Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Free Music Downloads- creative suicide?

My songs are now available on iTunes!!!



Friday, August 24, 2012

The Great Equalizers? Double Income Households and Male Contraception

Could not help citing the jab in the Economist article "The pill for men" this week about the "lads" who complain about what a bore condoms are:
"Men today rely on the same two methods they had in the 1950s, vasectomy and condoms. But vasectomies are drastic, and lads often claim that condoms are fiddly and spoil the mood." 
As it was most certainly intended, the remark sparked a torrent of virulent commentary from women whose bodies are already hormonal battlegrounds (what with menses, gestation, breastfeeding & and all the other neat life-sustaining tricks we are meant to do), and, on top of it, are supposed to ingest a variety of hormones with largely undesirable side-effects for their sake and the lads' and, worst of all, they ought to be happy about this advance in science.

In a classically boy-ish manner, the phrase was meant to provoke the probably disproportionately small crowd of women who read The Economist. As a friend said when I had just moved to France--that was before I understood French humor--whenever he'd push my button and I would leap to my defense: "Tu mets une pièce, et ça marche !"  

As the rather amusing film "He's just not that into you" that I caught up on this week via iTunes portends: "if he acts like total jerk [this includes phrases meant to get your panties in a knot], that means he likes you."

So, boys are meant to push you over in the playground, tease you mercilessly at a bar or via an internationally published article, and women are meant to, at least the movie suggests, try hysterically to decipher this as real interest or as "just not that into you."

These roles we fall into are not a problem in the least since we need this banter and miscommunication to keep life less dull. (Imagine a world where condoms still exist but there are no more impossible-to-comprehend messages from the opposite sex. Dreadful!) The issue is why on earth would men or women think that just because our western society has managed to keep the one thing we'd really rather being doing consequence-less (or at least to 98.99%) that women would have changed at all in their ultimate desire?

The ultimate desire: the M-word. The issue is brought up beautifully in the aforementioned film as Ben Affleck's character tries to hang up a painting and his long-time live-in girlfriend (or as they call it in French to my endless amusement: his concubine) played by Jennifer Aniston explodes: "I just need you to stop being nice to me unless you are going to marry me." And there she spoke for the multitude of women who may pretend otherwise, but who secretly nourish a fantasy: we would like commitment--in writing--a nice dress and a party. Lads, take note.

You don't just de-program hundreds and perhaps thousands of years of an engrained system with a pill.

And not only has the pill has afforded us so much time to dither on about finding the right mate, it has also allowed us to climb the career ladder and sustain another myth: We'd really rather be making money and running things than at home with our babies. Honestly. Since when? It's hard to get anything done with a toddler around unless he/she is napping, but soon he'll be in a cap and gown or trolling through a sea of women to find one who understands his teasing as a come-on, so really, what is the rush to get back to work?

The reason is, sadly, that we must. We are now largely double-income households because we need  to sustain the consumption of all the things we are used to in our society. I'm trying to imagine that if for hundreds of years so many women from different echelons of Western society didn't need to work (at least away from home & away from their families) why do we all of a sudden?

The answer was brought to me by a friend who was explaining to me last week how fast her teenage daughter could break a computer and how often they needed to replace it. They are covered with a guarantee but just begin to calculate the waste that implies. Is it our need for useless things that is keeping us chained to a desk, away from our children? It incensed me to think that our compulsion for iSomethings is so massively detrimental to the fabric of society. I'm no innocent in all this: I have nearly every invention that Apple offers: the Pad, the Pod, the Phone, the Mac, the MacBook Pro. Like everyone, I have fallen prey to the late Mastermind Steve Jobs design. Yet, am I all the better off for it?

For the first year of my son's life I have rather exceptionally managed to keep the wolf only whining at the door but soon that wolf will be whistling a different tune and I shall be compelled to join the forces of labor but I wonder, at what cost and, ultimately, in whose interest?

Most households survived until recent history on one income and probably many still could, but the late Steve Jobs had us and still has us at his mercy. The French, who are hopelessly romantic and rebellious but historically one of the most poignant critical eyes on America, used to call Jobs on the puppet satire show "Les Guignols" : "The man who makes things you don't need indispensable." 

Fittingly, I write all this on a decrepit Macbook, programmed to huff and wheeze at the ripe old age of 5, and although I've replaced its brain, I am wont now to replace its heart but I don't think I should like to, since the new ones with retina screens have been lasciviously leering at me from subliminal propaganda I don't ever recall seeing. But I'm sure as soon as my son, who has quite symbolically pulled off the "Command (Apple) key" on my keyboard, wakes up I'll forget all about it, and thus life will triumph over the superfluous needs that plague us.

No pill can keep women from harboring the hope of A Proposal or A Party. As the character Gigi observes at the end of the film:

"Or maybe the happy ending is this, knowing after all the unreturned phone calls, broken-hearts, through the blunders and misread signals, through all the pain and embarrassment you never gave up hope."
And no Steve Jobs will keep a woman's nipple from tingling at work when her baby is hungry and were she near him, she'd feed him. So, nature wins. I mean, we, the ones with the apparently short shrift, win. No matter the income, no matter the level of fertility, we are not equal. That's why we get along. We are, once we decipher the joke, meant to.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Funny that

What do they call fiction written for men?

Dick Lit.

No one seems to ascribe men's fantasy worlds a category. They get Noir, Historical, Crime and all sorts of novels. We get Chick Lit. Funny that.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rabenmütter vs. Casera

Let the record show that if it weren’t for Penfold pointing out that it’s been over a year since I wrote, I wouldn’t have bothered.

What took me so long?

I suppose it took me quite a few months to get over the physical tiredness and the moral heaviness: that murky, clinging residue of centuries of shame of having your first child alone.

The truth is out now. My son was born. In the past six months, I have been through a spectrum of emotions. When he was just born, I thought I better had get to work quickly. What will everyone think? How will I provide for him? What kind of person am I to not stick him -- like a nameless chicken in an industrial farm -- in a cot in day care like everyone else and tramp off to work?

“He’ll be fine!” Everyone said.

Yet, as he grows and as each milestone approaches and then fades, going back to work pales in comparison to the fascinating spectacle of a human discovering the world. 

Then there are the mirrors: how his growing reminds you of yours.

At the time of writing this I am in Lima, where I was born, and more specifically in my grandmother's house. Waiting for lunch to happen (another luxury of being here) I pore over pictures of my childhood. I marvel that I call my son the same thing that I used to call myself: Mousey. Precisely, at age two, in the manner of Madonna or Prince, I renamed myself. My mother was drying me after my bath and I very assertively took the towel from her, draped it over my shoulders as if it were my ermine cape, kept the shower cap on as my crown and announced that I was to be known hereafter as: "Princesa Mousey, Flor de la Lechuga." Most regal.

There are things that I taste that remind me of my childhood: olluco, a tuber that is shredded and then stewed with beef, which I loved, and grenadilla, the insides of which my father called "elephant snot" but which are strained of their numerous snotty seeds and made into the most delicious juice that tastes just what it was like to be 2, and perhaps even before that, but I can't remember. 

So, the other day pushing Mousey around the block I grew up on (till age 4 when we went to Ah-mehr-i-kah!) I dropped his organic cotton frog rattle. (His godfather, my brother, gave me the eco-conscious gift). Being rather un-conscious, I didn't notice and a lady called me: "Seño!" a couple of times before I turned around. I asked about this appellation: Are we not bothering to finish the word with a -ra or a rita as the case may be? My cousin's wife replied: "You're lucky. They used to call us Casera." Which literally means housewife, or very literally, housey. Or perhaps homey. I prefer housey. Sounds like a good place for Mousey. 

At any rate, I imagine around the time women began to wear jeans more than skirts, a scandal being made by Peruvian women who wanted respect for their burgeoning cottage industries or college degrees or whatever they were scheming about and refusing to be called Casera. Silly that. We've now come full circle and decided that was perhaps a bit too extreme. I believe this women's lib era should hereafter be known as "When we threw baby out with bathwater," because men's response has largely been, go ahead and work but you'll have a hell of a time getting your hallowed Housey-wife status back, at least without lashings of guilt about how you could possibly be so lazy as to only raise your children.

Isn't the education and the nurturing of a human the most important thing there is? At least, if we are all on the same page and we all cherish life. Never mind the sorry fringe of humanity that may does not value life. 

How could anyone possibly write a novel when her child is learning to crawl nearby? Never mind a novel. I've had to breastfeed countless times since I've started writing this blog. I started writing a play over a year ago. I just got around to the second act a few weeks ago. It's not impossible, it's just easier once the learning of basic human functions plateaus when they go off to school.

Women in Germany used to be called "Rabenmutter," (raven mothers or bad mothers) for working instead of raising their children. There's nothing wrong with that; most women have to. I suppose if I can stretch it out, I'd like to. Just a little while longer. Till he walks. Or, till he talks. Or, till he can tell me, "Goodbye!" or "Later, Alligator!" as he goes off to school. Every single successful "Rabenmutter" has told me the same thing since Mousey was born: they should have waited to go back to work. You don't have to tell me twice.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Invisible Other

"Who wants to be my friend?"

Cries the blogger out of the dark of the web...

This past week was the first time I ever participated in a simluation of labor union vs corporate leaders (read: pigs) negotiation, something I never dreamed of doing and, given my current state of mind, perhaps the last thing I'd like to do at the crack of 9:30 on a Friday morning. This same enlightening exercise came from a Reims business school professor, who also presented us (for nearly all 21 of us for the first time) relationship mapping. He is also clearly fond of reconnaissance work and claimed how very easy it is to become someone's "friend" via facebook even if you don't know them.

Uncannily, during the week preceding all this very sort of testosterone-fueled gumshoe information I was sollicited by the largest number strange people with strange names that I could ever have imagined to become their Facebook Friend. I didn't retain any of these names, but they did remind me of the advent of Viagra-hawking spammers with completely silly made up names, until they decided - clever them - that having normal sounding names would entice people much more to click on their links and have a go at Viagra.

Today, I was also hit up by a young man of the most proposterous name, until I learned that he's Turkish, so perhaps it is his real name, and the only apparent link we have is that he also attended NYU (but much more recently than I), which is in no way unique. He also is fond of showing pictures of himself tan and shirtless, which makes me wonder if that is a direct come-on, or if he's enrolled in a relationship mapping class, and finds this tactic generally successful for connecting to female subjects. He only has two friends to date, so all this seems to point to a questionable character. When someone only has two friends in FB, they're generally close friends.

Needless to say I did not accept his request and quickly checked my 600 other "FB Friends" to make sure I did in fact go to school with them or met them over an extended period of time. If today they are working for MI6 or the FBI or for les reseignements généraux, and want to connect with me for purely selfish purposes (most people use FB for this reason anyway) at least I can say I knew them when.

I feel like all this has to do with unemployment, education, the world economy and Europe and the US vs Everyone Else but it's a bit of an Ariadne's thread. Sunday evening, my friend Melanie said to me that her brilliant INSEAD at Qinghua professor and advisor to every Chinese politician and CEO worth his salt, said (and I paraphrase), that though China does seem like it's ready to take over the world, they have nothing beyond their GDP numbers to match it. I know that. My dear friend doing her MBA knows that. That's why we live in France. France is good living. They may be in debt but they have loads of other very positive things in terms of quality of life for the largest number of people (yes, it is helpful to go utilitarian when comparing QoL). Those who still don't think so, I invite them to move to China for a while.

On the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, there was an American who moved back to India, where his parents had left to give him a "better life" after college because he felt, probably rightly, that India's growth was much more vibrant and that opportunity abounded, unlike in the US. His book on the subject, India Calling, relates his story and how it has to do with this global shift. As Jon Stewart said, "You found the American Dream.. in India."

Reminds me of my own brother moving down to Chile since he feels that there's more to be done there (in terms of CSR) than in the States. I don't think anyone can understand what I'm doing in moldy old Europe at this point. But I lived in China, albeit for school, and in Sri Lanka, albeit for volunteer work, and I lived in Chile, albeit briefly and leaving the country once a month for oxygen. And although many things on a daily basis are easier there, consider how much further one's money can go, it's still not my dream, my white knight promising to pull me out that large pool I and so many others find ourselves in: unemployment.

Which me brings me (aha! the thread comes 'round!) to the WEF in Davos this week. What was the first debate that I saw on their website but "The Future of Employment" hosted by Maria Baritromo and organized by NBC. There was Ariana Huffington, the president of UC Berkeley, the CEO of an Indian Steel company, the token Labor Union guy (there for the emotional response) and one who's name escapes me who was there to represent the corporate prick who seems to think that everything is going well. To his credit, it is a debate and someone has to be the bad guy. And to be fair, during the week in Davos, I'm sure corporate pricks, however well-intentioned, probably outnumber everyone save journalists.

What are they suggesting? Having a more global perspective, yes; changing education, at specific levels in specific countries, yes; lowering wages... no, I don't think that will help the people in developed countries. Focusing more on teaching science and engineering in developed countries, what for, if we can't find any jobs with those degrees? We're not trained to deal with this change. I ask myself what is the point of having been to college. The people educating are also asking these questions because for the coming generations it will only be harder.

It seems that those who've managed to stay afloat are either because the conditions were so bad for so many people until recently that now just seems like a dream come true or those who manage to come up with something new on their own. Ariana Huffington mentioned "We've Got Time to Help" an ingenious coalition of people with the hope of doing something useful with their unemployed time, largely simple acts of solidarity that they organize by state. It's refreshing, and knowing the web, perhaps will blossom into something more consequentiel, or those love-hated three words: a real job.

It seems the only way out of this mess, for us in the "developed world", is to invent your path, since no one before us has managed in a world similar to ours. It also seems that the way to do it is to eliminate the "invisible other" by going towards what is real. Instead of being afraid of developing countries, what is after all, the real threat? Once again, The Invisible Other at its best. Concretely, we have no jobs, so for those of us who believe we can, we must.

And on that note, I will leave the invisible blog-o-sphere to deal with what's real, today, because no one can really see any further.