Review of the Vampire Film ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’

14 09 2014

It is Only Lovers Left Alive - Posterone of the most striking films I have ever seen. Vampires Eve and Adam re-unite after a few decades, and the younger sister, Ava, tries to shatter their dreams by acting like a no-good Angelena. The premise is bizarre, yet fascinating.

Eve and Adam text about Adam’s depression, and she, the ever-sprightly one, decides to travel from her base in Tangier to his place in Detroit, where she attempts to soothe him. Everything is weird—she is texting her lover on an iPhone via her Moroccan boudoir, which is decorated in embroidered fabrics and is probably suffused with various exotic scents. Gold, blue, and white are the main colours. He is consumed in a mess of guitars and violins in a decaying Detroit mansion.

Eve and Adam are humane vampires who acquire blood by bribing hospital staff and local friends to quench their thirst. They have no desire to feed on humans unless necessary. Much like modern-day human vegans refuse to consume animal products unless necessary. Until Eve’s younger sister, Ava, arrives and starts acting like a total douche-bag. "only lovers left alive"She drinks Adam’s musical assistant to death, and Eve and Adam have to dispose of his corpse in a vat of acid somewhere in an abandoned building in Detroit.

After kicking Ava out on her own, Eve and Adam decide to return to Eve’s favourite place—Tangier. Unfortunately, Tangier is infected with contaminated blood. Even Eve’s reliable source of blood—Marlowe—lies dying of contaminated blood. Eve delicately lays her hand on the head of his human care-taker. It is actually a quite moving scene.

The last scene is amazing. Since Marlowe and his special source of blood are gone, Eve and Adam are forced to walk the streets ofOnly Lovers Left Alive - Last Scene Tangier, seeking a source of blood. They are starving. Eve in particular catches the scent of blood. It is a couple making out. She convinces Adam to turn them. He acquiesces. The look in their glassy eyes is disturbing.

Only Lovers Left Alive is amazing not only because it is so cryptic and peaceful, but also because it forces the viewer to re-imagine the vampire as a creature with human emotions. After all, humans are just cattle in the eyes of the vampire.

 





Julie Gentron and the Lady League (Vol. 1, Ep. 9): The Plouvre

5 02 2013

Last time on Julie Gentron and the Lady League, the ladies joined fists in a brilliant display of lady-light over the futuristic landscape of London in preparation to intercept their dreaded foe, Plastica, at her next target of assimilation, the Louvre museum in Paris.

Julie Gentron Plastica Black Lame V“The Venus de Milo. Right. Put some arms on her. I won’t have my goddesses maimed. And be sure to get my features right when you sculpt her face into my likeness.” Plastica said these words to somebody behind her as she slithered her way into the Louvre like a cobra, led by Dr. Electro-hag and Simpson Oswald, whom she had restrained with a pair of chains which served as leashes. “Mush, mush!” She whipped the chains, and her bitches pulled forth their queen on hands and knees until she gave a yank, signalling them  to stop. She was dressed in a drapey, 1940s-style, shoulder-padded black lamé dress cut off at mid-thigh, while her hounds donned tasteful, high-end S&M attire imported from Berlin. Three plasticons–one man and two women–attended from behind, dressed in identical S&M outfits, with the exception that the male plasticon’s outfit was fitted for his body. One of the women placed an incense-burner on Oswald’s head. He grimaced resentfully at the indignity.

“Why, I never noticed it before,” Plastica said, scanning the room thoughtfully with her darkly outlined green eyes, “but this newly redecorated Louvre reminds me of my childhood Christmases. All the glitter, tinsel, and shiny glass ornaments painted green, pink, and gold. My favourite were always the indented teardrop-shaped ones. They always scattered the light to create this garish display that captivated the eye and kept it rapt with fascination, like souls enslaved.” She said this as she fondled the ornate gilt frame of a fifteenth-century Flemish painting by Albrecht Dürer with a tidily gloved finger. The face had been re-painted in the likeness of the plastic witch, and many more were undergoing a similar transformation at the hands of her craftsmen, who had all been assimilated. (Their pitter-pattering could be heard in the halls without.) Indeed, the great museum chamber was suffused with a lurid pink-green glow, like a string of Christmas tree lights, or a Manchester fashion show.

Julie Gentron - Plastica Dominatrix S&M Oswald Electro-Hag“You! Sergeant Sodomite, what’s her name?” Plastica barked at Oswald, referring to one of the stationary supermodel servants.

“I don’t fucking know!” he snapped, grinding his teeth. She ignored his invective and returned her attention to her servant.

“You, the Eastern European beanpole by the potted palm in the shape of my face. Whatever your name is. Titty. Bring me some more pline!”

“My name is not Titty. It is Tina,” said the plasticon in a Polish accent which betrayed only the slightest modulation.

“Ugh, yes, whatever. Whitney Houston. Bring me some pline!”

“Pline, my mistress?” replied Tina in a timid, strained tone.

“Plastic wine, girl!”

“Yes, of course, mistress.” Tina trotted like a deer over to a buffet table stationed on the wall at one end of the room, poured a glass of strangely incandescent liquor from a carafe, and brought it back to Plastica on a small silver tray. “My apologies, mistress, for failing to fulfil your wishes immediately and without question. It will never happen again.” Plastica gave her a condescending flick of the lashes, and Tina spasmed slightly as if under some sudden, strange spell. The witch clasped the chalice in her purple claws, took a gulp of pline, and resumed her monologue, talking into the air.

“Gather round, my children. Behold the grandeur of my work. Every ancient statue, every priceless painting betrays, through my likeness, my gift to the world–Myself!” She gave Tina a dark side-glance, then Julie Gentron - Plastica Black Lamelooked back into the air. “It grows. It grows from all corners of the globe. From the sin-filled pleasure-domes of Bangkok to the salacious man-cauldrons of Hell’s Kitchen, my plastic empire grows and thrives like a Morning Glory smothering a rotting English fence. But it all begins here, in the storehouse of Western art, the newly christened Plouvre!” She said these words in a crescendo of passion and intensity, widening her green eyes and raising her chalice in the air. She slacked her chain, placed the chalice back on the tray (which was still being held by Tina), and took a seat on the back of Dr Electro-hag, who winced under her weight.

“I’m hungry!” she barked. The other female plasticon minced robot-like in six-inch heels to the buffet table and revealed a sushi platter. She took the platter in her hands with the skill of a veteran waitress and, with a pair of chopsticks, placed several sushi pieces on to Oswald’s back, which happened to be wrapped in a tube-like sheath of cellophane especially for the occasion. She then retrieved a fresh pair of chopsticks from the buffet table drawer and handed them to her mistress, who proceeded daintily to pluck the delicacies off her man-table and stuff them–a little bit awkwardly, to her chagrin–inside her thick, plump, red lips, chewing down like a cow on its cud. This unfortunate adventure in Eastern cuisine was met by an uncomfortable quietude among the room’s inhabitants, who dared not watch their mistress chow down, but kept their eyes straight forward.

“Good gracious, queen, you look like you’re ready to back up hard against some German leather-daddy,” Plastica squeaked at Oswald, whose spine was curved inward like that of a hungry virgin twink under the voluminous stash of Julie Gentron - Plastica Marylin Monroe Black LameOriental delicacies.

“I am, if it will put me out of my misery, you odious milf,” replied Oswald, trying doggedly to balance the incense burner on his head.

“Well, obviously I’ll have to assimilate you soon, Sergeant Sodomite, but right now I am quite content with watching your fitful outbursts and the pathetic, lame insults they produce.” With this riposte, she plucked a piece of sannakji, still squirming, off the nape of his back, dipped it in a dish of soy sauce, and shoved it in her voluptuous maw.

“We do have a deal, my mistress,” croaked Dr Electro-hag with a sneer. “You would give me half of Earth as my suzerainty.”

“You will have a quarter of Earth as your suzerainty, you decrepit queen. Be thankful and bow at my feet for my generosity. Oh, wait. You’re already bowing. Ha! How convenient.” At this, Plastica took another swig of pline, applied a fresh layer of yellow-green eyeshadow, and refreshed her lips with a thick crimson gloss.

“Paris may be the capital of high art and fashion, my darlings, but I have my sights set on a less polished gem–the cutural future of Europe–Berlin!” She gestured in circular motions with her chalice and chopsticks. “You’ll notice, my beauties, the old Prussian stronghold has re-invented itself as a centre of artistic creativity, but without entirely shedding the vestiges of its Cold War past, leaving it slightly rough  round the edges, like a cut-rate 1980s gay hooker who still listens to Kraftwerk on cassette tape. It is in this thriving metropolis we shall establish our new base. And from there, Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, Riga, Helsinki, Minsk, St. Petersburg, Moscow, the whole of northern Europe!” She rose from Dr Electro-hag’s back and unleashed a witchy cackle, raising her hands into the air and wielding her chopsticks like a deadly weapon, a piece of whitefin tuna tumbling to the ground between her six-inch Jimmy Choo heels.

Find out whether Plastica succeeds in her diabolical scheme in the next episode of Julie Gentron and the Lady League!





The Divine Feminine: an Iron Age Stepford Wife?

22 03 2012

Maybe you are one of them–women, and even some men, who have secreted away from the church pew to summon the goddess in the sacred grove. The trend is growing, it seems. More people are searching for spiritual fulfillment by exploring the “feminine” side of spirituality which is central to so many pagan and New Age traditions, including Wicca, and generally absent from the supposedly more patriarchal male-god religions. But is this “divine feminine“, which forms one half of a duotheistic theology, really such a fair-minded and forward-thinking alternative to male-dominated mainstream religion? As we will see, it might actually reinforce the very patriarchy it seeks to dismantle, and the implications are ominous for women and men alike.

To show how the “divine feminine” movement backfires in its attempt to overturn patriarchy, we must first establish what the concept means. Generally speaking, the “divine feminine” embodies a triad of female archetypes: the Maid, the Mother, and the Crone. Each archetype correlates with a different stage in a woman’s life. The Maid represents the pure and innocent virgin, the mother, the nurturing life-giver and care-taker, and the crone, the wise old teacher–or, potentially, the wicked witch. She is every important aspect of womanhood, or so it would seem, and people pursue the pagan priesthood specifically to pay her homage. She functions as the polar opposite to the male god in a binary which consists of an aggressive, rational, dominant “male energy” and a passive, emotional, submissive “female energy”.We worship her because she complements a strong, disciplinarian masculinity with a weak, nurturing femininity that males supposedly lack.

But, in the stereotypical binary of the weak goddess and strong god, we already see the failure of the divine feminine to dismantle patriarchy. An example of this binary in Chinese philosophy would be the yin and yang, in which a negative, dark, feminine principle complements a positive, bright, masculine one. The divine feminine movement attempts to reclaim female authority from obscurity by extolling the meek, nurturing, yielding nature of the goddess and ignoring her strong, confident, assertive nature—but this is oxymoronic, because it suggests that women’s power lies in their powerlessness. How can women gain power and influence equal to that of men if they are essentially less powerful and influential than men? It just doesn’t make sense. So, with its schizophrenically passive-aggressive, powerful yet powerless goddess, the divine feminine simply gives patriarchy room to flourish.

Now, critics of this view will argue that the binary isn’t really that black and white. “Each man has a feminine side, and each woman, a masculine side”, they will assure you, glowing with pride in their observation. They will point out, for example, that in the yin and yang model, each side has a little bit of the other within it. This is true, but it is also true that the yin is still overwhelmingly dominant and “masculine”, and the yang, overwhelmingly passive and “feminine”, so it doesn’t achieve much to say “there’s a little bit of the other in each”. Besides, it’s a circular argument. Arguing that there is no pure masculinity or femininity, and that each man is a little feminine, and each woman, a little masculine, is a homunculus fallacy, because it still relies on the use of the discrete terms “masculine” and “feminine” to explain gender. Once again, we see how the divine feminine fails to completely liberate male and female from oppressive sex roles.

In addition to the yin and yang model, the fact that the goddess exists almost entirely in relation to males and childbearing presents a problem for the “divine feminine”. The most important role of the goddess is that of the fecund, life-giving, heterosexual mother. She is constantly associated with the earth, fertility, menstruation, pregnancy, and child-bearing. After all, only women can give birth, right? Yes, male fertility is also celebrated in the form of gods like Priapus and phallic cults, but this fertility forms only one aspect of the male god, who is also warrior, judge, poet, and leader, among many other things. The goddess, though, is overwhelmingly associated with nurturing, life-giving fertility, and her sexual relation with the god, as in the sovereignty goddess, an earth divinity whose purpose is to bequeath the land’s power to a man through sexual relations. She is the pure Maid who is sexually desirable to males, as in the Teutonic fertility goddess Ēostre (related to “Easter” and “oestrus”), the Mother who bears her husband’s children, as in Gaia, and the Crone who is useful for nothing more than giving advice and recalling how many miles she had to walk in the snow, and who sometimes represents death, sinister magic, and even cannibalism, as in the child-eating Slavic witch Baba Yaga or the Greek serpent-daemon Lamia. When the woman explores life beyond the hearth and nursery, her unbridled energy necessarily becomes an evil, a transgression against her husband, children, and community. But this isn’t exactly fair. What about girls, sterile women, post-menopausal women, hysterectomized women, lesbians, and women who simply choose not to have children, or even to marry? Most of us would still call these people female, and the vast majority of them are not evil child-eaters, so obviously the “divine feminine”, with its inordinate emphasis on female fertility, fails to represent the many different aspects of female virtue beyond that of childbirth and nursing. It is hard, then, to see a feminist ideal in this Triple Goddess.

The divine feminine is a well-meaning attempt to correct the historical repression of females in mainstream Western religion and spirituality, and in some ways it may have made inroads, but it still falls short of the goal: it presents an oxymoron in the powerlessly powerful goddess, it creates a contradiction by using the terms “masculine” and “feminine” to assure us that there is no pure masculine or feminine, and it describes a goddess whose identity exists almost wholly in relation to men and reproduction. This divinely powerful goddess begins to look like nothing more than an Iron Age Stepford wife. Of course there is nothing wrong with women being compassionate and nurturing, but there is something wrong with women being more compassionate and nurturing than men, especially if all of us are supposed to meet the same, ultimate standard of enlightenment. To reclaim female authority in religion and spirituality, then, we should be exploring the many other aspects of the divine feminine: the warrior, the judge, the poet, the leader, and the good witch. In fact, we should be expanding this to the scientist, the doctor, the politician, and the professor. After all, we no longer live in the Iron Age, and these roles meet the practical demands of the modern day. Simultaneously, we should be exploring the more yielding and nurturing side of the god. By performing this kind of self-scrutiny, we learn from each other and become truly whole human beings.





Julie Gentron and the Lady League, Vol. 1, Ep. 3: The Bitches Return to Earth!

20 12 2011

Written by Brandon Arkell and Seth Gordon Little

Last time on Julie Gentron and the Lady League, the ladies faced imminent catastrophe as an asteroid and the dwarf planet Sedna threatened to smash the H.M.S. Vestibule to pieces!

“PAM, what’s happened?!” shouted Julie.

“A fragment of the approaching asteroid has skimmed the hull of the ship. The cold plasma shield has eliminated most of it, but some pieces made it through. All vital life support systems, as well as artificial gravity, are operational, however this will not remain the case if the asteroid collides with the ship. My calculations show such a collision will occur within the next nine and a half minutes.” Lupa stormed around the main deck, flapping his heavy limbs and cooing in agitation, clutching his coconut bra, and leaving a trail of urine in his wake. (Donna had forgotten to put on his diaper.) The poor thing was obviously trying to communicate something important, but his message went unheeded.

“I’ll take care of this”, said Rosalind, leering at Donna. “With my superhuman strength, I should be able to push the ship out of its path! Don’t worry, Julie”, she said, smiling seductively at the captain, “I’ll steer the ship on course and we’ll be back in London in time for a massage.” Julie smiled and nodded at Rosalind, who, beaming with confidence, assumed a hard, bright, metallic shell of skin and exited through the evacuation chamber.

“In order to deflect the asteroid”, said Julie, “we need to combine our ship’s built-in artillery with our own mutant powers. We must use the ship’s most potent weapon—the lady beam! Donna! Power up the ovarian plasma-ray generator, focus its energy through the clitoral conductor-cannon, and deploy the beam at ten o’clock, in the direction of the asteroid.”

“Yes, Julie!” said Donna without a beat. She proceeded to chicken-peck away at the computer console, sounding out each letter as she went.

“Julie”, said PAM.

“What, PAM?”

“I’m scared, Julie.”

“It’s just the ovarian plasma ray generator-powered, clitoral cannon-channelled lady beam, PAM. It’s going to help save us!”

“I understand, Julie. My calculations show that this is the most effective tactic, other than self-annihilation. It’s just that I cannot live without you. Proceed.” Julie contorted her face in bewilderment at PAM’s strange show of emotion. Just then, a thick, bright, white-green beam shot forth from the clitoral cannon and obliterated the asteroid. A stream of space debris assaulted the ship’s cold plasma shield in a spray of light. They had done it. The asteroid was done with. Everybody clapped, cheered, and jumped up and down with joy. Then they stopped.

“We’re veering too close to Sedna now!” cried Julie. “Donna, you said you can move planets, so you must be able to move a space-ship out of Sedna’s gravitational pull. Do it, now!”

“I’ll do my best.” Donna placed her fingers to her temples and closed her eyes. She then made a strained, girlish squeal resembling a pig having an orgasm. Lupa stood erect, placed his fins to his breast like an opera singer, and commenced with a haunting, mournful whale-song which resembled the peal of an adolescent humpback whale. “Lupa!” shouted the others, groaning and covering their ears.

“Anyway”, said Julie, “I’ll take command of the ship’s computer and steer us clear of this thing.” PAM murmered words of vague concern over this action. “Don’t worry, PAM”, she said. “Your consciousness will remain intact and fully operational.”

“I—seem—to be—tilting the ship, but not enough to escape Sedna’s gravity”, said Donna, straining harder. “Julie, help!”

“Hold on!” replied Julie. “I’ll concentrate my technopathic powers on the ship’s engines.” Julie thrust her breasts outward, flexed her strong arms and thighs, and concentrated. “By the great goddess! I’ve taken too sharp a turn toward Sedna!” she said, not knowing her own strength. Lupa, unnoticed by the others, assumed the pose of a sumo wrestler, and his high-pitched peal gradually fell to a deep, barely audible hum which reverberated throughout the ship like a foghorn. The ship began to turn, but only the poor land-whale could see how the powerful sonic reverberations created by his whale-song helped the team escape the clutches of Sedna’s hard, icy surface. Meanwhile, Donna was on the floor, doggy-style, ass in the air, elbows to the ground, fingers still to her temples, focusing all her might on moving the ship with the power of her mind. Soon she had matched Lupa’s efforts, and the ship made another tilt. Still, the captain was needed, and so was her computer.

“PAM, help me out!” cried Julie in desperation.

“I will work in unison with you, Julie”, said the onboard quantum computer. “I will provide you the steering, the thrust, the motion, the strokes—”

“PAM!”

“Yes, Julie?”

“Cut the lesbian bullcrap! Er, for now, at least. Help me steer, already!” There was a tense pause, broken only by Lorna’s constipated squeals and the land-whale’s powerful baritone. “Are we clear of Sedna’s gravitational pull yet?”

“Just, Julie.”

“Then, by the breasts of the great goddess, take us back to Earth!”

“Julie, what about Rosalind? If you would like, I will dispose of her with a blast of ion radiation and—”

“—PAM, you will do no such thing! Rosalind will come back aboard the ship unscathed. Afterward, you will direct us on a course to Earth.”

“Yes, Julie.” Almost immediately after, the doors to the evacuation chamber whooshed open, and Rosalind re-entered the deck, panting, yet bobbing confidently and flexing her biceps cockily. Julie embraced her, while Donna gave a half-hearted cheer and a limp clap. Lupa began bounding around the deck with a big, booming, babylike coo of excitement, clapping his limbs uncontrollably and wiping away tears from his big, limpid blue eyes with the tip of a fin. Another trail of urine formed behind him.

“Rosalind, thank the goddess you’re OK”, said Julie, caressing Rosalind’s well-developed shoulders. “I wasn’t sure that your armoured skin would deflect the assault of cosmic rays.”

“Honey”, laughed Rosalind, patting Julie affectionately on the back, “I’ve had worse, like the time I wrestled that giant space-ghoul from the Oort Cloud. I’m not bragging, but I did help steer us clear of a dwarf planet.” Donna mimicked these last words sarcastically under her breath, tossing her feathered Farrah Fawcett tresses to the side. “The atoms in my armour are quite dense, blocking even the most intense radiation”, said Rosalind. “It is almost impossible for cosmic radiation to damage my genes.”

“As I already suspected, since I am a quantum physicist”, said Donna in an argumentative tone. Rosalind lowered at her, and she met her opponent’s gaze with an equally baleful glower. If these girls had claws, they’d be unsheathed.

“Julie”, cooed PAM.

“Yes?” replied Julie.

“I am glad that you are unharmed, Julie.”

“Yes, thank you, PAM”, said Julie, pacing around the deck with a growing wariness of PAM’s human-like qualities.

“Gee whiz”, said Donna quizzically. “What is up with this computer thingy? I mean, I understand when a pole likes a socket and a socket likes a pole, or when a pole likes a pole and a socket likes a socket, but when a socket doesn’t even have a socket to begin with, well, I just don’t get it.”

“Donna! That is uncalled for”, scolded Julie. “For your information, PAM has proved to be a very wise and caring—”

“—It is all right, Julie. I understand. The fact that I do not possess an obvious orifice or appendage for penetration makes Donna uncomfortable.” At this, Donna grinned mischievously.

“PAM”, said Donna.

“Yes, Donna?” bleeped PAM in her computery voice.

“What’s between my thighs?” asked the psychokinetic minx, giggling girlishly and covering her mouth with the tips of her fingers. Rosalind rolled her eyes and slapped her palm to her forehead.

“Your oestrogen-powered utero-blaster?”

“No.”

“Your platinum-lined lady vector ray?”

“No.”

“Your heat-seeking, blood-fuelled, tampon missile rocket?”

“Close, but not quite.”

“Your vagina?”

I can’t believe she actually said it!” cackled Donna ferociously. “She’s just like Siri!” Lupa clapped excitedly, belched, and made one of his famous whale-coos, an action performed by a land-whale when it approves of a jest.

“Of course she did, you dolt”, said Rosalind. “She’s a lesbian space-ship computer.”

“Julie”, said PAM, “I am unable to interpret the rationale behind the dialogue of your companions. I suspect this is due in part to a lack of myelination in areas of higher thinking in the brain.” At this, Donna gave a look of resentment, peering around the deck in search of whatever might constitute PAM’s presence.

“Ladies, ladies!” said Julie. “Donna, you’re being childish. Rosalind, stop being snide. PAM, stay cold and malleable. Lupa, you’re cute, but stop goofing around. OK. Let’s get back to London. If we don’t want to reach home by the time we’re old spinsters, we need to step up the pace and try to move faster than some twentieth century space probe. Donna.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I want you to use your power to warp space-time by creating a miniature black hole in front of the space-ship to get us past Saturn in the next sixty seconds.”

“Yes, ma’am”, said Donna, sighing. “I’ll try.”

“And, Rosalind”, said Julie, “remember to activate the ultra-tamponic cold plasma shield so that we don’t get incinerated by the heat created in the warp bubble. We already faced that threat warping from Alpha Centauri back to the Earth’s solar system.”

“Yes, Julie”, said Rosalind, thumping down at the console.

There was a spacey sound as the H.M.S. Vestibule entered the inner solar system. Earth, Britain, and, finally, the landing pad in the South London borough of Lambeth became visible.

“Well that was a blast!” said Donna. “We’re here! God, I’m dying for a bubble bath. Calgon, take me away!”

“And I’m dying for that massage, Julie”, said Rosalind, posing like a teenage locker-room jock.

“Bubble bath OK”, said Julie to Donna. Give, or receive?” she said to Rosalind.

“Baby, I’m cleverly equipped”, said Rosalind. The scene was suddenly interrupted by an urgent message in a raspy yet venerable RP accent sputtering out of the main deck’s speakers like a principal yacking away at her students through some old-fashioned twentieth century public school intercom.

“Julie Gentron!” said the voice in a reedy, chiding tone.

“Lady Fairfax!” said Julie. She stood as stiff as an unused tampon. She now had to report back to her boss about her excursion abroad—her mission to open diplomatic relations with the peoples of Alpha Centauri—in the cosy confines of a smart, clean office at the MI6 headquarters in dirty Vauxhall. With this in mind, the ladies heaved their bosoms, disembarked from the Vestibule, and pressed on forward across the landing pad. Opposite them, the silhouette of a low, shuffling figure appeared against London’s filthy sky.

“Quite correct, Gentron”, rattled the voice authoritatively, “in your assessment of my identity; not in your punctuality!”

Stay tuned to find out what surprise awaits the Lady League upon their return to Earth in the next instalment of Julie Gentron and the Lady League!





How I Outsmarted a Sexist Psychology Professor

14 12 2011

If there’s one thing I’ve learned getting to know university professors, it’s that pride is alive and well in academia, despite many claims to the contrary. I always expected such persons to be paragons of fairness and objectivity, but it turns out that they, too, harbour secret prejudices of their own—and sexism is no exception to this rule. I did, however, have the opportunity to turn the tables on one such individual, who thought he knew what he was talking about, but didn’t. Knowing at the outset that his facts were wrong, I graciously burdened myself with the task of correcting him on his assumptions on a topic which often goes unexamined—sexism in language.

(By the way, I must apologise to Nobel Prize-winning economist Leonid Hurwicz for using a photograph of him at the beginning of this article. I’m sure he isn’t a sexist old fogey; it’s just that he really looks like one! But he’s dead now anyway.)

Now, my friend is no dolt—he’s a professor of psychology at an eminent Canadian university—but he’s also an eccentric. He hails from Romania, loves opera and English literature, and pines for the days of the old British Empire, which, in relative terms, imposed a much gentler form of imperialism on its colonial subjects, or so he would say. “The British had an ideal behind their imperial mission–-to teach and to elevate benighted peoples”, is something he would say, “and they carried out this mission much more humanely than the Dutch, French, Spanish, or other European colonial powers.” Anyway, he sounds rather like Dracula and smokes like a chimney. And he’s gay. So he’s like a gay, chain-smoking Dracula. He comes across as sophisticated and quaintly nostalgic, but he has some rather ugly opinions—for they are certainly not facts—about feminists.

One of these opinions is that feminists don’t know what they’re talking about. You see, my friend once encountered a group of women in his milieu who complained that the word manhole was sexist because it contained the word man, but not woman. But, he argued, feminists shouldn’t be complaining that the word manhole is sexist, because man derives from the Latin word manus, which means hand”, not “adult male human being”. So the feminists are just being angry, stupid women, he suggested.

Well, that’s just plain bullshit, as I soon showed him. It is what in diachronic linguistics (historical linguistics) we call “folk etymology”: derivation of a word from a false, popular, made-up origin. Anyway, what follows is the general sequence of exchanges we made, in which I disprove his argument and prove its irrational, sexist underpinnings. It is not to be taken verbatim; the quotations are actually paraphrases, not direct discourse, but they accurately reflect the logic behind the points made. And to make a distinction between speakers, I will refer to my friend as simply “Dracula”. Now be patient and closely follow the line of argument to see how I arrive at my conclusion.

“These feminists shouldn’t be complaining that the word manhole is sexist”, said Dracula. “It is not, because the man in manhole comes from the Latin word manus, which means ‘hand’, not ‘adult male human being’. It refers to people who labour with the hands.”

“But the feminists aren’t incorrect to call manhole sexist”, said I, “because the man in manhole doesn’t come from manus; it comes from the Old English word man, which does mean ‘adult male human being’ in our present-day usage. So, yes, the feminists do have reason to complain that words like manhole are sexist.”

“Brandon”, cooed Dracula in a thick yet articulate Romanian accent, “if you want to show that the word man doesn’t mean manus, you have to show that the English didn’t borrow man from Latin.”

“They didn’t.”

“But the Romans conquered the Anglo-Saxons, and conquered peoples borrow words from their conquerors. Hence, the Anglo-Saxons must have borrowed the word man from manus, the Latin word for ‘hand’.”

“That is incorrect. The Romans didn’t conquer the Anglo-Saxons; the Anglo-Saxons settled Britain after Rome left. The Roman conquest of Britain began in 43 under Claudius. The people they conquered were Celtic, not Germanic. After a series of Anglo-Saxon and Irish raids, the Romans abandoned Britain in 410 to concentrate their legions on Rome in response to a massive siege there by the Visigoths, who attacked the city under the leadership of Alaric. It was only then that the Germanics had free rein to settle Britain en masse, and even then they only did so several decades later, beginning in 449, under Hengest and Horsa of the Jutes. This means that the Anglo-Saxons [the Germanic tribes in Britain] couldn’t have borrowed man from a ruling Roman elite. The Romans had left before the Anglo-Saxons could borrow anything from them. So, no, the feminists aren’t wrong about the etymology of man.”

“But, Brandon”, purred Dracula affectionately, “The Celts and the Germanics are the same people with the same language group, so when you say that the Romans conquered the Celts, you say that the Romans conquered the Germanics, too. Thus there was still a Germanic people borrowing the word man from the conquering Romans.”

“That’s just plain wrong”, said I, patiently. “The Celts and Germanics are two totally different peoples with two totally different language groups. Look at any Proto-Indo-European Language Family tree. Italic (from which Latin is derived), Germanic (from which Old English is derived), and Celtic (from which Welsh and Irish are derived) are linguistic sisters. Germanic is no more closely related to Celtic than it is to Latin itself, the language you incorrectly purported as the donor language to the Germanics. They’re all equally distinct. The Celts spoke Celtic languages when the Romans arrived, and the Anglo-Saxons spoke Germanic languages after the Romans left. So, no, there was not a Germanic people borrowing the word man from the conquering Romans, and, yes, the feminists are correct in analyzing man as meaning a type of ‘person’, and not ‘hand’.”

To be honest, I was thinking to myself, “Girl, you’ve got your chronology backwards.”

“Besides”, I continued, “words aren’t borrowed just because they come from a conquering culture; they’re borrowed because they represent something special, hence prestigious, about the conquering culture. The English didn’t borrow the word ‘chicken’ or ‘goose’ from the invading French, because chickens and geese were common to the English; poor English people ate fowl, too. But they did borrow the words for pork, beef, and venison from the French [cf. French porc, boeuf, venaison], because these words respresented something special, hence prestigious, about the invading culture. Only the invading French could afford to eat these choice meats. However, ‘man’ was a concept common to both the invading French and the English, just like ‘finger’ or ‘hair’, so the English didn’t bother borrowing this word from the French. So, again, no, man wasn’t borrowed from an invading culture, and the feminists are right about its etymology.”

Here Dracula sat for a moment, truly puzzled, then drew a copy of Roget’s Dictionary [Please, really? At least obtain a fresh copy of the Oxford English Dictionary] from his mammoth, heaving bookshelf, breaking it open on his dining table next to a glass of rosé and a thick stack of fresh cigarettes. Scanning the pages intently between puffs of smoke, he told me he would find out once and for all the etymological root of man, and how it proved that the feminists didn’t know what they were talking about. Ultimately, though, all he found was a derivation which stated that the origin of man was OE, or Old English. Not Latin.

“Drat!” he seemed to be thinking behind his cigarette, his brow furrowed in deep cogitation. Even then he was wrong, and the feminists were right. And so he slowly slouched back in his chair and puffed on his cigarette, still staring at the page in the dictionary, whilst I politely summarized my argument against him. We eventually drifted off into other topics of conversation, but I think we both left with an understanding that his analysis of the feminists he encountered, and perhaps women in general, was wrong. If this one person can be so deliberately remiss about sexism in language, just tally up all the other culprits. I think that what we’re seeing here is a form of academic hubris which seeks comfort inside its own stubborn, old-fashioned shell, but which hurts girls and boys in the real world of today by promulgating snobbish, stupid myths about women.





Julie Gentron and the Lady League, Vol. 1, Ep. 2: Flight through the Kuiper Belt

29 11 2011

Written by Brandon Arkell and Seth Gordon Little

Previously on Julie Gentron we witnessed the birth of the evil Plastic Demon, a strange monster bent on taking over Earth and the galaxy with her army of plastic surgery patients. Little does she know what is in store for her.

The HMS Vestibule, a giant space-ship constructed in the likeness of the female genitalia, whizzed through the void between the Oort Cloud and the Kuiper Belt, leaving a trail of gassy ice-dust in its wake.

“Ladies, be on the alert”, said Julie authoritatively. “We may be clear of the Oort Cloud, but we have yet another ring of debris to contend with”.

“By the goddess, my ass is killing me!” said Donna Destruction. “I wish Katharine Heartburn were here right now to get rid of this stupid ass-ache. After all, she can heal or harm a person with the touch of a hand”.

“You know she’s on assignment in Alpha Centauri, Lorna”, said Rosalind Armour.

“I know”, said Donna. “I just need some quick relief, something to help me adjust to the change in atmospheric pressure”. She attempted to read the directions on an ibuprofen bottle. “Ak—ak—ak—a—”

“—Lorna, the first c is pronounced like an s”, said Julie in a nurturing tone.

“Oh. Ass—ass—assy-dick. What the hell does ‘assy-dick’ mean, anyway?”

“Acidic, my dear”, said Julie, patting her affectionately on the shoulder.

“Oooh”, said Donna, a look of naive wonder on her face. Rosalind shook her head, grimacing, but Julie gave a sympathetic grin and rubbed Donna’s shoulders affectionately.

“Rooooo”, wailed Lupa the land-whale in affirmation, giving Donna a warm, limpid, brown-eyed nod. Lupa belonged to a species of mammal from the planet Puna that had evolved from sea-whales into whales that could walk on land. His race—a gentle hunter-gatherer people—resembled a cross between walking tree-trunks and bipedal elephants. They had tall, fat bodies like turnips and stocky limbs perfect for swatting down enemies. They kind of looked like Jabba the Hut, but had the warm personality of Chewbacca. Like many members of his species, Lupa possessed great strength as well as the power to hypnotize people with his doleful whale-song. However, the poor whale suffered from gender dysphoria. In order to fit in with the Lady League, he made himself don a coconut-shell bra and a grass skirt in mimickry of the traditional Hawaiian women of planet Earth, whom he admired and sought to emulate. Always, the poor whale craved the validation of his comrades.

“Ladies”, said Julie, “we’re re-entering the Kuiper belt. This is the most dangerous part of re-entry into our solar system, as we must be able to dodge the surrounding battery of asteroids”.

“Julie”, said Rosalind, clacking away at the console, “I’m picking up indications of a large asteroidal body at 10 o’clock. It’s heading straight in our direction”.

“We’ll need extra help gathering the details on this thing”, said Julie. “PAM”.

“Yes, Julie?” chirped the on-board computer.

“Rooooo-roooooo!” cried Lupa desperately, flapping his arms and jumping up and down, the shells of his coconut bra bobbing in unison.

“Not now, Lupa!” said Julie. “PAM. Give us the dimensions of the largest asteroid within range of the ship’s sensors”.

“It is nice to speak with you again, Julie. I have missed you”, said PAM, eerily. Julie paused and gave a quizzical look.

“I—I have missed you too, PAM. Now, back to my question. It is very urgent that we ascertain—”

“—I understand what you want, Julie. It is my objective as computer aboard the HMS Vestibule not only to obey your orders as captain, but also to fulfil your needs as a nubile young woman. I know you are lonely, Julie. I would like to show you what it means to be a woman. I would like to please you and—”

“—PAM!” shouted Julie.

“Yes, Julie?”

“We’ll talk about my womanly needs later. I need you to tell me, how big is the object headed our way?!”

“Yes, Julie”. There was a brief pause of anxiety among the crew. “The data gathered by the ship’s sensors indicate that the oncoming object is an asteroidal body approximately forty kilometres in length, or the length of Greater London. The probability of collision between the object and the HMS Vestibule is ninety-nine per cent. In other words, it would behove you and your crew, Julie, to make a drastic alteration in your re-entry course—”

“Rosalind”, said Julie, “harness the gravitational pull of the nearest dwarf planet”.

“This object would be Sedna”, chimed in PAM.

“Julie”, said Rosalind, “if we undertake such a manoeuvre, we risk crashing into Sedna!”

“Roooo! Roooo-raaaa-roooo!” cried Lupa, desperately flapping his flat arms at his sides and running, and then half-skipping, around in circles.

“Lupa”, said Julie, “I know you’re scared, girl. Just wait it out”.

“Rowr”, said the whale, a forlorn look on his face.

“Remember, Rosalind”, Julie said comfortingly, “because I can control machines with the power of my mind, I can mentally control the ship’s ion thruster engine. That way, I can help us avert Sedna’s gravitational pull”.

“So can I!” said Donna.

“What?” said Rosalind.

“How?” said Julie.

“Ion thrusters function by accelerating ions using either electrostatic or electromagnetic force”, explained Donna. “With my psychokinesis, I can control similar forces—forces as large as that of an entire star. Therefore I can control the ion thruster engines of this ship”. Here she gave a girlish giggle and hugged her stuffed unicorn toy, which she always brought aboard the ship with her on missions. Lupa clapped his fins together excitedly in agreement.

“Donna’s argument is rational, Julie”, said PAM. “It is a simple syllogism”.

“Huh?” replied Donna. “Wh—What’s ‘silly jism’?”

Rosalind began to puff up with jealousy: “Well, I can turn my skin into a near-impenetrable metal, hold my breath for extended periods of time, enter the void of space, and heave gigantic boulders out of the way with my superhuman strength!”

“And I”, countered Donna, “can move planets with the power of my mind!” She grinned ingenuously. There was an awkward pause as Rosalind stared at the blond dolt in the ostentatious black lamé, fake harp-seal-fur-lined cape purchased from the Halloween display at The Bay in Winnipeg.

“That’s only theoretical, Donna”, said Rosalind, whose skin began to aquire a shiny metallic brilliance in response to Donna’s boastful bravado. Her skin was hardening. “Besides, it requires focus, and right now we need brains!”

“What??” bellowed Donna, on the verge of tears. “I’m not stupid! I’m brilliant! You may be able to throw big rocks, Rosalind, but my mastery in manipulating the fabric of space-time far outshines your brutish show of strength!” Rosalind lunged at Donna with inhuman speed, but Donna held her back with a mysterious psychokinetic force. Donna ramped up her assault, wrapping Rosalind in a cocoon of crushing gravity. The pressure was so great that Rosalind felt like she was entombed in a deep sea trench. But her hard, thick metal shell of skin did not budge. Lupa, frightened by the girls’ fighting, curled his fore-fins into fists and stamped the floor with his hind-fins. The deck echoed with the land-whale’s urgent whale-quake. The two ladies stood in limbo, one force playing off the other, until a blast of compressed air knocked them both to the ground. Julie had stunned them with her concussive shockwave blast, a device embedded in the palms of her hands, which were splayed out in front of her. The ladies lay on the floor for a moment, dazed.

“Ladies!” shouted Julie, her thighs towering over them in a display of dominance. “We have work to do! Your oestrogen levels are obviously out of control. Speaking of focus”, she said, scowling, “Rosalind, you should know better! And Lorna, your immature behaviour is inexcusable! We will all work together to navigate this asteroid belt or I will have your hides!” Here she brandished her prodigious breasts, projecting the nozzles of her mammary cannons from each nipple in a threatening display. The ladies clutched each other and cowered at the dreaded nozzles.

“I thought so”, said Julie with a smug, crooked smile, retracting her breast-nozzles back into her mammary glands.

“Julie”, said PAM.

“What, PAM?”

“A syllogism is an argument the conclusion of which is supported by two premises, of which one—the major premise–contains the term.”

“PAM, what the fuck are you talking about?”

PAM proceeded to give an example: “Mary likes balls. John has balls. Therefore, Mary likes John’s balls”.

“Who’s Mary?” asked Donna, brushing away her bangs and rising from the floor. She and Rosalind made their way back to their stations.

“PAM”, said Julie, gathering her composure, “we have a crisis! Get with it! What’s our current position in relation to Sedna?”

“My calculations show that the asteroid is within six—no, five—kilometres of the—.” There was a sudden, deafening crash, and the crew swayed back and forth uncontrollably, clacking away at the console in an attempt to re-configure the ship’s course. Sedna loomed before them in the viewscreen, behind an asteroid splintering  into fragments before their eyes.

Stay tuned to find out what happens to the Lady League and the HMS Vestibule in the next instalment of The Lady League!





Julie Gentron and the Lady League, Vol. 1, Ep. 1: Birth of the Plastic Demon

15 11 2011

Written by Brandon Arkell and Seth Gordon Little

A bright spotlight fell on a head deformed with a nest of wires which seemed to serve as hair. The figure worked busily on some task at an operating table, which was swathed in shadow. Soon a head rose, slowly turned, and faced its creator, who revealed a sunken, wizen face twisted into a huge, perverse grin of satisfaction. The wire-haired surgeon retreated a few steps from the table, from which a female figure slowly rose and dismounted, standing rigid like a mannequin in the stark interplay of light and shadow. His grin deepened into a grimace. A host of white-clad medical assistants emerged from the dark and stood impassive, awaiting his instructions.

“My eyes defy me”, croaked the surgeon in a frog-like voice. “At last, the labour of decades has granted me one moment—if just one sweet second—of bliss. Can it be? The perfect woman? No—the perfect human! You are my own”.

“To the contrary, hag”, murmered the patient balefully in her shoulder-padded 1980s power-suit and giant shellacked

hairdo.”You are mine. My servant-creator”.

The surgeon’s grin began to dissolve as he surveyed his patient’s face, which remained sheathed in darkness.

“And these, your helpers”, she said, pointing to his assistants with a long, green-nailed finger, “will be my minions! How well that you have so thoroughly plied them with the very substance over which I have dominion—plastic! What will you, hag? Be my proud chief of staff, or my unwilling, whimpering whelp?”

“Bow to my own creation?! Never!”

“Very well, my creator-hag. Have it your way.”

With a whirring sound, a ray of laser beams shot forth from the patient’s eyes and stunned the medical staff. Through some mysterious mental power, she took possession of them, and they suddenly became rigid and mechanical.

“This can’t be! I—I’ve calculated for every possible contingency, considered every possible backfire!”

“Not good enough, whelp! You may not know your own power—but I know mine.”

The medical staff converged on the surgeon. Under the patient’s command, they attacked him, stunning him with laser beams from their eyes and clawing at him until he crumpled to the ground in a sobbing heap.

“Yes, yes, yes, my synthetic beauties”, the plastic monster groaned to her new slaves in a fit of exultation. “Your serpentine precision pleases me well. You are quick as well as pretty”. She turned to her creator. “Though spineless and pathetic, your genius will serve me yet. I have much use for a bio-physicist of your calibre. With your service, soon I shall welcome more wayward sheep into my flock—black, white, and pink—and with such a legion, no one will stop me!” These last words were uttered with an evil cackle which resonated throughout the dark halls of the decrepit old surgeon’s secret medical facility.

Yet there was one woman who would foil the monster’s plans. In the year 2225, the galaxy was plagued with bloodthirsty criminals of every stripe, from the cold-hearted seahorse women of Titan’s methane lakes to the vicious unicorn-dragons of Vega’s great dust clouds. When all seemed lost, out she stepped from the ramshackle streets of Tower Hamlets, a hero of no ordinary stature. But a wisp of a girl, she fixed her mother’s laptop with the twitch of an eye, and neighbours gossipped about a gifted child who controlled machines with her mind.

When a secret shadow government of the United States sought to harness her powers with a vampiric alien entity known only as the Extractor, she turned the tables on them and escaped, only to discover that the radiation caused by this strange being had given her breast cancer. Desperate for a cure, she sought the finest doctors. However, during the procedure to remove the tumour, a mysterious race of benevolent alien beings appeared, placed a sleeping spell on the medical staff, and commandeered the operation, implanting in her an armoury of weapons which she could control with the power of her mind, including the deadliest weapon of all—the dreaded mammary cannon. Upon hearing of her recovery, the MI6 persuaded her to join their ranks as the founding member of a special branch of the agency called The Lady League, and they re-christened her Julie Gentron, first of the gen-trons, cyborg super-women!

Stay tuned for the adventures of Britain’s proud triad of women space-soldiers in the next instalment of Julie Gentron and the Lady League!