This is the archive of the original tigtogblog

tigtog now posts at the new and improved Hoyden About Town. She also blogs at Larvatus Prodeo and Finally A Feminism 101 Blog. If the new Hoydenspace is down you should find updates below.

Posts begin below the Feed Modules from the blogs named above.

Hoyden About Town

Latest Posts from Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog

2006-10-16

Oh dear

I knew I should have installed that handy-dandy "BackUp on Demand" plugin for my new blogspace on the weekend.

However, I was busy tweaking the CSS for new Oz sports blog Sidelined instead, so I didn't do it. Now my viv.id.au domain is down entirely, so I hope my webhost's backup is working OK for when they get the site back up.

UPDATE: the webhosts have come through and the new Hoyden is back up and running.

2006-08-28

OK, that's a wrap

The new digs seem to be working, so it is now officially time to update your bookmarks.

http://viv.id.au/blog/ is the URL of the new Hoyden About Town (note no more hyphenating)

From time to time posts may appear here if something happens to my webhost, but otherwise that's it.

Seeya over there, folks.

P.S. for anyone so moved, comments on all archived posts here remain open and I will still receive an email alert so that I can respond. And as Vicki reminded me, RSS details for the new blog are in the comments below.

2006-08-26

Weekend flashback has taken a journey

I'm testing out some new digs, so this weekend's flashback is over at a shiny new Hoyden About Town.

Let me know either here or there if you run across any problems using the new site.

2006-08-24

Scary!

New LP commenter tanja has a terrific blog - art and politics meet photoshop at Poligoths. If our muppets in Canberra confuse and infuriate you, head over for a point and a laugh.

And my perennial favourite Chris Clarke at Creek Running North reminds us why we should Hang Up and Drive already.

2006-08-22

Look at this tree


Seems rather attractive doesn't it? Harmless? Innocent even?

Don't you believe it.

A close relative of this tree has been working fiendishly for several years now to lever up one of the large concrete slabs that makes up my driveway.

Today its nefarious scheme bore fruit, so to speak. As I was minding my own non-tree-related business, washing down the rear window of the togmobile before sallying forth, this tree's patsy, the concrete slab raised more than 5cm above the one adjacent, tripped me over!

I swear I heard a sussurative snigger. When I uprighted myself, I knew what had to be done.

Dear reader, I kicked it right in the damn trunk. Exactly where I'm going to drill the holes for the poison.

2006-08-20

Amanda vs Hef

Amanda at Pandagon takes on the myth of Hugh Hefner as a sexual revolutionary. After noting a description of the lives of Hef's "girlfriends" where they are subject to strict curfews and other oppressive "house rules", she goes on to ask:
How can someone be considered a symbol of freedom when he thinks he's entitled to stifle, control, oppress and dictate the lives of adult women? Granted, his "girlfriends" are employees of his, but in this country we generally believe that part of freedom is the freedom of oppression from your employer - my boss is not allowed to tap my phones, tell me who I can date, or give me a curfew. (For the record, it's shit like this that makes it hard for me to imagine a world where prostitution is ever strictly a labor transaction instead of about giving men power and control over women's bodies, as I note in the comments of this thread. The "girlfriends" are well-paid whores, but they demonstrate what the problem is when discussing prostitution, which is we assume that it's about selling sex, but most of the time it's about selling the opportunity to abuse women.)
The argument that the sexual revolution has bifurcated into a misogynist "revolution" where women's sexuality is oppressed by being shoehorned into performing for men versus a genuine feminist sexual revolution where women's sexual pleasure is one of the tools for establishing egalitarian relationships between men and women is one I hadn't seen so clearly stated. before She's right that it's vital not to conflate the two. Read the whole thing.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

From The Age:
A new survey shows that one in five Victorians believe women are just as likely as men to violently assault their partner.
The dramatic shift in public opinion stems from the rise in fathers' groups who say women are just as violent as men in relationships, reports Fairfax newspapers.
[...]
Mr Moodie said the change in attitude was disturbing given that domestic violence was the leading cause of preventable death for women in Victoria aged 15 to 44.
[...]
"There may be a reluctance to see men as the more violent sex, and an appeal in the idea of gender equality in regards to domestic violence. But the data simply doesn't support this view," La Trobe University men's issues expert Michael Flood said.
"Men's and fathers' rights groups have been pushing this myth for some time and draw on some actual research, but they are very selective in that research."
A longer post of mine discussing this Age article, with links to critiques of the studies cited by MRAs showing how they misrepresent the actuality of domestic violence, is up at Larvatus Prodeo.

2006-08-19

Weekend flashback: boots on the bridge

I'm amazed at how difficult it is to find an image online of Uhura's boots.



Apparently all the screen-capture nerds were much more interested in the Mirror-Uhura, but they only show her from the waist up, so I had to resort to the action figure to show you the even better boots.




No wonder the bridge crew got all discombobulated.

A new superhero (swoon)

The mighty Fixateur D. Perspective!

image from here

Are you finding that relentless spin is making you dizzy and confused? Is the obsessive nit-picking over teeny-tiny reportage discrepancies by conspiracy theorists making you nauseous?

Let Fixateur guide you through the passages of purple prose to the safe harbour of proper perspective. Check out his work in The Case of Mountains v. Molehills today!

2006-08-17

Transparency in Pregnancy Counselling

From the background section of the Senate Committee Minority Report:

The aim of Transparent Advertising and Notification of Pregnancy Counselling Services Bill 2005 (to be referred to as 'the bill' from here on after) is to regulate pregnancy counselling services to prevent misleading or deceptive advertising or notification of pregnancy counselling services.

On the recommendation of the Selection of Bills Committee, the bill was referred to the Community Affairs Legislation Committee for further examination into the adequacy of the legislation in improving the regulation of pregnancy counselling services. The Committee was also required to determine whether counselling provided by Government funded pregnancy counselling services is objective, non-directive and includes information on all three pregnancy counselling options.

This bill does not discriminate against any particular pregnancy counselling service, whether anti-choice or pro-choice.

It is designed to implement the necessary regulatory measures to prevent the misleading and deceptive advertising of pregnancy counselling services. It will not force services that have a philosophical opposition to abortion to refer women to termination clinics, but as the legislation clearly sets out, it requires these services to advertise if they do not provide that particular service, so women can be fully informed.

The Minority Report points out three major areas of misinterpretation of the Bill, each of which is detailed and refuted.

Misinterpretation 1: Bill forces pregnancy counselling services to refer for abortion
The legislation simply does not "force" pregnancy counselling services to refer for abortion. It does require services to be upfront about whether or not they offer or advise on all three options to women seeking advice.

Misinterpretation 2: Bill forces counsellors to participate in an "illegal act"
As this bill does not seek to change counselling behaviour, merely how they advertise that behaviour, if they are not acting illegally now it is impossible for them to act illegally by continuing their current behaviour.
If so - called "pro-life" pregnancy counselling services are proud of their stance, then advertising that they do not refer for terminations should not be an issue.

This bill is not a debate about the legality of abortion it is about providing women with upfront information about the services that they are contacting for pregnancy counselling.

Misinterpretation 3: Bill favours Pro-choice pregnancy counselling services
The minority reports take:

When questioned on how the bill would "favour" only pro-choice pregnancy counselling services, Festival of Light claimed:

Because it would provide penalties only for those pregnancy counselling organisations which do not directly refer for abortion and no penalties for agencies like the Pregnancy Advisory Centre in Woodville which does not provide ongoing support for women who want to continue their pregnancy.

In response to this accusation, Senator Stott Despoja stated:

If they advertised as a non-directive counselling service and they failed to provide those three options, you bet I'd be happy and they would be guilty under this legislation! It applies across the board
There's quite a bit more, and the so-called Majority Report (signed by 3 Senators) recommending against adoption of the Bill is fascinating reading of rhetoric informed by an anti-choice agenda, incorporating nearly all the misconceptions outlined in the Minority Report (signed by 6 Senators) above.

Full Senate Committe reports on this bill here

2006-08-16

More pimping the idiot box

Ricky Gervais' new series, Extras, starts tonight on ABC at 9pm in the slot where Absolute Power just ended its season. If they had to take my Stephen Fry away, at least I get Ricky in his place (talk about contrasts in brilliant biting humour styles).

It follows on from our tied-for-#1-slot family favorite must-see programme, Spicks and Specks, (equal #1 is the new Dr Who). Then there's the still amusing Glasshouse, and the comfy slipper of David and Margaret At The Movies before bedtime.

We love our Wednesday nights in.

2006-08-14

CRACKER!!!!

This Fri night on Channel 7, Robbie Coltrane is back as Fitz after 10 years, and Jimmy McGovern is back writing it after 12 years.

For some reason, Australia's getting the world premiere.

Set those VCRs, everybody.

A beer bottle full of terror

The Poor Man Institute (for Freedom and Democracy and a Pony) spent last Friday Getting Serious About Terror.
There. Now I've articulated a strategy every bit as coherent and likely to succeed as the Bush-Cheney-Sullivan strategy.
Well done that man.



Hat-tip to Tim Lambert.

Links post: authoritarian childrearing and exodus

There's some very interesting writing on the religious-authoritarian worldview around at the moment. Authoritarian childrearing practices such as those recommended and followed by many religious groups are an ancient tradition, and in certain societies add materially to survival prospects. But is authoritarian childrearing a successful strategy for producing adults capable of achieving what they want in our modern society?

Coturnix, guest-blogging at Echidne of the Snakes, offers a round-up of the latest research (follow the links in his post) regarding authoritarian childrearing, how it instils a worldview of extreme competitiveness, suspicion and isolationism, and what that means for attitudes towards sex, gender and the institution of marriage.
Coturnix on Politics, part I - an overview

Sara Robinson, an ex-fundamentalist, is guest-blogging at Orcinus on the authoritarian personality, its impact on people belonging to such groups, and how people who come to leave fundamentalism find the motivation and courage to do so.
Cracks In The Wall, Part I: Defining the Authoritarian Personality
Cracks In The Wall, Part II: Listening to the Leavers

[crossposted at Larvatus Prodeo]

2006-08-13

Weekend flashback - the remiss edition

I was so crook yesterday I forgot all about this, so I'm glad I did my Googling for images earlier in the week.

When I was about 10, in the mid-70s, there was a big old picture palace about a mile away that still did the Saturday matinee sessions where we got one movie, then a couple of serials, and then another movie. We usually got a black and white classic adventure, then an old Western serial and a Space adventure serial, then a more recent movie. It was absolutely full of kids chucking lollies around the place, racing Jaffas down the aisles, and scaring each other about how some other time some kid died when someone up in the gallery dropped a drinkcan on their head. It was magic.

And that's where I first met Flash Gordon, long before I ever saw the camp 1980 movie remake.

The boots! That feather! That blunderbuss style raygun!
And Buster Crabbe before he got caught out in a peroxide rain.

Extra boots to make up for last week's lack.

The book tag


Morgspace tagged me for a book meme. I don't usually do these blog memes, but Morgan knows me well enough to know I'm unlikely to resist a chance to jaw about books.

1. One book you have read more than once
I love rereading my favorite novels. As I read more and learn more about writing, I spot more ways that the authors have set their characters and plots up to bring about the satisfying denouement or the situation requiring the perfect one-liner, and I like that I can spot that now.

Some people find an appreciation of the nuts and bolts limits their suspension of disbelief - I find that only if the book has been badly written, when a particularly clunky piece of exposition or plot-hustling can wrench one out of the bookworld. Knowing more about the authorial toolbox enhances the pleasure of a well-written piece, for me at least.

The novel I keep rereading several times a year is Jane Austen's gem Pride and Prejudice, the play I keep rereading is Shakespeare's MacBeth, and the non-fiction is Carl Sagan's paean to skepticism, The Demon-Haunted World.

2. One book you would want on a desert island
I'm torn between the eminent practicality of the SAS Survival Handbook, and something magnificently escapist to while away the waiting hours. It's an awfully long time since my childhood bushwalking years, and while I'm reasonably confident of my wilderness skills a reference book of the basics would still be handy. However, a desert island - what am I going to need? Water supply, a knife to harvest fruits etc, a shelter from the sun, and a fishing net of some kind. Maybe I would really need a book to keep me sane after getting the necessaries out of the way and settling down for the wait for rescue.

If we're going to go for fantasy, I'm going to get greedy and want an omnibus edition of the collected works of Ursula LeGuin (I've just picked up a secondhand omnibus of the first four Earthsea books for the tigling to read - she's busy on something else at the moment, so I might grab the chance to reread them myself while I'm battling this headcold)

3. One book that made you laugh
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. Crivens! I love his entire ouevre, natch, and I particularly enjoy watching how an author who averages just over a book per year for 20 years develops his skills from facile parody to sublime satire over the years. I reread my Pratchetts often.

4. One book that made you cry
Only one? I finally this year got around to reading To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Her beautiful evocation of a young child learning just how awful the world can be behind the civilised facade, and who her father is besides just being Dad, and written for those of us who are aware of the US civil rights battles in a way that Scout and Atticus can't know. Many tearing-up moments there. Amazing stuff, and why did she never write another novel?

5. One book you wish you had written
I, Claudius. The foundational conceit of the book is brilliant, and how he makes the characters even more poisonous and aggrandising than salacious Suetonius and priggish Tacitus do at their worst is fabulous.

6. One book you wish had never been written
Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth in 1970. The first best-selling prophecy book of modern times, and a touchstone for a whole raft of dispensationalist apocalyptic prophecy nuts to get all political on the rest of us. His so-called fulfilled prophecies are utter bunkum and so easily shown to be so, and yet it's been so influential in the Religious Right. He's also got a truly shocking tash.

7. One book you are currently reading
Just finished rereading Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsdawn. A bit of comfort reading while I've got the cold. It's one of the later ones, long past her best, when she was getting a bit mechanical about filling in gaps in the Pernese timescale with yet another book just because she knew that Pern would always sell. Still, I really do love her dragons.

8. One book you have been meaning to read
Lolita, by VladimirNabakov. I've read a lot of people recently pointing out how perfectly Nabakov skewers the oversexualisation of young girls by showing both Humbert Humbert and Lolita to end up as hollow shells. I'm intrigued by the idea that it's not just the perverted wankfest I've always heard implied, so I'm going to give it a go.

And on the 1st September, I'll start reading Patrick White's The Vivisector with the other members and lurkers at the Patrick White Reader's Group Blog.

9. One Book That Changed Your Life
I wish I knew the name now, but I don't. In Year 9 French, I had to do an assignment on a person from French history. I was away the day the assignment was given, and all the rest of the class took the obvious candidates. My teacher gave me Cardinal Richelieu, whom I had always assumed was entirely fictional. I borrowed three books on his life from the library and read them all.

It was a revelation: they all agreed on the basics of dates, places and major events, but the interpretation and tone of the books was so different! Yet they were all supposed to be history, based on fact - how could one write of Richelieu as a great reformer and another write of him as a reactionary whose restructuring of French legislature and taxation to bolster the monarchy led directly to the bloodbath of the Revolution? And why did none of them think the royalty and aristocrats written of by Dumas in his Musketeer books were romantically noble and wonderful at all? I never looked at my nana's Georgette Heyer and Jean Plaidy books the same way again.

10. Now tag five people
Brooklynite: enough with the cute kid, dammit. Renovation can't possibly be all that time-consuming either. Thesis to edit? - pishposh. Feed me book titles!
Matilda T. Zombie Queen: because she's more up-to-date with SF than I am, and ghoulish too.
Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony: Helen seems to read lots of things I don't (yet) and that's cool.
Don Quixote of Silent Speaking: he's spending too much time out and about with that cameraphone, and some inside bookthinking time will do him good.
BiblioBillaBong's Ron: I should tag at least one actual book blogger, yes?

Don't come near me


I hab a cod.

Sneezing, sniffling, snoring, sinus-achy misery.

I can't smell anything in my garden or taste anything on my plate. I hate the world. If you come near me I'll give it to you too, just so that I don't feel so alone in my pain.

Bah.

2006-08-11

Short and sweet

I've a long post up at Larvatus Prodeo today, and I'm composing a response to Morgspace's 10 Questions about Books meme with which he has tagged me, so that's preoccupying me somewhat.

I just have to mention how my jaw dropped to the floor when I heard on the radio that one of the men charged over a group rape is apparently of the impression that "but I thought she was a prostitute" constitutes some sort of defense. Right. Because if somebody's selling something, we're perfectly justified to just take that something without paying for it, aren't we?

Arseholes.

2006-08-09

Unbelievable

A WA teenager with leukaemia has been denied the disability pension on the grounds that leukaemia is not a permanent disability.

Right. A condition requiring years of treatment to get better, and which in the meantime means he needs help dressing and bathing and more, is not disability enough to access Centrelink benefits just because he's not going to have it all his life (unless of course it kills him)? What ignorant, poorly trained moron came up with that decision?

Well, it wasn't Centrelink themselves who made the decision, under the new welfare changes whereby anyone applying for a disability support pension must demonstrate that they are unable to work 15 hours a week. Apparently the rules make no exclusions for obvious no-brainers like people undergoing chemotherapy. The actual decision was, of course, made by one of those outsourced private agencies that conduct Centrelink appraisals these days.

The kicker, for me? When she took him in to the agency for his disability appraisal, the day after he was released from one of his many hospital admissions, the only reason she managed to get her son to the interview (which they had refused to reschedule) was that passing police officers lifted his wheelchair up the steps.

One would think that requiring agencies that conduct Centrelink disability appraisals to at the very least have wheelchair access would be the absolute minimum requirement for tenders for these contracts, but apparently not.

(Crossposted at Larvatus Prodeo)

2006-08-07

Well, give me a T-shirt and call me Crunk

but Joe Francis, the guy who came up with "Girls Gone Wild", is revealed as a sordid, sexist jerk who gets off on harassing women who don't play along with his script. And worse.

Joe Francis, the founder of the "Girls Gone Wild" empire, is humiliating me. He has my face pressed against the hood of a car, my arms twisted hard behind my back. He's pushing himself against me, shouting: "This is what they did to me in Panama City!"

It's after 3 a.m. and we're in a parking lot on the outskirts of Chicago. Electronic music is buzzing from the nightclub across the street, mixing easily with the laughter of the guys who are watching this, this me-pinned-and-helpless thing.

Francis isn't laughing.

He has turned on me, and I don't know why. He's going on and on about Panama City Beach, the spring break spot in northern Florida where Bay County sheriff's deputies arrested him three years ago on charges of racketeering, drug trafficking and promoting the sexual performance of a child. As he yells, I wonder if this is a flashback, or if he's punishing me for being the only blond in sight who's not wearing a thong. This much is certain: He's got at least 80 pounds on me and I'm thinking he's about to break my left arm. My eyes start to stream tears.

The reporter had to punch him close-fisted before he let her go, and the watching police officers only intervened when Francis' bodyguard pushed her away from the group (at which point, to be fair, they realised they had not just been watching "a bit of fun" and urged the reporter to press charges, which she refused to do.)
Commentary at Feministe, Pandagon, Ezra Klein and I'm sure many more feminist blogs. Twisty's post-operatively posting less frequently these days, alas, and her last post is skewering Tucker Max instead, but I'm sure she'll get around to Joe Francis soon.

2006-08-06

Hiroshima

It's that time of the year again. Today is the anniversary of the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and in 3 days time it is the anniversary of the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.


Hiroshima at 8.14, August 6th, 1945



Later that day

Approximately 140,000 people from Hiroshima died by December 1945 either in the immediate effects of the blast, in the following days/weeks due to acute radiation poisoning and in the following months due to short-term residual effects of radiation exposure. It is almost impossible to calculate how many more people died years later from long-term residual effects of the radiation.

[images of models of Hiroshima from here ]

Sadly, because the French did this, the Bushites probably won't on principle

This is a sidebar from an article published in 2002 about emergency contraception (EC), sometimes called "the morning-after pill" or "Plan B" and the debate then occurring in the USA about making it an over-the-counter medication rather than one available only on prescription. It is sad to note that the debate over this in the USA is not yet resolved, with anti-contraception activists claiming erroneously that the contraceptive action is an abortifacent. The whole article is interesting, but this bit about how the French, whose abortion rate is one of the lowest in the world, have handled the issue jumped out at me,
Improving Access: The French Experience

The abortion rate for France is already one of the lowest in the world: At 12 per 1,000 women aged 14-44, it is half the U.S. rate. Even so, when emerging evidence in the late 1990s suggested that the rate was stabilizing instead of continuing to decrease, the French government responded swiftly - in part, by providing better access to emergency contraception.

Emergency contraception has been available in France since the early 1970s, and a product specifically packaged for postcoital use became available in May 1999. Just one month later, the French government decided to switch the drug to nonprescription status, making it available on request from pharmacists, who in France are gatekeepers for all medications. (France does not have an over-the-counter status equivalent to that in the United States.) Women who purchase emergency contraception from pharmacies can have 65% of the cost reimbursed to them under national health insurance; the method is available for free from family planning clinics.

The French government has taken extraordinary steps to ensure that adolescents in particular have access to the method. After 18 months of debate, the national assembly passed a law in December 2000 allowing public and parochial high school nurses to provide emergency contraception. In January 2002, French officials issued a decree allowing minors to obtain emergency contraceptives from a pharmacy at no charge and without requiring authorization from a parent; pharmacists are required to counsel young women and provide them with information about other forms of birth control.

Since 1999, over 1.5 million treatments have been sold in France, 97% without a prescription. There have been no reports of adverse events. Moreover, experts note that widespread availability of emergency contraception has spurred a renewed interest in all methods of contraception. "There is a more open discussion - among pharmacists, nurses in school, across all society - about what to do to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases," says Elizabeth Aubeny, president of the French Association for Contraception. "And the more you talk about contraception, the more women use it and the fewer abortions there are."

Australia made EC available without prescription in January 2004. As I'm outside the firing lines on this at the moment (vasectomised husband and only just-turned-pubescent children) I have no idea how comprehensive the general sexual education in Australia about EC is, but I don't think we're as comprehensive as the French. It is obviously an area I do need to become more informed about, because I don't think that last line in the quote above can be emphasised enough:
the more you talk about contraception, the more women use it and the fewer abortions there are.

2006-08-05

Weekend flashback - more scifi but sadly no boots

The sculpted plastic posing pouch makes up for the lack of boots though, I think. And doesn't that yoga-toned Sting look fine?

I thought there would be gazillions of shots of this to choose from on the web, but no. A few very blurry screen captures, and this one, which is obviously a still shot taken during the film's production, as you can see the crew member off to the right.

mr tog and I recently rewatched the DVD of the original theatrical release of Dune and thoroughly enjoyed it yet again - we've seen it enough times now that it's one of those films we can talk over the top of as we wish, particularly about all the bits from the book we wished were there, yet we can shut up for the best bits.

It's a flawed but brilliant gem of a film. I think it's utterly incomprehensible unless you've read the book (and the 3-hour extended TV Alan Smithee version didn't improve that, it just ruined the rhythm of the original with the unbelievably dreadful storyboarded narrations , so no wonder Lynch took his directing credit off). The only people I know who really like it are all people who loved the novel enough to reread it at least once, so that they are utter Dune nerds.

Like most Dune nerds, I did actually enjoy seeing the cut scenes from the theatrical release in the Smithee version even though I hated the interpolated narratives and cheapness about special effects (eg Fremen eyes) in the restored scenes, but I so wish that the oft-mooted but never funded full 4-hour Director's Cut will one day soon appear.

Sigh.

2006-08-04

My new project - post the first

No, I'm not opening my own little shop full of simply just gorgeous things.

I've long been envious of Lucy Tartan's ongoing blog-project, where she photographs the outdoor sculptures of Melbourne and discourses critically thereupon. I thought "now, there's a bit of all right" and "how can I shamelessly get myself a gig like that?". Except I didn't want it to be anything I had to think about too hard.

Then I saw this, so the theme has chosen itself. The graffiti of Sydney, as various pieces catch my eye, for whatever reason.

Obviously, for the piece above, artistic merit has no part in it at all.

It nonetheless intrigued me: is it just a sniggering adolescent stunt from someone who was forced to watch too much Dick Emery and Benny Hill when young and impressionable?

Is it stinging social commentary on the inherently bourgeois nature of street-front art galleries, and the pretensions contained therein?

Or is it just a tart summation of this particular shop, which does look rather isolated and squalid as one climbs the hill from Central Station towards Cleveland Street? As you can see, the shop's own sign-writing has obviously been a Dodgy Brothers job, and the even more crudely rendered F in the contrasting colour emphasises this vividly.

Enough arty-farty bollocks. For now.

2006-08-03

The bad news is


The Martians have landed and want to rule over us all.


The good news is:
They eat rapists, and piss a non-polluting petrol substitute.


OK, Class: discuss.


(With apologies to comedian Utah Phillips)

2006-08-02

"Pro-Life" Prioritisation

At the level of Bush and the head honchos of the American Religious Right, anyway. From I Drew This, dated Aug 1st:



Hat-tip to Paul the Spud at Shakespeare's Sister.

Caught my attention this week

Shakespeare's Sister's Shakes' Sis: "if the Almighty had a problem with women getting their tits out in public, then he would have put our nipples on our thumbs."
(Reminds me of another recent breastfeeding foofaraw)

Cross-dressing NZ lawyer Rob Moodie: "The deeper the cover-up, the prettier the frocks,"
(His story has inspired some approving but purple-in-parts prose: [ link ] [link ]

Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte: "If apologists of unchecked capitalism were designing a sport, the result would be unwatchable-imagine an auto race where it would be permissible to slash everyone else's tires and then declare yourself a winner after running on foot."

Scaryduck: "what is the man nominally in charge of the education of my children doing in possession of the song "Sorted for E's and Wizz"?"

Hexy: "The vast majority of women who are attacked, be it sexually or through non-sexual violence, are attacked by someone they know. The men who rape them are men they have encountered before."

Yeah. I know there's nothing amusing about the last one. For once it's about NSW rape statistics rather than foreign figures which can be rhetorically dismissed by "it's different here". Even the recently convicted gang rapists lured their victim using a boy she already knew to gain her trust.

2006-08-01

Conflict: Promoting Pride and Prejudice

As my last two posts illustrate, there appears to be ever more promoting of xenophobia both domestically and abroad against opponents from all sides, whether ideological/political/territorial, particularly as what was meant to be a lightning military campaign to effect a regime change gets bogged down and transformed into a continuing occupation force. A sympathy for authoritarian conformity regarding the War on Terror, unbelievable to me as what I thought was a fairly mainstream utilitarian liberal-libertarian, is on the upswing.

Its origin is not simply fear after "9-11 changed everything", but a growing conflation of nationalism with unquestioning support of the current government and also with conservative religious beliefs, leading to heated charges of anti-patriotism and 'supporting terrorism' against anybody who criticises the war, the country's leadership or homegrown Christian fundamentalist religious intolerance.

It gets to the stage where neighbours, who a few years ago were just OK folks who would be even better if they shared one's voting and worship habits, are now spoken of as at best blind fools and often literally as traitorous, evil and perverted if they don't march in lockstep with the warhawks. In return, the doves offer up rhetoric of greedy baby-killers-for-oil imperialism and chickenhawk death-beasts sacrificing everyone else's liberty for their safety. It should be needless to say, but in the current climate I am careful to state it unequivocally: both positions are hyperbolic caricatures of more complex backgrounds to people's final opinion for or against the War in Iraq.

The recent Lebanon/Israel hostilities, with the shameful indifference to non-combatant safety shown by both Hezbollah and the IDF, have made me heartsick as I listen to the xenophobic rhetoric ratchet up further notches. I remember that in every armed conflict it has ever been thus, and that this too will eventually fade as China rises as a greater threat to Western hegemony (then we can all be xenophobic about commies again), but that's small comfort.

On a mailing list a few weeks ago, someone linked to this, part of a booklet for American soldiers in WW2 about distinguishing between Chinese and Japanese. Even then it was considered too pandering to stereotypes and was quickly withdrawn from later editions, but wow. Most Westerners in large cities these days have worked with both Chinese and Japanese people at some time, and would find the characterisations below quaint, but nonetheless offensive.



Read the whole HOW TO SPOT A JAP booklet here.

My point is: people in 50 years will look back at the archives of what is written now about conservatives/liberals, Republicans/Democrats, Liberal Party/Labor Party, hawks/doves, Israel/Palestine/Hezbollah/etc, USA/Iraq, CoW/Al Qaeda etcetera ad nauseum, and find much of the polemic flung about to be equally offensive, but also equally quaint, because the political map will have utterly changed.

Our teams, our 'dogs in the fight', our fellow-travellers of today, are all caught up in the exigencies of this particular geopolitical conflict. The labels we hang on our opponents to hook into our and others' emotional engagement are mostly subjective, arbitrary and temporary when we look at the larger drifts, ebbs and flows of geopolitical history.

At the recent FIFA World Cup, the chant by British fans in the stands to their German counterparts of "my grandad killed your grandad" was considered tacky, tasteless and yes, offensive, but not really fighting words. It was an old wound, one on which the scab had dropped off, and the scar no longer even as tender as in the days of Basil Fawlty desperately trying not to mention the war.

The perceptions of Arabs and other Muslims have varied so much in the last century: from Lawrence of Arabia's noble desert allies to greedy oil-sheiks and Mediterranean bellydancing resorts to noble mujahadeen fighting the Soviets to reactionary religious fanatics to our guy Saddam against the evil Ayatollah to evil Saddam invading Kuwait to alQaeda terrorists and the Axis of Evil. All it will take is a shift in the geopolitical wind to be shoulder to shoulder with noble Islamic allies against the boojums du jour.

In the meantime, before we can get to regarding our present divisions as quaint signifiers of a bygone age, people are being killed, young men and women are being desensitised into merciless killers on all sides, infrastructure and livelihoods are being destroyed, new resentments are being fostered to nurture future revenge, and the arms merchants are contentedly watching the profits in their Swiss accounts accumulate.

This is not the last war of civilisation. No war ever really has been, not even in the Cold War of the nuclear age, and despite the paranoia about nuclear weapons they're not really on the table this time either. It's nasty, brutish and horrific, like every other war; some cultures will end up no longer socioeconomically dominant in areas they traditionally were; whatever geopolitical gains are made by the "winners" will be mostly largely irrelevant in 20 years time, maybe less.

We must be on guard against the creeping xenophobia. This doesn't mecessarily mean you have to be pacifistic, at least not totally. If your life/home/livelihood is threatened, it is right to defend yourself, as would I. But even there, self defense should be proportionate. Just remember your enemies are not evil monsters, they too are human.

And your domestic opponents are literally breathing the same air. Take a deep breath, take a long look around, and really look at those people around who don't believe exactly the same as you do. They're not really that bad, you know. Their photo albums are just as full of cute kids, joyful weddings and happy holidays. Step back from the mistrust of the Other and search for the fellowship of the Neighbour. We could all do more of it than we have been for a while.

2006-07-31

When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross

As an antidote to the bile of Michelle Malkin (see post below) it was nice to come across this story courtesy of Michael Weholt in comments over at Making Light (quoted below in full). Despite Malkin's pseudo-Christianity and bigotry, one knows in one's heart that there truly are the majority of Christians who truly believe that their faith is a shield of love, not hate. To see a megachurch pastor give such an address rebuking the "hypocrisy and pettiness" of the simplistic religious right is most encouraging :

And so I give you Rev. Gregory A. Boyd, pastor of one of these evangelical (distinctly UNliberal) mega-churchs (this one in Minnesota) with thousands and thousands of members. From an article in this morning's New York Times:

In his six sermons, Mr. Boyd laid out a broad argument that the role of Christians was not to seek "power over" others - by controlling governments, passing legislation or fighting wars. Christians should instead seek to have "power under" others - "winning people's hearts" by sacrificing for those in need, as Jesus did, Mr. Boyd said.

"America wasn't founded as a theocracy," he said. "America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn't bloody and barbaric. That's why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and state.

"I am sorry to tell you," he continued, "that America is not the light of the world and the hope of the world. The light of the world and the hope of the world is Jesus Christ."

Mr. Boyd lambasted the "hypocrisy and pettiness" of Christians who focus on "sexual issues" like homosexuality, abortion or Janet Jackson's breast-revealing performance at the Super Bowl halftime show. He said Christians these days were constantly outraged about sex and perceived violations of their rights to display their faith in public.

"Those are the two buttons to push if you want to get Christians to act," he said. "And those are the two buttons Jesus never pushed."

Some Woodland Hills members said they applauded the sermons because they had resolved their conflicted feelings. David Churchill, a truck driver for U.P.S. and a Teamster for 26 years, said he had been "raised in a religious-right home" but was torn between the Republican expectations of faith and family and the Democratic expectations of his union.

When Mr. Boyd preached his sermons, "it was liberating to me," Mr. Churchill said.

Since Rev. Boyd started saying this stuff, he has lost 1,000 of his 5,000 members. I get the feeling his attitude about that is pretty much, "Forgive me, O Lord, but good riddance."

The fundie whackos (to get simplistic) need to be called out more often by preachers like Rev. Boyd and by their moderate co-religionists at all levels of the congregation. If moderates don't tell the whackos that they're full of bigoted petty hypocrisy, and tell them every single time they spill it forth, the whackos will continue to believe that they are spouting TheOneAndOnlyTruth and all other Christians are behind them.

It might split some congregations, neighborhoods and families, just like the hawk:dove stance on the Iraq war has done, but pretending the divisions don't exist and papering over the cracks is no way to repair them and rebuild a sound, respectful and tolerant foundation.

The most encouraging part of this story is that Rev. Boyd preached his landmark sermons two years ago, before the last election, concerned "that the Christian message is being compromised by the tendency to tie evangelical Christianity to the Republican Party and American nationalism, especially through the war in Iraq". And he's not alone amongst evangelicals in his concerns, as the full article details. Read it all.

Malkin loves the coy

The repellent hate-screeder Michelle Malkin, who doesn't allow comments to her blog posts (thus it's not really a blog, IMO, just a brave-brave-Sir-Robin website) has a habit of putting up posts with ambivalent titles, popping in a few blockquotes or pictures, and disingenuously asking "now what could be going on here then?".

This allows her to always claim that she didn't really mean what the legions of wingnuts who link to her and run with her stories straight into bigot violent-fantasy land say, oh no! She can't be held at all responsible for the incitements to violence of a pack of rabid dogs she just happens to have been feeding hate-fodder.

She is of course right that there is unlikely to ever be found a provable link between what she writes and any act of violence against the people she writes against, but that doesn't make it any the less immoral or rapacious, seeing that spouting bile has given her a high media profile generating lucrative speaking engagements and high-figure book-sales.

Her latest is a post tweely entitled "A Random Gallery of "lone" gunmen". Surprise, surprise, to any of those who read her even semi-regularly - all the gunmen she pictures are Muslims ( to pad out the numbers she adds the two Beltway snipers - Michelle, what does "lone" mean again?) and she ends by linking approvingly to another writer who says:
"No one will ever consider whether such behavior is encouraged by the texts and atmospherics of Islam, and if so, what can be done about it."
Now, I am in no way defending the violence committed by any of the 9 men Malkin pictures, who killed many defenceless people in various incidents since 1994. I deplore the murder of anyone, and wish all murderers appropriately tried, sentenced and incarcerated.

Still, she's stretching on this one and I'm sure she knows it, but she simply doesn't care. Four of her Muslim gunmen do seem to have specific religious motives for their shootings, attacking specifically Jews or carrying notes about Israel, but not the rest. Some of these men appear to have just "snapped" in the same way certain non-Muslim mass murderers have done, with no obvious motivation at all. The Beltway snipers are different in that they are by definition serial-killers rather than mass-murderers, but there is still no basis for ascribing their shootings to a particularly religious motive.

So, Malkin appears to be correct in her implication that four of the men on her list are Islamist terrorists, but the others are merely murderous criminals who happen to be Muslim. The only reason she implies otherwise is anti-Muslim bigotry.

When the Timothy McVeighs and Eric Rudolphs commit mass murder for reasons which are obviously based on extreme interpretations of Bible verses, anybody who asks
whether such behavior is encouraged by the texts and atmospherics of Christianity
is howled down by Malkin et al. Oh no, they're just mad bastards who happen to have been raised Christian, there's nothing about Christianity per se that makes them that way! And they're not real Christians if they commit murder! is the cry.

And you know what? They're probably right (not right about judging whether their faith is real, but right about whether their faith "made them do it").

People don't choose what the faith of their parents is after all, which is most likely to be the faith they also profess. Most 'holy books' have sections wherein horrifically violent wars are presented as divinely justified, as part of the bloodier history of ancient times, and most religious authorities say such stories shouldn't be taken as more than an allegorical recommendations for behaviour in modern times.

Unfortunately, some people just have the particular brain chemistry that switches easily to zealot mode, and a smaller subset just have the particular brain chemistry that switches further to murderous fanatic mode. It's the way some brains are, in every culture all over the world.

But you can't have it both ways, and say that when people who read the Bible become murderous fanatics it's not the fault of the religion, and then say that when people who read the Koran become murderous fanatics it is the fault of the religion.

Be honest: be consistent.

2006-07-29

Weekend flashback: more scifi shockers

It took some doing to try and come up with a more ridiculous scifi costume than last week's effort, but then I had the inevitable eventual "oh yeah, Barbarella!" moment.



The young Jane Fonda of course has an unfair advantage over a middle-aged Connery in the looking gorgeous in a flour-sack stakes, but even so!

However, the picture above fails to adequately display the sine qua non of bad scifi, the boots. As Barbarella had more and better boots than any scifi before or since, that's a shame. In fact, we can't be having with that at all.


2006-07-28

Back on deck

I've had a bit of a lost week - one of those achey-breaky 'flus with sore eyes meaning 'puter time is not restful but is rather ennervating, so I've just been sleeping it off and makin sure I get the kids to and from school (it's been parent-teacher nights this week as well).

I think the relentless rain these past few weeks tipped me over into S.A.D. territory as well, so yesterday while the sun was out I got me some UV, and plan to do the same today..

Last night I had the chance to put up a post at Larvatus Prodeo about the Daily Terror running amok with a story about dangerous hypodermic needles in Kings Cross, in what was quickly determined to be a pretty obvious stunt aiming to discredit the Medically Supervised Injection Centre (hint to the gullible: used syringes are not sparkly clean).

There's some good medical/neuroscience reading at:

Swollen amgydalae suggest causes, and possibly even cures, for the
debilitating disorder.
  • electron soup posted a link to this fascinating article raising many questions about the extent our behaviour is hardwired by our neurological architecture, prompted by the case study of a man who developed paedophiliac tendencies due to a brain tumour.
Hopefully back to regular blogging shortly.

2006-07-23

Happy Birthday Mr Tog

Today my darling added another digit to the figure he puts in certain boxes on certain forms.

He's busy all day today with churchy stuff (he goes, I don't, yes it used to be weird, now it's no big deal), as today is one of their Winter Concerts, for which I made a crockpot of my hugely popular Fragrant Sour & Spicy Thai Soup for the after-concert supper, so yesterday we went for his birthday outing.

Porgy and Bess, oh yes. I knew all the famous Gershwin songs, of course, but otherwise knew nothing of the story. I expected operatic tragedy would strike, but not that it would be so dark nor that the life of the Gullah-speaking people of the Atlantic coast would be so unsentimentally portrayed. It's a real slice-of-1930s-life drama, totally unlike the more sentimental Showboaty thing I was sort of expecting. It's so much better for being dark and disturbing.

If you possibly can go, do. Beautiful, beautiful voices and the orchestra is so smooth. It's in Sydney only for a few more days, and then continues its Australian tour. Dates for the tour are here.

Belatedly jumping on a White bandwagon

The lovely and talented Laura, over at Sarsaparilla, took a flensing scalpel to those silly sausages and their Patrick White stunt over at The Australian.

She has challenged readers to show them what's what by reading and enjoying a Patrick White novel during September. The response has been gratifying, and there is now a blog devoted to the virtual White reading group.

Anyone is welcome to join in, overseas readers too, and I'm looking forward to it because White is one of the NotedAustralianWriters with whom I've yet to become acquainted.

Landmark

In a few weeks' time, Voyager 1 will be 100 AU from the Sun. (An AU, or Astronomical Unit, is the distance from Earth to the Sun).

Voyager was launched nearly 29 years ago. Voyager 1 has flown by Jupiter and Saturn, while Voyager 2 has flown by Neptune and Uranus as well.

Both Voyagers are still transmitting back to Earth, sending data about their outer space environment back to NASA/JPL for analysis.






According to NASA/JPL:
Termination Shock

Voyager 1 crossed the termination shock and entered the heliosheath in December 2004, at 94 AU. It is expected that Voyager 1 will reach the heliopause in about 2015.

Voyager 2 could cross the termination shock between 2008 and 2010 and reach the heliopause about 10 years later.


The above diagram shows the position of Voyager 1 and 2 relative to our Sun at the centre of the heliosphere, showing the effect of the solar wind and its interaction with the interstellar medium at the boundary of the heliopause.

This delicate little machine is our farthest ambassador to outer space. This stuff sends tingles down my spine - a few friends were discussing how hard now it seems to remember seeing humans walk on the moon (our teachers at school just plonked us down in front of the TV to see the broadcasts), we're planning for humans to walk on Mars within a few decades, and yes, we very nearly have sent a machine from Earth into true interstellar space.

If we don't blow ourselves to pieces in the meantime, one day we will voyage to the stars.

Tip o'the hat to TC.

2006-07-22

Weekend flashback: 70s scifi boots

This is a shot from the 1974 John Boorman directed film Zardoz, which is apparently an achievement in the annals of bad cinema surpassed only by such dys-masterpieces as Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and the Ed Wood ouvre.

I have to admit, dressing the Connery in an orange nappy and fake ponytail seems likely to doom the film irredeemably - what were they thinking?

Rather like the boots though.

2006-07-21

Go there

Jill at Feministe on anti-abortion extremism and disingenuous rhetoric. Long but compelling.

Barista looks at the Israel-Hezbollah-Lebanon situation and the Australian reaction.

Echidne of the Snakes examines the partisan demonisation of secularism in the USA.

Blogger on the Cast-Iron Balcony responds to criticism of the Left from fellow-leftie Flute.

Paul at Two Peas, No Pod has a piece that's superficially about public transport in Canberra, but is more deeply a global predicament.

Addendum: Pandagon's Amanda wades into some sites for "players" regarding speed seduction techniques based on cynical psych-outs and neurolinguistic programming. Any woman still on the dating scene should read it and some of the sites linked in comments, such as this and this, so you can tell when some pick-up artist is trying the techniques out on you. I'm annoyed to realise that I totally fell for "the familiar approach" one time. No wonder that was an unsatisfying encounter - he was more interested in gaming me than really talking with me.

2006-07-19

We're doing it all ourselves, y'know

I got a bit ranty in a comments thread over at LP today, but managed to epitomise some arguments much better than I often manage to do, so I thought I'd excerpt them over here as well. The blockquotes are from the commentor to whom I'm responding:

"And to the extent that women are victims of "fashion", there is a huge difference between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds. In the non-Muslim world the sisters are pretty much doing it to themselves. Most men frankly couldn't give a damn about underweight, stretched-skin dolly birds - so don't blame men for the self inflicted injuries that women inflict on themselves. In the west men have largely relinquished reproductive and economic control over women - all that remains is for the women to take responsibility for their situation."

This was my response:

If most men don't care about underweight dolly-birds, why do so many men continue to buy the porn and raunchmags and movies that star such women? Why aren't men writing to the publishers and saying "give us real curvy women with real tits not plastic ones"? The market seems to be failing rather spectacularly to reflect your assertion that most men don't actually like skinny sexbots with boob jobs.

Of course, what the skinny sexbots do represent that comes with a lot of societal approval is women engaged in unhealthy disciplines involving a great deal of effort, self-control and self-stifling in order to be "fashionable". And the male purchaser approval of all that effort put into self-mutilation, starvation and self-negation appears to outweigh their, according to you, actual physical preferences, doesn't it?

There must be a word to describe an attitude whereby large numbers of men encourage large numbers of women to engage in peculiar practises that men don't actually care about except for the fact that they keep those women more worried about those peculiar practises than they are about other matters. Even though the men aren't thinking too much about the process whereby their approval perpetuates and facilitates the peculiar practises, they notice that the women engaged in the peculiar practises are more malleable, and they definitely like that.

What might that word be?

He came back with:

Interesting use of the word "encourage" Tigtog. Not "require, "mandate" or "force"? Why would that be? Because as I said above, the sisters are doing it to themselves - and the few men that are encouraging them are probably clothes designers.

I would submit that even "encourage" is too strong a word, and stand by my view that men prefer a well built 12-14 to an anorexic 8-10. Last time I looked at a porn magazine, the women were generally well-built young things - certainly not the victims of starvation diets etc.

There must be a word for an attitude where women self abuse and mutilate, and blame men for the behaviour. What would that word be I wonder?

After a bit of snark about how I just bet he's one of those lantern-jawed chaps who are too strongwilled to be influenced by enormous advertising expenditure, here I go again:

Is not society's traditional view of gender roles one of forceful men and malleable women? Haven't men who married non-malleable women faced the opprobrium of their own gender as being hen-pecked, be-shrewed, proven less than real men? Aren't openly non-malleable women less likely to find a male partner?

Hasn't one of the ways women packaged themselves for the traditional marriage market, in nearly every culture in the world, been a fetishised display of discomfort for the purpose of proving general malleability? Even in "advanced" countries the vestiges of this traditional gender divide are obvious simply by contrasting male and female clothing conventions.

I'll believe misogyny has disappeared when fetishised female discomfort is not bestselling high and street fashion. I'll believe it's disappeared when corporate male bosses don't insist that their female employees wear makeup, hosiery and high heels in their workplace dress standards: when being just clean/neat/tidy (like the male employees) is not considered "unfeminine".

I'll believe misogyny is all women's fault when I no longer hear the same men who make the most merciless mock of women as slaves to fashion also make the most spiteful remarks about women who gain weight, all the while homosocially boasting to each other over the fellatio skills of their trophy girlfriends.

In a society where most people in both genders are gatekeeping the forceful:malleable gender divide as the pair-bonding norm, and discomfort fetishing is the major marker of malleability, it's not fair to say that women are only doing it to themselves. Male expectations are at fault, and in a society where men still earn/own more, that tips the balance further. It should be noted that lots of men suffer needlessly from the forceful:malleable role demands as well.

(Usual caveats about generalisations of gender roles/expectations not applying to all individuals of the most closely associated sex apply)

I brought it over here because I hope to get some more thoughtful responses than I'm likely to get from the commentor in question. Fire away.

2006-07-18

zuzu gave me a present

A mondegreened earworm. From the 70s.

Gee, ta ever so.

All right. Sydney physio vs NYC lawyer earworm deathmatch. It may not come close to the overwhelming retrokitsch of the '06 YouTube Wars, but if you don't want to go through the next days suffering the most tenacious pop songs known to mankind, do not scroll down.

Are
*
*
You
*
*
Sure
*
*
You
*
*
Want
*
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To
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Do
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This?

Your choice: my shot across zuzu's bows is "Save your Kisses for Me" by the Brotherhood of Man.

Suffer, Ms Fanilow.

Especially when I show you who BM was imitating in 2004 while singing "Copacabana".


Yes, prior to the last MJ court case, here's Mr Barry doin' the crotch-grab.

Heh.

Don't say feminists never want men to have fun

Amanda at Pandagon, in a comments thread about sex-positivity, strawfeminists and anti-feminists, casually mentioned that some men can be multi-orgasmic, just like many women can train themselves to be.

How? With pelvic floor exercises (aka Kegel exercises).

As a physio, I'd always known that Kegel exercises were not only excellent for certain incontinence problems for both men and women, but also for enhancing sexual pleasure for women. I'd vaguely heard that men also benefited in gaining more control and intensity for their orgasms, but I'd never known that some men can be multiply orgasmic (not most, I'm afraid, however the duration of orgasm can be prolonged and the refractory period lessened through these exercises for anyone willing to stick with them for a month to gain the daily habit).

So, here's the how-to. Have fun, fellas!

The togmob goes to the cinema: "Click"

Yesterday, for the last day of hols before going back to Term 3 of school, mr tog and I took the kids to see Click (the togster particularly had been very taken by the premise when he saw the trailer as we awaited Johnny Deppness the other week). I wasn't expecting greatness, but as I have noticed Adam Sandler becoming much more slick and less annoying in recent years I was prepared to be greatly amused. And indeed I was.
The story is a variation on the old genie-grants-three-wishes tale, and you know what always happens in those, don't you? (Not a spoiler, the trailer makes this explicit)
Yep, the grantee makes wishes without thinking through the consequences, and the consequences come back and bite him (always a him) in the arse. So, we knew this going in, and the whole point of the movie was to enjoy the one-liners and the sight gags (I will never view an oversized stuffed toy duck the same way ever again).

The casting of the support roles is a dream-list of veteran American comedians, including David Hasselhoff and Christopher Walken vying for plasticised ham-of-the-film title, plus the gorgeous Kate Beckinsale looking, well, gorgeous. The cute kids are not impossibly nauseating, which is a pleasant innovation.
The physical comedy was very well done, there were amusing ripostes, there was a surprising anti-consumerist-and-keeping-up-with-the-Jones' subtext and Sandler himself was largely not annoying, in fact, mostly appealing. Sadly, there's only one thing keeping this film from being a really big success with the marketer's favourite young male demographic, and that one thing will also keep it from becoming a true cult classic, IMO.
They just couldn't stop themselves. When the moment of awful realisation comes, where Sandler's character realises the wishes granted have indeed bit him in the arse as we always knew they would, the producers/director just had to lay the trademark overdone Hollywood-maudlin on with a trowel.

Unlike the realisation moments in the now-classic Something About Mary, they didn't undercut the maudlin with enough black humour (Sandler's belly-flapping, which is a fine farcical moment in his realisation, is just farce, not nearly black enough). If they couldn't manage truly black humour, which admittedly is an unevenly distributed talent, a better grade of self-deprecation would have done. Memo to Hollywood: the audience can understand a man's bitter regret without having the heartstrings slammed by a sledgehammer.
Why couldn't they get a British screenwriter in to take over those parts? Richard Curtis could have done self-deprecating standing on his head, Ben Elton wouldn't have had much more trouble coming up with a bit of bizarre black humour, and Ricky Gervais might take a bit longer to produce but the black humour would be perfect in every excruciating detail. John Cleese is right there most of the year and could still teach them all a thing or two about balancing silly walks with a cutting edge. I'm sure that there also exist actual American screenwriters who can emulate a Princess Bride a la William Goldman (like, maybe, William Goldman?).
So who ordered up this tripe and, having read it, didn't order a rewrite? You ruined what might have been a truly classic screwball comedy.
Hollywood-maudlin: Just Say No.

ADDENDUM: I didn't like the casual paternal double-standard about raising sons vs daughters, either. Could have done a better job playing with that trope too, Hollywood-chauvinists.

2006-07-13

Raising boys without fathers

A piece provocatively titled "Do boys need fathers? This woman says no" was published in The Observer over the weekend, a profile of the work of American psychologist Peggy Drexler on fatherless families. Drexler has engaged in a longitudinal study of about 60 fatherless families over the last 10 years, and she intends to follow the boys into adolescence and adulthood.

Some excerpts:

There's a common assumption that the one thing more difficult than being a single mum is being the son of one. [...] The prevailing wisdom is that a boy must be raised with a man in the house; otherwise he is likely to fail his exams, drop out of school, career off the rails."


Drexler found that many fatherless families have mothers who make more of an effort than their partnered peers to find a range of male role models to be part of their sons' (and daughters') lives - grandfathers, uncles, community group leaders, sports coaches etc. When research shows that many fathers only interact with their children directly for minutes per day, having the wider range of adult males as part of their lives actually gives fatherless boys a broader range of masculinity models to emulate.

'Men are very important to boys: boys need relationships with men to understand how to sustain relationships in the world,' she explains. 'But it does not have to be the one man in the mother's bedroom.'

2006-07-10

I nearly ran over a pedestrian today

Do you think a judge would be sympathetic to my explanation that I was trying to work out whether the hunkaspunk talking on his cellphone while standing at the lights was indeed Hugh Jackman? We weren't too far from the big theatre in Haymarket, after all.

V. embarassing and shamemaking. The pedestrian was (quite rightly) very upset and very voluble, and he didn't register on the gaydar one teenytiny bit, so I didn't try out the explanation on him. I didn't think mentioning the other car that confused me by running the red light would prick his sympathy either, so I just listened and nodded with a very apologetic and very red face.

Still, what very long legs that hunky young man did have. Hugh, if it was you, those jeans are definite winners.

2006-07-07

New Zealand channels Dame Edith Evans

Handbags? Handbags!?!

Some Kiwis (I blow my nose at you) think that the traditional (your father smelt of elderberries) pre-Bedisloe Cup match taunting (we've already got one) has maybe gone a bit far this year, as Channel 7's ad for the match against the Wallabies tomorrow shows the famous All-Blacks haka being performed by the team with digitally added handbags on their shoulders.

Why handbags? Well, a short while ago, in a bar a short skip across the ditch, Tana Umaga hit Hurricanes and All-Blacks teammate Chris Masoe with one (to break up a barfight with another man), and it's not the sort of image one forgets in a hurry.

The woman bystander whose bag was used later auctioned it off and received $NZ22,750 for the bag and her cellphone inside it which broke on Masoe's head, reducing him to tears.

Despite some objections from the team's assistant manager about disrespect to Maori culture (which is going very strong, thankyou, because they're strong determined buggers who are not going to let it die), I imagine the All-Blacks themselves are pretty sanguine (building up to normal match-level sanguinary) about the sledging. They must have known that such a juicy incident was going to get used for the Bledisloe, where both countries always give it all they've got on and off the field.

The taunting always makes for a cracker of a match. Bring it on, big fellas.

Here's another NZ story on the promo, with a link to video of the ad.

2006-07-05

Kim Jong Il has many screws loose

and his brainwashed subjects would undoubtedly be better off in the long term if his regime were overthrown.

But I nonetheless want to applaud him giving the one-fingered salute to Washington with today's missile test launches. I wish I didn't feel that way, that I could be wholeheartedly behind any hegemonic power that was against the current North Korean regime, but I can't find it within me to be behind the Bush administration on this.

The current US administration's foreign policy has been so hamfisted since the invasion of Iraq that of course any country named as part of the "axis of evil" would have been utterly stupid to have not armed themselves to the teeth with exactly the WMDs - biological and nuclear - of which the West has shown such fear. North Korea is not stupid.

Tom Lehrer's song "Who's next?" now comes to mind.

Bush, you blew it. Nuclear weapon proliferation was winding down after the cold war, missiles and launch systems were obsolescing, the Doomsday Clock was wound back. It wasn't 9/11 that changed everything, GWB, it was your response in Iraq that wound it all back up again.

Thank you very much, Mr President. What a shame they haven't got that moon colony going yet - you're going to stay down here with the rest of us and enjoy the gentle radioactive contamination glow. Congratulations.

2006-07-04

The "Joke" of Sexual Harassment

Everybody's talking about the Big Brother incident that led to Jon and Ash getting evicted for "breaking Big Brother's Rules" - where she was held down by Jon while Ash rubbed his penis in her face. Initial claims of a clear case of sexual assault are probably overstated (though could be pressed if Camilla wished), however sexual harassment seems inarguable.

From what I've been reading, it is difficult to clearly discern from the footage just how much of the beginning of this degrading sex-play was consensual, and Camilla (who didn't ask for any action to be taken against the men) later claimed that it was just a joke that had gone too far and that Jon stopped holding her down when she clearly said no, so that while what they did wasn't OK it wasn't too big a deal.

Right. Having a man who's been contemptuous of you for weeks rub his penis in your face as a "joke" is no big deal. Not humiliating, not degrading, not a betrayal of trust between housemates, not anything to get upset about at all.

There's a distressing amount of responses in this comments thread along the lines of (paraphrasing) "it was all good fun" and "she didn't mind - she said so" and even "it wasn't sexual - all the housemates knew that Jon and Ash didn't fancy Camilla" (love that one), as well as the old standby of "she asked for it" by talking about sex openly.

And all of it's predicated on the presumption that the sexual harassment of women for the amusement of men is not a problem that we ought to worry our objectified little heads about. Hey, it's just a joke. Don't be a wowser. Loosen up. Ya gotta have a sense of humour, "girls". Oh, and while you're at it, show us your tits, we haven't had a good laugh for a while.

That's the problem attitude that this incident should be highlighting, not the political grandstanding over whether BB as a whole is too "tacky" to be on TV because young people in it are encouraged by the situation to be hypersexualised with each other.

Some of the best commentaries I've read have been from dogpossum, Mel, Kate, Mark and, most succinctly, Pavlov's Cat.

This comment from dogpossum to her own post (linked above) sums it up:
What is with our culture, that we have done such a thorough job of convincing women and girls that they are responsible for men's sexual (mis)behaviour, particularly when it is the woman who is harassed?
It infuriates me that _I_, as a politically motivated viewer - a pretty hardcore feminist - can still fall into this nasty habit of blaming myself/herself/her for the things that men do! Or at the very least, for colluding with her harassment - with my own harassment. Because, in accepting what happened to Camilla as 'just a joke' I am accepting that sort of crap as harmless. When - as every woman of us knows - it's _not_ inconsquential to feel afraid or threatened or bullied or guilty or dirty or distressed when men sexually harass us! _Particularly_ when it's intended as a joke!!

Especially when the whole point of the "joke" is to humiliate the woman so the guys can feel a stronger bond of friendship. Homosocial much?

2006-07-02

But a doctor wrote it! It must be true!

Ever heard of "Disenfranchised Father Syndrome"? No? How about "Divorce Related Malicious Mother Syndrome"? Me neither, but to a lot of men, particularly in the USA, the conditions are believed to be real, including one I had heard of - Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Kevin T. Keith at Sufficient Scruples examines how fathers' rights organisations attract pseudoscientists making up mental illnesses that their harpy ex-wives must be suffering from that both explain why they're being difficult about visiting rights and why the courts should just take those kids away from the bitches:

Kevin describes it as:
"the right wing's penchant for dressing up their particular aversions in pseudo-medical language and imputing some sort of bogus pathology to people who have simply refused to behave as they were told."

Such pathologising has always been a pernicious problem for women with minds of their own though. Just think of the origins of the word hysteria. As Kevin notes at the end of his article:
"After all this, all that remains to be said is to note how pervasive the medicalization (specifically, the psychological pathologizing) of women's behavior is, predictably, in ways systematically tending to establish them to be unfit to live their own lives and raise their own children."

So, some women simply refuse to do what their ex-husbands want them to do in relation to child custody and access. That does not, however, make them mentally ill for jerking their exes around. It does not even necessarily make them arseholes out to "get" their exes. They may in fact have perfectly logical reasons to restrict access, no matter how much the ex-husband doesn't want to acknowledge that.

Do some women use their children as tokens in a punishment game with their ex-husbands? Yes, they do, and they are unethical to do so, even if their ex treated them appallingly during their marriage and the temptation to deliver retribution in the only way they can is overwhelming. It is still wrong to use the children in that way, and the older the children grow the more likely they are to resent it, so it's also counterproductive.

However, that doesn't, on its own, make them a bad custodial parent: just a difficult co-parent. Yes, that makes it hard for the non-custodial fathers, in many cases much harder than it should be. Acknowledge that she hates you and won't make life easy, resent it some, but deal. It's a cop out to say she's nuts, guys.