Tuesday, September 25, 2007

He Didn’t Mean to Seduce Me

The other day I had a conversation with a friend of mine with whom I haven’t spoken in a long while. This man is not histrionic, but he is prone to very intense emotions. And while we’re not at a point right now in our relationship where we share our more intimate thoughts, there were times in the past when we did. Point is, although we relate platonically these days, he is quite capable of showing his feelings, and has bared his soul to me more than once in days of yore.

This particular day the subjects of conversation still had nothing to do with our private lives. Nevertheless, by the end I felt he had, in a very real sense, seduced me. In fact, this particular anecdote is an excellent example of what this blog so often purports: “sexual” things happen in life when sex is the furthest thing from our minds.

So, as my friend and I conversed, he spoke with remarkable passion. By that I mean, I got the sense that the issues at hand had been provoking him for some time: his frustration, dismay, and aggravation were not merely intellectual. You know how it is typically when you talk to a male: he may complain or remark negatively, but the associated emotions don’t show much. Well, with this fellow they were so plain I could feel them myself.

I am a rather empathetic person, and it’s quite likely my friend feeds off that very phenomenon: sensing I am catching his emotions, he feels urged to reveal them all the more. This may also be why he often “tests” me in conversation. It’s like listening to a very charismatic professor: he will make a point, then ask me a question, and if I reply with the answer he was looking for, something that shows I “get it,” he will respond with obvious pleasure and enthusiasm. Yes, I know it sounds like a scene out of Pavlov and his dogs, but you know what it’s like when you please a passionate authority figure--it’s kind of a thrill.

To make the scenario just that much more interesting, my friend took me to a private spot for this conversation, and stood near me, and spoke nearly in whispers. Now this was a practical consideration, for we didn’t want to be overheard. But the whole conspiratorial atmosphere was pretty intense. He made it plain on a couple of occasions that he was telling me secrets maybe one or two other people might know about his thoughts. And he did all this with great fervor, as if unburdening his soul, as if I were the only person who could truly understand.

Now, I relate to you the mood of this exchange, the style in which it was conducted, but I remind you that we spoke of nothing personal. It was not in the least sexual in nature, not even romantic, not even familial. Nevertheless, I walked away half in love with the guy. And can you blame me? If the script had been different, it would have been a sort of love scene. The elements were all there: the emotion, the body language, the setting, the tones of voice...and the unique personality of my friend.

He is, as I said, a passionate guy, but he is also the sort who is reserved and has impeccable manners. Most people would never guess him to be capable of the ardor, zeal, and fury the man has demonstrated privately to me. How is a woman to react when such strong emotion is revealed to her? You can’t help but feel you hold the key to the guy’s secret heart, and wonder why he has chosen to surrender it to you. He may be talking about a movie, the cable company, shirt shopping, whatever mundane topic, but his heart is on his sleeve so plainly you can see its accelerated beating.

I let him run on as long as he was inclined to. He’s a pretty good-looking guy, he has a very pleasant speaking voice, and he smelled good to boot. Not wishing to sound shallow, I will quickly add that he is intelligent and his points were very well taken; I was not faking my empathy at all. Our like minds only intensified the experience, in fact.

And so, I walked away from this completely platonic conversation feeling light-headed, giddy, confused and curiously pleased. I’ve had men quite pointedly flirt with me to far less effect. My guileless friend I’m sure had no such intention. Nevertheless, his eagerness to unveil his secret emotions to me so unabashedly boiled down to a sort of plea to be understood, to form a private club of two, even to exchange affection. And by the end I was truly of a mind to give him any of those things. See what I mean? Seduced.

I’d hate to have to deal with this if I were any younger or less experienced. As it is I can smile and go on with life, figuring someday we may talk like that again sometime--like in six months. Anyway I completely understand he didn’t mean to have that effect on me and would surely be shocked to learn he had.

To me, it’s amusing little events like this that make life worthwhile. And I’ll bet I could use it all in a story one day....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Bloodchained Trailer

Well, I went against my own marketing advice and created a book promo "trailer."

Yes, I've always been one to poo-poo the idea of using dramatic visual media to promote text...till I discovered Windows comes with Movie Maker software. A couple of night's work later, I think I'm the M. Night Shyamalan of the book world. Well, actually I don't, but I'm hoping the result of my efforts is not so cheesy people will know I'm from Wisconsin.

I did attempt to give a sense of the atmosphere of Bloodchained as well as pique the viewer's curiosity. So take a look and see what you think....and if it makes you want desperately to know more about the novel, that website URL again is http://www.bloodchained.com/. LOL

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

He’s In You

One of the fascinating principles I learned in my studies of Jungian psychology was Carl Jung’s theories of the animus/anima. It would take several chapters to explain in full, but the gist is that every person’s psyche contains a subconscious “other,” an autonomous personality that constitutes all your “missing parts”...in effect, the opposites to which you are attracted. Much of romantic love is based on this principle. Jung taught that when people encounter a personality with enough similarities to this animus (if you’re female) or anima (for males), we project the qualities of our animus/anima on that person. We are thus tricked into having feelings like “he’s the only one for me,” “I can’t live without her,” “he completes me.”

Between my Jungian studies and personal experience, I came to understand that my animus is truly not me, operates outside my will, and is pretty much a self-contained, autonomous being. I hesitate to say “being,” since that suggests I’m saying I’m possessed by another soul, but in some respects it boils down to that. Over the years, the fact that he’s “in me,” not somewhere outside of me, has saved my hide and sanity numerous times.

Anyone who has been incurably in love with someone very bad for them, or anyone who has had a desperate crush on an unattainable figure such as a celebrity, knows that infatuation can be a nightmare. It’s been very comforting to me in such times to step back and remember that the irresistible person I see is just the projection of the perfect-for-me animus, and not actually that real individual. For example, were I really to believe Les Stroud is the guy I imagine him to be, I’d have to get divorced and move to Canada and persuade his wife to leave him. But I know that however admirable he is, the man is just a human being with flaws and foibles and he is not in reality some sort of “dream man.”

You really have to be careful when the animus “gloms on” to some real life person, and it takes practice. There are still times I struggle with not giving in to what seems like irresistible allure. But there are other times when something happens to drive home just how the animus works, and how he truly is in me rather than outside. My dream last night was one such occasion.

In my dream I had had a longstanding, deeply devoted affection for some celebrity I had never met, and I had occasion to actually finally go to his home and meet with him. I’m not even sure if the guy in my dream was supposed to be anyone in particular; I believe his house was in Ontario which would suggest Mr. Stroud, but the similarity ends there. I can’t clearly recall what he looked like, but I certainly remember how it made me feel to be with him, talking to him and touching him and seeing him face to face. It was sheer bliss to put it mildly.

Interestingly, I had sent a number of emails to this man over a period of time, emails he did not elect to answer, but which he had certainly read intently. As we talked, I could see that at first he was unsure where I was coming from, if I were possibly crazy or some kind of threat. But as we spent time together he came around to seeing I was actually someone whose affection he could return. Observing this process taking place was no small thrill either, believe me.

This guy in person was everything I had believed him to be: he was perfect. Being in his presence made me happier than life ever manages to do. In short, he was my animus guy.

Did I get these feelings, this joy and contentment, from a real life man? Did the emotions depend upon some external source? No...this was my dream, my brain, my imagination only that was the source of Mr. Wonderful. That said, he was not a puppet, a fantasy man I could make walk and talk and do what I wished. He had his own will, and had to overcome his skepticism about me little by little. He was autonomous, and as I like to say, me-but-not-me.

Thinking about him now is an interesting exercise. The thought of him makes me happy even when awake, even knowing he “was just a dream.” I think I feel that way because he is so much my heart’s desire, and so thoroughly mine. I know I will run into him again in other dreams, in other imaginings, sometimes glimpsing him in a movie actor or TV personality, or a character I write for one of my books, or even a man on the street. He is never far away.

I’ve learned over the years that I have a particularly acute perception of this animus guy, and not everyone does. But I find often enough that other people have had similar experiences to mine that I continue to believe Jung was right.

So next time you really want somebody badly, so badly you feel you might go crazy, think about it: perhaps he’s actually in you.

(If this really strikes a chord with you--and you haven’t decided I’m just nuts--see also my book Living Beyond Reality: A Jungian Primer for Enhancing Your Life).

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Choose Your He-Man

Well, an awful lot of people find this blog by googling “Les Stroud,” and I am about to commit an act that will mean a lot of people will find it by googling “Les Stroud vs. Bear Grylls.” Now before those of you not into either of these dueling survival show masters bail on me, you may want to stick around. The issue of which guy a person prefers is about more than just whether “Survivorman” or “Man vs. Wild” is a better show.

First of all, these two Discovery Channel shows have quite different themes. “Man vs. Wild” is about just that, one swashbuckling ex-Special Forces guy taking on the worst nature can throw at him. Many people feel it is the more entertaining of the two shows, because Bear is a young, highly athletic, agile, tough and fearless fellow, whose abilities are far above average. The program’s producers have tried to convey that Bear’s survival techniques are not necessarily the sort of thing you or I should tackle. The show is more about impressing us with what one amazing guy can do, while dazzling us with the exotic locales he visits.

In the interest of fairness, I must admit right now I have only seen a little bit of this series. When I saw the ads, I said, “Oh wow, another Survivorman-type show, and the guy is really hot, and better yet, British!” I tuned in with eager curiosity, only to tune out after 20 minutes. Why the quick loss of interest? More on that later.

“Survivorman,” meanwhile, is more truly about survival techniques. Les doesn’t have any particular interest in calling attention to his personal prowess, and in fact, sometimes tries new things just like an actual survivor would do, or showcases his failures. The one-man-alone-with-cameras style makes the viewer feel much more empathy, more a part of the experience, rather than like someone watching a travelogue. And there is a lot more truly helpful survival advice; in fact, in a recent interview Les said he’d been told of three separate incidents in which real life survivors credit watching his show for helping them know what to do.

Okay this is the Erotica with Soul blog, not the Emmys, so I’m not here to review these two shows. I’m here to address the question so many have debated online: who is sexier, Bear or Les?

Let’s make the point right away that if you are going to be superficial, Bear wins hands down. I was attracted to him enough after one commercial to tune into the show. He’s young, handsome, British and can climb rocks, what more does a girl need to know? Meanwhile, I didn’t fall for Les until sometime during the third episode (note I did watch the show up till that point for its own sake). He’s 45, a tad balding, just slightly handsome, and I didn’t know yet that he was a fabulous musician with a drop-dead gorgeous singing voice. (I am a die-hard Canuckophile though, so that’s second best to British.)

However, given more than 20 minutes, my loyalties settled in the opposite way and I will explain why. My own reflections may enlighten you as to why at this point Les is the more popular of the two Discovery Channel stars, and has a bit of an edge in the sexiness department for us women. There is a palpable integrity about Les, a sincerity and openness, that truly make you feel connected to him as you share his adventures. You honestly know when he’s afraid, and consequently, you also know when he’s not, so he comes across as possessing bravery rather than bravado. His willingness to show vulnerability, clumsiness, and even stupidity keeps you mindful that he is only flesh and blood, and the danger he faces is real.

That was why “Survivorman” sucked me in, and, to my mind, “Man vs. Wild” just kinda sucked. Well, not really...it just paled by comparison. While it’s pretty sexy for a guy to be able to leap across gorges and look good doing it like Bear does, it’s a lot sexier for a guy to know that in a survival situation you have no business leaping across gorges. When Bear eats elephant dung or a live fish, you can’t help but feel it’s just for show. When Les eats something weird, you are so convinced how starving he is, you believe it’s for survival...much sexier (or perhaps less “not-sexy”). And of course, what could be sexier than a guy all alone in danger? Yeah, he has a safety crew nearby for emergency aid, but that’s okay; it’s not sexy for a husband and father to be taking unnecessary risks for the sake of a TV show.

The alone factor definitely helps. Even though it’s silly, you feel like the poor man has no company but you as he soldiers through his seven day ordeal. And meanwhile, he’s doing his best to show you a good time! Seeing as it’s Les running all the cameras, sacrificing rest and survival time to share with you everything he can about the adventure with beauty and style, you have to admire him all the more.

That’s why all over the internet you run into people saying, “Stroud is the real deal.” Of course it didn’t help when the British Daily Mail exposed “Man vs. Wild” for misleading viewers in a dozen ways. The volcano was faked? The “wild horses” brought in? Bear stayed in a hotel for the night? His crew built his raft for him? And the wild bear...was a guy in a bear suit?

Now I’m not going to be petty and knock off Bear’s sexiness points for this stuff; for all we know, the production company or Discovery forced it on him. He is the youngest guy to climb Everest so I don’t think he’s pretending to be what he’s not. Please don’t flame me, Bear fans--I’m sure your bloke is a perfectly nice person.

Still, he’s not a wonderfully human expert on survival, he’s not a brilliant filmmaker, he’s not a fabulous composer, musician and singer. And he doesn’t quite possess that genuineness that makes viewers think of Les Stroud as a friend, a guide, an inspiration even for people afraid to go camping.

You just gotta love our Survivorman, and there’s nothing sexier than that.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

More Animated Attractions: Erin Esurance

Two years ago I wrote a post about my crush on Honda’s spokescartoon, Mr. Opportunity. I admitted the animated fellow’s charm was most likely his voice (he is voiced, by the way, by prolific voice artist Rob Paulson). Still, the point was that sometimes cartoon people can be pretty sexy.

A much better example of this, apparently, is Esurance auto insurance’s Erin Esurance (55,000 Google results and growing). While Mr. O seems to draw mixed reviews--some people turn off their TVs when he appears--this past weekend my husband discovered the rampant popularity of his own personal animated crush.

Yes, David did a search for Erin “photos” to put up on his wallpaper. I wish I could say this was ridiculous to me, but seeing as I have this history with Mr. Opportunity, I really can’t criticize. Besides, I think Erin is pretty hot myself. I do, Davie does, and apparently so do an awful lot of other people. You’d be amazed how many online folks are asking “Is it wrong for me to be attracted to Erin Esurance?”

Look, guys, it’s really okay to lust after the pink-haired cutie. To paraphrase Jessica Rabbit, “she’s just drawn that way”; the artists at Wild Brain used, albeit subconsciously, the same standards in creating Erin as those that males use to judge attractiveness: large, wide eyes, tiny nose, big...yeah. These visual cues get the same results whether they are flesh and blood or tan and hot pink.

In my research on Erin, I discovered there are an awful lot of men with crushes on Ariel, aka Disney’s The Little Mermaid, too. Those Disney animators have always been good at drawing nice looking people. I for one have always wished the footage of the Beast, after he turns back into a prince, went on for another 75 minutes.
The comics in Playboy notwithstanding, we tend to think of cartoons as being for children and therefore incompatible with erotic feelings. But animation is just another form of visual arts, albeit a stylized one, so there’s no reason why cartoon people can’t be sexually attractive.

Consider then the middle ground between cartoons and live action: “interpolated-rotoscoping,” the technique used, for example, in the film “A Scanner Darkly.” Live action footage is converted into cartoon-style, yet realistic, imagery by computer. Since the real life Keanu Reeves is sexy, his rotoscoped version is too. Can you say you’re attracted to a cartoon if you react thus to the cartoon Keanu? Or is rotoscoping too close to real life to count?

So, there’s really no reason to feel weird about lusting after a cartoon person simply because said person is animated. Erin is a perfectly wholesome, clever, resourceful, spy/insurance expert. Of course, this brings up the issue of some of the Erin Esurance “fan art” out there, in which our intrepid spokescartoon engages in not-so-wholesome activities and is altered from the original in certain key ways. Well, what are you gonna do?--it’s fantasy.

And at least this celebrity isn’t going to sue you for Photoshopping her into appearing nude.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Male Attractiveness in the 21st Century

David and I just watched Mel Gibson’s amazing film “Apocalypto,” which takes a peek at the lives of Mayans in the Yucatan in the 16th Century. As amazing as this civilization was (and you’d think we’d learn more in school about the peoples of our own continent), it was still pre-industrial, and therefore primitive by today’s standards.

It made me think about the differences between the past hundred years and all of human history in the time that preceded it. Among those differences, of course, is the relationship between males and females of the species. Interestingly, things haven’t changed all that much for men in all these millennia; in “Flintstones” days they chose their mates based on physical attraction, and that’s just as true in 2007. I’m not saying today’s men are Neanderthals; I’m just saying they are turned on by pretty women and always have been. When it comes to marriage, they will seek other traits as well, but when it comes to mating (and sex is mating), looks are generally enough.

Women, on the other hand, are in a whole new boat. Just as genetically men are hard-wired to seek beautiful mates, women are hard-wired to pursue men who are competitively successful, skillful, and good providers. In days of yore, that meant men who were strong, smart, and/or talented...men who could protect you from enemies, hunt well, and perform the skills to keep a comfortable home.

But over the past century, industrialized society has meant big changes. Women don’t need men to provide safety, food, or shelter. Competition, which at one time literally determined who lived or died, and who won the quality females, has now been relegated to the arena of play. Successful athletes still attract women, but the majority of men don’t compete for mates in this manner. Their natural competitive urges are typically channeled into things like fantasy football, PlayStation, and flaming each other on Internet bulletin boards.

These things don’t really turn women on. And because they still yearn for the strong, smart, and talented, they will often find it in celebrities: movie actors, TV stars, singers and dancers, athletes. I’m starting to understand why nowadays we have so many reality shows like “Survivorman,” “Top Chef,” and “Design Star” and women love them. It’s just great to see men demonstrating any kind of prowess. The problem in this is that it can be very frustrating; not only are these men unattainable, in real life they aren’t necessarily particularly good catches.

We’ve come a long way, baby, and I’m not complaining about either the “emancipation” of women or the technological advances of society. But let’s face it: women have had to adjust their male-seeking radar. Even since the late 60s when I went through puberty, the accepted idea of the ideal man has changed dramatically.

I grew up learning to lust after the swashbuckling space lothario Captain James T. Kirk. He was later replaced by the charming, dignified Jean-Luc Picard, who nevertheless at least was a strong, handsome figure (weren’t we all turned on when he said “Engage!”?) DS9’s Captain Sisko was a step forward in terms of empowering blacks, but he was at times so conflicted as to be almost an anti-hero. And then came “Voyager” and the inevitable female captain.

Well, political correctness dictates that we all should have been happy, and I guess we liked Captain Janeway well enough, but it left us women with no commanding male figure, and the male viewers all complained that she wasn’t young and pretty enough. Naturally. Well, as you might expect, they got the incredibly hot Seven-of-Nine to make up for it. Meanwhile out of the male cast, I found the most engaging character was the balding, gentle, slightly goofy holographic Doctor. Interesting, nice, but not sexy.

Forgive me, non-Trekkies, for that illustration, but it perfectly demonstrates the sort of thing that has been going on over the past 40 years. Men have, in a sense, been castrated, and meanwhile women’s basic natural tendencies have been lost in the shuffle. It’s true that our more enlightened culture has made great improvements in many ways (and didn’t I just blog about how dreadful the 60s attitudes were towards women?!?). But if women are finding it hard to be motivated to choose mates, or to be aroused by men outside the entertainment field, or to be satisfied in their sex lives, I really have to think this is a factor.

The hero of “Apocalypto” knew how to hunt, and how to make weapons from plants and rocks. He could build deadly traps and out-think/out-maneuver his enemies. He could run and climb and leap with a couple bad arrow wounds. He could rescue his loved ones. This kind of man will impress today’s woman with all her sophistication, despite the fact that he can’t speak English, pay for an expensive car, or win the football pool.

So, do I have a conclusion here? A recommendation, an eye-opening revelation? Not really. But ladies, if some night you are lying in bed and can’t think of a single male to fantasize about, this just might be part of the reason.

At least they’re still making James Bond movies.