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The French Laundry: Recap

Posted by Ogged
on 03.22.08

It remains the best restaurant I've ever been to. The menu, including from the previous time I went, is here.

No small part of the charm of going to the French Laundry is its location in Napa Valley. Mom, bpl and I sat at a second-floor table next to a patio that looks out onto gorgeous sun-bathed vineyards and hills and the Laundry's own two acre garden. It's hard not to relax and enjoy, even before the food arrives. We went for lunch (same menu as dinner) and all the other guests were a bit hushed at first, but loosened up as they had more food and wine. The servers are surprisingly young, and, not that I care, but slightly less polished than during my last visit. You could tell that they had been trained well, but it wasn't second nature for all but a couple of them (one of whom was our head server--a totally charming guy named Zion).

As I was reviewing (and yes, ranking) the meal in my head, I realized that I'd had the best lamb I've ever had and the best lobster I've ever had. The lamb was so tender and so subtly flavorful that I almost suspect it wasn't lamb at all, but the flesh of innocent virgins. I don't typically like lobster, but it was so melty and so far from rubbery that I could have eaten it all day. Mmmm.

I liked that they served the Kuroge beef as a tartare. It was probably the best way to appreciate how tender and flavorful it is. It was like a really good sashimi, but obviously with a heartier flavor. The soft-poached quail eggs were also delicious, and looked like little dollops of creme fraiche.

Those are just the highlights; you can assume that everything else was awesome (the gnocchi in curry sauce was a bit meh, but that was the only questionable dish). My mom got the veggie tasting and we all shared everything, so I can try to answer questions if you have them.

We didn't drink much wine; bpl got the pairing, which included a couple of delicious reds the names of which I've already forgotten, I had water and poached some of her wine, and my mom got the non-alcoholic pairing, which included the lavender and rhubarb sodas from Dry, and a homemade concoction of ginger and a bunch of other stuff that was delicious.

It wound up costing exactly $1000 for the three of us, with $240 each for the food (tip included), drinks, and then I put in a little more for the gratuity to round it up, because we really liked our server and we got a tour of the kitchen. (I only paid a fraction of that, thanks to the gift certificate from the Mineshaft. Thanks again to everyone who chipped in.) A couple of things struck me about the kitchen. First, everyone was intently doing their own thing, and it was actually a very quiet and calm place. Second, those people are young, which we remarked upon, and Zion noted that given the regular 15-hour days that are required, it's a young person's job.

To put this completely over the froo-froo white person top, I'll just note that I don't think the Laundry is the most innovative restaurant I've been to. I ate at Manresa a few months ago, and the ingredients and combinations there were more daring and very well-executed. Definitely worth a trip if you're into that kind of thing. It wasn't quite Perfect in the way some dishes at the Laundry are, but it was out of this world.


 

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YouTube Tip

Posted by Ogged
on 03.22.08

If you add &fmt=18 to the end of youtube urls, you'll see a version with significantly better video and audio quality (if one is available). It can be really noticeable.

Compare

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlXuJP_9DjA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlXuJP_9DjA&fmt=18

And just for fun, here's something we Irish enjoy, and you might too.


 

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Polar

Posted by Becks
on 03.22.08

I read Yglesias's article on why polarization is good for America in The Atlantic right before I went on vacation and made a mental note to blog it when I got back. I, of course, forgot so I was glad to see that he linked it today, jogging my memory. It's an interesting take -- that a lot of the bipartisanship from "the good old days" were really driven by racism and segregationism so the polarized, partisan system we've got now is actually better compared to that alternative.


 

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Feminism We Can All Support

Posted by Ogged
on 03.22.08

Via the Arabist, an amazing story from Baghdad.

Now it's K, the self-described "manager" of the family, who's in charge of the household affairs.

There's only one problem. K is a practicing Muslim, but she adamantly refuses to cover her hair and she favors snug fashionable clothing. For example, she showed up to our interview in a tight pink satin blouse, a skirt that reached only mid-calf and pointy-toed high heels. Dark eyeliner and lip gloss highlighted her beautiful face, and her hair swung to and fro in a coquettish ponytail. She also drives alone in her own car to and from work every day, establishing a pattern that couldn't have gone unnoticed by the ever-watchful militants.
We veered off track in the interview because I couldn't repress my curiosity. How on earth, I asked her, does a Shiite Tikriti living under control of the Mahdi Army get away with dressing as she does when these days even Christian women have begun to cover their hair to deflect attention?
K replied that she is simply tired of the fundamentalists who now rule Iraq, both in the government and in the streets, both Shiite and Sunni. The Mahdi Army doesn't mind if she drives, K said, but she has been warned by "concerned friends" about her exposed hair. Before the sectarian cleansing of her neighborhood, it was actually Sunni militants who were worse in their targeting of women, K said.
The threats got so numerous that one day she stopped caring. She went on about her daily routine, driving and dressing and praying as she wished, crediting only God with allowing her to survive each day.
"Remember when Zarqawi wrote that if you see a woman driving, kill her? Well, they might kill two or three to teach a lesson, but they can't kill all the women," K said casually, popping a pistachio candy in her mouth. She began to laugh triumphantly.
"And now what?" she asked. "Zarqawi is dead and I'm alive. I'm still here."

 

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The New York Times Is A Very Bad Paper

Posted by LizardBreath
on 03.22.08

Yesterday, they published a story on the Spitzer investigation, giving the government's position that nothing untoward happened: the bank transfers triggered a suspicious activity report, and then once there was any hint of irregularity related to an elected official, an all-out investigation of the possibility of corruption was standard practice. The government's position is given by unnamed government officials, declining to speak on the record. Nothing wrong with that so far -- the government is giving its position, and an informed reader can take it for what it's worth.

Then the Times decided that readers needed an unbiased, neutral outsider to give their take on whether the government's position was plausible, and got a quote from Robert Luskin, "a defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor", as follows:

"If the government gets a Suspicious Activity Report about a high-ranking public official, they would be negligent not to pursue it, if only to determine whether there was bribery or extortion involved."

Golly, if this neutral expert thinks the government's position is plausible, it must be, right? Check out who Luskin is: he was Karl Rove's lawyer in relation to the Plame affair. Wouldn't you think that's the sort of affiliation a respectable newspaper would disclose before encouraging readers to take this guy's evaluation at face value?


 

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Visions of the future.

Posted by Apostropher
on 03.22.08

UnfoggeDCon XXXII


 

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1. I'm Really Very Bright

Posted by Ogged
on 03.21.08

Slate has been running a How Did I Get It Wrong series about the Iraq war by various pundits. Ignore that. Read every word of Henley's How I Got It Right.


 

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I gotcher madness right here, baby.

Posted by Apostropher
on 03.21.08

I know all you fruitcake-eating elitists hate sports, and a few of you hew to the misbegotten Yglesias line that college basketball is less exciting than the NBA (understandable, perhaps, given that his prime college basketball years were spent in the Ivy slums). But it's March Madness time and 'Smasher wants a brackets post, so here it is. And a little schadenfreuderrific truth:

Duke is quickly becoming the Green Bay Packers of college basketball, living more on its faded glory than on current success. The aura is tinged, the mystique has dissipated. This year, with no threatening big man and a team that looks imminently ordinary, what with a bunch of 3-point shooters, Duke was the 2-seed everyone wanted to get.

Awesome. Predictions?


 

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Bejeweled

Posted by Becks
on 03.21.08

I'm trying to figure out what to do with the 100s of jewel cases that I've accumulated over the years. Even before the age of mp3, I stored the physical CDs in binders but still couldn't bring myself to throw the cases out. What if I decided to buy a CD shelf in the future and wanted them back in their cases? But these days, where I only access my music through my computer or connected devices, it seems even more ridiculous. I haven't even opened the binders or used a physical CD in years. I'm thinking of finally chucking the cases and the binders and just spooling all of the disks. But! But! That seems so irreversible.


 

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The beginning of philosophy is in wonder

Posted by Ben
on 03.21.08

I will relate.

There was a concert today at 21 Grand, which has begun putting them on regularly again after a ridiculous tussle with municipal authorities. (4/13 and 4/14 will see a reprise of last year's concert under the rubric "Everything's a Dollar in this Box - the songs of Tom Waits on cheap instruments", which sold out, and is probably more to the taste of bay arean unfoggers than most of their concerts.) Playing were, per the advertisement, Fred Frith, Zeena Parkins, Carla Kihlstedt, and Matthias Bossi, a lineup that is obviously of considerable attraction to some: I'm not aware if Parkins and Frith have played together before (probably), but the fact that the one was in News from Babel with Chris Cutler Dagmar Krause and the other was in the Art Bears with the same two tickled me a bit, those bands being post-Henry Cow touchstones. And Frith and Kihlstedt have a lovely album with noted hurdy-gurdy player Stevie Wishart. (Bossi has the shortest resume of them all, but he's currently in Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and some music/theater project of Kihlstedt's, and used to be in Skeleton Key, whom I once saw at Schuba's opening for … Chris Cutler, doing a solo set with his electrified drumkit! I think that may have been the first 21+ show I legally attended. I recall that after his set, Cutler had an animated conversation with an extremely attractive woman.) So, you know. Packed house and all. When I walked into which I was surprised to discover no harp, but rather an accordion and a keyboard. Obviously I had misremembered, thought I; it's actually Andrea Parkins, not Zeena. No matter! Andrea Parkins is good too! Also, she turns out to be extremely short, which is TOTALLY HILARIOUS, because she occasionally plays in a (very good) trio with Jim Black and Nels Cline, and Nels Cline is extremely tall. Ha. You see? Incongruity. (Actually it turns out that I didn't misremember; the email really does say Zeena Parkins on electric harp. Bizarre—even wondrous.) I also discovered that they weren't going to improvise, but were rather going to rock out with their sheet music out. One of the tunes was dedicated to famous RIO obscurity Albert Marcœur! It was a good concert and as an encore they played "Lost and Found", which ends the first French Frith Kaiser Thompson LP.

Well, that's nice and all, you are perhaps thinking (or perhaps something less complimentary), but it's not particularly wondrous, is it? Even the Zeena/Andrea mixup. I concede. It isn't. What is: this guy was there. Or anyway, someone who could pass for him down to probable age and stature, shape of face and body, and odd hair.


 

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We Need To Talk About Prostitution More, Right?

Posted by LizardBreath
on 03.20.08

Back way down at the bottom of the last prostitution thread*, AWB said something that struck me as sensible and obvious, but that I hadn't seen stated that clearly before.

In a culture in which men are considered pathologically sexual and women are just the grudging gate-keepers of heterosexual sex, prostitution is the most sense-making thing in the world.

The confusing bit is that there are two kinds of open female sexuality arising at once. On the one hand, there are women trying to be more open about our desire because we want to change the way that female sexuality is just a commodity to be sold. (I don't want to exchange sex for money; I'd far rather exchange sex for sex.) On the other hand, there are women trying to be showy about their sexual availability because they hope to benefit from a patriarchal culture that rewards them with money (if also horrible risks), and who could blame them?

To spin this out a little more, there was some discussion in the thread of how the increasingly high profile of prostitution and porn might just be a natural consequence of a culture that allows women to be sexual than they were allowed to be in the past. That needs to be teased apart a little: 'allowing women to be more sexual' can mean imposing less shame or punishment on women for sexual behavior; it can also mean accepting that, and expecting that, women will seek out sexual pleasure, that they have sexual needs and desires that they want to gratify.

The former change, where society punishes sexual behavior less harshly, seems like the sort of thing that will obviously lead to a more open sex industry -- if the penalties are less, people will cover up less. And probably it will make sex work more attractive and more common -- again, lower penalties make the expected value of the compensation for sex work higher.

The latter change, though, isn't going to have much effect on the sex industry. There's no particular reason for a porn actress, or a stripper, or a prostitute, to see their work as in any way satisfying their own sexual desires, any more than Paul Newman is either a pool player, a convict, a hockey player, or a bank robber. They're performers, working for money. (There are all sorts of people with all sorts of proclivities -- presumably there are some strippers/porn actors/prostitutes who do it because they get off on it. But there's no reason to think that's any kind of a norm.) A world in which women are free to have a rich experience of their own sexuality and to pursue their own desires doesn't seem to me to be one that does much to benefit or expand the sex industry, because the sex industry isn't about expression of the sexuality of the people who work in it.

I don't have a point to make here, specifically. I've just been turning that comment of AWB's over in my head for the last couple of days, and thought I'd drag it up onto the front page.

* I know, I know. But I haven't been reading much news for the last week, so you're stuck with musings on old threads. When I get my new routine down, hopefully there will be more blogging. In which I can express fervent admiration of yet skepticism about Obama. Over and over again.


 

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Correction

Posted by Ogged
on 03.20.08

I don't see race.


 

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Like White Resentment

Posted by Ogged
on 03.20.08

baa slugs this link "Why Some People Think Public Sector Unions Aren't in the Public Interest." It does make one think. I also wonder how much this is a Massachusetts phenomenon. I have a friend who's a pretty far left liberal, but since moving to Boston and buying a house several years ago, he's developed an almost comical burning hatred for unions.

Oh, and Sir Kraab is banned.


 

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Bad Omen

Posted by Ogged
on 03.20.08

Says the man behind Sexygirls Depot:

My girlfriend found out about this website and has left me with no choice but to close it down.

I'm very sorry, especially to any loyal readers, that I had to take this action.
Thank you for visiting this site and I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.

I detect bitterness.


 

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A Small Detail Revealing That Google Needs More Female Engineers

Posted by Becks
on 03.20.08

That on Google Calendar's "Repeat Every X Days" option, the values for X only go up to 14.


 

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Lighter

Posted by Ogged
on 03.19.08

1. Via My Alter Ego, caricaturists talk about why and how they draw the presidential candidates. Cool stuff. Caricaturists like Obama.

2. A lovely break from all the political stuff, with Olivia Judson describing the thousands of ecosystems that spring up in the water trapped by pineapple leaves. Really, it's great; it'll make you smile.


 

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It's Easy To Outsmart Yourself When You're Ignorant

Posted by Ogged
on 03.19.08

Bpl and I have been having a little disagreement about whether we'd rather go kayaking in Tomales Bay or on a short sea kayaking tour. I was all for the sea kayaking (open ocean!), but she kept gently suggesting the bay. Why? It turns out she's afraid of sharks. Poor little bpl, don't you know that shark attacks are hyped all of proportion to their actual incidence? As a compromise, I confidently offered that if she could find a report of a shark attack on a kayak in the past five years, we would stick to the bay. So much for that. And there's this list, where the third item is about an Iranian guy honeymooning with his wife, when they were either attacked by a shark, or he murdered her. I guess it's going to be the bay.


 

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Ask The Mineshaft: Oops! I Suck Edition

Posted by Becks
on 03.19.08

I was cleaning out some of the old messages composting at the bottom of my inbox and realized I forgot to post an Ask The Mineshaft about car sharing. Saheli apparently gave up and blogged it. Can't blame her. Check it out.


 

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Something About A Mountain

Posted by Ogged
on 03.19.08

A while back we were talking about audio systems and NickS just sent me a review of a high-end audio system that's a fraction of the price of comparable systems (although it's still a thousand bucks) and about which the reviewer (who Nick says is very well-regarded) writes,

...the Shanling MC-30 is obviously--obviously--an extraordinarily good value for the money. The design is ingenious, the build quality superb, the performance beyond merely satisfying.

If you have a child on the way to college who has a serious interest in music, buy him or her a Shanling MC-30 Music Center and a cheap pair of speakers. If you are that young person and have some extra cash lying about, and your parents don't have the good sense to obey my every edict, then by all means: Buy this. That's it--just buy it.

And there you go. Of course, the rest of the review is an incredibly annoying list of which particular albums you should play on the system, but the guy seems to like music; what can you do?


 

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I'm Sure It Was Empowering At The Time

Posted by Ogged
on 03.19.08

Girls Gone Wild offered Spitzer's escort a million dollars to appear (not nude) in their new mag, but it turns out that she's already in seven of their videos. Let this be a lesson to the young ladies: save yourself for marriage payday.


 

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Post-Hiatus Observation The Second

Posted by Becks
on 03.19.08

One problem with foreign language education in schools is that you spend a lot of time conversing using informal verb tenses because you are talking with fellow students. Teachers should make you use formal tenses even if it's not necessary because, when you're put on the spot 10 years later, phrases that you used most often in class will be the ones that first pop into your head. This might prevent you from somewhat offending the nice lady who tries to help you with directions.


 

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Not Quite Right

Posted by Ogged
on 03.18.08

For your delectation, a line from a Yelp review of the French Laundry.

I drank too much wine and was planning to vomit at the hotel (shortly after the grandiose meal), but Ryan insisted that I should "hold it" since we spent $1K. So I did.


 

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Time for answers.

Posted by Apostropher
on 03.18.08

Sure, Barack Obama's speech was eloquent and exceptional, but it was somewhat disappointing in that it failed to address the two very important questions raised in this news article.

  • "If you woke up and the news is at your house, and you had a giant penis on your roof what would you think?"
  • "With the economy, with the Bear Stearns thing happening today why not a giant penis on the roof?"

Luckily, as the first viable African American presidential candidate, Obama should be uniquely positioned to talk about this, in a manner nobody else on the American political scene could. But will he?


 

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Race

Posted by Ogged
on 03.18.08

Obama's speech on race. I respect this man.



 

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TGIF

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 03.18.08

New heights of awfulness: ex-NJ governor Jim McGreevey alleges that he and his wife had threesomes with his driver. The most disturbing aspect of this lurid tale:

Pedersen told the Newark Star-Ledger that he had sex with Matos McGreevey while her husband watched at the couple's condo in Woodridge, N.J. The sex often took place after dinner at a local T.G.I. Friday's, he said.

TGI Friday's? Wouldn't that kill any interest in having sex? Maybe Pederson dressed up in one of those stupid server outfits and offered her a variety of unpalatable sex acts with goofy names.


 

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Calendar Girl

Posted by Becks
on 03.18.08

So I did it this weekend. I bought a Mac. A MacBook Pro, to be specific. I know it's overkill for what I need and that you all said to go for the MacBook but in the end it all came down to the screen - I wanted one that was bigger and I liked having a matte finish on the screen because I found it more comfortable for reading large amounts of text.

So! Now I'm in the process of moving my files over. I converted my Quicken last night (boy Quicken for Mac sucks a lot more than Quicken for Windows) and tonight I hope to tackle my calendar. I'm trying to figure out what I should use for my calendar. I hope to eventually get an iPhone so I want something that will synch with that. That would make iCal the logical first choice but I don't really love it. What about others? I know some of you really like Google's Calendar but I think it's kind of meh. I'm kind of liking Mozilla Sunbird but I don't know if that will synch. And after the bear of a time I had converting the data from my old Palm data over to something else, one of my biggest priorities is a program where you can export all of your calendar archives in a universal format for when I inevitably want to switch to the Next Great Thing down the road.

Advice on calendars for the Mac that use open formats, are pretty/functional, and can work with the iPhone (either accessing a web page or synching)?


 

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And This One's Important

Posted by LizardBreath
on 03.17.08

Lindsay on the politicization of the DOJ, and the damage the kinds of political prosecutions we're seeing are doing to our politics. I should write more about this, but failing that go read her, and follow her links.


 

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My Pool

Posted by Ogged
on 03.17.08

I turned the corner near the entrance of the pool building today and saw an elderly woman face-down on the sidewalk next to her walker. I ran over and said to her, as one will in these situations, "Are you ok?!" She turned her old head toward me and said "Now zat iz a stupid kvesschun."

Oh, hello, Ancient German Lady.

Ancient German Lady is in her mid-90s, and a regular at the pool. She's known less for being ancient than for being hilariously abusive. She desperately needs a personal aide, but says that she's independent, and then asks the lifeguards to do non-lifeguardy things, like help her put on and take off the socks she wears when she wears flippers to swim. If a lifeguard refuses (as they've been instructed to do), she says, "Lifeguards? Feh. Lifewatchers, they should call you."

So there I was, now with a woman who'd also arrived on the scene, ready to help her up, but she literally shook off the woman's hand and said "No, he vill help me up. He vas here first!" Verily do we love you, Ancient German Lady.

About an hour later, I was getting out of the pool, having related the story to the people there, and here comes AGL, pushing her walker, with Wingnut Lifeguard, crazy but solicitous, walking next to her, saying "You're like a wounded soldier...."


 

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Tap That

Posted by Becks
on 03.17.08

Via Dave Weigel at Reason (who you should all be reading), definitely read Julian Sanchez's thorough essay on the history of wiretap abuses from this weekend's L.A. Times and how wiretap abuses harm not only the people targeted by them, but the democratic process:

It's probably true that ordinary citizens uninvolved in political activism have little reason to fear being spied on, just as most Americans seldom need to invoke their 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech. But we understand that the 1st Amendment serves a dual role: It protects the private right to speak your mind, but it serves an even more important structural function, ensuring open debate about matters of public importance. You might not care about that first function if you don't plan to say anything controversial. But anyone who lives in a democracy, who is subject to its laws and affected by its policies, ought to care about the second.
Harvard University legal scholar William Stuntz has argued that the framers of the Constitution viewed the 4th Amendment as a mechanism for protecting political dissent. In England, agents of the crown had ransacked the homes of pamphleteers critical of the king -- something the founders resolved that the American system would not countenance.
In that light, the security-versus-privacy framing of the contemporary FISA debate seems oddly incomplete. Your personal phone calls and e-mails may be of limited interest to the spymasters of Langley and Ft. Meade. But if you think an executive branch unchecked by courts won't turn its "national security" surveillance powers to political ends -- well, it would be a first.

 

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Hiatus Observation The First

Posted by Becks
on 03.17.08

Having recently returned from a location where many water activities took place and, therefore, much skin was revealed via swimwear, not once did I see a person who looked better for having a tattoo. Maybe 10-15% of tattoos had a neutral impact on unclothed appearance but the majority I found to be actually detract.

I'm not meaning this as an attack on the tattooed readers of Unfogged; I'm sure you all fall into that 10-15%.


 

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Facials: A Moratorium

Posted by Ogged
on 03.17.08

It's time for a frank talk, my peeps. Back in the day, we discussed the joys and sins of ejaculating on a woman's face. What's been interesting is watching the mainstreaming of what used to be, say, 10? 15? years ago, an edgy practice, particularly because it's illustrative of how the status or meaning of a practice is affected by the broader culture. When it was edgy, it was also a conspiratorial act between the man and the woman, in which they, together, were putting themselves at the edge of sexual culture, and making an identity for themselves as sexually liberated or adventurous. There were still, obviously, strong tones of degradation in the practice, but it was a joint endeavor. Paradoxically, as it's become more "normal" (thanks, internet porn!), it's become more degrading, because now it's just one more "base" that the man has to "get to." (Incidentally, while it's become obviously more degrading for the woman, it's also more degrading for the man, who is surrendering himself to a particular version of manliness that incorporates treating women he's supposed to care about poorly, which is to say, he's being a worse person in order "measure up.")

(I'm probably going to open up a digression by trying to block it, and maybe I'm in thrall to another cultural construct, but facials seem different from, say, blowjobs, in that oral-genital contact seems more "natural," and actually feels good physically, whereas ejaculating on a woman's face is all about a psychological bump that's almost entirely dependent on what the facial means right now.)

So, I suggest a moratorium on the facial, because what it means right now is nothing good, and because we shouldn't participate in porn culture, where practices designed to appeal visually to masturbating men become the model for behavior when those men are with real women. Of course, it's always fraught to politicize private sexual acts, and couples in stable, loving relationships can negotiate whatever the hell they want, and if a woman is begging you to come on her face, well, maybe you should be a gentleman and do it already, but otherwise, think a little about what you're doing.


 

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Cheesemongers

Posted by Becks
on 03.16.08

Hipsters discover organic farming:

Just a few years ago the prevailing style statement in Williamsburg featured metrosexually groomed urbanites wearing trucker hats and pristine Carhartt jackets and quaffing Pabst beer. Now some are choosing the real life behind the pose.
At a recent fund-raising party for Ms. Fleming's film, in a warehouse next to the Williamsburg Bridge, men in shaggy beards and women in thick sandals sipped Sixpoint Lager from mason jars and snacked on Crane Mountain chèvre.
...
The Billyburg scene has changed..."Having a cool cheese in your fridge has taken the place of knowing what the cool band is, or even of playing in that band," she said. "Our rock stars are ricotta makers."

Boy, they sure sound like a bunch of douchebags. I suppose it makes sense, though, as only a total douchebag would allow themselves to be profiled in Sunday Styles.


 

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"Steamroller Blues"

Posted by LizardBreath
on 03.16.08

A final thought on Spitzer: the "Steamroller" self-description has been cracking me up all week.
He apparently was a churning urn of burning funk after all.


 

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