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pyramidhead
un coeur en hiver
 
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In Retrospect

I had a look at this blog for the first time in ages tonight, and it gave me the urge to write something of a post-script.

 

I effectively abandoned this blog last year, for two reasons. Firstly, a lot of my Mindsay friends had jumped ship, and I felt like I was effectively writing to myself - an activity that can be quite positive, but, still, it's nice to get some comments now and then. Secondly, I found myself a little embarrassed by some of my more juvenile and endlessly depressing entries here. I was only 17 when I started it, and, in less than five years, I'm pleased to say that I have matured considerably. Frankly, I felt the need to start afresh.

 

It didn't really work out as planned. I now find myself essentially blogless. I tried to start a livejournal account, but I soon abandoned it because, like here, there was little to no feedback. This leaves me with Facebook, which is good for film reviews and inane quizzes but too public to use as a deep confessional; and my other mindsay account (www.pyramidheadmk2.mindsay.com), which is more an archive of essays and writings that I am proud of for various reasons. Neither really fulfil that blogging urge, and I almost feel the desire to return here - but I still feel dissatisfied with the isolated nature of it.

 

Perhaps it will happen one day. In any case, I have to focus on my university studies, and I am sure if I feel a genuine urge to blog, opportunities will arise. Whether that be here, livejournal or somewhere else, it's hard to say.

 

Until then, adieu. 

 
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If only I were as important to you as you are to me.

Life can often be somewhat perverse. Human relationships, naturally, exemplify this.

 

One trait that we all (or, at least, the vast majority of us) share is a desire to be wanted by others; accepted; respected. For many of us, the need is simple: to be as important to another person as they are to us.

 

Here is where the perversity arises: it seems to me that the more one wants this, the less chance there is of attaining fulfilment. One becomes attractive by becoming confident; sure of oneself - in short, by ceasing to care. I am not sure how to explain this precisely, but I suspect a substantial part of this tendency relates to the dominative/submissive aspect of relationships and human behaviour. While we may enjoy having power, being desired, being looked up to, it seems that part of us may actually want to be in the other position. Of course, these desires will be felt in varying quantities, and there will always be extremes with the remainder of the human race fitting somewhere on the spectrum in between. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that the happiest, longest and most rewarding relationships will probably incorporate both aspects equally (or near enough to): wanting, and being wanted.

 

So what is one to do when wanting to be wanted goes beyond typical human emotion and manifests iteself as insecurity? For better of for worse, this state has been integral to me ever since I was a child - more or less, I care what everyone and anyone thinks about me. I continually worry about being respected and liked, and my greatest overall desire (since I was able to construct any such thing in my mind) has been to find 'love', with all that entails. Yes, perhaps that is a somewhat mundane realisation - doesn't everyone want to love and be loved? Yet, for me, it is overwhelming.

 

That is the reason why all my efforts in this regard (to one extent or the other) have failed. Insecurity; self-consciousness; lack of confidence - call it what you like, it is all part of the same thing. However, these failures have allowed me to realise something else.

 

While I strove so hard to find love, it had never crossed my mind that genuine friendship can bring (at least) a fair proportion of what I seek. It also happens to act as a potent medicine to insecurity, creating a strong flow-on effect.

 

Of course, that doesn't mean that friendship cannot create its own insecurities. Rejection still hurts, badly. People who were once considered a friend, but at some point no longer want anything to do with you, have devastating power in their coldness. The rejection validates and reinforces insecurity, and no matter how much you have gained it can still land a significant blow to your self-esteem.

 

While I certainly feel that I can reach a stage where these insecurities dissolve, I don't know whether I will ever become someone who achieves attractiveness through not caring. The desire to be wanted feels too integral to who I am. Perhaps, more relevantly, I should ask myself whether I actually want to lose that desire at all. It could well be that, by beginning to accept and embrace this aspect of myself, I will have attained my most powerful achievement.

 
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Vaguely diverting mindsay survey to pass the time.
Would you explore an 'open' or polyamorous relationship if there was absolutely no stigma- religious or otherwise- attached to it? Why or why not? 
Yes, it is actually something I am quite willing to explore. While I am not sure that it is the ideal relationship, I don't think it would hurt to try, and there are a lot of really positive aspects to polyamoury. As long as there's honesty, I believe it would work.

If marijuana is harmless why is it not ok to get your two year old high? 
Whoever said it was harmless? Still, I'm willing to engage with this as a hypothetical: what if marijuana was harmless? Then, I would still say no, because for a child, it would become integral to their existence, not unlike, say, video games. If the only excitement they get out of life is to sit around getting high, other activities like playing and using imagination aren't exactly going to become high priorities any more. A bad idea during formative years, no matter what perspective you take on it.

Is it ok to call retarded people retarded? 
Interesting. I suppose there is nothing offensive about the word itself, but I don't think I would use this word to their face, because it is no longer just a clinical term; it doubles as an insult. I'm not big on political correctness, but it's important to realise that words can evolve and develop meanings over time that might extend beyond their dictionary definition. 
  
Is it ok to make fun of retarded people? 
Is it ok to make fun of anybody? Perhaps, to an extent. Certainly not if it has the chance to make them feel belittled, or, even in a private context, encourage the belittling of, well, 'retarded' people.

Do you believe in the death penalty for retarded people? 
Not a supporter of capital punishment. This question is badly phrased: is it suggesting that the death penalty apply to 'retarded' criminals, or that society should execute all those with mental disabilities? I'm not completely sure either way - as shocking and repugnant as the latter reading is, the question of how a utilitarian society deals with disability is a difficult one. Whatever the case, I believe our society can easily afford to provide welfare for those with disabilities at no significant cost to other citizens, and as such this need not even be a problem. As for the former understanding of the question, I don't believe in the death penalty for any criminals, so even if there is no chance of rehabilitation I would not support it.

Would you rather be certain or uncertain god exists? 
Comes down to your definition of 'god'. I think the latter is preferable in any case, as this way you don't allow your life to be bogged down with superstition and needless sacrifices. Uncertainty is far more interesting, not to mention far more logical.
  
Since the vast majority of us dabble in premarital sex anyway, what should the age of consent be lowered to? 
I think most Australian states have this pretty much right. 16 as minimum age of consent, with a 2 year age gap extending all the way down to 10. Of course, one might hypothetically ask why it is better for a 13 year old to lose their virginity with another 13 year old as opposed to a 21 year old who actually knows what they are doing, but the fact is that age of consent is critical in preventing exploitation (which would presumably occur in most such sexual relationships). 16 is about right as a general age.  

Would our country fall with a gay/lesbian atheist president? 
If anything, a gay or lesbian atheist prime minister would be exactly what we need. We even have a guy who could do it - Bob Brown (Greens Party). Much prefer him in charge than Kevin Rudd.  
  
When's the last time you masturbated? 
I have never masturbated to climax, oddly enough. People are always incredibly surprised when I admit this, but it's true. 
  
Should only black people be allowed to use the word nigger? 
No. I'm against the use of it in an aggressive context, but then I'm against any such aggression. The word itself should be perfectly acceptable in the context of discussion of the word, although its use in the literal sense would only be with provocative intent nowadays. In that sense, I suppose it would be judged for what it is and how it is used.

Let's be honest- male or female- if you woke up naked one morning and rolled over to find yourself next to Susan Boyle, how many bottles of tequila should be on the floor next to the bed? 
Had to google her to find out who she is - I get it. She's 'ugly'. Well, let me say that my sexual attraction is based far more on personality than appearance, and although this woman might not be particularly physically attractive, I would sooner sleep with her than some shallow cheerleader type. So, in answer to the question, none. Society is way too obsessed with body image as it is. 

Would you rather your child be adopted by two gay men or two gay women? 
I'm supportive of gay adoption regardless of the sex, but, dealing with stereotypes (as one must in this question, keeping in mind that a particular gay couple might be far better suited to raising children than a particular lesbian couple), I would probably lean towards the Lesbian couple in general.
Having said that, I'd like to throw in the observation that the adopting out of a child, in most cases, involves departing from the life of that child. As such, I don't think it would be my right to say either way. 

Your 12 year old daughter has a baby… and let's you know she intends to keep getting pregnant and having babies so she can get her own reality show. How much of a percentage should you demand from her book deal? 

Give her a good spanking and ground her. Honestly, what is a parent supposed to do? I suppose you would have to find some way to stop her from damaging herself and others further. One would have to be pretty mercenary to even consider the last sentence.  

Is it ok to pee in the shower? 
In theory, I don't see why not. Not something I have personally done, however. 
    
Before even worrying about illegal immigration to the U.S.- have you ever even walked the streets of a shantytown in a third world country? 
No. What is the point of this question? Yes, I am aware that the standard of living in third world countries is often unimaginable for us in the west. Does that mean that we should open our borders completely? I think the rational answer has to be no. 

Without trying to 'validate' or explain your answer- do you like porn? 
No. I will explain nonetheless. I have no problem with the depiction of human sexuality on screen, up to and including actual sex acts and intercourse between consenting adults. I do, however, have a problem with what most of us think of when we consider 'porn' - tacky, glossy, unrealistic, shoddily made crap. I don't find that arousing at all.   
  
Assisted suicide is illegal... but would you help someone do it anyway? 
So hard to answer this theoretically. Yes, in some circumstances, I would.
  
If two people were caught fornicating would Jesus stone them to death or let them finish first? 
This survey seems to veer between seriously thought-provoking questions and pointless absurdity. However, I will try and make the most of this: a) Jesus clearly did not advocate individuals taking the law into their own hands, and as such, would never have chosen the first option. b) as that is out of the way, he would presumably stop them halfway through, cure them of genital herpes and tell them to sin no more. 

You just watched your child punch and choke another kid in a fit of rage because the other kid wouldn't share his toy. In order to curb this behavior and teach him/her that violence is wrong, do you spank him/her with your hand, a switch, a belt, a HotWheels race car track, your slipper or a paddle? 
How about a half dozen strands of razor wire braided together?  
Funny. This is actually somewhat relevant to my answer to the last question. There is a big difference between punishment by authority figure/structure and individual retaliation. As the parent/child relationship should ideally be a microcosm of the state and judicial system, the first priority is that such antisocial behaviour be punished appropriately. Secondly, whether or not this reaction incorporates corporal punishment, it must be made clear in the child's mind that this is a judicial and functional result of actions committed, not simply another example of one human being committing a violent act to the other. If the child does not understand the difference then the punishment is worthless. The punishment must be appropriate and must be consistent. 
  
If you insist to your children that they cannot understand or know whether or not they like something until they try it, is it a good idea to sign up for classes on how to properly handle a gun before forming any kind of opinion on gun control?
One can and does form opinions on many things that have not been tried. One need not become addicted to heroin to realise that heroin is dangerous. As the saying goes, more or less, "a fool learns from his own mistakes; a wise man learns from others'". More relevantly to the question, one need not learn the precise workings of the atomic bomb to know that it should be eradicated, and one need not be familiar with the proper usage of guns to know that gun control is a very, very good idea.

And lastly, if you truly accept who you are and are secure in what you think, why would you even feel the need to let anyone know in a public forum what you do or don't believe in unless asked specifically? 
I'm going to have to answer this hypothetically, because, as far as I'm aware, nobody really reads this blog. Thus, my purpose in completing this survey is more an excuse to practise my response to controversial issues so that a) I have a better understanding of my own position on them and b) I feel more qualified to discuss these issues if I am ever asked directly about them. If I were to post this more publically, say, on facebook, the purpose would be to create debate and allow others to understand my position on different issues as a method of helping them to understand me better.
 
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Erotic cinema: An Old Mistress
'Erotic': it is an adjective that is used liberally when referring to films. Yet, in my experience, truly erotic films are hard to come by.

Although this is obviously a highly subjective thing, it seems to me that eroticism cannot be measured by frequency or explicitness of sex scenes. Indeed, it is fair to say that the majority of films fail miserably in their depiction of sex; it is unrealistic, juvenile, gratuitous, trite, or all of the above at once.

Hardcore pornography is no different. It is paradoxical that frank depiction of actual sex should be so unappealing; however, the answer probably lies within the way it is typically produced. Generic porn is terribly acted, comes across as forced and manufactured, and, in the vast majority of cases, is degrading and inhuman. I know that others will disagree, but I can only speak for myself: conventional pornography is, in many aspects, the antithesis of the erotic, and thus fails its primary objective.

This raises the question: if neither mainstream cinema nor pornography carry guarantees of attaining any erotic potential, is there a place for eroticism in the world of film?

Fortunately, the answer is yes. The following list is an entirely subjective collection of 10 films that, for whatever reason, have proved to me that there are ways of presenting and exploring sex in cinema that can legitimately earn the labels that so many other films aspire to. Here, in order, are the 10 most erotic films I have ever seen:

10. An Old Mistress (2007)

It is hard to imagine what kind of career as a film-maker French director Catherine Breillat would have had in a world without sex. Since A Real Young Girl, her still shocking (and instantly banned) debut in 1976, Breillat has explored sex and its effect on relationships and human behaviour in every one of her films since, often running into trouble with the censors along the way. Romance, released in 1999, was at the time one of the most sexually explicit films ever to appear in cinemas, and was initially refused classification here in Australia, while there was a campaign by family groups to deliver the same fate to Anatomy of Hell (2004). Despite these films' ground-breaking depiction of sex, neither can really be described as erotic. Indeed, when one considers Breillat's oeuvre, almost all of her films have been utterly cold in their exploration of sexuality, and in some cases this has been their strength.

However, one film stands out - and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it is one of her least sexually explicit works: An Old Mistress (2007). This film transports Breillat's typical concerns to early 19th century Paris, with an abundance of elaborate costuming, architecture and fan-waving. However, this is not your run-of-the-mill tepid history drama starring Keira Knightley: these are merely props in an intelligent, heartbreaking exploration of the relationship between love and sexual attraction.

The casting is superb, and is one of the most important aspects of the film. Leading man Fu'ad Ait Aattou is a good actor, but, more importantly, he is utterly gorgeous. The camera lingers on him much the way some male directors might frame their female actresses, creating an interesting inversion of the theory of the 'male gaze'.

Asia Argento is the perfect counterpoint. While she may not possess the raw beauty of many actresses, she radiates some kind of sensuality that few ever achieve. Argento, like her character in the film, seems like someone that few men could resist, and Breillat harnesses that energy perfectly here.

While there are a number of sex scenes in the film (all filmed inventively and convincingly), they are quite restrained when compared to, say, Romance. Of course, the unusual lack of philosophical monologues compared to a typical Breillat intimate scene is undoubtedly a factor.

In the end, I believe the success of this film in terms of erotic power lies in the audience's emotional investment in the characters. Both are extremely sexually attractive in their own right, and the melancholy, compassionate storyline allows the audience to empathise with the protagonists' paradoxical, inescapable, destructive sexual desire for each other. Few films have depicted sex so honesty, or so seriously; thus, it should be no surprise that this is easily one of the most erotic films of recent years.

Next: Mala Noche, Sex and Lucia, Querrelle, La Bete, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, First Desires, The Canterbury Tales, 9 Songs and Lady Chatterley.
 
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Rage/Despair
I want to destroy. I want to burn bridges. This is how people become cynical, spiteful, hateful.

Except that the hatred is, as always, never directed at a particular person. For once, it's not even directed inwards - well, much.

Instead, it extends and expands everywhere. I hate our culture. I hate the media. I hate my vanishing optimism. I hate my own future.

I am in need of some serious catharsis, and I don't know where to find it.
 
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The Seventh Continent
Oh Melbourne, City of Opportunity. Why must you increasingly resemble this place?

Probably a bad sign to be identifying with a Michael Haneke film.
 
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Grinding Halt
He placed his head in the guillotine, as he had done so many times before. This time, however, she was there, staring, her blindness finally lifted. As she turned and left, the blade came rushing down.

He never knew which one of them operated the machine, but it no longer mattered.


You may think that I was childish. But, I had to leave. I was the weakest link, and fading fast.

You may understand. You probably won't. You'll probably be angry at me for not being more mature. I'm sorry. I had to go. Unfortunate, but it was the best thing for everybody.

I have issues that I need to work on. But what do you care? It's completely academic. I almost wish that I could find someone else and show you I'm stronger than this, but there are only men waiting in the wings, offering me their lust and my self-hatred for demeaning myself so. Regardless, I don't want anybody else; not just yet.

I don't need your friendship, and you certainly don't need mine. I have to look after myself, and if you don't approve of that, I'm not going to make an effort to change your mind.
 
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Post-Mortem
I'm outside, looking in. And that's ok, in a way, because that has been my customary position for as long as I can remember; certainly long before I met you. We interact, but I fail to leave a mark. Shouldn't I? Didn't I?

I try so hard to not be childish about this. I always try not to be. Yet, I sometimes wonder if my self-lauded stoicism was too successful. Were you blinded to my pain? Did you think I didn't care? But then, perhaps that was the right thing to do. You had enough on your plate, and god knows you have enough to deal with at the moment. So this is about me; my (perceived?) insignificance.

Oh how rightly I condemn my own selfishness. Yes, from this, I have gained a new fear, a new insecurity. But how can I attach any responsibility to you? How can I multiply your problems by raising mine? You know you did the right thing. I know you did the right thing. It's times like these that a scene from a film plays in my head, Asia Argento in French, bitterly: "Likes and dislikes are involuntary."

And that. How I laughed it off at first. In hindsight, though, how hurtful. To be nothing more than a cheap knock-off. I'm sure you didn't mean it that way - after all, with the amount of time I had to mull over everything afterwards, a lot of little things became big. But it has become bigger. Defining, even. And I try to tell myself that it's not going to be like this always.

But by now, I should have learned that my analysis is overused. I wish I hadn't been so certain from a young age that my father was judging me for everything I did, losing respect for me with every mistake I made. I wish I wasn't so assured about my lack of importance to you. Because she seems so determined to inadvertently prove me wrong. Every time, I walk to the guillotine of my own volition, and place my head in position, waiting for the blow. And then she comes, oblivious, and takes me to the other room, and my fear is abated for a while, although a little part of me is still sure that one time I will walk to that guillotine, and the blade will finally fall, and she will be working the mechanism.

And the crime for which I am to be executed? Everything you see and read: insecurities; self-fulfilling prophecies; almost wilful self-harm. And by now, you will understand (if, indeed, you prove some kind of inherent foolishness in my negativity by going out of your way to read this): you are blameless. Everything here is me; this is who I am. I must accept it, and continue wishing for these impossible things in my own way.
 
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Surrender

"I remember you. The city was made to fit the size of our love. You were made to fit the size of my body. Who are you? You’re killing me. I wasn’t aware that you, one day, would fall upon me, just like that. I was waiting for you with an unlimited impatience, steadily. Devour me. Deform me in your image, so that no one else after you can understand the reason for so much desire. We will be alone, my dear. The night is never going to end. The day is not rising on anybody. Never. Never again. You’re killing me. You're good for me." -- Hiroshima, Mon Amour.

 

Once more, I feel myself enveloped by a churning defeat. There has been little physical evidence of this attack - call it little more than intuition, insecurity, paranoia. But I know that I have failed. I know that, by allowing myself to become this naked, I have become ugly in your eyes. I have never been able to maintain a lie for very long, and that's what it was: a shameful deception, driven by a longing to be something slightly better than what I am.

 

Oh how I wish sometimes that I could rip off this face, this body. Oh how I sometimes cling to them like some last drop of sustenance. I hate your discovery that behind my beauty lies emptiness; that behind my facade lies torment. And, somehow, just like that, even that external beauty begins to fade - and I, bowed, pallid, become distasteful to you.

 

"You're killing me. You're good for me." This is why I now crumble. There can be no pain without hope, and yes, how I cherish these soaring, destructive feelings that I thought I might never feel again. But each time they reappear, they appear a little more aged, a little more worn, bearing accumulated markings of regret, humiliation and resignation.

 

How I wish that you would smite this assailant; that you could. But you're only human.

 
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'Earth Hour' and Armchair Activism
In just 17 days, 'Earth Hour' will be upon us once more. We are already being subjected to advertising for this event, encouraging us all to turn our lights out for a period of 60 minutes and feel good about ourselves for doing so. I can't help but wonder if this is somewhat counter-productive: after all, think how much methane is going to be produced in the creation of this much bullshit.

I'm not being pointlessly cynical about this - most of us know that climate change is a problem, and some will argue that building grassroots awareness can only be a good thing. Still, I can't help but wish that the public didn't have to be treated like idiots in the process.

Firstly, the benefits of this exercise are tenuous at best: tangible goals are out of the question, as nobody is suggesting that a certain proportion of the world's population switching their lights off for an hour is actually going to have any effect on global warming. Secondly, 'Earth Hour' seems to fit the recent trend of 'events' (Live 8, Live Earth, etc) that encourage large participation without any expense or sacrifice; without anything other than a nominal contribution. Sure, the less of an inconvenience, the larger the participation, but for what? You may as well get everybody to join a facebook group.

The end result is simple: masturbation, figuratively. Everybody dutifully dims their lights for an hour, feels good about themselves, then returns to their day-to-day life. Do some of them learn their lesson, and become more conscientious with energy use in the future? Perhaps, but most such people probably didn't need 'Earth Hour' to convince them - there is more than enough material and advertising about global warming around at the moment for such people to be motivated. I very much doubt that 'Earth Hour' itself is going to inspire anybody to do their bit for the environment.

So, what are we left with? Self-promotion for corporations; unwarranted smugness that might be earned in a myriad more productive ways for participants; and a few million people subjecting themselves to an hour of darkness for no discernible reason.

Perhaps it is better to let the website speak for itself:

www.earthhour.org

930 cities and towns in 80 countries have already committed to VOTE EARTH for Earth Hour 2009, as part of the worlds first global election between Earth and global warming.

Earth Hour To Create Wave Of Participation Around The Globe

Over 930 cities and towns in 80 countries, across 25 time zones to power down for Earth Hour 2009
Global icons add to lights out spectacle

March 10, 2009: At precisely 8.30pm on March 28 the diesel generators will be switched off on the Chatham Islands, a small archipelago off the east coast of New Zealand, heralding the start of the greatest community event the world has ever witnessed - Earth Hour 2009.

As the first country to flick the switch for the global event, WWF New Zealand's Earth Hour organiser, Dairne Poole sees her country as playing a vital role in Earth Hour’s journey to reach one billion people in over 1,000 cities, across 25 time zones.

"New Zealand will be the first country in the world to turn its lights off for Earth Hour 2009 with 43 councils and local bodies taking part. Even though we are a small nation, we are setting an important example for others to witness and hopefully follow," says Ms Poole.

The global wave of participation will gather momentum through Asia Pacific with major cities such as Sydney, Seoul, Beijing, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta, Mumbai and Delhi dimming the lights as millions flick the switch to express their concern for the planet.

Across the globe Earth Hour will provide the platform for a collective voice to be heard from each and every time zone. From the streets of Cape Town to the Hills of Los Angeles, Earth Hour will unite people from all walks of life as the call for action on climate change makes its transglobal journey.

Paris, the ‘City of Lights’ will make a powerful statement by turning off its famous lights, including the Eiffel Tower, for Earth Hour. In the birthplace of democracy, thousands of Athenians will gather to watch the lights go out at the Acropolis in acknowledgement of their vote for action on climate change.

Metropolises across the Americas including New York, Rio de Janeiro, Toronto, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Mexico City and Las Vegas will see their united voice accompanied by unfamiliar lighting – stars.

Earth Hour Executive Director, Mr Andy Ridley, said that Earth Hour signals the beginning of the journey to Copenhagen, where the future of the planet rests with world leaders.

“Earth Hour will focus global attention on addressing the issue of climate change. We are asking one billion people to take part in what is essentially the first global vote for action on climate change by turning off their lights for one hour and casting a vote for earth,” he said.

“Earth Hour hopes to provide a global mandate for action on climate change to the world’s leaders at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December this year, where an agreement will be made to supersede the Kyoto Protocol.

“It is imperative this agreement leads to a sustainable outcome that suitably addresses climate change. Earth Hour presents an opportunity for every person in the world to have a say in that agreement’s outcome and ensure it isn’t merely an insubstantial token effort by our world’s leaders,” said Mr Ridley.

Yes, Mr. Ridley, I am sure that your Earth Hour spectacle will send a powerful message to all involved: the message that one can 'take action' without actually doing anything; the message that people will swallow any old populist tripe that governments and corporations manage to concoct, just as long as it makes them feels good. It clearly doesn't take much.
 
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10 cinematic techniques and genres that I can't stand.

In no particular order:

 

1. Jesus poses

 

I don't think anything gets me quite as much as this. As a metaphor, the 'crucifixion' pose is about as subtle as an Adam Sandler film, and just as weak. OK, we get it - he sacrificed himself. And Jesus sacrificed himself. So deep.

 

By the way, I understand there's only so many ways someone can fall to the ground when killed, and YES, it's tempting. But please, for Christ's sake (see what I did there?)... just don't.

 

Examples of this vice: Gran Torino, and, in a whole class of its own, Superman Returns. God that was stupid.

 

Exception to the rule: The Omega Man. The closing scene is still kind of silly (as is the film, actually), but it does actually make some kind of sense in the context.

 

2. Shaky cam

 

Yes, I'm far from alone on this one, but it had to make the list. Now, it's not that I hate handheld camerawork without reservation - some films have used it very well. Still, there's a special place of loathing in my heart for especially obnoxious handheld. You know what I mean.

 

Examples of this vice: Half Nelson, The Idiots, and, of course, The Blair Witch Project.

 

Exception to the rule: The Child, or, in fact, any film by the Dardenne brothers. The cinematography manages to give these films a sense of heightened realism and immediacy, which is what handheld is actually supposed to do.

 

3. Not knowing when to stop

 

You know the film. It seems to be drawing to a close, and it has actually been a pretty decent movie. The credits, it seems, will roll at any second.

 

And then the film keeps going. 10 minutes. 20 minutes. Soon, another half-hour has passed and you're just hoping for the audience's sake, and your own sanity, that the film could just end. But no, this movie isn't going to finish until every single loose end has been tied, every character has hugged every other character and your bottom is experiencing a new feeling of intense numbness.

 

Examples of this vice: Cinema Paradiso, The Lives of Others and the brain-freezing drivel that was Australia.

 

Exception to the rule: Jacques Rivette's La Belle Noiseuse. With a running time of about 240 minutes, it seems like it will never end... but in this case, you don't want it to. The key is in the pacing - the films I've listed above just seem rushed and sloppy towards the end.

 

4. Slow-mo for dramatic effect

 

Slow-motion is one of the oldest, and simplest, special effects in cinema. When used properly, it can convey drama, beauty and surrealism. When used unnecessarily, or overused within a film, it seems hackneyed, ham-fisted and ridiculous. The biggest problem is that there are some directors who seem to think that dramatic weight increases accordingly with number of slow-motion sequences.

 

Example of this vice: American History X. I can think of no other film that has used slow-motion quite so shamelessly, especially in such a self-important film (did YOU know that white supremacists were bad?). Also, the ending of Thelma and Louise uses slow-motion to unintentionally hilarious effect.

 

Exception to the rule: Stalker. No director has managed to use slow-mo quite like Andrei Tarkovsky, whose films are consitently visually extraordinary and filled with beautiful, dream-like imagery.

 

5. Violence

 

This one may be kind of contentious, but I am not a fan of on-screen violence, and more so, many audiences' disturbing fascination with it. This is not to say that it has no place in cinema, but there is no doubt that it is overused, and, indeed, glamourised in many Hollywood films. I wish more directors would take a leaf out of the book of Michael Haneke, who consistently manages to explore disturbing subject material and the theme of violence without showing anything explicitly: the result is far more effective.

 

Examples of this vice: Hannibal Rising probably has nothing on some of the more gratuitous films of recent years, but as I avoid most of them like the plague, it'll have to do. Other examples are 300, Resident Evil: Extinction, Pasolini's catalogue of cruelty Salo, and the vast majority of action and horror movies emerging from Hollywood in the last few decades.

 

Exceptions to the rule: Hidden (not coincidentally, directed by Haneke), Fight Club, and Peter Jackson's absurd ultra-violent comedy Braindead.

 

6. Overused pop culture references

 

In Beverly Cleary's children's novel Ramona and Her Father, the dad has a saying: "first time is funny, second time is silly and third time is a spanking." I wish that filmmakers would take note of this in regards to two terribly overused gags (although I'm sure there are others): 1) "Eye of the Tiger" appearing at any point of a film and 2) a group of characters walking towards the screen in slow-motion, Reservoir Dogs style (and even that itself was a homage to A Clockwork Orange). Funny the first time, but very quickly going the way of Paris Hilton jokes.

 

Examples of this vice: One need only sift through the internet movie database to find classics of cinema such as Epic Movie, Night at the Museum, Kicking and Screaming, Doctor Dolittle and Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd which make use of the song at one point. As for the slow-motion one, pick any one of a handful of kids movies from the last few years.

 

Exception to the rule: Starter for 10 actually uses both (from memory, in the same sequence no less), but I'll forgive it on account of being a very funny and otherwise quite original romantic comedy.

 

7. Biopics

 

This may be harsh, but there is something about the biopic genre that just doesn't work for me (and, indeed, this applies to the majority of 'true story' films). Firstly, the film often tries to span many years, and I think this automatically weakens it. For me, movies which simply depict a short time period of someone's life, without back story, are far stronger. I also feel that biopics, bound as they are to follow real events and do justice to the people involved, often seem to lack a real point. No matter how extraordinary someone's life was, I find myself asking 'so what?' - what is this film trying to say, exactly? As a result I find these movies, almost without exception, boring.

 

Biopics also seem to have a tendency to wrap up with a description of what befell each character after the conclusion of the film's events, which (ironically) only adds to the incomplete feel of it all. Special mention must be made here to fictional films which end in the same manner, such as Unbreakable. To put it bluntly, it's ten times worse.

 

Examples of this vice: A French Woman, Camille Claudel, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.

 

Exceptions to the rule: Milk proved to me quite recently that a biopic could, in fact, be an excellent film. Boys Don't Cry might have been another example of this had the supporting cast known how to act and the director not been so bland.

 

8. Alternate endings

 

Although these aren't part of the movie per se, their inclusion on the DVD is a sure sign that the director had no idea how to finish the film, and almost seems like an apology for the weak cinematic ending. One thing that the endings usually have in common is that they are equally crap.

 

Examples of this vice: This seems to be a category exclusive to the b-grade thriller. Godsend, The Butterfly Effect and, most laughably, Hide and Seek (more on that in my next post) have all been guilty of this self-indulgence.

 

Exceptions to the rule: There are none. Most serious directors actually realise that the conclusion is absolutely crucial to the film, and as such, put a bit of effort in.

 

9. 'Foreign' characters speaking in English... with an accent.

 

Subtitles don't really wash with a lot of mainstream audiences, and as such, with some exceptions (The Kite Runner, Slumdog Millionaire), most Hollywood films set in a different country simply use English. This would be fine, but there seems to be a constant need to give the characters 'foreign' accents (or worse, British). The suspension of disbelief required for these films is absurd, and I feel that any movie with serious intentions should either drop the accents or do the brave thing and inflict the unthinkable terror of subtitles.

 

Examples of this vice: Hannibal Rising (again... it was a pretty bad film), almost any movie featuring Nazis, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

 

Exception to the rule: Nothing that strictly meets the criteria, but Pasolini's The Canterbury Tales is kind of an example of the reverse. Although, of course, the stories are set in England, the characters all speak in Italian, but inexplicably break into song in English from time to time. Despite this, it's an excellent, bawdy, completely insane film that loses nothing for its logical inconsistencies.

 

10. British bad guys

 

This says a lot about American attitudes and stereotypes, but it seems that no 'baddy' is truly evil without a British accent. Disney films are especially guilty of this.

 

Exception to this rule: Seeing as how even the presence of a two-dimensional 'bad guy' is generally the hallmark of a dull Hollywood film or a children's movie, it's no surprise that it's difficult to find an example of a good movie with an evil pommy. The closest I could find is Pulp Fiction, with Tim Roth attempting to rob the diner at the beginning and climax of the film.

 

So, that's it. Of course, this is a far from definitive list, and I didn't even get to sentimentality, overacting or sequels, but I have at least covered most of the flaws that turn me off a lot of movies. I can only hope that a fair proportion of filmmakers have learnt from these mistakes and will make some attempt to avoid them, thus sparing audiences annoyance, boredom and a fervent desire to throw popcorn at the screen.

 
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No 'I' in threesome.

I have experienced something beautiful.

 

Beauty in casual sex. I never really believed it existed. And yet (with the possible exception of some of the intimacies I have experienced in the context of relationships), this was by far the most positive sexual experience I have had.

 

I realise now that there is something about the menage a trois that fiercely attracts me. When Interpol sang "There's no I in threesome", they weren't trying to be funny - there really is a loss of self-consciousness, self-awareness, and simultaneously a sense of community, of connection, of elation that transcends the simple physical pleasures: the joy of taking this intimate experience and sharing it.

 

All this was enhanced by the fact that the others were a couple, in love; both of them beautiful, gentle people. There was no sense that I was a threat to their relationship, and yet, no feeling on my part that I was excluded from that affection. This was some kind of extension of a couple welcoming a friend into their home: they welcomed me to their bodies, their intimacy, and, for that night, their love. It was an act they committed out of love for each other, and it was an act for me.

 

I needed this. For a night, all my anxieties, self-loathing and negativity were erased by a simple act of love and generosity; and, at last, I caught a glimpse of what sex could be.

 
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I find myself, for whatever reason, feeling quite hostile towards the whole Australia Day thing this year.

It's not that I have a problem with a national day, per se, although simultaneously I don't know if I really see the necessity. No, my main annoyance is with what it has become these days: teenagers walking around draped in flags looking like mini-Pauline Hansons, increasingly inane advertising appealing to patriotic sentiments, and worst of all, the government propaganda on TV and billboards.

Some might criticise me for not feeling enough national pride. I find that puzzling. What exactly is national 'pride'? I can understand feeling fortunate to live in a democratic country so far from the world's conflicts, with such relative health and prosperity, and I certainly feel lucky and fortunate for all that (and, if one believed in a higher power, I could even understand feeling 'thankful')... but what do I have to literally feel 'proud' about? I didn't contribute to the way this country is, and it was mere chance that I was born here and not somewhere else in the world.

Forgive me for being extraordinarily cynical, but I sometimes wonder if this so-called national pride, this patriotic expression that you see around these days is not unlike Pentecostalist religious fervour, with all the insincerity that goes with it. It seems to me to be more of a sheep exercise: if I don an Australian flag I will be seen as 'righteous' by my peers. It also seems, rather ironically, to be a very US-influenced thing - thus, perhaps the most Australian way to celebrate Australia Day would be to forget it even exists.

Yet, the more I think about it, the more I realise that Australia Day does have a purpose - or at least that it should have one, a purpose that is hidden beneath all the excess and patriotism: perhaps the day would be better dedicated to the realisation of how well off we are compared to so many other countries in the world, and thus a sobering reminder of the kind of poverty, disease and warfare that are routinely part of life for people less fortunate than us. That is the kind of Australia Day I could feel proud to be part of.
 
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Oppression
The fundamental tenet of much left-wing thinking, I believe, especially socialism, is the concept of the oppression: the theory that all the ills in this world are the result of there being an oppressor.

I'm not sure that I agree with that. That is not to say, however, that there is no truth to it. In Alain Resnais' My American Uncle, it is suggested towards the end of the film that everything we do in this life is committed with the primary objective (sub-conscious or otherwise) of dominating others. That doesn't necessarily reflect my opinion, but it's a very interesting idea that I have given a lot of thought to in recent times.

If this is the case, then could overthrow of oppressors simply lead to the installation of further oppression, ala Animal Farm, or an even more nightmarish situation such as Stalinist Russia where a wave of people are constantly elevated to leadership positions before being killed off? Perhaps human society simply needs leaders and followers, and thus some kind of class structure will always naturally emerge.

I don't think that necessarily needs to be a bad thing. This is where I seriously disagree with the socialist position: socialism sees oppression everywhere, and in every situation. Certain groups, (e.g. women, blacks, gays), become 'oppressed groups' due to minority status and/or certain inequalities. It's interesting that the oppressed seem to be considered incapable of creating oppression within their own group (yet consider the status of women in certain Aboriginal communities, or the argument over whether Muslim women should be made to wear the burqa in Western countries), and this immediately calls into question the division made between 'oppressed' and 'oppressors' - after all, what do we make of people who actually belong to both groups? And is it possible that groups that may be considered oppressed by some, such as women in mainstream 21st century Australian society, are not in fact oppressed at all? Perhaps the existence of different groups or classes, and even inequalities between those classes, are not evidence enough of oppression in their own right.

I think this mentality is largely responsible for the creation of ideas such as 'racism' and 'sexism'. I understand what the concepts represent, and thus the fact that those who try to equate racism with what we might call reverse-racism are completely misguided. However, I think the actual concepts themselves might be somewhat spurious. For example, 'racism', I believe, has little grounding in reality. While there have certainly been instances of what we could accurately call racism in the past (e.g. the holocaust, Rwanda, white supremacism), I believe that racism is little more than myth. As I've argued previously, most of what we call racism is simply xenophobia, where the dislike, fear or hatred of another culture becomes the motive - not some idiotic belief in racial superiority or particular dislike of other racial groups. Furthermore, this complex, very human fear of differences often becomes simplified and rejected as nothing more than 'racism', with the intention of pushing the idea that the 'racists' are the oppressors, when in reality the oppressed are probably every bit as 'racist' themselves, and would react the same in a similar situation.

This is the problem with supporting the 'oppressed' unconditionally. Many 'oppressed' groups would be just as willing, if not more so in some cases, to oppress if they got into power. Does anybody think that a Hamas-run government of Israel, for example, would usher in an era of freedom and equality? I certainly don't.

So, perhaps it comes back to the theory espoused in Resnais' film. If, indeed, we are all oppressors on the inside, then it's no longer a matter of opposing certain people in certain positions of power, but coming together as a society to regulate that power, and to vocalise the needs of 'oppressed' groups (if they exist), without simply supporting them unconditionally. Democracy has achieved this very well in the past (think suffragettes, civil rights and, inevitably, gay marriage), and I think that is the kind of societal model that we need to look towards.

 
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Save The World!
Just thought I'd show off my satirical facebook group, for those who are interested:

"Save the World"

The main goal of it is to send up that particular brand of half-hearted 'activism' propagated by organisers of feel-good events like "Live Eight" and "Earth Hour"... having said that, I'm more interested in offbeat humour than full on satire, and a lot of it verges more towards absurdity and irony.

I update it every few days, so check back regularly. Here's my latest "news" entry:

As most of you will be aware, tomorrow is a momentous day in the history of the world. Barack H. Christ Obama is due to be sworn in to the esteemed position of Black President of the United States. This, as we all know, will save the world. That is excellent news, but we at Save The World Inc. feel that Obama has not yet received enough media attention in regards to this momentous event.

To combat this oversight, we're going to help out. Each member of Save The World will receive the following merchandise in the mail, to help spread awareness of this great moment in history:

1 limited edition Barack Obama mask, to wear at soirees and tea parties - nominated as the popular fashion accessory of the season by several leading Obama fan magazines;

4 T-Shirts with the following slogans: "Obama made me cry"; "Obama made me faint"; "I love Obama more than everyone else does" and the ever-popular "Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama";

6 essential Obama DVDs, including a moving youtube slideshow put together by user HotBabe61. It's called "Obama's Greatest Moments", and is set to some of the greatest tunes of the last 50 years, including The Black Eyed Peas' "Shut Up", Soulja Boy's "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" and The Offspring's "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)";

and, last but not least, 1 plush "tickle me" Obama.

Please display these gifts whenever possible - some people may not have heard enough about Obama, and it's up to us to educate them!

Hope you all have an Obamalicious day,
love,
Obama.


P.S. - pleasingly enough, my group has just reached 122 members! Hurrah.
 
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