Thursday, 18 April 2013

Reality shows - Low, then lower, then lowest.


We used to laugh about Japanese shows - the sadism of some of them. For esxample, quiz shows where the punishment for getting a question incorrect was barely short of torture. But these days, the shows that are thrust at us as entertainment have become as bad.

Reality shows - designed not simply to appeal to the lowest common denominator - but to lower that point. They are designed to encourage nastiness, spite and backstabbing. If the competitors are not producing enough nastiness on their own, it is scripted. There was something in TV Week about one couple in 'My Kitchen Rules'  being instructed to label another couple with the chosen nickname.

I have to declare here that I am not a viewer of such shows, and no expert. But one would have to avoid TV altogether not to know something of what is happening. The standard 'reality' show has a staged method of throwing out the competitors that do not win - no matter how the 'win' is achieved.  This is nasty from the start, in my opinion.  From Survivor, where contestants are put into 'tribes' who compete against each other, to 'Big Brother.' From  singing contests to cooking shows, there is always the dramatic throwing out of the one who did not make the grade.


So often, what they do is frankly cruel. The diet show - 'Biggest Loser.' The contestants are expected not just to undertake extreme exercise and a severe diet, but to do things like abseiling and worse - sometimes things that take real athleticism and fearlessness, not the clumsy, heavy bodies of the fat.  They may have doctors on hand, but one of these days, one of those 'Biggest Losers' is going to lose in a very big way.  I think I remember there was a story in TV Week about one of them giving everyone a fright by collapsing - a heart attack maybe?  It would be no wonder. 






'My Kitchen Rules.'  A cooking show.  But why leave it at that?  Let's put them in baking heat, enjoy their misery, and see one collapse of Heatstroke.  What fun!














There was one reality show that my husband and I really enjoyed for a season - 'Masterchef.' For a change, the contestants were scripted to show all support for each other.  They could be competitive, but certainly no sabotage, or what is euphemistically referred to as  'gaming,' as in some shows.


But someone apparently decided there was not enough nastiness, so they brought in a chef who was supposed to present as very nasty. We didn't bother watching, so don't know if he was as bad as was painted, but whoever made that decision quite obviously thinks that the nastier the show, the better.


They are trying to appeal to the common denominator, then going lower and then a bit lower. And in the process, it works to make all the viewers that bit nastier as well. I do not like so-called 'reality' shows, and am just thankful that my reality is kinder.















Tuesday, 16 April 2013

'Not a Man' - an 'insanely high rating.'


A couple of months ago, I received a very critical review from a person whom I suspect never read past the first chapter. This was on Amazon.com.

1.0 out of 5 stars
Disgusting, February 18, 2013
This review is from: Not a Man (The Shuki Series) (Kindle Edition)
Am I the only one who thought this book a glorification and endorsement of pedophilia? It appeared to be written to titillate; and I found it absolutely revolting. I can only imagine the degradation the "Series" promises.
(This was not a ‘verified purchase’ review. In other words, the reviewer did not buy the book from Amazon.com.)    

 I shared the review on facebook, pointing out that the reviews are overwhelmingly 5-star, and suggesting that readers make up their own minds.  I think this Goodreads reviewer probably bought it then.

Review on Goodreads.

Yblees

You see the insanely high rating this book has? Absolutely, utterly deserved! A must read for anyone who liked Skaia, and I think, Anne Somerville's Darshian Chronicles, because this is a much more satisfying read than either of the others. Also, anyone who is interested in the slave/restricted freedom genre. And I would not regard this as BDSM,although there are abuse themes.

The author says it's not written as erotica, and I agree, and completely approve. Brillant storytelling, a strong focus on plot, populated with an entire extended family of characters, 3 volumes plus 1 to come. Cheap! What more can any reader ask for?

Oh, and the author requests her readers please BUY FROM SMASHWORDS instead of Amazon, because they actually pay her royalties instead of insisting on $100 credit limits before any payout.





There are three books now of the Shuki series:

This is Yblees review of the second - 'The King's  Favourite.'  

's review
Apr 14, 2013
bookshelves: m-m-favorites
I try not to read entire series of novels back to back because it wrecks sleep and takes over my entire weekend. But this was absolutely irresistable!


No written review for 'To Love and To Protect' but a 5 star rating.  A 5 star rating on Amazon is 'Amazing.'

It is an amazing feeling to find a new 5 star review for your book.



The link to buy from Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/169513

These books are quite long, and I always think that for long books, a real book makes for a more satisfactory read.  But to buy the paperbacks, you need to go to Barnes and Noble or Amazon:


  



The Shuki Series










Saturday, 13 April 2013

The allure of a eunuch - fantastical?


Shuki Bolkiah - modern-day eunuch.

From boy of the slums to Oxford Graduate. This is the story of Shuki Bolkiah, modern day eunuch.

"Not a Man' is set in an unnamed country of Arabia. Shuki is aged ten, and a 'bed-boy.' His master wants his beautiful boy to stay beautiful, so arranges for him to have 'a small operation.' This traumatic event changed forever the life of a clever, determined boy.

Shuki learns to manipulate his master. He learns to read and write, he gets his master into the habit of giving him large sums of money, and he makes friends with the master's sons.

Shuki becomes more beautiful with every passing year. His master becomes more possessive, more jealous, and Shuki is guarded. When his master takes him to England, he escapes and starts a new life with the money he's saved. He is fifteen.



'Not a Man' has gained very positive reviews since its release in late 2011. But quite a few of those reviews do contain the criticism that the idea of a eunuch being so irresistably alluring is unlikely or even 'fantastical.'


This book won a position on the 'Editors' Desk' on Authonomy, and therefore was given a review by a Harper Collins Editor.

And while it says,  'as a hero, he is fantastic, evoking not only sympathy, but aspiration and reverence,' it also suggests that I look at the issue of Shuki’s magnetism.

'I am aware of traditional representation of eunuchs as being almost uncannily tempting, and I think you do a good job in creating a hero who is eerily irresistible to the reader. However, I felt that you slightly hyperbolised his allure. I am not convinced that he is so attractive that no man can resist him, nor that men would be pushed against all past instincts to consider or commit acts of violent sexual abuse.'
Other reviews have mentioned the same thing, sometimes critically, and sometimes simply 'by the way.'

'While Shuki sounds most tempting,  it is not quite believable that every single man would find him attractive.'

and  another one - 'it simply isn't believable that Shuki was universally desired by every single man who set eyes on him, regardless of their normal desire for women.'

And 'highly fantastical.'

I can't speak to any realism about the portrayal of either Arab or Oxford cultures, but I will say that I was very content to read this as a novel of epic fantasy. This novel has some highly fantastical elements - which I've become aware of more in hindsight than while I was reading - including how nearly every male who encounters Shuki immediately wants to rape him, and that so many of his "friends" would be willing to betray him without regard to either his humanity or their own.
But this is Shuki's truth, whether merely perceived or real, and I did not question it as I followed the story to its end.
(Note that I'd take issue with the above in that many males who encounter Shuki might want him in bed, but most do not think of rape.)


But highly fantastical?


Set in the faraway and distant Atlas Mountains of North Africa
are the stories of a eunuch - Shuki Bolkiah.


I can point to traditonal depictions of eunuchs as very desirable, and I can point out that it is not true that every man wants him. In regard to the Oxford incident, I can show how  it began as a game or a friendly competition, the idea of taking turns in trying to seduce him. I can show how it worked to make them want him more, even those who hadn't previously thought of  being attracted to him.  And it ended in tragedy.

And I can speak of the theory of Ben, (Shuki's best friend)  that because Shuki did not smell like a man (pheromones)  that maybe men did not get that subconcscious cue that this was a man and not a suitable target for mating. 

But when it comes down to it - yes. The idea that a person can be so universally alluring is fantasy.

To me, it is not important. For most of my readers, it is not important. While over 75% of my reviews are 5-star, I am not going to worry about the less likely aspects of the allure of Shuki, eunuch.

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It may be long but it doesn't seem that way at all and I flew through each page and I feel more in love with the sweet, remarkable Shuki to more I read. I was hooked, intrigued and drawn in from the first page of this story.

I am sure you have created a seminal work that will inform and enlighten, not only scholars and sociologists concerned in combating sexual and gender slavery but the discerning general reader.
I guarantee you will never forget Shuki. He will be with you long after you click past the last page.   



But actually, if it had been about a woman - the fictional Angelique, for instance, probably it would have  been accepted without a murmur of objection. This is because we're accustomed to having beautiful women spoken of as irresistable. Helen of Troy?  Cleopatra?




Here is another review for 'Not a Man'  

'Any woman reading this will respond on a purely emotional level. Because Shuki is in the same position as many woman have been, he's viewed as a sexual object. Not a person, an object.

Until this particular review, I hadn't considered this aspect - that most women go through a stage when they start to feel themselves as mere prey, the target of any man's lust. Some might relish it, but others feel themselves hunted. I thought I was writing about a fictional character, a male. But maybe there are indeed aspects of the experiences of a young woman, a too-beautiful young woman.



Buy from Smashwords, 

or other online book retailers such as Amazon:
  



Saturday, 6 April 2013

Offended? Really?


There seems to be a new career or maybe hobby proliferating these days - that of becoming 'offended' at something, and making a huge fuss about it. The mistake comes when people pander to the 'offended,' even when some of the 'offences'  are not offences to any reasonable person.

Here are some of the most ludicrous examples I've come across recently:

The first:

  This is a direct copy from News Limited Network, April 02, 2013, 10.50am.

Lego withdraws 'anti-Islamic' Star Wars Jabba the Hutt palace model from sale after complaints

TOY giant Lego has reportedly agreed to stop producing a Star Wars toy product Muslims find offensive.
According to Britain's Independent newspaper, Lego agreed to withdraw the Jabba’s Palace product from production in 2014 to appease those who think it depicts Istanbul's Hagia Sophia, a church-turned-mosque, which is now a museum and one of the city's top tourist attractions.
Muslim groups also said the watchtower/spire of the toy palace - a Lego version of Hutt Castle, a monastery-turned-palace belonging to crime lord Jabba the Hutt - resembled the minaret of a Beirut mosque.

The Turkish Community Forum, which issued the complaint, also said the Lego version of Jabba himself - a giant slug-like gangster who enslaves Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi - resembled a “terrorist” who “likes to smoke hookah and have his victims killed”.

Complaints about the Lego set were first aired in January when the case came to light when a Turkish man expressed his dissatisfaction with the toy after it was purchased for his son by a family member.
After investigating, Dr Melissa G√ľnes, General Secretary of the Turkish Cultural Community, said that Lego had been contacted with an official complaint.


Initially, Lego responded by saying: "The product is however not based on any real building but on a fictional building from a scene in the movie Star Wars Episode VI"


But then they conceded.  How utterly ridiculous.

 The Second:

 From Racenet.com.au  'Your trusted racing resource'
Brad Waters
18/07/2012
Complaint forces name change for Blackman
The David Hayes stable says a complaint resulted in an order from the Registrar of Racehorses to change the name of the impressive debut winner Blackman.

Charles Blackman and the filly, Blackman now 'Lady Blackman'
Blackman, a two-year-old filly by Excellent Art, was named after the famed Australian artist Charles Blackman, whose work has sold for more than $1 million at auction in recent years.
The two-year-old led all the way before beating older horses in decisive fashion at the Geelong Synthetic track on July 10.
Lindsay Park racing manager Jason Timperley said the Euroa stable was surprised to receive a call from the Registrar Of Racehorses wanting to change the two-year-old's name.
"It was a real surprise to get the call to change the name, especially because it was due to one complaint," he said. "We would have thought that any issues would have arisen before she raced and won at Geelong."


Messages condemning the name change flooded Lindsay Park's Twitter feed, @lindsayparkrace, when the organisation publicised the situation on Wednesday morning. Melbourne celebrity John Blackman contacted Lindsay Park to support the camp.
"I am outraged (and so is my wife)," Blackman tweeted. "Political correctness gone absolutely crazy. BTW, I backed Blackman last week so there."
However, Myles Foreman, the chief executive of Racing Information Services Australia said the Registrar Of Racehorses and Lindsay Park agreed to change the filly's name to Lady Blackman.
"There is a provision in the rules that the registrar retains the right to change a horse's name if it deems it necessary," he said. "Concerns were raised about the horse's name but we have tried to balance the needs of everyone involved.
"I have read the tweets and was surprised at the comments. We engaged in a consultative process with the owners and key contacts at the stable to achieve the right outcome.
"There was an agreement from the horse's owners to change her name to Lady Blackman."
Foreman said such occurrences were "very infrequent" when considering owners and trainers presented more than 54,000 names to the Registrar of Racehorses for consideration every year.


But 'black' is a colour. It is not an insult. A black man is a man who is black. There is no hint that black is somehow inferior, it is just a description. Perhaps it is those that think 'Blackman' is some sort of insult and 'offensive' are those who are racist. Black is not inferior to white. If a horse is black or a dog or even a goldfish, call it black. If a man is black, he is black. It is not wrong to describe him as such.  The silly thing is that it is often not the supposed-to-be-offended who complain, but someone else on their behalf. Any self-respecting black man would just laugh at this silly, silly, SILLY cave-in to a very silly complainant.



The Third:

Tim Mathieson, the partner of our Prime Minister, made a light-hearted remark about the routine examination for prostate cancer - something about hoping for a female Asian doctor rather than a big chap with a big finger.  I could never work out exactly who this was supposed to offend. Asians are generally smaller than other races, and would have smaller fingers. Women are mostly smaller than men and have smaller fingers.  This is simple fact. Pacific Islanders tend to be enormous. These are racial differences. It is not 'racist' to acknowledge the facts of differences. No-one is saying that any race is better than another - just that in some circumstances, a smaller finger has definite advantages. 

Really long thing fingers would be even better for this purpose, as in some depictions of aliens, but I've yet to meet an ET type qualified doctor.

And yet, for this light-hearted remark that was totally innoffensive to any reasonable being, poor Tim was expected to offer a grovelling apology.  
 The Bigpond Home Page:  PM admits her bloke's joke was poor
Tuesday, January 29, 2013 » 08:11pm  
Prime Minister Julia Gillard agrees her partner's joke about prostate cancer and Asian women was in poor taste and says he did the right thing in apologising.
Tim Mathieson landed in hot water after delivering the joke to members of the West Indian cricket team at a reception at The Lodge in Canberra on Monday, as Ms Gillard stood behind him.
'We can get a blood test for it but the digital examination is the only true way to get a correct reading on your prostate so make sure you go and do that, and perhaps look for a small Asian female doctor is probably the best way,' he joked.
While the joke did attract some laughs, others were not amused. Federal Liberal MP Kelly O'Dwyer said the joke was tasteless, inappropriate and lacked judgment.
Mr Mathieson was quick to apologise.
'It was meant as a joke and on reflection I accept it was in poor taste,' he said in a brief statement issued by the prime minister's office on Tuesday.
'I apologise for any offence caused.'
Ms Gillard said her partner was passionate about promoting men's health but the joke did warrant an apology.
'He could have picked his words a lot better and he has apologised for it,' she told reporters in Canberra.
Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia chief executive Anthony Lowe downplayed the gaffe, saying Mr Mathieson was a strong advocate for men's health.
'Men often use humour to deal with difficult or embarrassing issues like the digital rectum examination,' Dr Lowe told AAP.
'I'm sure he meant it in a light-hearted way of getting the message across. Of course it's a little bit unfortunate, the words he used.'
However, Dr Lowe did question the accuracy of Mr Mathieson's advice.
'Neither test is perfect but we would recommend that men over 50 talk to their doctor about getting both the blood test and the physical examination,' he said.
Shadow attorney-general George Brandis said while the joke was 'slightly unfortunate' he believed the episode highlighted that political correctness had gone too far.
'The joke was in poor taste but that having been said, I don't think we want to have in this country a culture of finger-wagging and confected outrage,' he said.
But Australian Greens leader Christine Milne, who was at the function on Monday, said it was good for people to think twice about their off-the-cuff remarks.
'Whilst part of our culture is larrikinism, it has led to some pretty unfortunate consequences in the way people tend to express that,' she told reporters in Canberra.



And what else?  'Merry Christmas' that has become 'Happy Holiday,' objections to an Easter bonnet parade, objections to flying the Australian flag.  It is time to tell people to develop a thicker skin.  As George Brandis said in relation to the joke about digital prostate examiniations, we do not want to develop   "a culture of finger-wagging and confected outrage."  Because I do not believe that a lot of this 'being offended' is genuine. It simply gives some people a sense of power to inconvenience others.

So next time someone says that he is offended, when no reasonable person would be offended - 



 
And do not consider pandering to the twit.









Monday, 1 April 2013

A child stolen from his parents.


Finally published is a story that every Australian should read, and as the same sort of thing went on in other countries, maybe that everyone should read.


‘The Pencil Case’ is a very powerful story, a story of a child and his sister, taken from parents who loved them to a place where no-one loved them. Paul’s parents were unable to provide decent housing, and sometimes he went hungry. So he was sentenced to a harsh prison for children, a place where living conditions were worse, he was always hungry, and he was routinely beaten by perverted evil women who liked to think they were ‘Brides of Christ.’

If he hadn’t refused to be confirmed as Catholic at the age of 12, he would have been taken to a different place, a place run by priests, a place where it is alleged that many suffered sexual abuse. Instead, he was beaten even more severely than usual, and taken to a different home, this time a home where the boys were treated far better.


A quote from the book:
‘Water-laden clouds blackened large expanses of grey sky and the wind cried and swept the town pavements clean of their litter the day Ern Stanley gathered up the voluminous legal file he had compiled over a month of journeying with me through time, and we drove through the gates of Dubbo airport. Later, Ern would remark that he came to associate the black day with the black story I told. Over a month of travel, listening, and observation, I had forced him to confront, full force, the ugly side of the society that fed him, and it scarred him.’

I have read the whole of this story, and also feel scarred. It is hard to stop thinking about it – so powerful. This is not a story of something a long time ago, or of a place far away. Paul is very close to my own age, I know the towns he speaks of. It is set in the fifties, an era of prosperity for Australia, and civilised values – civilised values apparently not shared by the Catholic church and its employees. The nuns separated brothers and sisters, allowed them no contact with family, deprived them of personal possessions, even of the clothes they arrived in, dressed them in poor clothes and half starved them. As if this was not enough, the poor children were repeatedly told they were scum, just as their parents were scum, and they were beaten on a regular basis.


Lorraine Cobcroft,
author of 'The Pencil Case.

Lorraine says that the nuns were brainwashed themselves and are not totally to blame. That they were convinced that the children were scum, and that only rigorous discipline, (frequent and often random 
beatings)  might save them from a life of crime.

I do not accept that. This was not the dark ages, this was the 1950s when I was a child. That one should not be cruel to children is as self evident as not being cruel to animals.

And then, of course, the Catholic Church. What sort of an organisation is it that when their employees bitterly damage children, are far more concerned with protecting the perpetrators and their own reputation than they are concerned with their crimes?

These nuns were guilty of criminal assault of children. This cannot and should not be dismissed. This is recent. These people are bad. They deserve public shame, if not to be actually thrown into prison.

This is the incident after Paul refused to be confirmed as Catholic.
“She beat me more savagely than I had ever been beaten before. She commenced the beating in her office, but I tried to run and she followed me and beat me in the hallway. I ran to the asphalt quadrangle between the kitchen and the playground. She followed me there and made a ceremony of beating me in front of fifty-eight pairs of watching eyes, stopping all pretence of play.
She beat me with the buckle end of her belt, and it cut my skin. She beat me until I fell to the ground, then she paused and ordered me to rise and beat me until I fell again. When, finally, I could not rise again, she thrashed and flogged, and when I curled up in a little ball to try to protect my tenderest parts from the blows, she kicked me again and again with that heavy black boot. All the while she shouted at me that I would take the Catholic faith, if she had to beat me to within an inch of my life to make me.
I would not yield.”

‘The Pencil Case’ is a story that should be heard. There are so few avenues for publication in Australia, and it is very much an Australian story. Lorraine has been told that it is 'too political' for publication - that it might finally have been acknowledged that Aboriginal people were taken from their parents for no good reason, but that no-one wanted to know that white kids also lost their families and lost their childhoods.


     Boys working in Ohio Boys' Home bootshop, 1960 mending shoes with rubber cut from old tyres.
Photo extracted from  'The Pencil Case.'


This story has just been published as an ebook.  The paperback is to follow.

Buy from Smashwords: 
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/300714

Also available from other online booksellers such as Amazon.