Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sex, booze, and women as objects: update

Another kind of ridiculous beer ad: via Jezebel

Bad dude goes to prison

More on this after I finish the paper I'm writing right now.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Cocktail blogging: the daiquiri

I used to think of daiquiris as those slushy, insipid, banana-infused concoctions that are made from the cheap, artificial mixes you get for $2.99 and don't need to refrigerate. I thought of how my brain froze when I sipped at them, and how I could never tell whether it was the cheap alcohol or the sugar that made me feel vaguely sick.

It turns out, though, that the daiquiri I imagined is the bastard cousin of a simple, pure, and really excellent cocktail. The daiquiri is like the margarita in that it gets its sirupy reputation from its frozen relative, but that reputation is undeserved. It is like a martini in that once you have something that works this well, I don't know why you'd mess with it. Daiquiris are quite simple—only 3 ingredients—but I don't know that I want much more in a cocktail than the unadulterated limeness that only a daiquiri offers. (As I have mentioned before on this blog, I am a terrible lime whore). I tend to use simple sirup from raw sugar rather than refined white sugar; it compliments the rum better.

Here's my recipe:

1 lime
2 ponies light rum
1 pony simple sirup

Serve straight up in a cocktail glass. For those of you who were counting, that's about a 3:2:1 ratio on the ingredients, so if you're making a lot, use those proportions.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Just to be clear:

When I talked about good movements taking wrong steps, this was not what I was talking about.

via Feministe.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sex, Robots, and Booze.

Part 2. What is it with alcohol commercials and sexy robots these days? Svedka vodka, it turns out, has a highly interactive website that introduces you to their scantily-clad robotic spokeswoman (her friends call her svedka_grl, and she's "the future of adult entertainment," a phrase I can't imagine some marketing exec writing without a smirk). Let's get this out of the way, because I could complain about these specific ads forever: svedka_grl has almost literally no waist, perpetually perked breasts, wears lipstick (gives those cold metallic lips a nice purple pout), and is apparently unable to be in a position that doesn't simultaneously show off her die-cast ass and breasts while allowing her to bat her freakishly-eyelashed eyes. She also spouts inanities like "Svedka salutes L.A., home of the first drive-through plastic surgery window" and "I go both ways: straight up, or on the rocks."

Now, with that out of my system, let's talk a little bit about these sexbot spokespeople, because apart from their popularity among postpubescent pocket miners, they represent a really interesting trend in alcohol advertising. Let's look at the sex component. Sex has been used in advertisement since its inception in the 1920s (advertisement's, not sex's). It attracts attention and creates an association between some of the best feelings somebody can have and the product advertised.

The robot bit is about the allure of complete control. A robot is an automaton, a programmable object. Give it the right input and it will give you the desired output. We know the output: svedka_grl doesn't function outside sex. What, then, is the input? Well, vodka. And that's the crux of the svedka and heineken ads' danger: they imply not only that giving a woman alcohol makes her an object of ultimate sexual control, but that that's the purpose of their product.

Strange Bedfellows

The other day, in a class on Ethics in Public Policy, I found myself saying something that felt extremely strange coming out of my mouth. I said "I agree with the Bush Administration." I know, right? Those aren't words I'm used to saying. Before I get calls to turn in my pinko leftist card, let me specify that I wasn't agreeing with their entire policy stance on the issue at hand (Affirmative Action) but I thought aspects of their approach—considering socioeconomic background as a factor in equalizing admissions instead of race—were unusually thoughtful and made sense. So let's do a thought experiment. Let's assume affirmative action is really important to me. It's important to me like abortion, LGBT rights, or taxes are important to some voters—a make-or-break issue. Do I support Bush in the 2004 election? Since affirmative action isn't that important to me as a voter, it's not a dilemma I have to confront. I oppose Bush on so many more significant grounds that the off-chance that my thinking aligned with his on one is pretty irrelevant.

But for some people, this becomes an extremely relevant dilemma. They are forced to make political friends out of political enemies, enemies out of friends, and to sort out the mess that that can create practically. One of the best historical examples of this kind of behavior is the women's suffrage movement pandering to racists by excluding black women from marches and protests. These awkward little collisions of interest are fascinating to watch play out in contemporary politics. Here are some examples.

#1—Wisconsin is a stew of interests, what with hippie haven Madison and union refuge Milwaukee butting heads with rural-family-values everywhere else. Typically, it's the state that gave the nation both Bob LaFollette and Joe McCarthy. We are currently represented by one of the most progressive senators out there, Russ Feingold, but he's got an almost-perfect record in opposing gun control. It's along the "guns" line that a pretty absurd political hot button came up a few years ago. The DNR introduced introduced a bill in the state legislature that would make it legal to hunt cats. Yes, that means exactly what you think it means. If Mittens doesn't have a collar on, she's fair game (literally).

Now this little bill's strange bedfellows stemmed mostly from the fact that the environmental lobby was behind the bill. Feral cats killed off local birds, making them a nuisance for conservation efforts. The gun lobby was way behind it, because it meant they got to shoot stuff more often, and farmers were fans, because they considered feral cats a pest. That meant that the environmental lobby was against the animal rights fans. (As it worked out, legislators didn't want to go on the record as being pro-kitten-hunting, so the bill didn't pass.)

#2—Then there's this story. The upshot is that assholes want first amendment protection for their assholery, and the ACLU is helping them out. Now the ACLU tends to be pretty anti-homophobia, but they also like to protect your right, in certain circumstances to be an asshole. They're also big fans of second-amendment rights ("you mean I can have a gun, but I can't use it to shoot the queers?"). In any event, they're defending a church's right to picket military funerals—the church thinks deaths in Iraq are due to our tolerance of gays. So apparently you get to carry a sign at someone's funeral that says "thank God for dead soldiers." (But seriously, the left hates the troops).

So what are the implications of that kind of odd behavior? Well, an upside is that it makes people cross partisan boundaries and cooperate on issues that matter to them, and may create some kind of horse trading and compromise that is probably good for politics. People stop disagreeing with each other as a knee-jerk reaction and start actually considering their positions carefully. In theory, at least.

The downside is that it makes life awfully confusing for those of us who like to dedicate our time, money, or other resources to organizations that usually do really nice things, but don't want that money to go to protect, say, homophobic speech (I reluctantly think you can be a homophobic asshole whenever you want, but probably not at someone's funeral, and I'm certainly not going to give money to perpetuate it).

What about y'all? Have you encountered any interesting cases of strange bedfellows in your political life? How did you traverse that political space?

Friday, November 2, 2007

This is a good article

And good news. Crack users are getting less time in prison. That means there will be 3800 fewer prisoners in 15 years, which is a drop in the bucket of prison crowding, but a step in the right direction. Crack offenders will spend a little more than 8 years in prison, on average, rather than 10 years. Again, piecemeal reform, but a step in the right direction.

Update: bean has more. And a Yeats reference or two.