Lene Lovich – “Bird Song”

A little bird told me, you were untrue
Even though, I had, faith in you
I believe, the liars words
Oh the same little bird

So with the bird, one day, you flew away
I woke up, too late, you had gone
Fading on with this song
Of the hurting little bird

Still I watch the sky
Still I wonder why
Still I hope that I…
Can carry on…
If I can’t be strong
If you hear my song
you’ll know that it was wrong, to say good bye…

Such a cold bird, so hard, captured your heart
Does it matter, I am, falling apart
Breaking fast, as the flesh
Of the dead little bird

Still I watch the sky…

Parallel Closets

It isn’t impossible to hide one’s sexuality or gender identity, nearly eighteen years of DATD showed us that. And of course trans* service people still have to conceal their deepest selves even today.

What is impossible is having whole and meaningful connections with the world outside your closet doors.

So, I’m reading this post on Bilerico, and I can’t help but remember why I stand firm in my belief that being out is not “privilege” as the shamers amongst the Bourgeoisie want us to believe, it’s defiance —maybe the privilege of a loving family is a hollow one for the price of closeting, but the notion that being “out” is a privilege is a Bourgeoisie lie, designed to create an artificial rift between those enslaved to their closets and those who paid a hard price to be free of theirs. And the whole notion of being closeted “for love” is for only the the most empty kind of love you can get from a person; I mean, what kind of love demands that you keep a heavy door between you, never letting the two of you really see each-other, much less really touch and be touched by?

When Psykhe took the lamp into the bedroom of Eros’ crystal castle in the sky high above Helikon, and the tiniest bit of oil singed the beautiful God’s skin, He ran. He didn’t run from the pain, or simply the surprise of being woken up in such a way. He ran from the lack of trust. But at the same time, can She really be blamed? When we truly love some-one, any-one, we want to know them as much as we trust them. We don’t have to know everything, but we have this burning desire to know them, or as Genesis P-Orridge put it, to completely consume them and be a part of them and have them be a part of you. We cannot love from behind doors, we can only admire. Trust, knowledge… Love needs that vulnerability to exist, and until such openness is allowed, there exists little more than fondness.

From the trials of Psykhe, after breaking open Eros’ own closet of darkness, we learn that true love overcomes, making us more willing and indeed able to take in the whole person, love them even more, as with the more we learn, the more we have to fall in love with —be is romantic or familial.

Some might want us to believe the Capitalist lie, that love is a privilege to be earned, but indeed, it’s what makes the world turn —for Gaia so passionately loves Ouranos, that she twirls about in His arms forever as They dance the dance of Eternity around Helios’ shining orb, for even after that blazing ball consumes Them, they and Their love will live on. It was created freely in the womb of eternal night, and is given freely at alarming rates, often with neither rhyme nor reason. Some actions can cause love to end, but this is the most mortal form of love, and being mortal, we can’t help it when that happens —but the less mortal, more pure the love, the more willing it is to see that which sets us apart and love us all the same, or even all the more.

The Pandrogyne

I find Genesis Breyer P-Orridge a fascinating creature.

S/he not really “transgender” in the traditional sense, as h/ir transformation seems more philosophical in nature, rather than a matter of personal identity. Born of the belief that he and his lover1, “Lady Jaye” Breyer (who was equally obsessed with him) are both part of and exist separately from a third “pandrogynous” entity that is not only equally male and female but also transcendent of traditional genders, an entity they called Breyer P-Orridge, and so they set about to bring this entity to form, surgically.

When Lady Jaye died in 2007, Genesis continued the project they began, not merely as a means of keeping Jaye always with him, but seeing this “pandrogyne” they sought to become as heir child, a third person or soul they’ve given form to. Ultimately, it’s a testament to love.

There’s been a recent documentary about Breyer P-Orridge, The Balad of Genesis and Lady Jaye; apparently, it’ll have a screening in Detroit on 25 May, so I’m hoping to make arrangements to go see it. I admit, I can’t help but be in love with the tag-line for the tag-line for the film:

Love is dedication. Love is creation. Love is forever.

If ever there was a case for soul mates, I’d say those two were it.

1: though legally married, I choose “lover” not for the potential gender confusion and androgyny, but merely because it conveys so much more than a mere synonym for “spouse”.

Hearts, the Baby Virus, and Butts

Silphion was an herb popular in the ancient Mediterranean for both its flavour and its medicinal qualities, aiding in ailments such as cough, sore throat, indigestion, warts, and (argueably most popularly) as either a contraceptive or an abortificant (likely the latter). The exact species is unknown to modern people because it was said to have been virtually extinct by the time of Nero, with Pliny reporting that one of the last stalks was given to the Emperor as a curiosity. Some anthropologists with a speciality in related fields suspect that silphion was of the genus Ferula, possibly a relation to “giant fennel” (not a true fennel) or wild carrot. According to some legends, it was a gift of Apollon.

Silphion was important to the economy of Cyrene, in Libya, so much so that a stylised silphion seed-pod was minted onto Cyrene’s coins at one time. The extinction of Silphion was said to have been a major component in the decline of Cyrene, for clearly even the gifts of the Gods must be used wisely, in moderation and under the assumption that no matter how abundant at any one time, immoderate exploitation of these divine gifts will render its amount finite.

Despite the clear record that suggests the classic “heart shape” dates as far back as Cyreniac coins depicting a stylised silphion seed-pod, the Catholic church is very insistent of otherwise, stating that the symbol of two arching curves joined at the underside in a symmetrical down-facing point originated with Saint Marguerite Marie Alacoque’s vision of “the sacred heart of Jesus, depicting such a symbol encircled in thorns and with a flame spurting up from its cleavage. Unfortunately, Marguerite Marie Alacoque didn’t exist until the 17th Century, and there is a clear record of this symbol dating long prior.

The implications of the stylised silphion seed-pod / classic “heart shape” being associated with romantic love and sexual desire is that with its use as an abortificant, it promoted the notion of sex for pleasure and and expression of intimate longings. Personally, I also find it no small coincidence that siliphion was an economical staple of Cyrene, the philosophical seat of the school of Aristippus of Cyrene, or Cyreniac Hedonism —Hedonism being named for Hedone, the Goddess of pleasure and delight, and as a mythological daughter of Eros, Her pleasures are most often seen as the sensual1 delights. This shape thus belongs to Erote Apollon Anteros —or perhaps, considering the fate of siliphion, Apollon Anteros-Dysdaimon?

…but people, being either ignorant of older associations with the symbol, or simply unsatisfied with it as an explanation, have suggested alternate origins for the symbol for centuries:

To the het men and Sapphic women who read this blog, onsider this my Secular Valentine's Gift to you; I'm not likely to post random full-frontal female nudity again.

It’s the cleavage of breasts.

It’s a stylised vulva.

It’s the pubic mons.

It’s the stylised buttocks of Aphrodite.

Or, simply: It’s a borked-up drawing of the heart organ of the human body, nothing more.

These are great explanations, and some of them have more prominent fans than others (feminist writer Gloria Steinem seems a fan of the vulva/public mons hypothesis, and included it in an introduction she one wrote to The Vagina Monologues; the writers on ABC sit-com The Big Bang Theory seem fond of the “stylised buttocks” idea, and inserted it as semi-random trivia spouted by the character Sheldon Cooper). That’s the great thing about symbolism, it doesn’t need an historical basis to ring true for a person, if you feel with your soul that it represents a thing, and this thing can connote these meanings, then it does, and no-one can tell you differently, except perhaps if the discussion steps outside the personal and steps more into the context of cultural and historical facts.

It’s still a powerful symbol, and like many symbols in our lives, far more ancient than most people are aware of.

1: Not necessarily sexual, but this is often the implication.

Marc Almond: Non-Stop Erotic Divo

Marc Almond is one of those singers that I’m amazed that I didn’t get into his work earlier, but upon reflecting, I probably did at the perfect time in my life to. Probably best-known this side of the Atlantic for his work with Soft Cell, which is best known this side of the Atlantic for their cover version of Motown artist (and common-law wife of Marc Bolan) Gloria Jones’ song “Tainted Love”, Marc Almond has a career spanning nearly thirty-five years —and I’ve been told that I kinda sing like him, since my balls dropped (meaning yes, this is probably not the most- representative example of my modal singing voice —assuming, of course, my friends are telling the truth, and honestly, most of my friends who’ve heard me sing on a good day have no reason to lie to me).

Marc Almond has been openly gay for most of his career, but dislikes being labelled a “gay artist”, as he feels that opens the door for pigeon-holing and creating the false impression that his work is somehow only important and relevant to the gay community, which it is not, though some of his songs and music videos do engage a clear homo-eroticism, while others simply portray a blatant eroticism. Marc Almond has also been “out” about being a member of the Church of Satan, founded by Anton LaVey; in the last ten years, I’ve occasionally heard that he’s since quietly distanced himself from that organisation, and I’ve yet no confirmation from the Webmistress of his official site (the most relevant contact e-mail I found on his site). While this may just be fan speculation since his accident in 2004 (much like the persistent yet completely falsified story of Charles Darwin’s “deathbed conversion”), I also wouldn’t be at all surprised if it were true: For every one of the “Ooh, I’m spooky! Hail thyself!” songs of Almond’s, there are at least two or three that display a clear, often urban-based spirituality; while this is technically not completely contrary to the writings of Anton LaVey, the Church of Satan understands the spiritual world to be a manifestation of the human experience, something that only exists within human reality —that is not reality as I understand it, but if that’s what works for another, then more power to them, and all the better if they can understand that this is one of those aspects of reality where understanding and acceptance is any one interpretation of it or another is subject to human experience. I cannot make an Atheist understand and accept reality as I know it any more than he can make me understand and accept theirs as a reality that is not only compatible with my experience but also one that empowers myself.

….but enough about that.

Marc Almond is one of those musicians who wears his influences on his sleeve and manages to do so without being a complete rip-off of those artists. If I had a nickel for every Goth band that or Mod Revival outfit that clearly couldn’t make something that sounded like anything but “Christian Death, only not” or “The Jam, only not” or “Bauhaus, only not” or “The Pretty Things, only not”, I could deposit those nickels into a Cayman Islands account and live comfortably, though not lavishly, off the interest. Marc Almond doesn’t do that, and he’s kind of a Dieselpunk dream singer. His personal style, as shown in his solo career, is clearly in a New Wave / Synthpop idiom, but heavily steeped in a love of Edith Píaf, Jacqués Brel, early Amerikan Jazz and Blues, British music hall, French cabaret, and with the introspective qualities of Rozz Williams and Gitane DeMone with the bite of Siouxsie Sioux and Andi Sexgang. His first solo recrd, Vermin In Ermine practically invented the “dark cabaret” sub-genre about three or four years before Rozz Williams’ Ashes line-up of Christian Death turned up the darkness and threw in a heaping helping of Dada. Yet he’s more than that, he’s one of England’s national treasures.

There’s also a highly Eroic quality to Marc Almond’s life’s work. By “big-E-Erotic”, I don’t necessarily just mean “sexy” (which, of course, it is, but that’s going to be a given —I mean, just look at him), but also hope to imply connotations of that which conveys qualities of Eros and His various epithets: Kallistos, Anikatos, Skhetlios, Eleutherios, Abros, and more. He’s one of the few true music artists, and one of the few who consistently displays a passionate joie de vivre et joi de vie. I can’t help but see, hear, taste Eros when Marc Almond’s music comes on; every single word reveals the folly of Democritus (“Medicine heals diseases of the body, wisdom frees the soul from passions,”).

Of course, to be fair, Marc Almond is of a similar school of songwriting as Prince, where any song that comes into his head is clearly good enough to record, even if this means recording the occasional song that just can’t hold a candle to the rest, suggesting perhaps there is a great folly to following one’s passions, but I know better, for I know that there is greatness even in what at first seems the most trite —from Vermin In Ermine‘s “Ugly Head” to “Money” from the Soft Cell demos, he manages to give light to certain truths, often of a personal yet shared nature, saying things that many have felt and wanted to articulate as something worth saying.

If I were casting an opera based on Hellenic mythology, hands down, no questions asked, my first and only choice for Eros would be Marc Almond; I don’t care that he’s fifty, that sort of thing just would not otherwise work — anyway, he looks very good for his age, and most opera are not cast with singers appropriate to the age of the role, if only cos there’s the art of theatrical make-up to take care of that. His voice doesn’t have the range that Apollon would need, and his emotive qualities as a singer are just “disconnected” enough that the passion for this art shows through, but just emotive enough that one simply cannot help but relate. The Moisai would have to be superb yet subtle emotive singers, as would Apollon, Dionysos would have to master dramatic emotions, as would Hermes and Aphrodite, but despite Eros’ purveyance over emotions, or perhaps because of it, to portray the God even in the throes of emotion, there needs to be a clear and dramatic knowledge and understanding of emotion, but a subtler feeling of it, and as a singer, Almond does that. Eros takes this knowledge and understanding and translates it into passion, which can neither be learnt nor understood, but like anything else one can feel, others can recognise when sensed, and what others want to know and understand when it can manifest as a thing of beauty. Marc Almond is nothing if not a passionate singer, and that is nothing if not a gift of Eros.

Isadora Duncan: Touched by Terpsicore

“The dancer’s body is simply the luminous manifestation of the soul.
The true dance is an expression of serenity;
it is controlled by the profound rhythm of inner emotion.
Emotion does not reach the moment of frenzy out of a spurt of action;
it broods first, it sleeps like the life in the seed,
and it unfolds with a gentle slowness.
The Greeks understood the continuing beauty of a movement
that mounted, that spread, that ended with a promise of rebirth.” Isadora Duncan

I’ve been fascinated with the 1920s since I was a little kid and delighted in the occasional Chaplin film on cable, so it’s not at all surprising that I’d come across the career of Isadora Duncan.

Duncan is regarded as the creator of Modern Dance (though in dance communities, this is sometimes hotly debated). While Modern Dance performances are clearly similar to ballet in some ways, the Modern Dance movement in the early 1900s was born from a distaste that many dancers had with what they perceived as a rigidity and “unnatural movement” in classical ballet. While there are now several schools of Modern Dance, Duncan’s dance was based on the dance depicted in ancient Hellenic pottery, sculpture, Graeco-Roman mosaics and neo-Classical Renaissance art and sculpture.

If we seek the real source of the dance, if we go to nature, we find that the dance of the future is the dance of the past, the dance of eternity, and has been and always will be the same… The movement of waves, of winds, of the earth is ever the same lasting harmony.” Isadora Duncan

Though she did have formal teachers giving her a background in classical dance, she ultimately rejected much of this training for improvisation and a sort of Neo-Pagan Romanticism. She once famously proclaimed that the Goddess Aphrodite Herself taught Ms Duncan in the art of dance on the beaches of California.

Her parents were once wealthy, but became rather poor shortly after Isadora’s birth, when her father lost his bank; her parents later divorced when she was seven-years-old. The experience of growing up impoverished, she and her mother and sister giving music and dance lessons to support the family, likely bred her Communist ideals, which would later lead her to defect to Russia. In spite of gaining Russian citizenship, she lived her last years in France, as well as a significant portion of her life prior.

“There are likewise three kinds of dancers: first, those who consider dancing as a sort of gymnastic drill, made up of impersonal and graceful arabesques; second, those who, by concentrating their minds, lead the body into the rhythm of a desired emotion, expressing a remembered feeling or experience. And finally, there are those who convert the body into a luminous fluidity, surrendering it to the inspiration of the soul.” ~Isadora Duncan

Despite being clearly a subversive influence on the world of artistic dance, she never completely fit in with Bohemian crowds, but her free-spiritedness and natural draw to shake up convention kept her from truly assimilating into high society. In some respects, her nature could be seen as Dionysian.

Though posthumously, she’s been idealised by some as a sort of radical femme-inist of the school of “sisters doin’ for themselves” because her dance schools were famously all-girl, early on she sought to include boys amongst her pupils of dance and philosophy, but ultimately, it was financiers who made the decision for her single-sex education in dance, and men trained in a lineage that can be traced back to Isadora Duncan herself, while increasing in number, are still rare; I know of only one male dancer to have ever been directly taught by Duncan herself. While examinations of her personal life definitely show many feminist sympathies (and also a bisexual with at least one noteworthy and passionate affair with another woman), she refrained from identifying her socio-political ideaologies as anything more than Communist, Socialist, or Marxist, which is easily argued to be inherently feminist, if not explicitly, much less radically so. The ultimate downfall of her schools, though, was her idealism; even her school in Moscow at a time of the early days of Russia’s totalitarian form of Communism suffered financially because the state had not yet made a suitable provision for the arts that could keep the school afloat, and Duncan was so firm in her belief that commercial performances cheapened the artistry she taught students to value, that she’d just as soon close a school left in the charge of a star pupil than tolerate her students performing on a commercial stage. In honour of her value of art over money, Duncan legacy dance troupes are largely non-profit.

Love is an illusion; it is the world’s greatest mistake. I ought to know for I’ve been loved as no other woman of my time has been loved. -Isadora Duncan

Her style of dance she always stressed to be very natural in its approach to the movements of the body, and improv is a major element to Duncan’s style of modern dance (though the choreography is often surprisingly intricate). Emotion and the expression of through the whole body with dance is another defining characteristic of Duncan’s style. Unlike ballet, which tends to place greater value on women dancers who are especially light-weight, and often with an unspoken mantra of “the lighter the better”, Duncan dance values any body that can move with the natural grace and convey the emotions integral to a piece; though this often means fans of ballet and some other dance regard Duncan dancers as “fat” and “out-of-shape”, the inherent athleticism in Duncan dance illustrate that Duncan dance not only keeps one in good physical condition, but also that the movements celebrate all shapes and sizes of graceful. Typically performing in bare feet, hops, skips, leaps, and arm movements tend to be regarded as the most basic elements of Duncan dancing, and Grecian-inspired dance costume is clearly preferred by Duncan herself, and those continuing to dance in her lineage.

The only surviving / known film taken of her dancing is not only extremely short, but clearly gives more attention to Isadora’s costume adjustment than her dance, which is shown as little more than a few hops. The circumstances under which this film was shot, I do not know; it’s likely that it was an experiment taken by a friend, or perhaps setting up the equipment took so long she had become tired. This is certainly not representative of the great dancer that shook up the art world and caused a sensation in the Early Twentieth. For more representitive video, there is no shortage of video of dancers of the Isadora Duncan legacy.

Interestingly, for all of Duncan’s glorifications of the Greeks, Aphrodite, Eros, the Moisai, the Khairetes, and all her applause for the wisdom of the Greeks and the inherent natural beauty of her reconstructed Greco-Roman dance, the music she selected, and that is still popular with dancers of the Duncan legacy, is movements by Romantic composers, and often music not written with dance performances in mind. This rather odd choice, all things considered, still lends to a graceful and beautiful interpretation of the music, I can’t help but wish to see Duncan dance performed with reconstructed Greco-Roman music.

Off the stage, Duncan was a flamboyant character, being practically immune to the typical ill effects of scandal, and a well-regarded eccentric. She rejected Christianity for Classical and Neitzchian philosophy, eagerly entertained Romantic Neo-Pagan imagery of her own character, and often read tarot cards for friends, strangers, and herself. Still, for all her fabulous life, it was marked with great tragedy; her marriages ended bitterly, her children died in a tragic automobile accident, her own life cut short when her excessively long scarf she regarded as something of a trademark wrapped around the axle of her Amilcar, choking her, then snapping her neck, then nearly dragging her body down the street just as her lover realised what was wrong. She died at fifty, but not before leaving an indelible impression on not only dance, but all of the arts (having inspired painters and sculptors).