Seder-Masochism Progress Report

My two goals for 2017 were to bicycle 5,000 miles, and to finish Seder-Masochism. I have 30 miles to go on the first goal, slowed down by mysterious health problems (for which I’m about to undergo a series of invasive tests). But the second goal keeps getting farther away.

I have all the pieces made, and they’re pretty good. The musical numbers are entertaining, and the “Our Father” scenes, based on recordings of my own father shortly before his death in 2012, worked remarkably well.

Scene of Our Father

Our Father

But the overall story isn’t holding together. In fact, it’s hard to tell what the overall story is. I set out to retell “The Passover Story,” but what is that? It’s Exodus. But it’s also more than Exodus, and far less. I tried structuring the film around the Passover Seder, and the result is incoherent. Perhaps because as a story, the Passover Seder is itself incoherent, its popularity and persistence due to early indoctrination and strict rules rather than narrative quality.

So now I’m looking for the story again, at this rather late stage. The narrative quality of the Book of Exodus itself is dubious, but it does contain at least one strong story: the going out, the leaving, the separation, the exit, the Exodus itself. I thought a lot about the meaning of Exodus a few years ago when I animated Death of the Firstborn Egyptians (the solo clip of which has become rather popular, at over a million views on YouTube alone).

Even as the mythological Hebrews exited mythological Egypt, the mythological Firstborn Egyptians exited Life, led by the profound power of Death – who is the Abrahamic God Himself, according to many Haggadot. According to the ancient Egyptian conception of Death and the afterlife, this was not necessarily a tragedy; in fact it would have meant something entirely different to the mythological Egyptians than it does to us. Still an Exodus, but from another point of view.

And that’s where I’m returning to seek my story. To Abrahamics, the Exodus is the story of going forth from the “narrow place,” from cruel slavery to freedom. But what were they exiting, really? According to them it was slavery, oppression, and, worst of all, the worship of false idols. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” commands Yahweh in Exodus 20. How does this story look from the point of view of “other gods”? Specifically, goddesses?

Patriarchy celebrates Exodus as a triumph of civilization. But these days I question the value of civilization, since it’s (we’re) killing the planet and perhaps our souls and minds as well. The popular myth, amongst anxious environmentalists like myself, is that Once Upon a Time humans lived in harmony with nature, gathering and hunting, attuned to the natural world through animism and reverence for the Great Mother. There followed a Great Fall: Agriculture, and its attendant sins of property, hierarchy, and slavery. With the plow we were expelled from the Garden, and things have gotten worse ever since. Genesis in a nutshell.

Exodus is a different angle. This time the Great Mother isn’t a nurturing Garden, but a suffocating oppressor. Man isn’t expelled; he escapes. All those (formerly) animistic spirits are now ridiculous and evil idols. The sacred snake becomes the demonic serpent. Nature and fertility become disgusting things to be controlled. Yeast – spores of Life in the very air – is loathed and mastered through the fetishized Unleavened Bread. This loathing and mastering continues today, as we continually kill Life in the soil with fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. (My 4,970 miles of cycling mostly took place in Central Illinois, the heart of the agri-desert, where yesterday I rode past tanks of ammonia being dragged through denuded fields.)

What does Exodus look like from the point of view of the Goddess? She was in Egypt as Hathor, Hekket, Wadjet, Nut, Maat, Isis, and others portrayed already in Moses Goes Down. She was elsewhere in Mesopotamia as Ishtar, Astarte, the “Queen of Heaven” and other mis-named or un-named “idols.” She was in Europe. She was everywhere – all humans conceived the divine as female, long before the invention of the male God.

The Golden Calf (Return of the Goddess) from Nina Paley on Vimeo.

Watching Man walk out on Her, going forth from revering Nature to enslaving and killing it – would she even want Him back?

So I’m currently trying to articulate the Exodus from the Goddesses’ point of view. I hope it works. I’ve put a lot of effort into Seder-Masochism so far, I’d hate for it to be a BIG FAILURE WITH NO COHERENT STORY. Then again, I may end up with a coherent story that is despised. If my current storytelling angle succeeds, even more people will hate it, especially men. But that I could live with. Releasing a weak, incoherent film would be harder.

But this late in the game, that may be its fate – it’s up to the Goddess.

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New York City! Seder-Masochism Work-In-Progress Benefit April 21 at IFC

SM_Poster_IMC_med

Thursday, Apr 21, 2016 7:30 PM EDT
IFC Center, New York, NY

You must purchase advance tickets for this event.

All singing! All dancing! All 40+ minutes of my feature-film-in-progress, Seder-Masochism! This is not the finished movie, but the core musical scenes animated in Flash. While I take a production break to learn new software to make the rest of the film, let’s watch all these crazy scenes together in a theater. Featuring:
Goats!
Egypt!
Plagues!
Death!
Idols!
Commandments!
Unsubtle phallic imagery!
…and MORE!

FREE MATZOH!

Big thanks to my friends at GKIDS for making this happen.

Seder-Masochism is Nina Paley’s second feature film, currently in production. Like its predecessor  Sita Sings the Blues, it’s an animated musical – but this time it’s based on the Passover story, the Book of Exodus. In spite of being an irreverent atheist, Nina is also a card-carrying Jew, entitling her to make scenes such as the now-famous This Land Is Mine:

Here are a few stills and animated gifs from the project:

MosesPartsSea324fps

Thirsty Hebrews charged on by increasingly frustrated Moses

Woman06_first02_AstarteWoman04.2_transformation

Exodus12-35

snake dancer jewish4 gif

Moses Aaron2

Exodus14-30

 

05Melt_2

 

ApepBWenlarging

Wadjet36 HathorWalk36

Bastet36

Seder-Masochism

Seder-Masochism is Nina Paley’s second feature film, currently in production. Like its predecessor  Sita Sings the Blues, it’s an animated musical – but this time it’s based on the Passover story, the Book of Exodus. In spite of being an irreverent atheist, Nina is also a card-carrying Jew, entitling her to make scenes such as the now-famous This Land Is Mine:

Here are a few stills and animated gifs from the project:

MosesPartsSea324fps

Thirsty Hebrews charged on by increasingly frustrated Moses

Woman06_first02_AstarteWoman04.2_transformation

Exodus12-35

snake dancer jewish4 gif

Moses Aaron2

Exodus14-30

 

05Melt_2

 

ApepBWenlarging

Wadjet36 HathorWalk36

Bastet36

March 1: Seder-Masochism Work-In-Progress Screening

SM_Poster1

 

Tuesday March 1, 7:30 pm
The Art Theater
126 W. Church St., Champaign IL

All singing! All dancing! All 40+ minutes of my feature-film-in-progress, Seder-Masochism! This is not the finished movie, but the core musical scenes animated in Flash. While I take a production break to learn new software to make the rest of the film, let’s watch all these crazy scenes together in a theater. Featuring:
Goats!
Egypt!
Plagues!
Death!
Idols!
Commandments!
Unsubtle phallic imagery!
…and MORE!

$5 suggested donation, no one turned away for lack of funds. FREE MATZOH!

Gender Colonialism

Last week I posted on fecebook “If a person has a penis he’s a man,” which led to my widespread denunciation as a “transphobe.” I’ve written about this before, and anyone paying attention should know better, but I nonetheless commented this:

No matter how many times I state that I have trans friends, was standing up for trans people before the current crop of MRA “transactivists” was even born, and continue to defend the human rights of trans people, people accuse me of the opposite. I tire of defending myself, and it makes no difference anyway. I hated seeing the trans movement get taken over by misogynistic men’s rights activists; I hate seeing the misogyny of the “left” growing. I am witnessing a new, deeper, “postmodern” colonization of women. I bear no ill will towards trans people and like and love several; my concern is for WOMEN, especially those who aren’t white liberal middle-or-upper class, and especially lesbians. When an aggressive white male comes here and declares “I’m a dyke!”, and other liberal men gather round to support him, I see this colonization in action.

Do stick around, it takes a while to see, but I promise you I didn’t get to this place out of ill will. It’s so easy to just say “trans women are women!” and not deal with anyone’s hate. I’m resisting for a reason.

What do I mean by colonization? I mean the literal occupation of women’s spaces – rape shelters, prisons, locker rooms, bathrooms, swimming holes, and women-only events that women have fought very hard for. By men. Physically. But a huge component of this colonization is mental, existing in the realm of ideas and “identity”. What is a woman? 

A sex without a people for a people without a sex

In American Liberal thought, colonization is bad. But immigration is good. And taking in refugees is doubleplusgood. This is why Americans backed the Zionist colonization of Palestine. Israelis weren’t regarded as colonizers; they were refugees! And Palestine wasn’t even inhabited, not really. It was a land without a people for a people without a land. The only reason you could possibly object was if you were ANTISEMITIC. Even if you were Jewish yourself, you self-hating Jew!

Taking in trans “refugees from masculinity” is also doubleplusgood. This is why Liberals back the modern transactivist colonization of womanhood. “Transwomen,” who I will henceforth refer to as trans-identified males, or TiMs, aren’t regarded as colonizers; they’re refugees! And womanhood isn’t even inhabited, not really. Womanhood is a “land without a people,” because women aren’t viewed as people. We’re an open space for men to define.

What is the difference between a refugee and a colonist?

A colonist has guns and the backing of another state.

Unlike yesterday’s transsexuals – those “refugees from masculinity” – today’s TiMs have penises and the backing of Liberal Patriarchy.

My trans pals of the 90’s didn’t have today’s backing of Patriarchy. It was riskier to be trans then, even among Liberals. They more resembled refugees, and I welcomed them. They also either didn’t insist they were women, or if they did insist they were women, they ‘disarmed’, if you will, by actually going through genital surgery. Today’s TiMs proudly keep their penises and testicles and demand to have them acknowledged as “female body parts”.

Obviously, times have changed.

Men’s Rights Activists eventually figured out they could eliminate the middleman – transsexuals – and colonize women themselves. This fits nicely with regular old run-of-the-mill male dominance. Heterosexual men “identify” as lesbians, and patriarchal Liberals enforce women’s compliance. Women are not to resist or even question this program. To write, “if a person has a penis he’s a man” is an act of resistance so powerful, it will get you widely denounced and blacklisted.

You know what else would get you denounced and blacklisted in recent decades? Questioning or criticizing the State of Israel. The thought-terminating memes, the refusal to discuss, the disproportionate outrage are all familiar to my anti-Zionist activist friends.

Under the spell of American Zionism, no right-thinking Liberal believed atrocities were happening in and on behalf of Israel. No matter how much evidence activists produced, Zionist Liberals always downplayed it, or ignored it, or justified it because whatever the Palestinians were doing was surely so much worse. Likewise, no matter how much evidence feminists produce, of death threats and rape threats, of actual physical violence, of blacklisting and purging and no-platforming, we are dismissed as “transphobic.” Even when the people presenting the evidence are trans, such as Miranda Yardley and Jenn Smith.

Simultaneous marginalization and support

Of course no males would be “refugees” if they had a home in the male sex class. But it’s in Patriarchy’s interest to simultaneously marginalize and support trans people, just like it’s in Europe’s and America’s interest to simultaneously marginalize and support Jews. The marginalization drives the pressure of expansion. When people are secure in their homelands, they don’t emigrate. It’s the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free that up and move to a new land. Without antisemitism, the “west” would have no colony in the Middle East. Without patriarchal gender enforcement, TiMs wouldn’t be spearheading the further colonization of women. So men simultaneously threaten TiMs, and demand the protection of TiMs as “the most oppressed.” That male-imposed marginalization is what drives the whole project.

Trans people themselves are a tiny fraction of the population. So why are language, laws and institutions being changed just for them? Because it’s not just for them, it’s for all men. TiMs are the “settlers” of the latest patriarchal colonization project.

Patriarchal Religion

Both Zionism and transactivism have a religious component. In Zionism it’s the Torah/Old Testament, which simply states that God gave the land to the Jews, His chosen people. In transactivism it’s gender identity, as summarized by Miranda Yardley:

  • We all have a ‘gender identity’ which is innate. This ‘gender identity’ can be at odds with the physical embodiment of our sex;
  • This ‘gender identity’ has more weighting to our sex than the  physical embodiment of our sex; and so it follows that
  • ‘Trans women are women and trans men are men’.

…for transgender individuals, personality determines sex.

Philosophical analysis aside, the reality is that the concept of gender identity collapses into the statement ‘trans women are women’, and this is the foundation of most of their other claims to rights, spaces and validity. It is also the single most defended claim in transgender ideology, so much so that no debate is allowed.

I support freedom of religion, and everyone is free to believe whatever they want. I oppose forcing everyone else to believe what you believe. Everyone is welcome to their “gender identity.” If a male believes he is a female, that’s fine with me. If I have to believe he’s female, that crosses the line.

I oppose gaslighting. I oppose requiring others to deny the evidence of their own eyes and identify someone else as a sex they are not. Not because trans-identified males don’t “deserve” to be called women. But because they aren’t women. “Woman” is not a club or a prize or a reward. It’s a sex.

But it’s treated like a club and a prize and a reward. And like anything of value intrepid males “discover,” it is being colonized.

Women are not a land without a people. Women have always been people, even if men don’t acknowledge that. The trans colonization project is essentially misogynist, and is popular among male Liberals for this reason.

Why do I care?

Believe me, if I could not care about modern transactivism, I would. I think it’s my Muse’s doing, because my film Seder-Masochism is about the same story: the colonization of women.

God used to be female. All of Her attributes were taken over by the male God. Creation, fertility, vegetation, the bringing forth of food, life and death – all that was once the Goddess’s is now God’s. It’s like the male God put on Her clothes, and then “identified” as Her, and there’s no Goddess any more.

Our connection to ancient goddess worship is completely broken. There’s some art, and some ruins, and some echoes in myths and fairy tales, but we have no idea how these religions were really practiced. Modern western goddess-worship is re-built, re-invented, and re-imagined; it is immature, instead of building on thousands of years of tradition. 

The establishment of YHWH as the One, Male God effectively erased the Goddess, and most don’t even know enough to grieve. We sense there’s something missing, but most can’t even name it.

Gods and Goddesses are fictional, of course. What’s happening now is a continuation of the erasure of the Goddess: the erasure of womanhood itself. The erasure of biological reality isn’t only of concern to biological women, but to everyone who values science and some relationship to reality beyond individual “identity.”

Woman means adult human female.

Womanhood is a biological reality. That’s it. It’s not an identity, a prize, an “exclusive club”, or a land to be conquered. The more men regard womanhood as any of those things, the more inclined they are to colonize. Patriarchy regards women as property already, with disastrous consequences.

I am a reluctant feminist. I don’t particularly enjoy being a woman. I don’t “identify as a woman.” I AM a woman. It’s not a choice, it’s biology. It’s not a special club I’m trying to keep men out of.

Biology is the beginning and end of “womanhood,” the alpha and the omega. If I wear pants, I’m a woman. If I wear a dress, I’m a woman. If my hair is long or short, I’m a woman. If I take testosterone, I’m a woman. If I cut off my breasts (don’t think I haven’t thought about it, I have fibrocystic breast disease and they can be very painful) I’m a woman. If I identify as a man, I’m a woman.

And if a person has a penis he’s a man.

If you think that’s “hate speech,” the colonist is you.

Further reading:

The Colonization of Womanhood

Liberals and the New McCarthyism

Vancouver Women’s March becomes opportunity for misogynist threats against women

On Trans-identified Females: binders and misogyny

Current state of discourse on gender in the UK

Online harassment of women

You Gotta Believe

Why not believe in Her?

You Gotta Believe from Nina Paley on Vimeo.

 

In this episode of Seder-Masochism, Moses is confronted by the goddesses the Patriarchy is about to crush.

Directed animated etc. by Nina Paley (me)
Music: “You Gotta Believe” written by Norman Whitfield, sung by the Pointer Sisters, circa 1976
Free goddess gifs at blog.ninapaley.com/2018/01/01/24-free-goddess-gifs/

The lyrics are extremely clear in some places and hard to decipher in others. At two points the Pointer Sisters sing, “why don’t you let the Wilson Sisters set you free?”  Who are the Wilson Sisters? Does anyone know? Here are the lyrics I’m confident are accurate:

You gotta believe in something

Why not believe in me?

You gotta believe in something

Why not believe in me?

Tell me brother,

what have I, I, done to you

To make you mean and treat me

the way you do?

Go on and raise your flag,

Brother,

Start your revolution.

I’m willing to let you do your thing,

Tell me why are you blind when it comes to mine?

You gotta believe in something

Why not believe in me?

You gotta believe in something

Why not believe in me?

Take the chain off your brain

I said,

Take the chain off your brain…

Stop.

Take a look at yourself…

Don’t (refuse??) something something…

You gotta believe in something

Why not believe in me?

You gotta believe in something

Why not believe in me?….

God-Mother

God-Mother from Nina Paley on Vimeo.

Here it is, the intro/prologue to Seder-Masochism. Uploaded at 1080p instead of 4K because I’m sure I’ll fuss with it still.

It is by far the slowest-paced thing I’ve ever animated. Be patient. Best at full screen.

Animated in Moho Pro.

Stills:

Denkou_01-03_15 - Frame 1192_1920

God-Mother_sun_orobourus_1920

God-Mother_bird_sun

God-Mother_fish_1920

God-Mother_deer

God-Mother_horses_1920

God-Mother_hands_1920

God-Mother_forest_1920

 

Exodus 19-40: Tabernaculous!

Music: The Things We Do For Love by 10cc (1976)

The Tabernacle is built, Aharon ordained, Joshua and Eleazar introduced, and an enduring religious hierarchy established.

This concludes the songs I’m animating in Flash for Seder-Masochism. The rest of the movie will be in different styles, possibly using different software. Experimentation awaits!

Tax-deductible donations can be made here.

Bee Goddess shirts

BeeShirtYellowMBeeShirtBlackW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bee Goddess from The Golden Calf (Return of the Goddess) is available on Teespring shirts until September 17. All proceeds support me and the Seder-Masochism project! (You can also make a tax-deductible donation and get your name in the credits.)

Woman07.1.2_bees

The Golden Calf (Return of the Goddess)

Music: “Woman” by John Lennon (1980)
Everything else: Nina Paley
Another chapter in my feature film “Seder-Masochism.” Donate here: questioncopyright.org/sedermasochism

Exodus 32:
1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.
4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the Lord.
6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

Golden Calf 1

snake dancer jewish4 gif

 

I’m gearing up to do the most interesting Seder-Masochism episode: the Golden Calf, wherein the stiff-necked people disobey Moses and revert to their pagan, goddess-worshipping ways. Lotta design work this month, because goddesses.

Chad Gadya embroidermation finished at last!

After a little over a year and a half, and many interruptions, we finally finished our embroidermated short, Chad Gadya. While we were working on it (actually I was working, Theo was procrastinating) this other embroidered short came out, but there are differences. Thanks to Theodore Gray’s stitchcoding in Mathematica, we weren’t restricted by (invariably crappy) off-the-shelf software. This allowed us to automate beautiful iridescent stitches and preserve them from frame to frame, so the resulting animation really looks like moving embroidery.

Every single embroidered frame you see here is available for sale, signed and numbered and one-of-a-kind. Only 9 months ’til Passover!

Chad Gadya will function as a sort of “intermission” in my feature film Seder-Masochism, marking the end of the Passover meal but just the beginning of the Israelites’ trials in the desert.

Update: Theo’s post on the technical side of stitchcoding embroidermation.

“It took a while to get all this code right, but of course it’s crucial that it cover every possible case, because when you’re doing animation, it’s not about getting one frame right, it’s about having an automated process that always gets every frame right, not just once, but every time there is an iteration of the animation requiring a re-render of the frames. We must have generated tens of thousands of frames (just generated the files, not actually stitched them!) before it was all looking good.” Theodore Gray

Update 2: All the stitching files we made for this are Free (CC-BY-SA) at archive.org! Download ’em and stitch ’em out as you please. They’re PES format; wish we had something better, but all embroidery formats suck.

What Is Copyright?

Which picture best depicts Copyright? Vote in comments.

©Talk2015_10001

A.

©Talk2015_10002

B.

©Talk2015_10003

C.

I’ll be asking this question tonight at this talk:

Questioning Copyright: Sharing or Stealing?

Date: 5/11/2015
Start Time: 7:00 PM
End Time: 8:30 PM

This event will be at Pizza M, 208 West Main Street, downtown Urbana. Delicious snacks from Pizza M will be provided.

Description:
 Does copyright protect creative work? What impact does copyright have on censorship? And what would happen if we abolished copyright? Join us for a provocative conversation with two guests: artist and copyright abolitionist Nina Paley and UIUC law professor and activist Paul Heald.

Nina Paley is the creator of the animated musical feature film Sita Sings the Blues and the short This Land Is Mine. Her adventures in our broken copyright system led her to joinQuestionCopyright.org as artist-in-residence, where she produced a series of animated shorts about intellectual freedom called Minute Memes. As half of PaleGray Labs, she develops techniques to combine animation with her other passions of quilting and embroidery. Nina is a former syndicated cartoonist, a 2006 Guggenheim Fellow, and currently making a new animated feature called Seder-Masochism.

Paul Heald lectures on patent, copyright and international intellectual property law around the world. He is the University of Illinois Richard W. and Marie L. Corman Professor of Law and is currently a fellow and associated researcher at CREATe, the RCUK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy, based at the University of Glasgow. He’s also the author of a recently released mystery novel Death in Eden.

 

A Bug in My Ass

ass1

So I’m animating an ass for Seder-Masochism, so the Hebrews have something to carry their stuff out of Egypt so their arms are free to let them walk  jauntily and leap around. I export a test and see this weird artifact on the upper foreleg. Flash is rendering the shape as it looks in vector editing mode. If you look carefully you’ll see the point on the upper right has a little bezier handle. Weird, right?

ass2

It’s a bug in Flash (pre-Adobe Macromedia Flash 8, the only Flash I use), the likes of which I’ve never seen before. To make the artifact go away I had to re-draw the foreleg. Below is a render sans bug.

ass3What’s great about this is it solved my problem about how to best use “ass” in a blog post title. I was considering “What an Ass” or “A Fine Ass” or “I Made Myself an Ass,” but this is much better.

 

Moses Goes Down

Here is Exodus 3-7, too much to quote here. Featuring the Burning Bush, Moses, Hebrew slaves, strange gods (actually goddesses), Aharon, Pharaoh, a staff turning into a snake, and sing-along phonetic hieroglyphs.
The introduction to this scene is “God Calls Moses to Mt. Horeb”.

Music: Go Down Moses
Arranged and performed by Louis Armstrong (with Sy Oliver’s Orchestra, 1958)

Unlike most other Seder-Masochism scenes I’ve posted, this one isn’t primarily parody; the overall message is similar to that of the song. I still argue it’s Fair Use, and transformative. Parody isn’t the only way to transform (nor is transformation the only criterion for Fair Use). “Go Down Moses” itself was transformative without being parody: it made Exodus into a story of American slavery. Creativity is complicated and shouldn’t be dictated by lawyers. LET MY PEOPLE GO!

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