Thursday, December 12, 2002

Some questions about my blog.

What happened to my archive? Why is only one week listed in the column on the left? I'm not worried about the posts; they're all on the main page anyway, and all the links to earlier posts still work. Odd.

Also, now that I have Site Meter I know that people are reading my blog. Yet no one ever leaves a comment. It makes me sad. Someone should comment! Flame me, insult my relatives, write haikus at my expense, I don't care. But I want my blog to be interactive.

Also, it occurs to me that now that my blog is linked to by Rittenhouse Review, and especially now that, perhaps unwisely, I just attached it to a comment that includes my first and last name, and thus will come up when someone googles me, I'm taking some risks by discussing people I know in the real world. I can even think of how someone could do some mischief, even contacting one of those people to tell them what I said about them, if they bore me some malice. Hopefully no one will since my blog persona is so charming and likable, and even if they did, while hardly desirable, it wouldn't be a disaster in my life. But still. I'm going to have to figure out how to work out some sort of a balance between cutting loose and publishing in a public forum that, while not directly bearing my full name, is still hardly anonymous. I knew when I started this blog that this public/private tension was going to be hell for me. It always is. It's all potentially very Harriet the Spy.
And speaking of my college experiences, I posted a comment on a political blog about this post and I left the goblin queen url. That means someone else might find me. For the record, the post was about this steamy New York Observor article. This was my comment:

I'm a straight woman who fairly recently graduated from a college that suffered an infestation of LUGs. I don't care what kind of exploration anyone does, but it seriously annoys me when people try to claim a label like lesbian or bisexual, which any one on the outside can see is a load of hooey, to gain the cachet of counter culture/minority status. Whatever can you do if your image as a radical anti-globalization social activist is tarnished by the fact that essentially you're a nice Jewish girl from Scarsdale or Monsey? Come out! Join the Queer Student Union. Have soul searching talks with the dykey professors you sooo have a crush on. Declaim about how hard it is that society imposes all these repressive gender norms on you. Etc. Etc. It was so image driven it made me vomit. I've heard a lot of annoying things in my life, but I think the most annoying was uttered by one of them when she found herself in a status-compromising relationship with a male: "If I weren't dating the most wonderful man in the world, I would totally be a lesbian." So my philosophy is, do whatever you want sexually. But if you're going to claim a sexual identity in public, make sure it's because you're proud of who you really are and want to announce it to the world, not because you want to pretend to be something you're not.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Trying to achieve a connected sound on the cello sort of reminds me of the difficulties of giving handjobs. You can see that when accomplished cellists play/men masturbate, they're perfectly fluid, not a smidge of disconnection between the up and down bow/stroke. But somehow you cannot achieve the same perfect rhythm...

Which reminds me of the time when I was eating one of my trademark giant sandwiches in my college cafeteria, Sharples (I was an inspired vegan cook in my cafeteria. I had trademark giant sandwiches, trademark pasta, trademark chocolate fondue, trademark wok creations...the list goes on), with some kids I knew, but who weren't exactly my closest friends. As I was attempting to get the sandwich into my mouth I kept getting mouthfuls of hair instead, which prompeted me to remark, "This is a lot like giving oral sex." The kids at the table were sort of amused and scandalized, but the one (rather anal retentive) boy among them, Allan his name was, really seemed to take umbrage. It is NOT like giving oral sex, he kept insisting. I didn't take the trouble to say to him: Look, Allan, I'm speaking from the perspective of a long haired heterosexual female, and from where I'm coming from, yes it is. I'm trying to get this big unwieldy thing into my mouth and my hair keeps getting in the way. Obviously as short haired heterosexual male, you're not really going to understand what my experience of giving oral sex is. and no, for the record, the champing down part is not like giving oral sex. Eventually, this girl sitting next to me (Lindsey) held my hair back for me while I bit down. It was an oddly sexually charged little moment between us.

That is all. I must go to bed.
A Washington Monthly review of Keith Bradsher's anti-SUV tome. The quotes it starts off with about the characterological deficits of SUV drivers are hysterical. And I wish my mom had email, because as a small car driver who feels terrorized by bigger cars, she now claims that it's probably safer to drive an SUV than a small car. But the review makes the important point that even though SUV's do make the road more dangerous for small car drivers, the high rollover risk in an SUV offsets any gain in safety from driving a car as big as all the others. I'll have to call her.
You know, after reading today's Howler, I'm starting to wonder if maybe my positive feelings about McCain don't come from the exact same irrational place as my nerve date's negative feelings about Kerry. I'd still rather see him president than Bush though, and I think McCain could win as a Dem.
Some questions about this

W A S H I N G T O N, Dec. 11 — In a warning to Iraq and other hostile countries, the United States says it is prepared to use "overwhelming force" including nuclear weapons in response to any chemical or biological attack.

Does that mean a terror attack or an attack on U.S. forces in the event that we invade their country? Because if it means the latter, that's fucked up, in my humble opinion.

The New Republic site keeps freezing when I try to open it, so I can't find a link to this, but there was an excellent article a few months back arguing that neither biological nor chemical weapons (especially not chemical weapons) should be called weapons of mass destruction, based on calculations like lethality per weight of weapon. Chemical weapons, while nasty and painful and inhumane (of course, the weapon that is nice and painless and humane is rare indeed), are capable of inflicting about as much harm to as many people at once as conventional weapons, so why should they be considered weapons of mass destruction? Further, most biological weapons actually aren't infectious, and it's unlikely they could be delivered in a manner so efficient as to garner the "mass" descriptive either. The article said that this distinction was important, because to blur it by trumpeting that Saddam already has WMD obscures a far greater danger, that he would get a real weapon of mass destruction, that is, a nuclear bomb.

Along the same vein, if Bush is really saying that we'll respond to chemical attack with a nuclear one, in my opinion, that would be a war crime. (I don't know what the legal definition of war crime is; I'm using war crime there to mean something that is beyond the pale of acceptable conduct even in the bounds of war.) The U.S. itself used chemical weapons in several wars; now that's an offense that calls for nuclear attack? That's just not a proportional response, and if we're really capable of that, I'd throw up my hands and say, "We are terrorists."

However, if Bush only means that we could respond to a terror attack with nuclear force, that's a somewhat different story. I'm pretty sure I don't think we should be nuking any one even in that case, but it's a little bit less jaw dropping than the "we invade you, you use a weapon we've used in the past against us, we use a weapon that's several orders of magnitude more devastating against you" line of reasoning.

Let's hope it's all talk. For that matter, let's hope we don't have to find out whether or not it's talk.

Update: The article I was talking about was in Slate. But there was a similar article in The New Republic which informed my thinking.
Okay, after at first proclaiming that I wasn't going to blog about the Trent Lott saga, I'm now addicted to blogging about it.

TPM calls our attention to a New York Times story that reports that Lott made the exact same remarks in '80. So they weren't just hasty words.

I have a question about this sentence in this previous TPM post, though:

You don't have to believe that the guy's an out and out racist. But it's very hard not to conclude that he sees the old Jim Crow days as the good ol' days. And that's pretty damn bad.

How is it possible to long for the return of Jim Crow and not be a racist, Josh?

P.S. Based on your photos and your blog persona, Goblin Queen thinks you're hot.
You know, for the past two days I'd been washing my hair and becoming increasingly confused when it just seemed to be getting greasier and stringier. For that matter, the shampoo wasn't lathering very much. Last night I finally discovered that I was washing my hair with conditioner. Beauty clueless, huh?

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Reflections on pubic hair, mine, specifically: A few months ago I bought a Braun Silk Epil after I tried my aunt's friend Annabeth's Phillips Epilator. For the uninitiated, these are doohickeys that rip your hair out by the roots. I was convinced I had found my leg-hair savior. Shaving was okay, but a big hassle, and I really couldn't shave anywhere above my knees or else my delicate skin would protest in ways that I thought were much more unnattractive than leg hair. But the first time I tried Annabeth's epilator, I was rewarded with exquisitely smooth skin that lasted, and no protest in razor bumps. Very painful, yes, but worth it. Even though I got my head hair caught in the machine, uh, twice in once evening, I loved it. So I ordered my own (but I picked a brand that said it was okay to use it on public hair).

Every woman's reactions to different methods of hair removal are different, but in some ways, epilating over the long term has not lived up to its paradisical beginnings. I have never been able to get my legs as smooth as I did the first time. I think that's because my hair doesn't grow all at once; each follicle is on its own schedule, so only if I let myself have stubble for say, four weeks would all the hair be long enough to remove it in one fell swoop, and thus achieve the uniform smoothness that greeted me the first time I epilated. When (or maybe I should say if) I get booty again, I think I'm going to have to combine the epilator with a razor. Epilator for the heavy lifting, razor for the last minute refinements. All the same, I like the addition of the epilator to my life, and I have been able to remove hair from above-my-knees with less negative reaction from my sensitive skin than ever before. But I think the biggest change in the landscape of my legs has been at the very peak. I naturally have a lot of pubic hair, and it furs out onto my legs pretty far. I've never liked this, either for pure aesthetic reasons or for practical ones (e.g. it makes picking bathing suits problematic. Well, my legs also make picking bathing suits problematic, but that's another story). But there was no solution. Shaving? Uh-uh, I'd just get a rash that would be worse than the hair. Nair: Smelly, gross, expensive, created weird lines of demarcation if you didn't want to use it over your whole leg, and besides, I never would have ventured with Nair some of the places I've ventured with the epilator. Waxing: who has that kind of money? Even if the answer were me, I'd use it on something else. Besides, I hear it hurts when the hair grows back. But with the epilator I've had great successes with taming my bush for the price of nothing more than some wincing and teeth gritting. I haven't exactly given myself a Brazilian, but I have a much neater, more contained furry triangle, all the way down the strip to where it isn't a triangle any more. The work isn't even done, but I'm bizarrely looking forward to finishing it. Despite (or maybe partly because of) the pain, mowing through your pubic hair with a weedwhacker has that certain satisfaction that people find in a lot of different self maintenance tasks, even ones that are probably unnecessary: tweezing eyebrows, cleaning ears, squeezing blackheads.

But at the same time, even though I like my new bush, and want to find someone to admire it, I feel guilty for not loving my bush the way God made it, weedy and overgrown. My need for well-behaved pubic hair makes me think of a scene in my ever-inching forward novel. It takes place when the female protagonist is a young child (and no my novel is NOT autobiographical and I hate it when people assume it is), and she is viciously mocked in school for her long, unkempt snarly hair because it signals to the other children both that she's poor and not particularly well-cared for by her family, and she's about ready to shear her hair off until one of her perpetually dazed parents finally realizes the problem and attacks it with some No-More-Tangles. When she's left with perfect untangled hair that she can whirl about her head like shampoo commercial, the narration will have the line: "It was then that she discovered that beauty was orderly." Obviously I think beauty is orderly, or I wouldn't demand that my bush confine itself to the area I appoint for it. But I feel guilty about thinking that. It was primarily this contradiction that I wanted to write about, nothing more. It's sort of like what I was trying to express to Tapped--that sometimes no matter how much self consciousness you have about your ingrained body aesthetics, they're still ingrained, and it's sometimes seems dubious whether you'll escape them ever, as long as you live.
Ooh, one more thing about the subject I blogged about while stating I was not going to blog about it:

Joe Conason said that the Democrat with the courage to criticize Lott with the vehemence he deserved was the man who should be the Democratic Presidential Nominee.

Gore did it.

Joe Conason then commended him for it.

This is just one of the reasons why I'm loving Gore lately. He's not afraid to criticize Bush's prosecution of the war on terror. He calls it like it is about Trent Lott. He publishes a book on family that includes an image of a women with visible pubic hair! What do we call this? We call it courage. Maybe not extraorinary courage, but courage of the like rarely seen in a politician these days, especially a Democratic one. It really breaks my heart, because he was dealt such a raw deal by the press and by the Florida debacle. And now as I survey the field of likely contenders, I think Gore would be my choice for the Democratic nomination (if you included unlikely contenders, I'd pick John McCain, because I think he's a principled man, much more intelligent and policy-oriented than, say, the current Bush White House, and he would be likely to lead a principled, centrist government (and that's about all a lefty can hope for these days). And because I think he can take that sqatting mofo DOWN). But sadly, the forces are all aligned against Gore, and I don't think he can win, so I'm not sure I want him to be the nominee. But then the next likeliest candidate, John Kerry, is fixing to have many of the same forces aligned against him. Check out this repugnantly content-free Kerry bashing exercise by the always irritating Mickey Kaus. See Mickey bash Kerry. See Mickey pretend that discovering the reason he doesn't like Kerry is something very, very important that we all must concentrate very hard on, thereby fixing permanently in our minds that Kerry is Disliked, and We Should Dislike Him Too. See Mickey pretend that he's any different than the rest of the whorish, party-line spouting journalists in Washington. See Mickey and crew infect the discourse in the press corps to the point where John Kerry's hairstyle is a bigger deal than Lott's fondness for segregations.

As evidence that this is already happening, my nerve date told me on Friday night that he thought he didn't like Kerry because he never took unpopular stands, though he admitted that he wasn't sure what the popular stand were that Kerry had taken, or what the unpopular stands he should have taken but didn't were; he had just "heard this somewhere." (Note: this is not a dig at my nerve date; he said this not without the right degree of self-deprecation and -consciousness.) See, it's an anti-Kerry talking point, and already it has floated around enough so it infects my Nerve date with an instinctive, though admittedly uninformed, dislike for Kerry. The same thing was true of me and my attitude toward Gore during campaign 2000. I was definitely not going to vote for Bush or Nader, but I had some ill-defined notion that I was Not Supposed to Like Gore. I wasn't very politically engaged then, as I discussed in my first-ever blog post, but now that I read a lot more political analysis I'm more inclined to distrust the source of those "instinctive feelings" and to understand where my feeling about Gore came from. If I, a staunch lefty, can get infected with such a feeling, imagine the vulnerability of those perennially gullible swing voters.
Even though I am an office drone, occasionally I get to do some interesting things. One of the projects I work on is this big, about-to-be-launched campaign for massive government/employer investment in child care and early education. We have this "Statement of Principles" we're working on to represent the essential values of the campaign. We convened a national advisory commission full of all these child care mucky mucks to comment on the principles, which they did, and then we had to get out a revised draft out to the commission members for further comment. Writing these principles was actually extraordinarily thorny; it was just really hard to find phrasing that would satisfy the commission members, accurately represent what we intended, not give our detractors too much fodder, be accessibly written and concise, etc. My boss, Nicole, was really dissatisfied with the way the document was looking, so she asked for my opinion, and I basically rewrote it. Then she and I collaborated to arrive at a joint recommendation for the VP (on part of the document; on the other part she just said to tell her my ideas for changes, since she was worried that I had mucked with parts that had already been settled). So I sent it off to the VP, and yesterday she sent around the document and I saw that probably more than half of my rewrites had been implemented. Occasionally they didn't take a suggestion of mine and I thought it was to the document's detriment; occasionally they took my suggestion but tweaked it further and I thought their tweaking was good. In any case, I was gratified they had asked my opinion ("flattered" would be the wrong word since I have too high an estimation of my own opinion already for others' respect to truly flatter me), and I was proud they had taken so many of my suggestions. I was especially proud because they weren't just issues of elegance of writing (which I'm already pretty sure I'm an authority on, uh, the freeflowing unedited style of my blog notwithstanding), but substantive "political" concerns about the best tack to take to influence people and convince them to sign on to our campaign. It's nice to have an impact on something slightly more important than mail merges.
Okay, one more good link. Atrios has the official Mississippi Democratic Ballot for 1948.
I have no pretentions or even ambitions to be an important, widely read, political blogger. Pretentions would be pretty ridiculous since about 12 non-me people have ever visited my site, and as for ambitions, I mostly just want to write about my sex life, or lack thereof, and probably when I no longer have a job that sometimes affords me long idle hours in front of the computer I'll start caring about politics less. Outrage is an even more effective stimulant than caffeine when you're an office drone. That's why I'm not about to start blogging about Trent Lott's nostalgia for Jim Crow, for which he has now sorta apologized, perhaps not to the satisfaction of Josh Marshall, but I don't think anyone could have expected better because to apologize profusely might have suggested that he had said something offensive in the first place, rather than that he was just misinterpreted. I almost never see a political apology that's anything other than sorry you took that the wrong way, bloke, and I don't expect to. It is sort of depressing how Tom Daschle spoke to Trent Lott privately and was just sure he didn't mean it, instead of say, standing up on a podium and thundering about how any embrace of segregation will not stand, and if the Senate Majority Leader could utter such an embrace and not be completely repudiated by all the other members of his party, including the President, then that party did not deserve to represent the American people, etc. etc. (fuck, I can't find a link for the Daschle comment, but I'll look. I know I read it), even if Tom Daschle really does believe Lott was misinterpreted, and if he does he's a bonehead, because that's the way the Republicans play and it's successful. This isn't about trumping up some false allegation; this is about aggressively using something a Republican said against him. Where is their fight? The louder Democrats had screamed about it, the more it would have gotten covered, which could only be good for the Dems because in the vast majority of this country, the guy advocating Jim Crow looks pretty bad, and conservatives' whining about how the whole thing is being overblown and how they're mistreated in the press won't make a damn bit of difference to that perception. It makes one want to throw up one's hands and move to Europe, the Dems are so determined not to fight.

Uh, okay, I guess I just blogged about that in saying I wasn't going to blog about it. My point was, other people have blogged about much more quickly, thoroughly, knowledgeably, and insightfully than I, so there was no point in blogging about it, because I have no ambitions to be a great political blogger. What I was then going to announce my intention also not to blog about was the whole John DiIulio-Karl Rove-Esquire saga. Here's DiIulio's original memo to Suskind and here's some blogging that summarizes the affair so far. So I'm not going to blog about it, except to say that this Dana Milbank article is priceless, if only for the following, um, context:

"My criticisms were groundless and baseless due to poorly chosen words and examples. I sincerely apologize and I am deeply remorseful."

-- Former Bush White House official John DiIulio last week after calling Bush political aides "Mayberry Machiavellis."

"I offer a complete and utter retraction. The imputation was totally without basis in fact, was in no way fair comment, and was motivated purely by malice, and I deeply regret any distress that my remarks may have caused you, or your family, and I hereby undertake not to repeat such a slander at any time in the future."

-- John Cleese, while being dangled from a window by Kevin Kline in the 1988 film "A Fish Called Wanda."

"I am fully and utterly guilty. I am guilty of having been the organizer, second only to Trotsky, of that bloc whose chosen task was the killing of Stalin. I was the principal organizer of Kirov's assassination. The party saw where we were going, and warned us; Stalin warned us scores of times; but we did not heed these warnings. We entered into an alliance with Trotsky."

-- Soviet official Gregory Zinoviev, before his execution in 1936.

I wonder if Karl Rove did dangle John DiIulio outside of a window.

I also wanted to say that that the following paragraph is yet another illustration on the importance of the federal judiciary, and why unfettered Republican control of appointments to the judiciary is disastrous.

These are heady times for Rove and the political aides who have been quite successful at limiting scrutiny of White House operations. Yesterday, the administration scored a huge victory when a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the congressional General Accounting Office to see which outside groups met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force. And public access to White House information was hobbled Friday when a federal appeals court blocked a public release of energy task force documents ordered by a lower court.

That is all I have to say on the matters.

Monday, December 09, 2002

I finally wrote back to Tapped.

Dear Tapped,

Thank you for your thoughtful response to my email, and I'm sorry it has taken me so long to reply. First of all, I want to be clear that I never meant to imply that the unreasonable expectations society has for women's bodies were All Men's Fault, and if that was the impression I gave then I must not have expressed my true opinions clearly. I only meant that as men, you and James Lileks were better positioned to joke and nudge about the VS Fashion Show without realizing that it was not "harmless." And I still maintain it's not, even if it's hardly unique or even outstanding in this particular field of things that do harm. I am well aware that women consume and produce damaging images of their own gender to their own detriment, not only in the commercial realm, but in the personal one.

However, I also think that saying that women's enjoyment of these images is the "root" of the problem is just as reductive, inaccurate, and simplistic as it would be to say that men invented the thin ideal to oppress women. First of all, though I had never heard of Mode, I looked for some information on it online, and when it folded it had 600,000 subscribers and 3.5 million readers; the magazine just couldn't find a buyer, so it's not fair to conclude that there is no market for more inclusive images of women. But I won't dispute that most women are more interested in consuming destructive images of femininity than healthy, positive, and accepting ones. Why? Obviously, I can only speculate, but I would say first because magazines like Cosmo and Glamour are offering something that some hypothetical magazine that stressed health and body acceptance never could: a golden ticket. If you feel depressed, empty, or worthless, it's actually a lot easier to believe that the source of happiness, fulfillment, and self-esteem is external, even if the odds are nearly zero that you will ever attain "it," than to believe that happiness, fulfillment, and self-esteem come from the hard work of rooting out unrealistic beliefs, self acceptance, hard work, kindness to others, [insert source of happiness, fulfillment, and self-esteem here]. Moreover, the specific frame of mind you're in when you buy something makes you gravitate toward the publication that offers an external solution (this purse will make you happy! these legs will make you loved!), because, of course, that is what you seek in a purchase. People very often buy things to compensate for some perceived lack; you don't need to buy something if you already understand that the source of what you need is internal.

The other huge reason why women like the images promoted in Cosmo better than those in Our Bodies, Ourselves is that they've been taught to (and this is where I think your formulation of the "root of the problem" gets a little silly. There's obviously a chicken and egg dynamic here). One major source of aesthetic values, for bodies or for anything else, is social education. So if I have a sense by the time I'm five that thin is prettier than fat or even prettier than medium, why would I like to look at pictures of heavy women? I have to admit that I still think thin is prettier than fat, not in the intellectual sense, but on the level of instinctive, what-do-my-eyes-gravitate-toward response. I am positive that this portion of my aesthetic values is socially constructed, not somehow biological or inherent, because I can see that in other places and at other times, "thin" did not necessarily equal pretty. Unfortunately, this consciousness on my part does not allow me to undo the pretty thoroughly ensconced thin aesthetic in my brain, either when regarding my own body or when regarding others'. That doesn't mean I never think medium or even heavy women are beautiful, I do, but nearly always, if I'm looking at a medium to heavy body, I can see how it would be prettier if it were just a bit narrower.

I'd like to reemphasize that "the result" is not at all confined to women who starve themselves and surgery themselves. They are only extremes. The result is something that afflicts the vast majority of women. How to change it? I could think of lots of things that could help: Mothers could stop modeling dieting and complaining about their weight for their daughters (that would be HUGE). Women could stop modeling dieting and complaining about their weight for other women (and I'm as guilty of this as the next gal). Women could especially stop complaining about their weight in the presence of heavier women. The men in the world (and they are out there), who just have trouble being attracted to women over a size six could start expanding their horizons. But yeah, people at the top could help too, and VS could put on a fashion show that showed women with some variety of height, weight, and body proportions wearing underwear. I know little about what's in NOW's heart, and less about what's in CWA's, but as far as I'm concerned, a television broadcast that implicitly trumpets the message: only tall, thin women with large breasts are worthy of being celebrated as beautiful *is* something to protest. Is it the only thing, or the most important thing? No. But I agree with those two organizations that it was offensive, and obviously in protesting they managed to provoke some dialog (witness this email exchange). That in and of itself is a good thing.



(in a second email)

and P.S. More on the what can be done front: I forgot to say that if someone put me in charge of designing curricula, I would start courses in Media Criticism (political, fashion, etc.) at Grade 5.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Jesus. Or maybe considering the story, I should say Moses. I know plenty of people who've joked about killing Bush. This guy got 37 months in prison for it. That's not funny. What you say in a bar should not constitute a serious threat unless there's some evidence you had an intent to carry it out, like, he had bought gasoline and a lighter and was lying in wait for the motorcade.