Juliette Tang

Philosophy, get hip: "The Examined Life" comes to the Herbst

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In new documentary The Examined Life, eight of the most famous minds in contemporary philosophy -- Cornel West, Avital Ronell, Peter Singer, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Martha Nussbaum, Michael Hardt, Judith Butler, and Slavoj Zizek -- seem almost unintimidating. Detached from the props of intellectual life and presented in public setting away from rapt crowds, miked podiums, and the protective custody of academia, these philosophers appear comfortingly average, for entire milliseconds. For instance, on a sunny afternoon, post-structuralist scholar Judith Butler could almost be any other leather-jacketed San Francisco Missionite with a cool haircut ambling down Clarion Alley, perhaps en route to Thrift Town for some more leather jackets. That is, until she begins to discuss, in a slow and deliberate manner with eyes fixed intently into the middle distance, the body's morphologies as experienced by the subject. Cover blown.

Examined Life director Astra Taylor will be appearing -- along with philosopher Judith Butler and activist-artist Sunaura Taylor (who appears with Butler during the segment filmed in Clarion Alley) -- at a screening of her film at the Herbst Theater on Thu/25, at 7:30 PM. The three women will participate in a discussion and Q&A session following the screening.

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Oakland to be soaked in Moregasms

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Heads up, fans of informative playfulness: Babeland co-founder Rachel Venning will be at Diesel Books in Oakland on Tues/16 to read from and sign copies of her latest book Moregasm, a guide to getting more from our sexual forays.

The majority of mainstream sex guides currently available follow a formula I've never understood, which is to feature real people in the cover photo and then nowhere else in the book. These ludicrous covers, mostly featuring underwear-clad models in suggestively prone positions, are a source of embarrassment at the cash register, but a worse offense is found inside. Upon opening the book the reader discovers, rather than any useful or instructional photos, a slew of black and white diagrams in stick-figure detail accompanied by text that is generally inscrutable. The sexual acts are described in ways that are alternately clinical and deliberately vague, peppered with medical terms like "vasocongestive arousal" along with meaningless Cosmopolitan-isms about revving engines or raising temperatures or similar banalities with which we are all familiar.

Taking this convention into consideration, Moregasm happily does the opposite.

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A brief meditation on erotic comics (slightly NSFW)

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The Kinky Comic Carnival was held at S&M cafe Wicked Grounds a couple Saturdays ago. Comic book fanatics, stimulated by both caffeine and visual erotica, swarmed in unexpected numbers to meet local creative talents that included Ted Naifeh (Courtney Crumren), Justin Hall (Glamzonia, the Uncanny Super Tranny), Serena Valentino (Gloom Cookie), Greta Christina (Best Erotic Comics), Tristan Crane (How Loathesome), and Storm (Princess Witch Boy). The crowd was a mix of committed comicphiles, local kink enthusiasts, passerbys intrigued by the fuss, and confused SOMA-ites who just wanted their coffee.

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This Saturday, give your Valentine the gift of ... VD?

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In honor of Valentine's Day, a series of parochial films called "Love, Sex, and Venereal Disease," presented by Oddball Film and Video, will premiere at 275 Capp Street on Saturday/13. Local filmmaker Stephen Parr runs the enterprise, and Oddball's public showings are compiled from Parr's enormous archive of offbeat film stock footage.

"Love, Sex, and Venereal Disease" is a motley repertoire. Included are films like "VD Attack Plan," a Disney animation about syphilis and gonorrhea, and the judicious "Social-sex Attitudes in Adolescence," which assures viewers that, being merely a phase, teenage gayness is not to be feared. There is also "Lot in Sodom," a 1933 avant-garde interpretation of the well-known Biblical story, and "The Innocent Party," about a lascivious teen whose past is checkered by venereal disease.

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The Sexy Professor speaks at City Lights

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Literary critic, Stanford professor, and sexy-brainy scholar Terry Castle will be speaking at City Lights Books on Tuesday, Feb. 9, about The Professor and Other Writings, a series of meditations on topics ranging from Art Pepper to the Polermo catacombs to Susan Sontag. When read together, the essays coalesce into a singular, fearless new memoir.

Castle has produced an incredible body of literary criticism and, in her work, she often explores the complicated relationship between literature and sex. Books like The Apparitional Lesbian and The Literature of Lesbianism examine depictions of love between women in the Western literatary canon. Boss Ladies, Watch Out: Essays on Women, Sex, and Writing investigates female sexuality in works by famous women writers.

But don't let the lit theory put you off. Even those allegedly allergic to theory will enjoy the candid, intelligent essays in Castle's latest work. Her intellectual gifts are obvious -- even her informal pieces have the pleasing effect of making their reader feel smarter -- but Castle remains accessible to a wide audience. In fact, her writing seems targeted at those who exist on the outskirts, or even outside, of the literary cognoscenti. Castle makes no secret of her distaste for the "preening and plumage display" of current day literary criticism, or what she calls "jargon-ridden pseudo-writing," and her informal pepperings of middle- and low-brow references throughout The Professor add to Castle's likableness. None of my college professors would ever (admittedly) discuss the "hotitude" of famous Hollywood stars; neither would they (admittedly) jam out to bass-bomping hip hop on their iPods.

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Atlanta beats the pants off SF -- again

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Hot guys mostly not in their underwear at Atlanta's 2009 Pride Parade

In general, San Franciscans deal with an existential crisis in one of two ways: binge drinking or making idle threats to move to New York. Usually, it's a combination of both. Concerning the latter, we frequently cite the Big Apple's better nightlife, for which we are prepared to sacrifice amazing food, outrageously mild weather, and overall happiness and sense of well-being.

Our behavior needs to stop. Listen, whatever problems you may have, New York isn't going to solve them for you. I learned this lesson the hard way. Once upon a time, I turned threat into reality. I packed up all my things, threw myself a teary goodbye party, and got an apartment in Williamsburg. Several months later, I was happily back in San Francisco. It was embarrassing.

Here's a piece of advice. Next time you hate your life, instead of threatening to move to New York City, why don't you threaten to move to Atlanta?

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"The Viagra Diaries": sexy chick lit for the over-sixty set

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If the idea that a mainstream San Francisco newspaper would publish a weekly sex/dating column called The Viagra Diaries -- targeted at local singles over the age of sixty -- sounds like a work of fiction, it's not because Violet Blue isn't in her sixth decade yet.

The Viagra Diaries is a novel by Barbara Rose Brooker, a 73-year-old local writer whose latest protagonist happens to be a septuagenarian dating columnist named Anny Applebaum. [No doubt revered Russian historian and political journalist Anne Applebaum is tickled -- Ed.] The name of Applebaum's fictional column supplies the book's title. Old but hardly wise, Anny struggles with personal finance and falls into a messy relationship with an emotionally unavailable older man. Given that Anny shares Carrie Bradshaw's mental age, perhaps it makes sense that her column is more like "Sex and the City" than "Sexually Speaking with Dr. Ruth."

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10 sexy books published in 2009

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As the aughts, a decade fondly described by many to be the worst decade ever, mercifully makes way to the grave, an uncharacteristically optimistic blogosphere is abuzz with requisite "best of the decade" lists, signaling that even the grimmest times come with small condolences. These "best of the decade" lists are -- for all their neat hierarchies, pithy generalizations, and annoying assumption of authority -- quite fun to read. And, as a rare opportunity to recycle old news as relevant content, they are also fun to write.

Among the many "best ofs" floating about at the moment, I find myself gravitating toward the literary. For all their Anglo-centric, sexist, dead white male undertones, and despite the occasional mentions of Malcolm Gladwell or Dan Brown, these "best books" lists seem far less depressing than their pop-cultural (like hipster of the decade) or political counterparts (like top political scandals of the decade). And as I peruse the many books deemed by many opinions to be the best of the year or, grander yet, best of the decade, I find myself compiling a modest, literary list of my own: 10 Sexy Books Published in 2009. Having been all of 14-years-old in the year 2000, I don't really have the authority to create a "best of the decade list" regarding anything sexual.

However, I have certainly read some very sexy books this past year.

If sexy is to be taken by its dictionary definition as "sexually interesting or exciting," then the following ten decidedly qualify. Some are sexy for their potent ability to raise readerly temperatures, others, for their intellectually seductive, mentally stimulating faculties. Despite a somewhat disparate array of themes and subjects, each book is capable of producing the feeling that compels readers to, as my aunt puts it, "close their legs and open a book": the ecstasy of reading.

10. Confessions of an Ivy League Pornographer, by Sam Benjamin. Ahh, Ivy Leaguers, drawn, as moths are to a flame, to porn careers which are subsequently turned into quarter-life memoirs. Or not. Mind you, this career trajectory is not something I fault a college graduate, or anyone at all, from pursuing. In an economy in which a college graduate is lucky to find a job doing anything, partying with porn stars sounds like the glittering reward at the end of a Horatio Alger (himself an Ivy League grad) tale. With the dreaded spring semester looming ahead, soon-to-be-graduates are advised to find inspiration where they can. Hint: Benjamin's book.

9. Over Here, a volume of poems by Frank Sherlock. Having won a coveted Sexiest Poem of 2009 award, from CAConrad's "Sexiest Poem Award" blog, Sherlock is a shoo-in for a spot on this list. "Over Here" is, without a doubt, a sexy poem -- though it's not a poem about sex. What makes Sherlock's poem sexy is, in CAConrad's words, its "tenacious defiance for culture's endless forms of violence to our fellow humans, other animals and the environment." Hmm... tenacious defiance...

8. Live Nude Girl: My Life as an Object, by Kathleen Rooney. In the beginning, there was irony: Rooney began working as a nude model after being fired from her cafe job because she refused to sleep with her boss. Her experiences as an art model are the inspiration and subject of her book. Rooney is a talented writer whose honesty, conviction, and obvious poetic gifts underline her ambitious theoretical observations. In this contemplative book, Rooney ruminates on working in the buff and, in the process, finds something to say about Roland Barthes, Judeo-Christianity, and the Terra Cotta warriors of China. Somehow, she succeeds in making such declarations convincing; Rooney did earn money being naked, but her memoir cloaks that nudity in layers of meaning.

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Grey's anatomy: An interview with Sasha Grey

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To state that hardcore porn nymphet Sasha Grey has mainstream appeal is like arguing a truism. Thrust onto billboards and magazine covers, written into highly publicized Hollywood movies, integrated into our cultural vernacular, Sasha Grey didn't just cross over into mainstream territory; we brought her here.Read more »

Do it naturally

Local ecosexuals bring sustainability to the bedroom
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culture@sfbg.com

SEX Future sexologists will pinpoint the 2000s as the decade in which the sex toy industry finally crawled from its toxic swamp toward the green light. Before now, mainstream sex toys were garish in appearance, sloppily constructed, and intended to be dumped in a landfill after a few months of use. Made in shady overseas factories by exploited workers, many contained chemicals, like phthalates, that have been linked to cancer and were powered by frequently disposed-of batteries. Read more »