Friday, June 30, 2006

Purging Cliches

I've been plagued with the tendency--nay, a gripping need--lately to litter everything I write with clichés. From emails to blog posts to formal writing--there in the middle of my paragraph like some pimple--will be a "the devil is in the detail" or a "don't throw out the baby with the baby water". It has been a constant, uphill battle to wrench my typing fingers free of the seductive pull in my keyboard of "too many chefs in the kitchen."

For one New-York second, a part of me is deluded into thinking that I must have made it up myself. How witty. How cool to author a budding cliché! But alas, burdensome reality. It is clear that I am merely un-original. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Last night, out of nowhere, "it happened in the 11th hour" came out of me.

Then I said, "Or is it the 13th hour? Or is that the witching hour?...well, it happened at the last second." I then scratched my head Homer-esque, and scrunched up my face like an accordion.

I was informed, "There is no 13th hour." Like, seriously mortifying. I muttered something about cutting off the nose, to spite the face. It couldn't be helped, I was a woman possessed.

Haven't I learned by now that one must avoid these treacherous gems that are oh so glitteringly exact and clever? Has it not been drummed into my head, that they should be used sparingly, carefully--their appearance a mere blip on that radar screen?

As with all of life's conundrums, I turn to a random, google search result for answers.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Just another rainy monday

Today was classically yucky.

Woke up late to the relentless pounding of construction outside my bedroom window--I pleaded silently for it to stop before realizing it was pointless anyway, it was time to get up. *Groan*

Still groggy from a strange dream about escaping a dust-storm on a bus, my monday loomed at me high above the start of the week. Grabbing my uselessly tiny umbrella that has an ever-growing hole that drips water on my neck, I splashed through last nights' rain puddles, and watched cursing as my bus sped away. The driver carefully looked away from my frantic waving.

Had tepid bean-broccoli soup for lunch, endured tiresome phone calls, stayed at work too long, bad hair day (my hair frizzes up like a watered chia pet), no dinner cooked, no laundry done.

But then somehow, unexpectedly, I had a lovely walk home.

After being inside the chilly AC weather of my office all day, the humidity felt rich and warm like an overly eager puppy slobbering all over me. On every sidewalk, I hopped on each concrete pond I found, and let the spring coolness of the rain seep into my slippers, cushioning my every step with a loud burpy squirt. My toes wriggled luxuriantly.

Cozy in my room, after my dinner, I am grateful for the rain I hear outside, the thunder trying hard to split the world wide open like a coconut.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Rabbit is Rich by John Updike: Book Review

Nobody describes humanity quite like John Updike. Like a scab picked clean--satisfying, and flinchingly thorough.

Consider the following passage:
"A little touch of the hooker about her looks. The way her soft body wants to spill from these small clothes, the faded denim shorts and purple Paisley halter. The shining faintly freckled flesh of her shoulders and top arms and the busy wanton abundance of her browny-red many-colored hair, carelessly bundled...She has blue eyes in deep sockets and the silence of a girl from the country used to letting men talk while she holds a sweet-and-sour secret in her mouth, sucking it. An incongruous disco touch in her shoes, with their high cork heels and ankle straps. Pink toes, painted nails..He feels she wants to hide from him, but is too big and white, too suddenly womanly, too nearly naked. Her shoes accent the length of her legs; she is taller than average, and not quite fat, though tending towards chunky, especially around the chest. Her upper lip closes over the lower with a puffy bruised look. She is bruisable..."
Rabbit Angstrom, the protagonist of the novel, is describing a woman he fetishistic-ally believes might be his daughter. Greedily incestuous, the passage sets the tone for all of Rabbit's female encounters--lecherous and prurient. Not surprisingly, the often-described sex in the novel is insistent, claustrophobic and pornographic. There's a reoccurring, and strange obsession with female toes. What to make of all this?

On the one hand, Updike is a glorious writer. He describes every physicality to such a minute detail that you are left with searing images branded to your brain...which is unfortunately gross. How do you get past the stunningly vivid descriptions of oral sex, sexual urination, and every time Rabbit comes across a beautiful woman the reader’s gag reflex is triggered. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a little bit...but it's still *eeww*

Set in the late 1970s, the book tells the story of Rabbit Angstrom, a successful car salesman, who is…well…rich. We meet his needy wife, and a sullen, vapid son, his country club friends, and the economic swirl of his father-in-law's car lot that he has inherited. The characters in Rabbit is Rich resemble John Updike’s Couples in more ways than one—the careless, seemingly banal marital affairs that they have, the greedy selfishness, and half-loathing vision of the upper, white class American social milieu. But unlike Couples, Rabbit is Rich is not pointless and bored with itself. Instead Updike fleshes out key relationships with finesse and style.

There is the ambiguity, shot with loathing between Rabbit and his son which includes Rabbit’s slimy, yet oddly endearing attempts at redemption. When Rabbit clumsily offers his son an “out” from an ill-advised marriage to a pregnant girlfriend, it is clear that Rabbit's predilection to run from his problems are thoughtlessly being passed on to his son.

There’s a whole “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” message that Updike manages to add interesting dimensions to and eek out beyond the cliché. There is also the strange apathy that he has for his dead daughter coupled with an unhealthy fascination with another daughter that he might or might not have.

I didn't realize Rabbit is Rich was the third installment in a series. So I spent much of the book thinking Updike was being uncharacteristically coy with Rabbit's lurid past. We get hints and pieces of his past, which the reader can comfortably piece together without deterring from present story. Once you get past long passages on Rabbit's rambling thoughts, and a needlessly informative sections on cars, this is a pretty good book to bury yourself into for a couple of hours.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Somebody's Got to Look Out for the Blind

Ah the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)…In it’s own meddling, vacuous way, it has once again mindlessly and irrationally flexed its stupid stupid bureacratic muscle. When Michael Moore wanted to hail

...The Road to Guantanomo "a film every American should see.". That quote was slated to run in newspaper ads for the movie, which opens Friday. But the Motion Picture Association of America told distributors they can't use that line: Since the film's rated R, not "every" American can see it...more

The MPAA might as well add " there!" after all of its slimy little indictments. Hateful little children that they are. Do check it out and have a guffaw.

But then again, if they hadn't done this, I would never have found out about what looks to be a fascinating movie that I have heard little about. Check out the preview for "The Road to Guantanomo" here. Watch for Rumsfield's assurance that Guantanamo is humane and consistent with the Geneva Convention "for the most part."


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Overheard at Work

Me: I need some change. I need Pop.
Shey: umm..what?
Me: Pop. I am really thirsty.
Shey: uhh..okay, whatever that is.

You know what the can take the girl outta the midwest, but not the midwest outta the girl.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Chup Chup Ke: Lessons Learned

Chup Chup Ke Pointers:

1. Pretending to be mute/deaf is an excellent way to get out of debt and break up with clingy, commitment-crazed girlfriends.

2. For entertainment, the upper-class employs well-oiled, muscular men who wrestle each other in the living room.

3. People can be mortaged. Especially if they are deaf/mute and don't have rights and stuff.

4. Enraged, psychotic screaming plus weeping is an excellent form of communication.

5. Pretending to be deaf/mute has consequences? Pish Posh.

6. Mute folks are practically non-exsistent in India. This is why they are greeted with gasps and sobs. Especially if they are pretty.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Missing List: One

-Seasons. Despite the fact that I am looking forward to escaping winter this year, there’s a part of me that is wistful of snow already. The cleansing sheet of the year’s first snowfall that reminds me that it isn’t simply clocks that keep time--the earth has her own tally. Time means something larger than the minutes and seconds we assign to it.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

An invention whose time has come...

A device that will allow me to read books while in the bathtub. Somebody invent this.

You don’t even have to give me credit. (Err…wait…unless you make money out of it, then I retract that sentence. I fully expect a personal pile of cold cash.) Currently, I don’t have the money, the knowledge, or the drive to go about doing it myself. I have drawn up rough prototypes of what this might look like. I am open to alternative plans, I suppose.

Possible Tagline: All the comforts of dry ground, without the dry ground.

The idea being that the bather must be able to read a novel in full comfort, without risking wetting the pages in any way. Turning of the pages should be accomplished with minimal hullabaloo.

How does this benefit humankind?

  • It will make reading sexy.
  • Children will be more likely to read and do their homework.
  • People will no longer skip a bath for getting work done
  • Two birds. One stone.

Literate children, increased sexiness and people with higher hygiene standards. It’s practically a recipe for ensuring further propagation of the human race. What more can you ask for?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I want to live in a world where...

...everyone dances like this

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Mr. Bennet, here's your ass

I watch the Daily Show almost err...daily. Pretty much. So it's inevitable that there will be moments when I am tired of the whole daily-show shtick. (like their whole take on immigration reform...whatever.) I only really like the first ten minutes or so anyway.

But every now and again, you get to watch something so...delightful. Like this heart-warming moment when a dickwad like Bennett gets his ass handed to him, leaving him blubbering like a cauldron of fool.

Check out this lovely little debate on gay marriages, where Stewart calmly and effortlessly picks apart all of Bennett's weak, party-line, thoughtless nonsensical gargoyle-speak. There is nothing quite as sexy as intelligence hitting it off with funny.

If Stewart ever has on Ann Coulter (the anti-goddess of ugliness, hate and yuckiness), I will *shriek* madly and possibly die because my head exploded.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Post-Outreach Moon Post

Is the moon tired? she looks so pale
Within her misty veil
She scales the sky from east to west,
And takes no rest.

Before the coming of the night
The moon shows papery white;
Before the dawning of the day
She fades away.

by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

It was a full moon tonight.

My eyes burn slightly from being up so late. It was a beautiful night. Chilly for those who had to stay out all night in it, but perfect for ones nestled inside homes, clubs, restaurants and cars and buses.

The moon reminded me that right now would be my last night at outreach. The last time I will crane my neck to see the pre-dawn moon that dips back into the belly of the sky after being a hard knob of light all night. How it changes--coyly, like a languid eyelid winking at me on my drive back home.

The last time I will witness life laughing, crying outside seedy greyhound parking garages, budget motels and oppressive 7/11 donut shacks at 4:00 in the morning with a fat moon watching. Who will I remember from tonight? Who will fade leaving behind a shadow to haunt me years from now, maybe when I am drinking tea and I'm forty?

I will remember three people from tonight. I will write them down on my blog, etching them a nook inside my brain. The woman who told us how desperately she wanted to get clean, about her mother who died two years ago, the cops, her children. She wore all black, and she was very high. I gave her some water to drink in a cup, which she held precariously close to the window, and as I was listening to her, I worried that she will spill the water all over my lap. She cried. At first, I had trouble understanding her because she had a way of whipping her head around and letting the wind snatch all her words away. She didn't spill anything on me.

There was a 62-yr-old man pushing a wheelchair, muttering angrily to himself. Turned out he was a Vietnam veteran who had fought in Cambodia. He showed me his scars--three darkened patches that I could barely see in his dark face. He claimed they were bullet wounds which I only half-believed. Somebody had stabbed his thigh with a needle, and robbed him earlier in the night. I could see the blood soak through his khakis. He cried angrily, bitterly flinging his tears off his eyes.

A green-eyed black man. His eyes were really a light gray, rimmed in a strange green. He made us laugh and told us we were blessed. He asked to exchange some change he had for dollar bills, and we told him we had no money in the van. Sorry. He grinned happily and said, "Don't be sorry, God never made nothin' sorry."

Friday, June 09, 2006

I ain't no Gotcha Player

I became mildly obssessed with Doonesbury in high school. I would check out these big, thick comic books from the library and pour over them for hours, chuckling to myself. I love Doonesbury. Not to be found in the regular comic strip page, you have to flip over to the Style section of the Post, to read it. An oasis all on its own. And it has only gotten better over the years. Sharper, wry-ier with just the right flair of the absurd.

So the other day when I saw this, instead of the regularly-scheduled programming, I felt understandably jipped. A series of panels with names of the dead in the Iraq War. The disappointment that my daily doonesbury dose had been robbed of me inspired me to implore.

Just Say No, Garry Trudeau! I implore you! You are a pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist, for the love of goodness' sake. Why must you resort to sickishly maudlin "statements" that are manipulative and ultimately utterly meaningless. You are smarter than this!


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami: Book Review

It’s hard to write reviews for good books without sounding like a paid-off jacket cover reviewer. Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore is one such book, that was a joy to read. I generally dislike reading translations and I don’t particularly like coming-of-age, voyage genres. But despite being both, Kafka on the Shore surpassed all my expectations and has become one of the most intriguing books I have read this year.

There's a scene somewhat early on that for me tipped the book from interesting to completely fascinating. Each subsequent scene was as gloriously strange, as unpredicatable as the fish that fall from the sky.
The scene involves cats, a dark and villianous Johnny Walker and the eating of the former by a grostequely snarky Walker. He eats their hearts to make a flute out of their souls which can be used to entrap larger, human souls. The passage is described with such clear-eyed bluntness that if it wasn't so skin-crawling, it would be really funny.

Set in Japan, the story follows two characters—a teenage boy named Kafka Tamura who is running away from home and an elderly, mentally impaired man called Nakata who is inexplicably following Kafka’s path. Kafka is running away to escape a hideous, Oedipal prophecy foreseen by his father—he will kill his own father, and sleep with his mother and sister. Eventually Kafka arrives in a small town where he befriends the local librarian who allows him to live in the library in exchange for work.

In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of Phil Robinson's 1989 movie Field of Dreams. Like the movie, Kafka on the Shore asks both his readers and the characters that populate the novel, to accept and trust the quirky mythology of Murakami’s world, without knowing any of the whys, whos and hows. And Murakami isn't too interested in making sure he answers all your questions either. Any second leeches could fall out of the sky, Colonel Sanders could tap you on your shoulders and lead you to your destiny (and a prostitute). And the woman you are in love with might be your mother...or your sister. Or not. You are compelled to keep reading if only to find out what the hell is going on.

Cleverly and with fascinating results, Murakami describes a world in which memories are tangible valuables that carry enormous powers. A body’s spirit can flit across our arbitrary notions of time, and sexuality is as potent and powerful a force as any on this earth. All of this makes this an understandably kooky book to read, while being completely endearing. After Kafka tells his librarian friend his secret fear that he might sleep with his mother, he replies,

"For a fifteen-yr-old who doesn't even shave yet, you're sure carrying a lot of baggage around."
It's as if Murakami knows what you might be thinking, and he writes it up as dialogue instead of explaining. Similarly, there's a point when the librarian asks Kafka why he chose the infamous author's name as his pseudonym. There's a discussion about Franz Kafka's story, The Penal Colony, and an explanation given for his name. This happens often, where characters will somewhat abruptly have a seemingly tangential discussion about art, history, music and particularly Greek mythology. It adds an oddly informative, even worldly, feel to the book that is unusual and engrossing. It also exemplifies how nicely Murakami draws parallels and connections between wildly disjointed ideas and philosophies and creates his own reality and his own rules. Reading Murakami has that wonderful feeling that I sorely miss of stepping into a brand new world that is wholly unexpected in every way, each turn of events anticipated with delight.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Woe is the Muslim Woman

A few weeks ago riding the elevator, I overheard the following conversation at work. A man and a woman were discussing his recent trip to Nigeria. After the usual it-was-beautiful-yet-humid weather-chatter, and of course the inevitable air flight mentions (by the way, a sidenote: both of these topics are invariably boring to all people the world over, and yet a travel story is never complete without them. Odd, no?). Perhaps predictably, the conversation detoured to the sad women in Nigeria. It seems no Western traveler's story is complete without one of these either.

"All covered up," he said, voice low and sad. "I couldn't take it. The veils are I just don't understand how it still goes on. "

Disgusted, I stepped off the elevator snippily without the obligatory head nod that one usually terminates longish elevator rides with fellow co-workers. Unfortunately, nobody noticed or cared. But I walked off with that buzzing irritation you get when you haven't said what you wanted to say because weren't part of the conversation.

"That's right, buddy, you don't understand!," I sang in my head righteously.

A few days later when I retold this story to someone, they gave me that blank stare I get when I mention that I love Firefly. "umm..what was the problem again? Isn't that kinda sad?"

The whole incident unpleasantly reminded me of one of my first classes in graduate school, when my self-proclaimed feminist professor peered at us and asked quite seriously, "Why do you suppose gender inequality still exists in developing countries, while we have achieved so much over here?"

These are the moments that make it especially delicious to read the brilliantly written piece by Laila Lalami, that appeared in The Nation where she writes about what she refers to as "the burden of pity". Do read it. It's filled with the kind of smart and sharp writing that says exactly what I am trying to say...only better:)

Here's an excerpt: Go here for the original.

Meanwhile, the abundant pity that Muslim women inspire in the West largely takes the form of impassioned declarations about "our plight"--reserved, it would seem, for us, as Christian and Jewish women living in similarly constricting fundamentalist settings never seem to attract the same concern. The veil, illiteracy, domestic violence, gender apartheid and genital mutilation have become so many hot-button issues that symbolize our status as second-class citizens in our societies. These expressions of compassion are often met with cynical responses in the Muslim world, which further enrages the missionaries of women's liberation. Why, they wonder, do Muslim women not seek out the West's help in freeing themselves from their societies' retrograde thinking? The poor things, they are so oppressed they do not even know they are oppressed...more

Monday, June 05, 2006

Shabke Jaage Hue

My ipod has been wearing out the signature song from Tamanna--Alka Yagnik's Shabhke Jaage Hue--repeated a few dozen times each day. (Thanks Rani, for sending it to me! :)

Finding it again, is like re-discovering mangoes every summer, after winter is finished with us for the year. I love everything about this song, I have for years. But I am especially in love with the lyrics.

Yagnik gets it so right. The cruelty of thwarted, hopeless love in the face of quiet desperation that waits patiently, only to be left behind and forgotten.

The song begins with the night and ends at dawn. With lyrics like "even the stars have fallen asleep", beautifully capturing the fading stars of a sleepless night as dawn creeps closer. Each subsequent verse closes the distance between hope and hopelessness. For example, in the second passage, the singer decides that if the lights go out, then it must mean that her love has arrived. And when morning comes, she cries out to the dawn, "why have you come alone?"

I am a poor translator, so these English bylines below are a watered down version of the original Hindi. If anyone has a better translation, let me know. I only have here a selected few of the verses.

Saas ki tarahe se aap aathe rahe jaathe rahe
shabke jaage hue taroan ko bhi neend aane lage
Aap ki aane ki ek aas bhi ab jaaane lage

(You come and go through the passages of my breath
Awake, even the stars are falling asleep
The hope of Your coming is also leaving)


Patiya kadti tho hum sumje gay ki aap e gaye

(I will assume you have come, if the lights go out)

Aye subha, tu bhi jo aayi tho akeli aayi
Meri mehaboob, mere josh udane vaale
meri masjood, meri rooh pe chaanevaale

Aa bhi jaa thaake meri sajdhon ka armaan nikle
Aa bhi ja thaake tere kadmoa pe meri jaan nikle

(Ay morning, even you when you came, it was alone
My love, the one that makes me lose my senses

My love, the one who desires me

Come already, so that desires can be spent

Come already, so that my life can be laid at your feet)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A woman fell on me today

There I was, minding my own business, seated serenely on one of those metro seats reserved for old people. When the train lurched like a bellydancer, and the Asian woman in front of me fell right on my lap. She crushed the book I was reading. She made a small "Oh" sound. I had time to think 4 thoughts.
          • I'm glad she doesn't smell.
          • I'm glad she is skinny
          • Her elbow is bony..and sharp
          • Did she have to be quite so clammy?

After the initial perfunctory apology, she refused to look at me. A small circle of passengers around her (including me) asked her if she was okay with genuine concern. As if she had fallen on shards of glass, instead of myself.

Also has anyone else seen the opera singers at the friendship heights metro lately? It used to be this teenage, black kid in braids with a lifting, impressive soprano coming out of him. A cute kid, he grins shyly at me every time. But then today, I saw the same sound coming out of this deathly pale, white teenager dressed all in goth black. There's a tape player somewhere, right? It's a scam? Dozens of dollars worth?

Friday, June 02, 2006

What I hate about Books

I found this idea through Roswitha's Blog. Here's my chance to indulge in some griping of my own about books, and some things that books do that I wish it would stop doing.

  • Big Hardcover Books: I really don't like books that I cannot hold open with one hand. I like the freedom of one free hand. And besides lugging around these large hardcovers is a pain. When I was reading Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown, I had to carry it around in my backpack, instead of my regular one sling bag. This can get annoying-some. Also, hardcopies are expensive! I bought Shalimar with a gift certificate and I still had to cough up 10 bucks to cover the rest. I have this habit of giving away my books, especially ones I disliked or selling them to the nearest used bookstore. Hardcopies that you have to sell your blood for discourages this habit of mine that I am fond off.
  • Paperback Books with tightly knitted pages: Pirsig was hard to read for many reasons, but the fact that I had to practically break the spine to open the book fully did not help matters. Also these books are impossible to prop up against your bed post for night time reading. I have to do that because I am desi and biologically programmed to sleep on my stomach. I must admit hardcopies are easy to do this with, despite their ornery weight problems.
  • Classics that disappoint that I think are good: I read a few of Franz Kafka's short stories some years ago. Nothing could have been more disappointing. It was so utterly dreary and oppressive that it left a proverbial dark cloud over my head. More recently, was Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. Similarly Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being left me cold and uninspired.
  • Classics that disappoint that I think are bad: Kerouac's On the Road. Ayn Rand's FountainHead, Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainence. Richard Wright's Native Son. I immensely disliked all these books for their pretension, irritatingly over-done allegory, sloppiness, and sheer unlike-ability.
  • Action-packed Books: They bore me. I cannot read with pleasure long descriptions of people getting hit by bullets, or swinging that sword, or flying that jetplane. In a similar vein, I dislike nautical-themed stories. I am convinced sailors do nothing interesting, until they stand on solid ground again
  • Books convinced it must hand me a moral: And do it with the subtely of an anvil. Especially if the book was a good one, and it decides to turn on me. Why?, I cry. I thoroughly enjoyed Yann Martel's Life of Pi which was partly what made it so painful to come to that end with its cutesy ending. God, I hate that.
  • Screechingly Dislikable Characters that I am supposed to Like: There is this recurrent character that occurs in many awful books. It's usual female. And she's supposed to be "fiery" or "passionate". Instead she is thoroughly obnoxious, rude, childish and easily offended. She needs to die.
I am done for now. Someday we will live in a world where they make nothing but loose-leafed paperbacks for free : ) So what are your bookish complaints?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Scared Straight Boys

I was startled to discover an uncomfortable thought the other night. Is it possible that men, particularly boys, are neglected in our culture, in our world? Being a staunch feminist, it pains me to even consider the possibility that men might not always be lapping it up at the shores of priveledge. Just to be clear, I am not saying they aren't either. Just that...there's a fly in my world view ointment.

Hear me out. (read me out? whatever).

I was watching Mean Girls last week, a movie that against all odds, I actually enjoy. At the conclusion of all that mean girl angst, Lindsay Lohan cries out to all girls to see each other as "human beings" instead of "plastics". Yes! Sisterhood celebrated! Forget the outside, it's the inside that matters. How nice. We don't see enough of this, I thought magnanimously. Then I flipped the channel forward and I caught the tail end of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Yes! A celebration of female relationships! Girl Power Rocks! How lovely. You just cannot get enough of women's relationships treasured. Next. I have a heavy switcher thumb, so I happened upon Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her. Tagline. A man only sees what a woman wants him to know.

When the Gods of Direct-TV seem to be beaming down a tailored message through my parents' satellite dish, you blog about it.

Except for very few noteworthy exceptions--Salinger's Cather in the Rye, and of course the much touted Brokeback Mountain--male friendships, male identity and even male sexuality are very rarely explored or even mentioned in our cultural milieu. (Well, books fare much better here, of course). And I am not talking about the hyper-masculine, frat-boy posturing of the American Pie movies and their like, or Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible franchise. Or Howard Stern's unrestrained ugliness. I am talking about movies that seem to find that joy and pleasure possible in male friendships and sexuality, without resorting to thinly-veiled misogyny.

In an interview, Dan Savage (the notorious sex advice columnist) said the following about straight men:

I feel so sorry for straight guys. Because their sex lives are a terror, and are really circumscribed by straight guys policing the behavior of other straight guys—"Hey, you're a fag"—and by gay guys policing their behavior, and straight women. Paradoxically, straight guys run the world, but sexually, they're so imprisoned and it's not just a prison of their own creation. A girl goes to college and eats a little pussy and gets over it, and nobody thinks she has to be a lesbian because she did that disgusting pussy-eating thing once or twice. A straight guy goes to college and once or twice gets drunk and goes down on another guy, and if it gets out there, nobody's ever going to think he's straight, ever. It doesn't matter how much pussy he eats after that, or how many kids he fathers by a woman, he's secretly a fag. There's a problem with straight-male sexual identity where it's just a mass of negatives. It's not defined really by anything positive. Being a straight guy is not being a fag, not being a woman, and not doing anything that fags or women do, like have feelings or sit-ups or anything.

Of course feminists have had these discussions (hell, we are the ones who started it), about the rigidity of gender identity, and more specifically the obtuseness of gender identity politics in our culture. Nobody really knows what's up with men and women, but feminism has given us plenty of reasons to distrust the status quo.

But what amazes me is that, unlike even five years ago, these discussions are being held in main-stream, non-feminist, public spaces. They are not at all restricted to women's studies courses in dusty university classrooms. That's the good news. But what is dismaying is that the seeming rise in feminist enlightenment, has not benefited men in any way. There continues to be a lack of conversation around male identity and sexuality that isn't steeped in the same, frothing manliness that has always plagued it.

Savage's point about male sexuality (and identity) being defined by negatives, and most explicity--anything that is not female--is cogent and forceful. What a sorry vision of masculinity.

One of the many things that feminism helped do, is to explore femininity (and gender), coaxing it out of its nice-ness, and gentle-hood. But there has never been a masculinism for boys and men. All men have had is stifling patriarchy on their side--it's like having a belligerent and ignorant, but rich and powerful, old goat on your side. One we all know to be void of imagination, intelligence or reason.