Friday, December 30, 2005

Airplane Pr0n Etiquette

I just got back from my Christmas with the folks, have a great deal of catching up to do and so forth, but here's the thing that's seized my attention in this sleepless AM:

On both my trip out to Cali and my trip home this evening, I was seated right next to men looking at magazines with large color erotic shots of women. This evening, my neighbor was looking at Maxim; I don't know what it was the time before.

It seems intuitively obvious to me that looking at, say, Penthouse in crowded circumstances with strangers would be considered inappropriate. But why is that really so? What's the cut-off in lewdness?


Monday, December 26, 2005

Merry Christmas!

My presents are unwrapped--and yours?

My most satisfying present: four dessert/salad plates in vivid red, ochre, and orange hues, mismatched and slightly ovaloid. They will make my entire living room look more exciting.

My most practical present: a cheap-o digital camera. Oh, I got plans for that.

My weirdest present: one of those thermos-y whipped-cream cannisters you keep in your fridge. I eat whipped cream perhaps once a year, and I've made it perhaps twice in my life.

Most successful gift I gave: all of my nieces and nephews got Chinese-style pajamas from Canal St. Somehow, these manage to be both ninja suits and princess wear--and in a cunning moment, I managed to plant the suggestion in my niece's ear that most real princesses were brave dragon-slayers. (Even Cinderella, I swear! It's just that Walt Disney cut the story short!)


Monday, December 19, 2005

About That Fur

Well, BPhD, you've convinced me. I'll try to bring the thirty-years-unused blond mink coat back into usefulness. My relatives have assured me that nobody will object if I appropriate the fur objects. I now have no more excuses to take home the swing blond mink.

BTW, on the mink muff's maiden voyage (see below), I met another woman wearing not only a fur muff but a matching hat! In conversation, she revealed that the matching set had been designated to her in the will, on her request. The politics of fur take many twists indeed,


Practical, Immediate Dilemma

Does anyone have any advice about how best to transport a still rather wet oil painting by airplane?

Specs: I think I'm in a position to be able to claim whatever solutions are offered as carry-on luggage. The painting itself is comparatively thin, but made on Saturday. I'm flying it out tomorrow, Monday (if ever), and so I won't have a chance to run out and buy any esoteric ingredients.

Any advice?


Sunday, December 18, 2005

About That Absence...

I'm going to be mostly offline until the 30th of December. Wish me luck with my family!


Friday, December 16, 2005


I read almost every day. The frontpage posts, certainly, and the thread on the subjects that interest me or seem controversial or from ObWi posters. While I disagree with a lot of people's ideas there, while I disagree with the way that site is run, lurking there has helped me understand how conservative Republicans think in this country. I've seen a lot of threads I'd think of as starting from bad premisses and going to worse conclusions, and I've seen a lot of assertions mascarading as morals, but I don't think I've ever seen a thread that scared me as much as this one.

In which Thomas takes to task the Jewish Anti-Defamation League for expressing concerns about the pro-Christian statements of prominent politicians.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mitt Romney

Since the Massachutsetts governor has declined to run for another term, many from left to right (start there, scroll down) see this announcement as a de facto announcement of the man's intention to shoot for President in '08.

Mitt Romney is, of course, a Mormon. People are already starting to handicap his chances with the evangelical voter bloc, given that many evangelicals object to the LDS' position on the trinity. Others, including the Pandagon folks above-cited, worry about the Church's public declarations about social issues.

I'm going to continue muttering across the fold.

The religious debate over Romney's LDS affiliation isn't really comparable with the JFK debate or the Lieberman debate. From what I've heard, even since the Papal infallability claim was issued, it's been used very sparingly, and from what I understand, there's no single voice of Judiac faith. That is emphatically not the case in the Mormon church.

In the Mormon church, an official, publicized statement from the President of the Church (often phrased "The First Presidency," which would then include the President and his two closest advisors) bears the weight of The Word of God. That's what latter-day revelation means.

I don't know what kind of long-term game the Church is playing by allowing Harry Reid and Mitt Romney to claim the religion on such opposite political sides, but I suspect that the mainstream attention to a politically divided identity will help to legitimize the religion, which of course would serve the Church's interests. (Brother Brigham once assigned party affiliation to colonies in order to diffuse non-LDS fears about Mormon national political aspirations.)

But in the context of a national campaign, it would be eminently fair to ask Romney about the LDS social agenda. LDS activists were crucial in defeating the ERA. LDS Californians spoke out from the pulpit for defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. (This last one really rankles; a cousin heard such a pronouncement and then attended the funeral of a young, devout, gay man who gave up hope that his desires could ever be unsinful.) How much space can Romney actually create for himself between the pronouncements from Utah and his status as a believer?

What's the status on Romney's temple recommend? This is one of the base-line judgment of an LDS-member's obedience. In order to qualify for a temple-recommend, one has to undergo a fairly intrusive interview by one's higher-ups. Retraction of a temple-recommend is often used as punishment within the Church; sometimes the retracting cause will be personal. It's more likely than not that Romney's recommend is in order, but if not--well, there's a story to be investigated.

Earlier speculations on a Mormon presidency: here.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Invective of Masters

DH Lawrence on the English--or, really, on the squeamish reading public:
Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable sodding rotters, the flaming sods, the snivelling, dribbling, dithering palsied pulse-less lot that make up England today....God, how I hate them! God curse them, funkers. God blast them, wishwash. Exterminate them, slime.
Just read that out loud.

Primary source: letter to friend and editor Edward Garnett, upon the publisher's rejection of Sons and Lovers. Via: "The Deep End: A New Life of DH Lawrence," The New Yorker (Dec. 19, 2005). Review written by none less than n+1's blond novelist heartthrob, Benjamin Kunkel.


More Dilemmas!

How should one phrase the note?

"When you have sex in the front bedroom at 2:30am, I can hear your bed thud and your girlfriend moan. Please to stop."

"Would it be possible to move your bed away from the wall and to check the bedposts to see if they're properly screwed in?"

"Are you really having sex faster than a jabber beatloop? Because I don't know whether to be envious or appalled."

It's rather delicate.

UPDATE. Rilkefan bestowed this solution in comments, and it's too wonderful to be hidden under a click:
I know that your girlfriend's a moaner,
A fact I did not seek to know.
Tomorrow at three I may phone her,
And tell her it can be nice slow.

I fear that if we have an earthquake
Some morning about half past two,
Your ill-fastened bedposts will buckle,
And the adjacent wall will crush you.

I wish you less aerobic coupling.
I wish you conubial bliss.
I wish you could use the back bedroom
And act like you never read this.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

We Survived Abortion!

More and more, I'm seeing this crazy meme from the pro-life crew: you and I are here to debate matters of abortion because our mothers chose not to abort us. You--I mean YOU--were not aborted. Be grateful because if you hadn't existed you wouldn't be able to advocate on behalf of your existence. In this world I simply don't know how to respond to such a metaphysically loaded subjunctive.

The fuller version of this post is far from a rational counter-argument. Below the fold: some links and quotes.

Link to Survivors site mission statement. "Compelled by the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and our respect for life, the Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust speak out on behalf of the 1/3 of our generation that was lost to abortion since 1973."

Walloper's debunking of the above stats. link.
"The "Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust" site's authors, in referencing the year of Roe's passage, falsely imply that the legalization of abortion caused abortion rates to increase suddenly.

If Roe's passage caused the death of one third of a generation, we would expect birth rates to have declined drastically after 1972. In fact, nothing even close to that happened."(via Carnival of Bad History.)

And here's for the general logic of the "I survived abortion" crew:
Alice, chapter 1.: Alice ventured to taste it [the bottle not marked poison], and finding it very nice, (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffy, and hot buttered toast,) she very soon finished it off.

"What a curious feeling!" said Alice; "I must be shutting up like a telescope."

And so it was indeed: she was now only ten inches high, and her face brightened up at the thought that she was now the right size for going through the little door into that lovely garden. First, however, she waited for a few minutes to see if she was going to shrink any further: she felt a little nervous about this; "for it might end, you know," said Alice to herself, "in my going out altogether, like a candle. I wonder what I should be like then?" And she tried to fancy what the flame of a candle looks like after the candle is blown out, for sh could not remember ever having seen such a thing."


Fur: Continuing the Outerwear Dilemmas

My grandmother, dead now more than 25 years, owned a number of fur pieces. She lived in the Yukon almost all her life, so it's hard to get on her case for not having been enlightened. Since she died, an appallingly cut sealskin parka and a rather attractive blonde (fox?) swing-cut jacket have hung, unworn, in my mother's closet. When my grandfather died, a couple of other pieces surfaced. My father took from the estate a mink muff* to inflict upon me as a joke.

There are a number of values in conflict for me here. Click through to get the complete moral meanderings.

While I agree that trapping animals for their fur is an appalling and cruel practice, I also believe that killing an animal and then not using the clothing made from it is wasteful. The seals, foxes, and minks are already dead, the clothing has already been made, and the potential wearers in my immediate family have all been too weirded out by the moral issues to take any further benefit from the animals' deaths. Am I just being sentimental in feeling a bit sad that these animals died in vain?

The argument against wearing vintage or even fake fur goes that by contributing to the acceptability of fur fashion, you're enabling the slaughter of more animals. And this is of course true, to an extent: who, besides my friends, is to know that my fur piece was inherited from a grandmother from a frigid climate? This is of course at base a Kantian argument: the individual should make decisions as though her choice were a general rule. Yet does fashion really obey Kantian logic? For example, those with a fashion-eye would immediately recognize my grandmother's fox(?)-fur jacket as retro if not vintage. I do know that the ladies of a certain age I've seen wearing full-length mink coats have made me tend to smirk at rather than envy them. If I were a young, semi-attractive, and not-fashion-unconscious personage, would I be doing more harm? If so, we're already out of Kantian territory, I would say.

And then, as my Yukon-raised father put it, there's a rather substantial moral distinction between trapping and farm-raising fur animals. In the former case, many more animals will die or will be maimed than will be used: many of the traps will be sprung by non-fur animals, or the traps will ruin the animal's pelt. (Clubbing wild seals, in my opinion, is also right out.) But when it comes to farm-raised animals, how do we really make a moral distinction between fur-producing animals and meat-producing animals?**

So far, all of my grandmother's fur pieces have remained firmly in the closet. I haven't been able to bring myself to wear the mink muff even to friendly costume parties. Of course this has partly to do with the fact that muffs are stupid, impractible items; yet when I suggested to a friend that I try to find a tailor turn my impractible muff into a more useful hat, he responded with horror: "But it's fur!" I'm pretty much the only candidate for the remaining fur pieces in my mother's closet: mom lives in Berkeley, and the sister who might fit the pieces lives in Boulder. In NYC, as some members of the family have suggested, I might get some use out of them.

So, would it be ethical to do so?

*Since I've been hanging around The Mineshaft the past few weeks, I should define a "muff" as a cylindical object into which one both hands. The inherited "muff" also features a little pocket, which isn't large enough to fit the accessories of a modern woman.
**I'm not a vegetarian, although I've wandered in and out of vegetarianism, but on the rare occasions I do buy meat, I buy organic, free-range meats and do my damnedest not to waste any part of the animal. It costs more and takes more time, but I'd estimate that I don't buy meat more than four times a month. If I can make a single, free-range chicken last a week and a half, I figure I'm contributing in my small way in the derailment of the industrial meat complex.


Snow and the Stylish Gal

I have relied for years on combat boots to see me through real storms. They're mostly waterproof, and since the 1970s, they've been a familiar sight--if sigh-engendering--in public places.

My style-maven friend tells me that I'm too old to wear combat boots to combat the snow. Yet she's advocating as a substitute galooshes. She had an old-school brand all picked out, but the idea of wearing galooshes in my adult years, in NYC, just flabbergasts me.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Decal Politics

What shall I do with my new "Card Carrying Member of the ACLU" sticker?

I don't have a car, and I don't take my laptop anywhere even halfway public. The sticker would quickly peel away from my everyday winter coat, and I don't think the gigantic walkman on which I listen to NPR is big enough to do the sticker justice. Ideas?


Real Wars Have Ground Troops

Kevin Drum criticizes a Foreign Affairs analysis of how public support evolves for massive ground troop deployments on the basis that there have been rather few ground troop deployments in recent history: WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. (Presumably, historians are still writing the history of Iraq I.)

This entry in the liberal War on Terror reminds me of the apparently strange position I found myself in as a New York-resident liberal with many international friends immediately after 9-11. Obviously, we were going to have to go into Afghanistan. Just as obviously, the human rights situation in Afghanistan was appalling, and the Taliban had been consolidating an absolutist regime for years. I'd been getting Help Afghani Women emails since 1999, and the destruction of the giant Buddhas sent a chill up the spine of most academics.

So when the Taliban government of Afghanistan defied the US, refusing to give up Bin Laden and Al-Qaida, I thought: "This will be awful, this will kill many civilians, but this will be a just war. And, if we do it right, if we see it through, we might actually do some good in a foresaken part of the world that has known a shitload of misery--as we wreak our vengeance."

I wan't thrilled about the idea of the US entering en masse into the "graveyard of empires," as Afghanistan has famously been called, and I did appreciate that there were enormous logistical difficulties involved in getting troops, even in small quantities, into such an undeveloped nation. But this was our justified war. If we were going to strike a symbolic blow (as such a retaliatory move against terrorists--again, symbolic actors--from the underdeveloped southern hemisphere should be), I always felt that we should do with with gumption and with honor.

Yes, I was one of those totalized marginals who thought we should land massive troops in Afghanistan and do nation-building there. We had international support, we had a legal mandate, and we had at the very least a few short-term goals: get Al-Qaida and rout the Taliban. Of course there would be an insurgency, a revanchist faction or two, which is why ground troops would be necessary to hold territory for many years.

When I understood that the Pentagon's plans for a very limited, proxy war, I was bitterly disillusioned, which I wouldn't really have thought possible. But there you go.

Many people have "given" the Afghan campaign to this administration as a sucess. I will say this: the US is not "bogged down" in Afghanistan. I'm afraid even to research the human rights NGOs about what has happened since the US campaign (air and proxy): I've heard too many stories over the last few years. Since the invasion of Iraq, many people have pointed to the abandonment of Afghanistan as an unfinished project. To the latter, I would say: Get real and look harder. Without a substantial ground commitment, the US was never serious about transforming Afghanistan. The symbolic transformation of a fundamentalistic regime was always-obviously half-assed.

This much was obvious before the sabers started rattling in Iraq.


Saturday, December 03, 2005

I Thought Mint Was Unkilliable

I've been told by professional florists (from whom I was trying to buy plants) that my f'ng mint batch, bought in Oct., is dead, and granted that my Oct bunch of basil, repotted and watered every other day (like my dead mint) is struggling along, I'm starting to think that I'm not going to buck the trend.

But I'm willing to water my herbs every day (to combat the overheating); I have full light in the mornings; I have a very spare hand on the Miracle-Gro, and I am very willing to accept that my various indoor flowering plants should stop being exciting--but what I really want is a nifty way of growing indoor herbes for eating. Advice?