Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Man of Poop

The Supreme Court is ruled today on DOMA and Prop-8… but everybody is already talking about that.

SELF was last weekend, but my pack has already covered that, and I have little to add.  (vide posts by Sir Loki, Tebow, and Hunter)

My Owner dodged her cancer scare – turns out she only has a harmless dilated capillary.  Yay!  :D

No, no.  Today, I want to blog about something really, really important: Man of Steel.  I’ll try to make some greater social point here, or else maybe I’ll just be one more fanboy blogger venting his spleen.  We’ll see…

Okay, so if you haven’t been following the news, the new Superman movie has, by and large, been declared to be crap.  A big, stinky load of poo.  There seem to be three primary criticisms, all closely linked:
(1) The tone of the film is dark, gritty, monochrome… wildly inappropriate for the 4-colored Superman which people expect to be fun, joyful, uplifting… to feel like the sound of that classic John Williams score.  Da-dat-DUM!
(2)  The final action scene is a looooooong, boring, painfully drawn-out, ultra-ultra-violent, glibly 9-11 referencing, “orgy of mass destruction” in which literally thousands of people are needlessly killed.
(3)  Superman fails to be heroic.  He doesn’t even really protect people.

I’m not going to elaborate there, but I will point you to two reviews worth reading/watching.  This first is Mark Waid’s already-going-viral blog post.  Waid is one of the best Superman writers in the comics, and I think his take is spot-on.  (spoiler alert):

The second place I will direct you is the even better already-going-viral vlog (is that really a word now?) full-on, profane rant by Max Landis.  Landis really gets the Superman character, and he perfectly outlines what Superman really is and why ‘this ain’t it.’ (also contains spoilers):  

 Okay, now that we have that under our belt, let’s talk about Alex Ross and Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come.  In 1997, Waid and Ross wrote an absolutely outstanding comic that was a comment (equal parts scathing and hopeful) on the glut of ever-more violent “heroes” that were populating comics in the mid-to-late 90’s.  From Wikipedia: “This Elseworlds story is set in a future that deals with a growing conflict between "traditional" superheroes, such as Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Justice League, and a growing population of largely amoral and dangerously irresponsible new vigilantes, in many cases the offspring of the traditional heroes.” 

The major villain of the book is Magog, a satire of various Image and Marvel dark-n-bloody “heroes.”  When he finally confronts Superman he rails:  “You were afraid that I was the man of tomorrow. You were afraid of the future I represented… The world changed, but you wouldn’t. So they chose me. They chose the man who would kill over the man who wouldn’t…”

Dark Knight gave us the NSA-Batman tapping all of our cell phones, for our own protection of course, and conducting “enhanced interrogations” on mobsters by dropping them off fire escapes.  And Dark Knight Rises showed that Batman’s refusal to use a gun would have lost if Catwoman wasn’t willing to use a gun to shoot down the bad guy – so better not let them take our guns away (only our privacy).  I didn’t care for the politics of those films, but I loved the movies b/c they were well done and b/c that is Batman.  Batman is a very Hobbes-ian, rather Neo-con, somewhat fascist kind of character - a rich guy who beats up on the poor and the mentally ill.  That’s why his villains are so scary and his world is so dark – b/c it takes a dark and terrifying world to justify that kind of character (if such a justification is ultimately possible) - you have to live in constant fear to want a Batman around.

Now, look, I like Batman.  Batman is cool.  I’m very okay w/ a dark and gritty Batman.  But Superman is not Batman.  Superman isn’t dark and spooky.  Little kids run up to Superman when they see him.  Superman hugs little kids!  Superman is like Santa Clause… only w/ abs. 

(And if Warner Bros ever did bring those two together in one movie, the whole fun of it would be the conflict of how completely different these two men are.  It’ll be like teaming-up Dick Chaney with Mahatma Gandhi. These two will not get along.)

How sad is it that the day of the Kingdom finally Came… and rather than being there to stand up for the best in us against the dark, violent, Death Wish, Eastwood, 24, anti-heroes… now Superman has gone and drunk the killer Kool-aid?  That makes me very sad...

Okay, here’s my confession.  I haven’t seen Man of Steel.  I don’t plan on spending money on it.  Rather than sitting through 2.5 hours of a pseudo-Superman film I almost certainly won’t like, I think I’ll stay home and watch the Christopher Reeve movie again, which always makes me smile.  That scene where Superman flies down and rescues the kitten from the tree and gives the kitty to the little kid… who runs inside:
“Mommy, the cat was stuck in a tree and a man flew down and saved her.”
“What have I told you about lying!”  SMACK!

LOL.  I defy anybody not to love that.  :)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Enantiodromia in Zen and BDSM

In explaining BDSM, I often give Freudian explanations evoking the Id as the devil on our left and the Superego as the angel on our right. The Id is the reptile brain, interested in food and sex.  Can I eat it, or can I fuck it?  The Superego is the civilized part of us that says, “One does not behave like that.”  I suspect that Freud was onto something when he figured that all forms of eroticism are based on going against the superego – what is erotic is precisely what proper ladies and gentlemen do not do.  Giving expression to the Id, Steven King once wrote:  Sex will certainly continue to be the driving force in the horror genera… [and] much of the sex in horror fiction is deeply involved in power… where one partner is largely in control of the other…  [A] bug-eyed-monster or the mummy striding through the darkness… w/ the body of some lovely in its arms. Beauty and the beast. You are in my power.”

But for right now, let’s turn from Dr. Freud to his colleague Dr. Jung and think about BDSM and the shadow.  “Shadow” was a technical term for Jung, sort of related to Freud’s Id. To quote the Doc: “It is our own ‘dark side,’ characterized by inferior, uncivilized or animal qualities which the ego wishes to hide from others. Not wholly bad, but primitive and un-adapted.”  The shadow is our own inner Werewolf, so to speak – the animal within.  Maybe immoral… or maybe more accurately, amoral – not adapted to civilized life.

Noteworthy is that Jung also used the word “inferior,” which is also a technical term for Jung. It generally refers to the weaker functions in our personality. In Jung’s typology there are four cognitive functions which result in eight personality types.

Two of Jung’s functions involve acquiring info: intuition (time-focused) and sensing (space-focused).

Two of the functions involve processing info: thinking (analytical, abstract and step-by-step process oriented) and feeling (the big-picture, systems theory, composition/design – how it all fits together). (The thinking/feeling distinction was already present in the eighteenth century work of Goethe who wrote about the principles of Gesetz [law] and Gestalt [form], and later got echoed in Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintinace where he called it Classical vs. Romantic)

One of these four functions would be dominant in a person (though none would be absent), and to that Jung added his introvert/extrovert distinction and came up w/ his eight personality types:

Extrovert Thinking (scientists, engineers, economists)
Introvert Thinking (philosophers, mathematicians, computer programmers)
Extrovert Feeling (talk show hosts, politicians)
Introvert Feeling (monks/nuns, musicians)
Extrovert Sensation (builders, mechanics, craftsmen)
Introvert Sensation (artists)
Extrovert Intuition (adventurers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists)
Introvert Intuition (day-dreamers, poets, novelists)

(My examples should be taken purely as shorthand generalizations.)

The inferior functions would be the ones diametrically opposite the dominant ones: Thinking opposite Feeling, for instance.  But sometimes these poles could flip, a phenomena Jung labeled enantiodromia – from the Latin enatio, “to turn about,” and droma, “to run” – to turn and run in the other way. Jung’s idea was that it was possible for a person’s personality type to switch around under certain circumstances such as mid-life crisis, a love affair, the sudden death of a loved one, a religious conversion or spiritual experience, etc.

Personally, I’m an Introvert Thinking-Intuition type… so, theoretically, my own shadow, my animal w/in, could be the flip side of those – my inferior functions: Feeling and Sensing. Getting in touch w/ my Feeling/Sensing side is always a challenge. Years ago, when I was doing meditation up at the Zen Center, my big obstacle was always my thinking-intuitive head.  It’s so easy for me to sit and day-dream or analyze – to visit “Idea Space” – but the goal of Zen is to cut one off from past and future and logical analysis, and put one in touch w/ immediate surroundings, sensations and the current moment; to see things as pure “objects in space” w/o any set of mental associations w/ them.

BDSM and puppy play turned out, for me, to be a better enantiodromia than meditation.  What I found was that, when I get into a good pup-space, it allows me to flip over to those inferior, shadow functions.  Usually I “think” everything into rationally organized hierarchies (the “Classical quality” in Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) and spend most of his time thinking temporally – i.e. day-dreaming and imagining other events and situations.  My shadow (or animal totem) “feels” things holistically w/o step-wise analytical thought (the “Romantic quality” in ZMM) and exists in the Now.

It’s a little bit of a different spin than the Freudian perspective… but it also works for me.