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Women, Men, Eroticism and Sex

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Time Management and Dating
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Here's Zdeno with a topic that ought to be of prime interest -- or, as he implies, perhaps not. * * * * * Random Question of the day: What percentage of your lifetime happiness is the result of finding the ideal mate? Compared to everything else – career advancement, hobbies, even your choice of friends – the choice of who to settle down and start a family with seems like it should be of supreme importance. And yet, if we apply the Peters/Casnocha theorem of priority assessment, it looks like finding, screening and selecting the best, most compatible lifelong partner is very far down the average person’s list of priorities. How much time do we invest in our careers, our friends, and our favourite NFL teams, relative to the time we spend introducing ourselves to people we’re interested in, going out on dates, and putting ourselves in situations where we’re likely to meet the person we end up creating a life with? Most people that I know wind up dating, and (presumably) eventually marrying someone from the small group of similarly-aged, similarly-attractive friends that they spend the majority of their time with. If there is such a thing as compatibility, this is sub-optimal. Finding the right person should be the priority of a our years as young adults, but most of us spend them overworked, over-scheduled and flitting from one drunken casual encounter to the next. Anyways, that’s my quarter life crisis, transition-from-early-to-mid-20’s rant of the day. Younger Blowhards: What are your perspectives on this? How much time and energy do you invest in your long-term romantic future? Older Blowhards: How did you find your significant other? What advice would you have for man in my shoes, still intent on racking up belt-notches, but with a for-now dormant desire to one day settle down? * * * * * Me? I devoted a good deal of time to chasing women during my singles days, searching for an ideal. As with Zdeno, early on this was tempered by another notion: that I wouldn't marry before age 25. Being in the Army and then grad school created sets of conditions that prevented my from getting hitched till I was in my late 20s. But the most important thing is that most of the bad (non-marriage) decisions in my life directly or indirectly involved women. Mate selection is difficult because so many unknowns are involved -- how will each partner behave once all is "legal," for instance. (Courting couples often hold hands; married couples, not so much. Obviously the dynamic changes, though not hand-holding doesn't necessarily mean diminished affection.) Making things even more difficult is the "it takes two to tango" factor -- person A has serious hots for person B, but person B doesn't fully reciprocate. Or, worse, doesn't reciprocate at all; a common event in my younger days. Another factor is the decreasing supply of desirable single women as a guy advances into his... posted by Donald at December 8, 2009 | perma-link | (9) comments

Friday, December 4, 2009

Personal Pace
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- So here we are in Honolulu. Early evening. Raining like hell. Yesterday, the day we arrived, the weather was pretty nice and we wandered around for a few hours after checking in at our hotel. Today the weather also was pretty good much of the day so Nancy did some of her things and I did some of mine. Nancy is the sort of person who keeps on her feet much of the day -- off playing tennis, buzzing around the house or yard. But when walking around in the country, in a city or a shopping area, she's very poky. Me, I can sit around a lot. But when I do physical labor, it's at a strong pace -- little flitting or being distracted. And when out and about, I also operate at a fast pace, sweeping through the places where Nancy dawdles. I don't think these differences are of the male-female kind. But they are indeed differences that have to be accommodated, especially in a marital relationship. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at December 4, 2009 | perma-link | (1) comments

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Zdeno on Social Clubs
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm eons away from the singles scene, but what Zdeno writes about below seems oddly familiar. * * * * * I don’t spend quite as much time in clubs as I used to, but I’m no stranger to loud music, overpriced drinks, and nubile young women drinking and rationalizing their way into sexual escapades they will later claim to regret. Today, let's talk about this strange world, the club scene. The primary function of a club is to act as a focal point for young men and women to converge and meet each other, whether for a one-night stand, phone number exchange, or some variant thereof. Yes, some people go to clubs to dance and see friends, but some people also go to the zoo to take a walk with their family, or to a movie because they like $10 popcorn. The exceptions do not disprove the general rule. Using the cynical, reductionist perspective drilled into me by extensive economic training, I view the chaotic mating dance of humans in clubs not as a mysteriously romantic exercise in locating serendipity, but as a meat market of assortative mating. The prime activity going on in the club is the display and ascertainment of mate value. In a few words, showing off how attractive you are, and judging how attractive another person is. In one word: Signaling. Everyone has a set of traits that make them attractive, or not, to members of the opposite sex – beauty, confidence, social acumen, wit, status, money, etc. Humans, in their L’il Wayne-soundtracked mating dance, show off the extent to which they possess these traits as best they can. We should expect clubs, profit-seeking businesses that they are, to maximize their mate-matching efficacy. But oddly, this is not what we see them doing. In fact, they seem consciously designed to minimize the ability of men and women to exchange information about each others' attractiveness. Darkness and flashing lights prevent accurate assessments of physical beauty. Loud music prevents anything more than the most rudimentary of conversations. All of it is masked in a haze of liquor that increases the noise-to-signal ratio all around. Why is that? I have my theory, which I had originally planned to include in the body of this post. But I think I’ll hold off on it and let everyone else take a crack at the question: Why do clubs appear as if they are designed to be as bad as possible at accomplishing their obvious goal? * * * * * Actually, the only unfamiliar thing is the word "club" -- something Canadian? Or am I out of it, as usual. In my day there were dance halls and there were singles bars, but they hadn't quite merged as completely as Zdeno indicates. Whatever they were called, I never really liked them and tended to meet women elsewhere. And you? Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 19, 2009 | perma-link | (28) comments

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

About "The Black Helmet" and More
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Richard Fernandez (aka "Wretchard") writes here about the difficulty of maintaining lies. His primary subject is former senator John Edwards, sometime presidential candidate and vice-presidential nominee. The bit that interested me wasn't about Edwards. It was this snippet: Eric Bana, in an interview with TV show [host] Craig Ferguson, provided one of the clearest examples of the price of lying. Bana explained he did not dye his hair out of fear of becoming hostage to the dread Black Helmet, which is “the thing that men get when they decide to cover they [sic] grays,” Bana said. Nothing could be worse than wearing an unchanging slab of black hair as one grew older. The price of keeping one’s hair youthful isn’t the price of a bottle of dye, it is the cumulative effort of keeping the rest of the face in sync with the Black Helmet as the visage beneath it ages. That effort increases with time until it finally becomes prohibitive. Keeping reality from showing through the facade of fakery is a full time job. I believe Bana and Fernandez are right. That is, right so long as a noticeable share of the population ages visibly naturally. But if everyone who had ever begun graying dyed their hair, then in theory their appearance would eventually be perceived as normal. So many 50- 60- and 70-something women dye their hair nowadays that I'm almost beginning to think their appearance is normal. Or maybe that applies to women I'm acquainted with who get well-crafted dye-jobs; dull, jet-black or henna-purple hair seems fundamentally unnatural because no one with normal hair looks that way. Message to the under-50 crowd: Aging is no fun, even at the superficial level of getting a reality check looking at yourself in the mirror or admiring your latest passport or drivers license photo. I think men tend to be less appearance-conscious than women. But we are not immune. I am not fond of the sagging skin on my neck, but won't do anything to fix it through surgery. On the plus side, my hair still has more dark than gray -- the hair that remains, I should note. Then there is the (pardon the expression) gray area of surgery to correct medical conditions. My wife has been after me about droopy eyelids. They've been that way for the last five or ten years, perhaps longer. So I went to the eye doctor for an evaluation that included looking into an object about the size and shape of a basketball sliced in two. The task is to spot as many little light flashes projected on the inside surface as you can. My right eye scored three of 29, my left nine of 28; with eyelids taped open I spotted all or nearly all the flashes. I haven't received an official "go" yet regarding whether my medical plans will fund a procedure, but it seems likely and I'll probably have the work done some time... posted by Donald at October 7, 2009 | perma-link | (4) comments

Friday, September 4, 2009

Pole Dancing
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Is this Bob Fosse-worthy performance by Australian pole dancer Felix Cane art? Dance? Soft-core porn? Sport? My take: I don't care. I love it, it's amazing, and that's all that really matters to me. Sure is fun to think about the above questions, though. Bonus links: Many more intoxicating performances on video at Felix Cane's website. A "Will porn ever be considered to be art"? yakfest here at 2Blowhards. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 4, 2009 | perma-link | (11) comments

Friday, August 21, 2009

Erotica Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Remind anybody else of their college years? * "My father always told me to do something I love," Danielle writes, explaining why she became an escort. * Roissy takes a jaunt around the internet. As always chez Roissy, the comments aren't to be skipped. * Ferdinand Bardamu takes a fun and smart swing at some of the same questions. * Also from the Roissysphere ... Hope offers some sensible advice to the gals on how to love men. * Alexa recalls getting pierced. * Alexa also turned up this informative history of the courtesan. * It's a new celebrity sex-tape! No, it's just three friends having fun! In the nude. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 21, 2009 | perma-link | (21) comments

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Fantasies That Women's Magazines Sell
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Killing time waiting for The Wife at the hair salon, I leafed through some women's magazines. Not for the first time I found myself thinking: What a weird and terrifying world is the mental landscape of the human female! I had a good time noting down some of the fantasies the editors of women's magazines -- and presumably some of these magazines' readers -- enjoy indulging in: Spend a year in a foreign country, and you'll discover your true self. The right combo of leotard and jogbra top will make your workout easier. Applying the right lip gloss and eating some whole grains will solve whatever's bothering you today. Embracing who and what you are -- whatever that means -- will make you look ten years younger. Jobs aren't about selling something others are willing to pay for. Jobs are about personal fulfillment. Plastic surgery won't make you look weird. Driving a Prius and installing compact flourescent lightbulbs will save the world. Drinking green tea and pomegranate juice will ensure that you'll never get sick. Nevertheless, you're always just this far from discovering that you have breast cancer. Emotions -- no matter which, no matter when -- need to be faced and worked-through. Then you'll feel great. Following your instincts and your feelings will always work out for the best. You can eat yourself slim. The troubles of movie stars are just like yours. The right fabric patterns and colors will successfully disguise your fat ass. What did I miss? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 1, 2009 | perma-link | (45) comments

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Evolutionary pressures may be creating ever-more-beautiful women. Guys? Well, "men remain as aesthetically unappealing as their caveman ancestors." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 26, 2009 | perma-link | (12) comments

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mental -- And Physical -- Health
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Maybe it isn't porn that's dangerous to your health. Maybe it's girlfriends. Bonus Links: Rod Dreher asks his readers what they make of living in a "pornified" culture. Razib shares some facts and thoughts about the topic. * Alexa didn't love "The Girlfriend Experience." (NSFW) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 17, 2009 | perma-link | (13) comments

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Eroticism Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * 47-year-old model Carol Alt poses for Playboy. * Caitlin Macrae dons a pair of remote-control panties. * Alexa tells the tale of one particular first time. * Model, editor, and onetime girlfriend of the cartoonist R. Crumb, Dian Hanson works these days as sex-book editor at the brilliant publisher Taschen. She's smart and interesting. Here's an interview with her. * Oops. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 4, 2009 | perma-link | (0) comments

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Discrimination in the Theater
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Relatively few plays written by women are produced. Can we take this as definitive evidence of discrimination against women? Research has been done: More men than women write plays, and the men are also often more prolific. Taking these numbers into account, plays by men and women are in fact produced at the same rate. Plays by women do seem to need to be better (or at least more commercial) than plays by men in order to receive productions. But who enforces this state of affairs? As it turns out: women artistic directors and women literary managers. Ladies: Sometimes you do it to yourselves. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 24, 2009 | perma-link | (71) comments

Sex and Relationship Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Toby Young wonders why he's become such a grump since he turned 40. * Meet the real 40 year old virgins. (Link thanks to Randall Parker) * Where does empathy come from? * Lily Burana reviews two biographies of the legendary stripper (and popular-culture figure) Gypsy Rose Lee. * Tony Comstock remembers that, back in the 1970s, New York City "smelled like sex." * Curious to hear what the "Game" crowd makes of this study. I have a hunch that Game doesn't take into enough account that there might well be a difference between the gals a guy enjoys fantasizing about and the gals he actually enjoys spending time with. But what do I know? * Tantric sex is back in the news. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 24, 2009 | perma-link | (6) comments

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- That Cirque du Soleil crowd really knows how to party: here, here, here. Why wasn't I invited? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 16, 2009 | perma-link | (20) comments

Monday, June 8, 2009

Eroticism Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Tony and Peggy Comstock (of the very interesting alt-porn company Comstock Films) have started a new blog/community on the theme of: What to do when you take your digital camera into the bedroom. * Broken penises, yikes. * Escort Missy writes about her clients' "other women" -- ie., their wives. * Lacey Steven's real-estate business was tanking, so she changed fields. * Kimberly lists 10 things she wishes she'd done during her years as a stripper. * New England-bred Polly-Vous Francais finds herself immersed in France's culture of flirtation -- and liking it. * MBlowhard Rewind: I offered a tribute to that great archetype, the Frenchwoman. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 8, 2009 | perma-link | (15) comments

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sex and Eroticism Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * The world's most famous swimsuits. * If the two of you are a couple, do you have to share the same bed? * Here's a lengthy Taoist look at orgasm. * For some people, there can be no such thing as too many choices in body jewelry. * Chuck has a theory of happiness. * Highlights from this year's pole dancing championship. * Arnold discovers Rio. (Link thanks to visitor Hello) Best, Michael UPDATE: Everything you may ever have wanted to know about female ejaculation. UPDATE 2: Funny and clever t-shirt.... posted by Michael at May 30, 2009 | perma-link | (9) comments

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sex and Eroticism Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Are we inhabiting a glorious new world of feminist porn? More. * Do dates turn into disasters just because guys can be such horny oafs? Lemmonex thinks that sometimes the ladies deserve some blame too. Check out Lemmonex's YouTube channel. A nice, let's-all-cosign-that passage from a recent Lemmonex posting: I hate whiners. Truly. I have broken up with men because I found them to be sissified man children who think the world owes them eternal happiness. Women who behave like entitled princesses, believing they are the specialist of all the snowflakes, honestly deserve a smack back in to reality. * Sister Wolf has been giving herself over to the joy of girdles. * A hilarious visual blogposting: Danish interior design via stills from porn movies. Safe For Work, or pretty much so. * Will Steve Moxon's "The Woman Racket" be the next big, un-PC pop evo-bio sensation? Here's an interview with Moxon, who's nothing if not provocative. (UPDATE/ALERT: The anti-virus software of at least one visitor has been set off by this Moxon link. So be wary.) * Von Corncrake discovers that his dance partner can really dance. * Some of these pornoHaikus are, well, maybe not good, exactly, but worth paying attention to for a few seconds. * Roissy has some tips for guys who want to tell their gals how much they care. * What enables some women to enjoy themselves in the sack? Amusing to read about a new study showing that foreplay isn't as important for women as was once thought. As always, the comments are a big part of the fun. * Meet Masanobu Sato, who just repeated as Masturbation Champ. (Link thanks to visitor Hello) * Some fun facts about orgasms: * MBlowhard Rewind: I reviewed a documentary about the author of the famous erotic novel "Story of O." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 21, 2009 | perma-link | (20) comments

Friday, May 15, 2009

Facing Pages
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I was leafing through Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue when a juxtaposition caught my eye. On pages facing each other were this girl -- -- and this ad -- Of the many taste-changes that have most taken me by surprise over the decades, the preference that this illustration represents is high on the list. These are robot creatures ... for guys who find Lara Croft sexier than real women? Is that right? What shall we call this preference? "Unreal digitized Photoshop perfection"? Or -- a term I believe visitor Ricpic came up with -- "android sexiness"? Even the real girl in the comparison above has an unreal, android-ish, silvery flawlessness. It seems to me that, where sex and many other things go, the relationship to fantasy has changed. Adjusting to the reality of real women used to be considered part of becoming a man. Back in the day, there were plenty of jokes around about how boys setting out on sex lives expected to find staples in their girlfriends' tummies -- acknowledgments of how influential the Playboy centerfold was in shaping male expectations. But it was also widely understood that fantasy was something you had to know how to keep in its place. Real life was more complex -- as well as more moving, upsetting, disturbing, and rewarding -- than losing yourself in fantasy was. And that's what a woman could represent to a man: real life. Artifice and invention? They weren't mean to overwhelm life, they were meant to enhance it. Now, though ... By comparison to what's on the computer screen, real life apparently looks dim, inert, and depressing. Online experiences apparently hook some boys so young and so deep that many of them never recover. Real girls are never more than poor substitutes for Lara Croft, real life just a dim disappointment that can never be recovered from. Bonuses: Read a history of the Swimsuit Issue Friedrich von Blowhard wrote a posting comparing Schiele and the Swimsuit Issue Donald wrote about American pinup artists Just for the record: Jule Campbell is the name of the brilliant editor who turned the Swimsuit Issue into an American pop-culture classic. For 30 years Campbell put to work an unmatchable knack for combining athletic, sweet, a little sophisticated, and beautiful. Her girls represented a healthy and friendly alternative to the creatures that inhabited fashion magazines. However glitzily produced the Swimsuit Issue has been in the years since Campbell left the helm, her special magic is now missing from the publication entirely. I'm sorry to report that I can't find much about Campbell on the web. She makes a few appearances here. I'd love to interview her. If anyone knows how to contact Jule Campbell, please shoot an email to me at michaelblowhard at that gmaily place. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 15, 2009 | perma-link | (29) comments

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sex Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Quit making that duckface! * Weak as my lesbian-dar can be, still I have to say that this doesn't come as much of a surprise. * Photographer David Steinberg drops by a couple of events and, despite all the extreme activity on display, finds the whole scene pretty civilized. * Don't let this happen to you. (Video that's very mildly NSFW) * Rolling Stone celebrates porn star Sasha Grey. Interesting to learn that Sasha is a fan of the French filmmaker Catherine Breillat. I am too. I blogged about Breillat's brilliant (IMHO, of course) "Brief Crossing" here, and about her not-so-successful (but still fascinating) "The Last Mistress" here. "Romance" strikes me as Breillat's most amazing film. Here's a lengthy essay about "Romance" that I largely agree with. * Nerve interviews Sasha Grey. * MBlowhard Rewind: I wondered if porn is becoming -- or has already become -- the new rock and roll. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 7, 2009 | perma-link | (7) comments

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * The Rawness does a lot of powerful, smart, and down-to-earth thinking about madonna/whore complexes: Part One, Part Two, Part Three. He has also made available for download what sounds like an intriguing out of print book. * After a hiatus well-spent perfecting Game, Thursday returns to blogging: How to find a virgin. Whassup with the men's movement? Who won the sexual revolution? * Who's in the right? The hubby who wants a tumble three or four times a week? Or the wife who prefers to enjoy some luvvvvin' once a month? As my own wife likes to say, galz and guyz are so different -- both in terms of what they're looking for and how they prefer to go about getting it -- that it's a miracle women and men manage to shack up at all. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 29, 2009 | perma-link | (37) comments

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sex-roles Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Welcome to the new monogamy. * Legal conundrum for the day: should "sexting" teens be charged with child pornography? I'm baffled by this one myself. * Whassup with these new "bromancing" young men? Gay? Bi? Or just metro? * Who needs men anyway? * Completely unrelated but hard to resist: Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 23, 2009 | perma-link | (27) comments

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yet More on Art, Porn, Erotica, etc
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I left a comment responding to Peter L. Winkler and Shouting Thomas a few postings ago that I was half-pleased with, so I've dolled it up a bit and am promoting it to its own posting here. Ah, the power of the blog-owner ... The general theme of the discussion was "Will porn ever be accepted as art?" Peter thinks that porn is too function-oriented a thing ever to be considered art. Shouting Thomas volunteered some observations and questions about sex's role not just in art but in reproduction. Peter L.W. -- People don't go to action movies who aren't in the mood for excitement. They don't eat a steak if they aren't in the mood for meat. They don't go to Lincoln Center if they aren't in the mood for a "culture-with-a-capital-C" experience. Wanting a culture/media/whatever artifact that'll suit and/or enhance your mood seems ... I dunno, sensible, likely, unremarkable, and commonplace. So what's different about wanting a culture experience that'll enhance and/or suit a nice erotic buzz? More generally, I think that part of what's happening these days where culture goes is that a certain kind of familiar expectation is being upended. It used to be that we reached out towards the arts, and that we assumed that this was normal and good. The arts were central and eternal; we individuals were transient moths circling the everlasting flame. These days, it's more about using the arts to suit ourselves. Don't listen to what you should listen to: instead, why not create a playlist or Bookmarks collection that suits you? The person and his/her preferences and whims are becoming central, while the art-things are starting to seem come-and-go. BTW, I'm not saying this is good or bad, just that it seems to be happening. If we are indeed entering a universe that's far more "suit yourself" than the old media universe was, that helps explain why porn is becoming more accepted: It's primary among the arts-that-get-used. And if we're comfy with the idea that the arts should suit us and our moods, then many objections to thinking of porn as just another artform dissolve. Incidentally, I'm a little puzzled by people who consider porn and erotica to be nothing but masturbation aids. Does no one else enjoy leafing thru erotic/sexy images, vids, and stories 1) out of curiosity, 2) just for the pleasant dreamy high of it? ST -- I'm all for connecting the arts to the basic urges, and I certainly think that if/when we don't the arts quickly become irrelevant. But this is a cultureblog, not a reproductionblog. Culture after all isn't about bare survival; it's largely a matter of taking basic needs and urges and whipping up artifacts and experiences based on them that have beyond-functional aspects and qualities. Hunger and nutrition, for instance: We could probably survive on dogfood and mulch. But we'd have no "cuisine." Hearing and sound: we could just listen to nature and grunt, but we'd... posted by Michael at April 21, 2009 | perma-link | (58) comments

Monday, April 20, 2009

More on Porn and Rock
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A while back I wondered whether porn might become the new rock and roll -- in other words, whether porn might not soon make the leap, as rock once did, from despised/beloved low-entertainment-thing to accepted/respected part of popular culture. Though most visitors scoffed, I continue to think that my hunch is a good one. The main reason for my stubbornness: the masses of evidence I see all around me. The urban and arty kids in their 20s I sometimes hang out with have already accepted porn as a legit form of entertainment and self-expression. And when creative and trendsetting youth turns a corner, mainstream tastes and attitudes often follow. Check out the blogroll on this hipster Brooklyn blog. (These days Brooklyn is more edgy than Manhattan is.) Along with gossip, comedy, tech, and music, there it is: a porn category, featuring five alt-porn sites. When Burning Angel CEO and star Joanna Angel wants to celebrate the 7th anniversary of her alt-porn company, where does she throw the party? At the popular East Village rock venue Webster Hall. The star of Steven Soderbergh's upcoming film "The Girlfriend Experience"? Alt-porn diva Sasha Grey. Here's an interview with Sasha, who tells Filmmaker magazine that she's in an art-film phase. Watch a trailer for the movie here. Here's an NSFW ad that Sasha did for American Apparel. Where trends go, are you really going to argue with American Apparel? (Just to be clear: I'm not celebrating this development, just taking note of culturelife as it streams by.) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 20, 2009 | perma-link | (37) comments

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

G-Spots; Bailouts
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * You know that long-running controversy over vaginal orgasms? The way some women say that they have 'em, some women report that they don't, and some extremist women claim that no such thing is even possible? (The nuttier feminists have long wanted to establish it as indisputable fact that the penis can play no role in a woman's pleasure.) Here's a study that may begin to explain a major reason why there's a controversy at all: Some women seem to have G-spots and others don't. Makes sense to me: During my catting-around years I ran across huuuuuge variations in women's sensitivity and responsiveness. Comments, stories, and opinions from female visitors to 2Blowhards are hereby officially encouraged. Dudes: Be respectful. Everyone: Take advantage of the fact that you're using a pseudonym. * This Newsweek article by Michael Hirsh explores the origins of Obama's bailout strategy. But it also provides an excellent glimpse at the way Wall Street and D.C. don't just overlap these days, they blend totally. Best, Michael UPDATE: Lifetime for Men. (Link thanks to JV.) UPDATE 2: Meet Japan's 75-year-old porn star. He went into the business when he was 59. UPDATE 3: The tools they use to measure sexual arousal.... posted by Michael at April 15, 2009 | perma-link | (36) comments

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Are the photos in the new issue of Allure despicable porn? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 14, 2009 | perma-link | (50) comments

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sex Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * When in doubt, today's young woman wants to mow the lawn. * Take a tour of's facility. FWIW, and like it or not: Kink is generally thought to be making some of the most striking, stylish, and far-out current porn. Interesting that Kink also wants to be perceived as a good urban citizen. San Francisco, eh? Here's an interview with Peter Acworth, Kink's English-born, Columbia-educated CEO. * If feminists are going to make their own porn, why shouldn't they sponsor their own feminist porn awards? * Great gig. * So maybe not every woman is a morally-upright, polite, team-playing darling, and maybe there can be such a thing as too much estrogen. Who knew? * Ashley Dupre (of Eliot Spitzer fame) has been finding some calm by practicing yoga. * Enough, finally, with feminist "sex-positivity." Chicks, eh? Guys don't generally spend a lot of time worrying about whether sex is "good" or "bad," let alone "positive," let alone "politically correct." * All that said, it seems that more and more men are going sex-negative. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 11, 2009 | perma-link | (13) comments

Friday, April 3, 2009

Sex Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Newspaper headline of the day. * Alexa was feeling mischievous ... (NSFW for language) * Ouch. * The evolutionary biology view of sexual attraction. * Michael Gonzales recalls (with fondness and gratitude) Jeffrey Jones' early-'70s National Lampoon erotic comic strip "Idyl." Enjoy some of Jones' non-erotic work here. Jeff Jones -- now that's an artist who can draw. * Vintage vibrators. * Help Roissy decide who's Beta of the Month. * Is pole dancing going to be the next new Olympic sport? * Cute (and super-entrepreneurial) porn star Sarah Blake offers a tour of her dungeon. * Getting rid of tattoos sounds like it's even more painful than getting them in the first place. * Well, maybe they're learning from their mistakes. (NSFW for language) * Whassup with the new young men who have no interest in sex? * Scientifically proven: the sexiest mouth in the world belongs to Monica Bellucci. * The economic downturn hits the porn business. * How sex began. * Those curious about "Game" can get a look at Mystery in action here. * Forget the central bankers and financiers. Here's another field that an Ivy education can prepare you for. Related. (FWIW, I genuinely enjoyed reading that book.) * MBlowhard Rewind: I wrote about the completely ludicrous yet very sexy French film "Exterminating Angels." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 3, 2009 | perma-link | (34) comments

Women (and Men) Today
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Are today's women liberated, confused -- or just out shopping? (And why are British women journalists so much more likely to write freewheeling and irreverent pieces about the "women" question than American women journalists are?) Bonus link: How did six-pack abs become such a big focus of erotic attention? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 3, 2009 | perma-link | (42) comments

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Recession-Proof Employment
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Fight the downturn: Become a stripper. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 22, 2009 | perma-link | (20) comments

Cherie, Nude
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- She's no Carla Bruni, god knows, but when she was 22 Tony Blair's wife Cherie posed nude for the painter Euan Uglow. (Friedrich von Blowhard and I are both fans of Uglow's work, for what that's worth. See some of his paintings here.) The Independent talks to some other Brits who have posed in the buff for painters and photographers. Bonus link: Do men and women take different photographs? My own small observation is that women are far, far more likely than men are to take photos of themselves. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 22, 2009 | perma-link | (4) comments

Thursday, March 19, 2009

In a Bad Economy, Women's Skirt Lengths ...
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- They (don't ask me who) used to say that bad economic times and the length of women's skirts correlated. As the market dropped towards the floor, so did the hems of skirts and dresses. I suspect this notion was launched by the experience of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Sweet Young Things and wannabes during the Roaring Twenties wore knee-length skirts. By 1935 hems dropped to a few inches above the ankle: call it the lower calf area. And in the early 1940s hems were back to the lower edge of the knee. So far, so good for the theory. But the high skirts of the 20s were a complete break from centuries where women's dresses and skirts ended somewhere between the ankle and the floor. Not much room for correlation with this Golden Age or that Panic. Flip to post-World War 2. Wartime skirt lengths came crashing down with Dior's New Look launched in 1947. For the next dozen years or so, skirt hems hovered near mid-calf. During which time we went through at least two economic downturns of note (1949 and 1958) plus Eisenhower's prosperity years. As the 1958 recession eased, hems did rise in accord with the recovery. Around 1960 came A-line dresses where hems were just below the knee. As 1960s prosperity continued, hems went up. And up and up until the turn of the decade when there were miniskirts, micro-minis and and all sorts of eye-candy. I'm not sure whether this had anything to do with the economy or if it was launched by the invention of pantyhose in the late 60s. By the 1980s, fashion lock-step had been largely broken and, ever since, women wear a greater variety of styles at any given time. This makes it difficult to link skirt lengths and stock prices. Since correlating hems and business cycles seems to be something not worth pursuing, why don't we focus on the more interesting (to men) subject of skirt lengths. At 2Blowhards, Michael mused about skirts and other garment-related matters here. My subject (now that I disposed of the economics thing) is what is the ideal skirt length. Let's assume the Female Object (yes, feminists, we are indeed objectifying here: deal with it) is an average-attractive woman in her late 20s and has average-to-better legs. My vote is for a hemline at the bottom of the kneecap. When seated, a woman so dressed will show off her knees and perhaps a bit more. When standing or walking, the focus will be on the curves of the calf as the thickness of the lower leg increases and then decreases. The longer skirts of the 30s and 50s allowed display of only the lower part of the lower leg. From all angles, all that could be seen was taper, and from the rear, many women had a bird-like appearance -- the lower legs forming a sort of V. On the other hand, short skirts are unfair to... posted by Donald at March 19, 2009 | perma-link | (36) comments

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More on Porn and Art
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I still have a bad cold, but I've now got a quarter of my brain back, and I've caught up with the comments on my "Is Porn the New Rock 'n' Roll?" posting. So I'm going to venture a few musings and responses ... Let's at least admit that the "porn and art" topic can kick off a lively discussion. The comparison of porn to drugs strikes me as a good one. On the other hand, it's not as though rock music hasn't had its drug side, in several senses. Clearly some people use rock as a drug, if only an anesthetic. Clearly a lot of people have used rock to enhance sex. Clearly rock can addle the brain. Clearly for many people rock is addictive ... But has any of that prevented the culture generally from deciding that rock is an art form? Which opens up a topic I'm surprised we haven't made more of, which is: Part of the "art" thing isn't so much what the artwork is per se, let alone what its intention is. Part of it is the use we make of it. If a guy jerks off to Nabokov's "Ada," then he has used "Ada" as pornography. If a woman loves shall we say soothing her loneliness by watching Kevin Costner movies, then she's using mainstream Hollywood movies as pornography. Though these two particular people may be nothing but outliers, how about this: What if the culture generally decides to take "Ada" as porn? (Some critics have in fact deemed it porn.) Then it's porn, right? On the other hand, as soon as someone starts to take stuff that's routinely categorized as porn and considers it from an aesthetic point of view, interesting non-porny things can start to arise from the experience. You might wind up with, say, Bettie Page. In other words, how an individual or a culture chooses to take a given work is a big factor in how that work is considered. Once upon a time no one took burlesque performances as art. Now some people do. The first time I went to a pro ballet performance, my first reaction was "Woohoo, it's porn for the high-class set!" Yet ballet is about as high-art as culture can be. And before you dismiss my reaction, let me cite the respected ex-ballerina and ballet writer Toni Bentley on my behalf. For her, ballet both is sex and is about sex. Balanchine was turning himself on. Audiences are getting high. The splayed thighs, the ecstatic expressions, and the hefty baskets are a big part of what that art form is selling. Hey, Toni Bentley has not only written beautifully about strippers, Balanchine, and ballet -- check out some of her freelance pieces here -- she's written a wonderful arty-porny memoir of erotic awakening. (Look closely and you'll see my real name mentioned in the Acknowledgments.) I'm being a little presumptuous, but I think it's fair to say that... posted by Michael at February 25, 2009 | perma-link | (45) comments

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tantric Bliss
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Let's cultivate our erotic appreciation and polish our erotic techniques. I give you Roman Danylo, Tantric Sex Master: NSFW, but in a funny and good-natured, late-night comedy way. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 22, 2009 | perma-link | (5) comments

Friday, February 20, 2009

Is Porn the New Rock 'n' Roll?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Gallery owner, artist, activist, porn performer and porn producer Madison Young answers 20 questions. Reading the q&a with Madison reminded me of a notion that I've been playing with recently. It's this: Perhaps porn is the new rock 'n' roll. I have a cold today so I'm not going to try to build my usual devastatingly-convincing case. (Small joke.) Still, some comparisons are striking. If you object to my notion because you feel that porn by definition isn't an art form ... Well, it certainly took a while for rock to be recognized by mainstream society as one. Definitions sometimes change. If you cavil because you think porn is too base or animalistic ... Well, rock was experienced by mainstream society for quite a while as little but a shapeless eruption of primitive energy. Then our view of what art can offer changed. Here's my basic reasoning. Porn has been around forever. What has changed in fairly-recent years is that 1) it has become omnipresent, 2) younger generations take its easy availability for granted, 3) a not-insignificant number of artily-inclined and talented kids (Dave Naz, Natascha Merritt, Eon McKoi, Blaise Christie, Joanna Angel) have chosen to embrace porn as their favored form of self-expression, 4) digital technology has provided tools to make porn on your own terms, as well as a way to distribute your creations. In other words, perhaps the only reason that porn hasn't been acknowledged as a significant new art development is because we aren't yet in the habit of seeing it as such. Were there loads of people in 1954 who realized that rock was a big, culture-transforming deal? So, my hunch: Perhaps 50 years from now, people looking back on our time -- in the unlikely event that anyone should take a break from mobile Facebooking -- will decide that Madison Young, the folks behind IShotMyself and BeautifulAgony, and Peter Acworth (the entrepreneur and mind behind were the culture-shifting art stars of 2009. Unlikely, perhaps. But can you guarantee me that this won't happen? And a quick reminder: jazz wasn't initially seen as one of America's most glorious contributions to world culture. For decades movies were considered to be a low-rent novelty. Almost no one following movies in the '60s and '70s forsaw that the exploitation movies of the era would have the continuing influence and impact that they've proven to have. Given all this: Which of today's artists and performers would you deem likely to be remembered in 2059? A quick attempt to head off one potential dismissive response at the pass: I'm not venturing my "porn may be the rock 'n' roll of our era" notion because I like porn, or because I feel it's a good thing, or a bad thing, or because I have a political or cultural agenda. I'm not agitating on behalf of porn. My only purpose in this posting is to take note of a little of what surrounds us, culturally... posted by Michael at February 20, 2009 | perma-link | (89) comments

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sex Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Cougar Liberation: older galz on the prowl are coming out of the closet. * Jenny Jones files a report from the AVN Expo. * Best use of a wiki yet. * Can a child be charged with creating kiddie porn? The new technology certainly makes a lot of crazy things possible. * Sebastian Flyte praises "the neg." * Porn legend Ron Jeremy talks to Time magazine about his life in the business. * Randall Parker notices some changes in mating preferences. Razib comments. * How do you "ground" a daughter who is misbehaving in the virtual world? * Alexa writes that she got her first Brazilian at 15, and live-Tweets a professional appointment. * The biggest sexology discoveries of the last 130 years. * Rich men give women more orgasms. * Chuck Ross winces at the spectacle of middle-aged guys at gyms, and thinks that strip clubs are overrated. Good sentence: "Paying $100 for 4 beers and a case of blue balls is not my idea of a good time." * Porn star Belladonna tours the Lelo sex-toy booth. You don't need to be told that the linkage above is NSFW, do you? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 9, 2009 | perma-link | (15) comments

Molly C.
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Artist and performer Molly Crabapple is looking a little like Natalie Portman (only stacked) on the cover of Constellation magazine. I'm proud to say that Molly got her start as a writer here at 2Blowhards. Check out her Confessions of a Naked Model: here, here, here, here. Here's Molly's website. Check out Molly's baby, the burlesque-inspired downtown phenomenon called Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 9, 2009 | perma-link | (2) comments

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Steve Sailer is shrewd and funny about that Whittier, CA woman who just gave birth to octuplets: here and here. Fun fact: the hospital says it will spend around $3 million dollars on care for the eight babies. Best, Michael SEMI-RELATED UPDATE: Your bailout dollars at work. The AP's Frank Bass and Rita Beamish write: "The figures are significant because they show that the bailed-out banks, being kept afloat with U.S. taxpayer money, actively sought to hire foreign workers instead of American workers." Hey, whaddya say we just ship money directly from our bank accounts to random foreigners? Speaking of banks ... Time magazine's Stephen Gandel calculates that the U.S. government's annualized rate of return on the bailout money it has thrown at banks has so far been -1096%.... posted by Michael at February 1, 2009 | perma-link | (6) comments

Thursday, January 15, 2009

R-Rated Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * What makes for the perfect female behind? * Yes, fellas: it apparently is possible to be too damn big. * Quinn Martin has excellent taste in quirky-girl actresses. * Escort/model Alexa Di Carlo takes questions: part one, part two, part three. * LA-based photographer James Christopher has a fresh way with nudes. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 15, 2009 | perma-link | (14) comments

Friday, December 19, 2008

Down and Dirty Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * It's that time of year again: Place your vote for the sexiest girl-geek of 2008. * Alexa recalls her first time with another girl. Great line: "I thought to myself, this is fun -– I see why guys like doing it." * Now here's a blog with a theme! * T./Ricky Raw shares a couple of great, as well as instructive, bar pickup yarns. * Polaroid declares bankruptcy. We oldies remember well the kind of photography that really made Polaroid's business. * Hmmmmm. Now that I think about it, I've always had my suspicions about pastry glazes ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 19, 2008 | perma-link | (13) comments

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Debbie Rochon
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Have you heard of the actress Debbie Rochon? She's one of the great figures of the current exploitation and cult cinema. Now 40, she has appeared in over 150 movies, none of which you've ever heard of -- at least, if you aren't a low-budget sleaze and horror fan. Sample titles: "Corpses Are Forever," "Playmate of the Apes," "Vampire Seduction." But while many of the movies she has acted in have been forgettable quickies, Debbie Rochon's talents and performances are anything but. In fact, she's a dynamite actress. (It's a tribute to the discernment of exploitation buffs that many of them recognize Rochon as the real deal.) In cheesy movie after quickie movie -- often working with directors who have no idea at all what they're doing, and opposite performers who are barely performers at all -- Rochon delivers balls-out, fully-felt, and surprisingly sophisticated and touching performances. (Not that there's anything wrong with sleazy and / or quickie movies, god knows! If there's one lesson movie history drives home over and over again, it's that movies that are dismissed as shallow popular trash when they're released sometimes turn out to have more staying power than movies that initially seem far more plausible. Some major examples: '30s monster movies, '50s sci-fi, film noir, and Italian giallo films.) Petite and spunky, tough yet vulnerable, Rochon has a stylized waif / gamine quality that reminds me of the French actress Elodie Bouchez, and a rueful, wised-up soulfulness that puts me in mind of Diane Lane. She combines a bruised, wild-child, rock-chick spirit with a European art-movie-diva aura -- she's half Skid Row bohemian, half "Jules and Jim" / "La Notte" tragedienne. Rochon also has a scrappy and amazing, go-it-her-own-way life story: She started out as a street kid in Vancouver, stumbled into movies, moved to New York for training, opted for the exploitation track rather than the mainstream career track ... Truly independent, she works without an agent, maintaining a close relationship with Troma mastermind Lloyd Kaufman ... She writes for exploitation-cinema magazines and co-hosts a Sirius radio show with the rocker Dee Snider ... Given that Debbie Rochon is one of the underappreciated treasures of contempo American popular culture, a major mystery to me is why the hipsters who work in the big-budget movie world -- guys like Tarantino, Rodriguez, Linklater, Fincher, etc -- haven't pounced on Rochon and turned her into a mainstream icon. Dudez: time to show a little of your canny-casting stuff, please. is spending the week running an interview with Debbie Rochon in short excerpts: part one, part two, part three, part four. In addition to her other virtues, Rochon turns out to be far more down-to-earth, articulate, and thoughtful than actresses usually are. Watch, listen, enjoy, learn. Here's Debbie Rochon's own website. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 18, 2008 | perma-link | (12) comments

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bettie Page, R.I.P.
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I was sorry to learn that the legendary pinup model Bettie Page has died. She was 85 and had suffered a heart attack. The L.A. Times' Louis Sahagun writes a lovely obit. Sahagun was one of the last reporters to spend time with Page, back in 2006. He wrote up the visit here. I enjoyed "The Notorious Bettie Page," Mary Harron's recent biopic starring a brilliant Gretchen Mol as Bettie, and wrote about it here. Best, Michael UPDATE: Tributes from Jeremy Richey and Susie Bright. Charlton Griffin turned up this Bettie mashup. In this vid, Bettie shakes her tailfeather.... posted by Michael at December 12, 2008 | perma-link | (15) comments

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Whither Italy?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Is Italy regressing or coming to its senses? Votes, please. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 7, 2008 | perma-link | (22) comments

Thursday, December 4, 2008

American Manhood, R.I.P.
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- These days we can't even breed our own movie heroes. “Hollywood is great at producing male actors, but sucks at producing men,” says graphic novelist/director Frank Miller. “I found them all too much like boys.” Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 4, 2008 | perma-link | (67) comments

Thursday, November 20, 2008

More on "Game"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- City Journal's Kay Hymowitz discovers the phenomenon of "Game" and the culture of PUAs (Pick-Up Artists). Hymowitz's piece struck me as fair, but Roissy thinks the bitch deserves a spanking. I overindulged in the comments thread on Roissy's posting. Related: The smart, interesting, and spirited Chris and Mu'Min are now sharing a blog. Roissy annotates a classic scene from "Gone With the Wind." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 20, 2008 | perma-link | (30) comments

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Women, Men, Romance, Sex Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Does anyone else recall the old Ladies Home Journal feature "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" As a kid I gobbled those stories up. Grownup melodramas, eh? I found this feature from the Daily Mail (four women talk about discovering that their hubbies were cheating on them) similarly irresistible. Commenters on the story share some amazingly strong opinions. * Should the newest edgy French movies be called "porn" or just "explicit"? * Otherwise open-minded Blazing Shark discovers that she has a few reservations about guys who like trannies. (NSFW) * Is pornography adultery? * Men's movement activists in Sweden have a complaint: State-run pharmacies that sell sex toys hold a “misguided and untrue view of sexuality whereby a woman with a dildo is seen as liberated, strong and independent, while a man with a blow-up plastic vagina is viewed as disgusting and perverted." I'd never thought about that angle before, but I think they have a point. * Stefanie Marsh thinks that being single isn't just not-great, it really sucks. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 28, 2008 | perma-link | (17) comments

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ad Copy
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- My favorite recent piece of high-flown ad copy comes from Swedish vibrator-maker Lelo: LELO is a designer label operating in the premium segment of the erotic market space. Through a special blend of fashion, femininity, engineering and sleek Scandinavian design, LELO provides Pleasure Objects for women and their partners. By challenging the overall concept of conventional "sex toys," our vision is to create aesthetically pleasing, orgasm-inducing, high-quality alternatives to the norm and thus inspire a more female-friendly erotic market space. Pretty deluxe! And deserving of a special Oscar for using the term "market space" twice in one paragraph. Do you suppose the team responsible for creating this jeweled ad copy had a lot of chortles about whether or not to use the terms "high end" and "low end"? Just curious: Ladies, has the vibrator market space really been in need of serious classing-up? Ritzier materials, sleeker design, fancier packaging, higher prices -- all those attributes that some women seem to crave? FWIW, I hear that Lelo (or rather LELO) makes very nice vibrators. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 5, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

Doofus Guys in the Media
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A few more entries in the "American guys as presented by the American media" sweepstakes. Lifetime TV thinks it's OK -- maybe even fun -- to show a typical American husband as a fat, pleading schlub, an overgrown child gone to seed: Our hero in the above picture is resigned to playing second fiddle to wifey's TV pleasures. Get in line, big boy. Software maker Circus Ponies contrasts together-girl with overwhelmed-guy: Nice of Circus Ponies to get in a swipe at age and experience too. Putting on a sincere face just for a moment ... I'm genuinely surprised that American men don't insist on a little respect, from the media as well as from women. But, hey, maybe men who can't command respect don't deserve to be treated as anything better than walking jokes. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 5, 2008 | perma-link | (27) comments

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fact for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- In the midst of the global economic meltdown, can we spare a moment's attention for the things in life that really matter? In this case, women's pubic-grooming habits. A study recently done in Australia found that ... Three of four college women shave their crotches, and half go completely bald. (Cue sound here of Peter weeping.) Source: Men's Health, the paper version. One of the study's lead authors sums her findings up this way: "Women today are more exposed to TV shows and magazines that freely talk about pubic-hair removal, so it becomes this cool and glamorous thing to do." As someone who did most of his catting-around in the wild and (er) wooly '70s, I can testify that today's harshly-tonsured, super-smooth crotches represent quite a cultural change. Back in the day, an encounter with a woman's crotch was often a powerful and raw experience. (NSFW.) Grrrr-woof. "Sex and the City," you have a lot to answer for. If any of our female visitors should care to share some personal experience where the pubic-grooming thang is concerned, I can guarantee a respectful hearing. Dudez: No hooting allowed, you hear me? Semi-related: The Rawness goes to Amsterdam. Though the Red Light district prompts an unexpected spasm of Catholic agony, he recovers quickly and soon enjoys the pleasure of intelligent discussion with friendly women. Don't miss T's night out with the Swedes either. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 25, 2008 | perma-link | (39) comments

Friday, September 19, 2008

Annabella at 15
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A spin-off from my recent posting about Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette" ... Here's the website of Annabella Lwin, the onetime jailbait-sexpot singer for Bow Wow Wow. Here's the record jacket that made her notorious even in punk circles. Be forewarned: Annabella was only 15 when that sexy photo was taken. What ought to be made of the under-ageness question? Do we have no choice but to draw a line and condemn the image as evil? Despite the fact that it's funny and cute? Despite the fact that it has already attained minor-modern-icon semi-immortality? And despite the fact that the punk scene was teeming with lovably trampy 15 year old girls? Bonus point: The girl in "Mademoiselle O'Murphy," aka "Nude on a Sofa," was 14 at the time Boucher painted her. Kiddie cheesecake? Or a classic work of art? Shortly after the painting was completed Louis XV took the little charmer as a mistress. Read more here. So what kind of misbehavior-slack do we need to cut the arts scene? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 19, 2008 | perma-link | (39) comments

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hot Latins
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Chile: World leader in youthful sexual adventurousness? Here and here. New term to be mastered: "Poncea!" (Translation, apparently: "Make out with as many people as you can!") * Is there such a thing as a Spanish movie that doesn't feature a lot of nudity? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 16, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Dougjnn (and Peter) on YoungDudez
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- As you probably know, I've been fascinated by the postings, comments, and general carrying-on over at Roissy's. Lordy, what a spectacle. Yet I've also been puzzled by what underlies it. For a long time I assumed that what was being expressed was a simple matter: Young guys who grew up in a pussyfied -- er, feminized -- world were (once out in the real world) discovering that they'd been lied-to and brainwashed, and were discovering what it feels like to walk around as the fond and proud possessor of a pair of balls. But, over the months, it has also occurred to dim me that there seems to be more going on than just a lot of young lions giving each other permission to roar. A lot is being assumed by these young guys. There's some experience they share, or think they share. But I couldn't discern what it was. I felt like someone looking down from an airplane on a cloudy day and trying to make out what the landscape beneath is like. Finally, on this posting, I found the sense to just plain ask for guidance. MBlowhard: Can anyone clear up some confusion I have? I love following this blog, but I’m often baffled by it. It’s like reading about life on a planet that’s quite different than the one I know. Alphas? Betas? Cockblocking? It’s all news to me. So I try to make sense of what I’m encountering. Let me see if I’ve got it right. A lot of young guys commenting here seem to feel that, although they’re plausible provider material, they’re being prevented by contempo circumstances from winning girls and starting families. Do I have this right? Is this the basic complaint that underlies most of the other complaints and the carrying-on? Commenter Dougjnn (who has occasionally visited 2Blowhards) stepped up with a lot of helpful guidance. He spread it out over two comments; for the sake of clarity I've slightly rearranged a few of his paragraphs. Alphas? Betas? Cockblocking? It’s all news to me. Those are terms from the world of Game - broadly shared among its now many different gurus and teachers. But they do have real meaning behind them, and it’s not all common sense. There’s a lot of mainstream cultural misinformation (for ideology-driven molding purposes) about these things — what makes men and women most attractive in the “dating market”. They aren’t at all the same for each sex, and they aren’t what you’ve been told, or only partly are, and knowing what you haven’t been told is a key advantage. I do think there’s been a big change since the 70’s and 80’s which is I think the “back in the day” you’re talking about. Mostly: 1) A lot higher percentage of young women now earn comparably to similarly situated men, and what’s more, this has seeped into deep cultural awareness amongst them, such that they feel they can afford to delay marriage... posted by Michael at September 6, 2008 | perma-link | (83) comments

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Fact for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Is modern tech making conducting a tradional-style affair impossible? "There are just too many ways to get caught, and the technology-savvy realise this," writes Nick Harding. An interesting stat from his piece: Currently, the most common duration of an affair is less than six months (68 per cent of them). Twenty years ago, it was three years. I assume that those figures hold for England only, but still ... Source. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 3, 2008 | perma-link | (14) comments

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sex Relations
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A few links for those who have been fascinated by what Roissy and F. Roger Devlin represent and say: * Expectations about office behavior seem a little different in Russia than they are here in the States. * A wiki devoted to spanking. The entry on "paddle" is very informative. * Kathleen Parker praises men and argues that they've been unfairly browbeaten for decades. (Link thanks to ALD.) Neil Lyndon writes that when he said similar things 20 years ago, "the response to my work was a torrent of abuse," he recalls. "I lost all my work and income and was bankrupted." * BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman says "The worst thing you can be in this industry is a middle-class white male. If any middle-class white male I come across says he wants to enter television, I say 'give up all hope'. They've no chance." * The world's best condoms. Best, Michael UDPATE: The Olympics ... Where the athletes are concerned, it isn't just about sports. "I am not implying, for one moment, that every athlete in Beijing is at it," writes Olympian Matthew Syed. "Just that 99 per cent of them are." A passage that should interest the evo-bio crowd: It is worth noting an intriguing dichotomy between the sexes in respect of all this coupling. The chaps who win gold medals - even those as geeky as Michael Phelps - are the principal objects of desire for many female athletes. There is something about sporting success that makes a certain type of woman go crazy - smiling, flirting and sometimes even grabbing at the chaps who have done the business in the pool or on the track. An Olympic gold medal is not merely a route to fame and fortune; it is also a surefire ticket to writhe. But - and this is the thing - success does not work both ways. Gold-medal winning female athletes are not looked upon by male athletes with any more desire than those who flunked out in the first round. It is sometimes even considered a defect, as if there is something downright unfeminine about all that striving, fist pumping and incontinent sweating.... posted by Michael at August 26, 2008 | perma-link | (26) comments

Friday, August 22, 2008

Music by Colleen
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- That adorable, spunky, and thoroughly dirty-minded born performer Colleen finally makes an appearance on YouTube, singing a very 21st century kinda blues: "The Dirty Keywords Search Song." NSFW, as though you were in any doubt. Go here for a wee bit more, or visit Colleen at her usual webhome. Colleen writes about doing the gig here. Hey, The Wife and I have done In the Flesh too. Spanking fan, cupcake aficionado, and In the Flesh impresario Rachel Kramer Bussel is a culture-world mover and a shaker in more ways than one. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 22, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fact for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- High school cheerleading accounted for 65.1 percent of all catastrophic sports injuries among high school females over the past 25 years. Source. Photo found here. Best, Michael UPDATE: Enjoy loads of funny and smart comments at Marginal Revolution. My favorite: "I like human pyramids!"... posted by Michael at August 16, 2008 | perma-link | (10) comments

Question for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- In an amusing column about the Olympics, The Times of London's Simon Barnes asks, "What’s happened to women’s breasts? Once, female swimming champions had them, now they don’t. They have broad shoulders and wide chests, but no lumps on them." He supplies an answer too. Link thanks to visitor Barry Woods. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 16, 2008 | perma-link | (0) comments

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Erotica Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * The Polish women's volleyball team is the clear winner of the Best Shorts award at the Beijing Olympics. * Can anyone seriously dispute that women's beach volleyball is the greatest sport ever invented? * Franz Kafka: owner of a considerable porn stash. I love the defensiveness expressed by the Kafka-worshipping set, don't you? Hey profs: Kafka was a dude. He liked looking at sexy pix. Chill. * Erotica writer Mitzi Szereto is feelin' good about the publishing possibilities being opened up by Amazon's Kindle. * What do porn stars do after they retire? (Hyper-NSFW.) * MBlowhard Rewind: I mused about the topic of taboos. Short version: Perhaps we might consider violating and getting rid of them less and appreciating them and having fun with them more. Incidentally, and despite the fact that there's little I dislike more than making my motivations explicit ... OK, I also so hate making general rather than specific cases that I'm sometimes tempted to make a general case against the making of general cases ... But no, I won't go there ... Still, maybe the occasional wrestle with motivations and generalities can be useful ... The reasons I do these erotica linkages are twofold. In the first place, of course, linking to sexy stuff is easy and fun, and it gives my mischievous side a chance to romp. Sexy linkage-ery may be cheap thrills -- but I have great respect and immense fondness for cheap thrills. The entertainment I often like best doesn't shy away from titillation and provocation; in it, sensual and imaginative arousal are prized. So why shouldn't I, in my tiny way, play in the same spirit? In the second place, I like to think that I'm making a few points. Namely: Eroticism is a substantial part of life. Eroticism is an ever-more-prominent part of the spectacle that is popular culture. Eroticism is a culture in its own right, much as, say, dance is, or as cooking-and-eating is. Eroticism is, let's face it, one of the main reasons why many people are interested in the arts and the arts-life in the first place. Art seems like a sexy world, as well as a sexy thing to do, or to be caught up in, or just to visit. It seems to me that being open about all this ... Seeing it as something of legitimate interest ... As something that might or might not be delivering experiences of pleasure ... And suggesting that looking at it all from a contemplative, humorous, yet appreciative point of view (perhaps this describes the "aesthetic" point of view?) ... might be both interesting and rewarding. Works for me in any case. (And on a many-times-a-day basis!) If being involved in the arts -- and if following "culture" more generally -- didn't have a strong "sexy" component to it, I'd be flailing about in some other field entirely. If you disagree, please let me know. Always fun to compare notes. But... posted by Michael at August 13, 2008 | perma-link | (57) comments

Friday, August 8, 2008

Eroticism Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Ladies and gents, the following links should all be considered NSFW. Clear? Good. Now, on with the show: * God is good: Dita van Teese and Scarlett Johannson turn on the heat for Flaunt magazine. I wrote a little about burlesque queen Dita back here, and reviewed Scarlett's movie "The Island" here. * 35 years after "Don't Look Now" delighted viewers with a sophisticated sex scene featuring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, Nicolas Roeg (now almost 80) has released "Puffball," which also has some shocking scenes. Enjoy a visit with Roeg here. * Mark Lawson wonders if the internet has made cinematic sex irrelevant. * Erotica writer Polly Frost tells Readers Voice that she's a "maniac" for hooks, plots, and arcs. * Metal rules. * Alt-porn fans should enjoy the blog of Kristy Lee, a gifted young photographer who shoots a lot for Abby Winters. Kristy's "Book Shop Girls" is certainly an inspired couple of photos. * The blog Nostalgie is lots of fun for fans of '60s and '70s movies. * More nostalgia: a huge collection of covers from Lui magazine. Lui was an attempt to bring some Euro-sophistication to the men's-magazine genre back in the '60s and '70s. Interesting to learn that it was run by Daniel Filipacchi, probably best known in this country for masterminding long-term gal-favorite Elle magazine. * Hottest women on the web? * Veteran fetish video producer Carl La Fong says that if you aren't going to make your fetish material with care, then why bother at all? Which makes sense when you think about it ... As in, "if fetish material hasn't been treated fetishistically, what's the point?" Or am I wrong? * Good lord, what a messy love life she's had. * Somebody's erotic tastes were definitely shaped by a certain '60s Bond film. * The brilliant postpunk Swiss bikini-and-undies maker Maria Wagner is back with some new designs as well as a freshened-up website. NSFW in the spunkiest, most self-starting, and cutest kind of way. Maria's a fun model herself -- look for "Maria" among the models. That's her. * Jelena Jankovic - a topflight Serbian tennis player who looks like a Brancusi sculpture -- fetches some fresh tennis equipment. She certainly doesn't seem to have any trouble with the attention, does she? More of Jelena here and here, here. * Have a look at what Russia is doing with hiphop. As Barry Wood -- who sent the link in -- observes drily, it must be the first hiphop music to feature an accordion. * The French really do know what to do with public transportation. * Mark Morford thinks that the upgraded iPhone is nothing if not a perfect porn-delivery device. * MBlowhard Rewind: I marveled at a 2002 Cristina Aguilera music video. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 8, 2008 | perma-link | (7) comments

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Actress Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Being asked -- or expected -- by filmmakers to take her clothes off quickly became abhorrent to Greta Scacchi, fondly remembered by arthouse-goin' filmbuffs for her classy / luscious / racey turns in such '80s films as "The Coca-Cola Kid." Sadly, two of her best -- "White Mischief" and "A Man in Love" -- aren't available on DVD. This is mean of me, I suppose, but I never thought Greta had a lot to offer the audience beyond her beauty and her physical audacity. But reports from England say that she has become an imposing stage presence. Enjoy a little of what Greta so disliked doing here. (NSFW) * Sigourney Weaver never felt like the pretty one. People who know Sigourney only through her strong-jawed uber-woman (and often humor-free) film performances usually aren't aware of her gifts as a cut-up and and a comedienne. Too bad the movies so seldom made good use of her comic talents. Glamorous, bigger-than-life, and funny -- now that's a great combo. * MBlowhard Rewind: I rhapsodized about the super-talented, very sexy B-movie Euro-diva Joanna Pacula here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 6, 2008 | perma-link | (16) comments

Malehood in Trouble?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Judith Wood wants men to stop being so damn sensitive and weepy. * Is modern man in crisis? * Dani Katz wants to know why young guys aren't making the first move these days. Hey, youngdudez: Grow a pair, wouldya? Best, Michael UPDATE: More reactions to (and thoughts prompted by) F. Roger Devlin, by Tyler Cowen and many commenters, and at Figleaf. We had our own Devlin gab-fest back here. Read the latest Devlin essay here. * Tyler also points out an interesting New Scientist article asserting that most socially-dominent men get no genetic advantage out of being Alphas. Hmm, what will "Game" theory make of that? * Right Wing News asks three relationship experts to share some advice for the guys. I especially liked this bit: "It's a guy's job to have fun and to show a girl a good time." Quite amazing how clueless many American guys are, isn't it? Guyz: Courtship can -- and should -- be fun. * And, from the same article, a nice bit from "Game" expert Savoy: If you are a woman and you are wondering what a guy meant by something he did or said, usually it's the simplest explanation. Women tend to over-complicate men. Women, as a general rule, tend to assume what a guy is doing is related to her, his feelings about her, or his intentions to her more than it actually is. That's for darned sure. As I sometimes like -- or need -- to say to The Wife, "Honey, I'm doing everything I can not to open up a searching and deep relationship conversation here. All I'm really looking for at the moment is information." Then she gives me this real "disappointed in you" look, of course. It has got to be one of life's biggest disappointments for gals, that men are as simple as they are.... posted by Michael at August 6, 2008 | perma-link | (42) comments

Parental Frankness
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I have less than zero interest in kids. I find them to be uninteresting not-yet-people that do nothing but absorb time, money, attention, and energy. 15 minutes of smiling benignly at friends' brats and I've had my fill of children for at least six months. (A word for the tender of heart: I'm not making a general case here, I'm just talking about my own reactions to children.) Despite my kid-aversion, I rather enjoy checking in on friends' experiences as parents, at least when they're being frank and forthright. You hear funny stories, for one thing. For another, it's fascinating how treacly the popular-culture image of parenthood and kid-raising seems to be by comparison to the reality of actually birthin' and raisin' kids. And it's fascinating too the way that most parents know damn well that raising kids is often an exhausting, life-devouring business. An example. One new mom told me that when she gave birth to her son she felt no instant bond with him at all. Her friends (and books and magazines) had rhapsodized about transformative gushes of mommy emotion. But in her case, she pushed the kid out, waited for the emotions to slam her ... And nothing. There he was, there she was, and it looked like they were going to be spending a number of years together. Oh well. Another example: When one of those crazy mothers in Texas or the South killed four or five of her children, the press was full of outraged talking heads -- the professionally sanctimonious -- going on about how inconceivable the act was. Who could imagine a mother doing such a thing? But one daddy-friend of mine laughed and said that as far as he was concerned, the bizarre thing wasn't that a mother would kill her kids, the bizarre thing was that such murders didn't happen every day. "Kids," he said. "They run you ragged, they test your limits, they eat your life up. And then they do it again the following day." (Not to worry: Over time the mom I've told about grew fond of her son, and my daddy-friend strikes me as a very good father.) A standout in this parents-being-frank line comes from Sister Wolf, who confesses that she has always been fascinated by mothers who kill. One of many powerful, harsh-'n'-juicy passages: I was a new mother once again, with a baby boy who arrived two months early. He was tiny and precious and when I was finally allowed to bring him home from the hospital, he cried continuously. He cried for forty days and forty nights, and then he cried some more. Sometimes, at dawn, I would turn to his weary dad and sob, “What’s the point of him?” I honestly couldn’t remember. How lovely to put the usual Family Circle uckiness aside for a few minutes, no? But how much of such honesty can we realistically stand? If more people were more forthright more often... posted by Michael at August 6, 2008 | perma-link | (33) comments

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Un-PC Reading 2: F. Roger Devlin
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Installment Two in my Un-PC Reading series. (Installment One is back here.) This time around: an essay for all those who have explored Roissy's blog, or who have read up a bit on "Game," and who have wondered how and when relations between the sexes in this country became so hostile and abrasive. The topic is the neocon writer Wendy Shalit, who made a name for herself dissenting from feminist orthodoxy and praising sexual modesty. The author is F. Roger Devlin. What may initially baffle some readers is that Devlin, who is harshly critical of Shalit, dumps on her not from a libertarian or a leftie point of view but from a paleoconservative one. For Devlin, Shalit doesn't go or see far enough -- and not only that, she's a silly and vain twit. I link to the piece here not to have a laugh at Shalit (though Devlin is quite funny about her narcissism and her intellectual shortcomings) but because I found Devlin's more general discussion -- his survey of the state of things between the sexes, and his analysis of how matters got this way -- amazingly interesting. Thanks to a 2Blowhards visitor who signs his comments "anon" for the link to Devlin's essay. If I remember right, The Man Who Is Thursday has also enjoyed Devlin's writing. Oh, and "Un-PC"? Well, the essay's scathing view of feminism is part of that. But the tender of soul and the noble of nature deserve a warning too: F. Roger Devlin has published pieces in the notorious Occidental Quarterly, which is often described as a White Nationalist site. What are Devlin's views on racial matters? Beats me. Is Devlin a noxious and despicable person? Perhaps he is, and perhaps all he really deserves is shunning. But the three essays of his that I've read on the state of affairs between the sexes have been awfully smart and provocative. Download 'em all here. For what appear to be a couple of recent pieces, read "Home Economics" parts one and two. Why doesn't Devlin maintain his own website? I trust, by the way, that visitors to 2Blowhards have the subtlety to understand that linking is not endorsing, and to notice that I've nowhere indicated that I agree with all or even most of Devlin's points. I am happy to say, though, that I found the three Devlin essays that I've read daring and even enlightening, and that I've enjoyed thinking them over. Where do you think Devlin makes a decent point? Where in your opinion does he go awry? And how do you feel / what do you think about the idea of reading a piece by someone who has written for The Occidental Quarterly? Am I an irresponsible blogger for having linked to the likes of Devlin? Or are those who won't take a flyer on some far-out reading the real fools? What I'm really curious about, though, is people's reactions to Devlin's ideas about... posted by Michael at July 17, 2008 | perma-link | (79) comments

Monday, July 7, 2008

Body Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * America's fattest states, 2008 edition. * Pin-up model, porn star, and producer Sarah Blake -- has there ever been a more cheerily entrepreneurial sex goddess? -- offers some tips for those who want to photograph themselves. Sarah has also finished her first book -- a how-to manual for those who want to enter the adult-film biz. Buy a copy here. * How do the Japanese stay so slim? And why do they put on so much weight once they leave Japan? More here. * Aimee Heckel reviews the workouts available in workout-crazy Boulder, CO, and decides that her favorite of them all is Gyrotonics. I'm a Gyro nut myself. "I don't remember ever feeling as good as I felt after I left this class. I felt like I'd just had the perfect massage," she writes. That's how I feel after Gyro too. San Francisco's Amy Moon gives Gyro a try and finds it good for stretching and posture. * "Vaginal rejuvenation surgeries" are becoming more commonplace. * MBlowhard Rewind: I wrote about my discovery of Bikram yoga back here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 7, 2008 | perma-link | (7) comments

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Russian Women on the Make
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- In their pursuit of rich hubbies, Russian women are taking courses in such subjects as "Oral Sex for Experts," "How to Marry in Three Months," and "VUM Building." "VUM" stands for "vaginally used muscles," and yes, there's an exercise machine involved. "Once a woman reaches optimal fitness, she can shoot a fountain of water up out of her vagina in the bath," boasts the founder of Moscow's School for VUM Building. Two quick reflections: 1) If men are perfecting Game, then why shouldn't women arm themselves with skills meant to help them triumph in the battle of the sexes? Still: Is it just me or is the dating life getting awfully Machiavellian? 2) Russian women, eh? These days they're often incredible beauties. Yet so many of them seem more materialistic and more predatory than women of any other breed. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 12, 2008 | perma-link | (25) comments

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Question for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Tyler Cowen asks, Is Roissy evil? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 4, 2008 | perma-link | (44) comments

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Always Chasing 20-Year-Olds
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- No links here -- I'm just passing along what I read from time to time and hope that you have come across something similar while wading the media content stream. It has to do with men who seem to be perpetually fixated on women in their (early) twenties. Being interested in, say, 23-year-old gals is what is expected for guys who are 25 or 26. But some men at age 35 or 36 slough off their 33-year-old wives for a new 23-year-old wife or girlfriend. And when that women starts losing her bloom of youth, she in turn gets replaced by you-know-what. By the time the man is in his 50s and 60s, I have to assume he is likely to be rich or powerful or both, because his physical attraction quotient is probably on the skids. Why are some men this way? No question that women with slender arms, smooth skins -- especially without any of the first tell-tales of aging on the neck and under the chin -- and all the other attributes of a newly-adult body can be very attractive. This aesthetic factor seems central, so what matters is how men are motivated by this. There can be many reasons, some idiosyncratic. But the prime reason is that it's a male-ego thing: "Hey, look! See that I can still attract real babes!" This is the classic case where the woman truly is the "object" so beloved by feminist ideologists. The secondary reason is probably the related factor of age -- the "I can still" element. (Few adults welcome the prospect of growing older. One possible exception was Salvador Dalí who once claimed that he wanted to be old or something like that; I read it years ago and forget the exact words. Keep in mind that he made a number of statements for the sole purpose of attracting attention. He finally got his wish, if that's what it really was.) Unfortunately for the ideologists, most men seem to be more sensible than the stereotype suggests. My contention is that, if a relationship with the younger woman continues for longer than even a few weeks or months, it can be hard to sustain the women-as-object attitude. That is, that "relationship" will almost certainly evolve into a relationship and the man will have to regard the woman seriously as a human being. This kind of relationship-building is difficult to the extent that the two people differ in terms of shared background, outlook, and so forth. I think most adults beyond age 45 or so recognize the need such sharing -- especially generational sharing -- as reality. So when a May-September (if not November or December) relationship is encountered, adults possessing more than a smidgen of wisdom will roll their eyes and think "What the hell is going on? What kind of fools are they?" And I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of men would consider the guy with the young babe to... posted by Donald at June 3, 2008 | perma-link | (115) comments

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hot Numbers
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Diane Patterson likes a spicey read but wants the sex to mean something, dammit. Nice passage: I am one of those readers who is very, very happy about the boom in erotica in books. I don’t always want explicitness in my sex scenes, but when I do I prefer graphic. The problem has been, however, that erotica seems to mean, “As many combinations as possible, with a minimum of one per chapter.” (E.g. anything by Black Lace, which doesn’t publish novels so much as Twister games set in print.) I don’t want to see every character banging everyone and anyone; I want there to be some plot-worthy purpose to all this sex going on. It’s like black comedy: it still has to be comedy. Erotic novels still have to be novels. (Link thanks to visitor Julie Brook.) * Alt-porn starlet Sequoia Redd thinks that Abby Winters, I Shot Myself, and Beautiful Agony have added a lot to the eroticism and porn market. Nice passage: I did not make it to the AEE or the AVNs this year, but when I heard about what the team at Abby Winters were going to go there to do I felt like screaming “Hell YES, finally!”. A group of empowered, healthy, intelligent women challenging men to play speed chess, performing yoga, and engaging their fans in an arena where young women are usually exploited in an unhealthy way, how awesome?! This is exactly what the morons in the porno industry need to see. Peter especially should appreciate this Sequoia posting. (NSFW) Interesting to learn that Sequoia was inspired by the film "Dangerous Beauty." It's one of the rare straightforwardly sexual films that many women like. A few others: "Lie With Me," "The Lover," and "Sex and Lucia." * Semi-related: I blogged about a bunch of books about sex by women. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 24, 2008 | perma-link | (10) comments

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Ideal, and What to Make Of It
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I've been thinking some recently about the difference between "what a person considers the ideal" and "what a person thinks might be useful in the here and now." One reason for this is that The Wife and I recently visited a show of paintings and drawings by Nicolas Poussin at the Metropolitan Museum, and Poussin will often get a person thinking about such things. Another reason is a small-t theory that I'm working on: It seems to me that people often get themselves in trouble because they scramble the two categories. Instead of doing what they can with what's available in the present tense, they try to impose their ideal regardless of what the actual situation before them really presents. Or maybe they too-regularly deduce their way to present-day behavior from the ideal, despite the practical fact that there's often not much connection between what idealism suggests and what's-needed-here-and-now. Still, there is that question of the ideal ... Whatever else it is, it's certainly a part of life. What to make of it? How to deal with it? Poussin shows how the ideal can be so near, yet so far To me, the question of the ideal is a little like the question of sex fantasies. We all have them. What to do about it? And what to do with them? (If anything, of course.) Sad experience suggests that imposing fantasies ("Hey, honey, let's me dress up like Batman and you like Catwoman!") can flop. Instead of delivering the expected bliss, acting on the desired ideal can instead spoil what might actually be magic about the present moment. Still ... It's impossible not to feel an attachment to your favorite dreams and imaginings. And maybe there are in fact some ways of indulging in them that can pay off nicely. For some reason, for instance, I'm especially vulnerable to topless-beach fantasies; they seem to represent some kind of erotic ideal to me. And damned if a week The Wife and I once spent on a French-Caribbean island wasn't one of the most pleasing things I've ever lived through. Of course, it took an enormous amount of practical real-world effort to arrange, execute, and pay for our week of ideal bliss ... (If anyone was wondering: The Wife enjoyed it too, or so she tells me.) My tentative conclusion: Our ideals and fantasies are resources that can confer much pleasure; that can sometimes serve as beacons and reminders; but that can also screw our lives up completely; and that are therefore perhaps usually best enjoyed at a bit of a distance. Rough rule for myself: Enjoy the fantasy -- don't impose it. If the moment's right, go ahead and enter into it -- but be prepared for the fact that even a week on a topless beach in the Caribbean will come to an end. But, generally speaking, do what you can to deal honorably and fairly with what's immediately before you. And don't be... posted by Michael at May 15, 2008 | perma-link | (7) comments

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Gay Gay Gay
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Is Palm Springs the gayest city in the U.S.? And did you know that the Dinah Shore Golf Tournament (officially the LPGA Nabisco Golf Tournament) is one of the country's premier lesbian gatherings? It's such a party that it's sometimes known as "Spring Break for lesbians." Buy an all-expenses-included ticket to what has become known as "The Dinah" here. A little late for 2008, but 2009 is just around the corner ... Semi-related: Don't miss this Steve Sailer classic. I wrote an appreciation of the gay Canadian pornographer Bruce LaBruce. Is Apple an especially gay-friendly company? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 14, 2008 | perma-link | (9) comments

Girls, Details, Yak
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- An entertaining Roissy posting -- bouncing off of an Alias Clio blogpost -- about whether women and men can ever be friends has spawned a very entertaining commentsthread. New slang term to me: LJBF, for "Let's Just Be Friends." Coolly enough, "LJBF" can function as a verb -- a woman can "LJBF" a dude. Betas, I've learned, get LJBF'd all the time. Alphas know enough not to let the possibility arise in the first place. How do you react to the scene over at Roissy's, by the way? (Skipping over the fact that he's a very talented badboy blogger.) FWIW, I'm amused, if a little appalled, by it. I like the rowdiness, the lack of inhibition, the defiantly anti-PC exuberance ... Plus, visiting Roissy's is always an instructive keeping-up-with- the-zeitgeist experience. That whole Alpha-Beta-"game" way of thinking about and discussing romance and sex was almost entirely new to me when I first stumbled across Roissy's blog. Following the discussions there, part of me thinks, "Well, good. At least they're talking about courtship, if in their own raised-on-first- person-shooters kind of way." Another part of me thinks, "Hmm, back in the day I'd probably have done a little better for myself, bed-notch-wise, had I had some 'game'." But I confess that a third part of me listens in, gasps, and thinks, "Have relations between the sexes really come to this?" It seems to me like such an everyone-out-for-himself, seething-with-mistrust- and-antagonism scene that -- were I young -- I wouldn't want to take part in it at all. What can I say? That's just how I react to shark-tanks. What the to-and-fro on the current posting has mainly left me thinking about, though, is something unrelated -- and very basic: women and the way they chew things over. Here's my comment from Roissy's: What *do* women get out of endlessly combing over the micro-shit of their unremarkable day? Christ! Does it take them that much effort to digest what they've been thru? Do they do it for the pure girly joy of it? Like most men, I can’t help suspecting that they do it partly to drive men crazy with impatience. With The Wife (who I adore), I’ve gotten to the point where, when she swings into chewing-her-day-over mode, I tell her “OK, I’ll give you 10 minutes on this, but then we either move on or I start throwing chairs around.” Any insights or theories from anyone? When I ask The Wife what it's about she just gives me one of her patented "You'll never understand even though you clearly ought to" looks. And when I look at myself I find no such compulsion no matter how deep inside I plunge. At the end of my day, I may or may not need to indulge in a five-minute vent, but that's a purely functional thing -- a matter of gunning the motor once before shutting it down for the rest of the night. Because, at... posted by Michael at May 14, 2008 | perma-link | (39) comments

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Not Tonight, Honey. And Maybe Not Tomorrow Night Either.
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Ah, the pressures of modern living ... The Telegraph reports that more and more men are losing interest in sex. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 10, 2008 | perma-link | (12) comments

Prissy / Decadent
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Why are actresses and models willing to get so much more naughty and frisky for European magazines than they are for American ones? (NSFW) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 10, 2008 | perma-link | (1) comments

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Personal Is Political?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Alice Walker: lousy mom? “My mother is very ideologically based, and her ideology is much more important in many ways than her personal relationships,” says daughter Rebecca Walker, who is no longer in touch with Alice. Another nice passage from Rebecca: Her circle were questioning power relationships and whether a mother had any more knowledge than a child. Some friends of hers were living on communes. I know those kids and they’re totally screwed up. Some were sexually abused, all kinds of bad stuff happened, but even those who survived intact don’t want to create communes for their children. They didn’t want to be raised by 10 different parents — again, it was this ideological thing trumping the maternal instinct ... I keep telling people feminism is an experiment. And just like in science, you have to assess the outcome of the experiment and adjust according to your results, but my mother and her friends, they see it as truth; they don’t see it as an experiment. So that creates quite a problem. You’ve got young women saying, ‘That didn’t really work for me’ and the older ones saying, ‘Tough, because that’s how it should be’. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 5, 2008 | perma-link | (22) comments

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fear of Baldness
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- There are things that men fear. For many men, I suspect, the top three are (in order): death, impotence and going bald. The first two seem pretty scary, but I'm not so sure about the third. Actually, that's not quite right. The fear of going bald is real, otherwise there wouldn't be an entire industry devoted to toupees, hair transplants, hair-growing lotions and so forth. What seems odd regarding that fear is the fact that baldness, in varying degrees, is something a large percentage of men will encounter at some point in their lives. Something a lot less serious than dying. And less serious than a lot of other misfortunes as well. So why the panic? I don't really know, because I never feared going bald. I suppose that's because I didn't begin losing hair seriously until I was well into my fifties and therefore didn't have to deal with the issue when I was young. And when I did notice that bald spot, I took it philosophically and simply changed to a buzz-cut hairstyle to avoid the silliness of making ever more radical comb-overs as the hair receded. I'm hardly being original if I speculate that men's reaction to baldness is usually related to two other fears: aging and failure to attract women -- the two often being related. Both fears are probably stronger for younger men, say under age 35 or 40 or so. Some people age early, but most men are more young than old into their mid-30s. To them, baldness is something for older guys, and it could be a real shock if it happens to themselves. They also tend to think that women prefer men who aren't bald. Although most people probably fear aging, it's something that can't be avoided; when it happens, one must deal with it -- once the denial stage has passed. One way of dealing with it is to camouflage it by means of cosmetic surgery, Botox, hair dyes and those baldness remedies mentioned above. Another strategy is to age as gracefully as possible. But aging is a side-issue here. The real issue is whether or not baldness is a turn-off to women. I have no doubt that there are women -- mostly young ones, I would guess -- who truly find bald and balding men unattractive for various reasons. On the other hand, a lot of women don't seem to mind it at all. Perhaps some equate baldness to masculinity. Others had fathers who turned bald and, because they loved their Daddy, have no hangup over other men deficient in the hair department. Plus, women tend to prefer men at least a little older than they are, so maturity of the hairline shouldn't be such a bad thing, I would think. Still, despite all these comforting thoughts from an age of maturity, I'm not sure how I would have reacted if my hair had started to fall out at age 27, say. If I... posted by Donald at April 29, 2008 | perma-link | (44) comments

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Women and Drama 2: PatrickH Has Been There
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- On my previous posting, visitor PatrickH volunteered a comment that deserves not to be missed. Here it is: It is hard being a woman, though. And I mean "just being a woman". Being a man is an emotional piece of cake by comparison. How do I know this? Well, I was once a woman myself, for a short while. I took clomid (fertility drug-lots of estrogen effects) as part of a post-steroid recuperation cycle, and it put me in a very female frame of mind (quite the contrast to the effect of the 'roids, I can tell you). I was hypersensitive to the tiniest sign of suffering in another being, was always on the edge of weeping, and was filled with a kind of wistful, formless yearning that, while not unpleasant to feel, had no object that could fulfill it. I also came to want to withdraw from people (for a time) and just sit and "be me". I absolutely NEVER understood what women meant when they said that, but I do now. You just have to get away from being FOR OTHERS, something that as a man I never bothered thinking about, let alone trying. Now I know why women need to get away from that. It's exhausting to be that wide open to other human beings...all the time! It's hard being a woman. I know. I was one, for a while. Get this man a book deal. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 17, 2008 | perma-link | (13) comments

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Disciplines
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The wonderful bondage and spanking model Amelia Jane Rutherford -- who once trained as a ballerina -- wonders provocatively if there might be a connection between the taste for ballet and the taste for bondage. Here's a nice collection of NSFW stills of Amelia, whose specialty is elegant, poised, and demure, yet very, very bratty. Amelia really does seem to love her work, and to have found herself a calling. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 15, 2008 | perma-link | (9) comments

Sex, and the Sexes
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * The Rawness offers the ladies a lot of sensible tips. Jo responds with a sweet list of attributes the Perfect Guy might have. * Girls like book clubs. * Seems like an excellent way to spend a Continuing-Education kind of Saturday afternoon ... * Hardcore Marilyn. * MSNBC's Tony Sclafani wonders why junior celebs are pushing their virginity vows on the rest of us. * Tony Perrotet writes an introduction to the history of opera castrati, who were the rock stars of their era and who often led remarkable love lives. An informative and enjoyable film about the era is "Farinelli." It's full of beauty, costumes, sex, and Handel arias. * Can porn be feminist? Check out the number of comments on that one. * MBlowhard Rewind: I offered the hunch that -- for a young man in today's hyper-pumpy world -- the final taboo may be simply feeling exhausted, or not being in the mood. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 15, 2008 | perma-link | (9) comments

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Dude Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Alt-porn director-photgrapher Dave Naz takes Oriana on a date. (NSFW) * What Men Think wonders why women so often want their men along when they go clothes-shopping. * Yahmdallah cringes at "Shortbus" and recalls some early experiences with porn. * How likely is fidelity? Not very. * Dennis Mangan discusses a map of the U.S. that shows where there are more galz than guyz. (UPDATE: Thanks to Peter, who points out that HalfSigma has teased out further info from this map here.) * Download podcasts of WhiskyPrajer's excellent short stories here. * Feeling uninspired? Then it's time to spend a few minutes with some retro pin-ups. (NSFW, and thanks to Charlton Griffin.) * I'm a little late in running across this, but what the heck: The Phallic Logo Awards. * Penetrating Insights profiles the man sometimes referred to as the "greatest actor in porn," Jamie Gillis. (Link thanks to Chip Smith.) * Ed Gorman enjoys a new Hard Case Crime volume of two Robert ("Psycho") Bloch novellas. * Vince Keenan mourns the passing of a couple of guy-movie greats: Richard Widmark and Jules Dassin. * A gal from Seattle has a few words of advice for the more hesitant among us. (NSFW, and thanks to Slumlord for the link.) Short version: "Seriously, grow a goddamn pair. YOU'RE the man. Act like one." * Learn about the addiction that affects more men than alcohol, tobacco, and drugs combined. (NSFW, and thanks to Charlton Griffin.) * Finally, a Jane Austen adaptation that the testosterone-addled can enjoy (NSFW, though not for visuals): From Crackle: Porn and Penetration * MBlowhard Rewind: I recalled some of the extremes of '70s feminism. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 3, 2008 | perma-link | (20) comments

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

For the Ladies
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A few treats for the ladies. First up, a scene that ought to have been included in "Blades of Glory": Link thanks to the Other Megan. And a little lesson in lady-pleasing from Tom Jones himself: It's always a good idea to learn from the masters. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 1, 2008 | perma-link | (0) comments

Linkage: Sex, Romance, Game
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Here's a witty series of very up-to-date nudes. * Gennifer Flowers is planning to vote Republican. * That Brit who was denied entry to the U.S. on account of "moral turpitude"? Here's a famous article he wrote for the Guardian about his love of prostitutes. Funny line: "The problem with normal sex is that it leads to kissing, and pretty soon you've got to talk to them." * Singledudez: If you still like Ayn Rand don't expect to make any time with Cheryl Miller. But if you're a Donald Westlake fan, why not drop her an email? * Because there can be no such thing as too many photographs of Monica Bellucci ... * Irina had a good time freshman year but found that she couldn't keep the pace up. * Roissy thinks that nerds could use some "Game" training. * Sex-and-romance-fascinated Alias Clio turns up a London Times article suggesting -- and suggesting vividly -- that today's youngsters are unbelievably sexually uninhibited. * It's apparently true what they say about redheads. (Link thanks to Charlton Griffin.) * MBlowhard Rewind: I listed some of my favorite sexy words. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 1, 2008 | perma-link | (15) comments

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Real Campus Rape, Part Two
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Yesterday I introduced “Hannah,” a professional woman who, as a college coed in the 1970s, was the victim of a stranger-rape. In that installment of our two-part interview with her, Hannah told us about the rape and the investigation. Today, in Part Two, Hannah takes us through the trial, ventures some reflections, and fields a lot of questions from me about distinctions between different kinds of bad sex. A warning: In this part of the interview I talk too much. Apologies in advance for that. Luckily, Hannah handles my garrulousness with grace. *** 2Blowhards: Tell me about the actual trial. Hannah: The county prosecutor was young, energetic, humorous, and easy to work with. He met with me once, and called me several times to prepare the case. Preparation consisted of him telling me the questions he would ask me on the stand, and me replying. He told me what the courtroom would look like, who would be sitting where. We probably spent a total of 2 hours on prep. The jury was a mix of race and sex. All of them seemed my parents' age or older. I wore what was for me a dressy outfit: woolen slacks, sweater, and scarf. When it came time for my testimony, I was sworn in and the prosecutor started asking me to describe what happened on the night of whatever it was. This was different from grand jury in that I had to describe what happened, and he couldn't ask leading questions. Was your rapist present? At the end of my testimony, the prosecutor asked me to look around the courtroom and see if I could identify my attacker anywhere. He had told me beforehand where Albert, my rapist, would be sitting, but I had no problem spotting Albert and pointing to him. I didn't make eye contact with Albert at anytime, and I tried to pretend in my mind that he wasn't there. We broke for lunch, and Winnie, Ryan, and I went to a nearby coffeehouse. We didn't stay, though, because Albert's family was in there eating. We went somewhere else. Did the defense attorney then have at you? Yes. After lunch I was cross-examined. I remember the defense attorney as a sleazy, short, fat, gray-haired man, sloppy-looking. I'm not sure if this was accurate, or if it's me demonizing him. He asked me to repeat things from my testimony over and over. He tried to catch me up on questions, for the most part unsuccessfully. One thing I did blow. He asked me if Albert had helped me up, and I said no. He then had them put something in as an exhibit, and showed me a copy of my written statement from the police station where I said that Albert had helped me up. He asked me how I explained the discrepancy, and I said it had been a year and a half, and I had forgotten that detail. He tried to trip... posted by Michael at March 24, 2008 | perma-link | (30) comments

A Real Campus Rape, Part One
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A few weeks ago, Blowhards and visitors compared notes about what seemed to many like a particularly absurd case of is-it-rape-or-isn't-it? on a Northwestern college campus. Soon after I was contacted by a woman who actually was raped while in college in the mid-1970s -- raped in the traditional sense, if I can be allowed to put it that way. I asked her if I could interview her about the experience. She kindly agreed, then gave me a remarkably frank and open interview. I think that you'll find her descriptions and reflections very interesting and thought-provoking. I should add that I also suspect that you'll find her evocations of the era enjoyable and informative. She's very eloquent and direct. Have I mentioned recently how much I love the way that blogging has made the mini-memoir such a vital and accessible form? Life as it's actually lived, baby -- gotta love that. In this interview/memoir, you'll make the acquaintance of a smart, thoughtful, and soulful woman. A quick word to the uptight: “Hannah” and I use some earthy language. If you aren’t in the mood for uninhibited talk, please surf off now to another blog. We link to a lot of good ones in the left-hand column. To everyone else: “Hannah” has agreed to field questions and to participate in any conversations that might crop up in the comments. So please feel free to make observations and ask questions. She’ll be dropping by today for Part One, and for Part 2 tomorrow. Today, Part One: The Rape, and the Investigation *** 2Blowhards: Maybe first we should set some context up. What was your background? Hannah: Middle class, middle of the road. Culturally Jewish. We celebrated the holidays and kept the traditions, but I had no religious training, and only went to temple for the high holy days. My parents were sexually conservative. I'm sure they expected me to be a virgin when I married. How about politics? My family was politically moderate to liberal. My dad did not want me to apply to Harvard. He thought it was too radical (but he had no problem with Columbia -- funny). I wasn't particularly political myself. But if you think about what was going on then, I was a lot more political than the average kid today. While I was in high school, we went through Vietnam, Cambodia, Kent State, the first Earth Day, the Pentagon Papers -- how could you not be a little political? That was unbelievable stuff. What kind of person were you as a girl-slash-young-woman? 35 years ago, I would have told you I was strong, capable, practical, and competitive. Sexually neither wild nor conservative, but somewhere around the middle. Anti-war but not particularly political. I thought I was more of an intellectual than I was. Was that an accurate self-assessment? Looking back, I see that I was very naive and idealistic. I trusted people. I came from a typical small public high... posted by Michael at March 24, 2008 | perma-link | (20) comments

Friday, March 21, 2008

More on Gal Performers, Exploitation, Etc.
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I can't let the topic go by without reprinting a couple of great comments that visitors have left behind. First, from PatrickH: I've gotten an enormous erotic charge out of pics of women from olden times...more or less pre '90, perhaps earlier. The dames of yore, you might say. The women of the seventies in particular still give me a real sexual jolt. The sight of imperfect teeth, maybe a blemish or two, breasts just ever so unpneumatic, and especially, some softness, some roundness, some juice -- all the signs of a real woman, alive and warm and breathing, ah, they got me going, those seventies girls, and they still do. (BTW,apparently the cast of LHotL was doing the seventies thing off-camera, what with massive drug use and apparently non-stop you-know-whatting.) The eighties saw the emergence of the type of female body I found utterly uninteresting, the manufactured hair, the harsh makeup, the growing trend to fake breasts, and above all, the increasing dominance of the hardbody aerobicized ultra-toned look...tense, harsh, unfeminine, and really really unsexy. The nineties and beyond have just made it worse, what with CGI manipulation of images, Photoshopping, and yes, the continued dominance of the over-exercised and under-feminine "ideal". The deadness, the anti-sexiness, the sheer unhumanity of the erotic imagery (of men and women) in today's pornogrified culture is one of its most interesting and troubling aspects. Odd, how America can somehow be so sexually overwrought and yet so utterly unsexy. Yeah! Next, from Ron: This post, along with Michael's post about down-and-dirty '70s pictures and PatrickH's related comment about '70s women (I love them too!) has put me in an exploitation-movie kind of mood -- which is a mood I like a-plenty. I had a nice email conversation with a friend not too long ago about the joys of '70s exploitation actresses. I spent most of it name-checking the many lovely, fearless ladies that have provided me with some low-down viewing excitement and pleasure over the years, as well as lamenting the fact that these types of actresses just aren't around anymore. Michael's comments regarding the effects of agents and careerism on current actresses has me thinking about this all over again. Hmmm...sad to think that movies today haven't given us anyone to take the place of Pam Grier, Roberta Collins, Barbara Steele, Edwige Fenech, Camille Keaton, Monica Gayle and countless others. Barbara Crampton is another good one. Has a cuddlier woman ever been assaulted by zombies? Even the more respectable actresses of that era, women like Susan George and Colleen Camp, could act in memorably unpredicable and vibrant ways--almost as though they were laying their sass, their verve and of course their bodies on the line in a winner-takes-all sort of bet. This sort of performing is sexy, of course, but there's something endearing about it as well. In fact, it's not off-base to say I feel genuine warmth and affection for all of these ladies. I feel... posted by Michael at March 21, 2008 | perma-link | (5) comments

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Showbiz and Seediness
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Ah, Alexandra Dupre, my heart and my muse ... (Here's the website of the NY Post, where I found the image above.) I don't know about you, but Friedrich von Blowhard and I are both having an awfully good time following the news stories about the Jersey rapper-wannabe-turned-callgirl who was caught with NY's ex-Governor Eliot Spitzer. Here's the latest bulletin. It's the story that just keeps on giving, isn't it? Not since the Amy Fisher / Joey Buttafuoco case have I been quite as happy buying taboid newspapers. My favorite detail to emerge so far: On her MySpace page, Alexandra made reference to incidents of deprivation and abuse at home that prompted her to run away to the big city. In actual fact, Alexandra grew up prosperous on the New Jersey shore. So much for the deprivation angle. As for the abuse? 1) Alexandra was given a Porsche by her stepdad, 2) Alexandra proceeded to crash and total the Porsche, and 3) her stepdad then refused to buy her another Porsche. This appears to have been the incident that Alexandra transcoded into "abuse." Rough life! It's funny the way some people who want a sexier, hotter existence than they have in the 'burbs turn their biographies into melodramas that, funnily enough, just happen to justify running off and joining a fast crowd. Why do they bother mythologizing their backgrounds? Seems like a lot of bother to me. Still, as silly as she is, Alexandra is also pretty sexy. Apt FvB comment: "This girl really missed her era. She should have been a temple prostitute in ancient Sumer!" I wrote FvB a response I'm going to reprint here. Quick word of explanation: I'm not exactly responding to FvB's remark. Intead, I'm treating myself to a rant that was prompted by some recent adventures with performers. BTW, I like performers! What follows should in no way be taken as a diss. Sign me up for a spell in ancient Sumer! Somewhat more straightfacedly, I'd maintain that the temple-prostitute thing is a prominent side of showbiz. (And when it isn't, it should be.) This Spitzer girl lived out the hooker thing more than most do, god knows. But bits and pieces of hooker-ish-ness are commonplace in showbiz. The girl who comes to the city to make it ... And she can't stand living in a studio apartment in the boonies ... So she moves in with a director ... Or she works her way through a lot of young bankers ... Not uncommon! Sleeping with producers, sometimes deliberately to get roles, sometimes not so deliberately, but maybe it results in roles anyway ... Sometimes the bankers and producers and actresses actually like each other, and living together is convenient, and life seems to be taking a nice turn, so ... And somehow the bills get paid. Is it kind to look too closely at how that happens? Plus there are shadey guys everywhere (nightclub owners, haha; guys... posted by Michael at March 20, 2008 | perma-link | (18) comments

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Who You Hug -- And How
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I don't much like hugging. Maybe it has to do with my Northern European ancestry -- those reserved, cold people from 45 degrees latitude and higher. My parents pretty much stopped hugging me after I reached age 12. My wife, on the other hand, loves hugging and wonders about me. You see, her ancestry is Scandinavian and that means ... [End of ethnic stereotyping. Return to drawing board.] As I was about to say, hugging comes in many forms. The bear hug. The group hug of athletes when a goal has been scored. Sympathy hugs at funerals. Lovers' hugs. Then there are those odd, slow-motion semi-hugs. I saw one today while I was sipping coffee trying to come up with things to blog about. One of the donut shop employees was standing outside the doorway and an acquaintance of his walked up. They greeted with one of those hugs: His arms stiffened, his elbows locked as he swung his arms past her sides. I don't quite recall the form of her hug, though I have the impression that her posture was more normal. But both of them were in slow-motion. I took this to be a ritual hug of some kind, certainly on the guy's part. The girl wasn't exactly a babe, so I suspect that he was hugging her because he felt he had no alternative: she expected one. Of course I could well have gotten this all wrong. After all, as I mentioned above, I am not of the hug-culture. I sometimes see these choreographed hugs in business settings where, for some reason I don't quite understand, hugging is expected, but it dare not be mistaken for being something sexual (regardless of what the huggers are actually thinking). Twenty or so years ago I was looking up stuff at a college library when a female student walked into the area and was greeted by another girl who was studying there. They too performed one of those ritualistic, slow hugs, chatted briefly and then left. In this case, I suspected (because of other visual clues painting a gestalt) that they might have been Lesbians. Again, I can't say for sure. There seems to be a lot related to hugging, both manifest and hidden, and I am left confused by it all. Unfortunately, when I was in grad school there was no Sociology of Hugging class. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at March 18, 2008 | perma-link | (27) comments

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

1000 Words: Naomi Tani
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Welcome to another entry in "1000 Words," a series of postings where I explore underknown and/or quirky cultural phenomena. Previous installments here, here, here, here, here. Today: the Japanese movie actress Naomi Tani, who was a star of what's known as the Japanese "pink cinema." A quick word of explanation. The pink cinema developed in Japan in the 1960s, flourished through the '70s, and died out in the '80s. It was, as its name may suggest, a sex-and-violence movement. It came about because of the way TV and American films were hitting the Japanese film audience. With theater audiences for mainstream Japanese films shrinking, independent production houses saw an opportunity to make money by producing low-budget exploitation pictures. It was a gamble that paid off. By 1970, even the big studios (Toei, Nikkatsu) had joined in the fun, putting aside most of their larger ambitions to make instead cheap and dirty movies that were heavy on the sex, the violence, and the kinkiness. Some of these pictures were flamboyant action pictures. Some of the films belonged to new or oddball genres -- I wrote here about a beautiful and poetic (if trashy) film in the "nunsploitation" genre. Others were straightforwardly porn, or near-porn. When Nikkatsu took on the sex-film genre, the studio gave its directors a little more money to play with than other porn-filmmakers had access to. These slightly-higher-budget Nikkatsu sex films became known as "romans porno." They were shot quickly, often in a week or less, and for very little money. They typically had a runtime of only 70 minutes. They were thrown together like Roger Corman's movies were -- with relative freedom so long as a concept was adhered to and a specified number of whammies (in this case, sex acts) were delivered. This being Japan, bondage, schoolgirls, and torture played a large role in the proceedings. This being Japan, large dots or blobs were inserted in the imagery to cover crotches and pubic hair. Despite the dots, though, the films were quite explicit -- what we'd consider today hard-R, or maybe even NC-17. (By the way: talk about rapid cultural change. Kissing wasn't seen on the Japanese movie screen until 1946. By 1970, theatrical films in Japan were showing everything but hardcore closeups. From the first onscreen smooch to a flourishing sex-film business in 24 years -- now that's a culture that was moving very fast.) The roman porno films were hugely popular, and remained so until the mid-'80s when the home-video revolution wiped out the theatrical porn-film business. But for a couple of decades, paying audiences were back in the movie theaters, and business was flourishing. A galaxy of stars emerged. Directors and writers got work and cashed paychecks. As it turns out, some of these hastily-shot, trashy movies have lived on. Some of the films are now respected; some of the stars are now in the reference books; some of the directors and writers are now recognized for... posted by Michael at March 12, 2008 | perma-link | (4) comments

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Private Parts
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Helen Gurley Brown's version of Cosmopolitan magazine was frankly what it was: a sexed-up, land-a-man publication for working-class gals. (Brown -- famous as well for the bestseller "Sex and the Single Girl" -- edited Cosmo for 32 years, beginning in 1965.) But despite the brassiness, heartiness, and materialism of the magazine, there was also something likable about it. (IMHO, of course.) Flipping through an issue was like hanging out with your favorite secretary at work, the one who wears long polished nails, who knows everyone's secrets, and yet who also has some real loyalty and sweetness. But Helen Gurley Brown was deposed at Cosmo in 1997. Since then a new version of the magazine has emerged, sleeker and louder, and full of up-to-date attitude. While the volume and shininess levels have skyrocketed, the likableness of the magazine has plummetted. I used to get a kick out of leafing through Cosmo for a few minutes once or twice a year. These days when I run across the magazine I gasp, wince, and recoil. I'm horrified not by the R-ratedness of the publication -- hey, I like sexy entertainments -- but at the harsh, unimaginative belligerance of it. Here's the cover of a recent Cosmo: In some ways it's just a pumpier, more jangly version of the old Cosmo. The following attraction, for instance, is just a revved-up version of the traditional Cosmo thang: Look a little closer, though, and you enter a whole new world: Note to self: Write a blogposting marveling over the way pop culture has lost track of the real glories of sex. Hey world: Sex with another person can be a whole lot more rewarding than getting yourself off is. Hint to the confused: Really good sex with a partner isn't just a better way to jerk off. Further note to self: Draw connection between the capitalist love of pleasing-the-self and the emphasis put by '70s feminism on women masturbating. Funny how both of these forces promote a me-first / me-always-first atttitude, isn't it? At one point feminism and capitalism were understood to be forces in conflict. Today ... Anyway: Who's going to stand up and say, "Far be it from me to get in the way of anyone having a good time getting him/herself off. But self-pleasure isn't all there is to life, you know, not by a long shot." It seems to me that the model's facial expression synchs up perfectly with the general me-first / screw-you tone of the whole package: Smug, mocking, out-for-#-1 ... Whose idea of sexy, let alone appealing, is that? For a little contrast, here's a cover from an issue of Cosmo from 1979. The model is Christie Brinkley, the photographer was a Helen Gurley Brown fave, the genius glamor-schlockmeister Francesco Scavullo. Apologies for the lousy quality: Yes, sure, it's kitsch. But it's calm kitsch, warm kitsch, approachable kitsch. Where the new Cosmo is glass, fiber-optics, and whirling computer graphics, the old Cosmo was... posted by Michael at March 11, 2008 | perma-link | (13) comments

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Roissy Sums It Up
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Never one to favor moderation or self-restraint, Roissy finally lays it all on the line. My main worry: Does he now have anything left to say? Roissy points out some videoclips -- here, here, and here -- that those who are curious about this whole "game" thing won't want to miss. That "Cajun" dude is good! I've got the hots for the female announcer myself. Best, Michael UPDATE: In celebration of Serge Gainsbourg -- an uber-player of a previous generation -- here's a video for his immortal "Je t'aime ... moi non plus." It was recorded in 1969 -- and I do mean "69": The Telegraph reports that at 61 Jane Birkin -- Gainsbourg's muse -- still has the magic. Nice line: "The less Birkin tried to do with her voice, the better she sounded." Did you know that Jane Birkin is the mother of pixie-sexpot actresses Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon?... posted by Michael at March 4, 2008 | perma-link | (31) comments

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Your Opinion Wanted
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Everyone -- As a followup to my previous posting: Rape? Or just messy college sex? (Link thanks to Cheryl Miller, who comments on Heather Mac Donald's piece here.) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 27, 2008 | perma-link | (50) comments

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Frenchwoman Revisited
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Arts & Letters Daily links to a good article by Pamela Druckerman about Frenchwomen, and about how they manage to be sexually vital and active creatures into their 50s, 60s, and (gadzooks!) even beyond. I find "the Frenchwoman" a source of fascination myself, and wrote a posting about the type here. A shrewd, informative, and blessedly fun-to-read book on the subject is Debra Ollivier's "Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl." It's a pop book, but it's, y'know, a really good pop book. Despite the pretentions of the lit crowd, such things do exist. Semi-related: I wrote about Catherine Millet's tres francais "The Sexual Life of Catherine M." as well as some other books about sex here. Here's a posting I wrote about the ultra-francais erotic classic "Story of O." Erotica fans, literature fans, and Frenchwoman fans shouldn't miss Toni Bentley's first-class essay about "Story of O." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 12, 2008 | perma-link | (6) comments

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Women's Hair: The Long and Short of It
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- For what it's worth, I almost always prefer women with shorter (but not crew-cut short) hair. Some guys seem to prefer long hair on women. I don't know why. But I'll at least speculate about myself. It might have had to do with what I saw when growing up. But not, please note, when I was really young. When I was a child and even into the lower grades in school, the fashion for women's hair was shoulder-length (I'm talking most of the 1940s here). My mother wore her hair shoulder-length in those years and even later. Here's the possible connection: When I reached puberty (1952 or 1953, say) the fashion had shifted to shorter hair. By shorter I mean a range between a couple inches above the shoulder to perhaps 4-6 inches long, sometimes combed back along the side of the head in a faux-DA style. Younger women are no longer my cuppa tea, but I've noticed for quite a few years that many (most?) like to wear their hair really long -- from the lower part of the shoulder blades down even to the small of the back. This does nothing for me. Something to do with poor face-framing? The possible imprinting at age 13 noted above? I dunno. Given my inability to deal with this vital subject, herewith are some questions for the rest of you to mull over and comment on: Why do some men prefer long-haired women? Could it be generational? Why do younger women seem to prefer long hair? Do they like it for its own sake? Do they think it flattering? Or do they wear it long because they think it attracts men? Older women (and men too) tend to wear shorter hair. Does this have to do with the changing nature of hair as one ages? Or is this also something to do with one's generation? Other ideas or personal experiences are also welcome, of course. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at February 7, 2008 | perma-link | (4) comments

Monday, February 4, 2008

Alt-Erotica Linkage for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A brilliant young Swiss designer, Maria Wagner, hand-makes micro-bikinis for the goth and punkette set. Her work has all the narcissistic attitude and blase insolence that any fan of the scene could hope for. Choosing a favorite from among Maria's creations isn't easy, but if a gun were held to my head I'd have to opt for this beauty. Which size front panel do you prefer -- teeny-weeny? Or ultra-teeny-weeny? Although there is something about the back view of this racy number that makes my heart beat in a very special kind of way ... NSFW, as I really hope you didn't need to be told. Semi-related: I sort of blogged about neo-burlesque queen Dita Van Teese here. Wired's Regina Lynn expresses enthusiasm for the Australian amateur site Abby Winters, and for the chic and edgy BDSM company You can enjoy a lot of freebie samples from both outfits by typing their names into Google Images. Prepare for atypical porn -- er, erotic entertainment -- that actually has mood and personality. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 4, 2008 | perma-link | (3) comments

Friday, February 1, 2008

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- We all know that many gay men go out "cruising." But what's involved? What are the rules of the game? What are the dance steps, so to speak? The CBC's Ben Aylsworth offers an introduction. (Seems to me SFW, but make your own call.) One comment on the page struck me as especially interesting: I'm gay. And I often make it a point to encourage people in general to fully experience their sexual desires. That these guys are having sex is not the problem. It's where they're doing it. It is a thoughtless imposition on the rest of us to assume control over a public space, by driving the rest of us out. And in the case of [Vancouver's] Stanley Park, it does damage that no other park user would think of doing or be allowed to get away with. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 1, 2008 | perma-link | (6) comments

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Continuing with examples from our "American popular culture allows men zero dignity" series, here's a bit from a National Geographic Channel promotional ad. Now, this ad is apparently supposed to be cute and funny, and ruefully-recognizable too. But what are we being shown? Wifey is disciplining Hubster like The Dog Whisperer corrects a dog. Which means that the wife-husband relationship portrayed here isn't even mom-child, as insulting as that would be. It's wife-equals-dog-owner and hubby-equals-dog. Am I allowed to wonder how this ad would be received if it showed a man treating his wife like a pet in need of correction? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 30, 2008 | perma-link | (21) comments

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- American popular culture sometimes seems to allow American men no dignity at all. In reality, of course, many American men contribute to families, social groups, organizations, and businesses in helpful and substantial ways. But guyz in pop-cult often seem to come in only two varieties: the apologetic, overweight doofuses; and the cartoons of videogame aggressiveness. Flabby 'n' bedheaded or lean 'n' cut, they're all fools. Meanwhile, popular-culture females are pulled-together dynamos -- exuberant to a fault, perhaps, but definitely in charge. When did this development happen and why? Is this simply what follows when you deconstruct traditional masculinity? And will American men ever tuck in their shirttails again? Best, Michael UPDATE: Thanks to Cheryl Miller, who points out this Matt Feeny article for Slate about fatguys-married-to-hotties sitcoms.... posted by Michael at January 29, 2008 | perma-link | (22) comments

Monday, January 28, 2008

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Excellent gag -- and one that clearly deserves its own holiday. Great to see so many gals taking part too. * Robert Lanham traces the origins of alt-porn. * Sadly, going the alt-porn route doesn't mean that you're immune to lawsuits. * But who needs porn anyway when there are American Apparel ads to enjoy? * Give a girl a camera ... (NSFW) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 28, 2008 | perma-link | (9) comments

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Striptease Surfing
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Postmodern burlesque queen Dita van Teese says that she sees striptease as a classic art form. Back here, I praised "The Notorious Bettie Page," a biopic about one of Dita's inspirations. Here's Dita's own website. Here's one list of essential reading for those interested in striptease and burlesque. Dita deserves a lot of credit for her role in helping revive the form, by the way. Don't overlook one of my favorite books of recent years, Toni Bentley's "Sisters of Salome," nonfiction about four women of effrontery and talent who made nudity expressive in dancing the role of Salome. Bentley -- steely, reckless, incisive, sensual -- is a seriously sexy writer. She's notorious for "The Surrender," her arty memoir of erotic awakening. Hey, I'm thanked in the acknowledgments of that book. Read it and guess which thankee I am. (Read an excerpt from "The Surrender" here.) I wrote previously about Toni Bentley back here , here, and here. Oh, and here too. Toni Bentley's website is here. On this page, you can read an excellent review that Toni wrote of a book about the history of striptease. Isn't it fun when free-associating winds up turning into a great big circle? Interesting the way that sometimes just happens ... Here's hoping that "Conservative Bohemian" Alias Clio will be fascinated by this line of linkage. After all, Conservatives know about the virtues of restraint, while Bohemians know how to turn abandon into a virtue. Restraint and abandon ... That's a nice description of the appeal of striptease. A. Clio muses about beauty and beehive hairdos here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 24, 2008 | perma-link | (4) comments

Monday, January 21, 2008

Women-and-Eroticism Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Gotta love the New Burlesque. * Kelly DiNardo interviews burlesque artiste Ravenna Black. At the end of that posting you'll find links to interviews that Kelly has done with other current burlesque queens. * The rise and fall of Britney in one well-illustrated blogposting. Britney really was amazingly cute for five minutes or so, wasn't she? (Link thanks to those horny brainiacs at GNXP.) * Sarah Blake -- famous for looking like a fresh-faced co-ed -- confides that, when she went into the porn industry, she planned to work in the field for only 30 days. * Nude model Iona Lynn tells about one of her least-favorite photoshoots. * Flickr diva Katie West insists that she's really very shy. * Amateur porn producer Abby Winters says that she finds it important to stick to her paradigm. * MBlowhard Rewind: I read some books about sex by women authors, and looked back at the French erotic classic "Story of O." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 21, 2008 | perma-link | (7) comments

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Gym Observations
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A couple of general rules about life that I've learned from visits to the gym: From the locker room: The darker-complected the guy, the more likely he is to wear bikini underpants. Latin and Jewish guys are far more likely than the Northern Euro set to like 'em tight and small. As for black guys ... Well, let's just say that they seem to find the words "Italian" and "silk" amazingly hard to resist. Can these preferences be explained by biology, do you think? It does seem that guys from certain backgrounds are much more eager to present themselves as hot and desirable thangs (in a physical sense) than guys from other backgrounds are. I know that if the fair-haired, small-town guys I grew up with ever caught you wearing tight, tiny undies, they'd razz you mercilessly. Feeling scrumptious, let alone presenting yourself as an object of desire ... Well, that's for girls and gays. What might be the explanation? Do the bikini-underpants crowd grow up on the receiving end of lots and lots of an extra-special kind of mommy-love? And a crucial question: Do many women actually get a kick out males presenting themselves as hunka-burnin'-love dreamboats? (My guess at an answer: "Sure! But only when the magic is present. Otherwise it's ridiculous." Chicks, eh? It's always about the mood.) Before you laugh me out of the club: Remember the "Latin Lover" phenomenon of the early 20th century? It hit America very hard. Come to think of it: Wouldn't a history of the Latin Lover archetype make for a terrific academic study? I'd happily read a long review of such a book. From the hot tub / swimming pool area: The older the guy, the more likely he is to wear Speedos. And why should this be? Is it a generational thing? Perhaps for guys d'un certain age "men's bathing suit" automatically means "nylon," "small" and "tight." How things have changed. But maybe there's something about having a big belly, moobs, and a lot of grizzled, salt-and-pepper trunk-hair that drives the aging dude to tug on a teeny swimsuit. Do these rules hold out where you live? As usual, lots of exceptions duly noted. Best, and quite content being a baggy-boxers kinda guy, Michael... posted by Michael at January 10, 2008 | perma-link | (11) comments

Friday, December 21, 2007

Hot, Commercial, Public
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Get your sizzling and controversial ad campaigns here. Are you as much of a fan as I am of the current American Apparel ads? They often strike me as startling and brilliant. Ad people, stylists, and clothing designers, eh? -- forever finding new ways to shock us, scandalize us, and make us feel titillated. How do they manage it? The American Apparel ads strike me as amazingly evocative of being 14 and finding everything that's happening to your body (and to your friends' bodies) momentous and hot -- about messing around with undies, belts, a mirror, and a digital camera while Mom and Dad are out of the home. And, hey: What would it be like to be a model? Or maybe the star of your very own porn movie? These are questions that must be on a lot of teenage minds these days. What do I think (and how do I feel) about the fact that this kind of material is widespread, that children aren't protected against it, and that its subject matter routinely plays with illicit behavior? Pleased you asked, but I'll save my no doubt uninteresting answers for another day. Generally speaking, though, I feel about these ads the same way I feel about online porn: Since it isn't as if tut-tutting is going to make this material go away, why get hung up on the moral angle? No one has to find any of these developments interesting, let alone attractive, of course. Tuning out is always an option. But at the same time, what could be the harm in taking note of what's going on in the world? These days, when I go to the movies, it's usually not to see a specific movie; it's to see what movies these days are like. Curiosity can be a strong motivator. Nothing wrong with arguing over morality, of course -- it just isn't a conversation I'm often eager to take part in. Besides, practically speaking, it would take a lot to persuade me that a few minutes spent surfing through the American Apparel website contributes -- or contributes much, anyway -- to the moral rot of the world. Semi-related: I wrote about "Havoc," a misbehaving- overprivileged- teens movie by Barbara Kopple here, and about a movie by Larry ("Teenage Lust," "Kids") Clark here. I wondered how and why thongs had become such a big part of contempo culture here. If you want to eyeball examples of the work of one of the photographers who established the contemporary wood-paneled-basement, glaring-flash, almost-but-not-quite kiddie-porn style, do a Google Image search on "Terry Richardson." Small suggestion: Turn "SafeSearch" to "Off." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 21, 2007 | perma-link | (16) comments

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ladies: Their Habits and Tastes and Feelings
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Tad Safran thinks that British women have a lot to learn from American women where the matter of "upkeep" goes. (Link thanks to ALD.) By contrast, Toby Young writes "Frankly, I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than go out on another date with an American woman." * The sassy young gals at Jezebel are starting to wonder if porn has ruined sex. Brace yourself for a quick lesson in how verbally uninhibited today's young women can be. (NSFW) * What happens when a callgirl develops some real feelings for a client? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 13, 2007 | perma-link | (7) comments

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gender Question
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- So now it's official American government policy to castrate young males? The poster in the photo reminds me of a question that I've puzzled over for a long time. If my experience is any indicator, our educational system is currently turning out hordes of competent, bossy (er, confident), and pulled-together young women. (Uninhibited -- or at least strangers to shame -- too.) Meanwhile, the new young men emerging from high-powered schools seem sheepish, beat-up, and confused about how they might make any kind of contribution. In other words, the post-'70s feminist effect on American education has been to "empower" girls at the expense of boys. But ... Well, has this been a wise policy? After all, by the age of 35 most of these dynamic, driven young women are going to want to have babies. Which will probably mean that many of them will be easing at least partway out of the workforce. Which in turn will leave America's public business in the hands of a generation of men who lack any sense that they're entitled to fight and lead. Is this a development that will work out for the general social good? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 11, 2007 | perma-link | (60) comments

Race and Evolution
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Steve Sailer looks at the stats and concludes that the U.S. is turning Hispanic a lot faster than anyone expected -- even faster than alarmists have predicted, in fact. Fun passage: "Half of all Hispanic women who gave birth in 2006 were unmarried." These are the people who -- and these are the policies that -- are going to be saving Social Security? It sometimes seems to me that the people we're importing in such droves can't even do a good job of cleaning our hotels. * Fred Reed thinks that it's time for the mainstream media to stop concealing the race of people accused of horrifying crimes. * The new Cochran, Harpending, Hawks, Moyzis, and Wang paper is a corker. This particular Blowhard has always been unable to believe the usual polite thing, namely that evolution stopped 50,000 years ago. Why should it have? But Hawks, Cochran, Harpending and their posse argue something far more radical: that evolution has in fact dramatically accelerated in recent years. Swallow that one, polite society! Steve reprints an informative press release here. John Hawks blogs here. Here's Scientific American's report. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 11, 2007 | perma-link | (19) comments

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

More on Dawkins, Sex, Jealousy
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Just because I can -- well, and also because I'm curious about how people will respond -- I'm copying-and-pasting a comment I left on Donald's recent posting about Richard Dawkins and his view of sexual jealousy. Here goes: Dawkins really does seem to have given himself license to pontificate about whatever he feels like, doesn't he? I wonder if he's having a better time pontificating and provoking than he had as a scientist ... Oh well, he's getting away with it for the moment, good for him. I look forward to being a much-noted old windbag myself when I get to be his age. I do marvel that Dawkins seems to see the goal of right-thinking people as overcoming the basics of human nature. Evo-bio hit me very differently. It confirmed me in my hunch that it makes much more sense to work with (rather than against) human nature -- to build on it (or just plain enjoy it) rather than pave it over or wall it up, let alone triumph over it. But maybe I don't have the crusading-heroic gene in me, or it hasn't been expressed, or something. On the other hand, where jealousy and the sex drive is concerned ... I think I'm with most of you about two-thirds of the way. Sexual activity and the sexual emotions are dynamite, of course, and if you're too irresponsible with 'em they'll blow up. On the other hand, that's true too of food, alcohol, drugs, and art, all of which can be over-indulged-in and can turn on you. That doesn't mean they aren't there to be enjoyed, or even played-with a little bit. (What "enjoyed" and "playing with 'em" means will vary by person, of course ...) I think the American-style pattern -- dating around a bit followed by longterm monogamy -- is probably a sensible way of arranging sexual matters for many people. But I'd hesitate to prescribe it for everyone. Life's complicated, people come in many different forms. There are sexual freelancers of both sexes ... There are people who are natural libertines ... Exhibitionists ... People who really don't like sex of any kind ... Couples who make their own arrangements ... And some people move through phases over time too: women who marry, have kids, then leave to "become" lesbians, for example. Or people who are addicted to marriage but can't stay in a single one of them for long. Or people who marry young, live square, get the kids on their feet and out of the house, and then spend their 40s and 50s as swingers ... I mean, where I live all of these kinds of people can easily be found. And that's not just OK by me, it's kinda fun. And there's the imagination too. Movies wouldn't be movies if people didn't enjoy the fantasy of being intimate with the people onscreen, for instance. I suppose porn can be become an addiction and for all I... posted by Michael at December 5, 2007 | perma-link | (17) comments

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sex, Jealousy and Richard Dawkins
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Michael Novak on National Review Online offers this link to an article by Richard Dawkins that rambles on about Awful, Terrible Religion, Awful, Terrible Tony Blair and George Bush and Awful, Terrible Sexual Jealously. Here are some observations on the latter topic that caught my eye. Returning to the original topic of sex outside marriage, I want to raise another question that interests me. Why are we so obsessed with monogamous fidelity in the first place? Agony Aunt columns ring with the cries of those who have detected -- or fear -- that their man/woman (who may or may not be married to them) is "cheating on them". "Cheating" really is the word that occurs most readily to these people. The underlying presumption -- that a human being has some kind of property rights over another human being's body -- is unspoken because it is assumed to be obvious. But with what justification? ... Just as we rise above nature when we spend time writing a book or a symphony rather than devoting our time to sowing our selfish genes and fighting our rivals, so mightn't we rise above nature when tempted by the vice of sexual jealousy? ... I, for one, feel drawn to the idea that there is something noble and virtuous in rising above nature in this way. I admit that I have, at times in my life, been jealous, but it is one of the things I now regret. ... I'm not denying the power of sexual jealousy. It is ubiquitous if not universal. I'm just wondering aloud why we all accept it so readily, without even thinking about it. And why don't we all admire – as I increasingly do -- those rare free spirits confident enough to rise above jealousy, stop fretting about who is "cheating on" whom, and tell the green-eyed monster to go jump in the lake? Sigh. This strikes me as a fine example of the over-educated, concepts-trump-reality mindset stalking the quadrangles of academe. Married people having "property rights" over one another? I could be wrong, but I thought that, in most Western societies, civil marriage is, legally, a form of contract entered into by consenting parties. Still, assuming that Dawkins is not committing sophistry, perhaps I'd better stop calling Nancy "my wife" and she should never refer to me as "my husband." Implies ownership, don'tcha know. Although he observes that jealousy is nearly universal, he expresses admiration for those (such as himself?) who have the sophistication to rise above the muck of nature, freeing themselves to experience excitement without guilt or, apparently, concern for others. This being justified by their tolerance of other people doing similar things, perhaps with one's own regular squeeze. Dawkins seems to be straying from his roots in nature, biology, genetics, and all that messy stuff. Perhaps, even though he's 66 years old, he missed out on the Sixties and Seventies. Remember Open Marriage? -- it's based on the sentiments... posted by Donald at December 4, 2007 | perma-link | (28) comments

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Eroticism Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Polly Frost swoons over her favorite sexy short story. * The Communicatrix discovers the upside of putting on a few pounds. Hint: boobage. * Finally: a Swedish-feminist cause a man can really cheer on. * Tristan Taormino reports that the edgy porn site gets more web visitors than MSNBC does. Here's a NYTimes article about Peter Acworth, the British MBA-student-turned-porn-auteur who founded Here's an example of's work. Be forewarned: That last link is NSFW to the max. * What's the relationship between Beauty in the elevated sense and what gives Roissy a boner? * Good to see that the old wedding traditions are still being honored. * MBlowhard Rewind: I meditated on the cultural significance of the thong here, here, and here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 27, 2007 | perma-link | (7) comments

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Blogging Smackdown
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- It's Clio vs. Roissy (in the comments). At stake: the future of the 21st century male-female thing. Is "game" a necessary survival toolkit for the new hetero male, or a cynical ploy that feeds ego and poisons relations? Clio's own blog is here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 1, 2007 | perma-link | (39) comments

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

DVD Journal: The Notorious Bettie Page
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'd been semi-dreading Mary Harron's biopic "The Notorious Bettie Page." Although I hadn't seen either of her previous films -- "I Shot Andy Warhol" and "American Psycho" -- I'd read about them, and I knew a little about Harron's background and interests too. Given what I'd picked up, I expected the Bettie Page film to be theoretical, intellectual, post-modern, and "daring" in predictable leftie-feminist, if (yawn) Sex Positive, ways. In other words: While the Bettie Page subject matter certainly had its juicy appeal, I was certain that the film would be a dreary exercise in PC edginess. But I do love Gretchen Mol, who stars as Bettie Page ... The price of a used DVD kept creeping down ... When it hit six bucks, I couldn't resist any longer. The One-Click button was pounced on, and The Wife and I settled in to watch the film. Was I ever surprised. Although the film is nothing if not post-modern in style, its spirit is flat-out appreciative. I'm sure a determined intellectual could roll up his sleeves and tease a lot of mallarkey about "power" and "gender" out from the film, but those words don't indicate how the film actually plays and feels. It's a genuinely sweet, touching, and sexy picture: open to contradictions, unresolved, and full of charm and humor while never surrendering to naivete. Hey, a few films that I was reminded of as I watched "The Notorious Bettie Page": "Fallen Champ," Barbara Kopple's documentary about the boxer Mike Tyson. Kopple may be the most PBS person on the face of the planet. But she's also talented, and in this project at least was able to let go of her usual agenda and give over to her subject matter. The result is a complex and moving look at Tyson, one that's not at all marred by feminist limitations. "Auto Focus," Paul Schrader's movie about the TV actor Bob Crane. Like Harron's film, "Auto Focus" has an off-off-Broadway, quotes-around-everything, po-mo quality. (I wrote about the Schrader picture here.) But Schrader took a jaunty and disengaged tone. There was nothing about Bob Crane that he could respect, or that he even seemed to find interesting. By contrast, Harron (with co-screenwriter Guinevere Turner, and Gretchen Mol) takes on Bettie Page with real commitment. "32 Short Films About Glenn Gould," Francis Girard's very unusual biopic of the Canadian pianist, which features a fractured, multifaceted point of view. While it's far more determinedly experimental than "Bettie Page," it's full of a similar kind of humor and wonder. "Ed Wood," Tim Burton's biopic about the legendarily untalented director of such works as "Glen or Glenda" and "Plan Nine from Outer Space." In his picture, Burton moves through irony and camp to a state of sincere admiration. In "Bettie Page" Mary Harron moves through po-mo into something genuinely loving too. One quick caveat: "Bettie Page" doesn't have a lot of dramatic drive. The Wife -- a dramatic-drive junkie -- liked the... posted by Michael at October 31, 2007 | perma-link | (9) comments

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bon-Ton Sexy Babes
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Sometimes my daughter complains when I write about sexy stuff -- like many younger people, including myself years ago, she seems to feel that one's own parents live on a higher plane than the rest of the world. For that reason, and in part because I blog using my own name, and mostly because Michael is the 2B go-to guy on sexy topics, I usually write about other things. There are exceptions, of course. Here I wrote about pin-up artists. And here I wondered why a noticeable share of gals posing for girlie calendars and covers of magazines dealing with guy-hobbies (hot rods, trucks, motor cycles, etc.) looked like they had IQs on the south side of 90. But most things, including sexy pictures of women, are aligned on a continuum; there can be found other species of models than the vapid variety. Speaking of models, fashion photographer Helmut Newton would use some of the models from his fashion shoots in nude, arty-yet-semi-erotic poses. Haute-couture fashion models seldom look stupid. Those models, along with Newton's lighting and other technical skills (not to mention a slightly surrealistic aesthetic disposition) rendered his nude photos art, rather than porn, to many observers. Newton did much of this work in the 1980s and 90s. Another, now nearly unknown, photographer who did astonishing work was Alfred Cheney Johnston whose career apogee was the 1920s when he was the main photographer for Florenz Ziegfeld's famed Ziegfeld Follies. Needless to say, when it came gorgeous women with a theatrical bent, Ziegfeld was able to select the cream of that crop. Johnston took many hundreds of photos of them and other similarly beautiful women. Some of these pictures have been collected in this book (see cover below). Johnston placed his subjects in "arty" poses, not the flamboyant ones used by Newton. Usually the women were partly clothed -- sometimes with nothing but a scarf draped over crossed legs. Even though many photos showed plenty of flesh, they seem curiously prim by today's loose standards. Moreover, I, at least, find Johnston's women more alluring than Newton's. Why is this so? It's so because Johnston usually made the women seem classy whether or not they actually were. These women look dignified, not trashy and stupid. Partly this was Johnston's posing and use of props. But mostly it was because Ziegfeld selected classy-looking women in the first place. This is evident in some photos in the book where the women weren't from Ziegfeld; although most of his subjects -- Ziegfeld or not -- exuded quiet beauty, a few were ordinary or even less. Another thing. Johnston's women are seen as being both beautiful and remote. Almost untouchably perfect. Forbidden fruit, if you will. In my opinion, this makes them far more attractive than the "democratized" "sexy" photos that are today's coin of the realm. Am I wrong? Later, Donald... posted by Donald at October 29, 2007 | perma-link | (5) comments

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Yes! Yes! Yes!
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The curators of the Barbican's new exhibition -- a history of how sex has been represented in art -- definitely want audiences to find the show arousing. More, more, more, more, more.... Semi-related: Gotta love the nickname of Seattle's new trolley line. Fun video report too. (Link thanks to Daze Reader.) Alias Clio flirts with open marriage. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 23, 2007 | perma-link | (7) comments

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Dept. of Belaboring the Obvious
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Is this a sentence that really needed to be written: "Sexual activity and orgasm have been shown to reduce stress (Charnetski & Brennan, 2001)." I found this humdinger in "The Science of Orgasm," by Barry R. Komisaruk, Carlos Beyer-Flores, and Beverly Whipple, a book published by the prestigious Johns Hopkins Press. I'm sure glad that Komisaruk, Beyer-Flores, and Whipple cited a source to support their controversial statement! Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 4, 2007 | perma-link | (4) comments

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Complicated Female Orgasm
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A sex researcher who helped discover the G-spot back in the '70s now reports that three more nerve pathways are involved in female orgasms than previously suspected. Or at least can be involved, as it turns out. There are good reasons why not all female orgasms seem to be alike. According to Prof. Beverly Whipple, there can be clitoral and vaginal orgasms, but there can also be orgasms based in the uterus and cervix. ("One woman described these cervical-based orgasms as like a 'shower of stars'." Whee!) Plus there's the grand-slam-homer of orgasms, one that involves all of these nervous pathways. Let's hear it for the "blended orgasm." My favorite passage in Deborah Smith's good article: Men and women differ in their sexual responses. Men move in order from desire to arousal to orgasm. Women are more complicated, says Whipple. "They can experience sexual arousal, orgasm and satisfaction without desire, and they can experience desire, arousal and satisfaction without orgasm." Women's sexuality must be as baffling to women as it is to men. The article left me wondering about one particular question: Why was scientific sex research, and the pop-psych literature that it spins off, so fixated on clitoral orgasms for so many years? I mean, we've been told for decades now that all female orgasms are clitoris-based. All else was held to be self-deception, or (more likely) just a patriarchy-inspired attempt to flatter the pathetically insecure male ego. Since Smith's article doesn't mention the words "politics" or "feminism," I'll go ahead and do so. During many of those years, certain powers-that-be found it useful to claim that the penis can serve no particular purpose where female sexual pleasure goes. Men aren't good for much besides dragging home a paycheck and taking out the garbage, it was thought, and men usually don't show much aptitude for those activities either. Intercourse was portrayed as an act of raw male dominance, or a favor a woman does for her man, affording her at most the pleasure of knowing that she's desired. A woman was held to be a self-actualizing creature, with no real reason to need or even want a man. Well, so much for that picture! Whipple does mention one practical fact that played a role in the clitoris-fixation of the time. It's that the instruments that researchers use to poke and prod the female groin conceal the G-spot, while the clitoris is easy to have physical and visual access to. Smith writes: "And the G-spot has to be manipulated to be felt. 'Doctors can't sexually stimulate their patients. That's why they didn't find it,' Whipple says." Sigh: All those years of potential sexual pleasure spoiled, and all for what? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 30, 2007 | perma-link | (12) comments

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sexes and Plates
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm still unpacking boxes from our move to Seattle. The process is more tedious than demanding and I have time to think -- sometimes about what I notice while unpacking. Today I'm thinking about dishes. For instance, I find that I've created a stack of 16 dinner plates with winter decorations around the rims. The glazing is green and the subject is alternating reindeer and fir trees. Sixteen plates. That take up a fair amount of cupboard space. That might be used three times a year at best. Simple male that I am, I'm thinking: Why not just use regular plates and trick things up for the holidays using seasonal paper napkins and table decorations? But apparently my wife finds a special plate collection to be much more appropriate. Another item. My wife is a total pushover for floral decorations on clothing, vases, plates -- you name it. Consequently, nearly all the china I find myself unpacking (those seasonal plates excepted) have flowers all over them. Me, I'm ignorant of and indifferent to flowers even though my mother was a gardner. Were I choosing plates, I'd get very simple decorations. Perhaps only a colored band along the rim or maybe a half-inch wide design or pattern near the rim. Is this too a male-female thing or simply another instance of personal tastes? I suspect sex is a factor. But I have no research grant to fund a study regarding this matter of vital importance. I don't even have a classroom full of college sophomores to survey. I do, however, have a fine blog readership that Michael has cultivated over the past nearly five years. So if you think that, once again, I'm all wet, let the comments rip. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at April 22, 2007 | perma-link | (18) comments

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Women, Men, Dating
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Steve thinks that women in search of mates shouldn't spend so much on shoes. Tyler wonders why some women go for cads. The Communicatrix has some sensible tips for daters. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 11, 2007 | perma-link | (11) comments

Friday, March 30, 2007

Food Porn
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- No wonder the boys love watching Rachael Ray. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 30, 2007 | perma-link | (9) comments

Monday, March 12, 2007

Many Loves
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Annalee Newitz introduces us to the Polyamorists. Fun passage: For some, poly may be more realistic than monogamy. Having multiple partners frees people from the process of trying to find "the one" who is perfect for them in every way ... Critics call poly self-indulgent and morally reprehensible. Yet it is hardly a sexual free-for-all. The freedom has limits - and managing emotions like jealousy becomes a central issue. "These are designer relationships," Cook says. "Every group decides for itself what's open and what isn't." It all sounds to me like what we used to think of as "young people's first year or two after college." But what do I know? The Wife and I know a few young people who play the polyamorous game. Here's the rulebook. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 12, 2007 | perma-link | (5) comments

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sex and The Art of Shaping Hamburgers
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I need to be careful. Very careful. That's because I'm now living in ultra-liberal Seattle and this post will be stunningly incendiary to the sensitive souls that surround me. Doubtless I'll have to continually "check my six" (that's combat pilot lingo) till next week when I head to California to help with the move. What's this all about? Shaping hamburgers. When I form a hamburger patty I use a flat surface and do my best to create a shape like a very short cylinder. A number of the women in my life over the years (but not Mom, thank heaven) form hamburger patties as if they were were making slightly flattened snowballs. And slightly flattened snowballs are a poor shape for evenly cooking the meat, as compared to the cylindrical alternative. My conclusion from this scientific sample of three or four people? ... There is a clear genetic distinction in hamburger-shaping between the sexes. In fact, I'll hazard the proposition that this rivals the well-proven fact that women squeeze toothpaste tubes from the middle whereas men squeeze from the end opposite the opening. Of course I'll toss in the obligatory weasling that I'm speaking of tendencies rather than Iron Laws of nature. Anyway, now you know. And please excuse me while I go into hiding. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at February 28, 2007 | perma-link | (16) comments

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Is Porn Scarce?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Revealing an unexpected streak of wholesomeness, Tyler Cowen asks "Why is porn scarce?" Not a question that -- in this age of "type anything you want into Google Images" -- would have occurred to me. Since I find the general pornification of culture that we're living through fascinating, I dropped this comment on his posting: Pornography is scarce? I feel like I must be missing something, or maybe misunderstanding something. Because what the web has done is make porn -- which historically had always been scarce -- available in endless easy ways. Where porn's concerned we've gone from a situation of scarcity to one of superabundance. Which is interesting in a psychological/sociological and maybe even an economic sense. Shifting from conditions of scarcity to conditions of ease and superabundance creates whole new parameters, vectors, and puzzles for us to contend with. Once upon a time you cherished and protected your porn stash. These days there's no reason to, since, if you're ever bored, all you need to do is a fast web-sweep in order to turn up tons of free and new material. This seems to mean that where in the past people protected and nourished their tastes and fetishes, people these days are more whimsical. You try stuff out, you're curious, you look into things. Maybe you stumble into something that you find alluring that you'd had no idea about before. ("Waterbondage" -- who knew?) Your relationship with your own erotic being changes. Since you're no longer keeping anything under lock and key, nothing builds up. The erotic quest is no longer like following a complicated treasure map written in runes. Instead, you're like someone with a remote control connected to the most extensive cable system ever. You no longer delve into mysterious regions of Self and Being. Instead, you channel surf to check out what's being brought your way. I suspect the analogy to food is a useful one. In the past the challenge for most people was finding enough to eat. Plus we're biologically programmed to search out sweets, salt, and fat, and to gorge when we get the chance. We're biologically programmed to contend with circumstances of scarcity. When that changes -- when we're in a world of cheap superabundance instead -- it's great in many ways. But many people also find our new situation bewildering. For one big thing, we aren't biologically equipped to deal with it. We'll gorge, we'll search out sweets, and we'll do it over and over again -- and then wonder what's going wrong as we bloat up and become unhealthy. We learn that we can't trust our instincts any longer. So we start to tangle up. Instead of applying ourselves to the direct task of finding adequate nourishment, we find ourselves stuck applying our energies to the task of managing and defying our instincts. And that's almost impossible. Same with porn, I suspect. Guys seem to be programmed to sniff around for arousing material.... posted by Michael at February 15, 2007 | perma-link | (17) comments

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Guess Who Gets the Fanciest Valentine
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Wives. I say wives get the fanciest, most-expensive Valentine cards. How do I know? Why, I just finished shopping for Nancy's card and noticed that the ones at the card shop with the "Wife" tags tended to be larger in dimension, had more pages or more elaborate folding, and had the fanciest tip-on stuff. And I imagine that they tended to be the most expensive as well. Okay, I'm talking tendencies or averages here. I don't doubt that some of you might turn up a super large / elaborate / expensive card for Mother, let's say. But still... If I'm correct, then why is this so? Because the last thing most sane husbands want to do is short-change their wives on Valentine's Day. So if they aren't quite willing to fork over big bucks on flowers or a gift, then the least they can do is produce a top-level card. And the greeting card companies are obviously on to this. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at February 8, 2007 | perma-link | (3) comments

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Ladies, is your man giving too much of his attention to websurfing and not enough to you? Then this organization may suit your needs. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 30, 2007 | perma-link | (0) comments

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gab vs. Info
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A posting for da guyz only. It concerns one of the eternal questions: How do you manage your woman? Well, a subset of it, actually. Namely: Given the female proclivity for nosing around people's feelings, for testing (and re-testing and re-re-testing) relationships, and for Just Generally Going On and On Until You Can't Stand It Any Longer About People and Feelings and What the Day Was Like and What Did She Mean By This and What Do You Suppose He Was Up To With That ... Well, given the female love for inane and endless relationship-babble, er, for insightful and in-depth exploration of inner experience, how do you get the information you need out of your woman? After all, god knows that a woman's feelings can get hurt if and when her man is a little abrupt, and god knows that we dudes have an inborn penchant for wanting to cut to the chase. I laughed in recognition, for instance, when a commenter at Marginal Revolution (on a thread I can't locate any longer), discussing women and men and marriage, wrote something along the lines of "I've had to learn how to let her rake over her day at great length without interrupting too often or offering advice. She's had to learn that not every question I ask her is intended to elicit a long, self-involved monologue." It can take a while to develop these relationship skills. My own interest in people's feelings and feeling-experiences is probably greater than that of most guys. Even so, by the time the five-minute mark has passed I'm ready to move on. Meanwhile, The Wife is just getting warmed up to her subject. And those tender female feelings ... Sheesh. Place a request for some information and a woman is liable to respond by giving you a suspicious look and asking, "What do you mean? What are you up to? Why do you ask?" At a moment when all you really need to know is the location of the checkbook, you can find yourself plunged into Relationship-Exploration / Depth-Psychology Hell. And why is it that women seem to gain energy from such scenes? I can survive 'em myself, but just barely and not without shellshock. Afterwards I need a few hours of downtime to recuperate. I wonder if my own info-eliciting techniques could use some tweaking. I've applied myself to the challenge and have managed to develop a few tricks that can serve. I might, for instance, go to the trouble of putting a lot of sugar-coating on an info-request. An example: "Honey, I love you dearly, you know that. Right now, though, what I need to do is find out where the checkbook is located. Can you give me that information in a direct and non-emotion-laden way that my inadequate male brain won't be overwhelmed by?" That sometimes works. But when it doesn't -- when my candied info-request results in The Wife launching enthusiastically into a potentially-endless... posted by Michael at January 23, 2007 | perma-link | (5) comments

Sunday, January 21, 2007

iPods, Rap, Teens and Sex
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Lead news paragraph for the day: Teens whose iPods are full of music with raunchy, sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs, a study found. More here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 21, 2007 | perma-link | (4) comments

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Know the Toe
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Here's my nominee for droll and off-color site of the day. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 17, 2007 | perma-link | (4) comments

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Private Pleasure, Public Vulgarity
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A few visuals to kick this posting off: And something I wish I had a visual for but, well, it would have been awkward: Over the holidays, I noticed two pre-adolescent girls who -- in the company of adults giving every indication of being their parents -- were wearing stretchy-glittery terry workout clothes. Victoria's Secret leisure-wear, basically. Across the butt of one girl was stitched the word "Juicy." Across the butt of the other girl was stitched the word "Pink." (Note to oldies not in the fashion know: I'm pretty sure that "Juicy" refers to a popular girls' fashion outfit called Juicy Couture. It also, of course, suggests "ripe and appetizing." Note to youngsters who didn't live through the '70s and '80s: the word "Pink" can make oldies give a start because the word was once used to signify hardcore, or near-hardcore, pornography. An extreme sex magazine didn't show pictures of girls who were just naked. It "showed pink" -- ie., it displayed images of exposed vaginas and anuses.) Looking at these two girls, I had -- I confess it -- a brief moment when I found myself thinking about their pre-pubescent butts in sexual terms. Which is bizarre, because I've never had the slightest sexual interest in pre-pubescent girls. But with all those hotsy signifiers a-glow -- St. Tropez fabrics, look-at-me buttpatches, provocative words -- perhaps it wasn't really that bizarre. With "Juicy" and "Pink" twinkling at me, how could the carnal part of my mind not switch on? Repeat after me: What were their parents thinking? Speaking of which ... The New York Times' Lawrence Downes recently attended a middle-school talent show. (Link thanks to Rod Dreher.) And what Downes found himself witnessing were 6th, 7th, and 8th grade girls doing half-clad, gyrating, booty-shaking imitations of the lascivious dancers in rock videos. Downes writes: What surprised me, though, was how completely parents of even younger girls seem to have gotten in step with society's march toward eroticized adolescence -- either willingly or through abject surrender. And if parents give up, what can a school do? The discussion topic I'm proposing is obvious, I hope: What do we make of how trashy, flashy, and vulgar popular culture has become these days? My own first contribution is a qualifier. I often enjoy vulgarity and funkiness. Back in his brief heyday, for instance, I was a fan and a defender of Andrew Dice Clay. I also like more in the way of flirtatiousness and mischief than many Americans seem comfortable with. What can I say? Affable sexual banter gives the day a sparkle, and it puts me in a good mood. My general attitude: Why not enjoy whatever it is life has to offer in the way of pleasure and delight? I mean, so long as it doesn't lead to personal collapse and social decay. So what makes me wince in the examples I provide above isn't the earthiness, the carnality, or the provocation. I'm... posted by Michael at January 4, 2007 | perma-link | (26) comments

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- What sex is your brain? Disappointingly -- I was hoping for some kind of revelation, I guess -- my brain scores smack in the middle of the scale, neither particularly male nor particularly female. A few of my subscores did make me laugh a bit at myself, though. I'm surprisingly good at matching line-angles and at rotating objects in space, both apparently male-engineer-type aptitudes, as well as ones I'd have thought I was a disaster at, given my aversion to all things math and abstract. And I'm considerably better than even most women at verbalizing and at empathizing. Ladies, bring me your feelings; you know who loves ya. (And who loves to gab about it too.) Meanwhile, I have no visible interest in (let alone talent for) investigating how systems work. Ah, so that's why I didn't wind up in engineering ... Some interesting facts from the BBC test-givers: Did you know that, on average, women use 15,000 words a day while men use 7,000? Women took about twice as long as men to end their online instant messenging conversations in a 2003 study of US university students. The study, which was published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology, also found that women were much more likely to use emoticons (representations of emotions using punctuation marks). The most popular emoticon was the smiley face :- ) However girly I can be, at least I don't use smileys. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 31, 2006 | perma-link | (14) comments

Miss Nevada No Longer
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Katie Rees has had her Miss Nevada 2007 title taken away from her. Evidently Katie's taste for uninhibited partying has proven a little too much for the pageant's organizers. NSFW evidence here. Question for the day: Given how common flashing thong and playing tonsil hockey with other chix has become, where on earth is the pageant going to find its future contestants? Best Michael... posted by Michael at December 31, 2006 | perma-link | (12) comments

Thursday, December 21, 2006

DVD Journal: "Writer of O"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Pola Rapaport's "Writer of O" -- a documentary about Dominique Aury, the Frenchwoman who, under the pseudonym Pauline Reage, wrote the 1954 erotic classic "Story of O" -- is a much more peculiar affair than the Bukowski documentary I wrote about recently. Peppered with filmmaker autobiography and staged tableaux vivants, it's part chic performance piece itself. And, even at its most straightforward, it maintains a tragic and solemn tone that suggests a collaboration between Ken Burns and Pina Bausch. Still, I found the story of Dominique Aury fascinating, and I'm glad to have watched the film. Are you familiar with the novel? Or with the meta-story about the novel? Those who are may want to skip the next few paragraphs. As for the novel, "Story of O" is about a young woman fashion photographer. Identified only as O, she's taken by her boyfriend to a mysterious chateau outside Paris where she is bound, beaten, and used, until -- it's presumed -- she becomes more truly herself. Or does she? On its publication, the book became an immediate bestseller and scandale. It won a French literary prize while at the same time being the object of obscenity charges. (Ah, the French, so much more comfy with paradoxes than we are ...) There are obvious reasons why this should have been the case, of course: sex, sex, and more sex. But there were more subtle reasons for the worldwide fascination with the novel too. (The novel has sold millions of copies and has never been out of print.) One was the way the precise, clinical, "objective" language contrasted with and brought out the vulgarity, brutality, and subjectivity of the experiences portrayed. Another was a simple sociological fact: The novel wasn't just the usual sex-book thing -- a sweaty tale for lonely guys to jerk off over. It had sophistication, style, and content, if of a hard-to-nail-down kind. It was also embraced and celebrated by modern women, who -- as far as da boyz could gather -- saw much of themselves in it. And what was the book's purpose anyway? Is O -- who is at every moment free to cast off her chains -- determined to prove her love? Or perhaps her boyfriend, in submitting her to these trials, is proving his love for her? Is the author arguing that masochism is at the heart of female sexuality? Perhaps. Yet there's no question that, despite her tribulations, O is in charge of her fate as well as the center of her own universe. It would have been hard in any case to persuade the crowds of dynamic women who loved the novel that they were identifying with weakness. Feminists were understandably baffled by the whole affair. Should they celebrate the woman author's triumph, and the way O managed to be both her own subject and object? But there was that awkward bit about the heroine being repeatedly beaten and violated ... Even the main character's name... posted by Michael at December 21, 2006 | perma-link | (22) comments

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Gals, Guys, Gifts
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Could it be that there really are more men than women among the super-high-IQ crowd? Britain's Dr. Paul Irwing, who describes himself as a leftie who wishes that this weren't the case, says that it's true. I don't know what the fuss is about myself. 1) In my own experience, men have been much more common than women among the cognitively high-powered. 2) Given that women are so much (and so obviously) better than men at so many things, why be surprised that men should show a few talents of their own? I gassed on about G and the arts here. Best, Michael UPDATE: From the BBC: "Although the average IQ of men and women is equal, men are more frequently found at both extremes of intelligence."... posted by Michael at December 2, 2006 | perma-link | (24) comments

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Some recent, and very NSFW, paparazzi shots of Britney prompt a few questions. For example: If you were going out on the town in a short dress, would you leave your panties behind? I know I wouldn't. And: Do the stars flash the photographers on purpose? It seems to be a very effective way of generating interest, after all. And if showbiz isn't about demanding attention ... The main question it leaves me wondering about, though, is: Has the pubic-grooming thing finally gone a little too far? It isn't just the gals. I notice in the gym's locker room that the young male set is now going in for shaving, waxing, and trimming. Not that I look, of course. Still, what a strange experience it is to be surrounded by male crotches that have obviously been fussed-over. God knows that upkeep is usually to be valued, and that novelty and variety are often appreciated too. But this whole "I am a plastic, Photoshopped version of myself" mania isn't even particularly sexy, is it? I mean, except maybe to a 14 year old. Back in the day, learning to find body hair alluring was considered a central part of growing up. It was a sign you'd graduated from kid-hood. Perhaps the obsession with total, overall smoothness is yet one more sign that we've handed control of our culture over to the tastes of 14 year olds ... Can I be the only person -- let alone the only veteran of the '60s and the '70s -- who's wondering, "Who declared body hair un-erotic?" Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 30, 2006 | perma-link | (14) comments

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

More Naked Youngsters
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Given how uninhibited even respectable kids are these days, I've been wondering for a while now when they'd start making their own explicit porn, starring themselves. Because, like, well, why not? It isn't as though the culture is exactly discouraging them from doing so, god knows. Item #1: Columbia University now has its own nudie magazine produced by and featuring students. Item #2: So does Harvard. (Link now fixed.) What to make of the fact that both of these magazines appear to have been founded by (and are both edited by) chix, er, girls, er, womyn? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 8, 2006 | perma-link | (10) comments

Friday, November 3, 2006

More on Seduction
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- GNXP's GC has let himself be coaxed into further discussions of connecting-with-chix techniques. His remarks -- complete with tips, links, and scorecards -- can be enjoyed (and/or gawked-at) in the comments thread on this posting. Me, I tend to think that a close reading of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" is all that's really necessary to begin enjoying the game of love. Even a whirl through the Stephen Frears film can help you find the rhythm. ($10.88 for the DVD -- how can you beat that?) OK, bonus points for every week you actually spend in France. But is anything more than that really needed? But maybe I've settled for too little ... Best, Michael UPDATE: You can get a little taste of The Game by watching the short video on this page. To my surprise, I find myself thinking, "It actually does seem kinda plausible and helpful. I'm offended by the idea of turning seduction into an aggressive, by-the-numbers method. But maybe that's just a stupid principle I'm hung up on. What the heck, y'know? Maybe most guys could benefit from a little seduction boot camp. Maybe many girls would appreciate it if we sharpened our skills up." How do you react? UPDATE 2: Glen Raphael links to a hilarious how-to (and how-not-to) video.... posted by Michael at November 3, 2006 | perma-link | (11) comments

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Agnostic on Men's Fashions
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Agnostic takes up the fashion challenge and demos some slick getups for modern guys. "Finding a Third Way between Liberace-ness and dullness isn't impossible," he writes. Let's hope! I'm not sure about the sweatervest -- I'm never sure about sweatervests, to be honest. But I think the black-t-shirt-and-black-pants combo is a definite keeper. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 28, 2006 | perma-link | (9) comments

Monday, September 25, 2006

Pedal Pushers X 3
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- It was warm in midtown the other day, and danged if I didn't spot a trio of pedal-pusher-wearin' young American boys. (And yes, your faithful reporter did make a point of walking past these kids and listening to their voices and accents ...) Will this look still be with us next year? Will it perhaps be even more widespread? Ladies: What do you think of this get-up? Best, Michael UPDATE: Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal is a pedal-pushin' fashion leader.... posted by Michael at September 25, 2006 | perma-link | (25) comments

Saturday, September 23, 2006

More Male Fashions
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Since we were recently on the topic of male fashions ... How about a moment of silence in acknowledgment of the summer just past? Everywhere I looked ... That's right: everywhere I looked there were men wearing longer-than-knee-length shorts. What a strange fashion season. Why would anyone think that this style is attractive? I'm happy to admit that long-long cargo shorts look good on a few guys -- but most of them, it seems to me, are younger than the age of 7. In the stores it was near-impossible to find summer shorts of a more traditional length. And, in any case, the over-the-knee style became so omnipresent that the visible male knee -- anything but a shock in summers past -- started to look ... kinda embarrassing, and kinda obscene. Where did the long-long style come from anyway? I have a dim sense that it arrived via today's usual route: basketball via gangsta-hiphop. But I'm not really sure. How about a little gallery? To establish context and understand just how far things have gone, get a load of what men's shorts once were at the opposite extreme: It seemed to me that a nadir was reached very late in August when some men -- including some mature men -- started turning up in public wearing mid-calf-length ... er, slacks, pants, shorts, whatever. A billion years ago, this -- -- was called the clamdigger, or the pedal pusher, or (on gals) the Capri pant. So far as modern guys go, though: There oughta be a law. I don't want to see any male who isn't a bona fide Tyrolean backpacker wearing mid-calf length pants, do you? How do the gals react to the long-shorts-on-men look? I notice that -- in a recent posting I did about magazine design -- the heavenly Gretchen Mol was asked (in the article illustrating the posting) to name something that she doesn't like. Her response: "I'll tell you what I don't want to see, and that's grown men in shorts or cargo pants. If you're older than 12, do you really need all those giant pockets?" Whoops! At the beginning of the summer, I was looking forward to those pockets myself. I was hoping to be able to go out with room in my pants and/or shorts for securely-stashed wallet, keys, camera, sunglasses, and change. But on precisely none of the pairs of cargo-pocket-equipped pants and shorts that I bought this year did the pockets actually work well. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 23, 2006 | perma-link | (15) comments

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Striped, Open, Out
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Where did this particular look come from? Enlightenment appreciated. I'm pretty sure that the first time I registered the look -- striped shirt, worn untucked over jeans, and usually with two buttons undone at the neck -- was when I saw a standup comic wearing it. This was a few years back, but already it looked like a well-established getup. Are there women who think this outfit is a good idea? Even when, as it so often is, the striped shirt is worn over a, blech, white t-shirt? More questions: Why are psychedelic stripes so pervasive these days? My own small-t theory is my usual one: that it's related to the way computers have led to everything being so determinedly visual and aggressive. Ya gotta fight fire with fire, after all. What is the overall look intended to convey? My guess: "I'm a straight guy, full of rogueish, 'Wedding Crasher' charm, who's in a breathless hurry." I find it quite amazing how many guys are currently imitating the look in its entirety. The Wife and I attended "The Black Dahlia" this evening, and every third guy in the audience seemed to be wearing an untucked striped shirt over jeans. We later talked the phenomenon over at a bar; the tender serving us our mojitos wore the look too. Perhaps they're all members of a sci-fi cult, suited-up in expectation of the arrival of the Mother Ship. But, really ... Isn't it the look in the photo above a mighty unattractive one? The puffy/flabby, "I used to pump iron" chests it often adorns aren't real attractive either ... Best, Michael UPDATE: Jonathan captures the look live and on the hoof.... posted by Michael at September 19, 2006 | perma-link | (31) comments

Friday, September 15, 2006

Meeting Girls
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Taking off from the LonelyGirl15 kerfuffle, Steve riffs entertainingly about how idiotic many American guys are about how to connect with women. Don't miss his impression of -- almost a standup routine about -- what goes on in an Asian girl's mind as she sizes up a prospective geek boyfriend. I'll second Steve's observation about American-male cluelessness. Whenever I've made the suggestion on this blog that lonelyguys in search of female company attend yoga classes, reading clubs, cooking classes, ballroom-dance or improv-acting workshops, etc., some singleguy commenters always respond, "But that's not the kind of thing we het dudes enjoy, or can even be good at!" Hey there, brilliant whiner/dimwits: The point isn't for you to excel, or express yourself, or rock out, or indulge your bravado, or even to feel good. The point is that, if you want to meet girls, it makes practical sense to go where the girls are. Make the effort! (You'll get props just for showing up.) Then relax, enjoy the company, take your eyes off their tits, let go of the ego, admit that you don't know everything and aren't always in masterly control of everything, and show some patience and curiosity. 1) You'll survive. 2) You'll learn a thing or two. 3) Hanging out with chicks is enlightening, enchanting, and rewarding in its own right. 4) At some point, nature will almost certainly take her course. Best, Michael UPDATE: Liz Phair wonders "Whatever happened to a boyfriend?"... posted by Michael at September 15, 2006 | perma-link | (47) comments

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Is Stupid Sexy?
Donald Pittenger writes: I'm edging into Michael's turf here, but I'll chance it anyway. Over the years I've seen a lot of calendars, centerfolds, and other non-porn media featuring girlie art. And over those same years I keep noticing the same thing: Many (but not all) of the gals who pose for those pix look like they're really stupid. You know, lacking in IQ of almost any dimension. Narrow-set eyes that don't seem capable of focusing. Pouty expressions. Etcetera, along with the requisite big rack. Why is this so, fellow deep-thinking Blowhards fans? Some possibilities: Brainless big-boobed bimbos are what photographers can most easily recruit. Said bimbos are what the target audience demands. They really are sexy and Donald, the prude, doesn't get it (in all its meanings, nudge, nudge). Kindly clue me in. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 15, 2006 | perma-link | (32) comments

Monday, August 7, 2006

Swaddling Clothes
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- As a blogosphere inhabitant you learn things. One that has come as a surprise to me is that many people don't understand how kiddie-centric America has become. To me, this is one of the central givens of contempo American life. It seems so blazingly evident to me that I tend to assert it as established fact, and am amazed to encounter people who dispute it. What's my proof? Not a lot, I'm afraid. Mere impressions, really. I'm hardly a world traveler -- I've lived overseas for a total of a little more than a year, and I haven't visited any more foreign countries than most standard-issue, middle-class Americans. Nonetheless, what has jumped out at me most during my times abroad is the way that other cultures don't organize themselves around children to the same extent that the U.S. does. I spent a school year in Rennes, Brittany in the early 1970s. Here are a few examples of how their attitudes towards kids differed from ours. They never took vacations for the kids -- to visit landmarks for the sake of the kids' educations, or just because the kids were clamoring to go someplace. Theme parks were nonexistent, and the idea of devoting a few weeks of one's treasured time-off to a kiddie destination would have been found laughable. Vacations were to be spent where the parents could enjoy their well-earned leisure. Days and weeks weren't organized around the kiddies' obligations and plans: playdates, music lessons, soccer games, SAT-coaching appointments, etc. Life was organized around the parents' rhythms. Grownups didn't choose neighborhoods to live in strictly for the sake of the kids. They might (or might not) move someplace because they knew the schools there to be better. But that was rare. And, in any case, parents certainly wouldn't sacrifice anything in the way of their own dignity and pleasure for the sake of, say, a big backyard. I saw two assumptions being lived-out in France: One was that adult life has worth in its own right. The other was that the kids would make do. A self-centered American teen during this year abroad, I was often most struck by the way the French viewed adolescence. The teen years weren't viewed as Americans often see them -- as a sexy high and a big deal, however agony-riddled and pimple-filled. Adolescence was viewed instead as a fairly unfortunate 3-5 year stretch during which youngsters had to be cut a little more slack than usual. And then it was over. Come 20 or 21, you were expected to leave the silliness and the acting-out behind. Incidentally, one reason why French pop culture is so laughable compared to American pop culture is that the French simply don't take adolescence as seriously as we do. So their pop culture has nothing like the ringing conviction to it that ours sometimes does. Children, in other words, weren't seen as heavenly little creatures around whom all of life inevitably revolves. I... posted by Michael at August 7, 2006 | perma-link | (57) comments

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Girl-Watching Notes: Tattoos
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'll be a much happier girl-watcher once the vogue for tattoos has passed. Despite the fact that today's girls and young women are unquestionably awe-inspiring physical specimens (big, rambunctious, healthy, etc.), and although they seem to feel driven to show off ever more skin-acreage, the presence on so many of them of tattoos means that all -- well, nearly all -- of my girl-watching pleasure is spoiled. (A few pre-emptive concessions: Who cares what turns me on? Young women certainly aren't performing for the likes of me. But who stops looking just because he -- or she -- is no longer in his 20s? And isn't having a reaction an important part of looking? As Debknits once wrote in a comment on this blog, more or less: "I'm middle-aged and married, I'm not dead.") It occurs to me to wonder, though: Will the vogue for girl-tattoos pass? As the years go by, tattoos have begun to seem less like a fleeting thing and more like a standard fashion requirement. Perhaps a corner has been turned; perhaps there's no going back. God knows that the tattoos themselves aren't about to be put on a closet shelf like last season's baseball cap. Why did respectable girls start thinking of tattoos as cool in the first place? The fact that respectable girls and young women now choose to wear permanent marks in their flesh has been one of the bigger, as well as one of the more surprising, culture changes that I've ever witnessed. I suppose that, among middle-class girls, tattoos started out as tribal markers of funky sexiness -- as a make-believe way of aligning themselves with the downtrodden. Interesting the way that "sex" and "the downtrodden" have become near-synonymous, isn't it? What's that about? And what does wearing a tattoo mean for the girls themselves? Er, the young women? I assume it means something along the lines of, "I'm doing what all the kids who are eager to be participants in the mating-and-dating thing are doing." But I might well be wrong. I have a general culture-gestalt theory too: The advent of girl-tattoos is directly related to the computer-ification of everything. The computer screen (unlike the movie screen) is changeable, malleable, permeable, interactive. The acts of tattooing and piercing make the body's flesh become changeable and permeable in a similar way. The person wearing tattoos and piercings is saying, in effect, "I am a CPU, and my body is my personal computer screen." Behold YouTube's catch-line: "Broadcast Yourself." The eternal feminine imperative to self-adorn is hard to underestimate. As the female body becomes ever more exposed, body-parts that were once considered intimate and private have gone public. These days, it seems, every square inch of a girl's body needs to be maintained in a state of camera-readiness. Yet, even in the face of these developments, girls are going to find some way to adorn themselves. If a girl can no longer adorn herself by covering... posted by Michael at July 26, 2006 | perma-link | (40) comments

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Ring Tones
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Most days I'm content to gripe about cell phones -- the way they scatter people's attention, the way they destroy oases of peace and quiet, the way they contribute to a general mood of "I gotta have it now or I'll die!" Yesterday, though ... Yesterday I was walking through NYC's East Village, a neighborhood which, despite high rents and gentrification, is still a land of the edgy and the punk. I was walking a little faster than this one young woman who was talking loudly on her cellphone. What I heard as I passed by her was this, more or less: "I used to think they were gross, y'know? Until, like, I got my own. And now I think they're just the hottest things on the face of the planet. I mean, I can't get enough of it ... Uh-huh, it goes right through the hood. And then the jewelry part of it hangs over the you-know-what ... Yeah, you do kind of know it's there. It's not so much feeling it there as knowing it's there. And knowing it's there is, I don't know, enough to keep me wet all day long!" That's right: This young woman was talking -- out loud, on her cellphone, on a wide-open public sidewalk -- about genital piercing and jewelry. Hers, more specifically. Imagine: me, amused by a cellphone incident! Friends who commute to the city by train report that amusing cellphone incidents -- while far outnumbered by annoying ones -- aren't entirely unheard-of. One friend told me about sitting a few seats away from a woman who spent the entire commute on her cellphone, setting up a romantic assignation -- complete with tease-y promises and tantalizing details about what she had in store for her lover. Peter, who uses his blog to chronicle his own commutes on the Long Island Rail Road, has no doubt overheard some doozies too. I wrote here about how really, really uninhibited some of today's young boho adults are. If you're mystified by what my East Village gal was talking about ... Wikipedia to the rescue. Lots of NSFW visual examples can be ogled here. Check out the "Triangle," about halfway down that page. Eee-yowch. What's the most personal/ inappropriate/ embarrassing/ delicious thing you've overheard from a thoughtless cellphone yakker? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 19, 2006 | perma-link | (11) comments

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

On His Own, Man Lives Like a Beast
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Why yes, the Missus has been out of town for a week. How did you know? (Actual unretouched photograph of the current state of the Blowhard family dining table. When The Wife is around, it's maintained in a state of perfect bare black.) Best, Michael UPDATE: Thanks to John Massengale, who points a piece that dares to ask the question, Whatever happened to Male Space in the home?... posted by Michael at July 11, 2006 | perma-link | (15) comments

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Corn Eating: Typewriter or Lathe?
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- [Slaps forehead] It's upon us, and I almost forgot! Corn on the cob season is getting underway. I ate my first ear of 2006 on July 4th (it was grown in California). By August, locally grown sweet corn will be available nearly everywhere in the U.S. (For readers outside Anglophone America, I'm talking about Maize and not the grains you call corn.) Some folks can be pretty fussy about corn. I know a woman who grew up on a farm where they'd plant a couple rows of sweet corn next to the fence of a field of feed corn. When they wanted corn they simply plucked some ears off the stalks and plopped 'em right into the pot of boiling water. So to her, even two-day-old supermarket corn was impossibly old. Me, I don't even care if the corn is more starchy than sweet -- an interesting point of view from the world's seventh most fussy eater (I moved up a few places since the last time I reported my ranking). While munching that tasty ear on the Fourth, I happened to notice the eating techniques of those of us at the table. The two men ate the corn from side-to-side, about three rows at a time. I'll call this "typewriter style." The two women, on the other hand, ate around the cob, only moving along it once a circuit was completed. This I'll term "lathe style." Questions to readers: Are these eating styles sex-based tendencies as my n=4 sample suggests? Are you a lathe or a typewriter? And what about your friends and relatives? Later, Donald... posted by Donald at July 6, 2006 | perma-link | (12) comments

Two-Piece Landmark
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Finally, cultural news of real import: Yesterday, the bikini turned 60. Wikipedia supplies much-appreciated (and well-illustrated) background. The CBC asks, "What would pop culture be without the bikini?" Sometimes even hetero boys pay attention to fashion. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 6, 2006 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Relax, Honey
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Maybe nobody's doing anything wrong. Maybe it's just in your genes. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 5, 2006 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Heading South
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Susie Bright points out a Washington Post article claiming that many college-aged men are having trouble getting it up. Assuming that there's something to the article's substance, how to explain this phenomenon? My own attempt at a possible account goes this way. We're living in a pumped-up, lascivious, sex-saturated culture. Our erotic centers are being massaged, indeed attacked, almost constantly -- so relentlessly that we're left feeling that if we aren't spending every instant of the day on the verge of orgasm then there's something amiss. Lacking sexual desire, in other words, has become a taboo. And -- as will often happen with taboos -- some young men are becoming obsessed with this one. Also, difficult though it can be to believe when you're 18, it's only human to spend the occasional nanosecond not thinking about sex, and not desiring sex. What happens to a young guy's psychology if he's made to feel that there's something wrong when he experiences these nanoseconds of nondesire? He might develop a complex. And complexes can indeed lead to droopiness. As for the female role in all this ... Yeah, I guess I do wonder if the gung-ho, ultra-aggressive, and completely unmysterious young women that we have been cultivating in recent decades might be a factor in the equation. An environment consisting of Maxim clones, thong straps, Spring Break, bellybuttons, take-charge gals, and online porno supermarkets might not be an erotic paradise after all. Instead it might be completely unmanning. As The Wife enjoys saying: Men like to have hurdles to leap over. So how do you explain the new non-stiffy? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 14, 2006 | perma-link | (22) comments

Women and Men, The Definitive Statement
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Brilliant and hilarious. As for whether it's true about why women put men through the endless, agonizing commitment-testing that they do ... Well, it's certainly one of the more entertaining shots at an explanation that I've ever heard. I was led to the page by a posting at Marginal Revolution. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 14, 2006 | perma-link | (2) comments

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Gals at Work
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- There's an interesting column by Jeffrey Zaslow in today's Wall Street Journal. (It doesn't seem to be available online, darn it.) Zaslow's theme is the differences between working American women of different ages. Our work force now harbors four generations of women: women born pre-WWII; Boomers; Xers (born between 1965 and 1980); and, now, Yers (born after 1980). Surprise, surprise: They don't all play together well. 36-year-old Alison Brod, who runs a p-r firm, finds that she has to order her 20something gal employees to cover up their bellybuttons when they meet with clients. She also has to tell them to spellcheck their writing and to be sure to use capitalization too. "Their mindset is completely casual in every single way," Brod says. 60-year-old Nina McLemore, who runs Liz Claiborne Accessories, is struck by the way her younger female employees expect to leave the office at 5 pm. "They've seen their mothers do it, and they don't want that stress," McLemore says. Meanwhile, young women often find older female colleagues a pain. One shocker comes from a survey conducted by Susan Shapiro Barash of 500 working women. It turns out that 70% of them feel that male bosses treat them better than female bosses do. The article also contains a lot of blah-blah about "mentoring" that might interest some but that I certainly can't make sense of. I seem to be genetically unable to understand the fuss that women have made about mentoring. What's the big deal? I never expected to be taken on by a male mentor, and I never was. As for the only woman who ever gave me a little work-guidance, well ... About half her advice was pretty good, while half of it was very bad. I find myself figuring that "mentoring" means a lot to many women for symbolic reasons. I just can't figure out what's being symbolized. Still: a provocative article. I'm dying to know what the partyline feminists will make of these findings, of course. There has got to be some way of blaming this state of affairs on Da Patriarchy. But I'm much more curious to hear about visitors' experiences at work. Do gals find women of other ages hard to take? How and why? Do guys notice that younger and older gals have different attitude-sets? Me, I'm very struck these days by the way a certain old assumption -- that women share a lot in common where work is concerned -- seems to have evaporated. And hallelujah for that. Susan Shapiro Barash has put her findings into a new book, "Tripping the Prom Queen." An archive of Jeffrey Zaslow's columns can be found here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 4, 2006 | perma-link | (26) comments

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Sign on the Can
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Men sometimes wear sweat pants; so do women. We're alike in so many ways! Yet have you ever known a man to wear sweatpants that are lime-green? Let alone that have "PinkLove" stiched in screaming red over the seat? A few minutes ago, a young woman wearing just such sweatpants cut in front of me at a local takeout place. It may be one of those essential female/male differences: Men, at least heterosexual men, won't even consider wearing sweatpants that feature provocative words stamped across the butt. I suspect that this generalization holds true even among men from the more peacocky cultures -- Italian, African-American. I consider my observation here a major contribution to the field of evolutionary biology, by the way, and I look forward to scientific investigations into the question. My bet is that the amygdala plays a big role, but that's just an amateur's hunch. Propriety question for the day: Faced with attention-snagging behavior on the part of strangers, at what point does it become OK to take vocal note? The gal I saw today wearing the decorated lime-green sweats obviously meant to be calling attention to her behind. She was in fact working pretty darned hard to make her butt impossible to miss. So: Would it have been OK to say to this girl, "Hey, baby, nice caboose!"? I mean, in a friendly and non-threatening tone? And if not, why not? Not that I'm about to do any such thing, of course. But how do I know that it wouldn't be appropriate? I'm not sure. I don't think it's a completely absurd question. After all, if a guy were to dye his hair bright green, he'd probably expect people not just to notice but to vocalize their surprise (or delight or dismay). A girl wearing a large safety pin through her cheek might sulk if people took note -- but sullenly-shaking-off- "unwanted"-attention is part of the ritual she's ensuring takes place, isn't it? I find the conundrum even more puzzling than the challenge presented by vacation toplessness. Being surrounded by bare-breasted gals on a St. Barth's beach is both extremely pleasant and surprisingly easy to handle. I think this is because the situation is understood by everybody present to be a wonderfully-elaborate adult game. The beach is specially-marked-out territory ... The water, the sand, and the sun all contribute to a "natural" feeling ... You're shown up in the first place in order to look and be seen ... Whether you're a gal or a guy, you're lolling around a topless beach in full awareness that the scene is set apart from normal life, and that it's meant to be relaxed yet provocative. It's meant, in fact, to be relished as such. I always find it fascinating to watch the way women put their tops on in order to walk from the beach to the sidewalk to buy an ice cream cone. Once they're back on the sand again, off... posted by Michael at April 22, 2006 | perma-link | (10) comments

Friday, March 31, 2006

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Heavens! The people you can meet on Amazon! Do a Google Images search (when the boss isn't watching, of course) to see examples of Chanta Rose's work. I'm tickled to see that "Mary Poppins" is on Chanta's Wish List. * Heavens! The things that can be bought (and ogled!) at Amazon! * Heavens! The things you can find in Wikipedia! Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 31, 2006 | perma-link | (3) comments

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- This is a question for the da guyz. You're going out -- for an hour, for a walk, to do some chores, or maybe longer than that. You have various items that you need to take with you: keys and wallet at a minimum, but possibly also cellphone, pen and paper, reading material, eyeglasses ... What do you do with all of it? I confess that I've never come up with a solution that has made me very happy. Pockets aren't sufficient for what I tend to take with me. (Note professional white terrycloth backdrop.) The minimum Not being a suit-and-tie kind of dude, I've never owned a briefcase. And, given my age, the backpack I often use is starting to look mighty silly on me. What to do? Men in Italy, preferring very tight, you-know-my-religion pants, and not wanting to distract from their man-curves, used to carry little leather man-purses. But I'm not a man-purse kind of guy, let alone a tight-pants one. The film producer Samuel Goldwyn favored expensive bespoke English suits; he had an assistant carry his keys and wallet so that they wouldn't "spoil the line" of his own attire. Alas, at the moment I can't afford an assistant. I'm happiest for a few weeks in spring and fall. Light jackets with a variety of zipper pockets suit my needs well. But then the weather changes. I hit my low spot when I head off to yoga class. The backpack is too big yet I do need something to contain the coins and doodads ... So I drop 'em into a plastic shopping bag. Good lord: I've become a shopping-bag person. Thanks to the mellowing effects of yoga, this doesn't bother me much. There's always cargo pants and safari jackets, I suppose. But cargo pants reek of college in the '70s, and safari jackets are little too nature-photographer/film-directorish for me. What's your solution? Or your favored way of contending? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 29, 2006 | perma-link | (27) comments

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Morning Routines
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The New York Post included an amusing info-graphic amid a package of articles about people's morning-grooming habits. Let's contrast gals 'n' guys! Women spend 5 minutes on breakfast. Men spend 2. Women spend 8 minutes on bathing. Men spend 5. Women spend 15 minutes on makeup and grooming. Men spend 2 minutes on their grooming. Women spend 18 minutes getting their hair ready. Men spend one minute. Women spend 8 minutes choosing their clothes and donning them. Men get through this chore in 3 minutes. The total time spent preparing for the day's battles? Women: 54 minutes. Men: 13 minutes. (I wonder how many men kill the time they spend waiting for their women by surfing blogs ...) This being the New York Post, no source was given for these figures, but what the heck. I guess one message is: Women, if you want a little more free time in your day, get a crewcut, skip the makeup, and wear the same business suit you wore yesterday. I'm lucky: The Wife is not only a glam and sexy thang with a distinctive and fun look, she pulls herself together with less fuss (and in less time) than most gals seem to. Even so, I don't generally mind the energy and time women put into making themselves presentable, do you? In most cases, I take a woman's self-presentation to be an act of self-expression as well as a gift to the general culture -- as something to be appreciated and relished as a small act of poetry. That said, well, nearly everything can be overdone and made neurotic. And how nutsy are the gals who make an over-big production number out of preparing to face the world? Does the picture portrayed in the Post's info-graphic ring true to you? The New York Post's website is here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 22, 2006 | perma-link | (22) comments

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Gals 'n' Guys, Cont.
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Trixie celebrates Valentine's Day with a funny and helpful gift to the guys. She explains what it is women really mean when they say the mystifying things that they say. Read. Memorize. * Tyler Cowen applies game theory to the old "should the toilet seat be kept up or down" question, then comes to his senses. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 18, 2006 | perma-link | (0) comments

Saturday, February 4, 2006

Raunch Culture
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * As girls continue to take over colleges and med schools, they also seem to carrying on more and more like a generation of lap-dancers. The new Grrl-Power Culture seems to be one and the same as the new Raunch Culture. Did feminism lead to this state of affairs? Ariel Levy wonders. * Is porn culture now mainstream culture? * Is easy access to porn something to be celebrated? Is porn empowering or exploitative? Pamela Paul isn't sure. * Jon Mooallem reviews Paul's book here. Gaby Wood reviews Levy's book here. Judith Timson reviews both books here. * Meanwhile, the New Burlesque is booming in Nashville. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 4, 2006 | perma-link | (15) comments

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Perfume Whom
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Oh boy, am I going to catch hell for this one. Inadequate researching, sloppy logic, social tone-deafness, mounds of clichs, intellectual unseriousness, lousy writing -- they're all probably here (what else is new?). Worst of all, I'm likely to be stepping on delicate toes of self-esteem. (How's that for a clunky metaphor?) Anyhow ... I recently was on my way into the local monstermarket to buy a Wall Street Journal and a Starbucks ("tall drip with room, please"). Exiting was a twentysomething gal who was pretty well dressed -- knee-length dress, high heels, etc. And she was overweight. Not what I'd call fat, exactly, but noticeable. What I really noticed was that she was reeking with perfume. Let me clarify "reeking." I could smell the stuff from 20 feet away; it was sorta like there was a bow-wave of odor. Perhaps that's not quite right. The entry of the building had one of those air-curtains, so it's possible that the bow-wave effect might have been enhanced a trifle. Still, the stench ... er, smell ... was seriously strong at the point where we passed one another. Naturally this micro-drama got me to thinking, and here's what I came up with: I don't consider myself a perfume-fascist. If a perfumed someone enters a room I don't instantly gag and order that someone to leave, pleading one health excuse or another. I have pretty good manners, so I'll likely sit there and take it. After all, I don't think I'm allergic to perfume. Still, I can't recall any positive experiences related to strong perfume whereas I remember some bad ones; to wit: Ages ago at a frat house conference at another college I got fixed up with a date. I didn't find her attractive in the first place, and in the second place she was wearing strong perfume that had a slightly sour smell. Hmm, was she trying to tell me something? At Dear Old Penn I once had to attend an evening demography seminar (the prof couldn't meet during the day that week). Next to me sat a real babe who was wearing perfume, and over the course of two hours a lot of it wafted onto me. Arriving home, my wife immediately smelled the perfume and assumed I'd been hot 'n' heavy instead of taking notes about population statistics (if only!!). So we had a grand fight that evening. Which was nothing new since her favorite after-dinner sport was drinking a couple vodka cocktails and starting a fight. Did I mention that it was a brief marriage? My strictly non-scientific view is that women who fall into the less-attractive category, if they are perfume-wearers at all, tend to spray on too much of the stuff. I might be missing a deeper meaning, but I suppose they over-perfume in the belief that it will make them more attractive. Except when it's really noticeable, I'm indifferent to perfume but would rather that it not be used... posted by Donald at February 2, 2006 | perma-link | (28) comments

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Girls, Bitches, Sluts
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A few bookjackets noticed during recent visits to Amazon: It wasn't so long ago that people lived in fear of referring to human females older than the age of 12 as anything but "women." What changed? And when? Me, I think we owe Monica Lewinsky a big debt of gratitude. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 8, 2006 | perma-link | (22) comments

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

The Natural
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Here's a fun digital-retouching/glamor-photography webpage. The retouched photos are so very perfect, aren't they? The creatures portrayed make me think of James Cameron creations more than actual people. No pores, no scars, no ripply fat, no scratch marks. No interesting personal idiosyncrasies either. Although the digital artist behind the site obviously does excellent work, I find the original photos a lot sexier than his retouched variants on them. So shoot me for preferring real women to my cyber-fantasies about them. Come to think of it, I don't have cyber-fantasies about women. I don't have cyber-fantasies period. Which I guess makes me mighty Old School ... Hey, in this era of thongs-as-standard-apparel, dictatorial p-r handlers, Photoshop flawlessness, and severe pubic styling, who's going to make the case for something a little more personal, maybe even a little more natural? Soft-porn exloitation star (and proud Jersey girl) Misty Mundae, that's who. Here she is, interviewed by the online-porn king Mr. Skin: Mr. Skin: In our present world of bare-down-below starlets, you've opted to pretty much keep the nether-hairstyling of the '70s alive ... Is this an actual decision on your part and, if so, is it aesthetic or just a matter of comfort? Misty Mundae: Both. Aesthetically I feel that the 70's had it right with regards to more than just pubic hair. And besides I am lazy and I have more important things to do than remove hair from every inch of my body every damn day. That shit is time-consuming. My morning routine consists of washing my hair, getting dressed and putting sun block on my face. Ladies, where do you find the patience? In some things, retro definitely rules. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 3, 2006 | perma-link | (3) comments

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Women and Stress
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- American men are "catching up to women in life expectancy," reports Yahoo. The reason? "Medical experts say women are working harder, smoking more and undergoing more stress, which leads to the No. 1 killer -- heart disease." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 29, 2005 | perma-link | (5) comments

Friday, December 9, 2005

Group Differences 5
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Boys, we've all been taught, have been socialized to be stoic, where girls are raised to express their emotions. An article in The Economist complicates this picture a bit. The topic of the article (which isn't online) is how women and men experience and process pain. There are differences, and the differences seem to run very deep. Some examples: Women feel pain in more bodily areas than men do, and feel it more often over the course of their lives. During childbirth, women prefer nalbuphine to morphine. Men in pain report the opposite preference. In fact, men often find that drugs like nalbuphine actually make their pain worse. It seems that women and men deal with pain differently too. Interesting passage: "Men tend to minimise their experience of pain by concentrating on the sensory aspects -- their actual physical sensations. But this strategy did not help women, who focused more on the emotional aspects. Since the emotions associated with pain, such as fear and anxiety, tend to be negative, the researchers suggest that the female approach may actually exacerbate pain rather than alleviating it." How much of this represents learned behavior? Some, no doubt. But it has also been established that boy and girl babies show different responses to pain as early as six hours after birth. Some scientists are so impressed by these and similar findings that they speculate that women and men process pain using different neural circuits entirely. Some even predict that it won't be long before painkillers are formulated differently for men and women. Soon to found on your local drugstore's shelves: "pink" and "blue" painkillers. BTW, does that bit about how guys focus on physical sensations while gals tune into the emotional realm remind anyone else of what it's got me thinking about? The Economist's website is here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 9, 2005 | perma-link | (12) comments

Friday, November 11, 2005

iPods and Viagra
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- It's an iPod universe; we just happen to live in it. The iPod Nano is selling out, and the video iPod has been a showstopper. Interesting fact: of the 30 million iPods that have been sold since the original iPod was introduced in October 2001, 22 million of them were bought in 2005. I finally joined the iPoddin' hordes a couple of months ago. Until then, I'd resisted for a quirky look-and-feel reason: I dislike the idea of carrying around a small device that's based on a hard drive. Those whirring disks Those little magnetic arms ... A small electronic gizmo that is full of the kinds of delicate moving parts that have failed me three times already? No, I don't think so. Then the iPod Shuffle was introduced. The Shuffle doesn't have a hard drive; it's based on flash memory (which means no moving parts). It's also tiny -- the size of a pack of gum -- and it's relatively cheap. Drop a Shuffle and it'll survive. Lose it and you aren't out very much dough. I find it fascinating that the Nano -- which, like the Shuffle, is flash-memory based -- is such a hit. I wonder if lots of people have the same wary feelings about hard drives that I do. So I bought a Shuffle and became an iPodder. I'm not sure what my final verdict is on the Shuffle. It's tiny, it's easy to use, and it's no source of anxiety -- these are all good things. What I love most about the device is listening to audiobooks on it. Thanks to Felix Salmon for suggesting that I record CD-based audiobooks into iTunes and then listen to them on the Shuffle. (CD-based audiobooks have tracks, just like music CDs do.) The routine involves some tedium -- 30 minutes or so of feeding CDs into the computer, and then moving data onto the Shuffle. But the results are molto groovy. There's something pleasingly miraculous about carrying, say, an entire Teaching Company lecture series around in your shirt pocket. As a device for listening to music, though, the Shuffle has broken my heart. This isn't because the Shuffle has no screen and holds no more than a few hundred songs; neither of these facts bother me. It's more simple and basic than that. It's because I find the experience of listening to music on the Shuffle depressing. As far as I can tell, this has little to do with sound quality per se. The Shuffle's sound is nothing if not clear and rockin'. It seems to have to do instead with the way that the iPod compresses and presents music -- and especially with how the resulting soundwaves hit my brain and my soul. Someone at iTunes' technical HQ seems convinced that the way to overcome the deficits of severe audio compression is to crank the "effects" dial 'way up. The result is that music listened to on the Shuffle... posted by Michael at November 11, 2005 | perma-link | (21) comments

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Words, Visuals, Sex and Girls
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- If you still cling to the idea that the printed word is central to culture, then I've got news for you. If you assume that boys are far more drawn to visuals and to comic books than girls are, think again. And if you believe that the taste some girls have for watching boys get romantic and have sex is a rare one, you've got another thing coming. The NYTimes Sarah Glazer writes about the success -- in America! -- of shojo, or manga for girls. Sample passage: Manga sales alone surged to $125 million last year, from $55 million in 2002, and girls and women account for about 60 percent of manga's readership. The strongest market right now is among girls aged 12 to 17 ... At the Brooklyn Public Library, according to one librarian ... four of the top five young-adult books on the current reserved list are shojo books ... But parents and teachers ... might be caught off guard by some of the content of the girls' favorite books. Among the best-selling shojo are stories that involve cross-dressing boys and characters who magically change sex, brother-sister romances and teenage girls falling in love with 10-year-old boys. Then there's a whole subgenre known as shonen ai, or boy's love, which usually features romances between two impossibly pretty young men. Coming in December: Harlequin romance stories presented in manga format. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 28, 2005 | perma-link | (5) comments

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Blue is the Color of ...
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Interesting how the media world sometimes manages to associate a certain color with a certain product. I marveled here, for instance, about how many car ads feature silver-gray cars. Once upon a time, silver-gray cars meant "advanced German engineering," if not actually "Mercedes" and "Porsche." These days, silver cars seem to mean "high-tech" (and perhaps "grown-up") more generally. But color-coding isn't limited to cars. Another color-product correspondence recently caught my eye. Here's a standard example: An active young woman ... A spotless and serene environment ... And lots and lots of blue. In ad-world these days, blue seems to mean "feminine sanitary product." Here's some confirmation: Who knew that a feminine napkin could be folded into the shape of a Barcalounger, eh? But as far as colors go ... When I was a kid, the color that ad-people associated with tampons, napkins and the like was white. Ads for these products were full of women being active, feeling clean and unhindered, and lots of white. Lots and lots of white. In fact, so much white that the women in the ads seemed to be defying the viewer to spot a little errant leakage: "See? No red spots!" they seemed to be saying. I confess that I was a little traumatized by these ads. I looked at them and, blinded by spotlessness and whiteness, thought, "My god, what a horror movie a menstrual period must actually be!", and more or less passed out from fright. If in those days white meant "hygiene" -- and that was the hygiene-addicted era of the immortal FDS (Feminine Deodorant Spray) aerosol, after all -- then what does blue mean today? Blue, blue ... I suppose blue might be taken to mean "cleanliness," if not more specifically "the negator of red." What else? Hmm ... Chlorine pools, the sky ... So maybe blue also means "clarity" and "active fun"? I'm refraining out of delicacy from mentioning the blue of toilet-bowl cleansers. Interesting that, in the minds of ad-creators, blue seems to have a kind of all-inclusive "female-trouble product" embracingness. Here's an ad for something called Ortho Tri-Cyclen. I'm not sure I want to know what this product is good for; it sounds like a yogurt-starter, or maybe something that kills garden slugs. But the blue color in the ad for Ortho Tri-Cyclen is a surefire indicator that this product in fact has something to do with female hormones and moods. So maybe blue's larger meaning is "anti-ickiness"? Flipping through women's mags, I learned that a product doesn't need to be absorbent or taken internally to merit being blue-encoded. All it needs is to be destined for use on or around the female crotch: I'm taking the model's flash of spotless-white bikini-crotch to be a reference back to the classic white-obsessed years of '60s and '70s feminine-hygiene advertising. Come to think of it, will today's excess of blue affect impressionable young boys the way white once affected me? The current ad... posted by Michael at September 27, 2005 | perma-link | (37) comments

Friday, September 23, 2005

More on (and from) Feminism
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Shouting Thomas recalls some of what the madness was like. Nice passage: According to this political theory, all the problems of the world would be solved if only all men were sissified homosexuals. (This creates a dilemma for homosexuals who are not sissified -- but they are forgiven because at least they aren't straight.) War, pollution, racism and crime would cease to exist if only all men were sissies. (Whoops! I forgot. Black men alone are entitled to be macho studs. This provides a much deserved kick in the shins to white hetero men.) Were the times as loony as all that? You bet they were. Shouting Thomas's posting brought it all back for me: the anger, the quarrels, the hyperbole, the accusations, the hostility ... Suddenly I was in a mood to do some Googling, dammit! So here's a bouquet of quotations from the Loonier days of Loony Feminism: From Gloria Steinem: "A woman reading Playboy feels a little like a Jew reading a Nazi manual." From Betty Friedan: "The feminine mystique has succeeded in burying millions of American women alive." From Kate Millet: "The care of children ... is infinitely better left to the best trained practitioners of both sexes who have chosen it as a vocation...[This] would further undermine family structure while contributing to the freedom of women." From Susan Griffin, who wrote a book entitled "Rape: The All-American Crime": "If the professional rapist is to be separated from the average dominant heterosexual [male], it may be mainly a quantitative difference." From the immortal Shulamith Firestone: "If there were another word more all-embracing than revolution - we would use it." Shulamith Firestone, on a roll: "No matter how many levels of consciousness one reaches, the problem always goes deeper. It is everywhere. The division yin and yang pervades all culture, history, economics, nature itself; modern Western versions of sex discrimination are only the most recent layer. To so heighten one's sensitivity to sexism presents problems far worse than the black militant's new awareness of racism: feminists have to question, not just all of Western culture, but the organisation of culture itself, and further, even the very organisation of nature." Play it again, Shulamith!: "Just as the end goal of socialist revolution was not only the elimination of the economic class privilege but of the economic class distinction itself, so the end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself." From a 1971 document called "The Declaration of Feminism": "The end of the institution of marriage is a necessary condition for the liberation of women. Therefore it is important for us to encourage women to leave their husbands and not to live individually with men ... All of history must be re-written in terms of the oppression of women." From a 1988 publication put out by the National Organization for Women: "The simple fact... posted by Michael at September 23, 2005 | perma-link | (67) comments

Careers and Family
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- First Monica, then Britney/Xtina, and now this. And from the New York Times -- and from a woman reporter at the NYTimes -- no less. Aren't women at the Times all supposed to be propagandists for the partyline-feminist cause? Yet look at what Louise Story discovers and reports: Many women at the nation's most elite colleges say they have already decided that they will put aside their careers in favor of raising children. Though some of these students are not planning to have children and some hope to have a family and work full time, many others ... say they will happily play a traditional female role, with motherhood their main commitment. Typical of the Times to focus on elite colleges, isn't it? The Times' fixation on schools-with-cachet once prompted me to write the only letter I've ever written to the Times. I wrote in asking if the paper's editors might consider imposing a quota on how many times a month a columnist can mention that he/she attended Harvard or Yale. (No response; never printed.) Still and all: fun to see today's free young women defying '70s-feminist dogma so openly, isn't it? And fun to see that the article has been one of the papers' most-emailed during the last couple of days. It was fun to read the huge number of indignant letters-to-the-editor that the article provoked, too, but I can't find them online. This teapot-tempest makes me recall an incident from ten or so years back. It took place during a wine-and-cheese party at work. A young woman employee, rattling innocently on, volunteered that neither she nor her girlfriends planned to work forever; she meant "work" in the sense of "having a job outside the home." Eyebrows all around were raised. Didn't she know that one didn't talk like this? Yet she talked on anyway, as though the world belonged not to the Boomers but to her. She and her buds planned to hold down jobs and have fun until they were about 30 ... Then marriage and kids ... Eventually maybe back into the workforce for a parttime job ... Meanwhile, the men shifted about uneasily and the feminist-Boomer career women stared in cold fury. But it was an impotent fury. On and on this young, sweet-if-full-of-herself young woman gabbed. Life was hers for the living; she was telling us about the kinds of life that appealed to her -- and none of it represented what Shulamith Firestone or Gloria Steinem had had in mind. What a shock to learn that most people, left to their own devices, would choose to lead conventional lives! (Incidentally: And how lovely that some people would choose not to! But that's not the point of this particular story.) It was the first time in a couple of decades that I'd been present when the partyline, capital-F feminists hadn't been able to dictate the terms of such an exchange. I remember thinking, "Omigosh, a watershed has been... posted by Michael at September 23, 2005 | perma-link | (32) comments

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Girls Together
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Lots of fun speculations over at GNXP about why guys might enjoy watching girls make it together. (Actually, the question -- naively-put, as far as I'm concerned -- was: "Why should guys enjoy watching lesbians make it? And why don't gals enjoy watching gay men make it?") My profound answer to this eternally-pressing question is a two-parter, consisting of, "Well, why not?" and "Hubba hubba!" Nonetheless, I managed to elaborate these hunches a bit in the posting's commentsfest. Here's my modest contribution: I doubt most het guys would find actual lesbians having actual lesbian sex very interesting. For one thing, there's the cliche of "lesbian bed death" -- lesbians living together often go off sex almost entirely. They're often driven more by cats, food, getting fat together, fondness, etc, than they are by lust. What het guys seem to enjoy is watching sexy chicks make it with each other. And why not? Two hot chicks instead of one. The spectacle of female arousal, doubled. The wonderfully provocative/masochistic fantasy that you're being excluded, or maybe you're missed, and maybe your cock could surmount all these problems, but maybe it'd be more fun just to watch anyway. And, heck, it's easier than participating -- you get the fun of feeling intense arousal (and much else) without having to break a sweat. Haven't sultans and emirs everywhere always enjoyed watching dancing girls? The actress who played Carmen in a semi-recent film of the opera once said something interesting: that the kind of dancing Carmen does (which drives the male characters wild with desire) is intensely auto-erotic -- lots of thighs rubbing against each other, lots of exalted/challenging looks, etc. And that the illusion she creates of being entirely self-sufficient unto herself -- of not needing the man for her own gratification -- is hyper-provocative to the men. They're galvanized, outraged, aroused, and grateful. They fall at her feet and also want to dominate her. So maybe the two-coeds-kissing thing that's so prevalent today is something similar: the visual suggestion of the female world being complete unto itself, with no need for men to come in dickwise and provide fulfillment. And that spectacle outrages, stimulates, and provokes the male, which the male experiences as sexual heat. BTW, there's a small but very real percentage of gals who love, just l-u-v, watching gay male porn. The guys are better looking, the photography's often better, there's a little attention to mood and setting (gals like mood and setting) ... And the display of raw, unapologetic male lust -- male lust making no compromises to the female -- turns these gals on tremendously. Who knows? Maybe they find "feeling excluded while in the presence of raw lust of the opposite sex" a super turn-on too. Any thoughts from anyone about these urgent matters? And any answers to the more general question, "Why are so many girls kissing and fondling each other these days?" (NSFW, of course.) I mean, beyond "Why not?"... posted by Michael at September 21, 2005 | perma-link | (27) comments

Friday, September 16, 2005

Group Characteristics 6: I'm So Gay
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Neil Kramer admits that, despite being a red-blooded straightguy, he is a fan of "All My Children" and of figure skating competitions. Neil goes so far as to risk his straight-guy credentials entirely by hinting that he likes showtunes too. I'm going to take Neil's very brave posting as a challenge to straight guys everywhere to 'fess up to a few habits or tastes that aren't Maxim-endorsed and ultrastraight. Enough with the squinty-eyed and laconic chitchat about your fondness for poker, gadgets, starlets, cars, boobs, and barbecue. Too easy. The time has come to volunteer a little bit of your softer side. (Oops, I just made a few assumptions about straight guys and gay guys ...) OK, me first. Though there are few more surefire ways of making me miserable than by taking me to a musical, I think "Gypsy" is pure genius. I enjoy using the word "fabulous" from time to time. I'm a huge Bette Midler fan. It's not like I'll sit through her bad movies or listen to her CDs. But I often find her hilarious and touching. And I do love the way she performs that song "The Rose." Who out there is man enough to volunteer some gay-nesses of his own? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 16, 2005 | perma-link | (53) comments

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Courtney Crit
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Courtney and Kurt's daughter, Frances Bean, is now 13. And Frances Bean thinks that her mom really ought to dress in a more dignified way. The demands kids make, eh? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 10, 2005 | perma-link | (10) comments

Whither the Feminists?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- More on the theme of Where are they now? ... Do you ever wonder how the fiery feminists of the '60s and '70s are spending their time these days? Ah, the good old party-hearty names: Betty Friedan. Kate Millett. Shulamith Firestone. Gloria Steinem. Germaine Greer. Susan Brownmiller. Some now dead, and the others ... Well, what are they up to? Thinking about how much life has changed since this crowd came on the scene, I find myself reflecting, Gosh, we've made such progress, haven't we? Thanks to them, we've been able to move from a world where young women were oppressively seen as potential Playboy bunnies to a new, fresh world where ... Well, where self-empowered young women choose to wear belly-button-baring Playboy bunny t-shirts and pull their thongs down for the "Girls Gone Wild" camera crew. Hey, you don't think the whole "girls want to be found cute and appealing, and boys find them hot and want to impress them, and young members of both sexes are horny and wary and foolish, and very, very hormonally driven" thing could be natural, do you? Do the '70s feminists look at our Britney/Anna K./bald-beaver state of affairs and reflect contentedly, "A job well done. We accomplished what we set out to do"? Have they concluded with satisfaction that the progress justifies three decades' worth of mistrust, antagonism, bad sex, hostility, and lies? Not that I'm bitter or anything ... These questions sometimes make me wonder: What's Shulamith up to these days? And how about Gloria? I know that Germaine Greer wrote an all-fires-spent book not too long ago about being post-menopausal -- what she called a "crone" -- and celebrating the joys of gardening. I just ran across a little information about one of these bigtime '70s feminists: Susan Brownmiller, the author of the very successful '70s-feminist tract "Against Our Will." In this book, Brownmiller argued that the essential basis of male-female relations has always been the threat of rape. Really. Here's a quote: "Rape is a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear." I remember a woman once telling me how much "Against Our Will" had meant to her. She was so fervent in her appreciation of Brownmiller's genius that she was near tears. I just listened and nodded my head. How else could I respond? The woman who was almost crying was, after all, my boss. I sure had her intimidated! For some reason, in 1975 the masses didn't explode in giggles and tell Susan to stop being such a silly, vain girl. (They didn't tell her that she'd hit on a helluva good title for a porno novel either.) Instead, many people took her seriously. After all -- I don't know about you dudes -- but the threat of rape has always been my preferred way of keeping my women in their place. But those were the times, I guess. So what is... posted by Michael at September 10, 2005 | perma-link | (26) comments

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Speed Seduction?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Being published on Sept. 6th is a book that should get some attention: Neil Strauss' "The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists." Who even knew there was such a secret society? Haven't looked at it myself, but how can such a book not stir controversy? Strauss is a well-known former rock critic. He became a staffer at the New York Times while still in his early 20s, then segue'd into collaborating on books with flashy celebs; he co-wrote Jenna Jameson's bestseller, for instance. In interviews about his new book, Strauss says that he was a mousy, timid, frustrated guy before he studied with the master pickup artists. Now he claims to be an unstoppable pickup machine. Here's a Maclean's interview with Strauss. Here's a blog that seems to belong to one of the Strauss' masters. Here's an article about the "speed-seduction scene." This how-to-be-an-alpha-male site looks like it was put together by the character Tom Cruise played in "Magnolia." It occurs to me that this could all be a monumental put-on. On the other hand, maybe there really are tried-and-tested ways that enable you to have your way with the women of your dreams. At the age of 12, anyway, many boys like to think so. Being happily partnered-up with a far better woman than I deserve, I think I'll sit back and watch this particular controversy take its own shape ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 6, 2005 | perma-link | (14) comments

Thursday, September 1, 2005

The Bush Ain't Back Yet
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Those who have been expecting that the bush would soon make a comeback have lost. The NYTimes' Natasha Singer reports that the pubic-hair-removal business is booming. Here's an on-the-scene report from Karyn Grossman, a dermatologist in Santa Monica, CA: "I do full-body exams to check for skin cancer, and I can think of almost no female patients who come in with natural pubic hair. Either they have nothing left, or they have a small patch that is two inches by half an inch, but the trend is toward having it all gone." According to Singer, the taste for an ever-more-denuded female pubic zone got its start over ten years ago. That's one long-term fad. Are all young girls now growing up expecting to do a lot of pruning once puberty has been attained? How do you react to the bald adult-female crotch? I find it off-putting myself. Something's missing; real-life women are having themselves Photoshopped. But then my tastes were formed back in the '60s and '70s. I sometimes feel sorry for today's women. It seems that every square inch of them is expected to be camera-ready, 24/7. Has life gotten easier for women since the bushy years? Or have the pressures and expectations only increased? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 1, 2005 | perma-link | (18) comments

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Burlesque Benefit
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- One of the more inspiring developments in the NYCity artsworld in recent years has been a flourishing and homegrown neo-burlesque scene. We aren't talking real burlesque here; this is burlesque more as an extension of artschool and performance-art than of showbiz. Still: daring chicks having fun and doing art while taking their clothes off -- what's not to applaud about that? There's raunch, humor, and personalities galore to enjoy, not to mention balloons, funny fake names, and feather boas. Oh, also knockers and buttskis. New Yorkers eager to sample this still-relatively-new (and therefore fresh and sweet) scene could do a lot worse than attend a benefit performance on Thursday evening, Sept 9th. A number of performers will be breaking out the g-strings and tassles for a good cause: helping Lola Ramona, one of their own, recover financially from an apartment malfunction. Among the performers is the snappy and talented Nasty Canasta, a particular fave of mine. A raffle will reward lucky participants with prizes created by up-and-(er)-coming artists, including 2Blowhards' very own glam-queen, Molly Crabapple, authoress of numerous installments of "Confessions of a Naked Model." (Here, here, here, here, here.) The essentials: Date: Thursday evening, Sept. 8 Time: 10 pm Place: The Lucky Cat Lounge in Williamsburg 245 Grand St. (Between Driggs and Roebling) Price: Cheap, cheap, cheap! Here's a page for the event (with charming and sexy art by Molly). Here's Nasty's site. Here's Molly's. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 31, 2005 | perma-link | (4) comments

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Public Pleasures/Private Pleasures?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I find myself wondering how the girl in these photos (NSFW) would react if she were ever to run across them on the web. Perhaps she'd feel violated, hurt, and enraged. On the other hand, she looks great. She's fit, she's young, and she's full of humor and spirit -- she'll probably never look better. And it wasn't as though she was keeping her joy and her freedom entirely to herself at the time the photos were taken. So maybe she'd feel delighted instead. Any guesses about this from anyone? Ladies, if you were she, etc., how would you react? Best, Michae... posted by Michael at August 27, 2005 | perma-link | (39) comments

Friday, August 26, 2005

X-rated Elsewhere
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- This Blowhard does not endorse X-rated behavior. This Blowhard thinks that, generally speaking, caution is wise, that there's a time and a place, etc. But this Blowhard also has a mischievous side, enjoys a good dirty joke, assumes we're among adults here, and doesn't mind violating his own rules. (Actually, one of his most unshakeable convictions is that sex, humor, art, poetry, and religion all bubble up from the same deep well -- or, better put, are related manifestations of similar energies. But that's for another posting.) Plus: The electronic-media explosion that we're engulfed in has thrown open doors to all kinds of raunchy, uninhibited, and pornographic material. How not to take notice? Most of these links are highly NSFW, if you hadn't guessed. * The Onion has some bad economic news. * Jill tries a bigger one than usual, then returns for more. * Who says traditional drawing skills have been lost? * Dr. Photo thinks that, with only a couple of tweaks, Scarlett would be perfection itself. Shame-Ridden Disgrace suspects that certain practices may prove more rewarding than going to a shrink. * Male movie stars: best served cut or uncut? * Maybe it's true what they say. Actually, judging from this photo, it seems to be true about four times over. * I found the geometry of the swinger session that "M" describes a little hard to follow, but I was amused that the image of Helen Slater as Supergirl played such a large role in M's imagination. Helen Slater as Supergirl has played a role in my erotic imagination too. * This blog is a wide-ranging, knows-no-borders kind of blog. Other blogs are much more tightly focused. * I will never take a photograph half as witty as this one. * What to do when The Hubster is mentally in the mood but doesn't have the physical energy to perform? Maybe the time has come to call in a pinch hitter. * Demure College Student lets down her hair and admits that she has an erotic thing for mirrors. * Excellent use of a cameraphone. * Nikiee has an awe-inspiringly take-charge attitude towards her pleasure ... * Eating a McDonald's Happy Meal reminds Avatar of something. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 26, 2005 | perma-link | (5) comments

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Girls in Their Summer Dresses, and Skirts -- and Thongs
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- How have you found women's fashions this summer? They've struck me as very enjoyable: sexy, relaxed, and even a little elegant, at least by today's hysterical standards. Nostalgia-inducing too, for those of us d'un certain age: The '60s and '70s seem back in a big way, what with the cowboy boots, the flower-power blouses, and the always-welcome denim miniskirt making strong comebacks. I've had girlwatching moments when I could almost hear The Byrds singing "Turn Turn Turn." I've been delighted as well by the vogue for low-slung, flowing skirts. They have a beautiful rhythm and sway. The patterns are loose and sinuous. They're very Gauguin; women walk real nice in 'em. And the newfangled, twinkly materials that are often woven into the traditional fabrics do a sharp job of refreshing the style. What with the sandals and the toe-rings, the effect is cyber-Hindu, or maybe Bali-goes-Silicon-Valley. Very flattering, and very female. Of course it's always fun taking note of the outrages too. The lower-belly and buttcrack exhibitionism seems less aggressive this summer than it was last summer. But this season I've noticed a lot of attention-grabbing, dumbass t-shirts. One shapely woman walked by me recently wearing a tight t-shirt with a legend on it reading: "These boobs are real." Was I meant to give them a squeeze just to make sure? Another gasp-inducer involved a tall, curvy blonde outside Whole Foods. There she stood, yakking on the inevitable cellphone, dressed in a skimpy top and in a spectacularly barely-there bottom: a pink micro mini of the kind a spring break sorority girl might slip on over her Wicked Weasels in order to go get an ice cream cone. Around her hips, in other words, this blonde was wearing no more than eight inches of stretchy almost-nothingness. If she'd bent over just the slightest bit, I'm sure that I would have seen some tanned (and, I'm sure, very smooth) pubic curves. But by then -- like every other straight man in the vicinity -- I'd already tripped over myself and slammed into a telephone pole. Oooh, was I ever outraged! Small historical question: When did it become OK for women to go out in the general public arena wearing what's basically boudoir or beach clothing? Was it Madonna who kicked this trend off? A pleasant development that I may be late in noticing has been lots and lots of semi-transparency. Have you taken note as well? Most of it seems to be part of a peekaboo-layering strategy: hip wraps, see-through blouses worn over spaghetti-strap tops, that kind of thing. Flirty! Fun! Fabulous! Thinking about semi-transparency, I find myself transported back to the late '70s ... Yup, there she is, floating before me once again: Naomi, a dark, voluptuous, moody beauty and fellow officeworker. We lusty young officedudes used to refer to Naomi as the "sexy Israeli army sergeant" -- we pictured her spending mornings cracking down on Palestinians, and afternoons oiling up her olive-skinned toplessness... posted by Michael at July 21, 2005 | perma-link | (41) comments

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Fat Mexico
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The Economist reports that obesity and diabetes are on the rise in Mexico -- and dramatically so, with figures for both problems almost doubling in the last 15 years. Amazing fact (subscription and registration required): In 1968 ... [diabetes] was in 35th place as a direct cause of mortality in Mexico, but now it occupies first place, above both cancer and heart disease. With about 6.5m diabetics out of a population of 100m, Mexico now has a higher rate than any other large country in the world. Contributing factors: Urbanization, crap food, and lack of exercise. Pollution and crime are also thought to play roles, as they keep city people from making active use of streets and sidewalks. One conclusion: Walking and rural-style manual labor keep people fit. And, of course, there's always the simple fact of how tempting it is to chow down. I once asked my yoga teacher what I might do, yoga-wise, to get my expanding belly under control. I was hoping for some arcane (but easy!) exercises and postures. She didn't comply. Instead, she said, "Have you ever considered eating less?" Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 6, 2005 | perma-link | (11) comments

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Secrets of Good Loving
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The BBC reports that scientists have succeeded in scanning the brains of people having (and not having) orgasms. Some key findings: Women are indeed good at faking it -- but the brain-scanning machine knows. What seems to help men achieve orgasm is knowing that they'll get the physical stimulation they crave. What seems to help women achieve orgasm is feeling secure and protected, or at least free from fear. Keeping the socks on may violate good taste and classy stylishness. But both men and women achieve orgasm more easily when their footsies are warm. Me, I've always wanted to know what goes on in the heads of the scientists who study sex. Perhaps we could subject them to the brain-scanner? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 30, 2005 | perma-link | (4) comments

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Erotica Policies
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I've been reading about Gil Reavill's new book "Smut: A Sex Industry Insider (And Concerned Father) Says Enough Is Enough." Reavill is a writer who makes his living working for racy publications like Penthouse and Maxim. He started off his career thinking that sex must always and everywhere be liberated -- down with hypocrisy! But he has come to think that sexual material ought to be regulated. Reavill's website is here. The current paper issue of The American Conservative carries an excerpt from Reavill's book, but the excerpt isn't available online. Here's an excerpt that the National Review Online ran. The surfing I've done has left me feeling a little silly. Here I blog, yakking about ultra-daring French films and linking to amazingly out-there websites. Yet I've never spelled out my stance on sex-themed art and entertainment. I do so wish that I had something resembling a stance on the topic. Instead, I'm a mess of preferences, tastes, and hunches. Personally, I love sex-themed art and entertainment. I'm happy at the theater when a production features a talented actress contending with a sexual scene, and I'm annoyed with the current American theater because 9/10ths of the performers who strip onstage these hyper-gay days are guys. I watch even Balanchine ballets -- the highest-toned art-dance imaginable -- thinking, "Wow, this is really all about sex, isn't it!" At home, I have a couple of large shelves full of books on the theme of sex: fiction, how-to manuals, histories of the art, memoirs, collections of the photography, academic tomes on obscure subjects, etc. "Erotica" is probably my favorite movie genre, if it can properly be called a genre at all. Some people dislike the way that sex scenes force movie viewers to wrestle with the "is this real or not?" question. Me, I like walking that particular documentary/fiction line. Recently, Netflix has been delivering a lot of Radley Metzger and Jess Franco to my mailbox and DVD player. And le cinema francais -- well, we all know what that means, don't we? In the last year, I've even made the transition between being an erotica observer and an erotica maker; The Wife and I have taken to co-writing satirical pornography. We like to think our work is pretty hot and pretty funny. Art and eroticism are No Small Thing to me, in other words. It's considerably more than that, in fact: Give me a micro-excuse and I'll launch into a rhapsodic, cringe-making, sub-D.H. Lawrence-esque monologue about the deep-down connections between art, the erotic dimension, religion, and the mysterious Pulse that Animates All Being. But that's all a matter of personal tastes and private pleasures. There's also -- sigh and alas -- the question of public policy. Not being a PPP (Primarily Political Person) myself, I generally do my best to slither away from policy discussions. Why not leave them to those who enjoy debate, and who love imagining that laws emerge from rational discussion? Me, I'd... posted by Michael at June 22, 2005 | perma-link | (20) comments

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Confessions of a Naked Model
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- We're pleased to run another guest posting by "J," an artist and illustrator who helps pay the bills by working as an artists' model. We're also pleased to let you know that J's art professional art career has been making impressive strides. J recently placed an illustration with the Wall Street Journal. And a piece of J's has been selected for inclusion in Art@Large's upcoming show, "New Erotix," which will be on display from July 7-23. Here's some information about the show. J's newly-revamped site, where you can enjoy her art and explore some fun links, is here. J's previous postings for us are here, here, and here, and here. J's modeling site, where you can enjoy some visuals of the lady herself as well as get in touch with J for modeling dates, is here. You can read an interview with J here. To clear up a little possible confusion: J's professional name is Molly Crabapple. Now, on to J's latest bulletin from the naked-modeling front. Tits and Artifice Yesterday, my uncle found my modeling website. Witness to my plump and gawky adolescence, he could only gasp. "Molly, you sure don't look like your pictures!" "No shit" I wanted to snap. I wouldn't have been so angry, except that a week earlier, a snaggle-toothed client had said the same thing when I showed up at his hotel room for some "photos." Fresh from a long day of portfolio drop offs, I looked like an art student, sans makeup, with circles under the eyes. "In your portfolio," said my client, "you seemed like a goddess." Beyond my client's snootiness and my uncle's disbelief lies a misconception that has implications too high-falutin' for this column. Implications that effect art, feminism, and how women view their bodies. The misconception is that photos tell the truth. Of course I don't look like my photos. Schlepping down the street in worn-down heels, I lack several crucial components of pictorial swank. First, the makeup. For any photo shoot, I wear ten pounds, applied by a trained professional, plus hair spray-sugared into a confection as fragile as an Argentinean coup. This goes for any look, no matter how "natural." Then there's the posing. Towards the camera go those round bazooms -- way from it goes the big Puerto Rican ass. But mostly, for my transformation into goddesshood, I thank lighting and Photoshop. You may have seen me in the fluorescent glare of the Barnes and Noble bathroom. But in photos, gelled, reflected, soft-boxed lights caress me like Rudolph Valentino. Any blemishes left are taken out by the kind scalpel of Dr. Adobe. Of course, I'm not saying anything to surprise passport holders to the world of "glamour photography." We know that our favorite Playmates, sans peroxide, Photoshop and spray-on tan, are girls like our (more attractive) neighbors. Witness Maxim's Hometown Hotties contest. Hundreds of girls apply, all pretty, but all human and diverse. By the time the 12 finalists are... posted by Michael at June 8, 2005 | perma-link | (10) comments

Confessions of a Naked Model
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- We're pleased to run another guest posting by "J," an artist and illustrator who helps pay the bills by working as an artists' model. We're also pleased to let you know that J's art professional art career has been making impressive strides. J recently placed an illustration with the Wall Street Journal. And a piece of J's has been selected for inclusion in Art@Large's upcoming show, "New Erotix," which will be on display from July 7-23. Here's some information about the show. J's newly-revamped site, where you can enjoy her art and explore some fun links, is here. J's previous postings for us are here, here, and here, and here. J's modeling site, where you can enjoy some visuals of the lady herself as well as get in touch with J for modeling dates, is here. You can read an interview with J here. To clear up a little possible confusion: J's professional name is Molly Crabapple. Now, on to J's latest bulletin from the naked-modeling front. Tits and Artifice Yesterday, my uncle found my modeling website. Witness to my plump and gawky adolescence, he could only gasp. "Molly, you sure don't look like your pictures!" "No shit" I wanted to snap. I wouldn't have been so angry, except that a week earlier, a snaggle-toothed client had said the same thing when I showed up at his hotel room for some "photos." Fresh from a long day of portfolio drop offs, I looked like an art student, sans makeup, with circles under the eyes. "In your portfolio," said my client, "you seemed like a goddess." Beyond my client's snootiness and my uncle's disbelief lies a misconception that has implications too high-falutin' for this column. Implications that effect art, feminism, and how women view their bodies. The misconception is that photos tell the truth. Of course I don't look like my photos. Schlepping down the street in worn-down heels, I lack several crucial components of pictorial swank. First, the makeup. For any photo shoot, I wear ten pounds, applied by a trained professional, plus hair spray-sugared into a confection as fragile as an Argentinean coup. This goes for any look, no matter how "natural." Then there's the posing. Towards the camera go those round bazooms -- way from it goes the big Puerto Rican ass. But mostly, for my transformation into goddesshood, I thank lighting and Photoshop. You may have seen me in the fluorescent glare of the Barnes and Noble bathroom. But in photos, gelled, reflected, soft-boxed lights caress me like Rudolph Valentino. Any blemishes left are taken out by the kind scalpel of Dr. Adobe. Of course, I'm not saying anything to surprise passport holders to the world of "glamour photography." We know that our favorite Playmates, sans peroxide, Photoshop and spray-on tan, are girls like our (more attractive) neighbors. Witness Maxim's Hometown Hotties contest. Hundreds of girls apply, all pretty, but all human and diverse. By the time the 12 finalists are... posted by Michael at June 8, 2005 | perma-link | (10) comments

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Dr. Johnson on These Girls These Days
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The other day, I treated myself to a short trip to a nearby Borders. There I found a good deal on a 1970 Jess Franco psychedelic-horror Euro-exploitation film entitled "Vampyros Lesbos" (buyable; Netflixable). What caught my attention, though, was the woman behind the checkout counter to whom I handed the disc. She was a slim, young Asian-American. Her hair was multicolored; she had piercings and tattoos; she wore a hippie-Goth, cut-and-paste outfit; her expression was sweet and serene. She was a multicultural, cyber-generation cutie, in other words. The girl beamed -- beamed! -- when she saw the disk. "Wow, this looks like a really fun campfest!" she exclaimed. I muttered something not very witty and she laughed. Then she called out to the checkout girl next to her (who had neo-hippie hair). She showed her the DVD, and the neo-hippie beamed back. "Haw, haw, haw," they both laughed, much cheered up by the idea of a druggy, psycho-vampire, sex-alicious lesbian horror film. Off I went for the rest of the day on a chaotic inner monologue. It ran along these lines: Wow, not only has camp lost all its devilish charge, it's become mood-fodder for inane girls. And lesbianism -- or at least what hip young girls think of as lesbianism -- has become mainstream-ified too. Who'd have thought it would come to this? ... Cute girls ... With untroubled expressions ... Gaffawing at camp and lesbianism, both of which seem to strike them as kicky, silly fun ... It's really all out there, isn't it? ... And once it's all out there, the inner life comes to seem obsolete ... Funny that I find nothing sexy about these girls, happy though I'd be to see them naked ... Partly it's the tattoos and the piercings, which kill the vibrancy of the flesh ... I wonder if other guys my age find the tattoos and piercings offputting ... Is it a generational taste? ... Part of what's not-sexy about the new girls is the way the total lack of inhibition is crossed with a complete lack of depth ... Boomers thought that something good would come of uninhibiting people -- that problems would be solved, that health and happiness would finally prevail. But did they imagine that inanity and depthlessness would result too? ... Why a culture should set up "uninhibitedness" as a moral goal is beyond me ... The new girls lack poetry and allure, sweet though they probably are and attractive though they certainly are ... They're able to remain kids forever, endlessly playing, endlessly changing channels ... Life is about nothing but pleasing yourself ... Which is heaven -- but only in a happy-masturbator way ... So does that mean there's a connection between poetry and inhibitedness? I'd hate to think that's the case, but maybe I'm a sentimentalist ... OK: let's stare the question in the face: Does uninhibitedness have to mean lack of poetry? And a corollary: Does unihibitedness... posted by Michael at April 12, 2005 | perma-link | (46) comments

Friday, April 8, 2005

Beautiful Agony
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * The promo videos watchable on this Beautiful Agony page give new meaning to the word "teasers." NSFW. * The high point of a recent Jenna Bush night on the town was described as "Jenna on all fours doing 'the butt dance' and doing it very well as guys were ogling her thong." Jenna was dancing to "Da Butt." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 8, 2005 | perma-link | (2) comments

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Gals and Fashion Magazines
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Why are the women in women's-fashion magazines tall and slim -- and not just tall and slim, but soooo tall and soooo slim? If the evo-bio drive of women is to attract males (so as to be able to let those Selfish Genes have their way), then how to explain the bony legs, the androgynous jawlines, the flat chests? Fashion models are often odd-looking creatures, as stylized as Grayhounds and Afghans. Yet the women who enjoy fashion magazines seem to enjoy looking at them. Why? A typical response to this question attributes a lot of responsiblity to the gay-male presence in fashion. There's certainly a lot to this. But my own impression is that, while gay tastes are part of the equation, they don't explain everything. The women buying these magazines and ordering from these catalogs are, after all, getting some pleasure out of looking at the images they contain. So I think elements in addition to the gay-thing must play a role too. Tall, slim girls do show clothes off beautifully. Jawlines and cheekbones do supply beautiful canvases for makeup artists, and do take light beautifully. I find it telling that no fashion magazine has been able to make a commercial go of it by showcasing women with "normal" figures. The occasional break from tall-and-skinny seems to work well with readers, but a constant diet of normal figures means commercial death. There's a long foodchain of audiences and producers that need to be taken into account when fashion is being discussed. This isn't a simple market of producers and consumers. It's a Rubik's Cube of a market, involving many, many layers of producers and consumers. Clothes designers, magazine and catalog editors, retail buyers, finance people, subordinates, magazines and catalog art directors, advertisers -- as well as, finally, the gal on the street who chooses one fashion magazine rather than another. It can be hard to pick out from this bazaar a single factor that's driving the field. It seems to me safest to assume that they're all contributing factors. My own modest theory is that fashion magazines are to women what magazines about computers (and porno) are to guys -- they're fantasy books. It's just that women's fantasies -- many women's fantasies, anyway -- concern being photographed (ie., desired) and looking glamorous (ie., desirable). Where guys seem to enjoy imagining what they'd do to and with what's in the picture, women seem prone to imagine being what's pictured. There's an additional fantasy element too, which is autonomy. Part of what women fashion-magazine fans seem to enjoy imagining is the fantasy of being found glamorous purely for its own sake. They seem to want to forget about the pleasing-guys element. There's a little defiance in the fantasy -- and you can see the defiance in many of the kicky poses and attitudes the models strike. Perhaps something that helps explain the appeal of these images is that not only do many women enjoy imagining... posted by Michael at February 24, 2005 | perma-link | (26) comments

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Confessions of a Naked Model
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- This posting is interdit aux moins de 18 ans. That's foreign-film talk for: this installment of "Confessions of a Naked Model" is hot stuff, contains naughty words, and is meant for adult eyes only. Consider yourself warned. I.D.'s, please. Now, relax and enjoy. We're pleased to run another guest posting by "J," an artist and art student who helps pay the bills by working as an artists' model. J's site, where you can enjoy her art and explore some fun links, is here. J's previous postings for us are here, here, and here. J's modeling site, where you can enjoy some visuals as well as get in touch with J for modeling dates, is here. You can read an interview with J here. I'm pleased to pass along some happy news about J's art career too. She's having a show of her delightful art. Here's the official p-r release: (New York, NY. February 24, 2005) Like corsets and burlesque, pen and ink is a Victorian vestige that's back in fashion. But low prices are forcing some artists away from black and white. In "Ink! Babes! Irony!", Screw cover artist and pinup model Molly Crabapple says goodbye to her favorite medium. "Colour just pays more" says Molly, who's been exhibiting her hyper-detailed Victorian damsels since 2002. "Love pen and ink as I do, I prefer rent money." The exhibit will be Molly's last pen and ink show. Her art, which fuses 19th century grotesques, bawdy wenches and sharp socio-sexual commentary, has hung in CBGB's Gallery 313, and been printed in the NY Press. The opening party promises to be as exciting as the art, with gogo, booze and costumed artists handing out the "Black and White Manifesto". The show runs at Jigsaw Gallery (526 E 10th St, NY, NY 10003) from February 24 to March 10. The opening's on February 26, 6pm. Come wearing black and white. Now, on to J's latest bulletin from the naked-modeling front. Spreading It An Intimate Look at the Beaver Shot As a nude model, people often ask me what the difference is between my business and pornography. I give them an answer deep with metaphysical significance. "Porn means spreading your legs" Internet modeling is the Wild West of the modeling world -- complete with tumbleweeds, harlots, and gun-toting outlaws ready to rape us and dump us in the woods. We lack the legitimacy that goes along with an agency contract. No managers make sure we're on time for shoots, or tell us to stay away from the strudel. Perhaps because of this, we cling to our rules with surprising tenacity. Spreading your legs ("spread shots," in industry parlance) makes you a whore. Or maybe not a whore. But at least a target for concerned glances. "Poor girl," we pious models cluck. "Whatever could have made her do a thing like that?" The stigma against spread shots is virulent. While not traumatic in themselves (like an all-anal gangbang for,... posted by Michael at February 16, 2005 | perma-link | (5) comments

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Barbara Leigh and The King
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A slim and beautiful, dark-haired icon of the '70s, Barbara Leigh is one of those popular-culture figures you know you know, but you aren't sure how. (She isn't Barbara Parkins, and she isn't Leigh Taylor-Young either.) Barbara Leigh grew up poor in the south; married young; was discovered and became a model; appeared in many ads; posed for Playboy; and at one point even had the beginnings of a movie career going, acting in Roger Vadim's "Pretty Maids All in a Row" and Sam Peckinpah's wonderful "Junior Bonner." She also conducted quite the love life, dating many high-powered men -- among them, MGM's James Aubrey (the inspiration for Jacqueline Susann's immortal Robin Stone in "The Love Machine"), Steve McQueen, and Elvis. At one point, both Elvis and McQueen were vying for her favors. Imagine being in that position, ladies -- talk about a peak experience. Leigh was on the pages and on the screens in front of us, and she was out there among the legendary figures too. I found exploring Barbara Leigh's website like taking a trip back to the '70s. (The fellas won't want to miss the site's "autographed nude photos" section, which brings the '70s back in a really vivid way.) I also enjoyed reading this q&a, where Leigh talks respectfully about her affair with Elvis Presley. I wonder if her book is fun. It has moved its way onto my Amazon Wish List in any case. Barbara Leigh eventually became identified in many people's minds with the comic book character Vampirella, for whom she was the first model. Leigh has always been a Dracula fan as well as an Egyptology fan; it makes a touching kind of sense that her great dream as an actress was to play Vampirella. At one point Leigh was under contract with Hammer to portray the character in six movies. Somehow, though, the deal fell through, so her dream came to naught. According to her website, Barbara Leigh these days works for Playboy magazine and also sells real estate in Los Angeles. Speaking of the King ... Did you realize that Lisa Marie was once deep, deep into the cocaine? And that she has since become a Scientologist? Heavens! I suppose that, as usual, I'm the last person on the planet to learn these facts. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 12, 2005 | perma-link | (7) comments

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Let me see if I've got this straight: Harvard prez Larry Summers is being crucified ... because he dared to suggest ... that one reason some of the science-y fields are heavily-male ... might be that women and men differ a bit in cognitive abilities? Can this really be? And he has had to apologize? (Caution: PDF file.) If I do have this right, I'm chalking it up as yet another reason I'm glad I didn't land in academia, let alone politics. In a simple feet-on-the-sidewalks sense, does anyone -- anyone who drops by 2Blowhards, in any case -- really doubt that women and men differ somewhat in their abilities and tastes, and that this may have some basis in biology? As ever: generally speaking, and many exceptions allowed for. As far as I can tell, Regular People, bless 'em, never disbelieved that gals and guys differ somewhat, and on deep levels. Regular People know this from experience, and aren't about to let theory-spinners tell them otherwise. But I'd have guessed that even our academic elites -- however self-regarding, self-deceiving, self-important, and naive we know them to be -- had abandoned their attachment to the ideology of "everyone is alike in every possible way and the only thing that explains differences in outcomes is Pure Evil, except when it has to do with academic elites being smarter than everyone else." I'm surprised to discover that so many are still in such high-minded denial of basic facts of life, aren't you? God knows I wouldn't ever have expected Elite People to say, "We made a mistake. Sorry. We'll try to do better now." No, they're too puffed-up proud and full of grandstanding moral fury ever to eat humble pie, however much good that might do them, and however much good it might do the world. But I was under the impression that they'd moved on a bit -- that they'd let go of their Blank Slate insanity, if only to embrace some other kind of fashionable nonsense. I wonder if my cluelessness about these people has to do with the fact that I've given up having anything but passing interactions with them. Blank Slaters have nothing to tell me I haven't heard a zillion times before. And what's the point of dealing with fanatics more than is necessary? I don't know about you, but I find that trying to hash out (or even joke about) intellectual/artistic /political matters with Blank-Slate maniacs saps energy that I need for more important matters, like programming the Tivo and taking naps. Sigh: now I'm thinking about them again, dammit ... The move they make that's my favorite is what I think of as the "prove otherwise" move. Since they've got the state of the entire world fully explained, they feel entitled to carry on like prosecutors. Everyone and everything is guilty until proven otherwise, and "otherwise" is something they aren't about to let happen. Blank Slaters will cite a... posted by Michael at January 20, 2005 | perma-link | (35) comments

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Young Models
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I've just spent 15 minutes -- OK, 20 minutes -- looking at photos of models at One Model Place, the Ebay-ish models-and-photographers site that our Guest Poster "J" referred to her in her recent posting. And I noticed something funny about perception. (Mine, at least.) As you peer at photo after photo (and thus girl after girl), you get pickier and pickier. And when you're peering at glamor photos, what that pickiness seems to mean is that your eye zeroes in on younger and younger girls. This happened to me quite without deliberation. I only realized that I'd zero'd in on young girls when I clicked on the portfolio of a model who was 26. By everyday standards, this woman is a young-adult beauty. But my sated eye's first impression was: she looks all used-up. (FWIW, I've got no kinky thing for young girls.) Audaciously, I'm going to assume that my experience isn't unique. Which leaves me wondering if this tendency for the eye to thirst for early-pubescent youth when staring at glamor and fashion photographs of gals helps explain the fact that the gal-models the media put on display are often very young. The usual explanation for this is, "Well, corporations are trying to make women feel inadequate so they'll buy products." Or, "It's because there are so many gay men in the style world, and this long/young/thin look is their passion." And probably both of these factors contribute. But maybe the preference for the very young and the very perfect is also a consequence of what happens to your perceptual system when you stare critically at photos of female models for too long. But this small-t theory doesn't really explain anything about why we zero in on just-hit-puberty youth and flawlessness when we stare at certain kinds of photos, does it? I'm guessing, but it seems to me that reproductive fitness doesn't do the job as an explanation: looking at fashion and glamor photos, the eye seems to crave coltish, edge-of-puberty, David Hamiltonish creatures, not the ripe-to-bursting fertility goddesses guys dig when looking at erotica. So what might explain the eye's taste in these matters? Does the eye/mind for some reason demand of certain kinds of photos that the females in them be dewy, fresh, and flawless? Is that the quality in humans that's the equivalent of the sparkle in diamonds and tinsel? We crave it ... because we just do? Any thoughts? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 16, 2004 | perma-link | (18) comments

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Women, Men, Cellphones
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- On my walk to work this morning, I found myself thinking about something. I've long had the impression that women use cell phones more than men do -- good lord but a lot of women seem to spend the day gabbing into cell phones. Yakyakyak. But was I being fair? Since I enjoy looking at women more than I do at men, perhaps the only thing my impression represents is the fact that I spend so much more time observing women than I do taking note of men. So I decided to run an experiment. I resolved to spend the rest of my walk (35 blocks through midtown Manhattan) keeping track of cellphone use. The results: I noticed 37 men using cellphones, and 52 women. Thanks to this scientifically-controlled, peer-reviewed experiment, I now feel confident that it's safe to assume that women are a bit more likely than men to use cell phones. A couple of other things my experiment revealed: when using cell phones in public (at least at midday, in midtown), men are far more likely than women to be engaged in work conversations. Many of the men I watched were making points, barking commands, and taking marching orders -- while many of the women were weaving about, gesturing expressively, and making emotional faces, apparently involved in personal conversations. Although I suppose that all this might really indicate is that men and women have different behavior styles generally ... In any case, when I was walking through business districts, there'd be more men than women on cell phones. When I was walking through shopping districts, there'd be more women than men on cell phones. And, for no reason I can hazard a guess at, I noticed that a remarkable number of the guys who were using cell phones were Orthodox Jewish men. The reverse seemed to hold true too; of the Orthodox Jewish men I noticed, a flabbergasting number were talking into cell phones. What patterns do you guys notice in cell phone usage? Do you have the impression that women are more likely than men to use 'em? And can you venture any speculations about the mutual attraction between cell phones and Orthodox Jewish guys? Best, Michael UPDATE: A little Googling turned up this Cingular study. Conclusions: men actually spend a little more time on cellphones than women do; women spend more time on personal conversations than men do; Americans spend on average seven hours a month yakking on their cell phones. According to a New York Times article, "men are using their mobile phones as peacocks use their immobilizing feathers and male bullfrogs use their immoderate croaks: To advertise to females their worth, status, and desirability." But this undergrad newspaper article from Houston indicates that many people think women use cellphones more than men do. This poll of Long Island cellphone use has a lot of interesting infobits. For example: women are likely to say that they purchased their cell... posted by Michael at November 2, 2004 | perma-link | (8) comments

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Sex Fantasies
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Forgive me for treating myself to an E-Z posting. I was taking part in one of those irresistable commentsfests over at GNXP, and I wound up feeling pleased with what I was typing. So I've copied and pasted my comment here, cleaning up a bit of bad grammar. But I'm truly curious to learn what others' impressions and thoughts on the topic are. Here it is. Since the ever-interesting subject of sex fantasies has been raised ... How much -- and/or what kind - of a relationship would you guess there is between a person's sex fantasies and who and what that person really is and wants? I mean, in real life. My impression is that the answer is "not much, at least not in many cases." We get overfascinated by our sex fantasies, or maybe it'd be better (since it's in the nature of "our sex fantasies" to fascinate us) to say that we too often look to them for significance or meaning. As though what turns us on (at a given moment) really, really means something about us. I'm not sure it does. In a basic and obvious way, yeah, sure. Women will tend to have more getting-raped fantasies than men will, and maybe something like a hint of masochism comes as part of being physically female -- "Story of O," Catherine Breillat's movies, and Toni Bentley's new book all more or less say as much. After all, women aren't running around with a mighty sword in hand that makes them want to slay dragons and make off with distressed maidens. However awe-inspiringly dynamic women may be, they're also hormonally and emotionally tricky creatures with fascinating secrets tucked away inside. And a big part of their lives is deciding who they're going to admit into their magical palace. It makes simple sense that the fantasy -- the fantasy! -- of having someone make that decision for them would have its appeal. But, aside from the biologically obvious, do our sex fantasies mean much about what we as individuals want or are looking for in real life? And is it wise to consult with our sex fantasies for real-life guidance? I read a recent Dan Savage column where Dan was urging someone to take his fantasies seriously, as indicators of what this reader really wants, sexually speaking. And back in the '70s, books like "My Secret Garden" were telling women not just that it was OK to indulge in sex fantasies, but that it was a Good, even a Politically Good, Thing. Something wonderful, god only knows what, was supposed to result from total immersion in sex-fantasy-ville. Me, I wonder. I think we often drive ourselves a little nuts when we tell ourselves that our sex fantasies are like tea-leaf indicators to our souls and our desires. We're often just letting self-absorption sweep us away. In my experience, a woman's quite capable of, for example, enjoying violent fantasies but really wanting (back in... posted by Michael at October 23, 2004 | perma-link | (16) comments

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Morning Babble
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Do all women love to gab first thing in the morning? Or only most? This may of course be nothing but an artifact of my limited experience, but I've been struck over and over by the way many women love starting the day with a long session of the usual female thing -- expressions (and "validations") of feelings, the pulling-apart of relationships, the mulling-over of all kinds of indefinite (to my mind) "issues" ... This whole chewing-over-of-the-emotional-and-relationship-dimension seems to be as much a part of women's desired morning routine as is the usual fussing with foodstuffs, the warming-up of coffee and toast, the gasping at the deliciousness of butter and baked goods. And, as far as I can tell, it's always to be conducted in that in media res way women are so fond of. Amazing, isn't it, how women expect their men to be able to get on board with their thought processes without providing the slightest introduction? Amazing too, how they feel irritated when you ask for a hint or two that might enable you to join in. Sigh. You'd think they'd appreciate the effort we make to tag along; instead, they feel annoyed that we aren't already right there with them. Men: never quite adequate to what women need them to be. What does this need for gab mean? Perhaps just that -- in the same way The Woman needs loving and feeding -- she also needs long episodes of being attended to while she digests and incorporates her experience. How do you guys contend? Much as I adore The Wife, I do sometimes find being plunged into the morning-babble a challenge. (I assume I'm taking note of a standard thing here, by the way; the breakfast-table scene showing the woman gabbing while the hubster hides behind a newspaper has been a cliche of cartoons for decades.) If I'm to be at my best in a conversation of the womanly kind, I need a little preparation; while I enjoy playing a gallant supporting role in The Wife's dramas, giving such a performance is something that requires real effort. And suffice it to say that I don't exactly roll out of bed already deep in the thick of such matters, as The Wife appears to. So, over the years, the two of us have negotiated some half-formal/half-informal agreements about how best to deal with the morning-babble thing. A degree of attentiveness is always required -- there'll be no hiding behind the newspaper for me. But I'm cut a little slack too. It's understood that I get to joke and tease a bit; a man who can't tease his woman is a sad thing. And it's agreed that reprieves from attending to morning babble will be granted on my busier days. Despite the general success of these negotiations, I find I still need to be vigilant. The Wifely love of morning-babble is an impressive force that's always doing its best to have things... posted by Michael at September 29, 2004 | perma-link | (19) comments

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Women and Food, Cont.
Dear Vanessa -- At the local gourmet-food superstore a short while ago, I noticed something I've often noticed before: Women in gourmet food stores are far more likely than men to help themselves to food-goodies as they shop. If a tasty foodthing is out there, available to the hand, a fair number of women will pick it up and feed it to themselves. There's no question of paying for the goodie; these women stroll around the store munching, as if this were just the way life is meant to be. I seldom see guys doing this. Not that I'm a representative guy -- far from it. But I do know that it'd never occur to me to help myself to an as-yet unpaid-for goodie. Well, not unless it's a sample that's being deliberately handed out. Might this difference in attitude have something to do with basic differences between the sexes, do you suppose? I've long suspected that men and women relate to food differently. (Here's a posting about women and baked goods, wherein I suggest that women essentially are baked goods. And here's a heartbroken posting about how women generally prefer food to sex.) My hunch says that women identify with food in some way that men don't. If there's anything to my suspicion, what might some of the explanatory factors be? Perhaps one is the "appetizing" thing. In the mating dance, guys don't need to be more than physically presentable, where women need to make themselves downright appealing -- unfair or not, this seems to be one of those basic facts of life. Perhaps because of this, women sense a kinship with food, which after all also usually needs dolling up to make it appealing. Perhaps women go around, at least part of the time, feeling like bons-bons -- not a common experience for a guy! The woman-as-foodstuff idea certainly works in reverse; guys often find a physically attractive woman mouth-wateringly appealing. A great old blues line or title, I forget which, goes like this: "I'm struttin' with some barbecue," which I'm pretty sure conjures up a picture of a guy proudly walking around with a sexily fleshy gal on his arm. Does the women-and-food thing go beyond this? I think it must. There's a certain look of triumph many women get when they walk into a restaurant that I never see on men's faces: "Life is now as it should be; the lady is about to be fed. Now, let's see how it can best be done." I've also noticed that women handle the food they're eating differently than men do -- more solicitously and tenderly, you might say even compassionately. The Wife, for instance, strokes, folds, and pets bread and cookies before wolfin' 'em down. And you can probably picture as well as I can the look on many a woman's face when she puts that first forkful of dessert in her mouth: naughtiness, smugness, ravishment ... It's the look of a blissed-out masturbator who's getting away... posted by Michael at August 19, 2004 | perma-link | (14) comments

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Movie Update
Dear Vanessa -- * Many thanks to Lynn Sislo, who passed along a link to this interesting blog devoted to French New Wave cinema, here. I'm looking forward to catching up with Lynn's own first-class blogging too, here. * Although I've never been a fan of the movies of John Cassavetes, I don't doubt for a sec that he's one of those landmark filmmakers whose work all filmbuffs should get to know. But I could never explain why as well as George Hunka does here. * It's always, or at least often, fun to argue with a movielist. Here's one devoted to the 50 worst movies of the '90s. And by golly but there were some stinkers, weren't there? * The Guardian's Neil Armstrong wonders what the hell was going on in "Donnie Darko" and "Mulholland Drive" anyway, here. * I notice that Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers has been released on DVD. I got Turbokitty yakking about the film here. The film is an NC-17 tribute to the French New Wave, and to Paris in '68. It's not really very good, but it's sexy fun to sit through anyway. I posted a few paragraphs about the terrific Gilbert Adair novel the movie is based on here. The film is buyable here and Netflixable here. [UPDATE: Thanks to Tatyana, who points out this Alan Sullivan posting about Bertolucci here. Alan in turn links to a Newsweek interview with Bertolucci here.] * "Not terrific but sexily pleasing anyway" pretty much sums up my reaction to the Spanish director Bigas Luna's newish Sound of the Sea too. By comparison to the playful/lyrical, Paris-bound "Dreamers," "Sea" is classical, austere-yet-luscious, and Mediterranean. It's a small-scale romantic tragedy that plays out against a rather overdone (but I loved it anyway) timeless backdrop. The film isn't short on ludicrosities, especially a doleful main character who does little but quote poetry. But though The Wife and I hit the "pause" button regularly to indulge a good giggle, we also didn't mind watching the film all the way through. It was enjoyably lulling, as well as ravishing to look at and listen to. Ah, my favorite movie genre: the arty, novella-ish story of sex, death, and poetry, peopled by beautiful, talented young performers who are often naked. Hey, it's a genre requirement. Buyable here, Netflixable here. * You know those absurd little moviethings we moviefans grow irrationally fond of? I have one friend, for instance, who loves death scenes. She can't wait to see how a character's going to die, and how the actor is going to handle it. Another friend loves movie phone numbers -- that awkward moment in recent American films when an actor tells another actor to dial 555-something-or-other. How can they say "555" like they mean it? One of my own favorite moviethings is the way movies try to persuade you that a character is a businessperson. Since movie plots seldom want to spend any real time on business intricacies but often need businesspeople as... posted by Michael at July 28, 2004 | perma-link | (9) comments

Thursday, July 22, 2004

This Summer's Fashions
Dear Vanessa -- The weather in NYC was hot and humid the day after the Wife and I returned from our Caribbean vacation. "Good lord," she said when we got together that evening. "Did you see what the young girls were walking around in today? They looked like sluts!" Coming from a Wife who's no more of a prude than I am -- puh-leeze, we both enjoyed ourselves in the '70s -- that was saying a lot. I wonder: are this year's slutty fashions much different than last year's slutty fashions? What I'm noticing seems mainly like souped-up retreads: The Amazing Ruffled Mini. These are skirts that hug smoothly from below-navel to halfway down the hips, then flare dramatically for six inches before cutting off entirely. The stretchiness up top makes the hips go switch-switch-switch, while the ever-in-motion ruffles offer promises of paradise. Men all over the city are praying for breezes, because not much more than a breeze is required to flip up one of these barely-there hems. And the skirts have certainly made following a girl up the subway stairs a particularly suspenseful exercise. Clingier fabrics. Maybe I'm fooling myself, but it seems as though this summer's bellybaring tops are even more revealing than last year's. Not in terms of flesh displayed -- how could they reveal more flesh? -- but in terms of what they reveal about what's beneath. Last year was all about nipple-pokies. This year seems to be about giving away nipple-details. When bras are worn, the location of the label can be discerned, and the number of clasps can be counted. Stretch terry to the max. Who was the genius fabric-engineer who turned terrycloth into such an alluring thing? This year's stretch terry seems very, very thin, and especially stroke-able. I'm mostly seeing it in hotpants and lowslung sarong-like skirts. Slash-cut wraparound skirts. Some of them cut 'way up to the hipbone, if only on one side. Have you noticed how many of these fashions require a great deal of management? There's the tight grip that prevents buttcheek embarassments; there's the clutching and tugging meant to battle hem-creep. Perhaps these fashions really serve a purpose. Perhaps girls, who no longer smoke as much as they once did, simply need new ways to busy their hands. Has all sense of "appropriateness" gone out the window, do you think? Even last year, there was still a clear distinction between "clothes you'd wear at the beach, or to a party, or skanking around the East Village" and "clothes you'd wear in a respectable part of town." This year, that distinction seems to have vanished. It's very striking, for instance, the way that semi-see-thru white pants -- which last year was beachwear, a daring coverup to put on over your bikini -- are now a standard thing in midtown. The public/private distinction also seems to be continuing its long, inevitable decline. What with the current semi-transparent, gauzy fabrics -- and with the underwear-as-outwear thing now viewed as an... posted by Michael at July 22, 2004 | perma-link | (26) comments

Friday, July 16, 2004

Denmark and Porn
Dear Vanessa -- Here's a short video documentary about the history of porn in Denmark. I was fascinated to learn a few things: Porn was legalized in two stages. The first, in 1967, lifted restrictions on print porn ("print" as in "text" -- novels, etc). The second stage ended restrictions on virtually all other kinds of porn. While the business of erotic novels and such had flourished under censorship in a modest and illicit way, once this work was made legal everyone lost interest in it. The market for it collapsed. Legislators took the second step -- making all other kinds of porn legal -- believing that the demise of text-porn was a trustworthy predictor of the move's consequences. Instead, demand for all these other kinds of porn (pictures, movies, etc) exploded. Unsure what to make of this but ever-curious, Michael... posted by Michael at July 16, 2004 | perma-link | (2) comments

Monday, July 12, 2004

The Human-Computer Interface, sort of
Dear Vanessa -- Cyber-age bliss: surfing the web and listening to Itunes while the Wife gives me a combo backrub/headscratch. High on endorphins, Michael... posted by Michael at July 12, 2004 | perma-link | (3) comments

Friday, July 9, 2004

Sex Differences
Dear Vanessa -- I'm having a good time flipping around inside Steven Rhoads' evo-bio-influenced new book, Taking Sex Differences Seriously. (And god bless Rhoads for having the guts to use the word "sex" instead of "gender," blech, patooie.) Some nuggets: How often do men think about sex? And how often do women think about sex? "On average, men say three to five times a day. Women say several times a week or several times a month." "One survey of men and women over 45 asked how often they felt sexual desire. More than seven times as many men as women said more than once a day, and more than four times as many women as men said 'not at all'." "About 6 out of 7 men report masturbating more often than the average woman." "Women say they engage in sex to share emotions and love. Men give reasons that are more narrowly physical, such as need, sexual gratification, and release. And when deprived of sex, men are much more likely than women to become morose and irritable." "Women with medical conditions producing extremely high levels of testosterone have male-like sexual arousal patterns and they desire sex with strangers. When they voluntarily have their condition treated, they retain an interest in sex but are pleased to be 'relieved of clitoral hypersensitivity'." "Among married men, 7 percent have had sex with more than twenty partners. Among male homosexual couples, 43 percent have had sex with more than twenty partners. Among lesbian couples, only 1 percent have had sex with more than twenty partners." In their sexual fantasies, "women are two and one half times as likely to focus on the personal and emotional characteristics of a partner; men four times as likely to focus on the physical characteristics. Women are twice as likely as men to find 'the idea of anonymous sex not at all appealing'." "The readers of the original feminist magazine, Ms., bought cosmetics and toiletries at a higher rate than the readers of any other women's magazine. Ms. readers ranked frist among 'heavy users' of lipstick and lip gloss, second among 'heavy users' of eye shadow." "Half the chief executives of Fortune 500 companies are at least six feet tall, whereas the average height of an American man is five feet nine." "Women on average bench-press about one-third of what men do." "Women prefer average-looking or even unattractive doctors to very attractive teachers." "Highly-paid professional women have an even stronger preference for high-earning men than do women working in less well-paid jobs." "Men prefer a woman shorter than they are, and women a man who is taller. But on average men prefer her to be 4.5 inches shorter, while women want him a full 6 inches taller." The book can be bought here. Best, Michael (all alpha-hunky five feet nine inches of me)... posted by Michael at July 9, 2004 | perma-link | (14) comments

Thursday, July 8, 2004

The New Young Gals
Dear Vanessa -- One of the neat things about leaving the country for a stretch is the experience of re-entry, don't you find? For a few days, things back home stand out in relief more than they usually do. Fresh back from the Franco-Carib, I find myself (as ever, admittedly) trying to figure out What's Becoming of These Young Gals These Days. It seems to me that a new stage may have been reached. BoomerGals: gettin' angry, bein' political, and resentfully claimin' their space. X'erGals: actin' out, showin' the aggression, and defiantly grabbin' for the gusto. But these new youngerGals ... They seem breezily free of all the old complexes, don't they? I detect no political anger, and no generational spite. (Actually, they seem less to have been set free to be who they are than to have been actively goosed into ceaselessly expressing nonexistent selves. But leaving my crankiness aside ...) They seem to have grown up with no questions about what life would be like: a big shopping mall brimful of possibilities for self-pleasure. I'm not alone in being amazed by how uninhibited they are. Little that was once taboo seems to carry any charge for them at all. Anal? Oral? S&M? So what's the big deal? Yet, as untroubled and uninhibited as they are, they're also the most square group of young women I've ever run across. When they get together, their talk seems to consist of nothing but the drivel-iest feminine drivel: boys, hairstyles, baby showers. Having been (at great expense) set free to be who they want to be, they turn out to want to be ... banal traditional girls. They've got nothing on their minds -- anal sex aside, I suppose -- that wouldn't have been commonplace to their great-grandmothers. They're half Jenna Jameson, half Doris Day. Which isn't a bad description of Britney Spears, come to think of it. Jenna or Britney? Porn star or pop star? I'll refrain from making the snarky comment I'm dying to make. On second thought, no I won't. Ain't it always the way, chuckle snort. You dream about the glorious things that'll result from liberation, then inevitably feel let down when the smoke and debris clear. Gollygosh: people are going back to being people again! Where's the outrage? But perhaps, as The Wife often reminds me, I'm overgeneralizing from my absurdly narrow media/culture circles. Curious to hear your observations about the new 22-25 year olds. Come to think of it, you're in an interesting position to do some amateur sociology. Although a youngster still yourself, you've gotten to the point where a yet younger cohort has come along behind you. An unnerving sensation, no? Are you feeling older and wiser these days? ("They'll learn," muttered grimly -- that kind of thing.) Also, having recently moved from NYC to Chicago you're no doubt registering differences between the Manhattan youngsters and the Chicago set. Eager to read your observations about the New Young Gals, in any case. What kind... posted by Michael at July 8, 2004 | perma-link | (9) comments

Friday, June 25, 2004

Two Kinds of Guys, Cont.
Dear Vanessa -- I hope I'll be forgiven for promoting a comment I put on your "Two Kinds of Guys" posting to a posting of its own. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself when I finished writing it, so I can't resist. I urge visitors to read Vanessa's posting here, and its interesting comment thread as well. Here goes. Well, during the few free moments when I'm not fighting off attempts by starlets and ballerinas to force me to accept blowjobs ... I do feel for American women, fed up with them though I often get. And I'm with Todd about 50% of the way -- it's necessary to laugh at people like Naomi Wolf, who complain about feeling traumatized by Seventeen magazine. Hey, life's tough. (Naomi Wolf needs to be laughed at for lots of reasons.) But Vanessa's raising an important point, it seems to me. To some extent, in the straight world, men are the audience for women (and women for men). And if you're faced with an unresponsive or uninterested audience, it can drive you nutty. There's something about America that leads many guys to abandon the whole seeking-the-poetry-in-women thing and to just hunt or fish or watch sports instead, while expecting to have (or hoping to have) a sexy sympathetic woman around to take care of all that woman stuff guys need taken care of. Where's the appreciation for who and what a woman is? For the gifts, beauties, and talents that she brings with her? For the unique and delightful package of qualities that she is? For, in some cases anyway, her feelings and intuitiveness, as well as her way with emotions, organic and domestic and romantic things? Women (some, anyway) are color, mystery, poetry, changeability; they have access to cool and slippery realms of experience and being, which is great in and of itself, and that most guys can't get to left to their own devices. If a gal doesn't feel some recognition of all this and some appreciation for it, it doesn't surprise me that she'd feel a little nuts. To reverse the sex roles: many nice straight guys in NYC are driven nuts by the self-centered, highstrung women here. Why? Because many of these gals are interested only in themselves and their own needs and fantasies -- getting into the right party, landing someone with tons of dough, showing off, being photographed, having tantrums at work, etc. The "guy" in such a life is just another (if necessary) accessory. (There are nice gals around, etc, but the Manhattan media-and-culture world is remarkably full of highstrung self-centered women ....) And this makes many perfectly decent guys feel really blue. Where's the genuine admiration for their good qualities? Where's the fond amusement at their follies, and their humor and energy? Where's the loving appreciation for their generosity and efforts? John O'Hara somewhere or other was writing about these women when he said something like "They aren't lesbians but they don't like men." And... posted by Michael at June 25, 2004 | perma-link | (26) comments

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Two Kinds of Guys
Dear Michael: So, since you posted your theory about "Two Kinds of Guys" I've been trying to sort my thoughts about it. First, let me say I think you totally nailed it. My immediate reaction was a kind of "Holy Crap!" moment, and then I tried to identify the effects of living in a place--the United States, namely--where 1) men seem to have this attitude that women are merely accessories to their boyish preoccupations; and, 2) this attitude is reinforced by magazines and TV aimed at guys ("The Man Show," Maxim magazine and its heinous spinoffs and copycats, dumb-ass-guy movies, beer commercials). The effect has been, I think, that women have over time internalized its negative message: that, women are interesting as long as they're "hot" and don't get in the way of men enjoying adolescent pursuits. So, the result is women have misgivings about their worth (bagging a man, after all, is one of evolution's time honored mandates) and turn to the media for help. Thus, the awful and essentially misogynistic women's magazine trade; plastic-surgery addiction; eating disorders; "The Swan"; Britney Spears as style icon. Who today gives women permission to be their whole selves? Not TV. Not Hollywood. Not the rap industry. Novels? Perhaps, since in them one is more likely to encounter the woman-as-fascinating-creature rhapsody that you describe (but, who reads anymore?). You know who's giving women the love they crave? Oprah and Martha Stewart. And, that's why they're gazillionaires. Now, before all you guys out there start piling on, I don't really think American men are all boorish, juvenile, emotionally stunted, Farrelly-brothers fans (I married one, after all). But the image that the media (Hollywood, TV, mags, etc.) reflects back at us suggests that something is up. It may be a totally false image when it comes to individual male people but it seems to be speaking to a common fantasy life, or something. Which leads me to wonder, Is it different anywhere else? In France, say, the spiritual homeland of the women-are-interesting-warts-and-all line of sexuality? Or, is that a movie-propagated myth, too? Kissy faces, Vanessa... posted by Vanessa at June 24, 2004 | perma-link | (9) comments

Friday, June 18, 2004

Dear Vanessa -- * Madonna may be on the verge of converting to Judaism, here. * In a report on the success of Hanky Panky's 4811 thong (not online), the WSJ reports that "Thongs are the biggest thing to hit underwear in the last 20 years. They accounted for one-quarter of the entire $2.6 billion panty market last year." Let's see: subtract all over-60 women as unlikely to be wearing thongs; take into account the likely fact that many women between 40 and 60 don't wear them except on special occasions ... Hmm, that would seem to mean that every American woman younger than 30 is wearing a thong at this very instant. * Home-sex videos by two foreign public figures have turned up on the web. One video (read about it here) shows an Englishwoman wonderfully named Abi Titmuss -- hard to tell what kind of celeb she is -- frolicking with an as-yet-unidentified woman; the other (watch some footage here) shows a Croation pop star having torrid porn-type sex with a man. Question: has the scandalous and accidental release of a home-sex video become a required step in the gotta-be-a-celeb game? * Nicole Kidman takes a bath with a 10 year old boy in her latest film; authorities glower, here. * Prices have just been cut at this not-to-be-missed educational site here. * "Harvard Man," James Toback's last film, featured swinging FBI agents and a philosophy prof with a Betty Boop voice. For his new one, When Will I Be Loved?, Toback has persuaded Neve Campbell to take part in some "unconventional" love scenes. I'm a huge Toback fan. Although I'd never suggest anyone actually watch a Toback movie -- as a filmmaker, he doesn't deliver much beyond exuberant fantasy and inspired casting -- Toback himself is one of the most entertaining people I've ever met. When I had a chance to spend a little time in his circle some years ago, I often found myself thinking, "Wow, someone should follow this guy around with a camera. Now that would be a great movie!" I'm glad to see someone has had the sense to do just that. You can read about the Neve project and the Toback documentary here. * Another documentary I'm eager to see is this new one here, about the very eccentric Japanese erotic photographer Noboyushi Araki. I wonder how many of these links I obtained thanks to Daze Reader, here ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 18, 2004 | perma-link | (3) comments

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Yoga Sociology
Dear Vanessa -- One goes through life ... One observes tons of things ... One tries to account for a few of them ... One wonders about so many others ... Basic yoga sociology, for instance. For starters: it's not a secret that a lot more women than men show up for yoga classes. This fact doesn't seem like a hard one to explain. Yoga classes are, after all, classes and, as many visitors here have noted, women seem to like getting their exercise in a class setting a lot more than men do. The spiritual thing is v. hard for many men to take. Chanting, "om"-ing, talking about world peace, getting blissed-out -- well, why don't you just snip my balls off now? You're not supposed to plow through yoga; you're encouraged to experience yoga internally instead. Find your freedom inside the posture, connect there with something larger than yourself, etc. Dare I observe that experiencing things internally may come a whole lot easier to many women than it does to most men? And -- a big and underrecognized element here -- there's the whole yoga-clothes question. In a yoga class, you do a lot of stretching, bending, flopping over, etc, and you need clothes that don't get too much in the way. What's a fella to do? Sweat clothes are too thick and too hot. Regular gym shorts have no give in the groin, and regular t-shirts fall off when you're upside down. Gals have it much easier -- clingy stretch clothes! Women seem to like the feel of them (I have theories about why); women seem to enjoy parading around in them; and there's a big industry catering to the stretch-clothes-for-gals market. The occasional guy does show up in class wearing Lycra-ish shorts. When this happens, my mid-American background kicks into gear, and loudly. I look at this guy and think, "Dude! No!" Guys in stretch clothes? Rightly or wrongly -- and I can't seem to help this -- I leap to the conclusion that they're either 1) gay, or 2) from a Mediterranean background. What to do? I haven't solved the problem yet. When I blabbed about this conundrum to a woman yoga teacher, she laughed and told me that there really does seem to be no good yoga-clothing solution for us Real Guys. So explaining why yoga classes nearly always have more women than men in them isn't a toughie. I wonder sometimes if the gal/guy ratio varies depending on yoga styles and schools. I notice, for instance, that more men show up for Bikram (hot) yoga classes than for a more-typical class. This doesn't seem like much of a mystery either. Bikram classes are super-sweaty affairs -- and guys seem to like sweating more than gals do. (I know some women who despise sweating, but I don't think I've ever known a guy who has felt this way.) Bikram classes have no "spiritual" guff at all. Instead, they consist of getting ordered vigorously around,... posted by Michael at June 17, 2004 | perma-link | (19) comments

Saturday, June 5, 2004

What To Do About the Shrubbery?
How do media images affect our erotic responses and demands? Ahhh, let us not be fools, version #1: We're in charge. We know perfectly well that media images are made-up, fake, fantasy. And we enjoy them -- or don't enjoy them -- as such. In fact, while gabbing recently with some younger guys I happened to say that I find the Pam Anderson, all-silicone 24/7 look unappealing. My young chums laughed and said that they like the look. They know that the hair, the boobs, and the lips are all fake; and they know perfectly well that for an image to achieve such vinyl flawlessness Photoshop has to be taxed to the max. But they just dig the results. As far as they're concerned, enjoying such an image has about as much significance as killing a time in front of the Cartoon Network, or playing with a videogame. Ahhh, let us not be fools, version #2: Who do we think we're kidding? Peer pressure is a formidable force, our imaginations and souls get imprinted on in ways we don't expect, and popular culture is a dynamic and immense force dedicated to reaching deep inside and having its way with our very beings. My own feeling is that both these responses have a lot going for them. If, on the one hand, I'd never be caught arguing that our actions and responses are determined by our experiences with popular culture, on the other hand it seems absurd to maintain that our responses and experiences aren't conditioned by them. After all, if these images aren't having something of an effect, why is the culture so devoted to generating them? Which are nothing but some minor musings prompted by a letter to a underground newspaper's sex columnist, found via Daze Reader, here. A teenage girl writes in with a question: should she keep her pubic hair or shave it off? She's in a quandary because she doesn't want to do the nude-pudenda thing, yet potential boyfriends are telling her that they find bushy girl-crotches a turn-off. The sex columnist delivers some sympathy, and advises the girl to compromise with a landing-strip-style pubic 'do. (The exchange can be read here.) Not a question that ever perplexed the '70s generation, of course. But while scanning porn sites, I've learned that what '70s people considered a normal bush has become a fetish style-thing of its own, known as "hairy." There are guys cruising the web who are on the look-out for "hairy" images, just as there are others on the lookout for boot-licking or bondage imagery. How bizarre that what was once thought of as natural has rematerialized as another option on the cyberworld's infinite menu of styles. Randall Parker does a lot of substantial thinking about how compare/contrast opportunities affect our conceptions of what's desirable here.... posted by Michael at June 5, 2004 | perma-link | (6) comments

Friday, May 28, 2004

Tantric Sex
You can read a serious-faced, scholarly discussion about Tantra here. (Link thanks to ALD, here.) It's an interesting piece, I guess. But the question arises: if you're interested in Tantra, why would you want to read this kind of thing? Don't you want instead to read about sex, spirituality, and art? Don't you want instead to pick up some handy-dandy sex tips? The writer of the piece and the book under review both seem to think that Westerners don't take Tantra seriously enough. I'm hardly one to think that eroticism can be boiled down to "fun," as American pop cult too often does. Fun can be a component, but let's not limit ourselves, or our erotic experience. On the other hand, where sex is concerned, is what's needed really a gloomy, studious scolding, let alone a graduate degree in anything? As far as I'm concerned, that's an attitude that misses even more of the point than the pop-fun attitude does. I confess that I'm guilty -- and have been for years! -- of dabbling in superficial ways with Tantra, and with various other Eastern approaches to sex too. (Yes, thank you, I do know that Tantra isn't just about sex.) And you know what? Even if all you do is experiment with these notions and techniques in the most EZ kind of way -- and provided only that you keep a straight face and do your best to tune into the moment -- they work just grrrrr-rrreat. It's mystifying to me why more people don't take advantage of these approaches. Blissfully altered states and extraordinary erotic experiences, yours for the asking. Calorie-free too -- what's not to like? Taoist, Tantric ... Don't look to me to play the choosy scholar, because as far as I'm concerned it's all good. I find the Indian thing more dreamy and poetic -- and hence, for someone as impractical and suggestible as I am, sexier -- than the Chinese thing, which strikes me as a little harsh and direct. But that's just personal taste. Both approaches have a lot to offer. Here's a useful book about Taoist approaches to sex. I see here that there's a "Complete Idiot's Guide to Tantra." Here's a perfectly fine Westernized "Kama Sutra." Here's a book that, IMHO, does a great job of spelling out the general Indian/Hindu/yoga-ish approach to eroticism -- of this bunch, it's my fave. Here's a sumptuously visual version of the "Kama Sutra" that's full of images of sexy Indian paintings and sculptures. Here's a helpful-seeming Amazon reader's list of suggested books; here's another. My own reflection is that these mystical theories and codified techniques are to be respected and cherished. Like French cooking techniques or classical oil-painting techniques, they seem basic to the creation and experience of more complex kinds of pleasure than we're able, left to our own devices, to treat ourselves to. Hey, here's a likable, if rather scattershot, online guide to the Indian view of art and the erotic.... posted by Michael at May 28, 2004 | perma-link | (4) comments

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Froggytime 2 -- Frenchwomen
Dear Friedrich -- One of the great Western cultural creations, IMHO, is The Frenchwoman. What an archetype: poised, funky, individual, stylish. Whether whipping up classic food or conducting a despairing/rhapsodic affair, she's self-possessed, alert to the moment, at ease with her body, and alive in her senses -- never frazzled, never shocked, famously content to be female, proficient at the office yet a wizard at the game of love, and always, always getting a great deal of juicy enjoyment out of Being a Frenchwoman. Perhaps the Frenchwoman has less fun than the American woman does. How confounding then, especially given our religion of "fun," that the Frenchwoman seems to get such a lot of voluptuous pleasure out of life. I know American women who are obsessed with "the Frenchwoman," even enraged by them. I'm not entirely sure why, and would appreciate enlightenment here. My guess is that it's because Frenchwomen seem to quarrel so little with their fates as women, and because their success seems to put the lie to one of our most cherished myths -- namely, that what stands between us and unending happiness is lack of freedom. In America, we tend to equate formality with uptightness, and we like to imagine that if only some barrier or other would be removed we'd finally be able to experience bliss. We're always on the verge of bliss, yet never quite there. We use our dissatisfaction to trigger off another round of inevitably-frustrated striving. And then the fun and the dissatisfaction get to seeming like two sides of the same inescapable coin. (Cut to quick montage of channel surfing, empty bags of fast food, New Age religions, and SUVs idling outside big-box discount stores.) But behold the Frenchwoman. Her life is a strict one, and a strictly codified one -- immensely uptight, at least by our standards. Control is not a quality that's in short supply in her life. Yet she relishes her daily existence, and she enjoys far larger portions of erotic transport and sensuality -- of satisfaction -- than we generally do. (Hey, does it seem to anyone else that we Americans are forever mixing up sex with dynamism? We seem to confound sex with, I dunno, aerobics. It's a chore, if a healthy one; it's proof that we're competent as well as proof we're having bustin'-out-style fun. Another thing I admire about the French is their ability to find what's erotic in the moment, whatever that moment happens to be. The eroticism of ... a lazy moment. The eroticism of an ... exhausted moment. The eroticism of a ... sad moment. And why not? Good lord: why make "feeling sexy" depend on "feeling good," let alone "feeling dynamic"? Talk about limiting your opportunities.) My mind's on these matters because I've been enjoying Debra Ollivier's book Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl. (It's buyable here.) Have you run across Ollivier's writing? I first became aware of her a few years back when I... posted by Michael at May 12, 2004 | perma-link | (6) comments

Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Women and Solitaire
Dear Friedrich -- Does your wife love playing solitaire? My Wife loves Spider Solitaire, my sister loves Freecell, a niece loves Strict Klondike, and a work friend has Forty Thieves on her Windows desktop 24/7. Based on this statistically significant sample, I'm working on a theory that women love solitaire card games. There's something about solitaire (especially on the computer) that just ... works for women. OK, many if not all women. What do you suppose it is? When I asked The Wife, all she'd say was, "I don't know. That's a really good question. Did you know that FDR liked Spider Solitaire?" Me, I'm guessing that solitaire offers women something to focus their tirelessly churning feelings and energies on. First they exhaust (and delight!) their men; but long after we're in the grave, they'll still have solitaire. I once accused The Wife (fondly, of course) of cheating when I observed her hitting the "Undo" button a number of times. Her response: "That's not cheating. They wouldn't give you an Undo button if it were cheating. Besides, it isn't a competition. It's about trying to figure the deal out." Have you noticed that you -- or more likely the women in your life -- can now play all kinds of solitaire card games online? Here's one site ("Idiot's Delight -- the Solitaire Server") that offers more than 20 different versions of the game. But solitaire doesn't appeal to me at all. In accordance with my theory, I've decided to attribute my dislike of solitaire card games to my brawny and untamed hetero dude-hood. Does it hold any appeal for you? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 5, 2004 | perma-link | (18) comments

Sunday, May 2, 2004

The Sublime
Michael: Im going to be 50 in a month or so, and that may account for a little phenomenon that Im about to describe, but then again it may not. As Ive aged, the urgency factor in my sex life has decreasedno big surprise there. These days I feel that I use my sexuality; in my twenties, it pretty much used me. My lovely wife, on the other hand, who is either four or five years younger than I am depending on what month it is, seems to be enjoying a larger and more complex experience than ever. I feel like Im playing a harmonica here, so to speak, while she seems to have moved up to a double orchestra. It sometimes feel like Im navigating a very large, dark ocean in a very small, rickety boat. Again, as I mentioned, age is the obvious explanation here. But thinking back to my younger days, Im not so sure that the disparity between the masculine and feminine sexual experience wasnt always present. I just dont think I was prepared to acknowledge it when I was 25. Which is too bad, as the awe that I feel these daysand I cant think of a better word for itis a real and remarkable addition to the whole experience. Maybe the diminishing role of my ego is opening up a space for a certain amount of the sublime to enter in. Live and learn, I guess. Cheers, Friedrich... posted by Friedrich at May 2, 2004 | perma-link | (18) comments

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

What's Appropriate?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Friedrich -- The scene: my Bikram yoga class -- a 90-minute sweat-a-thon held in a room heated to over 100 degrees. It's damn hot in there. After 30 minutes, you're as wet as you'd be climbing out of a swimming pool. Between postures, you guzzle water and towel off; five minutes later, you have to towel off again. We're all there in order to get sweaty and red-faced, in other words, and we're dressed for the occasion. Guys are shirtless and wear baggy, long swim trunks. Gals are in lycra shorts and sleeveless tops; the more daring (and the more fit) wear jog-bra tops. Yesterday, two of the women in class were breaking new ground. Although they weren't together, both were wearing sleeveless t-shirts -- the kind the kids call "wife-beaters." These shirts are made of tissue-paper-thin, stretchy cotton fabric that goes transparent at the mere thought of sweat. Neither woman was wearing a bra beneath her shirt. I enjoyed witnessing the episode and am not about to get moral about it. Still, it did leave me thinking about a couple of questions. First: do women who do this kind of provocative thing know exactly what they're doing? The two in my yoga class weren't Bikram first-timers, so they knew they'd be doing some serious sweating. And when the boobies went on display, neither woman expressed embarrassment or made any attempt to cover up. So can I assume in this case that these women did know what they were doing? Wow: women in NYC can be amazingly aggressive in terms of their sexual self-presentation. These were four of the most publicly-visible nipples I've seen in a long time. I wonder if the answer might not have to do with a couple of factors. One is age. Of course, we all seem to get better control of our behavior as we age (at least up to a certain point, which I've probably already crossed). We throw out signals a little less blindly as we settle into ourselves. But from 15-25, we don't seem capable of doing much beyond acting out what our hormones tell us to do. Which makes sense: biology has us in a breeding frenzy. Girls during those years sometimes seem to think that they're just "being pretty" and "having fun" when everything about them is in fact screaming "impregnate me now." The other factor is class. Some of my women friends who were raised upper-middle or middle class look back on their youthful behavior and laugh ruefully. "I had no idea," they say. One preppy woman friend told me that as a teenager she used to wear denim miniskirts with no panties beneath. The boys loved following her up the high-school stairway -- quel surprise! I said to her, "And you had no idea?" Her answer: "Really, no. I just thought I was being prettty and cute, and I loved it that the boys liked me so much." Women friends who were raised poor... posted by Michael at April 28, 2004 | perma-link | (28) comments

Friday, April 16, 2004

Women, Men, Exercise Classes
Dear Friedrich -- Have you ever seen a plausible explanation for why so many women prefer to do their exercising in an exercise-class setting, while most men seem to prefer exercising on their own? When I visit the gym, I'm often struck by the way the crowds in most exercise classes are 3/4 or more female. I wonder what the evo-bio crowd has to say about this. Ladies, gents: explanations? Speculations? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 16, 2004 | perma-link | (17) comments

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Dear Friedrich -- For no reason in particular, I've been surfing through some young-gal TV shows, flipping through some young-gal magazines, and musing a bit about the young gals I run into in my media-centric neck of the woods. As you'd imagine, I've worked myself up into quite a "these kids these days" state. Curious, as ever, to hear your thoughts on the matter; curious, as ever, about everyone else's observations and speculations too. Brief consumer alert here: I'm going to be indulging in wild over-generalizations. Plenty of exceptions are allowed for. If you're a 20-something woman and you read this posting and think, Hey, I'm not like that -- well, then, you're one of the exceptions. I'm not talking about you; I'm talking about all those other 20-something women. If you find yourself getting indignant anyway, take a deep breath and see if you can find it in you to pity an old man. Because if old coots can't be permitted to make over-generalizations about these kids these days, what's the fun of being old? Anyway. I'm struck by how healthy, big, and world-beatingly confident 20-something gals are. You go, girls -- and they do seem to go go go. I find much of this great fun and a great relief. Boomer gals could (and can) be terribly touchy about being gals. They can carry on like tragediennes, they can act like martyrs and saints, and god knows they're overprone to politicizing whatever can be politicized. Many Xer gals (hey, tons of exceptions allowed for) can be grabby and full of resentment. Today's 20-something gals, by contrast, are rowdy, uninhibited and rambunctious. I find them likable and companionable. I find it interesting to notice too how much less backbiting, hissy and feline they often are than women have traditionally been seen to be. The presence of an attractive gal doesn't make them snarl. They seem to like it when other gals look good; they seem to react as they do to so many things: "Whoa! That's hot!" They're hard to offend, they're refreshingly honest about the crazy things that turn them on, and they seldom take things amiss. And who's to argue with all that? I also find them graceless. Their body language is as lunky as a teenage boy's; they're jocky, or schlumpy, or bored and twitchy. (One of the things I wrote about in these postings here and here was how young women these days move their hips in ways that I'd only ever seen lesbians move their hips.) They seem to be entirely creatures of self-pleasure -- multimedia, nonlinear, pop-y, collage creatures, with everything about them out there on the surface if not actually leaping aggessively out at you. Women traditionally have been the keepers of the internal flames -- all mysterious folds and inwardness. These young women seem to have nothing internal about them; if it ain't on public display, then it doesn't exist -- that seems to be their attitude. I don't find that... posted by Michael at February 10, 2004 | perma-link | (43) comments

Saturday, December 6, 2003

Life in a Nutshell
Dear Friedrich -- This is an image that was making the email rounds recently. Did you see it? Imagine going to all that trouble for the sake of a joke. But I'm glad someone did. You can click on the thumbnail to get a better look. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 6, 2003 | perma-link | (22) comments

Saturday, November 8, 2003

Diane Keaton on Her First Nude Scene
Dear Friedrich -- In her upcoming movie, "Something's Gotta Give," Diane Keaton -- who's now 57 years old -- does her very first-ever nude scene. She was famous years ago as the one cast member of "Hair" who kept her clothes on. Karen Valby of Entertainment Weekly asked her, Why now? Here's Keaton's response: Your idea about your body changes completely as you get older. Now I just see it as a body. It's not like this precious commodity that I have to hide because I'm like, Omigod, I don't want anyone ever to see me ever-ever, which I felt for about a bazillion years. But now I feel like, What's the difference? ... I still feel self-conscious, but I don't care about being in a movie and showing my naked body in a silly scene where I'm going "Wah! Nwah! Ahhh!" Who cares? So: Don't show it when it's young and precious to you? Do show it when it's older and you don't care about it much anymore? Is that how it goes? I guess I get it ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 8, 2003 | perma-link | (23) comments

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Straight Boys, Gay Tastes
Dear Friedrich -- I've been wondering for some time about how today's straight young guys make any sense of anything. On the one hand, pop fashions and pop culture push brain-rattlingly enticing, aggressive and confident images of femininity at them, while on the other hand styles and tastes in what's desirable in a young man have become gay to the max. The pop images of bustin'-out gals are everywhere -- which is probably blissful, yet also unsatisfying and even terrifying. But how well do contempo (ie., gay) images of how his own life and person should appear suit a straight young man? And, under siege from both sides, what becomes of a young man's masculinity? My own masculinity, such as it is, wouldn't have a clue what to do with itself or where to turn if I were a present-day young guy. Would yours? The gals would be terrifying -- all that brassy desirability, all that cyber-confidence, all that ... bossiness and impatience. Who could live up to it? As for the style and advice world: Hey, I'm not gay! Not me, no sirree. Steve Sailer, here, has shrewdly ventured the thought that the hyper-slobbiness some young guys affect these days -- think Brad Pitt -- is a way of stating firmly that they aren't gay. I'd guess that the cartoonish masculinity peddled by the rap world serves the same function. As for evidence that this is indeed the state of things ... Well, pumpy and shiney images of bustin'-out girls aren't exactly hard to turn up. The gay thing? ... Sigh. Either your gaydar's giving you a reading or it isn't. Either you look at ads, TV and fashions and you say, "Wow, that whole gestalt used to be thought of as gay!" or you don't. There are always some skeptics and doubters, and I'm too lazy to rustle up sufficient evidence to make my case a lock. So the posting languished. Today's Dan Savage column solves the gay-evidence problem for me. Here's a passage from it. Dan -- very bright, very gay -- is explaining to a reader why some young men have taken to shaving off their body hair: Meanwhile, male homosexuals were taking over American cultural life. That gay men now dominate our culture is not some paranoid Christian conservative's fantasy, PUBIC, but a fact of life. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy confirmed something everyone already knew: Outside of rap and hip-hop culture, stylish gay mennot all gay men, mind you, just the stylish onesare the real tastemakers. And gay men weren't content setting tastes in jackets and hair products and cowhide-accent chairs. Hardly. We were, however subtly, setting sexual tastes as well. Out went the virile man (So long, Burt Reynolds!) and in came the vulnerable boy (Hello, Ashton Kutcher!). Soon the kind of guys most gay men want to fuck became the kind of guys most straight women want to fuck, the male beauty ideal every bit as hairless as its female counterpart.... posted by Michael at November 5, 2003 | perma-link | (35) comments

Friday, October 31, 2003

Yet More Husbandly Inadequacy
Dear Friedrich -- Something was clearly bugging The Wife. Nothing major, I could tell, but there it was. So I steered her over to the couch and asked what was up. She mentioned a problem she was having with a project she's working on. Being, as I like to fancy myself, The Man Who Isn't Afraid of a Woman's Feelings, I asked if she needed to vent a bit about it. She said she didn't, so I launched into a discussion of the substance of her topic. I was gentle and sympathetic, pulling it apart and looking at it from this angle and that. What could be more helpful? After couple of minutes, I realized that The Wife was finding me anything but helpful. In fact, she was glaring at me. What was up? Well, I got told that I was doing that male thing of disregarding her feelings. Why was I being so bossy? Why wasn't I being sympathetic? (Bewildered Blowhard response: "But I am being sympathetic!") And what made me think she'd been looking for advice anyway? (I hadn't been aware that I was giving advice.) A few minutes of minor emotional scuffling ensued. I never know what's going on during these episodes, do you? The Wife on the other hand seems to be in her element. Everything, all the "issues" and stresses that confound me, seem hyperreal and hyperobvious to her. I often suspect that she enjoys the feeling of power she has over me during these moments; the image that usually comes to mind when I think of these scuffles is pretty basic. We're in the ring; she's the young, invincible Mike Tyson; and me, I'm backed into the corner with my head ducked behind my fists, hoping it all ends soon without resulting in too much brain damage. Somehow, as always, a few minutes later, we were chuckling and snuggling. How we got to this point I have no idea, although I suspect it had something to do with her having wreaked sufficient (ie., outlandish) emotional havoc on my soul -- in her calculations we were now even. Feeling semi-manly once again (hey! I'd survived!), I foolishly dared to point out 1) that I'd made a point of checking in early on in the discussion to see if she wanted to spend time on her feelings before we started actually discussing her project, and 2) that I'd only starting discussing the substance of the topic after -- She stopped me here and said, "No, you were handing out unwanted advice." "OK," I said, "but I only started handing out unwanted advice after you explicitly told me that you didn't need to do any venting." And she made this response, with really impressive conviction: "But you should know that when I say I don't need to vent, I really do." Not for the first time, I find myself ruefully marveling over the number of things a husband is supposed to know about how to handle his... posted by Michael at October 31, 2003 | perma-link | (21) comments

Friday, October 24, 2003

Pointy Toes
Dear Friedrich -- Are women in L.A. still wearing long, pointy shoes? (Does this shoe style have a name, do you know? Evo-fashion maven that you are ...) They're still being worn in NYC, a fact that amazes me; it seems to be something more, if only slightly more, than a fad. How do the shoes strike you? When I first noticed them, probably about a year ago, I found them appalling and amusing -- semi-fun to look at, but sheesh. These are shoes so slim and elongated that there must be an extra inch of shoe out there in front of the toes. How do the women wearing these things not trip over their own feet? Yet, despite its absurdity, the fashion is still with us. (Always a good question: why do some fashion-things stick around for a time while so many don't catch on at all?) Interesting to note, too, that the women wearing these pointy clown shoes aren't just the usual fashion-victim crowd. The shoes seem to appeal to a larger percentage of women than the usual, ghastly high-fashion fads do. Even so, they're such an extreme kind of taste thing that ... Well, hard to imagine that many men find them exciting. In fact, I find it hard to imagine a woman wearing these shoes to please any man, a few nutty pointy-shoe fetishists aside. And just for the record: women aren't decking themselves out in absurd shoes BECAUSE OF ME. Happy to admit that I like it that women often take care with their looks. Happy to admit that I like it that women are often enthusiastic about decorating themselves and making themselves appealing. But -- picture me here pleading my case before a judge -- it would never occur to me to insist that any woman wear wobbly, dangerous shoes. Well, over-wobbly, over-dangerous shoes, anyway. And of course I'd never insist, just gently suggest. But still! Fond though many women are of presenting their own preferred behavior as something they're really doing for someone else's sake, I think it has to be said that the current pointy shoes have "women sometimes get carried away with fashion fads purely for their own sake" written all over them. Or do you think I'm being unfair? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 24, 2003 | perma-link | (32) comments

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Women, Men and Decisions
Dear Friedrich -- Do you find that (generally speaking, lots of exceptions allowed for, etc, etc, yawn) women and men have different ways of approaching and seeing the question of making a decision? As far as I can tell, men see a decision as something 1) to be faced or avoided, 2) if faced, then dealt with, and 3) if dealt with, then moved on from. Women, on the other hand, seem to see a decision as the first step in a long process of renegotiation and revision, all of it emotionally fraught, and with every agonizing step of it to be deeply relished. For them, decisions aren't so much something to be made as emotional-conversation starters. Wary that I might be generalizing unfairly from mere personal experience, I dug in and did extensive research -- ie., compared notes over drinks with a couple of married buds. They both nodded their agreement. And as we told our stories, we also ran into something I now think of as the "flipping a coin" syndrome. Here's how it goes. When it comes to making a choice, we guys tend to proceed by narrowing things down to a small set of acceptable options, each one as good as the other. At that point, though, how to choose? Well, we might literally flip a coin -- something we discovered all of us do on occasion. We also discovered that, in the case of all three marriages, this practice drives our wives crazy. Why should this be? By now we were a couple of drinks into the topic, and here's what we came up with: we suspect that women don't like the arbitrary, cast-your-fate-to-fortune aspect of flipping a coin; in their eyes, a choice shouldn't be committed to until a good, emotionally-solid (or something, god only knows what) reason has been settled on. Our wives are appalled -- morally? emotionally? esthetically? -- that, past a certain point, we truly don't care. They want us to care. But why? That one we couldn't answer. But, conveniently enough, I just lived through an example of what we were musing about. I happen to have bought tickets to two of today's Film Festival screenings, yet I'm getting over a bad cold and don't have the energy to make it to both. A decision was needed: which screening to go to? As fate would have it, both movies sound equally promising, and both are equally inconvenient to see. So, 30 minutes ago, (and with The Wife's encouragement, I'm puzzled to note) I settled the question by flipping a coin. Or thought I'd settled the question. Five minutes ago -- and I'm not sure how this happened, but it did -- The Wife managed to reverse that coin-flip decision. We're now going to the other screening instead. Now, this is OK with me, because I never really cared which movie we finally saw; that's why I was happy to flip the coin. So what was really going on during those... posted by Michael at October 19, 2003 | perma-link | (33) comments

Sunday, September 28, 2003

I'm Exhausting
Friedrich -- You know that multipart posting I put up a few back? The one here, where everyone's now pitching in with movie-list and book-list ideas? I wrote it that way because I had a dozen things knocking around my head that morning and couldn't settle on only one of them to post about. So I decided, "Oh, the hell with it. Rather than plod from one to the next and lose most of what I have to say, why not do what I can to spatter them all out there at the same time?" Looking back at the results, I now realize that once I'd written, I should have broken the mega-posting up into a bunch of separate postings. Oh well: live and learn -- or try to, anyway. I asked the Wife a little while ago what she thought of the posting. And, sweetly, she took another look at it, and said a few appreciative and wifely things. Contented, I trotted back into hobby-land. A few minutes later I found The Wife lying in bed with one hand pressed wearily to her forehead. "What's up?" I said. "It's that posting," she said. "What about it?" "Well, it's like being married to you." She gave me an accusing look and then closed her eyes. She's snoozing now, evidently still In Recovery. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 28, 2003 | perma-link | (4) comments

Friday, September 19, 2003

Sexy Words
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Friedrich -- I'm on my way to work this morning, listening (as always) to an audiobook, my mind half on its contents and half on the day to come. But some small mental seed is starting to push its way up and through ... There's storminess ... There's dark blue and black ... There's a slim, black-haired woman wearing slim black leather ... Yep, it seems like ads for the movie "Underworld" are everywhere -- on buses, billboards, phone booths and more. Well, I harumph to myself, that's certainly another movie I'll be doing my best to skip. But that tight leather thing she's wearing ... And then (having long ago lost track of what the lecturer on my audiobook was talking about) I wake up to what my mind's really been gnawing on: the word catsuit. What a sexy word "catsuit" is: slangy, defiant, confident, slinky-snakey. Feline, too, of course, but not in that annoying way real cats are feline. And redolent of Emma Peel and Diana Rigg, and Michelle Pfeiffer too, of course -- can't beat that. And I start musing about sexy words more generally, and how interesting it is that non-vulgar words can even be sexy. I don't have much of a list of sexy nonvulgar words going yet, and I'm hoping you (and any and all visitors, of course) can pitch in here. (Sexy vulgar words we'll return to in another posting.) I guess slinky is pretty sexy, although you've got to get past the Slinky toy. Soigne. Cognac. Leather. Gotta admit that I find papaya and mango sexy, if in a tiki-house way. Wait, I find tiki-house pretty sexy too. I know there'll be a big gray zone here -- is breast vulgar or non-vulgar, for instance? Let alone nipple? And hey, does anyone else find the word vulva trance-inducingly sexy? I sure do. I think they're all gray-zonish words myself. Our usual four-letter favorites? Fine and pungent, but definitely vulgar. So, sexy non-vulgar word nominees, please. Hmm ... Ribcage? ... Tight? ... Assignation? ... Diaphanous? ... Sarong? ... Any word whatsoever, so long as it's spoken by Barry White or Kathleen Turner? ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 19, 2003 | perma-link | (30) comments

Saturday, September 6, 2003

Jargon Update
Friedrich -- Remember that recent posting (here) where I spent some time marveling at how sexed-up girls are these days, as well as how young some of these girls are? 2Blowhards visitor Mark Worden wrote in to pass along some hilarious slang terms I hadn't run into. Here are two ways of referring to sexed-up girl-children: prostitots, and eleventeen ho's. And here's a name for college girls who are sluttishly gotten-up: sorostitutes -- sorority plus prostitute. Mark points out that he didn't invent these terms; they're currently in use among kids. Some semi-scholarly online references: here and here . That second link, by the way, takes you to a page that features some other neat new slang terms too. Thanks to Mark Worden. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 6, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

Friday, August 29, 2003

Pixelvision Meets Thongworld
Friedrich -- * I walk to Penn Station to catch a train out to a friend's place on the island. Lordy, what a girlwatching summer it's been -- a riot of tummies, of front and rear cleavage, of stretchy-clingy fabrics, of wispy, abbreviated layers of this and that. Those white pants women are wearing this summer -- are they really meant to be ever-so-slightly transparent? Underwear has been on public view for more than a few years now, of course -- I've seen this described as "deconstructed clothing." But even so ... In any case, the girls and women remind me of the chic new architecture: a matter of ever-shifting translucent panes, of alluring surfaces twinkling one right behind another, all of them beguiling the eye while moving forward and back, in and out. Some people find this kind of thing to be bliss. I find it to be like an endless diet of whirling TV graphics. Walking around the city these days, I have to do my deliberate best not to walk into lampposts. Casual girlwatching used to be an easy-to-manage thing, something I could do semi-consciously. Now the pressure is so high and the attractions are so loud that it's almost impossible not to girlwatch. * It's my first time on a NY commuter train in a few years and I can't keep my mind on the book I'd like to be reading, Jack Kelly's very good hardboiled PI novel Mobtown (buyable here). Am I feeling frazzled? Has my 50-year-old brain finally given out? Nope: it's cellphones. I'd heard from commuter friends how intrusive they can be, and I recall newspaper articles discussing the possibility of cell-phone-free train cars. I now understand why: the devices are amazingly effective at stitching holes in your zone of privacy. They do so in ways the usual train distractions (snoring, newspaper-rattling, conversations a few seats away) don't. The tweeting and chirping, the way people speak so loudly into them ... But what's most distracting is overhearing only one side of a conversation. Why should this be so especially annoying? Like many of the new digital toys, cell phones make sinking into your own thought-world difficult. It's as though they were designed specifically to distract, and to prevent you from entering any kind of reflective state. * It's striking how the display of near-intimate body parts -- and of piercings and tatoos (properly placed: tailbone, shoulder, etc) -- has become a standard part of the competent new young woman's get-up. Here's my theory about tatoos, piercings and implants. Much that used to be considered intimate and private is now public property, yet a woman still needs to hold a little something in reserve. How to do so? She can't hide behind clothes any more. So the defenses are now placed under (or through) the skin itself. She may be presenting her body in a near-naked state, but something still stands behind the real her and the rest of the world. A related theory... posted by Michael at August 29, 2003 | perma-link | (29) comments

Which Movie Couple Are You?
Friedrich -- The Wife and I had a typical morning -- which means, in short, that she tried to have a "meaningful conversation" while I tried to establish some plans and facts. It was all a blur of mild indignation, mild exasperation, this and that -- and very fond, loving and familiar, needless to say. Then we got on with the day. As usual. We're a cliche straight out of the pages of "Mars/Venus" and "You Just Don't Understand," in other words. She's the ditzy blonde who's always in the midst of one semi-developed feeling or other, and ever on the verge of a free-associating monologue about her amazing self; I'm just-the-facts Mr. Literal, gazing on his spacey lady with loving bemusement, and wondering why life can't occasionally be a little simpler. She's (mildly) offended when I ask her what she's getting at; I'm (fondly) exhausted by the endless circling and picking-apart. The Wife sometimes compares us to Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser in "Mad About You"; I'm more reminded of Gracie Allen and George Burns, but I see her point. (I'd better.) I'm tempted by a few Larger Reflections here, mainly along the lines of, Sheesh, the older you get the less remarkable you realize you are. Why are we as young people convinced we're unique? But I'll resist the bait, and will instead limit myself to asking: Which archetypal movie or tv couple do you and your wife tend to find you resemble? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 29, 2003 | perma-link | (10) comments

Thursday, August 7, 2003

Gals, Guys, etc.
Friedrich -- * I've watched a few episodes of Absolutely Fabulous and a few episodes of Sex in the City. Good stuff! Clever, funny, well-turned, exuberantly performed. Yet I didn't enjoy them and will probably never watch them again simply because the women portrayed in the shows are too much like many of the women I work with in my mediabiz job. ("Insane media broads" is my general category for them.) When I leave work, the last thing I want to do is spend more time around these loons, even if they are on a small electronic screen, and are being satirized. Unfair, but then again I'm not writing criticism or reviews here. No, instead, I'm reflecting on life's passing pageant ... (Chirp, chirp. Tweet, tweet.) A woman friend from out of town who's a fan of "Sex in the City" was once expressing her enthusiasm for the show, then said to me, "But the women in NYC aren't really like that, are they?" Um, er. Well, actually, if you drained the satire out, you could take the shows as documentaries about that class of gals -- the ones who abso-positively have to eat at the restaurant that the glossy magazines won't catch up with till next week. Women who are trying to live out the fantasy lives of a certain type of thrilled-by-the-scene gay man, in other words. I have an easier time watching "Ab Fab" than "Sex in the City" because the Ab-Fab gals are portrayed unapologetically as raging, unhappy, self-centered monsters, while the "Sex in the City" gals are presented as high-strung, maybe, but also cute and lovable. (Ah, American audiences and their difficulties with satire.) I watch the show thinking, "Cute? Lovable? How about selfish, hysterical and vain????!!!" (Then I pull myself together and change the channel.) It's quite an experience watching a tableful of these narcissistic NYC mediagals babbling about their favorite topic -- which is how unfair it is that a bunch of such really super women should have such a hard time finding decent men. It's one of life's funnier jokes that many of these gals -- active creators of their own unhappiness -- make a living telling other women how they ought to live. I'm a little bewildered that so many noncrazy women enjoy not just laughing at but identifying with the "Sex in the City" characters. What do you suppose they're enjoying? Picturing themselves as glamorous, freely sexual, and sophisticated (yet still cute and vulnerable)? If so, I guess (sigh) that's harmless. Still, living the media-centric life I lead, I find myself dwelling on how nuts the real-life counterparts of the "Sex" gals are. I've made a couple of visits to the red-hot heart of "Sex in the City" country -- the Conde Nast building in Times Square. Conde Nast is a media empire that publishes a ton of lifestyle and beauty magazines; its lunchroom is famous for having been designed by Frank Gehry, and its staff is heavily female (and... posted by Michael at August 7, 2003 | perma-link | (13) comments

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Puzzle for the Day
Friedrich -- I was reading Ni Vu Ni Connu (here), the blog of a Montreal freelancer named Martine -- tres charmant, and highly recommended. And off the mind wandered ... A good sign, or so I like to think -- certainly, in my case anyway, an indication of a happy mind ... With verrrrrrry limited -- tiny, really -- experience, I have the impression that I rather like French-Canadians, who sometimes seem to combine what's great about the French (food, style, wordliness, charm, artsiness, sexiness) with what's great about North America (informality, lack of pretention). Another one from the Dept. of Overgeneralizations, I know -- but I'm fond of making overgeneralizations, so indulge me please. And now that I'm thinking about it, I realize for the first time that I don't know French-Canadian lit or art much. Barely at all, in fact, though I do like a handful of their movies --"Decline of the American Empire" and "Mon Oncle Antoine" are certainly standouts. Are you familiar with their writers or visual artists? The mind wanders further afield ... It's leaving Montreal ... It's thinking about women ... It's thinking about France ... It's thinking about French women ... Well, OK, not thinking but musing ... And it settles on something that has long puzzled me. Which first requires a bit of a setup. Setup: France is a more hierarchical, more socially conservative place than the U.S. is. Forget the damn nationalized health care for a sec, forget the radical posturing of French intellectuals, forget all the current headlines about immigrants and such. It remains a centralized, tradition-bound, bureaucratized society, anything but the freewheeling go-realize-your-own-destiny, make-of-yourself-what-you-will, land of opportunity that America kinda-sorta-almost is. (Oops: not "America" but "the States." Apologies. Time to attend to the sensitivities of our immense Canadian readership.) Fact: You don't know the meaning of the words "stuffy" and "bourgeois" until you've spent some time in France. One aspect of this -- the aspect that interests me in this posting -- is that France has much more strongly defined sex roles than we do. Men are supposed to do (and be) this, and women are expected to do (and be) that. OK, given all that, here's the puzzle: Why, then, have the States had a much more dynamic feminist movement than France has ever had? It's bizarre, non? American women have had much more open destinies than Frenchwomen for quite a long time -- Google tells me that French women couldn't vote until 1945, and that until 1964 they couldn't even open a bank account without hubby's permission. So where are the French bra-burners, the French lawsuits, the inescapable Women's Studies programs, the endless bulletins from H.R. about what is and isn't permitted? In the early-to-mid-'90s, the States went through a sexual-correctness phase; France laughed. Even granting the existence of the occasional celeb French feminist, the difference in attitudes between here and there is dramatic. Wouldn't you think that French women have a lot more to complain about... posted by Michael at July 31, 2003 | perma-link | (12) comments

Thursday, July 17, 2003

An Actress Connects with her Inner Power
Friedrich -- Here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 17, 2003 | perma-link | (2) comments

Friday, July 11, 2003

Free Reads -- Virginia Postrel on Panty Lighting
Friedrich -- Legislators in Texas hoping to conserve energy have passed a law that more or less mandates flourescent bulbs in commercial settings. Victoria's Secret isn't pleased; the scanties the company sells look their scrumptious and enticing best under fancier kinds of lights. Virginia Postrel reports on the tiff for D magazine, and does some brainy musing on the good ol' American theme of efficiency vs. aesthetics here. Sample passage: Sure, Victoria's Secret could save a lot of trouble, energy, and money if it just installed enough fluorescents to make the room bright. But neither the merchandise nor the customers' skin tones would look as good. The "immersive experience" of shopping wouldn't be as enjoyable. The unmentionables wouldn't move off the shelves. Pleasure and quality of life: worth an extra few bucks or not? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 11, 2003 | perma-link | (10) comments

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Sex Tips
Friedrich -- Do we love this here for its openness and matter-of-factness, etc? Or does it make us instead think thoughts like, "Hmm, maybe a little shame and discretion aren't always such bad things"? I'm not sure myself. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 10, 2003 | perma-link | (7) comments

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Free Reads -- Gaydar, Camp, LBD and More
Friedrich -- I noticed the comment where you mentioned that you're puzzled by camp (as in gay-humor camp, not summer camp), and I was thinking -- in an enthusiastic but wary-of-too-much-effort kind of way -- of doing a posting on the subject. I'm a clueless het from the sticks, but I've spent more time than most such living it up in the Village and hanging out with gay friends. Why not capitalize on that a bit? Hmmm, let's see: "The Big Lunk's Guide to Camp." Or maybe: "Some Straight-Guy Notes on Camp." I had a general direction for the posting to go. Start with camp being an underground thing, and bring it right up to the present, with nearly all of pop culture being suffused with camp, so much so that most people probably don't recognize it as such .... (The girly/tough look of the "Charlie's Angels" sequel -- hyperbright, candycolored, videogamey -- seems to me to come straight out of David LaChapelle.) I was even mapping out some "questions" and "issues" to poke and tickle: Why was camp so much more fun when it was underground? Are out-of-the-closet gays happier but less brilliant? Do straights know how much in the way of camp they're being fed? How would they react if they did? Might the pre-eminence of gays in pop culture have something to do with the cluelessness about how-to-be-a-man that I see in many young straight guys these days? And then, thanks to Daze Reader (here), I ran across an issue of The Stranger devoted to contempo gay life, here. Not bad! Don't miss Edmund White (here), who says everything I was hoping to say with much more authority and wit than I could ever manage, or Dani Cone (here) on the question of Lesbian Bed Death: Real or Not?, or Andrew Sullivan (here) on how annoying it is that people automatically assume that gay equals Democrat. Many other funny, smart and informative pieces -- a damn fine issue, really. I love it when other people do what I was hoping to do, and especially when they do it so much better than I could have. As one of my campier gay friends likes to say: Less work for Mother. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 2, 2003 | perma-link | (2) comments

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Magazines and Hip Fat
Friedrich -- A quarter of an hour at a crowded, chic local magazine store has left me pondering a few things. 1) Young women are still wearing hiphuggers and showing off their midriffs. It's been a couple of years since this style began, no? Which is longer than I'd have expected it to last. Do you, as I do, sometimes wonder about when and why and how some fads turn into standards? I was wondering about baseball caps worn backwards, for instance. A year ago it seemed to me that they were on the verge of becoming a standard, like khaki trousers. This summer, poof, they're gone. There are only a few baseball caps to be seen, and most of them are being used for forehead-shading purposes. Why? What happened? As for hiphuggers, they may still be with us, but something about the style seems to have changed. A year ago, the fashion seemed to be all about being wild and daring -- about how-low-can-you-go -- and it seemed to me that the focus was on the millimeter above the pubic hairline. This season, my eyes seem to be drawn less to the crotch-diving V and more to the hips as seen from behind. To the hip fat, to be more exact -- the wiggly, tender stuff that rides the hipbone, the bulge right where it starts to turn into a waistline. Is that where you feel your eyes being steered? I think this is the first time I've ever felt my attention directed to that feature. Once again I marvel at the ingenuity of women (and the fashion industry), who manage to keep the female body looking fresh, different and alluring. Look here. No, there. Now I'm going to cover it up. But not before giving you a little glimpse. Gasp, pant, collapse. 2) I spent a couple of minutes leafing through some of the more avant-garde glossy magazines. Is this anything you ever waste time on? Amazing creations: fabulousness everywhere you look -- in the design, the photography, the printing, the concepts. (The writing's just gray stuff between the images and graphics.) These magazines are all about dazzle, dude, and as displays of media fireworks they're hard to beat. I look through them feeling as though a slow-motion nuclear explosion is going off in my brain, incinerating the few IQ points I still have left and leaving the rest of me happily stupefied. I'm a blissed-out cinder going twinkle, twinkle, bzzzzt, crackle. Which isn't exactly what I'm looking for from a magazine. I tend to like something a little more reflective and thoughtful, something that leaves me wrestling with (dare I say it?) a thought or two. These things leave me feeling pumped, wowed, overthrilled, and empty. Basically, they make me feel like masturbating -- hey, I noticed a new magazine, very edgy, called SelfService -- or maybe (even better!) like going out and buying something. Which, come to think of it, is probably the point. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 14, 2003 | perma-link | (14) comments

Friday, May 23, 2003

Tennis Gals vs. Tennis Guys
Friedrich -- The tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams are fabulous athletes who are on track to go down as two of the greats. I'm a tennis fan who's followed the sport on and off for more than three decades, and who, for the last decade, has largely stopped watching men's tennis -- too bam-bam boring. Ah, women's tennis: drama, personality, strategy, frequent long rallies -- tennis as it once was, not some flash-cutting stunt circus. Its own game, with its own qualities, and not just a pale imitation of the men's game. And closer to what I think of as "tennis." But Venus and Serena have introduced a level of power and athleticism into the women's game that seems to approach what the guys routinely display. And, to be honest, I don't know how I feel about that. I worry as I watch them mow down one opponent after another. On the one hand: gosh and golly, what they do is amazing! On the other: gee, I'd hate to see the women's game go the way of the men's. I like the stuffy old back and forth of traditional tennis. So I've often found myself wondering: how close to the power level of the men are Venus and Serena anyway? I've never known, at least not until this morning, when I found the answer in an article by Allen St. John in the Wall Street Journal (not available online). Here's how it goes. The women pros often train by playing or rallying with guy players. Which guy players? And how well do the women do against them? It turns out that these practice-session guys are usually top-level college players or low-ranking pros. It also turns out that these guys can more than hold their own against the tippy-toppiest women. St. John gives an example: In 1998 Serena jokingly challenged Karsten Braasch of Germany, then-ranked No. 200. Until that time, the pack-a-day smoker was best known as the impetus for the ban on smoking during changeovers. The match, played on a practice court with little fanfare, wasn't close. Mr. Brasch beat Serena 6-1, then turned around and beat Venus 6-2. Apparently the big factors in the diffs between the men and the women are foot speed (the men can run down a lot more shots than the women can), and the amount of topspin that can be generated (the men seem to be able to put as much as 50% more spin on the ball than even the strongest women). I'm breathing more easily thanks to St. John's article. It looks like the women's game won't go the way of the boom-boom men's game for a few years yet. Hey, the French Open -- my favorite of the big tournaments because it's on clay, which slows the game down -- starts in a couple of days. The official website is here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 23, 2003 | perma-link | (9) comments

Monday, May 19, 2003

These Girls These Days
Friedrich -- There's some fuss out there about David Brooks' Atlantic article "The Return of the Pig" (readable here). Brooks writes in his piece about Maxim magazine, and about what significance there is to be found in the new laddishness generally. Which makes me ask two questions. 1) Isn't this piece about five years behind the times? And 2) Hasn't anyone looked at the young women's magazines recently? They're as coarse and slap-happy as Maxim. Remember Cosmo? Well, the young woman editor who replaced Helen Gurley Brown revved the magazine up with thwacka-thwacka graphics and has given it a Riot Grrrl kick in the pants. It's now full of aggression and attitude. Some sample features and featurettes from a recent issue: Spat of the Month: "His burping and farting really skeeve me out." Butt-Ugly, Not-to-be-Believed Bridesmaid Dresses 5 Times It Really Pays to Act Ballsy Hot for Higher-Ups Add Oomph to Newlywed Nooky Jane magazine is similar, if slightly (I'm guessing here) hipper and more upscale. But it has the same MTVish design and the same you-go-girl ethos. Some features, items and pullquotes from the current issue of Jane: He's Small But You Love Him (a reference to his length, not his height, and illustrated with graphics of sex positions) Sima and Jason Don't Really Like Each Other. Booze Works Wonders. If You Screw Like You Drive, I'll Walk "Britney makes want to beat the living shit out of her. She's a total fake, with the crappiest live show since the Brady Bunch performed." The Truth behind Brad Pitt's Expanding Boxers Do you hear the same haw-haw horselaugh I do? The same Whoosh! Pow! Yeah! Haw haw haw haw! Actually, the 22ish-year-old women I run into these days laugh just like that, as though using a vulgarity or doing something greedy is a great personal triumph, like winning the British Open. Take that, Maxim. Sensitive zeitgeist detector that I am, I've picked up a few related signs-of-the-time too. One is the way a number of 30ish-year-old women have been complaining recently to me about 22ish-year-old women. Granted, women turning 30 often do complain about younger women. These recent complaints, though, seem a little different than the usual. They're delivered with a look of concern and outrage. The younger women are badly behaved. They're self-centered. They've got no conscience. They do evil shit. Something, it gets conveyed to me, has gone wrong in the culture generally. Thinking (as, despite all, I sometimes still can't keep myself from doing) with my own smaller head, I notice that I don't find these 22ish women alluring. They're certainly physically attractive. They're bright and shiny. They're proud and aggressive. They're healthy and big. And all I get from them is an initial Fwoof! (Then they're off somewhere, going Haw haw haw...) There seems to be nothing more to them than that initial Fwoof. We used to say "Is it real or is it Memorex?" I guess these days we might say "Is she real or... posted by Michael at May 19, 2003 | perma-link | (26) comments

Monday, April 21, 2003

Women and Men, Chapter 7,623,088
Friedrich -- Do you have any luck getting your wife to talk about ideas, art and politics? I pretty much have to put a headlock on mine in order to make such conversations happen -- this despite the fact that she's far more interesting, more sensitive, and more insightful than I am. Left to her own devices, though, she'd spend 90% of our conversation time talking about her feelings, pulling apart relationships, and discussing the maintenance and upkeep of her own wonderful self. (The rest of the time she'd spend talking about food.) But the really awe-inspiring thing is the way she takes any attempt on my part to get the conversation on to any other topic as something cosmically unjust. What's normal and just is talking about feelings, etc., while any desire of mine for, say, a casual exchange about the morning's headlines is apparently a perverse quirk, and barely to be tolerated. As corny a guys=Mars/gals=Venus cliche as this is, there you have it. I do notice one thing that might qualify as an original perception: while her hours of gabbing about relationships etc leave me feeling drained and exhausted, they leave her feeling all charged up -- stoked. From which I deduce that, in the Wife's mind, the right and proper thing is for the man to burn himself up and be left a charred husk so that his woman might spend an hour or two feeling good about herself. I got the Wife's consent to run this posting, by the way. I asked if it would be OK to write and post it. She gave me one of those "men will ruin everything unless you watch them carefully" looks, then said, "As long as you let everyone know how much you love me." (I do, I do!) And then we had a good, long, searching talk about how she's been feeling about herself recently. Best, if a trifle charred-huskish, Michael... posted by Michael at April 21, 2003 | perma-link | (11) comments

Monday, April 7, 2003

Friedrich -- A few musings after a short spell of porn surfing. I'm struck less by the quantity of porn -- who'd have thought it would be otherwise? -- than I am by the number of women willing to pose and perform. I dunno, I guess back in the days when porn was a rarer thing, I imagined that there were, oh, one or two women per state who'd be willing to do porn. A half-hour of webporn surfing and you're left with the impression that there must be thousands of women in each state willing to do this kind of modeling. Where do they come from? Plenty look hardened, professional or burned out. But many of them look fresh, pretty and sweet, too. Good lord, but there are a lot of severely-pruned bushes out there these days. Has this become standard among women generally? I haven't peeped in a women's locker room recently, so have no idea. Makes me wish I'd sunk my savings in a Brazilian bikini-wax franchise a few years back, though. There's something for everyone out there, and I mean everyone. My latest discovery: there are guys who dig it when beautiful girls fart. I'd pass along the URL, only I think our webhost forbids it, and I've misplaced it anyway. -- something like that. I used to think of my imagination as a lively and inventive thing, forever volunteering kinky and entertaining scenarios. Next to the web, it's a pipsqueak. Speaking of pubic hair and fetishes, tightly-pruned beavers are so prevalent that the natural look has become its own fetish thing. Girls and women who don't go in for landing-strip chic have become their own special class: "Hairy." Really: a description of a site or photo might read "Oral, facial, hairy." It's now a fetish category. The first time I clicked on a photo labeled "hairy" I braced myself for horrors, but the word seems to signify nothing more than natural, though young guys who review porn sites seem to think natural is gross. Still, I once ran across a French webpage devoted to nudes with untrimmed bushes. That was the whole point of the page -- the glory of the natural bush. Much ecstatic prose, praising the good old days, by which the author seemed to mean the '70s. Who the hell is Tawnee Stone, and why are pictures of her to be found on just about every porn site? Oops, was I not supposed to admit that I sometimes look at porn online? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 7, 2003 | perma-link | (22) comments

Thursday, March 20, 2003

AK -- Your 15 minutes may be up
Friedrich -- Hey, isn't that Martina's old doubles partner? Is it only me, or did the world just this minute lose interest in Anna Kournikova? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 20, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Free Reads -- Caitlin Flanagan on Sexless Marriages
Friedrich -- The personalities of some of some young people these days seem as freakish to me as the bodies of weightlifters and silicone babes do -- overdeveloped where pumpy media delights and career dynamism are concerned, yet completely atrophied in the inner-oomph (ie., spiritual, erotic, artistic, just-living, "character") department. Whats going to become of these kids when the pizzaz of youth passes and it comes time to start drawing on deeper resources? Reviewing in The Atlantic some new books about sex and marriage (especially the new two-career marriages), Caitlin Flanagan seems struck by the same question. When I was a teenager, in the 1970s, I was always quite happy to accept a baby-sitting job, because I knew that once I got the kids to sleep, I could read The Joy of Sex for an hour or two; I don't think I baby-sat for a single family that didn't have a copy. There was a sense that young parents of that generation-granted, I grew up in Berkeley, which may have skewed the sample considerably-were still getting it on. Similarly, the characters one encounters in Cheever and Updike, with their cocktails and cigarettes and affairs, seem at once infinitely more dissolute and more adult than most of the young parents I know. Nowadays, American parents of a certain social class seem squeaky clean, high-achieving, flush with cash, relatively exhausted, obsessed with their children, and somehow -- how to pinpoint this? -- undersexed. Shes perceptive and funny, and shes certainly describing some of what I see going on around me. How about you? The piece is readable here. Best, Michael UPDATE: A little birdie tells me that this piece was already highlighted on Arts & Letters Daily, so I cant pat myself on the back for having made a pioneering find. Damn.... posted by Michael at March 4, 2003 | perma-link | (3) comments

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Humbled Again
Friedrich -- The Wife and I were out at dinner the other night with a woman friend. We talked of this, we talked of that. Then the Wife and our friend discovered that as girls they'd both been horseback riders. They'd both owned horses. They'd taken part in competitions in California within a few years of each other. They compared notes; their eyes shone; they imitated the sounds horses make; they made cute faces and burst into giggles; they talked about how much they missed their horses; they looked at me pityingly ... A man will never be anything more than a poor substitute for a horse. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 25, 2003 | perma-link | (4) comments

Monday, February 17, 2003

Safe Bets -- Hard Core?
Friedrich -- I don't know why it's taken me this long to develop this hunch, but in any case I've finally gotten around to it. Here it is. Forgive the lengthy setup -- I can't figure out a way to get to my point without going through some preliminaries. Remember how, decades ago (centuries ago!), back when putting nudity and sex onscreen seemed new and exciting, it wasn't uncommon to hear that what many directors really wanted to do was shoot a real movie -- real script, real techies, real budget -- starring real, recognizable actors that was also a hardcore sex film? Here and there, a few directors got close to that goal, with pictures like "Last Tango," "The Last Woman," "Going Places," "In the Realm of the Senses"... Actually, "In the Realm of the Senses" was a hardcore art/sex movie, although I don't think the actors were well-known. (I recall that the girl was really good and that the guy was pretty bad.) But, as can be deduced from such recent movies as "Romance," "Eyes Wide Shut," "The Center of the World," "Baise-Moi" (hardcore indeed, but the art side of the equation was weak), "Y Tu Mama Tambien," and "Lies," the dream lives on. Will it never come to pass? I'm betting that it will, and any day now. Why? I think the answer to that question has to be "Why not?" What with the supercharged eroticism of the mass media, the easy availability of porn, the web, the "empowerment" of girls and young women, the ease and cheapness of the new digital tools -- how could it not happen, and soon? Heck, with projects such as Jennicam, Isabella @ Home (which I recommend, and which can be seen here), Grownup Girl (also recommended, and here) and Natacha Merritt's Digital Diaries (sample-able here, buyable here), these kids these days are more than halfway there already. Come to think of it, why should anyone -- particularly edgy digital youth -- care about a big, dumb, overexpensive medium like the movies anyway? That's a place to do action, animation, and stars, not to take chances. Though I'm told that Natacha Merritt wants to become a director. I wonder what kinds of movies she's hoping to make. Isabella, Grownup Girl, Merritt: In charge, and why not? Still, this is the generation for it. Kids today seem almost bizarrely uninhibited. They're square in many of their attitudes, but sexual matters seem to them to be little more than a hoot, just another set of buttons to be pressed and icons to be clicked on. Sex? Hey, it's about horsing around, posing for the camera, acting out fantasies from ads and videos, and feeling hot. Which also suggests that sex may simply not mean all that much to them. All the old religio-artistic significance? Finito, as far as I can tell. The taboos have been lifted once and for all, everybody's "in charge of" their own sexuality, whatever the hell that means, eroticism... posted by Michael at February 17, 2003 | perma-link | (7) comments

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Dept. of Overgeneralizations -- More Women and Food
Friedrich -- Many postings ago (here), in the midst of wondering out loud about women and their relationship to baked goods, I mentioned a woman anthropologist who'd studied food and sex across many cultures and who'd come to an interesting conclusion about the sexes. After all the study, she now believed that, if all other variables could be held constant, women would spend most of their time searching for food while men would spend most of their time looking for sex. The other day, I noticed a report on a sociological study. While I forget where this report appeared, I did copy and paste a passage summarizing the study's findings, which go like this: Women think what they eat is more important to their personal wellbeing than their sex life. Seventy-nine per cent said their diet was the key to their happiness. Imagine! What apparently lies underneath a woman's fussing and feeding is ... well, apparently not the hot-to-trot tramp we guys like to imagine when we try to have a go at her, but instead a creature who'd really like to do a little more fussing and feeding. Impartial, in-depth student of the sexes that I am, I polled two women for their reaction to these facts. The Wife said, "Well, of course it's true. The challenge for you when you want to initiate sex is basically to get my mind off food. Now, pass me that plate of oatmeal cookies." Another, my former tennis partner, wrote me an email saying, "Not surprising in the least. I think that for myself. In fact, I just made a humongous pot of chicken chili. Yum yum." Best, if with badly battered ego, Michael... posted by Michael at February 13, 2003 | perma-link | (20) comments

Thursday, February 6, 2003

Free Reads -- Amy Sohn on Hasbians
Friedrich -- I knew lesbians were chic five minutes ago, and I'd heard of LUGs (lesbians until graduation), and I've certainly registered that for a certain class of kids sexual identity seems to have become a mix-and-match thing. But I hadn't yet heard of "hasbians" -- gals who were once with gals who are now with men. Been there, done that, now doing something else. Amy Sohn tells us more in New York magazine, here. Sample passage: If there are more hasbians today than ten years ago, Sharpe thinks, it may have to do with the excitement of the gay-positive early nineties. The aesthetic of gay politics was really cool. There was that whole act up thing, and it was easy to be gay. You had k.d. lang on the cover of Vanity Fair with Cindy Crawford, and there were all these lesbian movies like Go Fish. The gay community felt more exciting back then, and there was something alluring about entering into that scene. Its like a junior year abroad to Gay World, says Sullivan. Lots of girls at Brown, Berkeley, Barnard, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and Yale go there but dont stay there. For lesbians over 45, sexuality wasnt a choice. It wasnt popular to come out. It was pre-Madonna and preSandra Bernhard. Hey, weren't the early and mid-'70s, when we were in college, also very gay-friendly? And weren't a fair number of girls messing around with other girls back then? Not that anyone these days wants to hear about it. Once again, we're the Generation No One Took Note Of. Crushed by the passage of time, Michael UPDATE: Jim Miller has a posting on the "hasbians" phenom here.... posted by Michael at February 6, 2003 | perma-link | (11) comments

Sunday, February 2, 2003

Free Reads -- Pictures of Sex
Friedrich -- I'm not sure I'd have guessed the figure was quite this high... Ryann Connell reports in the Mainichi Daily News that three-quarters of Japanese people between the ages of 20 and 35 admit to having been photographed or videotaped having sex. The story is readable here. Sample passage: "There's no doubt resistance to appearing in sex scenes on film has weakened among a growing number of girls over the past two or three years. In fact, many probably regard being filmed having sex as normal. Ten years ago, barely anybody would have even thought about it," cameraman Shozo Furusawa tells Spa! Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 2, 2003 | perma-link | (5) comments

Friday, January 24, 2003

Too Pooped to Pop?
Friedrich -- The 1950s ... [March of Time music here] ... Era of repression ... Shiny surfaces concealing massive frustration ... Women kept in their places ... Well, maybe. But maybe not, at least so far as making the beast with two backs is concerned. A new study from The Kinsey Institute suggests that outgoing, achievement-oriented, uninhibited new-millennium women are having less sex than those unfortunate, uptight '50s housewives enjoyed. The BBC report is here -- followed by entertaining collection of comments from readers, opinionating and telling their own tales. I'd feel perversely triumphant about this if only the report weren't coming from Kinsey, whose famous early studies of sex were biased and inaccurate, and led to lots of pointless talk and speculation. The idea that 10-12% of the population is homosexual, for instance, is one we owe to Kinsey. But, hey, maybe they've shaped up and become trustworthy. Link thanks to Daze Reader (here). Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 24, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Free Views -- Apartment House Wresting
Friedrich -- "WARNING - This site contains images of women in bikinis, underwear, or semi-nude and engaged in boxing, wrestling, and general mayhem towards each other." How to resist such a come-on? I didn't, and had a very good time browsing the galleries of a very sweet website devoted to what's known as Apartment-House Wrestling, viewable here. Thea vs. Leonora, 1972 Though I confess that I'm still uncertain exactly what Apartment-House Wrestling was. A '70s-'80s tacky entertainment form that I apparently completely missed out on at the time: Gals in bikinis, etc, wrestling each other in apartments. (Fan of bikinis and gals though I am, I think I enjoyed the glimpses of the era's apartments just as much.) But are the stills that are on display taken from movies? Or were the wrestling matches staged just to generate the stills? And how was the material circulated? Under the counter, as a kind of soft-core, Betty Page-ish porn? Perhaps "Dr. Chin," who is apparently still fine-tuning the site, would consider including a page of information answering such basic questions? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 15, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Femme (Lit) Erotica
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Friedrich -- As you know, in the last twenty or thirty years a lot of women artists and writers have made attempts to move into erotica, into porn, and into the edgier precincts of art. Do you enjoy keeping tabs on what they're up to? I do. Why? Partly for erotico-religio-aesthetic reasons that I'll save for a slower day. But partly also because it's simply fun (and occasionally beautiful and moving) to watch women stretch their wings. There's also the interesting-art-and-sex-puzzle side to it. Which, as I see it, is this: Given that women haven't traditionally played the straightforward, aggressive-pursuer role, given that many women don't seem as narrowly sex-centric as men so often are, and given that sex per se is the basic motor of this kind of art -- well, how can the woman artist move to the center of it and take command? I'm interested; I want to know the results, or at least watch the effort get made. So I'm a student and fan of all this, and it's a corner of the art-and-lit worlds I'm forever returning to. Over the holidays I treated myself to three fairly-recent erotic books by women. I caught up with The Sexual Life of Catherine M., a memoir by a French art-magazine editor named Catherine Millet that created a scandal some months back. Susanna Moore's In the Cut caused a fuss a few years farther back; it's basically a writing-school attempt at doing something hard-boiled, thriller-like, and sexual, but from the female point of view. Both of these books have some serious lit pretentions. I also read through one example of flat-out erotica, a collection of stories, Dark Desires, by an author who calls herself Maria del Rey. What's the verdict? Well, I had a good time. I often like it when art pretentions are mixed up with erotica -- the boundary between art and porn is one I'm fond of exploring. So that wasn't the reason I found myself skimming through much of the French memoir. Did you read about it at all? Millet writes about her sex life, which seems largely to have consisted of saying No to almost nobody; she's a woman who has made her orifices available to hundreds of men, whether in the forests of the Bois du Boulogne, or in sex clubs, or in artists' studios, or in the back seats of cars. As a book, it's a strange and arresting piece of performance art. Millet's take on her own story is about as French as can be: ie., clinical, distanced, chic, philosophical, existential. She isn't going to make sense of it. She isn't going to go searching for explanations. She isn't going to justify it. C'est comme ca, and that's all there is to it. I'm actually rather fond of the genre: the intense, existential Frenchwoman's book about sex,alienation, masochism, negation, and spirituality. I tend to take it (and enjoy it) as a kind of chic, sexy grandstanding. This... posted by Michael at January 14, 2003 | perma-link | (7) comments

Monday, December 16, 2002

Free Reads -- Wendy Perriam on erotic books
Friedrich -- Have you ever run across the Bad Sex Award? It's a competition (for the worst passage about sex in a new novel) run by the British magazine the Literary Review, and it's apparently done very (or at least semi) straight-faced. There are judges, nominees, a final award dinner, and lots of press coverage. I sometimes wonder how I'd react if I were given such an award. Would I have enough toughness, bemusement and irony to triumph over the humiliation? I doubt it. I'd pout, my lip would start to tremble, I'd be fighting tears. I'd be a perfectly lousy sport, I'm afraid. In any case, this year's winner, Wendy Perriam (nominated three years running and finally making off with the prize) seems to be handling the honor nicely. She's written a short column for the Guardian where she recommends ten books about sex. It's readable here. Sample passage (about "Portnoy's Complaint"): The irrepressible sexuality of the theme is echoed in the exuberantly potent language, which seems to surge up and spill over on the page. And Portnoy's raging sexual desire is paralleled by the rage he feels towards his Jewish mother and the whole of Jewish culture. Roth has been called 'the historian of modern eroticism.' He's also hysterically funny. Link thanks to the blog Daze Reader (here), the best source I've found online for news about sex. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 16, 2002 | perma-link | (2) comments

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Nicole Kidman
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Friedrich -- Are you a Nicole Kidman fan? I am. She has pretty much everything I want from a star, even if minus much of the acting talent. She has beauty (although in her case I'd say that she has extreme prettiness more than beauty, if by beauty you mean, as I do, something idiosyncratic, poetic, and mysterious), daring, a love of hurling herself into things emotionally and physically, an entertaining (in her case, apparently unguarded and engaging) public persona, an eagerness to play the game. All that, a star marriage and divorce, unfair rumors, and terrific luck, too. I smile when I encounter her; I'm glad to see her; I'm amused by the roles she takes and the directions she steers her career in; I'm involved (in a semi-camp way) with her personal travails. Plus she once told British GQ that she enjoys "going commando," by which she apparently means that she sometimes doesn't wear underpants. Heaven-sent, yet going commando Acting talent? Well.... enough. She was genuinely good in "To Die For," but have any of her other performances shown much range or skill? Yet I don't mind, and don't see why I should, even if I wouldn't want her to be much less talented than she is. She is a funny case, though, because in so many ways she seems pure actress. She likes making daring choices ("Eyes Wide Shut," etc), she's full of enthusiasm, and she seems to think like an actress about the people she wants to work with and chances she wants to take. But that just reminds me of how little a role acting talent per se really plays in stardom. I still get annoyed by people who run down the likes of Julia Roberts on the basis of her not being a very good actress. I'm not a huge Julia fan, and I don't by any means think she's the most gifted actress around. But she's obviously a very good and effective star. Mixing up acting talent with star power is one of those elementary mistakes people make when talking about performers. Star power is one of those things: a person who has it is simply somebody many people really, truly enjoy watching, and who crowds will go out of their way to watch. (Additional skills and talents are a bonus.) Who can explain it? For me, for instance, Miranda Otto and Minnie Driver both qualify as stars -- I love following both of them too. Yet neither one seems to have worked for the general public -- and, in Minnie's case particularly, it ain't for lack of trying. One more reason not to hire me as a movie executive, I suppose. This also reminds me of one of those elementary things. It came to me some years ago, as I was learning my way around the arts. I got to know some actors who, lord knows, were nothing if not actors; self-absorbed, overemotional, vain, transparent, silly, charming. At... posted by Michael at November 21, 2002 | perma-link | (8) comments

Thursday, November 7, 2002

Free Reads -- Catlin Gunn
Friedrich -- In the Guardian, Catlin Gunn kicks off a new series of columns with the tale of how she, a middle-class woman fresh from an office job, auditioned for work as a stripper. It's readable here. Sample passage: Terror has a way of making time stre-e-e-e-tch and three minutes seemed to last a day or two. I must have lost the slip and bra in the first five seconds because I found myself nearly naked with nothing left to do but rotate slowly like a great big girl-kebab in front of this horrible man who sat there as bored and impassive as a rock. It turns out that there's no elegant way to get out of your knickers while standing. Promising! Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 7, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Saturday, November 2, 2002

Free Views -- Cristina Aguilera
Friedrich -- When you check into pop culture as seldom as I do, you lose track of where current pop things come from, as well as what any of it means to anyone. It's all a big, sparkly blur, like an evening of clubgoing spent on drugs and in the company of strangers. You wonder afterwards: What was that all about? Cristina 1: Not yet Dirrty enough As for teeny-porn pop ... Well, I wholeheartedly approve, just as I wholeheartedly cheer the parents and teachers who worry about its impact. What's pop culture without these ritual stresses? But what do I really know about teeny-porn pop? And what do I know about how to judge it? Today, for instance, I stumbled across a new Cristina Aguilera video called "Dirrty," which can be viewed here. Holy moly! "Dirrty" is a pop blur, all right -- of sexy kids strutting and striking poses, of flashing lights, of taunting self-caresses, and of more provocative, athletic hip-twitching than I've ever seen in my whole long life. (I worry about the future health of Cristina's lumbar region.) For most of it, Cristina is dressed in leather chaps and red panties, whose crotch she aims at you whenever possible. Music-wise, there was a lot of whompa-whompa, of course, and a lot of whooping, hollering and growling too. You could tell when it was a blonde girl's voice because it soared out of control; you could tell when it was a black guy's voice because it growled menacingly. As for the lyrics, I could pick out only a few words: "get me off," and "sweatin' till my clothes come off" (I think a rhyme was intended). The video is like an encyclopedia of everything anyone ever thought was sexy, set to strobe lights and jackhammers. My first thought was, Lordy! As though it wasn't difficult enough learning sexual self-control 35 years ago! Surrounded by this kind of thing, how do modern boys ever stop masturbating? My second thought was, When did singing become a matter of vocal gymnastics instead of carrying a tune? I may be wrong, but I'm guessing it was about the same time pop music stopped being about songs and started being about sonic-effects-set-to-beats. My third thought was: there comes a moment in a young female performer's life when she decides to declare herself no longer a child, and I guess that moment has arrived for Cristina. A young movie actress usually marks the passage to womanhood by doing her first nude scene; Cristina seems to have decided it was time to break out the chaps and panties. All of which means that she has decided that, in her previous incarnation, she wasn't being sexual enough. Cristina 2: A woman now But here's the question I have no way of answering, having lost whatever feel for pop I once had: Has Cristina gone too far? Will her fans follow her? I do wonder. Physically, she's lost a little of her adorable scrawniness, and seems... posted by Michael at November 2, 2002 | perma-link | (12) comments

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Why We Love Performers, part 4
Friedrich -- Shakira: It's hormonal The feminist journalist vs. the sexy pop star, from the recent Rolling Stone "Women in Rock" issue. Mim Udovitch interviews Shakira: Udovitch: Do you think that when you write, you write from a female perspective? Shakira: No. I write from my perspective. I'm not a feminist. Maybe a few centuries ago, I would have been a feminist. But now I think women who don't fight for their place in society, I just think that they don't want it. Udovitch: It depends. There is a big difference between rich and poor, and that creates more oppressive circumstances for a woman, or for anyone, than simply the fact of being male or female by itself. Shakira: Yes. The differences are more between classes than even between races. Especially in Latin America. Where I come from if you are born poor and without an important last name, then you will die poor. But here in New York, the people who are considered to be the richest men in the country, they could have come from zero. In Latin America, forget about it if you are not rich. Udovitch: What do you think are the differences between Latin American women and North American women? Shakira: I think at the end we are all the same -- we are just rolling trouble. We basically are, it's just an excess of hormones that makes us so conflicted, you know? Our hormones play a big role in it, I think. And sometimes I consider men, and I feel sorry for them about what they have to deal with every day. Udovitch: Oh, I don't know. They have a few advantages. Shakira: Yes. They get a lot of love. They get a lot of love, but a lot of trouble. Udovitch then changes the subject. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 27, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Tacit Knowledge -- Polaroid
Friedrich -- Polanyi: How can we know what we don't know we know? Have you run across Michael Polanyi's concept of "tacit knowledge"? The idea is, roughly, that there are two kinds of knowledge -- "explicit knowledge," which is consciously learned and consciously held, and "tacit knowledge," which undergirds everything else. Tacit knowledge is what we "just know"; it's knowledge we don't think about, that we've somehow picked up along the way. "Explicit knowledge" would be knowing, for example, how to use Photoshop. But think of the volume of "tacit knowledge" that has to be present in order to make that explicit knowledge possible -- familiarity with machines, with electricity, with how digital imagery works... Polanyi was a fascinating guy, by the way. I'd think that anyone whose brain buzzes to the ideas of Hayek or Sowell would get a charge out of him. You can explore Polanyi and his ideas here, here and here. Which is a long-winded way of kicking off an occasional new 2blowhards feature, Tacit Knowledge: an ongoing attempt to put into words things that are known but aren't known to be known, and to bring a few widely-known-but-generally-unacknowledged things out into the open. Though, depending on our mood, it's also likely to degenerate into another 2blowhards way to have a little mischievous fun. And in that spirit, here's Entry #1. An executive once told me this story: She was on a business flight and found herself sitting next to a guy who worked for Polaroid. He had a few drinks, and started to talk about his employer. "We don't kid ourselves," he said. "We know what most of our cameras are being used for. Lots of photos of the kids. And then...." -- and he cocked a flirtatious eyebrow. Do you suspect, as I do, that "being able to shoot ourselves having sex without anyone else knowing" also helps explain the popularity of videocameras and digital cameras? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 19, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Gross Over-Generalizations -- Women and Baked Goods
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Mood heighteners? What is it with women and baked goods? Last night, for example, I was at dinner with the Wife and a woman friend when the talk turned to food and thence to baked goods. The two women lit up: Which bakeries are are the best right now? Have you tried this pastry? How about that one? What about that recipe that was in the Times? And where do you buy your bread? The two gals were still happily discussing these pressing matters when the dessert menu arrived and gave the topic another boost. I can certainly enjoy a good piece of bread, but I don't have much to add to these conversations. Do you? Bakeries and pastries .... I've got as much to say about them as I do about manta rays or weather balloons. Plus there's the fact that sweet, chewy, grainy things just don't mean that much to me. Since it seems to be law that eating a lot of them will make you fat, I simply don't eat them. It's no big sacrifice. But women! Their moods go up and down; they really, really care. They feel better when they can have something sweet. They give the bread or cake or cookie a good look and feel before placing it in the mouth. They're crushed if they have to deny themselves a brioche. Becoming a woman in Paris Leafing through some evo-bio book a few years ago, I came across a passage where the (woman) author was writing about differences between women and men. She had looked at tons of cultures, modern and ancient. And her conclusion? She wrote that, if it were possible to factor out all variables, she'd bet that the the biggest difference between the sexes would prove to be that women would spend most of their time searching out and fussing over food, and men would spend most of their time and energy pursuing sex. Sounds about right to me. To you? Thiebaud likes painting them more than eating them Even allowing for many exceptions (male pastry chefs and bread bakers, for instance), doesn't it seem that women show an amazing affinity for cakey, moist things that tend to the sweet? (I recall, if dimly, some passage in Virginia Woolf where she referred to women and their gabble and their little cakes....) There are male customers at the local high-end bakery, but not many. It isn't men who make a detour just to see "what's in the window of that cute little patisserie over there." I don't recall ever seeing a table of non-gay men babbling while passing around and around a dish of little colored cookies. Look at the expressions on the faces of the women in the photos accompanying this posting -- angelic, foolish, "caught," eager, blissed-out. You get the impression that they could spend their lives with their hands in the cookie jar. And the symbolism of "the cookie jar" ... When... posted by Michael at October 16, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Female Gaze
Michael I was driving down the road the other day when I passed a bus shelter and spotted the following Bebe ad. Eye Catching? (By the way, all the pictures in this posting are pop-ups, and it helps to click on them so you can see them in more detail.) From my not-very-well informed point of view, fashion ads seem to divide into two overlapping, but essentially independent camps: one aims at making women attractive to men, and the second provides fashionable women with firepower in their struggle to demonstrate superior taste. Frankly I look at ads from the first camp and ignore the ads from the second camp. Bebe, being emphatically in the first camp, tends to get my attention. But there was something about this particular ad that caught my eye. (And I assure you, the fact that the girl was managing to display her face, her breasts and her thighs had nothing to do with my interest. I am shocked, simply shocked that anyone would suspect me of such impure motives!) Regrettably, having only 1.7 nanoseconds to look at the ad, I couldn't study it at the length it so obviously deserved. It left me with an impression suggesting a narrative or dramatic context (i.e., the girl seemed a tad flustered getting ready to go out on a big night on the town.) But that didnt entirely explain my feeling that I was seeing something relatively new here, something that had unusual echoes. So when I got back home I picked up some of my daughters/wifes fashion magazines and started checking out the ads. They seemed to divide, relatively straightforwardly, into the following categories: 1. Direct Eye Contact Category #1 is the most common, with one or more models making direct eye contact. This replicates the effect of trying clothes on before a mirror. 2. Avoiding Eye Contact Category #2 involves a female model avoiding eye contact. Here you're supposed to look at something on the model, as if on a mannikin. Generally used for jewelry, skin care ads, hair care ads, etc. 3. Radiantly Happy In Category #3, we generally have one female model making direct eye contact, while looking radiantly happy. This foreshadows what a shopper will see in the mirror after she tries the product. (This is a sort of old-fashioned ad strategy and is never used by products attempting to create a high status impression. Apparently, very high status women are never radiantly happy or at least never allow other women to catch them at it.) 4. Everyone's Looking At Me (Including Me)! Category #4 involves one female model looking directly at the camera while other models (usually men) stare at her. This reproduces the common experience of fashionable women who constantly check themselves out in store windows and mirrors while in the presence of other people. 5. Love the Life You Lead, Lead the Life You Love In Category #5, a more rarely used strategy, we have multiple models (usually male and... posted by Friedrich at October 10, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Sunday, October 6, 2002

Parental Discretion Advised
Michael Youve asked me what its like to be a parent in todays sexually saturated environment. Well, lets just say its kind of tricky. My adolescence left me with decidedly ambiguous attitudes about how parents should deal with their teenage childrens sexuality. My parents tried to bravely overlook my very existence as a sexual being, although somehow they communicated that if I got some girl into trouble there would be hell to pay, mister. (They neednt have worried: the spectacle of watching them fight regularly as clockwork every Sunday afternoon in combination with my own stupifying clumsiness with the opposite sex was the best birth control method ever contrived.) While the resulting lack of unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases during my teenage years was undoubtedly a good thing, this approach did leave me mystified as to how they expected me to ever make them grandparents. So I have a certain inner tension when confronted with sexually charged material in the presence of my childrena confrontation that occurs every morning. I drive my teenage daughter and a friend to school, and they insist on listening to a Top-40 radio station that has some fairly explicit material on it. My mental advice to the musicians and the diskjockey tends to be: Hey, sex is great, guys, without it none of us would be here, but please remember that around adolescents this stuff is like high-explosive Brylcreema little dabll do ya. Dispenser of High-Explosive Brylcreem The other day my parental hackles started to rise when the lyrics from Nellys song Hot in Herre floated out of my radio speaker: Nelly: I was like, good gracious, ass bodacious Flirtatious, tryin to show patience Lookin for the right time to shoot my steam (you know) My trigger finger was itching to find the channel changer when the hook suddenly came on: Nelly: I said: Its gettin hot in here (so hot) So take off all your clothes Which, I will grant you, is kind of funny; but the real kicker was the next line: Docile chorus of female singers: I am gettin so hot, I wanna take my clothes off At this point I relaxedfalse alarm. It was obvious that we had crossed the line from discussing any aspect of reality and entered into the oldest male fantasy in the book: being able to control a woman and make her do just what you want her to, with no fuss or muss. I looked over at my daughter, who presents a placid, easy-going exterior to the world, while actually possessing a will of iron (which she inherits from her knows-her-own-mind-thank-you-very-much mother.) Platinum-selling artists the world over could try lines like this on my daughter for years without ever once getting her to coo obediently I am getting so hot, I wanna take my clothes off. Frankly, once I listened closely, I realized that even the girls getting paid to sing this nonsense on the radio were managing to do it without a shred of... posted by Friedrich at October 6, 2002 | perma-link | (1) comments

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Free Reads -- Porn 101
Friedrich -- In the Weekly Standard, Matt Labash looks at a series of how-to videotapes entitled Porn 101, here. A caveat: it takes Labash, who seems determined to achieve a tone of dry bemusement, a few tedious paragraphs of disclaiming any real interest in porn before he starts delivering the ever-interesting goods. Earth to Matt: your interest in porn is prurient, our interest in porn is prurient, and that's ok. No need to keep your hands quite so clean. Sample passage: Keep in mind that there's a lot of downtime between scenes. "Bring something to read or needlepoint or something," says [Nina] Hartley. Likewise, bring slippers. Nothing's worse than spending a hard day astride your fellow actor, then wanting to take your heels off after the scene, but not having any slippers. "You don't want to walk around barefoot in some of these places," warns Hartley. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 28, 2002 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Thong World
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Friedrich -- Are you as amazed as I am by the culture's embrace of the thong? I'm surprised I haven't read more about this phenomenon. Lord knows we've seen a lot of thongs in recent years. But who has tried to make sense of the vogue for them? Camille Paglia is one. She argued somewhere, persuasively I thought, that the butt awareness of the last decade or so has to do with a couple of things: the way the American population has become less vanilla Anglo-German (ie., breast-fixated) and more dark and Latin (ie., butt-fixated), and the way the aesthetics of pop culture have become more frankly gay. I'm not sure I can do better than that. Can you? Sure fun to think about, however unsucessfully. Here's my attempt to initiate a conversation on this vital topic. Back in paleolithic days, thongs and g-strings were naughty-naughty, worn by strippers, or by obliging sex partners in the boudoir. In the '80s, thongs came to mean pumpy, muscular aggression, as some women began wearing thong-back ("t-backs," weren't they called?) leotards to the gym. And wasn't it about then that some European and South American women began to wear thongs and g-strings on the beach? About 10 years ago, visiting a friend whose daughter was then about 13, I was given a tour of the apartment. On the wall of the daughter's bedroom, she'd taped ripped-out pages from teen fashion magazines. One of them was a page of panties, and several of the panties were thongs. Heavens! Young teen girls were now thinking of thongs as everyday undie options. Thongs were becoming poppy, peppy, healthy. A couple of years ago I noticed my first thong line. (The upside of doing a lot of walking on crowded NYC sidewalks is getting to watch a lot of women's behinds.) This one crisp, confident woman striding along before me was wearing a clingy skirt that made it clear she was wearing a thong. There was no doubt about it, it was meant to be noticed. Up till then, I'd thought of thong undies as something worn to avoid the dreaded "panty line." This was the first time I'd seen the "thong line" as its own signifier. But of what? I'm struck these days by a couple of things: how ubiquitous thongs have become (the Wife just brought home a few that she picked up on sale at the Gap), and how, given the new, stretchy-smooth fabrics and cuts, it seems downright necessary for women to wear thongs. Traditionally-cut panties, worn under cyberstreamlined clothes, make even a pretty-good butt look like a lumpy sack of potatoes. In any case, thongs these days seem to be everywhere, which is bliss. But, then again, they're everywhere, which also means they don't have that old sweaty, prurient, uncomfortable, assholey-buttocky, naughty allure. The element of forbidden, wicked surprise is gone. Instead, thongs are now part of the well-prepared young woman's portfolio, along with the cell phone, the... posted by Michael at September 25, 2002 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Free Reads -- Genetics of Maleness
Friedrich -- In the Observer, Sean O'Hagan interviews geneticist Steve Jones on the topic of what scientists know about maleness, here. Sample passage: There are over 500 courses on men's studies in American universities. I mean, what the hell are they on about? This idea that if you understand how men work, emotionally or even biologically, the problems affecting men will simply go away. It's nonsense. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 18, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Saturday, September 7, 2002

Friedrich -- We marvel at the way people deprived of traditional religion will promptly start believing (and in a religious way) in something else -- Marxism, say, or Freudianism, or modern art. But they do, and they will. A friend of mine laughingly says that we might as well resign ourselves to the fact that people have a gene for religion. It occurs to me that maybe people also have a gene for taboo. I find myself thinking this as I'm pondering today's young performers and today's styles of sexiness. Sex is everywhere; so is sexiness. And it's all, literally, out there -- porn, gayness, bellybuttons, discussions of anal sex. Underwear is outerwear. At the same time, sex seems to have stopped being something mysterious. When sex was taboo, it had radiance and power. Alluring experiences circled around it: religion, poetry, art, feelings of exaltation and bliss. (All that=eros.) These days sex seems to be about as fascinating as programming a macro, or as double-clicking on an icon. The de-sacralization of sex is a triumph or it's not. What I notice is this: that as taboo has come off sex, it hasn't simply vanished. Instead, it's landed somewhere else. To be precise, it's landed on race questions and sex-difference questions -- all the subjects P.C. prevents people from talking about openly. Perfectly nice vanilla kids adore rap, and Eminem is a huge star. How to explain this? Questions of talent aside, what strikes me about these stars is that they're acting out cartoonish fantasies of sexual and racial stereotypes. They're acting out what's forbidden (masculinity, heightened racial attributes), and they make use of what are today's dirty words: ho, nigga, etc. It gives the fans a thrill -- more of a thrill, as far as I can tell, than does sexual titillation. These, and not sex, are now the subjects that have a mystique, and an aura. Thus my conclusion: that something will always be taboo. Lift taboo off one area of life, and it'll simply settle on another. Taboo, like religion, is part of the basic and inescapable furniture of life. It's standard, unavoidable equipment. And, hey, wouldn't it be something if the gene for religion and the gene for taboo (and, hey, maybe the gene for art too) are all kinda intertwined, ya know what I mean? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 7, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Thursday, September 5, 2002

Bebe, Musicals
Michael I saw a production of "Chicago" in London, but Bebe wasn't in it. Some German chick was the star. I really liked the music, but somehow--I don't know if it was the staging or the costumes or what -- it seemed like the girls' abdominal muscles were supposed to be the subject of the play. Great as those abs were, it was about as erotic as watching people strip down to get deloused. I suppose the idea was to throw the "meat" in your face, but was it supposed to be vaguely depressing? Maybe I was just in the wrong mood. But I find musicals a challenge. It always strikes me as a great idea going in, but never seems to have delivered as I shuffle out of the theatre. I heard the soundtrack album of "Rent" the other day which was painfully jejune. I mean, I need some guidance here. Cheers, Friedrich... posted by Friedrich at September 5, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Friday, August 30, 2002

Big Picture, Derbyshire Style
Friedrich -- A wonderful passage in John Derbyshire's column in today's NRO, which can be read in full here. He's writing about being religious. It has always seemed obvious to me that this is not the real world. This is a world of shadows; the real world is somewhere else. I can remember knowing this even as a very small child, and responding intensely, as soon as I could read, to any expressions of it in print. (For example, in Lewis Carroll's Alice books, which are steeped in it.) I can even remember, around age seven or eight, I think, my surprise when I realized that there are people who don't know it. It is the fundamental religious insight, and so far as I can see it is temperamental and congenital: Some people know it, and some, including a lot of very honest and decent people, just don't. It might, of course, be an illusion; but then, as the Empiricist philosophers pointed out, so might anything. Do you read this thinking, "Yes, indeed"? I differ with Derbyshire on some details -- my sense is more one of inhabiting parallel worlds, and on multiple planes, for instance. But I do know what he's talking about, and I'm grateful that he's spelled it out so directly and unapologetically. Like him, I remember how apparent this seemed to me as a child -- these other dimensions were simply there, as freely available to me as my right hand. And, like him, I recall my amazement on discovering that some people had no sense of these other dimensions at all, or at least chose to ignore them. You learn to be guarded, of course. You learn to take care, though over time you also learn to recognize people who might understand what it is you'd like to talk about -- and who might have their own secrets they'd like to tell you about, too. (There's a sense of a code shared; these are people who are able to look under the daily surfaces and recognize each other.) Puberty seemed to muddy the waters somehow. Was it the hormones? The anxieties? Being overwhelmed by that teenage feeling that dismal life was crashing down on you? But I always knew I wanted my clean, direct access back. I've never been religious in the sense Derbyshire says he is, and the Presbyterianism of my youth never did much for me, even though there was a month or two when I gave being religious my (self-deluded) best shot. As a teen, I thought that studying science might give me back easy access to other dimensions. Then I hoped that languages and travel might. Then it was drugs, then sex, and finally art. As a younger adult, full of hormones and energy, I thought that connecting with "it" would be a matter of goosing myself up -- hauling myself up onto a superior, and super-energized, plane. (Along the way I've fallen for a lot of fads and fields --... posted by Michael at August 30, 2002 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wrong Field Redux
Michael I recall having the same general feeling the first time I walked across the UCLA campus in springtime, with all the coeds running (and walking and lying) about... That is, "What an IDIOT I was to go to my Lousy Ivy College!" Not so cheerful about it, Friedrich... posted by Friedrich at August 30, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

I Went Into the Wrong Field
Friedrich -- Some men had the sense to become professional photographers of "art nudes," one example here. What was I thinking when I took a job in the mainstream media instead? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 30, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Symmetry, Classicism and Eros Redux
Michael Is it possible that you go for the more mature female? In 1971, when Susan George was in "Straw Dogs," she was 24 and you were approximately 17. I mean, she was a Woman, capital 'W' variety. No matter how hard I try to overcome it, I'd feel like a child molester having anything to do with a Christina Aguilera or her contemporaries. (I was just explaining that to Britney the other day--nothing personal, babe.) For me hot young things are 30-ish women pushing baby carriages. Yep, you want to find me, just check out the local Mommy & Me classes--I'm the one ogling the women in the back dressed in a raincoat. In the interests of full disclosure, I will point out that my extremely good looking wife can also be found at Mommy & Me classes. Which is not to argue with your observation that younger women can have a sort of shock effect, at least temporarily. I stumbled across some high explosive I'd never heard of called Charisma Carpenter the other day. I guess I don't get out enough, or something, to keep up with popular culture today. Cheers, Friedrich... posted by Friedrich at August 29, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments