Archive for the ‘ news ’ Category

Snail Eggs!

Ok, I’m not gonna lie.  This post is gross—especially compared with my theatrical contemplations.

But I think it’s funny how even the mundane things can occupy your mind: such as the fact that my snails have laid eggs!

Yes, nice gooey bunches that look like a science experiment gone horribly wrong.  But, so applesnail.net tells me, in a few weeks (or less, thanks to this recent heat wave), I’ll have dozens of tiny miniatures of my adult snails foraging through the mire of my five gallon tank.  In preparation for their arrival, I’ve been instructed to encourage algae growth, so the little guys won’t have far to travel for their first few meals.  It makes me think of Charlotte’s web and all the disgusting and yet strangely beautiful spiderettes floating through the air on their silken parachutes.  They’re a lot cuter than my snail eggs at the moment, so you can look at a picture of them while you read this post.  I’ll leave the ugliness of invertebrate reproduction to your sordid imaginations.

When the cute baby snails are ready for their ‘welcome to the world’ portraits, you’ll be the first to know.

Correction: Here’s a picture of the parents-to-be, since I can’t find a good image of Charlotte’s babies.

Hikaru and Kaoru, my apple snails (yes, I named them after two boys, their true identities unbeknownst to me at the time)

Hikaru and Kaoru, my apple snails (yes, I named them after two boys, their true identities unbeknownst to me at the time)

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A Halo or Horns? The Playboy Club

Disclaimer: The following post will require that you be willing to engage in adult content, film theory, and iPhone apps.

The slippage of meaning in words is part of what makes it fun to talk.  Think Shakespeare and his irascible puns; think Conan and Colbert and their commentary; think Derrida and differance.  Okay, maybe don’t think about linguistic theory.  Think about sex.  And porn.  And erotica.  And titillation.  Yes, when they are in italics that means the word itself, the letters in a row—not what you’re picturing in your head.

Despite their slipperiness, I’d like to say a few words about how important it is to try to hang on to the distinguishing feature of words: that they really do help us get a grip on reality.  And keeping a grip on reality is really important if you want to have anything to do with it.

The Playboy Club---cultural examination or tantalizing temptation?

The Playboy Club---cultural examination or tantalizing temptation?

This fall, NBC is premiering a new show called The Playboy Club; lots of people are petitioning that NBC refrain from premiering pornography on mainstream network television.  Not a new idea, this petitioning of a network or corporation to refrain from selling or distributing material considered detrimental to society.  It’s at the very heart of American democracy that a lot of names on a piece of paper with lots of words on it has the power to effect change.

But—and here’s the key—the words need to have meaning.  They have to make mutual sense among the parties involved.  And herein is the problem with the above petition, and many others like it, that have identified a perceived threat to society’s health and tried to do something.  Using words to describe, to literally “write in the air,” something that they don’t mean…well, it means nothing.

Ok, so that was a bit of pedantic explanation.  Let’s break it down a bit.

1. The Playboy Club is not porn. It is a drama with lots of sexual content, but it is not porn. Porn is (and I consult the most reliable source on the planet, my iPhone dictionary app): obscene writing, drawings, photographs, or the like, especially those having little or no artistic merit.  And, although I don’t intend to entertain a debate about what qualifies as artistic merit, I can answer the follow-up in line, “What is obscene?” Well, again according to my iPhone, something obscene is causing uncontrolled sexual desire.  It is important to understand and uphold the distinguishing power of words.  One word (porn) indicates content that is designed to arouse and satisfy nothing but sexual desire.  Therefore, it doesn’t apply to a television “drama about a time and place that challenged the existing social mores and transformed American culture forever…[where] all that glitters is not gold.”

2. Furthermore, The Playboy Club is not endorsing porn.  Pornography is primarily a private indulgence—-hidden from view.  The show is examining the life and culture of [un]fulfilled sexual fantasies, which takes place in a specific place: a club.  A club is usually full of people.

Ok, so now that The Playboy Club is off the hook, is it innocent of all the damaging affects to society of which it stands accused?

The Jefferson Memorial----temple to words of liberty and great (ironic) example of "aura"

The Jefferson Memorial----temple to words of liberty and great (ironic) example of "aura"

3. No, The Playboy Club is not innocent of all charges.  By airing a show full of erotic and provocative dialog and imagery, it is tempting the audience to involve in sexual fantasy—and once involved, the viewer will want to realize (fulfill) the fantasy.  Since I spared you linguistic theory earlier, allow me to walk you through some basic film theory:

  • The very act of watching television creates a sense of “aura”–the type of glorification associated with heroes and idols and temples–around the content.  The figures are forever out of reach, ensconced in a beautiful shroud.
  • Human beings are physiologically and psychologically wired to want (1) to bring things closer and (2) to reproduce them—even more so now than in any previous era because of the ethos of immediacy and replication in which we now live and move and have our being.  See re-tweets, web cams, and FaceTime as exhibits A, B, and C in the affirmative evidence.
  • Our natural response, therefore, to something interesting that we see on television is “to pry [the] object from its shell, to destroy its aura [as] the mark of the ‘universal equality of things.'”  So says, Walter Benjamin, who theorized about this stuff back in 1936 when Hollywood glamour was at its height.

4.  Therefore, The Playboy Club does represent a risk for society’s detriment.  We’ve just looked at how we want to actualize what we see onscreen.  Why are there so many annoying commercials for cleaning products?  We see the product, want the product, buy the product, and the producers make more commercials so that we will again see the product, want the product, buy the product, and so forth.  Our first-world wealth and American independence empowers us to feel entitled in just that way.  And the same principle that sells Lysol plays out with dramas that have lots of sexual content.  The more we offer onscreen, the more people want it.

5. But, people are stupid and selfish.  When they want something, they don’t often check to make sure that it has integrity.  Men that want to be surrounded by beautiful women who will do any sexual act they please don’t usually stop to make sure that those women are there by choice.  They don’t often think about the repercussions for their personal relationships.  Women that want to be sexy and beautiful and petted by wealthy men don’t usually stop to make sure that the man will follow through on his promises, that he won’t beat her, and that she can leave when she wants.  And they, too, may never consider the repercussions for their personal relationships.

So, The Playboy Club may not be porn and it may not endorse porn, but its existence as a network television show will surely create a situation in which people will be set up to privately indulge their fantasies.  And the track record of humanity’s stupid and selfish traits indicates that such an indulgence will probably put many, many people at risk for exploitation, victimization, and personal injury–on both sides of the “fourth wall” that we like to think separates us from role playing and reality.  (This is not the show’s intention—otherwise, why would the same producer who brought us Law and Order: SVU be willing to back it?)

iPhone---is it a good things to have the whole world in our hands?

iPhone---is it a good things to have the whole world in our hands?

While the Playboy revolution of the 60s was important for pushing people to recognize themselves as sexual beings (versus the domestic automatons of the 50s), the shame that continues to surround the culture of sex keeps even 2011 sexuality hidden. And that hiddenness that covers the natural human insistence that our dreams come close and replay on loop, that hiddenness more than anything, is what empowers exploitation. It’s not the content itself that’s the threat; it’s our human propensity to reach out and grab hold of it, regardless of the effects of that action. The petition should not be about the “pornography” of The Playboy Club.  It should address the aura of the TV—the way we respond by extending our reach, ripping it out of the cultural conversation, and trying to replicate it in reality, as if we could hold the whole world in our hands.

Going After the Players

Yesterday a friend sent me an intriguing article about Yale University’s disciplinary action against a fraternity promulgating a “hostile sexual environment on campus” for women.  I won’t bother summarizing it for you, since a quick scan of the actual article will probably prove more useful.  But what I emailed to my friend in my thank-you response was:

It really encourages me that the symbol of white male status in America (Yale) has taken such a clear and extreme stand against their entitlement mentality (“No means yes”) on behalf of women. This kind of cultural shift is paramount to addressing the root of exploitation.

In that moment, I was so proud of Yale.  I was proud of it for making a big deal out of something that most people might consider innocuous—chanting at a fraternity meeting.  I was proud of it for erring on the side of the severe instead of the side of the lenient when dealing with an issue of sexual threat.  I was proud of it for publishing its disciplinary action—that I found out about it from the NYTimes!

With{out} Make-up

With{out} Make-up

As a woman, I have noticed in my own life that I permit (without reason) certain jokes and advances of sexual hostility in men.  Why should I laugh when a man I hardly know jokes about sitting me on his lap because there are no more seats available in the room?  Why should I accept the tight squeeze in greeting from men that haven’t earned the right (interpersonally) to put their arm around my waist instead of extending a handshake?  Why should I smile along with the group’s plans to get a free drink if I wink at the bartender?  Each one of these scenarios rests on the fact that I as a woman am expected to say “yes” when I want to say “no.”  That I as a woman should be comfortable with being a physical object instead of a moving force.  That I as a woman must learn how to do these things to “make my way in the world.”  And not only I as a woman—-men are also expected to play this game of objectification.

Women are “born knowing” how to play the game, and as such any “skill” they accrue is uncredited.  But the excerpt below is from a blog article on being a better bartender, and it showcases the expected behavior of objectification especially well because it is an action guide from one man to another man (or woman).

Some people think that there is only a certain type of person that has the confidence to talk to the opposite sex, and to talk to them in “that special way”. This isn’t necessarily true when it comes to the drinkslingers of the world – we all have to be at least a little outgoing or we wouldn’t have got the job in the first place!I love to make a girl feel special when she’s at the bar, because hey – she might give you her number. A good way to get into the habit is to have an “alter ego”, someone that is’t accountable for their actions by the light of day. You see this all the time when girls do the Hooters for Shooters, to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. So there’s Me when I’m doing the laundry, walking around the city, and writing for your entertainment, and then there’s Bartender Me, when I’m the cheeky sonovabitch that isn’t afraid to ask for a kiss as payment for that round of shots! A bartender is able to get away with a little more than a “normal” guy at the bar; you shouldn’t be afraid to take this opportunity to flex your flirting muscles! Practice your wink, look into your customer’s eyes (no matter which gender, it implies trust and confidence) – provided it isn’t sleazy, it can speak volumes. [italics mine]

With{out} Glamour

With{out} Glamour

I added the italics because I want you to see the schism that is forced into society, down to the deepest level of an individual psyche.  The schism is between behaving as a person (agent of action) and an object (to be used by another person).  Of course, there are levels of gratification, use and abuse that move back and forth.  The bartender gets better tips when he performs the part of a sexy Romeo; and the customer gets the pleasure of using said sexy Romeo in their own private narrative of conquest.  But beyond the momentary utility of being an object, the act of objectifying either another person (“No means yes”) or yourself (“No means yes”) ultimately divides us from our Selves (agency) and confuses our sense of personal integrity (wholeness).

I don’t want to split myself into parts.  I didn’t audition for the role that our culture has cast for me.  So, in short: thank you, Yale.  And thank you to all the other men and women in America who let our “yes” be yes and our “no” be no.

Parakeet Love

She was so cute and alone in the big parakeet cage at PetsMart.  Bright white, little blue spots under her wings.  A sad, bedraggled, please-love-me aspect.  My younger sister was with me and campaigned vigorously for the tiny thing’s rescue.  Luckily for them both, I had been hoping to bring home a friend for Moxie, my pied parakeet.  And the lovely black deluxe cage was on sale, too.  Damn.

BIjou: Jewel

Bijou: Jewel

Bijou was a skittish little thing.  She and Moxie timidly conversed from across my bedroom during her quarantine.  After about a week, I decided to introduce them.

Moxie was beside himself!  (Yes, I discovered that my earlier suspicions were born out: Moxie was male.)  It was love at first sight, quite literally.  Cooing and clucking and nuzzling and all made of PDA that made my sister exclaim with surprise and laughter.  I chuckled and realized I had graduated from being a parakeet owner to being a parakeet breeder.  Damn.

They spent about 72 hours courting before I let them move in together for good.  They settled into a darling routine of preening, playing, pecking, peeking, and—I’ve run out of p words to describe this parakeet love.  They are cute enough together that they could probably invent another twelve words to describe the nuance of their interactions.

So far, my one complaint: their midnight, 2 a.m., and 4 a.m. games of tag.  Perhaps Moxie is being a bit forward after lights out; perhaps birds simply get bored after two hours of sleep and have to spend some energy.  In any case, I am back to wearing earplugs.  Damn.

Today I looked up how to build nesting boxes.  “Damn.”

W.W.W. / Master Strategy (2)

Welcome to the working world! (Master Strategy 2)

This wasn’t in our course on Saturday, but I feel this week I have turned an important corner: the transition to the “working world.” Yes, I held jobs during college and have been juggling two jobs since November, but more important that actually getting the paycheck, I’m “getting” work.

I started my new schedule today: five days a week, 10 – 6. It’s quite a moment of realization—-not in the cheesy “epiphany” sense but in the “actualization” sense. I have been feeling lots of tension about my jobs since I started, and I couldn’t figure out why. These jobs were awesome! I was getting to do many of the things that I loved (even though some important portions were missing, I found other places to satisfy my inclinations). I had great hours and good (enough) pay. So why was I always stressed and frustrated and driving my family mad with my complaining?

Permission to be a working adult. That’s what I was missing. I felt tore between the carefree, shore-up-other-people’s-dreams days of college and the down-to-earth reality of being gone 9 hours a day, exhausted at the end, and saving up money. Now, I haven’t neglected the things I love, just reorganized them so that I can establish a realistic rhythm.

For the first time in my life, I will be working 5 days in a row every week, no Spring Break in sight.

*deep breath*

Yes.
I can do this.
Not only can I do this: I want to do this.
I am doing it.
Right now.

Rhythm, Joie de Vivre, by Robert Delaunay

Rhythm, Joie de Vivre, by Robert Delaunay

Huzzah for Shakespeare!

the audience for Edward III, the final play

the audience for Edward III, the final play

I got to be there! (See the upper right corner, balcony)

The Atlanta Shakespeare Company of the New American Shakespeare Tavern performed all 39 plays authored by William Shakespeare. Bravo!!

There is something special about the iconic status of William Shakespeare. Each time I see a play—even the lesser know, lesser praised—I am astonished at Shakespeare’s straightforward perusal of the human heart. It doesn’t surprise me that he ranks up near the Bible as far as most read, most translated, most published book in history.

Edward III is certainly not the most scintillating Shakespearean history, but it relentless drove home the age-old turmoil of duty to society and commitment to moral (even Divine) code. Who has precedence: the king who rules by divine right or the husband who pledges his troth? In a compelling (albeit didactic) series of scenes between the King, the Countess, and her father, we see all angles of this dilemma as they debate the Countess’ acquiescence to be the King’s mistress. (Pardon my unwieldy sentence.)

This theme reemerges in no less than five succeeding scenes throughout the play. Definitely heavy-handed, definitely well-perceived. These conflicts have a way of manifesting in countless areas of life’s routine. The struggle of human-constructed mores to cope with the vicissitudes of human relations never diminishes. No matter how many laws we right to correct each wrong, no matter how many initiatives we launch to inspire the masses, and no matter how many philosophical arguments are levied against ignorance, the problem of managing man’s soul remains.

To whom are we called to be whole-heartedly loyal? To whom do we finally answer? If to ourselves, we are hopelessly poor judges. If to Another, Who is He? How do we know Him?

I am proud of the work the ASC does: bringing the articulation of the human heart to the stage. Keeping the original text, performed by people you know, before a wide audience allows that audience to engage with the material, unburdened by another’s interpretation. The guidance of the director and the execution of the company becomes a playful yet meaningful conversation about life in which the audience still has a voice. Thank you, ASC, for valuing the work of art between author, text, and reader.

Master Strategy (1)

Yes, I’m going to be the cheesy person who relates to you, my helpless reader, all the wonderful new things I’m learning in class.

I assume though that my winning voice will keep you captivated, of course.

This week I started a course called (and I quote): “The Master Strategies of Superachievers.”  And who doesn’t want to be a superachiever?  Duh! Everyone wants to be one! (Assumption #1).  But, no, really, this class is pretty cool.  It’s supposed to correct the fact that our educational system doesn’t prepare us for real life by teaching us 15 master strategies that will take us from being “drifters” to “superachievers”—those people that are worth writing books about.

I got involved because I realized there is a deplorable lack of mentorship built into the current relationship between new grads and their employers.  Of course I’m young and inexperienced!  I just graduated, genius! (Pardon my outburst.) So, this class is my effort to surround myself with some other folks in the business and art world who are determined to up the ante.  So, here you go:

Master Strategy (1): Discover which type of personality you have.  Play to your strengths, and your weaknesses will be empowered as you go along.  Learn the personalities of those around you, and partner with people whose strengths compensate for your weaknesses.

We are only part of the way through the various personalities, but a quick 10-question test can determine where you fall in the helpful metaphors: lion, otter, golden retriever, and beaver.  Side note, although possibly the most important thing I discovered: these metaphors are conceits!  For those of you not in the loop, a conceit is a complicated, sustained metaphor used to make an argument.  And I think the name usually fits well—-many authors are incurably attached to certain metaphors and in their conceit, they believe those metaphors are the best, most accessible means of explaining their point—regardless of the audience.  Anyway, the Lion personality is nothing like a real lion.  Ditto for the Otter, Golden Retriever, and Beaver.  The personalities are, however, very like our cultural constructions of a lion, an otter, a golden retriever, and a beaver.  So, I permit their use as an exercise in cultural semiology, long may it live.

Here’s the Lion:

  • decisive
  • aggressive
  • take-charge
  • natural leader
  • impatient
  • results-oriented
  • easily bored
  • glad of a challenge / variety

What do you think?

LION

LION

OTTER

OTTER

GOLDEN RETRIEVER

GOLDEN RETRIEVER

BEAVER

BEAVER

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