Naked Lady of the Week: Sandra Otterson aka Wifey

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

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Like her amateur-turned-pro colleague Danni Ashe, Wifey began her modeling career in the early days of the Internet on Usenet. In fact, I first (ahem) came across Wifey when she was featured on an early iteration of Danni’s Hard Drive. Wifey and her husband later spun-off their own highly successful porn site. Otterson, who describes herself as an “orally obsessed” housewife, looks like an 80s hair metal video vixen turned ultimate MILF. A natural XXX performer, her videos feature her in a variety of costumes and roles. Lots of clips of her showing off her talents at the usual tube sites.

Major boobage below the jump. Happy Memorial Day weekend.

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Architecture Du Jour: Hampden, MA

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

hampdencover

I recently spent some time in sleepy, idyllic southern Massachusetts, my first time in New England. Fenster disputes that this area is New England at all, but what does he know? What the town lacked in ethnic restaurants and cultural opportunities it (almost) made up for in charming architecture. When you’re browsing through the pictures the four-digit number isn’t the address, it’s the year the house was built.

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TNR on Trigger Warnings X 3

Fenster writes:

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Not content to let the matter rest after one go at the subject of trigger warnings, The New Republic has now published/posted three articles on the subject in less than a week.  The different approaches to the topic suggest something of how thorny subjects are especially thorny at the intersection of older style liberalism and newfangled cultural progressivism.

The sequence of the articles in particular shows how rapidly a topic like this can descend from tragedy to farce.  In that respect, the descent embodies nicely TNR’s own descent from the serious to the inadvertently humorous, a journalistic version of ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny.

On May 14, TNR published Life Is “Triggering.” The Best Literature Should Be, Too, by Jerry A. Coyne, a professor at the University of Chicago.  Coyne, like old TNR hand Jonathan Chait before him, goes right at the excesses of political correctness.  It’s good that liberals can take this kind of thing to task.  Of course, being an academic and writing in TNR Coyne needs to honor the large gods first and so begins his piece with a kind-of disavowal.

Sadly, the decline in free speech at American universities, and the proliferation of ludicrous “trigger warning” mandates for books and courses, are topics covered largely by the right-wing media, so often I must hold my nose as I examine their sources. But even a right-wing venue can get stuff right . . .

Having gotten that bit of ritual cleansing out of the way, Coyne goes on to pen a forceful and serviceable screed against the idea of trigger warnings.  And by “serviceable” I mean no offense.  It’s just that while you can look at an issue like this from an infinite number of perspectives (as we shall see) in the end the only thing worth dwelling on from the point of view of importance is the big picture lunacy of the idea in the first place, and it doesn’t take deep philosophy to get to the point.  And so he does, at the end.

It’s time for students to learn that Life is Triggering. Once they leave college, they’ll be constantly exposed to views that challenge or offend them. There are a lot of jerks out there, and no matter what your politics are, a lot of people will have the opposite view. If you’re an atheist, you’ll live in a world of people whom you see as hostile and delusional believers. If you’re a believer, you’ll encounter vociferous heathens like me. If you’re a feminist, well, sexism is alive and well.

That’s why one of college’s most important functions is to learn how to hear and deal with challenging ideas. Cocooning oneself in a Big Safe Space for four years gets it exactly backwards. “Safety” has been transformed by colleges from “protection from physical harm” to “protection from disturbing ideas.”

That pretty much says it all, in my book.  You can unpack and pomo-pummel this simple idea all you want but it will likely be off the main track.

But it wasn’t enough for TNR to leave it there.  No.  Who knows why but someone in the editorial office seems to have felt a need for some friendly amendments to the main point.

First up was  May 17th’s My Students Need Trigger Warnings—and Professors Do, Too by another faculty member, Aaron R. Hanlon.  That’s a provocative title and suggests a possible frontal assault on the Coyne argument.  Now, even TNR would have a hard time endorsing trigger warnings in a full-throated way, so Hanlon opts for an interesting jab from the side.  Hanlon does offer up trigger warnings of a sort in his own courses and defends them thus:

I give a trigger warning with full knowledge that the gender-based violence in “The Rape of the Lock” is—in my particular experience—mild in comparison with all the dark places that not just “Western,” but broader global literatures, can go. Trigger warnings are nevertheless important because no matter how knowledgeable and comfortable professors are with the intellectually and emotionally challenging material we teach, our students are real people with real histories and concerns. They do indeed want to be challenged—to be made uncomfortable by literature—but it’s our job as professors to do more than just expose them to difficult ideas. It’s our job to help see them through the exposure.

He goes on:

I don’t mean to say that we should become licensed therapists or trauma experts on top of our ordinary specializations, or worse, to pretend to have expertise we haven’t earned. But so long as we’re happy to evangelize about the truly disruptive and real life-changing possibilities of our subject matter, we also need to be prepared to teach that difficult and sometimes disorienting material responsibly and attentively, not just to cast out barbs of hardcore human expression while we watch our students puzzle and weep.

In other words, good professors are there precisely to remind students that art and history should not be airbrushed, and that images of rape, whether of locks

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or people

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are not just antiquarian things on a wall. They suggest disturbing things of a sort that most students have been shielded from.

So what is wrong with this argument?  It sounds good.  Brave professor takes young and innocent students into heart of darkness but must take stewardship responsibility for the journey.  Could be true.  Is it?  I think not.  I just don’t find credible the notion that college lectures on literature are by their nature the kind of thing that leaves one shell-shocked.

For the record, Hanlon seems to be one excellent professor.  Rate My Professor, the notoriously uncompromising ratings website for faculty, gives him an almost unheard of 4.8 out of 5.  He appears to be the real thing–a hard professor who assigns a lot of readings and is challenging but who is nonetheless adored.  Indeed, three of the student reviews refer to him as “adorable”.  Also, he appears to have an awkward and geeky charm and, being a professor who is awkward and geeky myself, I must say I like the guy’s style.  But there are no scary moments recounted in the glowing student accounts of classes with Dr. Aaron.

No doubt the best class I took this semester.  Prof Hanlon forces you to think critically about each of your readings and also gives you a lot of freedom on your essays to write about whatever you want. Although the focus was not on hip-hop as much as I would have liked, I still ended up loving the class. Definitely take it if you can get in.

Most of the positive comments do not suggest a voyage into the heart of darkness but a good time with an excellent professor.  Nothing wrong with that but it does not seem to comport with his story.

So my conclusion in the end is that Hanlon’s essay is well-written (A) and charming (A-) but in the end not persuasive since he is making an argument in theory that does not actually conform to the real conditions at hand.  B overall.

Finally we come to May 20th’s Stress Test by Jeet Heer.  Heer is a senior editor at TNR.  He comes at the issue in an ingenious way, by arguing that despite the fact that trigger warnings and safe spaces can be “flimsy” we must respect and acknowledge the legitimacy of the calls for such measures given the scary times we live in.

I wrote above that in my view you don’t have to say much more than trigger warnings are stupid.  Heer disagrees.  In his view, the flimsiness of measures is trumped by the seriousness and honesty of the pain that students feel living in the world, and we must confront that squarely before making fun of the sometimes odd behaviors that people manifest when they are in pain.

In short, we must view trigger warnings through the lens of PTSD.

It’s quite a claim.  Heer valiantly tries to back it up, too, at times coming across as a too-smart sophomore penning a sophomoric paper.  Or a too-clever editor writing something on a dare from a young and callow staffer: “hey, Jeet, how’s about you try to argue that PTSD is the key to understand this trigger warning thing?”  In truth his argument is a ludicrous one.

He writes that it used to be the case that we ignored the effect of trauma in war–man up soldier!—and that PTSD, while a concession to therapeutic culture, opened up an entirely new and better way to deal with the after effects of combat.  Once understood in terms of combat, the notion has morphed.

The explosion of trigger warnings and the growth of safe spaces is best understood as a consequence of the expanded social and cultural role that PTSD has assumed in our society.

Now one could use this insight to argue that PTSD, like all concepts, ideas and diagnoses, can be pushed and pushed and pushed until it becomes meaningless.  But Heer will hear none of that.

The concept of PTSD rests on the importance of buried memories—memory traces—which can be reignited as flashbacks. PTSD is, in a crucial sense, a theory of memory: It posits that for certain people the memory of a trauma always exists, lying just below the surface of consciousness, ready to be triggered. A theory of this sort will naturally lead to a heightened vigilance. In his path-breaking research, Shatan said we have to confront “the unconsummated grief of soldiers—impacted grief, in which an encapsulated, never-­ending past deprives the present of meaning.” As silly as trigger warnings and safe spaces may seem, they are rooted in genuine, widely accepted science.

So let ‘er rip!

It’s easy to caricature the vanguard of the so-called politically correct: to paint them as fanatics who are trying to destroy well-established norms of free speech. But they are not caricatures; they are products of history. Most current college students grew up in the shadow of September 11, with the specter of large-scale terrorism always looming and with a steady stream of soldiers returning home to grapple with their demons. It is no wonder that they feel that they, too, deserve security, even in the precarious and flimsy form of trigger warnings and safe spaces.

My goodness this chap needs a good shot of historical imagination.  Indeed he seems like the kind of person who thinks of that painting

xir33380

as a kind of lark.  Did really bad things happen?  Well maybe, but surely not like today, with all those terrible campus rapes and the epidemic of killer cops and with the threat of terrorism hanging over our heads.  It’s just such a scary, scary time to be alive!

Once again we have a seemingly compelling story, but one that does not align with the real world.  The rhetoric of the aggrieved laying down the law about Ovid at Columbia does not suggest they are shrinking violets.  If anything, there is a distinct whiff of will-to-power emanating from their language.

As for Heer, he is not himself an academic, not yet anyway.  He is pursuing his doctorate.  Not for nothing that his research emphasis is comic books.  Now he is just a senior editor at the once venerable TNR, where he is doing his part to impart a comic strip sensibility.

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Architecture Du Jour: Juxtaposin’

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

Via Callowman, the proposed design for the Italian pavilion at Expo 2015.

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ramen broken for soup

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Couldn’t Do It Today

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

From Wikipedia:

The dance is sometimes said to reenact a violent “discussion” between a pimp and a prostitute. It includes mock slaps and punches, the man picking up and throwing the woman to the ground, or lifting and carrying her while she struggles or feigns unconsciousness. Thus, the dance shares many features with the theatrical discipline of stage combat. In some examples, the woman may fight back.

The modern versions I’ve seen include less throwing and more fighting back.

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Architecture Du Jour

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

Doctors House, Glendale, CA

Doctors House, Glendale, CA, built in the Eastlake style.

Click on the image to enlarge.

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“The Babadook”

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

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In “The Babadook,” Australian writer-director Jennifer Kent marries the haunted house film to the psychological thriller. It’s a potent union, one that allows her to explore inward-looking themes related to grief and motherhood while delivering the tropes demanded by fans of the “Insidious” and “Sinster” franchises. But despite the nods to traditional spookers, Kent’s touch is unique: she, cinematographer Radek Ludczuk, and editor Simon Njoo favor rhythm and juxtaposition over the long-take sinuousness one expects of a genre in which real-time identification with a hauntee is the norm. Here the action is inseparable from the space inside mom Amelia’s head, and the horrors slide onto the screen as though they’ve been dislodged from the peripheries of your consciousness. The picture is expressionistic without being dreamlike; its sleep-deprived jangliness may remind you of “Repulsion” or Friedkin’s “Bug.”

The titular nasty is a figure out of a children’s book, a red-covered slab that mysteriously appears one day in the room of Amelia’s son Samuel. As kids will, Samuel develops a fixation with the book, and as his attachment to it grows the film’s look begins to dovetail with the minimalistic menace of the tome’s seemingly hand-drawn illustrations. (Production designer Alex Holmes is careful not to overdo it: by the time you notice echoes of the book’s design in the decor of Amelia’s home, you’ve succumbed to his strategy.) Soon the Babadook seems all too real, and we start to develop an inkling of what this boogeyman represents. Though at first he seems an outgrowth of Samuel’s youthful awkwardness, by the film’s final third it’s clear that he’s also a manifestation of Amelia’s grief over the loss of her husband, who died en route to the hospital on the occasion of Samuel’s birth. The Babadook lurks like a parasite in the shared imagination of mother and son: he’s the dead father with whom neither has reckoned.

This muddling of Amelia’s and Samuel’s psyches — the two are joined at the neurosis — is part of what makes “The Babadook” so interesting. The movie opens with the pair in bed; together yet somehow separate, they’re like lovers going through a rough patch. It’s a motif that Kent returns to continually; at one point Samuel even jumps onto Amelia’s bed while she’s masturbating, cutting her off mid-crescendo. I hate to call the picture Oedipal, because there is little in it that is suggestive of fate, issues of heredity, or the Greeks, but it’s clear that Kent wants to get at the way in which motherhood, sex, and emotional dependency are all mixed up at the subatomic level. What she comes up with is uniquely feminine — as evocative of the messiness of motherhood as “Eraserhead” is of the messiness of fatherhood.

There’s no denying that “The Babadook” contains a unique depiction of single motherhood. It’s devoid of insipid “you go girl” posturing. Perhaps more importantly, the story provides no salve for the wound caused by the missing dad. (Even at the movie’s end, he remains a fearsome, ravenous presence.) Perhaps this isn’t surprising: With its emphasis on the nuclear family, the neutralization of threats, and the preservation of normality, the haunted house picture has always been somewhat traditionalist, a fact which helps explain why the most memorable movie families of recent years have been those featured in horror films. When the bogeys come, the family unit is forced into focus in a way that highlights its comforts as well as its tensions.

Kent’s eye for social dynamics is felt throughout the movie. In her characterization of Samuel, for instance, she displays a keen understanding of little boys. In a nod to the horror genre’s creepy-kid trope, Samuel is a nightmare problem child, but he’s also a sympathetic prisoner of a female-dominated universe. His mother does her best to tolerate his horseplay and his injury-causing contraptions, but to his teachers and playmates they’re existential threats. Of course, Samuel is kept docile through medication (what kid isn’t these days?), and when mother and son finally retreat to their home — possibly for good — it’s framed as an escape from the persecution of school counselors and all-girl princess parties. In most films of this type the final third is heralded by the arrival of paranormal investigators or spiritualists. In “The Babadook” it’s a pair of social workers who come knocking at Amelia’s door. (And what is more frightening than social workers?)

The Samuel character wouldn’t work absent the performance of Noah Wiseman, who never seems less than totally in control of his freakiness. Whatever level of energy Kent asks for, he gives, and it’s damnably hard to catch him lurching in the transitions between vulnerable urchin and quasi-malevolent shrieker. But it’s Essie Davis’ Amelia on whom the effectiveness of “The Babadook” really depends: her wide (and wide-open) face is the portal through which we access the movie’s drama. And what a portal. There is scarcely a moment in which Davis’ physiognomy does not seem hot-wired to the internal trauma she’s presenting. Her performance has the bird-like sensitivity — that almost painful quality of over-susceptibility — that we associate with silent-film actresses. Yet she keeps Amelia rooted in a normality that would seem banal if it weren’t so unaffected. It prevents the characterization from tipping into abstraction.

Watching Davis I repeatedly thought of Giffith actress Mae Marsh, of whom Pauline Kael wrote:

She looks as if she could be a happy, sensual, ordinary woman. The tragedies that befall her are accidents that could happen to any of us, for she has never wanted more than common pleasures. There is a passage in “Intolerance” in which Mae Marsh, as a young mother who has had her baby taken away from her, grows so distraught that she becomes a voyeur, peeping in at windows to simper and smile at other people’s babies. It’s horrible to watch, because she has always seemed such a sane sort of girl. When Lillian Gish, trapped in the closet in “Broken Blossoms,” spins around in terror, we feel terror for all helpless, delicate beauty, but when Mae Marsh is buffeted by fate every ordinary person is in danger.

Davis has that same sympathetic sort of normality, and it grounds the movie. You hang in there because you want to see it preserved.

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