Saturday, September 27, 2008

Seven Vices and a Survey

(Two surveys, actually, one for me and one for you.)

It seems that Michal "Altair" Valášek of Lupus Pictures has tagged me with the "Seven Deadly Sins". It's an internet meme where you are supposed to answer seven times seven questions on how much you engage in the Biblical capital vices (actually, the seven deadly sins aren't mentioned anywhere in the Bible, but were laid out by Pope Gregory I in the sixth century). What a gorgeous idea. Who could be more qualified to expound on sinful behaviour than we spanko perverts? Thanks, Altair.

You can read his own answers here. Be sure to check out the entire Lupus blog, which is now being updated again after an extended summer break. There is also an online survey where you can let the werewolves know what you would like to see in their upcoming epics. The survey runs until October 8th and if you complete it, you will get a 5 Euro discount coupon for their web shop.

Below are my answers to the "Seven Deadly Sins" questionnaire, uncensored and gut-wrenchingly honest. Also overlength as usual, but fortunately that is not a capital vice according to Greg. Now I only have to infect three more bloggers to spread the meme and my soul will be saved. I'm hereby tagging Leia-Ann Woods, Pandora Blake and Prefectdt.

(Hieronymus Bosch, "The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things", 1485)

1. With whom did you last get angry?

I get angry with myself more frequently than with others. Incidentally, I did get a little cheesed off with someone last Monday. A person both clueless and impolite - doesn't that combination annoy you, too?

2. What is your weapon of choice?
I am interested in the results rather than the tool, so I use whatever gets me what I want in that particular situation. It could be a refined weapon, a "fun" one, deliberately crude, stealthy, whatever. Maybe "variety" is my weapon of choice?

3. Would you hit a member of the opposite sex?
Of course. This is a spanking blog, what do you expect? I'm not a big fan of face slapping, though. I find it a bit ungentlemanly. There are some tops who can do it with style, but I always feel uncouth doing it.

4. How about the same sex?
I'm not into that. And I wouldn't hit anyone in anger, male or female. That's what the questions are really getting at, obviously. Hitting people in anger is uncool, I think. Not because of any moral scruples on my part, actually. But because it signifies a loss of self-control.

5. Who was the last person who got really angry at you?
Someone in an online debate who claimed that kinky role-play is immoral. I persistently dissected and exposed his simplistic, half-intellectual drivel. He didn't like it very much! But you know what they say about arguing over the internet. I may have won the argument, but I'm still retarded.

6. What is your pet peeve?
I don't have "pet peeves". I have major psychotic hatreds. Too many of them to just single out one.

7. Do you keep grudges, or can you let them go easily?
I used to keep grudges and I obsessed over them like I obsess over everything else. "God forgives, I don't!" That kind of macho crap. I find it easier to let them go now that I'm getting a bit older.

1. What is one thing you're supposed to do daily that you haven't done in a long time?

Read a "proper book" as opposed to essays and thought fragments on the internet. But I could name a lot of things I'd want to do daily. I'm great at making New Year's pledges and setting very high standards for myself, then failing to meet them.

2. What is the latest you've ever woken up?
I'm a night owl, I prefer to work at night whenever I can. So while I'm usually busy with something, my schedule can get pretty chaotic. I've probably woken up at any hour of the day at some point. Eleven PM? Absolutely.

3. Name a person you've been meaning to contact, but haven't?
I could name a few. I tend to have the occasional reclusive phase where I just disappear for a few weeks or even months. My friends know that already. One particular person? Someone I knew in university, she is a music teacher now.

4. What is the last lame excuse that you made?
I try to be inventive in my excuses. The last really lame one was years ago, when I missed an essay deadline and just said that I had been ill. In truth, I was totally intimidated by the subject. I think writer's block is different from sloth, though. Or is that an excuse?

5. Have you ever watched an infomercial all the way through (one of the long ones)?
What is an informercial? Those idiotic extended commercials they show on late night TV? Good lord, no. I don't watch TV at all.

6. When was the last time you got a good workout in?
Not too long ago, actually. I did a couple before we filmed the Comeuppance clip. Which had little to do with overcoming sloth and a lot with sudden "nudity panic". Nothing motivates you like good old-fashioned vanity. I hadn't worked out in years.

7. How many times did you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock today?
Probably once. I don't remember.

1. What is your overpriced yuppie beverage of choice?

I don't drink yuppie beverages. Bavarian beer is overpriced enough these days, and I don't even drink a lot of that. Just water most of the time. I style myself as a Spartan.

2. Meat eaters: white meat or dark meat?
Any, and yes, of course I am a meat eater. Who do you take me for, some kind of lame-ass hippie vegetarian? I'm civilised, I eat meat. Civilisation is based on killing things.

3. What is the greatest amount of alcohol you've had in one sitting/outing/event?
The greatest amount is probably one of those cases where I couldn't remember anything afterwards. You just recall going some place, meeting people, then there is a big black void, you wake up with the worst headache in the world and you have no idea how you got home. That only happened once or twice, but I'm still worried about the embarassing things I might have done.

4. Have you ever used a professional diet company?

5. Do you have an issue with your weight?

6. Which do you prefer: sweets, salty foods or spicy foods?

7. Have you ever looked at a small housepet or child and thought, "lunch"?
No. This section is going by rather quickly. I'm afraid I am not a very good glutton.

1. How many people have you seen naked (not counting movies / family)?

A few dozen if I include kinky parties and conventions. If I reduce it to more intimate encounters, six.

2. How many people have seen you naked (not counting physicians / family)?
Thousands. Not counting movies, either? In that case, eight.

3. What is your favourite body part of a person of your gender of choice?
This is a spanking blog - make a guess! Having said that, I'm not sure I have a "favourite body part". Even when it's strictly about eye candy, I tend to look at the whole person/body. You know, the "holistic approach".

4. Have you ever caught yourself staring at the chest/crotch of a member of your gender of choice during a normal conversation?
I'm not much of a breast man. I frequently find myself staring at bottoms, but that is difficult during a normal conversation. I love to be a gentleman and hold the door open for a lady, though.

5. Have you done it?
Yes. I was 24, a real late bloomer.

6. Have you ever been propositioned by a prostitute?
There was one funny incident in Italy. With my limited command of the language and with the whole thing taking place in a location where you don't expect it, it took me a rather long time to figure out what she wanted. At least then the world made sense again. I was totally mystified when this gorgeous girl just approached me out of the blue and started chatting. That doesn't normally happen.

7. Have you ever had to get tested for an STD or pregnancy?

1. How many credit cards do you own?

Two, neither of which I use very often. I'm a cash person.

2. What's your guilty pleasure store?
A bookstore.

3. If you had $1 million, what would you do with it?
I'd keep it all for myself, naturally. Okay, I would invite a few very good friends to dinner once in a while. But that's it. And can I have a million Euros instead of US dollars?

4. Would you rather be rich or famous?
Famous, but in the right way - lasting, transcendent, posthumous fame rather than fleeting popularity and the cheap adolation of the masses in one's own time. "Someone who is worthy of being rediscovered", as Monsieur Croche would have said. That's the kind of fame I'd like. I'm less picky with rich, I'll take that in any shape or form.

5. Would you accept a boring job if it meant you would make megabucks?

6. Have you ever stolen anything?
A single time only. As a kid, I wondered if it was really possible to steal something and get away with it. I deliberately chose an inexpensive item, an eraser. I got away with it. Okay, the eraser had this really awesome design, like a rocketship. That was also part of the motive.

7. How many MP3s are on your hard drive?
I still have most of my music on CD, actually. I need all the hard drive space I can spare for spanking movies.

1. What's one thing that you have done that you're most proud of?

In the last couple of years, I managed to tear down some long-standing barriers I had erected around myself. For the most part, I'm just glad I did that, but also a bit proud, because it was a very scary thing at the time and cost me quite an effort.

2. What's one thing you have done that your parents are most proud of?
They never placed much importance on official accomplishments, never put much pressure on me. They just wanted me to live the life I want and be happy. Having said that, they were pretty proud of my university degree. I found that getting it was easy, so I'm not that proud of it myself.

3. What thing would you like to accomplish in your life?
Again, what Monsieur Croche says. He's the alter ego of Claude Debussy, by the way, for those of you who are not into classical music. I'd like to be worthy of a rediscovery. It's not just about fame and satisfying one's ego. It's about leaving something behind that others can enjoy, or even build on.

4. Do you get annoyed by coming in second place?
I have a competitive streak, but of a more private nature. I choose certain people who are very skilled or very impressive at something as paradigms, then I strive to surpass them. It could be anything, someone who writes with great clarity or a caning technique I see in a CP film. I compete with that on a virtual level. Winning or losing don't matter, simply having the competitive mentality as a driving force does. "I'm going to do what you do, better than you!"

5. Have you ever entered a contest of skill, knowing you were of much higher skill than all the other competitors?
I'm not very interested in actual face to face competitions with prizes and all that. I definitely never entered one where I already knew I was the best. Where would the challenge be in that?

6. Have you ever cheated on something to get a higher score?
I don't think so. Maybe I cheated at Ludo when I was six. Back then, winning was important and I used to throw fits when I lost.

7. What did you do today that you're proud of?
I don't accomplish something I am proud of every single day. Does anyone? By definition, the "outstanding" things are those you don't manage every day! Unless you are just "proud to be a decent person" or some quaint self-praise like that.

1. What item (or person) of your friends would you most want to have for your own?

In case of some of my friends, their experiences. The good ones, that is, but I'll also take the bad ones if I can only have the whole package. The experiences are the most precious, tantalising items I can think of.

2. Who would you want to go on "Trading Spaces" with?
Headmaster Pavel Stastny. To "redecorate" the posteriors of some of the victims who visit his magnificent study.

3. If you could be anyone else in the world, who would you be?
There are a lot of people I'd like to trade places with for a day or two, but I wouldn't really want to be somebody else. It's fairly interesting to be me. I'm happy with that.

4. Have you ever been cheated on?
In a relationship, I don't think so. Ever since I'm in the kinky community, I've only had open, non-possessive relationships, anyway, which is what I've always wanted.

5. Have you ever wished you had a physical feature different from your own?
There are a couple of things where I wouldn't mind a slight change. But I'm content overall and I don't obsess over physical things. Except when I have an FM film clip coming up, in which case I get totally neurotic. Suddenly, I find myself noticing and caring about physical features I didn't know I had, all of them unflattering.

6. What inborn trait do you see in others that you wish you had for yourself?
The natural, effortless authority and aura of intimidation exuded by some tops. Mind you, the kink is not about authority for me. But it's nonetheless a trait I would love to have.

7. Finally, what is your favourite deadly sin?
I like lust the most. But no matter how much I get of it, I find that envy is still the deadly sin I engage in the most. That really bugs me!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Movie Review: Ancient Regime

Mood Pictures (released in 2004)

Entire Story In Fewer Words Than Are In This Sentence:
Hungarian communists torture student girls

Victim Appeal:
The movie is divided into two nearly identical segments - each time, a girl is arrested by the secret police under some pretense and given a sound caning. Part one stars a brunette going by the handle Vivee, part two a pornstar named Demi Cool. The victims are reasonably pleasant to look at, with round spankable bottoms, but fail to make any sort of impression otherwise. They're pretty terrible, actually. One is shy and quiet, the other bored and bitchy. Both look and sound as if they can't wait for the shoot to be over.

Mind you, it makes for interesting viewing if you are turned on by non-kinky, moneygrubbing models going through something they are really not enjoying at all. I'm usually not, but Demi is so annoying that I confess to a certain amount of wicked amusement over her unpleasant ordeal. Watch her flippant, bubblegum-chewing behind the scenes interview to have your worst "empty-headed bimbo" pornstar stereotypes confirmed. She obviously received more than the free ride she expected and says afterwards that she will never, ever do a CP film again. Which is undoubtedly better for everyone, especially us viewers.

Gratuitous Sadism:
Each girl is forced to strip, tied to a table (with some rather flimsy-looking ropes, it must be said) and given 50 strokes of the cane. There is a fair bit of dialogue, actually, from the secret police officer (played by Mood regular Maximilian Lomp) who administers the thrashing and wants to extract information about the "conspiracy" the students are involved in. The canings are not as ultra-severe as some of Mood's later work, but fairly respectable nonetheless, leaving the victims' bottoms thoroughly covered in nice red stripes.

Best Reactions:
Vivee is the more animated of the two, crying and whimpering. Demi Cool, even though she squirms and groans quite a bit under the cane, resorts to a mixture of stoicism and sarcasm. Before long, she starts talking trash towards the police officer. "You son of a bitch. Are you enjoying this? Sadistic pricks. Can't you fuck a girl's cunt?" Later on, she admits to a conspiracy - with her lesbian girlfriend. "I am active, she is passive. I lick her. I love it when she comes." It's all pretty low and bawdy, but almost funny with her deadpan, venomous delivery.

To leave aside my elitist sadistic banter for a moment, it's good to know that the experience wasn't traumatizing for Demi. While she certainly won't do another CP film, she manages to navigate this one with casual (and foul-mouthed) defiance. That's refreshing to see. I'm almost starting to like the girl in spite of herself. Her reactions aren't great in a conventional sense and I don't find them the least bit erotic, but they are undeniably memorable. In a Full Metal Jacket sort of way.

Best Line:
"I bet when you're done here, you'll jerk off in the toilet!" Demi Cool's gutter mouth again. Ouch.

Nice Psychological Touch:
While the action itself is pretty formulaic and straightforward, the framing stories are interesting. The interrogation and caning scenes are presented as a flashback. In the first part of the movie, the secret police officer, now with a new job in the post-communist era, is sitting in a pub, smoking a cigarette and reminiscing about the "good old days". He recounts how they could do whatever they wanted, how much he enjoyed his work and how he caned girls just for the fun of it. Maximilian Lomp really looks the part of the seedy, unapologetic ex-torturer and does quite a good acting job.

In the second part, Demi Cool is riding in a car, with some people looking for the former secret policeman. When they confront him, he denies ever having met her and claims that he never hurt anybody. "I really sympathise with you and I am deeply shocked, but I can't help you!" Now he's the one who is scared, to her obvious delight. It's a fun little scene, not superbly acted, but a neat idea.

How Good Is It Really?
The two parts of "Ancient Regime" were originally released separately. Part one was the very first movie by Mood Pictures. They themselves openly admit that it isn't one of their stronger efforts. It was still a learning experience, the camera work is a bit shaky and in an email to me, Pedro (the director and producer) once described the shoot with Demi Cool as "really terrible". Still, I think it is a respectable debut by any standard and Mood fans will like it. The interrogation room is cool, really run-down and dirty-looking like something out of Hostel. The movies are now sold as a single DVD and at a good bargain price.

What You Learned:
Counting up to 50 in Hungarian.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Byzantine Affairs

My apologies for skipping a post in my usual four day routine (even so, I'm one day late with this one). The Byzantine Empire had most of my attention during the past week and a half. It's a fascinating subject of historical study, one of my favourites. You know, if I had a time machine, Constantinople during the late Middle Ages would probably be my first destination.

It must have been a wondrous sight, "the city of the world's desire", cultured and beautiful. A bustling metropolis set in a spectacular geographic location, with magnificent architecture and virtually impregnable fortifications. Also a centre of scholarship, offering various luxuries that were unheard of in Western Europe - street lighting, sanitation, public gardens, libraries, shops which stayed open even at night. Definitely a place where I would have liked to live. Okay, they had the occasional outbreak of the bubonic plague like everyone else. But you can't travel and be totally safe, right? Especially not with a time machine.

Actually, one of the dates I'd pick for visiting is 1204, when Constantinople was conquered by the Fourth Crusade (that's what a church schism does for you). It was a very tragic event and one of the most barbaric sacks of a city in all of history, but that is why it interests me. There is a certain apocalyptic fascination to it. The crusaders behaved terribly - much worse, it must be said, than the Muslims did when they destroyed the Byzantine Empire for good two and a half centuries later.

The Western knights massacred, looted and raped their way through the city for three days. Orthodox clerics were murdered, nuns were violated, many ancient and priceless works of art stolen or destroyed. The hatred for the Greeks found its most spectacular outlet in the desecration of the Hagia Sophia, the greatest church in Christendom. Reportedly, the conquerors placed a prostitute on the patriarchal throne who sang vulgar songs while they got falling down drunk on wine from the holy vessels. I've always subscribed to the theory that there is a difference between hooliganism and destruction with style. Most of the sacking undoubtedly fell in the former category, but there were creative moments, as the above story attests.

It was still an unimaginable shame, of course. They (fellow Christians, mind you) had just taken the greatest city in the world, and they knew nothing better to do than to smash everything and slaughter everyone. It must be a guy thing. The curious historian in me would love to see the event, but certainly not to revel in it. As a whole, it is too primitive and uncouth to even stimulate my kinky imagination. There are certain elements that are useable once I isolate them and block out the other, decidedly unerotic "bashing in of heads" atrocities. I can think of a female friend or two who would volunteer for the part of the abused nun bent over the altar. Or for the prostitute who sullies the sacred throne.

(Eugène Delacroix, "The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople", 1840)

The Empire, which was already in decline at the time, never recovered. Even though the Greeks managed to recapture Constantinople and held on for a few more generations, they eventually fell to the Ottomans in 1453. Byzantium under the Palaiologoi, the last dynasty of emperors, has an aura of "fading glory" that attracts me immensely. They knew they were doomed, yet they proudly clung to their old traditions and looked down on the "barbarians" who encircled them. And while their political power on the world stage was long gone, there was a final flourishing of art and literature, the "Palaiologian Renaissance".

As obviously different as the two of them were, it all reminds me a bit of another crumbling empire, Austria-Hungary at the beginning of the 20th century. I can imagine the same morbid romanticism and nostalgia surrounding it. Like the Habsburg monarchy which provides the stage for several Lupus epics, I think Constantinople circa 1400 would be a fabulous setting for kinky movies. Such a pity that it is impossible to faithfully recreate even with the means the werewolves have at their disposal. But the feverish death throes of the period, the air of gloom and disintegration, combined with the Byzantine fondness for elaborate ceremony and ritual, seems like the perfect backdrop.

The heirs of the Caesars were more refined and well-mannered than the Western Europeans, but no strangers to cruelty. Their history is full of political backstabbing, so much so that we use the adjective "Byzantine" today to describe complex scheming and plotting. Those on the losing side often met a less than pleasant fate. Blinding was an especially popular penalty, practiced on various deposed emperors, but also on captured enemy soldiers. One time after a Bulgarian army had been defeated, all survivors were blinded. The victorious Byzantines left 1 out of every 100 soldiers with one eye so he could lead his comrades back home.

Not my thing at all, I must say, but you can always reimagine the tortures as something that catches your fancy. Flogging certainly isn't out of place in the Middle Ages. The point is that for me, with a little fictionalization, the Byzantine Empire is a fertile source of fantasy. The palace intrigues, the religious controversies, the invasions they had to endure, the remnants of Roman decadence, take your pick.

However, my favourite anecdote deals with mercy, and the main protagonist isn't a Greek, it is one of their enemies. The Byzantines suffered a terrible defeat against the Seljuk Turks in the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. The place is called Malazgirt today, a small town in eastern Turkey. With hindsight, it was probably the beginning of the end for the empire and the psychological effect of the loss was significant.

The emperor himself, Romanos IV Diogenes, was captured and taken to the Seljuk sultan Alp Arslan. The sultan asked: "What would you do if I was brought before you as a prisoner?" The emperor answered: "Perhaps I would kill you or exhibit you in the streets of Constantinople." Alp Arslan retorted: "My punishment is far more severe. I will forgive you and set you free." And so he did. After a peace deal was agreed on, the sultan lavished expensive gifts on Romanos and let him go with a military guard and all the pomp befitting his station.

After his return to Constantinople, the unfortunate emperor was swiftly (and predictably) deposed by his rivals, blinded and exiled to an island. Which goes to show that some acts of "mercy" are indeed the worst kind of punishment. An inventive sadist should remember that.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Kink of Cthulhu

Did you ever notice that there is an above average percentage of geeks among us spanking bloggers and readers? I don't know why, exactly. Sure, we're on the internet and have largely the same demographics as all the other virtual communities. But I think that this is only part of the explanation. Beyond that, there seems to be an unusually strong correlation between kink and geekdom. Probably something to do with the fact that both types of people tend to have a fertile imagination and fantasize a lot. Maybe I'll write a lengthy study on it someday.

In the meantime, here is a "whipping scenes in movies" post geeks should love because it comes from the twisted, sanity-shattering world of Lovecraft horror: the 1986 B-movie splatterfest From Beyond. Be forewarned, the "kinky" scenes themselves are extremely lame, but the movie is interesting for a number of reasons. To begin with, it comes from the same team that created the outrageous horror-comedy classic Re-Animator: director Stuart Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna, screenwriter Dennis Paoli. Like its predecessor, "From Beyond" stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, was released by genre studio Empire Pictures and is loosely based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft. The two films can be watched as companion pieces, actually.

The plot bears little resemblance to the literary original: physics student Crawford Tillinghast (Combs) and his mentor Dr. Pretorius are experimenting with a so-called resonator, a machine that stimulates the pineal gland. Pretorius believes that the gland is a dormant sensory organ which would enable humanity to see beyond the borders of accepted reality. He succeeds, but the downside is that his resonator opens the door to a parallel universe inhabited by hostile alien creatures. One of them promptly bites off the doctor's head.

Tillinghast manages to escape, but is arrested as a murder suspect and locked in an insane asylum - obviously, the police dismiss his claims about unseen mysterious beings. However, psychiatrist Dr. McMichaels (Crampton) discovers that Tillinghast actually has an enlarged pineal gland and begins to believe his story. Together with the highly reluctant physicist and a policeman (Ken Foree of Dawn of the Dead fame), she travels to the Pretorius house to repeat the experiment and find out if her patient is crazy or not. As you can imagine, things go very wrong from there...

"From Beyond" isn't as over-the-top as "Re-Animator" and doesn't have the same relentless pace or dark comedic brilliance. But it's still a solid effort and recommendable for genre fans - campy, gory, with good effects considering the budget and decent performances from the leads. It's always great to see the one and only Jeffrey Combs cast as a nerdy scientist. Moreover, the movie has a lot of nostalgic value for me. As a teenager, I saw a heavily cut version on German TV and it was my first (albeit distorted) introduction to Lovecraft. I also developed an intense geek-boy crush on scream queen Crampton. Years later, I was in love with this blonde, glasses-wearing girl at university and I wanted to write something favourable about her in my diary. So I noted that she "looks a bit like Barbara Crampton in From Beyond", which was one of the most awesome compliments I could think of.

One notable difference to the original is that director Stuart Gordon adds a fair share of sex, as he usually does. This is of course totally against the spirit of Lovecraft, the puritan from New England who regarded pleasures of the flesh as bestial and primitive. But it works well as an exercise in deliberately bad taste. "Re-Animator" had the immortal, infamous oral sex scene with a severed head. Here, Crampton is once again viciously molested by the (literally) slimy monstrous villain. (Too much tits for YouTube, hence not in my clip - but I have to leave some of the good stuff out to make you want to rent the film)

"From Beyond" contains two elements of note: first, the machine that stimulates the pineal gland also increases people's sex drive. Which is a juicy concept in itself, something you would expect in a David Cronenberg film. Secondly, and this is where it gets interesting for us kinky types: mad evil scientist Dr. Pretorius is portrayed as having a taste for BDSM (see the clip). It's all very campy and cliché-ridden. According to his assistant, the doctor's whipping sessions were non-consensual (see clip at 1:09). It is later implied that he was impotent and couldn't get aroused from "normal" sex. Before long, Barbara Crampton finds herself under the influence of the resonator and dons some garden variety dominatrix gear in a lengthy but boring scene (clip at 2:37).

But I don't really mind the laughable stereotypes. We spankos always point out, rightfully, that our play and our fiction should be taken as pure fantasy, not as real abuse. I feel that, when it comes to the depiction of kink in schlocky horror films, we should listen to our own advice and not take everything we see at face value. It's obvious that Stuart Gordon doesn't have anything against BDSM and isn't making a serious statement of any kind. He just uses the "perversion" of whips and bondage for tongue-in-cheek shock value, to add a bit of flavour to the villain. I'm absolutely fine with that.

My only complaint is that he doesn't do enough with the idea. It never transcends the level of camp and doesn't even succeed there - the results are lame and not nearly as hilarious as the naughty bits in "Re-Animator". It's a pity - I think the notion of the mad kinky scientist had real potential. A man (or woman) for whom the five senses aren't nearly enough, who wants to experience more than any human being has ever experienced. And who gets obsessed by his pursuits to the point of insanity. If that doesn't sound like your typical CP fetishist, then I don't know what does - the two passions would seem to make a perfect match!

Then there's the resonator, a machine that can turn vanilla people kinky - at least it worked in the case of sexy Dr. McMichaels. Wouldn't that be a neat gadget to have? Off the bat, I could think of any number of people I'd like to use it on. I'm sure you could, too. Let's roll it into parliament when they debate their latest police state law against "violent porn". Or I could invite some of my female vanilla friends, just for fun. The ones in the "potentially interesting, too bad they aren't fellow perverts" category. Ah, the joyful possibilities...

So while "From Beyond" gets mediocre grades for execution, and while the whipping scene (if you can call it that) doesn't amount to much, there is some food for thought here.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Movie Review: A Note for Absence

Rigid East (released in 2001)

Entire Story In Fewer Words Than Are In This Sentence:
Pupil thrashed for forging signature

Victim Appeal:
This is the first title in the famous "From the Headmaster's Study" series, published when the wolves still called themselves Rigid East. It stars the same blonde girl who played the princess in The Fairy Tale, another early classic. Since neither video gives acting credits, I will simply call her by her character name here: Maria Dolezalova, a Czech schoolgirl in the turn-of-the-century Habsburg empire.

Maria is a cute lass with a small nose and soulful eyes. Her barely legal youngish looks make her ideal for the role, and she puts them to good use in a wonderful performance. I like Maria's facial expressions in particular - pouting lips, wrinkled brow, wide-eyed surprise, silent puppy dog pleading, she has the whole routine. Her tone of voice - a combination of meekness and defiant, quiet nagging - is another great touch. You just want to tie the girl down and whip her until she screams. Which is of course exactly what happens.

She is sent to the headmaster's office by her teacher, the reason being that there are doubts about the authenticity of an absence note. Miss Dolezalova eventually confesses that she wrote it herself and forged her father's signature. The headmaster is already annoyed with her because she didn't curtsy after coming in. Moreover, the girl has a history of frequently getting in trouble, so he decides that a very severe thrashing is in order this time. He makes it clear that this will be her final warning before expulsion from the school.

Gratuitous Sadism:
Because the "humanist rules of the founders of our institute" only permit 25 lashes per offense, the headmaster gives Maria that amount for the fake note - and another maximum sentence for her lack of manners! Fifty strokes in total, then, a truly memorable lesson. During her ordeal, the girl is tied to the headmaster's caning bench, which would become a frequent (and magnificent) sight in future Lupus productions.

This is the first movie appearance of Pavel Stastny - He of the Left-Handed Full Arm Swings. Therefore, it goes without saying that there is plenty of cruelty to go around. Words can't describe how I admire and envy the guy. The bald, bearded, dark-eyed look, the effortless authoritarian demeanour, not to mention the fact that he has given countless young ladies the hardest caning of their lives. He is fearsome and imposing even for experienced bottoms and exemplifies everything I hopelessly aspire to be. Well, maybe not everything - I have quite a different "ideal self" vision, actually. But I wouldn't mind trading places with Pavel for a day or two, and I'd give anything - anything! - for only a fraction of his natural scariness.

Actually, the beating here lacks the ruthless ultra-severity of some of Headmaster Stastny's later efforts, but it is still fairly hard. My one complaint is that it comes on top of a previous, recent punishment, so the victim's bottom is already vividly marked. In the story, the bruises are explained by a spanking Maria's father gave her the day before. They really are remains from the girl's other Rigid East movie (it's obvious from a misplaced stripe that went on her lower back when she got punished as the naughty princess).

I suppose there are reasons for why the production dates couldn't be set further apart, but I for one think it's a pity. I just find the old marks visually distracting. On the other hand, maybe your taste differs and this is exactly what you love to see - the results from two successive werewolf-style canings (damage be damned!). If that is so, search no further. In any case, it's a pretty good scene, despite my preference for a "fresh canvas".

Lest I forget, there is also a humiliating little segment when the girl has to relieve herself before the punishment, using the pee pot the headmaster has in his office - behind a blind that hides her from view, but doesn't stop the sound, of course. Not really my kind of embarassment fetish, but you might like it.

Best Reactions:
With only one victim and one type of punishment, I obviously can't pick any best reactions. Suffice to say that Maria's are well worth seeing, and listening to - she produces some rather gorgeous screams, loud and anguished, but not over the top, just right. I also like the way her upper body jumps after each stroke. It's the only possible kind of movement in the restraints of the caning bench and very sexy to watch.

Best Line:
When Miss Dolezalova first enters the headmaster's office without dropping a curtsy (or saying "good morning"), he immediately sends her out again. She starts protesting: "But I came because..." He sternly cuts her off: "I don't care why you came. I mind the way you came." I just love that line. Maria eventually gets the entrance ritual right at the third attempt - too late, of course.

Nice Psychological Touch:
The opening shot of the movie immediately captures one's attention. It has the period look of a silent movie, with a yellowish tinge and plenty of grain. A nice little effect. Merry pseudo-ragtime piano music is playing. We see the headmaster sitting at his desk, reading and smoking. A couple of canes hang on the wall beside him. When there is a knock on the door, he hastily puts the book aside and exstinguishes his cigarette. The camera pans to the right, past the chastisement bench, and we see the girl coming through the door. Then the movie slowly fades into a normal, modern look.

It's a typical Lupus scene in several ways. A humorous little idea that takes you right to the time and place, a sense of foreboding as the camera's eye wanders casually over the canes and bench, a delightful mix of lightheartedness and palpable threat. Later on, there is another neat shot when Dolezalova confesses to forging the note and drops to her knees, pleading for mercy. The headmaster wryly remarks: "That's a very fitting position in your situation." The camera uses a high angle shot to illustrate his perspective and a low angle for the girl's. Again, a fittingly old-fashioned way to contrast a powerful character with a subordinate one.

How Good Is It Really?
"A Note for Absence" falls into the transition phase when Rigid East became Lupus Pictures, between the normal living room setting of Wild Party and their later epic, super-professional productions. It takes place in a single location, features only two characters and a fairly straightforward story. But the headmaster's office shows all the loving attention to detail and authenticity that would become their hallmark - the furniture, the period pictures and the cross on the wall, the flourished writing on the note, and so forth. At the time, this was a new standard in spanking movies. Even today, the craftsmanship remains beyond the means of most other producers.

Some flaws are still there. The editing is far from perfect yet - there are too many quick cuts during the caning. Then there is the issue of the girl's old bruises, which is a drawback for me. But while I wouldn't count it among the all-time greats, "A Note for Absence" is a good video by any standard. As the first installment of the "From the Headmaster's Study" series, it is required viewing for Lupus fans for historical value alone.

What You Learned:
The Habsburg monarchy may have been the "sick man of Europe" at the time, but when it came to enforcing discipline, its schools left little to be desired. 25 cane strokes for not dropping a curtsy? That's very harsh indeed. Come to think of it, there is a correlation here - draconian measures are of course typical for tottering, backwards regimes. But they sure are fun to watch on film.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Fantasy of Real Life

As promised, I'm continuing with the latest episode of the Perils of Jospehine saga. I gave you the buildup last week in School Report Time. Josephine and I decided to celebrate the end of her first semester (and of my stint as her motivational coach) with a caning. My original suggestion had been to give her one stroke for every tenth above 1,0 (the German equivalent of A) in each exam. She countered by saying that she would take two strokes for each tenth, but only starting with twenty at 2,0 - as long as the result was one point x, she would get no punishment for that particular test at all.

I had tried to caution her, but went along with the idea when she remained adamant. If all went well, she would get off easier this way. If she failed, she would at least have to face a proper punishment, just the way it ought to be. Either way, Josephine said, she felt that it was the better formula. Alright then - I've always had a thing for brave girls, anyway.

After the exams, she didn't have a strong intuition about how they would turn out. She was cautiously optimistic about half of them and admitted to having "no idea" about the others. For the most part, she just felt tired and glad that the stress was over. She didn't want to drive herself crazy guessing the results. They would come soon enough.

Of course, her curiosity (and nervousness) set in as the grade posting date approached. She didn't have internet access during her holiday trip, so I had to promise to call her on the mobile. Actually, we were on the phone when I looked up the results for the first time, because Josephine had to give me her access data. I took a breath, logged in, scanned the numbers. The grades were average, nothing more, nothing less. Somewhat worse than we had hoped. I hesitated a bit - damn, I thought, she will be disappointed, how do I put this. After a moment, I just listed the numbers calmly and without further ado. Probably the "least worst" way to do it.

A few seconds of silence. "Wow, that's really bad" Josephine said quietly. After another pause, she added: "I'm surprised. I didn't expect this at all." At first, it seemed like she was simply too mystified to leave room for any other emotion. But disappointment came quickly, then anger at herself. Meanwhile, I did my best to cheer her up - there would be enough time for strictness later. You did okay, I said. Not brilliant, but it's only the beginning and there is time yet. Just find out where the deficits were and consciously work on them.

Basically, Josephine's six grades came in pairs: she had two good results (no A's, though), two mediocre ones and two that were pretty bad. Still, it was a solid effort. The first semester of economics has a reputation of being very tough. It's the norm rather than the exception to repeat some classes later on. Like most people from the humanities, I cultivate a good-natured condescension towards our dull well-dressed friends. But truth be told, these guys have a lot more pressure put on them than we do. They're thrown right into the cold water, with lots of material, lots of tests and failure rates frequently over fifty percent.

So it was not the end of the world. Still, Josephine had set her ambitions higher and was naturally disappointed. We began to look for the problem. It certainly wasn't lack of effort. She had worked extremely hard - if anything, I think she burned herself out a bit before the exams, something I had cautioned her against. But maybe the preparation should have been more "hands on". Too much solitary reading, trying to know everything in the textbooks. Not enough specific, exam-oriented practice.

I had mentioned this to her, actually: don't sit at home all the time and do everything by yourself. Visit some tutorials, talk to older students, maybe get the tests from previous semesters. Form a clear idea of what exactly is in store, there will be lots of exercises and little time. But Josephine assured me that she knew what is required, and I didn't push the issue. With hindsight, we were both smarter. She cursed herself for not listening, I blamed myself for not having been more forceful.

On the one hand, my task was simply to keep an eye on her work ethic and step in if she slacked off. That's what Josephine asked me to do and it seemed to work pretty well. I know nothing about economics, so I was never going to help her with the actual studies. Still, I wondered if I could have done more. Josephine assured me that I had been great support during the past months and that she was very grateful. But I felt that the mediocre grades were my fault, too, despite her protestations to the contrary.

(Picture courtesy of Spanking Photography)

It raises some interesting questions for us spankos. To begin with, what is your mindset during a "job" like this? When you are supposed to help someone with a goal, as opposed to pure role-playing. For Josephine and me, it was still kinky play, but with a real-life background. Obviously, it's important not to lose sight of the fun and excitement, yet we took it seriously at the same time. It's an intriguing mixture. Real life adds an edge to the play, the play creates motivation and belief in real life. It's not quite clear which is the main task and which is the bonus.

Moreover, it adds another dimension for the top to think about. Not just what works best psychologically in the actual play, but what works best to achieve the real goal. A direct or a more indirect approach? Do you act as a presence in the background that is more felt than seen, as a friendly guiding hand, or do you take charge a lot? Personally, I prefer to let the bottom decide what is best for her. I offer advice and, when needed, a hard hand. But I don't want to run someone's life or take away their freedom and responsibility. That's not my vision of a kinky friendship at all.

So I tend to err on the side of controlling too little rather than too much. Maybe I erred this time. It's a balancing act and I could have thrown in a bit more "You do as I say!" sternness. Perhaps Josephine's grades would have been better if I had pressured her to try a few of my suggestions. Then again, I wasn't sure and I thought she should find her own path, anyway. It's always easy to be wiser with hindsight. In any case, the good news for Josephine is that, when you suffer a setback, you obviously learn more from it if it was fully your own decision that lead you there.

The bad news is that she now has a whole series of canings to look forward to. Actually, she is quite happy about that. It's the kind of proper chastisement she asked for in case she performed below her expectations. Meanwhile, I can make amends for my previous lack of firmness. This is not something I was gleefully hoping for, by the way. I've known Josephine for years and we have played many times, so there is no shortage of opportunies to spank her. When I said that no one would be happier than me if she got off without a single stroke, I was genuine. I was rooting for her to write only A's. But now that things turned out differently, I'm making sure that she will remember what is coming to her. That is also part of my job.

In light of how Josephine went into the exams, I need to be pretty severe to teach her the consequences of 1) ignoring advice and 2) overconfidence. Even though I feel a tad sorry for the girl. She was brave to go for double or nothing, showed great determination, it just didn't pay off. And you could say that the disappointing grades are punishment already. So I am not overdoing it. We already did three of the canings when I visited Josephine on Thursday and again over the weekend. They were for the two good test results and a mediocre one. I made them hard, but not ridiculously so.

The sessions for the two bad grades are still ahead of us, and those are the ones where I will push her limits. Mind you, while I am something of a severity freak, I'm not fond of huge numbers of strokes. Usually, fifty is my utmost limit and I rarely go there. Beyond that, I find that things just get tedious even for the most obsessive sadistic mind. It's really about the quality of the pain, not the duration. You can make a big impression with six or twelve strokes and give someone the thrashing of their life with thirty. So now, doing over fifty - not once, but twice - is going to be a novelty. Ironically, it was really Josephine's idea.

The advantage of it is that I get ample opportunity to try out new instruments. I normally use manila canes, the kind you can see in The German Lesson or Comeuppance for the Bavarian Brat. But I wanted to experiment a bit and get more variety, so I've recently ordered four new ones: junior kooboo, senior kooboo, junior dragon, senior dragon. I've tried those of other people before, but never owned any myself. Now they saw some action right away. Josephine already hates the kooboo canes with a passion. They produce gorgeous marks, too. Dragon is too inflexible for both our tastes, but I might use it once in a while.

One day, I'll probably write a post devoted exclusively to different canes and types of wood. Needless to say, I will also keep you informed about what Josephine and I are up to. The next semester starts in a month, and we also have some role-playing ideas we want to explore. As a change of pace from the fantasy of real life.