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    Tuesday, December 20, 2005

    The L Word is Coming!

    January 8, babies. See a full scene from the first episode of the season here. But do yourself a favor and don't watch the weird video at the top of the page. Awful.

    I wish I didn't care, but I can't wait!

    Monday, December 19, 2005

    Showtime Synergy!

    Congradulations you are Jem!

    Which Character from Jem and the Holograms Are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Truly outrageous. (Truly, truly, truly outrageous.)

    If you are like me and my little sister and lived for Jem and Holograms as a kid, you know you have to take this quiz. If you didn't, you wouldn't get it anyway, so skip this post.

    Thanks to the fun blog Barbie Martini for the link!

    Reasons to Love New York

    NY Mag with Reasons to Love New York:

    Because Bush Is Not Our Fault . . . But We Have Nothing Against Republicans
    Because Smart and Chic Can Mean Almost the Same Thing
    Because We Walk Everywhere . . . In Great Shoes
    Because in Spite of Everything Our Hometown Newspaper Is Still the Greatest in the World
    Because instead of seeing ‘King Kong’ at the AMC Empire 25, you can see ‘Swordswoman of Huangjiang, VI' at MoMA
    Because two adults can make a chic and spacious home out of 278 square feet
    Because Christians and Kabbalists, Wiccans and Zoroastrians, have a home here
    Because a guy from Ecuador can sell soda off the back of a donkey, then come here and build a $120 million business—and all it takes is a few mattresses and an 800 number

    My Amusement Park adds:

    Because you can see Brokeback Mountain on opening day and then walk into a theater in the same complex to see Chicken Little ten minutes after Brokeback's over
    Because Sunday brunch can mean celebrities, trannies, and adorable triracial babies in fur coats
    Because no one feels okay with driving fifteen measly blocks
    Because, if you're not friends with someone from every continent except Antartica, you aren't trying
    Because not only is our hometown newspaper kickass, so's our hometown magazine
    Because every third person you see is or could be a model

    We could go on and on

    Maj. L. Tammy Duckworth

    I love this woman:

    During 13 months of rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, Maj. L. Tammy Duckworth says, she did a lot of reading about American schoolchildren "losing our competitive advantage" with China. Encountering questions about her top-of-the-line prostheses while walking around a shopping mall, she says, made her ponder inequities in America's health care system.

    And there was plenty of time to critique the Bush administration's prosecution of the war in Iraq, where she lost both legs and partial use of her right arm when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the Black Hawk helicopter she was flying over the Tigris River.

    So Ms. Duckworth, who was discharged from Walter Reed on Wednesday and from active duty the day before, decided to run for Congress, joining a growing group of a dozen Iraq veterans running next year - most, like her, as Democrats....

    Indeed, Ms. Duckworth, who received the Air Medal as well as a Purple Heart, already has the talking points down: "My role in the Army gives me the courage to make the tough decisions," is one of her lines. And: "Those of us who've served on the ground have a unique perspective on the war and on what it means to serve in combat." ...

    Ms. Duckworth said that she had opposed the invasion of Iraq from the start, even as she volunteered for deployment, but that she did not favor the quick withdrawal that some Democrats seek.

    "I think we broke it and we need to fix it," she said. "We have a commitment and an obligation to make sure that we help Iraqi security forces be able to maintain their own security. We need to come up with an aggressive plan based on benchmarks for when we're going to leave." ...

    She was one of very few women flying combat missions in Iraq, until her Black Hawk was felled on Nov. 12, 2004. In between more than two dozen operations (she says she lost count) while at Walter Reed, she testified before Congress about military health care benefits and was a guest of Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, at this year's State of the Union address. She can now walk up to a mile unaided with her prostheses, but generally uses a cane and spends some of each day in a wheelchair; she still lacks full use of her right arm.

    I am so proud of all the Iraq vets who are running for office (I'll be honest- especially the Democrats), but I am especially proud that a woman, and a woman of color at that, and a differently-abled woman of color at that feels empowered to get involved as a politician. I can't wait to see her on the campaign trail.

    The Non-Legacy of Postmodern Feminism: GirlsandDrinking.org

    What the hell is this?

    Broadsheet linked, but didn't explain (no diss to them, I'm just saying.)

    Girls versus Boys

    • Moms and daughters alike do not believe drinking alcohol has more risks for girls than for boys (56% and 58%, respectively). As their daughters’ age increases moms are significantly more likely to change their mind regarding the risks associated with drinking for their daughters — moms of 13-15 year olds, 36%; moms of 16-18 year olds, 49%, and moms of 19-20 year olds, 49%.

    • More than half of moms and daughters agree drinking alcohol impacts girls' reputations more than it does boys (54% and 57%, respectively) . . .

    First, I am not concerned about teenage drinking. I'm not. To me, that's redundant. Concerned about teenagers, yes. And drinking is an obvious part of their lifestyle.

    Second, if I were concerned about teenage drinking, why would I only be concerned about girls drinking? And why would I want girls to behave in a way so as to protect their "reputations"? I wouldn't.

    Third, if you want to make a website for Girls and their Moms (and, frankly, you probably shouldn't), please don't decorate it with butterflies. I mean, I'm in my twenties and I'm insulted on behalf of my teenage self.

    I'd be curious to find out if girls drive drunk more often than boys (and no, this website doesn't offer any such information). I'd also like to find out how likely it is for girls to jump off of roofs when drunk or urinate in the street when drunk or vandalize people's houses when drunk or commit sexual assault when drunk or belch loudly when drunk or get in brawls when drunk or drag race when drunk compared with their male peers. Because those are my concerns right there.

    I'd also like to know how many fathers are being told to obsess about the social drinking habits of their adolescent sons.

    Friday, December 16, 2005

    Ford Reverses Gay Ads Decision

    This reminds me of that episode of Queer as Folk where Debbie's boyfriend Horvath and all his cop buddies get into a bowling tournament with our friends from Liberty Avenue. Hijinks ensue, Emmett pretends an injury, Ben gets this close to saving the day- good ole QAF fun. Only in this case, in the real world, the queers WON!

    Ford is to resume buying corporate ads in gay publications, following criticism from gay rights groups who accused the motor company of succumbing to pressure from the conservative group the American Family Association.
    In an attempt to end a public relations disaster, Ford wrote to gay groups saying it would resume buying corporate ads in gay media, featuring all eight of the company's brands, reversing a decision to pull them. Previously only Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo ran ads in gay publications.

    "Ford's action is a positive outcome and win for equality and fairness," said Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese. "Ford has sent a powerful signal that corporate America values its gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees and consumers."
    The AFA called for a boycott of Ford vehicles in May, citing what it claimed was the company's "extensive promotion of homosexuality" including making contributions to gay rights groups.

    The AFA suspended the boycott in June for six months after talks with Ford dealers and then ended it altogether after a meeting with Ford executives. Afterwards Ford announced it was going to pull the ads from gay publications and the AFA claimed victory. "While we still have a few differences with Ford, we feel our concerns are being addressed in good faith and will continue to be addressed in the future," Donald Wildmon, the chairman of the Mississippi-based group, said.

    Ford denied it had struck a secret deal with the AFA, claiming the decision to pull the ads was a purely commercial decision. But gay rights groups reacted furiously, accusing Ford of pandering to extremist groups. The decision to reinstate the advertising followed a meeting with gay groups on Monday.

    (Caveat: this may have been a little better than beating Horvath and Friends.)

    Thinning Out that Unwieldy Pool of Wannabe Foster Parents

    From the Washington Times:

    Anti-smoking activists who are driving cigarettes from public places across the country are now targeting private homes -- especially those with children.
    Their efforts so far have contributed to regulations in three states -- Maine, Oklahoma and Vermont -- forbidding foster parents from smoking around children. ...

    Whatever it takes to narrow 'em down.

    But seriously, I hate smoking. But I hate the idea of children not being placed with good, caring foster parents even more. This is truly a slippery slope.

    Fox News 10 Best Films of 2005

    You think you know someone . . .

    Click here for explanations.

    1. Munich
    2. Match Point
    3. Capote
    4. Walk the Line
    5. Transamerica
    6. Good Night and Good Luck
    7. A History of Violence
    8. Broken Flowers
    9. Murderball
    10. Three Way: Me & You & Everyone We Know, Hustle and Flow, and Thumbsucker

    Awfully queer little list, isn't it? Awfully lefty too. I guess they thought they could get away with anything if they left of Brokeback.

    Which Western Feminist Icon Are You?

    Judith Butler
    You are Judith Butler! Your postmodern queer theory
    has shaken up people's ideas of gender,
    sexuality, and sex. Your work has blurred lines
    between what it means to be a womyn and what it
    means to be a man. Queens and transbois all
    over the world worship your Birkenstocks!

    Which Western feminist icon are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    Bring Your Broke Ass Drunk Ass Over Here!

    The New York Times is getting so pathetic these days, what with post-Jayson Blair, post (or something)- Judith Miller and dropping the ball on the Bush-Spy story (not to mention ever hiring Alessandra Stanley, Maureen Dowd, David Brooks, and Alex Kuczynski), that they are throwing bones to we non-millionaires. "Champagne: How Low Can You Go?" reviews a bunch of "cheap" champagnes to determine how low, in fact, you can go? Answer: not as low as we might like ($27ish). But hey, for a special occasion (like a sudden windfall), bring it!

    Here's your top three under 30:

    Lanson Black Label Brut NV
    Dry and refreshing, with snappy acidity and mineral and citrus flavors. (Importer: Caravelle Wine Selections, Avon, Conn.)

    Louis de Sacy Brut Grand Cru NV
    Toasty and full bodied with a creamy texture and persistent flavors. (House of Burgundy, Port Chester, N.Y.)

    Paul Goerg Blanc de Blancs NV
    Yeasty, toasty aromas, with persistent, complex floral and fruit flavors. (U.S.A. Wine Imports, New York)

    My Amusement Park's Holiday Shopping Guide

    Reader, you're a real mess. Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa are all going to be here in 10 days, and you still haven't finished (or started?) your shopping. Get it together!

    It's okay. EL is here to help you out, with her My Amusement Park gift guide.

    1. The Dalkey Archive Press finally brought back Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans into print, after years of existing in the sad state of reduction thanks to Harcourt Brace.

    Here's a taste:

    There are many that I know and I know it. They are many that I know and they know it. They are all of them themselves and they repeat it and I hear it. Always I listen to it. Slowly I come to understand it. Many years I listened and did not know it. I heard it, I understood it some, I did not know I heard it. They repeat themselves now and I listen to it. Every way that they do it now I hear it. Now each time very slowly I come to understand it. Always it comes very slowly the completed understanding of it, the repeating each one does to tell it the whole history of the being in each one, always now I hear it. Always now slowly I understand it.

    2. Brad Mehldau Trio gives a new one called Day Is Done, which includes a new Radiohead cover ("Knives Out") and some awesome Beatles tunes too. (Never liked "She's Leaving Home" as much as I do on this record.) You can listen to a sample on the Amazon link.

    3. Just because it's the holidays doesn't mean you can neglect the "Gay Agenda". For the little girl in your life, think recruitment with Dyke Dolls. They come in many flavors, ahem, types: choose from Diesel Dyke, Doc Holiday, Rockabilly, Jesse (SoCal Skater Chick), Badness (the basketball player), and the Kelly, Christine, and little Soo Jin family set.

    4. The L Word Season 2. See Shane and Carmen hook up for the first time a second time. And throw Reading The L Word: Outing Contemporary Television in the stocking for good geek plus. The Introduction is by Sarah Warn, smartypants behind After Ellen, one of my favorite websites.

    Toys in Babeland asks: Want a toy that augments creativity and communication? Augments, huh? For only ten bucks, you can buy Sex Questions, a game to get the sexy truths and dares out of the one you love (or lust after).

    6. Bitch Magazine has been around now for 10 years! Celebrate with a gift subscription for a friend.

    7. Not a Vicky's Secret fan? Tunggear has some of the best underwear on the Internet.

    8. Another (possibly) bastardized piece of great literature reborn: Sylvia Plath's Ariel is now reprinted from her manuscript!

    The woman is perfected.
    Her dead
    Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
    The illusion of a Greek necessity
    Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
    Her bare
    Feet seem to be saying:
    We have come so far, it is over.

    Just a piece of what Hughes removed. (The new Ariel also has restored the famous poem about T.H., "The Rabbit Catcher", which is incredible.)

    9. The Complete New Yorker: Eighty Years of the Nation's Greatest Magazine (Book & 8 DVD-ROMs) is kind of a fantasy gift: how much could you ever really use this? Can't you just get some microfiche if necessary? Yes, but it's the kind of thing you'd love to get as a gift, isn't it? You'd never buy it for yourself and neither will your giftee.

    10. Is there anything more Pop Art than products of Pop Art?

    Big Spenders:

    11. If you can afford it, the Segway Human Transporter will make your loved one the freak on the weird contraption, squinted at on the streets of your city.

    12. Tassimo T-Disc Coffee Maker. Oh my! New York Magazine says: This baby uses patented T-Discs (glorified pods) that let you instantly switch between making single cups of regular coffee, decaf, cappuccino, latte, or hot chocolates with virtually no preparation or clean-up. The cool thing is that each T-Disc has a little bar code on it, which the unit reads to know exactly how much water to use, how hot to heat it, and how long to brew it. T-Discs come in multi-packs and are available from multiple brands (Gevalia Signature Blend, Twinings Earl Grey, etc.) and are generally way cheaper (e.g., $6.79 for an 18-pack of Kenco Classic Blend) than coffee shop cuppas.

    13. For the art collecter on your list, invest in a Cass Bird print, one of My Amusement Park's favorite contemporary artists. (No pic- go to the website!)

    14. If you bought this impossibly slick herringbone jacket for your good-looking friend, it'd be better than on you.

    15. Or consider a 111-day luxury cruise around the world.

    The Pleasures of Being a Token

    The always brilliant Amanda of Pandagon takes on one of those icky issues, how good it feels sometimes to be the "token":

    I think there's even more to it than just the fear of getting some sort of sexist backlash that comes into play for women struggling with choices like the one that Fey alluded to--there's also the ugly reality that there's something appealing about being the token. It's fun to be special, like you're the only person good enough in your group to get into the club, even as you intellectually understand that you're not the beneficiary of sexism so much as the victim of it, since while you're the Good Enough to Be in the Club Girl, you're still just the girl. I've found myself in that position a few times, and while it's sort of satisfying to be basically an honorary man, in the long run, it makes you second guess yourself constantly. Women in power then would do well to imitate our male forebears and see to it that we have a number of people around us that remind us of ourselves. Of course, women with that kind of power shouldn't go so far in imitation as to actually exclude worthy men, but I don't really think there's any kind of danger of female domination looming any time soon.

    The other issue is that being tokenized gives you a foothold that forging your own path doesn't. For example, I wanted so very desperately to be in a band when I was in junior high and high school and I was a better musician than most of the male musicians I knew. I was able to play several instruments, could sightread while also being fairly kickass at learning stuff off the record. Chops-wise, I blew most of the boys I knew out of the water, had great gear (my dad's a professional musician and hooked me way up) and I didn't even want to be the frontperson- I just wanted people to let me stand in the back and rock. But, many guys told me, "It's too bad you're a girl, otherwise I'd love you to play in our band." So, I complained all the time about it and my dad said, "Why don't you start an all-girl band? If you can't find any girls who play, you can help them learn." And I truly had very little interest in that. Because I knew that, even if we were the best band in town, everyone would laugh at us or just stand out there yelling "Show us your tits!" and no one would really believe that what we were doing was making music. They'd think, no matter what we were playing, that we were either Bikini Kill or the Spice Girls and I didn't want to be either.

    It's like the woman columnist thing. Women could all go write their asses off for Marie Claire about whatever they wanted, or they could start their own magazine or newspaper, and many have and do (and look at the blogosphere), but they're never going to be taken seriously as writers and thinkers if they had to go off and make their own thing to get their voices heard.

    The other issue is that you actually get asked your opinion. I think a lot of women (this may or may not be particular to white middle-class gals) have been told to keep their mouths shut and told that we have nothing valuable to say. When I was in a class as an undergrad with all men and the class was a gender studies class, I got asked all the time by the (male) professor and the other (male) students to weigh in on discussions I wouldn't have felt comfortable weighing in on without invitation. Just as often, in all male environments, I got silenced, but there is, when dealing with so-called "sensitive", "liberal" people, that whole, "now, what do you think about that?" phenomenon. Sometimes it's gross and I didn't want to have to weigh in on everything, but it did make me feel important.

    In a culture which devalues women, it makes perfect sense to want to "transcend" being one. I know that I felt that I could somehow transition out of my gender by being surrounded by men (or boys, as a child). I thought that being around women and girls would dangerously rub off on me. I would become more "girly". It translated into a weird pattern, where I identified strongly with my father and profoundly underestimated my more traditionally feminine mother and sister, which is a routine I deeply regret. I am still not traditionally feminine, I am still probably more like my father (no doubt in part from having idolized the guy my entire first 20 years of life) but I have come to appreciate women like my mother and sister, their accomplishments, their skills, and their intelligence. If you hate being a woman, it can often translate to hatred of being around them. Being a token is an effective way of convincing yourself that you are not, indeed, the thing about which you are ashamed of being. Here's the thing: you may be able to forget, for a moment or two, that you are female thinking you're one of the boys, but they never will.

    There's also the appeal of speaking for others of your ilk. I mean, I don't think I'm alone in feeling that other women (especially "mainstream", not feminist-identified women) are sometimes frustrating. While I understand, intellectually, some of their actions, I can't relate to, for example, dating a sexist man who expects me to act out a certain role. I can't relate to women who smile when a strange man on the street tells them to smile (or worse). When I see other women seem to like these things, which is their right but still bothersome to me, I wish I could be the "example", the "model" of what "women" are, despite my hatred of the idea that women "are" any particular thing.

    I wish that, when men asked "What do women want?" I could say,

    "Well, we want not to have our meals paid for or doors opened for us or so-called compliments flung at us on the street, we like to be treated as equals. We care about politics and culture and art and literature and history even more than we care about the 307 things you supposedly like in bed according to some magazine, though we're not afraid of sex and sexuality. We are neither more mature than you are, nor more infant-like, and we wish to be treated as such. We are concerned foremost with justice, less so with comfort. Romance to us is not strategically-placed rose petals and candles, but respect. We like lovers who are turned on by and interested in partnership and the challenges it brings. We like pursuing as much as being pursued. Etc, Etc, Etc."

    And I would like men then to say, "Oh, well, if you say that's what women want and that's what women like, then that's how I'm going to see women and treat women from now on." But I am not all women and I can't possibly stand for any woman but myself, no matter the power thrust upon me when I am the only woman in the room. And that's one major part of the allure of tokenism for the "feminist".

    Hugo Schwyzer:

    This reminds me of some of the discussion we had around my "All of my Best Friends are Guys" post six months ago. I said then, and say again:

    I think the term feminism encompasses many things, but I'm adamant that one can't be a genuine feminist if one doesn't like women! Wanting to advocate for women in general while not forming genuinely close friendships with other individual women isn't, I think, authentic feminism.

    I'm always struck by how many of the young women I know say with pride "You know, I'm not a typical girl." What they mean by "typical girl" is some sort of ultra-feminine stereotype with a passionate interest in the superficial and the exterior. They also, sometimes, seem to associate "typical girl" with weakness, vulnerability, and victimhood.

    I've spent a fair amount of time in nearly all-male settings where one or two "token" women could be found. And over and over again, I've seen (particularly from some of the younger ones) this intense sense of pride at being "one of the boys." When one is the only member of a minority allowed into a club, there's an understandable sense of flattering uniqueness -- "I'm different" can also quickly mean "I'm 'better than'". Sometimes, I've seen young women jealously guard this privileged status against others. After all, if lots of "girls" get into the "boys'" club, then being a girl in the boys' club doesn't seem as special, does it? Is it too much of a stretch to compare this internalized sexism to the oft-noted disdain "house slaves" showed for 'field slaves"?

    I've felt a different allure of tokenism, too. I've often been the only man in the room doing feminist work. Given that we set the bar pretty damn low for guys, wherever I go in the feminist world, I can count on getting tons of praise for the work I do. "We're so excited to see men taking an interest in feminism", I'm told; "We're so glad you're teaching the courses you teach." That has an unfortunate tendency to puff me up a bit. It can also lead me, at my worst, to try and defend my "special status" as the rare pro-feminist man.

    And, Hugo goes on to explain how he tries to circumvent that danger, but I think that he points to a major problem with tokenism in liberal or leftist circles. As a token, we are able, as I pointed to above, take on the speaking-for-everyone-"like-me" mantle, and sharing that is difficult (especially when "people-like-you" disagree with your perspective), as it is also difficult to have the prize of "Most Progressive of the Them All". I've noticed that it is really common for women of some more marginalized groups within feminist organizations to say things like, "Well, I'd love to get more women of faith in an organization like this, but all the religious women I'm friends with are more interested in organizations related to their church," as in, "I'm really the only person of my "type" that "gets it". Or, "you have to understand that the Latino culture is so overrun by machismo that it's hard to get Latina women involved in work on women's issues," as in "I have transcended the problems of my culture of origin." The other way of using the others who are not there is to speak through them, while pretending to represent them. I have done this myself: "Well, I think that to some low-income women that might come across as classist," which allows me to insert a criticism of the group in a way that doesn't implicate me as the critic. When you bring actual low-income women in who may or may not agree with you, you can no longer use them as your back-up.

    I'll let Echidne of the Snakes have the last word:

    "The feeling that they are somehow just better than other women." Yes, this is a neat solution to the problem all women face: how to live in a sexist world. It lets the token woman think that there is nothing wrong with misogyny and such. The other women, the inferior ones, deserve that. The good women get to be taken up to the boys' treehouse.

    I Love Cary Tennis

    Salon advice-columnist extraordinaire is outdoing himself for the ladies this week. Check out the two most recent letters:

    "My Boyfriend Can't Handle My Past" and "How Can I Improve Relations Between the Sexes?"

    In the first, some poor woman's new boyfriend (with whom she is unfortunately in love) can't stop thinking about how many people she's slept with and the fact that she's had a threesome, both facts that "make him sick". The fool has himself had double the sexual partners she has and has also had a threesome.

    Tennis says:

    Dear Shamed and Frustrated,

    You are not a product. You do not have an expiration date. You are not sold used or new. Your value does not go down with every sexual experience. You do not have a finite capacity, like a phone card, after which you are used up.

    Neither are you a substance that can be pure or impure. You are no less pure now than when you were born. You will never be less pure than you are right now.

    Nor are you an object upon which men have left marks that your boyfriend may discover and interpret. You are not a public place were things are written for others to read. You are not an exotic land that men have visited and reminisce about in comfortable chairs.

    You are not a collection of experiences like snapshots in an album, subject to perusal and approval by your boyfriend.

    Your past is not a term paper for him to grade. Your past is not something that needs to be repaired. You can't get up on top of it with a ladder and fix it like a roof. You can't do anything about it except regard it with awed attention. ...

    Our past is not a map on our skin, visible to the male gaze. Our past is something we tell. Once we tell it, people sometimes turn away. They can't bear it. They're not strong enough. They have to find the strength. We can't give them the strength. They ask us to put the past back in the past, but we can't do that either. Once we tell it, it's with us in the present.

    So tell your boyfriend to lay off with all this talk. Tell him to get some wisdom and some understanding. Tell him to get some humility and some awe. Tell him to go sit by the sea and think about it for days on end until his head hurts and he's thirsty and all he wants is you -- however you are, whoever you are, wherever you've been, whatever you've done.

    Or tell the asshat to go find himself a virgin. But seriously, I love it. The next one is more fun though.

    Dear Cary,

    It has struck me that lately that the level of discourse between the sexes has really deteriorated. Whether it's angry messages on T-shirts, anti-male sitcoms on TV, sniping articles on Broadsheet, whatever, it strikes me that a lot of women are really, really angry -- at men, at each other, at the government, you name it. Maybe this was always the case and now we have the Internet, we just see it more openly and more uncut.

    I also see it in my own personal relationships with women. I have seen more rudeness, selfish behavior and general hostility in the past couple of years than ever before. Many women have gotten a raw deal, many face tough decisions that men do not -- granted. But it seems to me that the current male-female gender relations are almost at an all-time low. I like women -- always have and will continue to do so, but particularly as a single guy in early 30s, I have to admit, I'm concerned. My question is, what can I as one man do to make things better?

    Improving Relations Between the sexes ... One Date at a Time

    ... there are certain attempts at social improvement that, however altruistic, can only appear self-serving. For you, "particularly as a single guy in early 30s," to undertake to improve relations between the sexes is one of those attempts -- it's not only misguided and doomed to failure but also invites public humiliation. Why? Because you have no help to offer the sexes in the way of relating.

    Just to clarify: When we say "relations between the sexes" there are two things that we might mean. There are relations between the sexes, literally -- individual sexual relationships. Sexes who are relating don't want anyone to butt in and improve things. They are plenty OK. Maybe you wish they needed your help, but they don't.

    Then there is Relations Between the Sexes, an amorphous media realm that at any given moment might be proclaimed to be at its lowest point in history, or at its highest point, or on the upswing, or on the downswing, or remaining stubbornly, intractably the same. Any such index of general relations between the sexes is laughable. It's just not real. It can't be improved because it doesn't exist. It's an abstraction.

    What may be real, however, is the cumulative effect on an individual who is having a run of bad luck. You go out with several women in a row who say mean things to you. They might be angry and frustrated with their lives and take some of it out on you. You encounter hostility and rudeness. You ask, Is it me? It gets old. It gets difficult.

    You begin to wonder what's going on. You search for a pattern. And then you notice some of the flotsam and jetsam of our crowded media world -- half-digested political ideas presented as reasoned arguments, legal conundrums considered by legal know-nothings, average opinions of the average man, fleeting references made by comedians, the unexpected actions of nervous brides, medical discoveries written about by police reporters, scientific findings interpreted by pastors, and "advice columns" written by people who have no expertise whatsoever -- and it begins to look as though your personal experiences may be mirrored somehow in the world at large.

    Baloney. There may be some amorphous connection between what's been happening with you and what's happening generally in the world. At any given time, a good number of people are going to be in a bad mood. They will be underemployed, sexually frustrated, behind on the rent, angry at an ex-boyfriend, concerned about the war in Iraq, wondering if there is a God. A good number of one sex at any given time will be fed up with the other sex. They will make jokes about each other. But there's no real correlation between that and whether you're getting lucky or not. Furthermore, none of the women who have been rejecting you need your help in relating to the opposite sex. They will relate to the opposite sexes they want to relate to, and reject the ones they don't want to relate to. They will be fine.

    So here's an idea: Abandon all sweeping generalizations about relations between the sexes. Instead, continue working to find an individual sex you can relate to, and have relations.

    Power Geezer Gloria

    Since Woody got the cover, Gloria gets about half the profile he did, but what she got is pretty darn good:

    What is Gloria Steinem’s advice to young women these days? To do “whatever they fucking well please,” America’s foremost feminist said ...

    We will, thank you very much.

    She said that sometimes her own generation “doesn’t recognize what activism and feminism look like in the younger generation. Because my generation was more threatened by sexuality or nudity, in the sense that we felt threatened if we didn’t behave in a certain ladylike way. ...

    Indeed, Ms. Steinem is able to appreciate many forms of mass media that offend some of her more rigid colleagues. “Mainstream television is probably at least 25 years behind where women are. So it’s always a mixed bag,” she said. She dug the HBO program Sex and the City, with some reservations.

    There is a moment that seems a bit disingenuous: While Andrea Dworkin was raging against pornography and other sisters were staging “marriage interventions” and refusing to shave their legs, Ms. Steinem appeared sexy and beautiful with her swinging coif and giant shades, serving as the movement’s glamorous muse.

    Ummm. . . when Andrea Dworkin was raging against pornography, Gloria Steinem backed her right up, quite unglamorously.

    But, that (and the mention of her rather horrific cameo on the L Word) aside, I loved her in this article.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    Where in the World is . . . James Dobson?

    A Religious Protest Largely from the Left:

    When hundreds of religious activists try to get arrested today to protest cutting programs for the poor, prominent conservatives such as James Dobson, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell will not be among them.

    That is a great relief to Republican leaders, who have dismissed the burgeoning protests as the work of liberals. But it raises the question: Why in recent years have conservative Christians asserted their influence on efforts to relieve Third World debt, AIDS in Africa, strife in Sudan and international sex trafficking -- but remained on the sidelines while liberal Christians protest domestic spending cuts?

    Conservative Christian groups such as Focus on the Family say it is a matter of priorities, and their priorities are abortion, same-sex marriage and seating judges who will back their position against those practices.

    "It's not a question of the poor not being important or that meeting their needs is not important," said Paul Hetrick, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, Dobson's influential, Colorado-based Christian organization. "But whether or not a baby is killed in the seventh or eighth month of pregnancy, that is less important than help for the poor? We would respectfully disagree with that." ...

    At issue is a House-passed budget-cutting measure that would save $50 billion over five years by trimming food stamp rolls, imposing new fees on Medicaid recipients, squeezing student lenders, cutting child-support enforcement funds and paring agriculture programs. House negotiators are trying to reach accord with senators who passed a more modest $35 billion bill that largely spares programs for the poor. ...

    To GOP leaders and their supporters in the Christian community, it is not that simple. Acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said yesterday that the activists' position is not "intellectually right."

    The "right tax policy," such as keeping tax rates low on business investment, "grows the economy, increases federal revenue -- and increased federal revenue makes it easier for us to pursue policies that we all can agree have social benefit," he said.

    Dobson also has praised what he calls "pro-family tax cuts." And Janice Crouse, a senior fellow at the Christian group Concerned Women for America, said religious conservatives "know that the government is not really capable of love."

    "You look to the government for justice, and you look to the church and individuals for mercy. I think Hurricane Katrina is a good example of that. FEMA just failed, and the church and the Salvation Army and corporations stepped in and met the need," she said.

    Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, said the government's role should be to encourage charitable giving, perhaps through tax cuts.

    "There is a [biblical] mandate to take care of the poor. There is no dispute of that fact," he said. "But it does not say government should do it. That's a shifting of responsibility."

    I agree with the assumption that helping the poor is really what being a Christian is all about. I re-read the Bible awhile back and the moment (Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus-geeks) where Jesus says something to the effect of how you treat the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and other "least of these," is how you treat Him. Since then, I really have found I almost never turn down requests for money from people on the street anymore; living in the East Village, this happens multiple times per day. I don't have enough myself to give them lots, but I give a little bit.

    I think that churches see their giving more along the lines of what I do on the street than the government's bureaucratic methods, which makes sense. Except that many evangelical charities give their aid on contingency- the gay hustler with AIDS is not a priority. This isn't always true. Catholics love their prostitutes. But still ...

    At any rate, I think it's right to call people on "selfish Christianity", meaning "I just want to make the world a place that doesn't offend my sensibilities so I can concentrate on getting into heaven." But, I don't think that those people are the same people that are involved in religious charity work, at least, not all the time. If those folks who think that help for the poor should be the domain of religious charities aren't evil.

    Here's what's being said about this article around the blogosphere:

    Representing the Blue Team:


    Basically the religious right is saying that governments are hopelessly cruel and there's nothing you can do about it, so toughen up. That's the Christian message this holiday season. It's a self-defeating message, since the current group of people in power have no interest in governing, no respect for governing, and when they fail, they can fall back on the message that "government is inherently bad." This is of course absurd, and the massive deficits we've managed to rack up are a testament to the fact that nobody currently in power wants anything to do with small government.

    Rebellious Peasant:
    ... recent statements by some fundamentalists such as Pat Robertson (who has ties to RJ Rushdooney, Chalcedon’s founder) “to execute Hugo Chavez” and that “Hurricane Katrina was caused by the sinful nature of the people in New Orleans” come as no surprise.

    The Religious Right’s views on the causes of poverty are perfect for a ruler who wants to create a large pool of cheap labor for the ruling oligarchy—to the fundamentalists, poverty is caused by sin, not low wages, lack of jobs, or inadequate education. Bush’s “Marriage Initiative” is the first step Bush is taking in order to eliminate public assistance programs—despite the fact that many of the women he manages to marry off will be in abusive homes, and be worse off financially than they were before. This plays along with many religious extremists’ views regarding patriarchy—that women should be oppressed, and are only fit to take care of children and the house.

    Prometheus 6:
    Well, let's see. In 2001 (the latest year a linkable web page is available for) of 853,458 abortions , some 12,000 were performed nationwide where the pregnancy was more than 20 weeks along...that's 1.4%, by the way...and 32,907,000 people (11.7%) below the poverty level. Almost 40 times more poor people than there were abortions performed at all. And yes, tha's a comparison that makes as little sense as the one Mr. Hetrick makes.
    But how many abortions were done solely for economic reasons? How many were NOT done for economic reasons, and how do those children suffer because of their poverty?

    Random Ravings:

    Honestly, I have no problem with people attempting to further a conservative agenda. They are wrong, but they have every right to do it. What I do have a problem with are groups that call themselves Christians but align themselves much more with conservative, Republican philosophies than Biblical principles. And in turn, they cloak their philosophies in religious language in order to mobilize their "followers". Don't get me wrong - I am not questioning whether or not the leaders of followers of these organizations are authentic Christians. This is not an individual attack on individuals' religious beliefs. But it is an attack on the organizations that claim these beliefs but act differently. ...

    It is clear that the Bible not just talks about helping the poor, but emphasizes it. And strangely, these groups understand that (as is seen in their push to help Africa) - as long as it does not interfere with their politically conservative agenda.
    Imagine if all of those that came out opposed to abortion also came out against the death penalty.

    Imagine if all of those voting to discriminate against gays also voted to support helping the poor.

    Imagine if those that screamed about Terri Schiavo also screamed about the lives that we are ending in Iraq.

    Representing the Red Team:


    ... the Post makes the typical liberal Wallis assumption: that the Christian imperative to help the poor is completely synonymous with favoring government welfare programs. Christians apparently must give at the office, instead of giving from their own wallets and hearts.

    The Tension:

    Liberals love to have it both ways.

    Check the piece linked below about conservative Christians choosing to opt out of a joining a group named, 'Call to Renewal,' to protest against budget cuts to public programs. It's understandable that conservative Christians say no to liberal protests; they would much rather be doing something from within their own community to address social problems than to simply complain. Keep in mind that far left liberal groups have targeted Christian principled programs from the Boy Scouts, to federal aid supporting churches involved in Katrina relief (when no other aid infrastructure existed in their areas). Also keep in mind that for the most part, churches are better equipped to handle the poor and homeless on the front lines.

    It takes a lot of nerve to whine up the fact that conservative Christians won't dig in and get behind liberal programs when all liberals can do is continually dog conservative Christian dogma.

    Get Religion:

    The Washington Post carries some water today for Jim Wallis, an evangelical social activist. The story, by domestic economic policy reporter Jonathan Weisman and religion reporter Alan Cooperman, is about Christian approaches on Republican spending policies.

    As a recovering economist — and reporter who covers federal programs — I have to make a point in defense of statistical analysis. It’s no secret that reporters enjoy budget analysis about as much as we like sources who burn us. But math is our friend. It keeps us from beginning stories this way:

    When hundreds of religious activists try to get arrested today to protest cutting programs for the poor, prominent conservatives such as James Dobson, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell will not be among them.

    If last year your boss gave you a 6% raise and this year you only receive a 5% raise, is that an income cut? In Washington, D.C., it is — but reporters should know better. An increase in spending, no matter how contentious, really should not be called a cut. Anyway, without making any comment on whether this budget change is worthy of protest, the story is that the House of Representatives voted to slow the increase in the rate of spending. But we’re Get Religion and not Get Math, so let’s proceed:

    That is a great relief to Republican leaders, who have dismissed the burgeoning protests as the work of liberals. But it raises the question: Why in recent years have conservative Christians asserted their influence on efforts to relieve Third World debt, AIDS in Africa, strife in Sudan and international sex trafficking — but remained on the sidelines while liberal Christians protest domestic spending cuts?

    Don’t you love news stories that read like opinion pieces? ...

    Without contrasting the outcomes of church and state charity for the last couple of thousand years, isn’t it weird that reporters never write news stories that put those folks who support governmental charity on the defensive? Should reporters investigate the motivations of those people who advocate for housing projects that breed crime, subsidized income programs with incentives for bearing more and more children out of wedlock and welfare programs that drive fathers away from homes? Or have reporters settled the debate that the preferred way to show concern for the poor is through massive federal programs, regardless of their results?

    The Unalienable Right:

    It didn’t seem to occur to the writers of the piece or the liberal “theocrats” who are protesting these “draconian” cuts in the federal budget that federal government spending and compassion for the poor are not synonymous. ...

    There is a [biblical] mandate to take care of the poor. There is no dispute of that fact,” he said. “But it does not say government should do it. That’s a shifting of responsibility.”

    As we’ve noted several times before, liberals are not opposed to religion in politics, they’re opposed to conservatives in politics. This is just one more example of that.

    And for the Purple:

    Either End of the Curve:

    Now, I'm definitely not upset that powerful evangelical leaders don't participate in protests. Frankly, I'm not sure that they really accomplish much, and I'm generally skeptical over most forms of national demonstrations over issues like this, especially in this country, where there are more effective means. (Local expression strike me as a slightly different animal.)

    But it very definitely is bothersome that these powerful figures really do seem to take a backseat when it comes to advocating for the poor in this country. Downright irritating are some of the lame justifications offered for that failure. ...

    First, what does partial-birth abortion have to do with the issue at hand? Second, concern over one set of social issues doesn't preclude simultaneous attention to another. I mean, gee whiz, I can get up in arms about very late term abortions AND advocate on behalf of disadvantaged Americans. (And I can walk and chew gum, too! What talent!) ...

    Now, I don't have a problem with extending the referenced tax cuts; in fact, I support that. And I do have great sympathy with smaller-government advocates and do believe that lower taxes benefit society economically and otherwise. I also believe that many of the programs we put into effect under the War on Poverty (and then expanded later) had some disastrous consequences, from which vast swathes of our society have yet to recover (by the way, where's the next Daniel Patrick Moynihan?). But that, I believe, has more to do with kind and degree than the mere existence of programs for the poor, working or otherwise and disadvantaged. Further, I believe that government definitely must play a role--ethically, morally and practically speaking. (That's in no way to diminish the good work of various charities and churches, but it's not enough, it never will be, and some people will always fall through the cracks.)

    So in this case, I'm on the side of those people (including some evangelical activists) calling on Congress to try again.

    But you gotta give Wonkette the last word:

    Missing from this faith-based fandango? Prominent member of the religious right. And there's a good reason for that. They care about the poor, but they care more about fetuses. Or, as you might call them, the "pre-poor." Says a Focus on the Family spokesman:

    'It's not a question of the poor not being important or that meeting their needs is not important. But whether or not a baby is killed in the seventh or eighth month of pregnancy, that is less important than help for the poor? We would respectfully disagree with that.'

    In other words, poor people, if you're cold and hungry this Christmas, the right would love to help you. You'll just need to find a womb to crawl into first.

    Guess Who's Back?

    I know you've heard it already, but Woody Allen's "back" (as in, cool again) with his new film Match Point. I'll admit that I haven't quite gotten over the fact that the film is set in London, not Manhattan, but I'm still quite looking forward to it.

    The Observer gives the old guy 5 pages for his 70th birthday:

    “I’m not intellectual,” Mr. Allen told The Observer. “I’m the guy that you see at home with the beer watching the Knicks on television, or the football game. I’m not sitting up in bed with my Kierkegaard or reading Dostoyevsky.”

    For a moment, all those messy, sexy women in his films—who never seem to be able to choose a profession but always want “to write,” who read e.e. cummings when they’re told to by their more sophisticated lovers, who fall in love with Woody Allen because he’s their teacher—seemed less silly. In fact, he’s not unfamiliar with the inferiority complex. “I found myself—I don’t know why—attracted to what I guess you would call these kind of uncommercial-looking women,” he said of his teenage self. “They all were highly literate. They knew poetry and classical music and opera and novels and philosophy. And I was a major illiterate, and I couldn’t hold my own with those women at all. For the first time in my life I had genuine motivation toward education.”

    Sure, there were silly women in some of his films, but the idea that he's sexist never made sense to me. Everyone in his films was a mess. He was the only filmmaker whose work I saw growing up who made real women characters. Women with intellectual lives. Women characters whose very existence didn't insult me. Even the young women weren't just ornamentation.

    IN 1979, JOAN DIDION WROTE A PIECE for The New York Review of Books called “Letter from Manhattan” about Interiors, Manhattan and Annie Hall. The cool Ms. Didion had very little affection or sympathy for the hand-wringing, self-absorbed protagonists of Mr. Allen’s movies and wasn’t shy about challenging the reflexive love for Allen movies that she had observed. She quoted Mr. Allen in Manhattan: “People in Manhattan are constantly creating these real unnecessary neurotic problems for themselves that keep them from dealing with more terrifying unsolvable problems about the universe.” ...

    In her essay, Ms. Didion scratched at the Woody glaze by attacking the famous litany at the end of Manhattan, when the Allen character lists his reasons to live: “Groucho Marx, Willie Mays, Louis Armstrong’s ‘Potato Head Blues’… every experience it evokes is essentially passive. This list of Woody Allen’s is the ultimate consumer report.”

    1. Didion completely misses the point: the last thing on the list is Tracy, his teenage love.
    2. Is listening to Louis Armstrong's "Potato Head Blues" really "passive"? Is the experience of great art ever passive? And isn't this list the list of things that engaged him to the degree that it makes him want to be alive? Notice that "getting a new TV" wasn't on the list or "eventually being able to buy a better car" or anything like that- that's consumerism.

    She wrote that it “suggests a new class in America, a subworld of people rigid with apprehension that they will die wearing the wrong sneaker, naming the wrong symphony, preferring Madame Bovary.”

    The fact that Didion could write that shows that she's part of this class (yes, if you are reviewing anything for the NY Times, you are a cultural arbiter) and this class was never new. In fact, the phenomenon she discusses is class.

    Fuck Didion.

    Anyway, I'm so glad that Woody Allen's back. His works were some of my reasons for living, growing up in Midwest. I longed for a community of people who cared enough about art that it was their reason for living.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    Tuesday Reading List

    BBC: Iraqi Sunni Politician Shot Dead

    AP: More Blacks Live With Pollution

    Black Girl Interrupted: Who Am I To Say Who Lives or Dies?

    I Blame the Patriarchy: Fuck Culture

    Dvorak Uncensored: One Step Closer to Porn Tax for Italy

    VG Blog: Secretary Part

    Slate: The Other Asian Miracle

    Guardian: CIA Flight Reports Credible

    Grist: Getting Too Dirty in Bed

    There He Is, Mr. Hetero

    From "Family in Focus" (who but Focus on the Fam?): Massachusetts Pastor has Contest for Mr. Straight:

    Tom Crouse, pastor of Holland Congregational Church and host of the radio program “Engaging Your World” is launching a “contest” to name the most heterosexual guy in Massachusetts.

    “We’re just looking for tolerance for heterosexuals.”

    Someone should stand up for heterosexuality, someone should stand up and celebrate how God’s made us and I said, ‘I’m gonna!’, so I think I’ll have a Mr. Heterosexual Contest!”

    The contest will feature such manly events as how many Oprah magazines you can tear at once and a sixty second dissertation on the uses of duct tape.

    I suggest an event where this hunk-o-heterosexuality has sex with as many women as he possibly can. But somehow I doubt Jesus-surrogate, Rev. Crouse, would approve.

    Check out the Mr Hetero website.

    Holland Church is looking for "the most heterosexual guy in Massachusetts". Which kinda seems to indicate that sexuality is on a continuum.

    Hat tip to the inimitable Shakespeare's Sister.

    Fragmentation of Literary Theory

    Jennifer Howard discusses "The Fragmentation of Literary Theory" in the Chronice of Higher Ed:

    If contemporary literary theory had a British Invasion moment (or, perhaps, a French Invasion), it took place in 1966 at the Johns Hopkins University. At a conference there on "The Language of Criticism and the Sciences of Man," what has come to be known as Theory crashed onto American shores. Derrida presented a paper, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences," that marked the beginning of deconstruction — "if deconstruction can be said to have a clear beginning," according to The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.

    In that context, theory is the impenetrable postmodernist stuff that has given many a canon-loving student the heebie-jeebies since the French critic Roland Barthes declared authorship dead amid the intellectual and political tumult of 1968. And since that moment, wave upon critical wave has swept through literature departments: structuralism, poststructuralism, deconstruction, Marxism, psychoanalysis, New Historicism, feminism, postcolonialism, cultural studies.

    Along the way, as progressives abandoned the barricades for the faculty lounge, certain currents of literary theory became identified with leftist politics. The phrase "identity politics" evokes the culture wars of the 1980s and early 1990s, when conservatives accused postmodernists of making all things relative, to the detriment of the canon, critical values, and the culture at large.

    Daphne Patai, a professor of Brazilian literature at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and co-editor of Theory's Empire, argues that theory-driven tendencies in the profession have fed an obsession with "ersatz politics" among students and done lasting damage to their literary education. "We're teaching theory to students, we talk to them about Barthes reading Balzac, and they don't know who Balzac is," she says. "They don't have a background in literature because that isn't anything that anyone thinks is of value anymore."

    Of her own students she says: "They can very easily see the political bottom line in everything they read, and that's what they read for. They don't seem to know how to read any other way."

    One no longer need be an avowed opponent of theory to comment publicly on its excesses. As Amanda Anderson, chairwoman of the English department at Johns Hopkins, puts it in the introduction to her new book, The Way We Argue Now: A Study in the Cultures of Theory (forthcoming in January 2006 from Princeton University Press), poststructuralism and multiculturalism have led to a state of affairs in which "the concept of critical distance has been seriously discredited."

    In the 40 years since Derrida paid that visit to Johns Hopkins, succeeding generations of scholars have had time to fall in love with theory, fall out of love with it, and learn how to live with it. As in any long-term relationship, there's a continuing re-evaluation and reimagining of what works and what does not. Rei Terada, chairwoman of comparative literature at the University of California at Irvine, says: "As the 60s becomes a historical period... we can make finer distinctions and groupings among things that seemed all of a piece closer to the time. ... People are starting to sort out such legacies." No one still believes, for instance, "that all French theory is politically progressive," she says.

    It may be neither fair nor accurate, decades after Theory hit its high-water mark, to keep using it as a whipping boy for everything that has gone wrong with literary studies. "The problem of the humanities is funding, lack of institutional support, lowering enrollments, lowering numbers of hires, the rise of part-time labor," says Andrew Parker, a professor of English at Amherst College. "This is the real crisis, not whether we have theory with a capital T or a small T."

    Good old Daphne Patai. You'd think one Camille Paglia would suffice, but apparently the world needs two.

    My general hope is that theory doesn't get dismissed, but that the good stuff, the stuff you can't possibly throw out (Barthes, Derrida, Foucault, Butler, Lacan, Said, etc) gets mixed in with a more historicist literary criticism. People seem to fear that reading a literary text in conversation with any other text (theoretical, historical, etc) will somehow dilute or obliterate the literary text. They fear this because they've watched it happen in the work of bad critics. But bad critics will exist with or without theory. In fact, I'd rather read a bad critic with a legitimate polemic than some fool simply listing the uses of some metaphor in a particular text and then deciding that's the "theme". Thank God for deconstruction.


    1916: Ferdinand de Saussure revolutionizes linguistics with his idea of language as a system of signs (the signifier and the signified) in The Course in General Linguistics, a book compiled from students' notes at the University of Geneva after his death, in 1913. Saussure's new science of "semiology" paves the way for structuralism and poststructuralism and for the so-called linguistic turn that will mark the work of such future stars as Jacques Derrida and Roland Barthes in literary studies, Claude Levi-Strauss in anthropology, and Jacques Lacan in psychoanalysis.

    1941: In essays collected in The New Criticism, John Crowe Ransom articulates some of the formalist principles behind the New Criticism and its emphasis on the close reading of a text.

    1957: Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism challenges the New Critics by emphasizing the roles that archetype, myth, and genre play in creating the meaning of a literary work.

    1963: Richard Hoggart founds the Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham, in Britain. Much of the seminal work in cultural studies — by Hoggart, Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall, Paul Gilroy, and others — will come out of the center in the 1960s and 70s.

    1966: "The Language of Criticism and the Sciences of Man," a conference at the Johns Hopkins University, marks the debut of structuralism and poststructuralism on the American academic scene. Jacques Derrida presents a paper, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences," that becomes one of the founding documents of deconstruction.

    So, that was a fun article, but the little chronology at the bottom is fun too:

    1968: The French structuralist Roland Barthes pronounces "The Death of the Author" in an essay written during the May 1968 uprisings in Paris.

    1969: Michel Foucault attacks a fundamental premise of literary studies — that individuals produce texts — in his essay "What Is an Author?"

    1973: The Yale School rules: Harold Bloom publishes The Anxiety of Influence, and Paul de Man describes how to read deconstructively in his essay "Semiology and Rhetoric."

    1978: Edward Said's Orientalism puts postcolonial studies on the map.

    1979: Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination marks a milestone in the popularization of feminist literary criticism.

    1982: The "neopragmatists" Stephen Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels argue, in their essay "Against Theory," that "the whole enterprise of critical theory is misguided and should be abandoned."

    1986: J. Hillis Miller, then president of the Modern Language Association and a key figure in American deconstruction, delivers an address, "The Triumph of Theory," to the group's annual gathering.

    1987: The posthumous discovery of anti-Semitic wartime journalism by Paul de Man (who died in 1983) undermines the influential Yale deconstructionist's lingering influence.

    1990: A queer-studies classic arrives: Judith Butler's Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.

    2001: The first edition of The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism appears, coming in at 2,524 pages, not including notes and indexes.

    2004: Jacques Derrida dies.

    2005: The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, famous for his notion of reality as simulacrum, tells The New York Times, "Nobody needs French theory."

    "Holiday" Shopping Not Going So Well?

    Consider buying a phone card on behalf of a loved one:

    AMERICANS looking for a way to offer some holiday cheer to our troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan might want to consider the USO's Operation Phone Home — a program to give prepaid phone cards to those serving in forward-deployed locations.

    The United Service Organizations, incorporated in New York in 1941, has provided America's men and women in uniform with a sense of home away from home for more than six decades.

    Since its inception in April 2003, Operation Phone Home has distributed more than a million phone cards. The USO plans to distribute many more over the holiday season to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and to those recuperating from injuries in the United States and abroad.

    This year, the USO is offering two other ways to support America's men and women in uniform during the holiday season: through care packages of toiletries, treats and other items and through their United Through Reading program, where deployed servicemen, are taped reading bedtime stories, and the tapes are sent to their children at home.

    Donations can be made online, at www.uso.org/donate/default.cfm, or over the phone 1-800-876-7469.

    Or send a check, made out to the USO and with "O.P.H." written on the memo line, to:

    USO World Headquarters
    PO Box 96860
    Washington, D.C. 20090-6860

    This is a wonderful program and I plan to participate; hope you will too.

    Confessions of a Video Vixen

    Natalie Moore on Karrine Steffans's new book:

    Her sexual diary includes romps with Jay-Z, Ja Rule, Damon Dash, DMX, Dr. Dre, Shaquille O'Neal, Irv Gotti, P. Diddy, Ice-T, and Fred Durst. Rappers passed her along to friends like bottom-shelf champagne.

    Still, there is something to her story. Women's voices in hip-hop are muted ...

    Isn't "hip-hop culture" awful? Those negroes are at it again.

    We seem to be forgetting the Led Zeppelin Mudshark episode, and the whole Nancy Spurgeon-Aerosmith thing (they wanted to set her on fire), and the exploits of David Lee Roth, Robert Palmer, Blink 182, Trent Reznor, and just about every rock star you can name, with their groupies.

    At least I can name some female rappers who are at the top of the game: Missy Elliot, Foxy Brown, Lil Kim, Eve, Trina. Can you think of any really famous female rock stars? (Not pop singers, rock stars.) If you have to resort to saying Gwen Stefani, consider my point proven.

    How about this: our culture is sexist. "Hip-hop culture" unfortunately doesn't manage to be a great black hope in a sea of lily-white misogynists, but "hip-hop culture" didn't introduce the concept of "Pimps Up, Hoes Down", it's been there for centuries. Just ask Mozart's white European aristocratic groupies.

    Live Nude Boys

    Gotta love it:

    A gallery has replaced a painting of a naked man with a female nude after it received dozens of complaints.
    The Mark Jason Gallery, in Bell Street, Marylebone, removed the offending image by artist Edd Pearman after more than 30 men voiced their objection.

    Some said the picture would upset women, others said it was pornographic.

    Mark Jason said: "We did not anticipate just how uncomfortable and angry London men would feel about Edd's screenprint of the naked man."

    He added: "It all comes down to the fact that the British feel compelled to sexualise everything, and also that female nudity is deemed as more acceptable to the general public than equivalent male nakedness.

    I'm glad these guys were there to speak up for us women- we might have gotten all upset!

    Monday, December 12, 2005

    Are We All Secretly Members of NAWBLA?

    The Siren Song of Sex with Boys:

    WHEN Sandra Beth Geisel, a former Catholic schoolteacher, was sentenced to six months in jail last month for having sex with a 16-year-old student, she received sympathy from a surprising source.

    The judge, Stephen Herrick of Albany County Court in New York, told her she had "crossed the line" into "totally unacceptable" behavior. But, he added, the teenager was a victim in only the strictly legal sense. "He was certainly not victimized by you in any other sense of the word," the judge said. ...

    when the women face prison, questions are raised about where to set the age of consent. And because many of those named as victims refused to testify against the women in what they said were consensual relationships, not everyone agrees that the cases involve child abuse.

    Is it possible that we see young men/boys as having sexual agency, unlike young women/girls who we view as sexual victims often even in sexual relationships with partners their own age?

    I think we believe that, for an older man or woman to get in a teenage girl's pants, s/he'd have to have lied to her ("I love you, we're always going to be together," etc, etc,) whereas we aren't concerned that these boys have been somehow misled. Because girls don't want sex, but boys want nothing more. We also still see girls as having something to "give up" (virginity), but we aren't often concerned about what a boy could "lose" by having sex.

    "Madness over Method"

    Jim Holt is upset in this week's Times magazine. Why? We masses don't care enough about the truth (science). We don't trust it. Pay no attention to that sidebar chart there. It means nothing. It's just there for fun.

    Please help me to understand why religious people feel the need to call their ideas "science" in an attempt to be heard (intelligent design); please help me to understand why the FDA had to pretend that medical, scientific reasons were behind their decision not to put emergency contraception over the counter. Because I thought this meant that anyone who didn't bow down before Science was a crazy. But maybe it doesn't mean anything. Maybe it's just for fun. Like the sidebar chart over there. But don't look at it.

    On the left, fashionable thinkers of recent years have declared that science is an ideological prop of global capitalism. In the guise of giving us an objective picture of reality, they say, science encodes a hidden justification for the dominance of one class (bourgeois), one race (white) and one sex (male).

    Yup. My Amusement Park, representing the "fashionable thinkers" of "the left".

    Amazing Post on Alas, a Blog Re: "The Boy Crisis"

    If I post excerpts, some of you (you know who you are) will skip the article, so here's the link; read it whole:

    The Boy Crisis Part 2: Boy Brains and Girl Brains

    Did you finish it? All of it? Good stuff.

    I think Ampersand's post was amazing and I wanted to add one thing. If the "boy brain vs girl brain" issue is largely one of class and race, what is it that makes journalists and others define this issue as one of gender? I think that the incredible discouragement of young black and Latino (and Native American, though I know quite a bit less about this demographic- they seem understudied or under-published-about) men and boys from any kind of academic future is very much connected to a gendered and racialized system of compensation. If black women are the ones going to college, rather than men of their race, these are people less likely to be competing with white guys (and white women) for better jobs. Black women who are college graduates are likely to be shoved into glorified administrative roles, fairly permanently in many cases. (Exempting the "elite" Ivy grads and such.) Black men are hard for white folks to place in the corporate hierarchy. They don't "belong," because of their gender, in admin positions; we, as a society, seem to have a hard time placing men of any color in such feminized roles. So, where to "put" these potential "competitors"? Better not to have to cross that bridge at all. Better to see them drop out of school.

    If we call attention to the race and class issue at play here, we expose the racialized and gendered structures still very much alive in the American workplace.

    Cary Tennis on the Activist/Academic Question

    I'm a philosophy student in grad school. This is my first year in graduate school, and I left a large metropolitan city in the South in order to come to a small, isolated city in the mountainous Northeast. I really love grad school, and feel I am doing well. ...

    This is not an alienated job to me, but rather it is the work of life; what Marx meant when he called labour a "living, form-giving fire."

    But I feel guilty. Whenever I teach about people like Michel Foucault or Antonio Negri, I make sure my students know some biographical details about their lives. I make my students aware that for these two men, and many others I teach and read, there was no way to separate their resistance from their scholarship. There can be no separation between a Foucault who got into fights with the cops and a Foucault who wrote "Discipline and Punish." Nor can there be a separation between a Negri who helped organize workers in Italy and a Negri who wrote extensively on Spinoza (mostly while in prison). But I feel this is exactly what is happening to me. I haven't done any activism work since coming to grad school, despite the fact that I was a committed activist before grad school. And I am not sure how that will change, for there is just no time. Sleeping, cooking and making love are luxuries that one somehow steals in between teaching and researching here in grad school. And I will be here for at least six years, if not longer. And after that?

    I don't think the world needs another academic. Not really. What the world needs are more women and men willing to dedicate what Jefferson & Co. summed up quite nicely -- their lives, fortunes and sacred honor -- to making this world a better place. And I am not sure if there is a way in American academia to seriously help make the world a better place. The only academics in America who seriously shape the country are scientists, neocons and economists. So I feel stuck, both deliriously happy with what I am doing and at the same time wracked with guilt over what I am not doing.

    Academic Who Would Be a Revolutionary

    The whole column and the letters in response.

    Love Love Love

    Mannion and Shakespeare's Sister ask What was the last truly romantic movie you saw? The last great pair of lovers?

    From SS:

    Mannion mentions Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love and Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in Spider-Man 2.

    I have a special affinity for the Love Actually storyline between Colin Firth and Lúcia Moniz (as was mentioned by Blue Girl in Mannion’s comments), and I really love Zach Braff and Natalie Portman in Garden State.

    My favorite recent romantic pairing onscreen, however, is Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, who reprised their characters Jesse and Celine in last year’s Before Sunset.

    Comments on both blogs included:
    Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler in Wedding Singer
    James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhal in Secretary
    John Cameron Mitchell and Michael Pitt in Hedwig and the Angy Inch
    the threesome in A Home at the End of the World
    Zach Braff and Natalie Portman in Garden State
    Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell in Groundhog Day
    Natalie Press and Emily Blunt in My Summer of Love
    Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson in Benny and Joon
    Ben Schenkman and Patrick Wilson in Angels in America
    Nicholas Cage and Cher in Moonstruck
    Buffy and Angel
    Dan and Rebecca from Sports Night
    Bergman and Grant in Notorious
    paul giamatti and virginia madsen in sideways
    Bill Murray - Scarlett Johanssen in Lost in Translation
    John Cusack-Ione Skye in Say Anything
    Steve Martin and Victoria Tennant in L.A. Story
    Jake and Evelyn in Chinatown
    Antonio Banderas' and Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire
    Stewart and Novak in "Vertigo
    Hepburn & O'Toole in The Lion In Winter
    Bill Murray and Karen Allen in Scrooged
    Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in When Harry met Sally
    Bogart and Hepburn in The African Queen.
    Nick Cage and Meg Ryan in City of Angels.
    bergman and bogart in casablanca
    Jay Thomas and Annie Potts in Love and War
    Eric Stoltz and Mary Stuart Masterson in "Some Kind of Wonderful"
    Sophia Loren and Cary Grant in "Houseboat"
    Drew Barrymore and Luke Wilson, in Home Fries
    Camille & Petra, When Night is Falling
    Meghan & Graham, But I'm a Cheerleader
    Paulie & Torie, Lost and Delirious
    Keith & David, Six Feet Under
    Nate & Brenda, Six Feet Under
    Willow & Tara, Buffy
    Shakespeare in Love: Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow
    Clooney and Lopez in Out of Sight
    Same Time Next Year with Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn
    An Affair to Remember with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant

    Brian and Justin on Queer as Folk
    Nina and Jamie in Truly, Madly, Deeply
    Joel and Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    David and Sofia in the Cameron Crowe version of Vanilla Sky
    Nate and Brenda on Six Feet Under

    Oooh! Just found this (TV only) on Saucebox.


    Alternet's Laura Barcella on a new TV experience:

    A new, six-part reality show called "Black.White" will debut on FX in March.

    The show -- created by talented rapper/actor Ice Cube, with acclaimed producer RJ Cutler (of cable's "Freshman Diaries" and "American High," as well as the much ballyhooed '93 Clinton doc "The War Room") -- is still two months from airing, but it's already attracting attention for its premise.

    What is the premise? Take a hint from its name. The show puts a new, mildly bizarre spin on a tried-and-true ratings-lovin' formula: members of two very different families "trade places" for two months (see the creepily-named "Wife Swap" and "Trading Spouses").

    But in the case of "Black.White," two families -- one Caucasian, one African-American -- will live in a house together, and an acclaimed Hollywood makeup artist will "transform" the black family's skin to white, and vice versa. Then cameras will follow the fams through their daily lives, as well as in their shared home sweet home.

    Like any show of this type, the premise is convoluted enough that the results can't be completely trusted. Also, it equates "race" with "skin color", which is painfully simplistic (it could very well end up looking like a house full of biracial folks rather than white people and black people, but whatev). All that considered, I'm still interested in seeing it.

    Big Queer Asks the Tough Questions

    Are Fags the New 'Tards?

    At the end of Joel Siegel's piece Geishas and Gay Cowboys Bring Controversy on Good Morning America, Mr. Siegel predicted that Brokeback Mountain would be the most-nominated Oscar movie of the season and even named Heath Ledger as his vote to win Best Actor.

    That kind of talk makes me wonder whether the Hollywood It-ness of all things queer has finally propelled gayness to that lofty place formerly reserved for the mentally ill. Remember the '80's, '90's, and even the early '00's and Hollywood's efforts in awakening empathy for the mentally ill, reshaping the "drooling crazy" into Dustin Hoffman looking cuddly in pajamas? Actors took on everything from Rain Man to Radio in the hopes of being proclaimed Master Thespians and getting Oscar gold. "I am Sam," proclaimed Sean Penn as Jodie "Nell" Foster waved like a "tay" in the "win'" and Billy Bob Thornton slung his blade. Oh yeah, and remember how we all thought Leonardo DiCaprio would be the next Brando because he was so good at playing autistic Arnie Grape to Jonny Depp's Gilbert?

    I guess we really have come a long way in re-thinking of place of queerness in society. I certainly never thought it would come so fast, but I guess life really is like a box of chocolates! Who knew people would want to see us on screens, want to see our stories portrayed by straight actors, and want those straight actors to get Oscars and continue to have successful straight careers unstigmatized by playing gay? Now if we could only remove the stigma of being gay...

    Later on, Bigmouth brings up Heath Ledger's "Oscar-worthiness". This is something I've been thinking about a lot. Brokeback was sold out this weekend, so I didn't see it yet, but I've read enough reviews to know that Heath Ledger plays the butch, not-even-necessarily-gay-just-loves-this-one-guy top while Jake Gyllenhal (who is not getting Oscar-for-Brokeback attention) plays the man who sleeps with men, not just Heath's character, and the more sensitive let's-run-away-together bottom. What does it mean that the stoic "straight-acting" (to take one gross term from the world of personals) guy is Oscar-worthy? It's entirely possible that Ledger is just incredible- like I said, I haven't seen it. But I am, as always, suspicious.

    MSN: Kick-Ass "Girls"

    Excusing the condescending bits, this little poppy piece is fun:

    TV has long been home to great kick-ass heroines -- you know, the gal who's got your back, who comes through in the clinch, who'd toss you her 9mm and her new Jimmy Choos in the blink of an eye. She's resourceful, witty if not always graceful under pressure, and refuses to back down. Here are our favorite kick-ass girls of all time, some who'd save you -- "a lot," like Buffy -- and some who might only kick your ass ... in a good way.

    When you see Buffy and Alias and Veronica Mars, you think you know what's going on, but Dorothy from The Golden Girls, Oprah, Powerpuff Girls, and Susan Lucci's Erica Kane make appearances too- this isn't just Charlie's Angel stuff.

    The Economy of Desire

    Freakonomics of Sex:

    A man who is sent to prison finds that the price of sex with a woman has spiked - talk about a supply shortage - and he becomes much more likely to start having sex with men. The reported prevalence of oral sex among affluent American teenagers would also seem to illustrate price theory: because of the possibility of disease or pregnancy, intercourse is expensive - and it has come to be seen by some teenagers as an unwanted and costly pledge of commitment. In this light, oral sex may be viewed as a cheaper alternative.

    In recent decades, we have witnessed the most exorbitant new price associated with sex: the H.I.V. virus. Because AIDS is potentially deadly and because it can be spread relatively easily by sex between two men, the onset of AIDS in the early 1980's caused a significant increase in the price of gay sex. Andrew Francis, a graduate student in economics at the University of Chicago, has tried to affix a dollar figure to this change. Setting the value of an American life at $2 million, Francis calculated that in terms of AIDS-related mortality, it cost $1,923.75 in 1992 (the peak of the AIDS crisis) for a man to have unprotected sex once with a random gay American man versus less than $1 with a random woman. While the use of a condom greatly reduces the risk of contracting AIDS, a condom is, of course, yet another cost associated with sex. ...

    Not a single man in the survey who had a relative with AIDS said he had had sex with a man in the previous five years; not a single man in that group declared himself to be attracted to men or to consider himself homosexual. Women in that group also shunned sex with men. For them, rates of recent sex with women and of declaring homosexual identity and attraction were more than twice as high as those who did not have a relative with AIDS. ...

    In other words, sexual preference, while perhaps largely predetermined, may also be subject to the forces more typically associated with economics than biology. If this turns out to be true, it would change the way that everyone - scientists, politicians, theologians - thinks about sexuality. But it probably won't much change the way economists think. To them, it has always been clear: whether we like it or not, everything has its price.

    Interesting. Very small sample and whatnot, but it does fall in keeping with my beliefs to a degree. I think that the social costs of same-sex sexual interaction (I'd say particularly any romantic-sexual interaction) are so high that many people are as likely to consider doing it (regardless of desire) as they are jumping off a cliff. "Compulsory heterosexuality" causes inflation.

    Choiresicha points out one serious flaw:

    Pseudo-science at the New York Times ignores class and race: people with HIV+ family members in the U.S. tend to be disproportionately black [*] and/or poor and are more likely to both report and define their sexual lives in different terms than white institutions expect/predict.

    Right-o. Have we learned nothing from daily articles and talk shows and self-help books about the "down-low" over the last two years? Geez people!