Monday, March 24, 2008

My Own Personal Jesus: Victor Garber

I know what you're thinking: Just how do I plan on writing a post about Jesus for Erotica with Soul?

Remember, you can experience erotic influences when sex is the further thing from your mind. This will be my case in point: my personal experience with the 1973 film "Godspell," which I just watched again on Easter night.

I was 16 when I first saw this movie. I fell in love with the spirit of this film: the childlike joy of camaraderie and celebration. The whole cast was wonderful: their antics, their clothes, their love for each other, their happiness at the simple pleasures of friends and fun. The songs were wonderful, of course: I listened to this album more often than any other in my life (including even Les Stroud's CDs!).

And I went head over heels for Victor Garber as Jesus. I think I can articulate better now how that happened than I might have in 1973.

I was raised agnostic and up until that point, had very little experience with churchgoing or Christianity. I became a Christian due more to "Godspell" than anything else, really, and eventually found myself a Lutheran pastor's wife, then an Anglican, and briefly a Roman Catholic, before evolving into what I am today...with which I won't bore you. My point is, this movie had an intense and long-lasting impact on my life, and while you can give credit for that to many things (like the gospel for example), you must give some to Victor.

I see now, particularly in view of the man as he appears today, still handsome, but a grayed, mature figure of some dignity, that Victor played Jesus as about as young as a man can be. He was so fresh-faced, so pure, so innocent, and so beautiful in face and voice, he is truly a paragon of youth. In the context of the rock opera, which in classic 70s style is symbolic and stylized, he plays Jesus not at all as the man he was historically, but as an archetype of one aspect of the Messiah: the child of God.

He is the leader of the ten 20-something children in this sweet, careless playground (which in the film is ironically New York City), and he engages himself with teaching them the simplest, yet deepest, lessons: how to play well with others and how to be good children of God. There is no complex theology here, and no Passion-of-the-Christ-style atonement scene either: even the suffering is a kind of play.

But that is the charm of it all, and the charm of Victor Garber's Jesus. Don't forget, I grew up in the world of Vietnam war footage on the evening news, race riots, campus unrest, LSD and Charles Manson. New York City was no playground in 1973. And yet here was a guy in rainbow pants and a Superman shirt, who was gentle, and funny, and tender, and loving. He had a perfect face, an angelic smile, eyes full of light and warmth. He had a voice that would melt your heart. You just wanted him to find you in some dreary urban setting, and take you to a park, and paint something whimsical on your cheek with his slender fingers.

Are you following me now? Yes, it did work because he was a lovely young man, and I was a 16 year old girl. I never had sex fantasies of him--heaven forefend--but I did think of him in ways I would not have done had he been an old man or a woman. It was an erotic pull that bound me to him, that intensified the delight I felt for his music and the humor I drew from his jokes...and the love I felt from him and for him.

And to this day I think that while this is not the most well-rounded portrait of Jesus on film, it does capture with amazing clarity certain aspects of Him, whether you consider Him a historical figure or an archetype. Grown men, in real life, do not exhibit this kind of innocence, this childlike exuberance, this joyful and potent tenderness...but the Son of God surely would.

Victor Garber brought the role to life in a way that truly touched mine...and he will always be my personal cinematic Jesus.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Notes on the Gaiman Crush, Part 2

So, I’m sure you’re burning with curiosity how I am faring with my temptation to crush on Neil Gaiman. I’d have to say I’ve lost the first week’s battle pretty soundly.

Planning to read more of his books? Yes.
Thinking of doing a tribute site? Still no!
Hoarding a few more wallpapers? Yes.
Marveling at his mind? Yes, yes, yes.

What I really love about Neil boils down to—no, not the smile—his ability to describe exactly what it is like to be a writer. I mean, in the same terms (although much more eloquently) than I would. Before you non-writers tune out, bear with me: Imagine encountering someone who really gets [fill in your particular passion here], in a manner you thought was practically unique to you. Yeah, it’s a heady trip when that happens.

Case in point: I watched the rest of the Google interview video. In response to a question about archetypal hero themes, Neil brought up Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with 10,000 Faces. As a Jungian author I’m all about archetypes, and I’ve read some Campbell, and I followed where Neil was going with this. But personally, I’ve never wanted to read too much Joseph Campbell, for fear that studying the creative process in that way might inhibit my natural ability to tap into the unconscious and draw stories from it.

I was thinking about this, just as Neil said [something like] “I was part way into the book and I thought, ‘I shouldn’t be reading this.’” In that moment I realized he and I had the very same thought on the subject. It was spooky. Even spookier was the fact that as Neil went on, expressing basically what I just did in the paragraph above, the questioner responded in a way that demonstrated he had missed the point. He was a smart guy, he just wasn’t a writer.

Earlier in the video, Neil read another of his poems, this one about Scheherazade inventing the Arabian Nights tales. This poem also hit upon the writing process in a manner that to my mind was spot on. I felt like if Neil had changed some of the words he could have been describing what I’ve been doing lately with the Bloodchained sequel! Of course I’m not under threat of death like Scheherazade, and my book can hardly compare to Aladdin’s adventures, but you get my drift.

Last time I posted, I discussed how scary it can be finding out about the real life of the object of one’s infatuation. I won’t lie that I am terribly intimidated by this man, who has a dozen celebrities on speed dial, sees his work adapted for movies and musical theater, and is adored by millions. I have no wish to throw myself among the rabid crowd of fanboys (and in the case of sexy Neil, there are plenty of fangirls as well) that follow Neil Gaiman from sci fi con to sci fi con.

Nevertheless, I’m beginning to think some good could come of this thing.

As always happens when I read good fiction, I find inspiration in Neil’s work to improve my own. For example, he has a tremendous knack for embellishing a scene with a few marvelously selected details, phrased utterly without cliché, thereby making that scene more colorful and substantial in the mind’s eye. My own personal weakness has always been description—I ought to be a playwright with my love of dialogue—and I can only dream of having such a skill. Nevertheless, I can try to emulate the man a little, and my prose will only be the better for the effort.

I explained this to my husband yesterday, saying “Of course I could never write like Neil Gaiman.” Davie replied, “Well, and he could never write like you, either.” It was a very kind thing to say, and also, I’ll admit, true. I don’t want to write like anyone other than myself, and no doubt Neil would encourage that attitude. I am at last too mature to want to express my worshipful feelings for another person by trying to be him.

That said, however, I cannot help but be moved by the man’s perception of the creative process and the way he describes it. In this one small way (actually in my case, not so small), he and I are soul mates of a sort.

Therefore I am becoming more comfortable with the idea of having my imaginary version of Neil Gaiman—for how could my concept of him be anything but imaginary?—serve as a sort of muse. My imaginary versions of celebrities I’m "in crush with" have often served as inspirations to my life and work, and considering this is the first time I’ve glommed on to an author, the muse thing is definitely in order.

So, doesn’t it sound like I’m being all sensible about this and stuff? Doesn’t it? Acting my age and all that? Well, don’t think that I’ve ruled out the possibility of seeing him in person some day…he lives in Minneapolis and that’s just over the border from Wisconsin, people.

I’ll keep you posted, you know I will, whether you like it or not.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Neil Gaiman: Trembling on the Brink

Today I trembled on the brink of developing a whale of a crush.

Back story: A couple years ago my husband, ever vigilant for guys he thinks I’ll find attractive (see also “Cody Willard is My Type”), pointed out Neil Gaiman on a book cover. Davie’s really good at spotting my type (I’m not bad at returning the favor, either). At the time I looked up Neil on the web and was impressed with his body of work: he’s a fantasy/sci-fi author known for, among other things, authoring the Sandman comics and writing the novel American Gods. Although only four years my junior, he still has the boyish good looks and mop of curly dark hair I find irresistible.

I let the moment pass, and even when Davie asked for American Gods for a Christmas present and read it, I forgot about Neil Gaiman.

Fast forward to a week or two ago when we rented “Stardust.” I loved the script to this movie, as well as the story itself, and noticed in the credits it was based on a novel by Neil Gaiman. By this time the name merely rang a bell—I couldn’t place why my heart skipped a beat when I saw it. I hit Google and remembered my past encounter with the man. I asked Davie what happened to American Gods and he dug it out of the basement.

Today I read the first chapter. The writing style is quite reminiscent of one of my favorite authors, Stephen King. It’s too soon to say how much I’ll like the book, but so far so good. Very good.

And there’s still the problem that I really like what this guy looks like.

Like a fool, I googled him again, and happened upon a 2006 video of him doing a public appearance in relation to his collection of short stories and poetry, Fragile Things. I only had a few minutes to view this hour long video, but I couldn’t resist a peek.

Oh great—he’s British, too.

So I watched and listened to Neil do an absolutely wonderful reading of his absolutely wonderful poem “The Day the Saucers Came.” It was spell-binding really. He’s funny, quirky, and fantastically imaginative, in addition to his looking like that.

I went to his article on Wikipedia and learned he was influenced by, among other people, my beloved C.S. Lewis. And that he wrote the marvelous English screenplay of “Princess Mononoke.” And so on. In short, I uncovered a bunch more reasons to like the guy.

Then I peeked at his blog, and it was at this point that I began to feel true fear.

You see, the biggest threat to a crush is always reality. Infatuations used to be a whole lot easier before the internet. Back then you could find a few reasons to be drawn to someone, then a few reasons why you and he were destined to share some meaningful connection, without having reality thrust upon you. But then technology came along, and even celebrity’s lives can be open books. Neil’s blog, like anyone’s, is full of commentary on what he’s doing, communications with his friends, all sorts of evidence that he is a real and regular human being with a life in progress involving a billion personal details that seem infinitely distant from my own existence.

For awhile there I had been tempted to throw myself into this Neil Gaiman thing: watch the rest of that video, read all his books, get the Sandman comics, etc. But this is happening to me why? Because of that face, that British accent, one movie and one chapter of a book, so WHOA. I know it used to take less than that when I was 20 or even 30, okay, even when I was 40...but I can’t quite do it now.

I’m too scared.

Crushes are always scary things, even for the well-adjusted and non-psycho person who recognizes from the get-go that no real relationship will ever occur. You can’t help fearing the inevitable moment when you either (a) discover something about the person that clashes with your dream of his perfections or (b) start feeling so much that it hurts that you can’t ever meet him. When I was younger I gaily and boldly plunged in, paying no heed to the imminent arrival of such moments. It was worth it for the heady thrill of being infatuated.

But at 51 I am not so energetic. I look back on my crush in 1989 on Kenneth Branagh and marvel at the sheer amount of time I spent researching him, not to mention the money for the library copy machine. Don’t get me started on my Sting phase, which ended up with my not only learning everything about the man, but also studying his hero, Carl Jung, for years. Oh, and then there’s my 300+ page tribute site to Guy Carbonneau. No, I’m just not up for that anymore. For one thing, I have my own career to take care of; these books don’t write themselves you know! LOL

But that said, I also am not of a mind to walk away from Neil Gaiman. Because I am still me, and me is a person who just gets a little excited and fluttery when a guy like this comes along. So I’m sure I’ll read American Gods, and watch the rest of that video, and see what comes of that.

And okay, yeah, I did put him up on my wallpaper. Dang it, he’s just really good looking.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Please Tell Me Why I Love Ben Linus

Even if you don't watch "Lost," I'm sure you've had the experience of being drawn to some character you can clearly see is not supposed to be sexy. Or even likeable. For some reason, when this happens it's more thrilling than when you lust after someone who is supposed to be hot.

Cue Michael Emerson as Benjamin Linus.

Ben is the uber-villain of the show, and believe me, he's not one of those Alan Rickman-Jason Isaacs-Cillian Murphy kinds of villains. He's puny, has bug eyes and weird hair. He gets captured and beat up by the good guys all the time. He has no hot girlfriend at his side at the poker table, no posse of hangers-on, no fast car or ritzy mansion. He does rule the Island, though...mostly by ruthless cunning, remorseless violence, and superior intelligence. And at one time or another he has hurt, deceived, betrayed, or made of fool of every guy (and many women) in this creepy little paradise.

And he lies all the freakin' time.

But something about this man has won me over. His backstory episode helped: He was emotionally abused by his rotten father as a child, in a most pathetic and tear-jerking way. And he does have his vulnerabilities: just this past week our suspicions of his devotion to Juliet were confirmed. It was classic Ben Linus all right: now you like him, now you don't. In the scene where he makes her dinner, all excited like a schoolboy with a crush, he was so endearing...and so doomed, for meanwhile Juliet was having an affair with Goodwin. But wait a half hour (in TV time) and he's just murdered Goodwin and informed Juliet "You're MINE."

Now please tell me why this declaration by the murderous, weasley little Ben Linus sent me off to bed, imagining that I were on the Island trying to comfort him and win his heart away from Juliet? Well, that's what I did! I would have decided I was really insane were it not for the fact that the next morning my daughter Katie, who composes and distributes a weekly "LostCap" newsletter, included in her report a declaration of her own Bensanity.

This encouraged me enough to admit my problem in this blog. I am fascinated by Ben Linus. I love (as he put it this past week) that he always has a plan. I love that he lies, and I always believe this time he might telling the truth; in other words, I love that he can fool me. I love how devious he is, how unfailingly clever, and most of all how he only loses his cool when he loves somebody.

And as much as I've come to like his crazy hair, his buggy eyes, his face trashed by whatever latest round of pissed-off beatings he's received, I can tell you there is one thing about him that is truly beautiful: his voice. Michael Emerson has one of those velvet voices that forces you to listen. There's some fascinating quirk to his accent and/or diction that I can't quite place but could listen to for hours.

I guess in the final analysis, this is just one of those rare characters so intriguing, so strong, and so marvelously brought to life by a brilliant actor, you just can't help reacting to him. My husband just loathes the guy, probably more than any TV character I can recall. Some of my daughters' friends thinks he's horrible and icky. But I bet there are other Bensane women out there wondering why the heck they are lying awake at night picturing themselves washing Benjamin Linus's wounds and eating up his lies like candy.

Yep, here you have the handsome heroic Jack, the hot (former) bad boy Sawyer, the model-perfect Jin, the dreamy Desmond, the geekily gorgeous Daniel, and I'm writing a blog post on Ben. Just goes to show you, there are two words that best describe what turns women on: Go figure.

UPDATE - Dec. 14, 2008

I just had to share this photo, sent to me by Ben Linus fan Jennifer.

She was not wrong when she claimed it was one of the hottest photos of him ever, and I would faint. Brace yourselves...

The key, as Jennifer pointed out to me, is to view the photo in full size. To do so, please click here.

Thanks for giving me goosebumps, Jennifer!

UPDATE - March 14, 2009

Ben Linus fans may also enjoy this post: "Bad Boys, Good Guys, and Ben Linus."

Monday, March 03, 2008

Three Turn-On Moments

Don't you just love those random "Turn-On Moments" that sometimes grace your day? Over the past week or so, I've enjoyed three of these, and I just wanted to share them with you.

The Transformation

I highly recommend the 2007 fantasy movie "Stardust." I had seen the trailer for it and while I was not particularly impressed by the actor who seemed to be the male lead, there was some other really hot guy in the movie that I was on the lookout for. So we rented it from Netflix.

Charlie Cox plays Tristan, an ordinary young fellow whose life takes a turn for the adventurous when he finds a woman (Claire Danes) who is apparently the embodiment of a fallen star. He's a sweet, slightly bumbling guy, kinda cute. Eventually the two hook up with Robert DeNiro's character, Capt. Shakespeare, a fierce and swashbuckling airship pirate who is secretly a gay cross-dresser. Yes, I'm not making that up.

The good captain takes it upon himself to give the two young people makeovers. Not only does Tristan get a very sexy new suit of clothes and fencing lessons, Capt. Shakespeare does his hair. And, this being fantasy, Tristan's hair gets longer. The long and short of it--sorry--is that Charlie Cox IS the hot guy I saw in the trailer, post-makeover. So, all along I'd been watching the very fellow I lusted for in the trailer, without knowing it.

That made him all the more attractive. I guess it's the classic frog-into-prince phenomenon. Not that the pre-makeover Charlie was a frog, exactly...he wasn't bad, don't get me wrong. But the coat, the sword, the hair...well, he really turned into something special. It took my breath away seeing that surprise transformation. And that's a turn-on moment.

Expertise Under Pressure

Many a time I've talked about how nothing's so sexy as talent or expertise. That, of course, is the secret to the sex appeal of 80's TV hero MacGyver, famous for his ingenious ability to devise whatever he needs out of regular stuff he finds laying around.

In a recent episode of "Mythbusters," Jamie Hynemann, Adam Savage, and their Build Team set about to test some of MacGyver's stunts in real life. The concluding segment of the show featured Grant and Tory posing as ultravillains and putting Jamie and Adam into challenging circumstances, to see if they could be as clever as MacGyver.

Our heroes were locked in a small room illuminated by two hanging light bulbs, with nothing else at hand. Would they figure out, as MacGyver did, that you can use a light bulb filament to pick a lock? Well, it took the boys no time at all think of that, and soon they were using Adam's steel-toed boot as a hammer to flatten the filament into a lock pick.

That was amazing enough, but there was still the challenge of picking the lock. Lock-picking is nothing in movies, but who do you know in real life who knows how to pick a real lock in a real doorknob? But wouldn't you know, Adam has some locksmithing in his background. He and Jamie took turns with their makeshift pick as the clock ran down. Adam announced he could feel the tumblers, and after another moment's careful concentration and minute motions, he unlocked the door!

Maybe you had to be there. Okay, maybe you had to be ME and be there. But I was blown away by the fact that Adam pulled off a stunt you normally only see people do on TV and in the movies. You could tell he was a bit amazed himself. I mean wow. I turned to David and said, "If Adam Savage were here right now he could totally do me on the spot." And I meant it too.

That was a big turn-on moment. Seriously, Adam. Sigh.

Erotic Flashback

Over the weekend I was organizing a bunch of old photos and happened to look at the album from when Davie and I were first dating, circa 1992. Backstory: I was recently separated from my gay husband, and hadn't seen any romance in a good decade and more. Imagine my excitement at the prospect of dating. I did marketing/PR at a law firm where Davie was employed in the mailroom. He'd drop off the mail and I'd admire his boyish good looks and cool and quirky fashion sense (like a drink of water in the desert, seeing as this was a law firm).

Davie's a runner and at this time was in his prime, and to put it bluntly, had the best ass in southeastern Wisconsin. Very possibly he still does. I found an old picture I'd forgotten about, of Davie wearing his favorite pants, with the 29" waist and the skin-tight posterior, and a really nice cotton oxford shirt with the cuffs folded up. From behind. It suddenly came back to me how I used to watch him go by when he dropped off my mail. And the time I rode the elevator with him and was all entranced by his brown leather jacket and longish hair and earring.

When you live with someone day in and out, through cleaning up after your cats and having gall bladder surgery and watching countless episodes of "House Hunters," you just get used to him. It's nice now and then to recall so vividly why you were attracted to him when you were practically strangers.

That's a turn-on moment that pays off most of all. :-)