Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bloodhound Blues

A few years ago, a dogfood producer, Buckeye Feed wanted to use two bloodhounds used by the State Forestry Division in West Virginia in an advertisement.  In return for their doing so, Buckeye Feed would pay them in dogfood.  Unfortunately, the State Ethics Commission forbade the deal from going through, saying that the dogs were state employees and as such were not permitted to receive any considerations of this type.

It was too bad that the State Forest Division could not get some publicity for their dogs as well as the modest savings in dogfood that the bloodhounds consumed.  And, of course the dogfood company could not use them in the commercial.  It seemed like a little overreaction on the part of the Ethics Commission.

But they could have also opened a Pandora's box.  If the bloodhounds are state employees, might they be entitled to other benefits that a state employee might have, such as medical (well, veterinarian) insurance, a pension, and days off on official state holidays?  And, for longer-serving ones, perhaps a birthday greeting from the Governor?

If they work long enough to be eligible for a pension, should the period of eligibility be reckoned in dog years?  If the typical state employee works for 30 years, then that would come to 4.28 human years are 30 dog years.

Bloodhounds typically live for an average of 6.75 years, making them one of the shorter-living breeds.  Oh well, this might allay the actuarials' anxieties about large numbers of bloodhounds living on public pensions and draining the funds.

But as the bloodhound on the job in the picture below indicates, sometimes their jobs are disagreeable.  That would be especially true of cadaver-finding dogs.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Preteen Girls

An age group within girlhood that gets just no respect is the preteen girl age.  Strangely, they are often portrayed as sullen Bratz dolls or sultry Lolitas.  Inconveniences, at best; but not especially wonderful because of other alleged attributes. 

As I recall that period, it was a "learning how to be a teen girl" period.  And often not doing too well at it.  We discovered Bath and Body Works and the cosmetics counter.  And overused both.  Sometimes, possibly even to a ludicrious degree.  And we would do things that might attract boys' attention -- unfortunately being too loud, too outrageous, and sometimes even too provocative to boot.  Subtlety was not learned yet.

But how can you gain the attention of someone who wishes to become a Pokemon Master?  Misty, May, and Dawn tried with Ash Ketchum.  Let's face it: on my best days I was only about 15% as hot as Misty.

One issue that my friends had to deal with was the "pierce" question.  Specifically, could I get my earlobes pierced?  At what age?  How many holes?  My Mom dealt with that issue before with my two older sisters -- one hole per ear, but only when you reach twelve years old.  Strangely enough, this contented me when I wanted to get holed at nine; when twelve came around, I had less enthusiasm.  I think Mom handled it well, transferring it from a moral or a social issue to a age-appropriate one.

Likewise, with make-up.  Mom taught my how to apply it, which kinds to use, when to use it (not for going to Mass!) and so forth.  And when to bother.  You know, for obvious situations: no need to put on make-up before track practice, unlike some gussied-up hurdlers!

In general, give preteens some space.  Don't be so darned impatient for them to grow up.  As a matter of fact, it's good to accept the circumstances of all age categories in the human life cycle.  There's something entirely ludicrous about a beauty pageant for eighth graders at a middle school.  Training bras are okay; but don't make any anxiety-raising remarks about this sensitive area and don't make promises about eventual growth that may or may not transpire.  And, finally, learn something about how preteens see things:  When a girl that age says she has a boyfriend, that may simply mean that there's a boy that she occasionally interacts with, induces to dance with her a few times at a mixer, and possibly dreams of going on a boy-girl date.  Don't turn it into a we-need-to-meet-this-boy occasion!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

French Naval Ensign and National Flag

Naval ensign

This is to me an amusing perceptual phenomenon: the French tricolour comes in two varities: the navel ensign above, and the national flag below. The naval ensign was designed to be better distinguished by having unequal sized bands in a ratio.  The French national flag's bands are equal:

French National Flag

National flag:  1:1:1.

Naval ensign:  30:33:37

Currently, the flag is 50 percent wider than its height (i.e. in the proportion 2:3) and, except in the French Navy, has stripes of equal width.  Initially, the three stripes of the flag were not equally wide, being in the proportions 30 (blue), 33 (white) and 37 (red). Under Napoleon I, the proportions were changed to make the stripes' width equal, but by a regulation dated 17 May 1853, the navy went back to using the 30:33:37 proportions, which it continues to use.

Where the 30:33:37 ratio came from, I could not find any experimental basis for it.  Perhaps they worked it out by trial-and-error.  Or wild guessing.
The reason why they went back to the 30:33:37 ratio is because the flapping of the flag in the wind makes portions farther from the halyard seem smaller, and the red might not show well if there's little breeze.

I looked to determine whether other national flags also used disparate bands, and could not find other examples.  For example, Ireland and Coté d'Ivorie uses green, white, and orange bands of the same size (1:1:1).  Belgium used black, yellow and red bands in the 1:1:1 ratio.  But then, do those countries have a navy?  Italy has one; but its naval ensign has a crest in the middle of the white part.

Flag of Ireland

Naval Flag of Italy

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Last Bastions of Prejudice and Stereotypes

I'm sure that there will always be prejudice to some degree; the all-to-human sins of envy, schadenfreude, and suspicion of people that are a bit different will tend to persist and perhaps metastasize into new malingnant forms.  Likewise stereotypes, the social cognition process of rushing to judgment about people or groups.  However, some of the more obvious and salient ones have been at least placed on the defensive.  I'm sure that people will continue to use the N word or tell invidious ethnic jokes; but by doing show, they are following a pattern equivalent to not regularly showering or using deodorant: they self-handicap themselves by presenting themselves as insensitive morons.  [Sorry, no offense to morons.]

However, there are three areas that are still free of social sanctions for those forms of sloppy thinking or social behavior:  occupational, recreational, and residential or place of origin stereotypes.  Yes, used car salesmen can be scrupulously ethical, golfers can be teetotalers, and Southerners seem to be about as smart or stupid as people elsewhere.   So, what causes these to persist?

One reason is that people may give more notice to information supportive of the stereotype.  Blondes sometimes are dumb, just like brunettes.  But, as a result of the stereotype, the dumb blonde garners more notice, while the smart blonde does not evoke a re-formulation of the stereotype.  The dumb brunette gets overlooked; while the smart brunette lives up to the stereotype.  Another reason is that information contrary to the stereotype may be discounted due to laziness or other factors.  There's a cognitive inertia going on.

And imagination regarding hair color plays a part.  For example, a recent German study by Hamburg  Professor Dr Werner Habermehl looked at the sex lives of hundreds of German women and compared them with their hair color.  He reported that women with red hair were more sexually active than those with other hair color, with more partners and having sex more often than the average. 

(Read more:

There might be an atavistic distrust of redheads because of this alleged passionate nature, as seen as gingerism in Britain and even the Facebook page that tried to establish a National Kick a Ginger Day.

We ourselves may not be completely rid of our unique stereotypes and prejudices; but we should be on the lookout for this kind of thinking and challenge the premises underlying them.  Mandy might be really smart!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Giving Pizazz to Lieutenant Governors and Vice-Presidents

I don't know if anyone bothered to survey, but I would guess that, which most state residents could name their Governor; but knowing who their Lieutenant Governor is another matter.  And yet that person presides over the State Senate, and can fill in for the elected Governor if that person dies or is somehow impaired or too he pisses off too many people and they impeach him on some pretext.  Yes, he's waiting in the wings; ready and able to fill in when needed.

No, it's kind of like the fate of Vice-Presidents:  Who was Clinton's VP, anyway?  As a matter of fact, who is Obama's?  Some old VP or other said the office was not worth a cup of warm spit, or so his words were probably twisted.  Really, lieutenant governors are like this: don't have much to do.  Mostly, they blend into the scenery.

But this doesn't have to be.  Lieutenant Governors from differerent states could appear on Dancing With the Stars.  And we would be proud that our North Carolina or Louisiana Lieutenant Governor did a superior tango or foxtrot or waltz.  After all, didn't they do something like that in Atlantic City years ago to lengthen the tourist season?

And they should wear a fine costume.  Preferably, one with epaulets, a sash, and a three-cornered hat.  And give him a fine sword to wear!  Have him appear in an official capacity to lead parades.  Lieutenant Governors should help us satisfy our need for pageantry.

Since only Governors of California or South Carolina have news-worthy mistresses, our group of lieutenant governors must fill in the Mistress Gap, and flaunt them as an expression of the spirit of the states that they serve.  I know I would feel edified if my state's Lieutenant Governor had a world-class mistress, and the fashion sense entertainment value he and she provides would be immeasurable!  We would also benefit from our Governors not being seriously bothered by mistress distractions or paparazzis: we want working governors! 

A truly working Lieutenant Governor could have some entertaining pasttimes, such as NASCAR driving or fish taco-making.  In these uncertain times, our statemen and stateswomen must amuse us: God knows, we need it in this crisis-laden world.  Vice-Presidents are the Federal equivalent of Lieutenant Governors.  VP Quayle set a good model with his amusing vocabulary; but he would have become more loveable and amusing if he specialized in malapropisms.  Obviously, Al Gore rose to the occasion when he claimed to have invented the internet, but he should have expanded his inventive career.  Doing something like that would have even endeared Dick Cheney to the people!

Or probably not.

One other thing:  Today's Mardi Gras!
[Wish I was there.]

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Existential Truth

An Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Linguistic Paradox

Brian Hyland's song "Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" has been around for a long time; and although it was a hit by a minor pop star from the time bikinis were risqué, it has lasted well.  It was recently revived in a Yoplait commercial, the thesis being that yogurt is an excellent way to help in losing weight so you can look good in your bikini when it's the season.  This is something that smacks close to home for all bikini-wearers, to be sure, for their gustatory indulgences to help them deal with the winter.

However, the song raises some issues that might have been overlooked:

1.  What is "itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny," to use Brian Hyland's overkill term?

a.  Is it the bikini itself?

       b.  Or is it the polka dots on the bikini?

2.  What, exactly, is "yellow" in the song?

       a.  Is it the bikini swimsuit?

       b.  Or is it the polka dots on the swimsuit?

When the song came out in 1960 or so, it was considered shockingly brief; hency "itsy-bitsy" was a bit of overkill in use of words.  Since then, the bikini has hatched several variations, from the "granny or Baptist" bikini suitable for country singers to wear without offending their fan bases, to the string bikini which provided fewer square inches in coverage. In effect, which of these two examples more faithfully depicts the implied reality of Brian Hyland's song?

Yellow bikini top, with polka dots

White bikini with yellow polka dots
Deconstruction interpretation argues that we cannot decipher the lyrics of the song without understanding the process by which the connotations and context behind a work are explored and analyzed in (often excrutiatingly fine) detail.  When applied to writing, deconstruction takes it apart so as to better help us understand its relevance to real life (Derrida). This often means pursuing a concept's inner contradictions and the differences between how it appears in the work itself and how it compares to other related concepts both in writing of fiction or song lyrics and in everyday life.  In other words, we cannot simply conclude whether it is the bikini that is itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, or its dots are; and likewise we cannot conclude whether it is the swimsuit  that is yellow, or its dots.

Maybe the swimsuit itself is an itsy-bitsy light yellow string bikini; and it has teeny-weeny darker yellow polka dots on it.  This would, logically, satisfy all possible interpretations.


Friday, February 17, 2012

The Laws of Anime

Law of Metaphysical Irregularity
The normal laws of physics do not apply.

Law of Differentiated Gravitation
Whenever someone or something jumps, is thrown, or otherwise is rendered airborn, gravity is reduced by a factor of 4.

Law of Sonic Amplification, First Law of Anime Acoustics
In space, loud sounds, like explosions, are even louder because there is no air to get in the way.

Law of Constant Thrust, First Law of Anime Motion
In space, constant thrust equals constant velocity.

Law of Mechanical Mobility, Second Law of Anime Motion
The larger a mechanical device is, the faster it moves. Armored Mecha are the fastest objects known to human science.

Law of Temporal Variability
Time is not a constant. Time stops for the hero whenever he does something 'cool' or 'impressive'. Time slows down when friends and lovers are being killed and speeds up whenever there is a fight.

Law of Inconsequential Undetectability
People never notice the little things... Like missing body parts, or wounds the size of Seattle.

Law of Juvenile Intellectuality
Children are smarter than adults. And almost always twice as annoying.

Law of Melee Luminescence
Any being displaying extremely high levels of martial arts prowess and/or violent emotions emits light in the form of a glowing aura. This aura is usually blue for 'good guys' and red for 'bad guys'. This is attributed to Good being higher in the electromagnetic spectrum than Evil.

Law of Non-anthropomorphic Antagonism
All ugly, non-humanoid alien races are hostile, and usually hell-bent on destroying humanity for some obscure reason.

Law of Follicular Chroma Variability
Any color in the visible spectrum is considered a natural hair color. This color can change without warning or explanation.

Law of Follicular Permanence
Hair in anime is pretty much indestructable, and can resist any amount of meteorological conditions, energy emissions, physical abuse, or explosive effects and still look perfect. The only way to hurt someone's hair is the same way you deal with demons... with bladed weapons!

Law of Topological Aerodynamics, First Law of Anime Aero-Dynamics
*ANY* shape, no matter how convoluted or odd-looking, is automatically aerodynamic.

Law of Mandibular Proportionality 
The size of a person's mouth is directly proportional to the volume at which they are speaking or eating.

Law of Feline Mutation
Any half-cat/half-human mutation will invariably:
  1.  Be female,
  2.  Will possess ears and sometimes a tail as a genetic mutation,
  3.  and wear as little clothing as possible, if any.

Law of Conservation of Firepower
Any powerful weapon capable of destroying/defeating an opponent in a single shot will invariably be reserved and used only as a last resort.

Law of Probable Attire
Clothing in anime follows certain predictable guidelines.
1.  Female characters wear as little clothing as possible, regardless of whether it is socially or meteorologically appropriate.
2.  Any female with an excessive amount of clothing will invariably have her clothes ripped to shreds or torn off somehow. If there is no opportunity to tear off the afore-mentioned female's clothes, then she will inexplicably take a shower for no apparent reason (also known as the Gratuitous Shower Scene).
3.  Whenever there is a headwind, a Male characters will invariably wear a long cloak which doesn't hamper movement and billows out dramatically behind him.

First Corollary (Cryo-Adaptability) - All anime characters are resistant to extremely cold temperatures, and do not need to wear heavy or warm clothing in snow.

Second Corollary (Indecent Invulnerability) - Bikinis render the wearer invulnerable to any form of damage.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Adventures of the New Hampshire Scent Police

A recent news item reported that the New Hampshire legislature was considering House Bill 1444, which aims to protect individuals with sensitivities to certain odors from suffering allergic reactions if they are exposed to these smells. Among the possible symptoms include a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing and overall altered lung function.  Republican Michele Peckham filed this bill.

Actually, this is not the first time laws have been made mandating a scent-free environment, especially on the Left Coast.  So imagine the logical consequence of this form of legislation: the formation of a State Scent Police or State Perfume Gestapo!
The New Hampshire Scent Police were having a pre-working day cup of coffee and steeling themselves for the rigors and dangers of enforcing the law to make state offices absolutely scent-free.  Never mind that the essence of unwashed New Hampshirites would linger like a miasma, the law is for protection of all of us! 

It was just yesterday that they were summoned to confront a male state worker for having an unapproved odor: it seemed that he used his wife's soap when his Approved Nonscented Soap had been used up.  The sweet smell of jasmine gave him away; a scent that lingered as they dragged him down the hall, both defiant and sobbing from embarassment.  The judge let him off with a fine and being sent to bed without his supper.

And what about yesterday's secretary arrestee?  She was carried away in a patrol car because she failed to wash off her sin; that is My Sin.  That's a cardinal sin in scentfree New Hampshire.  And the specific offense of another was for wearing Beautiful; apparently, it's okay to be beautiful in New Hampshire (unlike Massachuetts), but you cannot smell Beautiful!

A pretty girl is like a poem; but I must remember that, whatever my millihelen measure, I must not wear Poême.  Apparently, a poême d'amore is still acceptable in the Granite State among those flinty Yankees.

All was not ease in arresting malefactors.  They had an arrest thrown out of court when they arrested a janitor for having a distinct cleaning fluid scent.  And, in the summer, whenever the State Office Building's grass is cut, there's a lingering scent of onions in the air.  However, they were instrumental in getting new additions to the State Motor Pool aired out for two weeks before they're pressed into service: none of that new car smell in New Hampshire! 

Actually, our Scent Police Squad as a little on edge today.  They were awaiting a foray into the DMV, a hotbed of olfactory crime.  Reports that the workers there favored such scents as Pas Ce Soir, Mal de Tête, Ich Habe Meinen Zeitraum, Dolor de Cabeza, and Essence des Poissons Morts Depuis Longtemps.  But, as always, they were on the lookout for their archenemy, Mr. Axe.  They wondered as they strapped on their Kevlar vests and put on their gauze face masks, "Shouldn't they ban pre-movie commercials for that product?" 

Teenaged girls and schoolteachers would hope for strict law enforcement in that case!

Contraband in New Hampshire

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Years ago, my boyfriend gave me a bottle of Curious perfume for Valentine's Day.  [This was Britney Spears's perfume: intended for pre-teens.]  It came in a gaudy bottle.  I saved it for years, found it, and put it on today for Valentine's Day.  A person at work commented on it.  It was in my drawer, and had been transported from New Orleans.  I hoped it didn't change.  But I've done worse; once I wore pear scent from Pottery Barn and guys commented positively on it.  It's nice being aound those that don't know the difference.

It was my first Valentine's present from a boy.  He was cute, and a nice boy.  I guess I'm sentimental.  Valentine Day is a day for sentiment, for love.  And to reflect on how lucky we are.   

The current Adrianna Lima commercial for Valentine's Day flowers got the message wrong.  You give her flowers because it makes her feel happy and loved, not to get sex.

By the way: I kissed the boy who gave me Curious.  Deeply.

I wondered what they called it "Curious."  I found out then.

I'm a sucker for sappy.  And Valentine's Day is the time to be sappy.  So tell him or her that you love him/her, and do the little graces of this day.  It's not for Hallmark or the flower vendors, it's for you.

And remember the lyrics of the Shoop Shoop song:

Does he love me I wanna know

How can I tell if he loves me so
Is it in his eyes?
Oh no you'll be deceived
Is it in his sighs?
Oh no he'll make believe

If you wanna know if he loves you so
It's in his kiss
That's where it is

Or is it in his face?
Oh no it's just his charms
In his warm embrace?
Oh no that's just his arms

If you wanna know if he loves you so
It's in his kiss
That's where it is

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Democrats, Republicans, and Sex

A survey from reports that conservative Republicans have less sex than liberal Democrats, but that, when they do, it's more likely to result in females experiencing an orgasm.

A survey relied on 6,000 American singles reported on their political leanings and their sexual activities.

About 53% of Republicans said they had orgasms almost every time they had sex, compared to 40 percent of Democrats. Republicans also engaged in love-making less frequently than Democrats.

Why do these differences occur?  I offer several possible hypotheses:

1.  Democrats lie.

2.  Republicans lie.

3.  Both Democrats and Republicans lie, but with different emphases.

4.  Given that more orgasms are clitoral, Republican women are more into DIY.

5.  Republican men, having wide experience with golf (a stereotypical Republican sport), learn better the intricacies of foreplay. 

5.  There is a water-bursting-through-the-dam factor to be weighed.  Those who have sex less often enjoy it more when they do.

6.  Republicans, having less experience, have easier standards to meet.

7.  Democrats are jaded by too much sex.

8.  Republicans try sex, and feel guilty because they enjoy it so much and it isn't golf.

The survey also revealed that the those in the differing political groups seek different traits in a partner.

What do liberal Democrats want?  They place more importance on a sense of humor, independence,  and someone whom they consider the equal and share a similar lifestyle to their own.

Republicans look for someone with the same background and political party and are more concerned with dating someone who's interested in marriage.

 But neither is 100% absolute in party homogeneity.  Only 17% of men and 20% of women said they "must have" someone belonging to their party.

I see further questions about this, though.  The information that I found from different sources refers to "conservative Republicans" and "liberal Democrats."  These seem like Procrustian categories.  What about Blue Dog Democrats and RINOs?  Does either group make love like bunnies and also have high rates of orgasms; or does the other group have sex rarely and also rarely it as orgasmic? 

So, for the fans of casual sex: if you want to do it often, find a Democrat; if you want to enjoy it, find a Republican!

[I hope this doesn't offend sensibilities.  I realize that I am writing about two of the three no-no categories: politics and sex, but hopefully by mentioning dogs I made up for it.]

Best of both worlds when it comes to sex?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Insensitivity Training

The social trend of sensitivity training has crept into the Great Heartland of America as part of corporate life. Each year many corporations, universities, and government agencies require their workers to participate in programs that are designed to make them more sensitive to women and minorities, more judicious in speech, more aware of other customs, and particularly to deflect possible lawsuits for peccadillios such as sexual harassment or just simply saying the wrong thing in a public forum. (Remember John Rocker commenting negatively on those well-mannered New Yorkers?)

Does this training truly make people more sensitive? One wonders. It surely gives gainful employment for sensitivity trainers, who otherwise seem to be devoid of either skills or personality. But, hey, they're sincere and sensitive. That should count for something in a feel-good, self-esteem-oriented society. However, I have found an agency that gave a new twist on things: it provides Insensitivity Training for employees as part of the workplace introduction for occupations that see it as a useful tool in the employee's endowment. The sessions are conducted in a barroom. All participants, whether male or female, are encouraged to scratch and put their feet on the tables. Bowls of peanuts are also on the table, and the moderater invites everyone to eat as many peanuts as possible, and dispose of the shells by tossing them on the floor, tossing them across the room, or even flicking individual shells down each other's shirts or blouses.

There is a 15-minute movie entitled "Dare to Belch." This is followed by a brief panel discussion and then participants are grouped into mixed-gender groups of six. The less inhibited are to train and encourage the others in creative belching techniques. This leads to the development of teamwork and mutual tolerance. After all, who cannot get along with someone who belches so becomingly? Then, the more daring are drawn into a discussion of flatulence skills by Professor Bubba, with special prizes for the most entertaining.

Eye contact is to be avoided; especially with opposite-sex members. It is preferable to cast gazes somewhat below that level. After all, they don't speak. That might be a mercy in itself. Also, all are taught how to manicure their toenails in public, to pick their noses, and to braid their hair while someone is talking.

The uses of that all-purpose expression, "Whatever," will be discussed at length. Especially useful is to inform participants that calling senior citizens "Dude" makes them really feel at home.

There is an extended lunch of hot dogs and beans, with a keynote address by a moderator formerly with The Man Show. This is an occasion to practice various gross eating-related behaviors that were taught in the pre-lunch session. Trainees are expected to become proficient in slouching, slurping, eating with their fingers, wind-breaking, tossing biscuits (in both senses), and other fine accompaniments.

Insult Delivery Training is part of the course. It's really a shame, but the quality of insult in American discourse has declined. This session is designed to rectify that. It's taught by a hostile alcoholic P.M.S.-suffering English teacher who lives for the art of the insult. A French waiter serves as her assistant in this important area.

At the end of the Insensitivity Training course, members are presented with certificates attesting to their prowess and are offered jobs as telemarketers.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

National Academy of Literature

American literature has a great tradition, yet we have not as yet institutionalized it in the way that the French did with their Académie française.  How can we separate the great literature from the works of scribblers?  Well, we have the NY Times Best Seller List, which reflects sales in certain urban settings.  We don't have a Montgomery Advertiser Best Seller List, for example.

In a way, this is an oversight of government by the Nanny State: after all, they do have the National Endowment of the Arts that occasionally comes under fire if present-day grantees somehow produce allegedly sacrilegious works or do something completely foreign to mainstream tastes, which trend towards bullighters on black vellum or the SI Swimsuit Issue. 

The French, in their Gallic thoroughness, elect up to 40 members of their Académie; they are designated as immortals.  When one inconveniently dies, they revoke his or her immortality status, and elect another one.  And so it goes on.  Now I'm sure the President and Congress together can come up with 40 or so authors that we can designate as immortals.  They play so well on other occasions!  Congress can assign them some worthy task as weeding out the bad words from Webster's Unabridged like some of their French counterparts do with their language. 

In a way, the American English language is fearfully compromised.  There was no single authority in place to vet possible words and slang expressions as they crop up like crabgrass on a suburban lawn, so American English is like the girl who is the easy lay in high school; or at least easy to get to second base with!  And we have in effect a perfect storm of three happenings: the notorious easiness in which words come into the language, the closing of a major bookstore chain (and, in my opinion, the best of the big box bookstore chains), and the rise of e-publishing, so that the great unwashed can also get in the act of being authors.  Oh dear, this will not do!  Publishing companies and high-salaried editors with opulent expense accounts will be hurt in the pocketbook!

Yes, it's time for big government to step in.  The President should propose a first list of one hundred authors as a starting point.  A Joint Committee of Republican and Democratic congresspersons should narrow the list down to forty, possibly adding others as needed, and the whole Congress vote to establish the National Academy of Literature.  You can imagine, perhaps, some possible members: Tom Wolfe, Stephen King, Janet Evanovitch, Michael Connelly, Thomas Pynchton, P. J. O'Rourke, Elmore Leonard, Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham, and Jennifer Crusie.

And, let's not forget, design some cool threads for our official novelists or nonfiction writers to wear on ceremonial occasions like appearing on late-night progrrams like Jay Leno or David Letterman.  It would so totally be worth it to see Elmore Leonard or Tom Clancy decked out in their National Academy of Literature outfits!

And this would lead to a revival of American literature.  After all, where do our novelists come from?  Too many undereducated and failed journalists, for one.  English majors at small colleges.  Nice old Southern ladies with a twisted sense of irony and realism.  Guys who took Word Processing in school as an elective.  Sports writers.  Equipping every one of the immortals with a cool uniform would make being a writer instantly cool!  After all, don't women like guys in uniform?

I especially liked the Good Humor man.

Here's some members of the Academie française, in l'habit vert, their official uniform.  Not only does the winner of the Masters' Tournament and King Babar the Elephant get to wear green!

Other countries have followed in this tradition; here's the Academia Brasileira de Letras.  Presumably, they must be good at Sambas to qualify.  Does the best dancer get to wear the sash?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

An Unexpected Use of Religion

I won't go into the usual pros and cons of religion: suffice it to say that philosophers, theologians, and scientists more learned and wiser than I have weighed in on this issue.  However, I would like to advance a new one rarely mentioned but already discovered by errant Fundamentalists and politicians:  It provides a basis of the concept of sin and therefore repentance.

Why not spare oneself the trouble, and remain sinless?

It happens that there is a useful social role in being a repentant sinner.

Consider the occasions of public confession favored by some Fundamentalist congregations.  There you can stand up before all and confess all manner of wrongdoing; and because you Got Religion, your sins are washed away and everyone has treat you as a lost sheep returned to the fold!

Here's a Lewis Grizzard story to provide some flavor:

A minister pressured each member of his flock to stand and confess their most egregious sins.  Assuring them of God’s forgiving grace, he exhorted them repeatedly to “Tell it all, Brother! Tell it All!”  After a shocking litany of admissions to theft, adultery, drunkness and the like, the only unconfessed sinner left was a squirrely little guy cowering at the back of the church seeking desperately to avoid the preacher’s gaze as the Reverend and the rest of the congregation bombarded him with a relentless chorus of “Tell it All Brother!  Tell it all!”

Finally, seeing that there was no hope of escape, the little guy rose meekly, and all but whispered, “Well, Preacher, one time I had sex with a goat.”

At that point the church falls deadly quiet until the pastor finally admonished, “Damn Brother! I don’t believe I’d ‘a told that!”

Sinning, seeing the light, and telling all about having done so, may be a way of sequentially having your cake and eating it too.  Also, by hanging around other repenters, the person might find some new leads for persons to sin with!

Politicians had discovered years ago that having a Come to Jesus display if one had been caught with his fingers in the cookie jar can go a long way to rehabilitating their reputation.  In a way, religion has replaced partiotism as the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Furnishing the Naked Room

HGTV is a favorite channel for many people because it satisfies their need to see other places, how the other half lives, and to get decorating ideas.  I especially like House Hunters International, and muse over why someone would desire to live in East Abunnia or Dorkistan.  (And I feel a little provincial afterwards as a result.)  Sometimes HGTV presents curious and innovative ideas for the house beautiful.  I'd like to propose one.

In the romantic comedy Failure to Launch we consider a typical directionless soon-to-not-be-young man of 35 (Matt McConaguey) who doesn't marry and settle down, but who still lives with his parents (Kathy Bates and Terry Bradshaw) who hire a woman to turn him around (Sarah Jessica Parker).  In one memorable scene, he confronts his father, who has taken up naturism.  We get a shot of an All-Pro's cheeks, and the man proclaiming that "Well, this is my Naked Room. I mean, it's my house. A man ought to be able to do whatever he wants to do in his own house."

What a concept!  A naked room.  A room devoted to indoor naturism.  Naturally, it would have originated in California.

It turns out that having a Naked Room is sometimes found on the West Coast.  And I think it's a fine thing; a new concept calling for a special room dedicated to it.  However, it might take a long time before there's trickle down into the hollers of West Virginia or the high rises of Atlanta.  Still, the West Coast is the trand-setting locale: America at its most innovative.  But for those in other parts of the country, we crave instruction as to what should be the use of the naked room and how it should be furnished.  After all, some day the Church Committee might be called on to decorate the naked room in the minister's house! 

To help the process along, I offer a few modest guidelines:

1.  Obviously, the naked room should be comfortable, perhaps a little warmer than the spaces for wearing clothes.  For the intrepid New Englanders desirous of getting in touch with themselves, a nice fireplace might add a comfy note.  That thought might give the rest of us pause.

2.  The furniture should be soft, gentle-texture lounge furniture, much like that found in spaces or beaches in other places.  Plastic furniture is to be avoided.

3.  An ample supply of large, fluffy towels should be provided for furniture coverings and for spot covering when needed for comfort.  The color of the towels should blend compatibly with the furniture.

4.  A large skylight and windows is absolutely important.  Natural lighting should be taken advantage of, both from the absorbing of Vitamin D and the warm, cozy feeling of sun.  Obviously, use sunscreen or sunblock, depending on your skin type.

5.  An adjacent patio with a hot tub is good.  Swimsuits for the imhibited should also be provided, so that they can at least immerse their toes into the philosophy of the naked room.

6.  Artwork should be chosen with care.  One tasteful nude is good news; more than one may cause the viewers to wonder if they had strayed into the Bougereau room of the Art Museum.  The remainder of the artwork being comprised of abstracts or ornithology prints.

7.  The walls should, preferably, be painted in a soft white or other light shade to provide the maximum sensation of airy lightness.  Avoid dark colors, as they tend to be oppressive!  [Orange-painted rooms should be reserved for rooms used by in-laws.] 

8.  Music, music, music!  Let there be music!  A variety of genres are compatible with indoor naturism: classical, rock, soft rock, salsa, country, rap, etc.  Be the first to go naked with Gregorian chants!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Solar Bikini and the Microbikini

Here is an attractive bikini swim suit with a neat feature to it:  beads on the bra and bottom string ties that change color depending on the UV Intensity level.  This allows the user to see at a glance when she needs to use sun block or to retreat into the shade.  The beads are an attractive feature that creates interest in what is otherwise an ordinary swimsuit but is also practical.

I'm afraid that the same cannot be said for something described as a "microbikini."  I recently received an email offering such garments (?) for sale.  Now I'm comfortable in a bikini; but this kind of swimsuit can only be described as LEWD!  It consists of a patch barely covering the vagina, and two patches not completely covering the nipples and aureolas!  It is the most offensive thing I could imagine someone wearing.  As a matter of fact, a decent woman would not appear in one in front of her husband, much less in public! 

I won't illustrate this travesty; but I'd like to reflect a little.

Why is complete nudity somehow less offensive?  Because nudity can convet a sense of naturalness and innocence in certain contexts.  In Titian's Sacred and Profane Love, the nude woman represents Sacred Love, the one lavishly clothed represents Profane Love.

But there's some other dimension; perhaps what Jonathan Haidt referred to as the "moral emotions" -- some things just feel "wrong," but you cannot account for that feeling totally rationally.  Consider these examples:

A family's beloved pet dog gots run over.  All were sad at the loss.  But a family member remembered hearing that dog meat is delicious.  [It's eaten in some cultures.]  So they made and ate dog stew.

A brother and sister were traveling in Europe together.  The decide, just for the experience, to have sex together.  Both agreed to take precautions against pregnancy, they have their experience together and feel closer as a result.  They both enjoyed it and felt no psychological consequences or physical consequences; but they agreed to make it a one-time thing.  They never told anyone; and they felt that they have done nothing wrong.

A homeowner, needing some rags for household cleaning, used an old, worn out U.S. flag for the rags.

How do you feel about these vignettes?  Do you feel that there is something, somehow wrong, though you can't put your finger on it? 

I do; as a matter of fact, I'm somewhat creeped out by each.  That's the point. 

These feelings are not based on rational considerations.  Haidt called them "moral emotions" or "moral intuitions."  These may be an underlay in our ethical judgments.  Sometimes things just "feel wrong;" and can't be explained.  But these feelings are there and should be taken seriously.