There’s something you don’t see every day…or do you?
On the leafy fringes of Hong Kong in a shabby film studio, a nude ponytailed actor stretched out on animal-skins with his lover as the cameras rolled in a set evoking a subterranean sex lair in ancient China.
Turning away from a slightly blurred high definition TV screen as the actors writhed, director Christopher Sun shouted “cut” while yanking off his 3-D glasses. “Good” he yelled.
No ordinary porn flick, “3-D Sex & Zen: Extreme Ecstasy” is being touted as the world’s first IMAX-3-D erotic film.
First out of the gates, the soft porn Hong Kong film comes as the stricken industry, hit hard by free Internet porn in recent years, turns to 3-D as a potential money-spinner, following on from the success of Hollywood blockbusters such as James Cameron’s Avatar.
“Somehow when you’re doing a 3-D movie you always want to make an impressive image because the viewers … are going to buy tickets with double or even triple the ticket price to get into a world they’ve never seen before,” said the U.K.-educated Sun
“It’s not just erotica, they want some ‘wow factor!’.”
Based on a classic Chinese erotic text, “The Carnal Prayer Mat,” the $385,000 (U.S.) film follows a young man as he befriends a duke and enters a world of royal orgies and other sexual peccadilloes.
The producers are hoping the erotic period drama will prove a titillating hit with 3-D-glasses-wearing audiences and help develop a lucrative, niche film market.
“It’s because it’s forbidden in China, (that there) is so much enthusiasm in China for this film,” said film maker Stephen Shiu, who was responsible for the original 1991 erotic film “Sex and Zen,” which grossed more than $2.6-million and held the mantle as the city’s highest-grossing adult film for over a decade.
Taking almost twice the time to shoot than conventional films and with a higher budget, more advanced equipment and elaborate lighting, the takeup of 3-D productions has been relatively slow in the porno industry despite early excitement at its promise.
“We have to change the lenses for a long time, the setting, lighting, we need more time than a normal movie,” said Japanese porn star Saori Hara after completing a scene.
Despite this, other major 3-D sex flicks are now reportedly in the works. Adult entertainment firm Hustler is reportedly working on a three-dimensional porno-spoof of the lithe, blue aliens in “Avatar,” while Italian director Tinto Brass plans to film a 3-D version of his classic 1979 erotic film “Caligula,” based loosely on the dissolute life of the Roman emperor.
The Hong Kong film has attracted the attention of distributors across Asia and Europe.
“The sex scenes are explicit and sometimes violent, but the main theme of the story is love,” said Sun, the director.
It’s been in print for over a century, but in future the Oxford English Dictionary — the authoritative guide to the English language — may only be available to peruse online.
Publisher Oxford University Press said Sunday that burgeoning demand for the dictionary’s online version has far outpaced demand for the printed versions. By the time the lexicographers behind the dictionary finished revising and updating the latest edition — a gargantuan task that will take many more years — publishers are doubtful there will still be a market for the printed form.
The online Oxford English Dictionary now gets 2 million hits a month from subscribers. The current printed edition — a hefty 20-volume, $1,165 set published in 1989 — has sold about 30,000 sets in total.
“At present we are experiencing increasing demand for the online product,” a statement from the publisher said. “However a print version will certainly be considered if there is sufficient demand at the time of publication.”
Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press, told The Sunday Times in an interview he didn’t think the newest edition will be printed. “The print dictionary market is just disappearing, it is falling away by tens of percent a year,” he said.
Although the comments relate primarily to the full-length dictionary, the publisher says the convenience of the electronic format is also affecting demand for its shorter dictionaries.
The first instalment of the Oxford English Dictionary was published in 1884, and it kept growing for decades until the complete text went out in 1928. It was the first comprehensive English dictionary since Samuel Johnson’s “A Dictionary of the English Language” published in 1755, and has since evolved to become the accepted authority on the meaning and history of words.
The version users now consult — the second edition — has 291,500 entries, plus 2.4 million quotations as sources. Unlike shorter printed versions such as the single-volume Oxford Dictionary of English, it doesn’t track current usage, it simply includes every single word.
A team of 80 lexicographers are preparing the third edition of the dictionary, which is just under one-third complete. Oxford University Press hasn’t yet given a date for when the third edition will be ready.
The Oxford English Dictionary first went online in 2000, offering paying subscribers a much faster way to look up words. It’s also helped the dictionary catch up with rapid semantic changes and the large numbers of new words: updates to the dictionary’s online version are added every three months.
In December, the online version will be relaunched to include a historical thesaurus to make cross-referencing easier.
If you ask many Americans they would tell you that they love baseball. There is some intangible quality to the game that casts it’s appeal across political, religious and economic boundaries. Republicans and Democrats, Catholics and Buddhists, truck drivers and neurosurgeons alike fill seats in ballparks around the country to cheer for their team. From Little League to the Majors, baseball has no shortage of devoted fans, even in times of steroid scandals and lockouts.
With perhaps a little hubris, many would describe baseball as the American game (even though it is played elsewhere with equally great passion). Isn’t that why the winners of the final playoff series between the American and National Leagues is called the “World Champion” and that playoff series the “World Series”?
Perhaps it is quintessentially American, and yet, there is something just a little mysterious about modern Major League Baseball. It isn’t the steroid scandals or whether there should be asterisks next to some statistics in the record books. It isn’t the multi-million dollar salaries paid to men who, although they do it rather well, get to play a game for a living. It isn’t even the fact that a team may know as early as June with a 30 game gap between them and first place in the division that the season is lost, which one might be forgiven for thinking of as a disincentive for fans to keep coming to the ballpark (and yet they will still come).
These are all mysteries, to be sure, but not the biggest mystery of all. The biggest mystery is the fact that this most American of games continues to operate successfully because of “revenue sharing”. The Commissioner’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Baseball Economics released a report in 2000 recommending significant revenue sharing among all Major League teams. During collective bargaining in 2002 a deal was struck in which all teams pay in 31 percent of their local revenues and that pot is split evenly among all 30 teams. In addition, some of MLB’s Central Fund, made up of revenues from sources such as national broadcast contracts, is disproportionately allocated to teams based on their relative revenues, so lower-revenue teams get a bigger piece of that pie.
This doesn’t get talked about a lot. Average baseball fans don’t go to the ballpark and strike up conversations about revenue sharing. Baseball is big (really big) business, and all teams benefit from revenue sharing. One of the key tenets of socialism is the co-operative management of the means of production and allocation of resources. Does that sound anything like how Major League baseball works under revenue sharing? How could this be? How could the most American of games, one of the biggest businesses in the land, share such important characteristics with socialism? Does anyone know about this? More importantly, has anyone told Rush Limbaugh?
I’m off to get a beer and a hot dog. I’ll be right back…
The local zoo, keen to attract new visitors, opened the “Hippopotamus Fornication” exhibit just in time for the start of the school year. The reviews raved and memberships shot up 23%. The board of directors was pleasantly surprised, and set about a whole new range of exhibits for the coming year…
“Evangelical Christians have won the public-relations war in the United States. They’ve sought to infiltrate the court system (and largely succeeded) and swayed popular votes against basic human rights. Now they’re going after Islam in a manner that is one part religious intolerance and one part racism. Yet, the irony is that they’re going after a version of Islam that mirrors their own version of Christianity, one that elevates the prophet to the throne that used to be reserved for the thing we didn’t know and never would in this life, which is God. It’s so stereotypically a house divided, The Montagues and Capulets, the Packers and the Bears, that it would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic.”—
It’s funny to think of it as ironic that fundamentalist Christians are repulsed by fundamentalist Muslims. As Julie reminds me, almost too often, we tend to be triggered by other people’s similarities to us - not their differences. Especially, to the things in us we consider least defensible, of which we are least accepting. To my mind, the fundamentalist Christians’ vitriol for fundamentalist Muslims amounts to little more than a violent expression of a pervasive, irrepressible doubt concerning their own stated beliefs. It’s the fear that they’re wrong - about everything - amplified and caught in a destructive feedback loop with doctrinal intolerability of having, or admitting, doubt that directs them to take aim at their most similar competitive threats first.
There is such a thing as reasonable faith. I’ve never heard a sound argument that faith is inherently unreasonable. But to me (here we go with the beliefs and opinions again) the legitimacy of faith must be determined by the degree to which it effects humility and curiosity, as opposed to justifying arrogance and complacency.
Which brings me back to this one (of many - seriously, go read the rest) significant passage from Shandon’s post up there: It is precisely because we no longer teach (therefore, increasingly are incapable of performing) critical analysis that armies of myopic, ignorant, bigoted, paranoid dullards have been able to infiltrate not only the court system, but the educational system, the business world, significant portions of the media, national and state legislatures, the national presidency (2000-2008), and so on. “Infiltration” is deceptively mild at this stage. “Occupation” is more like it.
The issue threatening us is not religion vs. science, and we intelligent people of decent intent perilously distract ourselves by getting hung up on that debate. The issue is the death of the ability to reason in our society, and whether or not we have the will - and increasingly, the ability - to revive it.