Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sex, Subjectively

About a week ago, the feminist blogs erupted into what is already being called The Great Blow-Job Debate, which debate, by its attempting to categorize and render judgment on specific sexual acts, made me inarticulately livid.

BitchPhd has transformed that debate into an open forum for people to talk about how they feel about sex. Heterosexual women sound off here, heterosexual men sound off here. Lesbian women sound off, unfortunately as an afterthought, here, and gay men are cordially invited to find their own damned sites, I'm afraid.

Then there's a final thread, in which everyone is invited to respond to each other. I must admit that, even though the heterosexual women thread was gutwrenchingly honest, this conversational thread was the most interesting thread for me. The women seemed so much more able to admit to even unflattering desires; the men felt guilty--or were made to feel guilty--about deviant desires. The "come together" thread manages to reinscribe the very very good ethos of "talk about it" and "respect your partner's limits."

I could have had a lot to stay about the above, but the tangent I went off on concerned men's sense of physical unattractiveness. And indeed, what was really remarkable about the men to men thread was how unwilling men were to be frank, truly open, with one another. Teofilo worried about a general sense that men were inheriting according to which male bodies and male desire were a priori declared disgusting.

Precisely because I am a feminist, I regard this sort of belief as something to be combated, allieved, and negotiated. Sexual desire is great. Equitable sexual desire is fantastic. Sincere delight in each anothers' body does everyone a world of good.

[Update: some stylistic editing, and then some more.]


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Saturday Night

So, on Wednesday, Mohammad gets a call from a fellow grad student friend he's been playing telephone tag with for six months. He comes out from the call, shaken. "J. has cancer." J. has Hodgkin's lymphona, and he's about to go into chemotherapy. He professed himself surprised that Mohammad didn't know about the cancer, and invited him to a party, at which some shooting for his film would happen, which was to be a sort of clandestine "pre-chemo" party.

Mohammad was profoundly upset. In the last few years, cancer has wruck havok within his family--it's too personal to him for me to relate; it's enough to say that a dysfunctional family's faultlines turned into chasms. So, of course he said to J. that we'd be there at his party, we'd be glad to support him.

Then a producer called to confirm. Then the producer called to make sure we'd be there at 8:30. I began to get nervous.

We arrived at the apartment. We kissed J. hello, and he suggested we go to the back of the apartment, where we'd be out of the way for the interim. We put our things down. "Quiet on the set."

On the windowsill I noticed a signed release form for extras. Some more people flooded in. Some came with winebottles; they opened them quietly, between takes. Everyone else seemed to know each other.

Mohammad spent the next half hour being calm, trying to understand what the hell had happened. Since I never go anywhere without a book, I read that, in-between trying to figure out what was going on.

And then we realized that we'd been lured on as extras to a shoot, that despite J.'s promises we weren't going to be able to talk to him. And so we left.

Both of would have been fine with filling in as extras to his party-scene. We could have worn more casual clothes, brought books, schooled ourselves in patience. I've been on plenty on student-film productions before; I know what it is. Also, we could have stayed a little longer had anyone bothered to tell us what was going on. J. seemed to want it both ways: a party and a shoot. It would be a miracle if he managed to accomplish both, after we left.


World Cup, at 16.

Holy crap, did anyone else catch the Portugal-Netherlands game? For those who didn't, Portugal won 1-0, but the match set the World Cup record for red cards--four players redcarded out, including one of my favorite players, the tiny, speedy Portuguese forward Deco. The second half was a scrappy, ankle-biting mess, and the Russian referee nearly lost control entirely.

There were a lot of theatrics--players writhing on the ground to get back up spritely after the foul was called--but there was enough genuine ugliness (the Portuguese captain headbutting a Dutch player, a Dutch player wrassling Deco to the ground, a Dutch player kicking the Portuese star forward directly in the thigh) to merit the cards. It's just that the cards didn't always go in the expected directions...

At this rate, I can't wait to see the England-Portugal match-up. The lackluster English team should lose to Portugal, but since the latter is going to have a number of its best players sitting on the bench for redcards or perhaps injuries, it might be an interesting game indeed.


Running Right

Does this whole "Democrats should run on the right of the Republicans" strategy come from John F. "Missile Gap" Kennedy? If so, I'm not all that impressed with the idea [*cough* Cuba *cough* *cough* escalation in Vietnam* *cough].

Does the above idea explain former Clinton defense secretary William Perry and former Clinton Ass't Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter's op-ed in the WaPo on Thursday (June 22), urging the US to bomb North Korea's presumed test missile? (WaPo analysis here) Or are Perry and Carter playing "bad cop" in a complicated diplomatic game orchestrated with the current administration?

My favorite reaction to this story, btw, is Jim Henley's, here, in which he waxes sarcastic about Perry and Carter's predicting so damned certainly what the consequences--oh! minimal! or surely beneficient!--of such an action would be.

Anyway, American politics are gearing up for the silly season. It alarms me to realize, in my sporadic FP reading, how seriously other countries read our politicians' posturing and positioning on the Potomac. And in today's I think very dangerous situation, while it might seem tactically convenient for Dem hopefuls to tack right on FP and defense issues, I think it would be strategically disastrous. Enough countries are already planning their escape hatches for a post-American century; militaristic rhetoric from a Dem candidate (particularly against a McCain nominee) would be the signal to disengage, call in the debt markers, and pursue one's own interests.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Should It Really Be Called Charity?

Downblog, Gary very carefully, very tactfully suggested that I might try to find second audiences for the possessions that, in my pre-moving frenzy, I find oppressive.

Well, this evening, I ran into a woman who lives in my building whose children I've always thought are just great. I have the impression that the parents might be swimming upstream--they've often seemed stressed out--but their children are so kind, so exuberant, so thoughtful, from the brief encounters I've had with them, that I've got to think that the parents are doing something entirely right.

So, when while taking out the garbage, I ran into the mother who was doing the family laundry, and I dared suggest that maybe her children might be interested in some of the books I was looking to get rid of. "Science Fiction, Fantasy, some Young Adult stuff?" I was so afraid of seeming patronizing, you see.

When, later, I rang the doorbell to deliver the goods, I had already prepared my defensive talk.

("I'm sure you've already read the Harry Potter books, and perhaps you wouldn't be interested in the George Martin series...And if there's anything you don't want, feel free to return it?")

The older children showed an understandable wariness ("no, we haven't read all the Harry Potter books," the eldest said, with poise), the younger children a friendly welcome, and then the mother, on her way to collecting the laundry, responded kindly.

Enough so that I urged her to accept a color encyclopedia: "It's not really useful to me, with the internet, you know? And I'm moving from here in a couple of months, and it's heavy." She hesitated. "It'll be useful to them in their schoolwork," she said, and I urged her to accept the gift. "But it's sad news that you're moving," she said, and I feel happy and yet devastated.

While I'm happy finally to do something for these kids I like and happy that these books further that goal, I'm also sad--sad that it's taken me so long to get to know my neighbors, sad that the town/gown divide should have applied within my own building, sad that I didn't find a more direct way to act on my goodwill towards these children.

I have a few months yet. And then there are all the opinionated marginal notes I've left in the encyclopedia...


Sunday, June 18, 2006


Conversation with my niece, age 4, and my nephew, age 6, on a swingset.
Niece: I'm a pretty princess! Push me, make me go high!

Me: [pushing her] You know, there were a lot of very strong, brave princesses!

Niece: Na-uh!

Me: No, really! There were princesses who put on armor and swords to fight dragons! And some princesses even led armies. They were very brave.

Niece: No, no, no. Princesses wear pretty dresses and are pretty and are princesses.

Me: Well, imagine pretty princesses who are also very brave and strong! After all, some princesses have become queens; it's important that they know how to rule.

Nephew: Silly! This is America. There aren't any kings or queens in America!

Me: Okay, that's true...

Nephew and Niece: [laugh at silly Auntie Jackmormon].


Wish me luck: tomorrow I have to ingratiate myself with someone who once truly believed in monarchy.


Update: Why should I make an individual into a metonymy for an entire political system? Am I so afraid of my envy of that sort of givenness, or so ungenerous as to make the available individual the scapegoat of my ideological disapproval?


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Blogger Song

Is my site taking time
To upload every line?

That is Blogger!

You can't view the comments,
And the waits make no sense?

That is Blogger!

Is it true that
Ev'ry post that
Comes through
Comes through
At thrice the speed
For all of you?

I can't read my own threads.
Censorship? "Well," I said,

"That is Blogger!"

Should I be more patient?
(I don't pay one sole cent.)

That is Blogger!

Is it true that
Ev'ry post that
Comes through
Comes through
Eventually, maybe, if you don't run out of patience in your freetime*
For all of you?

*This note should be held for a full 16 counts while the orchestra runs wild.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Dating Dilemma: Who's on Crack?

A conversation:

She: "So I let him pick him up--he was doing it really well, really respectfully--and I don't usually let guys pick me up on the street. We exchanged emails--I at first gave him a fake email, since I don't have any that don't have my last name, and I stupidly pointed out my building when he asked me if I lived around here. And so, a couple days later, I sent him an email, apologizing that the first address may have been inaccurate and suggesting that we get a drink. He replied, very quickly, that his email hasn't gone through and that a drink sound's great. S.O.U.N.D.apostrophe S. I didn't reply."

Me: "So what happened then?"

She: "He sent an email a couple of days later, just asking, How has your day been?--I didn't reply."

Me: (After much talk about how it's possible to be perfectly datable despite feral apostrophes) "I really think you should've at least told him. No, really: you aren't willing to date him because of his spelling. Because that's what happened, when it comes down to it, and he was doing fine up til then."

She: (some time later) "I should email him to explain. Maybe he's okay. Maybe it could work out between us."

Me: "It's been almost two weeks since you've not replied to his emails. If you explained at this point that you'd blown him off because you were holding his spelling against him, the only way he'd reply is if he had no self-respect. And you don't want a guy with no self-respect."

So, who's on crack? I think that plausible cases could be made for everyone.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Jack Mormon and Secular Shi’ite Go To Church.

I wish I had a good punchline to that, or even a good descriptive adjective about kind of church we went to, besides the repeated "progessive protestant." It should merit a good joke, but what follows is pretty damned earnest. Sorry

My honey, whom I’ve decided to refer online by what would be his jihad name, Mohammed al-Tehrani, had spoken a number of times about how inspiring he’d found this one sermon he’d heard by senior minister at the church next to where I live. I’d vaguely indicated my curiosity for months, even though attending church instinctively has always signified for me Going Back To Church. Rationally, however, I know that not all churches are the same, that this church is exceptionally open, and so, when the subject came up again, we held hands and jumped.

I had been terribly worried that people would either stare—who are you?—or try to bring me into the fold with cloying hospitality. So the first moment, when we broke through a gaggle of teenagers in the entry-way to the information-desk, was perfect: I asked the be-hatted woman behind the desk, “We’re looking to go to the service?” and she broke into a beautiful smile and replied exactly, “Up the stairs to the right.” And that characterized my experience at that Church.

Read on for religion-based identity crises.
Mohammed has far fewer hang-ups about the rituals of religion than I do. Mohammed can pick up any old hymnal and sing the music with full gusto. Liberal-ish Christian churches of one denomination or another are pretty much all he’s ever known, and always as an outsider—usually as the hired accompanist, sometimes as the choir director.

I envy him this neutrality: I kept feeling proud of myself for following the tune-lines of unfamiliar hymns, scrutinizing the program for denominational signifiers, cringing when prayers actually mentioned political causes with which I absolutely agree, marvelling at the truly multicultural congregation. I’m still trying to understand my almost tearful joy that a female reverend read from the pulpit and helped consecrate the offering.

Mohammed, taking the ceremony of consecration at the words offered by the reverends—words of peace, community, sharing—ate the bread and grape juice. I couldn’t.

Not taking the sacrament, in my branch at least, was a mechanism of discipline: you didn’t take it if, for some very private reason, you felt that you hadn’t deserved it. If I noticed who didn’t take the sacrament, I learned to respect their privacy; their reasons could be minute.

Almost as soon as I saw the cups and platters unveiled, I knew I wouldn’t eat and drink. Guilt? certainly, but also a fear of feeling like a fraud. And there’s still this wild, uncontrollable pride in me that revolts at feeling comfortable within a church that reflects my adult beliefs and preferences. A voice that worries, in my living grandmother’s voice, “Well, I’m sure that’s very convenient for you, Jackmormon, and I hope you’re happy, but your great-grandfather didn’t think about such things...”

Postscript: A few days later, Mohammed and I were banging out some hymns on the piano. (I had brought my LDS hymnal over to his place, so that I’d have a chance of finding some easy music to play on his piano.) Suddenly he lunged forward, flipped through the book, and started back: “There’s something deeply fucked up about your religion, Jackmormon.”

What?, I asked.

“None of your hymns are in the minor key. None of them!”

Well, that actually fits with some Christian theological criticisms of Mormon theology, I replied.

“There’s a giant hole! No minors! What are you going to do without the minor!.”

Later, still worried about the lack of the minor in Mormon music, he said, "Of course, music isn't allowed in my religion, I guess."

That's complicated to respond to, since he's taught me (to try to play) the hottt, Classical Iranian 6/4 on the Classical Iranian tombek.

So it's "That's not what you told me about Hafez," and so, to bed.

But the better it goes between us, the sooner he'll have to confront real Mormons, not just my intellectual shadows of them. His family is snobbish but secular; mine is religious, yet snobbish. Endless room for either comedy or tragedy; should I be grateful we're not there yet?


Monday, June 05, 2006


I finally managed to bring myself to throw out almost all of my old cassette tapes.

Here's what I kept:
--the industrial-rock soundtrack to my high-school production of Hamlet I like to clean to.
--the 1990s Brit-pop mix from an ex-boyfriend that keeps me strutting when I feel shitty.
--a break-beat mix from now-obscure LPs that make me want to jog, then dance, then jog.
--a mixtape with silly lounge coverband "MikeFlowersPops," Ken Nordine, and the Paris Combo.
--a Tori Amos mix from my undergrad roommate.
--Bjork's jazz-combo import "Gling-Glo."
Below the fold, what I threw away.
Air. “Moon Safari.”
Howie B. “Turn the Dark Off.”
Backspin. “Witch Man.”
Beastie Boys*
Boards of Canada.
David Bowie. “Singles, 1969-93”
DJ Cam. Comp.
Betty Carter. “Finally”
Chopin. “Nocturnes”*
Company Flow. 2nd Album. “Funcrusher.”
The Cure. “Disintegration.”
The Cure. “Standing on a Beach.”
Cowboy Junkies. Comp.
Cup of Tea.
Daft Punk. “Homework”
Depeche Mode 101* (2. Vol.)
The Doors. Comp. “Best Of.”*
Jacques Dutronc. “gold” and “best of”
English Beat. “What is the English Beat?”
Adam F. “Colors.”
Pink Floyd. Early Comp.
Pink Floyd. “Wish You Were Here.”
Pink Floyd. “The Wall”*
Aretha Franklin. Comp.
Hardkiss Brothers. “Delusions.”
PJ Harvey. “To Bring You My Love.”
PJ Harvey. “Rid of Me.”
Headz, Vol II.
Hendrix. “Ultimate Experience”*
KRS.-I. “I got net.”
Etta James. “Tell Mama.”
Janis Joplin. “Janis”*
Jazzmatazz. “Vol. II.”
Ken Ishi. “Jelly Tones”
DJ Krush. Comp.
Maas. “Latitude.”
Jeff Miles. “Axis Comp.”
Charles Mingus.
Ninja Tunes. Comp. (3 disk.)
Nirvana. “Nevermind”*
The Orb. Comp.
Sinead O’ Connor. “I haven’t got...”
Sinead O’ Connor. “Lion and Cobra”
Sinead O’ Connor. “Lion & the Cobra”*
Charlie Parker. “Essential.”
Pet Shop Boys. Comp.
Photek. “Form and Function.”
Photek. “Modus Operandi”
Prince & the NPG*
Pink Floyd. “Dark Side of the Moon”
Pink Floyd. “Final Cut”
Plaid. “Lohel” (?) “Warp.”
Primus. “Sailing the Seas of Cheese.”
Primus. “Frizzle Fry,”
Prince. Comp.
Red Hot Chili Peppers. “Mother’s Milk.”*
REM. “Automatic for the People.”*
Rolling Stones. Comp.
Salsa. Comp.*
Roni Size. “New Forms”
DJ Shadow. Comp.
Luke Slater. “Free Funk.”
The Smiths. “Hatfill of Hollow.”*
The Smiths. “Meat is Murder.”*
Smiths. “Strangways.”
Smiths. “Queen.”
The Specials. “Singles.”
State of the Nu Art.
2 Lone Swordsmen
Tango Del Sur.
Tricky. “Maxinquaye.”
U2. Various Comp.
Violent Femmes*
Wham. “Make It Big”*
The Who. “Meaty Beaty...”*
Tom Waits. “Raindogs.”
Tom Waits. “Frank’s Wild Years.”
Led Zepplin. Comp.


Thursday, June 01, 2006


Vacation in the country has reminded me that I need to find a way to be wealthy enough to do this sort of thing more regularly!

The wounds to the right are pretty much self-inflicted: enthusiasm! + desire to find sexiest landscape site! = bramble-scratches. To me, the latter is the sign of a good encounter with Nature.

I have lots more to say, but, since I've hesitated so far, this will have to do.