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!