August 2001 Archives

The poor little king

The New Yorker recently ran an interesting article on a chess teacher that described the game's association with "obsessiveness and insanity." I had no idea this was the case, but apparently there are several fictional and nonfictional accounts of chess players whose dedication to the game has swung them over the deep end. The article's author, Paul Hoffman, gave a few choice real-life examples:

Paul Morphy, an American player who was considered the best in the world, withdrew from tournament chess at the peak of his career, in 1859, and spent his days arranging women's shoes in a half-circle in his bedroom, pacing on his veranda, and muttering in French, 'He will plant the banner of Castile on the walls of Madrid, with the cry "The city is taken," and the little king will go away utterly shamefaced.' He is not the only champion known for his eccentricity: Bobby Fischer, the sole American to win the world title, in 1972, reportedly had the filings in his teeth removed for fear that they might be receiving radio messages beamed by his enemies. Wilhelm Steinitz, a late-nineteenth-century world champion, claimed to have beaten God in spite of having graciously given Him the the advantage of the first move and having played without one of his pawns.

I guess this means I should pass on the new Handspring Visor chess module. Actually, I've recently downloaded an excellent Mac freeware chess program. However, I'm a long way from becoming a good enough player to become obsessed; I keep losing because I get the king and queen pieces confused.

Pre-Columbian comics

This past week, I went to see the "Road to Aztlan" exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibit displayed the history and imagery of Aztlan, the mythic homeland of the Aztecs. As is almost always the case with exhibitions devoted to Mexican art that encompass long stretches of time, the break between the pre-Columbian and colonial periods was striking. This exhibit, however, illustrated the transitional phase between pre-Columbian and colonial art through several religious images that showed native artists first copying the European style and then slowly adapting local artistic styles and techniques to Catholic imagery. I thought it made a strong and compelling demonstration of the syncretic religious process.
I've seen stronger collections of pre-Columbian art at LACMA before; I thought the real strength of this exhibit was in its contemporary selections. Choosing representative examples of contemporary art is difficult and I have to take my hat off to LACMA for consistently choosing to highlight contemporary art in its major exhibits. One of my favorite artists on display was Enrique Chagoya, represented by two pieces, both of which incorporated comics. They reminded me of Scott McCloud's argument in "Understanding Comics," in which he makes the case for many early forms of art--including Egyptian hieroglypics and Mexican codices--as examples of comics or "sequential art."

Welcome, Whoosh! readers

Welcome, Whoosh! readers!
And to my regular readers and readers coming from Blogger, you may be interested in reading my article on the controversial Xena: Warrior Princess series finale now up on the Whoosh!: the Journal of the International Association of Xena Studies web site.
I thought I'd also offer up some comments based on the last several weeks of obsessing on Xena sparked off by the series ending. Although I'm unhappy with the series finale, my life experience as a woman and as a lesbian has taught me the advantages of taking the long view, of seeing things from the larger perspective--and that's what I choose to focus on here.
The last several weeks have been devoted to picking apart the 2 hour ending, trying to salvage something meaningful from an ending that to most fans seemed like a profound betrayal. However, I think what is more important ultimately is what Xena has meant to the lesbian community in terms of our struggle to reclaim and articulate our sexuality for ourselves--a project which has much greater consequences for all women and which, sadly, faces much greater obstacles than all the forces of censorship Hollywood could ever have mustered against the creators of the Xena television show.
The outpouring of erotic lesbian literature inspired by the love story between Xena and Gabrielle, and which has been widely available via the Internet, is the true legacy of the fandom. It has given us new sexual archetypes and themes to explore; it has led to a more fully developed and available language describing our sexual relations; it has reached across the divide to touch those of other sexual persuasions; and it has brought lesbian women together in real life.
These are all significant victories to celebrate.

Comics confession

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I confess, I bought the Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix comic book--based on the first Playstation game featuring a lesbian couple, Hana and Rain--with no other intention than to gawk at pictures like this. So that you, too, will not have to suffer the ignominy of purchasing it, I offer one of the better pics here. There's also a nice, tastefully suggestive but not explicit sequence just after this steamy shower graphic where the girls decide to postpone their adventuring until after they've made a trip to the bedroom. As one would expect, the comic is a bit weak in the plot department, being mostly a merchandising extension of the game aimed at easily satisfied consumers such as myself. For those interested, there are some tasty wallpapers of Hana and Rain available at the game web site.

Enough of Him

I visited the Eastgate Hypertext Reading Room the other day in order to read Him, a hypertext poem about masculinity and commercial culture. I haven't read that many hypertexts, but I found this one quite interesting and the experience of reading it has stayed with me--although I must confess I wasn't quite sure when it was going to end or indeed if it was going to end. At a certain point I stopped reading further.
When I initially began reading Him I was somewhat disappointed with the graphics and animation, but I realize that that my work with commercial interfaces has biased me towards more high-end production values. As I became more engrossed in the work, however, I found that the poetic repetition of certain sequences or passages made the symbology clearer to me, and over time, the somewhat drab look and feel seemed appropriate as well.

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