Still here

Have been on vacation and whatnot . . .

More posts soon . . .



Why do I click on certain links? Why?

I came upon the following video.  (Sorry about the ad -- turn your sound down for 25 seconds at the beginning.)  It's an ex-Facebook executive talking about how he's still working, even though he no longer needs to.  It's full of wonderful high-minded sentiments.

I wonder if the guy, who is still working partly because "I Have Kids And I Don't Want To Be A Douchebag," has any clue that only a douchebag keeps working after winning the lottery?




Oh well.

The Cases of Lenora X, Domme Detective: 50 Shades of Black and Blue (4)

The Will to Submit, I

[2005]

       I pour some more bourbon into the glass and look around.  Boxes and lids and files and papers are everywhere, artfully disarranged around Chinese takeout containers.  I pick one up and stab at the Hunan Shrimp with My chopsticks, taking stock of My investigation into Frankie Boots' Ultra Secret Last Case.

       Frankie used to have a saying, "I'm so nowhere on this case I need a parka."  It made no sense, of course, but it made Me laugh and it did express the frustration of a challenging and opaque case, somehow.

       And so far on this case, I needed a parka, badly.

      Going over the files and notes and pictures Frankie's sister had given Me, so far I had come up with the following:

              1.  An entity known as KTA Enterprises had hired Frankie.
              2.  They suspected that one or more employees was stealing company secrets and selling       
                    them to the competition, and wanted Frankie to investigate.   Discreetly.   Of course.    
              3.  Frankie started checking it out . . . discreetly . . .
              4.  Frankie didn't find anything noteworthy.
              5.  But, he kept at it.  
              6.  Then, nothing.  The paper trail runs out.

       I put the container down and pour more bourbon into the glass.

       It was point number 5 on that list that was bothering Me.  Frankie wasn't one to grind a nothing case in order to justify fees.  Frankie's approach was do the job, and when it's done it's done.  Don't feel guilty about fees or retainers -- some cases are naturally quick and some aren't, and you can't tell which is which beforehand.  Given that, Frankie wouldn't "find nothing" and continue on, unless there was something there.  That much I'm sure of.

       Just what it might've been, I had no idea.  Frankie's notes were cryptic, written almost as if he expected someone else to end up reading them, and he didn't want that someone to know what he was really working on.  It I could somehow get into Frankie's head . . . see what he would see here . . .

       I set the glass down, and decided to try a different approach, my dogged determination no doubt inspired by the high doses of MSG that Szechuan Star includes free of charge with every meal.



The Will to Submit, II

[present day]

       mandy and I make a great team, because where I'm highly compartmentalized, capable of ignoring almost anything, mandy is highly focused, attuned to everything.  Together we made nearly one reasonably sane woman.  Of course mandy was constantly horrified at My ability to tune just about anything out . . . and I was equally horrified at her capacity to worry about stuff.

       Lately mandy had taken to stopping what she was doing and just looking at me.  I can only assume that for every time I noticed it there were ten other times I didn't notice it.  When I looked back at her, she didn't say anything.  We both knew that she didn't have to -- the look was mandy's way of saying "OK, someone is out there trying to kill you.  What are we going to do about it?"  My not answering her was My way of saying "if someone wants to kill Me I really can't prevent it, so why go nuts worrying?"  Eventually mandy would stop looking at Me, shake her head (a very little), and go back to what she was doing.

       Thankfully there weren't business/money problems, so our relationship didn't suffer.  When there is money I more or less think everyone is more or less great, shallow materialistic bitch that I am, so other problems just don't seem so pressing.  This of course infuriates mandy even more, because whereas money to Me is freedom, to mandy it's responsibility -- another thing to worry about.

       This time I see mandy about to lift her head and look at Me.  I decide to head it off at the pass, give mandy what she needs, and take the afternoon off at the same time.  I open a drawer and pull seven $100s  from the not-very-secret place I keep a few grand in mad money.  I get up.

      "Come on, sweetheart . . . let's have a long lunch at L'Escargot, kill a bottle of overpriced Bordeaux, and talk about some important things."  mandy looked elated and practically flew out of her chair.  I put the phones in Night Mode and locked the door behind us.  I wanted mandy to know the whole afternoon was hers.     



The Will to Submit, III

[early 1990s]

       I walked into the club and immediately wanted to run back out again.  What the hell was I doing here in the first place?  My friend Suzanne had talked Me into going with her -- she had some connection whereby we'd get in without being carded -- both of us all of 18, and barely that.  But we looked hot, I had to admit, and many was the place that looked the other way when pretty girls wanted in.

       Normally I'd have been thrilled to be getting into a hot club, but for some reason Suzanne was fascinated with this place, The Fortress, a bondage club for Christ's sake.  She was too chicken to go alone, so Me being the very good friend I always was, tagged along.  As Suzanne had told Me, we walked right in, no ID no cover no nothing.  In some way I'd convinced Myself that this might actually end up being an OK night.

      That faint hope lasted as long as it took to actually get inside.

       The Fortress was aptly named.  Dark, angular, smoky . . . once you entered it seemed to suck you in and make you feel as though getting out wold be a lot harder than getting in had been.  I looked around, trying not to be wide-eyed, and trying not to notice people staring at the obviously out of place new girls who'd just wandered in.  Thankfully I had the ignorance of youth going for Me -- I probably should've been way more scared than I was.

       Suzanne tried to say something but just as she spoke the band started up, and a wave of sound that was almost tangible engulfed the room, making it impossible to talk, and difficult even to think.  Suzanne somehow had gotten drinks and handed Me one.  No point in asking what it was -- the question nor the answer would be heard.  I took a healthy swig and made a face, quickly catching Myself so that I didn't look totally like an underage stowaway on the Good Ship BDSM.

       I kept drinking whatever the hell it was -- gin, maybe, and something -- and noticed that the second gulp tasted a lot better than the first one had.   Suzanne tapped My shoulder and directed My attention to one of the stages, to the right of where the band was blasting away . . . the lyrics were unintelligible but I had a strong inkling that death, despair, and degradation were heavily featured.

       I looked where Suzanne was pointing.  A man in leather pants and no shirt seemed to be in charge.  He was not My type, but well built and reasonably good-looking.  A short girl, Rubenesque, with pretty red hair and a lot of freckles joined the man on the stage.  In a matter of seconds the girl was naked and bound with her hands above her head.  I looked at Suzanne a moment . . . she shrugged back at Me.  I idly wondered if this was at all legal, but quickly decided that those kind of thoughts had no place here.  I took another swig of gin and whatever, marveling at how fucking good it suddenly tasted, and watched the stage, rapt.

       The man in leather unfurled a long whip . . . and within seconds it was snapping and crackling, the sound somehow audible, piercing the wall of metal music like lightning in the midnight sky.  He's clearly an expert, in a way that's obvious somehow even to My untrained eye.  Soon he's artfully using it on the bound girl . . . and even I can tell that her screams aren't strictly screams of pain.

       I waggle My empty glass in Suzanne's direction.  Time seems to slow down, then stop, as I watch.  I'm drinking again;  Suzanne must've gotten Me that refill. The man with the whip and the freckled girl are involved in some kind of magical dance on that stage . . . the music, which was unbearable a few minutes (hours?) ago, now settles into the background, and seems perfectly suited to what I am watching.  The girl is all over the place . . . screaming, crying -- pain, and clearly some kind of ecstasy have overtaken her.  The man with the whip is a study in concentration and mastery.  I drink down whatever's in My glass, and it tastes perfect.  I can feel the coldness of a new glass in My hand, eyes never leaving that stage.  Watching the man with the whip I realize that not only is he Master of that girl he's whipping, he's Master of himself, in a way that makes total sense to Me but which I can't 100% verbalize or think through with clarity.

       I tear My gaze from the stage a moment and look to Suzanne, but she's not there.  I look back at the stage . . . the man has unbound the woman and is holding her tenderly, stroking her sweaty hair.  I take another drink, wondering what became of Suzanne.  I start wading through the crowd, trying to find her.  I feel Myself stumble, and someone catches Me.

Depictions of Female Sexuality in Popular Literature

Twitter is delightfully random in its interconnectedness.  Via a series of re-tweets, I saw a link to the following passage a little while ago.  I never would have seen it otherwise.

"In a lot of the chick lit, depicting women slightly older than me, the sexual maturity is that of a nine-year-old, maybe. The sex is just this giggly and ridiculous activity one is subjected to in order to make a man stay in your house and marry you. There’s no honest expression of female sexual desire, the kind you find even in those old cheesy feminist manuals like Our Bodies, Ourselves. We’ve gone backwards."   --British novelist Zadie Smith


I have several problems with the above.

1.  Why on Earth would anyone use "chick lit" as a barometer of anything significant?  Chick lit is a specialized form of writing, aimed at a tightly-defined audience.  It has not pretensions of saying anything important about life, or love, or sex, jacket blurbs to the contrary.  Decrying that chick lit portrays immature views of female sexuality is like saying that Popular Mechanics doesn't provide good plans for a nuclear submarine.

2.  "There's no honest expression of female sexual desire."  What is honest?  Ms. Smith doesn't know any women who just want to live with/marry a guy?  She obviously travels in more enlightened circles than I do, because I know plenty of women in that situation, and for many of those women good sex (hell, any sex) is a bonus.  And that's as honest as it gets, girlfriend.

3.  "Cheesy feminist manuals like Our Bodies, Ourselves."  I suppose viewed from 40-plus years down the road, OB/OS might seem cheesy.  But even a cursory examination of the history of feminism shows that OB/OS and other books were putting out necessary information, that many/most women not only needed, but didn't know they needed.  It started the conversation about things that no one was talking about, ever, before that time.  That is seems quaint or cheesy now shows that it did its job admirably.

4.  I see a lot of that "honest expression of female sexual desire."  It's really everywhere -- youtube, tumblr, thousands of blogs, twitter, etc.  There are thousands of self-published works where women are expressing very honestly their most private, crazy desires.  Even in some mainstream literature -- a certain class of "enlightened" woman might not like Fifty Shades of Grey, for instance, but one can't argue that it puts sexual desires out there that chick lit would never touch.

5.  Ms. Smith concludes that "we've gone backwards."  Absolutely, positively not true.  No one's "honest sexual desires," man, woman, straight, gay, bi, Dom/me, sub, whatever, are ever going to be mainstream.  Highly idealized/constrained visions of sex -- chick lit, Playboy, romance novels, etc. -- are always going to have a certain people.  But those things will continue to exist and/or thrive is not an indicator of a lack of progress -- it's the way of the world.  But that there is Fifty Shades of Grey, a website for every fetish imaginable, The Adventures of Terri and Jennifer, Literotica, many many websites devoted exclusively to erotica by women, countless tumblrs and blogs where women, straight, gay, and bi, are writing very frankly about sex (and relationships), is an indicator of progress.  The best kind of progress.

What one might want to see in terms of progress, from an academic/theoretical standpoint, one often won't see, because the world, especially the parts directly reflective of human nature, stubbornly refuses to comply with notions of how people should be evolving.

But to say we've gone backwards in the "honest expression of female sexual desire" is to be not paying attention.

This Bud Was Never For You, II

In eighteen months or so, baseball is going to need a new commissioner.  Unlike the NBA, where David Stern is handing the job off to his longtime Deputy Commissioner, it's not at all clear who the baseball owners might be thinking of to succeed Selig.

I have heard various names thrown out there.

Bob Costas -- Would probably be very good for the game in the long run but has no chance of getting the job.  The owners don't want a Commissioner who might tell them that some of Bud's revenue-maximizing schemes are actually not in the best interests of the game or the fans.

Joe Torre -- A name that's getting a lot of mentions.  Is currently working in the MLB front office.  Having seen the man Derek Jeter calls "Mr. Torre" up close and personal for many years as Yankee manager, I'm not that impressed with his potential to be a good Commissioner.  But since one of the job requirements is not managing a bullpen, he's got that going for him.

Peter Gammons -- Ummm . . . no.  Please God, no.

George W. Bush -- Was managing general partner of the Texas Rangers for five years.  Might be interested in the job (expressed an interest before running for President).  And he once fired Bobby Valentine . . . so that's a plus.  The union will hate this choice, obviously.

Condoleeza Rice -- Purely in personal terms I'd like to see the first dominatrix Commissioner.

Bill Clinton -- The union would like him, he's a great talker, and generally a fun guy.  He and A-Rod could cruise chicks during playoff games (although he'll have to find Hillary another gig that entails her traveling a lot).

Sandy Alderson -- Longtime baseball man.  Did an amazing job bringing the umpires to heel (all his good work since undone, alas . . . thanks again, Bud).  Might well want the job, too -- how much fun can being the GM of the Mets be right now?

There are others . . . mostly guys currently working in MLB in some capacity or other.  I'm thinking the owners may go for a more corporate type -- in their eyes baseball is so much more about the business than about the game, and the union and player agents are relentlessly pulling in one direction.  (That direction can be summed by the urban but eloquent "mo' money, mo' money!"  - as in more of the owners' money)  So the union is going to distrust whoever the new Commissioner is . . . the owners will be smart enough (I think) that if they do go for a corporate type, it won't be someone with a perceived history of union-busting.

The new Commissioner will have to navigate a tricky course, assuming his or her term lasts more than a couple of years.   There will a contentious labor negotiation -- baseball's economic model may not be sustainable for a sport that is no longer "America's Pastime" in terms of popularity.  There will be a new TV deal to be done at some point -- will ESPN and Fox keep paying the rates they're paying?  The big market/small market dichotomy will get worse as big market teams pull back on spending, resulting in no more luxury tax revenues and a growing resentment of the revenue-sharing arrangement.  There is the perception that the fans want more extensive/invasive PED testing, a move the union will have to resist.  Small market teams will continue to agitate for a salary cap (although their appetite for a cap diminishes markedly when it's pointed out that a cap includes a salary minimum as well).

The qualitative aspects of the game need work, too.  The umpires are back to their personal strike zones.  I personally find the games generally less exciting lately -- even with the infusion of international talent, the game feels diluted.  This may well have to do with the loss of black players in recent years (I recently read that the percentage of black MLB players is down to 8%).  The new Commissioner needs to do a lot of work to re-popularize baseball in inner cities and among young people.

If the baseball owners are true to past form, they will choose a new CEO (let's call the job what it now is) with less regard for the thorny issues and more regard for who will best pepretuate the status quo, because they're making money, the stands are more or less full (at least in terms of tickets sold -- I see lots of empty seats on TV), there is labor peace and the gullible pubic believes Selig's nonsense about MLB having "the toughest drug policy in professional sports" (this is like saying that your hen house only has one fox in it).

The owners have eighteen months to pick someone.  Since I don't think I'm getting that call, I look forward to watching the process unfold.

This Bud Was Never For You

Bud Selig announced that he is retiring after next season.  (What is it with these sports commissioners and giving 18 months' notice?  David Stern just did the same thing.  Will the search process really be that long?  Are we looking for someone to throw out ceremonial pitches, or to run the Large Hadron Collider?)

Anyway, assuming this retirement is legit (Bud tried to retire a few years ago but supposedly the owners twisted his arm to stay;  personally I doubt it took all that much persuading), a few words about his tenure as Commissioner of Baseball are in order.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Prior to becoming Commissioner, Selig was owner of the Milwaukee Brewers.  Selig, in conjunction with several other owners, a group known as the Midwest Mafia, engineered the infamous collusion scheme, in which team owners agreed clandestinely to not make offers to free agents.  The players' union, not surprisingly, saw exactly what was going on and took baseball to court.  This started in 1985;  finally, in 1990, the owners settled, agreeing to pay the players' union $280 million (about $500 million in today's money).

In the wake of the 1994 strike, the owners recognized that a fundamental change had taken place.  The fact of the players' union meant that whereas in the past the "best interests of baseball" was the guiding principle, and the Commissioner was the one to define those best interests, now Federal labor law was the controlling authority, and the union aggressively filed grievances and hauled the owners into court for every real or perceived violation.  It culminated with the 1994 labor stalemate that cost baseball the end of the season, playoffs, and World Series.  (This is about Bud Selig, but it should be noted that Marvin Miller and Donald Fehr belong in at least as low a circle of Hell as Bud does.)

In this climate, the owners decided that the even-handed approach of a Faye Vincent or Bart Giamatti was no longer called for.  If the players were going to have the courts, the owners were going to have a guy in the top job who was unabashedly in it for the owners' interests.

Enter Bud.

My most vivid memories of 1998 are two.  First and foremost, the Yankees burning a path through baseball en route to winning it all.  Second was Bud's face on TV, seemingly every night, waving the pom poms while roided-up goons laid waste to the home run records.  Over and over the grinning fool praised Sosa and McGwire for "bringing baseball back" after the debacle of 1994.  Meanwhile, the Yankees just quietly (and 100% cleanly, as far as anyone can tell) just kept winning and winning and winning.

Like all owners, Bud's concern for the fans is strictly lip service.  He would have you believe that exclusive windows for Fox and ESPN are somehow good for you, the fan.  He shoved the World Baseball Classic down our throats, which is beloved everywhere except the United States.  Apparently, selling a few more jerseys in Antwerp and Shanghai and Melbourne is somehow good for you, the fan.  World Series games that no one on the East Coast can stay awake to see the end of are somehow good for you, the fan.  That baseball has been passed standing still by the NFL (and college football in many places) is somehow good for you, the fan.

Then to top it all off, Bud gets religion about performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).  Apparently, what was good in 1998, what "brought the game back," was no longer good in the late 2000s.  In fact, worse than "no good."  More like really really evil.  Like, more evil than what was once America's Game being run by a used-car salesman whose venality is his best feature.

The upshot of all this new-found religion about the evils of PEDs?  Barry Bonds convicted of the Federal equivalent of jaywalking, and the Mitchell Report's star informant shown up in Federal Court for the perjuring hanger-on he had always came off as.  Well done, Bud.

Enjoy your retirement, Bud, and the undoubtedly obscenely generous severance the owners are going to give you.  Just please, please, please stay the hell away from baseball.

Reality and Observation

Deepak Chopra posted something on Twitter than I have to respond to, but can't nearly do it in the 140-character confines of Twitter.

His Tweet:


"Empirical measurement is a description of a mode of observation not of fundamental reality."


This is a tricky one.  Dr. Chopra implies that what we perceive empirically is not real.  Such a stance makes the world impossibly opaque, and leaves us in a state of perpetual not-knowingness, and not the good kind.

What is amiss here is not the underlying sentiment, however, but the notion of reality.  Consider this alternate idea --



"Everything empirically perceived is real but not all encompassing."


This idea liberates us from the blind pawing at an unknowable fundamental reality . . . it acknowledges the realness of our perceptions, the accuracy (and the limits) of our science and measuring capabilities, and gives us a basis from which to explore further, building upon what we know to have already established as real.

However, the further implications are, well, staggering.  

1.  Everything empirically perceived . . . meaning, there is no such thing as a hallucination.  How this can be true is embodied in the idea that --

2.  .  . . not all encompassing.  Meaning that reality in its totality contains many unknown aspects, and possibly some unknowable aspects.

Taken together these two concepts at the same give us a basis and shake that basis to its foundations, but without simply denying the (very real) existence of that basis.

This idea does not make things easier.  It makes things much harder, because it prevents us from dismissing aspects of reality that we don't want to deal with, or can't account for ("things that go bump in the night" for example).  But at the same time our state of not-knowingness is at least informed by the small percentage of fundamental reality that we have been able to work out thus far.