RIP Betty Dodson (1929 – 2020)

Betty Dodson was an American feminist and sex educator.

Unlike Shere Hite, who passed away last September and became known worldwide after her 1976 “Hite Report”, few outside the United States knew the witty Betty Dodson.

Hite became known for assuring women worldwide that penetrative sex is not the way to orgasm for women. Before Hite, many women faked their orgasms. After Hite there was a little less faking. However, it was Dodson who taught American women how to masturbate.

Dodson started out as an artist, she debuted in the late 1960s with drawings of couples making love. That went well. For a second exhibition she decided to invite friends to her studio to masturbate and draw them. That exhibition was a flop and also marked the end of her career as an artist.

Dodson went on to become an orgasm evangelizer, working with the likes of Annie Sprinkle, and writing a number of top-selling books. She looked very young in old age. Perhaps because of all the masturbation she so passionately promoted? She loved the Hitachi Magic Wand, an vibrator called the Rolls-Royce of sex toys. She organized group sessions for ladies to masturbate together. Each with such a Hitachi (I read somewhere that these sessions were sometimes broadcast live on TV). Her dream was to orchestrate a simultaneous group orgasm, but it was precisely in that orchestration role that she saw objections.

Anyone in Europe who was a little curious – and you know what Zappa said about being curious: “the mainstream comes to you, but you have to go to the underground” – saw Betty Dodson in the 1971 film WR: Mysteries of the Organism (1971) about the influence of Willem ‘orgasmatron’ Reich (1897-1957) on the hippie world. There she talked about her erotic drawings.

Betty Dodson belongs to a movement within feminism called sex-positive feminism. It is a movement that I became familiar with via the work of Camille Paglia, an American academic who made the world a smarter place in 1990 with her book Sexual Personae.

Sex-positive thinkers have a positive attitude towards, for example, porn, sex work and sexting.

In that sense I am also sex positive.

But.

If you fully agree that sex is a good thing, you can only decide, as some feminists do, that rape is not about sex, for example.

They reason for this is, and I quote, The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1979) by Donald Symons, a fantastic book:

“The notion that rape is not sexually motivated” [may be due to the fact that] “part of the modernization of sex is the belief that sex is a good thing; yet almost everyone agrees that rape is a bad thing, and one way of eliminating the threat of cognitive dissonance is to deny that rape is sex.”

Sex can be a very beautiful thing indeed. But sex can also be very ugly.

Most of all, sex is often a bit disruptive. And having come to this point in a discourse like this, I like to say it with Schopenhauer who famously said that “sex is a malevolent demon.”

RIP Carol Arthur (1935 – 2020)

Carol Arthur was an American actress and wife of Dom DeLuise (1933-2009). She played bit parts in the films of Mel Brooks. I think I was 12 years old when I insisted on seeing Brooks’s Silent Movie (1976).

Silent Movie. Smart slapstick. A film about film. What’s not to love?

In that film she played an “extremely pregnant woman”. Was it perhaps she who completely tilted Brooks’ sports car nose in the air due to a heavy weight in the back seat? I cannot remember.

Blazing Saddles (1974)

Later I saw Brooks Blazing Saddles (1974), the Western parody with the many and loud farts around the campfire. Beans and cowboys, you know how that works out.

In Blazing Saddles, Carol plays a schoolteacher who first speaks very shyly at a city meeting, then is told that she speaks too quietly, and then she announces in a loud and not at all shy voice to the governor that he is the “leading asshole of the state”.

RIP Robert Fisk (1946 – 2020)

From Beirut to Bosnia

Robert Fisk was an English journalist, writer and Middle East correspondent for over forty years. He spoke Arabic and interviewed Osama bin Laden no less than three times.

His 1993 three-part documentary, From Beirut to Bosnia is fully available on YouTube. In it he tries to answer the question why Muslims hate the West so much. The words Israel and America are, of course, constantly mentioned. The documentary is somewhat in the style of “The Roots of Muslim Rage” (1990) by Bernard Lewis, but with more sympathy for the Muslims.

The documentary and that article are from before 9/11. The documentary marks the moment when suicide terrorism began on October 23, 1983, when a man carrying two tons of explosives drove into Beirut military barracks and blew two hundred American soldiers into the air. That was in response to the Sabra and Shatila massacre.

At seventeen minutes, Hassan Nasrallah, the man who then led the war against Israel for Hezbollah, whose organization is today referred to as terrorist, explains with a smile with which metaphor an average Westerner can best understand a suicide bomber and martyr:

“Imagine,” he says, “that you are in an extremely hot sauna, in a hammam, for a long time, you get very thirsty and tired and hot, you suffer from the effects of the high temperature, then you get exhausted. Someone tells you that when you open the door, you can go to a quiet comfortable room, where you can drink a nice cocktail, listen to beautiful classical music. Knowing this you will open that door without hesitation, knowing that what you leave behind not a high price to pay… and what awaits you is of much greater value. ”

As I was watching the documentary last night, the lack of meta-perspective bothered me. It all seemed as if Palestinians were beyond reproach and only Israel was to blame. took some thorough searching to find even one voice critical of the documentary.

I found one by a certain Joseph Unger or Ungar, who, writing for PRIMER, says:

“History is tailored, twisted, and selectively excised to support this condemnation of Israel. We see, for example, whole neighborhoods of destroyed buildings in Lebanon, and Robert Fisk, the narrator, states “IT all started with Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982.” There is no mention of the lengthy civil war between Muslims and Maronite Christians which decimated the countryside. No mention of the Syrian invasion. No mention of the PLO infiltration in 1969 which gradually overcame the Lebanese army and by 1975 had established “Fatahland,” a de facto state extending from West Beirut to the Israeli border. Lebanon had been raped and battered from within.”

Now I do realize that a reporter is not an historian, so maybe the lack of meta-perspective in Fisk is natural. I also suspect that the Unger/Ungar report is biased. But Iike biases from both sides.

RIP Robert Fisk.

RIP Sean Connery (1930 – 2020)

“The Penis is evil. The gun is good.” —Zardoz

Sean Connery was a Scottish actor, for a long time considered the most handsome man alive.

I have fond memories of four of his films:

In The Man Who Would Be King (1975), he is one of two British adventurers who first become king of Kafiristan, which is an actual historical region in Afghanistan. Kafirs are unbelievers.

In Highlander (1986) he is an Egyptian immortal who has to compete with Christophe Lambert.

In The Name of the Rose (1986), Connery is a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Thomas Aquinas.

But in Zardoz (1972) Connery is the funniest and the most memorable. Not necessarily in the good sense, because Zardoz is really a ridiculous movie, and not even in the “so bad that it’s good” category. But once you saw that movie, you never forget the image of Connery, like a kind of beefcake in orange shorts, with a mustache, with crossed suspenders.

I have to formally advise you not to watch that film.

The plot:

We are 2293. The inhabitants of Earth consist of two groups, the Brutes, the plebs, ruled by the Eternals, a small elite that is bored. Eternals use part of the Brutes, the Exterminators, as a band of chosen warriors to kill common Brutes. Sean Connery is one of them.

The Eternals have a god for the destroyers, Zardoz, a giant stone head that flies through the air and spews weapons.

The teaching that Zardoz preaches goes like this:

“The Penis is evil. The Penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the Earth with a plague of men, as once it was. But the Gun shoots death and purifies the Earth of the filth of Brutals. Go forth, and kill! Zardoz has spoken!””

Movies such as Zardoz were inspired by neo-malthusian overpopulation disaster scenarios distributed in books such as The Population Bomb (1968) and The Limits to Growth (1971) by the Club of Rome. Those books were partly right. Today population stabilization is predicted by 2064. Then we return — I hope with enough secularists (the religious shall NOT inherit the earth) — to an ideal of two billion inhabitants. A gentle return. Two billion is ideal for our planet, we were two billion in 1927.

Although Zardoz was really a shitty film, there were some good films to come out of this dystopian eco-fiction scene.

There is Silent Running (1972), about a spaceship that takes the last plants of Earth into space and Soylent Green (1973), about a society where the starving inhabitants of Earth are encouraged to commit euthanasia. Euthanized people are then offered back to starving humanity as biscuit food, but now I deviate very far from Sean Connery.

My apologies.

RIP Sean Connery.

RIP Jan Boerman (1923 – 2020)

Jan Boerman was a Dutch composer active in electronic music when it was still an affair of room-filling electronic machines.

Much of that music is also called ‘acousmatic’ and I suspect that this “Alchemie” (1961) composition by Boerman also falls under that label.

If you like “Alchemie”, be sure to check out Bernard Parmegiani’s masterpiece “De Natura Sonorum” (1975).

RIP Jerry Jeff “Mr. Bojangles“ Walker (1942 – 2020)

Jerry Jeff Walker was an American musician best known for writing “Mr. Bojangles“.

Walker recorded “Mr. Bojangles” too, but when I hear that song I’m invariably only reminded of the heavily orchestrated version by the great Nina Simone.

The Nina Simone version wormed itself into my head in 2006 via the compilation Nova Classics 07 released on Radio Nova, keepers of musical taste in the early 2000s.

Nina first released on her cover album Here Comes the Sun from 1971.

Mr. Bojangles