October 2006 Archives

During the six years I've attended Sunstone, I've noticed that sessions there discussing homosexuality tend to focus on male sexuality, and that discussants, regardless of orientation, are generally male. For the 2006 symposium, I proposed a panel entitled "Will, Grace and Angels in Brokeback America: Straight Women, Gay Men and Mormonism" in part as a way of calling attention to the fact that homosexuality is an issue that also affects women. Admittedly, my panel did not include lesbian voices, but it seemed artificial to ask a lesbian to comment on the topic just as a way of correcting previous imbalances. I hope future sessions will address the concerns of lesbians, or include their voices.

I thought a lot about the title: I went with widely-recognized references to pop culture to show how common this issue is. I invoked Will and Grace because I want to underscore how genuine, precious and pleasurable my platonic friendships with gay men have been. I invoked Angels in America because it's a Pulitzer-prize winning set of plays featuring an unequal marriage between a closeted gay Mormon man and an unhappy Mormon housewife. (Though I admit I HATE both installments for so many reasons, including the fact that they're full of self-indulgent speeches that go on and on beyond the point of being either narratively or philosophically interesting, and that Kushner is a really shitty fact-checker, and that his female Mormon characters are not at all believable to me--no Mormon woman--no Mormon, PERIOD--would ever complain that it was a bad idea to leave Manhattan and move to DC, because DC is less righteous--hell, DC is overrun with Mormons, and there's a goddamn temple there!) I invoked Brokeback Mountain because it was current and also I really loved it.

That's the stuff before the colon; after the colon we get STRAIGHT WOMEN first, and then GAY MEN, because I wanted to foreground women in all of this. And then we get Mormonism, because it's the spin that complicates the matter.

Mine was not the only session dealing with homosexuality; one reason Dan Wotherspoon was so enthusiastic about the timing of my panel was that 2006 was the 20th anniversary of the publication of Good-bye, I Love You, a memoir by Carol Lynn Pearson, one of Mormondom's most beloved writers, about her temple marriage to a gay man, their divorce, and his death from AIDS. Carol Lynn presented a heartbreaking discussion of the suffering gay Mormons often endure. Her daughter Emily, who also married a gay man (I mention his one-man play here), was one of the panelists in my session. And Carol Lynn's ex-son-in-law also presented some of his more recent work.

My remarks for my part of the panel were drawn in part from material I first grappled with here. Relevant posts are, in order of posting, Mormon Social Taboos, A Happy Marriage with a Good Man, The Exclusive Territory of Straight Men, The Society of Buggers, Brokeback Mountain, Old Testament Weirdness, It's Not Just Mormon Men Who Don't Want to Lose the Beard, and The SL Tribune Joins the Chorus.

OK. That's all preamble. Tomorrow is Halloween and I'm planning to go that with theme in tomorrow's entry, so check back Wednesday or Thursday for the more substantial account of my remarks at Sunstone, if you're interested--or, if you're not, you know to stay away until the weekend.

Gallons and Gallons of Bacon Fat Haven't Hurt Me

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So, the bad news was, I was really busy.

The good news was, I have a constitution that can handle it.

A few weeks ago at work they had this program called "Know Your Numbers," where you could have these tests done, evaluating certain basic indicators of overall health.

And despite the fact that I eat basically whatever I want whenever I want, despite my refusal to even set foot in a gym, and despite growing up in a home where the primary cooking fat was rendered bacon grease, I'm really healthy.

Fetching

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I'm proud to report that something I FINALLY did this past week was finish this pair of fetching fingerless gloves I began in August at Sunstone. That's right: I was one of those ladies who goes to some public place and pulls out her knitting, and just works it and fiddles with it even while other people go about their business of talking and being smart or entertaining or boring or whatever. Having something to work on while I listened really made the symposium more enjoyable, but I only noticed one other person who brought some project along: a 50-something guy who did needle point.

Even though it was my first time working with double-pointed needles (!), I easily finished one glove that weekend, and as for the other, well, it took me a while to find a chunk of time to sit down and start them. But they're done now and I adore them--I wore them today.

Here's a photo of my right hand encased in said glove:
glove.jpg
and here's a photo of both gloves and the needles they were created on.
glove2.jpg

What I Did on My Brief Hiatus

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Several people have written to inquire about how I am, seeing as how I typically posted several times a week but now almost two weeks have elapsed since my last posting--and the few right before the hiatus weren't all that original. For those of you who didn't email, merely wondered, and even for those of you who did: I've been OK. Not great, not awful (well, occasionally awful) but mostly just OK. And I'm happy enough with OK, because OK is sometimes hard to achieve when you're what I've been for the majority of this semester, which is really, really busy.

Busy, by the way, is not my favorite state of being. Or rather, I adore self-created busy-ness, where I have four books to read and a blog entry to do every day and a few poems to write each week and a book of my own that needs revising, as well as three sewing projects begging for attention and lots of gardening to be done as well as a sweater to knit when I get tired of all that literary stuff. But busy because I have to grade papers in every single one of my classes, and prepare a big-ass tenure report, and meet with students and administrators over a grade dispute, and welcome some visiting writer to campus.... that kind of busy I don't like so well.

But I survived it; I got everything turned in and returned on time; people were met and met with; and I probably won't (at least, I sincerely hope I won't) have another nasty stretch of days this semester to equal the first 19 days of October.

And having survived, I had sort of a meltdown over the weekend; Friday I sat on my couch and waited for some guy to come service my furnace (that's not a metaphor for anything, by the way; there really was a guy coming to make sure that my house's heating system would keep me, my cat and my plants from freezing to death this winter) and watched about seven hours of television and tried to find the right gauge for this scarf I want to knit out of this very chunky brown and gray wool.... I didn't even leave my house. I opened the door a time or two, to allow the furnace dude entrance or egress, but I didn't go outside. I didn't answer any email. I read some, but I didn't respond. I was as anti-social as I wanted to be, and that Helped.

So there should be stuff here, at least for the next little while. Sorry I disappeared so abruptly.... and thanks for having me back.

Voter Fraud, and What to Do about It

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Here's a message that arrived in my inbox this morning and absolutely sickened me. I'm reprinting the whole thing with permission--and you can too--because I'm linking to www.blackboxvoting.org

It's going to be up to us to make the case. We can't solve a problem if we refuse to look. Citizens are fed up with black box elections, and are mustering up evidence of improper behavior that will swing the pendulum back in the direction it belongs.

Examples of the astonishing evidence uncovered by candidates and extraordinary citizens follows.

At first, we proved that the machines "theoretically' could be tampered with. Then, in experiments in Leon County and Emery County, citizen-led investigations machines could ACTUALLY be tampered with.

At first, public records requests from Black Box Voting and others proved that election results were not authenticatable using available audit records. And now, Black Box Voting and citizens are coming up with audit records that show strong indications of improper behavior.

Be aware that we are not going to see a Perry Mason moment. Proof of corruption will be incremental, but it will come.

In 2006, your job will be to embark on the biggest citizen evidence-gathering expedition in history, to take this past the tipping point and achieve real change. Nothing will do but a reversal of the pendulum, back to citizen ownership and oversight of our own government and its electoral processes.

Let's take a look now at some of the evidence citizens -- and Black Box Voting -- are uncovering:

1. Memphis: Candidates in Memphis asked Black Box Voting for help securing public records from the Aug. 3, 2006 election. Black Box Voting recommended getting a copy of the Diebold GEMS database, along with the Windows event log. What we found shocked us: The sheer number of legal and security violations in the event log were horrifying, and it also showed that Shelby County -- or someone -- was accessing the file during the middle of a Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting this.

- A remote access program called PC Anywhere was found resident in the system
- Evidence of insertion of an encrypted Lexar Jump Drive was present
- Evidence of attempts to alter or write HTML files (used to report results) was present
- Apparently without a firewall, the GEMS system was opened up to the County Network
- A prohibited program, Microsoft Access, which makes editing the election chimpanzee-easy, was installed on the system AND USED shortly after the election.

Read more about Memphis.

2. Alaska: In early 2006, the Alaska Democratic Party asked Black Box Voting for help. The election numbers simply didn't add up. BBV's Jim March urged them to fight for the right to obtain the Diebold GEMS database, which Diebold had until then been asserting proprietary rights over. After months of hard-fought battling, they prevailed. That database was released publicly at Black Box Voting here.

You can open it yourself in Microsoft Access, and when you do, choose the table called "audit." In this table you will see evidence that someone was changing things as recently as July 2006 -- after the matter was in court, before the file was released. The changes are substantial, and involve redefining ballot and candidate items, along with a reference to a second memory card.

If you don't have MS Access, here is a pdf copy of that controversial log.

3. In Georgia, Cynthia McKinney contacted Black Box Voting. Very odd things were happening in the 2006 primary and the runoff election that followed -- Democrats were being served up Republican primary ballots on the Diebold touch-screens, McKinney's name was left off some ballots, but reportedly appeared on other ballots nowhere near her district. The electronic poll books -- something Georgia voters never asked for and a whole new source of glitches -- were malfunctioning regularly.

Black Box Voting advised McKinney to seek the troubleshooter and pollworker logs. What we found on these shocked us -- in an election reported as "smooth" by the press, was evidence of dozens and dozens of voting machine malfunctions, electronic pollbook glitches, and most disturbing of all (given the dire consequences available based on the Hursti and Princeton studies), the seals for dozens of voting machines were missing, broken, and mismatched -- yet the machines were used anyway.

View a list of the problems in Dekalb County, Georgia.

4. In Ohio, Richard Hayes Phillips examined ballots from the 2004 presidential election. They'd been kept locked up for 22 months, and he was under immense pressure to look at as many as he could before they were destroyed. What he found shocked him: Patterns of tampering, as evidenced by statistically impossible overvotes, strategically placed and favoring George W. Bush. He listed his findings here.

This is the tip of the iceberg. The missing ingredient is, and has been, the active oversight of the citizenry. In 2006, please join the movement as an active participant in overseeing and authenticating your election. We'll help. Start here, with this pdf version of the Citizen's Tool Kit.

Women, Education and Orgasm

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I found the links featured in this entry in Broadsheet, Salon's blog on women. I would have simply included a link to their post, but reading Salon requires a subscription and I know several of my readers don't subscribe, so I decided to be nice and go back to the source.

According to the headline of a story in Toronto's Globe and Mail, "Smart, rich women more likely to have orgasms, study suggests." That's right: for the more than 9,100 straight women polled, (the study, conducted in Australia, focused on straight men and women) there's a link between education, income, profession and sexual pleasure, but

Becoming sexually active before age of 16, length of time they were sexually active, number of past sexual partners, whether they masturbated, trolled Internet porn or watched X-rated videos had little association with a woman's ability to have an orgasm.

The results were much different when it came to the 10,100+ men who responded to the survey: education, occupation, income made no difference in whether or not a man could have a "toe-curling climax."

These statistics were also interesting:

Confirming a widely held belief, the research also found that men were far more likely than women to experience an orgasm during their last sexual encounter, 98.4 per cent and 68.9 per cent respectively.

and

Almost all the men surveyed said they reached orgasm from vaginal intercourse. Roughly 80 per cent said they did from oral sex.

For women, however, it was a different picture. Only 50 per cent reached orgasm from vaginal sex, while 70 per cent said they did through manual or oral stimulation.

That last bit might explain results reported in this story from the Australian Herad Sun: According to "The Turbo Twenties" study, a study of 570 Australian women in their 20s, if given an option between a nice dinner, a massage or sex, dinner is the first choice for women and sex the last:

About 30 per cent of participants said they preferred a romantic dinner to bedroom action, while a further 22.5 per cent rated a massage as better than sex.

Only 16.6 per cent said they would rather have sex.

So far I've been pretty lucky when it comes to trolls: I haven't attracted too many. I think it helps that my blog isn't devoted to a single issue: OK, I write about feminism, and sex, and Mormonism, and teaching, but it's not like you can show up here and now that you'll find some polemic on gender or religion every single day.

Unfortunately, as of early this week, some filthy old coot has taken to showing up and leaving long, rambling, poorly edited comments here, full of questions about, speculation on and advice regarding my sex life. He is, of course, Mormon, at least in the cultural sense.

That's important, because Mormon men often hold positions of power where it is their duty to ask explicit questions about other people's sex lives, and to hear "confessions" about what the church considers sexual impropriety. I don't know if this guy was once a bishop and so got to hear all about people losing their virginity or visiting prostitutes or sleeping with the babysitter or hooking up with a truck diver etc etc or if he resents that he was never a bishop and so could only fantasize about how great it would be to hear such confessions, but he seems anxious to use my blog as an opportunity to play the role of enlightened priesthood holder passing judgment on someone else's sex life.

But that ain't gonna happen. So I'm telling you, asshole: go the fuck away.

Oh, yeah--that's something he has a problem with: my profanity. I really shouldn't swear so much! It offends him! Somehow, it hasn't occurred to him that he is precisely the kind of head-up-ass fuckface-dickwad I hope to offend, alienate and avoid.

Recalcitrant

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As is entirely appropriate for a language oriented writer like me, I subscribe to the dictionary.com emailed word of the day.

Today's word is recalcitrant, a word I have long adored, because it reminds me of so many instances in my life. It means

–adjective 1. resisting authority or control; not obedient or compliant; refractory. 2. hard to deal with, manage, or operate. –noun 3. a recalcitrant person.

I have been accused of being recalcitrant, and my insomnia is recalcitrant indeed. Which is why I am reading and answering email and posting blog entries at 4:53 a.m., having been awake for a good long while (after a day that included a long walk and a long yoga workout in the hopes that they would both relax and tire me out, so I'd actually sleep soundly tonight) and having recently downed two shots of vodka and thus become very hopeful that if I just make myself horizontal soon, my consciousness will dissolve into sleep and I'll just fucking be UNCONSCIOUS for a few more hours.

Really: Is eight hours of inert unknowing too much to ask from each day? I hate being awake in the middle of the night.

Back to bed....

Skills Acquired through Old Jobs

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So, having already mentioned one benefit of acquiring a friend who used to tend bar (I love focusing on that verb--"to tend bar," which evokes an imagine of needing to sooth an unruly and disgruntled piece of very big furniture, as opposed to dealing with the people behind it demanding beverages--instead of focusing on the role--"be a bartender," which evokes an image of someone shrugging slightly and frowning to him/herself before filling a glass with way too much tonic and way too little vodka), I am now discovering that there is much more to that subject.

I guess I should acknowledge that I've been friends with people who tended bar while I knew them, and that two obvious benefits were that they mixed me stiff drinks, and would see me and ask me what I wanted, even when I couldn't make it to the bar because of the crush of people before me. And I guess I should acknowledge as well that I've known other people who once tended bar who aren't nearly as cool as this new friend and colleague of mine, whom I shall call Dr. C.

Thursday night, which is not exactly the most happening night in the dismal little town in the rust belt where we live, we went out. We sat at the bar in an establishment that was anything but crowded, and I got to watch THREE masters at work.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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