Sunday, November 30, 2008

Zoo Lights

So, last night I headed over to the Zoo Lights at the National Zoo with some friends. It was unfortunately disappointing. I suppose that if it weren't for the $12 admission, it might have been worth it.

Luckily, animals are animals, and the zoo decided to leave open a few of the buildings housing them. The Great Ape house is usually a good place to go at the zoo, so long as you walk past the depressing gorillas (you KNOW they know where they are), and go view the orangutans. I think it's because the orangutans have the Think Tank and the bridge to same to keep them stimulated.

And, apparently, they have the late night sex. Perhaps the most amazing thing about it was that, unlike the elephant masturbation (a common occurrence with the adolescent male at the zoo), children and parents just kept on watching. Maybe they just thought the orangutans were playing. In lots of positions, and always connected at the hips... It's good to know that I now have some first hand evidence that humans are not the only animals that have sex in the missionary position. Or cowgirl (no reverse cowgirl that I saw, though).

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Movies that are better than the book

I could have sworn I posted about this earlier, but I can't find it on my blog. So, my current list of films which are better delivered than books:

1) Children of Men. P.D. James might be able to write mysteries, but her attempt at A Handmaid's Tale fell pretty flat (in the book, it was men who had the problem, not women, which changed the whole dynamic).

2) Lord of the Rings. Eat me. 1200 pages, over half of which is elaborate description of hobbits walking across the plains was a bit much. The movie was distilled, while maintaining the themes and ideas of the main story. Watch the movie, it's only eight hours, compared to the days you will spend wading through heavy prose.

3) Starter for Ten. Hardly surprising given that David Nichols is actually a screenwriter.

4) Bourne Identity. Touchy - the film is really only better because the novel is so dated.

5) Bridge on the River Kwai. Although a great book, the film really captured the experience better.

6) The Prestige. Don't like epistolary novels in general.

7) V for Vendetta. Although a great story, the art in the comic book was a bit lacking to me.

8) Spartacus. Same as Bridge on the River Kwai, see above.

9) Stardust. The book was obviously written when Gaiman was still figuring out his style, the movie later in his career. Better story arc, stronger characters.

10) Count of Monte Cristo. I end with this one, because although it was not a particularly great movie, it inspired me to read the book. Unfortunately, at 600 pages, it was too much.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

Went to see this this afternoon - Excellent Film!

I'm tempted to try and read the book, but looking at the storyline of the book, I wonder if it will be one of the few movies that are better than the book.

God, of course, has a sense of irony, and the afternoon after my trip to the cinema, I returned home to find out that Mumbai had exploded.

I will be interested to see how these events play out in the media.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Academics talk best to each other, not the outside

So, last weekend I attended the American Anthropology Association's Annual Conference. This was on a lark (cheap plane tickets happened to show up at the right time), and the first lesson I learned was - DO NOT go to a conference on a lark. Otherwise you will be spending a lot of time overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people, and have no one to talk to. Sounds a bit whiny, doesn't it? I would write the whole thing off as poor planning on my part, except that there were a few people who were welcoming and willing to talk to anyone who came along: the military people. I think academics are just clique-ish. This is something I've noticed before, and is the root of my dislike of academic language in general - it is a way of keeping the Others out of your special places.

Which moves us to the next point - there were five or six different panels on "public engagement" of anthropology. Unfortunately, these panels all pretty much devolved into anthropologists talking about how they can be activists against the government. Lost in academic language and political espousals, these discussions were really more of a choir. At one point, while decrying the problems of HTS and Montgomery McFate, there was a woman behind me saying "mm-hmm" at every point. She might as well have been proclaiming "Amen!" to an inspiring sermon.

Finally, I have to say that when academics talk to each other, and not the outside world, they actually have some interesting things to say. I went to a session on pubic and body hair, predominantly delivered by grad students, which was thoughtful, engaging, and interesting. There were a number of thematic elements (MTF transsexuals apparently place a large amount of symbolism in "adding" things to their bodies - especially body hair), as well as some gender issues (men are willing and open to discuss their pubic hair maintenance, women not so much), although there was an interesting moment when the researcher on this project stated (with apparent certainty) that the men she was interviewing "there was no flirting involved." Sometimes the inability of women to realize when men are hitting on them astounds me.

Oh, and a final note - for students of human behavior - who thought it was a good idea to schedule FOUR HOUR sessions?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cultural Construction of Sexuality

I used to love Desmond Morris' television shows. The idea of presenting human behavior in the same manner as one would present animal behavior of various sorts was a great way to remove our cultural biases toward the exceptionalism of humankind (is human exceptionalism a term? If not, it should be - Oops, apparently it is).

What's funny is that I remember an episode detailing the similarities between breast and buttock cleavage. And I just took it for granted, ten years ago when I saw it rerunned on the Discovery Channel. Cleavage = sexy.

Except recently I started thinking about the bras from the 50's with their "lift and separate" approach, which was hardly conducive to a style of cleavage equivalent to the buttocks.

So perhaps fashion does construct sexy... more than just a thin vs curvy dynamic as models yo-yo back and forth in weight. We know that erotic parts on bodies are different from culture to culture, Africans tend to prefer the buttocks, while Americans prefer the breasts. Evolutionary biologists work desperately to explain how cultural features can come from evolutionary drives, so breasts = buttocks = display of estrus = sexual receptivity. Unfortunately, as pointed out in some articles on Slate a few months ago, evolutionary biology is like a conspiracy theorist - an explanation can always be found, no matter how pear-shaped the facts.

1) Women cheat as much as men. Of course, say the evo-bio's, women would choose a long-term partner for security, and then mate (cheat) with the young, healthy, sexy man who can provide good genes, even if fidelity/responsiblity isn't one of those genes.

2) Women cheat less than men. Of course, say the evo-bio's, pregnancy is a resource-intensive process, and women will look to mate with men who can provide those resources. So those who can provide will pass on the provider gene to their offspring and thus be more successful

Any way the data goes, evo-bio can find a reason for it. That's not really science.

Although I would love to hear the explanation for the torpedo boob look.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


A very funny allegorical description of Monopoly from an anthropologist. It actually took me three paragraphs to get the joke. But worth it.

And gay men have a great sense of humor.

Methinks they doth protest too much

I don't know if I've mentioned this here before, but I hate it when people (anyone, although I have to say I see it more on the Right) wrap themselves in the flag in order to make disparaging comments or accuse another group.

Happily, I recently read this story, and it all makes sense. I remember watching an old episode of Firing Line, the argument being evolution versus creation. First off, William F. Buckley is the man. Even if you don't agree with him, you have to admit he can debate with the best of them. And he spawned Christopher Buckley, who made my "heroes" list with his support of Barack Obama, and the subsequent dismissal he got... from his father's magazine! But back to my point, during this debate, there were four evolutionists, three sane creation scientists (maybe polite is the better word, or "willing to actually debate on the merits of an argument"), and one die-hard creationist. This latter individual spent the entire debate with a smirk on his face, attacking the others (even his own side) for their so-obvious failure-to-be-Christian. And he aggravated me, so much so I think that might have been my first decision to be a die-hard evolutionist. I'll let you take the irony of that in the context of this post however you want.

Moving on, the article about which I write gives me comfort, as it allows me to relax my fingernails as they dig into my palms while listening to them wrap themselves in the flag, or in the case of Sean Hannity, wrapping himself in the greatest, best country God has ever given man on the face of the Earth.