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02 July 2008

Out in the open

A couple Sundays ago -- 15 June, which was Father's Day in the U.S. -- I took the Metro into downtown DC for the annual "Gay" "Pride" Festival.

Scare-quotes supplied because for the most part, I think that Gay Pride Days are even stupider than those mandatory-attendance pep rallies in high school: "We've got spirit, yes we do! We've got spirit -- how 'bout you?" (I make exceptions for Gay Pride parades held in savagely backwards countries like Russia, of course.) But this year I broke my rule of not going to Gay Pride because the University of Virginia Gay Alums booth needed volunteers for a couple hours.

Although I was the youngest alum at the UVa booth by at least 10 years, quite a number of current Wahoos came up to the table during the day, and it was great to get some updates on what things are like at UVa and in Charlottesville these days -- both generally, and for gay undergrads. (I'm told there's still only ONE official gay club in C'ville; what's changed since my time there is that attendance by straight students and townies has soared.)

Anyway, after I'd put in my time at the UVa table, I went walking around to take in the sights of DCGayFest, which occupied about three closed-off blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue, just north of the National Mall. And since I was no longer representing UVa, I decided it was time to whip out my homemade sandwich board promoting the safer-sex approach known as frot -- essentially, a form of mutual masturbation between two dudes that involves no orifice penetration, and favored by some homo and bi men because of the ultra-minimal STD risk.

But as I've been arguing on the Web for several years now, the mainstream "AIDS Educators" in the "Gay Community" have never done an adequate job at educating guys about frot as a safer-sex option. On the contrary, throughout the course of an HIV epidemic that has spread among homo/bi men almost entirely via buttfucking, the received wisdom has been and continues to be: "By all means continue with the buttfucking -- just Use A Condom Every Time™, boys!" Suffice to say, I think this is a poor approach.

And so there I was at Capitol Pride 2008:

Click for full-size image

Let it be noted that the photo of me was taken by a pair of cute 20-something black lesbians -- one wearing orange/yellow "alien" contact lenses and the other with an I'm a Vagitarian button on her shirt. Neither batted an eye at my T-shirt with the rainbow-striped GOP elephant, and they were interested to know what "frot" meant.

Got the same friendly and curious reaction from a gaggle of six or seven dykes with whom I spent about half an hour chatting after the event was officially closing down and most of the booths had packed up their tables. Didn't take long to explain "frot," because as soon as I gave a basic definition, they were like, "Oh, that's kinda like what we call 'scissoring'." Then one piped up with the synonym "tribadism," and another mentioned  hacer una tortilla .

The only hostile reaction I got to the FROT IS HOTTER sign was from -- who else? -- a gay male "safer sex educator" at the Whitman/Walker booth.

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posted by Throbert | 7/02/2008 09:44:00 PM | (2) responses

01 July 2008

Six Minutes of Russian Opera to Knock You on Your  Жопа

I'm currently obsessing over this "Polovtsian Dances" segment of the opera Prince Igor, by Alexander Borodin. Here it's performed by a massive theatre company with everyone in full medieval-russkii drag, and it's quite a spectacle!

You might recognize the opening melody, which was ripped off (via the Broadway show Kismet) and turned into the 1950s pop standard "Stranger in Paradise." But the really fun ass-knocking-down-on part starts at about the 3:40 mark.

I found the Russian text after a little searching; it's wierd how the sounds that had been meaningless operatic tra-la-hah-ing suddenly crystalize into intelligible Russian words once I'm able to read along as I listen.

Anyhew, the bombastic, Carmina Burana-ish section with the hellza-bangin' kettle drums is imaginatively titled "Everyone Starts Dancing" (Общая Пляска) and the chorus is basically saying how super fabulous and terror-inspiring their Big Boss is. His name is "Konchak," but in the song, they refer to him by the title of his office: Khan. If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine Ricardo Montalban's minions singing this to William Shatner:

♪♫ Пойте песни славы хану! Пой!
Славьте силу, дочесть хана! Славь!
Славен хан! Хан!
Славен он, хан наш!
Блеском славы
Солнцу равен хан!
Нету равных славой хану! Нет!
Чаги хана славят хана...

♪♫ Sing songs of glory to KHAN! Sing!
Glorify his might, honor KHAN!
KHAN is glorious! KHAN!
He is glorious, our KHAN!
In the brightness of his glory,
KHAN is like the sun!
There are no equals to the glory of KHAN! None!
The slaves of KHAN glorify KHAN, etc.

Executive summary: If you dare call yourself a Polovtsian, a massive hard-on for KHAN is mandatory.

Mind you, the opera as a whole is about how the Prince Igor tries to protect the motherland from the invading armies of Konchak, which means that this balls-out showstopper musical number belongs to the bad guys.

By the way, the Polovtsians were apparently a Turkic people who are now extinct by assimilation into other ethnicities. At the time depicted in the opera (late 12th century), they were still some flavor of pagan, but not too long afterwards, the Western Polovtsians converted to Christianity, while their cousins to the east chose Islam.

And to my non-Russian ears the ethnic name "Polovtsian" sounds amusingly similar to the adjective polovóy, which can mean either "sexual" or "floor-related." (Yes, really.  Половой воск , for example, could arguably be translated either "sex wax" or "floor wax.")

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posted by Throbert | 7/01/2008 10:51:00 PM | (4) responses

Split Brains and Souls

A poster on LGF logo recently asked :

Care to post proof that human beings have no soul?

And here's my answer to that challenge:

It would be difficult to conclusively disprove the existence of immortal souls, but the odd side-effects experienced by patients after "split-brain surgery" rather strongly suggests that we don't have souls during our biological lifespan.

Here's an online game that describes the outcome of the "split-brain experiments" in detail.

But in a nutshell, it used to be that when patients were suffering from severe epileptic seizures that couldn't be controlled by the medications of the time, the measure of last resort was to surgically cut the nerve bundle connecting the left and right halves of the brain. (As far as I know, improved anti-seizure drugs have made such surgeries obsolete.)

Not only did "splitting" the brain in this way help to reduce the seizures, but many of these patients were able to recover relatively normal functionality in everyday life.

However, under certain artificial conditions devised by experimenting scientists, the split-brain patients occasionally showed some very odd symptoms, particularly relating to the way that their brains processed sensory input and language.

For instance, the patient might be presented with something as familiar as an apple, and recognize it as something that he enjoys eating, and perhaps also recognize that a red apple and a red shirt were the same color.

Yet upon being asked by the researchers, "What's the name of this thing you're looking at?" the patient would come up blank -- totally unable to retrieve from memory and pronounce the words "apple" or "red." And the cause of these weird side-effects was that the two halves of the brain were no longer able to share information directly.

Now, if the consciousness of a living human were really located in a supernatural soul that exists apart from the physical brain, wouldn't we expect that this soul could carry information across the millimeter gap between the left and right brain, even though the physical connection had been severed?

Of course, there remains the possibility that a supernatural agent like God could create a soul at the very moment when we die, and miraculously download all of our brain's stored memories and sense of self into this newly-made soul, so that our individual personalities could survive the death of the brain. I see no way to prove or disprove that.

(And incidentally, the effects experienced by patients after "split-brain surgery" also give us good reason to doubt that there is such a thing as telepathy.)

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posted by Throbert | 7/01/2008 09:37:00 PM | (0) responses
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