Saturday, November 08, 2008

more sample photos of the canon powershot 1000is review

since i'm getting a bit of traffic from people interested in the canon powershot 1000is, here are a few more shots.

overall, I am happy with the camera. i dropped it on the great wall of china and it is still going strong despite the new scratches on the body. another camera may not have survived such impact.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Canon Powershot A1000IS Initial Review

I decided to pick up the new Canon Powershot A1000IS in NYC last night. It wasn't an easy decision for me. I was actually going back and forth between two canon models: the Powershot A1000IS and the Powershot A590IS. I stayed until the store was on the verge of closing before I finally made my decision. I had studied up on the A590is, reading every review and looking at all the sample footage I could find, but little is out there at the time of this writing on the Canon A1000IS other than the technical specs released from Canon. The Powershot A1000IS was just released just a few weeks ago.

The salesman at the store, a knowledgeable camera guy named Michael, tried to steer me in the direction of the Canon Powershot A590IS. His reasons for the A590IS? Larger, better lens (in terms of Aperture), full manual controls, lower price, better overall value.

I can't dispute any of these key arguing points. I am a fan of the Canon A590IS, yet I chose A1000IS.

Why would I go with a camera that has not been tested, you ask? 30fps video capabilities had a lot to do with the decision to go with the A1000IS over the A590. The A590IS only shoots 20fps video quality. Since my DSLR doesn't shoot any video, I wanted any point and shoot I picked up to have decent video quality. I also knew I wanted to get a canon.

I own a Nikon D40 DSLR, and love it. I'm not a particularly great photographer, but I like to at least try to get a decent shot. Obviously, the Nikon has full manual controls and a great starter lens; yet I still felt like I was missing out because it--like most DSLRs--does not record video.

There have been occasions where I suddenly found myself walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and other fantastic places without my D40, so I knew it was time for a secondary camera. The Nikon is small in terms of an SLR, but is still too big to carry around everywhere without a backpack or something to carry it in. Some times I like to walk the earth without a backpack.

When you say “manual controls,” the first thing people think of is the ability to manual focus, plus the ability to control shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. This camera, unlike its predecessors in the powershot A-series (A590IS included), will not let you manipulate these photographic variables with such freedom.

The A1000IS does have program mode, however. From this setting, you can access burst mode shooting, exposure compensation, white balance controls, ISO settings to 1600 (although I found the 1600 setting to be too grainy), a very useful “my color” setting that allows you to switch from default mode to vivid, neutral, sepia, black and white or custom.

So do I miss the full manual controls offered on the A590IS? Not really.

I think canon eliminated these controls from the Powershot series because of the need for a smaller footprint. When they went in this direction, they assumed one of two things:

A) people who are going to buy the A-series may already own a DSLR for their more creative photographic work

B) the people who were buying the Powershot A-series cameras weren't using these Aperture and Shutter priority modes very often, not to mention manual focus.

Most of the time I leave my Nikon D40 in program mode. The controls I usually play with are White Balance and Exposure Compensation. If I'm trying to shoot sports I'll play with shutter speed, or if I'm trying to blur on purpose I'll use a slower shutter, but overall I leave my SLR in auto focus and in program mode, so I came to the conclusion that Powershot A1000is seemed like it would be capable of everything I would need it to do.

Size: this model is noticeably smaller than the Canon A590is. Although their weights are similar, the A1000is a little thinner.

One possible disappointment already: does it have time lapse, like the sd1100 that i returned in exchange for this camera? I guess not.

The SD1100 had some funky results in indoor lighting for my taste, YMMV however.

The two-tone look of the A1000 camera is nice. I was actually a big fan of the look of the A590IS, with its plastic-looking gun metal gray appearance. The A590IS looked very durable. The A1000IS feels more metallic like one of the digital elph cameras. I opted for the gray model of the Powershot A1000IS, although I walked in thinking I'd get the brown. They a1000 also comes in blue or purple. There are some nice chrome touches around the lens and shutter that gives the camera a high-quality look to it.

The tripod mount is plastic instead of metal. Would have been nice for canon to make it metal instead, since I do plan on mounting this puppy to my bike to do some experiments riding through NYC streets.

Gone is the switch that used to separate playback mode from shooting mode. Canon replaced it with a “play” button that rests near where you thumb would rest if you were shooting with the index finger of your right hand. Some of the navigation buttons are hard to press at times.

I liked the grip of the a590is because it reminded me of my Nikon D40, but the grip of the A1000 is just fine, although it is less pronounced than the A590IS. I think this is a byproduct of Canon trying to minimize the size of the Powershot as much as possible. The A1000 doesn't feel like it will slip out of your hand while shooting, but with the a590is you “know” the camera isn't going anywhere thanks to it's excellent grip. Still, the A1000IS feels great in your hands, and it isn't too small for people who have big hands.

I think Canon improved upon the flash recycle time on the A1000IS. At least it seemed that way to me. I think most of the reviews looked favorably on the A590IS, with a few minor gripes such as the slow flash recycle time associated with any battery that uses 1.5V AA batteries as its power supply. The A1000IS still isn't nearly as fast as my Nikon, but it did seem faster than the A590IS in the shop.

The 2.5” LCD on the back is little more than acceptable. I'm used to the rich, vibrant color of my Nikon D40, so although the LCD on the A1000 is going to do its job and tell you if you got the shot you need or if you need to re-shoot, the screen still leaves something to be desired for a 10 megapixel camera.

One thing I haven't been able to do with the A1000IS is shoot in video mode with the LCD off so as not to attract extra attention. Whether this is possible or not is yet to be determined.

Battery life: the camera shipped with two alkalines. I shot about 200 shots (maybe half of which were with flash) and about six high-res videos, and then they conked out in the first day. I'm hoping nickel metal hydrides and/or lithiums will do better than 200 shots.

A fellow customer, a lady in the return room was shocked i was returning the SD1100IS. Did I make the right decision? Time will tell.

Will try to update with some video, neither youtube nor blogger would accept the videos I shot, probably because they're too long to upload.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

honda fit hybrid? I thought honda said no?

I'm glad Honda has changed their mind because the fit is a car i really like and for them to finally decide to make a hybrid version of the fit basically solidifies my desire to drive this fine vehicle one day.

even though i drive a 1999 honda civic, I'm in no hurry to get a new car. but if money suddenly fell from the sky, this would be the car I'd go out and buy.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Got eee PC 900?

I still don't.

I preordered mine from J&R Music World on the 10th at 1pm. It is now almost the 14th, two full days after the official US release date, and still no word as to when I'll be getting my new ultra mobile device.

Here is something to take a look at, Amazon has updated their website to indicate it could take a MONTH to get one of their Asus eee PC 900's running linux with the 20 GB SSD. The XP version with the smaller 12GB SSD is now shown as "in stock" which is worlds better than J&R's "preorder" status.

If you're reading this, and you've already received your eee PC 900, I'd like to hear from you. Do you like your eee PC 900? Think the battery life is good/bad? Let me know. Where did you order it from? Don't tell me J&R!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Creator of Acid Passes

Albert Hofmann, the Father of LSD, Dies at 102

* Sign In to E-Mail or Save This
* Print
* Reprints
* Share
o Digg
o Facebook
o Mixx
o Yahoo! Buzz
o Permalink

Article Tools Sponsored By
Published: April 30, 2008

PARIS — Albert Hofmann, the mystical Swiss chemist who gave the world LSD, the most powerful psychotropic substance known, died Tuesday at his hilltop home near Basel, Switzerland. He was 102.
Skip to next paragraph
Patrick Straub/European Pressphoto Agency

Albert Hofmann in 2006.
The Saturday Profile: Nearly 100, LSD's Father Ponders His 'Problem Child' (Jan. 7, 2006)
Enlarge This Image
Novartis, via A.F.P. — Getty Images

Dr. Hofmann, date unknown, with a chemical model of LSD.

The cause was a heart attack, said Rick Doblin, founder and president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a California-based group that in 2005 republished Dr. Hofmann’s 1979 book “LSD: My Problem Child.”

Dr. Hofmann first synthesized the compound lysergic acid diethylamide in 1938 but did not discover its psychopharmacological effects until five years later, when he accidentally ingested the substance that became known to the 1960s counterculture as acid.

He then took LSD hundreds of times, but regarded it as a powerful and potentially dangerous psychotropic drug that demanded respect. More important to him than the pleasures of the psychedelic experience was the drug’s value as a revelatory aid for contemplating and understanding what he saw as humanity’s oneness with nature. That perception, of union, which came to Dr. Hofmann as almost a religious epiphany while still a child, directed much of his personal and professional life.

Dr. Hofmann was born in Baden, a spa town in northern Switzerland, on Jan. 11, 1906, the eldest of four children. His father, who had no higher education, was a toolmaker in a local factory, and the family lived in a rented apartment. But Dr. Hofmann spent much of his childhood outdoors.

He would wander the hills above the town and play around the ruins of a Hapsburg castle, the Stein. “It was a real paradise up there,” he said in an interview in 2006. “We had no money, but I had a wonderful childhood.”

It was during one of his ambles that he had his epiphany.

“It happened on a May morning — I have forgotten the year — but I can still point to the exact spot where it occurred, on a forest path on Martinsberg above Baden,” he wrote in “LSD: My Problem Child.” “As I strolled through the freshly greened woods filled with bird song and lit up by the morning sun, all at once everything appeared in an uncommonly clear light.

“It shone with the most beautiful radiance, speaking to the heart, as though it wanted to encompass me in its majesty. I was filled with an indescribable sensation of joy, oneness and blissful security.”

Though Dr. Hofmann’s father was a Roman Catholic and his mother a Protestant, Dr. Hofmann, from an early age, felt that organized religion missed the point. When he was 7 or 8, he recalled, he spoke to a friend about whether Jesus was divine. “I said that I didn’t believe, but that there must be a God because there is the world and someone made the world,” he said. “I had this very deep connection with nature.”

Dr. Hofmann went on to study chemistry at Zurich University because, he said, he wanted to explore the natural world at the level where energy and elements combine to create life. He earned his Ph.D. there in 1929, when he was just 23. He then took a job with Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, attracted by a program there that sought to synthesize pharmacological compounds from medicinally important plants.

It was during his work on the ergot fungus, which grows in rye kernels, that he stumbled on LSD, accidentally ingesting a trace of the compound one Friday afternoon in April 1943. Soon he experienced an altered state of consciousness similar to the one he had experienced as a child.

On the following Monday, he deliberately swallowed a dose of LSD and rode his bicycle home as the effects of the drug overwhelmed him. That day, April 19, later became memorialized by LSD enthusiasts as “bicycle day.”

Dr. Hofmann’s work produced other important drugs, including methergine, used to treat postpartum hemorrhaging, the leading cause of death from childbirth. But it was LSD that shaped both his career and his spiritual quest.

“Through my LSD experience and my new picture of reality, I became aware of the wonder of creation, the magnificence of nature and of the animal and plant kingdom,” Dr. Hofmann told the psychiatrist Stanislav Grof during an interview in 1984. “I became very sensitive to what will happen to all this and all of us.”

Dr. Hofmann became an impassioned advocate for the environment and argued that LSD, besides being a valuable tool for psychiatry, could be used to awaken a deeper awareness of mankind’s place in nature and help curb society’s ultimately self-destructive degradation of the natural world.

But he was also disturbed by the cavalier use of LSD as a drug for entertainment, arguing that it should be treated in the way that primitive societies treat psychoactive sacred plants, which are ingested with care and spiritual intent.

After his discovery of LSD’s properties, Dr. Hofmann spent years researching sacred plants. With his friend R. Gordon Wasson, he participated in psychedelic rituals with Mazatec shamans in southern Mexico. He succeeded in synthesizing the active compounds in the Psilocybe mexicana mushroom, which he named psilocybin and psilocin. He also isolated the active compound in morning glory seeds, which the Mazatec also used as an intoxicant, and found that its chemical structure was close to that of LSD.

During the psychedelic era, Dr. Hofmann struck up friendships with such outsize personalities as Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg and Aldous Huxley, who, nearing death in 1963, asked his wife for an injection of LSD to help him through the final painful throes of throat cancer.

Yet despite his involvement with psychoactive compounds, Dr. Hofmann remained moored in his Swiss chemist identity. He stayed with Sandoz as head of the research department for natural medicines until his retirement in 1971. He wrote more than 100 scientific articles and was the author or co-author of a number of books

He and his wife, Anita, who died recently, reared four children in Basel. A son died of alcoholism at 53. Survivors include several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Though Dr. Hofmann called LSD “medicine for the soul,” by 2006 his hallucinogenic days were long behind him, he said in the interview that year.

“I know LSD; I don’t need to take it anymore,” he said, adding. “Maybe when I die, like Aldous Huxley.”

But he said LSD had not affected his understanding of death. In death, he said, “I go back to where I came from, to where I was before I was born, that’s all.”

Monday, February 25, 2008

For the Purity of Our Precious Bodily Fluids: an Essay on Eroticism in Vampire Films

For the Purity of Our Precious Bodily Fluids: an Essay on Eroticism in Vampire Films

William Meyer
Emerson College

In 1896, with The Devil Castle, Georges Melies introduced the world to vampire films. Since then, the vampire movie has become a mainstay of popular horror. According to John L. Flynn, Brain Stoker's Dracula has been adapted for the screen more often than any other book, while the word vampire has appeared 1046 times in film titles. One reason behind this remarkable popularity is the close association between vampirism and eroticism that cinema has explored and exploited to increasing degrees over the years. These films have frequently presented various taboo aspects of sexuality; from sadomasochism to dominance and submission to homoeroticism. The settings of horror and fantasy are used to showcase the titillation of these forbidden topics. Over the years the explicitness of these representations have been molded by the changing standards of censorship.

A great deal has been written on the portrayal of sexuality in vampire literature, primarily Dracula and Le Fanu's classic story; Carmilla. The scene in Dracula in which Jonathan Harker is set upon by Dracula's three brides is the most overtly erotic piece of writing in the novel. This scene is interesting in many respects. It represents a rape scene in which the victim is male. This is no small deviation from our normal ideas of sexuality; Harker's vague recognition of one of the female vampires has been interpreted by several critics as a moment of Oedipal fantasy. There is also a brief passage which sounds like nothing so much as a description of fellatio. "The girl went on her knees... Lower and lower went her head... I could hear the churning sound of her lips and tongue (Stoker, 42). Critic David J. Skal has written on the
connection between vampirism and fellatio. He argues that the unconscious mind does not distinguish between bodily fluids and cites such varied personages as black magician Aleister Crowley and born-again Christian Anita Bryant equating vampirism and oral sex. Another interesting point in this scene is Harker passively awaiting the bite of the vampire woman. This resignation has been read as the male desire to be penetrated and therefore contains homoerotic implications.

Critics have also found in Dracula and Carmilla evidence of a fear of female sexuality; In Dracula, Lucy, who is characterized as sexually aggressive, is ultimately destroyed by the homosocial Crew of Light in a scene evocative of a brutal gang rape. Lucy has earlier shown her deviancy in her expressed desire to marry three different men. The male group decides that Lucy is a danger and takes it upon themselves to hunt her down and violently penetrate her with a wooden stake. In Carmilla, Laura's father is threatened by the possible sexual awakening of his daughter by the lesbian Carmilla, and he and other paternal figures enact brutal vengeance.

The many studies of literary vampirism have already explored the sexual deviancy of these monsters, but what of their filmic counterparts? The titillation and demonization of sexuality in Carmilla and Dracula can be seen as a reflection of the repression of the Victorian era during which these stories were written. During the course of the 20th century, as mores changed, we have seen greatly differing filmic interpretations of these texts and their erotic content. As Skal reminds us, "the sexuality in Dracula is both rancid and repellent. The story's nightmarish power derives in part from the tension wrought by a highly ‘civilized' Victorian surface narrative clashing with a raging subtext of unsublimated animalism (Skal, 8). Stoker's Count Dracula is a far cry from the seductive portrayal of Christopher Lee or Gary Oldman's tragically romantic Count. While Dracula does indeed grow young in the book, he never becomes attractive. The power of Stoker's Dracula has consistently been portrayed in film as sexual.

It is interesting to see how the portrayal of Dracula himself has developed over the years. In the original Nosferatu (1922) directed by F. W Murnau, the first film adaptation of Stoker's novel, the vampire Graf Orlock (referred to as Dracula in many American prints) is a vile, reptilian creature with rat like incisors for fangs. In 1931, Lugosi's Dracula, while not necessarily attractive, is well dressed and characterized by his aristocratic bearing. Christopher Lee's Dracula of the late 50's to early 70's emphasized the powerful seductive qualities of the character, and by 1979, the Frank Langella version presented Stoker's classic work of horror as a tale of long lost love.

It may be pertinent at this point to note that the more overtly erotic content of later vampire films is as much a reflection of audience demand as any inherent sexuality of the vampire itself. Warner Bros., which distributed the Hammer horror films in the United States, pressed the studio to include more lurid content in each subsequent picture. While 1958's Horror of Dracula was denounced for its explicit violence and heavy sexual content, it hardly compares to the frontal nudity of later Hammer films. The specific ability of film to offer actual visual images and impressions was seized upon by the makers of vampire films. Hammer Studios managed to garner high profits from medium budgets largely due to constantly pushing the envelope of ever-loosening censorship.

While earlier vampire films were not as lurid, they still often contained elements of sexual deviancy. In 1918, two film versions of Hanns Heinz Ewers's popular gothic story Alraune were made. Unfortunately, neither of these films seem to have survived the first World War. The original source material tells the tale of a mad scientist who artificially inseminates a prostitute to create a beautiful woman. The woman, it turns out, is vampiric and must feast on human blood. Eventually, the creature wants a sexual relation with the scientist, her spiritual Luther. These two missing adaptations are considered the first films to associate vampirism and sexual perversion.

While Nosferatu (1922) does not contain any explicit sexual content, one of its deviations from Stoker's novel is that Ellen must sacrifice her purity in order to destroy the monster. As Ken Gelder points out, "By making Ellen's decision to let the vampire into her bedroom central to the narrative, Nosferatu inevitably invokes the conventional presentation of woman as virgin and whore (Gelder, 97). Ellen must save both by virtue of her purity and by her willingness to give up that purity. This creates a narrative ambiguity, if not an outright contradiction. Although this is a narrative deviation from Stoker's novel, it could be argued that the conflicting attitude towards female sexuality represented her is quite reflective of the Victorian mores of the original book.

The Hammer cycle of vampire films were among the first to overtly focus on the seduction aspect of the vampire attack. The attack of Dracula in these films resembles foreplay, and his female victims tend to enjoy, rather than resist, his bite. Horror of Dracula (1958) distanced itself from its Universal predecessor by a more direct representation of sex and violence. In one of the first scenes, Harker narrowly escapes attack by a noticeably well endowed female vampire. Sequences like this make explicit the thematic connection between the erotic and the dangerous that runs through so many exploitative films. Eleven years later, in Taste the Blood of Dracula, the moaning of Dracula's victims is practically indistinguishable from a female orgasm.

By the early 1970's, due to pressures of the box office and the gradual loosening of censorship standards, the Hammer films had become much more direct in their portrayal of sexual material. Films like The Vampire Lovers (1970), Lust For a Vampire (1971), and Twins of Evil (1972) began to showcase full- frontal nudity and scenes of lesbian sex.. The sexual content of these films was soon outdone by lower budget soft and hardcore pornographic vampire films like "Dracula Sucks (1979).

The connections between vampirism and sex can be clearly seen in many of the vampire parodies. By their satiric nature, the films overemphasize many of the traditions and subtexts of vampire cinema. Blood For Dracula (1974) (also know as Andy Warhol's Dracula) is a particularly exploitative example of a campy vampire send up. In this film, the Count, excellently portrayed by Udo Kier, must go in search of virgin blood. He travels to Italy seeking a maiden bride. A poor but aristocratic family gives him a room at their house and attempts to marry off their daughters to him. Sex and brutality abound in this film. Of the four daughters, the two that are considered marriageable are sexually involved with Mario, the farm hand. During sexual encounters, Mario frequently slaps the girls around. When they explain that Dracula is seeking a virgin bride, he asks "what does he want with you two whores? Mario eventually becomes the film's de facto hero by killing Dracula and eradicating the vampire menace. This hero's most memorable line may be when he says of the fourteen year old daughter, "I'd like to rape the hell out of her. Which he later does, explaining to the mother that he's trying to protect the girl from Dracula.

Incest is also among the perversions portrayed in this movie. The two middle daughters are also sexually involved with each other. Their submission to Mario's brutality is quite disturbing even by exploitation film standards. Indeed, the rape sequences and the final messy dismemberment of Dracula by Mario have led John L. Flynn to dismiss the film as “trash like Blood Feast (1964) and Orgy of the Dead (1966)” (Flynn, 169). Perhaps what is so disturbing about Blood for Dracula is that while it is a tongue-in-cheek parody, it is not exactly lighthearted. The sheer brutality and injustice presented in the film begs a more serious consideration than mere camp.

Roman Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) is a much more palatable example of the vampire parody. This film focuses on the bumbling exploits of two vampire hunters, Professor Ambrosius and his assistant Alfred. Although portrayals of lesbianism are common in vampire cinema, male homosexuality is rarely portrayed. In The Fearless Vampire Killers, we see the other side of the coin when a male vampires attempts to seduce Alfred. This is an inversion of the generic norm. This scene comically trangresses the standards of the vampire genre itself. In doing so, it points out the conservative limitations of the typical vampire film.

Sexual deviancy is given a comic treatment here. There are several images of voyeurism in this film. Sharon Tate's breasts are carefully showcased by the camera on more than one occasion. Alfred falls in love while watching the young lady bathe. There are also several amusing scenes of the innkeeper sneaking out of his wife's bed and rather ineptly attempting to seduce the maid. Ultimately, the sexual allure of Sarah leads to the hero's downfall.

Ambrosius and Alfred daringly infiltrate the vampire's ball and take Sarah away with them. However, whilst escaping in the back of the sleigh, Sarah bites Alfred and vampirizes him. Ambrosius drives on, unwittingly bringing the very menace he meant to destroy to the world at large. Frighteningly enough, the underlying themes of sex and violence in Polanski's films became all too real two years later when Tate was murdered by members of the Manson gang.

Aside from the obvious comic irony of the last scene, this undoing also points to a larger theme prevalent in vampire films. While these movies showcase a wide range of deviations and perversions, the transgressors are almost universally punished. Like Faust, Lilith, or Satan, the vampire flagrantly disregards the natural order of things. He lives beyond the grace of God. The vampire's undead state is an affront to nature. As such, he must be punished.

While vampire films may be said to glorify sexual perversion, they ultimately equate deviant sexuality with monsters. The perversions of sadomasochism, homosexuality, and incest are decried by moralists as unnatural. Their association with creatures of evil in vampire films serves only to strengthen this demonization of sexuality. The spectator is allowed to vicariously enjoy the deviant actions of the characters and then feel self-righteously assured when the characters are punished for their transgressions. One of the few deviations from this pattern is the aforementioned Blood for Dracula. Although the Count himself is killed off in the final reel, the audience is left with a rapist as a hero. Mario's sexual transgressions remain unpunished at the end. Indeed, in many ways he would seem to be rewarded for his sexual violence. It is this lack of moral closure that makes the film effective and has caused its offhand dismissal by so many critics.

Brain Stoker's Dracula (1992), directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is notable as arguably the most sexually explicit interpretation of Stoker's novel. The sheer number of exposed breasts in the film are enough to classify it as either an art film or an exploitation flick. The various vampire attacks in the book are here shown as clearly sexual acts of seduction. However, despite the overtly erotic content of this film, it lacks the transgressive edge of many others. Despite whatever artistic merits it may or may not have, Brain Stoker's Dracula is ultimately a healthily budgeted mainstream film. One could hardly expect mainstream audiences to digest the brutal sexuality of Blood For Dracula (1974). While Coppola has stated his intention to clearly portray the sexual subtext of the novel, he deals only passingly with the terror. Coppola's film is sanitized and made safe by borrowing the subplot of a reincarnated love from the 1979 version of Dracula. The edge of dangerous eroticism is blunted by being couched within a love story.

This is not to say that this is merely a conservative film. Nor are the others mentioned. They each have their transgressive aspects. It is impossible to come to any single, conclusive, judgmental statement about the history of eroticism in vampire films. Many of the texts discussed here have their ambiguities and allow for multiple readings. While I have commented above on the relatively safe and sanitized aspects of Brain Stoker's Dracula, the film still contains many lurid sequences of explicit sexuality. While tame compared to many underground offerings, some of its elements are at least mildly shocking for a big budget studio film. The lasting impressions of lurid sexuality outweigh the love story and narrative retribution for many viewers.

Blood For Dracula is so ambiguous that it can at times be disturbing. The film refuses to morally judge its characters. While, as previously mentioned, Mario is a questionable choice for a hero, Dracula himself is hardly heroic. He is a pathetic old aristocrat in search of virgin blood. Good and bad are not clearly and safely defined. They exist within a contested gray area, and the audience must sort them out for itself. Blood For Dracula makes no excuses for its brutal depravity. It simply is as it is. The campy tone renders the extreme brutality even more disturbing than a straight portrayal would. It helps to evoke unease in the audience. Blood For Dracula explores the troubling space between humor and repulsion. The film is shocking in its humor, and humorous in its shock value. This ambiguity is what places it above simple camp or exploitation.

There is a certain moral ambiguity at work in all these films. The transgressive aspects of vampires are punished, but they are also glorified. As censorship loosened, increasingly graphic sexuality was balanced by the increasingly violent death of the vampire in the final reel. The films attempt to excuse their sexual and violent content through narrative retribution, but this does not alter the luridly transgressive nature of the images themselves.

Much of the basic iconography of vampire films can be read in sexual terms. As mentioned earlier, there is a strong connection between the acts of bloodsucking and oral sex. The small twin bite wounds of many cinematic vampires with their bright red centers have been said to resemble nipples. The act of biting is an act of penetration, and the wooden stake is a violent phallic symbol. In many shots, the biting of a female characters neck gives the camera an opportunity to focus upon cleavage. This harkens back to a Freudian perspective that relates bloodsucking to infantile oral appetites. The poster for the 1979 Dracula, starring Frank Langella, "features the Count ogling a supine victim's neck, but our gaze is pulled instead to the undead uplift of the woman's breasts, (Skal, 10). Indeed, in later films like The Graveyard Shift (1987) and many of the lesbian vampire movies, vampires go straight for the breasts in their attempts to feed.

Another pertinent point is portrayals of the body in vampire films. In their book, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, Peter Stallybrass and Allon White write a great deal about representations of the body. Citing Bakhtin, they discuss the difference between the body as represented in popular festivals (low culture) and classic statuary (high culture). The high culture body "has no openings or orifices whereas grotesque costumes and masks emphasize the gaping mouth, the protuberant belly and buttocks, the feet and the genitals (Stallybrass and White, 22). The classical body is a perfect closed system, unsullied by the world around it. It is pure and self-contained, whereas the grotesque body with its various orifices and protrusions is constantly excreting or consuming.

The most obvious violation of the classical body in these films is the act of feeding. in scenes of attack and seduction, the vampire's teeth penetrates the victim's skin, disrupting its closedness. The vampire then drinks from the victim. Body fluids flow freely from victim to aggressor. The body is no longer whole and pure. it has been rendered grotesque. In classical statuary, little attention was paid to the lower body Strata. The less than impressive size of the genitalia on many classic statues is a way of marginalizing these body parts. They are barely represented at all. They are rendered negligible. The specific iconography of vampire films offer more indirect ways of representing the sexual organs. As mentioned above, the stake of the vampire hunter has clear phallic connotations. Also phallic are the teeth. They penetrate the body of the often female victim and plant their seed in the victim's body, creating a new vampire. The vampire's attack is in many ways an act of impregnation. This idea is carried even farther in the psuedo-vampiric Alien films. In these films, victims become hosts for the offspring of their alien attackers. Much of the terror is due to the idea of being rendered female by the rape and impregnation of an alien creature. The wounds inflicted by the vampire's teeth are new bodily orifices, and can be read as vaginal. When Dracula slices open his chest and brings Mina to feed from him, many critics have interpreted the small slit inflicted by his fingernail as representative of the female sexual organ.

In the more graphically violent films, the classical body is violated through acts of brutality. The surface of the body is broken by weapons and blood flows freely from the wounds. The wholeness of the body is attacked. A particularly memorable example of this is the Count's death in Blood for Dracula. Mario attacks the Count with an axe, lopping off his limbs before driving the obligatory stake into his chest. Through this over the top act of violence, Count Dracula's body is made less than whole. The scenes of vomiting in this and many other vampire films are also examples of the body portrayed in the grotesque form. Although these violent acts are not overtly erotic, the violation of the classical body that they present has interesting correlations to modern studies on sexual perversion.

In his book, Observing the Erotic Imagination, Robert J. Stoller, M.D. discusses the connections between eroticism and hostility. According to Stoller, perverse sexual fantasies are characterized by the inclusion of humiliation or harm to one or more parties involved. This is largely a defensive measure. Through fantasy, past "trauma... is converted to a triumph, (Stoller, 32). The objectification of sexual partners so central to many perversions, is indicative of a fear of true intimacy. For those who do not fear dissolution, intimacy is a joy. For those who do, there is an even more primitive threat: if I let someone in -if I thereby merge with that person - may her or she not, like an evil spirit, possess me, take me over entirely? Then, the great terror, I shall lose myself. It is against such fundamental menace that perversion is invented. (Stoller, 29) Through fetishization and other sexual aberrations, the perverse person (I hesitate to use the term pervert, with all its judgmental weight) seeks to preserve the wholeness and purity of their person. Like the classical body, they wish for their self to be untouchable, closed, and whole. They fear being corrupted by intimate contact with the outside world. The violation of the person through intimate sexual contact is roughly equivalent to the destruction of the body by physical violence.

As mentioned above, Stoller sees hostility as a vital element in perverse sexual fantasy. This is not a particularly radical viewpoint. However, Stoller goes one step further by questioning what separates perverse from normal sexuality. He sees elements of hostility in all sexual fantasy. Whether this is true or not, it is safe to say that fear and risk can serve to heighten eroticism. It is only natural, then, that eroticism should be so closely associated with the horror genre. Vampires, like sex itself, are both alluring and dangerous. From a purely physiological standpoint, fear and sexual arousal are closely related. Psychologically, the fears and insecurities that many of us have about sex are reflected in the terror of horror films. Sex is not merely an added attraction in these films, it is part of the unease.

Over the years, vampire films have portrayed sexuality and eroticism in many different ways and to many different extents. Taboo sexuality has been alternately glorified and demonized in these movies. The loosening of censorship has allowed more overt portrayals of the sexuality that was previously relegated to subtext. While most of these films follow the conservative pattern of punishing the transgressors, it would be an oversimplification to read them as merely supportive of the dominant ideologies. The titillation associated with deviant sexuality in these films leaves a lasting impression that can not be erased by last minute narrative moralism. From the underground to mainstream Hollywood, eroticism in vampire films remains an interesting and potent force in the realm of cinema.

Works Cited

Blood For Dracula, Dir. Paul Morrissey. Perf. Joe Dallesandro, Udo Kier, Arno Juerging, and Milen Vukotic. Bryanston Pictures, 1974.

Brain Stoker's Dracula, Dir. Francis Ford Coppola. Perf. Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony
Hopkins, and Keanu Reeves. Columbia Pictures Corporation, 1992.

The Fearless Vampire Killers, Dir. Roman Polanski. Perf. Jack McGowran, Roman Polanski, Alfie Bass, Jessie Robbins, and Sharon Tate. Filmways Productions, 1967.

Horror of Dracula, Dir. Terrance Fisher. Perf. Peter Gushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Cough, Melissa Stribling, Carol Marsh, and Olga Dickie, Hammer Film Productions Limited, 1958.

Nosferatu, Dir. F. W. Murnau. Perf. Max Schreck, Karl Etlinger, Gustav Botz, John Gottowt, and Greta Schroder. Prana-film, 1922.

Flynn, John L. Cinematic Vampires. London: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 1992.

Gelder, Ken. Reading the Vampire. London, Routledge, 1994.

Skal, David J. "Bloodsuckers & Cocksuckers Bright Lights 14: 4-11.

Stallybrass, Peter and Allon White. The Politics and Poetics of Transgression. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986.

Stoker, Brain Dracula. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1998.

Stoller, Robert J., M.D. Observing the Erotic Imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985. Meyer 6

Sunday, February 24, 2008

belgrade looting

Mankind's true nature when he/she thinks no one will catch them?