Friday, May 18, 2007

Since I'm Feeling Lazy

I know that I haven't had a good post about being a spirit worker in quite some time. However, I took a lot of medication last night and then ended up having to stay up with the dog until dawn, so today that state of affairs will not be changing.

Fortuitously, my beloved sweetie over at Artsy Phu posted an excellent essay on that very subject this morning. Go check it out.

This way I don't need to feel bad about not having posted much in this vein in a while:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Friday, May 11, 2007

Backscattering My (and Your) Bits for Fun and Safety

Could we be on the verge of a whole new world for exhibitionists? The TSA (Transportation Safety Administration, not be confused with the Tourette Syndrome Association) has begun installing backscatter machines in airports. These are specially designed X-ray machines that penetrate clothing but not skin, yielding a perfect picture of what a person looks like in the nude. From the photos on the web from demonstrations and the diagrams on the TSA website the term “perfect” is totally justified. Not only will an operator know what non-metallic items you may be carrying (obviously it can detect metal too, but looking for non-metallic items is what sets it apart) but said operator will also be able to tell how large one’s labia are.

This technology is distressing to me I’ll admit. Not because I give a fuck about being seen naked by a security operator, but because it is designed to detect the very sort of weapons that my family used to travel with, hardwood and plastic knives for instance. The risk of being singled out for a search caused us to change travel tactics a while ago, but that is not the point.

Now, there are steps being taken to preserve peoples’ “privacy” as much as can be done when giving them a radioactive strip search. Originally when I heard about this technology, the plan had been to use a computer algorithm to fuzz out the subject’s bits. Apparently this is no longer the plan. Whether stymied by technology limitations or the risk of people exploiting these known blur spots to hide weapons, I don’t know. Now the computer blurs the details of the face and the operator of the machine who is actually viewing the images created by it is in a separate room and never sees the individual in person, hence never seeing identifying features. At least not identifying features one can see with clothes on. I suppose the idea is that the tech can say “There is someone in Concourse A at the moment that has the biggest dick in the universe, I’m just couldn’t tell you who he is.”

This then implies that a great deal can not be determined from all the other details of a person. Not true. A more accurate statement I imagine would be this: “There is a guy in Concourse A at the moment with the biggest dick I’ve ever seen. He’s about six foot two inches tall. He weighs about two hundred and twenty-five pounds. And he is built like so…” and on.

As I implied earlier, there is one population who I think could benefit greatly from this technology: exhibitionists. As long as some stranger is going to be looking at you with your clothes off, you could have some fun. If someone is going to be invading your physical privacy, invade the sanctity of their mind a bit. I know that for myself, I am not really an exhibitionists (although I write a blog, so there is that) but I know that I am not going to avoid wearing a T-tape and strap (the method of foreskin restoration that I have been using) just because some stranger is going to be looking at my bits on a computer screen. However, I am simply not changing my behavior because of the backscatter machines. I think that where folk could have a lot of fun is with deliberate changes.

If you have labial piercing for instance, use a chain to hold the lips apart to make a pretty butterfly for the nice man (probably want to fix that as soon as you are through security, sounds uncomfortable). I have a picture on my computer of a flaccid guy with a Barbie doll arm coming out of the end of his foreskin. Bet that would look strange on a backscatter X-ray. This could be a whole new market for the butt-plug horse tails that are sold at events like the Fetish Flea Market. Imagine being the security screener puzzling that out during a busy travel time. The list could go on and on.

If backscatter machines do in fact become widely used (right now they are only in a few airports) then I’m sure the TSA will eventually set policies regarding deliberately fucking with the technicians. However, I suspect that there could be a pretty spiffy First and Fourth Amendment case built around the issue.

I say that regardless of your policy on people smuggling weapons through security, the backscatter provides an opportunity to fuck with people that is just too good to pass up. As long as strangers will be looking at me naked, I am tempted to make sure that they never forget me, whether they see my face or not.

*5/14/07 Editor's Note* Due to concern from multiple individuals regarding the possibility of certain facetious comments I made in this post being taken out of context, I have removed the second to last paragraph from this essay. There was concern that certain sardonic suggestions I may have made could be construed in such a way as to imply that I personally, Clan Tashlin, and/or Brigantain Designs LLC could be some sort of terrorism or security concern. While this is absurd, I have complied with suggestions that I remove the objectionable paragraph as it did not contribute substantially to the content of the essay.

Maybe It Isn't a Small World After All

“The world has gotten smaller.” The phrase has become clich├ęd as the atomic age has gaven way to the internet age. Young adults entering the workforce today have never lived in a time when they couldn’t sit in their homes or workplaces and communicate with people who are on the other side of the globe as easily as they could talk to someone from the next town over. Combine this ease of communication with high speed transportation such as jet airplanes and it is easy to see how one’s concept of the world could be far more inclusive than in any time in the past.

This phenomenon has been especially invaluable for small and widely spread groups of people. Online support groups for people with rare illnesses is one of the more common and representative examples of this. Certainly the pagan demographic relies on the net quite a bit to maintain cohesion.

However, of late I have found myself wondering if this “smaller world” stuff is an illusion, and perhaps a dangerous one at that.

The world hasn’t gotten smaller, that is a simple fact. NASA probably would have mentioned it if it had. Our perception of the world and the people on it, has changed enormously in the past one hundred years. Charles Lindbergh’s historic transatlantic solo flight was just eighty years ago. We went from the first solo ocean crossing in an airplane to the first footsteps on another world in forty-two years. This is a pace of change unprecedented in the history of humankind. With the radical changes brought about by engine powered transportation and the advent of instant communication (starting with the telegraph) it is no wonder that we have a world-concept that would have been completely alien only a couple of generations ago.

There have been many authors (and bloggers for that matter) who have addressed the issues surrounding the pace of change on our world. I am going to try to stay away from that worthy subject. Rather, my concerns are more personal and have more to do with how this “smaller world” idea effects what one of my friends affectionately refers to as her “zombie apocalypse plan.”

The “zombie apocalypse plan” (ZAP) for those of you who don’t know, is one’s plan(s) for what to do in the event of some form of society impairing calamity. I have mention in the past in BarkingShaman that our Lady has been pushing us to make plans that allow for the possibility of “civil unrest,” so our ZAP takes that into account. Being spirit workers and magicians also opens up the chance that a situation may arise requiring some form of ZAP of a magical nature that most people may remain oblivious to.

Personally I believe that most likely ZAP situations are will have both mundane and magical/spiritual components. There are many reasons that I and many other spirit workers, non-spirit working magicians or even completely non-spooky people, feel the need to make zombie apocalypse plans (and just to clarify I don’t mean “zombie” in a literal sense). Those reasons could take up an entire BarkingShaman post in themselves, if I thought it would be appropriate to post such things on the internet, which I don’t.

The reason that building zombie apocalypse plans makes me think of the false nature of the “small world” perspective is that the process of putting together ZAPs has made me realize just how physically inaccessible many of the people important to me are. If one chooses to take automotive transportation out of the question for a moment, and unless you drive a diesel car or truck you should, most things become pretty fucking far away.

For instance, the supermarket I go to is just five minutes away from me by car. However, on foot that 1.77mi suddenly seems like a bit much just to grab one thing. My closest friend to me is fifty-five miles away, a two day walk at best. People dear to me in distant places like Australia would be as lost to me as if they were on the moon for all the ease of contact if things fell apart. Anyone who has through-hiked the Appalachian Trail (which I have unfortunately not done) will tell you that the world is just as large as it has always been.

Tashlin as a clan, (as opposed to as my last name, the clan came first lest you think me that full of hubris) has worked hard in the past several years to build relationships with many people, mostly in the pagan demographic. It is sobering for us to realize that if the shit hits the fan, most of us will be on our own. The tendency in the last several years for spirit workers to gather and relocate to specific geographic regions is quite disturbing in this context.

Stepping away from the ZAP situations a bit, it is also concerning to realize how shallow our sense of unity and power as minorities really are. Many communities, including the pagan and GLBT communities use the internet to maintain a focused sense of identity. That unity is where power comes from. I’m not trying to say that without the net, towns would not have pride parades and covens would not meet for Samhain. However, without the national and international coverage of the Veterans Administration’s delays and hand wringing over making the pentacle available for the headstones of troops killed in battle, I don’t think that the pentacle would today be an option for the families of deceased service members. Most of that coverage came through the internet. It doesn’t take a terribly paranoid though progression to see how GLBT or pagan rights could be more easily curtailed through limiting online access to related resources (the same arguments being used to circumvent the Equal Access Amendment in order to ban GSAs in schools could be applied to GLBT websites for instance).

I’d like to say that I don’t think that my “zombie apocalypse” concerns are anything but the ramblings of an overactive imagination. Unfortunately I can’t. For one thing, the Lady and Var have made several unlikely predictions over the past nine years that have come or are coming to fruition. I’ve learned that it is unwise to ignore the desires and instructions of the gods. For another, we live in a world where not only it is illegal for gays to congregate in some countries, but the religious leaders from at least one country that is horrifically oppressive to queers has won over many disaffected people here in the United States. Not to mention that three current candidates for the Oval Office have declared that they don’t believe in evolution (I know that point is a bit out there but it makes my brain hurt so I am mentioning it).

It is one of my dearest hopes that we will never find out first-hand how big the world really is in the way I’ve discussed. Just the same, when building one’s zombie apocalypse plan, it is vital to consider just how far away one’s friends and allies may really be if the planes aren’t flying, the cell towers aren’t routing, and instant messenger is once again as distant a dream as moon rockets once were.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A Different Kind of "Whispering"

As is immediately evident from my highly infrequent posting, my neurochemistry shit hasn’t been adequately worked out. I have a large file of uncompleted posts where my brain just gave out on me. I am leaving for the Pagan Kingdom of Asphodel’s Beltane weekend in just a few minutes but first I wish to share…

Our minds work in strange and unfathomable ways. Sometimes a great deal can be learned about a person from one or another unique personality quirk. Other times you can at least get a good laugh. I’m guessing this will be the latter, but if anyone has a deep insight into my psyche, feel free to share.

My partners have taken to calling me The Penis Whisperer, bet that’s not a sentence you hear everyday. The reason for this bizarre and social inappropriate nomenclature is this:

When I see a penis, whether in person (always preferred) or even in a picture, I immediately and involuntarily imagine in my head what its voice would sound like if it could talk. I realize this is probably a pretty weird thing. I should note that I am not actually saying that other peoples’ (or my own for that matter) penises talk to me, they don’t. All I am saying is that I have an idea in my mind of what they would sound like if they did.

For some reason however, this information seems to call to mind pet-psychics when I tell it to other people. I am not sure what the “talking to penises” and “talking to pets” connection is in other peoples’ minds, although I am confident that a psychology graduate student could do a thesis on the subject. Aside from the fact that I DON’T TALK TO PENISES (just really want to make that point clear).

Despite that key point, I give you a glimpse into the cable access show that will never be:

Imagine it in your mind: A bare stage set with two chairs and a plain backdrop. In one chair sits a twitching Wintersong (would need to suppress the vocal tics so as not to scare them into silence). In the other chair sits a nervous looking middle aged guy, maybe a bit rough looking. A construction worker would be ideal. He’s explaining his problem:

“I just don’t know Penis Whisperer. Lately the little guy just hasn’t been himself. I’ve tried getting him interested in things, but every time I try to play with him he just doesn’t seem interested the way he used to be. There was a time he’d be the one to get all up in my lap and make it clear that he wanted to play. Now I have to try to get him going and he is more and more resistant it seems. It’s even worse with my wife. Whenever she decides to play with him he just goes all passive and plays dead. I don’t understand what he is trying to tell me. Can you get me some answers Penis Whisperer?”

He would then unbutton his pants and drop them around his knees. The camera would zoom in for a close up of Wintersong examining the gentleman’s gentleman parts and making the “listening” expression made familiar to many by the work of legions of pet psychics and John Edwards (crossing over dude rather than presidential candidate) knockoffs.

The Penis Whisperer would then make some generic recommendations about trying new games, new toys, and switching over to silk underwear and the show would end for the week. Before long there could be a book deal and a popular syndicated show on basic cable. At first the right wing would be all up in arms, until some enterprising individual found a way to connect Penis Whispering to finding redemption in god and there’d be a new wave of religious themed generic genital talkers (“your inner labia say that you should have waited until you were married).

I have to head out to Cauldron Farm for Beltane, my bits and I hope you have a good weekend.