Adventures in the Orgasmatron: Wilhelm Reich and the Invention of Sex by Christopher Turner. Interesting biography of crackpot psychologist Wilhelm Reich. As a child, Reich blamed himself for the death of his mother, who committed suicide after Reich's father bullied him into revealing her affair. Reich then lost the family estate and fell into poverty in World War One. In Vienna he became a psychologist and noted protege of Sigmund Freud, though they later fell out and Freud carefully excluded Reich from his circles.
Around this time Reich decided that Freud's concept of the libido was a literal, vegetative sexual energy called "orgone" that could be moved and strengthened by physical or psychological means. He thought he could see the " bions" of this energy under the microscope, though the trained scientists he collaborated with (H. Lowenbach, Wilhelm Hoffman) disagreed.
Throughout his life his beliefs got steadily stranger. Reich was charismatic enough to gather a cult-like circle of followers wherever he went, always managing to replace those he alienated. Reich first fled the Nazis to various Scandinavian countries, got into trouble there too, and ended up in America.
In America he became a cult figure for his books on sexual energy. Most famously he sold "orgone accumulators": large boxes that you could sit in to increase your orgone, and small "shooters" that he claimed shot orgone rays into the body, and could be used to heal physical illnesses including cancer.
Reich never used the phrase "orgasmatron", which came from a Woody Allen movie which probably spoofed the idea.
The next step was the "cloudbuster", a giant array of orgone guns which Reich believed he could use to make it rain. He also decided he could use it to shoot down the UFOs which he now believed were attacking planet Earth, and with his confederates fought imaginary battles against the flying saucers in the desert.
Eventually the FDA came down on him for selling bogus medical treatments, and Reich died while serving a two-year prison sentence.
Reich still has surprisingly many followers today, still convinced of his genius.
Was interesting to see that in America, Reich turned politically to the right, constantly writing letters to President Eisenhower who be believed to be a friend. He refused ACLU help with his court case, regarding them as crypto-communists.
Reich's fans are particularly approving of Reich's belief that sexual repression was the root cause of Nazism and Communism. The book doesn't substantiate this:
The picture Reich painted of the Nazis as sexual puritans became the dominant view for decades (especially in America). However, revisionist historians such as Dagmar Herzog have shown that as soon as the Nazis had crushed the “Jewish” sex reform movement , they appropriated many of their arguments, although the fascist embrace of sexual freedom was controversial among some Nazis. In 1938 a Nazi physician named Ferdinand Hoffman complained that 72 million condoms were used a year in Germany and that only 5% of the brides were till virgins. But some Nazis seemed to share distorted versions of Reich’s sexual beliefs...Reich also wasn't particularly into free love, was against homosexuality and pornography. He seems to have had unconventional but normative ideas about what sex should be.
In his party-endorsed advice manual Sex – Love- Marriage (1940), the Nazi psychologist Dr. Johannes Schultz described sex as a "sacred" act and endorsed child and adolescent masturbation and extramarital sex, calling for all young women to throw off the shackles of repression to enjoy the "vibrant humanness" to which they were entitled. Like Reich, Schultz differentiated between the hasty, superficial orgasm and the orgasm that led to a "very intensive resolution…extraordinary profound de-stabilizations and shakings of the entire organism." Schultz, however, had a totalitarian solution for those who fell short of what Reich would have called an "orgastically potent" ideal: he called for the extermination of handicapped people and homosexuals, who he deemed "hereditarily ill". Schultz forced homosexuals to have sex with prostitutes under his clinical gaze. Only those who achieved a satisfactory orgasm were saved a train ride to the camps.
Overall, a good, well-written book. There's a long review here.
What I'm Watching
Saw The Band's Visit on DVD. Surprisingly gentle comedy about an Egyptian police band getting lost and stuck in a small Israeli town on the way to a performance. Fairly slow-paced, but with a good atmosphere and appealing characters. Has a couple of touching moments, and a couple of very good moments.
I think I might be missing a bit in the translation though. Girl B thought the confusion over town names was hilarious (two letters that are distinct in Hebrew but the same in Arabic) and I suspect there's subtle cultural stuff which I'm oblivious too.
Overall, pretty good, worth watching if you don't mind a slow burn rather than a stream of gags.
Girl B was working really hard to organize a one-day conference in her academic field, so when she asked if I wanted to come along I said yes. Surprisingly I was able to follow most of the papers. I think it's because it's a cross-disciplinary area they have to keep things intelligible to the specialists in other areas, with the by-product that a complete amateur knows what's going on. I think the programming conferences I've attended would just be complete gibberish to an outsider. Maybe it's just that IT is particularly jargon-crazed though.
Anyway, found some of it quite interesting and I know a bit more about what she actually does now. Also met some nice people, quite a few went to a restaurant afterwards.
Managed to talk to a few people. Only had one tricky moment: I asked the guy his opinion on the Big Controversial Topic, he gave it, but then asked me what I thought, so I ended up having to explain where I stood on the issue and why. I think I bluffed it OK though, thanks to my IT-honed bullshit skills.
Regarding job hunting, have had two face-to-face interviews and one phone interview now, but no luck so far. I'm mainly falling down on the technical side I think: I'm pretty behind on the lastest technologies. The job market seems pretty slow, and the hirers seem to be incredibly fussy. For a senior developer job you seem to be expected to know every nook and cranny of a huge variety of technologies. Nobody seems bothered about whether you can gather requirements or manage relationships or talk to clients, which I always thought were my real strengths.
Not sure what to do. Some people keep advising me to get into the LAMP stack instead of .NET. One thing is I'd rather try to move into project management or team lead stuff: I don't really want to start off on the bottom rung of a different career right now. Another is that entry level jobs hardly pay anything now: don't want to take a 40% pay cut if I can avoid it.
Someone else reckoned I should do a short OU course in project management and try to get straight in at that level. Problem there is that it's such a slow market it seems pretty unlikely I'd be able to make a big step up at the same time.
Still, I'm probably not going to get laid off before September, and I'll hopefully get a reasonable package, so the situation's not too desperate yet.
Politics. Madness not behind Iraq massacre. Asylum seekers viral myth. George Osborne, book cooker, 50p tax won't show evidence yet. Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom Worldwide.
Sci/Tech. It's important that the Ipad 3 display is good: "The existential crisis facing Microsoft is that they achieved their mission years ago". Vertical wheelchair (looks good but I'm not sure those tiny wheels will work well outside).
Video. Theodore Rex highlights.
Random. Scale of objects.
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