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!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Why We Don't Have a Marianne

Marianne, the allegorical symbol of the French Republic, has been around from the start of that republic. Most famously, she has been depicted in Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People. Several years ago, the French government moved from a allegorical yet generic representation to using actual, famous French women as models for her inspiration.

The first one was Brigitte Bardot; her bust was quite décollété, but not like the one in Delacroix's painting. It was, to say the least, startling but very popular and likely to stir French pride.

Brigitte Bardot

Brigitte Bardot
While that was a tough act to follow, others replaced her with changing tastes and times. There was Mirielle Mathieu, Catherine Deneuve, Laetitia Casta, and others.

Catherine Deneuve
Laetitia Casta

The present representation of Marianne is Evelyne Thomas; but not without criticism from the French elite, who have the necessity to have an opinion about everything.

Evelyne Thomas, the latest one.

While, courtesy of the French over 125 years ago, we have Lady Liberty in New York harbor, we have not yet moved in the actual direction of casting some real woman in that idealistic, allegorical role. Our depiction of her on coinage is decidedly unimaginative, for example.

A while back I suggested using Britney Spears as a model in allegorical representations of liberty. (Or liberté, if you prefer.) That, given our National Temperament and our political inability to agree on anything, would go over like a lead balloon. Or why not Snooki as Lady Liberty, for God's sake? She effectively represents the underdog, which Americans side with.

Or any other choice. If we personified Lady Liberty, naming her Jennifer (for example), there would be someone immediately taking exception of her race, her ethnicity, her name, her age, where she came from, her body, how she's dressed, and her politics (if known). It would become another political issue, of which we have enough. One more reason to tie up the government, and nothing gets done.

In short, I think that the problem we have is that we've become a nation of petty crabs and scolds! We might consider changing our national motto from "E pluribus unum" to "I bitch, therefore I am."*

This is our national malaise. No, it's not because we don't have a Marianne; it's because we've become too darned intolerant. We ridicule people because of what they eat, how they talk**, what flags they display, what recreational pursuits they choose, or so forth. This is nothing less than cultural imperialism on some peoples' parts! 

We have to be mired in a national hyperseriousness as a result. A little whimsy, or humor, is automatically viewed with suspicion.

Remember: Cinco de Mayo is a recently accepted American tradition, and others are likely to be adopted. Especially if it provides and excuse to drink!

*An apology to M. Descartes.
**Bugs Bunny talks with a New York accent, and I think that's cool.

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Cool Cat

False cognates are words in different languages that sound alike, but have different meanings. These, along with idioms and slang, are possible pitfalls in learning a new language. The French have a term for them: faux amis (false friends).

Madame Bonseigneur was expecting the delivery of a chocolate ice cream cake, but had to go out for a few hours, so she wrote an instruction for her Spanish house boy:

"Surtot, mettez le gateau dans le frigidaire." (Above all, put the cake in the refrigerator.")

And she went off for a time.

Later on, she came back home. There, on the kitchen table, she found the cake largely melted. "Un horreur!"

She was more astounded when she found her cat in the refrigerator, rather cold and ready to be elsewhere!.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Pat Murphy's Irish Wake

Well, Pat Murphy finally died. Being Irish, his family and neighbors decided to have an old-style Irish wake for him, much like in those scenes in The Wire. Yes, people would tell anecdotes about him, eat, drink, laugh, and generally not act with English solemnity. The Irish wake is supposed to be a celebration of the person's life, not a macabre dwelling on the shades. No Dies Irae, no Closer Walk With Thee.*

Well, Pat was known to be a lifetime supporter of the Red Sox. He had season tickets for the games, even in the barren years. He lyrically sang the praises of Williams and Yaz, of Fenway Park, and of Southie. He had his Charlie Card to ride the M.T.A. to the games, and wore a blue cap with a red B on it.

Cheapness ran in the Murphy family, though. And when it came time to select his final place of repose the family requested the cheapest coffin in stock. The undertaker asked, "Are you sure?"

The widow assented, as did the eldest of Pat Murphy's sons.

Again the undertaker demurred, and then finally showed the coffin that, for the luvva Mike, he just could not move in Boston. It was at half price of the others:

They cringed a bit, but said, "The old boyo won't know anyway!"

When family and friends saw Pat Murphy in that Yankee coffin, they laughed uproariously! And his old friend Sean Aloysius Flaherty said, "This will raise old Pat from the grave if anything will! 

*Proper term for a New Orleans funeral with music, though.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Daring Beachwear Sighted in Tennessee

I must admit that I don't know how to take  the Ta-Ta Top, a recent development in beachwear; will it explode into next year's must have swimwear for the daring innovators or just a failed novelty? 

It was first mentioned in the context of a sorority girl at Belmont College in Nashville posting a picture of herself wearing a nipple-printed bikini top and getting into trouble with Phi Mu, her sorority; and refusing to take down the offensive picture. She definitely defined herself as a woman of strong opinions; one of which is to free the ta-tas! She resigned from the sorority instead.

The whole thing sounds like a staged attention-getting ploy. I am somewhat sympathetic to the whole Topfree Movement; but think that a gradualist approach to minor cultural change such as women's swimwear is better, considering the collateral effects that it would have at this stage. Let's face it: a beach or swimming pool is a site frequented by people of different ages and sensibilities. They come to swim and to relax, not to be challenged or offended. I think that a caring person should comport herself (or himself!) in a way that is expected, and inoffensive to people whose space is being shared. In short, don't wear or do anything that will cause people to vacate the beach.

Appropriate swimwear is context-appropriate. What may be okay on South Beach or the Gulf Coast might not be appropriate at the Y.M.C.A. pool or in some states.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Totally Texas

A fact only recently disclosed in the national press: Norwegians refer to utterly crazy things as being "totally Texas" as in the expression "Det var helt Texas." As you can imagine, this resulted in a lot of hooting and hollering, put-downs, and bad feelings; given the climate of state stereotypes conveniently used nowadays as a source of both humor and state-bashing!*

It turns out that this term has been around for more than 50 years. It's an example of metonymy, a figure of speech where something is called by something associated with it, like White House for the Presidency, Washington for the United States government, suits for administrators, and so on.

Presumably, during the heyday of the Wild West movies, Texas became associated with the film-depicted excitement, confusion, violence associated with the "Wild West"**

And yet, I've never had the sense that I crossed over a cultural divide when I went to Texas, sorry, guys. 

Anyway, some Texans are annoyed. But I have a suggestion for dismayed Texans: play tit for tat. Use a ju-jitsu move to their own advantage. I'm talking about letting language work for  them.

Metonymy can work two ways, y'know.

Why don't Texans use the expression "totally Norway" to describe something as being staid, dull, utter predictable?  Who knows, this could catch on with the hipsters in Austin (That movie was totally Norway!), football game attendees in Plano (A 0-0 tie? How Norway), or gourmets in Dallas (Pedro's burritos were simply Norway, no flavor).

But I can understand Texans' being troubled. What other American states managed to be enshrined in the vocabulary of the Norwegian language? What do people there say about Louisiana or Tennessee? Have we made the big time with international recognition, like Texas, California, and New York? And is it possible that the residents of some states actively embrace stereotypes of themselves?

There's an alternative plan. Go with and embrace the crazy Texas image as a compliment. After all, whatever one can say about Texas, it was never said that it was dull like Nebraska. As a matter of fact, Texas has to be in the top five interesting states in the United States!

*Bad kitty!
**Very much overdrawn, methinks. But, after all, mundane doings don't sell books or movie tickets.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Me for Sainthood!

Since so many are running for office, I'd throw my hat in the ring, following a suggestion by Mike:

eViL pOp TaRt for Sainthood!

1.  Short novenas!
2.  Fun holy days with feasting!
3.  Get out of Hell free cards with special application!
4.  Equal opportunity salvation for Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians!

I figure that the bar for sainthood, as well as the Presidency or Congress has been lowered of late. Lord knows, I'm not up to the martyrdom or virgin route!