Thursday, July 20, 2006

Interruption in Service

As sad as I am to leave you all, I am SO out of here for a few days. I will miss you, but I'll return replete with good will toward men and some semi-decent photos of Kafka's hometown.

Meet me back here on the 1st. It will be something to behold...

Proof that I've Done Something Good in My Life

It just has to be that I've finally managed to bank some good karma, because in the last two days, the following things have happened:

1. My colleague who is selflessly running this dying summer program that is part of my little ACUN (academic unit, to those of you playing that at-home game) asked me weeks ago to work out a budget issue. I told her I would, realized how many steps it would take (a secretary, an administrator, and local officials would all have to be contacted), quailed at the prospect EVERY SINGLE DAY. When I saw her yesterday and told her that I was ready to follow-up, she said: "Actually, it's not going to work out the way I wanted it to anyway. Don't worry about it." Sweet glory, hallelujah!!

2. As a part of a series I'm running in the fall, I had to work with a campus office for publicity. While much of it could be done over email, the director insisted that I come in and "fill out a work order." Argh. Go over there, dressed like a professional, in the blazing heat, and fill out paperwork that addresses multiple budget lines. In passing, I mentioned this to the dean's administrative assistant today, and she told me: "just tell the director to call me. I can work it out with her." Saints be praised!

3. A check I deposited at the bank hasn't cleared yet, won't clear until after I leave for central Europe, and because it's in a funky money market account, I won't be able to access the money via ATM. After explaining this to the bank teller, she says: "Oh, do you want me to just have the money transferred when the check clears on Tuesday?" Well, yes, yes I do. They can DO that?! Is this heaven?

4. I really wanted to take my new iPod on vacation with me, because it has a much longer battery life than the old one and I'll be traveling for many, many hours (bus, then plane, then another plane, then train). The only charger I have for it, however, came with my old Pod, which ran on firewire, and the new one works on USB. I was sure that I'd have to take the old one and ration listening time carefully (basically because I'm too cheap to go and buy a new charger.) After running hours of errands today, I saw that you can use the old cord with the old charger and the new iPod. I'm coming home, Lord!

Seriously, it's unreal. This kind of run NEVER happens to me. Not to be superstitious or anything, but you don't think it's some kind of sick, ironic lead-up to my plane crashing in a fiery ball of metal or anything, do you?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

IBAR, You BAR, Everybody BAR BAR

So, it's officially "International Blog Against Racism Week." Wheeeee! I suppose this is not exactly something we celebrate, right? No beads to throw, no kazoos, no girls gone wild action. This is a somber writing task, and I would imagine, also a somber reading experience.

Which leads me to the question of the day: what "counts" as blogging, or speaking, or [verb]ing against racism? Because it seems to me that once you make the announcement [said in the echoing tones of the Almighty}: "Today, we talk about racism...racism...racism" you've lost more than half of your audience. The other half is there in large measure to be dutiful to something they believe in, or else to watch the fireworks go off. As someone who often teaches texts that explicitly ask students to talk about, and hopefully against racism, the challenge is twofold: first, choosing something that will get them interested, and second, getting them to engage--to check their own ideas and experiences against those of the people in the text.

Here's a concrete example. I often show Spike Lee's Bamboozled in class. If you haven't seen the film, suffice to say that Lee uses some pretty acidic images to ground a critique of contemporary media and the personal and structural consequences of commodifying blackness. I find that the film often bewilders students, particularly because of it looks at the personal and at the structural. They are quick to identify and harshly judge a racist comment or action applied to an individual, but they have no language to address the ways in which the structure (in the film, it's the interconnected, reciprocal forces of the audience and the network higher-ups) affects people. On an individual level, they can identify racism, but have a difficult time making the jump to the larger forces at play.

As a teacher and as an Asian chick, this can be an incredibly frustrating experience, and when I first started talking about these things, I wanted to abandon the personal altogether. "Let's just talk about structure, people!! Wheel Karl Marx right in here!" Now, however, I think I'm revising that vision. When last I taught Asian American texts, I found myself using the personal as a way of getting at the structural--because they're just not as separate as I'd made them out to be. The class had just finished reading an essay on the history of Chinese exclusion, which included many of the local and national laws that were enacted to drastically limit the scope of experiences that Chinese immigrants could have (female immigrants were banned and interracial marriage illegal; Chinese businesses could only operate out of brick buildings in certain states--because brick was more expensive; etc., etc.). The students, to their credit, were hard at work imagining what it would mean for an individual to live under these conditions, particularly as they tended to increase and tacitly encourage acts of violence by the majority. After several rounds of "I just can't imagine what it would mean to come all that way and then be subject to this" and "so that's where those epithets and stereotypes came from," I burst out with: "hell, call me whatever you want, just give me some representation in government!" And then a few lightbulbs went on.

Certainly this is no tried-and-true answer (just look at Clarence Thomas, for instance), but for the students and for myself, it worked as an important example of the need to trace the effect from the structure to the individual and back again; to wit, I'm not enthused about being called names or being stereotyped, but on a day to day basis, I'm more concerned with the ways that I'm allowed to live my life: who I'm allowed to consort with, where I'm allowed to live, how I'm able to support myself, etc. In essence, if the students are at the point of recognizing the individual effects of racism on daily existence, that becomes the ground from which you build, tracing the ways in which specific effects come from larger cultural systems. And since these are systems that affect them as well, it may (and here I'm getting all hopeful and crap) serve to show the ways in which racism has individual effects on everyone within those same systems.

To wrap it up with my favorite course eval comment yet: "racism--in history, literature and popular culture--just sucks." Couldn't have said it better myself.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Oracle of the Obvious

Good god is it hot. Stunning revelation, no? In Urbania yesterday, it hit 96%, with at least 50% humidity. For this desert girl, that's just no way to live. Sometime around 4 p.m., everyone in Urbania and environs simultaneously turned on their window air conditioners (including me. I am single-handedly destroying the environment with freon), and promptly blew out the power in my neighborhood for about 45 minutes. Let me report that there is nothing sadder than two of your furriest housemates waking from their cool spots in front of the air conditioner and then grumpily moving to the tile in the kitchen for their naps.

With little to do at home but sweat, I had a moment of inspiration: it's suddenly my own home Bikram studio!! Except without the instruction! Or any of the skills! So, after a 6 month hiatus from yoga, I spent about an hour yesterday running through the Ashtanga first series (about as much of it as I could remember). Part of the reason I haven't been back to yoga in so long (since my favorite instructor began teaching only a late class) is the dread of having lost everything it took me so long to acquire, and the pain involved in that. This is much like my experience with running. It took me two years to work up to running a ten-mile race. Then I moved to the snow-covered north and stopped for a semester--and that was it. No way am I going through that hell all over again (plus, I've really come to love my toenails as they are, instead of blackened. Call me vain.).

So, individual practice at home was strangely delightful, complete with the incredible sweatiness that accompanied it (try to avoid the mental picture). At home, unlike in class, you can hold onto postures that are more difficult, spend time correcting your form; all the things that I can miss in the flow of Ashtanga poses. Granted, I didn't push myself nearly as hard as I would have in a class, but a start is better than nothing. And I was forced to be conscious of the difference between what I feel like after doing yoga (wrung out, hungry, calm) vs. what I feel like after going to the gym (shaky, ravenous, hyper). I know, I know. Obvious, but I need the reminder anyway.

And for you excessive sweat-ers out there? This thing TOTALLY works. Hooray! No more slippage! And pretty! And washable! It's all good!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Ms. Emily (Blog) Post

The more time I spend in blog world, the more time I find myself musing on the various forms of etiquette that are practiced throughout the various communities on the internets. I've found, for example, some incredible generosity from Asian American bloggers (most notably Jenn, who's page has now been down for awhile. I'm worried. Are you out there, Jenn? Are you okay? Holla!). Likewise, the people who maintain personal blogs (and I don't know how they would characterize themselves here--academics? writers?) have been friendly and welcoming indeed, to someone they don't know from Eve. I suppose that this is one of the reasons that I began blogging in the first place--because I had been reading these people for a year or so, and had been very influenced by their writing (I'm talking to you, Mel!). It's quite a privilege to have been included into their community.

Have you been waiting for the "but?" Here it is. BUT, it seems that all communities don't work the same way. And it's difficult for me to tell if this is a function of blog culture, or if it's an extension of the problems that that kind of community has in the real world. Case in point: feminist blogs. I do love the kind of conversations that go on there, despite the very vocal presence of trolls. On occasion, I'll drop a comment if I think I have something pertinent to say, which is not very often (but, come on, when the topic is Lolita, I'm a bit of a scrapper). Right now, at Feministe, there's a discussion going on about Michelle Wie, the Chinese American golf wunderkind. Now, I've got a bit of a personal stake in Wie; she attends a school very close to my ancestral manse (ie., shack), and when I visit during golf season, the whole town is behind Wie. I've seen her push Bush off the front page (and you've gotta get behind that!). Of course, I know jack about golf, but I do know that Wie is important specifically because of her popular appeal. Golf is becoming an incredibly popular sport in Asian countries like Japan and Korea. Thus, the golf world becomes one that can activate all kinds of atavistic ethnic and nationalist ideas about what draws athletes to the sport, what makes them succeed at it, etc. (You might remember the kinds of crap sportscasters said about Kristi Yamaguchi when she was skating in the Olympics.) Wie, as an Asian American who gets a LOT of press, serves two purposes for the public imaginary: first, she troubles the kinds of easy distinctions that people want to make about American (or white) golfers vs. Asians. Don't forget that golf, before and during the Tiger Woods era, has been deeply classist and segregated--far more than most of our other televised pasttimes. Second, Wie is notable for her incredibly drives--with the club, that is. She's a power player. I can't remember a time when an Asian American woman was recognized for her physical strength. It's so anti-Memoirs of a Geisha I just want to stand up and cheer. And Asian American female athletes? Forget about it. Wie's our girl!

The point of all of this (I bet you forgot there was one), is that in the middle of a raging debate about whether Wie is being held to a higher standard based on her gender, I posted a comment about the way in which she's important above and beyond her gender, noting briefly the ways in which she is poised to become a crucial figure because of her gender and ethnicity. There's been absolutely no response. Not a peep. The conversation goes on, largely fueled by an argument about racism towards Tiger Woods, who commenters have called black a number of times. This is, of course, despite the fact that Woods himself constantly and famously refers to his significant multiple heritages, of which Thai is a major part.

So, is it the case that I'm begin too sensitive? Is it that I always think it's all about me? Or is it the case that the commenters on a feminist blog aren't willing/prepared to think about the ways that ethnicity matters in connection to gender? Is it a combination of both?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Note To Self

Never buy a piece of machinery for the household that you think is particularly unwieldy or inconvenient with the following rationale: "hell, I'll never have to use it. It's Mr. Fluff's chore; if he doesn't mind, then go for it!" This is even more true if it a piece of machinery that is good for the environment because it uses no electric or gas power, but instead harnesses a human to it.

Because eventually, you will actually have to use it. And you will find it both unwieldy and inconvenient and perhaps also damaging to your health (in, say, the form of a blister).

Stupid manual lawnmowers.

Out of the Doldrums

Today, I'm going to try something new.

For much of the summer, which is flitting away quite quickly now, I've been getting out of bed, wandering bleary-eyed to the coffee pot, and installing myself at the computer in an attempt to work on the article that ate Manhattan. In many ways, this has done me some good (particularly now that the house is mine! all mine!)--after all, I'm about 17 pages in now (insert dance of joy here). At the same time, this plan does little for my mental health. As the hours tick by (to the interior monologue of "stop surfing, start writing. Just open the document. you'll feel better if you get something done today. You don't even have to write something new--just edit. Editing is work too...), I get more and more strung out and, in a word, bummed that I'm not outside, doing something else. Getting an Icee, even, for god's sake. It's SUMMER, is it not?! It puts me in mind of the Phantom Tollbooth, where the protagonist drives, ever more slowly, through the Doldrums, where things get grayer by the minute. If this is all I remember for the summer, I'm going to curse myself all fall.

So, on this Sunday, I'm going to try something else. After another cup of coffee, I'm off to run some errands--return some clothing, pick up library books, and perhaps buy a bag for my upcoming trip. Let's see if morning movement can inspire some writing later, eh? (If not, I suppose it will simply be more bad movies this evening.)

Wish me luck!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Marriage as Impediment?

Okay, I'll preface this by saying that I do love Mr. Fluff, rather unconditionally.

At the same time, I'm here to report that today I:
1) Completed the first section of my damnable article
2) Returned my rental movies to Hollywood Video. ON TIME.
3) Went to the gym.

'Nuff said.

Attack of the Clones

This post is about a year late, I think, but having recently finished Ishiguro's rather excellent Never Let Me Go, and then coincidentally, having just viewed the notorious Michael Bay's The Island, I think it's time for some talk about cloning.


There is much to be said about Ishiguro's novel: its got a rich interior voice, and thus the representation of what it would mean to be a clone is developed with full attention to the desire for independent selfhood (an impulse that we recognize as "human") and the interdiction to give to others (another "human" impulse, yet one with a particularly sinister tone, when you realize that these people literally give of themselves, over and over again). I haven't done the proper research here, but I do remember that NLMG received excellent reviews, and for good reason. In contrast, however, Michael Bay's text, also about clones, although in a much different key, not only received rather atrocious press (including a flogging by South Park creators), but also bombed at the box office.

I'm not sure that the criticism of Bay is warranted here. The argument's been made about how his films are constantly the epitome of each and every action genre cliche (take Armegeddon, for example, which has now been released in a Criterion Collection version, for crying out loud). The Island, however, has more than genre-perfection going for it. If Ishiguro's novel mines the depths of interiority inspired by the bio-ethics of cloning, then Bay's film is exactly the opposite--it constantly calls attention to the exteriority of the same problem.

A quick plot summary: the film opens in a post-apocalyptic society, in which the denizens of a futuristic world are survivors of a great contagion. Their health is constantly monitored, and they exist in a closed environment hoping to win the lottery, which guarantees them a place on "The Island"--the last pristine place on earth. Our intrepid hero, Lincoln (played by--swoon--Ewan MacGregor. And note the character's name here!) questions everything, meanwhile sneaking away to visit his "friend" Jordan (Scarlett Johansson). He discovers, of course, that the Island is simply a metaphor for harvesting the organs of the citizens of his society. Lincoln and Jordan escape. The evil doctor who runs the "life insurance company" orders a team to track down the "products" before they alert anyone--particularly their "sponsors" [read: the wealthy people who paid millions to have these products, ie. clones of themselves, grown and kept at the ready. They were, of course, informed that the clones would be kept in a vegetative state.]
There's a lot going on here--far too much to gloss in a blog post (although this may well warrant more writing on my part). What I'm most interested in, however, is the way in which a number of critics rake Bay over the coals for the use of product placement in the film (Sony's X-Box, MSN, etc.). You see where this is going though, right? If the clones themselves are products, then the film in many ways is reflecting on human life being simply the logical extension of what all if for sale in contemporary culture. Individuals take on the role of corporations that trade in products without a second thought as to the ineffable value of that product itself. In a particularly vertiginous scene, Jordan sees a Calvin Klein advertisment starring her sponsor. Of course, this was also the same ad that Johansson herself starred in, in the months leading up to the production of the film. At some remove, Johansson herself is the product biding her time, waiting to provide human tissue for her "sponsor."

I'll leave off the ending, as it offers up some interesting meditations on human freedom and human trafficking. All I sayin' is this: stop being haters. Even Michael Bay can make a smart movie. Or as my grandfather used to say: even a blind dog finds a bone, once in awhile.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Tale of Two Lizzies

Right now, I should be on my way to bed, as a part of my "didn't do work today, so need to do double work tomorrow" plan. And despite the fact that I don't feel particularly tired, I've noticed that I can't help but wake up at 8 at the latest (damn summer sunrise!), and so if I go to sleep at 1, I'm getting just enough REM to make me grumpy and unfocused in the morn.

Instead of heading up to bed, however, I thought I'd write a short post about my evening viewings. First, TCM is having "Elizabeth Taylor" month. I think anyone who grew up in the 80's has a hard time understanding what the big deal is with her. To us (and sure, I'll speak for a generation!), she's just the sickly, odd-like-a-female-Howard-Hughes, diamond-obsessed "special friend" of Michael Jackson. You know, like the chimp. If you tune into TCM anytime soon, however, you might be able to catch her in Butterfield 8, which I saw most of this evening. You really get a sense of the "Liz" worship from this film. The opening, which runs at least ten minutes with no dialogue, tracks her progress around a rather luxe apartment. She gets up from the bed, apparently driven by her need for a cigarette. Finding only cigars, she lights one up, coughs, and then soothes the pain with an early morning scotch. Throughout, she's wearing the bedsheet, which she then switches for her slip at some point (hence the iconic B8 image):

Pure 60's chic, all of it. At the end of the scene, she finds a note from her lover asking if $250 is enough. She's having none of it: she uses her lipstick to write "no sale" on the mirror, leaves the money below it, and promptly marches into what we now must assume is the lover's wife's closet and picks out a fur. She then proceeds to waltz out of the building in it.

There's a kind of louche fabulosity to Taylor's character, Gloria, in the beginning of this film. Truly--how many people could pull off ten minutes without speaking? Later, explaining to a friend why she took the fur, she says: "I wanted to take something spiteful...and elegant." That's Gloria in all her glory, all right. It will suprise none of you, I'm sure, that it all ends badly for Gloria. If it weren't bad enough that the writers resort to the "she's only a slut because she was abused as a child" routine, they also pull off a French Connection-style car chase to off Gloria in the end. (Sorry about the spoiler there. Really, turn it off about half way through. You'll like it better.)

After B8, I watched a much different Liz--This one Elizabeth Wurtzel, played by Christina Ricci, in the biopic Prozac Nation. This Liz is also truly screwed up, due in large measure to insane parents and an unhappy childhood, but she has a few diva moments in the beginning (for example, she and her roommate throw a party to celebrate Lizzie losing her virginity. The invite reads something like this: "Come celebrate a truly seminal and ground-breaking moment." Given that the film is set in the 80's, the hostesses greet their guests in an almost perfect rendition of Madonna's Like a Virgin outfit, circa iconic MTV Music Awards performance. *Tried to look up that image on Google for you, and struck out. I'm surprised--but also pleased to inform you that many of the pics from Madonna's Sex book are now available online. Run, don't walk.). Given the title of the film, you can pretty much figure out where it's going--she descends deeper and deeper into depression, only to be saved by Prozac in the end. Her life evens out, no more peaks and valleys, she's welcomed back into the bosom of the family...roll credits.

Separated by a quarter of a century, both of these Lizzies tell what appears to be the same story, in different keys. The truly fabulous chicks, well, first off, there's something seriously wrong with them that accounts for their anti-social behavior. And second, one way or another, they get brought back into the fold. Death or medication, take your pick. All psychological health aside (just for a moment--not forever), there's an aesthetic of the transgressive female that simply can't be beat. Watching Elizabeth Taylor makes me want to drink scotch at 8 a.m. and buy a satin slip. And why didn't I celebrate losing my virginity, dammit? Someone should have!

For all of the threatening ideology of these films, I wonder if a case can't be made for the transcendence of the images of transgression. Because ten years from now, I'll only have a vague idea of what happened to Wurtzel after she goes on the meds, but that image of Ricci as Madonna-wannabe is burned in there. And Taylor? Well, I think she may single-handedly bring back the full slip as loungewear (so useless under clothes--but as clothes? now you're talking!). Can particularly powerful images beat out the morality tales that seek to discourage viewers from imitative behaviors? And if so, how do they do it?

I'm not sure, but it's scotch for breakfast for me tomorrow, dollfaces.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Mail Bomb!

You know, you have to be careful when you open your mail. Somewhere, tucked in amongst the solicitations for low-interest credit cards, ads for Sears siding, and bank statements is a well-disguised bomb that can blow up your whole day.

I got a newsletter today, from an academic group. I get them quarterly, so it's not a big deal; I (strangely) actually enjoy reading about the minutiae of the members' goings on: their practices, the students they serve, etc. In that newsletter, however, they posted a pre-announcement of a search they intend to do for a new director. Whoa. Now I'm busy picking up the pieces of myself that I thought were all solidly put together.
*Note: If you know me IRL, don't panic. I'm more interested in what this announcement signals about myself than in seriously applying. Of course, if you'd be happy to see me go somewhere else, feel free to encourage me along...

Five years ago, when I was about halfway through the diss, I would have called the not-yet advertised position my dream job. (In fact, at the time, I read a job description for a faculty position in a similar group, and pissed and moaned about how I was perfect if only I were finished.) Lots has changed in that time. I'm closing in on the bid for tenure, and I've made some significant connections. I've resigned myself to living in Urbania (not the best place on the planet, but it could totally be worse), half of my colleagues are truly excellent people and good drunks. I've said to many people that if it weren't for the tension in my department, I'd have the dream job. I teach what I want, when I want. I've been given this little academic unit to grow and nurture. After years of work and discomfort, our house is liveable!!

What's most surprising to me, as I work through the ways in which my ideas have changed about what constitutes the "dream job," are the ways that it shows how I've changed as a person. My earlier self's dream job is one of head rebel: being in a large cadre of people all working on new and innovative ideas all the time; experimenting, refining, and developing their own best practices. That job comes with brilliant, but sometimes insane students; lots of intense interactions, but with a significant sense of accomplishment. As I discuss my current job as being close to a dream job, the overwhelming idea is that it's about being a rebel in a small cohort of rebels within a large, relatively conservative institution. I have students I like, but only a few are exceptional. Many of my ideas for my academic unit are about recruiting increasingly more intense students, who are not the norm at Ascesis U. In essence, in my current job, I can be comfortable. I change when I want, and I have to choose those changes carefully because it involves butting my head against some pretty hard walls.

In essence, it seems I'm at a bit of a crossroads: have I changed so significantly? Am I now the academic who is about being comfortable, who relishes being the rebel only in comparison to real conservatives? Have I always been that academic, and only wanted to be the really "out there" teacher/scholar? Or worse, has my experience in the academy changed me from being the gutsy, ambitious rebel to the resting-on-my-laurels psuedo-rebel? And is that the kind of change I should allow? [As the Dude says, "this aggression will not stand, man..."]

Monday, July 10, 2006

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back to Your Lingerie Drawer

Apparently, it's "nether regions week" here at KulturFluff. Who knew? In today's installment, I'll be filling you in on the previously-overlooked need for technology in underwear.

Before I reveal to you the debacle of a product that I came across today, however, I feel it necessary to explain how I found it. Let it be heard across the land: I seek the holy grail of the perfect pair of underwear. There. I said it. Judge me as you will.

Look, y'all should know how important this is. What else do you wear every single day? Ideally, it should be comfortable, and it should look good, and I shouldn't have to take out a second mortgage in order to have a set that will last me two weeks. You'd think I was asking to acquire my own private space shuttle or something. Here's the deal: I'm not one for the skin-tight pants, but I do hate a panty line. Either it's too much What Not To Wear, or else it's simply vanity; at no time do I need anything bisecting my butt. Thus, we have essentially two options.

Option A: floss.
Super. Both an infinitesimal amount of material, and what is extant is transparent.

Option B: bloomers.
A terrific idea, if only I were interested in hooking the waistband to a bra so as to make my own frumpy catsuit.

I'll spare you the current versions of the ever-delightful, "figure-friendly" industry that is the shaper/support/modern girdle. Suffice to say that I have now thrown myself on the mercy of the internet in a desperate attempt for a global search for some sort of midground between options A and B. But here's the deal, folks. If you, in a haze of undergarment need and desperation type a word like "panties" into Google, you must be prepared for what you find. So, all right, I could have guessed I'd get some manifestation of "MTV Asia Schoolgirl Panties." And if I had thought about it for more than a second, I suppose I could also have imagined a number, though perhaps not the masses of sites devoted to "men who wear panties."

What I was not, prepared for, however, was the idea of forget me not panties--a product that incorporates a GPS system into it. What for, you might ask? Why, to monitor your wife and daughters, of course! Here's their promo bit:
protect her privates
Ever worry about your wife cheating?
Want to know where your daughter is late at night?
Need to know when your girlfriend's temperature is rising?

This amazing device will answer all of your questions! These panties can give you her location, and even her temperature and heart rate, and she will never even know it's there! Unlike the cumbersome and uncomfortable chastity belts of the past, these panties are 100% cotton, and use cutting-edge technology to help you protect what matters most.
make sure you will never be forgotten
I don't actually think that I have enough control over the English language to express how truly SCREWED UP this is. I suppose I could begin with the idea that we, as a culture, were longing for a more comfortable and less-cumbersome version of the chastity belt. I could start there. Then I could go on to the idea that this piece of crap protects "what matters most." Oh, right! I keep getting distracted by personality, sense-of-humor, boobs, even. Eyes on the prize!! I could also probably go after that last line, which is just too bizarre. In what way will this thing make sure that you--you big hunk of man-monitor, you--are not forgotten? Isn't that what you're hoping to check on? If your wife is stepping out (and I can't imagine why she would, with someone as trusting and generous as you at home), aren't these panties the means to prove that you have been forgotten? As a parting shot, however, I think I'd have to go with the idea that "she will never even know it's there." Because it's important, in relationships with women, to be able to scrutinize every change of their bodies, and where on the planet that change is occurring, at every moment. You never know what women do when they're out of your sight. For further proof, check out the testimonials on the site!

I suppose it's not even worth mentioning that these don't come in men's sizes.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Wax On, Wax Off

So, Mr. Fluff and I are trying to spend some quality time together before he takes off for the great European beyond. What this has devolved into, as of yesterday, is spending the day running errands. ("Wait, I think the new shoes I'm taking require new socks. I need a journal. Now I need pencils to write in said journal. How many pairs of underwear does one take? I suppose it depends on how many times one is willing to wash underwear at friends' houses...) After a day of this, all we can really do is come home and partake of some life-affirming television. Which is how we ended up seeing this on HBO (because we're too lazy to send in our Netflix films):

If you haven't seen Autofocus, and I'm not necessarily suggesting that you should, it's a biopic about Bob Crane--Hogan of Hogan's Heroes. The film essentially charts what I think we can safely call his sex addiction, and its effect on his marriages, career, and eventually the end of his life. Crane and his friend, John Carpenter, spend years of their lives cataloguing their sex acts by compiling books of photographs of women's breasts, and then using emerging video technology to tape themselves having sex with a number of women. [Of Crane's post-Hogan jobs, the role of "SuperDad" for Disney was adversely affected by gossip about these practices. Go figure.]

The film does quite a job, I think, of not judging Crane himself for participating in these practices. While it does show the continued negative reactions of those around him, it's admirably objective about the sex itself (up to and including Crane's, ahem, implants).

It did, however, bring up an idle question for me. In the film, the action (so to speak) takes place over the course of the 60's and 70's. As Crane is watching one of his own sex videos, he comments on the woman's pubic hair--let's say that it's "extensive and enthusiastic" (because I like metaphors). Here's my question folks: what's happened in the decades between then and now? How did we get from "enthusiastic" to "non-existent"? [*Note: I understand and support the idea that the utter lack of pubic hair echoes the infantilization of women. And I also know that some women simply prefer going without. I get it. That's not really my question.] What I'm trying to discover, here, is what were the key moments in this change? Did it happen slowly or all at once? When? What were the cultural shifts that brought this about?

I gave myself a good laugh thinking about writing up a proposal for a Ascesis U. research grant on this.

Dear Colleagues:
Please find attached my proposal for a semester of research on the shifting patterns of pubic hair on women. As you will see, the budget is composed primarily of monies devoted to the purchase of materials: various types of American pornography, as well as global porn for comparison; complete sets of both Playboy and Hustler from 1968 to present. In addition, I've requested at least 3 undergraduate research assistants to cull through the materials and make careful notes. I can't think of a better use of their work-study funding. Finally, please note that I fully intend to share my research with the college community; I'd be happy both to donate said materials to the library upon completion of the project, as well as deliver a lecture to faculty and students to report my findings.

Dr. Kfluff

Hee. I should send it just to see the reaction. You think I should wait for tenure first?

Friday, July 07, 2006

If You're Rant-y and You Know It...

My apologies for the abrupt break in blog service for the last few days. Mr. Fluff is on his way to a grand adventure, and we all know what that means: pre-adventure shopping. Things to take for self, things to take for others, things to pack both of aforementioned things in, things to anesthetize self with during travel, etc. Whew. It's hard work, preparing for a trip/buying a bunch of crap.

And gee, hasn't the blogosphere been busy logging a load of things to PISS ME OFF while I've been gone. First, there's this story about scary, nauseating anti-Semitism in a Delaware school district (seen first at Bitch, PhD, and then later at Scriveners). Then, there's NY State high court voting down gay marriage. In related news (while not quite as detrimental to my fragile belief in blue-state legislation), my favorite salsa airs an ad equating their competitors' product with pansy, horse-grooming cowboys from New York (link goes to Pam's House Blend). To top it all off, Sony's new ads for the white PSP are all over the internet-- featuring images of a black woman and a white woman in a catfight. (This one really is all over the place, and the comments at each are well-worth reading: check out feministe, reappropriate, pandagon, and it all began at blackademic. The link here is to joystiq because it's rounded up all of the images.)
And I'm not even going to bother with the link to "Comb-Over" Joe Biden and his new CSPAN comments on immigration.

Here's the thing: I got nuthin' to say about this crap that hasn't been said by others by now, who say it better than I could've anyway. [Basically, you could stop reading now, if you wanted.] All I really got is this, after skimming the comments to all of these Kultural Atrocities [KuAt--sort of the sound you make when you retch]: I'm sick of having to watch people articulate beautifully-reasoned, rational, compassionate responses to a Jewish family being run out of DE on a rail, only to get comments defending the rights of Christians. I'm really tired of people having to justify why the PSP ad is racist and feeding off of lesbian cachet. And why can't New York judges man UP? And perhaps most importantly, am I gonna have to make my own mother-biting SALSA now, since I have to cross Pace off the list? Because seriously, Pace, I'm from cowboy country, and now you're freakin' dead to me!

What I'm trying to say (in not particularly articulate fashion) is that I think it's time to develop a culture of negation. The one in which, instead of feeling called upon to explain WHY these things are wrong and HOW they're crimes against humanity (and hell yes, I'm including salsa-deprivation there), we get to say: "NO. NO, it's just clearly anti-Semitic/discriminatory/racist/homo-philic. If you want to argue about it, it's your job to explain to me how it's NOT anti-Semitic, etc. Go on, I dare you. And make it good, because you're going to have to produce EVIDENCE for your claims."

And this culture of negation? Well, it just might be as applicable to say, departmental politics as it is to national politics and advertising. That's all I'm saying.

Here's a blast from the past for you. Just a tip: turn up the sound.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Half Way to Fall?!!

We're all starting to talk about it--the 4th of July signals not patriotism and fireworks, but the inevitable creep of summer as it goes past us. Really, it's the moment when summer begins to hurtle along, increasingly filled with the minutiae we need to accomplish in order to prepare for the fall semester.

I'm beginning to make a list of things to do: various administrative tasks and meetings for ACUN; plan courses and order books; prevent bookstore guy from assassinating me because I have yet to turn in my book order; set up online compontents of courses; finish up paperwork from spring initiative, etc., etc., etc. [And I suppose, FINISH M-Fing article should be on there...] Then despair sets in.

What I wouldn't give, then, to spend a day or two in the mindset of my furry familiar, whom Mr. Fluff calls JB (for some reason the cat reminds him of some old Bill Cosby routine. Meh. Before my time). Here's a shot of JB after his dinner yesterday:

Shouldn't we all get to experience this during the summer? At least for a few days?

Wishing all of you a few work-less, stress-less days before the semester begins.

Y'all Git Ready for the Multicultural Ho-Down

Oy. I'm taking a brief break from my ranting on trans-racial adoption (although, I have to say, the more I read, the more I have to say--typical academic disease). I think I've got one more post on that topic, but I've got to mull it a bit more.

Instead of that, here, for your viewing pleasure, is a combination; a right jab then upper cut; two great tastes that taste great together (and for the record, I said this to my students last semester and they had no idea what I was talking about. sigh.). The academic world and well-intentioned cultural ignorance--one of my very favorite pairs.

Here's how this particular synergistic combo plays out. Let's say that I've got this little academic unit that I run. Nothing so large as a department or anything, but a baliwick with a set of students and the courses that keep them busy. [Fluff, you may ask, what the hell are you doing, as a junior person, running an academic unit? Bitch, please. You think I understand how I get myself into this crap?] One of the ever-more tricky parts of my job is to beg, borrow and steal full-time faculty away from their home departments in order to teach some of these classes. Not an easy task, for a number of reasons, but first and foremost because said academic unit--ACUN, let's call it--calls for some specialized knowledge in issues about race and ethnicity. Now, despite the phlegm and vitriol I spewed below, in general, I tend to believe that university campuses (Bible Colleges excepted) are bastions of left-leaning professors. I'm no David Horowitz, you understand, but come on--these are my people! This should be the last place in America that we can go and not have to defend some of the most basic ideas of equality and justice!

I hope you're reading this, shaking your heads at my naivete. So, in the course of my travels on campus, I have a tendency to keep my eyes open for folks that might fit the bill for ACUN in terms of their expertise, as well as be interesting and engaging teachers for the students. I met Professor Tex through work on a campus initiative. He was personable, had good student evals, in our discussions he mentioned that he spent time as a master's student working on a prominent African American author and cultural figure. When I had an adjunct drop out, I thought of him immediately. He agreed to teach the course, I signed him up, it's full of students eagerly awaiting his wisdom in the fall.

In a nutshell, here's what Tex sends me as a proposal for the course. Students will work on essays out of a diversity reader, they'll examine the local paper, and, wait for it: they'll cook meals from different cultures for each class. Seriously. No lie. I couldn't make this up if I wanted to.

So, gentle readers, what to do? Do I write Prof. Tex back and very gently suggest that these students don't really need any more instruction in aesthetic multiculturalism? Do I instead try to push it over the edge, and insist that if they're going to cook, that they should also wear the native dress--even experiment with black or yellowface? Better yet, could I just get all kung-fu on his ass? Oh, excuse me, that's better delivered with a side of kimchi.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Whoa. Asian Mind-Meld.

So, I was cruising through my list of blogs (and yes, I should subscribe to bloglines and no, I don't, so Shaddap!).

Lo and behold: Jenn over at reappropriate has, just today, linked to a brouhaha at a blog called twice the rice. Guess what it's about? See the post below!!

The rather "contentious" post is located here; complete with comments. Clearly, Ji-in is far more knowledgeable and experienced in these matters than I am. My lowly post genuflects in her direction.

What is as fascinating as Ji-in's post, however, are the comments she receives. Boy howdy. If someone isn't already doing a study on the rationalization of adoptive parents who turn to Asia, now would be the time! I can't help but follow some of the advice there for seeking out other examples--I'm off to google China, adoption, etc. I anticipate it will invoke the same feelings as watching a Maury Povitch marathon: so horrible that I can't---look---away... and then you just feel bloated and nauseated afterwards.

Okay, so the question of the day: how ballsy am I? Do I dare send my relative with the adopted child this book?

Open Letter to Well-Meaning, Upper- Middle Class Families Considering Adoption


On the face of things, it makes perfect sense that you would want to adopt a child. As we all know, there are many children without parents, and they could all use good homes. If you can find it in your heart to forgo the old chestnut that biologically related children are better, then I'm sure that you would make a difference in a child's life and your own if you would adopt.

Here's the kicker, however. If you decide, as so many of you have, to adopt, must you go to an Asian country and claim a little girl? Apparently you must, as my own 4th of July weekend has been littered with examples of this practice. At Northeastern performance venues, ritzy suburban diners--everywhere I look, it seems, Caucasian families are out and about with their Asian daughters.

"But I'm saving her!" you say, "From a culture which discards girls!" "It's so much easier and faster to get a child from China/Vietnam/Cambodia* than in the U.S. (where you have to be so careful to make sure that they're not crack babies, etc.)." It's good of you to be so simultaneously altruistic and selfish; it might be useful here to research the kind of global economy you are participating in. While it MAY be true that culturally, the Chinese have not traditionally valued women in the same way as America (and here there are several scholarly arguments that insist on the recognizing the complexity of this kind of statement), currently China is on the brink of a girl-shortage. Likewise, U.S. baby trade in Vietnam is currently on hold due to several reports by biological mothers who insist that they did not give up their children willingly. In an era where the U.S. is being accused of global domination, this familial version of colonialism is a dangerous practice to engage in so enthusiastically.

Finally, I'd urge you to think VERY CAREFULLY about the possible, and more likely probable, events and reception that your child will receive. For example, when the little girl with the white family at the diner was playing, a woman at a nearby table remarked: "Look at the cute little Japanese girl!" Much like the daughter of my relative, who at 3, receives sets of plastic food to play house with, but the food happens to be sushi. The chances are good that your adopted daughter will often be looked at as an outsider, as many Asian Americans are. With you, however, she will not even be accepted by outsiders as a member of the family. In some ways, you will always mark her difference, rather than claiming her sameness. In essence, by adopting this child, you will be signing on for a lifetime of conversations about ethnic difference--ones with which you may have little to no lived experience or practice. (For a sense of what these might look like, check out Harlow's Monkey in the sidebar, and the webring of adoptee blogs). In short, telling your child that "people are ignorant" and/or "you're just like us" isn't going to cut it.

Finally, despite the current baby-craze in the U.S., please remember that your child is not an accessory--one who particularly matches your new wardrobe from Harajuku Lovers--nor does she instantiate your outstanding ethics or morals. I'm looking at you, Meg Ryan and Angelina Jolie. Yup, Brad's complicit too.

*Now, of course, the baby trade has also grown to encompass Western Asia (Russia, Belarusse, etc.).