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I've recently discovered mp3 newsgroups on Usenet. Not discovered as in, "Hello, what's this?", but by actually listening to the files. It started with alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.video-games, listening to music from Tetris, Zanac, Zelda, and Metroid faithfully dubbed from game consoles. The next level were orchestrations performed by real instruments or high-end wavetable synthesizers. The pinnacle had to be the mp3 remixes - dance mixes, even - of video game soundtracks. And I'm told I have too much time on my hands.

alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.avant-garde would have been more enjoyable had I been flying like a kite on an acid trip, but there are those who prefer the sour chords and disharmony in this style of instrumental music, even when lucid, sober and technically sane. I hesitate to call it "crap," for composers of this musical genre obviously have a well-designed strategy: aural anguish. They hit their mark without fail.

Along with the expected 14th-19th Century European influence in alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.classical lurks the occasional surprise, such as Yehudi: Jewish Music from the Seraglio. This is something you'd expect to find in a.b.s.mp3.world-music or a.b.s.mp3.folk. Yehudi is definitely a leap or two from the well-beaten path of the Billboard Top 40, Beethoven, or Mozart. I'll have mine with a sitar and a stick of incense, thank you very much.

On to alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.spoken-word to hear Woody Allen standup comedy. You either love him or hate him, and most folks I know are detractors. I think they just don't get it. Yes, he's whiny, dopey, annoying, hopelessly narcissistic, and fringe. Exactly.

Today in a.b.s.mp3.spoken-word I found The Vagina Monologues. I've heard about it on NPR, Salon, and the like, but being male, didn't understand what the hype was about, so I downloaded and listened. It's been described as hysterically funny, but the comedy was lost on me. Yes, The Vagina Monologues has its witty moments, but that isn't the most striking quality you can take with you after reading, hearing, or seeing it. Each of the monologues is moving.

Each monologue is moving in its own way, canvassing a wide range of emotions: One of the monologues asked "what does a vagina smell like?" The responses were poetic: Earth. Wet garbage. God. Depends. Me. Spicy, musky jasmine forest, deep, deep forest. The Beginning.

Another monologue, dedicated to the women who suffered brutally in Bosnian rape camps, was so painful I felt ashamed to be a man: "I do not touch now. I do not visit. I love someplace else now. I don't know where that is. Not now, not anymore.... not since I heard the skin tear and made lemon-screeching sounds, not since a piece of my vagina came off in my hand..."

The Vagina Monologues reveals a deeper awareness and appreciation of womanness by allowing men a glimpse of how a woman relates to her vagina, not just as the birth canal or sex organ, but as the locus of the beauty and sexuality of being woman.

Men think of theirs like gold medals; women think of theirs like shrines. Each is valued and treasured, but serve different purposes. Medals are worn proudly and equate to self-esteem. Shrines are sacred, hidden, entrusted to few and equate more or less to a metaphor of self-identity. You think I'm crazy? Only things which are considered sacred can be violated, so why do we use "violate" as a euphemism for female rape?

In several of the monologues, Ensler describes, either directly or subtly, women who've never looked at their own vaginas, in the sense that they have never regarded or paid it much attention. They never learned to appreciate it. Most men would find this incomprehensible - they've been admiring their medallions ever since they were potty-trained.

So, yes, I liked it. So much so, in fact, I want to buy my mother a ticket when it comes to Louisville in a couple weeks if it isn't already sold out, in which case I'll buy her the DVD for Christmas. I think she could learn a lot from it, but I haven't decided if my motivation is mischievous humor or to shepherd enlightenment.

:: Bryan Travis :: 11/30/2002 @ 16:07 :: [link] ::