Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Unified Theory of Everything

When you were young, I am sure your mothers told you that girls develop faster than boys do. What they didn’t tell you is that the boys don’t catch up until their 50s or 60s, if at all. Many old codgers go to their graves still trying to figure it out. I mention this because it is an undeniable fact that if you scratch any world crisis you will probably find a group of men carrying on like a gaggle of eighth graders, so it is possible we could be looking at a unified theory that explains everything that is wrong in the world. Simply stated, the world is going to hell because we’re the poor bastards who have to get it up. That’s the long and the short of it, both literally and figuratively. There’s no way we can fake it, so we pose and posture as we swing our gonads as if they were weapons of mass destruction. It’s the crotch that retards our emotional development. Couple that with the fact that after sex we need a cigarette and twelve hours of sleep while a woman can go on and you see why men need human sacrifice, slaughter, and big belt buckles to feel whole.

However, God, in his wisdom, built in an anecdote for this madness. As a man ages, his brains begin to drift upward from his crotch towards his skull. This is a very liberating experience because it expands the vision and makes a man more open to the possibility of acquiring some wisdom. This also explains why society marginalizes the elderly. To protect itself from this wisdom, civilization created Viagra. All a man had to do was pop a bill and the brains went careening right back to his crotch. It was thus that civilization discovered that the most dangerous creature on the face of the earth was a 55-year-old man with a boner. So, unless Birdie can radicalize her Avon customers, I’m afraid we are damned. This is especially so because we have a sixth grader in the White House whose poll numbers are plummeting and who knows that if he blows the midterms he could be looking at an impeachment. He is also eyeing a Middle Eastern country that is enriching uranium. Finally, he has no qualms about the preemptive use of nuclear weapons. You do the math.

Of course, only a man could develop a unified theory of everything built around the gonads. I guess that’s what you get for beating the crap out of a male snake.[1]

Tiresias



[1] According to legend (one of several different ones), Tiresias came across two serpents copulating. He killed the female snake and because of that was changed into a female. Some years later, he again came across two serpents copulating. This time he killed the male and was changed back into a man. Because of his experience with both sexes, Zeus and Hera asked him to settle a dispute. Zeus claimed a woman got more pleasure out of sex while Hera claimed it was the man. Tiresias said it was the woman, which enraged Hera so she blinded him. Zeus, feeling sorry for him, gave him a staff that acted as his eyes and the gift of prophecy. In Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Oedipus asks Tiresias to find the truth about his parents. The rest, as they say, is history.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Prostitutes Against the War, or PAW

now have a new argument to use with their sister sex workers: on the importance of, not only very carefully screening one's clients, but, more importantly, on the pitfalls of not paying attention to the intersection of one's work with politics.

A number of women escorts and prostitutes are learning first-hand that, for them, working for Republicans can only lead to expensive legal troubles and public disgrace. Witness the unraveling of carefully guarded secrets of some members of the GOP in the midst of the interconnected scandals involving Abramoff, Delay and Cunningham. Until very recently, the scandals had lacked the spice of sex required to really interest the MSM's pundits. However, now that Cunningham and two of his contractors have been implicated in trading political favors for prostitution services, the tabloid coverage cannot be far behind.

Of course, in this economy, one still has to earn a living, and deliberately eliminating 50%, or possibly much more, of one's client market is not the most pragmatic move one could make. However, there are other creative and practical options being explored, at least in the EU, if not in the US. Last month, the online Telegraph reported on a pilot program in Germany, in which a church is recruiting prostitutes to train and work as nurses.
"They are in general very good at dealing with people, in addition to which they don't get squeamish and have absolutely no fear about touching or being touched."
* * * * *
Yet, such obvious-seeming solutions are rarely so simple. More than a year earlier, the Telegraph had also reported on unemployed German women being forced into prostitution or having to face a loss in their unemployment benefits. Such a drastic move was only possible because:
Prostitution was legalised in Germany in 2002 because the government believed that this would help to combat trafficking in women and cut links to organised crime.
Although I don't doubt that the intended effects probably did occur, there are usually unpredictable effects that occur with any significant change to public policy. Who could have predicted that rising unemployment across the EU, but especially in Germany, could lead to women being forced into legal prostitution?

Wouldn't it make more sense, given the nursing shortage, just to recruit unemployed women to train as nurses? Or is the conventional wisdom that a year or two of prostitution is an important part of the preparation?

I'm just asking...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

My Son's Chants: A poem

I'm holding my seven-month old by his hands so that he's standing and he chants like a shaman using long syllables and song-like intonations that call down energy and power and he makes the sun set and the evening colors in the sky spread across the land and alight on the still snow-capped mountains. They turn pink like the salmon-colored roses blooming in his mother's garden but my mind can 't rest here in this pink land under a darkening violet sunset because the power behind my son 's sudden chants haunt me call up all my thoughts of the day and play them in the front of my mind like a dramatic movie and I think we say yes too easily, sounds absurd to even admit this, but yes, we say yes to anything that gives us meaning, something we can cheer about, anything that gives us the upper-hand the extra paycheck in the bank. The ten o 'clock evening news starts and tragedy tops the hour each story after story the anchors sit with these stoic and sad masks reading queue cards about murder, war, missing children, court cases and car accidents but they take them off just in time for commercial breaks and just in time for the sports and the weather and the final "goodnight" segment so that the entire world seems set to right I assume so that not one soul not one state senator retires to bed suffering from heartburn from a pricked conscience while thousands of miles away we continue to say yes to war to murder to death to heartache to fear to abuse to empty promises changing ethics shallow beliefs and time ticks away and it has told us a million times that it can 't bring what has past back to us but we never listen we march into our homes and lock our doors and shut up our windows we pull down our blinds and create makeshift shrines of make believe and I swear as my son chants and sings down my awareness I hear women singing softly as they prepare another body for God.

Koryphaios

Koryphias is the Greek word for chorus, which originated from the Greek tragic drama. The role of the Chorus was primarily three-fold: summarize what the audience had just seen and heard; comment on major themes; and/or become an extension of the audience and react to what transpires on stage, which usually resulted in the audience following the lead. The Chorus, then, was paramount to the play and the playwright because it was the vehicle to disseminate the message the playwright intended the audience to learn and believe.

My role at Lyssa Strada is a simile of the original Chorus, commenting on major themes, being a conscience of this time.

So close to what we are searching for...

...nurturing men-- yet hard-boiled news men, and part of the Washington press corps at that-- who took the time to help a mother duck and her ducklings cross a busy street. Now, if we could just get them-- and many thousands more like them-- to help stop the war, the genocide, the ethnic cleansing, the starvation, the needless epidemics... and all of the other ill treatment of women and children around the world.

They can start by setting their own record straight on Bush & Co. and its trail of money.

[Thanks to Dan Froomkin for the link.]

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Fashion Sense

Following on Birdie's comment (see Something HUGE that women can do:
As a mom and an Avon Lady and a woman and a blogger, I sometimes write about my unsatisfaction with the media's Perfect Woman Ideal. I know other women blog about this, too, and try to shout into the wilderness that they are unique, beautiful, forces of perfect nature.
What is up with women's clothing? Are bras and hose not the most ridiculous things we wear? I don't know of any woman who can't wait to race to the comfort of her home and rip them off her body.

Personally, I gave up hose ages ago and wear them only if the occasion absolutely demands them. I wear sports bras which are fairly comfortable, but by the end of the day the elastic bands at the bottom are pinching and itching and ... at my age, I give a whole new meaning to the phrase "44 Long."

Wikipedia gives us this history of the bra including this tidbit:
Bras are believed by some to help preserve the youthful shape of breasts (which naturally sag as women grow older), an opinion which, unsurprisingly, is promoted by bra manufacturers. However, there is some doubt over this amongst the medical community, and while a woman may choose to wear a bra for comfort or for social reasons, there is no conclusive evidence to support the notion that a woman's breasts will sag lower over her lifetime if she doesn't wear a bra.

Anecdotal tidbits say that Marilyn Monroe wore a bra most of the time, especially when sleeping to keep hers firm and uplifted. My abusive perverted father insisted I go braless every summer through high school. Since Marilyn died at the age of 36, we'll never know what shape her breast would have been in as she entered the middle ages. I've already said too much about what shape mine are in.

I need to wear one for numerous reasons and I'm a devout believer in comfort in all things. That doesn't make bras any less ridiculous though. Wouldn't it be great if we could find a way to make them more comfortable while performing their duties?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Some news reports we are simply dying to read...

The Raging Grannies, in a revolting development, are reporting to military bases all over the United States and demanding to serve their children's and granchildren's middle east tours, initally intending to protest the questionable military recruiting techniques that target primarily poor and disadvantaged youths-- but, ultimately, to protest so much more. Think: torture scandals, lack of equipment & armor, innocent civilian deaths, including children, administration lies before during, and, they presume, after the war. The good news? Sales of camouflage in women's sizes soar.

Emily's List and the White House Project combine forces to form a Shadow Government, similar to the European model, but consisting primarily of women, with a few token men... [this story is developing]

Code Pink is planning events that will target men where it hurts: in their wallets and at the stadiums, and not necessarily by making them pay more for tickets. Rumors whisper that brigades of women will take over prominent sporting venues-- holding them hostage-- before important playoff games... disrupting the sport, the betting, and the consumption of beer.

Inspired by The Lysistrata Project, the Women in Black decide to abandon their mourning wear; donning grecian robes, they plan to form "impromptu" choruses on street corners, reciting relevant passages from the comedies of Aristophanes. One member cites Molly Ivins as an inspiration, because of her emphasis on the importance of having fun while freedom-fighting.

Women across the country start brainstorming workshops to plan street theatre events, and acts of civil disobedience to be peformed on a monthly schedule. DayTimer reads the writing on the wall, and collaborates with Google to develop a really good online calendar that intuitively understands a woman's needs.

Women Against the War, having recognized from the beginning that withholding sex in an attempt to stop the Iraq War would be futile, decide instead to withhold child care, leaving men all over the world literally holding the diaper bag.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has been nominated to the Supreme Court, where her judicious temperament, and penchant for consensus, would actually be appreciated. Rarely is the confirmation process a cakewalk. However, Senator Clinton has, during her time in the senate, earned the respect of her colleagues; a highly-placed source hints that she would likely win confirmation.

Something HUGE that women can do!

I first posted this essay at mediacenterblog.org as part of an ongoing discussion on trust in the media, but it applies here. In fact, it applies MUCH more here, because here is where we're going to take action.

My Avon district sales manager sat next to me at my kitchen table two years ago. She wore soft caramel lipstick to match her Asian print jacket, a shade just two tones shy of her sculpted bouffant.

"Birdie," she said, her index pointing first to her lips, then mine, "every woman buys lipstick. Your new Avon business manual shows you how to sell the exact type of lipstick your customer needs. Here, take a look."

I glanced at the open blue binder, at a chart where you can match up hydration versus long-wearing versus affordability, ingredients, lifestyle, you name it. Each of the core Avon lipsticks was dissected, outlined, splayed on the page like an alien anatomy diagram. I nodded my head as if I beheld the sacred Tibetan Book of the Dead. I made a mental note to memorize these facts FIRST! And I did. I did.

Two years later, I can still cite the Lipstick Mantras, spill them into the palm of a questioning customer. Avon thinks Avon Knows Best, but let me tell you a secret: My customers know a hell of a lot more. I learned what lipsticks have staying power, which leave tell-tale stains on crisp white men's collars, which provide the most bang for the buck. My new Lipstick Mantras are based on my customers' needs. Not everything Avon needs to know or ought to know can be found in a focus group.

But I'm one lone Avon Lady wolf, howling at the internet moon. Even when one voice has an audience, it's easy to discount that voice. Even with multiple voices, if these voices occur at different times and disparate places and in varying manners, there's a diminished impact. It's easy, simple, for these disconnected voices to be shushed, swept under the bed. Focus and large numbers are what has impact.

The last big revolution with information and the media was Google, where information is collected and organized in specific patterns by popularity so that Google users can quickly find the most pertinent information for which they seek. But Google is passive, doesn't push any organization's agenda, any one person's thoughts. The next big revolution will be to actively direct and organize the formation of the information and the issuance of that information to a particular time, to bring focus and attention. There's power in numbers.

Already, there are some blogging coalitions that provide some kind of focus. All of these groups gather bloggers who share some interest - be it an anti-war agenda, a love of a particular musical artist, an opinion on abortion, the list goes on to include environmental groups, political groups, etc. By sharing a concern or compliment, bloggers can combine their individual power into something bigger, something with teeth, a snarl. This is the new media version of letter-writing campaigns. There are also incredible Social Networks such as MySpace and LiveJournal where word of mouth travels faster than wildfire. This has a domino effect, amplifying one person's yowls with the Amens of thousands.

But imagine something even more powerful than discreet coalition entities and roving social networks! For example, imagine that some non-profit Meta Organization was formed with the task of identifying major concerns and issues to particular groups who have a presence on the internet through blogs and other forms of comment and criticism. The mission of this non-profit would be to provide focal points involving temporal placement for issues and concerns of organized and unorganized groups that have not had the means to collectively focus their opinions in such a sharp and global way. It should be a temporal focus, because everything happens in time, and you are harnessing power, focusing the comments and opinions of large numbers just like light, in one place in one time. Like light, it would cause heat, shine brilliance, get attention.

Imagine if this Meta Organization had no personal agenda outside of organizing focus. Imagine if it selected a day that month where it was announced that all interested parties will focus on one particular issue and will put forth their most potent thoughts, serious concerns, most constructive comments and solutions on that one day, complete with links to all participating parties. Focusing and targeting that product or service or social concern would cause an instant revolution! What company would want to be in such crosshairs? What politician? What interest group? Imagine thousands, tens of thousands, perhaps millions of bloggers opining on that day's topic. What a difference that would make, because then people not part of those groups would be focused on what those groups are saying that day about that subject. That could change the world.

What can be different tomorrow is that that focus, rather than being unorganized and somewhat random, could have some kind of organizing principle applied so that what they focused on and when could really draw the media and the heads of various companies.

Major media influencers, whether it's corporate or government or other large institutions, have always had the power to pick and choose when and where and how to cause a buzz on what's of interest to them. But now the opportunity is here for thousands and millions of disparate individuals to have the same kind of power to focus - through an organized network - on things that are of concern to them. For the first time, bringing about some balance between the powers that be and the powers that have always been but could not be easily heard is possible.

As a mom and an Avon Lady and a woman and a blogger, I sometimes write about my unsatisfaction with the media's Perfect Woman Ideal. I know other women blog about this, too, and try to shout into the wilderness that they are unique, beautiful, forces of perfect nature. All of our disconnected voices haven't made a big dent in the way things are done. But I can imagine participating in such a Meta Organization, where one day the focus is on the unhealthy media portrayal of beauty issues. Imagine fifty thousand women - on the same day! - blogging about specific companies and their product literature and magazine advertising, pointing out the unobtainable standards, the way the language used in those advertisements is at odds with the images shown. Would companies listen to fifty thousand women who yelled all at once? Would the journalistic community? Would something happen? Hell. Yes.

It's time for the bloggers of the world to combine forces. We'd be unstoppable.

beginning with some news that is true... in Umoja, Kenya, a women-only village

Thriving women-only village is attacked by jealous locals

By Mike Pflanz in Archer's Post
(Filed: 16/07/2005)

A group of Kenyan women who fled abusive husbands to set up their own women-only community are facing increasingly violent attacks by local men angry at their success.

Turning traditional African patriarchy on its head, 15 women established Umoja village in 1990, as a refuge after their husbands' behaviour forced them to flee their homes.

[snip]

They all fled after daily beatings from their husbands or brothers, often because they said they had been raped, some allegedly by British soldiers training nearby, and so had brought shame on their homes.

After trying to survive alone, brewing traditional beer in the bush to sell by the roadside, they banded together and began building Umoja, which means ''unity'' in Kiswahili.

Money started flowing into their newly-opened bank account from sales of the bead necklaces, which take three days to make.

Word spread. More women arrived, their belongings on their heads, babies strapped to their backs.

"I was raped and I told my husband and he started beating me, even when I was carrying the child, so I ran away and joined these people here," said Paulina Lekuriya, a striking woman with a wide smile who guesses her age at 35. Her story is echoed by the others.

Naturally, the men, whether single or husbands, did not appreciate the women's new-found independence, and did whatever they could to undermine them, including starting up their own village and trying to lure away the tourists, among other tactics.

Read the rest of Pflanz's story here. But that is not all...

Emily Wax also wrote on Umoja in the New York Times, concluding her story with a description of a detente (sort of)...

[...] Lately, the residents of the men's village have been admitting defeat. They are no longer trying to attract tourists. Some have moved elsewhere. Others have had trouble getting married because some women in the area are taking Lolosoli's example to heart.

"She has been successful, it's true." sighed Lesinik, who said maybe he is a little bit jealous.

Update: More recently, Rebecca Lolosoli was invited to chair: Violence Against Indigenous Women, sponsored by MADRE, FIMI, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. See flyer.



Monday, April 24, 2006

Coming soon...

Lyssa Strada harnesses the wrath of the world's women...
"Wrath is when a whole people, tired of oppression, rises up against an unjust system and, through the aggregate of their individual actions, effects real change."
[from Nonpartisan's post distinguishing between anger and wrath at MyLeftWing]