Content Advisory

Content Advisory: Whereas: this blog occasionally employs "colorful language,"

may also occasionally contain implicit and explicit references to

tobacco, alcohol, and other substances, as well as sexuality,

and favors logic over dogma, any or all of which may offend some,

and whereas I may occasionally give disclaimers,

but I do NOT give "trigger warnings,"

therefore, be it resolved that: this blog is intended for mature readers.

However, this blog is not age-restricted.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Kinky Boots in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

This morning, one of the first performances (I believe it was third) in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was from the musical Kinky Boots.

I watched it with my dad, who (and I'm simply being honest in describing him, not hateful) is in his 80s, senile, "conservative," Protestant, and Republican.  He's also ignorant and fairly bigoted when it comes to LGBTI issues;  he was raised in a different era, and to him, the entire umbrella of LGBTQIA can be summed up with the word "queers."  He does not understand, and does not wish to learn (as he has made quite clear on a number of matters) the truth that reality is bigger than his narrow perspective (I've tried, repeatedly, but even when some of it seemed to have gotten through, he later said things that suggested that nothing I said got through, or that he has completely forgotten the entire discussion, but as I said, he's senile, and men seem to have challenges with the act of listening to speech from a woman -- which latter may be partially due to the way men's brains process women's voices).  Fortunately for everyone, his bigotry toward the LGBTQIA community is entirely passive.

When we recently watched an episode of Modern Family which featured the Gay male couple (who are regulars on the show) and a Lesbian couple (who, I believe, were guest stars, although they may become recurring characters, due to the dynamic between them and the Gay male couple), I was annoyed to hear him ask me why I wanted to watch a show with "a buncha queers," even though he's aware that I'm Bisexual (and we've watched the show several times before without him ever saying a word, possibly because he didn't realize the two men are Gay;  in this episode, however, the words "Gay" and "Lesbian" were used explicitly).  In private, he regularly refers to people as "queer" with evident disdain in his voice.  He seldom, however, says anything about me being Bisexual (I believe he is in denial about this facet, and several other facets, of my life, but also, it's not like I make a big deal about my being Bisexual around him).

During the Kinky Boots segment of the parade, however, he said not one word, but watched it silently, apparently entertained by the performance.  I did not make any issue out of it, and the performance passed without comment.  In fact, he still hasn't said anything about that, even now when it happened about three hours in the past, and I doubt he will say anything about it.  The only thing he ever did say about any of the broadcast was "This ain't the parade!" because the parade proper had not yet made it to the area in front of Macy's, and I had to remind him that this is how it's done every year.

On the other hand, I've seen quite a few obnoxious comments on the internet since the performance, with derogatory terms like "trannies," and people complaining that it was not "Family Friendly" or that it was not appropriate for a Rated G broadcast.  There have also been some complaints about having to explain things to children, while some explicitly said that they did not appreciate any lectures on diversity from the parade.  A sample of such comments can be found in the following links:

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Drag queens in kinky boots

UGH!!!! -- Macy's Day Parade Promotes Gay Musical "Kinky Boots"

Just what Thanksgiving needed: Drag queens in Kinky Boots [photos]

Fortunately, there have been more positive comments as well, such as this:

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Kinky Boots

You can listen to the original Broadway cast recording of the song performed here:

The whole thing seems quite acceptable for a G Rating.  "Family Friendly" does not actually mean "Let's pretend everyone is a white, cisgendered, heterosexual, fundamentalist Christian who supports the tyranny of capitalism (even if they themselves get the shaft right along with those who prefer a saner economy) and hide from anyone who isn't."  A lot of people seem to think it does, though, and more's the pity.

Here is a portion of the lyrics to the piece from the performance (the same one in the video above).  This is hardly something to get your panties into a bunch over, unless you like promoting ignorance, fear, and hatred.

Alright, now, we've all heard of the 12 step program, have we not?
Yes, but what you can do in 12, I want you to know that we all can do in 6 now, and it goes like this:
One: Pursue the truth
Two: Learn something new
Three: Accept yourself and you'll accept others too!
Four: Let love shine
Five: Let pride be your guide
Six: Change the world when you change your mind!
Just be who you wanna be.
Never let them tell you who you oughta be.
Just be. With dignity.
Celebrate yourself triumphantly.
You'll see.
It's beautiful.
You'll see
It's beautiful.
Just be.
It's beautiful.
Just be.

Read more:
Original Broadway Cast Recording - Raise You Up / Just Be Lyrics | MetroLyrics

A video of the actual performance from the parade has now been put up on YouTube.  I hesitate to link to it, for two reasons:  (i) the person who uploaded it made unfavorable comments (which did not reflect much awareness of diversity, since he or she confused transsexuals with drag queens), and (ii) it may not be left up, if a copyright or trade mark complaint is made.  The comments section is includes not only homophobic and transphobic remarks (some of which really ought to be removed by YouTube (but apparently there's little chance of that!), but also antisemitism!  However, one comment really stands out, to such an extent that I believe I should reproduce it here, and I suppose that I should give the link to the source because of that.  Therefore, here's the link.  And here's the comment:

I'd have to say that Joe's comment really puts all of the hysteria in perspective.

Here's a video of the same, uploaded by someone who didn't make hateful and ignorant comments when posting it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hollywood Spy?

From The Guardian:

The Hollywood producer behind box office hits including Fight Club, Pretty Woman and LA Confidential has spoken about his life as an Israeli secret agent and arms dealer, saying he was proud of working for his country.

Arnon Milchan gave a lengthy interview to the Israeli documentary programme Uvda, broadcast on Monday on Channel 2, confirming claims made earlier in an unauthorised biography that he worked for an Israeli agency that negotiated arms deals and supported Israel's secret nuclear weapons project.

Milchan, who was born in Israel, was recruited as a young businessman to the Bureau of Scientific Relations – known by its Hebrew acronym, Lakam – by Shimon Peres, now Israel's president, in the 1960s. The bureau, which worked to obtain scientific and technical information for secret defence programmes, closed in 1987.

Milchan, 68, is the chairman of New Regency Productions, which has produced more than 120 Hollywood movies since the 1970s, working with actors and directors such as Robert de Niro, Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski, Oliver Stone, Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck.

Read more:
Arnon Milchan reveals past as Israeli spy

SuccubaSuprema writes:

When I first saw this story earlier on the television (CNN, to be precise), it reminded me of Chuck Barris, and apparently, I'm not alone.  The Beeb itself made the same connection:

In his 1984 book, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, game-show creator Chuck Barris (The Dating Game, The Gong Show) claimed to be a CIA hit man. He is routinely asked to verify, or deny, this claim - though he never has.

Read more:
Arnon Milchan: Hollywood producer's starring role as 'spy'

Pope Calls for Decentralized Church, Condemns Capitalism

From The Guardian:

Pope Francis has attacked unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny", urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff.

The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy, building on views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.

In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticising the global economic system, attacking the "idolatry of money" and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens "dignified work, education and healthcare".

He also called on rich people to share their wealth. "Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills," Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday.

"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"

Read more:
Pope Francis calls unfettered capitalism 'tyranny' and urges rich to share wealth

From the Los Angeles Times:

Eight months into his headline-grabbing papacy, Pope Francis issued a wide-ranging manifesto Tuesday in which he sharply criticizes the excesses of capitalism and says he wants a decentralized Roman Catholic Church that is "bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets."

Francis' 84-page Apostolic Exhortation, titled "The Joy of the Gospel," gathers together a number of the causes he has championed in speeches and homilies since being elected in March, including the need for "a conversion of the papacy," to reverse the "excessive centralization."

Read more:
Pope Francis calls for decentralized Catholic Church in manifesto

I cannot help but admire the more progressive and more open-minded statements which Francis has made on a number of subjects.  The unbridled free market really is unjust and unethical.  Capitalism really is appalling.  The centralized polity of the Roman Catholic Church really has usually produced undesirable results.  The Church really has been too hung up on condemnation and really has been too inflexible on a number of issues.

However, considerable room for improvement will still exist, even if he successfully gets the Church to improve in the small ways he seems to desire.

See also:
Pope Francis Denounces ‘Idolatry of Money’ And ‘Tyranny’ of Capitalism

Pope Francis's Theory of Economics

Lessons in leadership from Pope Francis

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Twilight and the Western Vampire Tradition

Twilight and the Western Vampire Tradition

by Giovanna
(aka "SuccubaSuprema")

Prefatory Remarks:

What follows is a commentary which might be seen as sociological or an example of criticism (in the academic sense, like Literary Criticism, although I have not written this in academic style) or both, updated and collected from several posts I wrote and posted in a thread I started in a certain internet forum (the posts I'm collecting, into what I hope will be one more-or-less consistent piece, were made from 2010 to 2012, although I made some additional posts in that thread in 2013 which are not used for this blog post), with some further observations.  At the time of the first post, I had only seen the first movie in the series, but since then, and as I continued to post in the thread and time passed, I saw the penultimate movie offered in a special collector's DVD edition with a promotional price, and the others all available at the same time and in the same store, for reduced prices, so I decided to (ahem) bite the bullet and buy all of them (and then bought the final movie later, when it too came out), and so I eventually watched them all (the first time I watched the entire series was over a period of 24 hours or so).  In this connection, I should point out that I liked the first movie better on second viewing.

Be advised, if you have not read the novels or seen the movies, this post contains a few spoilers (not only for the Twilight saga, but also for the Underworld movies, which I discuss at the end of the post in connection with criticisms of the Twilight saga).


Those who know me well are aware that I'm a fan of Vampire literature, movies, and television shows.  Occasionally, the subject of the Twilight movies/books has been brought up, with people wanting to know my opinion of them.  I've spoken to some extent about these matters in the past, but there came a time when I found a comment on my profile from someone wanting to know if I'm "a fan" of the story, so I decided to respond in this way, and thereby be able to direct questioners to this discussion.  With the introduction out of the way, I shall proceed.

The Commentary:

I do not know that I would call myself "a fan" of Twilight, but at the same time, I do not believe that it's the worst vampire story ever written/filmed.  In fact, it was quite good, compared to some I've seen.   Indeed, I enjoyed the movies (I have yet to read any of the books).  I shall here respond to some criticisms I've seen and heard concerning the story.  I do not intend to comment much, if at all, on the criticisms I have seen and heard regarding the acting.

A lot of people claim to be annoyed primarily with the "sparkly vampire" aspect (I say "claim" intentionally, because I believe their genuine main objection is something else, and I'll come to that later), but, truth be told, in the movies, the sparkling was only barely noticeable, even when it was being emphasized.   It's an interesting twist on the vampire aversion to sunlight, and it doesn't merit the kind of hysterical criticism I've seen about it.   Part of why I say that is directly related to the next objection I will discuss.

The second thing people seem to be annoyed about is the idea that sunlight doesn't harm vampires, but most people don't realize that the concept of vampires being harmed/killed by the sun is a relatively new idea (less than 100 years old), and was first expressed in the 1922 silent movie Nosferatu:   eine Symphonie des Grauens (commonly known simply as Nosferatu, which was an unauthorized cinematic version of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, and, being unauthorized, was only very loosely based on that novel (the novel, in fact, includes a scene of Dracula outside in the street during daylight, a scene that was part of the movie Bram Stoker's Dracula, starring Gary Oldman as the Count).  Arguably, the sound of the cock crowing was what overcame Count Orlok, rather than the light of the sun (I say this based on the captions in the silent movie), and this idea of a cock's crow affecting "supernatural" creatures is consistent with folklore from various places in Europe.  Prior to the 1922 movie, the idea is found in folklore of various "supernatural" creatures being hampered, harmed, or destroyed by sunlight, but this did not specifically pertain to vampires (you see the old folklore reflected, for example, in Tolkien's The Hobbit, in which Trolls turn to stone when exposed to sunlight, an idea found in Scottish and Norse legends of Trows and Trolls).  That's not to say that the older stories do not portray vampires as not particularly fond of daylight, because some do, but none of them contain the idea of sunlight causing harm or destruction to a vampire.  As such, those who reject the Twilight stories' "new" idea of vampires not being harmed by the sun are actually embracing a new idea about vampires, and rejecting the older idea.  I maintain, therefore, that they should all mellow out and get past the baggage of a mere 91 years of the new idea of vampires being vulnerable to the sun.  Perhaps then they would be able to enjoy the story for what it is.  I have to admit, that although I think the sparkly vampire thing is an interesting twist on explaining why vampires might be averse to sunlight (which, as I have pointed out above, is an idea that is only 91 years old), I'm not terribly fond of the idea, but that's merely personal preference and should not result in dismissal of the story in its entirety.

As an aside, I would like to also point out that the idea of garlic having an adverse effect on vampires is the result of ignorance and superstition (although dismissing this as the result of "superstition" may seem ironic in connection with the idea of vampires in the first place!).  The belief derives from the practice of opening graves of suspected vampires in order to "vanquish" them, with those opening the graves wearing wreaths of garlic around their necks to ward off the arising effluvia of a decaying corpse (or, more accurately, as an attempt to cover the unpleasant scent with the supposedly stronger smell of garlic).  Over time, the original import of this practice was forgotten, and that ignorance, coupled with superstition, led to the idea of garlic repelling and/or harming vampires.  Since then, the idea has become fairly firmly ensconced within the Western Vampire Tradition, although instances of this idea being rejected have also been seen in the tradition.

The third objection which some have to the stories is the popular opinion that they are intended for an audience of teenage girls.  It is this reputation which I believe to be the genuine main objection of most who protest their disdain for the saga (and most of these people in my experience have been male), but these people are ignoring the Vampire Tradition itself, in favor of more recent depictions of vampires in film as "monstrous," savage, and wholly incorrigible (indeed, usually they're depicted as totally depraved homicidal maniacs, often extremely sadistic, and frequently nihilistic -- in short, completely ignoble and without any redeeming value).  These more recent films typically contain a lot of gratuitous violence and gore.

The Twilight movies (since more people are familiar with them than they are with the books) are, according to the popular reputation, allegedly "chick flicks," but the same "noble vampire" motif and/or "vampire love story" idea (whether romantic or erotic, or both) is found in earlier stories, television series, and movies, and few if any of them are dismissed out of hand as "chick flicks" or "chick lit."  A few examples include the television series Moonlight, the television series Forever Knight, the 1960s soap opera Dark Shadows (and Marilyn Ross' novels based on the show), and even, to some extent, other movies based on Stoker's work (the Bela Lugosi films, obviously, but also the more recent version starring Gary Oldman), to say nothing of older novels, novelettes, and short stories of vampires like Carmilla, by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, and "The Vampyre," by John William Polidori.  Earlier than those are various poems expressing the same notions.

I've also seen some people claim that Edward Cullen is a "copy" of Anne Rice's Lestat.  I would not view Edward as a copy of Lestat, however.  In some ways, Edward is more like Mick St. John of the Moonlight television series (although I like Mick, and Moonlight, much, much better than Edward and Twilight), or Nick Knight of the series Forever Knight, both of whom probably owe more to Barnabas Collins of Dark Shadows than any other inspiration (indeed, I suspect that the use by Stephanie Meyer of the name "Cullen" in her work is a direct nod to the name "Collins" in Dark Shadows).

Now there was a vampire!  Barnabas Collins, tragic, unfortunate victim, often violent to excess, mysterious, brooding, lonely, charming, romantic, not afraid to get his fangs bloody (although not desensitized to it nor blasé about it, either), dark, tormented, etc.

Thus, the Twilight series is soundly within an established "canon" of Vampire Tradition involving romance, eroticism, "noble" vampires (both literally, as in the case of Count Dracula -- or Prince Vlad, and figuratively, in the sense of "possessed of noble virtues"), the idea of "vampirism as curse" (literal, as with Barnabas Collins, or figurative, as with Nick Knight) from which the vampire wishes to escape, etc.  If these concepts are "adolescent" and/or "girly," then a lot of adult men who profess disdain for the Twilight saga and are infected with the disease known as "machismo" have to explain why they enjoy these other stories I have mentioned.  Although I am female, I have not been a teenager in a looooong time, and while I haven't read the Twilight books, and probably would not consider myself "a fan" (per se) of the movies, I have read and viewed quite a lot of vampire literature/films/TV shows, I did enjoy the Twilight movies, and wouldn't exclude the series from my DVD collection or my book library.  Indeed, I now have all the movies on DVD.

I would also contend that teen boys (and adult boys) who believe that blood and guts splattered all over the screen is what makes a vampire movie "good" and/or "authentic" actually have no concept of the Western Vampire Tradition.  They would be just as happy with a slasher pic, which is hardly the same thing as a vampire movie, and also a recent phenomenon.  I also consider most of these more recent "Horror" movies to be much more disgusting than frightening, due to this tendency to focus on gratuitous violence and gore, and thus unworthy of being given the "Horror" label.

If someone has a mere aesthetic preference that vampires should be "dark bloodsucking monsters in human form," I have no problem with that;  if, on the other hand, a contention is made that the noble/romantic vampire, who remains attractive (theoretically, at least, and I add this qualification because I do not find the boy who portrayed Edward Cullen to be all that attractive) even when she/he "vamps out," is somehow "inconsistent" with the Western Vampire Tradition, then even Bram Stoker himself would rise up and bite the person making such an assertion.   I might have preferred a different actor for Edward, but honestly, Robert Pattinson isn't that bad (he isn't gorgeous like Alex O'Loughlin as Mick St. John in Moonlight, but then again, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," and his acting seemed better to me in the subsequent movies than it did in the first).

From the earliest stories in the Western Folklorismus Vampire Tradition (by the use of "Folklorismus," I intend the folkloric idea of Vampires removed from its culturally-specific, Slavic, Folklore and Legend context and the beginning of the Western Literary Vampire Tradition -- although it should be noted that similar beings are recorded in the myths, legends, and authentic culturally-based folklore of other cultures, including, for one major example, the Leannán Sidhe of Irish, Scottish, and Manx Tradition) and the Western Literary Vampire Tradition (which grew out of the Western Folklorismus Vampire Tradition and includes, more or less, or at least gave birth to, the Western Cinematographic Vampire Tradition), the Vampire was both appealing and appalling simultaneously.  The appealing aspects included being magnetic in a romantic and/or erotic sense, and being attractive in terms of visual appearance, as well as offering the lure of a form of immortality, eternal youth, and superhuman power (indeed, one of these powers is often used as an explanation of the lure of the vampire, the hold which she/he has over living beings, and that is a power described as "hypnosis" or, in some cases, "mesmerism").  The appalling aspects were primarily summed up in one idea: this being is a corpse -- a "living" corpse, perhaps, but nevertheless a corpse, who is cold to the touch, who rests in a coffin, but also, a corpse who feeds parasitically upon the living beings of his/her own species, etc.

As far as being "200 year old high schoolers with adolescent problems" (another objection I've seen), that is also hardly a new theme in the Western Vampire Tradition; indeed, in Anne Rice's celebrated Lestat stories, the reader encounters the child vampire Claudia, with her prepubescent problems.  What may be new (or at least perhaps atypical) in this "young vampire" motif is the concept that a person remains stuck at the physical (and emotional) age he/she was "turned" at;  earlier stories often (but not always) include a motif in which the vampire ages unless she/he feeds on blood.

Personally, I have been put off by the relatively recent depiction of vampires as changing in physical appearance when they "vamp out" to such an extent that they do not merely have fangs and glowing and/or red eyes, but also have some bizarre ridge in their foreheads as if they have alien ancestry or something, or have a reptilian appearance (although I did rather enjoy the first From Dusk till Dawn movie in spite of this, and in spite of the gratuitous blood and gore, because it had a good plot, and because Salma Hayek and George Clooney are exceptional actors), or otherwise appear distinctly non-human.  The idea that vampires can transform into fog or wolves or a swarm of rats or other things (or at least the idea that their "hypnotic" power is so great as to induce a mortal to perceive that they have so transformed) is old enough (although the vampire-into-bat transformation is also relatively new, but hardly inconsistent with the Tradition), but aside from the hairless, long-nailed, ghoulish-looking Count Orlok of Nosferatu (and the "noferatu-type" vampires inspired by that depiction), which (as I have already pointed out) is less than 100 years old, such an idea is far less consistent with the Vampire Tradition than the idea of attractive, noble (even heroic at times), romantic vampire.

Another thing I've seen criticized about the Twilight saga is that the vampires in the story are "vegetarians."  That term is often bandied about as if it means that the Cullens munch on lettuce and fruit, but those who use the term to dismiss the stories are either ignorant of its significance in the stories, or intentionally twisting the use of the term in the stories.  In the first movie (which I admit I finally watched only because people kept asking me what I thought of the series, it came on one of the Encore channels to which I had a subscription at the time, and I didn't want to continue to have to reply "I have no real opinion, because I've never read any of the books and never watched any of the movies"), the boy Edward explains that the Cullens refer to themselves as "vegetarians" because they refuse to feed on humans, but instead feed on animals (this is also not a new idea in the Western Vampire Tradition, although the use of "vegetarian" to describe such a diet may be new -- it's also ironic, and I appreciated that irony). 

Moving on to other criticisms, I've been told that the books are poorly written. I haven't read any of them, so I can't speak to that assessment.

I found the films enjoyable, but I wouldn't call the saga the "best vampire movie(s)," and I'm far from sure that I would even put it in the top ten.  However, when compared with movies in which "Dracula" beats his chest like an ape (I don't even remember which movie that was, and it may have otherwise been good, but that one scene was enough to cause my ex-housemate to leave the room in disgust, and I was also rather repulsed by the scene), yeah, it's superior.  Even some of the Christopher Lee movies have less-than-brilliant scenes, in which Dracula crouches in the corner and hisses.

I've also seen the character of Bella Swann (later Bella Cullen) criticized as one-dimensional or insufficiently developed.  A few aspects of the first movie, on first impression, seemed to portray that character in a way that I did not find pleasing, such as what I initially regarded as an almost neurotic reaction to Edward's intention to leave for her safety.  We get that the girl is "crazy" about him;  she doesn't have to be depicted as if she is literally crazy, with an unhealthy obsession over the boy.  She also should not be conceived as if she be merely a shadow to his supposed light.  However, after re-watching the movie along with the entire series once I had the final movie, I reconsidered this first impression in light of the fact that her parents were divorced, and I get that now;  she comes from a family that has been split asunder by divorce, which would be a bit of emotional facticity for Bella, and which baggage would explain her reaction to Edward informing her that he would be leaving for her safety.  Also, in the final movie, Bella is far more than a shadow to Edward;  indeed, she has become a force to be reckoned with, and every bit his equal (maybe even more powerful than he).  I will also, very briefly, touch upon criticisms of Kristen Stewart's acting, to say that I personally did not find her performance to be as bad as some have suggested.  She might not have as wide a range of facial expressions as Jim Carey (but who besides him does have a face that sometimes seems as if it's made of rubber?), but that's hardly sufficient cause to write her off as a "bad actress."

The plot is simple, granted, but that's the general plot for many "classic" vampire stories:   immortal, brooding, lonely, vampire guy meets beautiful, young, mortal girl, romance blossoms, some crisis occurs, vampire guy saves mortal girl (or, in a few cases, vice-versa), and they all live (or "un-die") happily ever after (presumably, although in some cases, such as the Twilight saga, there may be more than a single crisis).  The alternative plot in the "classic" tale is:  immortal, somewhat creepy, lonely vampire guy meets beautiful, young, mortal girl, attempts to seduce her, she is taken with him but already has a beau, nevertheless she gradually falls under his spell, her previously-existing beau (often with help from a "wise old man" archetypal character) then "rescues" her by "slaying" the vampire, and they all live happily ever after (except for the poor vampire, of course!).  There are certainly other variations on these tales -- Le Fanu's Carmilla, for example, which is older than Stoker's Dracula, and which depicts the apparently lesbian (or perhaps bisexual, since her sexuality was never explicitly defined in the story) Countess Mircalla Karnstein seducing a beautiful, young mortal girl, only to be thwarted by the girl's father (not beau), who has teamed up with a wise old warrior and the heroic descendant of a previous vampire-slayer hero.  The alternative plot (charming-vampire-as-somewhat-sinister-but-nevertheless-unfortunate-victim, although probably more frequently encountered than the charming-vampire-as-hero motif) I have given above is that which both Le Fanu and Stoker followed, and it was out of this plot that the hideous and repulsive, dark and monstrous, nosferatu-type vampire was developed by Henrik Galeen and F.W. Murnau in 1922.

I would like to hope that this puts an end to some of the pretense of the Twilight saga being somehow a radical departure from the Western Vampire Tradition in Literature and Film, and results in people examining their reaction to the saga honestly. More importantly, I would like to hope that this encourages some actual investigation of the authentic Vampire Tradition, rather than swallowing the more recent "insane, ugly monster" idea of vampires as if that be the genuine tradition. The references which I have provided here demonstrate clearly that the authentic Tradition is far more diverse and dynamic than that. If we go beyond the "Western" Vampire Tradition (primarily inspired/influenced by Slavic Folklore and Legend), the diversity increases significantly, but that's a topic for another time (and another author).

In conclusion, while I'm still not sure I would call myself a "fan" of the series (but rather, a fan of Vampire folklore, literature, and movies/television shows in general, with a few that I reject as heinous and/or ludicrous in one or more particulars), the Twilight movies have found a place in my DVD collection, and I'm not ashamed of their presence there.  I still regard them as soundly within the Western Vampire Tradition, and at least good representations of that genre.  I suppose that, eventually, I shall get the books and read them, and decide if I like them better than the films.

As a sort of postscript to all of this, I would like to touch upon another Vampire movie series here, namely, the Underworld movies (which I most certainly do rank among my favorite vampire movies).  According to some critics of the Twilight series, this was "the" inspiration for the Vampire versus Werewolf feud in the latter.  In fact, however, that motif goes back some distance in time.  There were even "classic" B&W movies in which "Dracula" and "the Wolfman" appeared to be enemies with some history between them, and fought to the death.  I found the Underworld movies very enjoyable (and I have all four in my DVD collection -- and rumor has it that a fifth installment will be forthcoming sometime in late 2014 or early 2015, so I naturally plan to get that on DVD as well), and perhaps better suited for a more mature audience than the Twilight movies, but I've seen them criticized as well.  In particular, I have seen the character of Selene criticized for not being "scary" enough.  Some of the critics have pointed out that (in the first two movies) she does not feed (except for the situation in which she takes the blood of Alexander Corvinus in order to learn from the memories contained in his blood and, seemingly, mutate or evolve to some extent) nor "Turn" others (except for the necessity of saving Michael from death), at least not on camera, but instead relies on more-or-less conventional weaponry (firearms, although often with modified rounds used as ammunition, and swords), and those same critics have suggested that this makes her, somehow, less than satisfactory as a vampiress.  Some have even offered what I view as chauvinistic criticisms, namely, that she "looks good" in a corset and leather catsuit, but doesn't inspire fear like a vampire "should."  Vampires and vampiresses in other stories and movies, however, have not always relied on their fangs and/or claws to kill, and have at times used more conventional weapons.  Further, I suspect that this pontification that vampires and vampiresses "should" inspire fear has more to do with the more recent portrayals of Vampires as homicidal maniacs without any control over their passions and appetites (and maybe, in the same [ahem] vein, with the fact that she doesn't become an unattractive alien-looking creature when she "vamps out") than it does with the earlier Vampire Tradition.  Nevertheless, Selene as a "Death Dealer" certainly has the right amount of "cold-blooded killer" attitude to be intimidating to most mortal opponents.  Skilled not only with fang and claw, but also with bladed weapons, firearms, and ordinary hand-to-hand combat, Selene is undeniably a formidable foe, and hardly unsatisfactory as a vampiress.

So there you have it, my response to many of the criticisms of, and my opinion of, the Twilight saga, based on my knowledge of the Western Vampire Tradition (which, if I do say so myself, is not exactly unsubstantial).  I'll also apologize here at the end for the bad puns in the post.  And now that the sun has sunk into the west, it's time for me to go out for the hunt, and slake my thirst.  Just kidding.  Or am I?  Muahahahaha!

This is an original work, and it belongs to me, regardless of where I first posted the material which I have gathered, revised, and rearranged to make this post, and regardless of any claims by the company which owns that website.
© Copyright 2013 by SuccubaSuprema (the owner of this blog, known more mundanely as "Gigi" and Giovanna).
All Rights Reserved.

The Mysteries of Intelligence ("Intelligence" as in Intellect, not "Intelligence" as in Spook Stuff)

From PsyBlog:

Here are ten studies that provide vital insights into the psychology of intelligence. ...

8. The intelligent sleep later

This is no longer a feeble excuse for hitting snooze.

Evidence has now been published that people who are more intelligent tend to go to bed later and get up later (Kanazawa & Perina, 2009).

The study examined the sleep habits of 20,745 adolescent Americans and found that on a weekday the ‘very dull’ went to bed at an average of 11:41 and woke up at 7:20.

In contrast, the ‘very bright’ went to bed at 12:29 and got up at 7:52. At the weekend the differences were even more pronounced.

We don’t know the nature of the connection from this study, but perhaps bright people find it more difficult to get to sleep because of all the worrying they’re doing.

Read more:
10 Smart Studies that Help Unlock the Mysteries of Intelligence

See also:
Night Owls' Brain Structures Are Different from Those of Early Risers

A Monogamy Hormone?

From Medical News Today:

Oxytocin has long been deemed "the love hormone," after its important role in social bonding has been documented. But now, researchers have performed a new experiment that suggests oxytocin stimulates the reward center in the male brain, increasing partner attractiveness and strengthening monogamy.

Read more:
Oxytocin: the monogamy hormone?

Less Frequent Sex Due to 'Modern Life'?

From BBC News:

A once-a-decade poll of 15,000 Britons found those aged 16-44 were having sex fewer than five times a month.

The figure compared with more than six times a month on the last two occasions when the official National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles was carried out, in 1990-91 and 1999-2001.

The study's authors say modern life may be having an impact on libidos.

Read more:
Modern life 'turning people off sex'

Tax-Exempt Groups and Political Campaigning?

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Obama administration Tuesday proposed a crackdown on the widespread use of tax-exempt organizations for political campaigning, seeking to reduce the influential role that the secretive groups have played in recent elections.

The new "guidance" issued Tuesday by the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service would curtail a broad array of these tax-exempt entities' activities, including campaign advertising, voter registration, get-out-the-vote efforts, and distribution of voter guides and campaign materials.

The process of completing the new regulations could take months, and officials said they expected a lot of feedback, acknowledging the political battles ahead.

The involvement in politics of tax-exempt groups organized under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code has been viewed by many as the biggest abuse of modern campaign finance rules, which aim to limit the influence of wealthy donors in elections.

The use of these organizations became a prominent issue in recent campaigns when groups such as the conservative Crossroads GPS and liberal Priorities USA raised millions of dollars from donors who could remain anonymous under tax rules. Critics say the groups have been too lightly regulated by the IRS, due in part to confusing regulations.

Read more:
Rulemaking on Campaigning by Tax-Exempt Groups Could Take Months

Supreme Court to Consider Permitting Religious Bias to Excuse Compliance with Contraceptive Mandate in ACA

From the Los Angeles Times:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear another legal challenge to President Obama’s healthcare law, this time to decide whether a corporation can refuse to pay to cover birth control drugs that violate the religious beliefs of the firm's owners.

At issue is a growing clash between some Christian employers who object to some contraceptives they consider “abortion-inducing” and potentially millions of female workers who can benefit from free birth control.

The case also calls on the court to decide whether corporations have religious rights similar to the free-speech rights that were upheld in the Citizens United decision in 2010. ...

Dozens of private employers have filed suits seeking an exemption from the contraceptive mandate. They include David Green, founder of the Hobby Lobby chain of crafts stores based in Oklahoma City, who brought the suit which is now headed for the high court. ...

Responding to this claim, Obama administration lawyers argued that although individuals have religious beliefs, a “for-profit corporate employer” does not and may not ignore laws that protect the rights of its employees. ...

The ruling “would transform the Religious Freedom Restoration Act from a shield for individuals and religious institutions into a sword used to deny employees of for-profit commercial enterprises the benefits and protections of generally applicable laws,” [U.S. Solicitor General Donald] Verrilli said.

Read more:
Supreme Court to hear Obamacare challenge over birth control drugs

SuccubaSuprema writes:

Hopefully, the Supreme Court will issue a ruling that does not excuse for-profit businesses from providing this funding.  The issue is one of interference in the personal lives of employees by their employers.  No employer should have that much power over their employees' lives.  An employee is not a slave, or a child, of the employer, and matters of conscience should be left up to individuals, not decided for them by others.

CNN's article on this story reports:

David Green and his family are the owners and say their Christian beliefs clash with parts of the law's mandates for comprehensive coverage.

They say some of the drugs that would be provided prevent human embryos from being implanted in a woman's womb, which the Greens equate to abortion.

USA Today's article reports:

The government says none of the mandated drugs are abortifacients.

Indeed.  Redefining "abortion" to include the prevention of an embryo from being implanted in a womb is another example of linguistic revisionism motivated by greed and bias.

Scottish Archaeologists Find Buddha's Birthplace?

From Popular Archaeology:

Scientists excavating within the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Maya Devi Temple in Lumbini, Nepal, have unearthed a timber structure that they date to the sixth century BCE. It is situated within and underlies a temple that is considered sacred to many as the birthplace of Siddhārtha Gautama, or Buddha. Until now, there has been no archaeological evidence supporting a date any earlier than the third century BCE for Buddha's life. Some historians have suggested the death of Buddha took place sometime in the late 4th century or early 3rd century BCE, although there are a number of traditions with varying dates.

Read more:
Archaeologists Uncover Earliest Evidence of Birth of Buddha

See also:
Scots archaeologists help make breakthrough discovery into origins of Buddhist religion

Ancient Buddhist shrine unearthed by Scots archaeologists in Nepal

Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal May Push Back the Buddha's Birth Date

SuccubaSuprema writes:

While I have my disagreements with some Buddhist beliefs, I've always liked this statement attributed to the Buddha:

"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."

Monday, November 25, 2013

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women - 25 November

Graphic borrowed from ThinkProgress

The 25th of November is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Monday marks the International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women, the United Nations’ annual effort to raise awareness about the women around the world who fall victim to gender-based violence. It’s the beginning of a 16-day period of activism, culminating with Human Rights Day on December 10th — an attempt to make the point that addressing violence against women is an inextricable part of ensuring basic human rights for everyone around the world.

Read more:
Five Facts To Remember On The UN’s International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

End Violence against Women

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Right Wing Cyberterrorism Against ObamaCare Site


Yesterday, the House Homeland Security Committee published a video on their Youtube page highlighting a portion of the committee questioning Roberta Stempfley, acting assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Cyber-security and Communications, who confirmed at least 16 attacks on the Affordable Care Act’s portal website in 2013.

Roberta Stempfley highlighted one successful attack that is designed to deny access to the website called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. A DDoS attack is designed to make a network unavailable to intended users, generally through a concerted effort to disrupt service such as repeatedly accessing the servers, saturating them with more traffic than the website is designed to handle.

Right wingers have been distributing the link to the necessary tools to perform the attacks on the website through social networking, as pointed out by Information Week, and other websites

Right wing cyber attacks on website confirmed

See also:
The Massive Republican Campaign to Sabotage the Affordable Care Act

SuccubaSuprema writes:

I had wondered if some of the "failures" of the site might be due to something like this.  Apparently, my suspicions have been confirmed.

Far Right Wing Extremist Pseudo-Christians Call for Obama's Assassination


The Christian American Patriots Militia is openly calling for the assassination of President Barack Obama on their Facebook page. The Christian militia calls Obama a “dictator,” and claims the “authority to kill Obama comes from the 2nd Amendment of our Constitution.”

According to a report issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dated Nov. 22, the U.S. Secret Service is aware that Everest Wilhelmsen, leader of the Christian American Patriots Militia, is calling for Obama’s assassination.

Read more:
Christian militia calls for Obama’s assassination on Facebook

See also:
Christian Militia Claims 'Authority' To Shoot And Kill Obama

SuccubaSuprema writes:
Hopefully the Secret Service will put some of these bampots away in a place where they can no longer harm anyone, nor spread their message of hatred and stupidity.

Science and Education Win in Texas, in Spite of Efforts to Promote Ignorance and Irrationality


In Texas, advocates for science education have defeated efforts by Christian creationists to smuggle into the Texas science curriculum materials that call into question the overwhelming evidence supporting biological evolution.

Read more:
Science education wins, Christian creationists lose in Texas

Police in Miami Gardens Abusing Authority?

From the Miami Herald:

Earl Sampson has been stopped and questioned by Miami Gardens police 258 times in four years.

He’s been searched more than 100 times. And arrested and jailed 56 times.

Despite his long rap sheet, Sampson, 28, has never been convicted of anything more serious than possession of marijuana.

Miami Gardens police have arrested Sampson 62 times for one offense: trespassing.

Almost every citation was issued at the same place: the 207 Quickstop, a convenience store on 207th Street in Miami Gardens.

But Sampson isn’t loitering. He works as a clerk at the Quickstop.

So how can he be trespassing when he works there?

Read more (several videos are also available here):
In Miami Gardens, store video catches cops in the act

20 Tips for Interpreting Scientific Claims

From Nature:

Calls for the closer integration of science in political decision-making have been commonplace for decades. However, there are serious problems in the application of science to policy — from energy to health and environment to education. ...

In this context, we suggest that the immediate priority is to improve policy-makers' understanding of the imperfect nature of science. The essential skills are to be able to intelligently interrogate experts and advisers, and to understand the quality, limitations and biases of evidence. We term these interpretive scientific skills. These skills are more accessible than those required to understand the fundamental science itself, and can form part of the broad skill set of most politicians.

To this end, we suggest 20 concepts that should be part of the education of civil servants, politicians, policy advisers and journalists — and anyone else who may have to interact with science or scientists. Politicians with a healthy scepticism of scientific advocates might simply prefer to arm themselves with this critical set of knowledge.

Read more:
Policy: Twenty tips for interpreting scientific claims

Beautiful Holiday Nail Art

From MSN Living:

Nail art inspiration for a festive holiday season

SuccubaSuprema writes:

Some of these tiny and impermanent examples of art are really gorgeous.  Their ephemerality, while tragic, seems to add a bit to the aesthetic appeal.

A Psychotherapist for Every School?

From The Guardian:

One head is using his pupil premium to fund a full-time psychotherapist. He believes it is helping children's learning as well as their mental health problems ...

In a small office in a high school in a formerly industrial area in the West Midlands, I am talking to a psychotherapist. Each week up to 20 pupils at this mixed comprehensive have an appointment in this brightly lit, windowless room. They come to talk about problems with parents or friends, but also more nameless anxieties that can't be traced to a single cause.

Sometimes they come a few times, sometimes for a year. Initial consultations can be confidential – a letter sent to parents lets them know about the service and asks them to write back if they don't want their children to use it – but if sessions are regular, parents are told. ...

The headteacher ... believes the experiment is working, and cites improved attendance and GCSE results (59% of pupils here get A-C in five GCSEs including English and maths) and a reduced rate of exclusions.

Read more:
Should all schools have their own psychotherapist?

SuccubaSuprema writes:

I think this is an excellent idea, and that its implementation would benefit students, teachers, and staff at any educational institution, as well as the parents and the rest of the local community, to say nothing of society as a whole.  Kudos to the anonymous headteacher.

Neuroscience Learning from Cryptography

From Nautilus, Issue 006:

It’s hard to imagine an encryption machine more sophisticated than the human brain. This three-pound blob of tissue holds an estimated 86 billion neurons, cells that rapidly fire electrical pulses in split-second response to whatever stimuli our bodies encounter in the external environment. Each neuron, in turn, has thousands of spindly branches that reach out to nodes, called synapses, which transmit those electrical messages to other cells. Somehow the brain interprets this impossibly noisy code, allowing us to effectively respond to an ever-changing world.

Given the complexity of the neural code, it’s not surprising that some neuroscientists are borrowing tricks from more experienced hackers: cryptographers, the puzzle-obsessed who draw on math, logic, and computer science to make and break secret codes.

Read more:
Safecracking the Brain

First Americans' DNA a Mix of European and Siberian Genes


Results from a DNA study of a young boy's skeletal remains believed to be 24,000 years old could turn the archaeological world upside down. It has been proven that nearly 30 percent of modern Native-Americans' ancestry came from this youngster's gene pool, suggesting First Americans came directly from Siberia ...

Genetic testing showed the boy had freckles, brown hair, and brown eyes and was a mixture of European and Siberian genes.

Read more:
First Americans DNA shows admixture of European and Siberian genes, says study

See also:
Siberian Skeletons' Ancient DNA Raises New Questions About First Americans (with video)

Archaeology and Alcohol

Yes, once again, or rather, twice again, our friends in the discipline of Archaeology have made discoveries connected with alcohol.  Both of the following articles are from PastHorizons.

Archaeologists have unearthed what is claimed to be the oldest wine cellar in the Ancient Near East.  The sunken room contains forty ceramic jars that were capable of each holding 50 litres of wine. ...

Andrew Koh, assistant professor of classical studies at Brandeis University, ... an associate director ... analysed the storage vessel fragments using organic residue analysis and ... also discovered compounds that suggest the ingredients that were used to enhance the flavours in ancient wine-making, including honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resins.

The recipe is similar to medicinal wines used in ancient Egypt for two thousand years.

Read more:
Canaanite cellar provides a taste of 3700 year old wine

Spanish excavations in Can Sadurní cave (Begues, Barcelona) have discovered four human skeletons dated to about 6,400 years ago. The skeletal remains of the individuals are particularly important as they are in a very good state of preservation.

An archaeological campaign carried out previously identified other individuals which were not so well preserved but belong to the same stratigraphic layer.

Archaeologists excavating  in 1999, also discovered within the cave, evidence for the earliest European beer, which may have been included as part of  the death ritual.

Read more:
Neolithic death ritual includes earliest evidence for European beer

The Hanging Garden of Nineveh?

From PastHorizons:

The legendary ‘Hanging Garden of Babylon’ has since ancient times been recognised as one of the Seven Wonders of the World – but no trace of it has ever been found.

After 20 years of research, Dr Stephanie Dalley may have discovered why.

Dr Dalley, an honorary research fellow at Somerville College and part of the Oriental Institute at Oxford University, believes the garden was actually created at Nineveh, 300 miles from Babylon, in the early seventh century BC. She argues that it was built by the Assyrians in the north of Mesopotamia – modern-day Iraq – at the instigation of the Assyrian king, Sennacherib.

Read more:
The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon

See also:
Pictured: the 'real site' of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Archaeologists Admit Previous Errors About Stonehenge

From Culture24:

Admitting that their decade-long beliefs about the bluestones of Stonehenge were largely inaccurate, scientists say a particular sample of the stones – known as the spotted dolerite – could lead a path to the Pembrokeshire hills in the latest investigations surrounding the famous site.

Geochemical scrutiny of rock and debris has revealed that most of the dolerites come from Carn Goedog – about 1.5km away from the tors suggested by Herbert Henry Thomas, the geologist whose original theories about the samples were made in 1923.

“The geology of Pembrokeshire is unique,” says Dr Richard Bevins, of National Museums Wales, having spent more than 30 years studying the geology of the area, producing papers in successive years since 2011 with the help of Dr Rob Ixer, of University College London, and Aberystwyth University’s Professor Nick Pearce.

Read more:
Scientists see bluestones archaeology link between Wales and Stonehenge

Evidence of Bronze Age Burial Mound Revealed

From BBC News:

An archaeological dig on the site of a former World War Two airfield in Suffolk has revealed evidence of Bronze Age burial chambers.

The site, on the outskirts of Ipswich, is being excavated in readiness for a new care home due to open in 2015.

Fragments of pottery and urns indicated the site was "very close to a burial mound", archaeologists said.

Read more:
World War Two Ipswich airfield site reveals Bronze Age finds

Iron Age Cauldron Replica Unveiled

From This is Wiltshire:

A REPLICA of a cauldron said to be one of the biggest Iron Age archaelogical finds in Europe has been unveiled in Chiseldon Museum.

The cauldron was one of 17 initially discovered in 2004 by treasure hunter Peter Hyams, who is a member of the Chiseldon Local History Group.

The actual cauldrons, which are too fragile to be kept in Chiseldon, were then excavated by professional archaeologists from the British Museum and Wessex Archaeology and are now at the British Museum.

But in 2011, to mark Chiseldon as the cauldrons’ original site, the history group commissioned local blacksmith Hector Cole, a master arrowsmith and archaeological ironworker with a global reputation for recreating archaeological items, to create a replica of the cauldron as it would have been when it was buried in the Iron Age, 800 BC – AD 43.

Read more:
Bubbling excitement over cauldron replica

Pseudo-Progress Threatens Iron Age Hill Fort

From PastHorizons:

Old Oswestry is one of Europe’s best preserved iron age hill forts, a site that has existed for more than 3,000 years and can be seen for miles around.

The war poet Wilfred Owen completed his army training on the grassy mounds of Old Oswestry, which is also said to be the birthplace of King Arthur’s wife, Guinevere. It is likely that the Shropshire lad himself, AE Housman, would have spent time admiring the views from the fort’s majestic summit on the Shropshire-Wales border.

Now, in what critics say is a result of the government’s new planning policy, proposals have been drawn up to build almost 200 luxury homes next to the ancient site, angering local residents and heritage groups. Some 6,000 people have signed a petition opposing the development, part of the county council’s plan to build 2,600 homes by 2026 to comply with government targets.

One of 25 hill forts in Shropshire, Old Oswestry has a series of perimeter ditches, formed between ramparts, that were designed to slow down attackers. An archaeological survey in 2010 found man-made structures in fields to the north-east of the fort. Two years ago the discovery of an iron age road, thought to connect The Wrekin, near Telford, with fields near the site, indicated that there was likely to be important evidence of past cultures buried under the soil.

Read more:
Iron age hill fort threatened by plans to build 200 luxury homes

World's Oldest Pocket Calendar?

From The Daily Mail:

It may look like a banana, but this curved device is actually thought to be the world's oldest pocket calendar.

Archaeologists found the calendar in Serbia and believe the moon-shaped device is around 8,000 years old.

It is made from the tusk of a wild boar and is marked with engravings thought to denote a lunar cycle of 28 days, as well as the four phases of the moon.

The archaeologists believe ancient man would have used it to work out the best time to plant and harvest crops.

The tusk was found in an area close to the town of Smederevska Palanka in eastern Serbia.

Read more:
Could this be the world's oldest pocket calendar? Engraved tusk would have told farmers when to harvest crops up to 8,000 years ago

Ancient Amulets and Seals Uncovered in Turkey

From Sci-News:

Scientists from the University of Münster have unearthed 600 amulets, stamp and cylinder seals dating from the 7th through the 4th centuries BC at the archaeological site of the ancient city of Doliche (modern Dülük) in southeastern Turkey. ...

The artifacts were found at the sacred site of the storm and weather god Jupiter Dolichenus.

Read more:
German Archaeologists Find 600 Ancient Seals, Amulets in Turkey

From Wikipedia:

Jupiter Dolichenus was a Roman god created from the syncretization of Jupiter, the Roman 'King of the gods', and a Baal cult of Commagene in Asia Minor. The Baal gods were themselves king gods and the combination was intended to form a powerful mixture of eastern and western regal traditions combined in the one deity. The cult was one of the Mystery Religions that gained popularity in the Roman Empire as an alternative to the open 'public' religion of mainstream Roman society. Its temples were closed to outsiders and followers had to undergo rites of initiation before they could be accepted as devotees. As a result very little is known about the actual worship of the god apart from the few clues that can be obtained from the sparse iconographic, archaeological or epigraphic evidence. The cult gained popularity in the 2nd century AD and reached a peak under the Severan dynasty in the early 3rd century AD. At least seventeen temples are known to have been built in Rome and the provinces which, while substantial, is far below the popularity enjoyed by Mithras, Isis or Cybele. Unlike these Mystery Cults, the worship of Jupiter Dolichenus was very fixed on its oriental origins and the cult soon died out following the fall of the city of Doliche to the Sassanids in the mid-3rd century AD. ...

The Baal of Doliche appears to have had his origins as a Hittite storm god known as Tesub-Hadad, whose cult was centered on the hill of Dülük-Baba Tepesi near the town of Duluk (now modern Gaziantep in Turkey). Evidence for his worship can be traced back to the 6th century BCE, but the Roman expansion of the cult began with their conquest of the area in 64 BCE and its inclusion in the province of Syria. The new Roman deity took his name from Doliche, the Roman name for the town.

Read more:
Jupiter Dolichenus

SuccubaSuprema writes:

The age of some of the finds clearly indicate that they are not all from the time of Roman occupation, and could help to distinguish some differences between the original view of the deity and the later syncretic view.

Digital Reconstructions of Roman Britain

From The Daily Mail:

A professor has teamed up with digital artists to create striking pictures of how Roman Britain would have looked 2,000 years ago.

The CGI images include a Roman ‘motorway’ stretching from Exeter to London, a forgotten port and luxurious-looking barracks for the occupying forces.

Another image of the Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum, located in Hampshire, has been produced that paints a picture of a wealthy and bustling settlement.

Read more (and check out the images!):
From a bustling port to a 160-mile 'motorway': Amazing digital reconstructions bring forgotten Roman Britain to life

SuccubaSuprema writes:

Note the reconstructed buildings in the images.  These are typical of Roman architectural style.  Architecture is, of course, an aspect of material culture.  By importing this style into Britannia Romana, the Roman conquerors were doing two things:  (1) bringing a bit of home to a foreign posting and thus theoretically making themselves more comfortable (I say "theoretically," as many of the soldiers and other persons representing the Imperium may not have been natives of Latium or even Italia;  still, if they were from the lands of the Imperium, which is likely, then they would undoubtedly have been familiar with this style), (2) introducing foreign material culture to a conquered people and thus engaging in cultural imperialism.  I'm not a fan of cultural imperialism, then or now (I'm also not a huge fan of the Imperium Romanum or any other empire, or imperialism in any form;  but I do appreciate much about the culture of Roma and Italia, then and now).  However, this is history, and there is nothing we can do to alter the past (and even if there were, the effects on all that has come since, as well as the present and the future, would be unpredictable).  We can, however, learn from the past, and we can also appreciate this architectural style, even if we dislike cultural imperialism.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Jim Hightower: "Black Friday" is spoiling Thanksgiving

From Jim Hightower's Commentaries:

Here comes Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas! It's a month-long season of friends and family, spiritual reflection, and time to decompress from our usual helter-skelter lives, right?

Good lord, shout the corporate bosses, are you nuts? Do you think America is some kind of Norman Rockwell fantasyland? This is the Season of Mass Consumerism, Bucko, so lift your tail-end out of that La-Z-Boy and hit the malls – pronto! And if you happen to have a job in a chain store, don't even think about taking a holiday, or you won't have a job the next day. Let us now praise the one God we all serve: Mammon!

Read more:
"Black Friday" is spoiling Thanksgiving

Italy Becoming a Toxic Wasteland?

Toffa: The Camorra kill without guns

Watch what happens to people who live near the landfill used by the Camorra (video in Italian):

TOFFA: La camorra uccide anche senza pistole

This is very disturbing.

Miley Cyrus and Feminism?

From Girl w/ Pen!

Terms like “empowerment” have flooded popular culture for quite some time, often in relation to promoting consumerism as well as hypersexual self-presentation. Of late, though, a rather unlikely source employed the word “feminist” to describe herself. Last week, media sensation Miley Cyrus stated: “I’m one of the biggest feminists in the world because I tell women not to be scared of anything.” ...

... It’s notable, too, since many female celebrities, especially her contemporaries, have distanced themselves from identifying as a feminist. ...

The qualifications ... about employing the word “feminist” reflects a longstanding conversation in feminist scholarship about why feminist has become a label that is fraught with contention. Part of the reason seems to be the history of generational conflict associated with women’s efforts to fulfill feminist aims. Along these lines, women seem to want to assert that their view of feminism is not that of their mothers or grandmothers. They want to own their feminism.

In addition, female celebrities’ ambivalence towards the term “feminist” is perhaps based on the ways in which notions of feminism have been communicated through mass media outlets over almost fifty years. ...

Read more:
Miley's Embrace of the F-Word

Benefits of Tea on the Brain

From PsyBlog:

We all know about the effects of caffeine on the brain, but research has found two more ingredients of tea with important effects…

Read more:
Tea: 6 Brilliant Effects on the Brain

SuccubaSuprema writes:

Tea also ameliorates the undesirable effects of caffeine on the stomach, due to the tannin contained in tea.  Further, tea used regularly (you don't have to drink vast quantities of tea, so long as it is taken regularly, and in fact, too much may have the opposite effect) is beneficial for bone health.

Where is Language Located in the Brain?

From The British Psychological Society's Research Digest:

Simple facts about the brain are rare, but one of them is that for most people language function is located mainly in their left brain hemisphere. The stats vary according to the measures used, but this is the situation for around 95 per cent of right-handers and approximately 75 per cent of left-handers. When it comes to the brain though, few things are straight-forward.

Read more:
Where is language located in the brain? There are two sides to this story

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

20 November - Transgender Day of Remembrance

Each year on the 20th of November (since 1999, although the first event was in 1998, on the 4th of December), the International Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed.  This day is a time to remember all those who have died as a result of transphobia (emotional disgust, fear, anger, or discomfort felt or expressed towards people who do not conform to society's gender expectations), not all of whom have been transgender.  It is also a time to call attention to the continued violence experienced by transgender people and the transgender community.

This page gives a partial list of those who have died as a result of transphobia in 2013:
Memorializing - 2013 | Transgender Day of Remembrance

For more information on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, see:
Transgender Day of Remembrance | Human Rights Campaign

About TDOR | Transgender Day of Remembrance


GLAAD remembers the victims on Transgender Day of Remembrance

Founder of Transgender Day of Remembrance on 15th Anniversary of TDOR and Continued Anti-Trans Violence

Transgender Day of Remembrance: Those We've Lost in 2013

Lives lost to anti-trans violence remembered, memorialized

#TDOR COMMENTARY: Our lives are valuable

GUEST POST: 238 names for #TDOR

Why I will never vote for the Christian Democrats

'Equality House' Painted For Transgender Day Of Remembrance [UPDATED]

Many Voices releases video featuring trans pastor on Trans Day of Remembrance #TDOR

On The Transgender Day Of Remembrance, And The Future Of Transgender Characters And Actors

Students Don Skirts to Support Agender Peer Who Was Set Aflame

WATCH: Straight Marine Punched After Defending Gay Friends

Marking Transgender Day of Remembrance | The White House

Do We Care About Trans Rights?

Another Brilliant Piece by Matt Taibbi

As he so often does, Matt Taibbi (in "Taibblog" at Rolling Stone) has produced another brilliant piece, this time an analysis of the illogical and disconnected-from-reality perspective of other journalists, and how they attempt to rig elections by means of labels they apply to politicians.  This time, the subject is their inability to grasp the possibility that Elizabeth Warren might have a chance if she should happen to run for President, and why.

Some excerpts:

The ball got rolling this week with a massive feature in the New Republic. Written by Noam Scheiber, it's about the potential threat to presumptive 2016 favorite Hillary Clinton ("Congressional Republicans have spent months investigating [Hillary] like she already resides in the White House," writes Scheiber) posed by a would-be "populist" candidacy of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Scheiber's basic point is that voters are really pissed about the economy and the behavior of big banks, and that Hillary, who along with her husband have been serial gobblers of Wall Street money and finance-industry water-carriers since before House of Pain released "Jump Around," may in 2016 have something to fear from Warren, a candidate who has built a career pointing out what total assholes the Clintons' chief financial backers are.

Warren, Scheiber writes, is so far out of the political mainstream on the finance issue that she was once willing to submarine a Banking Committee hearing by violating longstanding Beltway decorum – an unwritten rule in which members of Congress may "rant and rave at length, but generally abstain from humiliating appointees, especially from their own party."

The reference here was to the YouTube-famous moment when Warren "humiliated" the heads of regulatory agencies like the OCC and the Fed by simply asking them about the last time they took on any of the world's biggest financial institutions (hint: none of them could remember). ...

So far, so good.  Warren sounds like a person to take seriously, although Scheiber has tarred her with the "populist" label, a term which I've been seeing tossed about lately as if it has some pejorative meaning never fully spelled out, and I admit that I have not bothered to try to find out what they have intended by use of the term (knowing its history myself and being capable of making up my own mind without the media's linguistic revisionism), but I have noticed it.  But wait.  The story doesn't end with Scheiber's article:

This piece instantly inspired a slew of pooh-poohing editorials, including a weirdly insulting and premature Slate rebuttal ... and a correspondingly dismissive blog yesterday in the New York Times by the Gray Lady's cardboard conservative, Ross Douthat. ...

Most annoyingly, all three use the term "populist" with varying degrees of derisiveness, describing public anger on the finance issue as "maniacal," based on "passions" and an impractical starting point for a candidate looking for an angle to capture a national election ...

Aha, Matt points out this use of "populist" and begins to explain what these writers mean.  He continues:

Weigel went so far as to say that voters who are seeking a populist alternative for president should wake up from their impractical, "dreamy" aspirations and get over making a presidential race a "test kitchen for policy change." ...

The latest linguistic fad is to describe a candidate as being prone to making "populist appeals," a concept nearly as nuts as that ostensible single horizontal line of all possible beliefs. Only in the Beltway do they have to come up with a special term to describe the inexplicable (to them)  phenomenon of a politician who advocates for his actual constituents, instead of just whoring along the usual career track like everyone else. ...

I do so appreciate this bit, not only for the light which Taibbi shines on this new fascination with labeling some political figures as "populists," but also for his reference to the False Dilemma of the single horizontal line continuum which has obscured discussion of ideologies both economic and political (to say nothing of cultural, social, religious, and so on), by attempting to reduce everything to a Bifurcation Fallacy in which everyone can be categorized as "Left" or "Right" (with a tenebrous "Middle" never fully understood or explained satisfactorily, nor given much credence), and in which "Liberal" is almost invariably conflated with "Left" and "Conservative" with "Right."  To describe such a False Dilemma as "simplistic" does not even begin to encapsulate the trouble with the limited (and limiting) paradigm.  But this is a matter for another time, and I'll eventually post my as-yet-unfinished article on the subject, wherein I shall go into greater detail as to why this Black-and-White Thinking is harmful.  The article continues:

This time around, though, campaign reporters may be surprised to discover that this very typecasting language now mostly just pisses off your more alert and attentive media consumer ...

I have no idea if Warren will run, or if she'd win if she did. She has my vote, but that's beside the point. What's interesting right now is how consistently offensive the media's analysis of her "populist" approach has been.

Washington leaders and the pundits they hang out with have been living for so long in a world where elected officials don't make decisions based upon what's right for the public that they now automatically assume that any politician who does is either up to something, or has some kind of deep-seated character flaw/mental defect.

There's a lot more, but I cannot provide the full text here.  I simply cannot praise this article enough.  This is Taibbi at his finest.  Yes, he tosses a few ad Hominem characterizations into the mix, but it's excusable (at least this time around, although it has not always been so in some of his past articles);  it would be a challenge indeed to discuss some of this without referring to at least a few people as "morons."  And what's more, if he has demonstrated that they have been being foolish (and he has at least provided some evidence of this), his use of "morons" is entirely justified (possibly even to the point of these insults not being examples of fallacy;  not every "insult" is an Abusive ad Hominem, even in Philosophical discussion, if cause has been shown for use of such terms).  Of course, Logic is not the standard by which political discourse in this society measures itself (more's the pity);  it's mostly Rhetoric, and Matt Taibbi has managed to elude much use of the sophists' preferred discipline this time around and still make his points perfectly clear.

Anyway, here's the full article, which I urge you to read in its entirety:
Campaign 2016: The Dumb Season Starts Early

Related (from Jim Hightower's Commentaries):
Peeking under the Big Top at this year's three-ring election circus

Update/Related (again from Jim Hightower's Commentaries):
Wall Street warns Democrats: Avoid Populism!

Kierkegaard, the DSM, Autism, and Spiritualism

From Advances in the History of Psychology:

The December 2013 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Included in this issue are articles that explore the magazines produced in Irish psychiatric hospitals, the nature of DSM classification, and the history of autism.

Read more (and get the link):
New Issue of History of Psychiatry: DSM, Autism, & Hospital Magazines

Monday, November 18, 2013

Anti-Trans Violence Has Continued

From The Transadvocate:

Just a week after the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) backed coalition turned in over 600,000 signatures to repeal protections for trans children in California, a trans student was caught on tape fighting for her life as a group of bullies attacked her. PJI is the ex-gay organization that recently bullied a Colorado trans kid to the brink of suicide. The attack comes days after a California genderqueer student was set on fire for wearing a skirt.

School officials say that the assault was the result of bullying. Police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. The trans student had reported the bullying just days before the incident occurred. Sources claim that the trans student pushed an abusive cisgender student away from her which is when as many as 3 cisgender students attacked.

Read more:
Another California trans student attacked, trans community responds: #JD4PJI

From KGO-TV ABC 7 News:

 HERCULES, Calif. (KGO) -- A disturbing scene at a Bay Area high school was caught on cellphone video, showing a transgender student in the middle of a fight with several other students.

It happened at Hercules High School, where administrators are hoping that talking about it will lead to heightened awareness and greater tolerance on campus.

It may appear to be mutual combat in that video, but school officials say that fight was a direct result of bullying. Police and school officials are investigating it as a possible hate crime. ...

 School officials say the transgender student initiated the physical contact, but only after she was verbally assaulted.

"After being under stressful situations day after day of being teased and talked about, obviously at some point you're going to explode," said Charles Ramsey with the West Contra Costa School Board.

The transgender student complained to school administrators about being bullied just two days ago and a warning was given to the other students involved.

"They were told knock it off and then something transpired yesterday afternoon," said Adam Taylor with the West Contra Costa School District.

Read more:
Hercules transgender student verbally harassed before fight

SuccubaSuprema writes:

The local Fox affiliate (KTVU Fox 2) has a different spin on this (not surprisingly), alleging that the transgirl "attacked" the bullies.  So now pushing someone away from you is "attacking."  Got it.  Oh, wait.  Yeah, that's not what most people would call it.