Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Not used to seeing this in the news

Usually, when SM is mentioned in the news, it is relating to some whackjob serial killer or what sounds like one of the worst dates ever, or a relationship that really could have used some counseling, oh, long before the people MET. Say, in the womb.

This is cute, though.

Study: Spank Together, Stay Together

Despite a spike in stress levels, couples who engage in sadomasochistic activities (S&M), may end up strengthening their relationship, according to a new study published in the magazine New Scientist this week.

Two separate studies, one from Northern Illinois University and one from the University of Pisa in Italy, researched hormone levels at S&M parties.

See? Awwww!! But wait...there's still trouble at hand!!

When the activities go well and are enjoyable, couples told researchers they felt closer to each other. However, the opposite was true of negative experiences with S&M.

Blink. Blink.

You don't say?? When you have bad sex, it doesn't help you feel closer to someone?? When sex is good, it makes you feel good?


What a strange thing to feel necessary to add there. It's like saying, "Hammers used on nails can be very useful! When used on fingers, not so much!"

Monday, March 30, 2009

Clearing out some books on PBS

If you are a member of Paperback Swap, know that I am making my bookshelf 2-for-1 for a bit. I need to clear out my books and figure out which ones will become pulp and which ones will be donated to the nearest place that will take them. I would rather they went to fellow readers, of course. Request one book and send me a personal message (using the PBS message system, please, so it doesn't wind up in my e-mail backlog) listing which one you spent a point on and which additional title you'd like.

If you are not a member of PBS, maybe you should be. If you join, please consider listing me as your reference.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Patterson is so over.

Done with Alex Cross and James Patterson. I just out down Roses are Red and I am amazingly pissed.

It's the same fucking story.

Crazed serial killer is a genius using a pyramid scheme of other serial killers. Ultimate bad guy turns out to be NOT the obvious mental case...NOT the slick professional...but an actual insider on the investigative team. Detective Cross' girlfriend is once again...killed. (And mutilated.) And the entire book is written in 2 and 3 page chapters.

Nope. Not interested. This man is obviously the real serial killer - every cop, FBI agent and woman who sleep with him gets attacked, threatened, kidnapped, raped, murdered, or kidnapped, raped, murdered and mutilated. He's deadlier than Jessica Fletcher. No wonder Patterson is writing YA stories about teen girls with angel wings. Cross must have run out of people willing to be in the same space with him.

Giving anonymously

Things are tough all over, so the saying goes. It's unlikely anyone now lives in a bubble where they are not directly affected by, or have had friends and family fall prey to job loss and reductions, retirement and investment fund losses, housing difficulties, or health care crisis' made worse by and insane system of mismanaged care.

Of course, it's all perspective; those with *a* job, some healthcare, a home they can afford, little things like that, might feel worlds better off than others they know and/or love. Ditto people in the fields which benefit from economic downturns.

If you are in that category and have wondered how you might be able to help a friend of acquaintance without making them feel uncomfortable by an outright gift, there is actually a charitable organization that will act as a middle-agent for you.

It's even called Giving Anonymously. Its not free, but it is an option.

Of course, you can always just have a bank check, gift check, or gift card created somewhere and mail it to your friend, as well. When we used to answer Santa letters from the Post Office, we'd try to include something for the parent(s) in the package, usually a gift card from a local drugstore or supermarket, or a long distance calling card.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Leaving modern detectives aside

In between the adventures with Patterson, I also read one new period detective novel and revisited an old science fiction classic I hadn't read since I was a kid.

I have a great fondness for ancient Rome; the era of the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire being my favorite place to meander in fiction. Thanks to the wealth of period commentators and their later historians who had access to primary documents we can only dream about reading today, many authors can find ancient Rome a well-documented playground for storytelling.

My favorite books on the period are the books which begin with The First Man in Rome, by Colleen Mccullough. Once better known for The Thorn Birds, she has really stamped a mighty mark on the historical fiction world with this huge and amazingly researched series. (My only real quibble with her is that she maintains Julius Caesar was solidly heterosexual. Other researchers are not so sure about that. He was, however, absolutely a tomcat.)

My favorite mysteries set in that period are the ones by Steven Saylor, who is also a rather talented writer in MY genre, albeit under a pseudonym. His Gordianus the Finder series, aka Roma Sub Rosa, have his curious, cynical, clever detective rubbing elbows with all the big names of the day and finding bodies everywhere.

But happily, I have found another Roman sleuth who seems to have the bad fortune to stumble on mysteries while trying to keep a Legion healthy in the wilds of Britannia. Yes, he's a doctor; another of my favorite things to read about! I just finished my second book by the author, and Terra Incognita was as much fun for me as Medicus, the first one. And there's a new one this year! (Adds it to my wish list)

Gaius Petreius Ruso, Medicus, has a familiar kind of life; low on romance, high on bureaucracy and complaints, too many bills to pay and too many relatives with their own money problems depending on him. He's got the footloose womanizer best friend, a sullen and conniving slave who keeps more secrets than her owner would want to know, and bosses with irrational requirements at the most inconvenient times. Oh, and bodies show up from time to time. Fun! Not deep. (For depth, see Mccullough.)

The revisiting was spurred by the recent death of three-time Hugo winner Philip Jose Farmer. Turns out I didn't have a single book by him on my shelves, but I was sure I'd read him years ago. So, I popped a quest with Paperback Swap and re-read To Your Scattered Bodies Go, the first book in the Riverworld series. Now, I had remembered these books fondly as a sort of "what if all the people I always wanted to write about were resurrected in this odd SF environment with, oh, the rest of humanity?"

I figured it would be fun to reread.
It really wasn't.

I found it shallow. I found the set-up to be more interesting than the characters. I hated that Hermann Goring was a major character who actually set about killing Jews again. Female characters? Prude, tool or slut, all shallow and not important to the story.

Ah, well. I will not bother to get the sequels.

Toy catalog - and not what you think

This morning with the paper - why, yes, I read an actual, printed newspaper, every day - I got a catalog from a local store I had never heard of, called Carol School Supply. It caught my attention because of the incongruity between the business name and the colorful toys on the first page, including a play tent, a remote control copter that sort of looks like a shark, and a messenger sized bag which the child could color with included fabric markers. So, I flipped through it to see what else they had.

Four pages later, I handed it off to Karen (aka, Mrs. Pornographer) and asked, "Do you see what I see?"

In the entire catalog, there was nothing requiring a TV, a computer or a music player. There were no "collectible" items whose names will become future Trivial Pursuit questions. (Pokemon, Bratz, etc.) There were no toys with Disney or Nickelodeon characters on them, in fact, *nothing* from popular culture. No action figures, no giant "playsets" based on movies or cartoons, or TV shows. In fact, not only were there no Barbies, there were no baby dolls.

There was nothing passive.

Everything required participation, engagement, imagination, or creativity. Puzzles, art kits, fake food for pre-preschoolers to "cook" which required some assembly or decoration, art kits, build-it-yourself kits, rockets, racers, yo-yos, dress-up supplies, a tea set and some science kits. A lot could be enjoyed by a child alone; many required or encouraged playmates.

It's sad that I found this so surprising.

But if I had a kid I was buying toys for? I'd go there.

Carol School Supply

Friday, March 27, 2009

At play among the bodies and gore

I wish I liked mysteries more. My Mom was quite the reader of light mysteries, both of the Agatha Christie variety and the adventures of the smug and nebbish Rabbi Small (written by Harry Kemelman) and the dapper, fastidious Mexican cardsharp Detective Luis Mendoza. (By Elizabeth Linington, writing as Dell Shannon.)I read them too, mostly around the ages of 9-13, and liked them. Later as an adult, I tried to reread them and found them simplistic, stereotypical, loosely plotted and much too heavily reliant on surprise revelations and character habits disguised as personality details.

Today Rabbi Small seems hopelessly under-educated and offensively sexist; I know people who could run him around the block in Talmudic logic, and they ain't rabbis. Plus, his eternal battles with an ever-changing Temple president seem petty and often stunningly dim when compared to what was happening in the Jewish community at the time, and what has happened since.

Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot hardly need me to detail my dislikes; let's just say I'd like to plant a nice garden in the one tiny vicarage that didn't suffer the murder of the town's gossip and fertilize it with buckets of tiny gray cells.

I didn't like 'em as a grown up.

But I keep trying, occasionally on the multiple recommendations of friends, but they always seem to disappoint. I don't know what it is; maybe it's that I get annoyed both when I solve the mystery first and when I don't, even though re-reading reveals the clues. Yet, I enjoy the Harry Potter books very much and each one contains classic examples of mysteries; at first it's a "Where in the world is Lord Voldemort?" sort of thing and later on, it's where are his goodies?

But I do find I enjoy police procedurals; thus my fetish for the Kellerman duo and they combined 4, 5 dozen books. And thanks to Paperback Swap, I have also been enjoying some of the books by James Patterson, although I fear that won't last long.

First; what I like. I like forensics. This goes back a long way. I have always admired the science of finding things where a lesser trained person wouldn't see them. And most importantly, I enjoy finding them alongside the hero. If Sherlock waits until the very end of the story to reveal he deduced the amount of time passed by how the parsley had sunk into the butter, it's grandstanding. If the story tells me as he figures it out, it's more information for me to use to follow the story along.

I loved Quincy. I love CSI:TOS. And now, I love Bones. I enjoy books which show me how the good guys discover things, not just when.

I also like gruntwork. I like stories when they go out and interview 80 people *knowing* it's highly unlikely it will help, but they do it because sometimes it does actually work. And because you can't rely on nothing but good ideas in isolation.

I like partnerships; I like teams. A squad, a department, a pair will almost always work better for me than a solo artist. Even if there is one "star," I like to know they have friends, resources, buddies, fellow professionals, most of whom are people, not duct tape characters.

I like really, really bad bad guys. Serial killers, kidnappers, ritual murderers, assassins, thrill killers, mutilators. And I am not afraid of graphic descriptions. I will not stop reading because a sympathetic or innocent character dies. I want to know anyone is at risk.

So far? Patterson delivers a lot, except for details on forensics. And with the rest, I am content. Why do I feel it won't last? Because on the way back from SF, I bought a more recent Alex Cross novel and the whole damn thing is written in chapters of, like, three pages. It drove me insane. Like some of the more recent Mr. Kellerman books, that one seemed stripped of characters, dialog, background stories and anything which wasn't dramatic, shocking, or supposedly exciting.

However, three Alex Cross books I enjoyed were Kiss the Girls, Cat & Mouse, and Jack & Jill.

Kiss the Girls had the fun of two killers working together in different areas, Cat and Mouse had the return of a psycho from a previous book, and Jack and Jill had, er, two killers working together. OK, more than two. Patterson loves to imagine these wackos are really good at calling each other up and asking for favors. "Dude! The feds are on my case. Would you mind committing a depraved murder in a public place and pretending to be me? No way! You are totally my BFF. I will definitely kill you last. Joke! Joke!"

They were good; I like the character of Alex Cross, I like his family, I like his best friend, and I fear for his girlfriends. (Oh, dear, yet another book where the object of his affection is killed, threatened OR a villain...) But at least I will have a few more books to add to the shelves before I reach a cut off point. I do not think I will need to have a complete set.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Back to books

I had my period of weird "I don't want to read anything," during which I re-read all the The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth's Children)books except for The Mammoth Hunters. I think that book was lost to damage, although it's not like me to throw a book away without remembering. Fortunately, I think it is the weakest in the series and was not especially disturbed from my OCD to skip it. I ordered a replacement from Paperback Swap.

Since that mind-clearing, I dived back into the stack of unread books I had, with some side tracks in different media (comics) and a little enjoyment of a coffee-table book I discovered I had never actually read before. Imagine my surprise to find it actually enjoyable and interesting.

I loved a British reality show a few years ago called Manor House. They took a nice handful of modern Brits and threw them into a wonderful Edwardian mansion. The small family living upstairs and the huge, multi-layered staff downstairs. It is one of the inspirations for Peter Ackworth's Upper Floor concept. (And I saw the DVD collection on his shelves and immediately began to covet. Funny how I rarely think to even look for DVD sets of things I like.)

When in England, I found a gorgeous book relating to the show - Manor House: Life in an Edwardian Country House. The photo does not do justice to the cover at all. The interior photographs and stories of the participants are also wonderful to graze through. There are some jarring excursions into areas which I thought could have been easily left out or made more interesting if they actually referred to activities undertaken in the show - two pages about how to make a rag rug? Come on. But all in all, it was a great companion piece to the series.

And it looks like you can get it for the cost of shipping, too. Good deal!

Something I really liked about the series was that the participants were not there to compete for anything. There was no million dollar prize, there were no alliances, no strange contests to win immunity. They had volunteered to live this for the experience.

So - the servants were consensually in service to people they had not chosen. Their risk was only in the potential for a lousy time and perhaps exposure for being not up to the task. The book reflects much of what I recall from the show - some of the servants took pride in what they did, and threw themselves into their work with passion. Others were astonished at how many things they took for granted every day of their lives and horrified at how hard it really is to put other people first at all times, with little or no outlet for feelings or personal values. I would have liked to know more about the discussions below stairs, and found that the book touched on just enough to make me think I need to see the whole thing again.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Afterthoughts on Kink.com

So, what has this experience given me, other than a fine time meeting great people in a cool building?

Chiefly, it has made me appreciate my fans even more. Because unlike some of the paying members at Kink.com, my fans, even when they request or demand additional material from me, have always supported my original vision. I like to joke that when I get the same number of notes telling me I have too much het content and too much gay content, I know I am doing things exactly right. But in a way, it's completely true. Because no one has ever said to me "ewww, no more gay scenes," or "boy girl stuff is gross." (I assume the truly offended readers just move on.)

In addition to that, and more important, I feel I have the support of my readers in that they are really there for the story and not the sex scenes. They are willing to wait through 80 pages of getting to know you before the long-awaited Chris/Robin reunion; they want to know histories and reasons, backstories and plot devices. Through the patience and generosity and support of my readers, I get to tell the tale I want to, and within the small marketplace of "people who read SM porn," it is as rewarding as can be reasonably expected. (That is - not as much as you think. Grin)

I don't know if that translates well to the visual world.

For one thing, there is the major discrepancy between the consumers - my readers come to hear a story. Consumers at kink.com come to see good looking people doing dastardly things to each other. My consumers come expecting to supply many of their own details to the story - that's the wonder of the written world, for good and ill. But since it is a private matter, it doesn't change what I produce. For example, a reader is perfectly free to imagine that Chris Parker looks exactly like Pierce Brosnan. Because of that freedom, they don't have to write to me and say, "This would be hotter if Chris were about 7 inches taller, somewhat slimmer, had blue eyes, and oh, was Irish."

(For the record, Chris agrees, and wants to know where to sign up for that.)

But if I were in the business of producing a visual product, one where my consumers were paying me to look at what they want, I would have to know I was sacrificing a significant portion of my buyers if I hired a model who actually looked like MY character.

So, readers?

OMG, I adore you. Thank you, thank you.

The second thing I come away with is the question of what sort of visual entertainment would the SM community really support?

We already celebrate (or are bemused or dismayed by) almost every appearance of SM in mainstream entertainment, whether it's a movie or a plot device in a weekly drama. We even occasionally make movies within the community which reach a sizable distribution, at least among fringe film festivals. But what is the next step?

For example, look at gay entertainment. Queers used to be the rare stars of an occasional movie (to be celebrated or deplored) and the occasional plot device on TV. Now, there are queer sitcoms, dramas, mysteries, and even reality shows. No genre has been left untouched, from cartoons to news programs, talk shows to documentaries. There are (at least) two queer networks.

What would the SM Network look like?

What would people really set aside time to watch? A comedy of manners? (The Importance of Being Dominant) A drama about relationships? (Tune in for scenes from next weeks Kinky-Somethings) A talk show? (Next up: Shan Carr interviews Pat Bailey on being out at work!) A fashion show? (On Cover Your Ass, Midori and Master Skip help out with dungeon do's and don'ts!) Cartoons? ("You wascally subbie!") An adventure series? (Stay tuned for the finale of Top & Bottom, as private detectives Abner Top and Lucille Bottom try to rescue their intern/slave Polly from the non-consensual slavery ring!) A sitcom? (Daddy Knows Best - the family comedy about a different kind of family.) And of course, a lifestyle advice show. (Ask Me If I Care - relationship advice from Laura Antoniou)

But seriously...would we watch? Would we support something that wasn't just 90 minutes at a film festival, or a jack-off session at the computer? And by support, I don't mean mention it on Facebook - but would we pay for it? What would make it worthwhile?

More questions. That's me all over. Peter Ackworth has a notable wish - some sort of 24/7 SM space where stories are told and service is offered and received. His audience is already accustomed to something much less complex; the audience which might really enjoy such a thing has never been quantified in any way, and there's little that can be done short of some professional surveys and focus group research, to know if it even exists. Is that a good combination for such a risk?

I am sending Ackworth my thoughts on what can be done, some halfway steps and some ideas which would require a commitment of time, money and talent which he might find too heavy to bear in a struggling economy. But I am grateful for the opportunity to have been there and be consulted on such a great vision.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Adventures in the Palace of Porn, part four

No links in this one!

The shoot itself was a classic combination of good intentions, skilled performers and random curve balls - sort of like a Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera company in summer stock. There was a script - I still have one - but it was not strictly adhered to. There was supposed to be a competition going on, but with four models in play (so to speak) there were times when the leads were difficult to follow inside a tangle of bodies. Plus, we had the interesting and potentially erotic input from the live audience via chat on the kink.com website.

I say potentially, because that's been on my mind for years; the idea of viewers determining what the actor or model on the camera will do or suffer. Certainly, people who are into the scene use this as part of their SM dynamic in long distance relationships. There are also many web performers who do something like it already, but the idea of incorporating it into a live show is oddly attractive to me. Sort of a midway stop between completely passive voyeurism and really playing; a way for exhibitionists to not actually have personal contact with the eyes watching them. It's a nice use of tech.

I also say potentially because, let's face it, a lot of the comments were lame or repetitive or both. Not to mention showing off the specific tastes and fears of the typists watching at home. For example, we were discussing at several point the addition of some slave boys to serve on the upper floor. This was met with much approval from every guest at the dinner, but one watcher was so offended he used his caps key to let us know "No slave boys! No men!" over and over.

Yeah, OK, I get it, naked peepees are scary. Well, too bad. It's a pity there's so little porn with all girls, huh?

Also, I can understand that as a fetishist, the cum shot is what it's all about. So, if there were viewers who needed, absolutely needed, every model in a ball gag or they wouldn't shoot, that can be disappointing. But maybe the chat rooms need an automatic filter for the same line when it is repeated more than once. It's a thought.

The biggest concern for me during the shoot is that there was very little to use for someone like me to judge the two primary models. Looking good while being played with is nice! But if the idea was that somehow they were supposed to earn a position in a service based arena, I would have liked to see more...service?

Fetching and carrying and answering questions politely were the primary areas of criteria outside of SM and sex play.

Here is the essential conundrum of the concept again. To judge someone who can serve, to me, requires more than this. This is fun; it's amusing and people did get off and as far as I'm concerned, people getting off is a good thing.

But where can you find the balance between entertainment and more realistic (and therefore potentially dull) activities? Darkholme, sitting on my right, noted that although the blocking had the servers walking along the front of the table and then presenting plates from that side, this is not considered the correct method according to table service protocol. And we didn't even know if the servers know they had been directed against common protocol. (Which, for the record, is fine. Having them walk past the camera and bend over presenting their butts to the camera was the point, of course. That's staging.)

But my instinct would have had them instructed in more proper service. And I could just imagine the audience for that. Hmm. There would be...me...and...Jasper could be convinced to keep me company. (He's my cat.)


Yeah. And while die-hard fetishists for service might actually tune in, I could imagine the outcry from, say, the big fan of ball gags. "Screw the fish knife, why isn't someone gagging her with a BALL GAG?"

It would be like the spectators showing up for the Mardi Gras and finding a Lent service.

And yet...part of me keeps thinking...

It would be so COOL!
More thoughts on this coming soon.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Adventures in the Palace of Porn, part three

Many links in the kink.com posts will be unsafe for work. Click at your own risk.

On the day of the shoot, since everyone was running around doing terribly important stuff, I decided to go get my hair cut. Jo in the office helpfully googled a barber shop within walking distance, and I headed off to Market Street, to Joe's Barber Shop. Then, when I walked in, who do I see but leatherman Joe Gallagher, an old friend from the perverotti. (IML, '96, New York Leather before that.) Last time I'd seen Joe was on 18th Street, so I had no idea I had been innocently referred to his place. Got an awesome job from Mike, by the way. He has a totally hot lover, too.

By the time I finally got back, it was time to rest up before the shoot. The size of the room and the number of people who were going to be in there with lights, plus the fact that a good number of ladies were going to be bare ass brought to mind the classic dilemma of formal settings in porn - I was in leather trousers, boots, silk shirt and tuxedo jacket with a tie. It was warm enough for naked people. Fully dressed tops were going to be...uncomfortable. This of course should encourage some to dress lightly or strip off fast, but I was doing neither. I figured I'd just rely on my calm and cool disposition.

And plenty of ice water.

The dinner was actually catered; the two primary performers were to serve it, with additional secondary girls brought in for set dressing. Actually, one was a volunteer. This does not regularly happen in my experience, and I wouldn't say it if I hadn't been in the room when she asked if she could help out. Did I mention these people are genuinely kinky? Also, I thought the work atmosphere for the models was quite good. They had big fluffy robes, stacks of towels, assorted drinks and snacks standing by for when they were off camera, and before I arrived on the set I was given a separate document for each one, explaining in very clear terms what their limits were. Brief and explicit, I was asked if I understood each one and shown where these forms were kept, just in case I wanted to slip out of the room and check on something before acting like an idiot.

I appreciate anything that helps me to avoid acting like an idiot. Sadly, I think almost everyone said no anal play. I immediately burst into tears and hid in my trailer.

OK, I didn't.

I was allowed to mingle with the other guests during a casual cocktail hour and got to meet Princess Donna, Van Darkholme and the various directors and staff/performers for the evening. Conversation ranged from On Our Backs to World of Warcraft, and no, this time I am not kidding. It became rapidly clear, however, that the set dressing girls were going to be a lot more involved in the action than I had originally thought. The instincts of a performer is to play to the cameras, and if the slave girls were going to be free to serve drinks and dinner, then dammit, someone was going to have to put up with the bondage, the beatings, the fucking machine, etc.

There really needed to be much more discipline in making sure the non-sexual service was conducted. But for a first time? The food got out while it was still warm. And most of the drinks were delivered with accuracy, if once without the required tray.

I did manage to grab a cane and tease Satine Phoenix about not knowing the phrase "six of the best." Her nipples were perfect for the tiny black bands I'd brought with me, too. But I was mostly content to watch or get out of the way when more orgy-like activities were going on. My writer's brain was fully in gear as I noticed some of the details I will save for later use.

The lamb chops were delicious, by the way. And I have to say I have never before had dinner while my seatmate and host was energetically fucking someone where my knife would normally be. I did my best to make sure he didn't knock over his drink.

Adventures in the Palace of Porn, part two

Many links in the kink.com posts will be unsafe for work. Click at your own risk.

I was picked up at the airport by official kink.com driver, Guido, who told me about his younger days living in a Mission district squat and spending time breaking the windows at The Armory. D'oh! I'm sure he feels sort of bad about that now. He drove right into the building itself, into the massive Drill Court at the center. Hung about with giant leather, gay and bear pride flags, it had a sepia, rustic feel, as though some kinky state fair was going to move in at any moment. The Armory is so huge and so interesting to wander through and so lacking an elevator that I doubt I saw half of it during my stay. I did, however, meet the dungeon cats, who were kind enough to make me feel at home by sleeping on my clothes.

The staff couldn't have been nicer. I was handed a cold soda, introduced around to a whole bunch of really cool people whose names I promptly forgot, and ushered to a guest room where I face planted for a while to recover from my flight. Then like any good guest I got up and went prowling through their bathroom cabinets. OK, they didn't have bathroom cabinets, so I just went wandering. I heard a suspicious noise!

OK, not very suspicious. It was a woman moaning. I followed the sound down to a room where James Mogul was filming what looked like a girl/girl/girl/guy scene. Not wanting to disturb them, I just watched. Through a crack in the double doors. Respecting their space, you know.

Now one of the things I have always liked about kink.com is that they broke through the ancient taboo about combining fucking with SM play. There was a myth which said anyone who did so would suffer the full wrath of the post-Meese anti-porn police. Since to me, SM=sex and sex=SM, the division of activities in visual porn made it especially dull, like a cooking show that never showed you the final product.

I did not stay to see how the human lasagna came out. Instead I continued to wander until it was time to hook up with Ackworth for cocktails and chat about his vision.

There was and still is one burning question about the plans for The Upper Floor. How do you combine SM play and realistic service dynamics in a 24/7 space and keep the core audience interested? I remain skeptical - service, to me, has very little to do with sucking cock and much to do with potentially stupefying activities which no amount of costuming will render interesting to watch. (See: The Marketplace, chapter 7.)

On the other hand, as I do fetishize complex hierarchies and service in great houses, could there be a way to create a sort of Upstairs Downstairswith sex in it? Or, as I put it to Ackworth, wouldn't the British reality show The Manor Househave been MUCH better if the master of the house was buggering the hallboy and the mistress was caning the footmen? Or if the scullery maid could work her way out of the worst job in the house by sexually pleasing the family?

Well, I certainly think so. The question remains, though, whether anyone else would. Ideas and notes flowed between us for that first evening and almost all of the following day and evening as well. And speaking of notes, will someone get James Mogul a Levenger index card note keeping system?

In between sharing fantasies and theories, I was also introduced to the script for the formal dinner we were filming and streaming live on Friday night, and met the two models who had been "trained" via the TTOO site, and were competing to see if they could earn the right to serve The Upper Floor. The script was ambitious; the girls cute as puppies. There was much laughing and bonding over sashimi and whiskey. There was a scary moment, however, when I found myself explaining the concept of flagging and listing some colors of the hankie code.

What am I doing here? I thought. I'm a middle aged leatherdyke who has to be prodded to add details to my own sex scenes. I'm short and fat and don't look good on camera, surrounded by people who make their living looking good on camera - NAKED. Why *would* anyone care about my ideas on service when there would be lots of bondage and cocksucking?

And then I reflected that at least there'd be bondage and cocksucking, I'd meet some interesting people, and after all, they were paying me. Hopefully, I would not spend the entire shoot sitting on the side grumbling about "back in the day."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Adventures in the Palace of Porn, part one

Links in the kink.com posts may not be safe for work. Click at your own risk.

John Preston wrote a famous essay where he implored people to inspire struggling pornographers by having hot sex with or in front of them. Watching nice people having sex has, sadly, never been that big a turn on for me. My kinks are a little more complicated. I see the world through SM-colored lenses; sex alone, even kinky sex, just doesn't work as well for me as it seems to do for the millions who support the visual porn industry.

However, I was intrigued by the invitation from Peter Ackworth, Head Kinkster of Kink.com, to come and help inaugurate this new concept in SM smut. The Upper Floor is literally the 4th floor of the massive San Francisco Armory, but it's also the start of an experiment in ... something. Storytelling? A kinky reality program? More excuses to abuse cute young things? Either way, it was an honor to be asked. And, well. They paid me. I can be had.

Kink.com is a rare thing in professional porn; it's run, staffed and performed by genuinely kinky people. (Or at least kink friendly, behind the scenes.) What's more, there's a general feeling of welcome and openness in the staff; I overheard several conversations indicating there was potential for people to learn and grow within the company, despite some recent layoffs. It's rare enough to find a job with benefits ad creative potential; finding one where you can wear your collar and flaunt your body mods is nice. Free espresso in the staff lounge is a definite plus.

And it would make sense to find some perverts running the joint; you don't get into the business because it was porn or bathroom fixtures. But Peter Ackworth is himself one of the most engagingly geeky princes of porn I have ever met. He is delighted to have a career in which he gets to play all the time with cute young things who are not the kind you take home to mother. (At least until kink.com introduces the next new thing...Kinky MILFs)

Kink.com has many specialized sites where fans of particular tastes can sign up to watch the fetish of their choice. This ranges from pretty standard bondage and flogging stuff to fucking machines, pissing, and girl/girl wrestling with sex added on. The product tends to be short films and vast numbers of still shots, many available for free in the moocher section of the site. Sadly, there is only ONE gay male section so far, headed by the talented Van Darkholme. It's San Francisco, Peter. Get some more fag porn on your site.

One section in particular follows a sort of storyline - The Training of O. The head honcho of TTOO is James Mogul, lately of the Seattle scene. (It took all of one minute to establish we knew people who did people we knew.) The story of TTOO is that submissive girls enter a 4-day training period in which they are used and abused and presumably taught important stuff. Mostly, they learn how to be used and abused. Come on, this is porn here.

But Ackworth and Mogul have this idea of a full time "lifestyle" sort of space - and that would be The Upper Floor. Pitched as a pseudo-Edwardian house, with a complex staff, trainers and guests, it would be a 24/7 sort of place. In fact, there would be ample room for people to live on premises. And I did, for a few days.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I'm going to kink.com

I'm off to San Francisco to pay a visit to the world of Kink.com. For those who might not be familiar with the business, kink.com is a large, professionally run porn studio created and maintained by genuinely kinky people. While not generally a fan of visual porn, I have long admired the sensibilities and production values at kink.com - bondage AND fucking as opposed to one or the other, and good use of toys, equipment and different play styles. I have wanted to meet the creator and sick, twisted masterminds behind it all, and to get a tour of the San Francisco Armory, which has become a sort of indoor theme park of perversity.

This is obviously one of those times when I can say that life is good. Because I am not only *going* to visit the kink.com world, they're throwing me a dinner. Live, on camera. With nekkid slaves and such.

(Obligatory WTF am I going to WEAR? whining)

The reason behind this dinner is to launch a new section of kink.com. The majority of their productions play out as "scenes" - in this shoot, Submissive Sam gets topped by Mistress Malicia! - that sort of thing. A niche section portrays a week-long slave training scenario, with the concentration (of course) on sexual/SM activities and a high dose of dominance. It's a porn site, after all.

But Peter Ackworth (the Boss) has envisioned a living space on the top floor of the Armory. A place where 24/7 DS behavior can be lived and filmed. His goal is to have an Edwardian escape; a great house with a staff of slaves serving various tops and senior staff.

Hey...I like that stuff! I write about that stuff!

Which is why they invited me. (Cause it sure ain't for my fetish wardrobe and lithe, size 2 body.) I'd really like to help them achieve something like this, something that would appeal to those porn consumers who share fetishes about service and DS beyond the confines of playtime; those who like continuing stories as well as hot moments.

Anyhoo, you can watch the dinner, how cool is that? If you are already a subscriber to the section of kink.com called The Training of O, you can get it in high-def with an opportunity to also participate in live chat. But you can sign up for a free kink.com membership and get the video in low-def.

This link is NOT work safe. Do not click it unless you are comfy!

Now I have to think about what to wear.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Copyrights and the Kindle

So, Amazon introduced their new and improved Kindle Book-thingie, which can hold the entire library of Alexandria, connect to anyone in the world with sound and picture, like a Star Trek communicator, translate Sanskrit, compute pi, and enable you to fly. This thing is COOL! It can also read the text of your books and magazines and newspapers and everything else to you...

Or not.

Now, I am a fierce protector of my copyrights. I've pissed people off by tell them that no, you may not print that entire class or speech on your web page, you may not e-mail it to your 5000 BFFs.

But for crying out loud. This is text-to-speech technology here. Little or no inflection, mispronunciation of slang and non English words or non-standard names...no one uses text-to-speech software because it adds to or even exposes the nature of the original work.

The bland, atonal computer "voices" of any device will not make the sale of the audio versions shrink by any measurable amount. But it might make works not available in an audio format accessible to those who would have had no other option to enjoy them.

I disagree with the complaint by the Author's Guild, although I recognize that Amazon probably took the path of least tsuris by allowing publishers to disable their works from being read out loud by the Kindle.

Fortunately, the guild cannot stop you from reading an actual book to someone else.

By the way - does anyone think it would be a good idea to make my books available on some mechanical book thingie? We're mulling it over.