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Sex With Matt
The sexual is political
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Wed, 09/03/2008

Moments in Black Rock City:

- Walking the half-built city.  In some places, the city is so empty that we can't even tell where the streets are.

- Gifting pancakes and bacon to our neighbors.

- Struggling to keep the shade structure intact through Monday's horrendous dust storm.  We spend twelve hours repairing and re-engineering the structure in the middle of the storm.  One of our corner poles is bent 90 degrees by the wind, and we have an Iwo Jima moment of bracing the structure with temporary poles while replacing the original.

- The playa environment agrees with me.  I sleep briefly but well each night, and am in good spirits and full of bounce pretty much all day every day.

- Helping Rossi celebrate a neighbor's 30th birthday.  We bring him to our camp in a cage, and Rossi administers the requisite spanking.  He goes home happy but with a large ice pack in his pants.

- Watching numerous members of our crew drop from a combination of exhaustion and the unbelievably brutal environment.

- Watching our street fill with bicycles as our first class filled to capacity.  We had to turn away crowds at every one of our public events.

- Giving numerous strangers their first experience with bondage, and watching their faces light up.

- Two late arrivals bring us fresh pizza!

- Tying up so many people that my fingers bleed.  Finding out that all our other tops had the same experience.

- Walking the deep playa with a new friend.

- Picking up MOOP in the deep playa and finding strange and sometimes wonderful things among the trash.

- Riding a gigantic covered wagon to Grace and Dammit's wedding at the temple.

- Walking the streets of the city in assless white vinyl chaps, yellow panties, a skin-tight metallic red tank top, and a zebra print hat.  Nobody looks twice, because my appearance is in no way unusual or noteworthy.

- Climbing an eight story steel tower built in the middle of the playa.

- Shiva Vista: watching the fire performers while sixteen fire cannons roar over our heads.

- Guerilla bondage: helping Zang suspend Sparkle Pony from the stage at Opulent Temple.

- 3 AM coffee and conversation at Center Camp.

- A second wedding: a couple from an earlier class want us to help us marry them.  Hot Sauce officiates, and Buddy hand-fasts them.

- After the wedding, a gift: our new friends bring us ice cream.  On the playa.  On Thursday.

- Turning away too many wonderful people to count, because we simply don't have room for them.  Our entire crew is exhausted.

- Geeking with our camp ecologist about ice-dwelling insects.  We make plans to go photograph some.

- No matter how much art I see, new pieces continue to amaze and delight me.

- Standing on the deck of the temple in a full white-out, all the chandeliers flying sideways in the wind.  The wind screams at us, and we scream back.

- Walking the temple at nght, reading a tiny fraction of the inscriptions.  I write what I need to write on one of the columns.

- Impromptu cuddling with a new friend.

- Helping the crew at Illusion inflate their weather balloons.

- Playa dust.  If you haven't been to BRC, you simply can't comprehend how utterly pervasive it is.

- The man burns.

- Watching the temple burn.  The burn is deeply moving to me, but for reasons completely unrelated to what I'd written earlier.

- Getting lost in a screaming white-out returning from the burn.  We end up on the opposite side of the city.

- Walking the almost-deserted streets of the vanishing city.  Once again, it's hard to tell where the streets are.

- Coiling my trusty old rope kit for the last time, and throwing the coils into a fire installation.  Before this week, I could (with effort) remember every single person I'd ever suspended.  Now, I can't even remember everyone I suspended this week.  I have mixed feelings about that.

- Black Rock City is gone.  We get up before dawn in the bitter cold, strike our tents, walk the MOOP grid, and leave.

We go home in 51 weeks.

Energy efficiency and mass transit
Mon, 07/28/2008

Continuing my alarming digression away from degenerate perversion, Brad Templeton has some profoundly interesting things to say about the energy efficiency of different forms of transit.  The short version is this: on average, mass transit isn't nearly as green as you think.  In fact, it's often less energy efficient than private cars.

For example, private cars use (on average) 3,500 BTUs / passenger mile.  City buses use (on average) 3,800.  All forms of rail combined do a little better (2,800), but many systems are worse: the NY subway consumes 3,400 and Seattle light rail comes in at 5,300.

There are two important caveats to all of this.  Firstly, these numbers don't mean that it's greener to drive your car instead of taking the bus.  The bus is less efficient (assuming that you're driving with the national average of 0.57 passengers), but the energy cost of the bus is fixed: once Metro has decided to run a bus, the incremental energy cost of you being on board is almost zero.  The second caveat, of course, is that mass transit is almost invariably less time-efficient than private cars, and human time has value.

Gory details here: http://www.templetons.com/brad/transit-myth.html

Cooperative dragonfly
Thu, 07/24/2008

2008_07_24 03 Dragonfly
Originally uploaded by Tornus

Normally, these guys are pretty skittish, but this one was uncommonly cooperative. He spooked once or twice while I was getting closer to him, but each time he circled around and landed in exactly the same place he'd been before. In the end, I was able to get pretty close from a couple of different angles.

Dragonflies have particularly odd heads: note the utterly bizarre mouth structure and the strange eyes, which in many species are for some reason almost impossible to get a sharp image of.

Small creatures fear me
Sun, 07/20/2008

Originally uploaded by Tornus

In spite of being ridiculously busy lately, I've managed to grab a little bit of time to go harass the local microfauna. It's good to be back at it-- I haven't done this for several years. I'm finding that it's just as hard, and just as fun, as I remembered.

Speaking of which, the Nikon D3 rocks my world. In addition to all of the obvious points, the high ISO performance is truly game-changing. Macro photography in the 1:1 range is immensely technically challenging, and having an extra factor of 10 (literally) to play with makes a huge difference.

Coming home
Tags: personal
Fri, 07/11/2008

After a kick-ass week, I'm headed home tomorrow.  Had a great time with family, played with my new camera, scrambled across lava fields, crawled on my hands and knees into mile-deep caves, and got in some serious kayak time.

Vacation was awesome, but I'm really looking forward to being home.

How my days begin
Fri, 06/27/2008

The alarm goes off at 6:00 AM.  Because I don't share imperator_mei's unique sense of masochism, my life begins with a slow ramp of the first movement of the Pastoral Symphony.  As soon as the alarm goes off, Oliver races over to me and bats at the covers.  I lift them up enough that he can crawl underneath, and he wriggles around so that he's cuddled up next to me with only his head sticking out.

I pet Oliver, and the room fills with the sound of his happy noise as he commences a very thorough exploration of my armpit.  While he's working on it, my phone tells me what the universe is likely to do to me today, and what I'm planning to do to the universe.  After a few minutes, Oliver decides that today will not be the day that my armpit suddenly starts giving milk, and it's time to get up.

In the bathroom, Oliver sings a song to let me know that somebody has poisoned the water in his kitty bowl.  Apparently he is dying of thirst, and I must run the bathroom sink so he can drink.  Next, we go upstairs and I get first breakfast for both of us: blueberries, hazelnuts, and milk for me, and kibbles (not enough) and water (why do I bother?) for Oliver.

I take my breakfast to the gym with me, and Oliver goes to his morning job at the Ministry for the Promotion of Avian Tourism.

Nonsense by request
Mon, 06/02/2008

Over the course of the weekend, I promised to send various people links to some online nonsense.  In a couple of cases, I can no longer remember who was interested in the nonsense in question.  Therefore, I'm doing the only responsible thing and spamming the entire internet with it.

Here's a fishing cat living with a remarkably indulgent Russian family.  I'm glad I'm not in charge of cleaning their carpets.

And here's Jonny McGovern's Soccer Practice video.  It is without question the gayest (and also the best) music video ever.

An open memo to Seattle
Sun, 06/01/2008

Dear Seattle,

We have tried to turn a blind eye to your West Coast idiosyncracies for as long as possible, but after an especially shameful incident last night, we feel we must speak up.  In order to preserve the True Art as handed down to us by the Ancient Masters, please take note of the following:
  1. Every scene shall have a clearly identifiable Dom and a clearly identifiable Sub.
  2. Subs shall speak respectfully at all times.  Comments like "You suck!  You're doing it all wrong!" aren't clever-- they're just disrespectful.  Nobody likes a mouthy bottom, missy.
  3. Dripping blood is a serious matter, and must be cleaned up right away.  Otherwise, SHE MIGHT DIE!
  4. Gluing googly eyes to your needles isn't funny.
  5. SM is Serious.  Hysterical laughter in the middle of a scene is inappropriate.
  6. Needles are not swords.  They do not go "schwing!" when you draw them.  Having a longer needle does not give you "reach advantage."  See point 1, above.
Your prompt attention to this matter is appreciated.

P.S.: Please review and comply with our recent memorandum, "Straight boys don't cuddle with other boys".

P.P.S.: You aren't going to throw that needle away after just one use, are you?

Wretched excess
Sat, 04/12/2008

Tons going on right now. I have a couple of interesting things that I'm working on on the suspension front-- hopefully they'll germinate into posts sometime soon.

In the meantime, however, I had family in town Friday night, and I made the mistake of going shopping while in an indecisive and easily-swayed mood. The resulting menu:

America Unzipped
Tags: political
Mon, 01/28/2008

This was a good weekend for reading: I was able to plow through both In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (which I'll have something to say about in my other blog), and America Unzipped by Brian Alexander.

On the surface, America Unzipped is an amusing, fairly irrelevant piece of light entertainment.  It's quick and easy to read, tolerably well-written, and sufficiently full of amusing anecdotes to remain entertaining throughout.  Plus, a number of my friends are in it, and it's always fun to read about your friends in the mass media.  Beyond that, though, I'm somewhat torn about it.

The book is a superficial but open-minded tour through the frontlines of the sexual revolution.  Alexander talks to everyone from an evangelical preacher who's on a crusade to give Christians permission to have better sex through our own Allena Gabosch at the Wet Spot.  By the end, he's come to a couple of conclusions:
  • Even very conservative Americans in the fly-over states are far more open-minded about sex than you (or they) believe.
  • The religious right has lost the war over American sexuality.
  • There's an immense generational gap surrounding sexuality: younger Americans are profoundly comfortable with a surprisingly wide range of sexual expression.
  • It's kinda good that people are more open about sex, because, you know, it makes them happier.  On the other hand, maybe it's not so good, because, you know, maybe it's not so good.
And there, in a nutshell, you have what's good and bad about the book.  On the bright side, he talks to an interesting range of people, many of whom are seemingly very conventional, and discovers a remarkable new openness about sexuality.  The book isn't a comprehensive survey, of course, and I think it would have been a much stronger tome if he'd spent some time examining how typical his subjects actually are.  Yes, he's talking to Republican cops in the heartland, but they're nonetheless Republican cops in the heartland who've chosen to come to a sex-toys Tupperware party.

A more serious critique, though, has to do with Alexander himself.  He goes out of his way to point out that he himself isn't a pervert, which is fine if a little distracting after the first few protestations.  Beyond that, though, he's clearly uncomfortable and ambivalent about a lot of what he's turning up, but he isn't able to articulate his unease in any coherent fashion.  His discomfort might have to do with the escalation of sexual practices, and it might have to do with removing the erotic charge of the forbidden, and it might have to do with something else.  At the end of the day, he's clearly uncomfortable with much of what he's seen, and he wants you to know that he's uncomfortable, but he's incapable of presenting any cogent analysis.

Sex writing needs a Jeffrey Steingarten.  It isn't Brian Alexander.

Christmas stocking
Tags: personal photos
Mon, 01/28/2008

For Christmas this year, Silver made me a Christmas stocking.  Not just a Christmas stocking, but a seriously bad-ass tactical Christmas stocking.

My life is good.

Alligator lips
Tags: photos
Mon, 01/07/2008

In spite of being way behind on my photography, I managed to find some time today to shoot another doll for amare's RISD application. Here, for your aesthetic enjoyment and sound nocturnal repose, is Alligator Lips.

Helpful safety tip
Tags: personal
Fri, 01/04/2008

Max has a safety rule that he teaches in a number of his classes:

"Any time you rig a partial suspension, you should keep in mind that it may unexpectedly turn into a full suspension, especially if you have a bratty and energetic bottom."

After last week's Grind, I'd like to offer my own corollary:

"Any time you rig a full suspension, you should keep in mind that it may unexpectedly turn into a double suspension, especially if soapysophie is in the room."

tightbound and I were in the middle of a very nice suspension of silvergoth (essentially a suspended hogtie), when Sophie showed up.  After spending a few minutes flirting, Sophie abruptly climbed onto the rig and spent a few minutes hanging upside down underneath Silver.  Happily, the rigging was adequate to the task, and a delightful time was had by all.

Diving in Roatan
Tags: personal photos
Tue, 10/09/2007

As promised, here are a few photos from our vacation in Roatan about a month ago. These were shot with a snapshot camera inside a cheap plastic housing, so the quality isn't always great, but the subjects themselves are fun.

All photos are Copyright 2007 Tornus. Please don't use or distribute them without permission.

We spent our vacation at Anthony's Key. Anthony's Key is a small island off the coast of Roatan, which is a small island off the coast of Honduras. The main part of the resort (the dining room and the dive boats) are actually on Roatan, so you end up taking a lot of boat rides back and forth between the Key and the dock. It's a pretty good arrangement: you go to the dock and ring the bell (actually, an old SCUBA cylinder), and the motorboat comes over and picks you up. Naturally, the kids spent a lot of time arguing about whose turn it was to ring the bell.

Here's our cabin, seen from the dive boat. At the beginning of the week, you're assigned to a dive boat for the week. It has 3 or 4 scheduled departures each day, depending on whether you're doing a night dive or not. You just load your gear onto the boat in the morning, and then show up for each of your dives, most of which are only a 5 or 10 minute boat ride away. In between dives, little elves magically replace your tanks for you. It's a pretty cushy life.

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Photos for Amare
Tags: photos
Mon, 09/17/2007

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to shoot some of Amare's dolls for a grant application she was working on. Because I'm lame, it's taken me this long to get around to posting them. It was a fun project, and very different from the work I normally do. Enjoy!

All photos are Copyright 2007 Tornus. Please don't use or distribute them without permission.

This is Trouble. She's Amare's favorite, and she's the one that I think I did the best job on, in part because I was able to spend the most time with her.

Some of the technical challenges of this particular doll included capturing detail in both the black skirt and the very pale tentacles, getting a good shine off the wings, showing detail in the mesh of the wings, and getting some highlights into the hair.

I tend to imagine Trouble emerging from a litter-strewn alley, but didn't feel ambitious enough to try and compose that image myself.


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There's a new CSPC website!
Tags: personal
Mon, 07/23/2007

If you pay attention to the CSPC (formerly the Wet Spot) newsletter, you've probably noticed that we have a new website.  This long-overdue updating of the previous site is something that I've been working on for a long time now, and it's good to finally have it out in the real world.  There's still a lot of work left to do, but I think we're off to an excellent start.

Up until now, the focus of the project has been on making it easier for CSPC members to find the information they need most often, and in particular to make it easier to find out what's happening at the CSPC.  There's also a rudimentary system for letting people renew their memberships and donate money, although there's a lot of work remaining to make that part of the site more user-friendly.

There's also been a lot of work behind the scenes to make it easier for CSPC staff to update the website and keep the calendar current, and to allow event owners to update the information for their events. Future projects include adding more extensive support for existing members and overhauling the existing CSPC members-only forums.

Although I've done pretty much all of the core technical work, a number of other people have put a lot of effort into this project, and I want to take a moment to thank a few of them.

  • The outstanding graphic design for the site as well as the initial HTML template was done by D.
  • Lydia did a great deal of work updating content from the old site for the new site.
  • R did some critical work on the e-commerce part of the site.

Take a look at the new site, and let me know what you think.


Rigging plates
Tags: photos tech
Mon, 07/23/2007

Like just about every other rigger on the planet, I own a steel ring, which I normally use as the center point of my rigging. The point of the ring is provide a large area for attaching carabiners and/or rope. With a complicated suspension, it's not uncommon to have four or more vertical lines, each of which needs an attachment point at the top of the rig. Depending on the suspension, one or more of those vertical lines may be used as pulleys, in which case the line (which is always doubled) will need to make several passes over the top attachment point. Pretty soon, you find yourself needing a lot of surface area, especially if you don't want your ropes to cluster together and bind.

Lately, I've been experimenting with alternatives to the traditional ring. The best one I've found so far is the Petzl Paw, which is used by climbers as a rigging plate. It's a single block of remarkably light aluminum which has been drilled to accept carabiners. The Paw is rated for a breaking strength of 36kN (about 7,920 pounds), which is far more than you'll ever need. I know and trust the guy who made my ring, but there's still a part of me that likes having a real strength rating on my gear.

Fire Safety
Tags: tech
Thu, 05/24/2007

Build a zombie a fire and he'll stay warm for an hour.
Set a zombie on fire and he'll stay warm for the rest of his life.
 -Seen on a Half-Life 2 forum

It's spring, the season when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of juggling.  After a long lull, I started getting back into juggling last year, and with the return of nice weather, I'm all excited about getting more serious about it this year.  In the spirit of recklessly trying new things, I decided to learn to spin poi, and ordered a bunch of goodies from Home Of Poi.

I've always enjoyed juggling fire, so I ordered some fire poi with an eye to extending my pyrotechnic capers.  My order arrived with an excellent fire safety video, so in addition to repeatedly whacking myself in the head with flying poi, I've been spending some time thinking about fire safety.  I'm realizing that I started juggling fire back when I was young and foolish, and have never really thought hard about the safety issues involved.  My initial take is that I want to make some changes to my technique, but also that the professionals at Home Of Poi are doing some things wrong.

Return of the toilet brush
Tags: photos
Tue, 05/08/2007

I'm continuing to re-shoot Scott Paul's catalog, most recently focusing on his Click-A-Cuff system. I've never been entirely satisfied with the shot that I took of the toilet brush attachment for the humiliator, and I recently took a little time to take another crack at it. It's still not perfect, but I think it's good enough that I can move on with a clear conscience.

It's a challenging piece to shoot, and I thought that some of you photography geeks might enjoy a discussion of how I approached the shoot.

All photos are Copyright 2007 Tornus. Please don't use or distribute them without permission.

Here's the first shot that I ever took of the toilet brush. It's not exactly a masterpiece, but it captures the basic nature of the product. The biggest problem with this shot is that in order to make the white bristles stand out, I shot the brush against a black background. That's fine in principle, except that the rest of Scott's site uses a white background, and this shot would stick out like a sore thumb.

Photos for Scott Paul
Tags: photos
Mon, 03/26/2007

I've recently been helping my friend Scott Paul re-shoot his online catalog. For those of you who don't know Scott, he's a local guy who makes amazing bondage equipment. Someone once commented that Scott is to bondage equipment what Apple is to computers, and it's an accurate description. He makes some of the sleekest, sexiest gear out there.

In any case, the photography on his site was becoming a problem: although some of it had been shot by some very talented people, some of it was just snapshots, and there really wasn't a coherent aesthetic to the site. The existing images were a hodgepodge of different background colors and aspect ratios. That's a problem for a guy who's all about style.

Taking a look at the site, we decided to standardize on a square aspect ratio because that simplifies a lot of layout problems. The nature of a site like Scott's is that you need to show a bunch of images on the same page, and it's hard to control whether they're all in landscape orientation or all in portrait. By making everything square, they all look good together. We also decided to standardize on a white background (because a lot of his stuff is black), and on having any models wear a full-body red spandex suit.

The suit's been a mixed blessing, and we may revisit that choice in the future. We chose it because it keeps the focus on the product rather than the model, because it keeps the site consistent if we use different models, and because it fits in with Scott's sleek, minimalist design aesthetic. On the downside, there are some technical issues with the shade of red that we ended up using, and the suit has some unfortunate seams on the head.

For me, the project has been a chance to develop my lighting and commercial photography skills. I've done a lot of photography over the years, but have never had a chance to work on a lot of the classic lighting and posing problems. It turns out that Scott's products are an ideal subject for learning about lighting because they bring up almost all of the traditional problems. Scott uses lots of black (which is hard to show details in), lots of materials whose texture is important, and lots of very shiny surfaces that highlight any defects in the lighting setup.

The re-shoot is still very much a work in progress, but I thought I'd share a few of the images that I've shot so far.

The usual disclaimers apply. Although there's no explicit sexual activity in these images, they do show real bondage and suggestive imagery. If images like that are likely to upset you, maybe you shouldn't look at them.

All photos are Copyright 2007 Tornus. Please don't use or distribute them without permission.

These are some of Scott's basic cuffs, in a PVC finish. They're typical of his look: black and shiny, with very high quality hardware and finish. They also demonstrate some of the technical challenges of shooting his stuff. They're shiny, which is hard because it means that you need to manage the glare of the lights and the reflection of the photographer. They're also black, which is hard because you need to balance getting the blacks really black (because that looks better) with showing detail in the shadows. In this case, I wanted to make the cuffs look cool while still showing off texture of the lining.