You Perv, You!

“You are a sexual deviant. A pervert, through and through. Now, now, don’t get so defensive. Allow me to explain.”

Jesse Bering: Perv – The Sexual Deviant in All of Us

What is Jesse Bering’s Perv about?

To put it plainly, the Perv explores the normalcy of what we perceive as abnormal in sexual behaviour and/or desires and it takes abnormal from the equation.

One of the best covers ever shows even more plainly what the book is about. Imagine yourself reading this book on a bus and you’ll get what it’s all about.

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Why I liked the Perv?

Bering uses documented paraphilias (a whole bunch of them) to illustrate the impossible malleability of human sexuality. He cites numerous studies, and describes practices of curing paraphilias and homosexuality throughout history. He does this in a way that made me completely numb to the word “normal” – the word I have learnt to detest because it is usually coupled with unspoken bias.

I’ve always felt that, as long as no one is harmed physically or psychologically, the “anything goes” principle should be applied. My belief, I have to admit, was tested throughout the book, but I concluded my reading experience with: I do not have to be able to internalize it to accept it.

The scientific reconstruction (or deconstruction?) of what we perceive as “natural” and “normal” is what made me fall in love with sociology; the impassionate approach to things people feel strongly about but fail to explore with a cool head. Perv might seem light on occassion, but the cool is always there.

Why I did not like Perv enough to give it five stars?

It’s easy to read (and like) a book which pretty much tells you you’re right. Despite those parts which tested my open-mindedness, reading this book felt like a friendly pat on the back. “You’re so evolved in your thinking! So cool! Here, have this study which proves you’re right.” This, of course, has nothing to do with the quality of the book itself, but I feel it dulled my ability to be objective and it put the book at 4.5 stars.

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While I honestly enjoyed Bering’s witticisms and puns and I found it very pleasing to laugh hysterically at his sarcastic commentary, at times I found it to be a bit too much – bordering on judgemental. Here comes the illogical part of my four-star review. Part two. I love a bit of nonPC humour. I do. But I could not stop myself from thinking about an imaginary person; let’s call him John Smith.

John decided to pick up the Perv. John is ok with gay people. I mean, he’s still struggling to abandon the “let them do what they want behind a closed door” maxim. But he’s trying because his best friend in the world turned out to be – gay. I do not see John making it through the first chapter of the book.

Yes, this book has been written for a specific target audience. The cover and the title make it blatantly obvious and the way in which it is written only serves to confirm it. And yes, there are probably books out there intended for the audience to which our John gravitates to. But hey, it’s my review. And even though I play pretend to being objective, I perceive the term much in the same way I perceive normalcy. So there.

P.S. Let’s not forget the possibility (or rather probability) that I’m underestimating John and overestimating the delicacy of his sensibilities. Perv might have given me a pat on the back, but I can’t pretend that I hold no bias.

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5 Freak-out Films

Movies, books, TV shows… Even those which seem as nothing more than mindless entertainment, if positioned properly within a life-cycle, can leave an indelible mark. Maybe it is not the dictionary definition of experience (every language should have a word equivalent to vicarious, btw), but it is nonetheless something you’ve been through. As with any and all experiences, the effect often depends on how much of yourself you put into the process, but sometimes you simply have no choice.

I believe I would not be who I am today if I haven’t read certain books at a certain point in my life. The same goes for movies. The best examples are probably Star Wars and Star Trek which have shaped the way my imagination works in space. However, when I am tasked with imagining a robot, the first thing that pops up is that very chic guy from the Forbidden Planet.

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I was prompted to write a post about movies which freaked me out by the recent release of the live action Ghost in the Shell and the first IT trailer.

Think. Which movies freaked you out so much you still shudder when you think of them? (NOTE: I’m not talking about Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo).

1. Stephen King (beyond time)

Long before I even knew what a Stephen King was, I developed an epic distaste for clowns, and I never managed to develop a balloon fancy – something which most kids seem to have had at one point or the other. Sewage and drains have held no appeal for decades due to fear of floating. Needless to say, there is Misery and Kathy Bates who decided to use a sledge hammer and mash Jimmy’s legs. No blood. No gore. And I was physically sick. The fact that both books were disturbing on a whole other level is a matter for a different post.

2. Enemy Mine (1987)

Some years ago Boyfriend Mine and I were discussing 80s and 90s movies and he mentioned Enemy Mine at which point I had an epiphany because I realized that he was talking about one of THE movies.

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In this movie, one of the main characters is an alien, which is in itself perfectly normal. Now this alien, who I’d considered a dude, turns out not only not to be a dude but to be pregnant, because it’s “that time”. I think this movie was a major step on my road to realization that being different is cool, that you just need to try and understand and accept those differences.

Jurassic Park paraphrased it nicely in 1993: “Life finds a way”. Then Feyerabend expanded on it: “The only principle that does not inhibit progress is: anything goes”, after which Le Guin pretty much nailed it (as she usually does, the vixen): “The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.”

3. Waterland (1992)

I’ve had disturbing dreams for years. Sometimes I thought those were caused by repressed memories. Then one day, some years ago, I stumbled upon Waterland on TV. It would seem that it is not very good to watch it when you’re 7 or 8 because it causes serious mental scarring. I’d thought there was something seriously wrong with me. Ok. It’s possible that there is something very wrong with me, but at least I know a part of it was caused by Waterland.

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I really don’t want to go into the specifics because to date I prefer not to think about those.

4. Monster (2003)

Back in early 2000s when I watched Monster I decided that I am done with drama, tragedy and “difficult” movies. I decided nothing is worth the misery and anguish, no matter how good or how true it was. I think it took me a month to recuperate from the desolation and hopelessness of the world and “human” beings depicted in this movie. This one really f#$%&d me up.

5. Ghost in the Shell (1995)

I’ve saved this one for the end because it might debunk the tentative claim I have made about not being crazy. I’ve had this dream when I was in high school. It was all cyberpunk-y and totally cool. It was one of those that stick with you because it’s as realistic as it is improbable. And there I am, walking around town and I notice a DVD of something called Ghost in the Shell. Mind you, this was before I was into anime and all things Japanese (now you’re thinking about hentai, aren’t you?). The moment I’ve noticed the cover I knew that was what I’ve dreamt about. It was extra weird. The conviction that I’ve dreamt a movie that someone actually made. Now, I’m a rational person and I’m aware that it is possible that this was the same situation as with the Waterland. But I could not recall ever having seen Ghost in the Shell and the weirdness of that moment, the certainty of that particular déjà vu still disturbs me.

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I will, however, like to end this one with a hearty recommendation: I, Daniel Blake. I cannot remember how long has it been since I’ve seen a movie so beautiful and so heartbreakingly painful. A masterpiece.

 

Homo Mensura

The Flanders Panel
Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Part of the infamous and no-longer-neglected Mini Book Club (featuring moi and Lukre)

Throughout most of the effort of completing the Flanders Panel, I genuinely hated the thing. I despised its inability to give depth to its characters, its inaction and unnecessarily long-winded philosophical musings. Reading it was a horrible experience. Truly, an excruciating feat. There’s nothing happening in this book. There are characters which talk a lot about what’s happening (which is nothing). It’s a jumbled mess of art, chess and dime-store philosophy which only dabbles in mystery.

But (I’m still having difficulty accepting there’s a but!), having completed it, it seems that the objective suckiness of the book has been misplaced by what I have decided it was lacking,

My participation in the recreation of the story has rendered it not-so-horrible. My irritation with the lack of proper emotional response of the characters to the atrocities in the book has, inadvertently, infused them in my mind with exactly that. Even though the flat protagonist Julia has failed to be appalled and heart-broken, by noticing her failure and purely by thinking about how she should have felt, I have somehow redeemed this bad piece of writing. This does not happen often, and I don’t know why it happens with some books, while not with others, but I ended up not giving a one-star review.

I’m a bit distraught by this, but at the same time I love it because it reflects that which I love about books – the words they contain and the stories they tell are subject to endless interpretation of the reader and how much that reader dedicates himself or herself to the process. The whole process is so delectably unstable and open – beautiful.

As I usually do, I rummaged through Goodreads in search of positive reviews which only confirmed that we only think we are reading the same book because it has the same content.

The Flanders Panel still sucks, tho. It’s one of those books that should have been good, because it has all the ingredients. However, as we all now, it’s crucial to know just what to do with those ingredients.

One damp afternoon, Arturo Perez Reverte sat down at his usual table in the quasi-artistic cafe El Museo, somewhere on the way from La Navata to Madrid. Quasi-artistic because its clientele comprised of art enthusiast and connoisseurs. Salvador Dali, who would meet his demise in January next year, never sipped absinth in the dim, smoke-infused interior while pondering the finer nuances of artistic expression.

Arturo was looking through the newspaper he found lying languidly on the table. He looked up briefly when the waiter inquired of his beverage of choice.

“Gin”, he replied, smoothing out his moustache, “with a twist of lemon, if you please.”

He went back to the newspaper, stopping at the art section. Apparently, there was a possibility of Spain housing the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.

August Thyssen, the founder of the Thyssen family’s financial empire and a passionate art collector would not be found in El Museo, Arturo thought, without malice or envy. He liked El Museo. He liked the reproductions which hung on the wall and the quiet discussions about art and an occasional game of chess which included more pensive stares than actual moves on the board.

The lanky waiter set the lemony gin on the table with a polite word or two, prompting Arturo to look up and smile. His smile froze beneath his moustache when his eyes caught a game of chess being played under the reproduction of the Arnolfini Portrait.

Being one of those art enthusiasts, he had a vague idea about the Flemish school and Van Eyck, but his knowledge of the 15th century was far from vague. All those bits and pieces of information, some larger, some smaller, coagulated in his brain to form an idea that will take the form of The Flanders Panel.

The Best Productivity App

This post will be about the best productivity app ever – Any.do. People I work with know just how much I love this app. I think they might know it all too well. Note, only one of my co-workers actually installed it and is using it, which I consider my personal (and professional) failure. I have tried out pretty much every to-do app there is, and this is the only one which met all of my finicky requirements – basically when it comes to any app, I can tolerate only one thing that bugs me. Any.do has zero.

Why do I like it?

General app observations

  1. No ads

I hate ads. Hate them (if they don’t serve an actual purpose, which they rarely do). I don’t care if the app if free. I want those ads to fuck off and leave me alone. That’s why the “no ads” feature of the app is no. 1. Sometimes (veeeeery rarely) you’ll be offered an option to buy the full app for a discount or something, but it does not interfere with the reason why this app exist – and that’s productivity. The “buy the premium version” is not constantly visible – you have to search for it in the section of the app you (I) never use.

  1. It’s pretty

Superficial, you say? Irrelevant? No, I say. It’s no.2 thing among general requirements the app needs to fulfil in order to stay on my smartphone. Come on, if I’m going to use it every day and look at it, the least it can do is look good, right? Right.

  1. No “I could buy the premium version” thoughts

I’ve never considered buying the full version. Yeah, it has some cool shiny features, but I do not need them (see no.1 and no.2 on the list).

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I’ve discovered (after finding a victim who responded positively to: You really should install Any.Do) that the option to share tasks is limited in the free version . Now, the support.any.do says:

  • Regular users can share one task while Premium users can share an unlimited amount of tasks.

However I currently have two shared tasks, and I have previously shared some tasks, so I’m not sure about the limit. Btw, is it really correct to say “amount of tasks” shouldn’t it be “number of tasks”?

(I’m currently exploring the “share list” option.)

  1. Works on my computer and tablet perfectly

A perfectly functional and good looking extension for chrome is available, which makes it much easier to follow your tasks. The app available at the Windows Store (I think that’s its name) is also usable.

  1. It’s simple stupid

There is no useless feature in this app. None. It doesn’t offer a million of useless options which make the app which makes you feel like using the app is a task in itself.

  1. Widget in the Today View

For an app to fall into the “productivity” category, in my book it has to have a widget available for the Today View. I start my day by opening the Today View, checking out the weather, seeing what’s next on my calendar and seeing if there’s any interesting words of the day on Merriam Webster and The Free Dictionary. Of course, this includes seeing which tasks I have to complete that day and which ones I might postpone. Because a good productivity app has to also allow you to procrastinate.

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Functionality

Any.do gives you everything you need; nothing more and nothing less.

  1. do@any.do

The number of shit e-mails I get is immeasurable, those e-mails with minor tasks which I can do with my eyes closed, using only my left thumb. Those bitches are the worst because it’s so easy to forget about them. That’s why I forward them to do@any.do, I edit the subject and they appear on my to-do list. The text of the e-mail is available in the notes section of the task, so I don’t have to dig through my inbox once the task is on my immediate agenda. Awesome feature. Love it. Thinking about marrying it.

  1. No proliferation

If you have a task which requires you to do several additional things, you can add subtasks and notes to it. I like to keep my to-do list clean and unencumbered because I don’t want to see my to-do list in the morning and decide to off myself rather than going to work. Of course, you organise your tasks in lists – I have a separate list for each of my clients and for bigger projects and campaigns. There’s an option of adding photos and files and what not to individual tasks, but I have rarely used this.

  1. Procrastination

Any.do allows you to procrastinate, which is a very important thing in my book. You can schedule your tasks and you can nicely push them back if you they don’t require your immediate attention. The fact that there is a desktop version of the app helps fine tuning the art of procrastination.

  1. Badge

This is the only app on which I tolerate badges because they remind me that I tasks to complete and it tells me how many there are for the day. Yeah, sometimes it freaks me out, but it also helps me to say on my toes. The “No proliferation” part is what allows me to stay reasonably sane.

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What about Android?

I use Any.do mostly on my iPhone, so I’ve decided to give it a go on Android, just to see how it compares. It’s pretty much identical. I like the fact that the Android version separates subtasks from notes and you can follow how many subtasks you have left. As much as I can remember, most Android phones don offer badges, which is a big minus for me in this case. I’m sure there are more differences, however I will not find out before publishing this post because Googling it would be like cheating.

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Shape without form, shade without colour

I was considering writing something really profound and revealing. I’d reconsidered. I’m not very good at written honesty. It bugs the shit out of me.

I wish I just could, you know, rip myself apart on a piece of paper or in a Word document. It’s an itch I cannot bring myself to scratch. I used to do it – for my eyes only – but that’s shit. If you write something and no one reads it – it’s like it didn’t happen. It’s like that famous story about a tree which fell and no one heard the poor thing. If I fall, I want people to hear about it.

It doesn’t have to be a bang, I’ll be satisfied with a whimper.

This is the part where I stare at the screen, willing myself to do the brave thing. To spill my guts, idiomatically. The wall in my brain refuses to cooperate though, because I cannot, I will not write down something I don’t have the balls to publish.

Am I afraid to put things in writing because I know that once you infuse emotional reality with linguistic structure you’re forced to face the truth? Probably.

Maybe I just prefer it that way. Uncondensed and unbound, wreaking everyday havoc, making life more fun and exciting. Yawn.

I keep searching for a way to structure my life in a way which will stop me from thinking about all the glorious ways I could set fire to the flimsy reality I cling to.

Title courtesy of T.S.Eliot 

I Cannot Bitch

Expect the unexpected is not exactly what comes to mind when you’re looking for a frivolous summer read. It most certainly is not something you expect to be applicable to a book titled Lord of Scoundrels with such a cover (urgh).

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And yet… Mind. Blown. My mind is also blown by the fact that my mind was blown. So, Mind Blown Squared.

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Lord of Scoundrels (praise the Lord, it’s not Lord of Rakes!) is 171 pages long (short?) and on each page shit happened which I did not see coming. I’ve never read a romance which felt like a thriller – the suspense was killing me because I just could not foresee how things would unfold.

I’m still shocked by this book. It’s fun, intelligent and witty, well-written with awesome protagonists who just go around doing stuff protagonists in a book of this sort are not supposed to do.

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I have nothing to bitch about. I cannot bitch about Jessica Trent’s ineptness. I cannot bitch about idiotic and unnecessary sex scenes. I can hardly bitch about long-winded descriptions of characters’ appearance and/or attire. I cannot bitch about dimwitted dialogue nor rudimentary language skills. I could try to bitch about the presence of an actual plot, but in truth the only thing I can bitch about it the fact there is nothing to bitch about.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go and find out if this book is an aberration of cosmic proportions or something Loretta Chase does as a matter of course.

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Danger Will Robinson

The first thing Will Robinson does upon hearing these words? He reluctantly, but unmistakably walks towards Danger. Will does not want Danger, not really. He wants to be ensconced in the embrace of safety.

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Now I should write that I have often wondered what it was that pulls people towards danger, but I have not. It is not a mystery. Not to someone who takes the safe road, who does what is expected, who has an unhealthy penchant for control (colloquially – a control freak).

I do not like unforeseen circumstances. I like stuff to fall into neatly arranged brackets. Fitting perfectly.

I also hate it.

Every single time I do the right thing, every single time I do what is expected I actually feel like puking. Physically sick.

It’s really ridiculous, having the compulsion to control everything, do what is right and having an unearthly desire to fuck everything up just to see what happens. Just to see how it feels standing atop the smouldering ashes of what was.

It’s been a while since I took a sledge hammer and applied it to everything that I am, everything that I believe I should be.

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Yes, please.

I did not weep for Charlie, I wept for myself

Flowers for Algernon, 1958
Daniel Keyes

I knew what was coming. It was only a matter of time. Despite brief bursts of optimism, there was nothing to look forward to save hopelessness. Somewhere around page 220, my vision began to blur. Having reached page 238 I was sobbing desperately.

Flowers for Algernon has left me raw; nerves exposed to the harsh elements. It’s the heightened awareness that makes Algernon such a thrilling story to read. Even the sense of despair bears a bitter-sweet quality that I cannot really explain.

One of my greatest fears has always been the fear of losing my mind. I have never had nor will I ever have the mental prowess of Charlie Gordon, but I cherish my mind and my judgment, as flawed as they are, beyond everything else. The idea of losing that freaks me out. Not the idea of being without it, but the idea of that interim period of knowing you cannot understand or think the way you used to – that limbo in which you remember what you were and could do, but cannot reproduce it.

I did not weep for Charlie. I wept for myself, I wept because of the eventuality of decay.

All the faults I have found in Algernon disappeared on those last pages where it is impossible not to see a glimmer of your own future. Keyes finishes the story right at the point when it hurts the most.

It’s a strange sensation to pick up a book you read and enjoyed just a few months ago and discover you don’t remember it. I recall how wonderful I thought Milton was. When I picked up Paradise Lost I could only remember it was about Adam and Eve and the Tree of knowledge, but I couldn’t make sense of it.

 

 

Why Does the Universe Hate Aaron Sorkin?

I really don’t know, I hope someone knows the answer, so I decided to put it out there. But this isn’t a post about Aaron Sorkin (not entirely). This is a post about Steve Jobs. Not the man. The movie.

The movie is truly amazing. Loved every moment, was sorry to see it end. I loved its structure and its symmetry. I loved the fact that Sorkin’s dialogue still plays out like the best fucking action scene you’ve ever witnessed, making you sit a little closer to the edge of your seat. I love the fact that Sorkin’s dialogue always leaves victims.

The fact that the life of a complex man was summed up into four words blows me away.

I don’t care about the truth about Steve Jobs. I don’t care about which part of the movie was true to the life of the man. It shouldn’t matter. You do not need to recreate someone’s life to tell a story about the man who lived it.

There is one thing wrong with this movie. Michael Fassbender. Don’t get me wrong. He was good. But he could not turn the sexy off. He tried. He failed.

And there’s another thing wrong with the universe:

Who is Jeff Daniels?
It’s the guy from Dumb and Dumber who’s not Jim Carrey.” – still the easiest way to answer.

It’s my mission to make it: “He’s that guy from the only show  Sorkin managed to finish.

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Grey & Steele Do Hollywood

To say that I am not a fan of the 50 Shades of Grey (book) would be an understatement. Still, I’ve watched the movie. Call it masochism or using every opportunity to get self-righteous, but there, I did it.

The movie transfers the book to the screen almost perfectly. Dialogue swerves left and right with no rhyme or reason (reminded me of The Room on more than one occasion). The motivation of the characters is completely mysterious and baffling and the effect does not seem to have absolutely anything to the with the cause.

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Dakota Johnson is perfect as Anastasia Steele. She has that clueless look about her and she stares stupidly at Christian just the way I’ve imagined it while reading the book. Dakota’s Ana is flustered, all over the place. At one point she’s all for some power play, and then she’s this empowered woman who will not be pushed around.

Y so funny?
Y so funny?

Jamie Dornan is a decent Christian Grey because throughout most of the movie he lacks definition (not talking about his muscle tone, that’s acceptable) and he seems to be a guy controlled by an invisible string and not by any recognizable human desires or emotions. He fails at a couple of instances and exhibits smidges of a third dimension, but not enough to diminish the adherence to the book. He’s also good in showing that one of the most important parts of Grey’s personality is actually a joke to him, even though it causes great social and emotional pain. For instance whenever he asks Anastasia to obey him, he slips in a smirk or something, showing that he doesn’t really mean it that way.

One thing that the movie does better than the book is sex. But that really isn’t difficult. However, even in the movie there’s no chemistry between the protagonists and the hotness level is pretty much down there with the one in the book (minus the need to answer the question: What he fuck? Does she have three legs or something?).

Maybe the biggest fault with the adaptation is the fact that we don’t get an opportunity to experience the rich internal life of Anastasia Steele where things like Holy crap! and Holy cow! come into play during intercourse. I think that they should have introduced a third character (the movie just pretends to have more than two characters, just like the book) called Inner Goddess. Imagine that! Anastasia and Christian are talking and …. PUFF! Inner Goddess appears and does some idiotic dance.

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All in all, 50 Shades of Grey, the movie, is all it can be. If you don’t agree, consider this:

It was based on a book which was based on an AU fanfiction (partly written on a mobile phone) about the characters from young adult novels about glittering vampires and werewolves, whose main protagonist has a blank stare and is unable to close her mouth.  

Blackberry is mightier than the sword
The Blackberry is mightier than the sword

So, haters gonna hate, but if you were given a job to make a movie which was supposed satisfy millions of fans, this is how you would do it. Myself, I’d have probably hired James Spader to play Mr. Grey, having in mind that me being in charge of making any movie is as likely as James Spader rejuvenation.

One good thing came from this experience – I remembered that I haven’t seen The Secretary in a while and I remedied that immediately. You should too.

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