Friday, December 30, 2011

Good Vibrations

In the results of a new national survey of more than 3,000 Americans (both male and female, between ages 18 and 60), most respondents reported feeling positively about women using vibrators. What's more, the study indicated that positive beliefs about vibrators were correlated with higher levels of overall sexual satisfaction and other measures of sexual function.

The survey was the first to examine beliefs about vibrators, said lead researcher Debra Herbenick, an associate director at Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion. The participants were recruited from an existing research panel and invited to take part in a study about sexual enhancement products in 2008. In it, 2,056 women and 1,047 men responded to the survey online.   They were mostly middle age, white and having higher than average levels of education.

In it, participants were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with positive beliefs on these positive items regarding vibrators such as these:

(a) "makes it easier for a woman to have an orgasm"

(b) "is a healthy part of many women's sex lives"

and negative items such as these:

(a) "makes women too dependent on them for pleasure"

(b) "is intimidating to women's partners".

About half of the participants "agreed" or "strongly agreed" with all positive statements about vibrators, while fever than 10 percent of participants endorsed negative beliefs.

Women with positive beliefs who had used vibrators in the past 30 days reported higher levels of arousal, lubrication, orgasm and sexual satisfaction, and lower levels of pain during sex, than those with positive beliefs who hadn't used the sex toys as recently.

The researchers are not entirely sure how vibrator use improves sexual function, Herbenick said. Women who feel better about their bodies and sex in general may be more likely to use vibrators, or there could be something specific about vibrator use itself that contributes to better sex.

In general, using a vibrator seems to be not only a "feel good" activity, but may be a positive enhancement to a healthy woman's normal sex life.

[But maybe not this.  In my opinion, using a Hello Kitty vibrator is just wrong.]

Thursday, December 29, 2011

René Descartes

René Descartes (1596-1650) was one of the foremost figures in philosophy and mathematics; responsible for his interactive dualistic theory of mind-body relationships, his proof of his own existence ("Cogito, ergo sum), his work in optics, and his discovery of analytic geometry.  He was, in many ways, the Renaissance man of his time.

He also had a little secret: he had a fetish for cross-eyed girls.  He admitted to as much in one of his philosophical works: when he was young, he was in love with a Madamoiselle who possessed such a feature.  As he got older, he maintained a generalized preference for cross-eyed girls.  Interestingly, he found that his development of awareness of his prediliction's origins helped him to stop having it.

Too bad for 17th-century cross-eyed chicks.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Don Esteban Rodriguez Miró

Sometimes governmental officials and politicians do the right thing; and we should wonder at those moments of grace amid the usual weeds of corruption,  A truly shining example occurred in Louisiana in the 1790's with Don Esteban Rodriguez Miró.

In Louisianan Miró is chiefly remembered for two reasons: his speedy and effective rebuilding of the city after the disasterous fire of 1788, and for having prevented the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition in the territory.  This last act was an act of high courage, without a doubt.

The story as written by 19th century Louisiana historian Charles Gayarré:

"The reverend Capuchin, Antonio de Sedella, who had lately arrived in the province, wrote to the Governor to inform him that he, the holy father, had been appointed Commissary of the Inquisition; that in a letter of the 5th of December last, from the proper authority, this intelligence had been communicated to him, and that he had been requested to discharge his functions with the most exact fidelity and zeal, and in conformity with the royal will. Wherefore, after having made his investigations with the utmost secrecy and precaution, he notified Mirò that, in order to carry, as he was commanded, his instructions into perfect execution in all their parts, he might soon, at some late hour of the night, deem it necessary to require some guards to assist him in his operations.

Not many hours had elapsed since the reception of this communication by the Governor, when night came, and the representative of the Holy Inquisition was quietly reposing in bed, when he was roused from his sleep by a heavy knocking. He started up, and, opening his door, saw standing before him an officer and a file of grenadiers. Thinking that they had come to obey his commands, in consequence of his letter to the Governor, he said: 'My friends, I thank you and his Excellency for the readiness of this compliance with my request. But I have now no use for your services, and you shall be warned in time when you are wanted. Retire then, with the blessing of God.' Great was the stupefaction of the Friar when he was told that he was under arrest. 'What!' exclaimed he, 'will you dare lay your hands on a Commissary of the Holy Inquisition?' — 'I dare obey orders,' replied the undaunted officer, and the Reverend Father Antonio de Sedella was instantly carried on board of a vessel, which sailed the next day for Cadiz."

So much for Gayarré's purple prose.

As a little background, Louisiana was ceded to Spain by France in 1767.  The Louisianans had a brief revolution, which was crushed with a few hangings, and the new Spanish colony drifted off into the usual corruption.  In the 1790's fearing some New World manifestation of the French Revolution, the Crown sent the Inquisition in place.  Fray Antonio Sedella was, in effect, its enforcer.  He was granted extraordinary powers to root out all manner of unorthodoxy, including perhaps the use of torture! 

Governor Miró saw this as a bad thing that would depopulate the colony, so he kicked the good padre out!  Hasta la vista, Padre!  Miró's policy, approved by the Crown, had originally been to strengthen Spain's hold on Louisiana against the newly emergent United States and other powers by encouraging settlement; in doing this, he developed a practice of compromise: requiring the public practice of Catholicism, but ignoring private worship.  Louisianans at that time were Catholic predominantly, but relatively loose and nonorthodox in their practice.  This attitude towards religion there still persists today.

It is important to remember that the Spanish Inquisition had considerable teeth even in the 18th century: it could ruthlessly punish its enemies.  It was not beyond possibility that a governor of a minor colony could himself be the major offering in an auto-de-fé!

So remember Steve Miró and his grandes cojones de acero!  He  rose up to be a courageous leader when it was most important: he thwarted the only attempt to establish the Inquisition in what became eventually the United States.  Louisianans have cause for gratitude.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my friends.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Determinants of Attraction to the Opposite Sex

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

But are there some universals regarding the perception of attractiveness?  More than was originally thought.  Women are seen as more attractive if they have ‘baby-faced’ or feminine features such as large eyes, a small nose, a small chin, full lips, and youthfulness.  In general, women's perceptions as to what is more handsome involve features such as strong jaws, broad foreheads, and musculature – features that suggest strength and dominance.

What about body proportion?  There's some interesting research there.  In general, men find a woman’s shapes to be most attractive if she is of normal weight, neither too heavy nor too slender, and has a waists that is narrower than her hip. The most attractive waist-to-hip ratio is a curvy 0.7 in which the waist is 30% smaller than the hips. In most cases, women who are overweight are judged to be less attractive than slender and normal women are, but thin women are not more attractive to men than women of normal weight.  By contrast, many women tend to equate slimness with beauty: Audrey Hepburn was the Platonic example of this type.

Some other features may influence the perception of attractiveness. Both men and women tend to prefer partnerships in which he is taller than she. A potential partner’s body odor seems to be of influence as well. Lastly, women are more attractive to men when they have longer rather than short hair.

There are behavioral determinants of attractiveness, too.  Women are more attracted to men who are kind, polite, and who like children and animals.  As a matter of fact, being seen as caring for a pet (as long as there's not too many) is viewed as a positive sign by members of both sexes. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sazerac Cocktail

This is the classical New Orleans cocktail.

Crushed ice
1 teaspoon absinthe, Pernod, or Herbsaint liqueur
Ice cubes
1 teaspoon simple syrup

1 1/2 ounces rye or bourbon whiskey
3 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
1 lemon peel twist

Simple Syrup Preparation:

Use an old-fashioned glass that had been chilled.

Add the Herbsaint, absinthe, or Pernod to the glass; swirl it around to coat the entire sides and bottom of the glass. Discard the excess.

In a shaker, add some ice cubes, sugar, rye whiskey, and bitters. Shake gently for about 30 seconds; strain into the prepared old-fashioned glass.

Twist lemon peel over the drink and then place in the drink.

Note: use absinthe at your own risk.  I know it's again legal, but I wouldn't go there.  I use Pernod instead.

I hope those who try it enjoy it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Starter Marriages, Starter Candidates, and Other Temporaries

In viewing the Republican process of selecting a Presidential candidate for 2012 it seems to be a logical progression of a trend already recognized in other areas.

Years ago, realtors successfully introduced the idea of the "starter home;" effectively persuading couples that they should "trade up" residences to go with increased family size or affluence.  After all, the prospect of a young married couple growing gracefully or otherwise in the same home all their lives was a prospect that did not please.  Then the idea of "starter marriage" came into popular usage.  Some if it was an offshoot of the sexual revolution: if Missy and Junior were to be "doing it," then they could do so without embarassing the family by being in a temporary marriage!  And if it didn't work out, then it would be water under the bridge. 

We didn't call it then, but I suppose we had "starter boyfriends."  Or maybe they were like our bikes with training wheels on them.  And most of us had temporary jobs, not hopefully our final calling.  And (nearly) half of us have the experience of training bras!  Actually, it did make one feel grown-up, of sorts.  Well, after a week, they started to be the annoyance that they are.

Anyway, we have the spectacle of the Republican de jour -- depending on the vocalizations of the fanboys and fangirls in the G.O.P., as well as the playahs in the media who relish in their ill-conceived roles as kingmakers.  Unfortunately, it's a Tall Poppy Syndrome condition in play: whoever is in the lead, there are others who are very willing to find fault with that person and see him cut down to size.  And some of them manage to give their critics the means.

What a motely crew!  There's the Fig Newton guy, and the Massachuetts guy, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, and the tin hat squad.  And President Obama.  But his court jester Joe Biden and his loathsome henchpersons Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are lurking around.  To paraphrase the Duke of Wellington, "I don't know what effect these men will have upon the enemy, but, by God, they frighten me." 

And there's the fact that whoever is the final Republican nominee has to win the party nomination first; therefore, he has to appeal to a limited, right-leaning portion of the spectrum.  A broader spectrum is apt to vote on election day.  Therefore, they are in a sort of dilemma: to they vote with their hearts, or with their heads.  The heads in many cases have joined the unemployed.

The Democrats will have this same problem in 2016.  I figure Obama will be their nominee in 2012, but there's no bright star on the horizon.   Since he can't have more than two terms, they are going to have to go through a similar process.

As for us, I look for a seemingly endless number of telephone calls for "polls" and to extol candidates.  It's like playing post office with third-class males.

Maybe as we decide on our favorite candidate, we could get panties with his/her name emblazoned on the backside.  Now this cheeky action might be very appropriate!  Perhaps Victoria's Secret could get into the act.

I wish I could write in Bobby Jindal.  He's bright, honest, and attractive.  But that's just a reverie.

Monday, December 19, 2011

More on the Mickey Gilley Effect

Both women and men respond to the Mickey Gilley effect.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The North Carolina Possum Drop and PETA

Clay Logan, the owner of Clay's Corner store in Brasstown in western North Carolina, has been lowering an opossum in a transparent box to the ground every New Year's for 18 years.  This is in a mock emulation of the famous ball drop in New York's Times Square.  It's a little rural entertainment for the locals that happened to be mentioned in an article in The New York Times. The animal is caged and well-fed for about two weeks before the end-of-year ceremony; and is lowered, not dropped.  Once the "drop" is done, the opossum is released.  No possums were injured in this process.  The local festivities can swell this town of 250 into about 3,000 attendes.  No alcohol is served, strange to say.  [sigh]

It seems like a good old-fashioned form of rural entertainment, in which locals create a good time for themselves while doing no one and no thing harm.

However, this year, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has gotten into the act.  They called on the state Wildlife Resources Commission to put a halt to the tradition, saying the activity is cruel and illegal.   Specifically, PETA Director Delcianna Winders weighed in with this statement. "Using a captive opossum as the centerpiece of a raucous party is cruel and illegal."

"C'est la vie," as Maw-Maw would say.  Paw-Paw would say, "Tout le monde se fout de tout ici!" which I will forbear to translate.

In my opinion, this is a good case of why people from different sections come into conflict with each other.  These rural North Carolinans are going to feel that this is another example of bullying and meddling from Yankees who don't bother to get the facts right and who have an agenda that makes them the butt of it.

In fact, the PETA people may have been misled by the very term "possum drop."  In fact, it's a possum lowering.  One only wonders how PETA would react to snipe hunts, skin the bunny, turkey shoots, or other rural recreations that is foreign to their urban ethos!  Maybe the more active members of PETA could go to western North Carolina and protest possum lowering like they do the wearing of fur: by protesting in their lingerie or less!  Now THAT would be a welcome augmentation to Brasstown's celebration and would give the local minsters several Sundays worth of sermons!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Boudoir Photography for Guys

Boudoir photography has been around for over thirty years now.  Jan and Michael Stern noted in this social phenomenon in their Encyclopedia of Bad Taste.  And, to date, practically all subjects of boudoir photography are women. 

Why do women choose to pose?  A few do so because they are pressured into doing so; but the largr number do so for other reasons:  as a present for their fiancé or boyfriend, to celebrate successfully obtaining some attractive store-bought ta-tas, because they want to see (and be seen) an a non-ordinary sensual way, to celebrate their beauty or vanity, or as a memento for the future of how they had been more beautiful at one time.   I'm not going to be presumptive to censure or ridicule any of these reasons.  

Anyway, now to my story.

Clarissa was a professional photographer.  She did the usual business: wedding portraits, baby pictures, family portraits, and occasionally some school pictures (which were lucrative).  As a sideline, she offered boudoir photography as well, obtaining a collection of possible costumes, possible props, and posing ideas.  She read on what kinds of poses and costumes did customers like: nighties, transparent bras and panties, bikinis, décollété, leg shots, and so forth.  She became regionally known for her ability to produce flattering pictures.

One day, she had an inspiration: Why not double the number of potential customers by offering boudoir photography for gentlemen?  So she did.  She got costumes for guys: spandex shorts, form-fitting shirts, teeny undie bottoms, lounging pyjamas.  I must say that the standards of boudoir photography involve implied sexiness, not actual nudity or porn.  She would turn away any customers who requested such photography as being unethical.

However, Clarissa found that most unaccompanied guy customers chose to pose in briefs.  And not colored ones, either!

Clearly, there was a lack of a well-defined aesthetic when it came to male boudoir photography.  Clarissa did, however, find a partial solution:  quite a few guys selected a pose in which they reclined, but had a top hat covering their lower torso.  A few enterprising fellows selected the sombrero alternative, despite the rule that no one looks good in a sombrero!

Finally, Clarissa found the winning formula: a reclining pose in which the guy posed in a speedo; but wore a baseball cap with the logo of his favorite team!  Clarissa was astonished to discover that apparently there was such a large number of female sports fans out there that would find that to be sexy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mickey Gilley Effect

This refers to the tendency by male bar or tavern attendees to perceive the women or girls present in that setting as more attractive in the later part of the evening, as opposed to earlier. This may be due to the results of intoxication, reduced standards out of increasing despiration, or an (unlikely) objective improvement in the attractiveness of those females present. Mickey Gilley's country song, "The Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time," first described this perceptual relationship.  Interestingly, social psychology research supports this alteration in perception.  I'll keep late hours! 

"Beer goggles" is more formally referred to as the Mickey Gilley effect. It can be a precursor to the coyote ugly consequence and occasional buyer's remorse.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Naked Truth

There seems to be a strong separation between the literal and the metaphorical here.  Perhaps the expression "unvarnished truth" should substitute for "naked truth."  At any rate, they seem to have blown a reasonable opportunity to having an excuse for putting a naked person on a book cover to increase book sales.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tom the Tapir

Secretary: Mr. Royce, there's a pig to see you about being in a show.

Royce: Come in Mr. Pig. I'm afraid that we have a surfeit of swine here in 'Vegas. It would take a remarkable talent to become a headliner. Have you any references?

Tom the Tapir: Actually, Sir, I'm a tapir. And tapirs in your dreams have the function of eating nightmares. But I'm afraid that the nightmare that is Las Vegas is too indigestible for even the most intrpeid tapir, so I want to be in show business. I think that it would fit in with my artistic sensibilities and temperament. As for that, I am taking Prozac to deal with those issues. I might mention that my name is Tom, and I'm from Lubbock.

Royce: What can you do that's so entertaining?

Tom: Well, Mr. Royce, I can sing. And dance. [Does a neat little number with a straw hat and cane.]

Royce: Hmmm, may have something there. What kinds of dances do you know?

Tom: mostly polkas and line dances. But I was briefly with the Texas Ballet. I had to quit because I dropped too many ballerinas doing grand jetés.

Royce: No, polkas, line dancing, and ballet are not what the Las Vegas crowd prefers. Can you learn tap?

Tom: I suppose so. I'm the most graceful tapir in southern Nevada. But what kind of tune should I tap to:?

Royce: Something easy, like "Tea for Two," maybe? And you need to ditch those speedoes. How about a nice tuxedo? Remember, you're going against Wayne Newton and Jay Leno here, and the audiences expect classiness in Las Vegas entertainment. We need to liven the act up further. Can you dance while holding candles in each hoof?

Tom the Tapir: I can do it. Easy. I've studied multitasking at the Recreation Department.

Royce: Very good. Now, how about doing a trial appearance at the Tradewinds? While it doesn't pay much, you could also eat from the Mexican buffet there to supplement your salary.

Tom the Tapir: It's a deal. When do I start?

So, while Mr. Royce was pleased to find an unusual act for a difficult client, he suddenly had an intrusive thought:

"Oy veh! I have booked for a trial appearance a tux-wearing Tom the Tempermental Texas Tapir holding a taper and tap dancing to "Tea for Two" for tacos at the Tradewinds."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ramos Gin Fizz

This was the ambrosial gin fizz recipe invented by the head bartender Henry C. Ramos at New Orleans's Roosevelt Hotel in the 1920's.

Drink this while on a porch overlooking a swamp on a languid spring or summer afternoon toward sun down, before dinner -- if you're not in any hurry. You have friends over, and talk is slow and meandering. You're sitting around in shorts and halters, and no shoes, for God's sake. (Halters are optional for guys.) The moment calls for a slow drink, and I offer this one for you to try:

Here's what you'll need per serving:

1 and one-half oz. gin
5 drops orange flower water
2 egg whites or powdered egg whites (I suggest the latter to be on the safe side)
5 teaspoons confectioner's sugar
2 oz. half-and-half
3/4 teaspoon real lemon juice
2 drops vanilla extract
A half cup or so of cracked ice

Put it all together in a blender, and turn the blender on up to high and keep at it for about 2 or 3 minutes until it gets a sublime froth. (Less time may be needed; just get it frothy.) Serve this in a tall glass, old fashioned glass, or whatever. Everybody kick back and relax.

Who knows, maybe you all will like another one?   If so, then just bag dinner and whip up some more. (Don't do this and drive, you hear; this drink can really really hit you.)

An historical note:  This was Huey P. Long's favorite drink.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Secret Vice of Generation Y

I dawned upon me while watching Jon Stewart: this guy is really full of himself.  Well, that's his misfortune, and none of my own.  But also he panders to some of the worst traits of my generation (Y): the cultivation of a smug hipness that sometimes comes in the form of cynicism.  But this is not an honest cynicism of the Diogenes flavor: it's simply a pose to appear cool. 

Why am I listening to this unfortunate guy pretending to be a really cool but managing to be a poseur?  He is, in his own way, as bad as Bill O'Reilly.  Maybe we need to bring back those moments of reflection where we think something like  Mea culpa.  Well, people haven't said that at Mass since my grandparents' time, but it's still something of use.  And a first step in cleaning up one's act.

I'll confess to doing some uncool things, but not douchy ones: 

1.  Listening to ABBA.  Yeah, 1970's Euro pop elevator music.  But it's catchy; it's got a good beat and is great to exercise or dance to.  Strangely, John McCain is also a self-admitted ABBAophile.

2.  Eating Reese's cups.

3.  Pole dancing.  Hey, I wear exercise clothes; it do it privately, and I'm not a stripper.  Sorry to be a disappointment.

4.  Reading bodice-ripper romance novels.  Yeah, they have absolutely no literary value.  But does Tom Clancy?

5.  Petting bunnies.

6.  Looking at baby clothes.  No, I'm not expecting -- just dreaming of someday.

7.  The horror!  The horror!  Watching DWTS sometimes.

8.  Speaking of music: a further confession in the desire to have a clean Generation Y conscience, I sometimes listen to French yé-yé music that originated in the 1960's.  This music is even regarded as noncool in France.

At least none of these would put me on the TSA do-not-let-fly list. 

A gentle distinction: the anime girl above is not cool, but trying too hard to be.

Just a note: I'll be away for about a week; but will post a New Orleans drink recipe and a tapir story in the meantime.  Have a great week! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Guardian Angel Learns a Fashion Lesson

Steve, my Guardian Angel, declared over his morning honey bun that he thought he'd shed his robe in favor of some more Chapel Hill-appropriate male garb.  I was relieved, as he did seem a little conspicuous in his white robe and slippers, even though he shed his angelic wings a few weeks before.  Anyway, I offered hopefully to take him shopping, being that shopping is an all-year activity thanks to malls.

He indicated that it really wasn't necessary, and that I needed to write that paper I've been procrastinating on.  I thought, "Hmmm . . . . maybe there's a cute girl angel I'm going to hear about someday?"

Anyway, he came back wearing an amazing outfit: camou cargo pants, a Duke t-shirt, a red-and-white striped necktie, and running shoes!  When I recovered my amazement, I asked in my usual subtle manner:

"Where did you get those clothes?"

"Oh, at a little store called the Salvation Army.  I figured that they were on our side."

Clearly, in the Celestial Kingdom guy angels are just as fashion-challenged as their human Earthly counterparts.  So I first tried to dissuade him with a threat: "Steve, if you wear that, I'm going to think impure thoughts about Brad Pitt."

But Steve was unmoved, in his stubborn angelic way.

So I decided to go the diplomatic route, to do some damage control.

"Er, Steve.  About that Duke t-shirt.  It might not be a good idea."

"Why not," he replied.  "The colors match my eyes."  Gawd!  He is so guileless.

Not quite.  So I fell back on the semiotics position.

"About Duke t-shirts.  Did you know that Duke's sports teams are known as the Blue Devils?"

"Really?  I didn't know that.  You mean I could get in trouble for wearing it?"

"I'm afraid so.  Your home office might have questions and call you in for retraining."

"Well, I'm not a fan of any team that calls itself the Sad Devils.  It's like that school from the west that I heard calls itself the Demon Deacons.  What's going on?  Our Adversary must have a strong presence in this Tarheel State; but, Angel, never fear, I'm on the job with you."

So, with my guidance, he gave up the Duke shirt, and replaced it with a nice button-down shirt that went with the tie.  But he still kept the cargo pants. 

You have to accept partial victories gracefully.

Beginning next week, I will be away for a bit; however, I've scheduled the posting of a drink recipe and a tapir story.

Have a nice week!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Possible Implication for Evolutionary Psychology

In general, evolutionary psychologists have reckoned that the mechanisms that are involved in present-day mate selection by humans largely emerged during the Pleistocene era. These would include for males facial symmetry, muscular physique, physical dominance, athletic prowess, and other traits associated with the alpha males and high levels of testosterone. For females it would include having a youthful appearance, facial beauty, large breasts, and other traits associated with reproductive success.

In general, these are the traits most exaggerated in the dominance hierarchies in high schoolers.  As a matter of fact, the Environment of Evolutionary Action (which some think of as the the Pleistocene era!) is still functioning in a typical high school in the USA.

However, these same traits were differentially selected when different selection processes were operational: those of the prehistoric humans, sometimes loosely referred to as cave persons. (Being able to live in a cave was probably a rare luxury at that time.) This did not include changes which have taken place since then: longer life spans, necessity for education, later ages for pairing off, and greater survivability of a given person. In short, for industrialized cultures, the likelihood of becoming an adult is fairly high. And those traits which still draw attraction serve less of an evolutionary function.

Would it be possible, with time, for certain additional traits to be evolutionarily selected? For example, would young girls start becoming attracted more to guys who were smart enough to learn calculus or be verbally clever or artistic?! And guys may show a parallel evolutionary convergence, in turn: Why be content with a dumb bunny with large breasts when you can have a literate or biochemistry-capable girlfriend with large breasts! (In fact, hers could even be store-bought; most guys may be happy with either type!)

Actually, I exaggerate. If the end result of such adaptations as cosmetics, improved diet, execise, and other means improve on the basal characteristics of people, these previously potent sources of human variation become less important. And, by default, being more intelligent provides and adaptation premium, albeit a small one.  Nevertheless, over evolutionary time this can be significant.

I must confess to liking nerds and geeks.  As such, I may be a force in human evolution, which is still going on!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Personalities of Academic Disciplines

I am persuaded, having occupied a perspective on academe from what might be characterized as the nosebleed seats, to tell what I know about academic departments on a typical modern university.  But I really learned from that unlikely place common to many of our experiences: the environment of the teen girls and where one gets to sit in the cafeteria.

Let's face it, there are some departments that are more established and carry more gravitas than others. The English and History departments are like the girls from the Old Families: sure of their position and prone to guard it jealously.  But Philosophy is, by far, the field regarded as the wisest.  Don't mess with her.  She has clout with the assistant principals (deans) and is the subject of much fawning.  These hang our at Cool Girls' Table #1.

Art, music, and theatre are all arty and eccentric.  Well, not always music.  Piano or clarinet skill gives entree into the ranks of the polite, but trombones are to be frowned upon.  Artists can be a source of anxiety: as long as they're nicely tossing pots or painting watercolors, there's no problem; but this is a field in which no nudes are good news, as least from the administration's perspective.  They are allowed with the previously-mentioned cool girls on occasion but often taken with sufferance.

 Geography and Psychology would like to sit with the cool girls in the Sciences, but are rarely allowed by the others lest the others feel tarnished by association and lose coolness. Geography and Psychology are nerd disciplines; though some sorority or cheerleader types go into psych.

Sociology?  Cast Tori Spelling as her.  She sits by herself, or maybe with the mullet crowd.

 What can we say about some of the others?   Think of the Engineering disciplines as leading towards the Sapphic side, or at least preferring their dress.  No, that's not fair.  These are the smart, homely girls without fashion sense. Nursing is in another world: maybe some Sailor Senshi will visit and report on them.  The fact that they wear uniforms in clinical settings makes them immune to stereotypes.

The Sciences, of course, constitute a clique, together with Mathematics, and sit at the other popular kids' table. there Physics constitutes the bitch queen, setting the standards of dress and conduct much like a pledge trainer does with the group.  Cast Shannon Dothery in that role if you cast some actress to personify an academic department.  Chemistry is also established; maybe not as exalted but very secure.  Biology is a little less so, but she has a studly older brother named Darwin that evokes teen fantasies of which the nuns would not approve.  Geology and Astronomy are quiet, polite members of this clique: knowing that as long as they don't call attention to themselves they will be accepted.  Mathematics is definitely in with this group, but doesn't always go along.  Cast Sandra Bullock as Mathematics.

Public Relations and Communications are easy to type.  Think Paris Hilton.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What's Your Number, Part Two

As an alternative to this question raised in a recent romantic comedy, one person suggested an alternative: how many persons have seen your boobs over some extended period of time.   

Now I'm not going to reveal any personal information; only some views from a discussion that my friends and I had on this topic while enjoying that original New Orleans girlie drink, Ramos Gin Fizzes!  One of them, yclept Jessica, was studying to be a lawyer.  She apparently channeled Bill Clinton in making her contributions.  (I heard that he very lawyerly split hairs over the meaning of the word "is.")

Jessica argued, "What do you mean by 'seen your boobs'?  Specifically, how would you categorize the following:

1.  Modest décollété?

2.  Severe décollété?

3.  Going braless and showing?

4.  Wearing form-fitting clothes?

5.  Exposure by accident, like a swimsuit malfunction?

6.  Culturally-permitted exposure?"

Now comes the question much-discussed among females of younger dating age: When is it okay to let him get to second base?*

I'll not bore you with the gory details, but I think that it is safe to acknowledge that women are not numerically-challenged, despite the general stereotype that goes around.  It's not just the odd girl who wanders into the calculus class** unsuspectedly; we all inhabit a world in which we think quantifiably.

But I will end by saying that we ramped up to Sazeracs, and somehow managed to play basketball at 1 A.M. instead of flashing the webcam on Bourbon Street.

* The consensus among Catholic girls is: not before the fifth time you go out.
**Calculus classes are great places to meet smart guys.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

If I Could Talk to Literary Characters

This is what I would say to:

Captain Ahab (Moby Dick) -- "You know, taking up golf would be less extreme; and there's always the 19th Hole."

Holden Caufield (The Catcher in the Rye)  -- "Man up and stop whining.  Or chick up, whatever.  If you can't make it as a catcher, try for an outfield position instead."

Madame Bovary -- "Don't take the arsenic.  Be an artist's mistress instead." 

Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Predjudice) -- "Mr. Darcy is as stuffy as Mr. Collins.  Seduce and marry Mr. Bingley instead.  Never mind Jane."

Any Ernest Hemingway male character -- "Develop your feminine side a little."

Catullus -- "Clodia is a tart; and her brother Clodius is trouble.

Jane Eyre -- "Better get a job in sales instead."


D'Artagnan (The Three Musketeers)  -- "Choose your companions more carefully."

Hamlet -- "For Christ's sake, make up your mind and get off your duff!!!"

Macbeth -- "Most of the time, listen to your wife's advice.  This is not one of them."

Mr. Joyboy (The Loved One)  -- "You have unresolved Oedipal issues."
Daisy (The Great Gatsby) -- [song] "He's no good, he's no good.  The man's no good."

Henry Fleming (The Red Badge of Courage) -- "You might consider joining the National Guard instead."

Lorna Doone -- "Try thin mints, for a change.  They're a change of pace from shortbreads"

The Girls in Little Women --  "Loosen up; and stop being preacher's kids.  You're teens!!!!"

Tess Mognahan (a detective recurrently used by Laura Lippman):  "Tell your live-in boyfriend bye-bye; and take up with Jimmy McNulty instead.  But keep hm away from the Jameson's." 

Marlowe and Mr. Kurtz (The Heart of Darkness) -- "That's what you get for that weekend trip to Baton Rouge."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Renaissance Faire

For some reason, once years ago I managed to be on the wait staff at a Renaissance Faire dinner.  The occasion is based on those occasional Renaissance "Faires" (a common spelling used).  These can be thought of as like cosplay for middle-aged people in which they deck themselves out in costumes that can range from the Authurian to the Renaissance.  Strangely, there is a heavy attendance by lords and ladies, or Renaissance magnates or bishops.  Very few peasants or commoners.

There was a strange anachronism going on: on the same landscape we can see knights and ladies, Florentine courtiers, pirates, assorted kings and queens, and even the Three Musketeers.  Dumas would have been proud as to how Athos, Artemis, and Porthos got around, eating funnel cakes, watching belly dancers, and evil sorcerers. 

The wait staff was instructed to introduce themselves as "serving wenches," as in, "Good day, Gentles, My name is Clarissa and I am your serving wench."  When you're in a surreal setting, it's good to be surreal.  Didn't Hunter S. Thompson say something like that?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Learning to Act Your Age: Practical Courses for Continuing Education

Most average or larger colleges and universities have a Continuing Education department, offering short, practical courses to help professionals re-certify or to learn new skills.  Additionally, they offer hobby-related and coping with life courses, such as Basic Yoga and How to Effectively Parent.

It's become increasingly apparent, however, that many people have trouble making the necessary transitions from one stage to another.  These constitute a core market for this category of practical course.

Northern Ohio Community College is currently offering the following to met the apparent needs of their customer base:

1. Selecting a Proper Sugar Daddy

2. Releasing the Old Fart in You

3.  Elementary Battle Axe Studies

4.  Intermediate Battle Axe Studies

5.  Creative Use of the Television Remote

6.  Wheedling Your Parents to Let You Live in Their Basement

7.  Nagging for Beginners

8.  Elementary Stripping for Your Boyfriend

9.  Choosing the Starter Husband

10.  Bad Food and Sexual Deprivation:  Deaccessing the Starter Husband

11.  Choosing the Starter Wife

12.  Money Laundering for Dummies

13.  Embracing the Angst of Being Thirtysomething

14.  Feeling Up the Angst of Being Thirtysomething

15.  Dealing With the Disappointment of Not Having a Midlife Crisis

16.  Coping With an Uninteresting Midlife Crisis

17.  Basic Parental Nagging Skill Techniques

18.  Successful Cougar Strategies

19.  Selection of Bowling Costumes

20.  Basic Procrastination

21.  Advanced Procrastination

22.  Increasing Self-Indulgence for Twentysomethings

23.  Dealing with Generation X Persons: Not Just Your Older Siblings

24.  Yogi for beginners: Zen and the Art of Baseball Catching

25.  Advanced Journalism Snobbery

26.  Elementary Composting

Actually, new courses are being developed all the time.  But this list will help establish the flavor.  Take advantage of the offerings at YOUR Community College!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dee-Doh Thinks About Quitting the Team

My friend Dee-Doh got a fiat from his girlfriend, Jessica:  being on the track team is not enough; she wanted a boyfriend who was also on the football team for his boys' high school.  So, being the good sort that he is, he went out for spring training, and made it through the team roster cuts to make it on the team.  He became a second-string fullback, or some big muckety-muck position like that.  Anyway, spring training was easy and he felt that he could go out for the team and please Jessica the Demanding Shrew.  

You might say that Jessica had the upper hand in their relationship; and this is so totally expected, given that she comes from an old New Orleans family and apparently was taking dominatrix lessons at the community college in addition to being the bitch queen at my academy.

When football resumed with the practices in August, Dee-Doh got a rude surprise: two practices a day in the Louisiana heat!  Oh!  My!  God!  And Dee-Doh, bless his heart,  had more nerd tendencies than jock tendencies.  He didn't really like colliding against other guys during the game.  It gave him a headache; and he didn't enjoy being with Jessica as much as before.

And Jessica would give him criticism -- why didn't he elude that blocker, why no touchdowns, etc.  And the halftime locker room meetings were impossible, but he never said why.

And, darn it!  I missed him.  His time was eaten up by football, studying to keep up his grades, ministering to Jessica, and generally being tired.  It stopped being glorious for him by mid-September, but there were two more months and then the playoffs.

We had a brief time together; but long enough for him to express his ambivalence; no, he indicated that he was fed up with it all. 

I told him, "Quit the team; you're making yourself miserable."  But I warned him that his doing so would probably result in a girlfriendectomy.  I knew Jessica, you see.  And his rah-rah teammates and classmates would give him grief for being a quitter.

Anyway, a little deus ex machina entered the picture.  He was running with the ball, an infrequent experience, when he was bumped by another team's player and injured.  I met him just after he was carried off the field.  Anyway, I rode with an assistant coach who took him and his dad to the E.R.  His ankle was twisted and became swollen, but it was ultimately diagnosed as simply a sprain.  He was to be out for two, possible three weeks, and back for more fun and games, Catholic boy-style.

But where was Jessica?  Nowhere to be seen.  In effect, his little copine (moi) had to fill in the role of morale supporter instead of her. 

Shall we say that, with a little solicitude and counseling on my part, the sprain took longer for Dee-Doh to recover from than the initial diagnosis warranted.  Perhaps because I gave him acting lessons, he was able to convince his dad and his classmates that his sprain lasted longer than first expected and included complications.  He got quite good at getting around on crutches.  It took him longer to get over Jessica, unfortunately.

This is my 200th post in this blog.  I hope you've enjoyed some.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Playing "Footsie" in Social Research

There are guilty pleasures in psychology! Mine happens to be social psychology, which has oodles of fun research to amaze and amuse, as well as to provide reassurance that all is not bound up in physiological processes.

Daniel Wegner and his colleagues gave a previously-unacquainted man and a woman instructions covertly to play "footsie" under the table (keeping their feet in contact) while talking to two other strangers who were not covertly carrying on in the same manner. Other subjects played "footsie" overtly, with the knowledge of everyone around.

Afterwards, the participants were given a questionnaire.

According to the results, those covert "footsie" participants were more attracted to each other than were the ones touched each other's feet openly! Apparently, the secretiveness of it all heightened the implicit attraction associated with this semi-intimate action. Keeping this in mind, the old high school strategy of playing "footsie" with someone else's b.f. might be an effective strategy for "mate poaching," not that I ever did such a nefarious thing!

Reflecting back, many of the ordinary pleasures of adolescence involved getting away with something!
Wegener, D. M., Lane, J. D., and Dimitri, S. (1994). The nature of secret relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 782-792.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What Should Be the Data for News and History?

This might be an idiotic question; but at what point does a factoid become worthy of being recorded in the news or the historical record?  Obviously, the big ones, if verified, should be there.  But what constitutes big?

Let me give what is hopefully an innocuous example.  Suppose President Obama truly likes Brussel sprouts; is that worthy of news?  Now I suppose that Brussel sprouts farmers may go, "Oh bother (or some other word).  Will this affect my business?"  And maybe Democratic mothers might pressure their offspring into eating said vegetables, saying that Barack Obama goes in for second helpings.  But is this news?  Really?*

But some examples are not so innocuous, such as in the area of private morality.  I'm not sure how several years ago a President's doings with chubby lasses became so important.  Oh yes, to be honest; I do. 

1.  It was lurid.  

2.  It was politically advantageous to make much ado about it.**

This even goes with what gets included in history.  I was reading about a British art critic and social thinker and his marital woes.  Apparently, he got married; and although he and his wife were married for seven years, they never consummated it.  Poor lady must have been disappointed.  Or relieved for a while, if we believe the myths that we have about the Victorian age.

Anyway, why did that not happen?  Three versions:

1.  He was a proper Victorian guy; and the only naked women he had seen were on Greek statues.  Therefore, he was put off by her pubic hair.  (OMG -- Would have the problem been solved if they had Brazilian waxes in those days?)

2.  He was impotent.

3.  His wife had an odor problem.

These versions were offered by different historians; attempting to fill in the gaps in what is known. 
But really, these are wild surmises; transforming jumping to conclusions into an Olympic event.  And whatever private anguish and sadness that participants in the story felt, there is damage done to their dignity. 

News and history does not have to be reduced to the tabloid level. 

*Now Presidential food preferences may be a topic for some budding scholar's master's thesis.  There are some strange ones out there.
**"We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodic fits of morality."  -- Lord Macaulay.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gordon Ross, aka Ubergato

Gordon Ross, also known as Martin Wade, as the founder and moderator of Odd People, first a MSN group, and later on Yuku.  He was kind, strong, friendly, and encouraging to me and others.  He was a great person and a father figure in the best sense.   Today he would have been 65.

Gordon was a native of Baton Rouge.  He had served in the Army during the Viet Nam war.  Married but divorced.  He ran a housecleaning service in Jackson, MS.

I knew him strictly online; yet we regarded each others as good friends despite our age differences and other things.  He was a man of infinite kindness and patience.  He transcended his ill health in his later years by always seeing the brighter side of things.  If there is a Heaven, surely he rates a celestial crown and a harp!  (Although I suspect he would rather a trombone.)

I miss you, good friend.  You were one of the best!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Euphemism Goddess Meets With Pale Hecate

Euphemia, our Euphemism Goddess, already besieged by the creeping use of dysphemisms in everyday discourse, sensed that she was fighting at best a holding action against the rising tide of vulgarity in speech and manners.  First, there's the rise of use of the impudent gesture, even by Catholic maidens; then there's the seeming routineness of profanity even in the learned professions.  When is this to end?  The sheer number of neologisms or newly-emergent words that denote bodily functions or expressions of opproprium just stagger the imagination!  Also, there's that tired old bit of linguistic justification for their use: many of the old-style profane words (George Carlin's unsacred seven) were legitimate words when used by the Anglo-Saxons and therefore should not be considered profane.  Now, in my opinion, that is beside the point; languages change with the time.  All you have to do to experience that is to read the Prologue of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.  (Or the Miller's Tale, if you're into vulgarity.)

Anyway Euphemia, the Goddess of Euphemism, approached Hecate, the Goddess of Darkness, Witchcraft, and Evil, to discuss this.  She requested a sit-down, and the possibility of some accomodation.  Actually, Hecate acknowledged the problem: the coin of profanity was of late as devaluated at the Euro or the Ruble.  This concerned her greatly as it diminished her realm too. 

The two Goddesses came to recognize that part of the problem was that ol' Debbil The Media, who enjoyed tweaking sensibilities of Republicans and manifesting their urbanite coolness with their insouisance regarding the decorum of language!  Some of that was in turn due to the relative lessening of alcohol usage by reporters.  But another culprit was the lessened supervision of children during their formative years by adults.  And it all started with Clark Gable when he first used the "D" word in some movie.

One matter of concern was the sheer number of possible offensive terms that recently emerged.  There are so many now that it staggers the ability to keep up with them, and sometimes even cunning linguists in urban settings do not understand them.  For example, Hecate took Euphemia to task because of the term she introduced, little girls' room.  This term, while it was less offensive than those male-generated terms such as loo and head and crapper, became quickly a term used with ironic overtones.  And another point, euphemisms regarding breasts may become dysphemisms over time.  Sic transit gloria boob

They both were in agreement that some terms regarding women's anatomy should be forever regarded as beyond the pale.  We won't go into specifics here, though. 

And certain acts of lésé majesté should not ever, ever occur: no one should use those terms to refer to the President, Taylor Swift, or the Governors of Twenty-seven of the fifty states.  It is permitted, however, to be an verbally abusive as you wish when it comes to Congress, some of the governmental bureaucrats, or Nancy Grace.

An issue that was unresolved, pending further discussion, was the matter of abbreviations such as W.T.F. and B.S.  Euphemia took the position that their use was allowing profanity in through the back door, while Hecate suggested that there could be noncoarse alternatives that could call for those abbreviations, such as World Track Federation and Bachelor of Science.  And I'm in full agreement with this on the latter: labeling B.S. as profane further gives ammunition to the Liberal Arts contingent in colleges and universities.  Finally, both decided that the abbreviations were okay; after all, the best they could come up with for STFU was Same Time for Gilligan.

In the world of Goddesses, watching Gilligan's Island is mighty important.  After all, how else can they learn about mortals?

Euphemia (L) and Hecate (R)