Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Female Chauvinist Pigs

Yesterday, NPR's Fresh Air had a very interesting interview with Ariel Levy, author of Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. Raunch Culture embraces this all-consuming trend of commercialized sexuality, of 5 year-old girls wearing Playboy bunny logo t-shirts, of women treating both themselves and others as sexual objects, a culture that is fast becoming (has already become?) the New Identity for just about every girl over the age of 12. I highly recommend giving the interview a listen.

Some interesting points made by the author:

- Porn stars like Jenna Jameson (and other less professional "stars", like Pamela Lee) have become celebrity role models of sexual freedom and success. Yet these women are paid to simulate sex, to imitate enjoyment of sex, of one fake orgasm after another. Why would others want to imitate an imitation? Shouldn't women's sexual role models be those who actually get the most out of real sex, the most pleasure, the most fulfillment - rather than the ones who get the most money to imitate it?

- Indeed, porn movies (or, a la Vanessa Williams, Former Miss USA, a simple video of two women kissing) used to be something women had to "recover" from. Williams had her crown taken away. Today, porn is something that makes you famous, something that gets you noticed and gets you money and gets you that all-American gold-seal of approval: celebrity.

- Whether it's due to the commercialism of the day or this "raunch" culture (and I'm not certain that they're very separate), sexuality has been reduced to breast implants, thongs, lingerie, boots, PVC, and brazillian waxes - all things women must buy. The media does not tout self-awareness, or even sensual knowledge, as a prerequisite to sexual satisfaction. Nope - just buy some boobs, and you'll be okay. You'll automatically find sex - and life - more rewarding. It's frustrating because I know several girls like this.

- The author talked about visiting a middle school dance, where the girls began to kiss each other and give the boys simulated lap dances. First of all, WTF!?!??! but I can also totally see that, am not surprised. Girls are becoming aware of things so early these days (and why not, when everything they see tells them it's okay to, to jump in with wild abandon). But it's not a true sexual awareness - those girls kissing each other aren't exploring some animalistic, wild sensuality, they aren't doing this in an act of true, free love. They're giving a performance. And they know it (apparently they admitted so to the author). They are, yet again, imitating. Creating a reality before the true reality begins to sink in (if it ever does - I am reminded of an Australian tourbus driver who took tourists to see Uluru / Ayers Rock. He said that people would descend from the bus in wonder, but instead of standing there and soaking in the sight, they'd raise their cameras, take tons upon tons of photos, and then, at the end of the day, some of them would actually go up to the Rock and see and touch it, begin to experience it truly).

- But why all this imitation, this performance? It's true that we do imitate in an attempt to wade through the unknown; children do it all the time. But shouldn't there be a point at which the imitation ends, and true sensuality/knowledge begins to take hold, to be explored? A point at which celebration of imitation is shrugged off? The author thinks that women do still crave acceptance from men, and if you can't beat them, join them. They don't want to be thought of as prissy, or as a prude, because they think that drives men away (gaggh arg blek). So they embrace raunch. It makes sense, I suppose, but just because it makes sense doesn't mean it's smart (like that prison logic: "I'm a convicted felon, therefore I'd never touch a gun! Think of how much time I'd get for that!" It makes sense somewhere, but . . . )

Of course, it's so difficult to talk about sexuality - all theories cut big swathes that don't truly apply in people's minute-to-minute life. But it is fun to think about, anyway.

Incidentally, for the sake of a smoother read, I repressed the urge to preface the word "sexuality" every time with "American". There is a wide, wide gulf between American culture and that of just about everyone else on the planet. I do not mean to imply that as America goes, so goes the rest of the world. Other cultures really do laugh at us, especially at our obsession with big fake boobies. Oh, and big fake teeth. As if you didn't already suspect.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Last Day

Friday was my last day interviewing inmates. Finals are here, and my course schedule next semester is going to be pretty time-consuming. I'm taking Constitutional Law II, Criminal Procedure, Professional Responsibility, Florida Practice and Procedure, and a Trial Practice Workshop. I'm also trying to get a Plea Bargaining intersession class started; we'll see if there's enough student interest.

I'm really going to miss interviewing. Despite the horrible hours it made me keep, it was an unbelievable experience. I can now talk to just about anyone, immediately comfortable, and my eyes have been opened to these entire universes all outside my own. I wish I could check up on some of the people with whom I spoke, see how they're doing, but I know that's impossible. There was a girl just yesterday whose situation really, really got under my skin, distracted me for almost the whole day, and I found myself, for the first time, glad to leave the jail. Hers was a reality so barbaric, so primitive, that its mere existence distressed and terrified something deep inside of me.

I am so thankful for my life now. For my ease in obtaining food, water, transportation, heat, bedding, schooling - everything, I am so thankful. Out of all the things I have learned interviewing, it is this that matters most.

Also - someone who reads this blog told me that I am too "familiar" with the inmates, that I'm falling prey to their wiles, etc. While it is very true that I feel emotionally close with many of the people with whom I speak, it is because they are simply people, not because they are criminals, that I feel this way (and then choose to talk about it). The fascination - and that's what it is, fascination - resides in finding out that we are alike. All of us, no matter from what background, what age, color of skin - we are all alike. We have moments, together, that transcend all cultures, and are pretty amazing to share. Why not celebrate it? Or, at the very least, mention it? Speaking well of people causes no harm. Relating stories that make me smile, talking about people that make me feel good, complete, causes no harm. I personally don't care if the inmate has broken the law - I see the inmate as a person with whom I've been given a few minutes to share concerns, maybe a laugh. I'm not interacting with them to judge them. Lord knows they have - and will continue to have - enough of that from everyone else. So I will continue to share my experiences, to write as I do and about what I do. I know that I can't control you, but please have faith in me, and do not feel alarmed at what I say here.

Alors . . . All of that said, I don't think I'll actually be interviewing again, simply because it gives me zero contact with the PD office. I show up at 7:30, get paperwork together, leave for the jail, come back at 11:30, leave again at 12:00, then back to the jail. I talk to virtually no one but inmates and COs. So, with my time off from class/studying next semester, I'm just going to plant my butt in the PD's office and ask if I can follow someone around. I was supposed to shadow a PD not too long ago, but that fell through and now the guy is leaving the office. :( But that's okay, I will work it out. I mean, seriously, they're going to have to kick me out before I leave voluntarily.

I also want to get used to how a government office works. In between university and law school, I spent 6 years as a corporate slave, and the strangeness of the PD's office - in the few minutes I was even there - was pretty pronounced, to me. It's going to be very different. But I'll save this for another post; it's something that I have many questions about. I also have many questions about plea bargaining. Till then!

p.s. A fun idea for your next seminar, or similar:

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I worked today, interviewing 12 inmates. Silly me asked the front entrance CO if they served any Thanksgiving lunch or something; the COs just laughed.

Earlier I posted how I was having some trouble getting older black men to open up to me, feel comfortable enough with me to discuss their side of the story. Well, I interviewed four this morning, and it went really, really well! I am very happy. One guy had the most happy, expressive face I've ever seen; he had a happy heart to match, and we had a lot of fun chatting. Another guy reluctantly (but with a smile) told me he'd been seeing a lady other than his wife, and I got to rib him about that good-naturedly, that was fun too. He was like 65!! :)

I also spoke with a girl who danced on the weekends in Miami. She had a dancer's nonchalance, that sort of unpretentious ease in giving and receiving compliments, in completely disregarding personal space. She was lovely, with an angular face and eyes that naturally seemed fashionably lined with eyeliner, just by virtue of her skin color. She was also very kind. I hope everything works out for her.

My last interview was with an 18 year old. It was very strange, but in an interesting way: this kid and I were as opposite as worlds can be, and yet I felt like he and I were family in some way. I know that sounds strange, and it was, but his mannerisms, his immediate comfort with me, his lack of any kind of attitude - I felt like I was sitting in a room with my brother. Like we could have talked about Nintendo or something, or I could have asked him why he ate all the Rice Krispies and he'd laugh at me and say Sorry, or something. Or like he'd just plain hang out. He was quiet most of the time, reading all the paperwork, and maybe that's what it was, just two people being comfortably quiet around each other. It felt really good, for me. I hope he felt it, too. Who knows. It was very strange.

And then I come home for real family-time. And a certain family member is going to join our police force in February, and that person's amor du jour is a detective who, upon hearing that I worked for the PD's office interviewing people, said, "God, I'm sorry, you know they're all lying, right? How do you do it?" then shook his head, wandered off with his Glenlivet scotch to go have a Nicarauguan cigar with Big Kahuna. I didn't want to push his eyes in because of what he said, I wanted to push his eyes in because of his tone. Know what I mean? I can't even describe it, it makes me so angry.

Anyway. It was mostly a good day.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Taser Use

Have you seen this video (article here) of an Iranian-American UCLA student getting tased? It's awful. The cops tased him two or three times after he was in cuffs, and, apparently, only because he wouldn't stand back up - hrmm, don't know about you, but after being tased a few times I might not be able to jump back to my feet at attention. To be fair, who knows, but it's shocking to watch, really makes me want to do - ahem - more than some of these students, who are, I believe, fairly representative of the coddled youth of our age, so beaten down and drugged with inaction and consumerism that all they can do is think about shouting, then actually shouting and trying to look self-important. There, I said it, but come on people, it's all well and good to stand back on the sidelines and "yell" at someone who is apparently unjustifiably tasing another, but . . . Again, to be fair, I wasn't there . . .

One of the interesting things about Tasers is that there seems to be a huge discrepancy between what it looks like to be tased, and what actually happens when you are tased. For ince, when I see that student being tased, it looks to me like he's being freaking electrocuted, and I imagine it is extraordinarily painful and horrible. But most cops talk about how it's just a lock-up of the muscles, and feels more like an all-over sting (I asked an inmate what it felt like to be tased; he looked at me kind of blankly and said, "Well, it stings, that's for sure," but wouldn't elaborate further). In my wee town, cops calls ambulances after they tase someone, but I don't know if this is a bureaucratic requirement to save their butts later, or if it's actually necessary. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Friday, November 17, 2006

One Fine Day III - Photo Post

Some lunar landscape-esque sand images:

One Fine Day II - Photo Post

One Fine Day - Photo Post

I've been stressing pretty horribly (and stupidly) about exams, but no big surprise there. So today I went to the beach to relax and clean out my brain. I saw quite a few dolphins and devised a plan to next time go out far enough to swim with them (involves rope, post, weight belt, boogie board, and mallet). There are always dolphins out there. The channel in which they swim is very swift, very deep, but it's only about twenty feet from the shore. So I'm going to wear the weight belt, thread it with a rope, then attach the rope to a deep post in the sand, and zoom out there on a boogie board. It's a nice idea, anyway. Let's see if I ever actually do it.

*sigh* I really hate this time of the semester, it is so depressing . . .

But anyways! on to the photos:


Thursday, November 09, 2006


Our elected Public Defender (“Mr PD”) came to our school to talk about professionalism in the courtroom. It was really wonderful. He was so gracious and polite while the 21 year olds around us chomped on free pizza and noisily drank soda.

This is probably some kind of old hat for all you PDs, but for those new to public defense – new to litigation in general – a lot of what he said was very interesting:

- The prosecutor’s job is to seek justice. He has an absolute duty to give mitigating or exculpatory evidence to the other side. It may hurt his case, but it does not hurt his cause.

- Just because you’re a lawyer and others aren’t, does not make you in any way better than them. However, don’t try to apply this to judges!

- The Bailiff keeps security in the courtroom. If you want to get some fried chicken for your capital defendant, which he hasn’t had in over a year, make sure you and the Bailiff get along. If he says he thinks something “might” be a problem, the Judge is automatically going to say No.

- True victims deserve compensation; they do not deserve to run a courtroom.

- Apparently, our Bar was considering a new, informal system whereby attorneys could complain about other attorneys’ courtroom behavior. The attorney would be brought before a sort of “peer review committee” – which might include your very judge!! Mr PD wasn’t too keen on that. Also, judges were (of course) excluded from such review. Mr PD asked, “Well, why not the judges?” A judge answered back, “Well, we’re not your peers.” “Ah,” said Mr PD. “Then I’ll not send my attorneys to your panel.” Perhaps needless to say, the State Attorney had already proclaimed to his office, “I’m firing anybody who doesn’t go!”

- The former elected Public Defender was a very nice man, by all accounts. He also never complained about a judge to the Judicial Qualification Committee (JQC), the judicial ethics board. Well, Mr PD, a bit before being elected, found out about two judges who convened a quick re-sentencing of a defendant – with no warning or notice to the assigned pd, and first thing in the morning – because the victim apparently didn’t feel the defendant was given harsh enough treatment. Lord only knows to what family this victim belonged. Anyway, so the deed was done, and Mr PD met with the judges, told them he’d like to resolve this amicably – just apologize, reverse, etc. The judges refused. Mr PD said that, in that case, he was going to look at JQC. “Ha ha,” laughed the judges, “you’re running for office. Your boss never did it. You’ll never do it.” Well guess what! And, ever since then, Mr PD only has to show his face after, say, a judge’s derogatory remark about lesbians, or, say, a remark about how “Yes, miss pd, that result probably wasn’t what you were looking for, but judging by your shoes and handbag, a bit of shopping after work should set you right as rain . . .” Oh la la!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Photo Post!

It's Finals time again, yay.

The Public Defender for our Circuit visited our school yesterday, gave a fantastic speech about professionalism in the courtroom. I wrote down a lot of his stories, what he said; will post them tomorrow.

In the meantime . . .

So I spent last weekend in total seasonal-change mode. My body seriously changes with the seasons. I don't know what it is, but it feels like about the best thing in the world. Unfortunately, my neck of the woods doesn't quite pay attention to "seasons" . . .

discovered while romping on zee beach

One day it's 89, the next it's 72, then 61, then 95. Whatevs, I've figured out how to jump-start my change: reading about (and looking at photos about) the beautiful beautiful Alaska. Then I went to the library and rented two "travel" tapes on Alaska. Then we watched The Edge (shot in Alaska - btw, bears scare the absolute life out of me). Then walked to the store, daydreaming in the overcast weather that I was in Alaska, and on the way, in our little lake/retention pond, saw an otter swimming around. An otter!! For a minute I thought I'd imagined myself right into Alaska. She had a baby otty in her mouth, and ran away when I didn't leave fast enough, which was sad. Hopefully she'll come back. I have no idea how she found our little fishpool.

Also got to meet a manatee!! (though not in ye olde retention pond, of course)

First one I'd ever seen up close. They really are like giant swimming cows. Cow pig things. So sweet and serene. But I think they'll be high-tailing it out of here pretty soon, as the nights are getting chillier. Oh and the sign said, "Do not touch manatee! $25 billion kazillion dollar fine if you do!" Can you guess what we did?

And even though most of our garden is shriveling up (or has been yanked up by enterprising coonies) -- on the back porch at least, life finds a way . . .

Extra points if you know what these baby vegetablelings are!! And yes, there are over a hundred little white cups all stacked in neat rows . . .

Lastly, I found $10 in an old coat pocket so got food from my favorite restaurant in the world:

mmmmmm, Thom Kha and deep-fried tofu with peanut sauce . . .