A Little Something to Fight the Poison

Thursday, December 05, 2002
DEATH YES, SEX NO: It always amazes me how prissy North Americans--particularly United States of America Americans--are about sex.

This rant is courtesy of VH-1's airing of Go, one of my favourite movies (only partially because I went to high school with Sarah Polley for a couple of years--you go, my socialist hottie movie stah classmate!). To my great annoyance, I realized that VH-1 completely massacred some of the movie's cleverest segments because it was afraid to air the words "head" or "sex."

I've always had a hard time figuring out why Americans find sex so taboo. Conservative cultural critics argue that we need to restrict and restrain sexual imagery and references so as to protect our children. But I think that this is just silly. Children don't need to be shielded from sex; they need to learn to treat sex with respect and a degree of caution. You can't inculcate a mature attitude toward sex in our youth by dishonestly preaching that sex is indecent, or evil, or intrinsically harmful, or that it doesn't exist for people until they're over 21. By the time children reach the age at which they curious and interested enough to ask questions in sex, they're probably mature enough to begin learning what it's really all about.

The American attitude toward sex seems particularly weird when one considers that U.S. TV isn't nearly as restrained when it comes to violence. Aside from the news, between CSI, Law and Order, 24, and the gobs of action flicks that are always on, you can always catch depictions of people being maimed, murdered, or gloriously killed by the Good Guy at almost any hour of the day, and these depictions are treated as relatively unproblematic.

Yet if anything but the tamest and most oblique hint at nookie airs on the major networks before 11PM (see, for example, the hubbub that erupted over the Victoria's Secret fashion show), it takes scads of fire from sex-averse culture warriors, who are quick to brand any depiction of the wild thang as part of an indecent and immoral counterculture.

I've always found this contrast to be incoherent. I mean, almost everyone is going to have sex at some point or another in their lives. Most of us even had the misfortune of being conceived as a result of this oh-so-icky act. It's sort of a result of that whole "nature" thing. On the other hand, the vast majority of us are never going to need to violently kill anyone. Yet the American media and public seem to treat the latter as much more acceptable and decent than the former. This makes absolutely no sense to me.

FIRST ASIDE: In a discussion with Meryl Yourish in my comments a little while back, I mentioned that I found many aspects of European culture preferable to aspects of U.S. culture, but I neglected to reply to her request to specify the aspects to which I was alluding because things got pretty busy for me soon after and I didn't feel that I had the time to draft an appropriately thorough response. Apologies Meryl--hope you don't hold it against me! Well, here's a major one; my post on American ignorance of the rest of the world identifies another one. There's more, but I'm going to try to ease up on my carping about the U.S. for a few days...

SECOND ASIDE: I suppose that the bowdlerized version of Go might not be VH-1's fault...I'm guessing that there may be a single sanitized version of the movie that's distributed to TV stations, airline companies, etc....but regardless of whoever did it, someone's still being seriously lame somewhere along the line...
Wednesday, December 04, 2002
RANDOM PERSONAL HELLO: Just wanted to sort of belatedly say hi and thanks to my undergrad-era friends I managed to meet up with on my dash up to Canada last week, just in case you happen to glance at this.

Special thanks to the crew up in Montréal--that's you, Erik, Megan, and Toby--for a wonderful welcome and for keeping Dave Goodwin awake...

Starchy pontificating about politics, etc., will resume shortly...
OBLIGATORY POST ABOUT HOW LITTLE AMERICANS KNOW ABOUT THE REST OF THE WORLD: OK, so I promise that I won't do this much, especially now that I live amongst y'all, but these poll numbers about what Americans and Canadians know about one another's countries struck me as especially appalling:

-8% of Americans know the name of our PM (90% of Canadians know President Bush's name)
-21% of Americans know the name of our capital (88% know DC is the U.S. capital)

I'll grant that the U.S. is way more prominent in the lives of Canadians than vice versa, and that I'm not terribly impressed that 10% of Canadians don't know the identity of the head of the world's only superpower. I'd guess that they're all living in a damned cave, somewhere around the Nunavut-Manitoba border, but it'd have to be a pretty damned big cave to hold 3 million people.

But, c'mon: only 8% on your end?!? Is it too much to ask you folks to at least claw your way up to double digits? I mean, Dino Jean has only been Prime Minister for like the last nine years.

Sigh. I guess that about scuttles any illusions I could have had about informed debate over NAFTA on this side of border...
IT COULD HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE CONSTANT PUMMELLING OF THE HEAD: Wow, I had absolutely no idea that the Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitaly, both very skilled star boxers, not only speak 4 languages, but also both have PhDs in sports science. Bah--more skill in linguistics, finished their dissertations, and the ability to kill me unarmed without thinking about it.

Funny line:
Vitali said the doctorate gave him a bigger thrill than winning the W.B.O. title in 1999 from Herbie Hide. He does not find it strange that boxers should have intelligence...
Well, I don't doubt that a lot of boxers start off as bright people...
Tuesday, December 03, 2002
HOW TO MESS UP THE WORLD--STARTS WITH "B"...ends with "-ush Doctrine"!

Who would've thought it likely that Australia and Malaysia would be talking about blasting away at one another 18 months ago?

Foreign affairs is so much more interesting under the new global order. Yay for pre-emption!
Monday, December 02, 2002
TUCKERED OUT: OK, so I lied. My lack of planning bit me in the butt and I was unable to reserve a train ticket from Montréal to New York, so I had to break my vow to never take a bloody day-long G-Dog bus trip ever again. But I at least made it back without losing anything valuable.

The semi-crazy 24-hour visit to Montréal was worth it; watching the Canadiens play at the Bell Centre was amazing, even if the Habs managed to somehow lose after the Flyers iced the puck with 10 seconds left in overtime. Managed to nurse my beer with enough skill that I had fun in 2 of the island's trashiest bars from 5PM until 2:30AM (with the hockey game in the middle) without getting too drunk. Truly a city that demonstrates that you don't need to have a good economy to be an incredibly fun and vibrant place in which to live (not that a good economy would hurt).

ASIDE: Does making a 90-minute pitstop in the bar by the bowling alley in the NYC Port Authority in the middle of my trip back to New Haven so that I wouldn't miss the latest episode of Alias certify me as an addict?