Archive for October, 2009

‘Tis the season for the annual handwringing about Slut-o-ween – the “sexy” costumes that have become de rigeur for women and now, it seems, prepubescent girls, too. Trixie at The American Virgin posted a picture of Miley Cyrus’ nine-year-old sister dressed up as … a dominatrix? Hard to say, but as my own nine-year-old Bear likes to say: “It’s a little inappropriate.”

I don’t really care how bare people want to go, though tonight’s massive street party in Athens will be chilly, and I’m not at all sad to be home writing and filching my kids’ candy, instead. It becomes a problem when “sexy” costumes are virtually mandatory for women, while scantily clad men are both rare and liable to take abuse for it. One of my former students told me her boyfriend was harassed on the street when he wore a half-nekkid costume.

Also, hasn’t it all been done by now? Sexy nurse, sexy schoolgirl, sexy vampire, sexy Minnie Mouse? (Really! And Minnie is on sale, so stock up for next year, gals, before that link goes dead.)

This year, I went trick-or-treating with my kids as “sexy grapes.” I did all the sexed-up costumes one better: I didn’t have just two large, squishy globules on my chest, I had dozens of them! All over me! And people could squeeze them!!

Seriously, what if we decided that costumes didn’t have to be sexy or scary? What if we just had fun with them? Zippa writes that all the fun has gone out of Halloween for her since she grew up, and I get why she’d feel that way. Having kids is one sure way to put the magic back into the holiday (though I wouldn’t advise tossing the birth control for that reason alone). But what if imagination were more important than being sexy? Hmmm … a good imagination is actually sexier than “sexy,” any day, in my book.

Those grapes are a very fine vintage, by the way. I sewed them myself from felt and polyester batting my last year in college. I probably spent more time making that silly grapesuit than on studying for exams that quarter. The grapes sag a bit but they’ve held up pretty well. I guess 1985 was a good year for Merlot.


(Behind me: the tulip and lavender bed, done for the year.)

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The German Democratic Republic built a lot of apartments from prefab material in an effort to alleviate their perennial housing shortage. They had a great name for it, Plattenbauweise, which is only a long word when you consider the technique is called “Large Panel System building” in English. Basically, the builders took a bunch of concrete slabs and tacked them onto a frame. If you were really lucky, you lived behind a slab equipped with a balcony. I saw a lot of them in Berlin when I lived there, but I was lucky enough to never live in one myself. The apartments tended to be efficient (read: cramped and utterly lacking in character). And they were almost infinitely modular – so interchangeable, in fact, that you can play Tetris with them:

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

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Transformer Porn

[Update, months later: Dudez! I am amazed at how many hits this post still gets. If you’re looking for erotic inspiration and you’re over 18, may I recommend you go off and google Erika Lust or Tony Comstock or “Beautiful Agony” or even Abby Winters? (None are safe for work.) If you are looking for transformers, go look for transformers. The world of transformer porn is impoverished. And if you’re curious about sex but still under 18, please check out Scarleteen, which I promise will help you navigate the sometimes alarming, sometimes miraculous shoals of sexuality. Srsly – I am in my 40s, and I still learn good things from Scarleteen.]

The other day, a friend of mine mentioned that her son and a friend of his (both in middle school) had been discovered searching for porn on the Internet. Now, that probably describes a few million teenagers in this country, but they were searching specifically for transformer porn. It sounds like the parents were admirably cool in their reactions – no shaming, just a talk with the kids about how porn really, really doesn’t reflect the real world.

I have to admit, though, that I was curious if such a thing exists. It does! The Internet truly has everything! Transformer porn is apparently part of the whole strange-to-me genre of fan fiction. You can go here for an index of not-safe-for-work still illustrations.

These images all seem to feature transformers in their humanoid guises. It makes me wonder how their vehicle-like states could get it on. Would we even recognize it as sex? Or would their erotic machinations just look like a bumper-to-bumper collision?

Anyway, I think this clip says it all:

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The Political Cat posted this clip of Al Franken questioning Mark de Bernardo, an arbitration lawyer and apologist for Halliburton subsidiary KBR. I was blown away by Franken’s intelligence and empathy. The clip is longish but it’s worth watching the whole thing to see him make mincemeat of Mr. de Bernardo in the last third.

Al Franken is definitely is ready for prime time.

I love how Franken uses “Sir” to punctuate his questions. He manages to be perfectly dignified even as he wreaks devastation on de Bernardo’s pathetic excuses for denying justice to survivors of workplace harassment and assault. I love how de Bernardo’s face collapses like yeasted dough that’s just been punched down (at 6:39, for instance).

The clip doesn’t show as much of Jamie Leigh Jones, but you see enough to appreciate her determination to make sure that what happened to her can never happen again with impunity.

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My next-door neighbors, who just welcomed an infant daughter into their lives, had to make a trip to the ER today because she appeared jaundiced. She’ll be fine, the doctors said. She won’t need to be readmitted. They were lucky.

I was glad for my neighbors. But as I heard their story, I also flashed back on my Tiger’s first days. (This may be why parents sometimes seem overeager for their friends to reproduce: through them, we relive moments in our lives that might otherwise be lost forever.)

The Tiger, too, was slightly jaundiced as a newborn. But while today was a sunny, crisp slice of fall, he turned yellow in the late days of a golden June. The treatment was to take him outdoors, naked but for his diaper, and let him bask in the sun. The sky was cloudless. The air was dry and hot. I basked, too.

Medically, it worked. We, too, were lucky,. I was grateful. But what really sticks with me is the memory, etched into my flesh, of snuggling with him as he relaxed entirely into me, as if he were trying to approximate the warm watery cave he’d just left a few days before. In some ways, I felt closer to him than before his birth – maybe because he was now clearly his own person, and I didn’t take our closeness for granted. I no longer assumed a symbiosis. And that made the momentary  blurring of boundaries all the sweeter. Also, it surely didn’t hurt that I, too, was finally warm enough.

Sometimes I think it’s those body memories, intense but often buried under the sediment of visual and verbal memories, that make us who we are. I realize I’m privileged to have had lots of good body memories. I would wish that for everyone, because the habits and memories of the flesh constitute our deepest selves, and yet we are largely at their mercy.

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Ever heard of “family voting”? I hadn’t, either, until I came across the term in a translation project on Eastern Europe. It might sound warm and fuzzy at first blush. It’s anything but.

Here’s what the UN has to say about family voting:

A particular issue that often affects women and merits attention in voter education efforts is the confidentiality of the vote. According to United Nations standards and international human rights law, each ballot must be secret and independent. Most national laws also have provisions to this effect, though such provisions are not always enforced. Men and women must both understand that “family voting”—a practice in which one family member casts ballots on behalf of the entire family, or in which a husband and wife enter the voting booth together—is not an acceptable practice in democratic elections. Family voting is particularly likely to detract from women’s ability to cast individual and secret ballots. In its worst form, family voting constitutes a type of fraud in which women are deliberately deprived of their right to vote. If perpetrated deliberately and on a large scale, family voting can bring into question whether an election outcome reflects the will of the people.

[emphasis mine]

You may be thinking: Okay, we know things are screwed up in Afghanistan. But wait! This is happening in Europe.

I ran across the issue of family voting while researching elections in Macedonia, where it appears to be a particular problem, but it’s not confined to one country. It happens elsewhere in Eastern Europe, too. In Macedonia, though, it seems to occur on such a large scale that it could tilt the outcome of elections.

The various NGOs working to eliminate family voting advocate better voter education, more professionalized training of poll workers, and enforcement of sanctions. Penalties could range from annulling a family’s votes to invalidating the votes from an entire polling station. Experts on the Macedonian situation observe, however, that such drastic measures would likely just be gamed by politicians, further skewing election results and creating new opportunities for fraud.

You won’t hear me say this often, but it seems to me that the root problem here is patriarchy. In Macedonia, the male “heads of households” are evidently powerful enough to dictate their wives’ behavior – and possibly that of other relatives, too). That doesn’t render the problem completely intractable, but it does make me wonder if it might be as deeply rooted as some of the ethnic hatreds in the region.

Update, 10/25/09, 11 a.m.: MM – who posted with a Macedonian IP number – remarks that “It only happens amongst the Muslims in Macedonia (especially the Albanians), not amongst the ethnic Macedonians.” None of the Internet sources have found address ethnic and religious differences. However, I’ve learned that family voting is also a significant problem in Kosovo (according to the UNHCR), so MM’s comment makes sense. Family voting is a rural phenomenon, which further makes sense because urbanization tends to undermine full-scale patriarchy.

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Caturday: Scary Clown Edition

My kids are more creeped out than amused by clowns. They must have got it from me. One of my worst childhood memories dates from when I was 10 or 11. I was in the church basement with my Sunday school class, watching a movie in which a white-painted, bald mime was pursued by a violent mob. The mime was evidently supposed to represent Jesus Christ, but the scene made me, too, want to run away screaming. I was haunted by it for years. Some of the other kids mocked me for nearly as long. No wonder I grew up a skeptic.

Lately, the Tiger has been having lots of bad dreams. He’s been chased by ravenous giant caterpillars and attacked by pteronodons, but the clowns have left him alone. So far.


Insomiacat from ICHC?

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