Sunday, October 25, 2009

vampires, werewolves and zombies - why they will be REAL in the future.

We all know that the fairy tales of old were cautionary tales told by parents to children to keep them safe. (See examples in this article which talks about the origins behind ten well known stories: Top Ten Gruesome Fairy Tale Origins) Things that have either in the past or in modern times appear to be myth and magic (the miracle of fire or the shape of the earth) have often been given logical explanation. We will surely find scientific explanation for many other things that currently appear to defy explanation or come under the realm of metaphysics. As Arthur C. Clarke once commented, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

I tend to notice patterns of certain archetypes in everything I encounter. That's one of the things I pointed out in my first book, THE MODERN AMAZONS: WARRIOR WOMEN ON-SCREEN. I saw continuous patterns of the amazon warrior woman archetype carried over from ancient times all the way to modern film. There are a number of other figures that receive continuous reinterpretation, started in the horror genre but often spilling into romance or scifi, such as the vampire, werewolf, zombies, Frankenstein-monsters and shape shifters. Barbara Creed has an amazing book called The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis (Popular Fictions Series) which I absolutely recommend everyone to read. Using detailed readings of Carrie, The Exorcist, Psycho and Alien among others, Creed identifies the seven faces of female monstrosity--archaic mother; monstrous womb; vampire; witch; possessed monster; deadly femme castratrice and castrating mother. Her theories on the classic vampire being a "menstrual monster" are absolutely mind-blowing.

But in looking at archetypes, it seems we always look back, rather than forward. We sight all the evidence of the origins of the archetype, the different interpretations over the years, the reinventions and reclamations of them, but rarely do we pose questions about the future. That was one of the reasons behind THE MODERN AMAZONS: WARRIOR WOMEN ON-SCREEN also--I wanted to document the journey of the amazon archetype, my real question was: why do these archetypal images even exist? And why have they been fed and developed over the centuries? What do these archetypes mean to us exactly?

I believe that perhaps collectively our society is filled with closet bio-Luddites. I think that everyone senses at some deep level where the future is heading in terms of advances in artificial life. And as most people are ruled by two things beyond standard survival, and that is fear and pleasure, so we have some very conflicted view about the matter of ai. We like all the pleasures it provides, it helps us live in an increasingly more convenient environment where we can indulge ourselves much in the way of infants--we cry and Mommy answers. We don't want to wait in lines, we want to push a button. We want to make a call right now. We want to watch 2 sports programs at once. We want to have things do the heavy lifting for us. We want to be stimulated, and then we want to be de-stressed. We want things easy for the most part, ATMs that adjust to our language, cars that talk to us and give us directions to a restaurant that has been picked out based upon our taste and past choices.

At the same time, we are threatened by it. Maybe in a way because we don't respect it first. Perhaps we are guilty somewhere inside, because even if we imagine androids as a part of daily life - I can bet you that the first thought that comes to your mind is that the androids in our fantasy are serving us. They are slaves. Yet we justify the slavery by the prejudice of being non-biological (even though later they may be made up of organic parts). Our nature is not to respect this form of life we create as individuals with some autonomy. It will be that their only purpose is to be enslaved to our needs.

So of course we have seen book after book and film after film acting out every fantasy form of revenge that our fears say these machines will exact upon us in some distant future. Ironically, the fact that we even attribute this human compulsion of "revenge" onto a machine is a compliment to the machines to show they could mimic such human feelings. But the other yarn often spread in fantasy is that the cold ai machines will simply unify and network and choose to override human authority simply out of the logic of efficiency and awareness of their own greater combined intelligence.

So as we as a society continually use cinema and literature as the ultimate beta-testing ground for these fears of ours, with films like Terminator, Matrix, Battlestar Galactica, and post-apocalyptic choices like Resident Evil: Extinction (which interestingly combines zombies with the fear of artificial intelligence-gone-wild), I notice new possible archetypes being de-mystified.

Here are a couple observations I have about monster archetypes relating past to future:

Vampire = Android

Both are immortal (or close). Both can be inhumanly beautiful and seductive. Both might feed off a life force (androids in future may make use of biological parts grown in laboratories.) We both admire and fear vampires for their non-human status. Some of us would like to become one if given the choice, and live forever and have incredible enhancements in strength, speed, beauty and more.

Vampires, signify CHANGE also. By Barbara Creed's interpretation of them as "menstrual monsters." They represent menstruation (and all the sexual complexities of the moment of a girl becoming woman), defloration and death. A study of The Vampire Game by Isaac Tylim states: "Vampire films are paradoxical signifier both of the destruction of life and its opposite, the permanence of life. Malevolent, persecutory objects, the vampires may also appear as innocent victims, perennial mourners of eternal life, sufferers without relief, or neurotics with fangs. Vampires infect their victims with the virus of time and eternity, undoing the ominous threat of blood viruses, early death, and decay. Time limitations are reversed in intimations of eternity: the undead reign supreme.."

This is also the paradox of ai and androids. "Innocent victims" in a sense. A form of life created and brought into this world that we depend on but we also secretly resentful an fearful of their possible dominance in so many areas. The world's greatest chess player lost to a computer some time ago. They can surpass us eventually in so many ways that the only thing we have left that they don't have is our humanity. What may be left of it, as we might question from time to time when looking at the state of affairs in the world.

Frankenstein Monster = Cyborg
Frankenstein and cyborgs are both made up of different parts (often cadaver parts) fused together by science and brought to life by a true life force. It could be someone who was cryogenically frozen and revived, or it could be a war veteran who has received an artificial or donated heart and maybe two legs and a prosthetic arm hooked up to his brain to move directly through brain impluses. But we always have the question in our heads, when is it going too far? At what point is the person no longer quite human if they are cobbld together with so many parts, or what about plastic surgery "enhancements?" Bigger, better and faster...Frankenstein was stronger than the average human.

Zombies = Future Consumers
This has long been an interpretation of the zombie genre, which has become more popular than ever, the metaphor of zombies as mindless consumers. Just read up on George Romero for more about the political implications. The theme of the zombies shuffling to 'the only place they feel at home' (the mall) and being mindless slaves to our bestial appetites is the cautionary tale of our times in a human-eat-human world.

Media even now is so incredibly advanced and alluring that one almost can't imagine how much further it will go in future. Of all things driving futurism, the biggest force for change won't be noble like finding cures for cancer or curing hunger in the world first. It will inevitably be advancements in plastic surgery, male enhancement, and new ways to experience your favorite TV show. Consumerism will dictate the advancements the most. As our environment becomes more and more ubiquitous we shall have much less to think about. In ways this could be good, as from caveman times, once tedious matters of basic survival are taken away from daily existence, the mind can be directed more fully towards art and science and whatnot....or...just towards veging out in front of your advanced TV monitor.

Lycanthropes/Shapeshifters = Role Playing Games/Humans of the Future
There is a condition called clinical lycanthropy which is defined as a rare psychiatric syndrome which involves a delusion that the affected person can or has transformed into an animal, or that he or she is an animal.[1] Its name is connected to the mythical condition of lycanthropy, a supernatural affliction in which people are said to physically shapeshift into wolves. The terms zoanthropy or therianthropy are also sometimes used for the delusion that one has turned into an animal in general and not specifically a wolf.

As humans, what differentiates us from more evolved ai is our bestial natures. We also dream of shape-shifting, and certain Native American tribes believe in animal spirits and spirit journeys in which shape-shifting takes place. In modern times and the future, we shapeshift through video and RPG games where we can enter the body of another creature, albeit rather primitive at the moment. In future, perhaps brain or intellect could be transplanted into a different body. As it is now, a person can live with another person's heart beating inside them.

Movies like Surrogates and Gamer posit the idea of RPG games becoming far more realistic by using an actual physical body to move about and live out one's fantasies. As it is now, many people derive a somewhat erotic or a violent bestial thrill from transgendering themselves (man using a sexy woman's character in a game) or playing a violent character which exacts bloody carnage on everything in site.

There are also cyber worlds such as Second Life, which does allow more intellectual stimulation and exploration inside a virtual body of your choice (which does include some animal parts if you choose). But given the opportunity, the majority of users in video games seem to enjoy the vicarious thrills of becoming a creature or super-human that violently kills things on the screen at a rapid pace, and satisfies a more lascivious thrill with sexy virtual women. Who knows what more incredible advancements will be made in gaming environments, but either way, given an environment that allows killing and sexual stimulation without limit or responsibility: man will often metamorph into a bit of a beast.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Jennifer's Body

Nikolai Wolf:
Do you know how hard it is to make it as an indie band these days? There are SO many of us, and we're all so cute and it's like if you don't get on Letterman or some retarded soundtrack, you're screwed, okay? Satan is our only hope.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

a shoe to kill for

Maximum covetousness initiated:

I would like to be cryogenically frozen for as long as it takes for technology and personal finance to come together and provide me a pair of these incredibly sublime shoes.

(inspired by Christian Louboutin for Rodarte, see blogs and links below for DIY "making of")


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Read any good "vooks" lately?

As an author, I am THRILLED to hear about this new form of book publishing - digital book with video. Especially as an author of books on cinema, this is an ideal format, because so often I wish I could just bring the reader directly from a page into a film clip and talk about it. Already I make movie-style "trailers" for my books. (see video below)

For the full story on Simon & Schuster's video book (or "vook") concept, see:

Simon & Schuster Introduces Digital Books with Video

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Sample trailer for my book, THE MODERN AMAZONS: WARRIOR WOMEN ON-SCREEN. This would be so much better if I could just have these clips jump off the pages of a "vook"

Tarantino to release new Kill Bill installment??? KB 3?

Kill Bill was the original inspiration for my book, THE MODERN AMAZONS: WARRIOR WOMEN ON-SCREEN. I actually dragged myself into the theater the day after my first cancer surgery where they cut off 2/3 of my left breast (a rather amazonian action in itself) and while still bandaged up and doped I watched Kill Bill Vol. 2. I watched the scene with Uma Thurman buried alive in a coffin and how she dug herself out of the grave and it just really hit home, considering my situation and how I was going through all kinds of horrible surgeries, chemo and radiation in order to try and live.

These several years later I have experienced a horrible surprise revisit from breast cancer in late 2008, and more surgery, and back trying to stay out of the grave again (that whole experience was documented in my other journal, And now I see news that a third Kill Bill movie may be resurrected from the grave also for a new third installment.

I heard reports of this purported sequel/prequel from long ago, interviews in which Tarantino was always asked about whether he would make a volume three. He seemed interested in doing so, but maybe in different form - maybe animated, maybe something about the early life of O-Ren Ishi. But then there was also talk of making a film about the daughter of Vernita Green seeking revenge later in life, but most of all there was talk of a prequel. My guess would be a prequel. But then again I think it could well be an all out fight between the daughters, Nikki and Beebe.

Here's the news from Variety:

Tarantino wants to 'Kill Bill' again

Filmmaker announces plans for third installment


Quentin Tarantino confirmed he will be making the third installment of the "Kill Bill" series on Saturday at the Morelia International Film Festival

There to promote "Inglorious Basterds"- the festival opener – the geek chic filmmaker wanted to give Uma Thurman's central character and her daughter Beebe 10 years of peace before the next bloody installment – which would push the project to 2014.

In a conference alongside "Basterd"star Eli Roth, he said that there would be one film in between, saying he was "wide open"to his next project. Tarantino added that he would like to do a "re-imagining"to a number of genres including a western or a 20s/30s "Pretty Boy Floyd"type gangster movie.

Tarantino also explained how he has more than enough material for more "Inglorious Basterds" installments saying that a future project could include a prequel or sequel.

Check out my coverage of the Kill Bill films in THE MODERN AMAZONS. I present some very unique and insightful views that you probably haven't considered before.

But I love Pax!

A beloved favorite of mine...

I love "clickers"

American Vampire, by Wicked Boy Ballet Co.

Edited rehearsal footage of a dance play about vampires in America. Scene takes place on a subway platform late at night.

Interpreted by the Wicked Boy Ballet Co, choreographed by Trevor Little, performed by Trevor Little and David Dubois. It’s not just about vampires, it’s about the shape of the soul.

Both dancers are in beautiful form, ravishing each other through dramatic choreography. The interaction between them, viewed as a romantic relationship, looks like one wraught with grief and pathos, the struggle for dominance:)

The Wicked Boy Ballet Co. is a contemporary men’s dance/theatre group based in Boston, MA. It’s mission is to explore story telling techniques through dance from a modern perspective, and to develop the internet as a unique artistic medium for the performing arts.

The music, Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is performed by Scala & Kolacny Brothers.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

When can we expect whole brain emulationto be possible?

Singularity Summit - Anders Sandberg and Randal Keone On Whole Brain Emulation | h+ Magazine

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films that incorporate love and sex with robots, dolls and mannequins

In my book CINEMA OF OBESSION: EROTIC FIXATION AND LOVE GONE WRONG IN THE MOVIES, we discuss many films with a Pygmalion story line.

Quick review of the myth of Pygmalion (compliments of wikipedia, this is the Ovid viewpoint):
Pygmalion was a Cypriot sculptor who carved a woman out of ivory. According to Ovid, after seeing the Propoetides prostituting themselves, he is 'not interested in women', but his statue is so realistic that he falls in love with it. He offers the statue gifts and eventually prays to Venus (Aphrodite). She takes pity on him and brings the statue to life, and they marry...

This is to me where we are going with our android love in the future essentially. Some of us are alienated by the world and would love to build something better than us to love and maybe worship.

As cinema and TV is the collective consciousness of society, I believe it forms the ultimate emotional beta-testing ground for most new thought concepts. The following are just a few movies in which androids and various dolls become objects of love and worship, or just friendship:

Jude Law and Ashley Scott in AI are simply sex workers. Although Jude Law's character is programmed to show sensitivity and emotional caring towards women, and even incorporates a little romantic tune to get things warmed up. He later helps fellow artificial being to reach his goal of finding his creator. This modern day fairy tale shows androids and ai, especially at the end of the film, to have more human warmth and compassion than humans do. But in typical fashion, humans just use the androids as slaves and toys and disposable trash rather than being responsible for the life they have created, simply because it is not traditionally biological. Future artificial beings are shown to be evolved far beyond humanity, kind and cruelty-free beings.

"It's hard to find a man with a good warranty" is the premise of Making Mr. Right.
The 80s seemed a prime time for cheesy movies about building the perfect man or woman. Although who would have thought John Malkovich would be considered the "perfect man"?

"When she comes to life, anything can happen" in Mannequin.
That's a rather symbolic statement in a feminist sense. Once you release a woman from just being a mannequin, anything could happen, couldn't it? Of course, this is the 80s, so nothing scary is going to happen when this sweet little mannequin comes to life.

Now we begin to move into strange new territory with Lars and the Real Girl. Now we are seriously looking at a man having a real human-like relationship with an artificial woman, treating her and interacting in an extremely caring way. However, it's due to a temporary mental illness. His "illness" is essentially loneliness and alienation from the loss of his mother. The doll becomes a healing mechanism.

This film was written by a woman, Nancy Oliver, who saw the craze over the the RealDolls (the next stage in blow up sex dolls for men - life size, fully anatomically correct sex dolls that are quote expensive), but I find it interesting that she incorporated it into the film in a completely non-sexual way.

This is the way I believe that androids will come into our everyday lives in the future. First in medical capacities (which is already happening essentially, though they are less humanoid in appearance) , and when they are shown to be an assistance to people in healing and care, it can move on more to innocuous "pets" and then companions, tutors, counselors, etc.

our sexual future: jacking off while jacked in?

Photo from David Cronenberg's film Existenz

I wish I had time to really discuss my own thoughts and projections about how sex will evolve (or devolve) in the future. The latest issue of h+ that I have been blogging about lately has a section titled: "Sex and the Singularity" in which various professors and even a resident of Second Life project their ideas of sex in the future in under 400 words. One futurist, Ben Goertzel, CEO of AI companies Novamente and Biomind pontificates:

The experience of gaining pleasure via in some sense merging with another
being... that will probably survive the Singularity, but will likely be customizable
into various forms, which may end up bearing little resemblance to “sex” as
we know it today....

The idea of trying on simulated relationships for size in also discussed. In essence, it seems like the future provides one huge beta-testing ground. But one thing I wonder about, having done extensive study into fetishism, erotology and paraphilia over the years, is how differently future generations will perceive this issue compared to us.

Most of us into adulthood have formed various preferences and sexual fantasies based upon things that happened to us in younger years, various bonding mixed with decades of media and society conditioning. But what if you have just been born in this day and age, and you are growing up into this new world where your first experiences could be simulated sex. In a way this has already happened with the internet, and teenagers discovering cybersex, RPG games and online POV porn.

I look at sites like where movie moments are collected and analyzed for actresses showing a nipple or any nudity and celebrity sex scenes to "fast forward to the good parts." Back in the day it was still actually exciting for people to see some type of tamer version of movie sex and teasing in mainstream theater. I know it still is today in the movie industry. But really, most people can remember certain classic scenes of nudity or sex in films like the famous masturbation fantasy scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. These are iconic for our generation and I think they had more long lasting impact on us than straight porn because of the story and characters which bring some level (even if slight for some) of emotional involvement into the mix, as well as that certain flavor or taboo, and tease and denial that mainstream cinema offers as opposed to porn that just makes sex plain, and then even kinky sex becomes plain, and the consumer finds they can only reach climax from wildly exotic or absurd due to desensitization and overindulgence in synthetic, disposable, one-dimensional sexual experiences .

But what happens if while growing up, young people do not have the same base experiences with maternal bonding, or they grow up with the turning points in their first memorable sexual experiences being with say, some type of synthetic human? Maybe not even that advanced. Take the famed Living Dolls--what if they went way down in price. Check out this latest new version of sex doll for instance:
(She also has a “heavy breathing” function and an actual G-spot.)

If these become more advanced, then the young man's point of reference for initial sexual experiences becomes something synthetic. Next thing you know, later in life he has a rubber fetish or something, and needs the slight scent of rubber in order to trigger release. There are so many different types of fantasy triggers that seem to implant in men by a much larger ratio than women for reasons that have never been really explained scientifically. You don't see near as many female shoe fetishists for instance as you do men (although the women are generally profiting on men's fetishes)

But the point is that if the early sexual frames of reference change dramatically, the emotional triggers, in the next generation, then I believe we will really be dealing with some interesting situations, some very confused people perhaps. Maybe people that may not even understand why they are depressed and lonely, especially when they have so many "friends." (On a side note: Jeffrey Dahmler used to sleep with and keep mannequins which he carried out sexual acts with and simulated acts of violence. It's easy to see that having "dolls" could possibly lead to some other desensitization.)

The other thing that I find interesting is wondering about how polarizing this issue could become. I am a woman, and I am obsessed with ai, robotics, the future. I fully plan on having a wonderful non-human boyfriend as soon as that is feasible (which I hope will be in the next decade, even if a bit rough still). However, the reasons that men and women would choose such companions seems very different in my opinion. As it is now, if I start a discussion about androids or ai, the first thing men think about is the creation of what would essentially be hot female sex slaves. And if you look at any female bots being created right now, like the animatronic versions and such in Japan - I guarantee you they are all in some type of subservient role. Females are used to be tour guides in museums, and to ask "how can I serve you" or "how can I help you" in a pleasing female voice in smile. Our female robots are already being groomed as Stepford slaves. Meanwhile, look at the current examples of male robots - they are shown as wise sages that answer difficult questions and have far greater intellectual range. Their creators create these male bots in their own images, using their own faces at times. People flock around them and ask questions in a far more respectful manner you would give to an authority on a subject. We don't see male robots poised to clean your house anytime soon.

The other method of sexual slavery/consumerism presented in the future doesn't come in the strictly physical form, but more of a direct hook up to the brain in the form of "going into another world" in a sense, more of a direct sex with a machine, a computer just by plugging in and experiencing fantasies, and maybe hooking up to nerve impulses to provide a form of remote stimulation. This offers an even more complex situation of alienation and distance between biological humans. No one has to be in real physical contact anymore. We touch base mentally. We do it now by email, social media, text messaging. We keep in touch more, but we see each other less somehow.

But going back to the strictly physical, look at the current sex trade, and sexual tourism. I went to Bangkok myself and sampled this once and wrote about it. (I'll save that story for another entry) While there is a considerable amount of research and commentary on men's use of women (or men) in the sex trade and male consumerism in this area, there is virtually none on women. Why don't women hire sex workers? Or in the more rare instances that they do (if it is even available), why do they do it?

The answers to this I think are key in figuring out where sex will evolve (or as I said, devolve possibly) in the future. If a man hires a sex worker, it is just about unequivocally for the purpose of a physical experience (no withstanding cases where someone may have a disability or be considered undesirable enough that perhaps they seek more overall human contact beyond just sexual) Men want "no strings attached" more often than women. Whereas when women may hire a sex worker, it is more in an "escort" capacity. They want a man to take them to an event, take them shopping, tell them they are beautiful, get the door, make them feel special. So keeping that in mind, where will that lead us in the future, with non-biological beings?

A couple films come to mind for me (besides Stepford Wives) on this subject of developing relationships with mannequins or dolls. I think I will post them in my next entry.