Wednesday, October 31, 2007


It's a bit late, I know, but I got home and the fireworks are still going all over the neighbourhood. The cats are hiding - Scooter in the bathroom cupboard (I could tell by the containers of hairspray and body lotion laying all over the floor) and Sweetpea in some as yet undisclosed location.

And I, pathetically, am sitting here in the dark, hiding from the trick-or-treaters, because I neglected to get candy.

Please don't tell me if I've linked this before: The Sandman. At the moment, I don't need more evidence that I'm utterly lacking in foresight.

I hope Halloween is over soon.

The Best Book of Fall

The problem with seduction is time.   You have to figure out that you are attracted to somebody, plot a means of approach, work up your courage, and execute your plan in finest form before the object of your affection gets off the subway.  You have to move.  And when you see that special someone gathering to hand the purses, backpacks, and other accoutrement of daily life, you know that your deadline is looming.  What do you do?

If you are Maynard Gogarty, you pull the emergency break cord.  And if you are Rudolf Delson, author of this season's best book, Maynard and Jennica, you give the subway its due say, along with a macaw, a scheming ex-wife, a man named Puppy Jones, scumbag lawyers, and Jennica Greene, the woman who provoked Maynard's subway impulse.  This love story is told by thirty-five narrators (befitting, I think, the way love stories should be told -- in mock grandiosity, a bit like Bugs Bunny doing opera).  

 The New Yorker has a better write up than I can provide here.  Suffice to say that the path by which Maynard and Jennica find each other extends well beyond the number 6 train, to San Jose, to avant guard film, to 9-11 scams, to really exceptionally bad poets, and to a cat whose name is a matter of some dispute.  So rather than spending a cold fall rehashing yet another Philip Roth, wrap a blanket around your shoulders, pick up something new, and warm yourself up with Maynard and Jennica.  Worst that can happen is you spend a few hours laughing your butt off.

Also: coolest cover of the season, by far.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wikifray Symposium: Self-Deception

(Caveat: I'm a terrible writer. Therefore, this may or may not make ANY sense. I'm hoping that it does.)

Do we set our standards for ourselves so high, that sometimes the only way to reach them is through self-deception?

"We do like our see-no-evil self-deceptions, though. I mean, we wear clothes made in sweatshops by children, and believe ourselves good, ethical, enlightened people (and by 'we', I mean 'me')."
Dawn Coyote. nuponuq forums, 8 October, 2007.
It should be remembered that positive self-regard (or self-esteem, self-love, positive self-image, or whatever it's being called this week) is learned. That is the likely state of a "blank slate" is likely more or less neutral. We learn this from the people around us whose opinions of us that we have learned to value. Despite what they might say, their own positive feelings towards us are conditional, to one degree or another. Those conditions might be very easy to fulfill ("I love you because you're my child."), or they might be more difficult ("I admire you because made top earner at the company last year."), or they could be somewhat extreme ("I respect you because you've won the Nobel Prize for Physics."). This conditionality is what prevents us from having positive feelings about everyone we may encounter, as a default state.

But that conditionality filters down to the persons regarded, and the end result is that we, as people, tend to have a certain number of conditions that we feel the need to fulfill before we can see ourselves as worthy of love, respect, et cetera. And it can be argued that we often expect that others live up to certain conditions before we allow that they be able to respect themselves. But the real question becomes: do we set our conditions realistically, given the lives that we lead, and effort that we're willing to put forth?

If I'm going to predicate my self-image on the idea that I don't contribute more than my "fair share" of greenhouse gases to the environment, do I know what I'm letting myself in for? Am I willing to move to the desert, and live in an "earthship" so that I can go "off the grid?" Am I willing to forgo career opportunities, so that I can avoid having to commute? Will I limit my diet to things that don't have to be moved more than 100 miles, so that you don't have the effects of transporting things long distances? (Some folks in Seattle tried the "Hundred-Mile" food lifestyle - and found that the Puget Sound area has no local production of salt.) Am I actually willing to put the work into really understanding what things truly help, and what things just make me feel good? Or, I am simply going to buy a Prius and some Owens-Corning, call it good, and plug my ears when some obnoxious radical starts spouting off about it isn't enough?

In the end, the question is a simple one - do we set ourselves up for intractable conflicts between the facts on the ground, and the conditions that we set for our self-esteem through carelessly adopting standards that are too stringent for the day-to-day infrastructure of our lives to support? And, in doing so, put ourselves is a position where the path of least resistance is one of hiding - if not from the truth as we know it, then from the truth as we fear it to be?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Diplomacy Starting in Two Days

You can thank Urquhart's tireless recruiting for gathering seven brilliant players to compete for subjugation of Europe.

As the clock rolls over on 1900, the powers of the continent find themselves uneasy amid tenuous colonial empires, and surging nationalism. It will take statesmen of extraordinary caliber to unite these many factions by force and negotiation. Fortunately, we have seven hotshots pulling the strings: August, Chango, Kyu, Ozymandias1, Rundeep, Schadenfreude, and Urquhart govern their restive masses, and push their armies to battle. Can any of them win the continent?

Follow along at the diplomacy blog.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What Are These?

Does anyone know?

I found these growing in the vicinity of my apartment. I've never seen anything quite like them before, and am interested to know what they are.

Now, before you say: "Oh my God! You didn't EAT one of those did you?!" please bear in mind a couple of things. I'm not stupid (as in liable to put some random species of fungus that I find growing my the side of the road in my mouth), I'm not particularly adventurous (as in liable to put unfamiliar foods in my mouth on a whim) and I am not a fan of mushrooms (as in liable to put any sort of mushroom, even the choice ones, in my mouth). But that being the case, I don't know anything about wild mushrooms, and little about domesticated ones, other than I don't care for either the taste of the texture. These caught my eye because of their color, and piqued my curiosity. I mean, how often does one encounter a mushroom that looks like an orange? (A question, given my luck, guaranteed to produce an answer of "every day.") If any of you know what these are called, I'd be much obliged for the information.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Ground Floor Awaits

If you've been traveling the internets long enough you've probably happened upon a few sites that you wish you'd discovered/joined when they first came online. Alas, by the time you happened upon them your voice/participation was all but drown out by the throngs trying to win their own profits on the back of the sites success. And to what end, the further/continued success of the sites early adopters--the ones that joined it early and built it into hub of activity. The ones with the foresight to gamble their energies on the ground floor of a little known site rather than waste their energies feeding a well-known site in the hopes its elite would pluck them from the crowd to share in its fruits.

So I happen to know of a little known site with great prospects. It's the brainchild of a friend of mine who knows everything. He's also one of us, if you know what I mean. I'm plugging his site. What's that tell you? So check it out. In a single story house, the ground floor is also the top floor.

Are we looking at kiddie porn?

“Am I a pedophile?” A Google search employing this phrase brought people to my blog again and again. When fed this term, Google produced in the results a post on my now defunct blog which I had written about Mark Foley, and how I thought calling him a pedophile was both incorrect and foolish.

Just lately, the search term that has been bringing people to wikifray is “emo porn.” That one produces my post of Chris Crocker’s impassioned plea to the Britney-haters, but a cursory Google test of the term returns as a top result a link to the Suicide Girls site, which appears to have a new category entitled “Emo Porn.”

I consider what such a thing might look like, and I imagine sad, pale girls having sex with sad, pale boys—and indeed, clicking on that link produces a pair of naked breasts—but this is not what I have thus far understood the term to mean. In my mind, the etymology of “emo porn” can be traced back to the old Best of the Fray, where, attempting to describe the wailing and rending of garments that took place on that board following the New Orleans flood, switters employed the phrase “emotional pornography.” I responded by abbreviating it to “emo porn,” and we congratulated ourselves on our cleverness.

But the idea that people are coming to wikifray on that search term has given me pause for thought. “Emo porn”, hmm? What do you think of when you hear the term “emo”? More specifically, what age group do you think of? I think of “emo” as a youth culture sub-type belonging to twelve to fifteen year olds. So what are those people looking for when they search for “emo porn”? What sort of images do they expect to see?

On another board recently, I took offence to the claim that half of adult American men were viewing underage porn on a regular basis. The author of this blog post presents a poorly reasoned, rambling diatribe which includes the following:

The child pornography industry is so voluminous that, even taking into account the reality that most consumers may be repeat consumers, more than half of adult American males are taking a dip in this world.

So, the broader definition of pedophile includes more than half the population.
The more focused definition -- those who have these desires and choose to act on them, either with physical contact or, as is far more common, with suggestive but non-physical interactions between themselves and those younger than them or as voyeurs and exhibitionists -- are a smaller but still significant category, perhaps 10 to 25% of the population. For these people, pedophile is a sexual orientation, in the same way that heterosexual or homosexual is a sexual orientation. It is compelling, it feels like a core identity, and suppressing it is difficult. [emphasis mine]
I’m sure you’ll agree that these statements are idiotic. Half the male population indulges in kiddie porn? 10 – 25% are outright pedophiles? Please.

I believe I can speak with some authority here. I’ve been an avid porn consumer. At one time, I considered writing about the variety of porn products on the internet, and the mysterious appetites which they serve. I also know a number of men who look at porn. In fact, I assume all men look at porn. They are not pedophiles: not half of them, not 10% of them. They may occasionally view an image of an underage girl, but surely we cannot classify as pedophiles porn consumers who are unwitting participants in such activities?

Nevertheless, the responses to my objection got me to look a little bit closer:

Most people who use porn don't have any idea how old the "actors" are. And they don't care. So 50% may be way off base, or it may not be. It may speak more to how many under-age girls are being used in porn, than to how many men knowingly choose child pornography. I don't think that's really any less disturbing. The fact that they don't care who they are using to get off is what makes it so bad. Most men would jerk off to a 16 year old just as fast as they would a 25 year old.

I made another assumption about the 50% referenced without a cite. I thought of all the porn that references 'Barely Legal!' and the schoolgirl fetish. […] That is a huge part of the porn market and it is mainstream. At some levels internally I just assume that the mid-teen age girl as the ideal sexual object is the norm for men.
Is it true? Is viewing “Hot Asian Teen Sluts” equivalent to buying sneakers made in Asian factories that employ children for pennies a day, or is it worse? Someone else said this: Porn tells lies about women, but it tells the truth about men.
Young nasty sluts! Nude teens and busty young sluts! Young Asian sluts! Shoot on my Face .com - Where dirty young sluts get showered with … Watch these two naughty little teen sluts showing off their tight shaved pussies… Teen Cum Dumpsters. Cute teen faces full of cum. Little virgins fucked hard. Petite teenie lesbians in steamy kitchen fucking action. Schoolgirl's First Sex. TAMED TEENS fresh young girls gagged, fucked and cum fed!
I still believe that whatever consenting adults choose to do together in the bedroom (or even in public bathrooms) is fine, but I no longer look at porn, because I can’t be sure I’m viewing images of consenting adults, and even if the porn model is an adult, chances are she didn’t begin in the industry as a consenting adult, and “model” is of course a euphemism, because a woman being photographed having sex for money is first and foremost a prostitute, and the all-too-real fact that in the United States the average age of entry into prostitution is just thirteen.

But if we don't look at porn, what's all this got to do with you and me? Well, if you think this isn’t spilling over into mainstream culture, you’re kidding yourself. BBC: Sexualisation 'harms' young girls Try doing a Google search for preteen. If the collective results don’t disturb you, you lack imagination.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Southern Black Entitlement

Uppity Negroes Set Civil Rights Movement Back 40 Years And Counting
City Fathers Call For A Return To Separate But Unequal ASAP
Sharpton, Jackson Set To Protest Themselves, Stir Up WASP's Nests

Ever hear one of those stories on your local news that leaves you with nothing but the ability to say, "Uh. Wait. What?"

Sometime in late August, Kathleen Bullard, African-American, mother, lover of ice, was allegedly assaulted in and/or around the Eastlake Texaco And Deli by its owner, Ty Nguyen, Asian, father, purveyor of ice. The alleged assault occurred on account of the fact that Bullard may or may not have been caught stealing a bag of ice. Again.

Nguyen claims she assaulted him when he confronted her about the allegedly stolen ice and that he was merely defending himself.

It gets real hot down here. And apparently we're running out of ice everywhere around the world. So this is a real global affair, not to mention a hot (Wink!) button issue.

(Here's a tip, Kathleen: Putting water into small cube-like containers and then putting that in your freezer at home makes ice! Wonderful stuff.)

Reliable witnesses (i.e., white people who live in the neighborhood [okay, white trash people to the core who live in the neighborhood]) say that, yes, indeed, Bullard did attack our vowel-challenge named oriental business owner first, and that he was just defending himself. In fact, if I heard right, she was actually attacking him with the allegedly filched ice. And I'm thinking, What, did she grab one of those giant Slim Jims, tie it off at the bottom of the bag of ice and start using it like a medieval flail? I just hope there isn't a series of ice attacks and copycat crimes. Good thing Summer's over and the heat wave finally broke.

Very shortly after the alleged assault by whomever on whomever, black people from around the neighborhood began to protest outside the store because of the alleged violence in their neighborhood, perpetrated by these slant-eyed ne'er-do-well, tax paying, license paying store owners. Protesting so much so that commerce at the store was interrupted. Note: Eastlake is heavily black, in both senses, and it appeared most of the protesters were heavyset black women.

The Birmingham city council, in all its massive wisdom, convened an emergency meeting. Black person after black person, again, mostly female, stepped up to the microphone and ranted about being black and by virtue of being black it was their right to yammer on and on and on about being black, all the while speaking neither to the issue of the alleged assault nor the alleged attempted robbery nor about the fact that the store owner, if not lying, certainly had a right to defend himself and his legal property, in this case the all to valuable bags of ice, all the while yammering on and on and on with great passion and to much enthusiastic applause about how they were tired of all the crime happening in Eastlake, some of which took place inside the Texaco and outside the Texaco, much of which had been at the expense of the store owner, who had reported the trouble to the police, who'd received almost 20 reports of occasions of various crimes in and around the vicinity of the Eastlake Texaco And Deli.

Clearly they were after justice. Or something. Nothing at this point had been proved, mind you. These were merely allegations. People who weren't even at the scene were barking out demands like short order cooks and calling for prosecution and equal rights under the law. Or something. Everyone was jumping madly to conclusions.

So the city council, in its vast embrace of knowledge and reason free from passion, jumped right along with them and ultimately decided to revoke our little yellow devil's business license before pressing criminal charges. And the Eastlake Texaco And Deli was closed for business.

Get it? An angry group of people demand that a business be taken away from a tax and fee and license paying citizen because of something they heard was being alleged, and the government goes ahead and does it.

I'm no history of civil rights expert by any stretch of the imagination. But I'm pretty confident that's not what Rosa had in mind when she kept her seat.

I can only presume that most of the protesters and testifiers were black women because I assume the black men were more concerned about just where the hell they were going to buy their malt liquor now.

Don't get me wrong: Hu Phlung Poo's no saint. He's even got a record, assaulting some kid in 2001, probably because he was stealing malt liquor for his absent father.

But I gotta hand it to this gal, bringing ice to a Hun fight. These aren't your father's civil rights. If Kathleen Bullard did steal that ice, then a thief ruined the lives of reasonably decent folks trying to make a living. Except the thief isn't Bullard. It's our government. Again.

Which goes to show you that no matter who's in the true minority at any given point down here in The Deep South, black victimhood trumps any other race's every time. And I don't think Malcolm X, genius and hero, whose name the lame protesters took in vain, would approve.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

In Praise of Feminists

It’s depressing reading guys like Dawkins or Pinker. If these nabobs of negativity are to be believed, I (the average human male) was born a lying philanderer, a remorseless deadbeat, an incessant brag, a violent, megalomaniacal brute, a perpetually horny ape and a rather crass specimen for an “evolved creature”, all in all.

If you believed that shit, the policy implication would be to write draconian and sexist (anti-male) laws, with respect to marriage, divorce, alimony, child custody, sexual harassment, violent crime, workplace discrimination and a host of other things. Not only should we be sent to boot camp to prepare us for civilized society (hoping there is enough in the prefrontal cortex to eventually override the utter junk elsewhere), there should also be the perpetual threat of the whip to keep us in line. No salvation, only discipline and toil.

That’s being optimistic. Depending on how strong the evolutionary tug is supposed to be, solutions could be more drastic. I won’t be too surprised if Dr. Pinker recommended a complete quarantine, with all bearers of the Y chromosome breaking stone on some island in the south Pacific, while nubile women cavorted in lesbian bliss on the continents, raising test tube babies created from sperm shipments that arrive from time to time in the harbors of our brave, new world.

It made me turn to religion for a while. At least Eve gets some of the blame, if not a major share. But being paraded around everywhere, with a sign saying “Original Sin” around the neck, is not much fun.

Then I discovered feminists. Apparently, boys won’t be boys as soon as they change those grade school textbooks, and replace the plastic guns on the shelves with Barbies. At any rate, it’s not a character deficiency, just a curricular glitch. Don’t blame us, blame the school board.

Clearly, women just can’t stop loving men, be they attired in corsets or burning bras.

I have cancelled my Penthouse subscription. Who needs it as long as there is Ms magazine?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I don't want to have sex with your wallet

Posted on Reclusive Leftist, under Ev-Psych Bullshit, by The Ghost of (Dr.) Violet (Socks).

From The Complete World of Human Evolution, Chris Stringer and Peter Andrews, 2005, Violet quotes

"Thus it is argued that past evolution has operated such that men are attracted by potential fertility in a prospective partner, while women are attracted by men who are likely to provide stability and resources after reproduction. There is certainly good evidence to back up such theoretical expectations from a range of human societies […]"
Violet rebuts:

"No, there isn’t “good evidence,” you fucking moron. Why is it so hard for these stupid old men to realize that the TV shows they watched in the 1950s weren’t a reliable guide to female nature?

What the evidence actually shows is that in societies where women can only gain access to certain resources through marriage, they (quite sensibly) are more likely to choose mates with those resources. This is an economic decision, not a matter of sexual attraction."

[The full post is prettier and sexier.]

Sample responses from another site:

Hazelstone quotes a friend (male): “Actually they have found differences in preference between the sexes as early as two weeks old which by all accounts is prior to when socialization could reasonably be assumed to impact it. There are differences between men and women. Women have a much larger corpus collosum which allows both hemispheres of their brain to communicate. All jokes aside, this does mean that women are more in touch with their feelings, that women have a much larger inner world when it comes to dealing with and focusing on emotions. It also means women are more effective at multitasking while men are more effective at concentraing on a solo task. Women are better at building consensus but slower to come to a decision. Men are worse at building consensus but faster at coming to a decision. I would say that the more collaborative science becomes the more women will be drawn into the field.

The more we insist that all men and women are created equal the less capable we are of dealing with their very real differences. In solo competition more men learn to thrive while under cooperative settings more women thrive. Schools that were long known for individual learning through rote memorization favored boys where the new school system focusing on interaction and team building is much more suited towards women. The old business model of working alone in competition and standing by your work favored men and the new system focusing on collaboration and multitasking is far more favorable to women.

Men and women have different parts, different hormones, different brains, different inner thoughts, and different perspectives based on our different abilities. I think a more honest understanding of each of the sexes strengths and weaknesses is long overdue. We need to be aware of the kind of environments that will enable us to thrive both as members of a sex and as an individual that may stray from the norm.“

* * *

Erin: “Damn, I'm going to go to my department chair and tell him that, since the new, cooperative, team-building environment favors women, and since our department is devoted to communication and collaboration between other academic departments, that I'm gonna be taking his job. I'm obviously innately better suited for the job because of my outrageous corpus callosum. It's a medical school, so they can't argue with the inevitability of neurophysiology, right? Heck, since clearly the educational system favors women, too, I might start aiming for the office of the director of the entire damned school!

Which is totally sweet, since they both have much cooler offices than mine.

These much more favorable business environments, where is the glut of female executives this has caused? Oh, nowhere? Right”.

* * *

Ant: "Yeah, it's everywhere isn't it? It makes me angry in three stages:

Firstly, as you said, it is impossible to separate the socialized bits of gender from the 'innate' bits. And since socialization is such a massive force it seems most reasonable to assume that most of the differences are down to that. As your friend even points out in the toy industry bit.

Secondly, let's assume there are non-negligible but small differences that could be found if only we could see past the socialization. That's no justification for the pigeon-holing of people by sex, at all, let alone to the extent that actually happens. Again, your friend sort of acknowledges that individual humans might not be best described and treated solely according to their gender role, but then stops and retreats.

Thirdly, so women are better at talking and at people-skills are they? So why the fuck aren't we running the world while the men sit and check the accounts?

There's a fourth stage actually, a moment of blindly incoherent rage, followed by a complete shut down of all mental faculties before I hobble off to make a cup of tea.

If there's any consolation in it my friend is stupider than your friend:

Me: "[enlightening discourse]....and so you have complete identification of a woman's social role with her sexual role."
Him: "Oh...well, they are related...And men and women are different."

I would put that down to just phasing out and then pretending to have listened, but he went on to say he's turned on by schoolgirls having sex with older men. Lesbian separatism here I come."

* * *

Antigone: “Why am I so bad at cooperative groups and multitasking and so good at working independently on a focused project? Do I have a penis hidden somewhere that I don't know about?”

* * *

Dawn: Hey, you gotta love it when science supports gender norms. It makes everything so much easier. Does my corpus collosum make me a better housekeeper, too?