Monday, April 30, 2007

obligatory cranky finals post

so at the starbucks on wilshire & union there's only one bathroom, which is bisexual, and in order to use it, there is a bathroom key attached to some large carrying item (usually a ruler or stick or spatula, recently a big scooper spoon thingy).

admittedly, the concept isn't the most hygienic - you are, after all, trekking this item into a public bathroom, where it's placed who knows where before being brought back out into an area of dining establishment - but you know what, i don't fault starbucks for doing it that way, b/c if i were working behind the counter, it sure as hell would beat making me walk over to open the damn door for customers all day. i usually make do by putting the key-plus-spoon on the paper towel dispenser, which is aaaallll the way across the room from the toilet (it's a pretty big space), and then only touching it with my sleeve or something. also, i try not to think about it.

it's the way it is. so there is really no excuse to be a bitch.

today i walked out of the bathroom and there was a girl in her young twenties, same as me, waiting to use it next. i hold open the door for her, and hand her the key to take with her into the bathroom.

this girl shoots me a look of disdain and superiority. do i expect her to touch that?, the look says. look, lady, i reply by giving a little reminder shake of the key in mid-air, we all gotta suck it up, so take the damn key.

then - i kid you not - a grin flashes across her face for a split second before she sneers, "uhh, you can put that back for me." and then closes the door behind her. clearly she believes this to be a moment of mild genius: she doesn't have to handle the bathroom key! leave it to the proletariats!

now, i'm exhausted, and stressed, and frankly don't particularly like bitches, so i'm a bit put off by this exchange. moreover, wtf kind of way is that to talk to somebody? oh, i can put it back for you? you'll f-ing LET me? gee, thanks.

anyway, seeing that she closed the door behind her as a way of ending our interaction, it's not like i had much of a choice anyway, so i put the key back on the counter.

and i totally didn't stop the dude who grabbed the key next and opened the door on her.

*karma dance*

Sunday, April 29, 2007

everybody gets one

everybody gets one obsession.

the side of a downtown LA building:

days left til may 4: 5
finals btwn now and may 4: 2
family guy spidey 1:

female character i hate: mj
female character i love: gwen

family guy spidey 2:

Thursday, April 26, 2007

the chinese are awesome - article

the reaction by my male friends has been surprisingly enthusiastic:


"Women's town" to put men in their place

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese tourism authorities are seeking investment to build a novel concept attraction -- the world's first "women's town," where men get punished for disobedience, an official said Thursday.

The 2.3-square-km Longshuihu village in the Shuangqiao district of Chongqing municipality, also known as "women's town," was based on the local traditional concept of "women rule and men obey," a tourism official told Reuters.

"Traditional women dominate and men have to be obedient in the areas of Sichuan province and Chongqing, and now we are using it as an idea to attract tourists and boost tourism," the official, surname Li, said by telephone.

The tourism bureau planned to invest between 200 million yuan ($26 million) and 300 million yuan in infrastructure, roads and buildings, Li said.

"We welcome investors from overseas and nationwide to invest in our project," he added.

The motto of the new town would be "women never make mistakes, and men can never refuse women's requests," Chinese media have reported.

When tour groups enter the town, female tourists would play the dominant role when shopping or choosing a place to stay, and a disobedient man would be punished by "kneeling on an uneven board" or washing dishes in restaurant, media reports said.

The project, begun in the end of 2005, was expected to take three to five years to finish.


find the article here. and if you're not grateful i shared this with you, i WILL make you kneel on an uneven board.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

one more day

one more day!

so, i've been trying to keep my expectations in check since there's plenty of skepticism about grindhouse . . . but f**k if it doesn't just look so f-ing cool.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

3D rooms

there are, i think, very few things in life as cool as this.

rooms that are painted a certain way such that when you stand in one position, a 3D image appears. badass. SEE THE REST HERE.

and check out the outdoor version of this trick here!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

i judge you when you use poor grammar.

dear sharers of the internets,

look. i'm sorry if this appears condescending, i really am. but it's time you knew. every time you mix up "their" and "they're" a little part of me dies. it's not about the typos - we all make mistakes - but after so many times i'm starting to think you honestly don't know the difference. and if that's the case, well...this isn't going to work.

another chance? well. i suppose we could try again. as long as you get yourself into rehab. get a sponsor. and really study those 12 steps, or, at the very least, this quick & dirty primary. i know it can be embarrassing, but i just want what's best for you, after all. i'm doing this FOR you.

call me?

-'s - indicates possessive (ownership).
-s - plural. use when you mean "more than one".

its vs. it's - aaah, thank you, strongbad.

whose - possessive.
who's - "who is".

your - possessive!
you're - short for "you are".

their - possessive! possessive!!

and for the love of god:

discrete - separate; distinct.

principle - a rule or standard. "it's the principle of the matter."
principal - 1. the first or leading ("the principal concern..."). 2. Mr. Belding! Mr. Feeney! Principal Scudworth!

grammar - the correct spelling. note: that's TWO A's.
grammer - fraiser (kelsey grammer)'s last name.

peak - highest point.
peek - to glance quickly or furtively. like, peek-a-boo.

per se - by itself, or inherently/intrinsically true.
NOT per say - "for every say"? no!

sheik - islamic leader or patriarch. DOES NOT MEAN HIP OR STYLISH.

Monday, March 19, 2007

read this! look smart!

there were a flurry of articles last month about how to fake, not like that, ladies. i'm talking about how to appear more well-read and literate than, let's face it, you really are. (pop on over to loni's blog for links to all those articles).

this one was the most unique though - a fun post by bookslut about five specific works that lit snobs might expect you know. the author's suggestion for the best way to fake that you've actually read them? cruise by on one specific scene.

all right. go on, get to it, and don't say i never did anything for you.

How To Talk Like You've Read Something You Haven't

There are certain books that tend to come up in conversation over and over again. Some of the time I have read it and can hold my own. Other times, however, I’ll either say I’ve read it and then just nod and remain quiet when they try to pry a conversation out of me, or I’ll just admit I have no idea what they’re talking about.

I figured there were two remedies to the end of the conversation that comes with having not read the book. I could either read the books or I could find a way to convincingly bluff my way through the conversation.

I decided to bluff. I do have a reputation as a bookslut to uphold.

All that’s needed for a successful bluff is mentioning a scene from the book. If the book was made into a movie, don’t try to reference a scene that made it to film. Everyone does that. To make it more believable, be vague. If you don’t mention characters’ names, you can then say, “Oh, it was such a long time ago, I’m a bit hazy on the details…” when you are asked your opinion on another specific scene.

Here are some examples of books that tend to come into my conversations and scenes you can use to bluff your way through a conversation. No one will be any wiser.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

There is a wealth of material to reference in this book. The scene I tend to mention is early in the book: a character’s apartment is full of cockroaches, but he too afraid to kill them. Instead, he traps them in glasses until his apartment is an obstacle course of upside down glasses with a cockroach in each, lethargically refusing to die.

However, that scene is pretty early on in the book. If you want people to think you read at least a bit more, there’s always the rehab. A man escapes from rehab every night to put cats in bags and set them on fire. That might be harder to work into polite conversation, however.

Ulysses by James Joyce

Masturbation should always be a great cocktail party topic. And if there’s such a thing as a great masturbation scene from literature, I think James Joyce has a fine contender with his Gerty / Leopold Bloom scene.

The scene itself doesn’t consist of much. Gerty sees Bloom on a hill, and being a romantic schoolgirl, she envisions him as a heroic character. Joyce satirizes a great deal of romance novels with Gerty’s inner monologue. The kicker of the scene is that while Gerty is imagining them running away together into the sunset, Bloom is jerking off to her hemline. When she stands to walk away, he notices she walks with a limp. His reaction? “Glad I didn’t know it when she was on show.”

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

The movie is very faithful to the book until the end, so the ending is what you’ll want to use. It’s best to just get indignant to how they changed the ending, because that’s the complaint I hear the most.

The buildings didn’t explode in the book because Tyler favored a more faulty type of bomb. The narrator shot himself surrounded by Marla and an assortment of the support group members.

Or you could mention that the soap in the book was made from the liposuctioned fat of Marla’s mother.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

The scene that creeped me out the most was always hearing the S.O.S. tapping through the strange doorway.

However, if you mention the letters from Truant’s (the narrator of the story) mother in the hospital, you can pretend like you’ve read two books, House of Leaves and The Whalestoe Letters. Truant’s mother was institutionalized and died in the hospital. One theory I’ve seen mentioned a few times is that the entire book is her delusion. Doesn’t hold up well, but can inspire passionate conversations about the book. All you have to do is bring it up, then stand back and nod.

The Invisibles by Grant Morrison

There is some controversy over whether The Matrix ripped off The Invisibles. Even Morrison seems to think it’s true. If this ever comes up, this is what Kenan thinks you should say:

“What a load of bullshit. If Morrison wants to be angry at someone for ripping him off, he should be mad at Osama bin Laden for stealing his idea for decentralized cells of terrorists. Jesus.”

find the article here if you'd like. how about that liposuctioned fat, eh?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

comics 3 - the wonder of it all

so captain america is dead! this is one that the new boy, who's not into comics at all, actually heard about before i did. maybe because it made headline news on cnn last week?? hell, even the uber-legitimate wall street journal ran a cool opinion piece on it.

to be honest, i can't tell if this is big news or not. as the article itself even notes,

There is an old joke about death in the comic-book world: No one stays dead except Bucky, Jason Todd and Uncle Ben.
and right the author is - bad guys in comic book movies are notorious for saying things like, "don't you ever die?!", simply because, well, if the heroes do, there's no story.

i had never read anything involving captain america until a friend of mine lent me the new ultimates, which features the cap as a character, but his death and this wsj article make a nice segue into my ongoing series on what i love about graphic novels (parts one and two here). i know there's a political point to this stunt, of course there is. blah blah, george bush, rape of the meaning of the term "democracy," blah. i'm not in the mood for those political implications tonight. here's what i see from it.

the wonder of it all

[I]t's worth pausing to appreciate that even at this late date, Captain America's death still meant something. Partially, this was due to the simple fact that Marvel was able to keep his murder a surprise--something of a wonder in an age when every other happening comes prehyped and presold. (Mr. Quesada reveals that the editors went to great lengths to keep the secret, engaging in a quiet campaign of disinformation and even going so far as to leak fake covers to throw fans off the scent.)

Ultimately, it is wonder that we need most from comic books. The wonder that a man can fly or that a skinny American kid with a stout heart can pick up a shield and deck the Führer. With his death last week, Captain America gave us that sense of wonder once more.

so much of growing up involves being too in the know - the old "now that i know how movies are made, i don't enjoy them anymore" attitude. i feel like we need to sit back and be awed every once in a while! not just 'isn't it cool that marvel kept it a secret' but - isn't it cool that they killed off captain america?! it's freaking awesome. isn't it cool that there are news articles and scholarly debate about what a comic book's message and purpose is? :] i think it is.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

abby cadabby - article

i love news like this - reminders that there are certain staples of youth that are every bit as prevalent today as when we were kids!

sesame street is adding a new female character, the new york times reports. the interesting thing about this article is that the show was not only aiming to re-vamp the cast of characters (and monsters!), but also had to think about the implications of creating a new female role model for young viewers.

“If Cookie Monster was a female character,” said Carol-Lynn Parente, executive producer of the show, “she’d be accused of being anorexic or bulimic. There are a lot of things that come attached to female characters.” For example, said Deborah Aubert, associate director of national programs and training services at Girls, Inc., a nonprofit advocacy group. “It would be hard to have a female character with Elmo’s whimsy who didn’t also seem ditzy.”

what a great point. it truly is a delicate balance to create characters that are simultaneously fierce and feminine, and unafraid to be who they are, whether that means overly girlie or not girlie at all.

still though, i don't think it's a wrong move to design the type of character that they did - a frilly, flighty fairy, with pom-pom hair, batty eyelashes, and a cute button nose...admittedly a girlie girl. i think we're past the age of bra-burning and forced tomboyishness for the sake of rebellion, to where embracing being flirty and fun (all right, the muppet is 3 years old and not 'flirty,' i know, i'm just sayin'...) is good as long as it's truly you.

the other thing i find interesting when reading behind-the-scenes stuff about television and movies is that there are SO many things about the process that never even cross your mind as a viewer. after all, who knew things like this had to be considered:
Careful attention was paid too to how much eyelid would be visible; the more eyelid, the more vulnerable-looking the character. “Her eyes look up,” Mr. Geiss said. “They can look beseeching, and they can be sad as well as happy.”

the article goes on to mention that the new muppeteer who will be bringing abby to life plays the character as "enthusiastic, eager, occasionally bashful but never coy." wow! i wish i could accomplish that personality mix. ^_~

one last blogworthy note, raised by my friend hilarie in a letter to the editor:
To the Editor:

Re “A Girly-Girl Joins the ‘Sesame’ Boys” by Susan Dominus [Aug. 6]:

How disheartening that as the Sesame Workshop makes a much-needed improvement in its show’s gender representation — by introducing a new female Muppet, Abby Cadabby — one of its executives would disparage Lulu, an earlier attempt at a female character, by saying, “She wasn’t that attractive.” As unintentional as this counterpoint may have been, it indicates that the continued use of physical attractiveness as a measure of girls’ personal worth is still too prevalent in American society.

Hilarie A.

(full page found here). i gotta agree, folks. if the point is to teach girls to embrace who they are, and be who they want to be, is it really fair that the selling point of that role model is that she's "very, very pretty"?

mahna mahna.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

maybe brokeback helped :) - article

in an ongoing effort to make the blog more readable, this post has been revamped. :) thanks to the loyal readership for sticking with me.


thanks to marcos for this article. maybe there is some hope for the republican party yet.

Zwonitzer said he never sought to be a "Republican hero" for gay rights.

"But maybe for human rights," he said.

the other great note from the article is Zwoniter's recognition that this is truly THE civil rights fight of our generation. i'm glad it's crossing party lines.

equality shouldn't have to be bestowed. if i can date someone who's not my own race, then the guy next door should be able to date whomever he pleases.

Monday, February 19, 2007

live and let love. please.

i was doing research for a paper that i'm writing and came across this really eloquent piece. i'm not sure if it's reproduced entirely accurately, but i'll keep looking for its original. from what i understand, this was a letter written in 2000 by Sharon Underwood, from a small town in vermont, printed in her local paper.


As the mother of a gay son, I've seen firsthand how cruel and misguided people can be.

Many letters have been sent to the Valley News concerning the homosexual menace in Vermont. I am the mother of a gay son and I've taken enough from you good people.

I'm tired of your foolish rhetoric about the "homosexual agenda" and your allegations that accepting homosexuality is the same thing as advocating sex with children. You are cruel and ignorant. You have been robbing me of the joys of motherhood ever since my children were tiny.

My firstborn son started suffering at the hands of the moral little thugs from your moral, upright families from the time he was in the first grade. He was physically and verbally abused from first grade straight through high school because he was perceived to be gay. He never professed to be gay or had any association with anything gay, but he had the misfortune not to walk or have gestures like the other boys. He was called "fag" incessantly, starting when he was 6.

In high school, while your children were doing what kids that age should be doing, mine labored over a suicide note, drafting and redrafting it to be sure his family knew how much he loved them. My sobbing 17-year-old tore the heart out of me as he choked out that he just couldn't bear to continue living any longer, that he didn't want to be gay and that he couldn't face a life without dignity.

You have the audacity to talk about protecting families and children from the homosexual menace, while you yourselves tear apart families and drive children to despair. I don't know why my son is gay, but I do know that God didn't put him, and millions like him, on this Earth to give you someone to abuse.

...If you want to tout your own morality, you'd best come up with something more substantive than your heterosexuality. You did nothing to earn it; it was given to you. If you disagree, I would be interested in hearing your story, because my own heterosexuality was a blessing I received with no effort whatsoever on my part. It is so woven into the very soul of me that nothing could ever change it. For those of you who reduce sexual orientation to a simple choice, a character issue, a bad habit or something that can be changed by a 10-step program, I'm puzzled. Are you saying that your own sexual orientation is nothing more than something you have chosen, that you could change it at will? If that's not the case, then why would you suggest that someone else can?

A popular theme in your letters is that Vermont has been infiltrated by outsiders. Both sides of my family have lived in Vermont for generations. I am heart and soul a Vermonter, so I'll thank you to stop saying that you are speaking for "true Vermonters."

You invoke the memory of the brave people who have fought on the battlefield for this great country, saying that they didn't give their lives so that the "homosexual agenda" could tear down the principles they died defending. My 83-year-old father fought in some of the most horrific battles of World War II, was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart.

He shakes his head in sadness at the life his grandson has had to live. He says he fought alongside homosexuals in those battles, that they did their part and bothered no one. One of his best friends in the service was gay, and he never knew it until the end, and when he did find out, it mattered not at all. That wasn't the measure of the man.

You religious folk just can't bear the thought that as my son emerges from the hell that was his childhood he might like to find a lifelong companion and have a measure of happiness. It offends your sensibilities that he should request the right to visit that companion in the hospital, to make medical decisions for him or to benefit from tax laws governing inheritance. How dare he? you say. These outrageous requests would threaten the very existence of your family, would undermine the sanctity of marriage.

You use religion to abdicate your responsibility to be thinking human beings. There are vast numbers of religious people who find your attitudes repugnant. God is not for the privileged majority, and God knows my son has committed no sin. The deep-thinking author of a letter to the April 12 Valley News who lectures about homosexual sin and tells us about "those of us who have been blessed with the benefits of a religious upbringing" asks: "What ever happened to the idea of striving . . . to be better human beings than we are?"

Indeed, sir, what ever happened to that?


i want to be able to write like this. simple, clear, from the heart.

she makes so many good points that we don't think about everyday - that 90% of the population does NOTHING to earn the heterosexuality that is given to them; that if "switching" from gay to straight were possible, so too would be its inverse; and, of course, reminding us that hatred hurts not just the victim, but also his family and those who love him as he suffers.

it's 2007, people. aren't we done with this?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

romance & science. i'm yours! - article

happy valentine's day! :)


Loving with all your ... brain
By Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Medical Correspondent

(CNN) -- Close your eyes for a minute and envision all the romantic parts of the human body.

Her beautiful eyes. His strong shoulders. We'll stop there, but you go right ahead and think about all the body parts you want.

Bet you didn't think about the caudate and the ventral tegmental areas, did you?

These areas of the brain, while little known to most people, are helping scientists explain the physiological reasons behind why we feel what we feel when we fall in love.

By studying MRI brain scans of people newly in love, scientists are learning a lot about the science of love: Why love is so powerful, and why being rejected is so horribly painful.

In a group of experiments, Dr. Lucy Brown, a professor in the department of neurology and neuroscience at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and her colleagues did MRI brain scans on college students who were in the throes of new love.

While being scanned, the students looked at a photo of their beloved. The scientists found that the caudate area of the brain -- which is involved in cravings -- became very active. Another area that lit up: the ventral tegmental, which produces dopamine, a powerful neurotransmitter that affects pleasure and motivation.

Dr. Brown said scientists believe that when you fall in love, the ventral tegmental floods the caudate with dopamine. The caudate then sends signals for more dopamine.

"The more dopamine you get, the more of a high you feel," Dr. Brown says.

Or as her colleague, Dr. Helen Fisher put it: When you fall in love, "exactly the same system becomes active as when you take cocaine. You can feel intense elation when you're in love. You can feel intense elation when you're high on cocaine."

Is it love -- or sex?

Scientists then wondered: Does a brain in love look much like a sexually stimulated brain? After all, we associate love and sex and sometimes confuse them.

The answer is: Brains in love and brains in lust don't look too much alike.

In studies when researchers showed erotic photos to people as they underwent brain scans, they found activity in the hypothalamus and amygdala areas of the brain. The hypothalamus controls drives like hunger and thirst and the amygdala handles arousal, among other things.

In the studies of people in love, "we didn't find activity in either," according to Dr. Fisher, an anthropologist and author of "Why We Love -- the Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love."

"We now have physiological data that suggests there are different brain systems for sex and love," says Dr. Fisher.

At some point, the two do become linked. People in love have elevated levels of dopamine. Lots of dopamine, in turn, triggers the production of testosterone, which is responsible for the sex drive in both men and women.

This helps explain why falling in love can make someone all of a sudden seem sexy.

"Three weeks ago he was just another nice guy in the office and now everything about him is sexual," says Dr. Fisher.

All this research into sex and love got the researchers thinking: Most other mammals don't have this drive for romantic love and attachment. Why do humans have it? After all, we could easily propagate the species just with our sexual urges.

Dr. Fisher thinks it has a lot to do with how difficult it once was to raise children.

"Go back millions of years to the grasslands of Africa. A woman was carrying the equivalent of a 20-pound bowling ball in one arm, and sticks and rocks in another arm to protect herself in this dangerous environment. She needed a partner to help her. She couldn't do it alone," Dr. Fisher says.

And even today, when we have strollers and the environment isn't quite as dangerous, having a mate still helps. "There are women who raise a baby by themselves, but it's a lot harder," she says.

Male brain - female brain

In their work with the lovestruck, the scientists found brain differences between men and women.

"The men had quite a bit more activity in the brain region that integrates visual stimuli. This isn't surprising considering that men support the porn industry and women spend their lives trying to look good for men," says Dr. Fisher.

But she adds there's probably a more anthropological reason at work. Simply put: A man's evolutionary mission is to spread his seed. That won't work if he mates with an 80-year-old grandmother.

"Men have to be able to size up a woman visually to see if she can bear babies," says Dr. Fisher.

The women's brain activities were a bit more puzzling.

The scientists found that women in love had more activity than men in the areas of the brain that govern memories. Dr. Fisher theorizes that this is a "female mechanism for mate choice." There are no visual clues for whether a man is fertile, but if a woman really studies a man and remembers things about his behavior, she can try to determine whether he'd make a reliable mate and father.

Thus, if it sometimes seems like a woman remembers everything -- good and bad -- about a man, "it's not just her being picky. It's an old Darwinian evolutionary strategy."

What's love got to do with it?

In the end, Drs. Fisher and Brown say what they learned from lovers' brains is that romantic love isn't really an emotion -- it's a drive that's based deep within our brains, right alongside our urges to find food and water.

"This helps explain why we do crazy things for love," says Dr. Brown. "Why did Edward VIII give up the throne for Wallis Simpson? The systems that are built into us to find food and water are the things that were also active when he renounced the throne of England."

Now their research is centered on the flip side of love. They've recruited college students who'd just been rejected by their sweethearts. Again, the scientists performed MRI's while these students looked at photos of the objects of their affection.

This time, the results were different, Dr. Brown says. The insular cortex, the part of the brain that experiences physical pain, became very active.

"People came out of the machine crying," she said. "We won't be doing that experiment again for a long time."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

how to analyze something like love? - article

a fantastic article on the psychology of love, and mating thought processes!

Love's Loopy Logic

Encounters with the opposite sex skew our psyches in such a special way that reason and bias climb right into bed with each other. In this mode, it sometimes pays to deceive ourselves. Welcome to the paradoxical world of mating intelligence.
By: Kaja Perina

Let's talk about the most important interview you'll ever be granted. Seated at a well-appointed table, you mull the choice between crab cakes and seared tuna, but truly you are sorting through a mental repertoire of wisecracks and war stories. If you are secure in your improvisational charms, you might use this moment to appraise the cleavage or cufflinks of the woman or man across the table. There's no predicting discussion topics, but you can be sure they'll pertain to your marital status, extracurricular activities, and your job. (There are no verboten questions at this interview.) You are applying for a new and expanded life. Or, you simply want a one-night pass that can be renewed indefinitely. And you need to know whether your dining companion is up to the task.

A date makes us both spectator and performer at a two-ring circus: We troll for wit, kindness, curiosity, and "chemistry," hoping that we radiate these same attributes in the right amounts. From strategic winks and blinks to elaborate grooming to gifts of gorgeous baubles, men and women employ an arsenal of tricks in their romantic lives, all in the service of a demanding master at the far reaches of conscious awareness. Eons of evolution have honed our behavior to aid and abet a reproductive payoff. The sum of the stratagems we employ, and the wisdom of nature in crafting them without our explicit awareness, are now the subject of intense study by evolutionary psychologists.

Our sexual calculations and character reconnaissance, it turns out, call for smart, but not always accurate, judgments. That's because mating intelligence is as oxymoronic as the term suggests. We routinely bring both cold reason and outsized misconceptions to a relationship. Both serve a purpose. A woman will accurately gauge her date's personality on first meeting, but she will grow more convinced of his good humor and charm if they stick together. To woo a woman, a guy will grossly exaggerate his income, commitment, and affection for cuddly creatures. But he may have to correctly read microgestures as fine as tea leaves to discern whether she's truly impressed.

Male and female mating intelligence part ways when it comes to each sex's competing procreative goals. Inscrutable though our machinations may be to our partners (and to ourselves), romantic behavior is driven by a deep logic. Our minds have evolved to warp reality. Even so, we have unique skews in the mating realm. We've all got blind spots about the opposite sex. And sometimes that's for the best.

"She Wants Me" and Other Erotic Errata

Jane Austen nailed women's intricate courtship calculus, but The Onion has the beat on simple male arithmetic: "Area Man Going to Go Ahead and Consider That a Date." The article in the satirical rag details a man's random encounter with a woman that blossomed into a 45-minute conversation. "It wasn't official or anything, but if I had asked her to have coffee with me, and she were to have said yes, the result would have been exactly the same," he says. "It's pretty clear that she's really into me."

Men have a notoriously elastic take on women's romantic receptivity. You might call it a "take-all-prisoners" approach to flirting, so frequently do men presume sexual interest on the part of a potentially available woman. The "She Wants Me" bias serves a convenient purpose for men—it actually increases their sexual opportunities. Because men invest less of themselves in offspring relative to women, it is in their genetic interests to reproduce as much as possible. Therefore, perceptions that promote sexual assertiveness tend to be functional. This inclination doesn't mean the average guy is delusional about his sex appeal, it just means that if he has a great date he will probably report more interest on the part of his consort than she herself reports.

Women, for their part, are biased right back. They skittishly insist that men are more keen on no-strings-attached sex than is the case. This "men are pigs" bias pits suspicious women against oversolicitous men in what Geoffrey Miller, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico, labels a "never-ending arms race of romantic skepticism and excess." It could lead to great repartee: Think Bacall and Bogie, Josephine and Napoleon, Condi and Kim Jong Il.

Glenn Geher, an associate professor of psychology at SUNY at New Paltz, who, with Miller, edited a forthcoming volume on mating intelligence, is developing a mathematical model to demonstrate what many a grandmother has long cautioned: Women who are de facto skeptical of a man's intentions are almost always better off than women who spend hours deconstructing the first date. ("He gave me his home number, he asked about my family, he mentioned a concert this spring—he must be into me!") Geher found that if a woman cannot accurately judge a man's romantic designs at least 90 percent of the time, she's better off being biased. "Women using a 'men are always pigs' decision-making rule may be more likely to actually end up with honest, committed, and long-term-seeking males," insists Geher.

We have a radar for opposite-sex interest and intentions that has its own unique calibrations. And it follows Darwinian, rather than Aristotelian, logic, because the very survival of our genes is at stake. Men and women need to minimize reproductive mistakes that could thwart their mating goals: For men, missing a chance to score constitutes an error. For women it is dangerous to trust a man who simply wishes to score and move on.

Martie Haselton of UCLA and David Buss of the University of Texas, Austin, have empirically demonstrated the existence of these error-management strategies in men and women. Haselton likens a biased decision pathway to a smoke alarm that can make one of two errors. It can go off in the absence of fire—a false positive: irritating, but far from lethal. The more dangerous error is the false negative, which fails to signal a real fire. "Engineers can't minimize both errors, because there's a trade-off," explains Haselton. "If you lower the threshold for noting fires, you're going to have more false alarms. Natural selection created decision-making adaptations not to maximize accuracy but to minimize the more costly error." Faced with uncertainty about people and predators throughout human history, we again and again took the safe road.

Seeing the world through our own warped force field is standard operating procedure. "Biased mechanisms are not design defects of the human mind, but rather design features," says Haselton. We don't commit them just in mating mode. They're present in our everyday perceptions, protecting our egos and all types of relationships. We imbue the powerful and beautiful with personal and intellectual qualities that they likely don't possess, overestimate our own abilities, and downgrade the importance of skills that elude us. We're also paranoiacally primed to detect threats to our status, to our children—any domain in which the stakes are high. This is why women are fiercely protective of their newborns, why we agonize if the boss idly snaps at us.

Biases are human universals: A Park Avenue socialite may be as guarded around her suitors, or as worried about her husband's fidelity, as a Chinese field hand, though each woman will filter the concern through her own cultural prism. But the intensity of a bias may vary from person to person. Geher found that smart men are more likely to exhibit the "She Wants Me" bias. To discern this, Geher asked male subjects how they thought women would respond to personal ads in which men sought a short-term partner. He found that the most intelligent men grossly overestimated women's interest in ads offering explicit no-strings-attached sex. (Geher quips that among his research findings, this is the gem that his wife likes the least.)

It's a fact that women are more likely to have one-night stands with bright, creative men, so it's possible that Geher's smart male subjects were simply projecting their actual success onto the ads. But since overestimating a woman's interest in a short-term fling is smart insofar as it increases sexual opportunities, it's also possible that over millennia, intelligent men have unconsciously honed the bias for that purpose. Geher expects that both possibilities probably operate in the real world, and that future research will show that while smart men have more short-term success with women, they also display more bias.

Bright women, for their part, misread men in one key area. When Geher asked men and women to rate how upset their mates would be about sexual or emotional infidelity, he found that sharper people are better at the task, but smart women exhibit a markedly conservative bent: They assume men will be more distraught over a sexual affair than is in fact the case. This is beneficial, argues Geher, because "women who think that infidelity bothers men even more than it does (which is a lot), may be less likely to be the victims of relationship violence." These women may be more likely to avoid affairs and be more covert when they do engage in them.

Men are excellent judges of what women want in a long-term partner, exhibiting keen mind reading abilities on limited display in other areas of their lives. A guy who is clueless about his friends' opinions of him and oblivious to his wife's sulking can still craft a potent profile on That's because millennia of avid pursuit have honed masculine minds into fine-tuned sensors of female interest. "Heterosexual men have a discriminating clientele," says Geher. "They need to know women's desires."

Men and women selectively tune into the noisy channel of opposite-sex interest depending on their own gender-specific needs: Men scan for sexiness and availability; women scavenge for clues to personality and commitment readiness. The errors of engagement we make in the early stages of courtship, before we're certain of opposite-sex intentions, might appear to set men and women on a permanent collision course. But each one of us is evidence that men and women do in fact connect. The sexes actually have overlapping, if not identical, goals: Men and women both want stable relationships in which to raise children. Women just tend to rally for an earlier commitment. The result: When our tracks finally converge in commitment, our biases overlap as well, because we now share important goals. The most important of these is preserving the relationship.

If You Could See What I See

If you never experience a twinge of jealousy or concern about your relationship, you may want to take a hard look at it. Established couples often reboot their emotional smoke detectors to make them extra sensitive to relationship threats. For example, both men and women who have offended a lover tend to remain overly convinced that the partner harbors resentment about the act. This "negative forgiveness" bias nudges us to err on the side of caution, rather than risk further offense by assuming we're off the hook. This bias is even stronger among men and women already in rocky romances.

Couples also grow hyperattuned to potential rivals. That's why if we see our partner in a heated exchange with an attractive member of the opposite sex, we're far more likely to assume something's afoot than is a third party observing the exchange.

Skewed thinking doesn't just make us suspicious about our lovers; some biases have a noble goal—they embellish our perception of a mate. Positive illusions turn up the volume on the traits you love: Everyone agrees that your husband comes from attractive stock, but you insist that he's the best-looking guy in the family. Your wife is no slouch, but you're convinced she's the unheralded star of the office. Faby Gagné, a research consultant and visiting scholar at Wellesley College, found that 95 percent of people think their paramour is above average in appearance, intelligence, warmth, and sense of humor. There's deep wisdom in these sunny views: People who believe they've struck romantic gold are more satisfied with their relationship and more committed to their mate.

Romantic illusions are so critical that they may actually balloon during key decision-making phases of a relationship, such as whether to get married, or when to have children. That's because, says Gagné, biases can buffer us against the angst of dicey deliberations. You might unconsciously offset your ambivalence about becoming a father by focusing on what a great mother your wife will be. I may be terrified to accept a job that keeps me on the road, but at least I know my husband will remain faithful.

When Gagné first investigated biased thinking and decision making, she assumed that tough choices would dampen positive illusions. To her surprise, she found the opposite: People are especially motivated to enhance their lover's stellar qualities at key junctures, while simultaneously becoming more accurate in judgments related to the decision. "When you enter deliberation mode, the goal is to be accurate. This accuracy can be unsettling. To cope with the anxiety, you increase your biased evaluation of a partner. But in a deliberative frame of mind, accuracy and bias do not seem to contaminate one another. So intimates gain the capacity to be accurate because of their positive bias, rather than despite their positive bias," explains Gagné. It sounds paradoxical, but reason and bias readily co-exist in every corridor of our thinking. Illusion alone makes life a dangerous joyride, but unchecked accuracy leads to a seriously depressurized flight.

Why the Wife Is Always The Last to Know

Positive illusions help us marvel at our mates; biased thinking places safe bets on their behavior. But there's a type of mating intelligence that's even more paradoxical. Self-deception softens the conjugally unpalatable and pushes the envelope on what constitutes an intelligent strategy. When it comes to defending a relationship to ourselves, we're like lawyers who routinely manipulate—but outright lie when the need arises.

Sometimes we just give irritating actions a pass: Her rudeness to telephone solicitors has an upside (decisiveness). His tax returns don't add up? OK, he massaged the numbers after one bad year, and he'll surely make up for it in charitable donations. But God help his thieving brother, who took one deduction too many.

Most people who offend us in life will be deemed thoroughly flawed rather than temporarily challenged. This rush to judge a person's disposition, rather than considering the context surrounding their actions, is known as the fundamental attribution error. This bias likely evolved to keep our ancestors from aligning with dangerous individuals, a sort of one-strike-and-you're-out law of character judgment. But for a beloved partner we will make an exception, suspending censure like a president on an executive-pardon binge.

Chronic self-deception is more complicated. Hillary Clinton's admission that she believed Bill's early protestations about Monica engendered a global eye roll. But to some, this quiet acknowledgment of her own casuistry humanized her and made her more sympathetic. She was, after all, declaring her membership in one of the oldest women's leagues: Wives Who Are the Last to Know.

Women can be highly motivated to stay in relationships, and that often means overlooking noxious male behavior, especially if a split jeopardizes children, finances, or status. Turning a blind eye to infidelity is the Faustian pact many a First Lady has made. (Among the myriad reasons women tolerate cheating husbands, a stint in the White House is surely the best payoff.) Here, too, mating intelligence is at work.

All-or-nothing thinking about infidelity (your own or your mate's), divorce, or any act that will destabilize a relationship is often a smart—if unconscious—gambit. Consider the alternative: Uncertainty, distrust, and fractured loyalties make for paranoia, heartache, and paralysis. Miller suggests that one of the very functions of mating intelligence may be to navigate the emotional tipping points at which a decision can be made or a behavior acknowledged. "If you have to settle for one strategy or another, and if in-between strategies just aren't viable, then the emotions that motivate those strategies will also have tipping points." In other words, before we make a move, we are better off if we can avoid tormenting ourselves about the signs of an affair, or equivocating about ditching a spouse. Black-or-white thinking protects us from such protracted agony. It may also make our eventual decision (to leave, to cheat) appear rapid and fickle to a perplexed partner. And it explains why, when the light finally goes on, a betrayed spouse is quickly out the door.

Self-deception is an equal opportunity bias. It's a core feature of mating intelligence both for males and females. But women display more self-serving beliefs about their own behavior in relationships. When Maureen O'Sullivan, a professor of psychology at the University of San Francisco, queried college students about their lies to the opposite sex, she found that women assert that they themselves lie less than do other women. Men have no corresponding illusions about their mendacity relative to other guys. O'Sullivan sees the gap between women's self-reported lies versus their beliefs about other women's lies as evidence of internal sophistry. Self-deception makes sense for a woman who needs male resources, even if the guy himself isn't optimally committed. "Women have to put more of their central processing units into maintaining a relationship," says O'Sullivan. "It's easier to do that emotional work if you have a certain amount of self-deception." For some women, the skepticism that comes so naturally during courtship switches off once a commitment's been made, and they may overestimate a man's investment in the relationship or the odds that he's being faithful.

Battered women may be an extreme example of self-deception, points out O'Sullivan. Women who remain convinced of an abusive partner's devotion are arguably lying to themselves with an intensity that can appear delusional. But such women may be acting on a runaway impulse to ignore objectionable male behavior, an impulse that in effect prevents them from leaving when it's clearly to their advantage.

The emotional benefits of giving men a pass also explain why females are so quick to blame the "other woman" for a partner's infidelity. "If a man is susceptible to the flirtations of another woman, it's economically and emotionally easier to think that this other woman is a slut than that your husband's a slimeball," notes O'Sullivan.

Infidelity highlights the ultimate challenge to mating intelligence: staying sexually engaged in a long-term relationship. People differ greatly in the degree to which they can dazzle during courtship or retain a plum mate. But the Hollywood glitterati struggle as epically as your local minister and postman to keep a long-term union romantically vibrant. No one is immune to habituation. This is not to say that everyone simply lusts after new partners. Humans are a moderately monogamous species: We treasure our mates and guard them assiduously. At the same time, we've inherited the tendency to have a roving eye.

Plus, our ancestors barely lived until middle age, and those who survived had more to worry about than endless seduction on the savannah. The duration of today's relationships, and our heated expectations for them, depart radically from the unions of most couples who ever walked the earth. The golden anniversary is virtually as new as air travel. And just as a plane's oxygenated cabin allows us to zip around the globe, couples need to introduce novelty into a long-term relationship to simulate a state of courtship.

Welcome to the Meet Market

If you've clocked enough years (or months) as a couple to begin taking one another for granted, you may pine for the giddy perplexity with which you first approached your relationship. That doesn't mean hot pursuit always felt good. Recall your 14-year-old self attempting big-screen seduction moves while stationed at an overflowing locker, or enduring merciless teasing for physical attributes that barely compute as your own. Such humiliation was hardly for naught: Teen angst serves a purpose.

We need reality checks to figure out how the opposite sex perceives us and how we measure up relative to the competition. Adolescence is just that gauge. Teens pull no punches in acclimating their peers to the mating market. Mating intelligence is perhaps the most important life skill cultivated during junior high and high school—the grand rollout of the traits we hope will attract partners, with an emphasis on the splashy and superficial. That's why being dateless for a dance or relegated to Friendster Siberia can be torturous; peer judgments of our social standing are the first honest appraisal of our market value. They can endure. Because self-esteem roars to life during adolescence, when rejection begins to matter in a new way, our early opposite-sex encounters can influence our self-appraisal for years to come.

Peer judgments may be supremely influential in today's world. Traditionally, teens mixed more with adults and extended family, so they received feedback on their mate value from their clan as much as from their clique. But today teens are schooled and socialized in lockstep, creating an unprecedented separation from adults that Miller argues may warp accurate self-appraisal. A 17-year-old girl, he contends, compares herself mercilessly to her equally nubile peers; she doesn't mingle with adults enough to realize that she and her friends are all in the top-10 percent of women, reproductively speaking. "Forty years ago," says Miller, "a girl might have entered the workforce at age 18 and gotten a lot of attention in the office relative to the 28-year old 'spinster.' " Today, she'll enter college, still socializing and competing with a gaggle of equally young, pretty girls.

Boys also rank themselves heavily against peers. But because high school shelters them from the status wars waged among professional men, Miller believes boys actually overestimate their mate value during adolescence, and none more so than jocks. "Young men who were captains of the football team graduate thinking they're God's gift to women, and women respond, 'I'm interested in corporate attorneys and well-cited professors. Who the hell are you?' " The bottom line, he says, is that the longer you extend age-segregated higher education, the more you delay accurate calibration to the overall mating market.

Glenn Geher argues that health class would do well to teach the rudiments of opposite-sex mind reading and mate preferences, not just opposite-sex plumbing. Miller agrees: "It would help enormously if boys were told, 'your sense of humor and ability to be interesting matter.' It would help if girls heard, 'No, you don't have to be ultrathin. If you're best friends with a guy, he might make a good boyfriend.' There's so much misunderstanding between the sexes, and adults seem unwilling to take a stand."

Teens are often equally clueless about the character strengths that make for a good partner. It takes a few years of experimental hookups and baffling breakups to learn the value of conscientiousness, trustworthiness, and emotional stability. Indeed, it is thanks in part to the cheek-scorching travails of young love that personality becomes by and large a spin-free zone. Adults' snap judgments about emotionally healthy individuals are amazingly accurate. (The personality-disordered are a more complex challenge to mating intelligence.)

Still, no personality type makes for a superior mate. Context, not character, is destiny. The extroverted dervish may have an exhausting aversion to downtime. And chances are you're not the only person drawn to a woman with an operatic ability to connect. Because they're highly sought after, extroverts tend to have more affairs and end relationships more often, reports Daniel Nettle of the University of Newcastle. An agreeable man may be a helpmate, power-listener, and faithful husband, but he is also less likely to be an alpha earner than is his hard-charging, narcissistic brother. Yes, highly creative men are more attractive—Nettle's colleague Helen Clegg found that artists who amassed the most gallery exhibitions also racked up the most sexual partners—but they're not always prize mates. "I'm not sure many people want to marry Salvador Dali," says Nettle. "For me that's a bad job to get."

Yet Dali was married, to a diva named Gala. The Russian-émigrée, 10 years his senior, ditched surrealist poet Paul Éluard to take up with the painter. Gala, one might presume, sat in a left-bank café and weighed the evidence ("attractive but acutely flamboyant, warped sense of time...") before accepting the tempestuous gig. It may be impossible to fully grasp the weird logic of any one person's romantic choices. But thanks to evolution, all relationships share the canny subterfuge and emotional acrobatics of mating intelligence to which, in some measure, they owe their success.

i think my favorite tidbit is that women are more self-delusional than men, essentially - that women judge themselves to lie less than their female peers, while men have no such bias comparative to other men. :P

find the original article, and more interesting fun things, at the psychology today site.

Monday, January 01, 2007

happy new year, my dears

a haunting, must-read article from a NYT editor whose husband was killed in iraq. knowing he might not live to see his infant son grow up, he left a sprawling notebook filled with all the fatherly wisdom he wanted to pass on.

it's so sad.

happy 2007, all - may the new year bring new experiences and new happinesses for us. i think we deserve it.