Thursday, December 24, 2009

What are Feminists so Afraid of?

Apparently me.

Contrary to my persona at times, I love a good, thoughtful debate with people who see the world differently. Stick me in a room where I can hash it out with a smart person who contradicts me on every front and I'm a happy guy. Occasionally, I stumble my way onto a feminist blog and feel I have joined Alice in her rabbit hole and find myself in a world full of amazement, beauty and seemingly backwards logic. They spin a world of fantasy (I don't mean that pejoratively) most captivating, as I suppose only a woman can.

What confounds me is that with their bravado of willingness to confront demanding social topics is coupled with a seeming reticence to actually face someone who feels otherwise. This has happened several times to me, including another quick dismissal on Pink Scare's blog, but most recently at a blog by the blogger whose handle is Armed with Vitriol. In a recent discussion I wished to discuss male and female bedroom relations. I will not offer a defense here, and let the reader decide for themselves if I was out of line; if I was, I am willing to concede the point and assume whatever shame is my due. That said, after giving what I thought was a thoughtful and playful response, I was returned with the rather bombastic response that what I had said was, "all kinds of wrong" and that the blogger would not, "bother with a reply because your comment is so ignorant it doesn't deserve one."

Again, what gets me is that someone with such a bold worldview would be so quick to dismiss anyone who would dare view the world differently. She also claimed I didn't read her response. I maintain that while I didn't give it a thorough reading, to say what I said was ignorant goes a bit too far. In a later reply she said I was "annoying (from a feminist perspective)." I'm not quite sure what she means by "a feminist perspective," but remember that she wouldn't "bother to reply" so I don't really know what is the problem.

So, I am left perplexed. The internet can unfortunately cause communication to become opaque, and what might have been a relatively banal conversation where two people might have found a lot of common ground became something else. Too bad. But what I wrestle with is why are feminist so unwilling to engage others? They want to mold public opinion -- a perfectly fine thing -- but seem unwilling to handle criticism. Why?

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Douche By Any Other Name

Warning: The language below is unsuited for some readers. Also, I had a difficult time formatting this post. If you see any inconsistencies, I may have not been able to fix them.

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The word douche-bag, or the truncated moniker douche, is a word that has been thrown around with unfocused resolve. Douche usage seems to be more and more frequent, with its application becoming less and less sound. What is a douche bag and douchebaggery?

The quest for the elusive proper-use of this term begins in a strange sort of Shire. Its original understandng was a cleansing agent for feminine hygiene. Not even out of Hobbiton, and the journey is already perplexing, since in its pejorative usage, it also describes a bad man. How does an tool used for female washing end up describing a male tool (also a noun that eludes strict definitional precision.) This is reminiscent of a George Carlin joke: in describing one of the seven words you aren't allowed to use on television, "For some reason 'cocksucker' means bad man; it's a good woman."


Before coming to the subject of the douche bag himself, an examination of the accuser may be in order.
In particular, I have read the insult (and similar cold pricklies) at the blog Dating is Miserable. What is most striking is that it is often tied to one of two things: either, is comes as some form of unsolicited dating advice, or a douchy incident had occurred. The first often comes across as patronization; the second, single whinytude. Strangely enough, the d-bomb is almost never uttered from a taken woman's lips.



Both feelings of being patronization and whinytude tend inspire my insolence towards them and never do I feel like I've come away enlightened. Does any single girl in her mid-20s think she can tell me anything I don't already know? Calling a guy you don't like an unqualified douche is often intellectually lazy. It demands nothing of the speaker, whether evaluation of the other person or, God forbid, themselves. What kills me about these girls is their indignation to being hit on by anyone they would rather have just move along. "I just got hit on by this creepy old guy. He was probably over 30 -- eww." When considering women of this species, before appraising their gems of wisdom, I feel it obligatory to ask one question: Is this a judgmental narcissist? This is only fair. A searching single does not a sage make. (As my research revealed to me, there is a term for this kind of person.)

Zack Brown: I've known her since the first grade, you don't fuck someone you met in the first grade.
Delaney: Excuse me, I met my wife in kindergarten, we got married senior year, and she's been the queen of my world ever since.
Zack Brown: But what if you could do it all over again?
Delaney: I would jerk off and live by myself. That woman is the bane of my existence.
~From "Zack and Miri Make a Porno"


Vlogger Bernard Chapin has a wonderful, if not out-of-character, vlog post titled Never Give Up on Women. In it, his logic is simple: women are the only game in town; his advice is likewise as simple: if you want a woman, try harder. I am of two-minds on this. For many people, one of the key struggles in life is the tension between authenticity and acceptance. Speaking as someone who is going to die alone, being true to oneself has its advantages; if nothing else, I say pretty much whatever I want because I have generally accepted my loneliness. The status quo is only one option. Many women are worth falling for but none are worth falling over. My own rule is thus: life is short, the road is long, and anyone who wishes to accompany me along the way is a welcome companion; but, I do not abide people who wish to mold and control me. We are equals or nothing at all.

My shadow's the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
'Til then I walk alone
Back to finding definitional certitude, douche bag runs the gamut from describing actions to apparel (see picture) to attitude. Here are some various definitions and applications of douche bag.

1. Popped Collars
2. Frequently not wearing a shirt (this one makes me giggle for reasons I can't say here)
3. Tanning
4. Liking Dane Cook
5. Overconfidence
6. Low intelligence
7. Having a certain Jersey Shore metro-esque look
8. Given to clubbing, alcohol, violence and sex
9. Hitting on girls he knows are taken
10. A kind of herd mentality that reinforces douche bag ritualism.


At first blush, d-bag seems to only mean 'boo' to odious behavior. But that is unsatisfying verbicide (the act of "killing" a word by removing any sense of distinctive objectivity about it and using it to merely describe one's subjective feelings towards the thing in question.) This is my main objection. In order for douche to mean anything, it must mean something; more to the point, it must mean something we can all get behind. Even if none of the above characteristics are present, one may still find themselves in douche land. One big criticism I have is that it seem to go along with the typical white person disapproval of anything that deviates from the boring norm. I'm as white bread as they come, but is a man wearing jewelry and Abercrombie and Fitch at 30 a truly bad thing? Dane Cook fans are lapping up the dregs of comedic drivel, but certainly they aren't as bad as the guy who hits on engaged women and whose insecurity starts fights over nonsense. Can we agree that there should be different words denoting bad behavior and bad taste?

This has all left me perplexed. I have searched all over the Mordor of the internet to finally nail down what is a douche bag, and find that I am every more stumped. Will we ever be able to come to a consensus?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Immortalizing Yourself in Porn

My apologies for allowing so many of my posts being about sex, love and relationships. My mind has been preoccupied with other things these days, from politics to existentialism, but my need for catharsis on love having more immediacy. Listening to a Penn Jillette vlog, he discussed an issue that I thought was only in my sex-deprived head. In it, he discusses a conversation with a pornographer who was describing the motivations for the women who are involved in it. Penn rightly isolated this one phrase for women in porn: they wanted to "immortalize their youth."

And here I was brought back to a notion I have had before. I think if I were a beautiful young woman, I would hire a professional photographer and have them take lurid photos of me. I probably wouldn't publish them, I would just like that record. Penn went so far to say that if he could, he would go back to being 18 and perform sexually in front of a camera. I am not so bold; like Mr. Jillette, I have the heart of comedian, but I have no intention to be that humorous.

Which made me think of artists who in various ways (try to) immortalize feminine beauty and what a trip that must be, to be paid to do what every amateur lover longs to go pro at. How do other people feel about immortalizing their youth in such a fashion? Would you like to have a physical record of your sexual apogee?

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Poetry of Philosophy


I came across these poems and felt like they summed up well a philosophical approach to romance.
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UTILITARIAN LOVE POEM

alishahnovin

You are aesthetically pleasing,
the reason for which I first noticed in you.
And later I found your personality equally pleasing.
I also noted your chest to waist ratio is suitable for birthing.
Therefore, I think you should live in my house.

EXISTENTIALIST LOVE POEM


Lilian

I saw a cute boy on the street,
It could have been you,
It doesn't matter much if it still is,
You can approach me if you want to,
It doesn't matter if I'm still interested,
Either way we'll still feel alone.

Nihilist Love Poem

By: Alamir

You looked pleasing like girls often do,
Does it matter why I approached you?
It could have been the weather
or just the way I grew up.
But if our personalities can be tolerated
...And you're on the pill
We should both have sex
Before we both end up dead,
and regret not doing so.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Expanding Waistlines and Standards

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While searching for the perfect Halloween costume, I stumbled across two double-take moments. The first was weight-loss advertisement on my Facebook sidebar. It advertises that in a mere four weeks you can go from having a having a soft but relatively healthy physique to being cut. This eye-brow raising commercial struck me odd: in an age of increasing waistlines, have our standards for physical perfection actually increased? It makes sense to me when a promotion that shows an orca losing half its body weight to reveal a person beneath. Sure, if I looked like that, I’d be quick to try any weight-loss program thrown at me by cheap internet marketing. Apparently we’re now feeling self-conscious about being a bit cushy. Surely most men would choose the Brad Pitt figure, but I think many men would also be okay with Michael Buble’, especially if it meant easy maintenance and they had something else to offer, like, you know, personality.

Update: I just added two more pictures demonstrating my befuddlement. Are most men this insecure about their bodies they can't be satisfied with looking like the men in 'before' pictures?

Similarly, I came across a couple online debates over who is hotter: Lucy Pinder or Keeley Hazell (NSFW). I don’t know much about these girls, other than what media needs me to know: they’re smoking hot and I’m never, ever going to end up with anything even remotely as attractive as them – sorry future wife. Why, then, are we arguing about this on the internet? Like a speed of light physics calculation, we are arguing the difference between a 9.999 and a 9.998. This feels a bit like that "Really!?!" segment on SNL. If I thought I had a real chance with either of these women, I would be more than willing to shoot up a theater of New Moon watching tweens (even if it didn’t work out, what have we lost?) And of course, all the people arguing this subject probably look like me. A little self-awareness is in order. Let me simplify: if you’re arguing over the physicality of gorgeous models on internet message boards, you will never have a gorgeous model.

The same goes for those who mock these people on their blogs.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Your Money for the Poor or Your Life – I’m Still Thinking!

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Could You Pull the Trigger for Justice?

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. ~George Washington

…we should be clear that the institutions of democracy – free markets, a free press, a strong civil society – cannot be built overnight, and they cannot be built at the end of a barrel of a gun. And so we must realize that the freedoms FDR once spoke of – especially freedom from want and freedom from fear – do not just come from deposing a tyrant and handing out ballots; they are only realized once the personal and material security of a people is ensured as well. ~Barack Obama, speech, Nov. 20, 2006

In a previous blog post I mentioned an academic couple I visited in Philadelphia. They were typical academics, with the standard obligatory disparagements of the former President and so forth. One conversation that stuck with me was the husband’s view of taxation. He said advocates for low taxation believe they will be rich some day, and that’s why they don’t believe in high taxes for the affluent. It was at this point things “got busy” and I was released to ponder his statement on my own. My reaction was that this was an awfully complex line of thought, and seemingly improbable that the majority of poor or middle class people would have such forethought and hope. Assuming he was right, however, I wonder if that’s a bad thing. Is wanting low taxes because a person thinks their industriousness could lead to a prosperous lifestyle a bad trend? Is it perhaps better than the alternative, believing one will never be rich, so let’s take what they can from those that are?

if you want to take shots at people
target Phil Knight and Bill Gates
contemplate
how they own the products
and they got the goods
how they act like they care
but they’re just Robbin’ Hoods. ~Steve Coleman, "I Wanna Hear a Poem"

Recently I’ve become a follower of Penn Jillette's vlog. Penn Jillette is the larger, louder half of Penn and Teller’s magic and comedy show in Las Vegas; they are also the stars of a Showtime television debunking show called Bullshit! It took me some time to come around on Mr. Jillette because he struck me as an off-putting atheist (which is true) with intolerance for religious thinking and worldviews that don’t fall in line with his own paradigms (which is not.) He is a blocky, libertarian, free-market capitalist, an opponent of the War on Drugs, scientifically-inclined bull-in-a-china-closet showman that plays the double bass in a jazz band. Basically, he’s an older version of me with big hair. Penn, in a vlog asking his audience to help pen a message to Glenn Beck (pun intended) on libertarianism, he raised an issue I ask myself; I would greatly appreciate feedback on this.

In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery? ~Saint Augustine

In the aforementioned vlog Penn addresses the issue of justice. The magician begins by equating the government to a gun, that is to say the government operates functionally by threat of force. As he puts it, “government is force.” If government is an extension of the will of the people, in theory this must mean that the government ought to use force only when we would as individuals. Penn goes on to say that if he had the fortitude, he would be willing to kill a man to stop -- and I think by extension this would include killing as punishment -- rape, murder, and to protect private property.

Afterwhich is the crux of Penn’s pondering:

I don’t think I would use a gun to take money from somebody to start a library. I don’t think I’d hold a gun to someone and say, “You need to go to school.” I don’t think I’d hold a gun on someone and say, “We have to get some money for art.” I don’t think I’d hold a gun on someone and say, “We gotta put a man on the moon.”

This leads to a central argument of mine that I’ve never heard anyone give a good response to. What I want to make people wrestle with is the notion that the government we endorse will use violence against its citizens to acquire their property. So, I put it to others, and I want to put it in as demanding a light as I can. If you came across a beggar and Bill Gates at the same time, had a gun, and knew there would be no consequences for your actions, would you rob Bill Gates and give that money to the beggar? Would extenuating circumstances change your mind? For instance, what if the man was homeless because he lost his house to pay for his young daughter’s cancer treatment? Could you pull the trigger to rob Bill Gates to give to another person, even in genuine need?

Could you pull the trigger for justice? If not, what does it say about us that we are willing to let the government do our dirty work? If so, what does that say about you? What does that say about us?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

You're Going to Suck Somebody's Blood Out -- When Vampirism Stopped Being Funny


“I like to think we live forever in some form.”

“What, like a zombie? You want to feast on the flesh of men? Because I hear women do that already.”

“Someone’s bitter.”

I came across the blog I Shoulda Been a Stripper by the pseudonymous Chrissy Starr. Her brain candy blog is a boon for typical comic-book reading fare: you know, lonely overweight guys with poor social skills who spend too much time playing video games and blogging – and, um – people who that doesn’t describe at all, like me. In her latest installment, Chrissy recounts a television program about real-world vampires and their habits. I wanted to share my inner monologue as I was reading Miss Starr's self-reflective vampire post.

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Here are some of the characteristics of vampires that I think I might possess.

1) They have inverted circadian rhythms; the internal clock that regulates biological processes in a 24 hour period. They're usually known as "night owls".

Chrissy: Check

Me: I have been known to stay up late and fight insomnia (written at 1:27 a.m.).

2) They are unpredictable, moody, temperamental and overwhelming.

Chrissy: Check.
Check.
Check.
And Check.

Me: So I can get emotional sometimes. Nobody’s perfect.

3) Some real vampires are attracted to blood and find different means for attaining it. Well, I don't like blood, per se, but I'm always up for a Bloody Mary.

Chrissy: Check.

Me: Cheers.

4) They're photosensitive and sunburn easily. Next to Nicole Kidman, I am THE most Caucasian person you will ever meet.

Chrissy: Check.

Me: I am pretty pasty. Sunblock SPF 50 over here, go’vner.

5) Their relationships tend to be disasters because of their self-centered natures. See blog.

Chrissy: CHECK.

Me: If that’s true – and I’m not saying it is – but if that’s true, I think that’s more the fault of being raised an only child.

6) They may go through jobs and lovers like Kleenex.

Chrissy: Check.

Me: Okay, this shit ain’t funny anymore.

7) They have a talent for attracting attention.


Chrissy: Check.

Me: …

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So, maybe I need to be a little less critical of Twilight readers in the future.

I’m on a Plane with Bob Costas and We’re All Gonna Die

Every time I fly I have comedian Ron White’s voice in my head, telling the story of a plane flight he was on.

We had engine trouble and lost some oil pressure…. Everybody on the plane was nervous but I’d been drinking since lunch and I was like, “Take us down, I don’t care.” Hit something hard, I don’t wanna limp away from this thing. The guy sitting next to me is losing his mind – apparently, he had a lot to live for. He said, “Hey man, if one of the engines fail, how far will the other one take us?”

“All the way to the scene of the crash. Which is pretty handy ‘cause that’s where we’re headin’. I bet we beat the paramedics by a half-hour. We’re haulin’ ass.”

Which is pretty much my way of looking at it. The only difference between me and Ron White is a couple of decades and points on a sobriety test. On my August 1 trip to New York City from Chicago, I flew on Jet Blue. The most surprising thing was a crowd gathering around what turned out to be a celebrity. A celebrity? On my flight? How quaint. A woman next to me asked who it was, and though this person’s back was turned by his profile I was able to correctly guess that it was sports commentator Bob Costas. If you don't know, Bob Costas has an adorable, Parkinson's-free Michael J. Fox thing going for him. I’ll say this about the man, if anyone could get me to love the Great American Naptime that is professional baseball, it’s Bob Costas: that man can make golf tolerable. Costas also has one of the best lines in cinema.

It was a strange experience seeing Bob there, because even though I get star struck easily, I had already met him. The only sensation stranger than meeting a celebrity is meeting a celebrity and feeling like it is old hat. I can only imagine that the coolest thing about personally knowing celebrities is being able to talk about them prosily. After seeing him, it struck me that if I had died in a plane crash, I would suddenly claim a tiny modicum of fame by proxy; suddenly, I would have died in the flight Bob Costas died on. My family could even refer to it that way. “When did your son die, Mrs. Minnihan?” “It was a couple years ago…well, you know the flight that famous sports announcer died on?”

But to my chagrin the plane landed just fine, as you could probably ascertain by now. If I ever did die in a crash of some sort, I do hope someone writes a famous song about me. On a related note, I just watched the movie Josie and the Pussycats and loved it! It totally exceeded my expectations. A funny clip can be seen here. If the pilot and crew had decided to ditch the plane, it would be great if they had said the line “take the Chevy to the levy” (5:17).