Sunday, September 30, 2007
I know the ACC has been poaching teams from the Big East on a regular basis, but I didn't realize how bad it had gotten until I opened the paper today. The following article appeared on page D11 of The Washington Post:
The headline writer didn't even make it to the end of the first paragraph where Kathy Orton correctly identifies Pittsburgh as a "Big East foe." The story was continued to page D14 where the headline was:
Cavs Score 27 Points in the First Quarter to Go 4-0 in the ACC
One of my regrets in dropping my subscription to the Baltimore Sun was the poor college sports coverage of the WaPo. It seems my fears were justified.
On the weekends I walk my dog (you can read 100 Things About My Dog here) down to the local elementary school. The school is a quarter mile down a road behind a gate that is locked at night and on the weekends. I can let my dog run off-leash without fear of him running into traffic. He will wander around and sniff things but he always runs back to catch up with me.
Over the years my dog has found lots of things to eat on the side of the road or in the woods. People will throw french fries or chicken bones into the road. If it's bad for him, as most things are, I have to fish it out of his mouth and drag him away from it. Often he finds old rolls or buns. He has a special nose for baked goods. If dough were as valuable as truffles, I could make a fortune with him.
Yesterday, as we were about to get back to the main road (but still way behind the locked gate), I looked around and couldn't see him. I walked across the street and found him down in a clearing chowing down on a pile of bread loaves. Some one had thrown away at least a dozen loaves of bakery style bread down into the ditch. My dog had found the mother loaf and was in the middle of the pile just chomping away.
This morning, when we got to the school road and I let him off the leash, rather than follow me, he made a beeline to the pile of bread. I let him snarf down just enough to let me take a few pictures and this one-second video.
I'm baffled by why there is such a large amount of obviously expensive bread in such a remote place. Maybe some stoners had eyes bigger than their stomachs. Or some bread store thieves might have ditched their loot to avoid getting caught. Or perhaps a secret coven of yeast worshipers left it there as a sacrifice to the goddess of the harvest.
Whoever left it there is doing the local wildlife no favors. We have rabbits and foxes and the occasional deer out in those woods, but none of them need a baker's dozen of whole wheat. And worse, now I have to keep my dog on leash until other animals scavenge it away. But my dog has earned the title of Ultimate Bread Hunter.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: What is your theory on why the bread was there?
Friday, September 28, 2007
Any show I watch from the first episode and get hooked on is doomed. I chronicled my tragic track record over the years here. Last year I threw myself into Studio 60 with a vengeance, creating a Drinking Game and everything. The show failed so badly that it became a doomed laughingstock in the industry.
The silver lining was that since so much of my bad mojo was directed at Sorkin’s stinker, my other favorite new series set behind the scenes of a sketch comedy show escaped by the skin of its teeth. 30 Rock became one of the lowest rated shows to get renewed. In accepting the Best Comedy Emmy, Tina Fey thanked the “dozens and dozens” of fans. I humbly say “You’re welcome.”
This year nothing has energized me. There are a lot of mediocre shows with promise, but none seem to have the breakout potential of Heroes (I missed the first two episodes last season, thus letting it escape my curse.) Here is some handicapping of shows I’ve checked out so far. Most of them are very derivative and owe a lot of their genealogy to other shows or movies. We’ll see which are still on the air next year.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: What is your favorite show of the new season? I promise not to kill it.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
A while back Mooselet challenged her readers to post GoogleEarth pictures of where they lived. Her house is tucked away in the forested Down Under. I couldn't compete with that so I didn't bother. Besides, those GoogleEarth pictures are so grainy. Then I discovered a website called Zillow. Since I haven’t been in the real estate market for several years, I was unaware how out of control the availability of web info was. They had all sorts of public document information on my domicile. They even had some really great close-up aerial photos. So here it is, Casa Yellojkt:
It’s a fairly non-descript townhouse with a one-car garage and a walk-out basement. Judging by the Zestimates™ (the website’s silly name for their computerized market value estimates) my house is in the middle of the pack for my neighbors. If you look in the backyard, you can see the picnic bench my neighbors drink at while their Golden Retreivers pee in my postage stamp backyard. I don't mind too much since I’m the only unit in our group without a deck. I’ve never felt I needed a three thousand dollar gas grille stand. Every year when we budget the choice between a vacation and a deck, the deck always loses.
Some people can afford anything they want for in a house. Thanks to the power of Zillow you can envy or pity these people as well. Take this palace where the owner took the idea of his house is his castle a little too literally:
When this house was built back in 1998 it made the news as being the most expensive house in Howard County not owned by the descendants of a Declaration of Independence signer. In an area where ginormous houses don't merit a second glance, this house stood out in a way that would make Thorstein Veblen blush. I can’t Google any of the original stories, but if I recall correctly, the original owners won a decent sized lottery and sunk over half of it into building their dream house. Here are the stats:
16 beds, 8.0 baths, 86 rooms, 27,450 sq ft; 5.54 acres
Sold 04/23/2001: $2,528,400
2007 Property Tax: $32,531
Their first choice of neighborhoods rejected them for being too ostentatious. They found a more modest subdivision that was glad to take their money. Because here is the best part. This house is on a flag lot. There is an undeveloped lot between this mini-Versailles and the street.
I had never heard of flag lots before moving here, but they litter Howard County. On a flag lot, a driveway runs between two other houses to more houses behind the ones on the street. I’ve seen houses clustered in groups of six, two with driveways to the street and four more houses in the back on flag lots. I wouldn’t have a flag lot if you gave it to me (too much driveway to shovel), but clearly it was good enough for this massive erection.
Real estate is location, location, location, and this house is surrounded by homes one fifth its size and one third its value. Not a good choice for long term appreciation. When the owner’s only daughter went off to college, the couple put it on the market where it languished and eventually sold for about half what it cost to build. Fools and money are welcome clients of contractors and real estate agents.
My wife and I love to visit the Gilded Age mansions. One of the common themes is that the gaudy “cottages” the robber barons built themselves rarely stayed in the family for more than a generation or two. Between the upkeep and dwindling principal of the family fortune from spendthrift heirs, giant mansions quickly become hungry, hungry white elephants.
A McMansion is an oversized house on a rinky-dink lot surrounded by other monuments to middlebrow conspicuous consumption. By that definition, the Gaither Farm Road Folly is a McBiltmore.
If I ever have a fortune dropped in my lap, I hope I can keep my wants in line with my needs and stay away from a house where the window washing bill is more than my paycheck.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: How much house is too much?
Monday, September 24, 2007
Since I spilled the beans about those frisky geezers, it’s only fair that we check out the other end of the demographic. This is back to school season and parents of college kids are fearful that they are dropping their kids off at a four-year orgy and footing the bill for it. They have less to fear than they think according to the writers of the IvyGate blog. In their Sunday Washington Post Outlook piece called College Sex: Going Home Alone, they let on that perhaps things are not as wild as all those teen sex comedies make it out to be. In their words:
But as the Class of 2011 settles in on campus this month, we're betting that the students are discovering the cold-shower truth: The type of action they're likely to get is more hanky than panky.
I have no idea how the hanky line got past a clueless editor, and they also turn “heat up a Hot Pocket” into an innuendo-laden metaphor I really don’t want to explicate. Still, it’s good to know that things haven’t changed much since my college days.
One of the college secrets they let leak is the complete ambiguity of the phrase “hook-up”. At least two books have been written raising the alarm. WaPo writer Laura Sessions Stepp, who discovered the phrase “wingman” about a decade after beer commercials did, wrote Unhooked about on-campus lust. White-suited Tom Wolfe wrote a completely clueless essay about Hooking Up that later formed the base research for his instant classic I Am Charlotte Simmons. I recommend Charlotte Simmons to all the parents of female high school seniors I know. The rather over-the-top set pieces are typical Wolfeian masterpieces, but the overall level of hysteria is Reefer Madness hilarious. But it still terrifies parents of teenagers.
These parents spend the high school years wishfully thinking out loud “I don’t think my daughter is sexually active because she would tell me if she was.” Once their daughters become college coeds and legally able to sign Girls Gone Wild releases, the parents lock down into don’t-ask, don’t-tell mode even as the kids bring newly found boyfriends or girlfriends home on the weekends. Fortunately, statistics are on their side:
In a 2000 Zogby poll, 40 percent of students nationwide reported that they were not "sexually active" -- a term left vague enough to include everything from kissing to soliciting strangers in a Minneapolis airport men's room. At the country's top schools, the dry spells approach levels not seen since 1930s Dust Bowl Oklahoma. Harvard's health department reported last year that 47 percent of students there said they had not yet had vaginal intercourse. (Numbers not adjusted for homosexuality, apparently.) At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a 2001 survey found that only 51 percent of undergrads had lost their virginity; at Princeton the same year, the student body was 44 percent pure.
Parents and other interested parties often confuse having had sex with having sex regularly. One landmark 2000 study found that kids have an average of 10.8 hookups in college. That seems like a lot. But the math works out to only 1.35 hookups per semester -- and remember, some of these incidents are merely make-out sessions.
In 2005, a survey of four universities found that...80 percent of students had had one sex partner or fewer in the previous year.
So if those kids are having sex, they are keeping too busy with studies and activities to get TOO busy. These stats aren’t that much better than the numbers for kids in high school, meaning that if you didn’t get laid on prom night, your odds don’t improve much in your dorm room.
Of course, like the similar binge drinking stats, these beer glasses are half-full or half-empty depending on your situation. The primary purpose of sex surveys is to make you think everybody is having more sex than you. College students already erroneously think the other guys (and gals) are getting three times as much action as they really are.
And if you want a squeaky clean look at the travails of a college freshman as hot as Amanda Bynes, I heartily recommend the silly flick Sydney White. The film is loosely based on Snow White but also steals shamelessly from Revenge Of The Nerds toned down to a family friendly PG-13. And if I had to choose between fairy tales, I would have to guess that Sydney is much more true to life than Charlotte.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: College sex, over-hyped fear mongering or not that big a deal?
Saturday, September 22, 2007
In today’s Washington Post, Peter Baker reports that Dubya is so certain that Hillary will be the next president that he has practically invited her over to fit the windows for drapes. As if she didn’t have the measurements from her last residency. The astounding part is that a roomful of broadcast journalists took that revelation hook, line, and sinker. It’s sad to see clueless media types get so badly played that they don’t even realize how cynically they are getting used.
One of the more popular theories about Karl Rove’s resignation from the White House is that it gives him a free hand to stick it back into his bag of dirty tricks and pull out some rabbits. As soon as he turned in his West Wing pass, he ran right to a microphone to start trashing the junior carpetbagger from New York. His assessment of Hillary's weaknesses immediately garnered the whiff of wishful thinking. Clearly some elements of the GOP think the distaff Clinton would be the easiest opponent to run against next fall. By relentlessly attacking Hillary, her supporters rally around her and Dubya’s anointing her with the candidacy becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I really don’t care whether this strategy works or not. I don’t have a yellow dog in that fight, but it is fun to watch. However, we just might watch this house of games get turned against the players. Turd Blossom and whoever thinks they are the conservative kingmakers now better be careful what they wish for since these things have a way of biting back.
Karl Rove as a son of the South clearly knows the legend of B’rer Rabbit and the Briarpatch. However, nobody under the legal drinking age has ever had a chance to see the Disney version of the Uncle Remus tales in theaters. And Song of the South has never, ever, been released in the US for home viewing in any format. The master negatives are gathering dust in the darkest back recesses of the Disney vault, down past even the cryogenically frozen head of Uncle Walt himself. The Lost Arc of the Covenant has a better chance of seeing daylight than B’rer Rabbit and his friends.
Ironically, Splash Mountain, one of the most popular Disneyworld rides, is themed around the exploits of these folk characters. Not that any of the kids riding the ride will recognize them. The dated racial stigma of the movie has made it anathema in popular culture, but the stories have clever morals and pop cultural relevance that need to remembered.
Another Uncle Remus story with topical relevance that has garnered unfortunate racial connotations is the Tar Baby story. Mitt Romney played into the hands of gotchya political correctness watchers by using the metaphor completely accurately but naively and cluelessly.
John McCain forgave the rather sleazy Rovian tar baby rumors of a different sort in order to hitch his star to Dubya back when we were about to get assaulted by liberation roses in Iraq. Since then he has had a much harder time distancing himself from a regime whose interrogation techniques McCain has good first hand familiarity with. Maybe McCain can get some Democrats to start a whisper campaign that they could beat any Republican except McCain. Go ahead and throw him in that briar patch.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: Does the Dubya/Rove good cop/bad cop routine help or hurt Hillary?
Update (9/23/07): For another comparison between a cartoon character and a presidential candidate, see this post.
This post is for me, but you are welcome to follow along.
I love tags and labels. They are so useful for a scattershot blog like mine. My massively ADD mind cannot stay on one topic too long, so I need a way to find old posts of mine. I used to terribly envy Wordpress and Movable Type users that had all sorts of great label features. When NewBlogger added that feature, I jumped on it like a junebug and went and back-labeled over 300 posts. Now they are all neatly organized. Here is my guide to all the labels I have used.
Comics. Despite my semi-retirement as an active Comics Cardinal Commenter (I still lurk frequently), comics are the biggest topic on my blog with 53 posts to date. That makes about one out of every eight posts comics related, a ratio I'm happy with. Within the comics category I have separate tags for Foobs for all foobish attacks and ces for items related to the worlds of Sally Forth, Medium Large and the rest of the Fracesco Marciuliano media empire. I also have separate tags for my two National Comics Competitions, the original NCCC and the ncccc follow-up.
Travel. Somehow the travel part of my blog has become the biggest section. I do like to travel and it is the most blogworthy stuff I do. My trip to China merits its own tag, but you really should be reading my other blog, China Sights if you want to see all my China pictures with commentary. Travel sometimes overlaps with food.
Books. This blog is named after a Kurt Vonnegut coinage so it is only natural that books be a big part of the blog. Vonnegut, of course, gets his own tag even though there aren't as many posts as you would think. I do separately tag my monthly BooksFirst post which is where all my book reviews live. And while it hasn't caught on, I am the originator of National Just Read More Novels Month every January and it gets its own tag, NaJuReMoNoMo.
More pop culture. All the various other media forms get individual tags. For television I have tube and screen for movies. Music goes under tunes. Broadway and theater are covered by stage. Within those Melissa Etheridge and the now-cancelled Studio 60 have their own sub-tags. I have been neglecting the fishwrap tag for anything about newspapers. However, the late lamented Spy Magazine also merits special attention.
Life. All bloggers talk about themselves and I am no exception. I have a bunch of random sub-tags to try to place order on the chaos. Family is whenever I write anything that would embarass them if they knew about my blog. College covers stories from my college days, but since my son goes off to college next year, it will probably expand to include that. Paricularly sentimental posts get slapped with sappy.
Geek. I revel in my geekness. I do send an awful lot of time on the interwebs. Heck, I've been to balticon enough for it to merit it's own tag.
Meta. The blog does get self-referential and technical. I even obsess over my blogroll. I also get suckered into playing memes. The Achenblog Boodle even gets its own tag. And I should add one for Joel since he needs the eyeballs. And in the ultimate act of self-love, every six months I pick which of my posts are the best.
Politics and current events. I also label other controversial subjects like sex and gay issues. Plagiarism is also one of my hot buttons. And I do love the newsbabes. But my number one blog traffic generator was when I wrote about Brandy the Howard County hooker. I also even deign to write about Bawlmer sometimes.
I mentioned at the beginning that this post is really for me. I'm going to link to this post in the Granfalloons portion of my sidebar so that I have quick access to all the silly categories I've invented.
There will be a follow-up post where I admire the much more cleverly named tags I run across blog surfing, so you will get your chance.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: Let me know how you organize your posts.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
My son is a high school senior. It didn’t quite sink in until we went to Back To School Night for the last time. I will never again fall asleep to the principal droning on about what a great school year it will be. I'll never again hear the PTSA describe the goal of the annual fundraiser (This year it's a new sound system for the auditorium). I will never again tramp up and down the stairs trying to go from English to Math to Science in five minute intervals just to get all his teachers' e-mail addresses. As silly and pointless as Back To School Night is, in some way I will miss it next year.
A lot of other things we do this year will be for the last time. He is on the last season of marching band. This will be the last homecoming weekend. As he fills out college applications, I realize that any chances for big family vacations are closing.
The apron strings have been steadily fraying for several years. Last November he got my hand me down car and I quit driving him to school on my way to work. That also broke up the band practice car pool. Between his internship and his extracurricular activities, he is rarely home. Much like I was at his age.
I play it light, pretending that I am really excited to get him out of my house. I of course dread facing years of college tuition, but I want him to go to the place that is best for him no what the cost or sacrifice. I’ve got one kid and it is only natural for me to want him to have things I never had.
I keep trying to find the funny spin for this, but there are no easy jokes to be made at his expense. It’s easy to make fun of teenagers. They eat too much. They are disdainful of their parents. They sometimes make hilariously awful choices. And mine only gets to do it in front of me for one more year.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: What should I do to make this year count?
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
My greatest wish has come true. At midnight tonight, the walls to TimesSelect, the New York Times pay service, come tumbling down. For nearly two years, Maureen Dowd and her pontificating stablemates have been locked way in indentured servitude available only to those willing to pay $49.95 a year. While there were ways around the barriers, I was not one of the lucky ones with a .edu mail address that could sneak under the Times Select fence.
The official reason for discontinuing the service is that NYT sees greater growth opportunities in online advertising revenue than in subscriptions. There is a lot of truth in this. While TimesSelect had a subscriber base of about 220,000 a year, these numbers were soft and not growing. Meanwhile the crown jewels of the Op-Ed page were becoming irrelevant because blogs and other web sources just quit quoting the NYT columnists.
Links are the coin of the realm in the online world. Horizontal links from news aggregators like Drudge Report and Gawker are valuable traffic drivers. Joel Achenbach states that horizontal readers driven in by outside pages are much more numerous than vertical readers that come to a newspaper’s web page and follow stories from the homepage. With Thomas Friedman and David Brooks not linkable, they became invisible. And the opposite of relevance is silence.
In honor of this storming of the virtual Bastille, I have liberated this picture of Maureen Dowd from the Washington Post picture archives. When if I first professed my intellectual lust for MoDo, I scanned in this picture from the WaPo Magazine article about her because I couldn’t find an electronic version of it anywhere. Finally I discovered that it was available from the WaPo Photo Store. They wanted $49.95 for an 8x10 glossy. For that kind of money I could have gotten a year’s worth of her words instead. I even tried to e-mail a licensing request to no avail. Instead I am force to resort to playing the fair use card as posting it as review and comment.
Like TimesSelect, this wonderful picture is invisible on the web, but much coveted. I have gotten GoogleHits from people searching for “Maureen Dowd playing chess.” Taken by the Pulitzer Prize winning Michael Williamson, the image succinctly captures the essence of Dowd. She is playful, but whip-smart. She is well-read but not mousy. Casual and earthy but sexy and aggressive, with a gleam in her eye that could cut you to the quick. What is not to like?
Now I will once again be able to hang on every one of her rapier sharp bon mots and relish every deadly accurate pop cultural reference. In the words of a famous orator:
Saturday, September 15, 2007
On September 3rd, Mike Patterson opened a scrapbook and starting reminiscing about the days when his little sister and not his grandfather was the family member wearing diapers. Unless you had been forewarned, you wouldn’t have noticed the transition from the old real-time paced For Better Or For Worse to the fozen timeline of the semi-retired era.
The new format will be a hybrid of new strips, repeats, and redrawn old strips. It seems the original artwork of some of the older material isn’t usable. The older material is being introduced by every bad clip show cliché: looking at scrapbooks, running across old friends, bad acid trips. Just about everything except for Wayne and Garth waving their hands in front of their face going “didididididi.”
There has been a mini-flurry of publicity marking the occasion including this article in USAToday. The writer also conducted a very in-depth comprehensive interview with Lynn Johnston on his podcast. The interview has been thoroughly fisked by the fine folk at the Foobiverse Journal. Among the very interesting revelations:
- The syndicate didn’t want Liz and Eric cohabitating too explicitly, leading to years of speculation about the state of Liz’s hymen.
- She defends Mike running into the burning house for his manuscript instead of his laptop, oblivious to the criticism that he shouldn’t have run into a fire for any reason.
- One reason for freezing the strip and going to more repeats is that Lynn realizes she is having a harder time staying relevant to families with small children that don’t make more than a million dollars a year. No argument here.
- One topic she might want to explore is the effect of divorce using minor character Annie whose ex-husband is a philandering cad. Hmmm, interesting.
Thank goodness Rod/John was a dentist instead of a gynecologist or that recycled punchline would have not been newspaper friendly.
The silver lining in this domestic tragedy (or the insult added to injury, depending on your point of view) is that Lynn has much more time on her hands now than she thought she would. This allows her to put a little more effort into the strip than just randomly selecting old bits out of the hat.
The new strips will continue to tie-up some loose ends. Officially, Lynn is still being coy about the long-term status of the Lizanthony merger, but the handwriting is on the wall. Granthony’s upper lip has been shaved as clean as Ellie’s sheets. Those wedding bells are ringing. Weddings are a time honored shark jumping tradition. Along with an excessive number of nostalgic reminders of how things were when it was new and fresh.
This is how the Foobiverse ends, not with a bang or a whimper, but with a flashback.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: Is the inclusion of new material a good compromise or a sad cop-out?
Thursday, September 13, 2007
It’s only natural to be interested in the glamorous world of adult movies. Since most people have had sex at some time or another, it sure looks easy. The best possible way to dissuade yourself is to watch this video from the Adult Industry Medical (AIM) Health Care Foundation. They are a non-profit group founded by a former adult film actress that administers health screening tests to keep sexually transmitted infections (STI) out of the porn industry.
The first half of the two hour movie is a catalog of all the various STIs you can be exposed to. It could form the syllabus for an entire semester of high school Family Life class. They cover AIDS, gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, HPV, genital warts (you’d be surprised where you can get those), hepatitis, and herpes. They graphically detail the symptoms, transmission vectors, and treatments. If you make it through that gauntlet, they move on to a more general discussion on the adult film industry. For this portion they have the famous (or so I'm told) porn star Nina Hartley (fully clothed) explaining the ins and outs of the business.
Just in case you don’t have the free time I seem to have too much of, I have summarized the more interesting points:
Don’t do anything anyplace you are uncomfortable with. And by uncomfortable place, they don’t mean the back of a Volkswagon. If you haven’t done it in your private life, don’t do it on camera. You can’t ever undo it, but people get to watch it forever.
Don’t get overexposed. That is their pun, not mine. Grabbing every job you can get will burn you out. They will still be making dirty movies next month or next year. Take your time and make it last longer.
Your kids will find out. And your grandmother, your elementary school teacher and all your neighbors. If you can't explain what you do for a living, don't do it.
Reverse cowgirl is great for the inner thighs. Nina and Sharon pantomime some of the more popular positions. They say that one of the trickier moves is the fingercuffs style since the rhythm of keeping both ends in synch can be tough.
Some acting is required. If you are female, you have to be able to convincingly say “Gee, I’ve never done THAT with a girl before.” A lot.
Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, it's forgivable to go ass to mouth. This is good news for you fans of the Dirty Sanchez. They do warn that there is an increased risk of hepatitis. However, going ass to vadge is complete no-no. Their rule is “change the hole, wrap the pole.” Anything that has been through the back door has to get washed, dried, and wrapped before being allowed to knock up front.
There are no fluffers. Sorry, guys. Getting up for a scene is completely in your hands. Viagra and Cialis are miracle drugs, but you still have to prime the pump.
Make-up sponges make terrible tampons. If your friend visits while at work, don’t go to the stylist for a stop-gap measure. Those things are not very absorbent for a reason. A better choice is a specially shaped natural sponge.
The video emphasizes that the adult film industry is a career field requiring good financial management, perseverance, and sound judgment. That sounds too much like real work. I think I will stick to my day job.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: Are you cut out to be a porn star?
BonusScavengerHunt™: I’ve used three Kevin Smith movie references in this post. Can you find them? Identify the lines and the movie.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Every generation thinks they invented sex, despite what all those frisky geezers could teach them. The latest victim of the hubris of presumptive novelty is High School Music star and Teenage Girl President finalist Vanessa Anne Hudgens. Somehow, a photo of her nekkid as a jaybird found its way to the internet.
It’s a hard way to learn the lesson to never have a picture taken you wouldn’t want your mother or potential employer to see. Astoundingly, and perhaps suspiciously, the authenticity of the picture was immediately confirmed and apologies were spread all around. Then more interesting questions started getting asked:
Who took the picture? The general graininess and flash flare makes me think this was a crummy camera with a self-timer set on a dresser. I doubt there was anyone in the room with her.
When was the picture taken? If it was before Vanessa’s eighteenth birthday last December, it would be technically kiddie porn. Since nobody is waving that flag, it must be within the past eight months or so.
Who was the picture for? Opinions here are split between current boyfriend and HSM costar Zac “Too Cute To Be Straight” Efron and Drake Bell of rival tweener network Nickelodeon’s Drake & Josh. Zac in a well publicized beach romp with her must already be aware of how smokin’ her bod is. Drake is a rumored former crush and supposedly the recipient of previous advances. As a gentleman, he is denying everything.
Who leaked them onto the internet? The trail here is pretty cold. It could be someone with access to the camera it was taken with. Or it could be a friend of the recipient’s with access to his e-mail account. It could also all be a particularly puzzling publicity ploy since negotiations for HSM3 are still underway.
Is too big a deal being made of this? Most definitely. By sex scandal standards, this is astoundingly tame. Plain Jane nudity is almost quaint in this post-Paris world. We see more every time Britney Spears steps out of a limo. It almost makes Vanessa seem more wholesome. She doesn't have any tattoos or a Brazilian wax. She even took out her belly piercing for the photo. If anything, it shows that her budoir posing skills are every bit as wooden as her acting.
Am I a perv for hunting down this picture? That goes without saying. In my defense, it wasn’t hard to find and I was completely unaware of it until it made every entertainment news outlet ever. I'm not like the guy that found my blog by Googling “Jordan Todosey naked”. The Life With Derek costar has at least six years before her amateur cheesecake is fair game.
How creepy should I feel for thinking she is hot? Creepiness depends on age. Using the “half-your-age plus seven” guideline she’s off-limits to anyone over 22. Even by the more liberal “young enough to be your daughter” rule, I’m in hot water. My son is a senior in high school and actively dating. I just hope none of his girlfriends are sending him their private modeling sessions.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: Vanessa Anne Hudgens - Naïve waif or shameless tramp?
Sunday, September 09, 2007
As Baby Boomers hit retirement age, there is a lot of ink being spilled over how gracefully they will age. But we already have the example of the slightly older generation that is well into the Geritol years and they seem to be living it up. A recent study that made a lot of headlines surveyed the sexual habits of golden yearers and found that they are not going silently into that good night. They instead seem to me coming into their sunset years quite loudly.
Between the ages of 57 and 64, 84% of men and 62% of women had had sex within the previous year. I don’t consider 60 to be particularly old, so this doesn’t surprise me. By the age of 75 to 85, that stat falls to 38% for men and only 17% for women. Even better news is that among the sexually active old farts between half and two-thirds are getting action several times a month. I know some McBloggers with children that would love to break into that range.
A lot of this gender difference is pure demographics. Women live longer than men. By a certain age, 9% of men are widowers but an astounding 42% of women are widows. I have a theory that a guy in a retirement home with a valid drivers license that doesn't drool too much is the cock of the walk. In a way, old age mimics high school. A whopping 60% of the surveyed oldsters claimed to have had oral sex in the past year. Now despite the paranoid warnings of the TV news, that is a market penetration that the typical teenager can only dream of.
And they are not always being shy or coy about it. A Florida retirement center had a herpes epidemic from all the saggy skin slapping. At retiree haven Sun City West a few years back, they had a rash of outdoor sex sightings of it's senior sexa(and older)genarians. All I have to say is “Get a room!”
It seems that granny porn is everywhere in society now. Helen Mirren is a bona fide sex symbol. More explicitly, a new HBO series "Tell Me You Love Me" supposedly pushes the boundaries for even pay cable. One of the stars is sixty-seven-year-old Jane Alexander who plays a marriage counselor with her own rather active love life. As Tom Shales describes:
Where the show becomes discomforting is when it explores the therapist's own sexual relationship with her mate; both are in their 60s. The filmmakers want us to be aware that sex is not something restricted to the young and the cute, and so if you're inclined to think "gross" at the sight of the couple in bed, you've only helped the filmmakers prove a point.
It’s not TV or HBO, it’s Over 50 on film.
Joel Achenbach in the Washington Post Outlook Section examines the vigor of what he calls Frisky Geezers. The money quote is:
Much of the revolution takes place out of sight. Recently we all read the front-page story about older people having sex like bunnies. According to the University of Chicago study, 53 percent of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 remain sexually active, along with 26 percent between the ages of 75 and 85, despite the fact that 100 percent of their kids and grandkids would rather not picture it. Now we understand that special twinkle in Grandpa's eye when he looks at Grandma and says, "I'll show you an Early Bird Special you'll never forget."
Thank goodness my parents just left town, because they are big fans of Early Birds and I will never be able to hear that phrase the same way again. Dealing with amorous parents is awkward for all involved. Many years back, we all rolled our eyes as my dad gave us grown kids the bum’s rush one evening. He had an early flight to catch the next day and time was wasting. Eeewww! I know how I got here and I have a good suspicion of who the culprits were, but I don't need to be reminded.
The only reason I'm tolerant of the whole sexy senior citizen phenomenon is that I hope to be one too someday. Then I get to gross everybody out.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: Do frisky parents embarrass you?
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Spook Country By William Gibson
China Road by Rob Gifford
Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
One Perfect Day by Rebecca Mead
While hanging around BigBoxOfBooks™ waiting for Pottermania to kick in, I ran across China Road, Rob Gifford’s take on modern China. The gimmick of the book is that it is told travelogue style as he takes a road trip from Shanghai to the western border of China all along Route 312, which is like a Chinese Route 66. I started reading the chapter about Xian since I had been there on my trip to China this summer. I got hooked and put it on reserve at the library since it was too long to read in one wild night at the bookstore.
While on his road trip, NPR reporter Gifford talked to a wide variety of people including businessmen, truck drivers, Buddhist monks, karaoke prostitutes, abortionists, AIDS activists and others. He often goes incognito since journalism is heavily censored in China. This way he gets a real look at the current attitudes and opinions of the general population. He follows some themes through the whole book. One is that the pace of modernization is massively disruptive to Chinese society. The Chinese government has made an implicit deal trading economic growth for political freedom. This trade-off is very fragile and growing unrest in the traditional peasantry could topple the balance at any time. His other wider observation is that the years of communist rule and the Cultural Revolution in particular erased the long established Confucian values. As communism is discredited, there is a moral vacuum in Chinese society that has not been filled. The growth at any cost attitude without any tempering sense of responsibility is ripe for disaster.
The travel aspect of the book is really secondary to the multi-faceted insights into the rapid changes affected the world’s most populous country. I only spent two weeks in China but I found the results of his six years of work in the region to be both eye-opening and consistent with my own observations.
When I found out that William Gibson would be in the region promoting his new book Spook Country, I immediately felt guilty having never getting around to his earlier book Pattern Recognition. I immediately launched a crash reading program to get through it before the signing. Fortunately, this was not hard. Truly a page turner, the book was fast paced and intriguing. Much has been made that both this book and Spook Country are not “true” science fiction and set in contemporary culture. There is nobody "jacking in" to the "net". The characters use chat forums and search engines and all the tools of the post-internet world available to everybody. The one true cyberhacker in the book is not even particularly competent. In Pattern Recognition, the only suspension of disbelief required is that the protagonist Cayce Pollard has an allergy to branding that she has found a way to monetize. The conceit works on a very metaphorical level and helps make the themes of the novel clear.
William Gibson has become increasingly interested in the intersection of technology and pop culture. In Pattern Recognition, the macguffin is a series of viral videos that have become a cult obsession. The denouement is not as mind blowing as it would be in a full hardcore science fiction novel, but it is clever and consistent. The plot has been intricately crafted so that everything follows the internal logic of the world he has created. Gibson really believes in a sense of verisimilitude. The descriptions of places that I have been to are spot on, which gives me a trust over his other descriptions. His recent books by being set in the modern world are actually more fascinating than the far future tales.
Another book I (well actually my wife) discovered in a bookstore and went to the library to finish is One Perfect Day. The book tries to be an expose into the industrial wedding complex. It’s biggest revelation is that many of the “traditions” seen at weddings and receptions are recent innovations often created by people wanting to sell you something. If this is not a huge discovery to you, the other parts of this expose will be even more anti-climactic.
- Weddings are too expensive.
- Brides-to-be get really carried away.
- People want to take advantage of your need to keep up with the Star Joneses.
- Wedding paraphernalia is really silly.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Today is my wedding anniversary. They seem to roll around more and more often. My marriage is now old enough to drink. After 21 years, the need to come up with a unique and appropriate anniversary present each year is becoming increasingly difficult. This year I have punted entirely.
Last year I put together a slide show video of my wedding, but I can only get away with that once. My problem is exacerbated by the the fact that my wife has exquisite but precise taste. Anniversary gifts fall in a narrow range of appropriate categories.
One of my mantras is "They are ALL diamond anniversaries."
Over the years I have managed to obtain the various pieces of jewelry that she likes, which tends towards diamonds, sapphires, and the occasional pearl. She has rings and earrings in each of these gemstones that cover her from daily use to fancy events. The level that it takes to "wow" has generally gone up as well. For the fifteenth anniversary, I gave her a very nice diamond band, but then a year later her mother gave her a hand-me-down ring that outsparkles my gift significantly.
While in China this summer, we spent some time in the open markets haggling. We got several nice pearl items at fantastic prices and even found a beautiful jade pendant. Nothing in my price range is going to top those.
Clothes and Purses
My rate of success in picking appropriate clothes or accessories is spotty at best. I still bask in the glow of the one time I selected the perfect Talbot's sweater. Since then my clothing choices have mostly been fabric gift certificates. I get stuff from stores she likes and she is welcome to exchange them at her leisure.
Purses are even worse. Her standards for a good purse are just inscrutable to me. The perfect purse is some indefinable combination of roominess, compactness, quantity and location of pockets and ease of organization. Not surprisingly, it seems only Coach meets her exacting standards lately. When in New York recently our path to dinner inadvertently led us past the Madison Avenue Coach store. It seems that she had seen a purse on the web site that was only available in their Manhattan store. Sure enough, it was in stock and met her current criteria perfectly. I tried to make the "Hope you enjoy your early present" joke several times to responses that range from a derisive snort to an icy stare.
Flowers, Chocolates, Balloons and Trinkets.
Like most men I have a reputation for never sending flowers often enough, so that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Before we were married, she had a gay coworker whose partner was a florist. The manager had to tell him to have his partner cease and desist with the deliveries because it was creating too much ill-will among the women with less thoughtful significant others.
As a teacher, she gets tons of chocolate at every gift-giving occasion. The sweets tend to linger around the house until discovered by my ever-hungry teenage son, or worse, snatched by my delicate-stomached dog. The gifts he then leaves behind are even much less wanted.
In our dating phase, we would frequently drive up and down Peachtree Street in Atlanta which has the highest per capita ownership of Mercedes I know of. I used to jokingly tell her that I would get her a 450SL for our 25th anniversary. With that only four years away on the horizon, my rash joke doesn't seem so funny. At least I never specified a model year.
BlatantCommentWhoring™:It's too late for this year, my goose is already cooked, but what should I have gone with?