February 27, 2004
Friday Cat Blogging
I took this picture of Lucky and his mother, Oreo, sometime last week before Oreo got mad at me. I think she has dry skin or eczema because she overgrooms to the point that she has bald patches. She has always done this. It's worse in the winter. A couple of days ago, I began using a moisturizing lotion on her and it's helping a lot. Her fur is growing back, she's not grooming as much, and her coat is much softer.
She feels better and she knows it but that doesn't stop her from hissing at me. I've even given her her own little bowl of water and food, which she eats just fine until she remembers that she's supposed to be mad at me, so she hisses for about a tenth of a second and then goes back to chowing down.
February 25, 2004
Freep the Florida Sun-Sentinal!!!
Place your vote on the question "Do you support legalization of same-sex marriage?" on MSNBC's Gay Marriage Poll.
The Earth Has Left Its Orbit And Is Hurling Toward The Sun
When I first saw Kevin Drum's post about the climate change apocalyptic warning, I was reminded of another weather-related incident, but it was a hoax. Kevin's link included this statement:
Now, compare that to this, originally found at FARK. The text that makes you go "whaaaa???" is ".UNUSUALLY HOT WEATHER HAS ENTERED THE REGION FOR DECEMBER...AS THE EARTH HAS LEFT ITS ORBIT AND IS HURLING TOWARD THE SUN." Signed by Heinlein, no less. The NOAA has since removed those sentences from the page. Farkers, ever vigilant, captured it before it was nuked.
Cruising Around The Blogosphere
Lauren at feministe, Echidne, and Elayne Riggs gave some nuanced thought into the type of vitriol poured upon a woman if she admits that she is a feminist. Feminists get blamed for everything under the sun, from juvenile crime to rising rates of male depression. I wouldn't be surprised if the "secret report" stating that "major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020" somehow found a way to blame feminism for global warming. [Kevin's post has absolutely nothing to do with feminism, but it was so bizarre I decided to find any excuse to link to it.] Feminists are even blamed for not doing things that they in fact have been doing all along, such as working to help women in Iraq and Afghanistan and bringing more attention to obstetric fistulas.
BlogAmy and Norbizness provided two well-known quotes that get to the heart of the difficulties some feminists have had with owning the title. Amy cited Rebecca West's famous quote,"I have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiates me from a doormat." Sometime last week Norbizness provided an equally famous quote from Simone de Beauvoir: "Man is defined as a human being and woman as a female - whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male."
RealDoll and The Uncanny Valley
Most reading my blog either don't know or completely forgot that I had written about RealDoll a few months ago. These are life-sized adult sex toys that don't look one bit like Blow-Up Betty. They look very real. If Leigh Ann (Flea at One Good Thing) had one of these dressed in a business suit sitting next to her table at that Women's Fair, it wouldn't have made one bit of difference that the sucking-on-a-lemon organizers made her cover the sex toys on the table with a cloth. The curious would have flocked, peeked, purchased sex toys, and paid for her trade show participation fee a thousand times over. [Note: Bogsplot seems to be on the fritz again. Scroll down Leigh Ann's blog and first read "If A Woman Was President, We'd Be On the Verge of Nuclear War Once a Month," and then scroll back up and read "My Attorney Says I Can't Say Anything Bad About the Trade Show Organizers; or, Day Two in Hell's Steaming Inner Core."]
I thought the dolls pictured on the web site were quite impressive, but they left me feeling very uneasy. They looked human but something was seriously off. Their expressions look completely devoid of human emotion. For that very reason, I have never liked Barbie dolls, especially the first Barbies on the market, the ones with the remote, high fashion model expressions. They scared the hell out of me. When I was a kid, I had imagined dozens of them jumping down from their shelves at my cousin's house (she must have owned every Barbie in existence), arms outstretched, faces in that permanent Botox freeze, chasing me on their little stick legs with knees that don't bend. Imagine a prettier Zuni fetish doll from that infamous Trilogy of Terror segment and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.
Dave Bryant described this phenomenon in his article about The Uncanny Valley, a term coined by Japanese roboticist Dr. Masahiro Mori. Bryant describes the valley as representing "the point at which a person observing the creature or object in question sees something that is nearly human, but just enough off-kilter to seem eerie or disquieting." The graph upon where human and human-like creatures sit first rises to a peak where the individual sees something human enough to arouse empathy, like a beloved baby doll. From there, the peak drops below a center line, into the valley. This is where the stuff of nightmares reside: zombies, corpses, prosthetic hands, and - for me - Barbie. The graph then rises out of the Uncanny Valley and moves above the center line, where all human beings reside.
Dr. Mori believed that movement contributed more to the feeling of unease and being "not quite right" more so than appearance, which would explain the creepy-crawly feelings I used to get over imagining Barbie, with her lack of elbow and knee joints, attempting to walk, run, or grab.
So when I read Grant Stoddard's article in Nerve about his experience with a RealDoll, my worst fears about the lack of humanity in these dolls was confirmed when I reached the following paragraph about his visit to the company that manufacturs the little terrors:
RealDoll, obviously, cannot move unless you move her yourself. Her expression - well, there really isn't one. She is dehumanized, all the while looking and supposedly feeling very human. And men get to fuck her.
The whole idea makes my skin crawl.
February 21, 2004
My First Successful Trackback Ping!
It seems silly, I know, but I'm just thrilled that I finally figured out how to make a trackback ping. I've tried twice already and screwed up both times. The lucky recipient is Jane Galt.
Diving into the Abortion Debate
I dislike abortion debates because I think, for the most part, that they are exercises in futility. Most abortion debates strike me as consisting of a bunch of people barking at each other, sometimes with a troll or two thrown in for added noise. Far too often, no one hears what anyone is saying because they've already made up their minds and they only want to hear themselves bellow. Maybe that's why I think abortion debates never seem to go anywhere except in one big, endless, churning spiral, forever and ever, at least until the toilet stops flushing.
That said, I was asked for my opinion in e-mail about one of Jane Galt's posts that jumped off of a post by Kevin Drum about the latest examples of stalking and harassment proposed by anti-abortion activists in Wichita. I figured, what the hell. This could be fun.
I don't read Jane Galt's blog very often. Does she normally throw in a few grains of truth with a ton of nonsense? She seemed to be setting up straw man arguments about foster care, adoption, abortion, pro-choice and pro-life advocates, and liberals.
The focus of her post is a statement a troll made in Kevin Drum's comments section. The troll said that he could "get any number of kids adopted in this country." Jane went on to say that "[t]he pro-choice side piled derision on this statement, pointing out that there are many, many children in foster care and government homes who are having a very difficult time indeed being adopted. Though I didn't see it mentioned specifically there, most liberals I know who have expressed such opinions to me couple it with a belief that it's mostly because racist white couples want nothing but a blond, blue eyed baby to build their family."
Jane gave this troll much more credit than he deserved by acting as if what he wrote was a legitimate argument. The "derision" piled on this guy wasn't about adoption, but a snippy way of telling him to feck off and go get some infants adopted himself and stop jamming up Kevin's comments section with his tripe. Instead of acknowledging this, she chose to bring up comments supposedly said by "most liberals she knows" who have expressed such opinions. A straw man argument if there ever was one.
Those comments from pro-choice supporters about foster care and adoption are really about this: Rather than running around putting superglue in the locks at women's health clinics, chaining themselves to the doors so no one can enter, getting names and addresses of clinic employees, doctors, and women who seek services by writing down their license plate numbers or following them as they drive home, following the people who work at clinics to restaurants to harass them, following their children to school and yelling to them things like "do you know that your daddy or mommy murders little babies," and shoving posters with photos of the mangled heads of babies in people's faces -- rather than going around harassing people and making general, annoying and sometimes violent and dangerous asses of themselves, make those anti-abortion protesters either adopt those "babies that would be born" themselves or force them to assist adoption agencies. They should put their money where their mouths are and help children, whom they claim to care so much about. But the anti-abortion position isn't really about children anyway; it's about controlling women's lives by controlling their reproduction capabilities.
So, while what she had to say about kids in foster care already having families, and how foster care focuses on family preservation and reintegration of these children with their parents, and older foster children having "baggage" was all correct -- it was also irrelevant.
Here is another place where I think she screwed up. She wrote this:
A particular pregnant woman has the ability to give birth to a healthy infant.
That doesn't preclude forcing her to give birth against her will. To do so would render her an incubator. Jane is right that just because someone may easily be able to get any newborn that would otherwise be aborted adopted to a loving family does not mean that we should make abortion illegal -- but not for the reasons she has given.
The living conditions between today and a century ago could not be more different. The circumstances under which a woman today may find herself pregnant out of wedlock differ significantly from out of wedlock pregnancies in past eras. A century ago women were beginning to obtain the right to own property. The key words were "substantial control" - how much she actually had varied per state. Some reasons for the new laws may have involved debt relief, a way to prevent brothers-in-law from obtaining or dividing property (keep the property in the woman's birth family), and other changes in women's status. Until the 1970s, a woman in Florida who wanted to control her own property had to petition the state to have legal permission to do so. One, two, three hundred years ago, women simply did not have the legal protections, and the economic, educational, and employment opportunities that they have today. All of that makes a big difference in raising children, including out of wedlock children.
Going back even farther, studies of Colonial New England has shown that one third of all new brides were pregnant at the time of their marriages. This wasn't due to shotgun weddings. It was to ensure that she could bear children. Other out of wedlock births were due to class exploitation - the fathers lived in affluent households and the mothers lived in poor households. These mothers were frequently servants in the wealthy fathers' household - remember Strom Thurmond?
Different eras, different living conditions, different social attitudes. She made another straw man argument.
I don't think "minor embarrassment" is an issue today when it comes to out of wedlock pregnancy. "Minor embarrassment" harkens to archaic attitudes revolving around shame. A more pressing issue is whether or not that pregnancy will make it economically difficult for the mother to support herself and her child. The highest increase in the percentage of women who give birth out of wedlock today are older women - they are in their twenties and thirties. There has been an increase in mothers who choose to wait until after finishing college and establishing a career to give birth, and sometimes they do so without having a husband in tow.
It's all very interesting. It's all also a big "so what." Jane bringing up "minor embarrassment" has little to do with abortion, and I let myself get off track. But it was fun. :)
Here she makes the same mistake I've seen many pro-choice supporters make (my emphasis in bold):
Seems Jane and some commenters on both sides of the debate don't know (or ignore for sake of argument) the difference between "human" and "legal personhood." Fetuses don't have a "right" to get born because they are not persons in the eyes of the law. A fetus is generally considered by law to be a "human being," as in a "being" that is "human." That does not imply that the being has rights as an individual, or that the fetus is a "person" who has "rights." Jane had invalidated her own argument by going down the "fetus's right to get born" road.
She brings up another straw man argument with this nonsense about more "repulsive" talk from mysterious people she has "heard" (presumably liberal pro-choice supporters) saying that society is "better off without the people we got rid of" or fetuses being "better off."
She seems to have run into a lot of mysterious, phantom liberals who supposedly make comments like these.
The question doesn't come down to whether you value the mothers' rights to control her own body or the fetus's right to get born. It only comes down to the mothers' right to control her own body. Anti-choice advocates are free to feel that fetuses have a "right" to get born. That does not mean that a fetus actually has such a right in the eyes of the law, and it doesn't.
I thought it was amusing that Jane mentioned that there's a reason that most of the people she knows who were adopted are staunchly, even rabidly pro-life.
See, I'm adopted myself. So is my sister. I am pro-choice, although I wouldn't describe myself as "staunchly, even rabidly" pro-choice. Most of the people I know who are adopted are also pro-choice.
I don't think it's because they are adopted. They have different reasons for holding their views. They are also liberal and conservative, although more are liberal. All I'm saying is that I think whether or not an adoptee is pro-choice or anti-choice really doesn't mean anything.
Well, this post is waaaaay too long. I've jumped into the abortion debate and now I'm jumping out before the flames nick me too much. I'm sure the anti-choice folk won't hear a word I said, but I don't care. I've already made up my mind, and they've made up theirs long ago. ;)
God Has Spoken!
I knew back when Monty Python's "The Life of Brian" came out that God had a sense of humor because we didn't get zapped. Here's more proof that God has a sense of humor: The dude who plays Jesus in Mel Gibson's movie "Passion" was struck by lightening during filming. James Caviezel, who plays Jesus, said in an interview that "All of a sudden it was like two hands slapped me upside the head," Caviezel recalls." I was seeing pink and I heard screams. I looked like I went to see Don King's hairstylist, I got lit up like a Christmas tree."
This kind of stuff is just too insane to make up.
February 20, 2004
Friday Cat Blogging
I have some cat news but I've decided to wait until next week to post it.
Believe it or not, Lucky is asleep in this picture.
He just turned over. Wanna see the pix?