Wednesday, December 30, 2015

America's Sexiest State

Interstate comparisons are a perennial sport for competitive Americans. What are the smartest/dumbest states (often tied to blue state/red state comparisons? What is the most scenic state? Which state has the best athletes? Which one has the most beautiful women?

A possibly absurd question is: What is America's sexiest state? An article in Buzz Feed addressed this momentous question. While Buzz Feed is willing to broach on this daring topic, they distinguish two dimensions of sexiness: superficial sexiness and practical sexiness.

The measures of superficial sexiness include lower obesity rate, educational level, average household income, unemployment rate, and media-defined superlatives (Miss America, Sexiest Man Alive, etc.) The practical measures of sexiness include penis size, birth rate, and STD rate. Is some mad biometrician that I never heard of going around with a tape measure?

These, according to these measures given equal weight and combining superficial and practical sex, are (1) Hawaii, (2) New York, (3) Virginia, (4) California, and (5) Illinois.

The least sexy states were (46) Montana, (47) Iowa, (48) Maine,  (49) Kentucky*, and (50) West Virginia.

If this has truth to it, why would this be the case? Well, California and New York have a large fan and social media presence. Hollywood and New York are big outlets for news about people. After all, no newspaper in Minnesota is likely to have an article about the World's Sexiest Man!

Some Southern states were high in practical sex, but not in superficial sex: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. So much for the allure of the Southern accent. Hell, we can be as superficial as we want to in the Pelican State!

*Despite Timothy Oliphant's efforts as the nation's sexiest man.

Not likely to be found in Kentucky or West Virginia.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Revolt of the Bubbas

I "borrowed" this title from José Ortega y Gasset's book Revolt of the Masses. It seems to me that there is an often-overlooked factor that is becoming increasingly evident in American politics: the mounting disaffection for the usual type of politician favored by the major political parties. Presently, Donald  Trump is leading in polls for the Republican nomination; and Hillary Clinton is challenged by Bernie Sanders for the Democratic one. I don't know what will transpire when the primaries come on, but Jeb Bush is losing ground and other possible establishment candidates were less than inspirational.

As for Hillary, a common sentiment is, "In order for me to vote Democratic, must I vote for her?"

It seems to me that there has always been a strong Populist sentiment in our collective American DNA. While this is less evident at some times, on other occasions it might rear its scary head, at least as perceived by the Eastern elitists. Andrew Jackson rode into the White House on a strong populist platform; and this movement returned in the 1890's and early 1900's. While the Populists did not elect a President, they managed to influence laws reining in trusts, having pure food and drugs, ending the more severe abuses in child labor, controlling sexual exploitation, and eventually the forty-hour week. 

Populism in those earlier manifestations stood for the little guy, for local government by consent rather than from above, and for resisting pressure from outside powerful others. Nowadays these outside sources of pressure are reified in the form of big business, the Eastern Establishment, the liberal academic elite, the mainstream media, and the preening popinjays of Hollywood. Not to mention Main Street!

I'll have to admit that they annoy me sometimes too.

But the people that are most disaffected are the working stiffs, particularly the ones who are just getting by. These are the same ones that feel threatened or put upon by this cabal of busybodies. They see the major parties as the tools of these elites and special interest groups when many of them see themselves as unrepresented. Because of this, they are open to the allure of the outsider with simplistic solutions.

Despite what political parties say, both are open to seeking blocs of votes that they can reliably count on. In some ways, this makes their job of pleasing the electorate easier: please a part of them. Make them a special interest group that they service! On the other hand, these groups have to be given some reasons for their continued support. In that way, both parties must cater to the groups they already have in the fold.

The Bubbas are often scorned by people considering themselves to be elite. Despite the Trumpees, they're not necessarily reactionary or racist; but they seemed to feel shut out of the American Dream and into the American Just Getting By. The fact is, their job security is very thin.

In short, there are a lot of people out there that felt that their concerns and problems were not taken into account, and some of them are scared. Rightly so. They might be prone to accept nostrums or pat solutions.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Cajun Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas an’ all t’ru de house,
Dey don’t a ting pass Not even a mouse.
De chirren been nezzle good snug on de flo’,
An’ Mama pass de pepper t’ru de crack on de do’.

De Mama in de fireplace done roas’ up de ham,
Sit up de gumbo an’ make de bake yam.
Den out on de by-you dey got such a clatter,
Make soun’ like old Boudreau done fall off his ladder.

I run like a rabbit to got to de do’,
Trip over de dorg an’ fall on de flo’.
As I look out de do’in de light o’ de moon,
I t’ink, “Mahn, you crazy or got ol’ too soon.”

Cux dere on de by-you w’en I stretch ma’neck stiff,
Dere’s eight alligator a pullin’ de skiff.
An’ a little fat drover wit’ a long pole-ing stick,
I know r’at away got to be ole St.Nick.

Mo’ fas’er an’ fas’er de’ gator dey came
He whistle an’ holler an’ call dem by name:
“Ha, Gaston! Ha, Tiboy! Ha, Pierre an’ Alcee’!
Gee, Ninette! Gee, Suzette! Celeste an’Renee’!

To de top o’ de porch to de top o’ de wall,
Make crawl, alligator, an’ be sho’ you don’ fall.”
Like Tante Flo’s cat t’ru de treetop he fly,
W’en de big ole houn’ dorg come a run hisse’s by.

Like dat up de porch dem ole ‘gator clim!
Wit’ de skiff full o’ toy an’ St. Nicklus behin’.
Den on top de porch roof it soun’ like de hail,
W’en all dem big gator, done sot down dey tail.

Den down de chimney I yell wit’ a bam,
An’ St.Nicklus fall an’ sit on de yam.
“Sacre!” he axclaim, “Ma pant got a hole
I done sot ma’se’f on dem red hot coal.”

He got on his foots an’ jump like de cat
Out to de flo’ where he lan’ wit’ a SPLAT!
He was dress in musk-rat from his head to his foot,
An’ his clothes is all dirty wit’ ashes an’ soot.

A sack full o’ playt’ing he t’row on his back,
He look like a burglar an’ dass fo’ a fack.
His eyes how dey shine his dimple, how merry!
Maybe he been drink de wine from de blackberry.

His cheek was like a rose his nose a cherry,
On secon’ t’ought maybe he lap up de sherry.
Wit’ snow-white chin whisker an’ quiverin’ belly,
He shook w’en he laugh like de stromberry jelly!

But a wink in his eye an’ a shook o’ his head,
Make my confi-dence dat I don’t got to be scared.
He don’ do no talkin’ gone strit to hi work,
Put a playt’ing in sock an’ den turn wit’ a jerk.

He put bot’ his han’ dere on top o’ his head,
Cas’ an eye on de chimney an’ den he done said:
“Wit’ all o’ dat fire an’ dem burnin’ hot flame,
Me I ain’ goin’ back by de way dat I came.”

So he run out de do’ an, he clim’ to de roof,
He ain’ no fool, him for to make one more goof.
He jump in his skiff an’ crack his big whip,
De’ gator move down, An don’ make one slip.

An’ I hear him shout loud as a splashin’ he go,
“Merry Christmas to all ’til I saw you some mo’!”

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Less Noted Statues of New Orleans

Recently some efforts by some people, including the douchy Mayor, to remove some Confederate-themed statues has made some wire services. I will express openly my wish to provide continuing General P. G. T. Beauredard in place, since he was one of us (I still think of myself as an Orleanian, having experienced Katrina and more of my life having lived there.)

I also point out that iconoclasm can be a trend that can go into some other territory. Consider this Brit- and Indian-killer from the old days:

Will Old Hickory get banished to the museum or city dump? You can bet that doing that would displease a lot of folks.

But, anyway, here's a collection of some other, probably noncontroversial statues in New Orleans:

Louis Armstrong, Old Satchmo himself, in Louis Armstrong Park! Everybody loved him.

Fats Domino, Al Hirt, and Pete Fountain. We can take a closer walk with them:

There's one of Chris Owens, a former burlesque entertainer from the French Quarter:

It would not be New Orleans without some suitable monument honoring the New Orleans Saints, Superbowl Champions in 2010 (Hooray!):

This charming statue graces a garden:

Saint Jeanne d'Arc is resplendent in gold:

And Winston Churchill is giving a peace sign:

Civic benefactor Margaret Haughery, who spent her time ceaselessly helping the poor, certainly deserves a statue as well as a celestial crown:

John McDonough gave his fortune to benefit New Orleans schools, has been honored with a statue and several public schools named after him:

Why not have a statue of Ignatius J. Reilly, fictional character in John Kenneth Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces?  Dunces enough rate statues in most cities.

Semper Fi! Molly Marine, the only statue honoring the Women's Marines from World War II:


Bienville founded New Orleans in 1718. Surely he rates a statue:

And so does Bernardo de Galvez, Spanish military figure who conquered Pensacola during the American Revolution.

Simon Bolivar, South American liberator, rated a statue:

And there's even a statue honoring New Orleans's immigrants:

Artful funerary statues from some old New Orleans cemeteries that have a timeless grace and pathos:

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Flaunting of Navels

Something I never reckoned with before: apparently the flaunting of feminine navels is a recent trend that was once considered controversial. Having lived most of my life in the Britney Spears Epoch, I was not aware of this historical omphalophobia (fear of belly buttons).  But it apparently was once the case; actresses in old movies when wearing two-piece outfits were careful to cover their offending navels with high-riding bottoms or navel jewels. Yes, Kim Novak and Joan Collins demurely covered theirs with navel jewels; and some cast members of Gilligan's Island did likewise. Even the old beach movies like Gidget and Beach Blanket Bingo featured nary a belly button. Yes, even Walt Disney movies went to the tune, "Yes, We Have No Navels"; not until The Little Mermaid were they different.

Advice columnist Ann Landers came out against navel exposure as bad taste.

Even in these more open times, Taylor Swift generated some further curiosity and controversy by deliberately avoiding exposing her navel.  Apparently, if nowadays, people notice that they never saw it, they begin to wonder why. I think the astute Ms. Swift managed another publicity coup by doing a subtle mini-Garboesque move. (Taylor Swift has abundantly demonstrated that she is smarter than the average bear!) In short, she was messing with people.

A little factoid about navels (umbilicuses): about 90% have "innies," about 10% have "outies." Having an "outie" or an "innie" apparently is not an overwhelming handicap to an acting or modeling career; however, some women have opted for umbilicoplasty (navel surgery) for esthetic reasons. Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that a vertically ovoid umbilicus in a 54-46 ratio was the most pleasing.

So who was the first major navel flaunter? Apparently, it was Brigitte Bardot. Was that the less-cited reason why And God Created Woman achieved such notoriety, or was it from The Girl in the Bikini?

Now this omphalophobia seems to be restricted to feminine navels. Guys can display theirs without blame. Could the open display of feminine belly buttons nowadays be a by-product of the feminist movement? This is something to contemplate before the 2016 swimsuit season.

Who knows, maybe 2016 may be the last hurrah of the openly-displayed umbilicus. God knows what the new political landscape will allow.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Miller's Tale

For many high school students, they must wade through Geoffrey Chaucer's Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, in Middle English form:

"When that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licuor
Of which vertu engendred is the flour"

That is too painful to continue!

And, mercifully, the tale we studied was one about talking chickens (The Nun's Priest's Tale.)

But we found out about the second tale, told by a ruffian miller, that was more entertaining. As a matter of fact, the library copy's pages of The Miller's Tale was well-turned, smudged, and obviously more read than the others.

The whole framework of the Canterbury Tales was that it was a set of stories allegedly told by religious tourists. (Not quite the lounge acts or the stage show on a cruise ship.)

Anyway, the Miller's Tale is about a carpenter John, his young bride, Alison, and two clerks that had the hots for Alison. One of them, Nicholas, managed to become a roomer when the carpenter rented a room out. He soon seduced Alison, or she may have encouraged him. Anyway, Nicholas wanted more.

He concocted a preposterous tale from a dream in which there would be a great flood, and managed to convince the carpenter that they should sleep in kneading tubs hanging from the ceiling. The carpenter, highly credulous, went along with the idea. And Nicholas had more time for sex with Alison.

In the meantime, another clerk named Absalon went to court Alison and begged her for a kiss. Alison, in a light moment, stuck her butt out of the window and "with his mouth her naked arse kissed."

Well, Absalon figured it out, and was angry. He went off and came back with a red-hot poker, thus becoming the first of the two noted poker wavers.

He again requested a kiss. But this time Nicholas got in the act, and hung his butt out of the window. In the words of Geoffrey Chaucer:

Then Nicholas at once let fly a fart,
As great as if it were a thunder-clap,
The clerk was nearly blinded with the blast;
Yet he was ready with his iron hot,
And Nicholas right in the arse he smote.

The carpenter fell out of his kneading tub with this one!

And everybody laughed at all this strife.
And thus was had the carpenter’s wife,
For all his jealousy and keeping by;
And Absalon has kissed his nether-eye,
And Nicholas is scalded on the bum.
God save us all, and now this tale is done!

In all, a funny, risqué tale!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Getting Healed By a Faith Healer

Jim-Bob, Scooter, and Festus, upon leaving the bar, wandered into a Healing Service that was part of a revival. 

They sat nervously a good while when the Faith Healer suddenly said, "Just open your heart to the Lord, and you will be healed."

They wondered what was going on. Just above them a ray of light shined down directly on them. It spooked them and they started to get nervous. All of a sudden, they heard a voice from the Faith Healer. They all looked at one another and began saying, "What in the Hell is going on?"

The Faith Healer said, "Don't get nervous. I'm not here to scold you, I only want to grant each of you one healing wish."

They all calmed down and Jim-Bob said, "I've been having this crick in the back of my neck for the past ten years and if you were to grant me a healing, that would be it."

The Healer touched Jim-Bob's neck and ole Jim-Bob started moving his neck freely. "I'm good now; praise the Lord! Thank you, thank you," and he sat down.

Scooter stood up next. "You know, that bum leg I've been having for the past five years after falling off the henhouse, you know how bad I limp. If you were to grant me one wish, that would be it."

The Faith Healer waved his hand and Scooter immediately felt the limp leave his leg. "Oh thank you Lord, oh thank you, thank you." Before Scooter could sit down, Festus got up to go.

Both Jim-Bob and Scooter looked behind themselves and saw Festus taking off.

Scooter shouted, "Festus, where you going? The Lord is not here to pass judgment on you, the Faith Healer is just fixin' to heal you. You know that bad back of yours, he can heal it for you right here and now." Festus hollered back, not missing a stride, "No, no, I don't want no healing, I'll lose my disability check."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Chainsaw Sculpture Art

In the fringe areas around the Smoky Mountains, there's a number of artisans turning out local crafts.  One form that it may take is effecting a sculpture primarily using a chainsaw. The products of this craft vary in quality; some ascending into the artistic; some remaining firmly on the kitsch. Same as in other expressive media.

A common example of such a carving is that of some woodland creature:

Dogs, of course, are a common motif:

Naturalistic abstractions are occasionally seen:

A mythical creature is always a conversation piece:

Trolls come en masse; without benefit of bridge to hide under, so they have to hide in trees.

And, surprisingly, considering it's rustic art, some nudes. They ones I've seen tend to be quite lewd. Not appropriate for a suburban backyard. You're on your own to see some examples.

For some, these can be souvenirs of a wonderful vacation in the Smokies; for others, there's the sense afterward of 'What were we thinking?'

I'll be on a break for a while. Thanks for reading my blog. I appreciate you all, gentle readers. Let the good times roll.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Specificity in Restrooms

A few months ago we visited the Public Market on Pike Street in Seattle, and we saw amazing things: fish being tossed for entertainment purposes, unusual preserves and honeys, piroshkis, and the original Starbucks, where people wait patiently in line to get in for the same coffee you can get at a mall.

One of the often needed but less often commented on are the public restrooms, which follow the American pattern of sex-specific ones.  However, to drive the point across, the tiles on the floor are in specific XX (female) and XY (male) patterns.  It's a clever, original idea; but what about people with XXX, XO, or XXY sex chromosome patterns? Mike provided a pleasingly detailed coverage of the different types of chromosome patterns.

Admittedly, practically all XXY males (Kleinfelter's syndrome) have gender identities as males; and practically all XO (Turner's syndrome) or XXX sex chromosome females see themselves as females.  Still, a sign literalist would see this as providing a comfort facility only for people with the most common sex chromosome configurations.

As background, all XXX females look similar to other females, except perhaps a somewhat larger percentage of them being taller than average.  XO women have a broad webbing of the neck, shortness of stature, underdevelopment of secondary sexual characteristics, and poor spatial ability.  And Kleinfelter's syndrome men tend to be taller, have weaker muscles, poorer coordination, smaller genitals, enlarged breasts, and less interest in sex. Recently, Heidi pointed out the sense of discomfort stemming from sharing a locker room or restroom with someone with different parts. I occasionally used one in France; but they had individual stalls, and they were presided over by a Mme. Pipi!

Seattle's Pike Street Public Market may have unwittingly left out those with 45- and 47-chromosomes with no comfort zone unwittingly; people who would have claimed femaleness or maleness with no quibbling and no one to question otherwise!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Ostrich Rustling to Change a Mascot

Some students at a nearby college tired of the same old school mascot, albeit that it was named the Bobcats. Basically, this is nothing but a cat on steroids. But the meanies on the administration were opposed to change; especially since some of the proposed alternatives were ridiculous or in poor taste. It's always been that way; even with some groups wearing blackface to be as deliberately as annoying and offensive as possible. And, of course, there the offensive cheers and banners at football games!

Anyway, members of the Alpha Alpha Omega fraternity and the independent fun girls under the name Rho Sigma made a pitch for changing the mascot to the Ostriches, in honor of the legislature. Now that was met with a bad odor by the administration, since they figured that the lawmakers would take offense and that would impact the college budget. Administrators are so practical, and so humor-challenged! But they learned not to bite the hand that feeds the budget.

So this merry bunch of pranksters decided to bring a live ostrich to a football game, and have the crowd de facto name the ostrich the school mascot by acclimation!

It was a good plan. Fortunately, there was a ostrich owned by a rancher in a nearby county that could fit the bill. They would go out one night and ostrich rustle for a prank!

So they got a pickup truck, some lariats, and flashlights and went into the field where the ostrich was supposed to be. Things were quiet; and then ----


The goddamn big bird came at the guys and gals, hissing like a demonic bird, kicking them and pecking them in the backside!

As Suzy Jean put it, "Oww! Oww! Mah little ole butt is plumb sore and black and blue from the dumb bird a-picking it!" And Bill, poor guy, got stepped on by this bird from Hell. Other members slid in ostrich guano, and positively reeked!

Eventually, Everett got a lariat around the ornery big bird, and wanted to choke him just on principle; but other members got him dissuaded, and helped take him over to the truck.

A little further problem: Instead of getting him in the back of the truck, the bird went into the truck cab in the passenger seat! Not wanting further complications, they just looked at the bird . . . .

Then the rancher made the scene. With a shotgun! The group were in a whole bunch of trouble!

But one of the guys talked him down' saying they were just "borrowing" the ostrich to make an appearance at a Bobcat game. And the rancher, to their relief, seemed to get it. It seemed that he went to the same college when he was young, and wasn't too fond of the Bobcat mascot either.

So he went in on the deal. And they found through with experimentation that you could calm an ostrich down with an ostrich dose of benzodiazepines. Since they had a little time, they spent it training the ostrich, now yclept Charlie!

Charlie got tame enough to allow Rosalie to ride on his back! And this was good! Rosalie fed him Hershey Kisses, and he liked them.

Come Saturday night. The game was on. And the Bobcats, sadly, were getting trounced in the first half of the game, 7-29.

So our ostrich-napping group sprung the entry into the stadium at the beginning of the second half. as a matter of fact, Rosalie rode Charlie out on the field!

The crowd was stunned. But then, after the gasp, a mighty cheer arose spontaneously! They liked the diversion from the losing game.

But this had a different effect on the Bobcats. They rallied in the Third Quarter, and soon the Bobcats cheerleaders took up the chant from the crowd: Go Ostriches! Go Ostriches! At the end of the Third Quarter, the team was behind only 24-29, and the prospects looked much better for the Ostriches!

The Bobcat fans got very hopeful, but the Bears drove down the field for a touchdown. Now it was 24-36. So sad!

But Rosalie and the ostrich got the crowd up in a fever pitch; and the Bobcats scored twice more. The game ended with a 38-36 victory!

The next day, the superstitious sports writers attributed it to the new ostrich mascot, and the sports headlines read Ostriches edge Bears in stunning comeback.

So the college team became known as the Fighting Ostriches informally at first; but finally the school formally adopted the new mascot. Sometimes name changes can be made through indirect means.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Chevy Van

As a teen, I was walking to school one morning, I saw a curtained, tricked out van parked on the street with the enigmatic bumper sticker with the legend on it: "If the van is rockin, don't come a knockin!" I wasn't entirely sure; but I thought I shouldn't ask Mama about it, or any of my classmates. You know, I just didn't want to seem any more clueless than I was. Or still am. I concluded that this was a not-so-subtle allusion to mobile coitus. My hypothesis was confirmed when I discerned a mattress through an opening in the curtains!

Flash quite a few years later. I happened to hear a song on the golden oldie station from Sweetwater. An instant "aha" experience, as Wolfgang Köhler would have called it. It was a song by Sammy Johns with a theme of mobile copulation:

I gave a girl a ride in my wagon
Now she crawled in and took control
She was tired as her mind was draggin'
And I said get some sleep, and dream of rock and roll.

Like a picture she was laying there
And moonlight dancing off her hair
She woke up and took me by the hand
She's gonna love me in my Chevy van and that's all right with me.

Her young face was like that of an angel
And her long legs were tanned and brown
You better keep your eyes on the road, son
Better slow this vehicle down.

'Cause like a picture she was laying there
And moonlight dancing off her hair
She woke up and took me by the hand
She's gonna love me in my Chevy van and that's all right with me.

I put her out in a town that was so small
You could throw a rock from end to end
A dirt road Main Street, she walked off in bare feet
It's a shame I won't be passing through again.

'Cause like a picture she was laying there
And moonlight dancing off her hair
She woke up and took me by the hand
We made love in my Chevy van, and that's all right with me.

That's the story.  It must have written in a time of too-casual sex without commitment. And not even worth a return trip by the singer/narrator. And the very dismissive 'and that's all right with me!' Talk about uncommitted sex!

A movie, was based on this theme; and may have encouraged the creepy class to try to live the fantasy. Or perhaps it was just simply an example of teen boy bravado.

It generated other examples too:

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sex and Happiness

Sex sells; particularly on the internet. And reports of sex research is practically guaranteed to get widespread internet coverage; both as news articles and as blog material.

Lately, the hot finding is that researchers found a correlation between frequency of sex and reported happiness. Couples who engage in sexual relations at least once a week tend to be happier than those who do so less often. As a matter of fact, they found that having sex at least once a week tended to be as effective in relating with being happier as having an increase of $10,000 in income!

So making love more often leads to more happiness? Not so fast!

Technically, the research describes a relationship between sex and happiness; it does not state necessarily what causes what. Does happiness result from more sex; or are happier people more likely to desire sex? Age of the persons involved can play a part. Older people, while likely to be happier, engage in sexual behavior somewhat less often. And often the responsibilities associated with older age status (parenting, etc.) may make opportunities for sex and energy less available.

Moreover, while the original findings stated that about once a week was associated with more happiness, some writers ran with that and further misconstrued the results as implying that sex more than once a week results in less happiness. Nope; nothing like that was reported; only that there was no further increment in happiness. No decrement in happiness should accompany having sex more often! If the regular night for coupling is Saturday and it's only Tuesday, no need to wait until the weekend if both are willing at the present moment! And there are different ways of doing sex; and variety is the spice of life. Somehow, this was twisted into another case of getting results with a bare minimum of effort!

Anyway, people themselves at any age might have differences in libidos and how they enjoy the experience. The joy of experiencing a close bond is a strong motivator in itself.

An interesting factoid is that men are maximally ready to have sex in the morning, say between 6 and 9 A.M. Women tend to be maximally eager late, around 11 P.M. to 1 A.M.  This can be worked out.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Blonde Encounters Name Tags

The blonde joke is a standard motif cross-culturally. Here is an example that shows that the French resort to blonde jokes too:

"Oh, it is darling to give a little name to your boobies. 
And what do you call the other one?"

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Patina of Respectability

Let's face it: For a number of years people working in low-level professional or semiprofessional positions have had to find ways to supplement their meager salaries. Their ranks include junior clerks and sales associates, paralegal employees, entry-level managers, and even adjunct professors that are effectively part-time. In response to this, the part-time employees have to resort to other jobs to fill in the pay and benefits gap.

Most often these are mundane jobs that bring a bit more money in. While it's really nice to obtain another part-time job that one qualifies for, pays well, and hopefully brings benefits, that doesn't always happen. Hence, the math teacher/barista or the history teacher/nightclub bouncer! As long as the position is not too unrespectable they can function as a member of the lumpenprofessoriat!

But what if a dean or department chair finds a part-time instructor in his/her other setting? Usually, the tendency is to not recognize the person as one of his/hers; but remember with the mercenary idea that the person has another job, so is likely to stick around for a long time and need not have to be offered a full-time position of one becomes available.

As for those who work part-time with the idea that they might be hired on a full-time basis, do they still believe in the Easter Bunny? Or: "Why buy the cow if the milk is cheap?"*

I think that reasonable employers should recognize that, when they find a part-time person engaged in work that is incongruent with the role or status of the part-time position that they offered, they are part of the problem. Let's face it: part-time academic salaries are not enough to be one's sole means of support! Where's the money coming from?

I know of one part-time instructor who showed and sold houses part-time; and she graduated into a full-time realtor! As she put it, "I didn't take a vow of poverty!"

As for another, she became a member of a roller derby team and could really body check others!  That's definitely preparation for being an administrator someday.

*Deans are sometimes capable of crass analogies.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Boudreaux, Thibodeaux, and the Nutria

Well, Boudreaux and Thibodeaux wanted to do some crabbing, yes! But they lacked anything to bait the traps with.  Worms they could find; but they were not real attractants for the crabs, no. They had themselves a problem; and they called each other dumbasses for not saving some fish heads to use as bait.

Just then, they noticed an old nutria with a big ol' dead fish in his mouth on the levee. They figured the nutria could spare them some, but the smart critter wasn't having any of it.

So Boudreaux poured some cheap beer in a bowl and backed off. The nutria, being curious, dropped the fish to check out what's in the bowl. Boo and Thib, they got the dead fish, used the fish's  parts in their crab nets, and went off for some crabbing.

They caught two dozen blue crabs. Whooeee! Not bad for a morning's work. Mrs. Boo and Mrs. Thib were both very happy!

And they had a fine meal of them crabs!

The next day, Boudreaux and Thibodeaux looked out along the levee.

There was the same old nutria; now with another fish in his mouth and ready to barter!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Another Statue of a Bug

Well, some of the good citizens of Ferndale, NJ were concerned about their lack of civic prominence, unlike such enterprising places like Ho-Ho-Kus, Perth Amboy, and Newark. No, it had an unnoticeable name, it had no heavy industry to speak of, and no famous television characters depicted as operating there. But what to do?

Well, Tony the Tiger, a regular guy and an insect and rat exterminator, thought that Ferndale needed another statue to add to its modest urban statuary of The Last Virgin and The Unknown Made Man. He wondered about one an equestrian monument to Gov. Christie, but expected that it would cause traffic jams.

Obviously, Tony was getting nowhere fast. So he looked a little deeper until he found the example of the boll weevil monument in Enterprise, Alabama. He thought with envy, "This is a community that managed to make a lemonade out of a lemon"

But he remained fixated on bugs. But what kind of bug? Something industrious like bees or ants? Or something pretty, like butterflies or ladybugs?

No, while there were all good examples, they didn't quite fit. Anyway, he didn't want to be known as exterminator of bees, butterflies, and ladybugs!

But then he found one that looked interesting: the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys)! Recently New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia had severe infestations of these woefully-named species. As a bonus, the statue could also advertise his business.

Thus Ferndale made the nightly news and, even better,

Where they particularly are infested (red coloration).

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Another Kind of Insect Repellant

 Researchers at New Mexico State University, trying out various substances' ability to repel mosquitos, found the usual DEET-based chemicals were effective in repelling those annoying pests. Non-DEET repellants did not work so well.

They also found that two other substances worked as well: Victoria's Secret Blockbuster and Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard.

This has  particular significance because of one of the species effectively repelled was Aedes eygptii, the carrier of the yellow fever virus. Yellow fever occurred several times in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, particularly in New Orleans and Philadelphia. The Asian tiger mosquito was also effectively repelled. These species may also carry dengue fever and chikungunya.

It's very likely that other perfumes may have this effect. I am not scientifically dedicated enough to try this out with Poême.


Friday, November 13, 2015

The Thirteen Club

Unease with the number 13 was common by the 19th century, an age that prided itself on the modern antisuperstitious outlook. There is even a specific term for fear of the number 13: triskaidekaphobia. As common as clubs were back then, a club was organized to test certain superstitions. This was the Thirteen Club, so-called because it had 13 members and deliberately challenged triskaidekaphobia and other superstitions.  It would meet only on the 13th day of the month. Its first meeting was on Friday, January 13, 1882 at 8:13 in a room numbered 13 of the Knickerbocker Club.

The club was founded by Captain William Fowler, who had fought in 13 battles during the Civil War. He belonged to thirteen clubs, got married on the 13th, and tried to do anything important on the 13th. He was fixated on the number 13! He even graduated from P.S. 13 when he was 13 years old!

During the club meetings, the members would dine on a 13-course dinner and flouted superstitions at will. They would walk under ladders, open umbrellas indoors at the meeting, break mirrors, and do other things to tempt superstitious fate!

They dined under a banner reading "Morituri te Salutamus" (We who will die salute you.")

On one occasion, the Thirteen Club members dined at a table, with candles by each setting. They waited until the first one burned out -- according to a superstition, the one whose candle went out was supposed to die. A year later, the roll was taken; and all members were present and had a pretty healthy year!

Well, the club was active for only a few years; yet it included no less than five former Presidents among its members: Benjamin Harrison, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt!

In the spirit of these aggressive rationalists, flout a superstition today!