Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Myth of Monogamy

So I have obviously failed at keeping up a regular work product. I've also set aside "The East, West, and Sex" because when I have time to read for fun, I don't want to read that book. However, I wish to address this topic of the myth of human monogamy, recently in vogue with the researcher-storyteller community (I refuse to call this kind of nonsense "science") and pushed by sex positive activists like Dan Savage.

The basic premise of this argument, for those unfamiliar, is that monogamy in humans, like the animal kingdom at large, is not "natural." People with Ph.D.'s are getting grants to mythologize about prehistoric human sexual behaviors with reasoning that would be, quite frankly, dismissed as specious and laughable if not stamped with the imprimatur of the university and science. Long ago, in a place far far removed from "civilization," human women copulated freely and often with a variety of men without jealousy or conflict. Sperm competition and not direct or social competition was the paradigm of survival of the fittest. Paternity was never a social question, only one addressed by unconscious drives and natural selection. Then nasty ol' civilization in the form of patriarchy came along and ended this happy time by imposing pair bonding while not holding males accountable for monogamy. Traditional science, a mere outgrowth of patriarchy, then imposed the myth that monogamy was natural and has been with humans throughout our evolution. Only a handful of brave, crusading modern scientists are capable of freeing us from this myth of monogamy and its oppressive presence in our lives.

I honestly have no idea how long ago monogamy was introduced into human history. In fact, I don't even care. It's meaningless, speculative, but worst of all, dangerous, to root around in history and especially prehistory for the "origins" of "human nature." Here's a snapshot of the reasons to reject this kind of mythmaking.

1. Plunger penis and reasoning from morphology.
Where to start... The premise of this argument is that the human penis evolved to have a larger glans to shaft ratio in order to "plunge" semen out of the vaginal canal from previous sexual partners to decrease sperm competition. This kind of mythic retrojection is about as scientific and reliable as Ariel's theories about the surface world based on her conjectures for the uses of the "artifacts" she discovers. Don't get me wrong; I'm a firm believer in evolution. What I don't subscribe to is the notion that the reasonable stories we tell ourselves about why peacocks got crazy tails and elephants have trunks accurately describe the selective processes which allowed those traits to be passed along. Punctuated equilibria and the devastation of a population, such as the theorized Toba catastrophe, create the possibility that certain morphologies didn't contribute directly to competition but were only incidentally inherited. A similar analysis applies to other examples of reasoning from morphology back to our natural state.

2. The origins of modern behavior in prehistory.
Functionally equivalent to the above critique but focused on behavior instead of anatomy, the search for the origins of modern human sexual behavior behind the foggy veil of prehistory isn't particularly helpful. This is true both for those who uphold monogamy as natural and those whose oppose it. One such example, again based on sperm competition theory, is that males who suspect an extra pair mating will, allegedly, initiate sex immediately and thrust deeper and harder in attempts to displace rival male deposits and place his sperm in better position to fertilize the egg. Rape of one's spouse is supposedly reducible in large part to this suspicion. Beyond the questions of (1) is this even true now and (2) how can we know if prehistoric humans actually behaved this way, the latter a wholly untestable hypothesis, this reasoning cannot eliminate socialization as an alternate cause of the behavior. Besides a socialized sperm competition theory, such thrusting may be due to the excitement of the reunion with the partner or have origins in other emotions (as opposed to an inherent, natural human response).

The researcher-storytellers depend on observations of modern "primitive" peoples who are essentially the same, in their view, as our prehistoric ancestors and also essentially "natural" rather than socialized. The reductionist and essentialist premises, as well as problematic methodology, of this assumption require, I think, little explanation. Simply asking why the researcher-storytellers assume these groups to be natural rather collected around cultural forces will collapse the whole house of cards that is their understanding of the unconditioned nature of prehistoric humans.

3. Nature vs. Culture.
Such a heady topic is way too involved to be handled by the informality of a blog. Suffice it to say, these are rough outlines of the debate. Hit me up in the comments if you want pointers towards additional reading.

The myth of monogamy argument is basically that human monogamy is unnatural, it has been imposed upon us by culture. In our natural, prehistoric state, humans did not pair bond. Rather, a female copulated with many males without inciting incidents of jealousy, conflict, or breaking group cohesion. The factors proposed by traditional science for pair bonding, such as female vulnerability while carrying the child, the need for protection, the need for help raising a child, etc. are dismissed as cultural impositions post hoc to justify the unnatural state of monogamy.

The problems with this argument are manifold. First, the very notion of a human nature is debatable, not to mention the problems of actually knowing it AND reconstructing it from before any records were kept. Second, the characterization that non pair bonding in humans, if it was true, was not in fact cultural / social but rather "natural" is questionable at best. Just because it happened prior to the cave paintings at Lascaux doesn't mean it wasn't the product of cultural forces.

4. Immutable human characteristics.
The drive behind the myth of monogamy position, and the one taken up by sex positive activists such as Dan Savage, is that monogamy is not natural for humans. In effect, we are at odds with our very nature when we pair bond. I have more to say about the dangers of "human nature" below, but here I simply want to make the point that even if non pair bonding was a feature of prehistoric human groups doesn't mean this was in fact part of a human "nature" that couldn't change over time.

5. The dangers of "human nature."
The concept of a "human nature" is a dangerous one. What is "natural" and "unnatural" has been the basis of human oppression for centuries. The weaker nature of women was deployed to justify denial of all opportunities beyond the domestic sphere. At the core, the racial sciences used nature to distinguish between the superior (whites) and inferior (Negroids, Mongoloids, etc.) specimens. And the lack of procreative possibility, among others, has long been used in the condemnation of homosexuality as aberrant and unnatural. It wasn't until 1986 that the DSM finally eliminated homosexuality completely from its register of mental illness.

So when somebody like Dan Savage uses "human nature" as a starting point for discussing modern human sexuality, I cringe. Given its historical and continued use for oppressing Others, including gay men such as he, it should be rejected as a liberatory concept. The fight should not be, as he and the many researcher-storytellers currently working in this area contend, about clearing away the untruth from the truth about our prehistoric sexual behaviors, our human nature. Liberation requires us to explode and then abandon the concept of nature itself.

I wish to reiterate. I am a firm believer in evolution. However, I reject the validity of these kinds of studies that seek to draw conclusions about modern human sex from half-baked conjectures about prehistoric human behaviors, modern anatomical structures, and an appeal to human nature and counsel against the dangers of the discursive regimes in which they participate. Liberation won't come from laying siege to and occupying the construct of human nature for the boundaries of the recently seized concept will simply be used to deny others. We must instead continuously break down those walls which delineate the "natural" from "unnatural" to truly be free.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

whoa, man

It's been a long time since I blogged. After residing here for almost 2 months, here's my impressions of the ATL.

You can call what they do in Atlanta driving same as you can say a virus reproduces sexually: only by destroying the meaning of the words. But they do have one thing in common. Coming into contact with either is hazardous to your health.

Music Scene
I like the bands Atlanta attracts. Just this week LCD Soundsystem with Sleigh Bells, the National with Owen Pallett, and the xx with Zola Jesus came through. Last Friday Deerhunter had their cd release party here. Godspeed You! Black Emperor added nearby Athens as one of the dozen or so US tour dates they've had in years. But what I don't like is the quality of people those shows attract. If I had to describe it in one word, I'd say the scene here isn't chill like Austin. The venues themselves are great but I wish they made you check your douchebags at the door.

Being a poor law student, I can't afford to sample all the local fare. Still no Atlanta BBQ but I hear Fat Matt's ribs are delish. I've also heard great things about the breakfast / brunch at Flying Biscuit. A few fellow 1Ls and I have started an unofficial burger club to ferret out the best burger in Atlanta. After only two meetings, the consent so far is Vortex but we have a number of places yet to be tried. We've also got a Friday afternoon ritual at a local hole-in-the-wall which shall remain nameless so as not to attract a crowd. Suffice it to say, it's yummy. BYOB, too, and an afternoon beer, great food, and cool company is always the best way to wrap up another week in law school.

On an unrelated note, I finally finished reading Murakami's "Norwegian Wood". Remarkable book. I'm a growing fan of the post-war Japanese writers. This has cleared my pleasure reading calendar for Richard Bernstein's "The East, the West, and Sex" and my expected harsh criticism thereof. Let's see if I can deliver something on a more consisten schedule this time.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Feels like the first night...

Tonight is my first night in Atlanta. Storms a'brewing all day but thankfully I got all my stuff moved inside safely dry. No rain has fallen yet but the forecast calls for rain all weekend.

Traveling was hell. I'm not opposed to road trips per se but I definitely prefer to sleep in a hotel room as opposed to the back seat of a pickup parked in a Wal-Mart parking lot. I hurt my right shoulder again. It happens every few months when I sleep on it wrong. Apparently along the backseat of a wide-cab pickup was wrong. I really need some yoga therapy right now. Too bad there isn't any place as great as Yoga Yoga here in Atlanta.

Atlanta is quite a beautiful city. Very green. Evergreen trees surround my entire apartment and I live very close to a nature preserve. I even took a little trip down to the campus. Clairmont reminds me of the Drag in Austin or that one street Matt, Salena, and I strolled near Berkeley. It was teeming with little shops and restaurants, even an independent record store called Wuxtry Records. It feels a lot like home.

I noticed an Indian food place nearby that bills itself as vegetarian. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised this near campus. Colleges tend to be hotbeds of "liberalism" and "left wing nutjobs," even this far in the south.

I received notice by email that my class schedule is available online. Emory, like many if not all law schools, operates on a "lottery" system for first year classes. All 1Ls take the same curriculum but obviously can't be crammed into the same class room at the same time with the same prof expected to grade coursework. Instead, the registrar assigns you a schedule. In other words, you the student have no say in when or by whom you will be taught during the first year. Since variations in teaching styles, grading philosophies, etc. exist, some sections of the same core class may be preferable to others. It is all up to the luck of the draw as to which section you will be assigned. Since I have not received my Comcast modem yet, I have been unable to review my schedule. This situation should be remedied tomorrow.

The Emory Public interest Committee (EPIC) is hosting a discount law book fair on campus next week. They will be offering 1L books at steeply discounted prices on Wednesday. Who has two thumbs and will definitely be there to save on his text books? This blog writer. But you got to bring cash or check because they don't take American Express. Or Visa, for that matter.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bye bye Austin, hello law school

Today I got into a truck to begin the 15 hour drive from Austin, TX (my home of the last 18 years) to Atlanta, GA to attend Emory Law. I attended high school in Austin, got my undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin. I've met most of my friends and all of my exes in Austin. 18 years is a long time to accumulate memories, both good and bad. So it is with mixed emotions that I depart. I am sad and scared to leave behind so many important people and familiar surroundings. But there's also a lot of pain left behind there. Moving away quite literally is moving on. UTA has a great law program, no doubt, but they don't offer the area of study I'm most interested in. Emory does.

Moving is also a chance to start over, to shed the scales of the past to become somebody new, hopefully somebody better, happier. That doesn't mean anybody is getting cut out. I'm just interested in ch-ch-ch-changes.

So it's a new city, major educational endeavor. Big changes. A number of my friends have had the law school experience; most have not. I'll start by sharing my 1L experiences here on this blog as (legal mullet). If you're hoping for something salacious like Lena Chen's Sex and the Ivy (the infamous Harvard sex blog), you'll be disappointed. I'm not like that and I certainly don't kiss and tell. I'm almost 32 for crissakes, not 19.

Instead, what you'll get is an idea of the brutality of the Socratic method, study groups, exam hell, and the reading, reading, reading (among other things). I'll also review those handful of Atlanta places I can afford to frequent on my student allotment of money and time.

Orientation officially starts on Wednesday, August 18 and runs through Friday, August 20 from 8 am to approximately 4 pm. Attendance is mandatory. There are also some events scheduled on the 16th and 17th. Kaplan/PMBR are sponsoring Building Community Day on Tuesday. They say it's an opportunity to meet about 90% of my fellow 1Ls and includes, among other things, a scavenger hunt. I'm looking forward to it.

I'll let you know how the lottery goes on class draw. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, I'll explain it when I receive my fall class schedule.

Classes starts on August 23. In the meantime, I have to get to Atlanta, sign my lease, and move in to my apartment. Then I'll need to scout out the neighborhood for essentials like the grocery store and a yoga studio (more on that to come).

I'm really excited to start this new phase in my life. It has been a long time coming.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mandarin Chinese Workshop for Beginners & Intermediate Speakers

I think I've mentioned I'm broke before, right? That means I don't have a lot of money to spend on fancy lessons to maintain or improve the knowledge of Mandarin I gained after 2 semesters of classroom instruction at ACC. So what's a poor, waiting-to-start-law-school student to do? I decided to turn to http://www.meetup.com/ to answer that question.

Aston International Academy has entrusted the flagship Mandarin program to the very capable Lia Yin. I did not attend the paid sessions of instruction, only the free workshop for beginner and intermediate students, so I cannot accurately comment on what the classroom experience entails. However, for Austin residents curious about learning Chinese, I can honestly recommend attending the beginners' section of the monthly workshop to get an introduction to Mandarin.

The Longwen Chinese Program (http://www.longwenchinese.com/) describes a pedagogical philosophy committed to imparting practical knowledge in verbal communication. It emphasizes small class sizes, exchanges between teacher and students, and teaching culturally sensitive conversational skills.

The free workshops are divided into 2 skill levels: beginner and intermediate. The beginner level is just that, for beginners. I elected to participate at this level because (1) I hadn't spoken Chinese in several weeks and (2) I'm a coward. I wasn't the only one; several other people also had strong backgrounds in Mandarin, most stronger than mine. But don't worry that the beginner section is too advanced. The session emphasized initials and finals as well as the 4 tones. That basically means we spent the whole 2 hours practicing syllable pronunciation. While I didn't go into their room, the intermediate group did seem to focus on having basic conversations, meaning words and full sentences were exchanged.

Lia Yin, who directed the beginner session, and all the people at Aston International Academy were incredibly nice. They even provided free drinks and snacks. And as a meetup group, a diverse group of people showed up. Overall, it was a great experience. If you want to try Mandarin before you buy, give this chance. The next session is Friday, July 16 at 6 PM.

Monday, July 12, 2010


NOTE: A few words from an unfinished comment about Barbarella. Maybe I'll come back to say more because it's my favorite dance club in Austin (Elysium is a distant second). From the ashes of Austin's most infamous night club has arisen two new additions to the Red River / 6th street scene. Spiro's had the dubious distinction of the most police calls for any night spot in Austin but was shut down [insert details].

Barbarella, billing itself as Austin's premier video dance club, tries to invoke the campy 70s sexy sci-fi atmosphere of its Jane Fonda namesake with the light and video displays which distinguish the dance floor.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, July 10, 2010

World Cup Sucks

Perhaps you haven't heard, but Dutch porn star Bobbi Eden in an odd nationalist bid has offered all of her twitter (@BobbiEden) followers free blowjobs if her beloved Netherlands wins the World Cup tomorrow. This promise managed to penetrate the recent news cycle, even usurping air time from the LeBron James goes where non-story.

Bobbi's vow skyrocketed her to the most followed porn star on twitter, moving well past icon Jenna Jameson. But the world's largest suck off seems to be nothing more than a dirty publicity stunt. Bobbi Eden announced she has joined the Vicki Vette (@vickyvette) porn network today. Aiding Bobbi & Norwegian porn star Vicki in this football tomfoolery are @gabbyquinteros and @misshybrid. Together, they are trying to make #TeamBJ, what they are calling this shameless self promotion, a trending topic.

When did the global face of soccer change from hooligan to harlot? This year it started with the so-called "Paraguay Girl," Larissa Riquelme, also known as the "Cell Phone Boob Girl."

I have a sneaking suspicion that if the Netherlands wins, followers of #TeamBJ will have to fly to Holland and agree to be filmed receiving their "prize" as part of spectacle porn, a sub-genre which stages egregious sex acts, often in pursuit of "record breaking" proportions. The infamous Annabel Chong "World's Largest Gangbang" is the preeminent example of spectacle porn.

And yes, I did sign up to follow Bobbi Eden and Vicki Vette just to watch this bizarre sexing of sport unfold :)

UPDATE: Spain wins the World Cup so no porn star blowjobs for Bobbi Eden's 50k plus twitter followers. I'm a little disappointed not to see if my prediction played out but I guess that's what you get for betting against a psychic octopus. Bobbi & Vicki are promising to team up for some form of "thank you" to their twitter followers for the success of the promo.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I recently returned from San Francisco exposed to one of those coastal trends which eventually seep into the interior by the time they've burned through their "cool quotient" at home: the high-end cocktail bar. I had the pleasure to visit Bourbon & Branch, a hip establishment firmly attached to the Prohibition-era speakeasy atmosphere, with less than the customary 1 month in advance reservations thanks to friendly connections.

When I say Bourbon & Branch wears speakeasy on its unassuming facade, it's a compliment to the attitude it intentionally evokes. Reservations are not only a date and time for your drinking party to commence but also to receive the appointed evening's password. The bar's outside is an ode to illicit days past, displaying a sign for the local chapter of the Anti-Saloon League. You press the electronic buzzer located next to the front door, an obvious anachronism but not a mood killer; a panel on the front door slides back and the hostess requests the password. Spirited conspirators, we were quickly admitted and shown to our table.

The interior was dimly lit, the tables extremely long and narrow, all the better to crowd more crooked kin into the bootleg hall while protecting their privacy. It's difficult to comment on the decor since it was so difficult to see it but it felt very quaint and intimate. Here you are supposed to linger, sipping complex creations and absorbed in discussion. The experience isn't one to rush but an opportunity to pause for an hour or two in an increasingly always connected, instant response required world and instead reconnect with company in flesh and blood and booze.

You won't find a simple rum & coke or a vodka tonic on the menu. Bourbon & Branch traffics only in the sophisticated end of the mixology spectrum. Classic bourbon, whiskey, gin and such cocktails of the era plus modern concoctions fill out a rather extensive list of choices.

I mention Bourbon & Branch and this rapidly emerging high-end cocktail culture to give you some idea what Austin's newest bar, Townhouse, is trying to import to a little corner of 5th street in the Southwest. We met the bar's proprietor Juan-Carlos Rubiralta, or J.C. as he introduced himself, on Friday night and were treated to an introduction to the Townhouse philosophy as well as the services of it's mixologist-in-chief. Both men went out of their way to present a new attitude towards drinking.

Austin sits at the nexus of several nightlife cultures: a college town, seat of government, live music capital, and youthful affluence thanks to tech industries such as Samsung and Dell. Such an auspicious financial environment coupled with the density of bars on the nationally (in)famous 6th street and growing prominence of the Warehouse district on 4th and a new hub springing up on 5th naturally and easily leads to a bar-hopping lifestyle. But Townhouse seems to want to be an animal of a different stripe.

Like Bourbon & Branch, the interior featured very dim lights but instead of booths with long, skinny tables, the bar featured cozy couches to assemble your party around for intimate discussions as you sample some of the inventive cocktails. The bartenders are also quite helpful and are eager to uncover your tastes and make recommendations. I found it interesting to see the bar's full menu, ingredients included, displayed on a placard that stretched from floor to ceiling. The backlit row of infusers behind the bar to stir up such chimera as catnip vodka also conjure a unique environment.

Drinks are an assortment of ingredients, many exotic to those uninitiated with cocktail culture, and come with a price tag ($11-14) that may be off-putting to the casual drinking crowd looking to grab a quick shot, assess the singles prospects, and then forge ahead to new hunting grounds. But for those looking to try something a little different, Townhouse has creativity and atmosphere in spades.

Only time will reveal if this experiment in the leisurely, sedentary drinking, savoring flavor over the chase, that's currently so popular in trend-setting American circles, will succeed here in Austin. I certainly believe J.C. and his crew are off to a good start.

Good luck! Looking forward to that catnip vodka next time I stop in for a drink.

305 W 5th St
ATX, 78701

for club info dial 512-472-5288

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bee Eye In Jee Oh!

What is about hitting your dirty 30s that makes you think and act like you're a kid again? I haven't played bingo since I was camper in after-school and summer programs because, like a lot of contemporary American families, both my parents had to work to make ends meet. Back in the day it wasn't really competitive: 1 card per kid and 5 across in any direction made bingo. Prizes were cheap, plastic, and broke before you got home. It was just an activity to eat up an hour or so between 7 am morning drop off and parents slowly trickling back to pick up their financial burden(s) starting at 5 pm.

I'm currently unemployed. By choice. I left my job to heed the advice of the dean of admissions at Emory Law School. Take some time for yourself. Enjoy. When 1L classes start in August, there won't be any time to play. So after a much deserved, oft delayed, and oh so amazing trip to NYC and San Francisco to visit friends, I'm back in the ATX looking for cheap activities to get me out of the house and fill up all these precious summer hours until I move to Atlanta.

Somehow the idea of playing bingo again occurred to this here law student to be. Perhaps it's because once upon a time a boss at another job told me she loved to go. Maybe it's because I've driven by that damn parlor on 183 so many times over the last 18 years that I just had to find out what was going on inside. In any case, I decided the time was nigh to join the ranks of the bingo hoi polloi.

I did my research ( thanks http://www.yelp.com/ ) about the best bingo parlors in town. My criteria were:

1) cheap ( I did mention I'm unemployed, right)
2) newbie friendly ( didn't want to get beat up my the rough & tumble regulars for not knowing all the complicated variations of bingo )
3) possibility of sitting in a non-smoking room ( I quit for good about 9 years ago and only take a drag if I've been drinking heavily )

It turns out one the best places for bingo in ATX is off of Ben White by the name of B-12 Bingo ( http://www.b12bingo.com/ ). The Thursday night special is computers for just $10 per session - no per person limit ( loaded with 66 cards each ) and cards are only $8 for up to 36 cards per game per session. Payouts are $500 per game during the first session ( 7:15 - 8:45) and 1 $300, 2 $400 and 2 $700 games during the second session ( 8:50 to around 10 ).

I don't pretend to fully understand what any of that means. I've basically just summarized what they have posted on their website about the Thursday night special.

If you tell them it's your first time at B-12 Bingo, they give you a free daubber. I did and also asked the nice lady at the register for her advice, which she happily gave. Apparently the computer is the way to go ( it is ). But just so you can enjoy all the authentic bingo fun of daubbing those boxes, I also got a $5 card ( and the free daubber ).

I sat down in the non-smoking section ( it was nearly full ) and of course tweet'd and facebook'd about my anticipation. I looked around and was amazed, as many yelp posters pointed out, at the diversity of the bingo crowd. It wasn't just a bunch of blue-haired old ladies and holy rollers. There were old people and young people, groups of 20 somethings and 30 somethings and 40 somethings ladies out having a good time, couples, families ( 18 and up only ) of grandparents with kids and grandkids. I was pleasantly surprised not to be the youngest one there. ( However, I would still argue I was the hippest one if I weren't playing bingo alone and sober on a Thursday night ;) ).

I think part of what contributes to the crowd is the parlor's BYOB policy. This actually seems to be pretty standard for a lot of the establishments in the city. Some people were pushing back Bud Light in their koozies and some were enjoying the fine fermented offerings of Riesling. As I am currently fighting off a rather nasty sinus / lung infection, I teetotaled tonight. B-12 has a concession stand for the purchasing of other foodstuffs and non-alcoholic beverages and has a strict no outside food & drink policy except for the aforementioned booze.

There are multiple large, flat planel TVs stationed around the place fixed on the bingo caller so you can always see the numbers as they come up. In the non-smoking room ( where I spent all my time ), there's also a bingo board. The smoking area, which was significantly larger, featured the TVs, some video games, and even a set tuned to tonight's NBA Finals' game.

So here's how it went down:

The computer rocks! It is 100% automated. When they call the wild numbers at the beginning of the game, it auto-pops all of them on the screen for you and then marks them on all your cards. When numbers are drawn, it's transmitted to the computer. There is even a tracker on the computer to show you which numbers have been drawn. It's definitely the way to go to increase your odds of winning. But having the computer just fill in the cards for your isn't all that much fun ( but getting the message 2 cards are 2 away from winning still gives you all the thrill of being on the verge of shouting BINGO! and collecting a payoff ). That's what the paper cards are for. Daub daub daub! What game type is this? Oh yeah! I'm 3 away from a bingo in this Reno variation.

Unfortunately I didn't win. But for $15, I did have a lot of fun and met some really nice people. An older hispanic couple and their 2 adult sons. Between dispensing advise to me ( fill out this ticket, those are the wilds, be sure to buy your food before the game starts because they shut down concessions ) he was also chastising his boys to get their vehicles inspected. You have to be quiet when the numbers are being called but between games ( when they are verifying the bingos and resetting to choose the wilds ) there is a lot of friendly chatter.

Would I do it again? You betcha! Next time I'd like to have flask in hand and some friends in tow. But for around $30 you get 3+ hours of entertainment ( you could go early and play cards with your friends as I saw many people doing ), an air conditioned place to drink ( and smoke if that's your vice ) so people don't yell at you for drinking alone at home all the time ( guilty ), and the possibility of taking home a substantial amount of cash if that twitching in your fluttering heart becomes the exultant, triumphant shout of BINGO! when your last number finally flashes across the screen. Plus, as a non-profit, they funnel a substantial portion back to several local charities ( Jollyville Sertoma, Northwest Sertoma, Knights of Columbus #8156, and AIDS Care and Assistance, DBA Rights of Passage ).

See ya next Thursday, B12!

Monday, April 12, 2010

lazy bachelor's cookbook - frozen chicken fried steak

Konban wa!

One of my worst grocery shopping qualities is my tendency to impulse buy foodstuffs I think will be convenient as this often goes hand in hand with bad for you. Maybe you'd like to know what a lazy, busy bachelor feeds himself these days. Between working full time, my Mandarin class, family, friends, and trying to hit up all the bright spots in the atx music scene, I occasionally have to go home and strap on the ol' feedbag.

I recently caught sight of HEB's "Country Fried Steak" (shaped chopped beef fritters) and said to myself, "I could finally use the year old packet of country gravy in the pantry on those." Here are the results of my "culinary" experiment.

Being much too lazy from a debauched weekend and de-energized by studying still undone, I threw the pre-cooked "fritters" in the stove. My original intent was to serve with gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, and a nice side salad. Alas, I didn't feel like mashing potatoes or cutting up fixin's. Instead I relied on that reliable staple of bachelors to round out the meal: mac n cheese.

The "country fried steak" wasn't inedible. By no means was it great. If I were to rate such things on a numeric scale I would give it a 3 for taste : to ease of making in a hurry. If I had paired it with a salad and mashed potatoes, I might have even gotten away with serving it to somebody without feeling like a total lazy ass. Still lazy but at least some greens would adorn the plate, giving the momentary illusion of a pseudo-balanced meal.

Maybe there will be future posts in this series. Maybe not. As the title says, I am a lazy bachelor.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Crisis of Modern Masculinity

Ok, that titles a little too broad for the scope of a single blog entry but the questions sits at the crux of a lot of my thinking since about 1999. What does it mean to be a good guy these days? Must he always finish last? What's so great about bad boys if all they do is break your heart? And why do you then run to your gay best friend for support but you refuse to date the hetero version of him?

50% of the world's population seemingly breaks down into one of three categories:

alpha - the dominant and domineering personality, callous, self-interested, in control, successful, aggressive competitive

beta - the alpha's subordinate, inferiority complex, just trying to get by, conflict-avoidant

omega - checked out of the system, the failure or never even tried, arrested development

The online magazine slate.com recently ran an article classifying the various sub-species of omega males through an analysis of Greenberg, the oeuvre of Judd Apatow, and basically any role featuring Jason Schwartzman.


The thrust of the article? Take a look at the title: women hate omega males. Or at least we are supposed to believe. Das man has pronounced it into the echo chamber of the idle talk engine.

lemondrop.com continues this assault on the unrugged alpha male in its review of the book Undateable (if you're interested in it, google it).


Wow. Who the heck meets those criteria and the other 318 not mentioned in the article. Perhaps the Brawny Man? I'm pretty sure he doesn't eat salads or wear dress shoes. He also happens to be an advertising fiction but who's counting when we can pile on about all the superficial things we don't like about men.

And then there's this article published by researchers at my alma mater. The take away is that a working mom's self-esteem can take a significant hit when her hubby also does a bang-up job of taking care of baby. But, wait, don't you always complain that he's not... but when he does and he doesn't screw it up you feel... aaaaarrrrrgggghhhhh!

What's a guy to do? Ladies (supposedly) want a bruting alpha. But an alpha doesn't love you, he only loves himself. He's going to break your heart one way (sleeping with your best friend) or another (he just doesn't give a damn about you). So can you go beta? NO! Dress nice? Show some empathy? Be supportive? Who wants to date a wuss? Danger is what we crave. Danger hurts and so it's exciting. The Sword of Damocles is dangling, when will it all come crashing down?

Cro-mag or metro... You sleep with one but you hate him, you love the other but won't invite him into the bedroom.

And thus every man is faced with a choice: alpha or beta? Winner or loser? Is it any wonder in Japan guys are beginning to check out of the game? They're called grass eating men (they even denigrate salad eaters in Asia). For a country experiencing a population crunch, they are a crisis.


What's a modern man to be? Alpha, beta, or omega?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Drivers, start your engines!

First cycle of law school applications went out today. I'm exhausted and excited. Can you think of other words that start with ex that describe my mood?

Only 119 more days until I leave the world of full time employment to rejoin the ranks of student life again. Hooray!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Whorient

Here we go. This is the inauguration of an ongoing series of blog posts discussing the ideas, arguments, conundrums, etc. of my proposed but ultimately uncompleted Plan II thesis.


Thank you. First, a procedural detail. All of the blog entries dealing with this topic will be conveniently labeled with the tag "(porn)" so you can easily search for them in the sidebar. If you read them from oldest to newest, a line of argumentation might even manifest. No promises of coherency.

Without further ado about nothing...


Let's start at the beginning and address the topic itself. Now stick with me because I know it may seem a little absurd at first. My proposed (and mind you, approved) thesis would explore the representations of Asian women in porn literature. Not all Asian women, actually, because that scope would have been too broad. I planned to focus on East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands (e.g. the Philippines) because, well, that's who American men like to talk about fucking even if they can't keep all the details straight about what signifier belongs to which collected signified.

The academic legwork consisted of two parts. First, an analysis of the literature about porn, both the anti-porn and the sex-positive / pro-porn camps. Second, an attempt to "color in" the blindness of the critique of porn through an interpolation of the works of black feminist such as Elizabeth Spelman and post-colonial authors including Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, and Rajeswari Sunder Rajan. The final third of the thesis would apply these elements in a bricolage "methodolgy" for examining actual porn texts involving Asian women.

My argument boiled down to this: the anti-porn critcisms were incomplete and inadequate when applied to women of color. They treated race / ethnicity / cultural difference like, as Spelman described it, merely an "ampersand" to the primary category of woman. This "woman plus" analysis failed to adequately capture the unique forms of oppression spawned at the intersections of race and gender. What's intended to get you off about an Asian woman in porn isn't that she's a woman primarily who also "happens to be" Asian; her Asian-ness and female-ness are intertwined in a unique identity whose representation differs not marginally but fundamentally from the representations of other (white) women. The attending signifiers of "Asian" aren't merely accessories to "spice up" the ordinariness / blandness / repetitiveness / scripted structure of the typical porn narrative. They are intended to evoke specific sets of ideologies about the woman or women who are its sexual objects.

One of the first questions posed to me after people stop looking at me like I'm a perv is why I chose to read dirty stories instead of look at dirty pictures or watch dirty movies. Like all good answers, mine is three-fold:

1) I didn't go through a film crit or art /photo crit program as an undergraduate. Interpreting pics or movies seemed to require a critical language which I didn't possess and couldn't rapidly acquire in a short period of time. On the other hand, as a philosophy major interested in social theory, adopting that already-at-hand framework of critical text analysis seemed a lot easier. Also, text seem to "state" what they mean in a much more straight-forward way than unpacking the visual vocabulary of pics or movies.

2) My goal was to examine the representations of Asian women in porn. The problem with pics and movies is that, well, they involve actual Asian women at the level of their production. Although the reality of women's lives involved in porn is an important issue, I didn't want my thesis sidetracked by whether most or every woman involved in porn is abused and unhappy (as some in the anti-porn allege) or if most porn workers are happy, well-adjusted individuals from backgrounds not involving sexual abuse who are capable of forming healthy relationships (as sex-positive women such as Nina Hartley claim).

By working with written narratives, I managed to side-step the controversy of women's bodies at the level of production and focus instead on the representation of those bodies in the act.

3) It's a lot easier and cheaper to cut excerpts from a written story and insert them into your written thesis as evidence than it is to provide pictures or stills from a movie. Text also looks less like you're a naughty boy trying to pass off looking at naked women as rigorous academic work.

As time passed and I read more, I found I had more problems with the anti-porn feminist critique of porn than just its color-blindness. Several re-reads of Michel Foucault's seminal work The History of Sexuality, Vol 1: An Introduction, Rachel Maines' history of the pathologizing of female sexual pleasure and its medical treatment, and an extended meditation on the subject of my authorial position vis-a-vis the topic of female represenation yielded a position that was critical of porn's representations of racial-gendered bodies and the Freudian / Lacanian theory of masculine displacement embodied in anti-porn literature.

To be continued...


In the next installment I will try to start presenting the anti-porn position and my critique of the Freudian / Lacanian theory relied upon by its proponents such as Andrea Dworkin, Susan Griffin, et al.

The Good, the Bad, and the Mind-blowing

The good:

The Dirty Projectors released their 7" Ascending Melody for free via download this week. 20 people who download it will also be randomly selected to receive the vinyl. These tracks were laid down during the Bitte Orca sessions but didn't make the final cut.


The bad:

Pat Robertson is a horse's ass. The man can't help but insert his foot into his mouth whenever he flaps his lips to speak about tragedy. It's like he's got steel toes and a magnet in his palate. This week the radical evangelical cleric blamed the earthquake in Haiti on an apocryphal pact supposedly entered into over 200 years ago with Satan in a voodoo ceremony, freeing the island of French control in return for 200 years of servitude to the prince of darkness. He is referencing the Boukman ceremony that Dutty Boukman is alleged to have held at Bois Caiman in 1791 which sparked the revolt that culminated in Haiti's independence, (By the way, said lease would have expired in 1991, Pat.) Fault lines have nothing to do with it, just God grinding an axe with women, children, and men wholly unresponsible for an act that happened long before they were born and many scholars doubt even really took place. Congratulations 700 Club, it only took you 14 days to prove you're still a bunch of jerks in 2010.

Robertson is well known for his laughable predictions that always, always, always turn out false. The man's clearly not a prophet. Maybe God's telling you to shut your trap, Pat. Obviously embarrassment and chagrin should've had stilled your cruel tongue long ago. WWJD? I'm pretty sure he'd cancel the 700 Club.

Not one to let the jerk spotlight shine anywhere but on his jerk-itude, right-wing propagandha meister and blatant racist (remembe he got canned for declaring Donovan McNabb a no-talent hack bolstered by affirmative action) Rush Limbaugh described Haiti as a "made to order" disaster for Obama. He said the relief effort would be used to "burnish" the Obama image among the "light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country." What, you mean not waiting and watching people drown and "loot" and suffer after a major natural disaster before you send in the emergency relief workers might be a popular move? Who'da thunk it? Well...

You know what? I think people of all colors worldwide are applauding Obama's no-hesitation response to the tragedy in Haiti. The viral efforts to raise money through twitter and facebook have been outstanding. But you know what jolly ol' Dittohead says about giving to charity? DON'T. He encouraged his listeners not to contribute a dime to relief efforts in Haiti because American "tax dollars" fully fund our relief efforts.

Gotta hand it to you, Limbaugh. I didn't think anybody could be more insensitive about the Haitian earthquake than Pat Robertson but you took the cake. So much so that professional conservative meanie Pat Buchanan, no big fan of all things liberal and progressive, publicy chastised your comments as "cynical" and "insensitive." When Buchanan calls you out for being heartless, you know you're a stone-cold bastard.

The Mind-blowing:

A couple of U.K. scientists sent out about 4,000 surveys to British women age 22-83 (average age 55) and got back about 1,800 responses concerning their self-reported sexual experiences. Upon analysing the women's answer to the question if they believe they have "the" g spot and report of achieveing orgasm through intercourse, these scientists declared the g spot a "myth" in the pages of the Journal of Sexual Medicine this month.

Setting aside the methodoligal problems (surveys versus anatomical analysis? really?), I've got to applaud this team for continuing unabatedly and enthusiastically the 2000+ year tradition of murky (male) science which obscures, covers up, distorts, stigmatizes and pathologizes female sexual pleasure and female desire. Pick up Rachel Maines' The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction for an excellent history of this tradition.

Here's my take away. Ultrasounds, heat imaging scans, "hands on" lab tests (that's a joke; really, read the Maines' book) can only reveal so much about female sexuality with their scientific and anatomy-centric approaches. The question we as a soceity should ask ourselves is why do we care if there's "really" a g spot or not? What difference does it make? If you or a lover can press a spot one-third of the way up the front of your vaginal wall and induce cataclysmic, volcanic, earth-shattering, mind-blowing, leg-shaking, sheet-shredding, screaming-at-the-top-of-your-lungs pleasure, does it really matter whether a bunch of research scientists in a London lab think there's a unique anatomical structure to which this "response" can be reduced? I think the answer is pretty clear. And if you're not built with an ecstasy button in said place, does that mean the g spot is just a myth? Who really cares? I think Petra Boynton's advice is particularly salient on this topic.

But for women, how much does it matter whether the G-spot exists? While I’m usually keen to advocate that we follow what science has to tell us, in this case the presence or absence of a G-spot has caused confusion and anxiety, and perhaps we might be better served by exploring what feels good.

It’s generally accepted that some women enjoy vaginal stimulation by finger, penis, or sex toy. Just as it’s understood that some women are turned on by clitoral, anal, breast, or other stimulation. We’re often encouraged by women’s magazines and self-help markets to focus on specific areas (G-spots, clitoris, or anal penetration), so we miss the excitement that can be experienced from exploring the whole body and combinations of erogenous zones—for example, enjoying vaginal penetration alongside clitoral stimulation. Rather than arguing over G-spots, perhaps the best thing science can responsibly do is remind women to explore all opportunities for pleasure.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Youth In Revolt

O Michael Cera. You play the same awkward, lovesick nerd in every movie and yet you still somehow manage to keep it fresh. Youth In Revolt (based on the novels of C. D. Payne) isn't a fantastic movie but it is quite fun and entertaining. Like previous Cera big screen forays, Miguel Arteta's Youth In Revolt wears its indie rock hipster cred firmly on the sleeve of its vintage t-shirt with ironic iron-on decal.

Nerdy teenager Nick Twisp longs to lose his virginity but all the signifiers of his hipper than hip tastes (Fellini films, Frank Sinatra records, vintage shirts and too short pants) keep tripping him up with the girls from his Oakland high school. When his mother's (Designing Women's Jean Smart) current live-in boyfriend Jerry (Zach Galifianakis) crosses a trio of sailors with a shady used car deal, the family packs it up to stay in a conservative Christian trailer park in Ukiah until things blow over. Here Nick meets the flirtatious, bright and pretty francophile Sheeni Saunders (played by newcomer Portia Doubleday) whose tastes and knowledge of film and music rival his own. Unsurprisingly, Nick falls madly in lust and love.

The hitch comes when Jerry, with Estelle Twisp, Nick, and a dilapidated trailer in tow, returns to Oakland. The two young lovers plot their reunion through a series of what-if's: Nick's unemployed, sex-addicted, status-loving father George (Steve Buscemi) gets a job in Ukiah and Nick somehow manages to convince his mom Estelle, who depends on the child support to eat, to let him live with George. "You have to be bad," Sheeni counsels Nick. And so is born Francois Dillinger.

Nick's supplemental personality Francois, a hybrid of Sheeni's avowed longing for a bad boy French lover and Nick's own distorted vision of what the cool guy should be, provides Cera a novel angle from which to showcase his stammer-y, rabbit-in-the-headlights chops. Francois (complete with bad boy moustache) encourages Nick to do all kinds of things, from blowing up downtown Berkeley to uttering such ridiculous lines as "I want to tickle your belly button... from the inside," in an escalating bid to finally bed Sheeni.

Youth in Revolt is helped out immensely by a strong, funny supporting cast. The aforementioned Jean Smart, Steve Buscemi, and Zach Galifianakis are all amusingly repulsive as the flawed adults in Nick's life. Ray Liotta is menacing and grotesque as Officer Lance Wescott, Estelle's new live-in boyfriend after he consoles her upon delivering news of Jerry's death by heart attack and then never leaves. The one truly supportive adult presence in Nick's life is Mr. Ferguson played spot-on by veteran funny guy Fred Willard. His rescue of Nick and Vijay (Adhir Kalyan, last seen by yours truly playing assistant Timmy to David Spade on the unfunny CBS sit-com Rules of Engagement) after a 200 mile road trip to see Sheeni at boarding school, resulting in Vijay getting some from Sheeni's avowedly loose roommate and Nick stopped just short of finally getting the tip in with the aid of Francois' smooth talk, is a truly knee slapping, laugh out loud moment. Justin Long also induces a few laughs as Sheeni's older brother Paul, a cool guy drug user with oracular powers who helps Nick while stealing George's comely young girlfriend (Ari Graynor).

As I said before, Youth In Revolt traffics in all the same conceits we've grown accustom to in a Michael Cera film. The soundtrack is crowded with indie and hipster-approved tracks, the wardrobes were obtained by laboriously scouring through vintage re-sale shops, and the youth deliver lines full of adult spunk and wit. Unlike say Juno, which suffered from wise beyond her years cracks from Ellen Page seeming at times forced, Youth In Revolt is inspired by Nick's love of Italian masterpieces by Fellini et al and Sheeni's devotion to French cinema and Belmondo. The dialogue is steeped in important, deep, and passionate thoughts as imagined by hormonal, lower-middle class teens who turn their noses up at anything made after 1977.

Youth In Revolt is charming and quirky if familiar territory. But there's a reason you keep that old ugly sweater and ask mom to make her meatloaf every time you go home. Michael Cera has carved out a niche as a character actor playing the same nervous, mumbly, lovelorn underdog. I loved him on Arrested Development and you can be sure I'll see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Fans of the genre will surely be pleased. We're not seeing anything new from Michael Cera ('cept the 'stache) but, then again, there's nothing necessarily wrong with that.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Who the f**k is Pinback?

Greetings! This blog is addressed to all of you who use Pandora. Have you been blitzed in the last week or so by Pinback tracks on your indie rock stations? They have turned up in heavy rotation on 3 of my stations (the xx, the pains of being pure at heart, the temper trap). I haven't thumbs up'd any track because they aren't godawful but leave me more or less meh. I'm curious if Pandora is staging a micro-marketing campaign to hype these guys ahead of their announced forthcoming album due in 2010 on Temporary Residence Ltd.

I'm not exactly sure I would be opposed to such targeting at this point. However, I am getting a little annoyed with the frequency with which these guys are popping up in my rotations. I'm tempted to hit thumbs down next time just to get some relief. A Pinback track has come around every 4 to 5 songs it seems.

So let me know surfers! Are you experiencing a Pinback forcefeed? Do you know if Pandora inks these kinds of promotion deals with record labels? It would be something awful if Pandora became just another Clear Channel chasing revenue in the name of profitability and at the expense of listeners.


I am not shilling for either Pinback or Temporary Residence Ltd. Or Pandora for that matter.