Hysteria (movie)

[This, too, is a late DigiWriMo post.]

Thankfully, later after watching The Tree of Life we watched Hysteria, which we have also been wanting to see after seeing the previews a couple years ago. It by no stretch came to conservative Sioux City so we missed it in the theater. We couldn’t even find it in Omaha, although we could be wrong on that count but we had looked repeatedly while it was in theaters. Ninety miles one way is a long way to go for a film but we would have.

After we watched it I tweeted,

Cleansed my movie palate with Hysteria, based on this most excellent book by Rachel Maines http://marklindner.info/blog/2011/02/02/maines-the-technology-of-orgasm/ [tweet]

The next morning, Karen Coyle tweeted to me:

@mrlindner One of my favorite books. See: bit.ly/UYGA8X [tweet]

Check out her review at that link. It is much better than mine.

We saw the preview for the movie in the cinema shortly after I read Maines’ excellent book and I knew that it was (somewhat) based on Maines’ book immediately. It looked hilarious and as The Technology of Orgasm is one of my favorite books of all time—which I had discussed a fair bit with Sara as I read it—we really wanted to see it. It did not come to Sioux City or environs and time went by. We moved and even more time went by. Sara got it from the public library finally and we watched it last night. The movie was as good as we hoped and we are in the process of watching the documentary (actually excerpts from Passion and Power: The Technology of Orgasm) that comes as an extra feature on the DVD. It is also pretty good and features a lot of Rachel Maines, along with a couple of others, so I am happy to be able to hear her talk about her research also.

The Technology of Orgasm The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual SatisfactionRachel P. Maines; The Johns Hopkins University Press 1998WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder  
Katherine Young (Ph.D. and author of Presence in the Flesh: The Body in Medicine) puts forth the idea that the Copernican Revolution was revolutionary in another way than is typically thought. She had been outlining some long time ideas on human sexuality in that males were thought to be of the elements of fire and air, thus hot and light, and that women were of earth and water, and thus heavy, cold and wet. When the Copernican Revolution replaced the Earth (female) as the center of the solar system/universe with the sun (male) then female sexuality as a topic disappeared from discourse.

It is an extremely interesting idea but I would really like to see some good supporting evidence. If anyone knows of any books or articles that address this idea I would be most grateful. My initial skepticism leans toward the shift having started well before and that the displacement of the Earth from the center was perhaps the final straw. And even if the idea as presented is true, then I imagine it is hingeing on a highly condensed version of reality, in that the Copernican Revolution involved an awful lot of historical, political, societal and religious changes that were highly intertwined and influencing each other in multiple ways. Symbolically this idea is highly interesting, but I imagine the reality of the shift away from a supposedly fairly prevalent knowledge of female sexuality and needs to one that pretty much discounted female sexuality would have to be far more complex than a shift in symbols.

I would love to have my skepticism discounted though so please do pass along any sources you may be aware of that address this issue. [I went back and re-watched that section and got her name and the name of the book she wrote, Presence in the Flesh: The Body in Medicine, which Sara has requested for me.] So, if you are aware of any other sources that address this intriguing topic please do pass them along.


Hysteria: Good romantic comedy based on an excellent and important book.

Follow-up: Tonight (3 December) we watched the full documentary, Passion and Power: The Technology of Orgasm, which we got through ILL. It was good but it was only 74 minutes vs. the 47 minutes of excerpts on the DVD of Hysteria as an extra. The additional material was interesting but probably not worth going out of one’s way to acquire. You can find more information about it here.

Young’s book has also arrived by this point in time and I look forward to having a go at it, but I am highly disappointed to say that neither Copernicus nor Copernican Revolution are anywhere to be found in the index. I want to know more about this symbological interpretation but am remaining highly skeptical as to its actual explanatory depth.


Dickens 2012 at Briar Cliff

Tuesday of this week, February 7th, was the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth, his bicentenary. Various events were held worldwide and we did a little bit here in Sioux City at the Bishop Mueller Library at Briar Cliff University.

Charles Dickens, sitting, with colorful birthday hat on his head

Late in January, thanks to having most of our Dickens’ texts around me due to a reclassification project, I decided to see if I could do an exhibit in the campus library. I had been aware of the (then upcoming) Dickens’ bicentenary for a good while based on seeing reviews of new biographies of Dickens, commentaries on his status as a literary icon, and so on.

I asked the director and she said, “Certainly,” and we found a spot. A few days went by and then I got busy and picked the books I wanted to use, found the illustrations within a few that I wanted to display, located the stands, and made a few info sheets with a mini-bio, some web sources for more information, sources for free ebooks and subscription ebooks via the library, and the call number range(s) for books by or about him and his works in our library [the reclass project is not done]. The display debuted on the 1st of February.

Display of works by and about Dickens

Charles Dickens Bicentenary display at BCU Mueller Library

A day or two after putting the display together, and no doubt prompted by gathering links about the bicentenary, I thought that it would nice to host a reading ourselves, a Read-a-Thon. I asked the library director if we could do it in the library and got a definite “Yes.” I then asked the president of WREN, our student Writing and English club, if they would co-sponsor the event, which for me simply meant telling the Writing/English students about it and letting me put their name along with the Library’s on the flyer I would make. Alex did a great job and even secured permission from the Dept. Chair for the students to get service credit for reading. [Juniors and seniors have to do so many hours of service to the department and/or university to graduate.] I then asked the prof who teaches Victorian Lit, Dr. Jeanne Emmons, if she would give us a short introduction to Dickens at the start to which she readily agreed, and also claimed the education portion of Hard Times.

From there I designed a flyer with the help of my lovely wife. I found a photograph of Dickens that I could legally use and had Sara place a birthday hat on it at a ‘jaunty angle.’ [See above. Original photo found at Flickr and supplied by the Penn State Special Collections, Darrah Collection, Image 61680. The photo is licensed as CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, so feel free to use this transformed work under the same license. Thanks for sharing, Penn State!]

I then hung these up around campus several days in advance. The library director sent out an all staff email advertising the event, too, as I wanted any interested party to be able to come and enjoy listening and to read, if they chose.

On the day of the event, I came in about an hour and a half early to push around some of the furniture to make a space and provide more seating. I also went to the stacks and grabbed a pretty much complete set of Dickens’ works and brought them down on a small cart. A big pot of coffee was brewed and the cake and cookies I bought that morning were put out.

The event was scheduled from 4-5 pm and people started showing up a half hour in advance. By 4 PM we had a good 20+ people with 6 pre-signed up to read.

I gave a brief welcome, introduced myself to those (few) who didn’t know me, and provided the ‘rules’ and encouraged people to sign up on the list of readers. Then I handed the stage to Jeanne who gave us a nice introduction to Dickens’ life, works, and enduring influence and then she read from Ch. 2, Bk. 1 of Hard Times, “Murdering the Innocents.” Next up was Great Expectations from another of our English and Writing profs. Several folks read from A Christmas Carol, one from David Copperfield, and Sara read excerpts from letters Dickens wrote to his friend and sometime collaborator, Wilkie Collins, which can be exceptionally funny.

We only got two additional takers who weren’t pre-signed up but all in all it worked out great as we went the whole hour. I, too, read from Hard Times, and as there is so much wonderful material there I had a hard time (ha ha) narrowing it down. I initially read from Ch. 15, Bk. 1, “Father and Daughter.” I read a fairly lengthy selection making sure to encompass Luisa’s all important ‘digression’ to her father while he is presenting Mr. Bounderby’s marriage proposal to her:

“There seems to be nothing there but languid and monotonous smoke. Yet when the night comes, Fire bursts out, father!” she answered, turning quickly.

I went near the middle of the pack and as we wound down and got no other takers but still had a few minutes left, I took the emcee’s prerogative and read a shorter section from Ch. 8, Bk. 1, “Never Wonder,” as I figured it would be good to end with the library scene and “these readers [who] persisted in wondering.”

Woman reading from her iPad

Dickens Read-a-Thon at Bishop Mueller Library, Briar Cliff University

More folks had shown up throughout the event, including the University President. All in all, I would say that it was a roaring success. More importantly, many others, including most of the English and Writing faculty, the president of WREN, and the librarians, thought so. They were still talking about it the next morning.

Success! And Happy 200th Mr. Dickens!

A taste of the Sioux City music scene

Last Friday evening Sara and I attended a showcase of local singer/songwriters at the Meet Virginia coffee house in downtown Sioux City.  We thought it would be great to get exposed to some of the local musicians in our new home.

The show was scheduled to start at 8 PM so we arrived at 7:20 or so to get a decent seat, which we did.  We both had tasty coffee-ish drinks and some very tasty cookies.

We heard the sound check of the local songwriter/musician, Kelli Johnson, who was the host for the event.  We also heard Kelsey ‘Doll’ Klingensmith do her sound check.  Both were impressive so we were looking forward to an evening of excellent music.

Nearer to 8 PM the place rapidly starting filling up.  More of the singer/songwriters (11 total), their friends and families, and folks like us quickly filled the coffee shop to capacity.

The show started promptly at 8 PM.  I believe the first artist was Page Rose, a young woman somewhere in her later teens perhaps.  We enjoyed what we heard of the 3 songs she did but it was hard to tell if we really liked her music or not because it was hard to hear her.  The second act was two young men, Ian Osborn and Cole Barbee, performing as “Good Morning Revival.”  I enjoyed what I could hear of the guitarist but their style of music is not really one Sara or I are big fans of.

Again, we heard little of this duo due to the crowd.  Sara had already hinted at leaving any time I was ready since we couldn’t really hear.

The article in the local arts & entertainment weekly, Buzz, quoted the host discussing these kinds of shows in Nashville where “You get shushed if you talk.”  He mentioned this at the opening welcome Friday night though he also added, as he did in the paper, that he wasn’t going for exactly that vibe because “He believes the coffee house setting in Meet Virginia is ideal for this type of performance. ‘The musicians will be very well received,’ he says. Most people coming to Meet Virginia are there for the music…and a good cup of coffee” [Buzz, 21 Sep 2010].

Except none of that was the case.  We were so pissed!  It seems most of the folks were there to be seen and perhaps support their own kin or friends but not the other performers.  We found the vast majority made up one of the rudest music audiences we have ever had the unfortunate experience to be around.  And it wasn’t just a few people.  Most people were busy talking to someone else while the musicians were performing.  Only a few people, it seemed, were earnestly trying to pay attention to the performances.

The third act was the extremely talented and young, 11-years-old, Kelsey ‘Doll’ Klingensmith so I stubbornly stayed a bit longer because I really wanted to hear her.  Except we couldn’t.  We stayed for 2 songs and then got up and left.  There was no point in remaining.  For most of the crowd there that night, although they had ostensibly come out for the music, they were not there to support and appreciate the hard work of these musicians.

I tried to get a quick word to the host, Kelli Johnson, on the way out but he was quite busy as one might expect.  We both sincerely appreciate his hard work in arranging this event.  We do.

Also, Meet Virginia seems like a lovely place (we had been there once before on a weekday afternoon) and I can recommend it. I am sure they did a pretty good business Friday evening.  The drinks and cookies we had were excellent!  I understand they also have sandwiches but I have yet to experience one.  But I cannot recommend it as a venue for any music that actually needs to be heard to be appreciated.

So, unless we are assured that the shushing rule will be in full effect for the next such event we will not bother to come out and try to experience the talented local musicians we have in the area.  And that is a shame as we both love supporting local musicians.

It will be a long time before Sioux City can convince us that they have any real respect for the effort required to get up on stage and bare your soul; especially when that soul belongs to an angsty (or not) teenager, just learning to play their instrument and write songs.

Thanks to our aborted local music date night we now only have two artists to look for in the future instead of the perhaps 5-8 we might have otherwise if we could have actually been able to hear the musicians performing.

We will especially be keeping an eye out for Kelsey Doll (as she goes by) because that young lady wrote and played amazing songs.  We apologize for leaving in the midst of your set but, in some small way, that was showing you far more respect than anyone staying.

If you were in the crowd at Meet Virginia last Friday night, may I ask, did the evening meet your expectations?