Friday, September 01, 2006

What have we learned?

In a discussion on another LJ about Harlan Ellison grabbing Connie Willis's breast during WorldCon. One comment, from Mark, "an open and out gay man", detailed how he responds to men to grope women's breasts. He gropes men's balls. I commented about his comment and his actions and the games began in earnest. I was the target. In pointing up a different perspective and challenging people to see a broader perspective I became the new targeed and was called homophobic and not a feminist. My point?

Any man who prefaces his defense of a woman being groped by announcing he is openly gay and out taints his actions and changes the focus from the woman's personal space being invaded to a man's personal space being invaded. It doesn't matter that the man whose balls have just been grabbed groped a woman's breast, both men are wrong. You cannot solve a problem by repeating the same offense. How is it right to grope a man's balls even in defense of a groped woman? What is Mark saying? Why was it necessary to call attention to his sexual orientation? His comment reminds me of people who claim not to be racist by saying, "some of my best friends are [insert ethnic group here]." Even had Mark said he gropes other men who grope women he would still be wrong. This is an act from the "eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth" book of behavior, and that only ends up with toothless and blind people. No one learns.

I'm sure wasn't expecting a firestorm on her LJ or having to stand back and watch the flaming when she wrote her post about the Ellison-Willis incident. That is what happened.

I googled the incident and came up with the pictures on the above link. Whether or not Ellison intended to sexually harass Connie Willis, his apology has turned the incident into a hot topic on LJ and other blogs. You don't have to have 20/20 eye sight or a magnifying glass to see the full on lip contact between Willis and Ellison or to see the pictures detailing hijinks and comic antics. Did Willis's lip lock with Ellison invite his sophomoric grope of her breast? Did Ellison's grope constitute sexual harassment? I see a lot of personal space invaded and everywhere I look there is less and less tolerance for one person touching another.

What really interests me is where Connie Ellison is during this debate. Her voice is noticeably absent.

Ellison's apology reminds me of another celebrity who lashed out at fans on I'm sure Anne Rice, especially in her new, repackaged, Catholic incarnation, regrets that outburst.

In America we tend to be less physical, even in a friendly manner, than in Europe or elsewhere in the world where as much is said by touch as in words. As technology pushes us farther and farther apart and people have less physical contact, how does this affect the determination and idea of personal space? As long as we continue to put space between us, we will lose the common touch and little boys who pull little girls' braids and little girls who kiss little boys at the ripe old age of 5 to 6 will be subjected to charges of sexual harassment and open and out gay men will feel it is all right to grope other mens' balls in defense of a woman whose breast has just been groped. Pretty soon we will be living in a touch me not society where half the people are toothless and the other half blind.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hands up

Hands are more than just useful or pretty. Hands with their opposable thumbs are what gave us the ability to pick up tools, but it was the brain guiding the action and where creativity was born and took us from the trees to the skies. In Thailand hands are considered beneath the head and patting the child on the head is taboo. The hands are for work and the head is the seat of divinity. Hands are under rated.

Hands are erotic and exotic and magical. The story in the hula isn't in the swing of the hips or placing the feet just so but in the sinuous and expressive movements of the hands. Hands are full of nerve endings and textures. Hands are seductive.

The way hands hold a glass or slip along the moistened rim or trace the trail of condensation down the side stirs thoughts of delicate and lingering touches. "Hand to hand is holy Palmer's kiss," and is the first kiss Romeo and Juliet share. A touch can ignite a small spark that warms or starts a fire. The soft caress of a woman's fingers against the slight roughness of a man's fingers as they brush by accident, slipping slowly along each other and then pulling back quickly, burned by the unexpected contact. Fingers creating friction, tickling the senses, teasing thoughts and emotions to the surface. There is comfort in holding hands, a thumb stroking and caressing little circles on the sensitive skin between thumb and forefinger.

So many textures and surfaces and differences between a man's hands and a woman's hands, worlds waiting to be explored, memorized, known and enjoyed. Intimate, memorable and erotic thoughts spring to mind from the sight of a shapely hands and graceful movements. Memories of fleeting caresses, long languid trails of cool skin warming with contact. Soft, searching, lingering, desiring, hungering for closeness, intimacy and so much more.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The kindness of strangers

I sent out a call for ham radio operators to help me with material for an article on creative and innovative home brewed radio rigs. They answered generously and quickly, offering me free access to their photos. They also answered all my questions quickly and with lots of detail. I am going to have a great article for the newsletter, and all on short notice. The guys have been wonderful and a few new friendships have been struck. I look forward to chewing the rag with them online when I get my ATS-3 built and running. (chewing the rag is ham speak for a communication, or QSO)

The projects they have put together are basically from the same group of kits, the AT Sprint, designed by Steve KD1JV Weber, the soldering iron and low power (QRP) rig king. What makes these projects different is the ingenuity in taking a little motherboard and enclosing it in different materials. The enclosure is necessary in order to keep the motherboard and circuits clean and free of dust and static electricity that can degrade the parts and damage the circuit board. One guy built a graphite enclosure which would have been a dull and uninspiring matte black, but he took an old tie and glued it to the outside. The tie was really ugly, from what I have seen of it, but it makes a nice little design for the enclosure. There are the ubiquitous Altoids tins but even those have been changed by adding paintings and graphic designs and lettering on the outside. One guy even enclosed his rig in clear sheet plastic because it is light and durable and because his wife said the surface mounted parts on the board that is the heart and brains of the rig looks like jewelry and should be showcased. In a way, she's right and the picture doesn't really do the reality justice, but it comes close.

In all the years I've been interviewing and writing about people the one thing I have learned is that strangers tend to be more open and generous with their time and resources than friends and acquaintances. I don't know if it is because they are just open-hearted and eager to help or because they are flattered that someone is interested in hearing their story and learning about them. Every time I have asked someone if I could interview them they invariably tell me they aren't special and don't do anything worthy of note. By the end of the first awkward moments as I begin to ask my questions and listen they open up and talk, realizing they are interesting and have something worth talking about. It's hard to get them to shut up sometimes but I have learned how to turn off the faucet as easily as I turn it on.

One of the best parts of being a writer, especially a journalist, is the opportunity to meet and learn new things about ordinary people. I have met many extraordinary people in my life, especially since I became a journalist, and each one of them has enriched my life and taught me something I still carry with me. No matter where I have been or where I will go in the future I am sure interesting people will cross my path. There are many I wish I could have spent more time getting to know and become friends and friends I have known who have taken a different path. I wish them all well, even those who have chosen not to be friends or remain friends. For them, I keep a light in the window and a special place in my heart. The place in my heart may never be filled but my heart will never be empty. There are always people to fill those empty spaces, and even one person who fills all the empty spaces in my heart long after he has walked away. Some things can never be taken away or retrieved. The objects may be gone but the meaning and the feeling behind the objects remain.

Like those strangers who helped me with my article for the newsletter by giving so freely of their time and experience their gifts remain and will be remembered, and the words are a monument to their generosity, ingenuity and creativity. They make life interesting.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Movie heat

I couldn't resist watching more John Wayne last night. It was a feast I fully enjoyed, watching some of my favorite Wayne movies: McClintock! and Hatari. I remember having such a crush on Patrick Wayne who I now find out is 16 years old than I am. Doesn't matter, McClintock! is a wonderful funny film and I have to admit I rooted for John Wayne when he spanked Maureen O'Hara with a fireplace shovel on her corseted and bloomered backside. She deserved it. The spanking, despite her death threats, howling and curses, didn't stop her from running after John Wayne when he and Chill Wills drove off in the carriage. She caught up with them and jumped onto the back of the carriage, hanging on with all her strength as they drove off in a cloud of dust.

Sitting here now I realize I just advocated abuse, which is very strange considering I have been the victim of abuse in the past. John Wayne's rough handling of women and his grab them and kiss them style when they need kissing is a relic of the past, gone from all but the fringe of sadomasochistic relationships and movies, or at least that is the way it seems.

I read another LJ member's blog who ranted about the return of the 1960s style romance where the hero and heroine hate each other, fight every single time they're together and then fall into each other's arms at the end. She bemoaned the lack of sexual tension and the kind of rude, crude and socially unacceptable hero more misogynistic than romantic. He is silent, insensitive and emotionally unavailable. Contrasting Wayne with that kind of hero, I see what she means. 

Wayne's rough ways illustrate abuse or something more elemental, something earthier? Wayne is passionate, although he can be silent. His silences are deafening with barely restrained anger and frustration.

Oftentimes his sidekick mumbles disapproval and discontent sotto voce, but not Wayne. He is not passive-aggressive nor does he send mixed messages. He is silent as he struggles to rein in his temper. He drowns his emotions in whiskey or a game of chess, but he is easy to read. His women, especially Maureen O'Hara, run roughshod over him for a while, but eventually his passion boils over and he stings from the sharp spurs and he gives them what they've been asking for -- attention, and lots of it.

Wayne's characters are not incapable of talking or introspection, but there is a time for words and a time for action. In The Quiet Man Wayne portrayed a professional boxer whose last bout ended with his opponent dead. He refuses to fight when he moves to Ireland and buys his family home. Though Maureen O'Hara's brother, a big brute of a man who is a bully and a blowhard, digs his spurs into the Yank, Wayne refuses to fight. The bully makes fun of Wayne and he takes it out on his horse, riding the big black hunter over hill and dale chasing the devil and his seething rage. Wayne's friends manage to trick O'Hara's brother into agreeing to allow her to marry Wayne, but the bully opens his mouth and puts his big booted foot into it, ruining the wedding gathering and refusing to pay his sister's promised dowry. She is devastated and Wayne is simply irritated -- mostly at O'Hara because she cares more for the money than for him . . . at least until they get home and she explains her dowry is her own and she's been dreaming of her things about her and not being married as if she were ashamed and living like a boarder instead of the woman of the house.

Wayne understands yet he will not humble himself and beg for her dowry. O'Hara loves him and cannot live with a man she is ashamed of, a man who won't fight for her -- or for her dowry. She leaves him in the morning while he's still asleep. When Wayne wakes up and finds her gone, he rides his big black hunter to the railroad station 5 miles away and drags her back -- the long way -- by her hand the whole 5 miles, just a stretch of the legs, he reminds her as she has told him, dragging her when she falls to the ground. A well meaning old lady offers a stick to beat the pretty lady and Wayne keeps dragging O'Hara right up to the bully brother working in his field.

He demands O'Hara's dowry. The bully refuses. Wayne throws O'Hara back at him. The marriage is off. "No dowry. No deal." The bully takes the money from his wallet and throws it at Wayne. O'Hara opens the door on the furnace and Wayne tosses the money inside. And the fight is on at last. The bully sucker punches Wayne and Wayne shakes it off, jumps up, and lands a big right hand. The men fight for hours . . . and Wayne fights, no longer afraid he can't fight unless he's intent on killing the bully. After all, he can't kill his brother-in-law. It might not look good and it will hurt his wife. But he's not holding back either and the fight is a real Donnybrook that lasts for hours -- minutes on the screen with a lot of traveling, much like Wayne chasing O'Hara through the streets of town only to catch her in her shift, put her over his knee, and spank her -- with a small shovel to make sure he gets through all the petticoats and unmentionables so she feels it.

We would be outraged were a man to treat us that way -- and be secretly pleased cared so much for us.

When Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady walks out of Professor Higgins's house and Freddy Ainsfor-Hill meets her outside on the street, she tells Freddy, who has been writing her every day, "sheets and sheets," that she is sick of words. She doesn't want any more talk, she knows lots of words, she wants Freddy to show her how he feels. "Talk, talk, that all you blighters can do?"

I would add, "Think, think, that all you can do?" Time to stop living in your head, figuring out all the angles and do something.

Sometimes a woman wants a man to go crazy over her, stop her from making a fool of herself, or simply let the inner caveman out to take her in his arms and let her known in no uncertain terms he is not fooled by her temper tantrums or her passionate protests. She craves his strong arms and his commanding presence. She no longer wants the lines between man and woman blurred or obscured. She wants his passion, his jealousy and his love without reservation or restraint. There is a time for romance and a time for unbridled, uncivilized and unabashed love. Mel Brooks illustrated that point quite amply in Young Frankenstein when Frankenstein's fiancée, Elizabeth, chose to marry the monster. He curled and streaked her hair when he ravaged her and she loved it. I guess the oh-so-proper doctor didn't have that caveman magnetism Elizabeth needed to make her want to quit digging in her spurs and let go.

A strong woman needs a strong man. That doesn't mean she wants someone to beat her, although a little spanking can be quite a turn-on in foreplay, but someone she can't control or dig her spurs into for long. She craves and needs limits because she cannot respect a man she can control. Basically, a woman can only feel like a woman when she's in the arms of a strong man. I know the feeling.

Sometimes I want to be with a man who will stop making excuses, take me in his arms and kiss me senseless. A little romance is nice, but I want him to forget the months of teasing and foreplay and get down to business. Leave me breathless. Let me see the fire of jealousy in your eyes. Brand me with your fingers. I can take it. Don't worry about buttons and zippers. I know how to sew and I need to buy new clothes anyway. Ignore propriety and don't leave me in doubt of your feelings. We don't need words. We need action and lots of it. I'll light the candles and heat up dinner; we can be romantic later.

There is a time for romance and sexual tension and then there's a time for heat. Give me heat . . . even when it hurts. At heart, there's a little cavewoman in us all that melts a little when the caveman grabs us by the hair and drags us off to his cave.

That is all.  Disperse. 

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A real man is hard to find

Hondo is on TCM and I immediately thought of Al Bundy. In one show Peggy forced Al to take her to the store on the one day Hondo was on television. In Al's world, Hondo only came on television once every ten years.

Al was a down trodden man married to a harridan whose children did not respect him. Al probably saw something in John Wayne's character, Hondo Lane, he wished for himself, a strong, independent man for whom women would cook and clean and invite into their homes. I'm sure lots of men feel the same way.

John Wayne, despite his politics in later years, is the mold from which women wish most men were made. A strong man who knows how to be gentle and romantic at times in his own rough and silent way and on whom a woman can depend no matter what. Wayne was a real man who knew how to step back and allow a woman the space to be independent and self reliant.

One of my cousins emailed me a couple weeks ago because she saw a John Wayne movie. She reminded me of when we had gone to the drive-in movies and sat outside in beach chairs to watch John Wayne. I remember the evening, clear and warm and dark and full of the fantasy that the world was populated with men like the Duke and they were just over the future's horizon. Watching Hondo now and, indeed, all of John Wayne's movies reminds me of those days and the dreams of a strong, intelligent man just like him.

In many ways, my father is just like him and one more reason why I still believe such men exist, men who haven't been cowed by rampant feminism or softened by reading too many books about how to be sensitive. Sensitivity and caring have nothing to do with being able to cry but about gentleness and gentlemanly behavior. A sensitive man knows when to be strong and take command and when to handle a situation or a woman with care. I have seen my father cry twice, both times when he lost a family member, and he was the most sensitive man I know.

When my grandfather was bed ridden and had soiled himself, my father stripped himself and my grandfather and carried my grandfather into the shower, Grandpa's arms draped over his shoulders, and bathed him. When he was done, my father dressed Grandpa and put him back into bed after he changed the sheets and cleaned the bed. He even washed the sheets. I went with him that night.

Grandpa was 6 foot 4 inches tall and weighed about 240. My father was 5 foot 10 inches tall and about 155 pounds, but in my eyes he is a colossus.

My father has taken care of many of Mom's relatives, even Great Aunt Anne who was 6 foot 2 inches tall in her stocking feet and weighed about 180 or thereabouts before she got Alzheimer's and could no longer take care of herself. Mom and Dad moved Anne into their own home, got a hospital bed for her and every day my father fed and dressed and bathed her, even coming home from work at noon during the week to change and feed her. Anne smiled at my father the way a baby smiles at the scent and sound of a loving parent, her smile all innocent happiness whenever Dad was around. Anne was only one of the relatives he inherited when he married my mother. Dad took care of my grandmother and his sister-in-law, Joan, when they needed help. Gram had had several strokes that left her partially paralyzed and unable to take care of herself and Joan had epilepsy and terminal emphysema. Even though Dad was cranky and short tempered with us sometimes, he had a vast reservoir of patience, compassion and generosity for his in-laws.

He is the one who curled my hair when I was little and danced with me whenever there was music. He and John Wayne share that quiet strength that makes real men like them hard to find. It doesn't take tears and sensitivity learned from a book to be a real man; it just takes being like John Wayne or my father. I still hope to find a man just like him. Now that I live in the West maybe he'll walk in from the desert coated head to foot in dust and sand with a feral dog at his side to sharpen the axe, shoe the horses and take me in his arms for a no-nonsense kiss that lets me know he could find me in the dark from the scent of baking, soap and woman.