Sunday, September 27, 2015

"Secrets of a Married Man"

-directed by william a. graham
1984
For a slightly silly and potentially provocative evening with friends, you might not do better than this delightful television movie starring william shatner, michelle phillips, and cybill shepherd. The subject is adultery, and the treatment surprisingly even-handed (if there is any monogamous difference of opinion among your companions, the discussion may get heated). Shatner and phillips play a married couple whose sex life has been eradicated by stressful jobs, parenthood, and twelve years of monogamy. Poignancy abounds, as we see them fumblingly reach out to one another for that which once came easily. Determined to not stray emotionally, he begins patronizing prostitutes (it's okay, go ahead and get it out of your system - t.j. and the hookers!). After a series of one-night stands which are unfailingly frank about the risks and rewards of his behavior, he finds a woman (shepherd) to whom he returns again and again. He develops an emotional bond...but eventually finds his comfortable existence threatened by the realization that she is neither an art student nor "independent". Yet he still tries to help her, as his world closes in. You may cringe and cry as you see phillips react horribly and hurtfully to human nature. All of the possessiveness and jealousy which lie in the heart of our poisoned society, are personified in her. Not that he's a saint; were the shoe on the other foot, one cannot doubt that he would act just as hatefully. A fine turn is also offered by glynn turman (GREMLINS, A DIFFERENT WORLD) as a startlingly non-stereotypical pimp. All three leads are sympathetic, which is surprising, given the sexually repressive era. With "straying" being mostly as hot-button now as it was then, your laughter may be leavened by the occasional hiss from a closed-minded companion.
Laughter, you ask? What could possibly be funny about this film? Is it intentional humor? Well...no. But it's shatner! I say that with nothing but respect and love, for there is indeed nothing shatnerian about his performance here - he is understatement personified. But if you have a certain bent of humor, there is just something giggle-friendly about shatner. The pitfalls of a "go for broke" personality being loved and known so well (this film falls just after STAR TREK III and smack dab in the middle of T.J. HOOKER). So even though he resembles a caricature of himself in no way, you just might not be able to resist the occasional howl or hoot as he steers his catwalk course. Phillips* and shepherd also rise to the occasion with deftness and aplomb. The ending doesn't disappoint, as moralizing is again avoided. Will our beleaguered couple survive or split? It could go either way. So if you want to cry for self-loathing twentieth century humanity, or just laugh and think a bit, this film too goes...either way.

* She also becomes the answer to a tantalizing trivia question - who is the only actor to ever be leading lady to both shatner and patrick stewart?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

"Jili"

-by kat chamberlain
2015
(Disclosure: i once lived in the author's closet for nine months. Which means i was either a political refugee, or a sex slave. Either way, it's pretty unlikely i'm unbiased.)

Post-apocalyptic/utopian-dystopian/young adult romance sci fi. A mouthful, but sometimes labels are our friends. To which i'll add one more - wonderful. A book i'd be happy to put in the hands of any young adult...and one that will be enjoyed by the not-so-young as well. Set after a global cataclysm called "the clouding", an event left intentionally vague. Nuclear mushrooms? The incineration of our atmosphere by pollution? Whatever the cause, it's dimmed our sun's presence, and reduced humanity to a fraction of its former fulsomeness. The survivors have split into two groups - the caerus live in automated cities with artificial suns, believing that technology is our salvation, and the ping shun technology and agriculture, embracing non-violence and communal reliance (i'm not sure whether the author realizes how insightful her agricultural angle is, as scientific evidence points to the agricultural revolution as a far greater disaster for our species than the industrial revolution). Ping life is far from perfect - they seem to be at least as touch-deprived as our own culture, perhaps with a generous helping of our sexual repression as well. The artificially-created border between caerus and ping is so deceptive, deadly, and daunting, there's been no intermingling for many generations.
And then comes jili - a teenage ping foundling who has only one friend, the clan sage who adopted her. He falls into a coma, and she is suddenly told she must infiltrate the caerus, to bring back a gene they have developed, which is the only thing that can save old tan. He left jili a message telling her to not go...and if she does, to not come back (a warning which will be left for the sequel to resolve). But faced with his death, she agrees to this suicidal mission. One crash course in mental and physical violence later, she is off...and finds the caerus caught up in hidden revolts. Their society is the ultimate in orwellian inhumanity, a state based entirely on consumerism, in which every product (down to the carpets and silverware) is wired to relay every bit of information about each person's behavior and preferences to the government's computers. Non-sanctioned creativity or construction are not allowed. Jili falls in with a band of revolutionaries, and tries to help them while keeping her own mission a secret. Why is she, a callow, untrained teen, sent on a mission that had already killed highly-qualified agents? Because of her identity (which is kept secret from her) as a fusor, a genetic mutant with elements of both ping and caerus.
The book is fascinatingly infused with a swirl of asian and western influences. I also love how chamberlain skillfully and simmeringly shows latent sexual tension between a teenager and an adult, without a trace of self-consciousness or stigma. Is there anything i didn't love? The thoughtfulness of the first half somewhat disappears in a swirl of mindless action. The book also dips into the worst cliches of Hallmark romance, with phrases like "he/she was soooooo beautiful my capillaries hurt" (i paraphrase). There's also a fair amount of power idolatry in jili's romantic attractions, along with our obsession with physical beauty. Indeed, if i were one of the producers of the film adaptation, i would urge chamberlain to change one of her two suitors from heartbreakingly handsome to average, or even ugly.
But the point hidden within that point, is that i would love to see JILI brought to the silver screen. Its thoughtful, multi-cultural elements are something the world could well use.

(JILI is available on Amazon kindle)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

naked nurse 11

SOOTHING OUR SOCIAL/SPIRITUAL/SEXUAL STRIFE

Dear naked nurse,
Thank you for your advice (http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2014/12/naked-nurse.html). I've tried it a couple times, and one of them was probably the best sex i've ever had. All's the more shame that the relationship went boom (and not in the good way). We had so much in common! But self-destruction seems to be the romantic rule, not the exception. Am i just doomed to pick lovers who are wrong for me? Will one person always want more than the other?
-horny in Harrisburg

Dear horny,
By and large...yes. Sorry 'bout that. As long as our society bases romance on the fulfillment of selfish needs, the vast majority of entanglements will sooner or later go, as you say, boom.
But here's a little something that can help. And like the sexual advice i gave you, it's a bit counter-intuitive (in fact, it's almost the same advice, applied to the emotional realm).
Pick a lover whom you really like...but aren't consumed by. Someone you dig...but who has one or two obviously annoying or silly qualities. If we approached relationships thusly, it would be easier to find some measure of equanimity in this all-or-nothing world. We wouldn't get so bent out of shape when little things go wrong. When little imbalances arise. It would be easier to get through those imbalances, perhaps to a time when a different imbalance will run the other way. It would be easier to avoid falling into the trap of letting our lover become our entire world. If she or he has a taste you find tedious, or a hobby you find half-assed...great! It may keep you from "losing your head" in love - which feels great, of course, but in a dog-eat-dog world, isn't the most sensible roman(tac)tic.
salutary snoggings,
the naked nurse

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