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Servalan

The last couple of weeks I’ve been watching my way through the four seasons of classic 1970s British science-fiction TV show, Blake’s 7. I’m sure I watched at least one episode—Series C, Episode 10’s Ultraworld—when I was a kid, but only one scene in that, where Cally is about to be fed into the gargantuan brain, I remember; that and the theme music. All the rest is as if I’m seeing it for the first time. I remember Blake and Avon of course, and the Liberator, and naturally Servalan, whom I think is the most perfect sociopathic villain I’ve ever seen, in TV, film, or book, sci-fi or otherwise. Villa also is familiar, as are Cally and Jenna, though Dayna I seem to have forgotten, despite her being also one of the best roles.

I’ve been watching it while paying attention to the new Doctor Who, the delightfully foul-mouthed Scot Peter Capaldi, who has caused some renewed interest in another show from my childhood, though the quality of the previous Doctor’s seasons have been fairly dismal and by comparison to Blake’s 7, well, really there’s no comparison. Blake’s 7 is to TV sci-fi as Bladerunner is to cinema.

Anyway, here’s an image of Servalan chained to a basement wall while offscreen Avon discovers he’s been betrayed for years by the only person he ever trusted. It’s superb, perverse, morally questionable fiction often as good as the best of Iain Banks, and amidst all the current rebooting of old TV shows and films it’s a real pity something as superior as this is languishing.

Servalan in Blake's 7 Series C, Episode 8: Rumours of Death
Servalan in Blake's 7 Series C, Episode 8: Rumours of Death

Reading: Lance Parkin, Lars Pearson — Ahistory: An Unauthorised History of the Doctor Who Universe

This has been on my reading pile for some time, and it’s also not really a book you read. For a start it breaches the heaviness barrier for comfortable falling-asleep-under; rather than a humourous plonk on the nose when on the nod, it breaks both wrists and goes for an eye-gouging. It’s probably the most massive book I have that is still book-ish and not ‘oversized’. It’s also a heroic endeavour of quasi-encyclopaedic form.

I tried reading it as a book, and, well imagine a hypothetical distant future, where humanity and all its contemporary traces ceased to exist, except for the discovery, Dead Sea Scrolls-like, of a tome purporting to be a genuine (though unauthorised!) history of the universe. And Bible/Koran/Torah-like within its first pages the birth of the universe is recorded:

The universe was created in a huge explosion known as the Big Bang … The Doctor claimed to have been an eye-witness at the origins of the universe … The evil force retained its sentience and spread its influence throughout time and space … One ship managed to travel to the dawn of creation … Monarch believed that he was God and would meet himself at the creation of the Universe … The Weeping Angels, also sometimes called the Lonely Assassins were as old as the universe … The Shadow, an agent of the Black Guardian, claimed to have been waiting since eternity begun …

I did a lot of skipping back and forth, reading the histories of the Daleks, Gallifrey, trying to piece together what I was reading into my memories of all the Doctor Whos I’ve seen – which is a reasonable amount: All of the new series, now finishing its 7th season; definitely some of the fourth and fifth Doctors, possibly some of the intervening ones also. It’s a book that assumes no small familiarity with the 50 years of television series, and knowing a bit of the radio plays and novels would be handy as well.

In comparison, my association with Doctor Who is quite minimal, so I did plenty of nodding and smiling and agreeing Lance Parkin and Lars Pearson know their subject and mostly I have no idea what they’re talking about. It was nice to dig up references to episodes I think I’ve seen, and see where they fit into the universe-spanning timeline they build the history around. Ahistory: An Unauthorised History of the Doctor Who Universe: very much one for devotees of the Doctor in all his regenerations, and probably one I’ll pull off the shelve periodically when I’m watching a new episode. I would like though – when I’ve shaved my reading list down somewhat – to find a work on the history both of Doctor Who and the people who made it.

Lance Parkin, Lars Pearson – Ahistory: An Unauthorised History of the Doctor Who Universe
Lance Parkin, Lars Pearson – Ahistory: An Unauthorised History of the Doctor Who Universe

Fest — 6 (and other things)

Another week gone, into the fifth week in Vienna, and yesterday it seemed we found the show, Ramadan is into the second week, and I discovered Orphan Black. Yesterday was also our last day for the moment in Kasino Theater. The ImPulsTanz party is there tomorrow, so we’ve scooted back across town to Volks Oper for the next days, hopefully moving back to Kasino early next week as it’s empty and it makes much more sense to be using that space seeing we’ve arrived at set-costumes-lights-sound stage (and with that, Giacomo is also arriving).

Today Ivo veers off to rehearse X-on, which is being performed on Sunday, so my morning and early afternoon is unexpectedly free. Another arrival later this afternoon, is Dasniya, who is teaching Yoga & Shibari this weekend and next week. Hopefully rehearsals will fit that I can turn up also.

The last week in Kasino, then. We’ve made and discarded so many scenes, found several endings and similarly discarded them. Sometimes an idea would work sublimely once and then each subsequent time become more and more forced. The script has been progressively hacked shorter, though still sits around eighty minutes, but for the moment it’s only one part of the third act that falls over. Still, it’s a reliable occurrence that when we get one problem scene sorted, it affects other scenes, usually in different acts requiring more surgery.

Yesterday, Christian Bakalov arrived and watched us run through the whole thing. We’d been working on some ideas all day for delivering the text in the third act in an especially grotesque manner, and somehow – perhaps the desperation of an audience of one – caused everything to fall into some kind of order that for the first time looked like a performance. A very intense, occasionally hysterical performance.

And speaking of performances, Tuesday I got to see Ultima Vez’ What the Body Does Not Remember. Twenty-seven years since its premiere and not looking dated, which is a marked rarity in dance. It was well-impressive also, much throwing around of selves in the way Garry Stewart does at ADT — actually it reminded me of his stuff quite a bit, though more if it was mashed together with mid-’90s Frankfurt Ballet. It was also not infrequently annoyingly heteronormative, which I expect from Wim anyway, but it’s still tiring to watch. I did wish though I’d had that kind of training when I was at VCA in Melbourne, instead of the American Modern (and occasionally Post-Modern) Dance fixation, which never interested me and has had no bearing on what I do (other than avoiding it). Oh, and the dancers were fucking insane, just bloody brilliant, and keeping up that relentless intensity till the end … most impressive, especially from the front row.

Another event in the week was running out of books to read. I finished off Iain Banks’ last one, The Quarry (haven’t blogged it yet), which led to the discovery of Orphan Black. This came about on Sunday courtesy the wonderful Charlie Jane Anders on io9 (yes, I somewhat regularly read this site, but to be fair, mostly I look forward to what Charlie writes), and in the comments was a mention of this series, referencing Torchwood, and seeing I’ve already worked my way through Arrow, I thought, OK, perhaps just one …

Ten episodes later (and four of them last night), and this is now my favourite show. The science is mostly accurate and well-done – far better than most – the ethical and moral issues are handled very cleverly, and the script, the acting … it’s not Game of Thrones, the  universe isn’t that large so it doesn’t require such a monstrous budget, but really it’s the best science-fiction show I’ve seen since Firefly. Better than recent Doctor Who episodes also (and filmed in Toronto!).

I’m especially enjoying it because the lead role goes to a female which is still – especially in science-fiction – depressingly rare, and the main supporting role to a beautiful, makeup-wearing, femme-butch gay boy, Felix. I don’t think I’ve seen a role like his that hasn’t either been written as a caricature or as tragic, especially in the last few years when everyone ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ on TV is trying so very hard to show how very much ‘just like you’ they all are, desexed and only interested in marriage. And he even has sex with a large, black bear of a man; he’s the best bent role since Captain Jack.

Back to Sarah/Beth/Alison/Cosima/Helena/Katja/Rachel/etc, she’s a clone so that explains that, and all the clones are played uncannily by one actor. It’s disconcerting, especially when one plays another, which happens often. Obviously I have a thing for Cosima, who is the best queer-ish female I’ve seen on TV, super smart and so sexy (and her lover Delphine also, and yes, this is the second decade of the 21st century, we see bed action!), and maybe it’s just me, but somehow I think her character, dress, mannerisms, glasses, is based a bit on Lana Wachowski.

Anyway, Ramadan is into its second week and I’m still performing it in a pretend way, fasting as much as I can, doing Iftar, reading some about Islam, and yes, it’s basically Christianity (in any of its forms) or Judaism with the names changed, and the adherents behave in much the same way, mindless fixatation on social policing, obsessional literalism, hegemonic absolutism, the usual amounts of misogyny, heteronormativity, xenophobia … religion, basically. Amidst all this pathetic dross is something beautiful, an attentiveness to life, to self, the people around one’s self, to the physical world, to the philosophy of being, to restraint, humility, care, to pleasure, to joy. Ramadan carries this within it precisely because it’s an act that’s been performed in a codified manner by billions of people for thousands of years, which is why just doing this at any old time doesn’t have the same weight; it’s the sense and awareness of social participation that makes it such a profound personal experience. It’s also caused me to cook far more diligently, seeing there’s only one chance in the day to stuff my mouth.

Off to rehearsal now.

Spent bits of the last weeks watching all of Firef…

Status

Spent bits of the last weeks watching all of Firefly. Wow, but that’s some of the best and beautiful sci-fi I’ve ever seen.

saturday tranny blogging

Back to what supernaut is really famous for (no, not this, or this, can’t you people clean up your smutty minds?), which is all things tranny, and having got up super-early on a Saturday, walked for an hour, did ballet, ate till I look pregnant, passed out in a food-induced coma, it’s time for tranny adventures on the internet.

Harisu’s getting married! I’ve blogged about her probably enough to seem like a stalker, but she also wants to adopt four children. Her partner is rapper Micky Jung.

刘炫怡 Liú Xùanyí from 广西 Guangxi, most recently famous for wearing lots of condoms is all over youtube, either posing for photoshoots, or getting interviewed on 哈虎网 haahoo.

Still strangling the internet bandwidth, more video. Helen and Betty of (en)gender were on Dr.Keith this week. Helen’s blog is one of my favourite, of what I guess you could call gender blogs, and I’ve been really moved by reading the excerpts from her new book, She’s Not the Man I Married. The interview (part 1 and part 2), is a funny – and sometimes scary – intimate look at two people who intellectually remind me of Judith Butler in the preface to Gender Trouble, in that cool New York way, and yet when living it, it’s not always so easy. But to see two people clearly in love who are making compromises so as to not lose that, is something very special.

harisu and micky jung
harisu and micky jung
刘炫怡 liu xuanyi
刘炫怡 liu xuanyi
betty and helen
betty and helen

i can’t feel my cock …

Champagne Bikini girls in Letraset Tattoos on non-stop video. Which is pretty much what last night was all about, part celebration of the China gig, part filming of Mercy45 by Emile in his swank über-minimal apartment, part TV-party with beer and chips and the fine array of Suisse confectionary which can turn a washboard stomach into beached whale in under three hours.

Maybe there are photos but I didn’t take any, so it’s up to Emile to further sully the reputation of the internet on his blog. Besides getting a bit trashed, the highlight was laughing ourselves into seizures watching, in no particular order, Little Britain, Jam, and Emile live on The Price is Right, scaring the crap out of the asshole presenter, who really had no idea what to do when confronted with real talent, and just sweated in his pissy no-iron polyester suit.

So today in rehearsal was mostly, “ee ee eee!!!”, “I want that one!”, “I’m a Lady!”, and my all-time favourite, which has to be the best 10 seconds of telly in the history of everything, “waaaah!… I can’t feel my cock!”

jam
jam

the old man of hoy

It’s possible that on the one day off from dancing in the week I would be best served by lying on my arse, reading and eating chocolate, not getting out of bed if I can help it, and firmly avoiding the front door. My idea of fun was to slap down 26 francs plus a 20 minute walk to spend the day climbing in Europe’s most expensive indoor climbing centre. Bloody hell, it was only $NT150 in Taiwan (about 4 francs)…

The highlight was a slab, which really they don’t take seriously at the Kletterzentrum, preferring pseudo-limestone over-hanging pump-fests. But amongst the 11 climbs, variously overhung, long, straight dead vertical on-and-on (… and on … ) it was a miserably short 80 degree 6b slab on greasy slopers that made my day. Nothing like the patheticness a slab can reduce me to, to really make me happy.

Actually, the highlight was not pulling on multi-coloured bits of plastic surrounded by an unhealthy number of other people, which is not my idea of a perfect day endangering my own life. The highlight was the post-climb dinner and video-fest over a bottle of wine, and as it was the Orkneys being climbed upon, a dram to wash it down.

No over-pumped, well-dressed expensive-climbing-habit city dwellers here. Just crusty old guys on black-and-white television doing hip-belays, and following the leader-must-not-fall ethic of old trad climbers with cigarettes firmly wedged in mouths. Chris Bonnington and a bunch of others did reality TV in 1967 at the arse-end of a peat bog, making BBC 1 freight in several tonnes of technology to film their ascent by several routes of The Old Man of Hoy, a daunting sandstone sea stack that only looks as truly ominous and threatening as it is in grainy black and white.

Wierd old television, live via several microwave base stations to the viewing public of the BBC. They even had a plan in case someone wiped out and bounced on the rocks hundreds of feet below, and would have kept pumping it out live while the helicopter came in. Somehow I don’t think reality TV would do that today. Lots of dodgy looking pitons whacked in, plenty of unprotected funky moves that would never get replicated in a gym or in the current 1 meter between bolts world of sport climbing. Give me horrendous runouts that reduce me to a quivering blob, bad weather and skanky protection … think I’ll go to the Orkneys for winter.

old man of hoy
old man of hoy
route up the arete
route up the arete
old man of hoy from cliff tops
old man of hoy from cliff tops

middle sex

Amidst a long list of stuff I’ve missed in the last couple of weeks was this doco on Channel 4 in the UK by filmmaker Antony Thomas. Dunno if it’s gonna get screened on CCTV any time soon, though.

In the words of neurobiologist James Pfaus, ‘There are as many sexual orientations as there are faces. To suggest that the simple categories –male/female, heterosexual/homosexual –are adequate to describe the whole range of human sexuality is to ignore science and the evidence of nature.’

‘One thing we have to remember is that variation is the norm,’ says sexologist Professor Milton Diamond. ‘Biology loves difference. Society hates it.’

— Channel 4

middle sex
middle sex

Continue reading

babes in beijing

In 1989, Rachel DeWoskin arrived in Beijing fresh from university to work for an American P.R. firm. Two months later she was the slutty American hussy on one of China’s first soap operas, getting her gear off for 600 million people and doing her bit for cross-cultural relations. Most China stories are from blokes in suits doing the cross-border equivalent of a night in Wan Chai. Foreign Babes in Beijing, bookmarked by Tiananmen Square and the American bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade is a portrait of the other side.

Wang Ling played my love interest. He was unstoppably macho, six-foot-two, and chiseled, designed by producers and personal trainers to turn the tables on Hollywood stereotypes of wimpy Chinese men: Charlie Chans, inscrutable Orientals, and Asian Houseboys. My role was to play the exotic, mysterious femme fatale, relieving Eastern women momentarily of that chore. Jointly, Wang Ling and I would establish a contemporary counterpoint to a tense historical reality: that intercultural romances in China were primarily between Western men and Chinese women. There were 106.6 males for every 100 females in China in the 1990s, and no Chinese man liked to see beautiful marriage prospects plucked from the pool. But China could spare some of its most strapping men to foreign women. Chinese producers would not have dared show a Chinese women seducing a Western man on TV. It was safer to depict China penetrating the West.

— Foreign Babes in Beijing

Foreign Babes in Beijing
Foreign Babes in Beijing

artv

Anyone watching SBS late at night might wonder “what-the-fuck is Connex (or whatever the trains are called now) pushing?” when they see Daniel Crooks’ train rolling across the screen. Welcome to the world of artv. Commissioned for 2004: Australian Culture Now by ACMI and SBS Independant, 16 of Australia’s coolest artists make 30 bumps in programming that have to be the best thing to watch on the box this month. Besides the time-sliced Train no. 6, ex-PLA army artist Guo Jian animates one of his paintings for The Day Before I Went Away. Stay home and watch some tv, or wait until ACMI stream them.

Guo Jian – The Day Before I Went Away
Guo Jian – The Day Before I Went Away
Daniel Crooks – Train No. 6
Daniel Crooks – Train No. 6