Friday, July 29, 2005

Latoyia Figueroa

Just picking up what a bunch of other bloggers have already done.

Her name is Latoyia Figueroa. She's missing. She's five months pregnant. She has a seven year old daughter at home, whom I'd imagine is very frightened and confused.

The All Spin Zone is collecting donations toward a reward. As of a little while ago, the reward was up to about $7,ooo. Please help, if you can.

In the meantime, you might browse around a bit. Turns out NOW claims murder is the leading cause of death for pregnant women. This is discussed a bit more, here.

Another study has murder as second only to car accidents, in terms of injury-related deaths. It also observes that pregnant black women are more than three times as likely to be murdered than pregnant white women. Either way, it makes getting pregnant look pretty fucking grim.

Things look pretty awful for Latoyia Figueroa. But her family hasn't given up hope, and neither should we. At the very least, we should track down the person or persons responsible for her disappearance.

Now. I'm admittedly a white, upper-middle-class, well-educated lesbian. It's highly unlikely that I'll ever be murdered by some lumbering, no-neck, neanderthal-wanna-be; certainly--god forbid--not because I'm carrying his child and he senses some sort of threat to his tiny reality.

And that is, of course, a gross caricature of the kind of man who does this sort of thing. Certainly, as a lesbian, I've encountered appalling misogyny from what seemed--on the surface--to be unlikely sources.

This is just wrong on so many levels, it leaves me speechless.

If you've seen Latoyia Figueroa- please call Philadelphia Police at 215-686-3183.

You can help. Over at Daily Kos, there's an open invitation for bloggers to get on board, and help get the word out: "if you have a blog, whether you have 1 visitor per day or 1 million, please consider blogging about Latoyia. Visibility does make a difference."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Sexy Writers

No, it isn't an oxymoron. Just bear with me, and I'll explain.

A few different things started me thinking this direction: Nicholas, over at Return to Sender, worries a bit about whether he's too obsessive and frank in discussing his penis, wet dreams and so on (hey, he's like 20, it's normal.) Then there was the whole thing about bitchy women, and why they're so hot. Also thinking about smart people in general, and how much I like them.

So then I started thinking about writers I like to read, and why. It isn't about the people, either--it's about the words and how they're strung together.

I arrived at the conclusion that some writers are just, well, sexy--at least in the way they handle language. Those are the writers I read again and again. The novels for which I wait anxiously, for months. The blogs I've bookmarked not just at home, but on the laptop, too.

This can't be that weird, right?

Just for clarification--I don't care what these people look like, what they smell like, whether or not they're complete pills, in real life. That doesn't matter. I don't know these people, and I never will. I don't even want to, to tell you the truth.

Ah--but I know their various and yummy ways with words.

It isn't about subject matter, either. I'm not talking about writers of erotica--although that's certainly just fine, as well. A sexy writer can make anything seem interesting and tasty. It's style and vocabulary, combined with sumptuous patterns of thought and articulation.

I can't be the only voracious reader who feels this way, right?

These aren't the only writers I read and enjoy, either. Something about their prose, though, goes straight to the pleasure centers in my brain. I know it sounds odd to sexualize that, but it's the closest I can come to expressing precisely what reading can be like, for me.

Some writers just leave me with my toes curled, squirmy and warm, and breathing a bit quickly--God bless 'em. Some prose just does it for me.

Who writes like that, for you?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Cerebrally Hot

So I've recently discovered Bitch. Ph.D. and a couple of days ago, she was talking about Nice Guys and Bitchy Women. (Go and read it, if you'd like. Read the comments, too--I'll wait.)

Just in case you don't want to navigate over there--although I highly recommend you do--here's a synopsis.

She sorts "Bitchy Women" into possible categories:

1. There are surely women who are genuinely mean people; and often these women are bitchiest to other women, but tend to play up to men, because on some level being a "bitch" is all about power. . . .

2. Women who are abusive. Nothing much to say about this; women who treat their partners and / or kids like crap suck, just the same as men like that.

3. Strong women, as we all know, all get called "bitch" sooner or later. That's the spirit in which I named the blog; and sure enough, there've been a few comments here and there. . .

4. Women who are bitchy in private relationships. . . .women who are sometimes described as "high strung" or "high maintenance" or, as Mr. B. calls me, "stressmonkeys." Up to a point, I think these women are good partners for solid, self-confident guys; we have a clear sense of boundaries, we're direct; we're not conflict-averse; we don't mess about on the borders of hinting that something's wrong--we'll come pretty straight out and let you know. But I'll admit that sometimes those skills get misapplied. . .

She also suggests that perhaps Bitch #4 has some weird corollary relationship to Bitch #3, then she observes, "I think that a certain level of personal "bitchiness" is fine, and I suspect a lot of men are attracted to strong, assertive, ambitious women, which is of course the simple answer to the "why do men like bitchy women" question. But I wonder about the men who live with those of us who are (4). What's the attraction? I admit: I don't think I could do it."

*Whew* Okay. I've caught you up on what I was thinking about, and the conversation I've been following. I thought about replying there, then chose not to, since the conversation had become rather stultifyingly hetero, then increasingly combative, then began to degenerate into a discussion about whether or not Angelina Jolie is sexy (yes, but in a not-altogether-comfortable sort of way,) and why.

She says later, in the comments section: "I also wonder, come to think of it, how these archetypes play out in same-sex relationships, or whether there are different archetypes altogether."

The answer to that is, of course, "it depends" and "yes."

That is, I know same-sex couples both male and female who seem to avoid the nice partner/bitchy partner dynamic--but I've never quite managed the trick of it.

I didn't want to cut-n-paste the entire post, so I've omitted Dr. Bitch's nice-guy classifications. They're insightful and funny. Really, you should go and read the post. If you had Firefox, instead of the cursed IE, you could even open it in another tab and zap back and forth for reference.

And cuz this is my own blog, I'm not particularly inclined to explain why I classify myself as a nice-guy type. You'll have to just take my word for it. I'd love to be a bitch. I really would. I just can't ever pull it off. The closest I've come is when a dear friend described me as "mostly feral" and I'm not even certain what that precisely meant. I took it as a compliment. My friend who made the observation is very much a bitch, by the way. In the good sense of the word.

(I'm terribly tempted here to launch into a monologue about the urgent need to expand the lexicon: "Bitch" has been neatly appropriated by strong women to mean a combination of sexy/strong/wonderful/and-if-that-scares-you-we-don't-give-a-fuck. I applaud that appropriation, and suggest that those who need a gender-specific pejorative should go looking for another word to use. I'm resisting mightily. Feel free to admire my fortitude.)

What were we talking about? Oh yes. Nice dyke/bitchy dyke partnering arrangements, and what's the attraction.

*disclaimer: the following is mostly irreverent observation, thrown together out of my personal experience. It may well have no bearing on any one else's reality whatsoever. I'm okay with that.

So here's the thing. Dr. B's Bitch #3 and #4 are mostly the same woman, although there are some exceptions. She's strong, sure, intelligent and articulate in her public and professional life--but there's a cost for that. She's often strong, sure, intelligent, and articulate in her private life, as well--but sometimes she's a bit...err...neurotic.

Okay. You know what?

Occasionally, she's just plain bugfuck nutso.

Even that's sort of sexy, in a not-exactly-healthy-or-comfortable way. The "stress-monkey" side-effect is friggin' adorable as long as you can maintain a healthy detachment. Because it's still about knowing precisely what she wants, and how she wants it. Even though she's perhaps the only person in the world who can understand the logic. It spells the difference between Athena and Boadicea. Athena is, frankly, a bit boring. Boadicea is, well, a total hottie.

This is a phenomenon I've long associated with education. More recently, I've realized it's just about intelligence in general. Or rather, a combination of intelligence and a talent for appropriate introspection. So it's something I often see in well-educated women, but not exclusively.

It's a kind of sexy that's got little to do with pheremones, and so when it's combined with good pheremones, it's completely and overwhelmingly irresistable.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


So I'm watching the NBC Nightly News last night. Actually, I wasn't really watching--sort of listening with one ear, while I scraped old paint off of cupboard fronts. I couldn't help but overhear several minutes of discussion about four members of a women's lacrosse team who wore flip flops to the White House. Apparently, this act was sufficiently scandalous that it ignited controversy sufficient to overshadow any other issues of the day, because it got a lot of coverage.

Essentially, it seems the current White House prefers a higher level of decorum

A bit later, still scraping, I hear on the local news about a big friggin' tunnel dug under the Canadian border. "Oh great," I think, "We have to take our shoes off in line at the airport--which I'm supposed to believe makes me safer--and meanwhile, someone's run a private underground superhighway from BC to Washington state."

I would have been fine, if I'd stopped thinking right there.

Instead, though, it occurs to me that if taking our shoes off in the security line at the airport isn't really about Homeland Security (booga, booga) then what the hell is it about?

Then I start thinking about what it was like to stand in that line for almost an hour. True, I don't take my shoes off--nor do my fellow travelers--until we reach the metal detectors and conveyer belts. At that point, though, there's this enormous mob of unhappy, stressed people handing over their shoes and belts to total strangers: Strangers in uniforms, unsmiling, officious, and abrupt.

That sets off a chain of images in my mind.

I think we need to be damned careful what we let ourselves become accustomed to. We're being conditioned to accept being treated like cattle--all in the name of security and freedom.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Cowboy Heroes

I have a confession: In spite of an education practically designed to engender contempt towards and automatic dismissal of any book you can find on a supermarket spin-rack, I love pulp fiction.

The stuff people in used bookstores buy by the grocery-bag full? I'm fascinated by that stuff.

I think many of those writers are/were on to something. They've tapped into a jugular vein of popular imagination, fantasy gender-roles, and cultural iconography.

This is by no means a secret sort of obsession. I wrote my master's thesis about Pet Sematary much to the committee's bemusement (But they approved it with no rewrites, after my defense. The guy who wrote about literary allusions in Vanity Fair can't say as much.)

So that's how I came to be reading my way through a box full of Louis L'Amour westerns. My dad picked them up at a local garage sale, during a recent visit. Now, it isn't that I'd never read any of these books; in fact, when I was still tutoring reading-challenged kids, these slender little paperbacks were a big favorite with a lot of the boys.

Somehow, though, I'd come away with the impression that these books are more-or-less the same story. I'd developed a kind of patronizing, dismissive roll-of-the-eyes attitude about them.

Shame on me.

Okay, I'm not going to try to sell you on the idea that Louis L'Amour's books are great literature, somehow-overlooked.

Let's face it, though--the Cowboy has definitely become an archetype of American culture. He pops up all over the place, from John Wayne to Han Solo to Serenity to--god help us all--GW. Louis L'Amour certainly didn't invent the American cowboy archetype, though he cashed in on it, with enthusiasm.

"I wanna be a cowboy...

Riding on the range,
I've got my hat - on
I've got my boots - dusty..."

The books are very clear-cut in the world view they put forward, with regards to strength of character, self-discipline, morality, ethics, and just how-stuff-oughtta-be in general. The characters live by a code, unwritten and largely unspoken--yet somehow understood and accepted by everyone.

They aren't terribly written, either. In fact, L'Amour had moments of real beauty, especially in terms of describing landscape with which he obviously felt a powerful connection.

Okay, yeah--he head-hops all over the place. It's a bit jarring to be reading a first-person novel, then jump to a third person scene, revealing the innermost thoughts of another character far away. Sort of a mostly first-person, but sometimes-omniscient-for-the-sake-of-convenience approach.

Now, to a degree, almost all of 'em could be read as sort of one-note Gary Stu stories. To give credit where it's due, however, I think he honestly tried to broaden the one-dimensional caricature of cowboy-gunslinger. Admittedly, his heroes tend to be much more thoughtful--and much better-read--than the typical card-board cut-out cowboy. There are even some notable attempts at real characterization, with varying degrees of success.

He gives his reader multiple hints that we are to understand the hero riding across the western landscape as a knight of the prairie, through oft-repeated allusions to Lochinvar and Ivanhoe.

OH! young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword he weapons had none.
He rode all unarmed and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love and so dauntless in war, 5
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.

His version of romantic love, too, seems closely informed by the courtly-love, chivalric-code versions--the hero and the love interest have a sort of unspoken attraction, from which springs a barely-discussed understanding of one another...they can even travel across hostile territory in each other's company, with nothing awkward or unseemly happening.

" Where is my John Wayne
Where is my Prairie Son
Where is my happy ending
Where have all the cowboys gone

Where is my Marlboro man
Where is his shiny gun
Where is my lonely ranger
Where have all the cowboys gone ..."

Except the lonely, far-travelling gunslinger--as good with his fists as he is quick with his gun--provides what can be a disastrous real-life paradigm for "how to be." It's a model that has been glorified and imitated to incredible extremes.

This guy just never has any doubts. He intuitively knows what's right and wrong, and he sets about imposing and enforcing what he knows to be right, with gun and fists.

Sound familiar?

If only the cowboys currently in office were as well-read and introspective, as concerned with liberty and justice, as dedicated to the ideals of equality, as a L'Amour hero.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Smart People

I love hanging out with smart people. The smarter, the better.

Oh--it's humbling, for sure. In fact, nothing quite stings like hearing someone articulate off-the-cuff, with seeming ease, something you've been long been struggling to frame and verbalize.

But it's good, too. It keeps things in perspective.
It also saves me a lot of mental work.

Funny people tend to be smart. I mean funny in the says-clever-and-amusing-things kind of way, not funny in the oh-my-god-what-a-bonehead, GW kind of way. Perhaps that's part of why it's so much fun to just hang out in the background and listen to smart people talk.

Oh, I suppose you could make a case that it's intellectual voyeurism. I'm okay with that, actually. I can certainly think of worse perversions.

(These observations are leading up to my point, in spite of how it may seem otherwise.)

I like blogs, because I like to listen to smart people. Reading the blogs of smart people is polite, non-intrusive, and convenient. There isn't that awkward moment where you're hanging about listening, even though you aren't actually included in the conversation, and trying to pretend you aren't listening...

Thank god for smart people and their blogs. They've saved me from having to cope with my own social ineptitude.

If I notice I'm late for something, I don't have to make any apologies and try to unobtrusively exit a conversation. I can just close the screen. It'll still be there when I come back.

It's all sort of a huge party, where you circulate and eavesdrop on or even chat briefly with total strangers. Some of them are fascinating people, and you look forward to your next encounter. Some are simply dreadful, and you fidget while looking desperately for an avenue of escape.

Reading someone's blog on a regular basis is like the un-relationship relationship.

If someone usually witty and interesting is having an off day, I can just navigate away. I don't have to find polite ways of saying, "oh Christ you're boring today..." Thus, I don't have to burn any bridges, and when said person returns to their witty and stimulating self I can pick right up as if they'd never had a bad day.

And if your eyes are glazing over about now, that's okay. I completely understand. I never need to know.

I'll try to be wittier next time.