Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
According to this article, males who peruse mens magazines (i.e. Maxim, FHM, Stuff, etc.) and are exposed to the highly sexualized images of women suffer from more body-image problems than their non-perusing peers.
I had conflicting thoughts about bringing this article up. They do not have any links to the actual studies (despite being a ‘science’ website) and the research methods they used are somewhat questionable. The method of assessment was self-report after being split into either an experimental or control group. The two groups data was then compared against each other. Other than the common problem of the majority of psycho-social data coming from college undergraduate males, identifying actual body-image problems from self-report questionnaires is problematic. Even if clinical therapeutic measures were used to define the dividing line between possessing or not possessing a body-image problem, the conclusions for why this might occur are mostly opinion.
The researchers say that by looking at idealized, sexualized women, guys feel less-than because they start thinking they need to measure up on the attractiveness scale to snag such a mate.
"Men make the inference that in order to be sexual and romantic with women of the similar caliber they see in Maxim magazine, they also need to be attractive," said lead researcher Jennifer Aubrey of the Department of Communications at the University of Missouri, Columbia.
Even if the statement about men making the inference is true, this does not directly connect to why the men would have body-image problems. For example, if I tried to run the 100 meter dash against an Olympian, not only would I lose but I may also feel like less of an athlete than my competitor. It is debatable whether or not my feelings are realistic and even if unrealistic, the feelings may be transitory. In other words, next week I may return to my original conclusions about how much of an athlete I actually am.
Nevertheless, Aubrey said lad magazines send the message that guys should be having lots of sex.
"So you have that in your head while you're looking at these magazines. If you want to get as much sex as possible with these types of women, then what's left but the feeling you need to look a certain way in order to do that," Aubrey told LiveScience.
What message the magazines send is also contestable, particularly since it is problematic to separate the effects of the images out from those of the words. These magazines often directly offer suggestions and advice on securing more sexual encounters and descriptive techniques on how to master the sexual encounters obtained. But even if the statement is technically correct, and men viewing the pictures believe they need to look a certain way in order to secure sex, if that view is correct in actuality then the researchers whole premise (i.e. the views are signs of body-image problems) fails. An example of this would be if you wanted to physically lift a 1972 Volkswagon beetle over your head, but you believed you would first have to go to the gym and work on weightlifting for three months before you would succeed. Unless you already are a ‘strongman’-style bodybuilder, this is likely the correct view. In other words, if you believe you need to work out, wear nicer clothes, and maintain your personal grooming to secure sexual encounters with more attractive women, you are likely correct.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
On a trip to NYC to visit a friend this past summer, we took a trip out to Fire Island for the day. A barrier island located just off the southern coast of Long Island, Fire Island hosts several small communities and beaches as well as Fire Island National Seashore (a national park). In the three years for which I lived in NYC neither I nor my friend (whom we shall call “Lori”) had ever been there. The particular section we visited, Cherry Grove, is apparently well-known as a gay-friendly beach haven as well as a nudist-friendly area.
I first met Lori shortly after I moved to NYC to attend graduate school at NYU. Though we came from different undergraduate backgrounds, Lori possessed a disarming and gregarious nature, and our friendship developed over our mutual interests in the performing arts. As a modern dancer, Lori was able to bring insight from the world she was familiar with, to the layperson/admirer which was me. Our conversations gradually over time spread from just performing arts to many topics and Lori became my closest friend in NYC, with whom I could have discussions with about anything.
Standing about halfway between five and six feet, with brownish-blonde hair, Lori has a dancer’s figure accentuated by routine workouts of Pilates, yoga, and recreational running. Over the years I’ve known her, Lori has had a healthy, though somewhat conservative (in numbers) dating life and spent one of the years I’ve known her in a steady committed relationship. So from an external socio-aesthetic sense she is on the physically attractive side. But aside from the first five minutes after I met her, and once when I saw her in a Pilates exercise outfit, I mostly didn’t notice. Unlike some of my female friends in college, I never was in, nor had an opportunity to be in, a situation with Lori where she was less than fully clothed. I suspect that there were two overriding reasons for this: the first being that Lori never felt comfortable enough with me personally to make herself vulnerable in that way; the second being that Lori—despite being in a profession that would seem to disrupt this—is a somewhat private person, particularly when it comes to her body. The latter reason is probably pretty common amongst both men and women. Though we may expend special effort and energy to put on outfits and strut our stuff, many of us would be stressed to participate in group situations involving nudity, and hardly any of us are unselfconscious enough to put our unadorned bodies on display. The former reason may have more to do with me than Lori, and I will provide an example of what may be the source of this discomfort.
While we were walking along the beachfront Lori expressed a level of unhappiness with the appearance of her lower abdominals. She mentioned that despite her best efforts, there still appeared to be a slight bulge that wouldn’t go away. In response I said that for most of the population that area tends not to be razor flat, and also that I wouldn’t have noticed anything if she had not pointed it out so she shouldn’t worry about it. Upon several weeks of reflection, I realized that this conversation (one amongst many we’ve had over the years) may be why Lori has never felt enough level of trust to be vulnerable with me. She was likely seeking assurance that I felt she was an attractive and desirable person, and rather than affirm that as my belief, I told her she was no different than anybody else and dismissed her unhappiness as not worth any concern. Unfortunately, that was not the only time I responded similarly in such situations.
The reason my realization of what my response meant was so disappointing is because that very same outing, I experienced a realization so viscerally that it quite literally took my breath away. About 5 minutes after Lori had laid out, when I had finally settled from my watching our fellow ferry travelers make their ways across to their selected beach spot I turned to glance at Lori as I sat down. I am unsure of how long I remained motionless while I gazed at Lori, but it was long enough for my limbs to begin cramping up. In a moment when I least expected it, it hit me just how beautiful Lori is. It wasn’t the bathing suit: the black floral print bikini was nothing special, neither provocative nor understated. And it wasn’t some sexual or hormonal-driven upwelling of physical desire. I can only compare it to walking outside in the late afternoon and being stunned to notice a beautiful sunset that you can’t look away from because you know it will be ending soon. And while Lori doesn’t have the surgically-enhanced cleavage of Pam Anderson or the gluteus maximus of Vida Guerra, I think it the combination of her modest b-cup breasts, round, petite rear and the demonstrable evidence that keeping herself fit is a priority that made her all the more awe inducing.
My memories of that day are somewhat bittersweet. To this day, I still feel that I let our friendship down, by not recognizing Lori’s statements as opening a window of vulnerability, and by not seizing that opportunity to take our friendship to a deeper level. And I cannot easily make up for this because I now live on the opposite coast of the continent. But I will continue to carry the wondrous image of Lori on that beach until the day I die.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
While I've neglected the website and the blog for several months, other projects have been progressing forward. I have nearly completed my outline for the Batman: Beginnings novel I am currently writing. I have only one day left to outline. While I've already started writing, and am currently through ~65% of the first draft, having a firm endpoint in the outline makes the process of actually writing my way to that point less daunting.
Reaching this stage in the novel creation process is also invigorating because it provides energy to focus on some of the other novel ideas I have. Once I'm done writing--hopefully by Oct./Nov.--I can move onto finishing the plot outline for the Superman/Wonderwoman novel I'm planning. Since the novel's timeline occurs near immediately after Batman: Beginnings ends, I want to get cracking on it. The time is quickly coming when I will need to go back and begin the laborious process of retooling Appearance of the Ninja: my first novella. It has been almost 7 years since I finished writing it and set it aside. I may now be able to be more objective and critique & improve on what was put on the page.
In the next 13 days or so, I should have a few new photos up on the blog. I recently purchased an IR lens filter and have begun experimenting with taking near-infrared photographs. Without having formal training in IR photography, there is a steep learning curve that needs to be conquered before I become proficient at this style of photography, but I believe the challenges are worth it.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
As I was perusing CNN.com a few days ago, one of their headlines caught my eye. The article—taken from the AP newswire—addressed the living situation in dorm rooms across several different college campuses. Specifically, it mentioned the increasing trend of two people, of different genders, sharing the same dorm room. From the article:
In the prim 1950s, college dorms were off-limits to members of the opposite sex. Then came the 1970s, when male and female students started crossing paths in coed dormitories. Now, to the astonishment of some baby boomer parents, a growing number of colleges are going even further: coed rooms.
At least two dozen schools, including Brown University, the University of Pennsylvania, Oberlin College, Clark University and the California Institute of Technology, allow some or all students to share a room with anyone they choose, including someone of the opposite sex. This spring, as students sign up for next year's room, more schools are following suit, including Stanford University.
As shocking as it sounds to some parents, some students and schools say it's not about sex.
Instead, they say the demand is mostly from heterosexual students who want to live with close friends who happen to be of the opposite sex. Some gay students who feel more comfortable rooming with someone of the opposite sex are also taking advantage of the option(from CNN.com’s AP report, May 2008).
While my undergraduate education was not so long ago, this article was still somewhat surprising. The prevalence of schools offering this option interests me, because though universities and colleges typically lie on the liberal end of the political spectrum, they usually err on the side of pursuing policies that, if they become defendants in a lawsuit, shelter them from paying damages. There seems to be something about this type of rooming option that just begs for abuse. In a short paragraph, the article also addresses what happens when existing couples choose to avail themselves of this rooming option:
Couples do sometimes room together, an arrangement known at some schools as "roomcest." Brown explicitly discourages couples from living together on campus, be they gay or straight. But the University of California, Riverside has never had a problem with a roommate couple breaking up midyear, said James C. Smith, assistant director for residence life(from CNN.com’s AP report, May 2008).
The article moves on to discuss the relative number of students participating in this rooming option:
Most schools introduced the couples option in the past three or four years. So far, relatively few students are taking part. At the University of Pennsylvania, which began offering coed rooms in 2005, about 120 out of 10,400 students took advantage of the option this year.
At UC Riverside, which has approximately 6,000 students in campus housing, about 50 have roommates of the opposite sex. The school has had the option since 2005(from CNN.com’s AP report, May 2008).
After I finished examining the article, I spent some time remembering my undergraduate experience and trying to quantify—if the option had been available—if a coed roommate would have worked for me. I think there are distinct periods in college life (for those students that move away from home and live at the college). The article was unclear if this option was given to freshman students, but I suspect that not many freshman have the option. Housing the increasing number of incoming college students is already difficult enough, finding particular buildings where coed rooms will work just increases the load on the housing placement boards.
My first 2 years of college, there is only one girl I can think of who I could have shared a room with. (Let’s call her ‘Katie’). I met Katie during Welcome Week, and it was one of those instant friends type of situation. We both were interested in the same major; we spent most of Welcome week attending different social events together. Our first year we worked on homework together, and participated in a social club together as well. My second year, when I had a single dorm room, after late night studying or other events, Katie often just spent the night. In my meager efforts to be gallant, I slept on the floor while she used the bed; but she was regularly mentioned her willingness to share the bedspace.
The simple question that is not addressed in the article, but that resounds with me on my recollections of the past, is not about how the two roommates avoid sexual tension between each other, but how do they avoid sexual tension amongst their potential significant others. Quite frankly, the first 3 years of college generally consist of college students increasing their levels of sexual experimentation and activity. While my rough hubric—that 20% of the students were having 80% of the sexual encounters, while the remaining 80% of students fell into the last fifth—probably still holds for a majority of colleges, having two opposite gender heterosexual roommates might cause intimacy issues for those attempting to pursue a committed relationship. If I had to guess, I would suspect the majority of these opposite gender (both heterosexual) roommate pairings consist of two single people, while the opposite gender (hetero/homo) roommate pairing consist of one or both of the people being in relationships.
This past month, I’ve been reviewing my current finances as I begin planning the next period in my life. As I prepare to make more educational investments (investments I hope help position me for a long and productive career), I’m forced to question how much income I want to pour into projects which are very important to me, but ancillary to my intended career path.
The world of digital photography does not stand still. I’m currently in the quandary-inducing position of debating whether to put my limited resources towards better and/or more versatile equipment, to invest in further photography education, or to seek out and pay some models to build a better portfolio. At the current time, I do not have the funds for all three endeavors.
What is somewhat frustrating is the fact that if I had enough funding for any two of the three options, I could use my work from the two to assist in funding the third. In other words, if I could hire models while taking more photography classes, my skills would improve (through the active experiences of working) enough that I could attempt to start selling my work. As I make sales, I could get better equipment.
At this stage, I am likely to invest in further education first. Hopefully my potential classmates will be in similar situations and open to collaborations.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I recently read an article from a local newspaper about how many UC Berkeley college students are increasingly drawn to evangelical Christianity. It was a rather long article (around 5000 words) but quite informative.
from the article…
It's not a story you might expect to hear on a campus more famous for its Nobel Prize winners, tree sitters, and free-speech advocates. And yet, Cal has increasingly become a place where Asian-American students like Chiu are finding God. Their Christian faith is having repercussions on how they approach their studies, how they think about science, and what careers they pursue — perhaps even the future of academia. In some cases, the changes are already underway. (Richards, K., 2008)
Considering the stereotype of UC Berkeley (and the town it resides in) being a bastion of liberal thought and greater social & environmental awareness, this may be surprising to many. The article provides quotes and analysis for why this influx of Asian Americans is occurring. One proferred theory is that it may be cultural: “Culturally, Asian-American students may relate to the Christian mentality easier than others, scholars say (Richards, K., 2008).” Another suggestion indicates that it may be message-related: “Perhaps most importantly, fellowships preach a message of acceptance. For many Asian-American students who face intense pressure from their parents to succeed academically, Christianity provides a shelter (Richards, K., 2008).”
In part, the way these Christian ministries reach out to attract students has modernized. The fellowships have developed “a pretty marketed approach” undertaking activities such as “give(ing) away candy or gift baskets to incoming freshmen, and stage(ing) skits (Richards, K., 2008).” One group (Intervarsity Christian Fellowship) conducted a survey with clipboards querying passing students ‘What are your issues with Christianity?’ (Richards, K., 2008). Maybe the ministries have learned lessons from advertising and marketing on how to best package their product.
But the increasing involvement in Christian ministry does not come without ancillary costs in other areas. One leader tacks up more than 15 hours officially with his group; the tally doesn’t include his outreach and ministry duties (Richards, K., 2008). So changed by his experience with a Christian ministry group, another student (Matt Huang) left his pursuit of a medical career and is currently unemployed while he searches for a “nonprofit or government sector” position (Richard, K., 2008).
The Christian ministries must also find ways to confront the apparent conflict between some the foundational tenets of Christianity and the realms of academia and science. According to the article, the Veritas Forum
sponsored a high-profile talk by Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project and a devout Christian. The event packed Wheeler Hall, plus two overflow lecture halls. Collins eschews intelligent design arguments in favor of a more science-embracing notion of "theistic evolution," or what he calls "BioLogos." In essence, evolution happened but God started it all(Richards, K., 2008).
And while many of the ministry groups don’t posit official positions on the evolution issue, they do offer alternative views on how current things came to be. The students themselves often adopt their own stances on evolution. According to Professor Kevin Padian—curator of the Museum of Paleontology—student “don’t feel it’s relevant” to identify their disagreement with evolution in class or adopt the approach “you teach me science and I’ll believe what I want to believe (Richards, K., 2008).
So I don’t really have a great deal of comments about the article. I am curious as to whether people believe this type of movement in a secular, public university is a good, bad, or non-eventful thing. An in-depth analysis of my previously expressed viewpoints probably indicates where on the spectrum my opinions lie. But I do find it interesting to see how Christian organizations are adapting secular business marketing & advertising techniques to connect with their target audience. Outreach evolved from simply posting flyers to conducting surveys, skits, and giveaway contests. As separate as Christian ministries may desire to be, is it possible that the only thing separating them from secular social groups is subject and material content?
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Here is an older photo. (Click image to see larger picture) It actually doesn't directly relate to the post title so much. The title more relates to what to do with old digital images that have the potential to be good (with significant amounts of photoshop work) when I don't wish to work on them. For example, there are still probably over 100 Agora II images (nearly half of them include some form of unclothed, undressed, nearly naked, or nude performers) that I've reached my saturation point for dealing with. In addition to all the other projects consuming my time, I do not know if I want to spend additional time on such an old one: particularly since I was dissatisfied with my photographic endeavor at the time. (I didn’t utilize the best photo-chronicling techniques, didn’t attend enough of the performances to get all the pictures I wanted, and didn’t have the best equipment to maximize my efforts) If I am already unhappy, does it make sense to spend more time and energy on something with which—at best—I’ll only be partially satisfied?
Right now I am in a place where the majority of my discretionary time is spent trying to push out the remaining chapters on my Batman novel. I am in a rush for several crucial reasons. I want to finish the 1st draft before the new Batman Movie (The Dark Knight) comes out, specifically so I can turn the novel into a screenplay (targeted for a TV miniseries). As the TV show ‘Smallville’ is winding down to its likely last season (2008-2009), the period is approaching where a new vision of the DC Universe—as it relates to television and film—has the potential of being seriously considered. My vision (led by the Batman, Superman, and WonderWoman characters) is groundbreaking, intriguing, and most-of-all sustainable for a period of 5-15 years.
Another reason for the rush is that the transition period I am in for my career path will soon close. Once the new work begins in earnest, I will not have the luxury of devoting time and energy to this project except in dribs and drabs. If I cannot get the ball sustainably rolling before that time, it may be over 10 years before all the personal and external factors align again.
The proceeding two paragraphs lay out, in part, my reluctance to work on older photos I am already dissatisfied with. Whatever efforts I make in photography over the next while, I really want to devote my energies to finding a collaborative model who is willing to work with me to develop our skills and both our portfolios, despite my current lack of finances for that endeavor.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Last week, I had a couple spare hours to visit the UC Davis Arboretum. Though my camera battery was almost dead, I was able to get some decent images. The following thumbnail (click here to see large image) is the first of the images. Over the next week more of them will follow.
While I was walking, I was again struck by how much of noticing the beauty around me was a matter of perspective. The flower pictured here, was away from the rest of the similar type flowers, close enough to the walking path that I was surprised it hadn’t gotten trampled. It looked rather dismal, until I got down on my stomach and looked at the flower from ground level.
If I may anthropormorphize for a moment, the change in perspective altered the flower from the solitary loner who just didn’t get that the best place to grow was back with the rest of the pack; it altered the flower to the trailblazing maverick that demanded attention from the passerby by separating itself from the common and declaring this is where I will grow.
There is an old colloquialism about how it’s not the circumstances in our life we control, it’s only our reactions to them that can be controlled. The greater truth is that often our initial reactions are not even under our direct control. But we can change our perspective: get down on the ground and look at the circumstances from another viewpoint; or climb up high and try and look at the bigger picture of life.
Monday, March 17, 2008
How Much is Too Much?
I heard a news report on the radio a few days ago about a large number of highschool students, their teachers, and families staging a walkout of their local highschools because the budget proposed by the California Governor and legislature proposes large across-the-board cuts in all areas of state spending, including education. The students were irate because they claim their districts are already suffering from overcrowding, not enough resource funds, and not enough teachers; further cuts would make the situation worse.
The protests by the students is only one of many vocal complaints being heard in
My question for you isn’t whether or not any particular group is justified in their demand to keep their budget from being slashed. My question is when faced with overwhelming deficit projections, and an economy in recession, what is the responsibility of the individual and special interest group to help rectify the damage? As a society, we seem more than willing to ask the richest amongst us for even more help, but does that mean the disadvantaged have no responsibility to change?
I ask this because despite all the research indicating how beneficial after-school programs in athletics and the arts are to helping kids, the entire idea of beyond-basic preparatory education is relatively recent. When the nation was founded, the majority of the citizens didn’t receive education past the early grades: and extra curricular sports and music being offered at school was unheard of. If we are going to ask people to pay more taxes and require city service workers to take pay cuts, should we just allow the children and youth to continue in blithe ignorance of the current state of the nation? That would be like parents who wear rags, so their kids can dress in the latest designer fashions.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Ignoring for a moment the problems intrinsic in survey data, even when one assumes that data is accurate, it is not good science to postulate on reasons for the data obtained. Because the Time magazine didn’t provide a link to the actual report, I cannot be certain if the researchers actually proposed reasons, or just reported the aggregate responses from those survey. Either way, it really isn’t good for Time to repeat it.
The question more interesting to me than the science (or lack thereof) undertaken by the researchers is whether or not more people, having sex sooner, more often, with more people, and later into life is actually a good thing? I would be curious to see if the data for post-intercourse contraceptives, abortions, and/or sexually transmitted diseases has also correspondingly increased. In China, where attitudes and practices about sex have become more liberal, there has been a drastic increase in the amount of high school-aged girls going to abortion clinics to terminate unplanned pregnancies.
If people are going to have sex, they should be smart and plan ahead. There are more consequences to sex than just pregnancy. If 36% of French women and 21% of French men are reporting experiencing frequent or occasional sexual disfunction, maybe quantity doesn’t always trump quality.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
I never bought the adage “Those who fail to learn from history’s mistakes are doomed to repeat them.” It makes complex societal behavior far too simplistic, while simultaneously attributing ignorance as the cause of failure. As if smart knowledgeable people don’t make mistakes.
For some people, it seems more understandable to ascribe a sort of benevolent impetus to Nature; for others they attribute a naturalistic progression/development of planets and species from simple to complex, then ultimately to disorder. Regardless of which position one is closer to—the caring overseer that wants the best for us, or the impartial system of evolutionary progression and descent into physical chaos—it is the question of ‘What next?’ that all humans are left with.
Do we have some sort to leave the planet and society in a better state than the way in which we found it? If so, then is it better to pursue an achievable improvement in the individual time each of us has before we die, or is it better to strive for the long-term improvement which may not be achievable in any one life-time?
Having a peaceful planet is a goal that appears to be much longer-term project than can be accomplished in any one lifetime. The cyclic nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from cease-fire to armed conflict illustrates a true peace must outlast the generation that starts it. If the accords made that settled the IRA-UK conflict last another few decades, then that situation can serve as an example of the establishment of modern-era peace.
It may well be that while peace is the natural state of the planet, it is not the natural state of society. In other words, the species on the planet will come to a homeostatic balance of creation, propagation, and destruction. It could be the establishment and maintenance of societies that disrupts that balance, since each society competes with all the others.
Competition between societies can be civil until one society begins (or attempts to begin) the destruction of another. At that point, the conflicts almost always include some level of violence. The attempt during the 20th century by democratic societies to destroy communistic societies spilled into violence repeatedly, particularly in the Middle East and
I think there is something intriguing to this idea, that I’ll have to address in more depth at another time; but suffice to say that while I don’t have a definitive answer to the post-initiating question, my current working answer is “Not exactly. Sans society, peace can be the natural state of the planet; with society, peace cannot.”
Monday, March 3, 2008
I listened to a talk radio show the other day. The guest of the day, was Karen Armstrong, wrote a Biographical book on the Bible. One of the main topics of discussion was how religion had shifted from attempting to personify and embody the variants of the golden rule, to the more rigid and moralistic use of sacred texts to bash over the head, those who disagree with some particular moral standard or issue. She reiterated how the idea of caring for and bettering the community and society we lived in was laid aside in pursuit of the absolute truth, being right, and proving every dissenter wrong.
…It is hard enough, just to live by the golden rule.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Though I have been absent from posting, I have been utilizing that time for other endeavors. While I disdain talking about myself (in favor of talking about ideas) I will give a brief indication of my activities:
- In November, my father had surgery to remove some cancer.
- I spent most of December and January studying for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) which I took on January 25. My combined score was a 31R.
- I have been helping my mother with her doctoral dissertation.
- I have written 5 more scenes in my novel, and prepped 10 more.
- I have been reevaluating the nature of this particular blog.
I do wish to include photographs in this blog, but because I want to include new material, that necessitates breaking out the camera equipment and taking photographs: something that I haven’t done in over 4 months.
More on this later...
More on this later...