Friday, May 25, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend Cat Blogging

I always liked this picture of Al and Lena. Because it's a good example of Cuteoverload's Rule #6, mimic humans.

Washington Post: Newsflash!!! Lukewarm Gossip About Hillary!!!

Apparently the policy of the Washington Post is their newspaper prints only the most relevant news on its front page ... except when they are trying to promote books by their writers, then any bit of gossip is good enough for their A1-above-the-fold.

Their lead story this morning, “Books Paint Critical Portraits of Clinton” has no reason to justify its placement on the front page, let alone in the lead-story location. Here’s my theory, the story is actually a “favor” to Carl Bernstein but because it would look pretty bad to have publicity piece just for a friend-of-the-paper, they puffed it out by including another book by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr., that has even shadier research.

The article in the ninth paragraph really tries to justify its classification as “news.”

Unlike many harsh books about Clinton written by ideological enemies, the two new volumes come from long-established writers backed by major publishing houses and could be harder to dismiss. Bernstein won national fame with partner Bob Woodward at The Post for breaking open the Watergate scandal, while Gerth and Van Natta have spent years as investigative reporters for the New York Times.
Yes unlike all those other imperfect books about Hillary the Bernstein...I mean BOTH THESE BOOKS, are serious investigative books written by people without agendas. (I mean other than the agenda to sell as many books as possible).

I haven’t read either but apparently Gerth’s and Natta’s book Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton has a former girlfriend of Bill Clinton, Marla Crider, (who’s not quoted directly) make the claim that it was always the plan of Bill and Hillary to have his-and-her presidencies. So it’s already second-hand “I heard that someone else said that Hillary and Bill have a plan...”

Even the Post points out a source for the story denies it.

They cite two people, Ann Crittenden and John Henry, who said Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and close Clinton friend, told them that the Clintons "still planned two terms in the White House for Bill and, later, two for Hillary." Contacted last night, Branch said that "the story is preposterous" and that "I never heard either Clinton talk about a 'plan' for them both to become president."

The people who hate the Clintons will eat that shit up. But I’ll be damned if Hillary knew she’d even ever become a U.S. Senator before 1998.

I can’t believe the Post decided to run a front page story about either book, let alone Gerth and Natta’s. I mean, I can believe it because who said The Washington Post isn’t a run like a high school rag or a MySpace blog. “Did you hear the one about Hillary, I heard she’s a total bitch!” That's pretty much what the article implies.

UPDATE: I've beening wondering who the heck Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. are since I figure there's some kind of bad track record behind them but I too busy to go look for it. Whiskey Fire has more on Gerth.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Food Stamp Challenge Follow Up

I meant to blog about this earlier but the Food Stamp Challenge ended a few days ago and, yes, Rep. Ryan “cheated.”

But his blog post about the end of the challenge is very moving.

I'm coming away from this experience with some hard lessons learned and a newfound understanding of this issue. First and foremost is that it is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to make due on this amount of money. I know many people have written in saying that Food Stamps are meant to be a supplement to other income. Well, yeah that is how the program was intended, but it has been 11 years since we've added ANY value to food stamps, 10 years since we've raised the minimum wage and in that time inflation has risen, the price of milk has risen, the price of produce has risen. NOW we find ourselves in a position where with gas well over $3.00 a gallon in many places those who earn the least among us use their food stamp benefit not as a supplement, but as their sole source of income for food.

It’s much longer but I think the few people who criticized his (and the other three Congressmembers') stunt complained that food stamps weren't designed to be an allocation of a full week’s supply of food. However, even if you think it’s supposed to only be a supplement, his point that this “supplement” hasn’t changed in 11 years (something I wasn’t even aware of) should at least make a point to the heartless that it’s worth increasing the benefit.

I don’t know who the anti-food stamp group in this country, but it’s probably lumped in the same group that fundamentally doesn’t believe in welfare for anyone. Every man, woman and child should be an island I guess.

What’s that saying about Puritans?...that someone, somewhere may be happy? I notice amongst conservatives there’s always a haunting fear that someone, somewhere is getting money (in the form of welfare) that they haven’t “earned.” Like anything above bread-and-water-living-in-a-rat-strewn apartment means the gubmint is giving you too much money. Yeah those rich poor people, always getting for free what they should be working for.

That’s what I notice about that kind of attitude, it’s the sense that someone is getting a free ride while you have to work hard like everyone else. But if it’s such a sweet “free ride” how come no one ever says “Wow I wish I had the carefree no-work lifestyle of those on welfare!”

Does anyone ever really want to trade places with someone on welfare if they have it so good? Seriously. Why get all worked up over the moral outrage that someone, somewhere might not be working hard enough to justify their government benefits in some theoretical model you have of what people “deserve” to get?

If we tripled the food stamp program it still wouldn’t be as much as the private contractors in Iraq have stolen without doing any work at all. And at least the families receiving more food stamps would be healthier, and so would their children. Which would make everyone’s lives a little less miserable and a little more productive. Which is a step on the way to getting them off government assistance.

Monday, May 21, 2007

28 Weeks Later: Zombies In Iraq

I didn’t actually start this blog to write movie reviews but since I’m not finding a critique of 28 Weeks Later that I agree with, I might as well write my own.

I was a huge fan of the first movie, 28 Days Later, partially because it appealed to my interest in post-apocalyptic fiction. But where 28 Days Later was ultimately optimistic about humanity, the sequel is not. And I think the difference is the Iraq War.


I think of this more of a movie critique rathan than a review, so I will pretty much discuss the major plot points. Read no further unless you want to be spoiled...

In 28 Weeks Later the movie is one giant metaphor for the Iraq War. And yet as much as the metaphor is obvious, the movie never really follows in a direction I wanted it to go. I wanted to shout “don’t just crib from the Iraq War, goddamn it! Own it.” But the movie is just dabbling in war images, its stealing from the war without having anything interesting to say about it. In fact this ended up being a much smaller picture than I thought it was going to be. I felt like the director just squandered what could have been a much richer movie.

So the movie picks up roughly six months after the first one left off with the Americans “reclaiming” a small section of London which they very unsubtly call “The Green Zone.” They are reclaiming it in the sense that Americans (and some kind of international force, but it clearly an American-lead enterprise) are fixing London for the British to move back in. (In a huge bit of irony, the American commander is played by British Idris Elba, but who is best known for playing a Baltimore street thug on The Wire. One day I want to see Elba act in his real voice, but I digress…)

It seems like this is a perfect set up for an exploration on American occupation of a foreign nation. Considering how much the U.K. and America has in common, the screenwriter could have used this to explore whether anyone likes an occupation, even the gentlest, and even when your occupiers speak your language and share many customs.

But other than calling it “The Green Zone” the movie isn’t really interested in exploring occupation as a theme.

Part of the reason 28 Days Later (and its sequel) work visually is their realistic, faux documentary feeling. You completely “buy” the premise of the zombification and hence can sympathize with the moral dilemma of the characters. If you have a disease that spreads and kills as fast as the “rage” diseases does than is it morally justified in killing the innocent to prevent an even worse tragedy of the disease spreading to Europe?

Again, this is ripe fruit, but the movie isn’t all that interested in biting. In fact if anything I think the movie sympathizes with the Americans’ perspective. Elba’s character is not as big a part as I thought it was going to be. I spent the entire movie waiting for him to have to face his moral choices. (Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, take your pick which American commander he should resemble.) You can make an argument he had no choice, but the movie isn’t interested in provoking that discussion because he’s barely a character.

Maybe my disappointment is that I wanted a thoughtful movie with action and director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo wanted to make ersatz Alfonso CuarĂ³n. Or maybe Children of Men has just set a new standard of expectation how a movie can combine philosophy, action and faux documentary style.

It’s a zombie movie which means its a horror movie. In one scene the citizens are herded by the Americans into a subway station. I wasn’t entirely certain if that was done to protect them or to round them up to kill them (I guess if you are going to liquid why wait for the civilians to become zombies).

In any case, instead one of the infected gets access to the crowd which panics and runs outside. At first the Americans are told to shoot only zombies, but quickly (and you get to see the sniper’s perspective on this) the infected and the clean run together. Since the soldiers can’t tell who is their enemy and who is their friend, they are told to shoot indiscriminately.

One soldier, played by Jeremy Renner (who I couldn’t figure out what I recognized him from until I saw he was on the L.A. season of “The It Factor”), makes the moral choice that he couldn’t shoot civilians anymore and bails.

But the movie makes a bad choice here. The rest of the movie involves one long chase where the main protagonists, the children, are running to safety with their protectors—who keep getting killed off. It might have been more interesting to follow the movie from the American commander’s perspective. We’ve seen before how a small band of survivors try to fight off a horde of zombies (in fact we watch it again in the first 10 minutes of the movie). But what would it be like if you are a well-armed militia? What exactly is their motivation? Renner’s soldier’s choice is easy. There’s no real reason to kill the innocent unless you know they are infected. In fact in several scenes you see the army shooting people driving in cars which had me thinking “Since when do zombies drive cars? Why bother killing the innocent on purpose?”

Of course there can be justifications for such behavior, everything from bloodlust to cold-hearted calculation. But I would have liked that to be part of the story not just part of the action.

If the movie had followed the Americans’ perspective instead of following the children the plot could have asked the audience what would you do in their shoes? Do you kill everyone and save your troops? Do you try to save as many civilians as you can? Do you kill everyone but then realize within the civilian population is the key to ending the plague. (Oooh the irony of killing the solution to your problem with your overly aggressive tactics!) The movie asks questions about personal cowardice, but not about the kind of cowardice that goes beyond sheer fear for of the individual. When a man runs away and leaves his wife to die is one thing, but when a militia commander decides to fuck over everyone is something else. Or it could have been.

Ultimately I think I hated the movie for the same reason I hated Alien 3. This movie ends on a total downer that ultimately undermines what good feeling I had about the first. In fact the first movie had four different endings (not just two) and each time the director Danny Boyle kept changing it to become more optimistic. I watched the DVD commentary for 28 Days Later and Boyle and writer Alex Garland said they didn’t change the ending(s) out of a Hollywood need for happy endings. They did it because the test audiences came out of the movie feeling battered.

There are some people who like nihilistic movies whose only viewpoint is that people are ugly and the world is ugly. Maybe if I thought the director put actual thought into developing that viewpoint, at least that could be justified. But 28 Weeks Later’s ending seems less to rest on the concept that the director had something he wanted to share than it was just a cool to show zombies running at the Eifel tower.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

I will never run out of pictures of Al the deaf cat. The trick is finding the cutest shots.

I know I haven't been blogging so much lately. I have a couple of long posts that have been simmering in "draft" stage for a while but in the meantime I will try to post some shorter ones.

I'm still looking for a regular "Friday" review feature. One thing I like about blogs like slacktivist is the regular page-by-page review of Left Behind. I've looking for something like that to post regularly. I have some ideas of things I could review (sneak peak) but I have to say I'm still trying to find a comfort level of public blogging.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Clarendon, A Safe Place To Leave Your Bike (Helmet)

So in a bit of a reprise from the time I forgot my bike lock, this afternoon when I got to the bike rack to unhook my bike, I realized my helmet was just hanging there, on my bike.

Apparently when I locked my bike up in the morning I set my helmet on my handlebars. I didn’t even remember I had forgotten it until I came to get my bike this afternoon. How cool is it that it was still sitting there?

Four Congresspeople Live On Food Stamps

This actually was a very clever idea and I want to applaud them for doing this.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) stood before the refrigerated section of the Safeway on Capitol Hill yesterday and looked longingly at the eggs.

At $1.29 for a half-dozen, he couldn't afford them.

Ryan and three other members of Congress have pledged to live for one week on $21 worth of food, the amount the average food stamp recipient receives in federal assistance. That's $3 a day or $1 a meal. They started yesterday.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), co-chairmen of the House Hunger Caucus, called on lawmakers to take the "Food Stamp Challenge" to raise awareness of hunger and what they say are inadequate benefits for food stamp recipients. Only two others, Ryan and Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), took them up on it.
This idea reminded me of Morgan Spurlock’s 30 Days episode on minimum wage—except it’s only a week. But in just seven days you can see how much food envy they are going through. In any case McGovern and Emerson are trying to add $4 billion to the food stamp program so they are trying to show there's not enough money in the budget for food stamps currently. It's a great idea. Yes, it's a stunt, but there are other benefits to the experiment. I think it made these four Congresspeople really notice just how hard it is to stay healthy without a large food budget.

McGovern and his wife, Lisa, did their food shopping for the week with help from Toinette Wilson, a D.C. resident and mother of three who relies on food stamps. Wilson gave him some tips, but it was still a struggle, he said.

"No organic foods, no fresh vegetables, we were looking for the cheapest of everything," McGovern said. "We got spaghetti and hamburger meat that was high in fat -- the fattiest meat on the shelf. I have high cholesterol and always try to get the leanest, but it's expensive. It's almost impossible to make healthy choices on a food stamp diet."
I’m from Ohio originally and Tim Ryan is the congressman from the district next to my parents, so I do know his district somewhat and, yes, there are hungry people there.

You can read Ryan’s blog about it. McGovern also has a blog.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Novak Reveals Another Covert CIA Officer

I have no idea what Bob Novak’s column today is supposed to illustrate. Nostalgia for the past is a game only white men care to play. “Wasn’t it great when women couldn’t enter the Members Bar of the National Press Club and I lived with CIA officers?”

I resorted to group living, in a large Georgetown house owned by a Foreign Service officer who was in Costa Rica serving as ambassador. I paid $100-a-month rent. My housemates included two United Press reporters and two CIA employees (one overt, one covert).
Is this the first time we’ve heard this story, that Novake lived with a covert CIA officer? Whoever his ex-roommate is probably retired sometime ago. Anyone who knew Bob in 1957 want to guess who the guy was?

But doesn’t Novak’s revelation put this whole Valerie Plame thing in even a weirder light? Especially in light of his even stronger proclaimations (to this day) that he didn't blow her cover.

The one motivation I've never been able to figure out was whether the Republicans who said Plame was “fair game” did so because they truly believed that Joe Wilson’s trip was a paid junket by his wife (it wasn’t) or whether that was just the cynical cover they gave themselves to attack him as a critic.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Vegetable Skittles?

It's good to know someone else is also obsessed with noticing the many different varieties of candy bars. I'm waiting to "taste the garden" but I think Jelly Belly already has that market cornered. Hat tip Candy Addict.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging, My First

I have not previously tried the traditional "Friday X Blogging" (X being whatever the blog owner collects), but I figure as I start to make my blog more regular I should join in some traditional blogging practices.

Anyway one hiccup is that despite the handle "NewsCat", in fact I do not own a cat. However in the four years in DC I've had three roommates with five cats live in my apartment (fortunately not all at once). The above cat (and my new logo) is my current roommate's cat and he's definately the best cat I've lived with yet.

His name is Al and he's deaf. He's also quite dog-like in the terms of friendliness and a canine-like habit of licking people. Al has a sister, Lena. Here they are together.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

An Actual Girl Gone Wild’s Story

Garance's barely-legal porn op-ed had stirred up a lot of talk in certain blogs, and Jessica at Feministing has also weighed in. What’s interesting is that “Colleen” posted a comment in Jessica’s blog about her experience doing Girls Gone Wild Denver.

I can't believe I'm about to admit to this...on of all places...but I once bared my breasts and made out with my friend on camera to get a GGW tank top.

I had just turned 21 and my roommates decided to go to a GGW party. I didn't want to go, but they talked me into it, so I went under the pretense that I'd be there to look after them. 2 of the 3 girls I lived with barely 18 and, drunk on their first taste of freedom, had a tendency to..well...go wild. So I convinced myself that I'd only be going to big sister them.

We had to sign consent forms before they'd let us in the building. I explained that I had no intention of being on camera but they made me sign it anyway in case I happened to walk in front of a camera and end up in part of a video. So I signed and we went in.
It’s a very interesting account and at least it’s something I think that has been lacking in the porn/age-of-consent debate is the voice of the women themselves from these encounters.

Reading it I understand exactly how they are talked into performing. I still feel like the best way to change the situation isn’t to suggest 18 year olds can’t give consent to show nudity but to change how consent to film nudity is handled. (Colleen’s account has them signing consent forms the moment they enter the building. So the moment where they give consent to be filmed nude is made perhaps hours before they actually AGREE to go topless or bottomless. There is a huge disconnect then between the initial decision and the secondary decision.)

Another part of Colleen’s account is that she mentions she had been raped. She actually says at the time she went to the Girls Gone Wild party she was sleeping around because of a past rape. One aspect I have wondered about is the correlation between past sexual abuse and participation in GGW. From listening to Loveline you notice there is there is a high correlation between past sexual abuse and sexual exhibitionism. And I’m perfectly willing to be told I’m absolutely wrong on this count, but a reoccurring pattern on Loveline is that adult rape victims often have suffered past sexual abuse or some other kind of advanced family trauma. The abuse of their past often has sexual abuse victims put themselves in dangerous situations where they are sometimes abused all over again.

I want to stress I’m not blaming rape victims! Nor am I saying all rape victims were sufferers of poor childhoods. I’m saying there is a high correlation between past sexual abuse and rape and past sexual abuse and sexual exhibitionism as former victims try to gain “control” over past traumas. Of course maybe my “correlation” is off because I haven’t studied this professionally.

Anyway I just thought that Colleen saying she was raped made me think about that connection between rape and being willing to be filmed for sexual purposes. Because I have wondered what percentage of women who do GGW have had sexual abuse in their past?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Crisis Pregnancy Centers: "Ask About Our High-Pressure Sales Pitch!"

On Alternet Amanda had an very good article talking about crisis pregnancy centers.

According to a recent Planned Parenthood email, a 17-year-old girl mistakenly walked into a crisis pregnancy center thinking it was Planned Parenthood, which was next door. "The group took down the girl's confidential personal information and told her to come back for her appointment, which they said would be in their 'other office' (the real Planned Parenthood office nearby)."

When she showed up for her nonexistent appointment, she was met by the police, who had been erroneously tipped that a minor was being forced to abort. The crisis pregnancy center staff followed up this harassment by staking out the girl's house, phoning her father at work, and even talking to her classmates about her pregnancy, urging them to harass her.

Okay, first thought…the Austin cops are going to get mighty sick of being sent out on wild goose chases by anti-abortion types.

Second thought, Amanda’s article made me wonder if these places could ever be in danger of being sued by the American Medical Association for medical fraud? They seem to come mighty close to implying they are providing medical care. And also, sonograms aren’t toys!

I followed up by asking what kind of medical staff they had on hand and she replied, "Well, we have sonographers."

When I asked her what a sonographer was, she was curt: "It's someone who can do your sonogram."

Actually performing a sonogram on a client probably adds to the illusion that crisis pregnancy centers are providing care. In fact, this allure explains why there's a bill pending in Congress to grant crisis pregnancy centers ultrasound machines, despite the fact that having a sonogram performed by an unsupervised technician could be dangerous. Dr. Diana Kroi, the ob-gyn who authored "Take Control of Your Period," explained that ultrasounds need a trained physician to look for problems like ectopic pregnancies and other dangerous indications that a woman's health is imperiled.
First of all I love "sonogramer" as a quasi-medical term. "Does your clinic offer surgery?" "Well we have people who have knives. We call them cutters."

You might as well have your Aunt Tillie give you an exam. Apparently she’d be just as trained to do so.

Anyway Amanda highlights a lot more disturbing stuff about the clinics, including the fact they are getting public funding. Go read the whole thing.

Heh, and Jessica at Feministing points out that crisis pregnancy centers are not the just a selling a different flavor of soda than Planned Parenthood.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Romney Censor-in-Chief

*Sign* Sometimes I think I want to prove that I can like Mitt Romney just to show myself he’s really not going to be a Manchurian candidate for the Mormons like I fear. But his speech on Saturday about pornography and single people, makes it difficult to believe he’s not trying to Mormonize America. Pretty soon we’re all going to be blond pod people. Also, Mitt, didn’t you know Brownback already promised to be the match-maker-in-chief? (I'm really waiting for some presidential candidate to find me a husband. Whoever promises me the prettiest gets my vote.)

I’m curious to know how ordinary Republicans feel about Romney’s anti-porn/anti-single spiel. Because one of the policies I think you would see in a Romney presidency is a willingness to really go after pornography and to try to censor apply FCC regulations to cable. Lest anyone forget, the reason cable isn’t regulated like broadcast is due to the concept of limitation and public airwaves. Broadcast isn’t regulated by decency just because it’s TV. It’s regulated because there’s a limited amount of spectrum.

Calling for censorship regulation of cable one might as well call for regulation on your local alternative weekly. No more unedited Dan Savage!

Intoxication And Signing Consent Forms

On reflection of Garance’s op-ed does anyone recall a specific lawsuit against Girls Gone Wild that involved a charge that the producers got the women deliberately drunk to obtain consent to film?

I recall reading about a case (and I thought the women lost, or maybe it settled out of court) where the plaintiffs alleged the producers of Girls Gone Wild pressured or forced them to sit in a chair, like a dentist or a barber shop chair, and then poured drinks down their throats. Once they were very, very intoxicated they got them to sign consent release forms. I remember reading about this a few years ago but can't seem to find the case.

Joe Francis has been sued way too many times to just google “lawsuit” and “girls gone wild.” He’s been sued for not having signed consent forms and for filming underage women, for misrepresentation and many other reason but I cannot find a news article about being sued because the consent release forms were signed only after they got the participants completely intoxicated.

I know the law is different in different states about consent to film and intoxication but my understanding is that being drunk does not invalidate a signed consent form. It might be that theoretically if you are so drunk as to be incoherent you are unable to give consent to film, but like most legal cases, it’s a tough case to prove that the producer knew you were too incapacitated to give consent. At least prove in the legal sense in front of a jury that might just think you were a slut. Juries seem to have a poor opinion of women they perceive as “loose” especially if those women are seen as drinking or using any other kind of drugs. Basically if you take a drink or smoke a joint you get what's coming to you.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Raising The Age To Do Porn

Garance from American Prospect’s argument in the Wall Street Journal about raising the consent age to do porn to 21 is interesting but I think problematic. Her reasoning seems a little too much like William Saletan’s or Anthony Kennedy’s that we have to protect women (or young women in this case) from doing things they may regret later.

I know that her rule wouldn’t specify that only women over age 21 could do porn (or whatever you want to call Girls Gone Wild flashing) but I don’t know what is the level of under 21 male exploitation in porn? Maybe there are similar issues but in any case its young women, not young men, Garance is writing about for the moment.

Its not that I don’t ultimately agree with her that probably a lot, if not a majority of women caught on these films are really, really going to regret it. It’s not that I don’t think Joe Francis isn’t scum of the earth. It’s that I think in order to get to a desired result she is guilty of infantilizing women. Because if you accept that 18 year olds can’t flash boobies then how can you argue 18 year olds can get abortions? Or even have legal right to have consensual sex? I’m a little worried that’s the problem her argument draws.

And there’s better legal options besides raising consent laws to 21 to achieve a similar kind of result (or at least a greater level of protection from bottom-feeders like Francis). How about changing the law on getting signed consent forms? You could stipulate that for any filming that involves nudity, a legal consent form can only be signed 48 hours after filming. Meaning that the producer can only get a valid consent release form after giving the subject two days to reconsider her decision to let him film her. (Or to sober up). Not a retroactive, you have two-days-to-retract-given-consent. You have to be reapproached by the filmmaker after 48 hours have passed since filming and only then does a consent form give you legal protection from being sued.

It’s like the mirror image of abortion “waiting periods” isn’t it?

Burlesque And Feminist Theory

I’ve been meaning to write about burlesque ever since I went to a show last weekend. It was actually a “graduation night” for the women of Burlesque University here in Washington, DC. I’d never heard of BU before, I was at Eastern Market (the weekend before it burnt down) and the woman who sold me a fabulous purse (do check it out the link) also convinced me to come to her burlesque show.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a show that challenged me so much. Not that I didn’t have a blast, one thing about burlesque is that it’s not boring. And part of the appeal was simply the chance to see real women’s bodies, both their perfections and imperfections. Short of porn or actual strip clubs, how often do women gape at other women?

But when I say “it challenged me” I mean that in a good way, it made me think. It made me think about the different ways of interpreting the actions on stage, including a feminist theory perspective on burlesque.

For the actual show itself, there were seven women, plus the instructor, and each had a kind of “character” set; a prom queen, a “strict” scientist, a vampire-schoolgirl, a secret agent, and Marty McFly from Back to The Future. Some had more revealing bottoms than others. One wore a corset. The finale was always the exposure of their breasts covered with pasties.

One its face burlesque is proto-stripping. Burlesque was what stripping was a 100 years ago or more. Watching a burlesque show, particularly in a crowded bar full of women and the performers’ friends, is not the same as watching burlesque in the Moulin Rouge in 1910. Burlesque isn’t about blue-collar men trying to get their rocks off anymore. The modern version is “sexy” but I wouldn’t say it was exactly erotic. Maybe it’s the difference between titillation and arousal. Although I think some would disagree with me the sheer eroticism of the act is drained out in modern burlesque. What’s left over though is about performance and art. But it’s art that still ultimately involves exposure of women’s bodies. It’s the sexuality that makes it different from say, dance.

And maybe that’s the contradiction I’m grappling with. Burlesque is about being titillated by women, and in the modern era, its resurgence is about ordinary women who want to be seen as titillating.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be seen as sexy or owning your sexuality. I enjoyed the show and my guess is the women enjoyed performing. But they weren’t doing it for money (although there was a tip jar it seemed almost anachronistic.) Maybe burlesque is on a sexual exploitive spectrum with porn “Girls Gone Wild,” Mardi Gras and early Fiona Apple videos . Its not really exploitive except in the sense that its yet another convention that says “look at my body.” And it occurred to me there’s no male version of burlesque. Ultimately that kind of pissed me off the most when I thought about it.

Maybe I'll be able to compose my thoughts a bit better on this later because I do know about the huge debate in feminism about burlesque and stripping. Ultimately I would go to another show, but I can't get over the fact that on some level asking for people to look at you and be titillated is only empowering in the sense that you expect or desire to be judged on your sexual desirability. And I know that is a losing game to play.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Mitt Romney’s Book Club

I know people are freaking out about Romney saying that his favorite book, other than the Bible naturally, is Battlefield Earth. But I really think Slate’s John Dickerson misread his motivation. He spends a third of the article dissing even the concept of reporters asking presidential candidates their favorite book, and then thinks that Romney was being serious in his embrace of the question.

Is Romney being ironic, then, like those people who buy clown art? Unlikely. There's not a big irony bloc in the GOP and Battlefield Earth is a thousand-page book. No one can sustain irony for that long….

But I think [the media] should stop covering up for the governor. Let him embrace his choice. There is no obvious stratagem behind it, which means Romney, the most meticulously arrayed and perhaps the most careful of the candidates may be giving us a peek at a robust inner goofball.

Actually isn’t there a better answer than irony for explaining his choice? Dickerson himself almost suggests it. I think Romney was poking fun at the question himself by picking a perfect example of a book with too many associations to be a “clean” choice for someone’s favorite book. I think Romney was pulling a joke on the media.

It’s a nose tweak to anyone who is trying to figure out Romney by the ritualistic “book choice” question. I almost like him better if that’s really what he was saying because it’s a perfect way to freak out the media, and clearly it worked.

I bet the other choice he was thinking of saying was The DaVinci Code but probably decided everyone would have thought he was being sincere.