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Ho…ho…ho…

December 26, 2010 Leave a comment

A day late, but I completely forgot about this beautiful animated short, based on a poem by the inimitable Neil Gaiman.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

“Nicholas Was” by Neil Gaiman, animation by 39 Degrees North.

I don’t know how it’s possible to love this man any more than I already do, but every time I see something like this, he captures my heart that much more.

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Categories: art, humor, video

Education Revolution

November 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Education has been on my mind a lot lately. Specifically, the state of most education systems in the world.  A pretty hefty subject, but it seems to have continually cropped up within my social networking sphere the past couple months.

I ran across two of William Deresiewicz’s essays, one titled “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education,” and the second, “What are You Going to Do with That?”  Both gave me a lot to think about, in terms of my own educational history, the paths I’ve chosen to take along the way, as well as the outward factors that influenced those decisions.

The two essays reminded me of another I’d read years ago when I was seeing M, who was very education-focused, as he was the co-owner of an ESL school.  I learned a lot through M, and he pointed me to the essayist, VC, and entrepreneur Paul Graham.  The essay I remember is the one entitled “How to Do What You Love.”

At the same time that I was discovering these articles, I also came across the wonderful RSA Animate series.  I saw the video on changing Education Paradigms:

 

And immediately went in search of more information on Sir Ken Robinson.  That was how I came across his two TEDTalks on radically changing the education system:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

And finally, another TEDTalk, this time by Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs:

Random thoughts:

I agree, quite emphatically, with all of them.  I have only my personal history and observations to draw on, but I believe the education system is irreparably flawed and in need of radical change.  While I was trained and cultivated throughout my childhood precisely to succeed in the linear model of the current system, it was rarely a satisfying experience except when I took those classes that completely deviated from the norm.

From William Deresiewicz’s essays I find a lot that strikes a chord in me, along with a bit of residual bitterness and dissatisfaction with my college experience.  But it is equally true that I’m grateful for opportunity to go to college without incurring nearly the level of debt that many of my peers faced after graduation (before disowning me for the second time, my mother almost completely covered my academic fees).

Although it was an unpleasant experience at the time, I now see that event – being disowned and the withdrawal of financial support – as probably the most useful in helping me break free of my mother’s influence over my future and my decisions.  I saw clearly her overwhelming desire to simultaneously see me as an adult and keep me continually semi-dependent on her, in the often distorted way that parents define and express their love.

I was also able to feel less guilty about breaking off the path she’d so carefully cultivated for me ever since I was born.  I have since made a lot of pretty crazy decisions, like driving across the country without knowing where I’d end up.  I’ve made my share of mistakes, of course, but in the long run I’ve been incalculably happier than I think I ever would have been with the options that were laid out for me by familial precedence.  I am constantly amazed that things seem to be working out, and this is, I believe, because of the narrow model of success I’d been taught.

Now, whenever I see my family, my mother often remarks that I will likely be the one with the lowest degree in our household.  I never have a response to that, but I sincerely cannot believe that the pursuit of an advanced degree is the right choice for me right now.  Still, it’s hard to take her sometimes scathing comments, even though I understand her motivation is to shame me into “making more of myself.”

I came to another realization while reading and listening to all of these thoughts: I have, since entering college, felt a kind of self-loathing and sense of being a fake or fraud for enrolling at such a prestigious school.  Although my primary interests lay in the arts, especially in graphic arts and design, and despite the fact that I endeavored to take an art class almost every term, I never put much weight on the talents I had in visual media; it wasn’t a real or useful life skill.  Yet I also never felt compelled to pursue more lucrative options.  I defaulted to biology, because at least I was also interested in ecology, and because Jane Goodall had been my childhood idol.  It was also a safe choice that my family could accept – biology could mean a path to a medical field.  But I never felt truly immersed in the material except during labs or outdoor excursions.

It’s only now, two years out of the academic sphere, that I can finally admit to myself how much more I’m actually interested in things that fall under the often-stigmatized heading of “skilled labor” – things like woodworking, metalcraft, and leathercraft.

There are also other views to take on the people I’ve linked to and what they have to say; a look at the comments sections of Mr. Deresiewicz’s articles is telling of the scorn people feel for an academic scholar criticizing the system that helped shape his career.  And I could argue that most of the people I knew personally fell outside the kind of privileged students he describes.  But I also have to admit to having a circle of friends who were more the exception than the rule at our school.

Regardless, I can personally attest to being the recipient of all the stereotypical comments one hears made to smart people who don’t pursue the well-trodden path: I’m not applying myself, I’m wasting my talents, my degree, and my future, I could succeed if only I were more motivated, I’m making a huge mistake.

I believed all of that, and I was weighed down by the belief that I was being intentionally self-destructive and the belief that I was a failure not only to my family and friends but also to my own intrinsic potential.

 

Reading these essays and watching the TEDTalks, as well as hearing stories every now and then about others who’ve also taken unconventional paths and were successful – using a much broader rubric for defining success – continues to encourage me and help me believe that I am, in fact, capable of a successful, happy life, even if the path in front of me is only vaguely defined and involves a lot of bushwhacking.

 

Categories: art, geekpost, hope, life, links, school, video

It gets better

October 8, 2010 Leave a comment

In response to the recent suicides related to anti-gay bullying, Dan Savage set up the It Gets Better project on Youtube a few weeks back.  The idea is for those who have gone through bullying and homophobia themselves to reach out to LGBTQ youth by submitting their own videos.  I heard about IGB early on, both through Savage’s podcast and various social media outlets.

The response has been generally supportive, though there have also been dissenting, questioning voices as well.  And then counter-responses to those.

There probably isn’t much that I could say that hasn’t already been said by hundreds of others.  Word of the project has spread virally.  It has sparked waves of conversation and lots of news bytes, has both inspired and angered thousands of people.  It’s moved viewers to donate to suicide hotlines and to reach out to others, while making others realize how much more needs to be done.

To that end, I already see IGB creating change and opening discourse on the topics of suicide and bullying.  On a personal level, it’s incredible for me to see these videos of people talking so openly and intimately about suicide attempts and sharing explicit stories of bullying.  As with so much else in our culture, suicide is so taboo and stigmatized a subject that it’s often difficult to talk this openly about it.

And without the language and shame-free environment to discuss these issues, it makes it that much harder to get help, open up to another, and recognize that you’re not alone.

It’s also true, what the dissenting voices say: it’s not enough, this standalone project, it doesn’t get to the root of the issue, and everyone will be affected differently from watching the videos.  But to have the conversation at all, to insist on having this conversation, is what I think makes this a truly worthwhile cause.

Other resources:

Categories: hope, links, video

“How to be Alone”

August 1, 2010 1 comment

And it’s finding treasures like this that keep me going back to social media sites.  Found via my Twitter stream, and specifically via @chelseagsummers: “How to be Alone,” poem by Tanya Davis, video directed by Andrea Dorfman:

Categories: art, hope, links, video

Carnalnation’s “Bootblacking: Not Just for the Boys”

June 30, 2010 Leave a comment

I saw this video interview this afternoon when it was published on Carnalnation, and I love it so much I’m going to repost it.  The original post is here.

Twisted Monk interviews International Ms. Bootblack 2009, pony, while she sits on the floor and polishes his boots.  It’s lovely to watch, and it’s a really nice interview.  I’ve felt incredibly fortunate to have gotten to see and hear about the 2009 International Ms. Leather and Ms. Bootblack – an Asian female and a femme bootblack, respectively.  As an Asian female and femme-identified (budding) bootblack myself, it’s great to have these women as role models.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
Categories: links, video

Vicious – Emilie Jouvet

June 8, 2010 1 comment

A fellow student sent me this video after attending the bondage workshop I brought to campus a year ago.  I was thrilled to get that initial e-mail, and it sparked sporadic correspondence the rest of the school year, much of it centered around bondage.

I still remember how amazed I felt, seeing the room fill for the bondage workshop; running out of rope to hand out to everyone; hearing the gasps and giggles as students watched me struggling in the rope; going around the room checking on everyone’s single-column ties.  I remember how many people came up to me afterwards, so excited about learning more bondage.  I remember the delight and shock at seeing so many familiar faces there – friends I never thought would be interested in bondage (I’m sure they, in turn, were surprised to see my role as demo-bottom for the class!).

That night proved significant to me on several levels.  I wanted in part to provide a completely accessible, non-threatening space for everyone to experience rope bondage and bdsm in general, and I think we succeeded in doing just that.  I could not have been happier at how the class turned out, especially given how much planning and convincing of the various sponsors it involved.  And, once I saw just how many students showed up, it finally hit home that my proclivities and kinky interests were not isolated – that I wasn’t as alone as I’d once thought.  I wasn’t alone.  The shame and guilt I’d carried for the past four or five years finally began to dissipate.

I think the most educational part of that planning process (also the most frustrating) was talking through all the worries various administrators and organization leaders had over bringing a topic like bondage to the campus.  I remember fielding questions on all the possible implications: didn’t it have roots in public shaming? Doesn’t it eroticize and objectify women? Would there be an opportunity for discourse to address students’ feelings and questions?  We have concerns about the racial overtones of teaching Japanese-style bondage.  I have to admit to having a pretty small part of all of these conversations, thanks to a couple rockstar students who acted as the main points of contact, organizers, and advocates for the class.

In the end, we managed to provide a full-house workshop where students of every gender, ethnicity, interest level, and orientation were tying each other up.  And of note especially was having one of the student organizers ask me to put him in bondage for a fraternity event a few days after the workshop, and seeing, at that same event, other students using bondage as part of their performances.  How utterly cool is that?

Watching this music video still makes me smile, both at the hotness and the memories it evokes of those last few months on campus.

I wonder if there have been more workshops of a similar nature since then…

Categories: memories, rope, video

Little Lotte

May 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Having just finished some major house shopping and furniture assembling, all after another day of wracking my very tired brain against a continuing issue at work and staring at Javascript and PHP, I have no capacity to write much coherently.  But I did want to post this, one of the many favorite scenes I have of Phantom of the Opera (which I’ve seen on Broadway a magnificent three times so far).  It’s audio only, which is fine for me; I love reliving this scene in my mind, seeing the Phantom appear like a ghost in Christine’s mirror and completely enchanting her…seeing the way he controlled her.

Ever since I first saw this musical, I have been in love with the Phantom.  I love the compelling, dark, and twisted character that is the Phantom.  I love the spell he casts on stage and on Christine Daaé.  No surprises there, I suppose!  This brings to mind a cascade of other childhood memories I’ve been having lately, all little signs and epiphanies on what, very early on, hinted at my awakening kinky interests.  I should write about some of those memories sometime.

But now: to sleep!

Raoul:
Little Lotte, let her mind wonder. Little Lotte thought, “Am I fonder of dolls or of goblins or of shoes?”

Christine:
Raoul.

Raoul:
Or of riddles or frogs?

Christine:
Those picnics in the attic.

Raoul:
Or of chocolates.

Christine:
Father playing the violin

Raoul:
As we read to each other, dark stories of the north

Christine:
No, “What I loved best,” Lotte Said, “was when I was asleep in my bed.”
And the angel of music sings songs in my head

Christine and Raoul:
The angel of music sings songs in my head.

Raoul:
You sang like an angel tonight.

Christine:
Father said “When I am in heaven, Child, I will send the angel of music to you.” Well, father is dead, Raoul. And I have been visited by the angel of music.

Raoul:
Oh, no doubt of it. And now, we go to dinner.

Christine:
No, Raoul, the angel of music is very strict.

Raoul:
Well I shant keep you up late. (Laughs)

Christine:
Raoul, No.

Raoul:
You must change. I’ll order my carriage. Two minutes, Little Lotte.

Christine:
No, Raoul, wait!

Phantom:
Insolent boy/this slave of fashion/basking in your glory/Ignorant fool/this brave young suitor, sharing in my triumph!

Christine:
Angel, I hear, you/Speak, I listen/Stay by my side, guide me/Angel, my soul was weak/forgive me/Enter at last, master.

Phantom:
Flattering child, you shall know me/See why in shadow I hide/Look at your face in the mirror/I am there inside

Christine:
Angel of music/guide and guardian/grant to me your glory/angel of music/hide no longer/come to me, strange angel.

Phantom:
I am your angel of music/come to me, angel of music.

Raoul:
Whose is that voice? Who is that in there?

Phantom:
I am your angel of music

Raoul:
Christine! Christine!

Phantom:
Come to me, angel of music

Categories: life, lyrics, video