Sunday, April 20, 2008

AT DINNER WITH: Nell Campbell and Matilda Roche; A Diva Enters, With Marabou And Mashed Potatoes

Published: April 9, 2003

UPSTAGING Nell Campbell is no small trick. Amateurs need not apply. Famous for so many things -- dancing on the tables at Nell's, her club that set the gold standard for New York night life in the 1980's; tap-dancing her way into cult film history in ''The Rocky Horror Picture Show'' -- but mostly famous for just being famous, this redhead with the Cleopatra bob and the killer legs makes her Broadway debut tomorrow in ''Nine,'' with Antonio Banderas. A supporting role, to be sure, but as she announced with dramatic flourish, ''I want you to know I make every moment on that stage count.''

Undoubtedly. But on a recent Monday, her one night off from treading the boards, or at least rehearsing to tread, she came to dinner at Sherwood Café, near her home in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. It is a funkily ornate place done up like an antiques shop; you can eat, drink and buy most of the scenery. Its huge chandelier recalls the one at Nell's, whose décor, Ms. Campbell once said, ''looked like the drawing room of a dissolute English aristocrat, elegant and romantic in a faded way, not unlike myself.''

But with her club days over (she sold Nell's years ago) she runs with a slightly different crowd now. Her most frequent dinner companion prefers to eat at 6 p.m. and is often asleep by 7:30 p.m. An up-and-coming ingénue herself, with soft brown hair and big blue eyes, she has no regard for the unwritten rule that when Ms. Campbell enters a room, all eyes must be on her. Matilda Roche, age 4, has seen her mother's act, mastered it, and developed one of her own. So when her mother agreed to talk about her transformation from club diva to borough mom (who just happens to be acting in her first Broadway musical), a bit of negotiation lay in store.

''Spot the showgirl, which do you think?'' Ms. Campbell chirped, when the two arrived. Matilda wore what her mother called her fairy outfit, a shocking pink dress with a full net skirt dotted with balls of pink marabou. Ms. Campbell brushed her daughter's hair, wrapping the half-ponytail with an elastic dotted with its own ball of marabou.

''Darling, it's all about coordination,'' she said as Matilda struggled against the brush. ''A fairy who's badly coordinated, I don't believe can fly.'' Matilda looked up. ''I can't fly,'' she said flatly. Ms. Campbell laughed. ''We're working on that,'' she said.

Ah, Matilda. What was going through her mind? Too much attention? Too much distraction? After all, a girl's got a right to sit with her own mother and have a private dinner as she usually does here, without some lady taking notes and some man hovering with a camera. Not to mention that she had just received this amazing care package from her aunt in Australia, with a beautiful blond Barbie doll and a Barbie and Ken cellphone that came in its own bright pink backpack, but no one was paying any attention to that.

''Dial Ken and see if he'd like to join us for a drink,'' Ms. Campbell suggested in her distinctive voice, a clipped combination of Australian and English accents, as she sat down to be photographed. The camera snapped. Matilda hid her face. ''Darling, don't be like that, just be normal,'' Ms. Campbell said. Matilda threw down her backpack. ''Matilda, be sweet, '' her mother implored. ''She's n-e-r-v-o-u-s,'' she added. Another snap. Matilda did not like that, and she most definitely did not like being spelled about. Her hands went back up.

''Maybe we'll just keep you out of this, darling,'' Ms. Campbell said lightly, standing. ''Some of us are born to be photographed, and some are not.'' She headed to the front of the restaurant. Matilda considered her backpack. Upon further investigation, two important factors emerged: for some reason, Matilda was convinced that the photographer did not like her dress, and more important, she was hungry.

Once Ms. Campbell was notified of these bulletins, she immediately ordered Matilda's dinner: thinly sliced salami with olives and cornichons to start, then roast chicken with mashed potatoes and string beans. The photographer, crushed to discover that he might have insulted the pretty young lady, spoke ardently of her dress, and she oh-so-reluctantly came to the front of the restaurant and agreed to try again.

The salami appeared in a flash and Matilda folded each piece around a pickle or an olive like a pro. She drank her Shirley Temple through a straw, intermittently blowing bubbles into it. When the chicken arrived, Ms. Campbell cut it, and Matilda finally laid Barbie on the table to rest.

''Since she was old enough to eat, I have fed Matilda exactly what Eamon and I ate,'' Ms. Campbell said, referring to Matilda's father, Eamon Roche, from whom she is amicably separated. The two live half a block from each other, which makes Matilda's life easier. ''She's always been a really good eater,'' Ms. Campbell went on, brushing Barbie's hair away from the plate. ''Japanese, Indian and Thai curries, Vietnamese, Italian. Recently, she stopped eating fish and mushrooms, but I think it's the smell.''

As she spoke, she ate string beans off Matilda's plate with her fingers. ''I adore cooking, food is of vital importance to me,'' she said. But like anyone about to make her Broadway debut, she was finding her costumes even more vitally important. So talking about eating was the next best thing. ''For breakfast Matilda either has muesli with yogurt, bananas and fresh-squeezed orange juice in it, or we make smoothies with fresh fruit and yogurt,'' she said.

Matilda looked interested. ''Sometimes we have toast and hot chocolate,'' she added. Ms. Campbell smiled. ''Yes, but it's chocolate from Jacques Torres, that very bitter chocolate which I shave with a vegetable peeler, then add a little sugar. I'm a chocoholic but a shocking snob. It has to be the darkest Belgian.''

And what about lunch? ''I make her lunch every day for school,'' Ms. Campbell said.

What does she make?

''Salads!'' Matilda shouted. ''And they're good, really lovely.'' Like most people, Matilda was much better company having eaten something.

What's in the salads?

Matilda tried to remember. ''Olives,'' her mother prompted. ''And roasted peppers. I love roasting peppers.''

Matilda covered Ms. Campbell's mouth with her hand. ''I'll tell the rest,'' she said, listing lettuce; tomatoes, which she pronounced to-MAH-toes; capers; and feta.

''She's such a good eater, she also loves anchovies,'' Ms. Campbell said. ''I didn't eat them until I was 25.''

Matilda smiled beatifically at her mother. ''Am I being good?'' she asked. ''You're being very good, darling,'' Ms. Campbell assured her. She knows all about fielding the press at a young age; her father, Ross Campbell, a writer for The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, turned out a weekly column on family life that featured the adventures of his son and three daughters, who became instant local celebrities.

Did Ms. Campbell ever feel it was an invasion of privacy? ''Not at all,'' she said, laughing. ''I was thrilled to get a mention.''

When her father was transferred to London, the family went with him; Ms. Campbell was 18. She earned her living singing and dancing on street corners from Hyde Park to Paris to the South of France. During a stint as a singing and dancing waitress at a Knightsbridge restaurant, the director of the stage version of ''Rocky Horror'' spotted her tap-dancing and cast her. It was on that show that she befriended the spotlight operator, Keith McNally, who later moved to New York and opened Odeon and Cafe Luxembourg. Ms. Campbell worked briefly at both places as a maître d'hôtel before opening Nell's in 1986. A few years back, she was a co-owner of E&O, an Asian restaurant in the East Village, and Kiosk, an American restaurant on the Upper East Side, both of which she and her partners sold.

''I can't see doing that again,'' she said, eating chicken off Matilda's plate. ''The service industry is a 24-hour job.''

Matilda was unamused. ''Why are you snacking on my food?'' she asked.

Ms. Campbell waved her hand for a waitress. ''Because I'm a starving woman,'' she said. ''I'm going to have the chicken and couscous, what the hell?''

Most nights, Ms. Campbell said she cooks dinner for herself and Matilda. What does Matilda really like?

''Hamburger!'' she exclaimed. Ms. Campbell smiled. ''Yes,'' she said, ''I make a mean hamburger in a very hot pan with salt, oregano and dried mustard, medium rare. I'm a bit of a meat snob, too. I just think organic tastes better.''

At her butcher she also buys meat for Mr. Roche's dog, Ozzie, and cooks him a batch each week. ''I get a few big bones, chicken legs and thighs, hamburger meat, roast it all at high heat, avoid the temptation to add herbs, and when Eamon feeds him, he puts some into the dog's healthy food every day so it's more delicious,'' she said.

Her own hope of eating seemed to be dwindling. Even though it was only 7:15, the place was packed and the waitress was AWOL. If she ditched the dinner and went home, what would she make? ''Well, the other night after the show I was starving, and I sautéed baby potatoes with rosemary,'' she said. ''I adore potatoes.'' So, no low-carb diet for her? She looked distressed. ''Nooo,'' she said. ''I'm not very good at that sort of thing, organized foods.''

Matilda, who had eaten like a champion and never even asked for dessert, had crossed over from post-dinner grace to pre-bedtime crankiness. Whatever Ken had said on the phone hadn't pleased her; she hurled it to the floor. ''Darling, be gentle,'' Ms. Campbell said, getting up to find the check and take her dinner to go.

When she came back -- the food wasn't quite ready -- she sat on the banquette and gathered Matilda and her phone beside her. The light from the street shone on her face, which looked the tiniest bit drawn. At moments like these, does she miss the free-wheeling glamour of her former life?

''Darling, my life is glamorous whether at home or the theater,'' she said gamely. ''I never liked the club hours. It wasn't my natural choice to miss daytime. Now, my favorite thing is having people to dinner or having dinner at other people's houses. I go to the opera or ballet, and I love going to the theater. One's priorities change. Tilda entertains me. We read a lot together.''

She smiled down at Matilda, who had apparently forgiven Ken, and, nestled in the crook of her mother's arm, was telling him about dinner. Ms. Campbell gave her a squeeze. ''You make your own glamour,'' she said.

Videos

System Of A Down - War

Simon And Garfunkel - Cecilia Live In Cologne 2004

Dead Kennedys - Nazi Punks Fuck Off

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Fishbone Live at Verviers Belgium April 15 2008 Part 1

Fishbone Live at Verviers Belgium April 15 2008 Part 2

Fishbone Live at Verviers Belgium April 15 2008 Part 3 Encor

Fishbone Live at Verviers Belgium April 15 2008 Part 4 Encor

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Videos

Eartha Kitt - C'est Si Bon (Live Kaskad 1962)

Elastica - Glastonbury 1995 (Connection,Blue,Vaseline)

L7 - Till The Wheels Fall Off - Live

[BUCK-TICK]DTD [Shibuya kokaido TVK]

Amazulu - Montego Bay

GASTUNK - BIRTH OF STARS

System of a Down-Sugar

Mutabaruka - Live-It no good

The Doors - Touch Me

PATO BANTON & The Mystic Roots Band - GWARN

Taste of Chaos '08 MUCC

The velvet underground 'The Gift' 1993

Specimen - Beauty of Poison

[BUCK-TICK]DTD [Shibuya kokaido TVK]-6 DRESS

A Titanic production

Titus Andronicus
Titus Andronicus

A Titanic production

By Elaine McFadyen
Titus Andronicus – The Japanese Way: Ninewagwa's stylised cross-cultural production of Shakespeare's bloody tragedy takes the audience deep into a nightmare well of rape, revenge, mutilation, murder and cannibalism.

What the audience said

"It was fabulous - everything about it, the whole concept" - Shirley from Newton Ferrers

"Fantastic, the style, staging and the elegance, I thought it was absolutely amazing" - Jane from Noss Mayo.

"It was the most stunning stage production I've seen for a long time. Completely compelling with great performances, and a fantastic set. It deserved the standing ovation it received." - Sue from Plymouth.

Titus Andronicus
Theatre Royal, Plymouth
Until 1st July
Tickets: £10-£22
Box Office: 01752 257622

Hugely energetic and physical, the vast cast pulls no punches telling the tale of the victorious Roman General Andronicus and Tamora, the defeated Queen of the Goths.

Scene from Titus Andronicus
Kotaro Yoshida as Andronicus

Even though all the blood is symbolically shown with flowing red silk ribbons and severed heads and limbs are non-realistic, the relentless violence still hits you hard.

In the title role as the grizzled war veteran is Kotaro Yoshida, Japan's leading Shakespearean actor, along with the stunning Rei Asami as the vengeful Queen.

Producer Thelma Holt has described Tamora as pure Joan Collins and the Queen certainly is a venomous woman!

Designer Lily Komine dresses her in elegant slender white gowns and inky black feathers, with perfectly arched eyebrows and gore red lipstick. Like the Lady in the "Scottish Play", while the men charge into bloody action, she quietly contrives and manipulates her way to vengeance.

Pin-up Pretty…but Vile

Titus Andronicus
Shun Oguri and Rei Asami as Aaron and Tamora

Shun Oguri as Aaron her lover held me spell bound. In a very lively performance, he leaps and runs across the stage proudly exposing his tattooed torso.

He glares and stares with completely OTT villainy, while spewing torrents of vengeful, unrepentant dialogue… which you will either love or loathe…I loved it!

With a cast of 30, the production is very loud and aggressive and it is hard work for the audience who have to read sur-titles while listening to fiercely staccato Japanese dialogue and not missing any of the extreme visual drama of the production...but it's worth it, believe me.

The director makes inventive use of the whole stage area and the cast often enters running in from the aisles and stairs. Warning!… if you are in the front rows you might feel just a bit too close to the action as the orchestra pit is covered by steps to extend the stage and you will be inches away from the performers.

Ninegawa's Titus Andronicus is operatic in its scale and I feel very privileged to have seen it here in Plymouth. The Theatre Royal’s relationship with Thelma Holt means we get to feast on such treats right here while the rest of the UK has to go to Stratford.

Often conservative in their applause, the appreciative house was on its feet and gave the cast the resounding ovation it had earned.

last updated: 30/06/06

Thursday, April 17, 2008

About a penis: To cut or not to cut

Local author and filmmaker Paul Festa's experience in an S.F. circumcision study has Violet Blue examining a sensitive debate

Violet Blue, special to SF Gate

Thursday, April 17, 2008
When my longtime friend and writing colleague (and local filmmaker) Paul Festa took the stage for the "Best Sex Writing 2008" (Cleis Press) reading featuring West Coast authors, I was prepared to giggle at whatever he was reading. After all, this was the guy who made an incident-gone-wrong hook-up with an unnamed gay Hollywood actor at the Castro Theatre into a comi-tragedy in his "Best Sex Writing 2005" debut.

From his essay "How Insensitive," Festa began:

"Late in the summer of 2005, I visited a nondescript medical office in San Francisco's fog belt, lay down on an examination table, and had eleven regions of my penis poked by various gauges of monofilament. It wasn't quite what I'd envisioned when I signed up for the Penile Sensitivity Touch-Test Evaluation Study — "Touch Test" had conjured something a little sexier than a retired MD coming at me with medical-grade fishing line. But by the age of 35, the human penis is nothing if not well schooled in disappointment, and so, for the good of science, I went through with the exam.

"The science in this case concerned one of the most controversial and common medical procedures practiced in the West: circumcision of the penis. The study, published in the April 2007 BJU International (the former British Journal of Urology) under the title "Fine Touch Pressure Thresholds in the Adult Penis," is the latest research salvo on the war for the neonatal foreskin."

Some people did laugh at the first bit, and it was impossible not to chuckle at the mention of "BJU International" (a profitable porn blog waiting to happen if the URL isn't already, ahem, choked with offerings). And I'll admit that my mind ran immediately in the other gender direction of Festa's unrequited hot sensitivity touch fantasy, imagining myself with a hot UCSF boy in scrubs and gloves, feigning ignorance at which area of the clitoris is most responsive to sensation. But circumcision, and the decisions around it, has become a depressing and disturbing world war of dick politics, debate and sometimes conflicting data.

For instance, the Wikipedia article on male circumcision (NSFW) is locked and editing is disabled due to vandalism. While presenting information from the World Health Organization, UNAIDS and the Centers for Disease Control, it also presents articles by both Circumcision Information and Resource Page (CIRP, anti-circumcision) and the Circumcision Reference Library (CIRCS, pro-circumcision). It seems that no matter where you stand on foreskin, someone's going to be really mad at you for either standing on their foreskin, or enraged about health considerations, hygiene, the procedure itself, consent and ethics, and last but not least, the sexual effects of circumcision.

Circumcision isn't standard operating practice (that's weenie SOP) in most parts of the world. However dear readers, seeing an uncut cock in good old American porn is becoming more common as routine infant circumcision in the United States is becoming more of a question than a given — not just from the debates, but due to an increasingly vocal male populace who aren't cool with having their bodies altered before they could consent. More than just telling you that uncut penis does not necessarily equal European porn, I'm saying that it's not just parents and health orgs raising heated questions about it. A lot of grown-up guys are openly wondering if something's ... missing from their sex lives.

Most circumcised male foreskins are fairly mobile when the penis is erect, but may be too tight to slide up to, or around the head of the penis. That's one major difference in understanding pleasure principle differentials between cut and uncut men. Uncircumcised men have a "turtleneck" of skin richly endowed with nerve endings inside a thin, slippery mucosal layer that covers the unerect penis and slides back to reveal the tip when the member is at fill tilt, so to speak. This layer of skin can be pretty movable and slidey at most stages of arousal, and is basically the uncut penis' own pre-loaded sex toy.

It's those nerve endings that everyone's wondering about. While working at a sex toy store, selling sex toys for boys and condoms alike, I'd routinely get questions about what sex toys might be better or more fun for uncircumcised men, and what condoms were recommended for those with intact foreskins. The overview of advice and recommendations we'd give was that because the head of the uncircumcised penis is often described as more sensitive than the shaft, some toys might feel more intense.

We were going on our training, guidance from health professionals and our extended education — but also relied heavily on the feedback of male customers. Some male masturbation sleeves, for instance, have a rougher texture inside than others and this can feel irritating to uncut men, or just really intense — and that's not to say that some men won't like the intensity of the feeling. For the most part, we'd explain, male sex toys are fairly universal in application, just different in experience.

Our uncut customers would report back to us and inform our experience: We discovered that lots of uncircumcised guys really liked the newer condoms with wide pouches — like the Inspiral and Pleasure Plus lines. By the same token, circumcised men really liked these condoms more than most, too — but our uncircumcised patrons told us often enough that they had to make sure there was enough lubricant inside the condom tip because the extra sensitivity the condoms provide both partners would leave the guys feeling the burn — literally — after extended use.

Near the end of his essay Festa asks:

"I've heard people complain that their intact partners were too quick to orgasm, or were so sensitive they could barely be touched by another person. These are problems I'm not happy to share. So what are we, what I'm calling the silent and ambivalent circumcised majority, really missing?"

As a sex educator I can describe it to you, but as a girl I can't ever really know — and possibly, neither can the cut or the uncut. All I can do is to ask you to please not step on the foreskin. Unless he asks you really nicely.

Get your copy of the outstanding nonfiction anthology "Best Sex Writing 2008" by Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) at your outlet of choice; you can support local indie publisher Cleis Press by ordering it direct from the publisher's Web site. Full disclosure: One of my columns, "Kink.com and Porn Hysteria: The Lie of Unbiased Reporting" was honorably selected for inclusion in the collection.
Violet Blue

Violet Blue is author and editor of nearly two dozen sexual health books and erotica collections. She is a professional sex educator, lecturer, podcaster, blogger, vlogger, porn/erotica reviewer and machine artist. She has written for outlets ranging from Forbes.com to O, The Oprah Magazine.

Violet is also a fetish model, a member of Survival Research Labs, an author at Metblogs San Francisco; girl friday contributor at Fleshbot.com, a San Francisco native and a Forbes Web Celeb. Her tech site is Techyum; her audio and e-books are at Digita Publications.

For more information and links to Web sites discussed in Open Source Sex, go to Violet Blue's Web site, tinynibbles.com.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2008/04/17/violetblue.DTL

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Child brides 'sold' in Afghanistan

In northern Afghanistan it appears some parents are being driven by poverty and hunger to marry off their daughters at an early age. Jenny Cuffe investigates for Radio 4's Seven Days.

Wandian market
In Wandian's market place, farmers complain they have little to sell
Farida (not her real name) was paid 40,000 Afghani (£400) last summer for marrying her 13-year-old daughter to her father's 20-year-old cousin.

The child, her freckled face half hidden behind a blue veil, says she does not like her husband, and begins to cry.

"I didn't want to marry, it was my parents' decision," she said. "I dreamed I would be able to finish my education. I had no choice."

Asked why she is making her daughter unhappy, Farida replies simply: "It is her life, it is her fate."

Badakhshan's independent MP Fauzia Kofi says she has seen an increasing number of such child brides in the last two years.

"I don't call it marriage, I call it selling children," she says.

"A nine or 10-year-old - you give her away for wheat and two cows."

High prices

The cause of the trend, according to Fauzia Kofi, is poverty.

Badakhshan
Farida and her daughter live in the village of Wandian, high in the mountains of Badakhshan and a fortnight's journey by donkey from the nearest big town, Faizabad.

Badakhshan deputy governor Dr Mohammed Zarif reports 60 deaths from cold and hunger and the loss of 7,000 livestock over the five months that the district has been cut off from the rest of the world by snow.

Meanwhile, some food in the local market has doubled in price in the last year - a result both of Badakhshan's inaccessibility, and of global food shortages.

The British aid agency, Oxfam, has brought them vegetable seeds and fertiliser, but villagers in Wandian say their oxen have died and they need a plough.

Hanufa
Midwife Hanufa Mah had to help a 10-year-old girl in labour

Fauzia Kofi believes child marriages will only end if Badakhshan gets investment to reduce poverty, and more help to improve the food supply.

A midwife in the village of Khordakhan, Hanufa Mah, agrees that alleviating poverty is key.

She says she tries to teach parents not to marry their girls too young but some feel they have no choice.

One girl she helped through labour was only 10 years old.

"The girl was so small. I held her in my lap until the child was born," she says.

UN figures show that more women die in childbirth in Badakhshan than anywhere else in the world, and mothers under the age of 15 are most at risk.

No quick fix

Afghanistan's finance minister Anwar al-haq Ahadi does not, however, expect regions such as Badakhshan to be lifted out of poverty quickly.

"I'm afraid it's going to take quite a while... what we're trying to do now is just the very basics.

"Right now we are the fourth or fifth poorest country in the world.

"We hope we will move in ranking by another two or three steps, but still, Afghanistan in five years from now will be a very poor country."

The outlook for girls in Afghanistan's remote villages appears bleak then, especially if global food shortages continue.

Their hopes of education are likely to be frustrated, and they will continue to face the hazards of early pregnancy.

To hear the full story Listen again to Seven Days... In Afghanistan.

Just Like Penguins And Other Primates, People Trade Sex For Resources

ScienceDaily (Apr. 15, 2008) — Female penguins mate with males who bring them pebbles to build egg nests. Hummingbirds mate to gain access to the most productive flowers guarded by larger males.


New research shows that even affluent college students who don't need resources will still attempt to trade sexual currency for provisions, said Daniel Kruger, research scientist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

The exchange of resources for sex---referred to by scientists as nuptial gifts---has occurred throughout history in many species, including humans, Kruger said. The male of the species offers protection and resources to the female and offspring in exchange for reproductive rights. For example, an arranged marriage can be considered a contract to trade resources.

However, the recent findings suggest that such behaviors are hard wired, and persist no matter how much wealth, resources or security that people obtain.

"It's remarkable to find these patterns in the students in the study," Kruger said. "We have seen many examples where people do this out of necessity, but we still see these tendencies in people who are already well provided for."

In addition, there are predictable, sexual differences in the types of exchanges attempted. Men are more likely to attempt to exchange investment for sex, females were more likely to attempt to exchange sex for investment, Kruger said.

For the study, researchers interviewed 475 U-M undergraduate students to discover if they attempted exchanges in reproductively relevant currencies outside of dating or formally committed relationships, and if they were aware of attempts others tried with them. While the study population was limited to students, these types of exchanges happen all over the world in different cultures and species, he said.

The majority of students were well aware of their own attempts to trade reproductive currency, Kruger said. However, if they were in committed relationships, they did not view the partnership as trading in reproductive currencies, he said.

Overall, the strategy of attempting to exchange investment for sex is only successful about 25 percent of the time, the paper found. Some of the attempted trades included: tickets to the U-M versus Ohio State game; studying assistance; laundry washed; a Louis Vuitton bag; and voice lessons among other things.

Students in the study were 18-26 years old. For exchange attempts made, 27 percent of men and 14 percent of women reported attempts to trade investment for sex, 5 percent of men and 9 percent of women reported attempts to trade sex for investment. Of exchange attempts initiated by others, 14 percent of men and 20 percent of women reported that someone else attempted to trade investment for sex with them, and 8 percent of men and 5 percent of women reported that someone else attempted to trade sex for their investment.

A sample of older individuals, especially one that is more representative of the general population, would likely report higher frequencies of experiences, Kruger said. The assumption is an older population would have more unmet needs and would be more sexually active.

In fact, Kruger said the findings were remarkable in that any exchanges were reported at all, considering the subjects' youth and affluence---in other words, they don't want for much yet they still attempt these exchanges.

"The confirmation of hypothetical predictions regarding these exchanges once again demonstrates the power of an evolutionary framework for understanding human psychology and behavior," Kruger said.

The paper "Young Adults Attempt Exchanges in Reproductively Relevant Currencies," appears this month in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology.

Adapted from materials provided by University of Michigan.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Kanamara a frisky festival for every Tom, Dick and Harry...without the Tom and Harry

Kanamara a frisky festival for every Tom, Dick and Harry...without the Tom and Harry

Action at the Kanamara Matsuri in Kawasaki on Sunday. (MDN)
Action at the Kanamara Matsuri in Kawasaki on Sunday. (MDN)

KAWASAKI -- Thousands gathered here Sunday for the Kanamara Matsuri, an event with roots dating back centuries and now one of Japan's best-known fertility festivals.

Kanamara Matsuri, literally the Festival of the Iron Penis, had its beginnings in the Edo Period (1603-1868) with the prayers of women called meshimori onna, according to Wakamiya Hachimangu, the Shinto shrine in Kawasaki where the event was held.

Meshimori onna were women employed by the Shogun rulers of Japan during the feudal era to serve travelers along major roads such as the Tokaido that ran from Edo (modern Tokyo) to the ancient capital of Kyoto, with Kawasaki serving as a lodging spot.

Although the meshimori onna were supposed to serve only food, they also served themselves for a price, and it was their custom of praying to the gods that led to the festival as it is today.

Kanamara Matsuri is said to have positive effectives on business and fertility, increases the chance of an easy birth, heightens the possibility of finding a partner, boosts marital harmony and wards off sexually transmitted diseases.

Some of the carriers of the Elizabeth portable shrine at the Kanamara Matsuri in Kawasaki on Sunday. (Mainichi)
Some of the carriers of the Elizabeth portable shrine at the Kanamara Matsuri in Kawasaki on Sunday. (Mainichi)

The festival, which its organizers describe as being "relaxed and a tad different," is well-known internationally and attracts hundreds of foreigners every year.

A highlight of the festival involves transvestites and transsexuals carrying a penis-shaped portable shrine (called "Elizabeth," incidentally, after the name of the Tokyo gay bar that originally donated it to the shrine) and screaming out a chant of "Kanamara, dekai mara (Iron penis, whopping penis)."

The festival and shrine are also dedicated toward raising awareness about AIDS prevention. (By Ryann Connell)

(Mainichi Japan) April 7, 2008

Saturday, April 05, 2008

100-year anniversary sneaks up on Converse

Saturday, April 5, 2008 3:23 AM
THE WASHINGTON POST
A Kurt Cobain Chuck Taylor, left, and a 1933 Rens All-Star from the Black Fives collection

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Hank Stuever | Washington Post

A Kurt Cobain Chuck Taylor, left, and a 1933 Rens All-Star from the Black Fives collection

Half the history of Converse is about basketball, and the rest is more complicated -- about the ways that a plain sneaker is consistently adored by anti-consumer consumers.

And a Converse worn by a teenager is about remaining cool and authentic while selling out in every way.

Who would have imagined perhaps the best trick in footwear history when Marquis Mills Converse started making simple, rubber-soled work shoes at a factory outside Boston in 1908?

To celebrate its centennial, Converse is reissuing $200-a-pair "Black Fives" -- updates of the broken-in brown-leather beauties worn by the legendary Harlem Renaissance basketball team in the 1930s -- as well as shoes that honor the memory of a player and salesman, Chuck Taylor, who hawked original All-Star high-tops out of his car.

For all its heritage in hoopsters, the brand subsists on hipsters -- which explains why the company will unveil next month a series of its famous All-Stars and One-Stars with Kurt Cobain's signature and scribbled excerpts from his journals.

The Nirvana frontman, like many other punk rockers before and after him, almost always wore low-top Chuck Taylor All-Stars, One-Stars or Jack Purcells -- always ratty and dirty.

The new Cobain shoes will sell for $50 to $65 (and be found at Journeys stores in the Columbus area).

Inside one of the soles, a Sharpie scrawl reads, a la Cobain, "Punk rock means freedom."

Collectors have placed orders.

Still, the most impressive reaction is from Converse wearers themselves: Shrug. Whatever.

"This year is the first time we've publicly celebrated the impact Converse has made in the worlds of music, art, sports and fashion," said Geoff Cottrill, the company's chief marketing officer.

Converse is the shoe that never stops rejuvenating its rebellious cachet, resilient to both overkill and fashionizing.

"The Outsiders" all wore plain black or blue Chucks, and the outsiders are still wearing them, in hundreds of colors, patterns, permutations and price points, even as all the outsiders became the insiders.

It is not an angry shoe. It was never that kind of rebellion.

It's the shoe of slacker ambivalence, indecision.

Unlike Vans, Doc Martens and Hush Puppies -- shoes that all rise and fall and rise on rock 'n' roll's whims -- Converse bestows upon its wearer a finely calibrated range of coolness.

Some people say not to buy Converse because the company closed its last U.S. factory as it was going bankrupt in 2001 and shifted manufacturing to Asia.

Nike bought Converse two years later.

In 2007, Converse had revenues of more than $550 million, according to Nike.

Fashion designer John Varvatos began reinterpreting the basic All-Star and Jack Purcell sneakers a few years ago, fraying them at the edges, or fancying them up in leather versions, and finally striking gold in 2005 with a $95 version that elasticized the tongue and created an All-Star slipper, sans laces.

Next, Varvatos introduced an All-Star with a manic number of eyelets laced through and through with a stretchy cord. If $100 sneakers are your thing, check them out at Varvatos' New York boutique.

To get the gloomy, disaffected-teen, suburban-dystopia vibe, you could buy a pair at Target, which unveiled its Converse campaign in February. The shoes are also available at almost any athletic chain and online.

What is unchanged is the delightful feeling of wearing a pair of Chucks all day, even if some people say it's murder on the arches.

Go out in a bright orange pair of Chucks -- the high-tops -- and the trees and flowers sprout in your wake.

Broken in, a pair of Chucks offer all the comfort of bedroom slippers, but also the same support, which is why it's so painful to look at old black-and-white basketball: How did those guys ever play in those shoes?

"Basketball players have the worst feet in the world," says Mike Blandini, 77, who worked in the prototype department at Converse's headquarters in North Andover, Mass., for four decades.

Chuck Taylor's own weary feet might have been saved by the invention of Chuck Taylors, but every player who came after had a whole new kind of hurt, requiring ever-changing innovations in shoe design.

"Larry Bird had a bone spur on his Achilles tendon. I had to go down there and take an impression of (it), and we built the shoe around him.

"They all had these different problems, and it was legitimate, you really did have to make a (new shoe) for each (athlete)."

Whatever the first 50 years of Converse meant on the court, the past 50 have been all pose. A sullen and decidedly nonathletic and everlasting pose, in our all-American, foreign-made, rock 'n' roll sneakers.

Is DNA Repair A Substitute For Sex?

ScienceDaily (Apr. 4, 2008) — Birds and bees may do it, but the microscopic animals called bdelloid rotifers seem to get along just fine without sex, thank you. What’s more, they have done so over millions of years of evolution, resulting in at least 370 species. These hardy creatures somehow escape the usual drawback of asexuality – extinction – and the MBL’s David Mark Welch, Matthew Meselson, and their colleagues are finding out how.

In two related papers published recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the team proposes an interesting hypothesis: Bdelloid rotifers have been able to give up sex and survive because they have evolved an extraordinary efficient mechanism for repairing harmful mutations to their DNA.

“We think, in the bdelloid rotifer, genomic changes together with environmental changes have conspired to create something that is able to exist in the absence of sex,” says Mark Welch, an assistant scientist in the MBL’s Josephine Bay Paul Center.

Their results have medical implications, because DNA repair capacity is an important factor in cancer, inflammation, aging, and other human conditions.

In animals that do have sex, DNA repair is accomplished during meiosis, when chromosomes pair up (one from the father, one from the mother) and “fit” genes on one chromosome can serve as templates to repair damaged genes on the other chromosome. The bdelloid, though, always seems to reproduce asexually, by making a clone of itself. How then, does it cope with deleterious mutations?

In the first PNAS paper, MBL adjunct scientist Matthew Meselson and Eugene Gladyshev, both of Harvard University, demonstrate the enormous DNA repair capacity of bdelloid rotifers by zapping them with ionizing radiation (gamma rays), which has the effect of shattering its DNA into many pieces. “We kept exposing them to more and more radiation, and they didn’t die and they didn’t die and they didn’t die,” says Mark Welch. Even at five times the levels of radiation that all other animals are known to endure, the bdelloids were able to continue reproducing.

“Because there is no source of such intense ionizing radiation on Earth, except if we make it, there is no way these organisms could have evolved to be radiation resistant,” says Mark Welch. Instead, they propose that bdelloids’ DNA repair capacity evolved due to a different environmental adaptation – tolerance of extreme dryness.

Bdelloids, which live in ephemeral aquatic habitats such as temporary freshwater pools and on mosses, are able to survive complete desiccation (drying out) at any stage of their life cycle. They just curl up and go dormant for weeks, months, or years, and when water becomes available, they spring back to life. Mark Welch and his colleagues showed that desiccation, like ionizing radiation, breaks up the rotifers’ DNA into many pieces. Presumably, the same mechanisms they use to survive desiccation as part of their life cycle also protect them from ionizing radiation.

“That’s the next thing we are looking at. How are the bdelloids able to repair this many double-stranded breaks in their DNA? Do they have better enzymes, more enzymes?” Mark Welch says.

One feature that may confer exceptional DNA repair capacity on the bdelloids is described in the team’s second PNAS paper. Here, they give evidence that the bdelloid rotifer, like most animals, originally had two copies of each chromosome. But at some point in its evolution, it underwent a “whole-genome duplication,” giving it four copies of each chromosome and hence of each gene. Normally, lineages that undergo whole-genome duplication lose the duplicate genes over time. The bdelloid, though, has kept most of its duplicate genes throughout its evolutionary history.

“We believe they have kept most of their duplicate genes because they are serving as templates for DNA repair,” says Mark Welch. One possible result of DNA repair is gene conversion, in which the gene being repaired ends up having an identical DNA sequence to the gene repairing it. This can introduce the kinds of changes into the gene pool that sex usually does. (For example, a gene coding for brown eyes may repair a gene coding for blue eyes on its paired chromosome, and end up turning the blue-eye gene into a brown-eye one.)

“We think that gene conversion resulting from DNA repair resulting from adaptation to (desiccation in) its environment may provide enough of the advantages of sex that bdelloids can survive,” Mark Welch says.

First journal reference: Gladyshev, E., and M. Meselson. 2008. Extreme Resistance of Bdelloid Rotifers to Ionizing Radiation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 105 (13): 5139-5144.

Second journal reference: Mark Welch, D.B., J.L. Mark Welch and M. Meselson. 2008. Evidence for degenerate tetraploidy in bdelloid rotifers. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 105 (13): 5145-5149.

Adapted from materials provided by Marine Biological Laboratory.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Stop Making Movies About My Books

Stop Making Movies About My Books
By Dr. Seuss April 2, 2008 Issue 44•14

On the fourteenth of March, in towns nationwide,
In every cinema, multiplex, on every barnside,
Gleamed another adapting of one of my books,
CGI-ed and digitized by another sly crook.
Horton, my favorite—look how he's been treated!
Stuffed with tinsels and tassels and promptly excreted!
The puns! And the filler! The script fees you must save!
While I tumble and grum-humble around in my grave.
Did you learn all but squat from The Cat In The Hat?
Please tell me you fired the prick who made that.
I would have stopped writing, maybe sold Goodyear tires.
If I knew one dark day I'd costar with Mike Myers.
And Oh!
Oh, dear! Oh!
My poor Grinch, what they've done!
They crammed in live-action and snuffed out all the fun!
It's icky, it's tacky, it's awkward, it's wrong.
The Whos look like ferrets, it's an hour too long.
What a rotten idea to spend millions destroying
This masterful tale kids spent decades enjoying!
But still you keep making them!
Just how do you dare?
Sell my life's work off piecemeal
To every Tom, Dick, and Har'.
Why it's simply an outrage—a crime, you must judge!—
To crap on my books with this big-budget sludge.
My books are for children to learn ones and twos in,
Not commercialous slop for Jim Carrey to ruin.
Have you no respect for the gems of your youth?
To pervert them on screen from Taiwan to Duluth.
Even after you drag my last word through the dirt,
I know you, you pirates,
You'd cut out my heart for a "Thing 1" T-shirt.
For eighty-some years I held you vultures at bay,
knowing just how you'd franchise my good name some day.
Not yet cold in my grave before you starting shooting
the first of my classics you'd acquired for looting.
Mrs. Seuss, that old stoofus, began selling more rights
to Dreamworks, Universal—any hack in her sights.
First The Cat In The Hat and then this, that and Seussical
without a thought to be picky, selectish, or choosical.
So to Audrey, you whore, you sad sack of a wife:
Listen close. Pay attention, for once in your life.
You give Fox In Sox to those sharks who made Elf
And so help me, I'll rise up and kill you myself.
No Sneetches by Sony—
No One Fish: On Ice—
Burn that Hop On Pop II script not one time but twice.
Don't sex up my prose with Alyssa Milano…
And no Green Eggs And Ham with that one-note Romano!
This must stop! This must end! Don't you see what you're doing?
You're defiling the work I spent ages accruing.
And when it's dried up and you've sucked out your pay
There'll be no going back to a simpler day,
When your mom would give Horton a voice extra deep,
And turn the last page as you drifted to sleep.
Instead you'll have boxed sets, shit movies, and… well,
You'll have plenty to watch while you're burning in hell.

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