Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Celebratory Gunfire

For some cosmic reason, in some parts of the Ninth Ward in New Orleans, in Puerto Rico, as well as in some parts of the Mideast, some people think that a basic law of physics is repealed in New Year's Eve: Apparently, the simple principle that states that "what goes up must come down" does not apply on that date.

This is the only thing that can explain the practice of celebratory gunfire.  Actually, some people get hurt or killed from this now and then.

Seriously, shooting a gun into the air can have bad consequences. A falling bullet can travel at a velocity sufficient to penetrate human skin.  Shooting into the air simply to celebrate is something only a moron would do.

On the Mississippi River levee in places such as Gramercy and Lutcher (north of New Orleans) the celebrants have Christmas Eve bonfires.  This is more safe and sane; and beautiful to behold!

Monday, December 29, 2014

The War on Pink

Agatha is one of those people who are strongly motivated to improve society in quaint, sometimes unproductive ways.  For example, she went full bore into the antivax movement, and she can be called upon to participate in any demonstration that is opposed to the current order of things.  She would not mind being a spokesperson if called upon.  However, due either to good luck or the Good Fairy of News Reporters, they have avoided a harangue worthy of Fidel Castro by choosing someone else instead.  She definitely can be said to have the courage of her opinions!

Anyway, I met her and in the second sentence she told me what is on her mind: the frequency of pink toys and clothing for girls!  I did a whoa!  Glad I was not wearing a Hello Kitty tee or clothing in the Pink line from V.S., otherwise I would get an earful, having been identified as among the uninformed, if not a oppressor.  Still, like a moth drawn to a light, I wanted to understand why she saw pink as a problem. 

I was soon appraised of her reasons.  According to Agatha, dressing girls in pink and giving them pink toys sends them a message that they should strive to be cute and ornamental, rather than assertive and effective.  In other words, they grow up to be life-sized Barbies with this artificial gendering!

Well, that can be a problem.  Barbie is the ultimate material girl; and Ken is as interesting as breakfast at McDonald's.  (Brother Mike used to undress my Barbie and dress her in Ken's duds to piss me off.)

I asked her what she was planning to do in response to her qualms about pink.  She trotted out several things:

1) Never buy pink clothes or toys for daughters and forbid them for wearing or playing with pink things.  Avoid pastel shades altogether.
2) Engage in consciousness raising with others over the dangers of pink.
3) Forbid any semblances of the princess role or look.

4) Boycott the Pink Pony Pub in Gulf Shores.  So I go, "But Aggie, you live 200 miles away from that coastal pub!"

5) Join Pink Stinks or other anti-pink groups.
6) Create banners: Pink is represses girls and women, Pink is for guys too.
7) Burn CDs of that album by The Band, Music from Big Pink.
8) Picket for cotton candy to come in colors besides pink.
9) Drink only red or white wines, no rosés!
10)  Wear only red lipstick or none at all: no pink!
11) Boycott pink grapefruit.
12) Eschew pink lemonade and Cosmopolitans.
13) Eat steak that's well done, not rare or medium rare.
14) Never play music by Pink.

I asked, just playing the devil's advocate, whether forbidding girls from wearing pink does also restrict them artificially.  She seemed confused by the idea.  That's the problem with people who are single-minded: they miss the big picture.  Also, could she be underachieving when it comes to indignation?  In the cosmic scheme of things, pink shouldn't be really a biggie.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

St. Johns County Knows Buttocks

Although I have been up to my wazoo in work, and got a wee bit behind on things, still I have nothing to moon about since I came up with some cheeky topic on which to write.  But what could be more American than to take an appreciative look behind outward appearances?  Perhaps we owe this renewed interest due to the intercession of Kim K. with her callipygous assets?.  But talking about the rear view in legal terms offered a challenge that vexed scholars for a long time.  Just so we don't have to butt our heads against a wall, how much display is okay, or not?  Touché!

Fortunately, back in 1992, St. Johns County (St. Augustine, Florida) passed an anti-obscenity law regulating how much feminine flesh could be displayed on stage or on the beach.  Evidently, they needed to spell it out in no uncertain terms, lest they be legally in arrears.  I find it so precious and funny how they split hairs with regard to the buttocks.    

Breast -- "A portion of the human mammary gland (commonly known as the female breast) including the nipple and the areola (the darker colored area of the breast surrounding the nipple) and an outside area of such gland wherein such outside area is (i) reasonably compact and contiguous to the areola and (ii) contains at least the nipple and the areola and 1/4 of the outside surface of such gland."

Buttocks -- "The area at the rear of the human body which lies between two imaginary lines running parallel to the ground when a person is standing, the first or top of such line drawn at the top of the cleavage of the nates (i.e., the prominence formed by the muscles running from the back of the hip to the back of the leg) and the second or bottom line drawn at the lowest visible point of the curvature of the fleshy protuberance, whichever is lower, and between two imaginary lines on each side of the body, which lines are perpendicular to the ground and to the horizontal lines described above, and which perpendicular lines are drawn through the point at which each nate meets the outer side of each leg."

In other words, a bikini that provides full coverage in the rear.  I wonder if males are equivalently restricted.  A few years ago I offered my opinion on swimsuit equality:

I suppose the local police would be unduly burdened with determining precisely what percentage of each breast is properly covered and whether the buttocks are properly out of view, according to this law.  Would the police form a special Bikini Control Squad?

Unfortunately, St. Johns County did not define Elbows in their law.  Therefore, we cannot be certain that they know their tushes from their elbows there!

Probably illegal in St. Johns County.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

May this Christmas and other Holidays 
be joyful and peaceful for you.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Encountering a Pit Bull

As a teen, I was briefly employed as a dog groomer in a pet store.  Now I knew very little about trimming dogs' coats, so I was relegated to the easy jobs on breeds not requiring much finesse.  Obviously, no poodles or Chinese cresteds or Yorkies. Cayoodles* are seldom clipped or manicured.

Usually I wound up bathing the dogs; and this usually resulted in an impromptu doggy bath for me as well!  Oh well, when I rode the bus, I was not usually crowded by other passengers!

One day, the worst possible case happened.  A distressed owner brought in his large, drooling, uncomfortable, miserable pit bull named Thor to get a bath after getting sprayed by a skunk!  The scariest breed there was, and with a scary name as well!  And I was supposed to de-stink this fellow?  And, for God's sake, how did he come across a skunk in New Orleans?  Actually, a surprising number of wild animals have become semiurbanized opportunists.  But no Louisiana brown bears or alligators, as far as I know.

Actually, Thor shied away from me, expecting some other enormity on top of the skunk chemical warfare.  I gave him a dog treat to buddy up to him.  He sniffed at it, and accepted it after some thought.  I made sure the water was warm; immersing a pooch in cold water spoils the mood.  However, I started before the bath to massage him with a combination of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.  (I used gloves with the H2O2.)  He seemed to like the soft sponge.  Naturally, even a short-haired dog shakes off water when wet; and I got the stink removal stuff and some stink all over me.  Darn!   For some reason I put my arms around Thor's neck to better grasp the situation, and he took it as a hug.  That worked.  So I kept on with it, and he settled back and enjoyed the rub down and the following bath with doggie shampoo!  Contrary to the stories, there is no reason to bathe the dog in tomato juice; make the dog gazpacho instead.  Any way, I became his best friend when he realized that he reeked less!  (Or maybe the two of us smelled similarly!)  The story went on: I had to ride the bus going home, and I sat in the back. 

One day Thor and his owner came into the pet store.  As I was in the store itself, and not in the grooming parlor, he jerked his owner's leash and came to visit with me.  Thor was a sweetie!

*A New Orleans expression for mixed breed, garden variety dogs (mutts).

Such a winning smile.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Cajun Blonde Joke

A Cajun blonde (Tee Boudreaux's cousin) was weed whacking the tall grass in her back yard when she accidentally cut off the tail of her cat.

Poor minette!

However, she immediately put the cat and her tail in her car, and drove directly to Wal-Mart.


Mes amis, don't you know that Wal-Mart is the largest re-tailer in the world!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Meredith Goes to Flyover Country

Meredith, dynamic investigative reporter for a liberal on-line news service, happened to find herself in the Belly of the Beast, i.e. flyover country.  New Orleans, to be more precise.  Oh well, she was already philosophical in that she would be reduced to eating at Applebee's or other bourgeois dining establishments and watching television after they roll up the sidewalks at 10 P.M.  The city was rather old, and had a damp odor to it.  And apparently the section she was in was a tourist trap!

Her previous assignment involved a report on canine segregation in a cemetery: apparently the benighted natives allowed only coon dogs to have their final resting place there.*  That created a minor sensation for a day before someone pointed out that coon dog was not a bona fide A.K.C. breed, but could refer to at least six different breeds.  Her editor sarcastically said that she had insufficiently gone to the dogs: those dogs were segregated by occupation, not breed.

So Meredith decided to make the best of a dull situation and did a walk around.  She found herself in a nondescript neighborhood where she saw a church with some basketball courts in the back.  There were four twentyish women on a basketball court.  Two were barefoot, and one was wearing her socks.  They were shooting baskets, and a barefooted one missed.  "R!  R!  Okay, Missy, take it off."  The person addressed removed her blouse, and the guys nearby applauded seeing her in her gym shorts and bra.  Meredith, no slouch in putting things together, immediately realized that they were playing strip H-O-R-S-E.  This was a small miscellany item, perhaps.  Apparently, the natives of New Orleans did not have surplus modesty, unlike that found in The Hamptons.

Then she noticed a strange young woman wearing heliotrope blouse and a Saints baseball cap.  A NOPD sergeant approached her, and Meredith anticipated some police harassment of the poor nonconformist.  Instead, the sergeant addressed her as Prophetess Ma'am and gave her a twenty dollar bill.  She wrote something on a ticket and gave it to the cop in return.  Hmmm......the policeman made a bet with a bookie.  This convinced Meredith that she could do a crime story, so she looked for other evidences of lawlessness or corruption.

Unfortunately, the best she could do was see illegal parking and a rotund fellow pushing a hot dog cart down the street.  It was the Lucky Dog Guy, dispensing wieners and philosophy to those who would desire either.   Now this intrigued her: maybe in this eccentric environment there was  makeshift employment for philosophers that would not involve lecturing or criminal activity.

Meredith got hungry, but could not find a recognized mainstream restaurant nearby, so she chanced into an obscure little place that had a remarkable menu.  Being somewhat bold, and wanting to have a mild adventure to talk about back in Boston, she tried the red beans and rice, and the fried alligator tails.  The red beans and rice were surprisingly savory and spicy, and the saurian was kind of pleasant in its own way.  Still, Meredith felt screwed, as scrod was not on the menu!  Bostonians out of their usual settings begin to jones for scrod.

The afternoon was hot!  So she decamped to her hotel.  On the way, she observed a pair of police officers dancing to accordion music.  The hotel bar was elegant: apparently the natives had no inhibitions regarding alcohol, unlike that wild south territory she had recently passed through.  She experienced the local Serious Drink, called a Sazerac: righteously made with real absinthe and Peychaud's bitters as the Good Lord intended.
*It's in Cherokee, AL, if you must know.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Congressional Sex Scandals as a Necessity for News

"The horror!  The horror!"
         -- Mister Kurtz, The Heart of Darkness

As the 114th Congress takes office, the news reporters from both the mainstream and tabloid press (the distinction is often blurred) have been increasingly aware that hard-hitting exposés of official turpitude have less than a stimulating effect on readership indignation and newspaper sales.  Likewise, Congressional or Executive gridlock has occurred so often that they're kind of like repeated revolutions in banana republics!  And, of course, if sales are down, then ad revenue is likely to follow much like the genteel ladies' unmentionables in an Art Frahm painting! 

So a Trilateral Commission of journalists truly gathered, silently prayed that some major newsworthy event would occur, and discussed the problem.   They talked about a Newsworthy Gap, realizing that what was considered newsworthy in 1920 or 1960 would not fly very well now.  For one thing, news was dumbed down; and certain subjects intruded into the moral framework of the news.  Ugh!  News became something to entertain with, not to elevate or enlighten.

Finally, one brash columnist from the West Virginian Mountain Eagle proposed a panacea for their news woes:  What the news really needs is a good old-fashioned sex scandal.  However, the objection had it, that the reading or viewing public has become relatively desensitized regarding a lot of this, so that journalists tended to get little mileage from garden variety indiscretions.  [And, who were they to judge?  Hard-charging journalists were desperately in need of a story that just writes itself.]

As the columnist pointed out, noteworthy exceptions to the readerships' blasé reactions came with two New York politicians: one who sexted naughty pictures of himself to various women; and another who was outed as having congress with a high-end tart!  Something a little more was needed!  The columnists pointed out that people in the field of entertainment got a lot of news from the strategic releases of sex tapes!  Now what could be simpler?  Catch some randy Republican or daring Democrat in flagrante delicto on film.

Holy ABSCAM, Batman!

Now all they needed was a pigeon or two.  However, they discovered in reading through news archives that a Congressperson once did indeed make the news by enjoying co-ed swimming with a stripper in a Washington fountain.  And he was re-elected!  Therefore, they proposed a scenario:

a.  Some politician make a sex tape or release a sex tape of the heterosexual persuasion, with someone who is clearly old enough and willing but especially HOT!
b.  His or her tape gets discovered; and censored scenes from it are released on the news.
c.  The errant politician holds a press conference, it which he pleads contriteness while his or her wronged spouse stands by her/his man.
d.  His paramour is able to convert her exposure into a sitcom career.
e.  The politician gets re-elected.
f.  Newspapers sales skyrocket!

However, there were flaws to this scenario:  Both the Democrats and Republicans tend to be risk-aversive.  They might not buy this idea!  Also, how many people would want to see a Congressional sex tape?  Even the novelty factor might not be enough to make this work.

Finally, some big muckety-muck proposed that they make a sex tape using journalists.  They got lots of volunteers!  After all, they were a tribe immune to any sense of shame!

Monday, December 15, 2014


To give lagniappe (pronunced lan-yap) is an old custom of the New Orleans area.  It involves a merchant or tradesperson giving a customer more than the bare aspects of the deal.  For example, a grocer may throw in a bunch of parsley or cilantro or some gum, a bartender may have a plate of goodies for the customers to taste, a baker may put in an extra doughnut in a dozen, or a druggist may have an art calendar suitable for hanging.

I think it's a gentle form of cultivating social capital by attempting to give the customer the sense that he's appreciated.  Doing business is not only for the money, but is also for the relationships.  Part of doing lagniappe is in the conversational exchange.  While this takes time, and some impatient people might find this a bit much, it does serve a purpose in providing some loners with a level of contact that is within their comfort zone.

I hope lagniappe will persist as a social grace in the future. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

How to Be Alluring

Women's magazines offer a consistent staple in their articles on how to be attractive to the opposite sex; and these articles seem to suffer from a common flaw: they are based on what the writer thinks will attract members of the opposite sex, rather than field-testing those ideas in a natural setting.  Here's an example: a sample of ten straight guys that I asked all agreed that they did not notice what sort of shoe a girl was wearing.  Hmmm....what a relief, since two of those guys was my Lover and my brother Mike and I don't have to deal with possible shoe fetishes!*  In a nutshell, most of the opinions I've encountered in this informal survey include elements of being provocative, like Miley Cyrus, or having an impressive topography like Scarlett Johannson or Kim Kardashian!

So I tried a different approach: I asked my respondent guys which women they found interesting or alluring.  Here is the short list, in no particular order:

1.  Zooey Deschanel
2.  Kaley Cuoco
3.  Sandra Bullock
4.  Reese Witherspoon
5.  Kirsten Dunst
6.  Britney Spears
7.  Beyoncé
8.  Valerie Bertinelli
9.  Kate Upton
10.  Allesandra Ambrosio 

So what can we abstract from these examplars?  Two are supermodels, two are popular singers, and six are actresses.  None are politicians or lawyers.  While most are in their 20's or 30's, one is in her 50's.  Only two are known for their figures.  In general, most of these have guy-friendly personas, and some, like Zooey Deschanel, are consistently described as quirky.

So what can we conclude from this?  Doing quirky or being mysterious might be easier to pull off than improving your assets.  And, for some of us, quirky comes naturally.

I'll be away on a trip for a week or so.  In the meantime, I hope everyone has a great time, and finish up shopping or whatever without undue pain.  

I may have to put something up not quite so often, as my imagination doesn't come across every other day and I fall back on lame jokes or stories.  Au revoir, not adieu!

Laissez les bon temps rouler!  Geaux Tigers!

*For the record, no profs or French men were embarrassed by this poll.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wearing Falsies in the Pursuit of Science

Psychological students, whether graduates or undergraduates, are sometimes called on to perform unusual tasks.  For example, in my time I have cared for laboratory rats, run planaria (flatworms) in an experiment, studied gladiator frogs, and even served as a research assistant in a social psychological experiment while wearing a swimsuit!

However, an in situ experiment by Nicolas Gérguen of the Université de Bretagne-Sud explored a new topic in social psychology by having his confederate wear different-sized falsies!

The test stimulus used was a twenty year-old woman rated as of only average looks and a smaller than average frame (as assessed by ungallant raters).  She was positioned on a busy road in Brittany (Bretagne) attempting ro hitchhike during the hours between 2 PM and 6 PM.  (Hitchhiking is legal in France, and widely done.)  She wore different bras on different trials: one unpadded, one with latex padding to fill a "B" cup (the average size of a young woman in France), and one with latex padding to fill a "C" cup (the next size above average).  Two observers were placed within viewing distance to observe the sex of the motorist, and whether he or she stopped to offer her a ride..  Here are the results:

Sex of Motorist  Number  A Cup %    B Cup %    C Cup %
Males                    774       14.92       17.72       24.00

Females                426         9.09        7.64          9.33

Of those who offered The data indicate that men were more likely to stop if the woman displayed "C" sized breasts as opposed to "A" sized ones; but the likelihood of the woman being offered a lift was not greater if she wore a B cup bra with latex falsies.  It's amazing and somewhat reassuring the different ways people can make their own contributions to science!  

An unanswered question, however, if whether this young confederate of the principal researcher was allowed to keep her bras with their latex figure enhancers!

It would also be amusing  to see how an American Institutional Research Board (IRB) would react to a research proposal of this type.  The IRB's reaction might be hilarious!  Also, if a paper using this methodology were to be read at a convention, it would generate more interest if the research assistant would demonstrate how the independent variable was manipulated through a live example, preferably by wearing the larger-sized stimulus!  As a matter of fact, doing this would be a sure way of getting media exposure, both print and film!

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Great American Chick Novel

Myra Fairfield was an aspiring author who managed to get published; but her two books managed only three stars on the GoodReads and Amazon lists.  Tearfully, she implored her agent for help; the best her agent could advise was to avoid too sweeping and grandiose a book that the ordinary reader hanging out in book stores for their markdown books and free Wifi.  Too bad!  Myra had her heart on writing The Great American Novel.  Now, according to Wikipedia, the "Great American Novel" is the concept of a novel that is distinguished in both craft and theme as being the most accurate representation of the spirit of the age in the United States at the time of its writing or in the time it is set.  That sounds like a tall order.

But what were the antecedent works that might justify such a lofty title?  Huckleberry Finn, Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, U.S.A. trilogy, and The Catcher in the Rye* are often mentioned.

Her friend Tom the boxer gave her a tip also: she was punching above her weight.  She really wasn't up to writing that kind of book.  She was crestfallen; but decided that maybe Tom had a point; maybe the time for the Great American Novel has passed.  And many of those alleged great American novels are books that people are assigned or guilted into reading.  So she thought, "Screw this!  I'll write books that people enjoy reading!"

Myra decided that she might dial it down a bit, and try writing a different kind of book  Maybe a period piece, set in Regency times.  Yes!  She could adorn her work with detailed descriptions of beautiful gowns, magnificent parties, scoundrels, sexy dialogue, and steamy passages.  Darn it!  This would at least sell!  Henry L. Mencken was right: "No one even went broke underestimating the taste of the American public."

And it did much better.  But with her fourth novel Myra adopted a more contemporary time frame, wrote a romance with some comic passages and with ironic commentary, and had lots of dishing about gossip, fashions, and relationships.  It sold extremely well, and got 5-star ratings!

In short, she wrote the Great American Chick Novel!

*My eyes roll with that one.