31 March 2010

Quote: Truth

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.

[Flannery O’Connor]

3-28-10 Meme

3-28-10 Meme, originally uploaded by kcm76.

I haven't done the weekly Flickr meme for a while, for no reason other than it just hasn't happened. Anyway here are this week's 12 questions and answers:

1. Do you zip or button first? Button, but only if there's no Velcro
2. What are you listening to right now? Nothing
3. Which band did you last see live? An Elastic Band
4. What book are you currently reading? A pile about 4 feet high
5. Give one reason why you would hate a person. Stupidity
6. What is your favourite type of music? Medieval Latin Church
7. What food do you dislike? Egg custard
8. Would you rather be a vampire, werewolf, or zombie? Vampire
9. Have you ever smoked? Yes
10. If you were rich, what is the first one of these you would hire: Personal Chef, maid, masseuse, chauffeur, or trainer? Maid
11. What defines you? Y chromosome
12. What do you think of Africa? Boring

1. Belly Button Cow, 2. 'garden of dreams' original ink brush pwn sumi-e drawing/painting, 3. A random selection of scattered elastic bands with experimental post-processing, 4. Pile of Books in Prague Library, 5. Stupidity Sign, 6. The 15th Century Ranworth Antiphoner, 7. egg custard tart, 8. София, България. Събота, 25-ти юли, 2009., 9. Yes / Close To The Edge, 10. Sexy Anime Maid, 11. Phalluzoïde ou l'Origine du Sex (Please do not touch, lick, stroke or mount this artwork), 12. www.flickr.com/photos/crustydolphin/2430434405/

As always the photographs are not mine so please click on individual links below to see each artist/photostream. This mosaic is for a group called My Meme, where each week there is a different theme and normally 12 questions to send you out on a hunt to discover photos to fit your meme. It gives you a chance to see and admire other great photographers' work out there on Flickr.

Created with fd's Flickr Toys

20 March 2010

What Cannot Speak Cannot Lie ...

When I was with 94-year-old my mother last weekend, helping her pack up to move into residential care, she gave me a fairly awful black and white photograph of the parish church in the town in which I grew up.  The church is St Mary the Virgin at Cheshunt, Hertfordshire.  Recognising the style of the print I know the photo was taken by my mother, probably in the early 1970s, from the park opposite the church.  What's more she printed it herself on her home-made enlarger.  Just the fact that she made the enlarger and got semi-decent prints from it is in itself amazing!  But that's my mother: at one point over the weekend I asked her if there was anything she hadn't ever made; she had to think and finally the only thing she could come up with was canework.  If it's anything much else to do with art and craft she's tried it - I salvaged from the bungalow a box full of her pottery and several portfolios of paintings, many dating from over 60 years ago!

Anyway here is a straight scan of the totally nondescript 11x16cm print ...

Not being one to waste a good image having scanned it, I played around with it in Paint Shop Pro (which for most things I find easier than Photoshop).  Here is the scanned image dressed up as an 1840s Daguerreotype and then as an 1870s Albumen print.

What a difference five minutes work makes.

When I've got my new photo printer I shall have to send, or take, my mother copies.  Knowing her she will then frame them!  Having moved her into the care home last Monday afternoon, I went to see her at 10am the following morning.  I found her with a small table already set up, a Stanley knife in her hand, in the middle of reframing a photograph of her late dog.  Yes, she's 94!

18 March 2010

The Power of Okinawa

Anyone who is interested in "roots" music and who doesn't already know the music of Okinawa and the sub-tropical Ryukyu Islands of Japan really should check it out.  And this is now a lot easier with the new website and weblog, The Power of Okinawa, by my friend John Potter, as well as a second edition of his introductory book, also called The Power of Okinawa (order from the website for ¥2700, about £20 / $30, delivered worldwide).

Potter-san is originally from Norwich (England) but has lived in Japan since 1984, first in Kobe (where he survived the 1995 Kobe earthquake) and then in Mie Prefecture where he was Professor of English at Kogakkan University. He contributes music features to magazines in Japan and the UK; has published articles on literature and education; and written a book on Summerhill School.

His discovery of Okinawan music in the late '80s led to an abiding interest in the islands and their music.  He has made regular trips to the Ryukyu Islands and travelled extensively in Okinawa, Miyako and Yaeyama, listening to and meeting many of the musicians there.  John accompanied Shoukichi Kina and his band on a visit to England, and has collaborated on song translations for several artists.  In 2009 the lure of island music finally proved too much and he took early retirement in order to move to Okinawa.

Even with the West’s increased interest in “world music” the Ryukyu Islands have remained far adrift from the musical mainstream. Seldom heard, the islands’ centuries-old colourful tradition of music and dancing reflects the people’s determination to express their own culture.  John Potter's book and website offer the first definitive guide to this vibrant and exciting music, detailing its history and profiling its major personalities.

And for anyone who thinks they might be interested it is worth trying to get a copy of the Rough Guide to Okinawa music CD.  This is wonderfully eclectic, fun and inspirational music.  Real wacky stuff!

05 March 2010

Nudity, Sex and Sex Education - Follow-up

Just a quick follow-up to my post Sex, Nudity and Sex Education from a couple of days ago.  In the comments Malcolm Boura, Research & Liason Officer for British Naturism (BN), provides a link to a short briefing paper he produced for BN, looking at health and well-bring of young people especially with respect to nudity and body awareness.  Although the paper is short – in my view much too short – it is well worth reading ... but I would say that because it supports entirely the views I have been expressing. 

Moreover it is gratifying to see that national organisations are recognising the problem and it isn't just down to a few lone voices to try and make themselves heard above the din of prudery.  Many national naturist organisations (especially in UK and USA) seem to come in for a lot of stick, even from their members – mainly I suspect because no-one can agree what really is the best way forward through this taboo minefield.  And I too have had a fairly jaundiced view of BN in the past, as a self-perpetuating oligarchy which was interested only in the official clubs which provided the oligarchs (that's right, I'm not a club person).  But this briefing paper, together with some of the others (links below) on the BN website, has done much to restore my faith in the organisation.  I may even re-join BN.  Thanks, Malcolm!

And don't forget my challenge to take part in Sebastian Kempa’s project: Naked People Your Version is still open!

Some BN Briefing Papers:
About Naturism
Naturist Beliefs
Health and Well-being of Young People
Children and Nudity
Managing Coastal Activities (Summary)

03 March 2010

Nudity, Sex and Sex Education,

I started this post with a dilemma. Do I write it as one long "review" post or split it into several so I can write more in depth about each topic. In the end I decided on the former if only to ensure that the articles I highlight actually get air time and not consigned, by default or laziness, to Bin 101.

In the last week or so there have been a number of items on the intertubes about nudity, sexuality and sex education. Regular readers (What? You mean I have regular readers?) will be aware of my liberal views and my belief that we need to break down society’s taboos in these areas (very much in the Dutch-mode) so my choice of items should come as little surprise.

We Need to Stop Circumcision
Written by Christine Northrup, herself an obstetrician and gynaecologist, this item in the Huffington Post makes a passionate case for not circumcising infant boys, as well as girls. Here are few extracts:
In the weeks ahead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are likely to publish a recommendation that all infant boys undergo circumcision. This is a huge mistake. Circumcision is an unnecessary procedure that is painful and can lead to complications, including death. No organization in the world currently recommends this. Why should we routinely remove normal, functioning tissue from the genitals of little boys within days of their birth?

[C]ircumcision was introduced in English-speaking countries in the late 1800s to control or prevent masturbation.

Routine female circumcision, which has been practiced in some cultures, is completely unacceptable ... the United Nations has issued a decree against it. Circumcision is a form of sexual abuse whether it's done to girls or boys.

[M]isleading medical information has begun to surface (yet again) in support of circumcision. This information supports the belief that men with foreskins are more likely to get viral or bacterial infections and pass them on ... these are justifications that science has been unable to support. Nor is there any scientific proof that circumcision prevents sexually transmitted diseases.

The United States has high rates of HIV and the highest rate of circumcision in the West. The "experiment" of using circumcision to stem HIV infection [as has been done in Africa] has been running here for decades. It has failed miserably. Why do countries such as New Zealand, where they abandoned infant circumcision 50 years ago, or European countries, where circumcision is rare, have such low rates of HIV?

Circumcision also has profound implications for male sexuality. Studies document that the amount of pleasure a man can receive during intercourse is greater in uncircumcised males. That's because the male foreskin, like the clitoris, is richly innervated for maximum sexual pleasure. Sexual researchers have determined that men with [their foreskin] are more likely to feel the most pleasure when they make love.

More Sex Education Please, we’re British
This was an article in the Times on 24 February, in which Alice Thomson argued that we (the British) have the highest rate of teenage STDs, abortions and pregnancies in Europe and that the only way this will be reduced is by very open and frank sex education conducted in an adult way. Sniggering behind the bike-sheds, as we British always have done, has gotten us into this mess and won’t get us out of it. Again a telling quote or two:
British children shouldn’t be getting their sex education from Ashley and Cheryl [Cole] but from their parents and teachers. I was once one of those prissy, prudish parents pussyfooting around the question until I was sent to the Netherlands by this newspaper to discuss procreation.

As I walked to De Burght junior school in Amsterdam to talk to the headmaster about his policy, I bumped into eight-year-old Carla carefully balancing a dish. It was a sample of her father’s sperm for “show and tell”. [I bet that had Tunbridge Wells choking on its Shredded Wheat! – Ed.]

In the Netherlands, sex and children aren’t a taboo subject. As pupils play mummies and daddies in the playground they know exactly what they might have been doing last night ... a 12-year-old at the senior school showed me how to roll a condom on to a broomstick while her friend asked me if I masturbated.

The British, meanwhile, expect their children to learn about sex and relationships from the playground, internet porn, WAGs and celebrities, and are amazed that we have the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases and abortions among the under 21s in Europe.

We need to talk about the subject until we can say various anatomical parts without sniggering.

For the first time, I found myself agreeing with Ed Balls [same here – Ed.], the Schools Secretary, on the Today programme yesterday [23 Feb] that sex education should be compulsory in all schools. Of course five-year-olds need to learn about sex, the earlier the better, and from parents as well as teachers.

The Dutch are more religious than the British and still manage to reach consent among Calvinists, Catholics and Muslims that children should be provided with all the facts to make their own informed decisions, not just lectured on morality and the missionary position.

Thoughts on the "hook-up culture," or what I learned from my high school diary
This appeared on Scarleteen (an excellent site which addresses all sorts of sexuality questions and is aimed at teens and young adults, in a mature and adult way) and elsewhere on 2 March. In it the female writer discusses dating, sex and relationships and how they relate to our current views of feminism and gender roles. A couple of comments particularly struck home with me.
We need to admit as a culture that teens are sexual beings, and that more often than not, sexual maturity has a completely different timeline than emotional maturity. This is, to be sure, skewed by sexism and restrictive gender roles to make sexual coming-of-age worse for girls. But beyond that, maybe discovering what you want sexually and emotionally is just part of growing up – and that's okay.

Girls deserve to discover themselves sexually at their own pace, to be neither rushed into having sex nor shamed into not having it. They deserve to have their very own "This is bullshit" moments without wearing a chastity belt.
My only comment is something we’re in danger of forgetting: that (despite all the machismo) just the same applies to boys!  If anything it is more important for boys as they first have to slough off that machismo.

Psychology and the Shock of Nudity
This item on the Academic Natuirist weblog addresses the problem of guilt surrounding being discovered naked. For most people the one discovered appears to carry the guilt, which in the view of the writer (and me) is stupid. Again a couple of excepts:
Naturists have a different attitude ... You've seen me naked? Good! That means I don't have to get dressed next time you come over ...Why should Alice feel bad about seeing Bob naked, if Bob didn't care at all about it? Alice is not guilty of embarrassing Bob.  [Equally why should Bob feel guilty at being seen naked if Alice doesn't care about it? – Ed.]

Getting textiles to not feel guilty about seeing nudity would be a good step for general acceptance [of nudity] ... Maybe we're wrong about how we notify others? The signs ... warn "ATTENTION – BEYOND THIS POINT YOU MAY ENCOUNTER NUDE BATHERS" Perhaps the right approach is something like "There's friendly naked people beyond this sign, and we won't mind if you stop over and chat with us!"

Naked People – Your Version
Finally a challenge. On 18 February Dairy of a Nudist invited us to take part in a new phase of Sebastian Kempa’s ongoing Naked People project: Naked People Your Version. All you have to do is to submit a pair of identically posed photos of yourself, one clothed the other nude. The idea is, of course, “to help further break down the barrier of clothing which society has imposed to imprison our natural bodies”. I’ve not yet submitted my photos, but I have every intention of doing so in the next week or so. Dare you? – For each one of you who convinces me you've submitted your photos (I may ask you for evidence; depends how well I know you!) I'll make a small donation to charity.  Who's up for it?

02 March 2010

Will He Care?

Quite by accident while undertaking completely different research I happened upon this on Amazon UK earlier today ... the Gentleman's Willy Care Kit ...

In case it isn't obvious (why would it be?) the kit is said to comprise: fluffing brush, mirror, medallion, styling shears and the luxury case.

I can't conceive why I would possibly want one and I must admit to having a good snigger.  After which I'm left with just one question: Why?

Today's Haiku

Another in the occasional series.
a watershed
in steel and blood
prince albert