Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dream: Love Hangover Nightmare

I just started researching the history of male circumcision, and discovered the only real instances of non-Jewish males being circumcised started in the Victorian Era... oh, and it went along with preventing masturbation. I will soon have more to add to my discussion of Victorian Self-Love.
As I was reading and deciding what to post I managed to start up a dripping nosebleed, which is funny if you've watched anime.

One of my friends showed me the following video the other day and that evening I promptly had a nightmare involving gay icon Zeb Atlas.

His arms look like they belong on one of those oddly-proportioned 10-inch X-Men action figures. And maybe that scares me because the arms broke off of those figures really easily--or maybe Magneto just wasn't well-suited for gladiator battles or being thrown down the stairs.

naughty memes - Even Magneto Doesn't Know
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So, anyway a guy who looked much like the man with action figure arms who cannot be saved by autotune showed up in my odd dream. I was taking some business-related class in a school surrounded by winding brick-paved roads, nice houses and massive amounts of cemeteries-- I should've known I was in trouble with all the cemeteries around. At this business event there I was--dressed in black--the bodybuilder and a lot of frumpy-looking business women in pastel suits who had creepy too-nice smiles. The guy was wearing a short-sleeved white dress shirt and a bowtie that mostly made me think he was trying to be Clark Kent, or Captain Hero, or just ridiculous. For some reason I did not find him to be a complete freak (some bodybuilders creep me out with their muscle bulginess--which is funny because long ago I worked with several bodybuilders), and mostly felt sorry for him because I figured he would go the way of the actions figures as my dreams are kind of rough on people and most of my action figures ended up with makeshift electrical tape casts holding their arms onto their bodies. I wasn't a very conventional doctor to my action figures...

hugh laurie
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So, back in the odd dream--after the class meeting was over I decided I would walk home--which was apparently several hours of walking. So, I walked the winding medieval roads through the suburbs which led to beautiful green hills that reminded me of pictures of Ireland. Then I arrived at a cemetery. It was the biggest cemetery I have ever dreamed up. It was all stone--no grass at all-- and it led up to a towering castle-like crypt. Conveniently, I was told that it was the "Vampire Castle" by the pale, skinny, nerdy guys who were dressed in blue jeans and black t-shirts, but wore giant gothy capes over their ensembles. I'm not talking about "Hey, mom look at the sweet cape I got at the Ren Faire" style, but more along the lines of the Death Eaters from Harry Potter--complete with ethereal energy following them around as well. Oh, or maybe they were like ringwraiths from LOTR without dead kings underneath their capes.
My first thought was This is such a stupid dream.
The "vampires" were trying to avoid the sun, but continued to walk in a circle around a obelisk in the middle of the broken crypt. I reveled in how pointless this was, and then the muscle guy showed up. The vampire kids hissed like cats and ran away. Muscle guy carried me out of the crypt and was certain he had just saved my life from the circle-walking dorks. I started to think that he looked rather sexy... Once that thought sunk in I worried about where this dream was going.
Okay, we're going to stop this train right before it gets to idiotic town...I'm just going to wake up now.
And I did.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Essay:The Unlikelihood of Murder in “The Tell-Tale Heart”

This is a paper I wrote for ENG 250 at Ohio University this past Spring Quarter. I wanted to post it for some friends to read and have no intention of researching this further. The page numbers go to a collection of Poe's works that I have, but you can ignore the numbers and just know that it all cites passages from Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart," and nothing more. Plagiarism is bad and naughty and I'd prefer that people not steal my shit, but that's the risk you run when posting online...and it's not like webpages I used to write for don't have the option of profiting from selling old articles that I wrote for them. Always read the fine print, kids.
The spaces between paragraphs don't mean different sections, but do differentiate between paragraphs...obviously.

The Unlikelihood of Murder in “The Tell-Tale Heart”

The narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart” is unreliable at best and more curiously possibly not doing any of the actions that he discusses. Using the Psychoanalysis approach and details within the story a reading of the text can be provided that not only discredits the narrator’s version of the story, but questions the truth of the murder that appears to haunt him. Looking at lines within the text the murder of the old man can be read as a work of an over-active imagination, or a dream, in the mind of a caretaker driven mad by the silence and isolation of being alone in a large house for an extended period of time.

The narrator repeatedly draws attention to the idea of madness. He mentions heightened senses multiple times, but mostly focuses on his hearing abilities being elevated. If he has been alone in the house while the old man is away in the country then the silence could appear to deepen over time and improve his hearing when he is alone. This degree of quiet and solitude could be the cause of his madness. During the story he alternates between being nervous and being calm. For example: “. . .very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am. . .” (317), “how calmly I can tell you the whole story.” (317), and “I have told you that I am nervous: so I am.”(319) Just this alternating between calm and nerves can paint him as being unreliable when telling the story.

During the actual act of the murder several items do not quite make sense. “I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him.”(319): this is the only physical act of the murder in this scene and it appears more of an inconvenience rather than a murder weapon. A bed heavy enough to kill someone is probably not light enough for one man to pull over the other person even if they are elderly. The nature of the old man’s murder is called into question because the parallel between the narrator and old man is brought forward. Before the murder the narrator claims that he and the old man both wait unmoving for an hour after being startled by the lantern. These movements are parallel and the narrator begins to project his own fears upon what he believes is the old man, “His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not.” This quotation also projects the narrator’s descent into madness as something that increased over time, and can make his representation of the events possible inaccurate.

The investigators states that “A shriek had been heard by a neighbor during the night. . .”(320) to which the narrator responds “The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country.”(320) In this section he reveals that he may have been dreaming and the old man may be away. To put an action with what the narrator’s possible dream and what the neighbors heard to the sequence of events that he believes led to the murder of the old man, “With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room.” (319) Using these three quotes the reality of the events around what the narrator believes happened involving the old man is drawn into question. Since this raises so many questions another question can be brought in as to why he appears to encourage the investigators to stay and talk, especially in the room where he believes the murder happened. Perhaps if this all happened in a dream triggered by his madness of silence then perhaps he desires the officers to stay and talk to fill the silence, but also to show that nothing is wrong with the room. He cannot cope with what he believes he has done and the content of the dream makes him nervous as the heartbeat sound returns.

While talking to the officers in the last two paragraphs the narrator takes notice of the heart-like noise. He discusses the acts of gasping for breath, talking quickly, pacing, swearing, raving and then moving his chair around. His obviously agitated state as he describes hearing the sound is not noticed by the officers. In this reading it is possible that the sound is only in his head, being his own heartbeat, and the increase in volume coincides with him becoming more physically agitated--thus increasing the noise—or by him imagining the ranting and raving within his own head. If he is carrying out these nervous behaviors and the officers pay no mind to it, then there is something amiss with their observational skills and they should not be on any police force. But, more likely, the narrator is raging within his own head, as the panic increases, so does his pulse and the increase in audibility of his own heartbeat. This is why the officers do not hear it.

Between the shifting moods, heightened sense and oddly paralleled events within the narrative the actual act of murder can be called into question. The only truth in the narrator’s account may be that the old man was away in the country, the narrator is alone in the house for an extended period of time which causes him to have heightened senses and the scream that the neighbors heard was that of the narrator shrieking during a dream in which he killed the old man, or screamed while fantasizing about killing an old man who was not there. While looking at details of the narrative and the psychological state of the narrator the larger story as relayed by him can be called into question.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Self-Love Victorian Style

Self-Love Victorian Style

I've been working on a research project this quarter involving normative Victorian views on masculinity (and especially how these ideals are subverted in Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray). In my research I have come across an interesting book entitled "Talk on the Wilde Side" by Ed Cohen. I was especially drawn to the chapter entitled "Taking Sex in Hand: Inscribing Masturbation and the Construction of Normative Masculinity." This isn't my first rodeo when it comes to odd Victorian health topics and I knew Victorians were pretty uptight about sex (even though some argue that the existence of a discourse on the subject shows an increase in openness), but I had not read about the reasoning for their opposition and fear of masturbation. The whole topic of health in the Victorian era always appears curious to me since the sanitation problems in the cities were rather abysmal. I guess they focused on what they thought they could control...like stopping young men from touching themselves. This was a rather proper-sounding posting, but from now on this piece will be interspersed with inappropriate euphemisms from the World Wide Wank.

Think of England--but not if you find England to be particularly sexy...

"Lie back and think of England" was a quote sometimes credited to Queen Victoria, but it was apparently part of the advice given to young brides when it can to the sexual desires of their husbands. Women were not supposed to enjoy sex as their great pleasures were supposed to come from having children and working in the home. Men, however, had sexual urges that apparently required the invention of table skirts to protect the modesty of especially attractive pieces of furniture from unwanted advances (this is according to a show I watched on the History Channel several years ago).

There was a double standard in existence though as the virginity of upper and middle class women was to be protected, but single and married men could expend their additional sexual energy on prostitutes from the lower classes, but not upon women from their own social standing. The practice of men purchasing services from prostitutes was generally allowed in society, but led to the spread of venereal diseases that probably didn't go over too well with their supposedly faithful wives. During the late Victorian era "Chastity Leagues" formed with the intent of men also pledging their chastity until marriage and promising their fidelity once married. The Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 protected women and girls further, but extended sodomy laws to criminalize any sexual contact between men even if everyone involved consented. Girl-on-girl action was excluded from this set of laws because women were not supposed to have sexual desire, and in a quote that I've heard was attributed to Queen Victoria, "Women would not do that sort of thing."

"Every Sperm is Sacred"

I know that Monty Python song isn't exactly from a satire of this time period, but that was the thought. Sperm should be used for reproduction, not entertainment purposes, and it should be used for the Empire! The mantra of the Victorian era was "self-control" and getting in touch with your manhood was not self-control. Young men were the future of their class and Empire, so wasting anything that could be used in reproduction was akin to the guy saying, "I hate the Empire." The middle-class had additional issues with their sons' reproductive abilities since they were a group formed upon their financial distinction from the poor, but not defined by blood as the aristocracy was. This meant that the middle-class sought to establish itself by creating their children in the appropriate image of their values of Christianity, industriousness and self-control.
In addition to religious, imperial and parental control over young men's interactions with their own bodies there were additional pressures from school and doctors. Schools encouraged lots of sporting activities that were meant to exhaust students so much that they wouldn't think of playing the organ. Victorians were big into the concept that how you looked on the outside was a representation of how your mind and soul were on the inside. This is why The Picture of Dorian Gray was such a scary book. Dorian did naughty things, but looked fantastically handsome and healthy. Also Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde shows this concept as well, since Mr. Hyde is representative of a lack of self-control and indulgence in violence he appears as a nearly animalistic figure (he's also considered obviously lower-class...but we won't talk about that right now).

So, charming the one-eyed trouser snake shows no self-control, a hatred of the Empire, a disrespect to family and disregard for class perpetuation. You're basically committing treason by this point. So a sense of shame should follow one around at all times, but what did the doctors have to say about it?
One a side note: It seems that visiting a lady of the evening was more acceptable than buggering your hand because at least there was a lady involved and the young man was being kind of productive... plus, everyone loves the pox, right?

You'll go blind--or end up mentally deranged

Self-abuse was the term coined to talk politely about going on a date with Mrs. Palmer and her five slut daughters and the possible medical complications of such activities. A self-abuser was viewed as mentally deficient, lazy, self-centered, and heading for a derangement as well as other physical ailments. So basically if you knew a lazy young adult who was apathetic and uninterested in perpetuating his Empire...or maybe he just preferred Art or Literature over physical fitness... yes, you guessed it, he's probably spending too much time getting his palm red. Although, there was never an appropriate level of that activity because it was tough to turn around a guy who was playing tug-of-war with the cyclops. Everyone around him must try to help him realize his errors though because eventually he may be more than lazy and apathetic; he could end up with just about any ailment you could ever have--not just carpel tunnel-- and he may spiral into a debilitating mental derangement. Victorians apparently thought Insane Asylums were the place for people who had trouble keeping their hands off themselves.
Not only mental illness and physical illness could be caused by this selfish sex act, but it could apparently KILL YOU!
A fun French picture book showing the degradation of a young man who spent too much time decongesting the snorkel...
Click for depraved pictures, or what passed for depraved in 1830

Look at that guy...unhealthy soul, unhealthy body, apparently... I'm still trying to figure out how you lose your teeth and cough up blood from wanking. I guess I can kind of understand the whole not being able to walk and red eyes...maybe. He was obviously playing too rough and has poor aim.

Anyway, since Victorian women apparently had no sex drive they didn't touch themselves and therefore did not have their own madness related to having a clam bake for one, but apparently just about anything else could drive a woman to madness (probably because she wasn't supposed to be doing those previously unmentionable things), but if her madness was self-abuse related, then, no one really talked about it like this because sexual desire was not supposed to be part of the proper feminine nature. Although, Victorian doctors had a cure for that hysteria...hysterical paroxysm. Yeah, the doctor's office was the best chance for an orgasm. Of course that was treated as a disorder, but I'll just share this article to pick up where I left off: Vibrators and Clitoridectomies: How Victorian Doctors Took Control of Women's Orgasms.