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Wednesday, July 30, 2003

The Nail In the Male Coffin?

Gather ‘round, lads and lassies. Today this blog departs from its normal decorum and gets downright kinky.

A shameless RageBoy-esque ploy to increase hits? Perhaps, although I prefer to think of it as an exploration into social trends--one that might prove tempting fodder to wittier commentators than this blogger on matters of sex and gender relations (did someone say Halley?).

I do not—cross my heart and hope to die—watch the steamy HBO documentary series, Real Sex. First of all, they air it after my bedtime. Secondly, it’s not worth watching anyway.

I do, however, often tape some of the excellent shows on HBO that I want to catch for later viewing . The other night, while rewinding one of these tapes, I noticed that a segment of Real Sex had been captured, and it aroused my interest. Imagine that!

They were doing a piece entitled “Bedroom Tricks and Toys.” One such toy, “Boy Toy” to be precise, was both an eye-popper and a cause for sober reflection. “Boy Toy” is the ultimate masturbatory instrument for women. A life-size doll, hand-made at $6000 a copy, and fashioned out of silicone.

It features hair, realistic eyes, pecs, abs, and a perpetually erect, amply endowed penis. It even has a retractable tongue for ersatz french-kissing. (a case could be made for humping a piece of plastic, I suppose, but french-kissing one? Yee-uck!).

Naturally, they didn’t just show the doll and leave it at that. No way. The producers, in their wisdom, brought in three gorgeous women, full-boobed and unclad, to take “Boy Toy” for a test ride. You could almost taste the palpable glee with which this trio contemplated the possibilities with Mr. Toy.

And the lack of negatives—no erectile dysfunction, no exhaustion, no premature ejaculation, no passing out drunk, no boorish demands, no unwanted impregnation, no social diseases.

These lovelies appeared to be beside themselves in happy abandon as they rode Boy Toy like drunken cowgirls on a wild mustang in Paradise.

There is one problem with the dummy, however. It’s excessively heavy and it takes three women to lift it onto the bed. You want to get off? You’ve got to have some girlfriends around. And it’s not something you can just discreetly tuck away in the closet when company’s coming. The manufacturer recommends keeping it on an office chair with wheels. Uh, OK.

Then there’s the problem of the high cost. Maybe 6K is a bargain for not having to have a guy around the house, but a lot of people don’t have that kind of ready cash available for a quick release of tension. Which raises a possibility that may have already been grasped by more enterprising individuals—i.e., rental.

You could rent out the Toy for an affordable hourly rate—something, say, near the going rate for massage—and rake in the bucks. And you probably wouldn’t have to worry about being busted for procuring. Can a hunk of plastic be prostituted? I wouldn’t think so. What you have here is the possibility of pimping with impunity. (I realize that Denise doesn’t do criminal law, but maybe she could provide us with an off-the-cuff opinion).

Unfortunately, the opportunity for titillation in watching these three bucking babes was quickly dissolved as one contemplated the implications of the unfolding scene. Does one need a reminder as vivid as this that the need for men—as some feminists like to proclaim—may be dwindling?

Are we headed toward a day when the only men that count are an elite group of super-brainy sperm donors? Will the next generation of Boy Toys be programmed with voices that say sweet things and pretend to be listening?

Maybe I should buy one now and set up my bordello-for-women. I do, after all, need a good retirement package.

Monday, July 28, 2003

How Many Ways Can You Say “Blogging?”

My wife, not one to be reticent about offering her opinion, upon reading my post of Saturday--wherein I once again discussed the ups and downs of my blogging process—had this to say:

”You’re blogging about not blogging about blogging—which makes no sense at all because blogging about not blogging about blogging amounts to blogging about blogging.

Can’t you just jump into writing about whatever you have to write about? Who cares why you weren’t blogging for a while?”


Well, as sya pointed out in her comment to that post,

“Hm. Blogging about blogging. I'm not sure if one can totally erase that particular aspect about weblogs. It seems pretty endemic to this online activity.”

To which Richard Cody adds a simple “Amen.”

If you’re a blogger, the process that blogging involves occupies a sizable chunk of your consciousness—which is the main reason I find myself at times entertaining the notion of quitting. It’s a reason often cited by some of those who’ve already hung it up.

It’s probably true that people aren’t that interested in reading about it. Yet, take the case of Corante On Blogging. It devotes itself entirely to this subject and attracts a good following—one that includes this humble blogger.

Artists, for example, will always be concerned about and talk among themselves about the process of creating art. Ditto scientists about doing science. Ditto any other field of endeavor. Why should it be any different for bloggers?

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Sexagenarian Club Gets Sexier

I can’t handle the burden all by myself. Our club needs a new infusion of sex appeal. Fortunately, help arrived yesterday in the form of the still-raunchy Mick Jagger.

Happy Birthday and welcome to the club, Mick! You’re the ultimate role model for those of us who give the finger to the calendar.

As the big day arrived, Mick was in Prague for tonight’s big concert in the park. I’m teasing my son, Jon, who was studying in Prague last year, that he went there a year too soon.

The Mick reportedly gave a private concert last night to celebrate his entrance to our club. Vaclav Havel and assorted friends. I wasn’t on the list.

Actually, I had my special moment with Mick thirty-one summers ago, on a wild and wacky Tuesday afternoon, of all times. I was standing not more than twenty feet from the legend and his band as they rocked, growled, and pranced for two solid hours during an impromptu, unscheduled performance in a small gymnasium (a converted ice rink, actually—which will be a clue for you rock trivia experts).

It was a one-you-tell-your-grandchildren kind of experience. So how did Fortune manage to smile upon me in such an unforgettable way? You’ll have to stay tuned as I don’t have the time to go into it just now. At a more relaxed time later in the week, all will be revealed.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Summer Fun, Summer Duty

The duties of summer (house renovation), in combination with the carefree, spontaneous opportunities for fun that summer offers, have wrenched me away from the blogosphere for the past ten days or so.

In the past, during these periods when my blogging would go into eclipse, I used to agonize over it, analyze it, and blog about it. But blogging about my blogging process seems to have become less appealing and definitely less necessary.

Is this a sign of moving into blog maturity? Maybe so. I mean, what difference does it make in the scheme of things if my blogging becomes thin, lightweight, or even temporarily absent? I’ve been faithfully flailing away at this fledgling craft for a solid year-and-a-half now. What’s the point of analyzing it any further?

I blog because I like to exercise my writing chops. When I don’t feel like exercising them, I don’t blog. End of story.

In my early days of blogging, I used to fret about my rankings and I would force myself to post something every day. That concern is hardly relevant any longer. My God, I’ve zoomed passed the legendary Al Shugart to the number one spot on Google for Shugart.

On doing a search on my first name (an interesting process once suggested--I think by Doc Searls or maybe Weinberger), I find myself at number 118, just behind the righteous Tom Waits, and just ahead of the equally righteous

I remember when I first started out, Jeneane was marveling over her blog having expanded to six pages of listings on Google. This seemed beyond my wildest imagination. I’m now at 17 pages and counting, and Jeneane is probably in triple digits.

It’s all bloody amazing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Whale of a Ride

Elaine and others have been making favorable references to “Whale Rider,” the movie from New Zealand currently showing in theatres. Unfortunately, that has to be amended to “some theatres” – mostly art houses. The distribution is very limited. What’s the deal? The marketing geniuses figure that the public will be turned off by the New Zealand accents? Or by the absence of sex and violence?

Anyway, I decided to check it out. Now I know what the bloggers and the critics are raving about. This movie has everything going for it: mythology, social relevance, gripping story, emotion, beautiful scenery, and great acting—especially the young girl who’s the heroine of the piece.

I hate it when cinematic gems like this--which are not esoteric and have the possibility of broad appeal--get shuffled off to a few “art houses” in big cities and college towns. Every once in a while, one of them will gain enough word of mouth to embolden the distributors to bring it into mass exhibition, where it ultimately becomes a hit and garners some Oscars. Two examples of this phenomenon are “My Left Foot” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

May the same fate be in store for “Whale Rider.”

Sunday, July 13, 2003

The Family That Shouts Together Stays Together

The highly readable posts keep coming from Maria Benet as she hoofs about through London. I particularly admire her ability to leapfrog from the travelogue right into something reflective and personally revealing. Take this, for example:

”I believe that Tolstoy wrote that all happy families are alike. (I do not have the book handy, so I am carrying on here, based on an assumption.) Unhappiness, its particular edge or depth, is what makes a family unique. Unhappiness, then, is the stuff of family histories. But what exactly is the definition of an unhappy family ... well, aside from the obvious in which the brute force abuse erodes everyone’s soul?

The other day, while I was sitting on a bench at Westminster Abbey, waiting for my husband, I watched a family of four -- mother, father, daughter and son -- take a break for lunch. From their almost identical backpacks, they each pulled out the same see-through blue plastic container. Mother and father and daughter took out the same carefully sliced triangles of sandwiches made from the same dark bread. The son pulled out a rice cake, but aside from that rice cake, everything else in his lunch box, such as fruit and some bar, was identical to that of the others in the family. They ate in silence, and they appeared to finish together, as if on cue.

I thank the fates, as well as my rebellious streak, that I could never be the one with enough foresight to buy a set of plastic containers and fill them by the numbers with a meal that contains the right amount of fiber for everyone’s bowel health. I thank the same fates that the four us can rarely agree when and what to eat, and that when we do, we never eat in silence. At any moment, if asked, one of us might declare -- and with great passion, too -- that yes, we are terribly unhappy. At times, we might even cry out together to let the world know -- in case it is not obvious enough -- that we are miserable in each other’s company. And yet, even in those darker moments, or when we go about imagining a happier family life, whatever we conjure from the depths of our discontent, I can assure you, it doesn’t include matching plastic containers, high-fiber bread, or silence.”

Her family sounds somewhat like mine. When we’re together, the one thing you definitely will not hear is silence. To the outsider, observing from the sidelines, we might appear at times to be a family in crisis—shouts, protestations, a general cacophony.

But as Maria well knows, I’m sure, these are not sounds of dysfunction, but of joy and delight in each other’s existence even while, momentarily, we might be wishing for the disappearance of one or all of the others. If that sounds mutually exclusive, believe me, it isn’t.

My wife, who’s a highly regarded marriage and family therapist, says that silence is usually a warning sign of trouble. Silence can be a manifestation of secrets, and secrets are poison in the family setting. Or it can be a suppression of feelings—a practice most definitely not conducive to individual or family health.

Boisterousness and open discord, on the other hand, are more often than not the signs of the absence of secrets or suppressed feelings. The absence of these means that everyone is free to be—and is being--who he or she is—the very essence of group health.

For me, having an open and unencumbered family life is worth the risk of appearing a bit crazy at times to the outside world.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Clean Car Connection

Well, I guess it’s time to end-cycle on the political posts. Time to get back to more personal blogging. I think this is inspired in part—not only because I’ve run out my string with the Howard Dean stuff—but also because Dervala Hanley, just returned to North America from her amazing round-the-world journey—and is gracing us once again with some of the best examples out there of personal blogging. Her posts provide me with some inspiration to get personal again.

I always get more positive feedback from that aspect of my blogging than the political forays. Every once in a while, though, I’m forced to go political because I find myself so exercised by something that I find myself incapable of writing about anything else. Eventually, I get it out of my system and the urge to get back to the more introspective stuff re-asserts itself.

But what to write about when I’m not traveling or doing something else of special interest? That’s the dread challenge of the personal blogger. It’s like the bad old days when I was in sales and the manager would thrust his jaw forward in an unmistakably menacing gesture and inquire, “And where do you propose to get a sale today, Buster?”

I suppose I could attempt to emulate those bloggers who have the ability to start with an ordinary everyday activity and somehow manage to weave an interesting thread of personal reflection out of it—one that has relevance to a diverse body of readers.

So where do you start? With whatever you happen to be doing. It doesn’t matter. I’m just being experimental with it. OK, I’m washing my new car and meticulously cleaning every speck, inside and out. What do I do with this mundane incident?

Well, take a look inside and see what thoughts, memories, pictures, emotions, judgments, evaluations happen to be spinning around. There’s no activity in which you can engage where all these phenomena are not present--constantly creating an inner buzz.

We just tune it out, of necessity, nearly all the time. In fact, if we don’t, we’re in trouble. But that stuff is there to be tapped if you want to use it. That’s obviously one of the secrets of success for the best of the personal bloggers.

So as I’m washing the car, I notice the thought, “My Dad would be pleased.” Car care was the one area where I emulated the hell out of him. I rejected most everything else. But I bought his passion for automobile impeccability hook, line, and sinker.

In my youth, I tended to gravitate toward the nihilistic, anarchistic, beatnik crowd. These types sniffed their noses at my always-spotless car, dismissing it as a gross bourgeois aberration. This aspect of my behavior was a puzzlement to them. But I was never tempted to change my ways to gain greater approval. This bond with my father was too deep to be broken.

A lot of men say that the only times they had any real communication with their fathers was in rituals like tossing a ball back and forth or shooting hoops. I think that in my case, fixing up the car served that function. We would wash it, take it for a spin, dry it off in the shade, take a look at the engine, discuss driving tips, and, sometimes, if I was lucky, my Dad would let his guard down and wax personal.

When Jill and I were with Denise Howell this spring and I picked her up in my car, she exclaimed, “This must be a rental car. Nobody has a personal car that’s this clean!” We explained it away as simply being the result of not having little kids anymore. But the truth was much deeper than that.

People talk about personal blogging being cathartic. This has been a welcome example of that. From now on, when I’m washing my car—obviously a frequent activity on my part—I’ll think about the positive part of my connection with my long-departed father—rather than the warfare and the mutual disappointments--the heretofore predominant memory.

An overdue change, wouldn’t you say, seeing as how I’m getting rather long in the tooth?

Monday, July 07, 2003

The Cost of Return

Frank Paynter comments:

The next Democratic president in this country will be one who has made an accommodation with the progressives, including the left Dems like Kucinich, and the paperback writers like Nader. And that coming together will have to be more than a strange bedfellows thing... it'll have to be real. “

Frank is more optimistic than I am. My belief--fear, actually--is that a leftward turn such as he describes (real vs. opportunistic) cannot occur without a prerequisite of sustained economic collapse over a period of several years, coupled with a growing and equally sustained guerilla war in Iraq, costing hundreds, perhaps thousands of casualties to our troops.

That's a hell of a price to pay. I fervently hope that the Dems can return at a lower cost than that. There’s only one way I can see that it could be possible—and that’s with an ever-so-slightly left-of-center guy like Howard Dean--one that's just mainstream enough to be acceptable to the 60% or so of at-large voters who are not right-wing; yet one who presents an alternative distinctive enough to prevent a mass defection of Greens and other fringe groups.

A tall order, but I refuse to cave in to my pessimistic tendencies. I’m going to assume that Dean is that guy unless and until it becomes demonstrated otherwise.

Saturday, July 05, 2003


I hope you’ve been following Maria Benet’s dispatches from London. They’re an excellent example of what good blogging is all about—personal, reflective, revealing, informative, and just plain good reading.

Maria writes that she may want to join in some of this political conversation when she returns home. I certainly hope so. Regarding my postings about Howard Dean, she comments:

A grassroots reframing of many of the issues -- including the meaning of what is ‘center’ and what is ‘left’ -- with the help of historical trends, is bound to make a difference next time people go to vote, don't you think?”

Ah, yes, reframing. An important point. Frank Paynter, with regard to reframing—at least in the case of the candidates--observes and asks:

Dean [is] marking out some mind-space as a not-centrist candidate . . . Kucinich, Sharpton, and Mosley-Brown are the not-centrist dem candidates on the left. Dean fills space near Kerry I think. What do you think?”

I quite agree with Frank. I suspect that another reason that Dean is doing well is that he is carving out a space between Kerry and the three leftists. The GOP has been deriding Kerry as a Massachusetts Liberal. But those of us who wear Democratic-tinted glasses see Kerry as another Bush apologist ever since his lap dog performance in the pre-Iraq war debate in the Senate.

However, some of us, e.g., myself, find ourselves uncomfortable with the three non-centrists that Frank mentions. That creates a perfect vacuum into which Dean’s political winds can rush and occupy.

I infer from Maria’s remarks that she thinks that the reframing will redound to the Democrats’ benefit. Perhaps on the matter of issues—which is what Maria was talking about--that will prove to be the case. But as for the candidates, the reframing process, I fear, while now working very nicely to Dean’s benefit, may ultimately do a 180 and bite him in the ass.

Once the primaries get underway. The three leftists, all seriously under-funded, will fall by the wayside, obliterating the advantageous space now occupied by Dean. He will be reframed as the Dread Leftist, and Bush, with his obscenely full campaign coffers, will drive home the point relentlessly.

Nonetheless, I’m not going to let that scare me into going with a Bush apologist in the primary. Come the general election in the fall, the voters will want to hear an authentic alternative message--I think--I hope.

That message may not win, but it will give the party much-needed new strength to survive and rebuild during the coming four years in the wilderness. If the Dems lose the election with a me-too candidate, the party will simply drift further into oblivion and irrelevance.

The country will be left with an impotent opposition to the Bush wrecking ball. I don’t even want to think about what this society would look like after four years of that scenario.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Abandoning the Centrists Who Abandoned Me

Dave Rogers of Connect and Empower, in a supportive comment to my posts about Howard Dean, says:

”It's been a long while since I felt my political blood start to heat up about a candidate. Since McGovern, perhaps?”

It’s the comparison to McGovern that scares many Democrats. McGovern lost 49 states and his defeat was followed by the beginnings of the rise to power of the Conservative movement, which has been building inexorably since that time, much to the detriment of the political climate in this society.

Fear-driven comparisons to the McGovern disaster will be the argument for going with a centrist candidate. But I don’t buy the parallel. McGovern’s march to the nomination was fueled by outrage over the war in Vietnam. Dean’s impressive progress is fueled by outrage over the failure of the party’s mainstream to speak out against the ruinous policies of the Bush Administration. There is a considerable hunger for Dean’s unvarnished truth-telling.

Yes, you could point to the fact that that same hunger drove the John McCain insurgency in 2000, and ask, what difference did it make in the end? McCain got steamrolled by the Bush Lie Machine. They won’t hesitate to fire up the same steamroller against Dean. It will be ugly, and it will be effective.

But is that a reason to go for a centrist Democrat this time around? In the past, I’ve always preferred the centrist Democrats because they’re the ones that can win and govern. I deeply believe that, next to money, pragmatism is the mother’s milk of politics. This time around, though, I’m saying NO to the centrists because I feel abandoned and betrayed by them. And so, apparently, do a lot of others.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Washington Disconnect

Another post on Howard Dean. I guess this is Dean Week for Insiteview. I’m paying for it with a precipitous drop in hits. I always seem to strike out when I go political on these pages. But, Fuggit! A blogger’s got to blog about what’s at the forefront of his mind. I’d rather risk hits than authenticity.

There’s a lot of media buzz going on right now about Dean. But is he peaking too early? Howard Fineman takes a look at that possibility. Terry Dean (no relation) of the Washington Post submits a comprehensive look at the Dem’s fund-raising dance from a number of angles. Highly interesting and informativive.

A number of commentators have dubbed Dean’s performance on Meet The Press as a dud. Some have even called it a “disaster.” They cite the fact that Dean responded, “I don’t know the answer to that,” to several questions. This is simply not done Inside The Beltway. It’s pure heresy.

It's hard to believe that these Insiders were watching the same interview that I did. This, after all, was the very interview that got me excited about the guy. I’m no sage, but I sure as hell ain’t no dummy either. These so-called “experts” just don’t get it.

The best retort to their myopic perspective comes from Dean’s campaign manager, Joe Trippi. A campaign manager is just about the last person I would ever expect to be quoting. But, hey, I’m flexible. If the words are right, I say quote ‘em. I even quoted Hermann Goering once in this blog. So why not a campaign manager?

Here’s what Joe Trippi had to say:

”There's a huge disconnect between Washington and the rest of the country, and you have to ask yourself why is that," Trippi said. "Part of it is because if in Washington he says I don't know the answer to something, everybody says, 'Oh my God can you believe that? And at home, everybody else around America is going, 'Wow, did you hear that guy, did you what he said? I've never heard anyone say something like that. I like him."

Totally on the money, Joe. The point could not be made more succinctly.