Monday, November 25, 2002

And speaking of women in their underwear in the media, I'd just like to say, that even though this ad is for breast enlargement and is theoretically part of the problem, I really liked the picture. She's not heavy by any means, in fact, I'd still describe her as thin...or maybe the thin side of average. But the point is, her body looks great. You can see that there is fat on it, but that doesn't keep her from looking sexy in her underwear. There's no earthly reason why Victoria's Secret couldn't have women like that selling their bras and still make money at it.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Tapped's response to my letter. I'll post my response to their response when I've written it.

Katie,

Thanks for your thoughtful email. We'd agree with some of what you wrote, and
disagree with some of it. (For that matter, we didn't agree with everything
Lileks wrote.) And it's certainly a discussion worth having. One challenge we'd
issue you: Who writes for, edits, and reads the magazines most broadly
responsible for the promulgation of the body images of which you speak? Women.
Why do women buy magazines that, as you argue, do them such damage? We don't
know. But our general take on this is that it is a waste of time asking glossy
magazine editors to be socially responsible. It's easy, and sometimes
effective, to mau-mau people at the top. You can sometimes get them to do what
you want. But the root of the problem is that women buy Glamour and not Mode --
that they seem to enjoy the images of your putatively unhealthy skinny women,
and not the images of "normal" women.

We agree that the result -- too many women starving and surgerying themselves
to achieve "that look" -- is terrible. But how to change it? Is protesting the
VS fashion show is a serious effort to impact women's well-being or a publicity
stunt for two activist groups seeking money and attention? We're quite
convinced it's the latter. In the end, protesting a once-a-year broadcast of
skinny women in underwear is just frivolous. In this particular case, a healthy
dose of perspective would have done more for NOW then protesting a show that
most everyone in the country, men and women alike, probably regard as harmless
titilation -- and for good reason.

best regards,
Tapped

So one of the things I talked to my Nerve date about last night was about dreams, and lucid dreaming in particular. He said he'd been fixated with cultivating the ability to dream lucidly when he was 14, and he had read books on it. One of the books had said that you should practice asking yourself whether you're dreaming at all times, including, of course, when you're awake, by doing things like flipping light switches on and off. Of couse I asked him, "Did you see Waking Life? He had. He said the furthest he'd gotten toward lucidity and the next step--purposefully altering your dreams--was once when he dreamed he was in a playroom with a big carpet, and he realized he was dreaming because he knew he was too old to be in a playroom, so he picked up one of the toys and, exercising dream control, made it disappear. Then he tried to make it reappear and couldn't, and soon after he woke up. I told him my experiences with lucidity were that sometimes I realized I was dreaming, but that was usually quickly succeeded by waking up, and I'd never controlled my dreams. I also told him I wasn't really sure why dream control would be desirable. Because it would be like the Holodeck, was his answer, which of course I'd thought of too. But I said it reminded me of a Salon article about classical music that argued for the intrinsic worth of art ("a Rembrandt in the woods is still a masterpiece") and bemoaned that contemporary society seemed to elevate personal taste over intrinsic worth, market value over challenge and depth. The author fretted that no one was willing to do the work necessary to appreciate great art anymore, and if we devolved any further into the morass of personal preference eventually people would choose the ending of the movies they watched. They would make art submit to their vision, rather than submitting to the vision of the artist. I had a lot of problems with the article (foremost that I don't think art does have intrinsic value apart from how it affects people. The art that cannot move or challenge anyone is not great art, and it seems unlikely-bordering-on-impossible to me that art could be produced by one person in a culture that is apart from the artist totally devoid of people capable of appreciating it--how would that individual artist have arisen from his culture if there was no one to educate him, no one for him to communicate with? I do think that some people are more qualified judges of art than others and some people who are very qualified to comment on one art form are less qualified to comment on others (for example, even though I have likes and dislikes in classical music, I have no illusions that my opinion could be of much value in determining what is good and bad. About books, however, I am one of the most qualified judges I know. So if I say Corelli's Mandolin sucks ferret ass (scroll down for my review, posted August 1), I think my opinion is more weighty, mostly because I can support it very well, than the opinion of the smart people I know who liked it), so it is possible to arrive at a more "objective" consensus (or rather, body of opinion since of course even the experts will disagree) about a work than just assuming that it has no value apart from the sum of the preferences expressed by each yahoo who might come into contact with it and the amount said yahoos are willing to pay for it), but it did make me rethink how I viewed art, particularly in conjunction with this paragraph from another Salon article (it's premium, so I won't link directly, but I'll post the relevant paragraph here). I often criticize things for being boring--well, mostly movies. I rarely say a book is bad because it's boring; I tend to assume about books that it's my job to adapt myself to the book, whereas I think movies were put on this earth to entertain me. But I've come to realize that if I feel bored or uncomfortable, I should at least try to interrogate the reasons why rather than assuming it's the movie's fault. I actually thought about this in regards to my Nerve date's website, too. I liked the levers section best because I had the clearest control over everything that happened, and there was a transparent system of rewards and penalties. But then I thought, with my new perspective, does the fact that I liked this section best really make it the best section? Maybe the other sections are supposed to make me think about imperfect control, how they resemble the real world more than do immediately gratifying computer games, and maybe I'm supposed to observe my own discomfort with not having control, and think about what effect that discomfort has in my own life...or something like that.

Anyway, I'm seriously digressing.

My original point was about dream control, and how I thought maybe the impulse toward dream control is like the impulse toward computer games or Choose Your Own Adventure novels. For all the Holodeck like gratification you might get from being able to do direct your dream, it might block access to the enlightenment dreams have to offer. I personally don't know what enlightenment dreams have to offer; it probably depends on the dream. I definitely think that some of my dreams, especially when commented on by a particularly skillful therapist, have clarified conflicts that existed in me. I remember once my senior year in college I dreamed that I was orally raped by a man in the front seat of a car, and then I had to take him into this building that was sort of a prison and sort of a hospital, and a nurse was there who reminded me of Bobbie Spencer on General Hospital. In the second part of the dream I was at my grandparents house in Woodside, and my mother and grandmother were there, and I was filled with blinding, furious, undirected rage, and they were both laughing at me, especially my grandmother. I threw the VCR down to the floor and smashed it, I threw the cat at my grandmother's grinning mouth, until finally I got banished from the house, and that was the end of the dream. The second part of the dream was very clear to me; obviously it was about feeling angry and being afraid that if people knew how angry you really were, they'd reject you. (Although it's interesting, now that I think about it, that it was the matriarchs in my family who were doing the rejecting in the dream, since usually my most potent abadonment fears are about men. I guess maybe that has something to do with the sort of cold fish-y, somewhat rejecting culture of my mother's side of the family, even if they're not dramatic exiting your life types, and maybe some notions of examples of women's behavior, and what's acceptable, and my fear that anger is specifically unattractive in me as a woman...I don't know, I just started thinking about it.) But the first part of my dream was not clear at all to me, but my therapist told me he thought that taking my attacker to the hospital/prison meant there was someone in my life who I wanted both to punish and to protect. And that was exactly right, and it clarified my feelings toward that person immensely. I was like, that's just how it is! I want them to suffer and I want to keep them from suffering.

My point is, my dream taught me that, and it might not have if I'd been able to change my dream so I was lounging in a court in Ancient Mesopotamia having grapes fed to me by 13 shirtless men. Oh whatever. Whatever dreams are--perceptions that your conscious mind is too occupied during the day to reveal to you, masked (or not so masked--damn Freud, he's responsible for the death of symbolism. I actually dream about sex with my father. Freud brought that stuff to light and now it doesn't need to be buried in pillows and apples and the Washington Monument, at least often not in my psyche. It makes my dreams sometimes much less poetic) depictions of conflicts or fears that are too threatening for your conscious mind, access to some mystical revelation, who the fuck knows--even if they come from you, they're external to the part of you that wills things, your ego, I guess. If you started willing them, you might close off your access to that external part of you. Or maybe you could accomplish something new with a willed dream. Maybe you could conquer some fear symbolically in your dream that would allow you to take it on in your real life, sort of how transferrence is supposed to work in therapy. My Nerve date suggested getting to look in the drawers of a dream house, and that did sound cool.

The reason I brought all this up is because I must be a great candidate for lucid dreaming--without even intending to I had a lucid dream last night and performed my first experiment in dream control. Well, obviously I intended to at the time I was doing it (it's so weird to think of intentions while you sleep); I mean that I had no thought of it before I went to bed. So at one point I was dreaming of swimming in a gym pool. I realized I was dreaming, and thought to myself, well, now I know I'm dreaming, I should try an experiment in dream control. So first I decided to make myself come to the end of the pool, turn around, kick off the wall, and start off in the other direction. This I accomplished with no problem. But then I thought, what would be really pleasurable? (Since it seems like what dream control would be the best for is indulging hedonistic impulses.) In my dream, I decided I wanted to have sex with a many-tentacled creature that bore the head of the person I'd most like to have sex with now (look, it seemed like a good idea when I was asleep, what can I say?). I think I was thinking of Imago, this novel I had to read for my college intro English class, Science and the Literary Imagination, which had these creatures who had sex with arm-like tentacles (the novel had those creatures, not the class). Anyway, the problem with this plan was that while I had an actual memory of switching directions in a pool lane to base my dream experience on, I unfortunately had no referent for sex with a many-tentacled creature, and while I was trying to figure out all the different places where the tentacles should go, I became more and more conscious until gradually I was indubitably awake (though there wasn't a very clear dividing line). So next time maybe I should be a little less ambitious in my lucid dreaming if I want to stay asleep.
Woo-hoo! I have comments (through a program called Haloscan)! Say something, anything. Now all I need to be able to do is password protect some posts. I feel the inability to do that is limiting my free blog expression...