Designer Baby Names

NOW

~ Omg, these are soooo funny! You guys are gonna be such great parents. ~

Qwerty: It’s just, you know, we live in technological times, and I feel– I’m sorry, we feel that our child should express that.

Schlitz: Ha ha! Schlitz is so fucking gross! I mean, as a drink. As a baby name, it’s fucking tits!

Danzig Cleopatra: We think the name adequately symbolizes man’s constant diametric struggle between fighting and fucking in modern cultural power dynamics…What? Oh, it’s a girl.

Qbert: Remember Qbert? We totally want our kid to remember Qbert. It’s just so playful, and he should never forget his sense of play.

Boring: We’re planning on her name being ironic.

Humbert Humbert: This baby is going to get me so much librarian pussy.

Q: I just think people overthink the whole name thing, and I want my kid to really stand out. Also, I mean, James Bond, right?

35 YEARS LATER

~ Kids say the darnedest things… ~

Qwerty: I just go by Q. I got really into computers when I was 13, and I really wish I didn’t, because I…(sigh)…I hate working in the I.T. industry.

Schlitz: I’ve been married three times.

Danzig Cleopatra: I feel my name adequately symbolizes man’s constant diametric struggle between fighting and fucking in modern cultural power dynamics… Excuse me? That’s an extremely rude question.

Qbert: I just go by Q. I dunno, I think my folks thought I’d be like 10 years old forever, which would make them like, I dunno, 40 forever or something. Because they got really stressed with finances when I was in high school, and my dad only wanted me to be in jazz band, and I just don’t like jazz music that much, but… I’m sorry, I know that stuff I just said is kind of irrelevant, but I just found out they could have put away money, like, good money for my college, but just didn’t, and who knows why. And I’ve been carrying this debt, and, so, it’s kind of, I’m kind of thinking about all this stuff, and… anyway, I don’t really talk to them too much anymore. I get the sense I make them feel old now, but that could be just my take-away from it.

Boring: Yeah, it’s cool. Yeah. Sure.

Humbert Humbert: First off, I fucking hate that book. I just want to say that, fucking first and foremost. I know people think it’s a classic, and beautiful, because I’ve heard it my whole fucking life, but, personally, I think it’s disgusting and puerile and just flat-out immoral. I mean, the guy sleeps with children! And no, before you ask, it’s not funny, I do not sleep with children, okay? Just, don’t even ask. And I’ve had this, like, literary discussion with almost everyone I know, so, no, there is no arguing me out of it… On the plus side, I do get a fair amount of librarian pussy.

Q: Of course I go by Q. Why wouldn’t I? It’s my name. What do you want me to go by, “sheep” or something? You’d probably like that. You and my ex-husband, and my kids… No, no one gets the James Bond reference. They wouldn’t anyway, since I’m a girl.

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Published in: on January 10, 2011 at 1:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Roman Polanski is a rapist; or, why Chinatown doesn’t matter

Roman Polanski is a child rapist. And Michael Vick killed dogs for pleasure. These are the facts, and they are undisputed.

Shame – SHAME – on anyone who defends those actions.

This doesn’t mean Polanski hasn’t gone through incredible, unspeakable horror and trauma in his life. Born in Paris in 1933, he and his ethnically Jewish but religiously agnostic parents moved to Krakow in 1939, only to be quarantined to ghettos by the ensuing Nazi invasion. Although Roman was able to escape the ghetto in 1943, his parents were not so lucky. His father was sent to the Mauthausen death camp and fought to survive through it, reuniting with Roman shortly after the war. His mother was sent to Auschwitz and was murdered.  The swelling ideology that overtook a nation and turned otherwise moral but weak minds into monsters has yet to leave our world; Mrs. Polanski’s murderers are reborn every day, and her son will never escape that.

As if this karmic punishment weren’t enough, Polanski also had to suffer through the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, and unborn son. Polanski met Tate while filming The Fearless Vampire Killers back in 1967, and while neither apparently thought much of the other when they first began working together, by the completion of the film they were romantically living together in London. According to many, the relationship was a passionate one that gave Polanski some of the joy he most certainly lost during the holocaust. Of course, all that would change when, in 1969, while Polanski was abroad prepping a film, members of the Charles Manson cult entered the unlocked house Tate and Polanski shared in Bel Aire and ritualistically murdered Tate, her three friends, an unwitting visitor, and the unborn son that had rested 8 months in Tate’s womb. According to police reports and Tate’s murderer, Susan Atkins, not only was Tate stabbed 16 times while pleading for mercy, no less than 5 of those stab wounds alone were fatal. Polanski’s loss was magnified when a predatory press began to speculate, prior to the arrest of the Manson cult members, that Polanski’s hit film Rosemary’s Baby clearly pointed to strange satanist rituals and orgies the couple would host behind closed doors. Of course, the press was sure these self-inflicted practices were to blame for Tate’s death. Of course, these allegations were completely unfounded and debased by the arrests.

No one, not even a least-favored enemy, should have to be dragged through one of these horrific episodes, much less both. It’s too much to fathom. This kind of history can’t help but leave wounds too deep to remove, too wide to sew shut. Too rooted in the image of the feminine to be forgotten.

And yet, Roman Polanski is a child rapist. And Michael Vick killed dogs for pleasure.

According to court transcripts, on March 10, 1977, Roman Polanski picked up 13-year-old Samantha Gailey (now Geimer) for a picture shoot commissioned by French Vogue Magazine and centered around teenage female models. This was not the first time Polanski had photographed Gailey; little over two weeks prior, they had one previous session together on a hill by Gailey’s house, during which Polanski persuaded Gailey to remove her shirt for topless photos. According to later statements, most immediately seen in the 2008 documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, Geimer recalled how she was thrilled to work with the great Roman Polanski, by this time the world famous director of the modern classic Chinatown. However, let us put aside reflections upon the incident and return to the court-recorded account of the incident. Polanski first picked up Gailey from her house in the late afternoon, took her to an unidentified house for one round of photographs, but with about 5 people residing on that property decided to retreat to Jack Nicholson’s home just down the street on Mulholland. There, Polanski and Gailey encountered one dark-haired woman (unnamed but suspected to be Anjelica Houston, Nicholson’s girlfriend at the time). Polanski spoke to the dark-haired woman, then retrieved a bottle of champagne from the refrigerator, asking the 13-year-old Gailey whether he should open it or not. She said she didn’t care. He opened the bottle, poured three glasses. The dark-haired woman drank half her glass, then left for work. Polanski began to photograph Gailey with the champagne glass in hand, periodically refilling it to the point where Gailey could not remember how much she finally had. At this point, Polanski had again convinced her into topless photos.

Polanski then asked Gailey to continue posing in the outdoor jacuzzi. Before they stepped outside, Gailey placed a call to her mother, during which Polanski assumed the phone and assured the mother that she did not need to come pick up her daughter, that Polanksi would provide her with a ride home. Gailey then retreated to the bathroom, where Polanski joined her, presenting a pill split in three parts. Similar to the interaction involving the champagne, Polanski asked her if it was a Quaalude. She said yes. She had seen a couple before, and had experimented with one roughly about 2 or 3 years prior. He asked if he’d be able to drive if he took one. She didn’t know. He asked if he should take it. She didn’t know. He decided to take one. He asked if she wanted one. She said okay. She later said to authorities that she wouldn’t have taken one if she weren’t as drunk on champagne as she was.

Gailey, lacking a bathing suit and not wanting to get her dress wet, decided to go into the jacuzzi in her underwear. Not having a bra with her, this meant panties only. Polanski persuaded her to take the panties off as well. Gailey complied, later testifying to her fear of him. Polanski snapped a series of pictures, then retreated to the house, then returned without clothes, then joined her in the jacuzzi. Gailey became uncomfortable, and expressed her desire to leave the jacuzzi. Polanski beckoned her to join him at his end. She resisted, even saying her asthma was acting up when, in truth, she was not and had never before suffered from asthma. She simply wanted an excuse to get out. His persistence brought her over, but feeling uncomfortable as he ran his hands along the sides of her waist, she finally pulled herself out of the water and into a towel. Polanski retreated to the pool, beckoned her in, and to satisfy his request, she dove in and swam one length of the pool – again, both are completely naked – before getting out and back into the towel.

Gailey returned to bathroom to dry off and put her panties back on. Polanski joined her, concerned about her asthma. She asked to be driven home immediately. He said he would take her shortly. First, he wanted her to join him in the bedroom. With no other way home, she obliged him, sitting on a couch in the bedroom. Polanski joined her there. He asked if she was okay. She said she wanted to go home. He said she would feel better. He then started kissing her. She said no, but being afraid and intoxicated, she was not violent about it. He assured her he would take her home soon, then he removed the towel around her torso, then her panties, and began giving her oral sex. She again said no, but he did not stop. He then put his penis in her vagina and began having intercourse with her, during which he asked first if she was on the pill – no – and when she had her last period – two or three weeks prior. He said that he wouldn’t ejaculate inside her, then asked if she would prefer him to go through her anus. She said no. Despite her answer, he lifted her legs and put his penis in her anus. In speaking to authorities, she did not resist much because she was still afraid of him.

At this time, the dark-haired woman knocked on the door and asked if Polanski was in there. Polanski retreated to the door, cracked it an inch while he spoke with the woman, allowing Gailey to put her panties back on and walk toward the door. Polanski walked her back to the bed and, pulling her panties down, resumed anal intercourse with her up through his climax. Semen was left on her backside and in her panties. She pulled the panties back on, entered the bathroom, re-dressed herself, combed her hair, walked down the hall, said hello to the dark-haired woman lounging in the living room, left the house, and entered the car, waiting for Polanski to join her and drive her home.

These are the facts, and they are undisputed.

So Roman Polanski is a child rapist. And Michael Vick murdered dogs for pleasure.

Roman Polanski went through hell and back twice in his lifetime to be one of the finest directors the film industry has ever known. Rosemary’s Baby, Repulsion, Chinatown, these films are some of my favorites, and will continue to be considered as such. Chinatown will never come down from my shelf except to either load into my DVD player or loan out to those unexposed to its brilliance. But his talents do not nor should not cloud the fact that he used the privileges of his race, gender, age and artistic status to unduly manipulate a mentally-developing minor into a sexual act in which she did not want to engage. This makes him a rapist, pure and simple. This is not a question of morals, or even of a liberated European colliding against American Puritanism (and even if it was, the two cultures are incomparable: a 13-year-old French girl will have a vastly different emotional maturity than a 13-year-old American, and our respective laws must reflect that). Perhaps that argument might have held water if the act was consensual. But it was not. It was rape by any definition of the word.

For this act, Polanski first pleaded innocent to all six charges:

1) furnishing drugs to a minor;
2) lewd or lascivious acts to a child under 14 years of age;
3) unlawful sexual intercourse;
4) rape by use of drugs;
5) perversion;
6) sodomy.

The plea held until the undeniably incriminating evidence of the panties surfaced. This not only makes him a rapist but a liar as well. So at this point, he accepted a plea deal as set forth by Gailey’s attorney and agreed upon by the prosecution that saw Polanski cop to the weakest of the 6: unlawful sexual intercourse. (That sodomy was ranked a more punishable crime than statutory rape is somewhat disturbing, but at least it is no longer a crime at all.) Unfortunately, from here on out, the presiding judge, the now infamous Laurence J. Rittenband, completely boggled the case with his strange, disturbing, and illegal theatrics meant to sway the swarm of publicity into his personal favor. However, all that said, Rittenband still only wanted Polanski to serve 90 days in Chino State Prison for his mandatory psych evaluation. If Rittenband was to be trusted, and this is debatable, he would not have sentenced Polanski to any more jail time. However, because Chino let him out after a mere 42 days of evaluation (according to the prosecuting attorney in the case, although nobody serves the full 90 days, nobody only serves 42), Rittenband did not want to look the fool in the eyes of the press-filtered public, and told both sets of attorneys that he would sentence Polanski to a lengthier jail sentence but repeal the sentence after the first 48 days were served, thereby bringing the total days of incarceration up to 90. Upon hearing the judge’s intention, Polanski did not want to risk a multi-year sentence subject to Rittenband’s fluctuating moods, so he drove to LAX, booked a one-way ticket to London, and never came back. Now we add “flight from justice” to the charges against him.

He loses his mother to a holocaust institutionalized by murderous lunatics. He becomes a successful and respected film director. He loses his wife and unborn child to a cult of murderous lunatics. He continues to gain great acclaim in his artistic career. He rapes a 13-year-old girl. He flees to Europe for 31 years. And now he is caught again in Switzerland, hoping to attend the Zurich Film Festival to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. Instead, he sits in a jail cell, awaiting extradition to the United States for further legal action.

And the film community writes a petition for his release with no less than 110 names attached to them. Names like Martin Scorsese. Tilda Swinton. Darren Aronofsky. Debra Winger. Alexander Payne. Film artists I have both enjoyed and, more important and rare, respected.

Roman Polanski is an artist. A survivor of intense trauma. And he is a rapist. He raped a 13-year-old girl.

Never have I been more sickened to be a member of the film community.

Martin Scorsese I sadly understand, because his love of film and the film community surely must have blinded him from the facts of the case. But Tilda Swinton? Debra Winger? These women are supposed to be feminists. They are supposed to stand up for the rights of women all over the world. And here they are, defending a rapist. More than that, an admitted rapist. Why? Because the case is 30 years old. Because the victim, Samantha Geimer, has called for the charges to be dropped. Because film festivals must be international safe havens for artists.

All of these excuses are bullshit. Why?

Because Polanski did not stand to receive his punishment for the crimes he committed 30 years ago and must do so now. Knowing full well what the sentence could be when he made his plea bargain, his fleeing was not one of evading persecution but of cowardice.

Because if we listened to the forgiving pleas of every victim, then nearly every abusive husband would walk free.

Because film festivals must be safe havens for the work of filmmakers, not necessarily the filmmakers themselves. And last time I checked, Polanski wasn’t exactly a censured individual. I can still check out virtually any film of his readily available on DVD. It is also worth mentioning that he certainly hasn’t had a lack of work in the past 30 years, especially considering his 2002 Oscar for directing The Pianist.

Because Michael Vick killed dogs for his pleasure. And no one came to defend him based on his athletic achievements or checkered past when his court date arrived.

And yet, Michael Vick is still allowed to play football in the NFL, currently on the roster for the Philadelphia Eagles. Personally, I found this surprising. Not because I don’t think the man deserves to play. Simply because I didn’t think there would be a team who would want him or a fan base who would support him. I was wrong on both counts. And maybe I should have been. After all, he is a good player. But do we separate the man from his achievements? Where do we draw that line?

There are many differences between Michael Vick and Roman Polanski, but the most striking one to me is not the contrast in their race or class or profession. The main difference to me is that Michael Vick served his time. He stood for sentencing and went to prison for an act we as a culture deem reprehensible and destructive. And I must have a relative respect for that.

Where are the film artists who will hold Polanski responsible for his actions? Admitting his guilt does not hand-in-hand lead to indicting his body of  work, particularly because he does not play out these pedophiliac fantasies in his films. But to defend him with regards to his art is to say that the benefit he brings to society outweighs the destruction he has wrought as a rapist. If one were to look myopically at the individual achievements, that person might foolishly argue such a point. But to do so would overlook the role of rape in this – or any – culture. To do so would be to support the dominant male hegemony dependent on using rape as a power-check for women. If this were a murder case, there would be no question of Polansi’s guilt; we all understand the destructive nature of murder. But because so often girls are “asking” for it – after all, you see the way they dress. If they didn’t want it, they wouldn’t be so provocative, right? Besides, they probably like it when it happens anyway, they just won’t admit it because they’re too frigid. And where was her mother in all this? Oh yeah, and it involved sex, drugs, and cameras, and that’s just what happens sometimes.

So people are asking to overlook it. They are asking to overlook the inherent misogyny of the case, the way it tells women that not only are they partly to blame but that it’s basically okay to get raped by an artist as long as he’s a good artist. (For certainly, if this were someone less artistically respected, say, Michael Bay, would there be the same cultural outcry for his release?) Forget the fact that each of these “arguments” completely leaves out the fact that a crime was committed by a perpetrator. The girl didn’t ask for it, the mom wasn’t the person who broke the law, and artists do not live in another moral universe. There is a mythology to the struggling artist that includes emotional turmoil/torture that can only lead to alcoholic binges, misogynist tendencies, and bursts of sheer creative brilliance. Many look to this as an excuse for the artist in ways they do not with other types of people, particularly athletes. Particularly athletes of color.

In the aforementioned documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, a friend of Polanski’s asserted that Polanski was the perfect bogeyman for the press: he was short, he was dark haired, he had a thick accent. He was a perfect embodiment of the “other”. And if he wasn’t those things, then the trial would have gone much differently.

He’s not incorrect about that. If Polanski wasn’t small and foreign but poor and black, he’d be in jail to this day and we would never have heard about it, much less enjoyed a revered documentary about him. But something tells me that’s not what the friend was getting at.

Polanski was able to get away because he had money to immediately buy a transatlantic plane ticket. Because he had professional connections that would allow him continued work and income. Because he had status as an artist and knew he would be forgiven by the artistic community, and maybe even the culture at large. Hell, even his victim has forgiven him, and I am impressed with her courage to do so.

But personally, for me, I have not forgiven him, for he has not served his time. He has used his wealth and status as a shield from justice, just as many have before him, and many will continue to do.

And Michael Vick killed dogs for his pleasure. And served his time. And now plays football for the Philadelphia Eagles. And we can now decide whether we care to patron him and his team.

As for me, well, I don’t really like football in general, so I probably won’t be watching. But some people will, and bully for them. In the meantime, I may kick back and watch Chinatown for the 20th time.

the amorality of the internet

SCENE 1: A beautiful hotel room on Lake Cuomo, Italy. The drapes hanging around the four poster bed gently sway in the light breeze that waltzes through the open balcony doors leading to the wrought-iron railing overlooking the setting sun that dances on the water. Rose petals napping on the lush oriental rug leading up to the door are suddenly awoken when MARCO and FRANCESCA, both in their early 30’s, burst into the room, kissing and pawing at each other with such ferocity that it is difficult to tell where the man ends and the woman begins. Marco runs his fingers through Francesca’s curly black hair, then with the attention span of a gazelle, he pushes his palms down around the base of her spine, clawing the loose sundress higher up the back of her thigh. Francesca frantically separates the buttons of Marco’s shirt, thrusting her hands past the thinly haired chest, in between the blue polyester and his muscular ribs, and pulls him tight enough to push her breasts up north of her sternum.

Oh yeah, and they close the door behind them.

Marco nibbles on Francesca’s ear, giving her just enough time to glance down at the rose petals below her feet.

(note: all dialogue has been translated from the original Italian romance novel.)

FRANCESCA: Oh my God. Did you do this?

MARCO: (in between nibbles) Of course. Who else would it be?

She runs a hand at the nape of his neck, tries to take all of him in with her smile.

MARCO: It’s our anniversary. I had to do something special.

FRANCESCA: You already are special. Now take me to the bed.

Marco picks her up, floats her the eight feet before landing her on the white down comforter. He pulls off his shirt, lies next to her, his chest glistening from the sweat of carrying her. She pulls her dress high, reveals the slightly less olive complexion of her upper thigh.

MARCO: My God, Francesca. I don’t know how you do it, but this is the most beautiful you have ever looked.

FRANCESCA: You’re just in love. Wait until you see me when I’m 60.

He laughs, then nuzzles her, until they kiss again, tongues flicking against lips, Marco’s hand slipping up under her dress towards her breasts. She gasps, stretches her neck for him to suck on.

FRANCESCA: I want this to last forever.

Marco pauses mid-hickey. And with a devilish smirk, he spins off the bed, dives into his suitcase, and finally emerges with a small digital camera.

MARCO: It can.

FRANCESCA: (through a giggle) For your private collection, Mr. Hefner?

MARCO: For our private collection. Who do you think I am?

He takes a picture. She laughs at first, but then…

FRANCESCA: Close the doors.

Marco savors the flicker in her eyes before gently pushing the balcony doors closed, shutting out nature’s soundtrack. The room suddenly becomes eerily quiet, but the silence quickly transforms from ominous to secretive, almost playfully dangerous, as Francesca relaxes into coyly seductive poses with each subsequent snap. Then her panties slide down her shins, leaving in their wake a soft strip of hair above a thin pair of lips. The dress is the next casualty. Finally, her bra finds a more comfortable home on the floor, leaving her just as the all-knowing, all-loving God intended her to be. And Marco keeps snapping with the camera, inching closer and closer with every new pose from his beloved, until he is on top of her…

And the draperies resume their rustling, this time without the help of the lake breeze.

SCENE 2: Marco’s apartment. It’s small, might be considered a studio except the kitchen is separated and the bathroom is made of real granite. There are hardwood floors underneath the Murphy bed– until Marco violently throws the bed up into the wall.

The room isn’t the only thing that shudders from the impact; Francesca allows a small cry, then rushes for her purse from the computer desk in the corner. Marco is immediately remorseful.

MARCO: I’m sorry. Please don’t leave.

FRANCESCA: You’re acting like a child.

MARCO: I’m sorry I got angry. What do you expect from me!

FRANCESCA: To handle this like an adult! Things happen. No one intends them to.

MARCO: Don’t act like you’re some anonymous victim of fate. You chased him! You seduced him!

FRANCESCA: I was following my feelings!

MARCO: You were following his dick! Go on, go back to your new man! Get out! I never want to see you again!

FRANCESCA: And you won’t!

And like all good endings to infidelities, she slams the door behind her. Marco collapses into the chair at the computer desk, buries his head in his hands, and accidentally knocks the wireless mouse onto the floor. The monitor blinks awake at the commotion, wide-eyed with a desktop picture of Marco and Francesca standing arm in arm on the hotel balcony, the litheness of her dress frozen in the lake breeze. Marco can’t bare to look at it.

SCENE 3: Ryan’s office. A little bungalow in Hollywood that’s been converted to an even littler work space. The day is winding down, and the sun has dipped low enough to disappear from the nearby window, leaving the room in a kind of artificial limbo between daylight and twilight – save for the glow of the macbook in front of RYAN, an ethically upstanding 29-year-old who has never intentionally insulted anyone to their face, always argued for the equality of all citizens, and recently authored this blog.

(NOTE: Ryan does not speak Italian. Well, he kinda does, because he did a semester there as an undergrad, but that was years ago, so now he only speaks it in his dreams and is constantly surprised by how fluent he is. If only he could make dreams realities! Anyway, he’s speaking English here, so no translations.)

RYAN: Fuck, I hate macs.

Just as he mutters this minor opinion, an email pops into his personal inbox from good friend DAVE, also an ethically upstanding citizen of 29 years: “Dude, check out these two websites. Fucking hilarious…”

Ryan clicks on the first one – “Look at this fucking hipster“. Picture after picture of disgusting hipsters with wry, satirical captions that address the emptiness of the hipster aesthetic. Having just recently written a blog article denouncing the hipster’s fashion stache as a poor cover-up of socio-economic guilt, Ryan laughs triumphantly at this wealth of portraits that so accurately and acutely display said phenomenon.

RYAN: Dude, this shit is priceless. (re: a picture of a shithead wearing glasses with pull down “shades” – get it?) Yeah, that guy is such a fuck. Alright, so what’s this other one Dave sent?

Ryan then clicks on the second one – “Guess her muff”. (note: notice the lack of link.) On this particular website, he finds also a litany of pictures, not of disgusting hipster scum, but rather of women of various shapes, sizes, ages, races and assumed socio-economic backgrounds. More often than not, these women are under 40 years of age, and typically alone in the picture, though there is the occasional snap of a woman flanked by a few friends, perhaps some family members, or even the blacked-out face of a man who is only assumed to be her one-time boyfriend. The chances of this anonymous man being her one-time and not current boyfriend are exceptionally high considering, as the site suggests, the visitor is then asked, “Do you think you can guess how a babe keeps her muff based on her how (sic) she dresses? Does your co-worker’s carpet match the drapes? Is that geeky girl in your class secretly a sex kitten who shaves her twat bald? The answers might surprise you…”

RYAN: What the shit is this?

He finds the first picture, subtitled “Girl #249”: a candid portrait of a woman of perhaps Pacific Islander descent, dressed in what appears to be a prom dress. She stands in a living room with wood paneling and a brick fireplace surrounded by framed Sears family portraits. Her mouth hesitates between neutral and what must be the requested smile for the camera.

Under the picture lies the link, “See the answer [here]”.

RYAN: Alright.

Ryan clicks on the link, and is immediately redirected to a new browser tab with a full sized picture of the woman in question, this time standing in front of a closed closet door by an apartment kitchen, wearing only an unbuttoned, long sleeved canvas shirt that barely covers her breasts but certainly does not cover anything else, including and most specifically her cleanly shaven vagina (with a tattoo that reads “lick me” imprinted just above it).

RYAN: Whoa!

Blushing, Ryan rushes the mouse cursor up to the little round “x” of this new browser tab and immediately finds himself back staring face to face with that halfway smile and the dress that he immediately reconsiders to be a bridesmaid’s gown.

RYAN: Well, that was unexpected.

But he realizes that he is not just referring to the shocking nature of the site, but also in regards to the central query the site posits. Seriously, would he ever have guessed that this seemingly innocent, sweet-natured girl – no, no, WOMAN – might sheer her down-there to her barest self, much less have a Lewis Carrol-like demand inked into that flesh? What kind of muff was he considering this woman to have?

RYAN: Huh.

He clicks on the next one – “Girl #247”. (He soon finds, through the FAQ section, that the lack of “Girl #248” is attributed to the fact that “this site isn’t here to make anybody look bad. If you are the owner of an image show (sic) here and would like it to be removed, please leave a message in the comment section of the post in question and it will be removed.”) Girl #247 is a blonde, sitting with a sly, below-the-eyebrows look in what appears to be a tropical hotel.

RYAN: Hmm… Looks kinda saucy. Maybe dirty. I’m gonna say tuft of peach fuzz.

A click on the “see the answer [here]” link reveals the woman lying back in a bed, her dress bunched from both directions around her mid-section, her legs casually spread eagle, one dangling off the edge of the mattress, revealing, once again, a cleanly shaven vaj.

RYAN: Oh!!! Man, no way!

With not much else to do at work, Ryan suddenly finds the game interesting, clicking on woman after woman, trying to guess through the look in the eyes, the nationality, the assumed class, the weight, the appearance of tattoos (or lack thereof), the hair color, etc., what shape that pubic bush is gonna be.

RYAN: Okay, so I guess the less attractive a woman is, the more of a chance she’s gonna be completely shaven.

This proves true more often than not – perhaps because a woman who appears below the standard of beauty feels she must control any part of her body she can to ascribe to that aforementioned standard – but it should come as no surprise that this line of thinking does not lead to the contrapositive; of course, the women who more holistically strive toward the porn star look complete the role with their visually nubile pussies. Ryan quickly discovers that the most difficult women to predict are those that fall in the 5-8 range of the 1-10 scale. And that is where the game becomes interesting. Some he thinks would be fairly bushy have slimmed down to the landing strip. Some he supposes to have cultivated a small tuft end up surprising with a broad but tightly trimmed box. And some he assumes would be a triangle deliver exactly that. Oh, what a way to burn the final hour of work, by looking at candid pictures of real naked women!

RYAN: Hmmm…

But then the pangs of guilt start settling in. And for the record, none of this guilt has to do with the appropriateness of observing nudity in the workplace – theoretically, he could kill a pregnant hooker on his desk and none of his coworkers would bat much of an eye, being too consumed with raping corpses as they are. No, the gnawing pit creeping up from his stomach and bouncing against his diaphragm is born of the fact that no one, not a single soul outside of the subject and her photographer, should be looking at these pictures. Clearly, none – or at least the overwhelming bulk – of these women ever expected to be the subject of ridicule and/or lechery, never devised to be amateur internet porn stars subject to user comments like, “Blech. Saggy tits and chunky thighs. And would it kill her ass to smile? Boring and plain,” or, “Yeah. I’d fuck her six ways to Sunday. She’d be walking bowlegged for 2 weeks afterwards.” And clearly never once did they imagine that this snapshot, which was surely assumed only to make a one-stop trip from their lover’s 8 gig sandisk to the secret folder buried deep in his laptop entitled “letters from grandma 2004”, to be the fodder of a game, much less a fucking blog. These are moments of intimacy, taken with the bravado that only occurs when one feels safest at their most vulnerable. These are records of one human being sharing more than just her body with another person. Within these freeze frames lies a trust that should never be broken no matter what the impetus, a vulnerability that should never be ridiculed or ignored, and a sense of imbalanced power through voyeurism that should never be indulged. Not to mention the obviously objectifying dehumanization inherent in this type of voyeurism, inviting its audience to extricate personality from the photographic subjects and instead whittle her social, cultural, even interpersonal value down to the cut of her pubic jib. How can someone feel so heartless, so immoral as to solicit and post these pictures in such a cavalier way? And how can someone patronize such a website, validating its existence simply by clicking on the links?

RYAN: Eeehhhhhh…

Ryan moves the cursor back to the circled “x” of the website’s tab, hovering his thumb just above that goddamn Macbook’s giant singular mouse button…

But he doesn’t click off. After all, he doesn’t know anything about the guy who runs this website (assuming it’s a guy). In fact, he knows so little about the mind(s) behind the wizard’s curtain, the site might as well have been manifested by the internet itself. Besides, there are pictures of naked women here. And Ryan’s reptilian cortex does enjoy processing pictures of naked women. Or at least, it enjoys processing them anonymously. For who’s to ever know that Ryan Meyer, male caucasian age 29 brown hair green eyes glasses 182 pounds 5’9″, was a passing visitor? Certainly there are computer whizzes who could find the IP address or something more computer complicated that would correctly identify the wake of his websurfing path and compromise his moral ambiguity on the matter. But the chances of Steve Wozniak ever walking into this office and doing a quick “command-find” search are none-to-noner. As long as he keeps this secret to himself, leaves no trace of a user name on the site, conveniently omits this episode from his daily “how was work?” soap opera, not to mention the browser history, without a witness to testify as to the occurrence, then it may as well have never happened. Furthermore, if no one is there to shame him, to prod awake this inherent sense of guilt in him, then who’s to say that there even should be a sense of shame? Who’s to say what’s right and wrong, what’s moral and immoral? Who shall say any of this?

RYAN: (sigh) 10 minutes til 6. Just a couple more.

Ryan finds “Girl #242”. The “Safe For Work” picture is of a dark-haired beauty standing on a beautiful hotel balcony, her dress frozen from the lake breezing in from the background, her arm wrapped around the waist of her black-dot anonymous ex-boyfriend, who truthfully looks like a piece of Eurotrash anyway, judging from the plunging neckline of his blue polyester shirt. As Ryan hovers the cursor over the “see answer [here]”…

RYAN: Landing strip.

Published in: on May 5, 2009 at 1:00 am  Comments (2)  
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Le Moustache

Over the past two months or so, I’ve been trying to figure out how the mustache became such a cultural gag. It seems like you can’t crack a magazine or flick on a TV show without stumbling into a wry aside, a visual pun, or an overzealous boast about the whiskers that are still most frequently sheared from a man’s upper lip. Not three months ago, the New York Times – as in the “All the news that’s fit to print” New York Times – printed an article about the stache’s resurgence. Hell, even last baseball season NY Yankee Jason Giambi grew a rally ‘stache that allegedly gave him supernatural powers to hit home runs. Makes you think that maybe the only reason Dumbo didn’t spirit glue his magic feather under his nose was because of the constant risk of sneezing.

The mustache. It's how they got an elephant to fly.

The mustache. It's how they got an elephant to fly.

This social curiosity has been on my radar recently for 2 reasons. The first and most personal (and perhaps least relevant) is the fact that my friends and I have been cracking mustache jokes since, yeah, I’ll say it, before mustache jokes were cool. It dates back to 2004, when, at the conclusion of a grad school writing class, my friend ended his screenplay about a stand-up comic with what he considered to be the throw-away joke, “And all I learned from the whole ordeal is never trust a man with a mustache.” The laughter in the room rippled throughout, but it wasn’t until long after the class dispersed that the truth behind why we were laughing slowly began to pool over our collective unconscious. “Yeah, what is up with the mustache?” “Why on earth does anyone think they look good with a mustache?” “Don’t truckers, low-lifes, and middle-aged Republican dads love mustaches?” Just the word – mustache – and its alternative spelling – moustache – sound ridiculous, with the goofy moo to start, then capping it all off with the squishy stache. It’s like you can’t help but flash your eyes wide, make a monkey face and twirl invisible whiskers when you say it.

Soon, the mirth derived from deriding the mustache bonded many of the male students of the class, with riffs like: “Oh, check that guy out. You know everything you need to know about him. He’s a liar and a thief with no God and no country.” Alright, we thought it was funny, especially as we continued to fine tune our dedication to the high art of alcoholism. But imagine, simply imagine our surprse when, of all places, SportsCenter cracked a joke sometime in 2k5 that went something like, A: “Uh-oh. He’s got a stache. You know what that means.” B: “Yup. Not a fair fight.” Egads, man! Had someone from the holiest of sports news programs been secretly wiretapping our drunken snark fests? Could we have a rat in our midst? (Personally, I thought it was Cramer.) Surely, these former comics cum sports anchors could not have found the mustache humorous of ther own observation… could they?

Alas, they had. And they were not the only ones. Mustache jokes popped up on websites, in magazines, in Will Ferrel movies. Entertainment Weekly did a top 10 movie mustaches (I’m pretty sure Tom Selleck from Quigley Down Under was in the top 5). The cool kids from Silverlake, Brooklyn, and North Oakland had developed something dubbed the “fashion stache”. Suddenly, a hairy lip was so funny, it was hip to show that you were physically in on the joke. And it appeared that Cramer was off the hook.

portrait of the blogger with a mustache. It should be noted that the stache was shorn after a painstaking 3 hours of looking like a criminal.

portrait of the blogger with a mustache. It should be noted that the stache was shorn after a painstaking 3 hours of looking like a criminal in my own home.

At first, we rejoiced in the sudden zeitgeist we appeared to have started. But then it became too much, like the kid who tries too hard to be liked, then says one joke that for once makes all his friends legitimately laugh, then proceeds to make that his only go-to joke for the next 10 months in his struggling desire to recapture that one moment of glory and acceptance. Sad, I know. But despite our sympathies for the little twerp, we couldn’t help but get sick of how much the mustache kept sprouting up in casual conversation… and how much it was being enjoyed by everyone else. See, the other half of our disdain was that the mustache was our joke, but now it seemed Mz. Stache had suddenly realized, with this new found confidence and attention, that she was way too pretty to spend four nights of the week with us and us alone. Damn, payback’s a whore.

But I could live with the ESPN guys. I could accept the top 10 lists. I could even look the other way while Will Ferrel cooed over my adulterous lover. But what I couldn’t suffer, what I still cannot suffer, is the hipster and his fucking fashion stache. (If you’re still counting, this is reason #2). Now, if you will – and you better – allow me to tell you why.

Hairy hipster scum.

Hairy hipster scum.

To get all fundamental up in this bitch, it is important to realize that, more so than any other facial hair configuration, the mustache is a clear and decisive choice. To explain through contrast: the beard in all its forms, while perhaps also considered a choice, can ultimately be chalked up to/rationalized by a) laziness (“What if I don’t have the $7 to buy new razors, Mom?”), b) need for warmth (“It’s not for me, doc. My wife here is the one with chapped cheeks.”), or c) a clear signifier of the owner’s ascendancy to, or even through, sexual maturity (“M4M – bears only”). Facial hair is one of the many, but perhaps the most visibly striking, signs of a man’s ability to start making babies. Furthermore, a man may shape or groom his beard into different forms to ascribe to a particular cultural aesthetic, but ultimately the ratio of exposed skin to beard will always heavily favor the latter.

Not so with the mustache. The upkeep to maintain the solitude of the stache seems inordinate to the benefits detailed above. Certainly, no one keeps a mustache due to a lack of motivation/finances to shave. Nor can it provide a commensurate amount of facial warmth to effort of upkeep. And the mustache as a sign of virility ultimately seems, in evolutionary terms, less potent than a full, manly beard. And yet, in regards to this last point, we have the porn stache. So how does something like that happen?

Now, should you read any further, I must qualify the following as mere conjecture, completely unsupported by any historical or empirical evidence found anywhere outside my own observations. But you don’t come to the blogosphere for facts, do you? Anyway, to continue, my guess is that the stache was once considered a sign of higher class living simply because it displayed how its possessor had both the means and education for self grooming. Indeed, just one look at any oil-on-canvass portrait of a French aristocrat in any given museum will tell you that the wealthiest subjects always seem to be those with the largest and most ornately waxed mustaches. Only in barbarian England do the kings have full bloody beards, while the cultured Gauls relish their curly-q’ed whiskers.

Of course, with any class conscious society, whether it be monarchical or capitalist, the lower classes will do their utmost to emulate their economic superiors in hopes of at least appearing of a higher stature. Consequently, what was once considered a mark of high breeding inevitably becomes a trope of the woefully downtrodden. Consider, for example the place of the mustache in American society not 5 years ago: either as a sign of authority (cops, upper management, Republican dads) or white trash (truckers, porn stars, thieves and liars).

It’s this second grouping that I believe appeals to the hipters found in the more metropolitan cities of our great nation. Consider the hipster aesthetic overall – second-hand clothing, mopeds, poor neighborhoods that consequently become slowly gentrified. All signs of poverty. It’s no secret or surprise that the bulk of hipsters, or to be more kind to individuals, the hipster aesthetic, with its fetishization of poverty, fringe cultural trivia, and “irony”, is born from a leisure class afforded by wealth. How else could the hipster community afford the time to seek out the most obscure music (“What, you’ve never heard of Nouvelle Vague? They’re only saving the music world from the capitalist bubble-gum bullshit.”) or the edgiest beat poet (“What, you’ve never heard of Ruth Forman? She’s only saving the poetry world from the capitalist bubble-gum bullshit.”) if they couldn’t, well, afford the time to do those things?** Furthermore, this fetishization of information and taste begets a cultural capital that is more valuable than money – taste is, after all, centered around social class signifiers such as the intangible ability to appreciate particular art forms and artists, which is in turn perceived to be acquired only through high, and expensive, education – thereby creating an isolated upper class within what is considered to be the counter culture (this term has a constantly evolving definition, but more on that for another entry).

Of course, because the hipster is overeducated and class conscious, s/he does not want to physically appear to be of a leisure class (because that wouldn’t be keeping it real, yo), so the best way to combat that social perception is to appear belonging to a poverty class. As the actor/performance artist Danny Hoch put it in his one-man show Taking Over (and I’m paraphrasing here): “The rich kids are dressing poor to look like they got street cred. And the poor kids are dressing normal so they can look rich.” Hence, the mustache. It’s for this reason, I believe, that it has even achieved the moniker of “fashion stache”. It completes a look, an ensemble of poverty, as a sign, in Mr. Hoch’s paraphrased words, of street cred.

Maybe it goes without saying that anyone who has actually experienced true poverty, of whom I can thankfully say I am not one, will tell you that there is no honor or virtue in it. And for this reason, I find the fashion stache more than insufferable. I find it insulting. I want to be clear that I am not targeting any one person here. I have several friends who have or have had mustaches, and I have to admit they all look/ed good. But I also know, perhaps because they are my friends, that they are not wearing the stache as a way of dressing down or looking a part. Nor are they doing it as an act of “irony”, or more specifically, an act of doing something without actually admitting that you like doing it. Instead, what I am targeting here is a cultural phenomenon, a social aesthetic, a choice. When a hipster makes a choice to grow the stache in order to go with his truck-stop hat and (factory faded) “Detroit is 4 lovers” t-shirt, he’s not just making the choice of going through the relative trouble of shaving the rest of his face; he’s making a choice to show some kind of solidarity with a class he has no business identifying with as a way of assuaging a new form of upper-class-counter-culture guilt. And for that, I say, shave that damned dirty peach fuzz off your face. Be a real man. And leave the mustache to the people who know what to do with it… namely your overbearing boss and the guy who’s gonna mug you outside your Echo Park apartment. And Tom Selleck.

don't mess with the best.

don't mess with the best.

**I should mention that I greatly enjoy both Nouvelle Vague and Ruth Forman, which hopefully goes to show that it isn’t about the specific things you enjoy, but rather how you present them – and yourself – to society.

Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 9:50 pm  Comments (1)  
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topicality-go-lucky

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, and although I did make it part of my mission to only write when I feel I have something to say, the odd part here is that I’ve actually had things to say. I have something like three entries started, one about the hipster fetish over mustaches, one about the impact of the word “nigger” (yeah, even writing it is tough), and one about the Sean Avery controversy a while back and the place of women – and particularly the body, both male and female – in men’s sports. But for some reason I’ve been unable to bring myself to actually complete these thoughts to the point where they remain important to my current state of mind. Even this Amtrak train of thought, this one right now, is beginning to lose steam for me, coming to a slow, creaking halt somewhere in the flatlands of Kansas… or maybe Missouri.

I guess with our constant stream of information, ranging from CNN.com to the status update on Facebook, the need to stay current has microscoped from the weekly to the daily to the minute. I’ve been constantly feeling behind the 8-ball, as if the thoughts I’m thinking at 5:16pm not only aren’t relevant by 5:17pm, but were already thought, articulated, and expressed by someone with much faster processing at 5:15pm. How do you stay current in an era when now is so last minute?

I guess certain philosophies are perennial, so no matter when you think them, they are fundamentally so universal that they speak to virtually any moment in the history of time. But those ideas are so few and far between that I constantly feel like I’m chasing after myself if I’m neither a) thinking of a larger point about the human condition (or, failing that, the role Google plays in our daily lives), nor b) capturing the zeitgeist before the zeit even has the time to come up with a geist.

Yeah, I’m being too hard on myself. But I find it interesting that I even have the resources to be this type of hard on myself. Information is not a limitless commodity, and in this day and age, when the supply can’t quite keep up with the (manufactured) demand, when an exponentially multiplying litter of information salesmen are trying to peddle the same amount of stock, it’s hard not to get down on yourself for not yet building a better internet mousetrap.

So, to save myself from these doldrums, I will now spout what is ultimately a completely useless opinion that I have yet to really see anywhere else. You ready for it? Your brain salivating yet? Okay, here it comes:

Angelina Fucking Jolie is up for best actress for Changeling?! Are you serious? Her performance is everything I hate about the Oscars: it’s a Performance with a capital P. It goes from smiling to crying to shouting to yearning; but, to use the semiotic terms, it’s a bunch of signifiers without the signified. It’s all the tropes of a great performance without the actual heart or core of an actual great performance. What further chaps my hide is that there are more than a few other great performances out there that were totally overlooked by the Hollywood elite in lieu of this critical darling – how about Sally Hawkins from Happy-Go-Lucky for starters? Is it because it’s a comic performance in what is ostensibly a plotless movie that she was so sorely overlooked? Her rendition of Poppy is a total delight that has all the depth and complexity of a normal human being, and further than that, a normal human woman. But because Poppy’s outlook is a decidedly brighter one than most of her fictional sisters this year, because she chooses to meet her challenges with rose-colored glasses, it might seem to the passive viewer that she is simpler, less challenged. On the contrary, it takes great depth and perception to play a character so happy with life despite all the dangers and horrors which we are constantly surrounded by, reported to, updated with. It’s because of that challenge that I am deeply disappointed that someone as hackneyed as Angelina could possibly receive a higher recognition than Ms. Hawkins. The Academy voters (of whom my boss is one – but I have no influence here) need to look past the screaming tears for once and allow best female actresses to be something more than the hooker/neglected housewife/Nazi deathcamp guard (okay, that’s a new one) and actually allow them to be, well, happy-go-lucky.

And that’s my topical rant. There. I feel much better now. And now, in my current afterglow, I’m slowly considering that the reason I like Poppy so much is because she supercedes (but doesn’t ignore) the world around her – all the noise, pressures, streams of information – and chooses to be cheerful. Maybe I could take a cue from her. I think I will.

sallyhawkins

Published in: on January 24, 2009 at 1:57 am  Comments (1)  

there’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance…

I would hate to live as a pretty girl in America. Of course, when I say America, I really mean Los Angeles as I believe it represents the rest of the country, but if I were to say, “I would hate blah blah blah in Los Angeles,” the statement feels so much smaller. Anyway, back to my grand point about gender in America (Los Angeles). If you meet any modicum of the standardized notions of beauty – skinny, leggy, busty, blonde – even if you only acquire one of these criteria, you become subject to the incessant stares of the opposite sex. I say this because I observe it both in other men and, of course, myself. I don’t particularly like being a part of it, and yet there I am, standing on the opposite side of the Rock-n-Roll-Ralph’s salad bar, surreptitiously trying to check out the coke-skinny rocker chick in the wife beater, black bra and over-sized sunglasses as she tries to decide between the light vinaigrette or the slightly more indulgent “lite” blue cheese.

I hate those goddamned sunglasses. They’re obnoxious, unnecessary, and inspired by the porn stardom of Paris Hilton, assuredly in a bid to make her head, and by extension her body, appear relatively small underneath those insectoid lenses. But when I consider how brazenly most guys stare at these girls, as if these girls are no different from the mini corn or spinach leaves in front of them (me), I can understand why these chicks might want a blackened barrier between them and the lasers directed at their boobs. Ignorance, even willful ignorance, as they say, is bliss.

It comes from this whole crock that men are visual creatures by nature. You show me any biological – as opposed to sociological – study that proves men are more visual than women, and I’ll show you just as many studies showing that babies of both genders stare for an equal amount of time at what are considered pleasing images (though of course the definition of pleasing is interesting in and of itself, but more on that later). Rather, I look to the voyeur theory and studies on the power of the gaze. There is a higher place of privilege in watching a woman dance for you than being the woman dancing, no matter what kind of financial interaction may or may not be happening at any given point. At a strip club, even though women are reaping the financial benefits, it is men who are firmly placed in the sociological driver’s seat. They first of all have the money to pay for this kind of entertainment, but second, by being the watcher, they are allowed to be passive; they don’t have to do anything but watch, while the subject has to do all the work. To take a more extreme example, the peeping tom gains information from his “victim” without ever having to risk anything of him(/her)self within the contexts of the relationship between viewer/viewed. To watch is to be in a place of privilege, and there’s too much power in patriarchy to make me believe that this can possibly be a chicken-or-the-egg argument.

That said, it is hard being a man and not succumbing to what I consider to be sociological programming. Everyone has a type, and I’m no different: I don’t really know what it is about redheads and my curious appetite for them. Is it because in my inextinguishable quest for passion, I assume there to be an insatiable fire in these women that cannot be contained by their porcelain skin, that must erupt erupt erupt! from the top of their heads, reaching to the sky where I can run my fingers like rivulets through their blazing forest, tangibly experiencing the whirlwind of their being, perhaps even plucking one strand to serve as a kindling for my own endeavors; and more importantly, from their down-there region, where the furnace of their lust will open worlds for me, take me sailing outside of myself until my corporeal being is but a speck on the distant map below, until she slips slips slips her had in mine, until she smiles that devil smirk filled with canines and mischief and plunges me back down to earth, to reality, to myself with some kind of new understanding I could only have acquired through this eagle eye view?

Of course, most redheads dye their hair, so what does that tell you? So do blondes, which is why I’ve rarely been attracted to the flaxen persuasion. Perhaps this is why, more than not, I find myself pulled toward those women with raven locks, as if that’s the most “real” hue of hair. Perhaps they are darker in spirit, more critical in thought, brooding even. But what a crock’a shit. These qualities of which I wrote above can and are found in women of all hair tints, body sizes, skin colors. And to speak the truth, this lust for a carrot top is more in theory than anything, for I’ve never actively been involved with one (in fact, the real women to whom I’ve found myself legitimately attracted I think have had a consistent brownish, maybe even dirty blonde hair color). Now, I do not want to diminish the potency of physical attraction here – it is the corner stone from which the foundation of love is built. Nor do I want to slight the notion of a “type”, for most people find more than enough information about a person via the way they present themselves to the world, either through their hair color or style, the cut of their shirt, the car they drive, the size, shape, and orderliness of their teeth, or the brand of sunglasses they wear. Whether that is considered the bad side of being judgmental I’ll leave up to you, for nevertheless the case is the same.

I’ve just noticed the stewardess on my flight – fuck, flight attendant – has short red hair. Did I mention I also have a thing for short hair? I try not to stare, but there are times when she’s attending to someone else that I can’t help it. And I feel bad, because she has no sunglasses to protect herself.

I have a hard time dealing with men who constantly and socially spend copious amounts of time categorizing women. “So and so is HOT.” “I dunno, dude, I’d prolly just make out with her.” “Aw, no, man, I’d get fucking nasty with her!” “I bet the carpets match the drapes.” “I bet she has no carpets!” (together:) “WOODEN FLOORS!” Score. I typically roll with this shit, these kinds of conversations, the ones which have no other purpose but to arrive at some kind of masculine consensus as to what defines “hotness”. Hell, I even find myself participating in them, and not always because I see no other escape. But in my heart of hearts, I wish I had no time for them. Many might say, “that’s the feminist ideology dictating your emotions” (actually, anybody who could make that kind of intelligent statement is probably also smart enough not to). But in truth, it’s the other way around: my feminism is informed by my pre-established, even socially programmed, discomfort. Perhaps because I feel trapped into objectifying these women I end up judging my fellow men for doing so, but only because I am judging myself so harshly. On either account, it is not a desirable trait.

I’ve been trying to remember that one schoolyard chant, and it finally came rushing back to me: (sung to the tune of “The Streets of Cairo” – you know it, the kinda/sorta snake-charmer song, which is actually an American concoction composed for the 1893 worlds fair in Chicago, home of the White City – alright, here are the words) “There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance / There’s a hole in the wall where the men can see it all / But the men don’t care, ‘cuz they’re in their underwear.” Obviously, as with all folk songs, there are various variations, but this is the one with which I remember growing up. It’s a strange little rhyme, because at first it asserts the power of the boys through their hole-in-the-wall spying, but then it doubles back on itself with that last line – why don’t they care? Should they even be “not caring” in the way the rhyme implies, as if there is a communal shame in the nakedness of the women that the boys merely shrug off? Especially considering the boys are half naked themselves? Of course, one might trivialize this as some kind of masturbatory fantasy, but considering this is a schoolyard chant, spoken at a time before sexual yearnings peek through newfound tufts of hair, it is more tempting to read the boys’ lack of over-garments as a cause for embarrassment. Despite their place of privilege, they themselves are brought to the same social level as their female objects of desire through the implication of exposure.

Exposure, ladies and gents, is the great equalizer. When the emperor has no clothes, he’s no different than you or me, her or him. For in the end, despite our obvious physical/chemical/biological differences, underneath all the make-up and curls, the goatees and muscle shirts, the black bras, beanies, sandals and sunglasses, we’re all looking for the same thing: to be loved. To belong. To be respected as equals seen not as objects of desire, but fully-humanized individuals, each with our own set of desires. And that’s always worth considering when you’re (I’m) assembling your (my) salad at the Rock-n-Roll-Ralphs (America).

Published in: on November 23, 2008 at 1:17 am  Comments (2)  

of masks and mayhem

What holiday other than Halloween can you say is about pure, unadulterated fun? Pure revelry?

Today is a day where we can embrace the pitch black night, let loose the demons, adopt and act through temporary personas, and, most importantly, throw cautious civility to the wind.

With the cavernous echoes of Carnivale and Saturnalia, during which not only was death a constantly looming figure, but the dividing lines between classes were delightfully blurred thanks to the anonymity of the mask, Halloween is a day where authority is openly mocked through grotesque caricatures and costumes without fear of retribution, and we publicly delight in the temporary breakdown of society, or, failing that, civility. (Why else would women feel so comfortable wearing just a bra, garters, and animal ears?)

This is a holiday where, thanks to the protective qualities of the mask, we can purge our more mischievous desires that might otherwise bring chaos to our everyday lives (where we still wear masks, but they’re not made of plastic). We can act on impulse, indulge our id, and allow ourselves to let loosie-goosie, trading fears of social retribution for the coming dawn.

This is a time where we don’t remember or revere the somber tones of death, but revel in our mortality as an integral part of the dark corners of our selves. We don’t shy from the monsters and demons that threaten our health or psychological existence; we invite them out for a drink and a smoke.

Halloween is dark, dangerous, and fucking fun as all get out.

You owe it to yourself to go out tonight and bring a little mayhem in your life. Enjoy being someone else for a little bit! Relish the coming darkness of the year! Celebrate the harvest! And drink a shitload of alcohol!

Published in: on October 31, 2008 at 10:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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church and the state of gay marriage

The beautiful, beautiful thing about this great country of ours is that everyone is allowed to believe whatever they want to believe without worry of persecution or legal prejudice. I am allowed to believe that lightning bolts are still created by the Greek god Zeus, just as someone else is allowed to believe that God hates fags. I don’t condone that belief, as I consider it to be ignorant and intolerant (not one of my favorite words, though useful nonetheless), but I would never sit here and say, because you believe God hates fags, then your rights should be limited. I just hope you open your heart – and maybe a book other than the Bible or Koran – to find a greater level of compassion and understanding.

I say this because I hope people will not be taking their own personal, religious-based morality into the California voting booths when we here in the Golden State vote on Proposition 8, which moves for an amendment to the state constitution to make illegal gay marriage. See, to me, the gay marriage issue is not only about civil liberties – though, should this proposition pass, it would be the first time we as a people elect to limit civil rights in the past 40-odd years – but it is also a church and state issue. In fact, I believe it is fundamentally a church and state issue, considering that any argument against gay marriage can be adequately dismantled until all that is left is, “well, being gay just isn’t right.” Which we all (hopefully) know is a) silly, and b) founded in religious attitudes toward procreation and romantic relationships. Again, I’m not, nor would I ever, tell anyone out there that they can’t believe that “being gay just ain’t right.” It is your constitutional right to believe whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rights of others. But when you start trying to legislate religious-based morality, then you start limiting the rights of all those who don’t share those same views.

I say religious-based morality because there are some laws based in morals that are not only universal but also supersede the notion of religion in order to support and benefit the foundations of civilization. For example, yes, thou shalt not kill is part of the Judeo-Cristian Ten Commandments. But to not have such a law in a secular society denigrates that same society and threatens the safety of its citizens. Same goes for theft, rape, hell, even speeding. These are all rules we agree to uphold and live by not necessarily for the health of our souls but for the safety of our civilization.

But there’s a reason why adultery isn’t considered illegal. Sure, it can be sighted as a breach of the marriage contract, but you can’t go to jail for screwing someone who isn’t your legal spouse. That’s because the  damage is not only contained within the relationship, but also because the distasteful notion of adultery is fundamentally ethical, not civic. Some societies have (seemingly) no ostensible problem with the idea of cheating; some couples even consider it natural or healthy to their relationship. So if anyone were to suddenly say that adultery should be illegal, it would not be tolerated on the grounds that consenting adults should be allowed to deal with their own relationship problems without the involvement of the government.

While admittedly this is a little bit of an apples/oranges argument, I believe the fundamental notion of morality versus civility is applicable to the gay marriage argument. So all that said, let’s look at the “secular” arguments against gay marriage:

1) “It’s a slippery slope.” This is perhaps the biggest argument against gay marriage: that if you change the definition of marriage to include homosexuals, then what’s to stop you from including bestiality, or polygamy, or underage marriage? Well, a few things – a) Marriage requires consent, and the last time I checked, a horse can’t exactly say “I do”. b) Polygamy is fundamentally an unequal relationship, in that it involves several women at the service of one man. Sure, like any form of relationship, there are ways to interact with polygamy in a healthy way. However, this is in spite of the fundamentals of polygamy, both historically and practically, and the state should never support an institution that by its very nature is unequal and imbalanced. More so, the amount and kind of legislation required to make polygamy an equitable partnership would be massive and controversial: does each person’s share of communal property diminish with each new spouse (wife)? Should the first wife have a higher percentage than the 4th? What if the husband wants to divorce wife #2 against the wishes of wife #3 and #5? Does this decision have to be made by committee? And are wives #s 3 and 5 obligated to pay an equal amount of alimony despite not wanting to end the marital partnership? And these are just a handful of questions that would need to be addressed when outlining the necessary laws and legislation to make this work. And, finally, c) children are not fully capable of making sound, life-long decisions, and so should not be allowed legally to fall victim to adults who prey upon this lack of development.

(Gay marriage, in contrast to all these forms of marriage, does operate with the fundamental notion of equality, same as a heterosexual marriage. Granted, one doesn’t always find equality in any marriage, but that is not the fault of the institution itself, but rather the morals and ethics brought in by the participating spouses and the society at large. All these other forms of marriage would change the very foundations of the institution of marriage, while gay marriage is merely changing the definition – two very different arguments.)

2)  “Marriage is entered with the purpose of starting a family.” While this may largely be true, what is then said about heterosexual couples who have made the decision to not have children? Should my aunt and uncle’s marriage be considered null and void because they did not bear offspring? Or adopt? Obviously, the notion of reproduction in a marriage is an important one, but is by no means fundamental. Furthermore, in dealing with the definitions of “family”: let’s first, for the sake of argument, take at face value that the best situation for a child is to be raised by a mother and father. Alright, fine. But what happens when a child is raised in a single parent household? Does that make the family any less legitimate? The bottom line to this argument is that, even if we agree that the best way to raise a child is with a mother and a father, it is by no means the only way. In America we pride the nuclear family above all else, but there are several cultures around the world that not only incorporate what we consider extended relatives (aunts, uncles, etc) into the immediate family – and truthfully some of those cultures are found in many of our low income neighborhoods, born less of immigrant culture than poverty – but also consider everyone in the village to be a participant in the raising of a child. I’m not arguing the “it takes a village” stance here, just pointing out that we can look outside the mother/father/offspring model of family to incorporate two caring individuals who have enough love in them to actually raise a child that may not have found a home otherwise. And even if you feel homosexuality is a sin or disease or whatever, there is an overwhelming amount of studies that disprove the transference of these “negative” characteristics on children. So you can still disagree with the morality of gay marriage without feeling like you are “endangering the children”. And certainly a loving, committed relationship is a better model than the various foster homes used more like way stations on the road to the golden age of 18.

3) “The definition says man and woman”. Well, yeah, it does. But ultimately, if we consider the fundamentals of marriage to be simply a loving, equal relationship, then the man/woman argument is merely semantic. More than that, definitions change as society does – consider how we interact with the word “liberty” and “freedom” now versus when the founding brothers began fighting for this country: at the time, those words intoned a certain sense of responsibility and upkeep. Now they’ve been used as a substitute for the “F” word (French). So to argue that Webster Collegiate Dictionary clearly states that marriage is defined as only a union between man and woman is to cling to the words, or, semiotically speaking, the icons, themselves and not the spirit behind them. (And keeping with our theme of church and state, it’s interesting that this is typically summed up as the “Adam and Steve” argument.)

4) “Schools will have to teach that gay marriage is the same as hetero-marriage.” First of all, this is straight up wrong. Not only does any law allowing gay marriage stay silent on the notion of education, but schools aren’t required to say anything about hetero-marriage now. And why should they? That kind of thing should be taught in the living room, not the classroom. More than that, parents are allowed to pull their children from any moral or family teachings they believe will interfere with their own home education. So this is really a non-issue that, I believe, is part of a larger argument considering the transfer of moral teachings from the home to the school, but that’s for a different rant.

5) “Churches will lose their tax exemption should they refuse to marry same-sex couples.” Again, another false allegation and non-issue. The state isn’t mandating any church to operate outside of its own teachings, considering this would be, ahem, unconstitutional. All the law dictates is that the state will recognize any legal marriage union. Since this can be done by a justice of the peace, no one has to be forced to compromise their values. End of story.

6) “Look at the statistics in Spain, Belgium, and any other place that has legalized gay marriage – they’re abysmal!” This one is a little trickier, because, truthfully, as soon as gay marriage went into effect, the divorce rate spiked up. This is undeniable. However, my argument against this is, well, let’s see what happens in the next 20 years, as people get used to the idea of gay marriage becoming legal. While these stats are true, they may be knee-jerk reactions that could (or could not) temper over time.

Alright so all that said, the only argument left that I can see is, “well, being gay just ain’t right,” or, to be fair, the more intelligent argument, “homosexuality just isn’t right.” The “secular” argument here is that, because it involves reproductive acts that cannot possibly result in reproduction, homosexuality isn’t natural. Two points to be made against this: 1) humans do not have sex simply for reproduction, and not even just for pleasure, but as a physical expression of love and devotion. Endorphins are released during the sex act that bring about a sense of closeness; how one reacts to these feelings is another story, but it happens nonetheless. So bottom line: fuckin’ ain’t just about makin’ babies. And 2) last time I checked, homosexuals are part of nature. I mean, it’s not like my friend Jhana is a robot or something. So isn’t she living, breathing proof that homosexuality is nothing if not natural?

Really, unless there’s something that I’m missing (and please feel free to use the comments section to point out anything I’ve not addressed), at this point, all that’s left is, “I just don’t like homosexuality”. Again, it’s totally your right not to. But ask yourself why you don’t. Is it just because the Bible tells you so?  Or, is it at least rooted in a religious upbringing or morality? Or is it even just distasteful to you? Because if it is any of these things, and you still vote to ban gay marriage, then you are violating one of the basic ideals that this country not only prides itself in but also uses to distinguish itself from the rest of the world: keeping the fundamental teachings of God, or Gods, or Allah, or Buddha, or any deity out of our government.

As a coda: There is something of a counter-argument to the gay marriage issue that argues for the abolishment of all mention of the word “marriage” in the state constitution in favor of the more universal “civil unions”, similar to the way the EU recognizes marriages on the state level. The argument here is that marriage is a social instituion and should have no interaction with the government other than to be recognized as a union between two people. While I find this argument appealing, I think it’s far too early in America’s history to tackle this: right now, America continues to be inextricably linked as both a physical place and an idea, so to threaten the government recognition of a social institution is to psychologically threaten the status of the country. Europe has hundreds of years of history upon which to psychologically fall back on. I think we’ve got another century at best until we as a nation feel comfortable enough with our longevity to start tinkering with some of the outlying social institutions without fear of dismantling our way of life. Though I could be wrong.

Published in: on October 8, 2008 at 9:36 pm  Comments (3)  
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Nothing to Say

I just wanted to write a blog post saying that I have nothing to say right now.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking – but there are a million things to talk about! The election! The flooding in Iowa! Your thoughts on feminism or communism! What you did for your pop on Father’s Day! What you’re doing right now at work! What is going on in that measly little brain of yours! What is it? I must know! There is not nearly enough information by which I may become satiated!

Yes, all that is true. And I understand that most everything I have to say is insightful and fascinating. After all, I wrote it. It must be interesting.

But I have nothing to say. Nope. Not a thing. And I felt I should update my blog to tell you this.

Uhm… you were totally thinking all that, right? Well, either way, it’s so good to write another entry!

Published in: on June 16, 2008 at 11:10 pm  Comments (2)  
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I am a feminist – say it with me

The entry below comes from my old MySpace blog, dated 5.25.2006. I was reminded of it when the other day I found myself reading a column from my favorite red-headed op-ed writer, Maureen Dowd (I’m being serious – I’d totally have her babies), in which she argues against a Hillary presidency, but also laments the fact that Hillary has become a shadow of who she once was because, as a female politician in a world of men, she has learned to constantly be on the offensive. It’s an unfortunate double-edged sword that got me thinking about our current third-wave of feminism, where sexual stereotypes are knowingly embraced by women and the word “feminist” is an aggressive word. Anyway, there are a few things in this 2-year-old article against which I find my current self slightly arguing, but… I’m lazy, so I’ll save that for a later entry.

When did the word “feminist” become such a bad word? Maybe I live in la-la land, or maybe I spent too much time in Berkeley, but it seemed like for a while there it was actually cool to call yourself a feminist.

Let me explain. Currently I attend private catholic university. I say this because I understand up front that the general politics of the student body will most probably lean towards the conservative, as do much (but by no means all) of the devoutly religious. Anyhoo, after class I was talking to an undergrad female student who was enrolled in my film discussion lab. She was mentioning how difficult it is to get funding for her tuition (considering tuition costs are incessantly rising, but that’s a different rant). I recommended women’s groups. She said how that might not work because all she wants to do is get married, have babies, and write from her home office. I said that’s great, that she could totally play the “working mom wanting to have it all” card. She looked at me funny, then said, “Well, it’s not like I’m a feminist.” As if it were a bad word.

Incident number 2: another female undergrad, this time actually during one of the discussion labs. She’s telling the other students about a women studies paper she’s writing about depictions of women in the silent era, and how frequently they were made either asexual or destructive, and too often merely the damsel in distress. Then she qualified her arguments by saying, “And it’s not like I’m a feminist…” In both cases, I felt compelled to say, “Well, I am a feminist, and I think etc. etc” (and in the latter I actually did) because I don’t see anything wrong with saying that. My point is, both these young women treated the word feminist as if it were the mark of death… even though they themselves benefit most directly from feminist thoughts and movements – let’s not lose sight of the fact that they are attending a nationally accredited co-ed university.

I think people are most afraid to identify with feminism because they see it as a drastic restructuring of global and historical power. And they would be right about that. The search for equality all to frequently – though not inherently – lessens the power of those who have it, in this case, and arguably all cases, men. The way we as Americans define power is by and large relative, basically through dynamics rather than individual capability. I am allowed to do things that you are not. It’s a quiet form of classism done through economics versus breed or dynasty (although there’s a little bit of that, too). So when we start giving disenfranchised groups of people new rights and privileges, it seems to lessen the value of those who have more rights and privileges than said groups. It doesn’t have to, but it seems to.

There are a lot of definitions for feminism, but in the end, all feminism has to be is the search for social, economic, and political equality for the sexes. This is a harder pill to swallow than, say, equality for different races, because racism is a much more dynamic, regional issue in that it has changed several times over several centuries in several countries. Patriarchy, however, has been around as long as we care to remember. More than that, it uniformly spans virtually over the entire globe. So when we start talking about feminism, we start talking about rearranging power dynamics not just nationally, but internationally.

I said that feminism is the search for social, economic, and political equality. Let me qualify my statement: in America, women have political equality. We all do. Women have the same right to vote as men, the same right to hold political office, the same right to dictate policy. However, considering women are the majority in this country, it seems these rights are not being exercised proportionate to the population. I would argue that this is largely due to the psychological impact of social/cultural and economic inequality: social in that women are viewed popularly in media as sexual objects and culturally not as competent as men (men always need to know what’s going on – it’s why we don’t ask for directions); and economic in that women are paid something like $.77 on the dollar for comparable positions men hold.

It feels like over the past five to ten years that a new wave of feminism has been coming about that is basically saying this inequality is not only okay but embraceable by the female population as long as they are willingly embracing it – the wave that says “it’s my right and my choice to wear high heels and make-up every day of the week,” or that allows men to affectionately use the term “girl money” (that wonderful term used to playfully acknowledge the aforementioned wage gap) in order to be chivalrous and pay for their female dates or friends. Granted, the self-image thing is a wonderful right that this country offers – it’s a plus not to have to wear a burqa – but to exercise that right with such little responsibility, to do so without even thinking of why women wear high heels instead of men (and I don’t think it’s biological) and then making the choice, basically sets our society back a few decades.

If we really are all interested in equality in this country (which we should – we have the power to change things if we all really want to get away from our television sets and internet connections), we need to start being comfortable declaring ourselves feminists. Men especially. Being a feminist does not make you a feminazi (a word that is overly abused). It simply means you recognize an inequality in our society and devote yourself to changing those inequalities – even if it’s just personally – because you believe in the basic tenets of this country: freedom and equality for all. So don’t be afraid, it’s not a dirty word. Say it with me: I am a feminist.

Published in: on May 14, 2008 at 9:43 pm  Comments (1)  
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