340 meters per second

Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.

&mdash Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Be it ever so humble.

Good golly miss Molly, I am so glad to be home. To coin a country song, ain't no place worth a damn if my baby ain't by my side. More on that later.

Naturally, I have growled/garbled/gurgled anecdotes to share, but they'll have to wait while I unpack and decipher my handwritten notes from the coast. In the interim, I leave you with a post I started drafting before I left and finished today: my reaction to the much-discussed "naked" issue of Vanity Fair.

Until tomorrow, kittens.

* * *

Did I miss a memo? When did it become cool to wear naked women as accessories in high-profile magazine spreads? By now you've heard about -- and may have seen -- Vanity Fair's much-ballyhooed Naked Cover(TM):

It's like, okay -- the aptly-named "retrosexist" phenomenon (thanks, Steenblogen!) can be blamed for some of this, but who is this Tom Ford jagoff and why is it okay for him to trot out 35-year-old stereotypes to wild applause? This isn't daring, it's the same tired old sexism! This esthetic isn't "fresh," it's older than me! I mean, come on... I've seen more edge at the end of a Q-Tip.

In case you haven't seen the spread, here's a shot-by-shot breakdown (may as well get my 7$ worth out of the mag):

  • Dakota Fanning, elegantly coiffed and coolly challenging. Her bio opens with a value assessment ("$3 million a picture") and ends with the ultimate compliment, an assertion of authenticity: "she's the real thing." Marketed like a soft drink, a twelve-year-old girl is accorded a modicum of respect. She is the only female in this spread to receive such an honour.

  • Peter Sarsgaard may be suspended in "Japanese bondage ropes," but he's impeccably dressed in a Prada suit and $800 shoes.

  • Sienna Miller's naked. In heels. Wearing diamonds and smoking. 'Nuff said.

  • Jake Gyllenhaal's brooding mug is framed in a forgettable black and white portrait that makes him look hunky yet serious. T-shirt and slacks.

  • Heath Ledger mirrors his Brokeback costar in a black and white three-quarters shot. Positively swaddled in jeans and a Gucci coat, he looks chilly and vaguely suspicious.

  • Jason Schwartzman opted for the feral cokehead look: Dior suit accessorized with hideous beard, Hermès shirt, gold Cartier watch and nameless, headless naked woman standing at straight-backed attention beside him.

  • Camilla Belle gets the vulnerable, alone-in-the-woods, looking-over-shoulder-at-camera, "will you save me or rape me?" shot. Her poofy white dress may even be torn.

  • Eric Bana is a glistening porn star: too cheesy to be sexy, and any penetrability implied by his near-nakedness is offset by the heavy gold watch, muscular calves and see-me-not sunglasses.

  • A bored and listless Natalie Portman appears to be naked, but there might be a swimsuit under her folded arms.

  • Viggo Mortensen's supposed to be in the midst of afterglow-drenched canoodling, but he just looks sleepy. Also fully clothed, he's featured alongside a pair of women's feet: with no shoes, socks, stockings or visible hemline and obviously belonging to a woman reclining on the bed, it's safe to say she's naked too -- or close enough.

  • Patricia Clarkson is dressed at least, but her neckline plunges below her sternum and she's doing the whole arms-behind-the-head, holding-hair-aloft, come-hither thing.

  • Angelina Jolie's naked in a bathtub, flaunting her tattoos and asscrack.

  • Harvey and Bob Weinstein are armoured up in Armani and Brooks Bros.

  • Rosamund Pike reclines, exhausted, in an improbable dress. She seems to have been hunted to ground and is now awaiting the killing stroke.

  • Topher Grace wears a posh waiter's jacket while being scissored between an anonymous woman's naked legs.

  • Reese Witherspoon, normally a self-assured and confident type-A with little fear of the word "feminist," is infantilized in a just-below-the-labia babydoll dress, very adult stilettos and a doll. She's actually holding a doll.

  • Philip Seymour Hoffman is painfully contrived, with his half-finished cigarette, two-day stubble and razor-sharp cuffs. Fully clothed, natch.

  • Taye Diggs -- first non-white body! -- is posed à la Playgirl: reclining, arm behind his head, naked on a bearskin rug. I'm sure the juxtaposition of the animal imagery alongside the black body is entirely coincidental and in no way indicates any kind of neocolonial reification of his sexuality. He is raced three times in the brief bio accompanying the image. No wonder he looks uncomfortable.

  • Nick Cave wears a three-piece pinstripe and steely squint.

  • Anne Hathaway is breathless and accessible in a strapless lace disaster: mouth ajar, dark eyes glazed and with a ribbon around her waist, she's a dopey gift for the viewer.

  • Max Minghella looks sharp in Dior and Gucci.

  • Jamie Bell appears to be removing his belt, but he's dressed.

  • Jonathan Rhys Meyers' whole head fills a bronze close-up. Might be shirtless, hard to tell.

  • Michelle Monaghan is draped on the hood of a car, head hanging over the grill. She's either an accessory or an accident victim.

  • Pamela anderson and Mamie Van Doren (oh, Tom -- you're so clever) are... well, it's a so-ironic-it-isn't boob shot. Let's move along.

  • Joy Bryant is naked, full frontal with discrete shadowing.

  • Michelle Yeoh shows a lot of leg in a beautiful black dress. This shot actually doesn't bother me: she looks strong and poised.

  • And the next page features an immense breast. With a two-foot-wide aureola, this gargantuan prop is supposed to be funny, I think: the subject of the shot is Garth Fisher, M.D., well-heeled facecarver to the stars. Never heard of him.

  • Jennifer Aniston is naked, curled up in a fetal position and softly out of focus. That's either a harsh indictment of her life post-Brad, or just one more sexist image. Hmmm... wait, give me a minute...

  • Q'orianka Kilcher (great name!) is demurely posed in a Lanvin dress which plunges to just above the navel. Her bio makes sure you know she's exotic as hell.

  • Terence Howard is sweetly dapper in a three-piece Gucci and big honkin' watch.

  • Zooey Deschanel, subtitled "The Living Doll," creeps the hell out of me. Gaudy stockings, mussed-up makeup and bouffant hair accentuate her childlike mien and her "dress" looks more like a role of crisp new painter's dropcloth wrapped a couple times around her torso. What I find really revolting is the setting: the filthy back of an old van, with a spare tire, quilted blanket and streaky windows completing her own trashy look, the scene resembles nothing more than a still from an episode of Law & Order: SVU. Right before the editor cuts to commercial break, we see the innocent girl from the perspective of her abductor: teary and trapped in the back of an anonymous, decrepit white van. Fucking ew.

  • Laying back crosswise on a bed, shirt unbuttoned, lips pouty and stare dreamy, Joaquin Phoenix looks hot.

  • And the grand finale... George Clooney "directing" a small crowd of almost-naked women. Seventeen soaking-wet women in their underwear pantomime the actions of a film crew while he pretends to direct, looking for all the world like the captain of the good ship Benny Hill. Naturally, he's bone-dry and fully clothed.

Final count:

Women (as featured "subjects"): 19

Men: 20

Anonymous naked women: 22 (includes random body parts and decapitated torsos)

Men shown vulnerable: 0

Women shown vulnerable: 14 (give or take; admittedly, this assessment is subjective)

Instances of kiddie porn: 2 (and I'm not counting Fanning)

Moments when I considered that Tom Ford and Vanity Fair might possibly believe women are actual persons, both ontologically and legally, with the capacity for independent thought, self-determination and subjecthood: 0.

Monday, March 13, 2006


After four and a half hours sleep, I'm off to the airport for a six-hour direct flight to San Francisco. The anxiety's starting to set in: what if I completely fuck this up? Did I pack all the documentation I'll need on-site? Will I adjust to a complete immersion into work? I'll be living, eating and working alongside the same people for ten days -- people from whom I feel alienated and even, in some cases, repelled. Did I fax the right receipts to the client on Friday? Do I remember all of mental "notes to self" I've been making for the last three weeks? In yet another instance of having a blindingly obvious truth thrown in my face, it seems that professional obligations mean a little more when there's someone at home depending on you.

What if I completely fuck this up?

Sunday, March 12, 2006


I spent all weekend doing laundry, cleaning the apartment and running errands in preparation for my trip, so once again I'm ducking my keenly-felt obligation to post and giving you a fun link: what D&D character are you?

For the record, it seems that I'm a Chaotic Good Half-Elf Fighter with "both the curious drive of humans and the patience of elves" and despite my intelligence, I "believe that violence is frequently the answer" to life's problems. Obviously it's a gag, but it should keep you entertained for ten minutes.

Now I need to go pack.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Memento mori.

C and I were really looking forward to checking out Tim Burton's latest, Corpse Bride and a couple weeks ago we finally did. It's unusual for a movie to be known mainly for the techniques applied during its creation but here the fame (or infamy, depending on your point of view) is well-deserved. Reportedly filmed over 55 weeks using painstaking stop-motion techniques, Corpse Bride is a technical marvel, a real labour of love. C and I were completely absorbed into the fantastical shadow-dance Burton projects on the miniature, hand-crafted soundstages.

The story is dark and barbed, as any good fairy tale should be. Lampooning both traditional marriage and the self-important who conveniently forget that the reaper has no decorum, Corpse Bride is a smart, funny burlesque romp through the underworld that -- like any good mediation on death and eternity -- made us laugh and cuddle a little closer on the couch. Two big thumbs up.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Running to stand still.

After the longest week in a string of long weeks, I just don't have it in me to post. I've been running around all week and this weekend won't afford me many opportunities to relax, as I'm flying out to the west coast Monday morning. Take a look at some of the most amazing buildings in the world as you pity me.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Behind the cue ball.

My project team is flying to the States next week and work is in overdrive. Hence, you get a video of some impressive billiards tricks from spikedhumor.com and a recommendation to head over to Steenblogen, who's been catching up on her posting with a vengeance.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Try it, you might like it.

Bitch PhD, hands down one of the sharpest, most erudite bloggers out there, is conducting an informal survey of her readers. Always interested in sifting and parsing the sticky intersection of gender, sex, writing, publishing and the performance of gendered/sexed narration/media creation, Bitch PhD asked a series of questions designed to tease out her readers' personal loci of self-identification. There's probably a demographic motive as well, though I don't know if the aggregate data will be released.

Although I welcomed the survey (forwarded to me, of course, by Steenblogen), I fear my answers may disappoint. My avatar is pretty clearly gendered and besides, it's not like I have an audience of thousands-- or even dozens -- of strangers. Realistically, my readers are drawn from a small circle of friends: people who know me personally, rendering any attempt at anonymity moot (and silly). consequently, I wonder if I have anything to contribute to the conversation.

In any event, here are the questions and my answers:

1. In real life, are you a man / woman / other? (If "other," please explain.)


2. Do you blog under your own name or a pesudonym? (If your own name, skip questions 3 - 5.)


3. Is your pseudonym male / female / gender-neutral?

My name -- "lucky" -- is gender-neutral, but my avatar is male.

4. Is your persona male / female / gender-neutral? That is, apart from the name on the blog, do you blog about things that in your opinion clearly gender your blog? (Please give an example, e.g., "pregnancy," "knitting," "football.")

I don't feel that I explicitly gender my blog, but I've been told -- in person, by friends -- that the "tone" is usually masculine, whatever that means.

5. If you deliberately disguise your gender, or deliberately blog under a gender different from your "real life" gender identity, why?


6. Why did you decide to blog under your name / a persona?

Initially, I wanted to maintain a certain level of anonymity so I could talk about sensitive/personal topics without fear of having to deal with the consequences in the meat. Later, as I realized that the only people who read my blog regularly are friends and family whom I sent there, I decided that anonymity was moot.

7. What effects does your decision have on your content, if any?

I still try to avoid discussing sensitive situations and events.

8. Have you had readers mistake what you think the gender of your blog is? If so, would you characterize this mistake as rare, occasional, or common?

I can't be sure if this has ever happened.

9. If readers have mistaken your blog's gender, what kinds of comments / reactions has this mistake generated? (You can either characterize the reactions, or provide quotes.)


10. Have you seen readers, including other bloggers that may have linked to you, assess your content in ways that specifically tie it to your gender? For example, a link that says "isn't this a typically male comment," or "this piece shows that women really can blog about politics."

I don't think so, no.

11. Can you characterize such assessment, if you have seen it, as generally positive, generally negative, or mixed?


12. If mixed, do you have a sense of what the difference might be based on? (E.g., do political opponents tend to dismiss / praise you in gendered ways?)


13. How long have you been blogging under this pseudonym?

Almost a year.

14. What is the url of your blog? (If you have had more than one blog under the same pseudonym, provide all urls, with dates.)


15. What country do you live in? (If your nationality is not the same as your location, you may indicate either, or both--please indicate which.)

Québec, Canada.

16. May I quote your answers for publication?


17. If yes, would you like the quotes attributed? If so, please indicate whether you would prefer to be identified by your pseudonym or your real name, and if the latter, whether you want your real name associated with your blog url.

Please attribute them to my pseudonym.

18. Finally, is there anything you would like to add about blogging, pseudonymity / nymity, personae, and gender?

The possibilities for anonymous interaction afforded by the Internet are unprecedented and still seeded with the potential to reinvigorate our bricks-and-mortar/flesh-and-bone realities. By hiding sexual, racial and class markers, we can gain entry to spaces otherwise denied to us and be shielded from ad hominem attacks and the premature dismissal of our ideas; unfortunately, we can also duck accountability for our words & actions. The optimist in me hopes that this new fluidity permits us all to "surf in another's shoes," but maybe I'm seeing the world through rose-coloured browsers.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

In between loads of laundry.

For the third time less than a week, C. and I drove down to Ottawa and back. This time, it was so she could deliver a kick-ass public talk. Part of Carleton University's Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies lecture series, her insightful, measured ruminations on sexuality, girlhood and the intersections of each within and around popular culture held the audience rapt for an hour.

Just like at her book launch, the lecture drew an unanticipated number of people: on a bitingly cold day, 50 people -- students, faculty and members of the public -- showed up. The atmposphere was deceptively casual and the assembled spectators/participants hung on her every word. I, as usual, was proud as hell.

* * *

Here's an interesting development for those among you interested in Canadian media: the National Campus and Community Radio Association, representing 35 campus and community radio stations across Canada, adopted a (non-binding) resolution calling on its members to guarantee thirty-percent female content on its airwaves. The complete Tyee article, "Push to Get More Female Content on the Radio: 'FemCon' regulations proposed" is kind of superficial, but they cover the main points -- and the objections.

Personally, my initial criticisms are logistical: what constitutes "female content"? Is Garbage a "female band"? How about the Stars, Metric or Catatonia? These kinds of identity categories always, inevitably get messy and weird.

More thoughts later.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Little bees.

First, the good news: our new modem arrived in the mail and is up & running, four happy little green lights signalling our return to broad-banded happiness.

The bad news is that this cold has decided to stick around and worse, now C's infected as well. Add a busy travel schedule (to and from Ottawa on Sunday, again on Tuesday and again tomorrow) and a mountain of work in the office, and it's a wonder I can even read the paper, let alone write about anything that cranks me up.

At least I'm not alone: along with C. and myself, Grad School Avenger, Pacanukeha and Hurricane Eye all seem to have taken a (hopefully brief!) hiatus from the blogosphere.

Anyway, so you don't leave entirely empty-handed, check out this childhood-dream-turned-expensive-adult-reality.