Return to the Arts; The Anchorite (Digital Collage)

My triumphant return to the arts. I have created a digital collage in the style of Inq28, which is the general genre of my miniatures painting journey.

But there is a uniformity between that and my thematic interests in general: The medieval, the disturbing, and especially the religious.

This is but the first of many such experiments to come, in many mediums. I have been invested with great spirit these past weeks, as if something holy have poured into me. I itch to create all matters of art, to try all matters of new techniques, and to hopefully develop a voice and settle into a medium of choice.

We shall see.

The Anchorite
Digital Collage, the Anchorite.

The End of Tang China and the Rise of Xenophobia

Tang China was a powerful and culturally rich multicultural Empire with satellite states in Afghanistan and strong centralized control and friendly relations with neighbours (tributaries).

During this time period, countries like Japan and Korea developed their classical culture by almost completely copying Tang Chinese Culture. Multiple Zen masters and prominent Foreign Buddhists of this era were all trained/or successors to schools in China. Kyoto for example, is a smaller replica of Chang’an, Matcha was actually the method of green tea preparation enjoyed by the Tang Chinese (China later developed loose tea leaf instead of powdered tea). Sino-Japanese and Sino-Korean were actual languages influenced by Middle Chinese.

The Capital of Chang’an had a population of almost a million people. Half of those people were foreigners. Many of them multi-generational, growing up in China, taking the Civil Service Exams, becoming Officials and Aristocrats, marrying the locals, etc. Many were slaves as well.

Something like 14% of Tang China’s Prime Ministers were foreigners (yes, actual foreigners).

The surviving Persian Royal Familiy (escaping the Rashidun Caliphate’s Conquest of Iran) married into the Tang Royal Family and were given the royal surname of “Li”. The Last Prince of Persia, Peroz III, was actually the Commander of “Area Command of Persia” in Tang Afghanistan.

However, a series of disasters happened during the height of the Empire and caused a dramatic downfall.

The Sequence of Decline 

1) The half-Sogdian (Persian) General An Lushan lead a rebellion against the Empire and occupied the secondary Capital of Luoyang.

2) Military betrayal by the Uighurs (another Turkic Persian group, at this time mostly Zoroastrians, not Muslims), who helped retook Luoyang from the rebels, but refused to leave until they were paid huge monetary rewards. AND the Tibetan Empire took this opportunity to invade and steal Chinese Territory.

3) The perceived betrayal by foreigners lead to a rise of xenophobic sentiments in the normally very multicultural Tang Culture.

4) The xenophobia culminated in the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution of 845 AD, where Emperor Wuzhong, acting under both financial interest and religious favouritism towards Taoism, destroyed 4,600 Buddhist temples, 40,000 shrines, and removed 260,500 monks and nuns from the monasteries. He forced monks and nuns to return to lay life, and expelled foreign monks and nuns back to their home countries. Because he classified Nestorian Christianity, Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism as “Foreign forms of Buddhism” (despite the fact Buddhism was already foreign), those religions were persecuted as well, and eventually became extinct in China. Because they were also the last bastions of those religion in the world, Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism was practically finished globally. Surviving Manichaeans did manage to hide themselves as Buddhists and Taoist until well into the present day.

5) Emperor Wuzhong’s successor immediately repealed the persecution and tried to rebuild the religious institutions, but the damage was already done. Most of the persecuted religions would never recover. Islam survived, mostly because it was new, and because the Arab traders of the time were focused on trade, not religious propagation.

6) Xenophobia remained rampant, and several Peasant Rebellions were launched on a partially racist platform (mostly anti-government, tbh, I am not sure where I heard the xenophobic platform of the rebel armies from, but it was probably widespread at this time). These peasant armies eventually sacked both Chang’an and Luoyang. The Arab historian Abu Zayd Hasan of Siraf wrote that when Huang Chao (the rebel leader) captured Guang Prefecture, his army killed 120,000 to 200,000 foreigners.

7) Surviving ancient Chinese noble families (some who can trace their lineage to the ancient Zhou, Shang, and Xia Dynasties) were almost rendered extinct, forcing survivors to flee southwards.

8) The Succeeding Song Dynasty, after they reunited all of China from the pretender dynasties, was SINOCENTRIC. Confucianism (a native Chinese religion) became the state religion; women, who enjoyed liberties close to or greater than our modern world today during the Tang Dynasties were shackled under tighter conservative expectations, and foreigners were never again as welcome in China.

Contrarian Connoisseur

Progress is paved by roads of rage,
progress is paved by spiteful hate.
I’ve been accosted by racists and felt not a thing.
I’ve been gently spoken to by kin and felt only rage.
I hate this, I hate that. I hate everything.
Above all, I hate having no agency,
Paradoxically I am ruled by regency
— a committee of emotions, voting twice.
Vetoed by hate and vice.
I am a rebel without a cause, truly without a cause,
A contrarian connoisseur masked by consistent faith.
Don’t tell me what to do, because I am tempted,
to do the opposite— why? What for?
Because I can.
Transgressions can destroy rigid social norms.
Worth destroying, these sick diseased norms.
Such noble causes are not for me,
for I am driven by contrarian changeling glee.
Yet, I am fed by backwards folks.
I am fed by tyranny and contradictions.
I love and hate, all these things.

Yet in the storm, I see clarity.
I see all things reflected clearly.
Self-reflection comes late you see,
for twenty-four hours you must wait,
before I deign to negotiate
— pending votes by the committee, of course.

©Justin C. Hsu

Tim & Katie: The Squarespace romcom

Just reminding you all of possibly the best ad campaign I’ve seen in eons. Squarespace’s Tim & Katie storyline is just brilliant. Everytime they come up, I watch it; and the story actually progresses! As of right now, the videos on Squarespace’s YT channel hasn’t caught up to the latest episodes of this couple’s planning for their wedding-headed-towards-disaster.

They even have their own website (made using Squarespace of course).

Who else is a fan of Tim & Katie?

Tim and Katie Forever. Squarespace Ad Campaign.
Tim and Katie Forever. Squarespace Ad Campaign.

 

 

How to create a cult, and be played by an A-list actor in a Movie.

How to create a cult, a step by step guide.

0. Be literally delusional. Or an immediest guru of dubious virtues (or have your phobias and illness be mistaken for virtues).

1. Rip off a bunch of symbols, motifs, and mythology from the closet exotic cultures relative to your own.

2. Create a fake history about how your secret society has already existed for thousands of years.

3. Miraculously, you were the modern founder of this society who had recently been reconstituted from the ground up after some unspecified catastrophe. Or you received mystical revelation from your local alien/spirit/spirit-alien.

4. Write a shitty thesis on the core philosophy of the society. Maybe philosophically unsound reasons for doing whatever the hell you wanted, or your delusions wanted. Like drug fueled orgies.

5. Recruit people.

6. People get scared and want to leave. Call them deluded and lost, and reassure your cult that everything is okay.

7. You died.

8. A new leader emerges, whose way more charismatic, and smarter than you. He had you deified and used as an immortal rallying point for the cult.

9. Get incorporated. Become a profitable Business. OR do something stupid and in public, and lose membership fast until the cult becomes defunct in the next decade. If the cult want to tangle with the government or the taxmen, they get destroyed by the wrath of authority in an eyeblink.

10. You become a cautionary tale in biographies, documentaries, comic books, and sensational hollywood movies, where you get played by an A-list actor whose way better looking than you ever hoped to be.

A Real Orange Catholic Bible (from Dune)

What if we could get an officially licensed copy of the Orange Catholic Bible (the premier religious text in Frank Herbert’s Dune Universe), constructed together by Earth’s leading theologians hired by whatever Publisher is crazy enough to produce such an expensive and niche merchandise?
sunrise-3533173_1920

It would logically span thousands of pages, include lengthy material on fictional, near future religions (usually syncretic faiths of today’s religions), such as Maometh Saari, Mahayana Christianity, Zensunni Catholicism and Buddislamic traditions. To realistically make such a merchandise, would require talents beyond the ability of any ordinary fiction writer (though, Frank Herbert gave it a good go with his in-universe quotes at the beginning of each chapter).

In DUNE, the Orange Catholic Bible is physically described as:

“It has its own magnifier and electrostatic charge system … The book is held closed by the charge, which forces against spring-locked covers. You press the edge — thus, and the pages you’ve selected repel each other and the book opens … the charge moves ahead one page at a time as you read. Never touch the actual pages with your fingers. The filament tissue is too delicate.”

Though of course, a simple E-book will do for our purposes.

But, there is also the AZHAR BOOK. In the Dune Universe, this is a bibliography of every religious material in all of human history, and is the direct precursor of the Catholic Orange Bible. The Azhar Book, as a database, would be immense. We already kind of have this, as the material of every religion today is available online. But nobody has organized that expanse of data into a single book of scripture.

Taking UFOs (whatever the hell they are) seriously

“Disclosure has happened. … I’ve got stacks of generals, including Soviet generals, who’ve come out and said UFOs are real. My point is, how many times do senior officials need to come forward and say that this is real?”
— John Alexander, US Army Colonel

animals-2608547_1280

There is no consensus on what UFOs are. The Extraterrestrial Hypothesis suggests they are literal aliens in spacecrafts. The Inter-dimensional Hypothesis suggest they are native to Earth, but from a different dimension and/or time. And the Psychosocial Hypothesis of course, states that all of these are psychological and social phenomenons.

There is also cultural tracking— the tendency for UFO related phenomenon to change their appearance and nature over time (UFOs appeared as airships pre-19th century, Rockets/Supersonic Travel in the 1940’s, and so forth) and to different cultures. Consider how in prior times, events like fairy sightings, fairy abductions, and encounters with demons were quite common. Yet with the ascent of the modern age, “aliens” quickly replaced these phenomenons. Fairies were of course, Christianized versions of pagan deities and spiritual experiences. Spiritually rich, non-Christian nations in the world today still retain culturally unique phenomenons like: abundance of ghost encounters and mythology, shamanism, spiritual possession by gods, encounters with spiritual beings in woods and mountains, dragon sightings, etc. In the inter-dimensional hypothesis, cultural tracking can also be explained via the possibility that the “aliens” are only slightly more advanced (explaining why their technology were always only slightly ahead of our own).

But the public is largely confused at this point, due to decades of pop culture, hoaxes, celebrity scientists, youtube pundits, and conspiracy theories. There is also a strangely naive faith in the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis over the lesser known (but in my opinion much more likely) Inter-dimensional Hypothesis and Psychosocial Hypothesis.

Because of this, the quieter news of declassification and admittance by various governments that yes, “UFO phenomenons are real, and no, we don’t know what they are” were constantly ignored (except by the crackpots of course). There is an unspoken taboo, by the culture, and by academia, to not engage in the study seriously. They continue to ignore the fact that these phenomenons (whatever it may be) needs serious study and examination. As a result, the field is taken up by Ufologists, and half of them are crackpots. The professionals need to wrestle this field back from the domain of the conspiracy theorists.

Speculative Evolution of the Ants from Disney’s “A Bug’s Life”

Someone posted a picture of Flik (from Disney’s a Bug’s Life) to the facebook entomological meme’s page (appropriately named Etememeology), asking, “Is Flik an ant? He has four legs only. what is Flik exactly?”

I couldn’t resist answering that one, inspired by my newfound interest in speculative evolution— a genre of hard sci-fi that’s also related to the real life disciplines of astrobiology (study of life in the universe, including potentially alien life) and xenobiology (forms of life as yet unknown to science, including an alternative biochemistry).

I cleaned up the comment I made originally, and without further ado…

Flik, the protagonist of A Bug's Life.
Flik, the protagonist of A Bug’s Life. Actually a mammal. Shocking.

False Ants

Hello sapients, I am an alien scholar who has peered through time to answer your question. Flik’s species is known as Falsum Formicae (false ants), indigenous to “Ant Island”. In a different universe, there was a strain of tetrapods, related to Mammals actually, that evolved from increasingly tiny hairless rats in the rapidly warming environment, which had followed an unspecified geological event that preceded the evolution of the Tetrapodic Ants.

These rats became the Falsum Formicae. The Ants of a Bug’s Life were actually mammals!

This species has remarkably undergone self-domestication (disputed), showing signs of the “Domestication Syndrome”, such as less aggression, neotenic traits like big eyes and rounded cheeks, cooperative and social behaviours, etc.

There are males and females of the species. No members of the species flies except for the “Royal Females”. There were no drones.

Some scholars argue that the Falsum Formicae did not domesticate themselves, but were domesticated over multiple generations by a violent species of grasshoppers who first defeated and enslaved their much more violent ancestors.

Presumably the Grasshoppers culled all aggressive members of Flik’s species as they appeared in every generation, and over time, created a docile species to harvest food for them.

Such a method of natural selection caused unexpected mutations to come to the fore, resulting in near-savants like Flik, who have incredible innovative abilities, with a shockingly instinctual affinity for technology (See Ant Island “Leaf, Twigs, and Rock” Age Culture).

If true, then Hopper’s ancestors laid the ground for their own defeat by indirectly “breeding” Flik into existence.

Flik of course, was the semi-legendary King of the the early Ant Island Polity known to later generations as the Leaf, Twigs, and Rock Age.

They were the direct precursors of the Antic Colonial Empire, which was concurrent to that of the other Universe’s Humanity (a species of Homo Sapiens, but with considerably more archaic human admixture, due to differences between universes).

The Technological Level of the Antic Colonial Empire never reached beyond the Iron Age, but they had advanced clockwork and flight technology for their entire existence (in fact, as far back as during Flik’s time, who supposedly invented a legendary Bird Machine to fool the Grasshoppers). Sadly it was wiped out when humanity started a nuclear war between the USA and the Soviet Union.

In the following nuclear winter, the surviving Ants of the Twilight Age evolved larger over time, finally dominating the world as their new Mammalian Overlords, into a new species: Deus Falsum Formicae. The Divine False Ants.

They would achieve spaceflight within a generation.

Rise of the Sexcam Industry : The economic and social impetus of ‘camming’

Once more we return to halcyon days of College in a special blast to the past post from September 2016, where my applied English instructor gave my class an analytical writing assignment.

At the time, I had considered these topics to explore:

  • Making a living with Esports (why streaming is more profitable than winning tournaments). I should probably write this one at some point as well. 
  • Why Sexcams are more profitable than traditional pornography (amateurs and even industry veterans are turning to the sexcam market on a part-time and full-time basis. Who goes into this business, why?)
  • Why are people turning to vegetarianism and veganism?
  • Solforge, first “developed for digital” card game. It’s rise and fall (and it sure fell hard, looking back now).
  • Why did the Space Race took off?

And I went for the most ballsy topic— because what’s the point of taking College English if you couldn’t write whatever was most interesting?

Without further ado, the full transcript:


Analytical Writing Assignment- Rise of the Sexcam Industry

Justin Hsu

7322754

COMM1085-16F-Sec1

Teresa MacVicar

September 23rd, 2016


The American Porn Industry as a whole is worth $5 billion dollars (Richtel, para. 21) . The sex cam industry alone is worth $1 billion dollars (Richtel,  para. 21), a whopping twenty percent of the entire industry. The adult webcam segment of the porn industry is rising in popularity because it provides a wide range of benefits to content creators and consumers alike, such as financial stability, security and customer-orientation.

To the dismay of many adult film stars, the porn industry is not only declining, it is also not financially stable as moratoriums will be in effect the moment any performer is tested HIV positive, halting any filming (Breslin, para. 2). With many porn stars living paycheck to paycheck (Breslin, para. 6), they are encouraged to turn to alternate revenue streams in order to support themselves. One such alternative income source is the webcam industry (Breslin, para. 8). A  few hours shoot for a normal film might earn a model $1000 (Breslin, para. 10), but webcams can become incredibly lucrative (Bertrand, para. 1). The industry involves models performing in video chat rooms for a vast online audience (Bertrand, para. 2), many of whom will tip the model with site-specific digital currency (Bertrand, para. 6; Richtel, para. 10). One model reported that she makes $62,600 a year (Bertrand, para. 5), another says she makes up to $8000 a year (Richtel, para. 16). Many ‘camgirls’ also have a wishlist of presents they would like and their patrons are often more than willing to buy lavish and expensive gifts for their favourite performers (Bertrand para. 7). In his book Dark Net, Jamie Bartlett  “recalls finding one wishlist which included books of left-wing social criticism” (Bertrand, para. 7).

There is a great deal of security that comes with performing on a webcam as opposed to traditional sexwork like prostitution (Richtel, para. 11). One benefit is that the performer is not exposed to health risks such as sexually transmitted diseases (Breslin, para. 2)— in fact, it is not necessarily for sexual intercourse to occur at all, many camgirls perform solo (Richtel, para. 6) as they have control over what they can do (Breslin, para. 42). “For many shoots, condoms are not an option,” recalls Adahlia, a porn star who also do escort services on the side, “The director will just hire other talent willing to work without barriers.”(Breslin, para. 42). She continues, “In my escorting work, I have always felt much safer and protected because I am able to choose what kinds of safer sex practices I wish to utilize, and I don’t lose business by choosing to be safe.” (Breslin, para. 43). Although Adahlia is not speaking of webcamming specifically, she highlights the dangers and biases inherent in the porn industry. Safety also means the relative anonymity, for it is not just industry veterans who are turning to the cam business. Amateurs are also getting in on the bandwagon, to find financial alternatives for their income (Katzen, para. 16). In a strange way, the internet can be much more hospitable than real life. Anna Katzen, the pen name of a camgirl and writer with a Master’s Degree from Harvard remarked that her clients “are successful professionals in their field — whether it be law, the arts or academia.” and are rarely of the rude and disreputable sorts (Katzen, para. 22).

That is not to say that camming is without risk, a performer may come under emotional harm if they feel shame over their jobs, leading to potential drug abuse (Richtel, para. 11) or they may have their identities exposed by internet “trolls” (Bertrand, para. 10-11).

It’s not all just sex either— some men pay good tips just to watch a model read a good book and look pretty (Katzen, para. 22). Anna Katzen wrote that “some of my most popular performances entail me reading erotica, perhaps Anais Nin or the Marquis de Sade, in the buff. Oftentimes, the books are gifts from fans, who will probe me for literary analysis” (Katzen, para. 22). It appeals to all kinds of psychologies which makes the webcam industry a customer oriented market— that is, businesses that caters to the needs of the consumer by creating products most appealing to a specific demographic; often this can take the form of a private one on one show  (Richtel, para. 9). One of her patrons said, “I came for the tits, but stayed for the intellectual banter.” (Katzen, para. 22).

Viviana Zelizer, a sociologist stated that the webcam industry is “defining a new kind of intimacy”, something that is a mixture between business and relationships (Richtel, para. 66).

Perhaps people are just really lonely.


References

Richtel, M. (2013, September 21). Intimacy on the Web, With a Crowd. The New York Times. Retrieved October 9, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/22/technology/intimacy-on-the-web-with-a-crowd.html

Breslin, S. (2013, December 20). What Porn Stars Do When the Porn Industry Shuts Down. Forbes. Retrieved October 9, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/susannahbreslin/2013/12/20/what-porn-stars-do/#2334c3f9a9cc

Bertrand, N. (2014, November 18). Here’s How Webcam Models Make Money. Business Insider. Retrieved October 9, 2016, from http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-how-webcam-models-make-money-2014-11

Katzen, A. (2014, February 9). From Harvard to Webcam Girl. Salon. Retrieved October 9, 2016, from http://www.salon.com/2014/02/10/from_harvard_to_webcam_girl/

 

The Thinker (Lovecraftian Reinterpretation)

A Lovecraftian Reinterpretation of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker. I took a bit of inspiration from Lovecraft’s ShubNiggurath, you know, the Black Goat of the Woods and a Thousand Young. I was originally going to give it a Tentacle Head and call it the Strangler.

Technique: Much like the previous entry in this series of mine, The Red Eminence, I painted directly over the original image (of the sculpture of the Thinker), drawing from the same colour palette. Painting in the backlight was a stroke of inspiration— it looks so much more incredible and macabre. Mysterious and terrifying!

My Lovecraftian Reinterpretation of Auguste Rodin's The Thinker. 
My Lovecraftian Reinterpretation of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker.
The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin, at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor
The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin, at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor

The 7 Godzilla Films I had seen, in order, and why they mattered to me. 

Godzilla movies I have watched, in order, and why they mattered to me.

1) Godzilla (1998): The first Godzilla film I’ve seen was Roland Emmerich’s much reviled American Godzilla adaptation. I loved it, and I must have watched it dozens of times (maybe as much as twenty) over my childhood. The following Godzilla Animated Series set in the same Universe was also one of my favourite cartoons.

2) Godzilla 2000 (1999). The 24th Japanese Godzilla Film, and the 1st Film in the Millennium Series (in this series, almost every faith has no continuity with previous films, except the Original 1954 Godzilla). Strangely enough, to my child-like mind, I though Godzilla 2000 was somehow a “new” and better, more epic version of the American Godzilla. I was blown away. It was much later that I found out that the Japanese Godzilla was…the original.

3) Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975). The 15th Film in the Godzilla Franchise. Found in a VHS in Value Village back when I was a child. It was something of a prized possession of mine. Remarkably, this film happens to be the final Godzilla film of the Shōwa series, and the last feature film directed by Ishirō Honda, the original and visionary director of the 1954 Godzilla Film before he retired. It’s strange how this was the only Godzilla film from the “classical” era that I had seen, but it happened to be iconic, despite being poorly received.

4) Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002). The 27th Film in the Godzilla Franchise. And the 4th film in the Millennium Series. Mechagodzilla was piloted by humans and this film turned out to be something of a Mecha film as a result. I was suffering extensive depression and anxiety during this period of my childhood, and this film helped— a good family friend rented this film for me on DVD and I must have watched it…dozens of times. My all time favourite was the next entry on this list however.

5) Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003). The 28th film in the Godzilla Franchise, and the 5th film in the Millennium Series. It was notably the direct sequel to 2002’s Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, and these two films are the only films in the Millennium Series to share the same continuity. An epic and cinematic clash between Godzilla, Mechagodzilla, and Mothra. This film was rented at the same time as Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, and I watched them back to back. Did wonders for my depression.

6) Godzilla (2014). The first entry in Legendary’s MonsterVerse Franchise. The first Godzilla film I had ever seen on the Big Screen. Previously, everything I had watched was on Satellite TV, VHS, or DVDs. Hollywood tried once again to adapt Godzilla, and this time they managed to pull it off, creating a compelling sci-fi film, although the fans clamoured for more Heisei era Kaiju-on-Kaiju action. Godzilla’s enemies in this film, the MUTOs, being original home-brewed monsters and not classic TOHO Property, didn’t quite deliver the Kaiju-on-Kaiju spectacle we had hoped for. But it signalled the rebirth of the Franchise, because the film was a success, and TOHO decided to resurrect Godzilla in Hideaki Anno’s Shin Godzilla (2016), which I haven’t seen yet. This film is certainly an excellent stand-alone sci-fi horror movie (of sorts), it might have been better if Godzilla was firmly a bad guy, but that didn’t jive with the direction the MonsterVerse was going into. 

7) Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). The 3rd Film in Legendary’s MonsterVerse Franchise. As I write this, I had just returned from an IMAX theatre where I feasted my eyes on the Kaiju action that had the world hyped. Critics were pretty harsh on this film, although the audience seemed to love it. But the Box Office, despite opening at #1, was low. This film, I have to be honest, emulated the Heisei Era Godzilla films probably too well. It’s a B-movie, make no mistake. But it is a B-movie with a huge budget and it knows exactly what it is. Any Godzilla fan will feel right at home. The Director clearly knows what Godzilla is all about, and have taken the effort to seed the film with lore, references, and homages to the TOHO Godzilla movies. And the music was the best part, bringing back themes that was near and dear to Godzilla fans and the Franchise’s History as a whole. Ken Watanabe absolutely steals this film. However, from an objective point of view, this film wasn’t as well constructed as Godzilla (2014) or it’s direct precursor in the MonsterVerse, Kong: Skull Island. I hope the total box office haul is monstrous, and I eagerly await the upcoming Godzilla vs King Kong (2020).