The Enlightened Susie Bright

You can't wave your favorite American flag without hitting a tacky, hyper-sexualized image. Mass mediated sexual imagery and tasteless porn permeate, but for my money, there's nothing like well-written erotica. The depth and diversity present in quality erotica remind us that it's natural to be sexual, and just fine to fantasize about medieval animal trainers and skaters.

Thanks in part to the work of Susie Bright, editor of The Best American Erotica series (now on its tenth edition) erotic literature is alive and crackilatin', and sexual expression is coming out of the dark ages.

"Here's one thought," Bright shares via email. "All the religious institutions that abhorred erotic expression are now in such deep shit themselves with various corruption and sex scandals, it's making boring old pornographers look pretty decent by comparison."

Providing a little historical perspective, she says, "the Vatican grabbed as many copies of the great works as they could find and hid them in their secret porn libraries The clit posse of the feminist movement got stirred up and started publishing their own erotica by the early '80s, which is where I come in!"

Bright came in with a bang, truly earning her title as a respected sexpert. She's written six books, edited a dozen anthologies, edited the legendary lesbian magazine On Our Backs, been a sex consultant for films, and edits the Best American Erotica and Herotica series. Hell, she even has a day, January 25th, dedicated to her in her hometown of Santa Cruz, CA. Bright is often featured as a spokesperson for the wave of feminists who advocate sex, a position that has ironically earned her the title "reactionary woman hater" by pro-censorship feminist Andrea Dworkin. Her book Full Exposure gets people talking about sexuality, while How to Write a Dirty Story gets them writing about sexuality, and the BAE and Herotica series just arouses their sexuality.

"Erotica, like all art and expression, affects peoples' imaginations," she says. "That's not because it's sex, per se, but because it's life, period. Sexual expression can arouse, it can make you think, it can scare you, it can anger you, it can delight and amuse you."

The tenth anniversary edition of Erotica contains 28 new contributions, plus the top five readers' favorites from past editions, and interview bits with many previous contributors. The anthology has an enormous range and nearly all preferences, curiosities and fancies are tickled. From the sexual revolution of middle-aged Southern country folk, to Courtney Cox's bleached asshole, it serves up a mix of sex, submissive men, s/m, transgender issues and voyeurism. All these components are bathed in a wash of multicultural representation, and imagery both beautiful and ugly. It's an arousing and thought-provoking collection that encourages broader conceptions of sex. It will get people talking, but it will hopefully get them freaking, too. Post-coitus conversation may never be the same again. Susie Bright is filling those dark, cozy moments with something to say. AARON MILES

Susie Bright appears at Powell's City of Books, 1005 W Burnside, Mon Feb 24, 7:30 pm.

get schooled

Reed Arts Week

One advantage to living near a hoity-toity intellectual institution is they have the finances to sponsor cultural events. Sometimes they even open up the doors of their ivory tower to invite people living outside the nerd-herd! A stellar example of this generosity is the annual Reed Arts Week (RAW). This year's theme is "Manufacture," and it's jam-packed with tons of performances, exhibits, and lectures.

Among those making an appearance are The Yes Men, a performance art group protesting consumer culture, as well as the Typing Explosion, a trio of ladies who transform poetic composition into an interactive performance art.

Featured visual arts cover everything from students' projects to photography and blown glass. Patrick Nagati's photos examine the American obsession with nukes, and Leigh Anne Langwell's are created using shadows, light tricks, and her own latex sculptures. Mary Oslund, of Conduit fame, will be presenting her acclaimed choreography pieces and offering a master class for the dancing set. Local filmmaker Andrew Dickson will be on hand to lecture and present a selection from his repertoire.

If all this (mostly free) stimulation gets you exhausted, it's also a fabulous opportunity just to check out the gorgeous campus, feed the ducks, and otherwise cruise for some college tang. MARJORIE SKINNER

Reed College, 3203 SE Woodstock, Feb. 19-23, for a recorded schedule call 777-7590. $10 for Oslund's master class, $15 for dance performance, everything else: free!

listen up

Beats Across the World

Eli Hason has earned his moniker. His DJ/producer name, "Nomadic Noize," comes after six years of traveling outside America; most recently, Hason has been teaching English to children in Japan. As a musician, he combines his loves of travel, music, and "making people smile." On Sun, Feb 23 at Blackbird, Nomadic Noize will spin funky, contemporary dance music with the "Travelers Foundation"--Incredible Kid, Xiao K, DJ Safi.

"It's the idea of getting music in all sorts of different places," explains Hason. "And playing what you don't normally hear. I love old dub redone in a more drum 'n' bass or hiphop style. It's all fun and positive music; I don't want to hear anyone saying how badass they are. I only play music by people I would buy a beer for."

A recent favorite track: "I have this great house remix of 'Electric Avenue,' and if you play it in Japan, they don't get it. But if I play it in America, the whole dancefloor goes off. I like some of the cheese, like a funny dancehall version of 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.' I enjoy turntablism, but to me, it's much more about keeping the party going," he says. JULIANNE SHEPHERD

Blackbird, 3728 NE Sandy, 282-9949, Sun Feb 23, 10 pm, $5.

contest results

Who Loves Ashton Kutcher?

Congratulations to Anna Marie Brown, the winner of Red Light Clothing's "I Love Ashton Kutcher" essay contest! For her winning report, Anna will receive the original couch from the set of That '70s Show (sat upon by Kutcher himself!), a date with a guy that kinda looks like Ashton, and a $300 Red Light shopping spree! And now here is Anna's prize-winning essay.

"Ashton Kutcher and I were in third grade together. Our romance began one fine April Sunday. Ashton was over at my house. Over a half-eaten bag of soap-flavored jelly beans, under a handmade tent of mildly pissed-on doggy blankets pitched atop the mud-laden spring-fresh lawn, our love came into fruition: We almost kissed.

A few days later in school Ashton and I secretly held hands in the reading corner over an intermediate chapter book. Passion was in the air, and an unexplored and powerful lust surged feverishly through our veins.

Shortly thereafter Ashton pooped his pants.

Even as the stink set in and Ashton cried for his mama, it pained me to let go his hand. Later a boy I hated passed me a note, which read:

yor stopid boyfreind is a shit ass.

I was enraged.

However, I devised a plan to avenge my love. It went as follows: I ignored my nemesis until lunchtime, whereupon I snuck up behind him in the cafeteria, and shoved his head into a wall.

My uncommon stealth kept me from being caught. Everyone knew though. In class they all talked. But even as my fragile reputation disintegrated, I was too enamored with a daydream of chiming wedding bells afloat on an Easter-weekend breeze, and Ashton and I, all alone, kissing and eating chocolate. I didn't even notice."

funny books

Portland Comic Book Show

Valentine, the title character of Dan Cooney's comic book, may have a sugar-sweet name and a sexy come-on look, but she will kick your buttinsky. A trained assassin, Valentine storms through the pages of this new comic with more bravado than an Army Ranger and more slithery acrobatics than Alias' Sydney Bristow.

Like many of the new generation of comics, Valentine bustles with enough energy, animation and video-game intensity that sparks almost fly off the page. A former illustrator at Marvel, Cooney launched his own company (Red Eye Press) and the Valentine series a year ago. On Saturday, Cooney will join a dozen other top comic book illustrators, writers and inkers at the perennial Portland Comic Book Show.

Of course, there will be the requisite card swapping, Star Trek memorabilia and wall-to-wall geeks, but it's this new wave of shadowy and sordidly sexy comic books that is redefining the genre. PHIL BUSSE

Memorial Coliseum at the Rose Quarter, 788-1031, Sun Feb 23, 10 am- 5 pm, $6