Polari and all that jazz

  

Just as African American slaves from the 17th century onward crafted a language and music of coded words, phrases and drum beats before them, gay men in the 50s and 60s spoke a secret language to one another. Polari, the spoken language of made up words known only to gay men subverting the laws against homosexuality, was prevalent until homosexuality in England became legal (at leastin the privacy of the home). Unlike jazz and blues, the music and language derived from slavery and segregation of black Americans, polari disappeared.

Learn about and listen to polari in this intriguing article in Atlas Obscura titled “The Forgotten Secret Language of Gay Men” here. The seven minute film at the end features spoken polari.

Monogamy and Us…again

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Two articles on monogamy came out this week, both once again proclaiming monogamy has outlived its origins and is not suitable to our wiring.

In Salon’s Take that, monogamy! We’re actually hard-wired for polygamy, which helps explain why so many cheat, biologist David P. Barash explains that humans are hard wired for poly relationships:

Even though monogamy is mandated throughout the Western world, infidelity is universal.

Anthropologically speaking, Barash contends cultures around the world fulfill their social commitments in monogamy but not their biological commitments, which is more inclined toward polyandry.

In short, when adultery happens—and it happens quite often—what’s going on is that people are behaving as polygynists (if men) or polyandrists (if women), in a culturally defined context of ostensible monogamy. Adultery, infidelity, or “cheating” are only meaningful given a relationship that is otherwise supposed to be monogamous. A polygynously married man—in any of the numerous cultures that permit such an arrangement—wasn’t an adulterer when he had sex with more than one of his wives. (As candidate Barack Obama explained in a somewhat different context, “That was the point.”) By the same token, a polyandrously married Tre-ba woman from Tibet isn’t an adulteress when she has sex with her multiple husbands. Another way of looking at this: when people of either gender act on their polygamous inclinations while living in a monogamous tradition, they are being unfaithful to their sociocultural commitment, but not to their biology.

Meanwhile, in today’s Globe, Science writer Ivan Semeniuk reports on science’s latest findings that monogamy may have its roots (more likely one of them anyhow) in avoiding STD’s in To have, to hold, to avoid STDs in Science tackles evolution of monogamy.

In a paper published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers propose that the impact of sexually transmitted diseases may have started pushing humans toward monogamy during the agricultural revolution, when social groups began to grow in size to hundreds of individuals. The culturally imposed reinforcement could have taken hold even though the individuals involved would not have been aware of any longer-term survival benefit to their group over many generations.

Monogamy as an early safe sex device? Seems so unsexy.

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right…

…Here I am, stuck in the middle with you, you the sane ones. Can we just stop? I blame the middle for its quietude.

Extremism everywhere in all forums and locations seems to be the new norm if you merely scan social media. And the balance, the middle, is silent, gets no air time.

To the right most extreme we have banning books, dissemination of contraception information, health care advisory on certain procedures–abortion, for instance, or exploration of new research areas like stem cell, and, the latest, a Texas senator who would vote to keep women in the house where they can clean and care take. At the left most, we have trigger event warnings, micro aggressions, and the University of California regents censoring any coded anti-semitism in the form of anti-Zionist speech or acts on UC campuses.

Last week’s critique of this newly introduced policy by the California regents board is discussed in the article (Op Ed) by Saree Makdisi and Judith Butler in last week’s LA Times entitled “Suppressing Zionism on Campus is Catastrophic Censorship.” The policy seeks to root out anti-semitism disguised as anti-zionism on campuses. The UC committee charged with examining the purported rise in anti-semitism expressed on campuses (a vandal’s bathroom scribble about hating Zionist Jews, for example) sought to expose thinly disguised or coded prejudice in the form of an ostensible critique of an Israeli political faction.

Authors and UC professors Butler and Makdisi contend the hidden agenda behind the policy is motivated by suppressing anti-American sentiment fomented by growing criticism of Israeli-Palestinian relations/stand-off. The authors accuse the move as a thinly veiled censorship attempt aimed at suppressing criticism of American policy regarding Israel.

Whether these professors are correct or not, censorship does not belong on campuses–period. Students who vandalize bathrooms should be prosecuted for destruction of property. Students who commit or instigate violence should be counseled. People who hate others by reason of their color, creed, beliefs or practices, well, exposure to those types is the cost of living in society.

The purpose of colleges and universities is to prepare students for life, civic duty, employment and social existence. In particular, higher education should expose students to both practical and ideal considerations of living in society like earning wages and working in teams, understanding democratic responsibilities to vote and be informed as well as honing critical thinking skills vis a vis advertising, politicians and door to door salesmen let alone legal documents, medical treatment and military service. In other words, the primary responsibility for higher education is to teach students to think, to slot them into already established spots in society or to make new ones.

Thinking requires exposure to thoughts, principles, laws, behaviors and energies present, past and future, seen and unseen. There must be exposure to all that should and could be thought about, including beliefs and ideas that challenge existing beliefs and ideas. That’s called growth, and growing into citizens of a nation and the world.

And yes, restraint and constraint are also taught on campuses. You cannot say and do whatever you wish. There are laws against harassment, vandalism, assault and battery. There are laws forbidding lying about others such as defamation. Prosecution or expulsion for these crimes or torts is lesson learned for committing wrongs against society or specific others.

Regardless of the motivation or interpretation of UC policies regarding anti semitism or zionism, censorship does not belong on a college campus.

 

All Good Things…

Opening Night of Thomas Keller's Bouchon
November 16, 2009 – Beverly Hills, CA Environmental Opening Night of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Photograph By Jacqueline Miccalizzi© Berliner Studio/BEImages

I am fortunate to be a writer. I have worked doing what I love, even if not all writing has been fun. Writing fun quickly withers if you have to do it for a living. My paid writing assignments have varied in scope and subject matter from the mind-curdling banal to the wildly exciting.

One assignment I rather enjoyed for the research I had to do on subjects for which I have passion, food and travel, was writing for the DaringPenguin.com site, which kept me researching and salivating while luxuriating in luscious pictures of gorgeous food, decor and scenery. I loved the job and am sad to see it end as the site is taking a new direction and/or going on hiatus.

Here are five articles I wrote for this site that I hope you enjoy:

For the Finest Dining in Los Angeles, Feast at These 5 French Restaurants

Our Choices for the 5 Finest French Restaurants in Las Vegas

 

10 Great Things to Do in Seattle for Free

 

Santa Monica’s Amazing Seafood: Ten Spots to Try

 

7 Unique Seattle Hotels That Will Truly Amaze You

The “Nipplegasm”

  
“I’d say that the more a person is engaged with sexual activity as an open-ended adventure in which to explore sensory possibilities, the easier it will be to become orgasmic via nipple and breast stimulation,” says Queen. “The first step may simply be knowing that it’s possible.”

Alternet’s short article on “nipplegasms”(orgasms attained through nipple stimulation alone) not only explores this more-popular-than-you-think pleasure vehicle but confirms some simply comforting observations about self-framed sexual perceptions. The writer lays bare the facts (haha) that orgasms by nipple stimulation happens typically to those open to it. And those who are not, generally don’t have them:

Sexologist Carol Queen suspects those who have are likely armed with two specific skills: the ability to get very aroused and the willingness to explore sex as a full body practice.

In fact, nipplegasms are the second most common orgasm, according to experts interviewed in this article. Interesting.

Makes sense. The mind-body connection producing orgasm is no secret by now, so the right parts (sensitive or not too sensitive nipples), open attitude and vivid imagination reap the rewards. But not everyone enjoys nipples–or other erotic parts–touched. 

The experts agree that cultural, familial and/or relgious perceptions of “right and wrong” sex most probably underpin what gets someone off and what hang-ups prevent orgasms.  The author cites those with culturally divergent sexual attitudes as “in the BDSM world, where it is well-accepted that the whole body can be the source of erotic and exciting sensory experiences.” 

So, moral of the story: when you consider your body one big sensor ready to be stroked, orgasms may fly from anywhere. And what could be bad about that? 

credit: Flkr

Love is not a plenum

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I have the most difficult time imagining let alone explaining the Big Bang. There is this thing to which there is no outside but contains everything–all space, time, motion, light, life, stars, planets, galaxies, moons, atmosphere, gravity and imagination. I can only envision a balloon expanding that captures a portion of its essence, its configuration. But balloons are plenums of sorts.

ple·num
ˈplenəm,ˈplēnəm/
noun
1.
an assembly of all the members of a group or committee.
2.
PHYSICS
a space completely filled with matter, or the whole of space so regarded.

I refer to the second definition when I think of the universe’s (or multiverse’s) origins. But no one knows whether the universe is a plenum. Our minds can only understand to the reaches of our imaginations.

One day, over 17 years ago, I lay with my then 2 and 1/2 year old first born curled in fetal sleep. To this day, I can recall so crisply the angst I felt with another life brewing inside me. “How could I possibly love another child when my heart is so full with this one here?” I thought in a painfully probably hormone-induced teary-eyed moment.

Though quite illogical, the angst grew during my second pregnancy. Today, as that second born turns 17, I reflect on the framework of her arrival–as a storied gift to her sister and an ill-conceived mathematical challenge to my miscalculated quantity of allotted love.

Like the Big Bang theory, the mystery of beginnings, dimensions and edges to inside and outside belong to love–which is definitely not a plenum.

Happy birthday to my brown-eyed wonder.

A Mistress Song

Marked by forever embrace

arms to mind

nose to heart,

I will never recover

a touching scent like you;

no other lover 

rapes pelvic thoughts

musks up a spell

pushes my deep

and levels a deadly wrench kiss

like hammers

to pulpy plum; 

in your leave

I hollow gourds of song

await the pine needle drop

and hum Jesus and rum.

National Kick Butts Day

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Oddly enough, I smelled cigarette smoke today, and for the first time in many, many moons, it smelled good to me. I used to smoke cigarettes–an on again off again affair. I started in elementary school, forcing myself to trade un-labored breathing and clean smelling clothes for cool. I stayed with the habit throughout junior high and high school, developing a full-blown half a pack to full pack a day habit back in the late 70’s. Cigarette packs cost less than 50 cents then.

When I moved from New York to California, the cool changed and so did my habit. Californians did not smoke like New Yorkers did. And I met a non-smoker who encouraged me to quit to avoid the kissing an ashtray repulsion he wished to avoid. So I did, many times in as many years, sometimes for months and other times for years at a time. I had not smoked for 5 years when I enrolled in a summer school graduate school program back in 1989. The first day of the semester brought on a half a pack a day habit instantly. But the last day likewise signaled the last cigarette. The longest non-smoking stretch spanned ten years or so, the child-rearing years.

All in all, I tally the smoking years against the non-smoking years and the latter wins out handily by a 4 to 1 ratio (yes, I include infancy in that calculation). Mollifying my conscience about healthy aspirations is one reason for the calculation. The other is the sneaking suspicion turned confirmed of late.

My father’s smoking ratio is about 1:2 smoking to non-smoking. He quit tobacco 31 years ago after visiting an old friend dying of emphysema, leaving behind a wife and kids. Watching this formerly cool, tough Italian macho tote an oxygen machine like a child’s security blanket was not so much what did it as the look on his wife’s face, knowing she would be left to take care of it all. My father quit after that Florida visit and never smoked again, despite a three-pack a day habit. My first cigarette was one I snuck from his maroon soft Pall Mall (he pronounced pell mell) pack and lit on the school playground–during recess!

He was my inspiration to both quit and not-quit. If he could quit a 30 plus year habit cold turkey, I could quit a smaller habit. But the thought was always: any day I could just up and quit like my dad did. He just decided to do it, and then quit. And so did I. But I didn’t stay quit.

I haven’t smoked in a long while, not sure how long. I don’t like to count. I don’t like to think about it at all, though I often have a twinge of angst about the damage done. I have heard and seen those pictures of dirty and clean lungs of cigarette smokers. I have read that the deleterious effects immediately begin to dissipate as soon as you stop. But it seems to me there would be some residual damage, some frayed edges somewhere for the abuse. The subject has never brought me even close to researching. I probably don’t want to know or trust what I read.

Yesterday I sat in the doctor’s office with my 81 year old father and questioned the doctor about the tumor discovered inside his bladder. I asked why he needed surgery rather than a biopsy if the tumor was just discovered. The internal medicine specialist matter-of-factly turned to me as if I were on fire with ignorance and replied, “because with his smoking history and the location of the tumor, these tumors are almost always malignant.” Malignant and tumor in the same sentence made my jaw slack and eyes widen.

Funny thing about looking up the National Day (a habit of mine)–National Kick Butts Day–I did not automatically think of cigarettes. My immediate understanding was kicking butt as in overcoming or winning or beating. The notion made me smile. I like kicking the butt of obstacles, like just today submitting an article due at 7:22 right on the dot at 7:21 after my day got away from me and I toyed with extending the deadline. I also re-negotiated a couple of contracts to more favorable terms, turned a few students on to poetry and astronomy (two current passions of mine) this morning in class, and whittled down a stack of essays needing grading. I’d say it was National Kick Butt Day today for me if not for the nation.

But also for my dad. The doctor did add that this type of malignancy–located in the bladder–is one that commonly spreads. The surgeon removes it and done, out patient even. At least that is my hopeful understanding. Though I have no desire to research this one either, I am going to take this news as equally kick-butt as enlightened 18 year olds to poetry and astronomy, hard to believe but absolutely, positively plausibly true.

Happy National Kick Butts and Kick Butt Day!

 

credit: scoutingmagazine.org

Bhavana: How we grow as knowledge cultivators

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Bhavana, meaning to cultivate or develop but commonly used in Buddhism as a word for meditation, once again flashes before my mind’s eye. Despite researching the term, the exact sense of the word often escapes me. Does it simply mean to grow understanding? Are meditation and bhavana the same? I have not yet reached that place where my life experience and the word’s essence combine to flesh out the bones of meaning—not in its spiritual sense.

Cultivating takes time: crops grow over…See more

Give me back my hour!!

To die, to sleep.

To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub

 
 
credit: thephilfactor.com
 

I feel tired, resentfully tired. Like I’ve been robbed. It’s not just an hour. It’s my life!

What Difference Could an Hour Make?

By Michael J. Breus, PhD

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

The daylight-saving time change will force most of us to spring forward and advance our clocks one hour. This effectively moves an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening, giving us those long summer nights. But waking up Monday morning may not be so easy, having lost an hour of precious sleep and perhaps driving to work in the dark with an extra jolt of java. How time changes actually affect you depends on your own personal health, sleep habits, and lifestyle.
 
Moving our clocks in either direction changes the principal time cue — light — for setting and resetting our 24-hour natural cycle, or circadian rhythm. In doing so, our internal clock becomes out of sync or mismatched with our current day-night cycle. How well we adapt to this depends on several things.
 
In general, “losing” an hour in the spring is more difficult to adjust to than “gaining” an hour in the fall. It is similar to airplane travel; traveling east we lose time. An “earlier” bedtime may cause difficulty falling asleep and increased wakefulness during the early part of the night. Going west, we fall asleep easily but may have a difficult time waking.
 
How long will it take you to adapt to time changes? Though a bit simplistic, a rule of thumb is that it takes about one day to adjust for each hour of time change. There is significant individual variation, however.
 
How will you feel during this transition? If you are getting seven to eight hours of sound sleep and go to bed a little early the night before, you may wake up feeling refreshed. If you are sleep-deprived already, getting by on six hours, you’re probably in a bit of trouble, especially if you consume alcohol or caffeine close to bedtime. In this situation, you may well experience the decrements of performance, concentration, and memory common to sleep-deprived individuals, as well as fatigue and daytime sleepiness.

 GIVE ME BACK MY HOUR!