, bite me,” but decided that it wouldn’t set the proper tone.)

It is entirely possible to be a skeptic, an agnostic, and/or an atheist — regarding all metaphysical beliefs, not just deities or organized religions — and still lead a rich, satisfying life, full of creativity and connection and love. More to the point, it is possible to be a skeptic, an agnostic, and/or an atheist, and still experience awestruck wonder at the mysterious majesty of the universe, and a feeling of transcendent oneness with it.

MilkcrateLet’s take your case of inanimate objects. I get very attached to the things in my life. (Probably more than I should, in fact — I have a hard time getting rid of anything I’m sentimental about, so I’m a bit of a pack rat.) I have an ongoing argument with my wife about my milk crates, which she wants out of the damn house, but which I fondly associate with my wild Bohemian youth (as opposed to my stodgy middle-aged life as a sex writer). I have intense emotional attachments to books I love, gifts my friends have given me, clothes I’ve worn to memorable parties, boots I’ve had wild kinky sex in, my mother’s recipe book, my vibrator, my wedding ring. And yes, my computer. They aren’t empty to me. They have meaning.

But as an agnostic/skeptic, I don’t believe that these objects have meaning because they carry some sort of metaphysical energy. (More accurately, I believe that there’s no evidence that they carry metaphysical energy.) They have meaning because they trigger memories and emotions and connections. They have meaning because I’ve invested them with meaning.

LightningI think part of the problem here is with the use of the word “energy” — and two extremely different meanings of it that get conflated. There’s the colloquial use of the word “energy” to mean someone’s persona, the way they come across to other people. Their “vibe,” in ’60s/’70s parlance. As in, “She seemed nice enough, but I got a really weird energy from her.” And then there’s the literal, physical meaning of the word “energy,” kinetic and thermal and whatnot, the energy that equals mass times the speed of light squared. These are both useful and expressive meanings, and I use them both myself — but they don’t mean the same thing, or even a similar thing. And this confusion is, I think, responsible for a pseudo-scientific mysticism that makes actual scientists — people who devote years of their lives to difficult, tedious work in labs and swamps and astronomy towers making sure the things they believe are actually, you know, true — want to tear their hair out and scream.

Why does this matter?

SkepticalinquirerWell, I could go on at length about the problems of basing your life on beliefs for which you have no real evidence. I could talk about the ease with which the mind deceives itself, and the value of careful, rigorous testing of beliefs to minimize that self-deception. I could talk about the hazards of “arguing from ignorance” — the error of thinking that, because you don’t currently have an answer to a question, the answer must therefore be X… X often being something supernatural. (Read a few issues of the Skeptical Inquirer if you want documentation of the real-world harm that untested beliefs in the supernatural can cause — from the refusal of proven medical treatment to rip-offs by fraudulent psychics.) I could even point out that disdain for the scientific approach has led to serious social disasters, from crappy sex education to global warming.

Galaxy_3And I could go on, at even greater length and in appalling purple prose, about the mind-boggling beauty and mystery of the physical universe, and how every new answer we get about it leads to ten new questions. I could talk about the giddy delight I feel when I learn about pygmy dinosaurs, or dolphins using nouns, or spider species that turn out to be social. I could talk about the awestruck humility I feel in the face of everything we don’t know about the world, and at the almost certain fact that in 100 years, things we’re dead certain about now will turn out to not be true. I could talk about the admiration and respect I have for scientists, and the patience and rigor and years-long attention span that they’re willing to devote to their work — especially in a society that increasingly holds science and reason in contempt. I could even talk about those rare, raw moments of existential presence and epiphany, and how my lack of belief in a metaphysical soul makes me feel more connected to the stars and plants and planets, more of an integral part of the universe — not less.

But that’s not really the point.

Vishnu1Here’s the point. I try very hard to be tolerant and understanding of people with religious and metaphysical beliefs (as long as they come by them honestly and don’t try to shove them down everyone else’s throat). I am, in fact, an agnostic and a skeptic, not an atheist. I know that questions about God and the soul and such are questions that nobody really knows the answers to, and I try to remain humble in the face of — how did I put it? — the mysterious majesty of the universe, and the vastness of my ignorance about it.

NedflandersBut it’s very difficult to do that when religious people are scornful, or hostile, or pitying of my skepticism. And I don’t just mean narrow-minded sex-hating fundamentalists, either. I mean Goddess-worshipping believers in sacred vibrations and mystical energy fields, too. My life is not sad or empty, decayed or cynical, flat or leaden, detached or cold or dead (all words from your column, by the way) merely because I decline to base my life on a belief in mystical energy. I don’t want or need your pity, any more than I want or need the pity of sanctimonious parents because I’ll never experience the wonders of parenthood, or the pity of sanctimonious straight people because I’ll never experience the joys of heterosexuality. It’s insulting and patronizing, and I respectfully request that you knock it off.

Sincerely,
Greta Christina

Dream diary, 7/22/06: Art boots

BootsI dreamed that SF MOMA (the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) had a shoe store next to the museum. Ingrid and I had just been to the museum exhibit with the enormous interactive gyroscopic space-chair by Matthew Barney, and we stopped to look at the MOMA shoe store’s window display. There was an exhibit/sale on psychedelic boots, with two gorgeous pairs on a special display stand in the center of the store. I figured they’d be much too expensive — probably hundreds of dollars or even thousands — but I went in anyway just to check, and it turned out they were on super-discounted sale for less than a hundred bucks each, so I tried them on. The pair I liked best — the low-heeled purple and blue sequined ankle boots — didn’t fit, but the knee-high boots with the orange swirls and the blocky ’70s-style high heels fit perfectly, and looked amazing. I was very excited, since most tall boots don’t fit over my calves, but I never ever wear high heels, and I was debating whether I should buy them when the dream ended. I woke up thinking, “Of course you should buy the damn boots!”

P.S. The boots in the picture don’t actually look that much like the boots in the dream. They were the best I could find in a Google image search under “psychedelic” + “boots.”

P.P.S. The Matthew Barney exhibit at SF MOMA didn’t actually have an enormous interactive gyroscopic space-chair. Too bad. It would have been a lot more interesting if it did.

Why I Like the Loud Family

Interbabe_concernThere’s this Loud Family song that’s been stuck in my head off and on for weeks now. It’s called “Not Expecting Both Contempo and Classique,” and it starts thus:

Admiring paper on my wall
How many really take the time?
There may not seem that much creative latitude
But that’s the challenge of design

The curves intuitively know
Which aspects of nouveau to save
Without succumbing to the full devouring will
Of Aubrey Beardsley in his grave

I’m not expecting that I’ll end up with you just because I need to…

Now. Compare this to the song “Flowers On the Wall” by the Statler Brothers (which I assume the Loud Family song is referencing):

Counting flowers on the wall
That don’t bother me at all…

You may notice the main difference between the two songs. The Statler Brothers dispatch with the “staring at the wall” experience in two lines — while the Loud Family spends an entire two verses exploring it. It’s not ’til the chorus that they even touch on the lonely-sad-love-song stuff.

Why do I like this?

SalomeI like this for a couple of reasons. And it’s not just the fact that they worked Aubrey Beardsley into a pop song. I like it because it actually conveys the experience it’s referring to, instead of just referring to it. I mean, whenever I’m staring at the wallpaper in a blue funk, I’m not just staring blankly — I have long, elaborate thought processes about the wallpaper pattern. Mine tend not to be reflections on design and design history — they tend instead to focus on the details of the geometric patterns, with obsessive-compulsive-ish ruminations about how well the panels of paper do or don’t join up. But I do get completely lost in morbidly detailed thoughts about the actual wallpaper itself. And by spending two entire verses closely examining the experience of staring at wallpaper — by “really taking the time” — that’s what these verses get across.

Perhaps more importantly, I like how non-generic it is. So many pop songs — especially pop songs about love — try to connect with the audience by making their lyrics as general and lowest-common-denominator as possible. “I’m in love and I’m happy,” “He/she doesn’t love me and I’m sad.” Everyone knows how that feels, right?

FeelingsBut I don’t think that works. One of the great paradoxes of art is that you often make a better connection with your audience by making your detail more specific rather than less. Detail is one of the best ways to make an experience seem more vivid, more real. Even if the audience can’t identify with those specific details, the details make it easier to feel what the artist is feeling — and to find the similar feeling in yourself. When lyrics are generic, of course you can identify with them — but the connection is shallow, and you forget about it five minutes later. (Obviously you can go too far in the other direction with self-absorbed navel-gazing… but even that’s usually more interesting than “My boyfriend left me and I’m sad.”)

Plants_and_birdsAlso, the Loud Family just rocks. They’re one of those rare pop bands that can walk the slender balance beam between smart art and fun accessibility: between music you can listen to closely with serious attention and deep satisfaction, and music you can happily bench-press to when it comes up on your shuffle at the gym. If you haven’t already, check them out.

North Korea, and Reason 8,624 that the War on Iraq was a Bad Idea

Kimjongil_1I’m not a 100% hardcore pacifist. I’m pretty close to it, but I’m not one. I do think there are times — not bloody many, but some — when military action is a necessary evil.

And I think that now, or soon, might just possibly be one of those times. A mentally ill, megalomaniacal dictator has been firing nuclear missiles into the Sea of Japan, with the likely intent of testing whether they can hit California. I think military action should, at the very least, be an option. It should be something we can consider. It should be a card on the table.

But it’s not.

BurningflagThanks to the war on Iraq — which we had no good reason for getting into and which has no end in sight — we have (a) no military resources, and (b) no international credibility. Our military is stretched so thin it’s accepting white supremacists to fill out its ranks. And in the field of international diplomacy and conflict, we have all the credibility and moral high ground of Tony Soprano. If a situation arises in which we do, God forbid, need the army — we are hosed. We are fucked with a chainsaw.

WiggumI’m not saying the U.S. should unilaterally attack or invade North Korea. The U.S. should not be the world’s policeman. This was always one of my main arguments against the war on Iraq in the first place. The U.S. should not be the world’s policeman — for the simple reason that we suck at it. As the world’s policeman, we are both corrupt and staggeringly incompetent. Our record as the world’s policeman is comparable to that of Chief Wiggum.

But if there’s an international consensus that military action is necessary — in North Korea or anywhere else on this increasingly volatile planet — we should be able to participate.

And we can’t. We expended our resources — and our respectability — to unseat a dictator who had weapons of mass destruction a decade ago, and now we have nothing left to unseat a dictator who not only has nukes, but is actually threatening to use them.

And North Korea knows it. Every megalomaniacal nutcase dictator on the planet knows it.

So this is why you don’t start pointless, unnecessary wars. It’s not just for all the obvious reasons, the misery and suffering and death and evil and children with their limbs blown off. It’s because you then don’t have the option of waging war when it isn’t pointless, when it might just possibly be necessary.

Oh, but I forgot. The war on Iraq isn’t pointless.

Oil_wellIraq has oil. And North Korea doesn’t.

Lucky for North Korea.

Dream diary, 7/8/06: Sick dolphin

Dolphin_1I dreamed that my friend and upstairs neighbor Laura had two pet dolphins in a swimming pool in our backyard, one of which was very sick. We could tell it was sick because it was filling up with gas and gradually blowing up like a large balloon. We (me, Laura, Ingrid, and the other people who live in the building) spent the rest of the dream trying to find either a vet or a marine biologist who was open on a weekend.

Oral Arguments

Lips1I was originally going to call this post “A Dyke’s Defense of Blowjobs,” but lots of my readers get these posts sent as email, and I thought some of you might not appreciate having that subject line show up in your In box….

Anyway…

I recently found out that there’s been an entertaining flare-up in the blog-world about blowjobs. It all started when Twisty of “i blame the patriarchy” said, on the topic of blowjobs, that “no woman, since the dawn of the patriarchal co-option of human sexuality, has ever actually enjoyed this submissive sexbot drudgery.” Several other folks have been joining in the fun, including on Salon and even the Daily Kos (although there the conversation quickly degenerated into a argument over whether it was a waste of time and energy to discuss blowjobs when people are dying in Darfur).

So of course, I have to throw my belated hat into the ring. Here it is: my dyke’s defense of blowjobs.

Please note: Very personal sex talk ahead. If that will embarass you, please turn the page.

*****

UltimatecunnilingusI love going down on my lover. I love it partly because I love it — but I love it largely because I love giving her pleasure. And I don’t mean that in a noble, self-sacrificing, martyred way, or even in a kinky submissive way. Giving her pleasure is unbelievably hot. When I go down on her, I get completely lost in her pussy and in her pleasure. It works almost like a meditation to get me out of my head and into my body, and when it’s going especially well, it feels like my tongue is a clit. It’s fun. It’s sexy. I love it. And besides, it feels so very lesbian.

But in fact, I’m not a lesbian. I’m bisexual. It’s not completely inconceivable that I might have wound up in an LTR with a man instead of a woman.

And if I had, I’d feel exactly the same way.

Okay, not exactly the same way. I’m not quite as crazy about cock as I am about pussy. But pretty damn similar. I’ve certainly felt that way when I’ve been involved with men in the past.

And here’s what I want to know. If you don’t feel that way — then what the hell are you doing involved with men? If you think giving men sexual pleasure is patriarchal drudgery, why on earth would you have sex with them at all?

UltimatefellatioOf course, there should be some sort of reciprocation. It always bugs me to see studies about how more teenagers today are having oral sex instead of “regular” sex — because I know damn well that means blowjobs for the boys, not muff-diving for the girls. Of course men shouldn’t be assholes about it — no hair-grabbing or deep-throating without specific negotiation beforehand, guys. And of course, if you absolutely hate giving blowjobs (or any other particular sex act), naturally you shouldn’t do it.

But don’t act like your personal gross-out is some sort of righteous political stance. That’s just ridiculous. Most people like giving their lover pleasure. Some of us like doing it with our mouths. If you don’t, then don’t do it. You have every right to your quirks — but they don’t make you a superior feminist.

Spank_1And for God’s sake, please don’t start pulling the “no woman likes that and if she says she does she’s a co-opted tool of the patriarchy” bullshit. I’ve now heard that about spanking, buttfucking, porn-watching, porn-writing, and just about every other kind of sex that I love. I’m sick unto death of it. Can feminists please stop telling other women what they do and don’t like in bed — and stop trying to make other women feel bad because they don’t like the right things?

Thoughts? About blowjobs, or the political complications of male-female sex, or how we should all be ashamed of ourselves for wanting to talk about this instead of the slaughter in Darfur?

Oh, and a quick shout-out to the Nettles here (my longsword dance team). I polled them tonight about whether my next blog posting should be about North Korea, Matthew Barney, or blowjobs — and blowjobs won unanimously. Global politics and conceptual art are just going to have to wait.