This is the middle of a city?
Archive for May, 2011
I spend a lot of time in airplanes, ample enough to have fully contemplated their awfulness. I thought about that just yesterday, in fact, as I was sardine-tinned into an Airbus, breathing in a hundred other people’s germs. Still, I might have shied away from comparing their layout to that of slave ships.
For one, that seems like a thought that you have but don’t verbalise. But two, duh. Because aren’t slave ships and airplanes a like means — transporting as many people as efficiently as possible — to a different ends?
Changing planes today, I picked up a copy of the Toronto Star, whose style pages were debating (and here) the case of local couple who are planning to raise their four-month-old child, ambiguously and awfully named Storm, without gender. Indeed, they refuse to tell anyone whether the child is a girl or a boy. The purpose, they argue, is to protect the infant from the cultural pressures of gender.
I have a reasonable recollection of childhood, and I would posit, first of all, that giving your child the name Storm is going to cause a hell of a lot more angst on the playground than gender stereotyping.
Look, I’m no great traditionalist when it comes to gender roles. I’d wholeheartedly resent anyone who told me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. But here’s the thing, no one does.
Oh, sure, you can postulate that I’m blind to this stuff, that I’m citified, that I live in some kind of liberal utopia. But the fact is, it didn’t happen in the conservative outposts of my childhood, in the small town of my teenage years. It didn’t occur when I moved to hillbilly (and proudly so) Appalachia to be a police reporter. O.K., the cops subjected me to hazing that included riding shotgun on a nauseating defensive-driving course and firing an ancient ponderously-barreled rifle with a bruising kick. But they weren’t testing my mettle as a woman, they were vetting me as an outsider.
Yes, people have expectations based on gender. They also make judgments about race and weight and accent and ethnicity. On balance, I’d bear the weight of the labels that come with being named Stephanie or Sue or Sally than the ridicule that poor little Storm’s going to face.
Buffalo adopted a new slogan last week. And it’s really kind of lame: “Buffalo. For Real.” What does that really mean?
Thus inspired, Advertising Age decided to compile a list of what it considers the worst city taglines of all time. Don’t get me wrong, I think there are a lot of stupid and ridiculous slogans out there (Baltimore decided to brand all its benches with “The Greatest City on Earth,” and that’s patently not true). But if Cheshire wants to talk up its status as the “Bedding Plant Capital of Connecticut,” whatever that may be, then more power to it. Some of them are kind of clever: Hooker, Okla. “It’s a location, not a vocation.” And then there’s Bushnell, S.D., which clearly poached the slogan that should have been adopted by every town my parents chose to live in: “It’s not the end of the earth, but you can see it from here.”
Today’s Times has a story about a new “children’s” book that includes profanity and expresses the idea that maybe, possibly parents don’t want to devote themselves to their children 24-7. Sacre bleu! But if you’re sleep-deprived and reading Goodnight, Moon for the zillionth time, this little concept called sarcasm may be lost on you:
Mr. Mansbach’s book isn’t the first to make this point, or the first to do so as a children’s book spoof. In 2005, Lisa Brown wrote Baby Mix Me a Drink, the first in a “Baby Be of Use” series of books designed more as a tongue-in-cheek shower gift than as a read-aloud. Not all parents got the joke. “I do not really recommend it only because there is not story (sic) to read to the little ones,” reads a two-star Amazon review.
What does it say about humankind that mutual distain is a faster social glue than shared passions?
Hope you all are, ahem, enjoying National Masturbation Month. Although, when the staid old Times is penning section-front pieces on vibrators, it seems like the practice hardly requires a promotional effort.
Tracy Clark-Flory makes the case at Salon that people instead should be taking this time instead to come to terms with the thing that fuels said self-love: fantasy. Specifically, she argues that Americans are too hung up on having what they perceive as socially-unacceptable sexual fetishes. So often, she says, we are tormented by the idea that this desire reveals some unpleasant facet of our personality that threatens to emerge, when really, most of us fully separate our sensual imaginations from our between-the-sheets reality.
Okay, fine. But what confuses me is that the basis for her assumption is the number of times she says her partners have been reduced to stuttering messes by an inquiry about their fantasy life. But is hesitation in voicing internal desire to another the same thing as personal discomfort? If fantasies are potentially transgressive, mostly illusory, are they meant to be shared? Or, should they be kept out of the bedroom?
Should some things be left unsaid in relationships?
Something I’ve been contemplating: How should I interpret the increasingly frequent sampling of music — or versions of songs — I like in television commercials? See: The Pogues/Subaru, Stereolab/Vitaminwater, Camper Van Beethoven/Target, Devo/Swiffer.
Does that mean I’m the target audience for many a multinational corporation? (Clearly, I am for Lincoln. Fortunately, my distaste for driving overrides my hormones. But’s that’s something of a different animal.)
Or, do they want me to not buy their product by, say, tone-deaf-ly pairing a (admittedly catchy) song about death and dying with a spot featuring a hockey mom?