According to Talking Points Memo, the National Republican Campaign Committee has put $3.5 million into Congressional races this year. Of that, all but $63,000 went toward buys for negative ads. That makes the NRCC almost 2% positive.
According to Talking Points Memo, the National Republican Campaign Committee has put $3.5 million into Congressional races this year. Of that, all but $63,000 went toward buys for negative ads. That makes the NRCC almost 2% positive.
WARNING: The following blog entry contains information about, descriptions of, and possibly secretions from sexual activity. If you are not interested in things like that, I'm very sorry. Please go here where there is no danger of sex breaking out anytime soon, except perhaps among the custodial staff. On the other hand, if you're human and not completely repressed, you might want to read on. It's Sex Day here at Functional Ambivalent. That's right, after what seems like forever, we're back to the subject matter that causes blog traffic to skyrocket and my own self-esteem to plummet. Is this really what it all comes to? Writing about boobs and the women they're cavorting with? Apparently. A word to the wise: I haven't done this in a while. I might be a little rusty.
If you spend your life researching sex on the Internet like I do, you've no doubt run into the following question:
Am I normal?
That question is everywhere. Here's a website for women that describes how common the "am I normal" question is:
According to our expert sexologist, “Am I normal ?” is your most common question, right from teens through to maturity.
Sometimes it seems as if sex experts were created so that people could ask them if what people do is normal. People reveal their deepest, darkest sexual insecurities so that a complete stranger can pat them on the shoulder and say, "Don't worry. You're normal." Put a sex expert on a street corner and within minutes some guy's gonna pull up -- probably in a leased convertible -- and ask something like this:
I can only maintain an erection if my wife dresses like Brent Musberger. Am I normal?
I eat my wife's brassieres for breakfast with maple syrup. Am I normal?
And that's pretty much what happens, because we live in a time when people tell their deepest secrets to strangers in grocery lines. But if you actually search the Internet for people seeking validation that their all-consuming perversion -- whatever it may be -- is normal, you'll find an interesting thing. Normal isn't what it used to be.
I consider myself to be a sex expert because I write about sex on the Internet. And speaking as a sex expert, and if I may be so bold as to speak for other sex experts, I want to say this: Frankly, people aren't all that interesting.
As unique as everyone may imagine he or she is, when you're on the receiving end of people's sexual issues they all pretty much start to sound the same. It's tiresome listening to incredibly stupid questions, suffering through people's inability to discuss sex without giggling, and -- most of all -- all this "are we normal" stuff. Sex experts everywhere get the same crap all the time and -- sincerely, from the heart -- we don't care anymore if you're normal or not. The culture has changed. Everything is normal. We're conditioned, no matter how perverse something may be, to nod our heads and say, "Yes, you're perfectly normal" so you'll feel good about yourself and recommend us to your friends. We've got kids to feed.
In this Salon article -- titled, surprisingly, "Am I Normal?" -- a group of professional sexologists laments the tedium of your obsession with how normal you may or may not be:
Speaking of old standbys, everything Americans asked about 40 years ago, they're still asking about today: questions dealing with penis size, premature ejaculation, inability to reach orgasm, losing one's virginity, abortion, contraception, the G spot. Is it OK to masturbate? How can I meet someone? Why does he watch so much porn? How can I get my partner to try something new in bed? And any number of fantasies or experiences that end with "So, what do you think, am I normal?"
That's probably not how you think of your sexual issues, as "old standbys," but there you are.
The distress that professional sex counselors feel at the sameness of the public's pubic concerns is severe, as Salon's professional sexers said:
The columnists estimate that 80 to 90 percent of the questions they receive are ones they've seen before.
As a result, sex experts have moments when what they really want to do is just be rid of everyone in the world who worries about whether they're normal or not. Take, for example, Dr. Stuart Flanagan, who has a show on the British Broadcast Corporation's Radio 1. Dr. Stu has the hardest job in the whole universe because he's in charge of answering sex question asked by British People. If it were possible to put training wheels on sex, Brits would do it. British people don't ask the kinds of questions that even other Brits are interested in, let alone a sex expert like Dr. Stu. Here's a real question Dr. Stu recently confronted:
I had unprotected sex two weeks ago. Last week I had a period, but could I still be pregnant?
The answer to which is, "Of course you couldn't be pregnant, you stupid git. Leave me alone." Except that Dr. Stu, being a professional sex expert bound by all kinds of ethical regulations, isn't allowed to lash out at his phone-in patients. But how he must long for an interesting question, like, for example:
When my wife is screwing our next door neighbor, my dick gets so hard it starts to emit a high-pitched noise. Do you think there's a way that I could manipulate my level of sexual excitement in order to use my penis to make music?
For years Dr. Stu has given earnest, reasonable answers. That is, he gave earnest, reasonable answers up until he got sick and tired of all the "am I normal" questions. In a last, desperate effort to change the subject to something more interesting, Dr. Stu gathered all of his stupid "am I normal" questions in one place to answer them all at once, apparently in the hope that no one else would ever ask him a question again. The combined, dripping-with-sarcasm meta-questions go like this:
Help me... my penis doesn't look normal! It's only three inches long when erect/looks too small/reminds me of a tinned carrot/bends to the right/bends to the left/is too thick/is not thick enough/won't look right for a partner...
And so on.
It didn't work. People kept calling and writing and sending email to Dr. Stu, wanting him to tell them they're normal, even though he'd already told them they were normal. And so, even now, he spends his days telling people they're normal. But you can be sure: He isn't happy about it.
As you can imagine, a significant percentage of this has to do with penises. Penises are Problem #1 when it comes to sex, and the normality of any given penis seems always in question. If it weren't for penises, sex would be perfect because men would compensate for their lack of genitalia by orally gratifying women, which is the secret of good sex, at least according to the women I know. Alas, men have penises. And as any keen observer realized long ago, if there's a penis around -- whether its their own or, horrifyingly, someone else's -- men are preoccupied with it.
Men worry about their penises more than anyone else in the world worries about anything. They worry about their penises more than they worry about balancing their checking accounts, which is why so many men own powerful cars and boats but have mailboxes filled with overdraft notices from banks.
It's no accident that Dr. Stu's first question out of the box (metaphorically speaking) was a compendium of familiar penis issues. And it's also no accident that Dr. Stu gave an answer that was, in its own way, frightfully blunt:
There's no such thing as a normal penis – one study in America classified 111 different types of penis shapes and sizes!
I want to take a moment here to discuss this "research" classifying 111 different penis types. This is, just for the record, the first sex-related study I've ever run across that I want no part of. I don't want to have my penis classified, and i don't want to classify anyone's penis. I also don't want to overhear this conversation through the front porch window.
Kid 1: What does your dad do for a living?
Kid 2: He classifies penises.
Kid 1: I don't think it would be any fun to have a secret penis.
A quick bit of Google research shows that we are a society overrun by penis classifiers, and that there is great disagreement among those penis classifiers about how many classes of penis there really are. The previously mentioned "111 different types" of penises statistic comes from a Pro Familia study that is in a foreign language and is thus indecipherable to real Americans, while this abstract in English ("The Language of the Bible") indicates there are far fewer basic penis types.
Four different penis types can be distinguished, which have parallels in numerous other laniatorean families. The possible evolution of these penis forms and the phylogenetic relationships between the taxa are discussed.
I, personally, did not know it was possible to make genitalia so uninteresting. Leave it to science.
Anyway, Dr. Stu's statement -- "There's no such thing as a normal penis" -- is an important one. What he's saying, really, is that abnormality is normal, because we're all different.
Still, despite Dr. Stu's efforts to normalize abnormality, men overwhelm Internet chat rooms and bulletin boards with questions about their penises. All over the Internet, men are wondering if they and their little friend are normal. You can read 5,000 sex columns -- and I have -- without coming across anyone wondering if anything really perverse is normal or not. But everywhere you look, some guy has a minor cosmetic eccentricity to his dick and is nearing psychological collapse.
To be fair, occasionally one of the male-genitalia-obsessives does come up with something interesting. Consider this intriguing headline from Dr. Drew's website:
Is my testicle abnormal?
Now, most men -- and I'm assuming this corespondent is a man, rather than some kind of female trophy hunter -- have more than one testicle. Given that, one might expect Dr. Drew to come up with an interesting answer, like:
My God, man! You're a freak!
But no, not Dr. Drew. Tool that he is, Dr. Drew goes for the responsible sex expert answer:
It is something that needs to be checked further by a health-care provider.
Do you think?
We're so concerned about whether we're normal or not that there's a website, IsItNormal.com, that exists entirely for people to anonymously ask if what they do is normal. The topics wander far afield (" Is it normal to think that the Asian woman in Grey's anatomy is REALLY ugly?") but eventually come back -- as all things do -- to penises:
I'm James and I'm 14. I'm really concerned a 4 to 5 inch penis just isn't enough to satisfy my girlfriend. I'd really appreciate any helpful comments ASAP.
He got helpful comments, all right. Like this, I'm guessing from a woman living in close proximity to and thoroughly sick of a penis or two:
If you strech your penis in five minute intervals for an hour, it will grow up to one inch. This is due to the elongating on the muscle.
And if you do it enough, James, you might just rip your penis right off, and then you won't have to worry about whether it's normal or not.
I hear you out there, women. You think I can't but I do. I hear you snickering. You're so smug about men and their wieners, what with your genitalia safely hidden behind not only significant folds of skin and hair, but also panties, blue jeans, crossed legs, folded hands, and angry fathers and husbands. But you're not off the hook here, either. You've got plenty of your own questions about your own normality. So many questions, in fact, that sex experts are tired of hearing from you, too.
All women that I know personally and those whom I have met and chatted with have at one time wondered if their genitalia are normal. Is my vagina too big?, are my lips too long? do I smell bad? — the list goes on.
Women ask variations on these questions all the time, building to a whiny crescendo: Am I normal? Cosmo's professional sex expert spends about half her life comforting women who have apparently never met a man and are thus able to convince themselves that what they're hiding between their legs is somehow unattractive. Being Cosmo readers, these women have highlighted the appearance of their visible parts by removing all traces of hair, leading to questions like this:
My vulva looks really weird because one lip is longer and more wrinkled-looking than the other. I have been putting off doing anything sexual with my boyfriend because I'm embarrassed about it.
I, personally, guarantee that no man has ever rejected a woman because her labia were asymmetrical.
Women have questions not only about how their genitalia look, but how they behave at certain times of the lunar cycle. Because I am a normal man, I'm afraid of women's menstrual cycles and will not deal with them here, ever. I'll leave it to this woman to answer those kind of "am I normal" questions. And I will not make jokes about periods, either, because that's a minefield with no safe path out.
And even if we could all be reasonable adults about this monthly business, talking frankly and maturely about what is, after all, an entirely natural and beautiful bodily function, I wouldn't do it. I know how that works. We get to the point where we can discuss it maturely and without cringing or falling to the floor and whimpering, and the next thing you know we're expected to buy tampons at a public drug store. So excuse me if, when the subject comes up, I act like I'm feeling a little dizzy.
With all of our doubts about the normality of our parts, the professional Internet sex expert answer never varies: You're normal already. Every warty, distended one of you is normal. Now go out and put your parts to work and don't come back until you come up with some more interesting questions.
What's remarkable about researching "Am I Normal" questions is that there are almost none that come from people who have serious normality issues. I've stayed up the better part of two nights searching Internet sex sites for this post and I didn't find a single "am I normal" question from someone who seriously isn't normal. You'd think, given the kind of stuff you see on Court TV every night, that the world would be crawling with creeps on the verge of abducting everyone they meet to be sex slaves, every damned one of them asking, "Am I normal?" and getting the same answer: Of course you are.
Over those two nights I've developed a theory: People who are sexually abnormal don't have any desire to be normal. These people, in fact, take pride in their abnormality and don't want some smartypants sex expert -- Dr. Drew or Dr. Stu or anyone else -- to tell them they're normal. Who wants to be normal?
Here's the interesting part: The people who have come under scrutiny, these days, are the people who would only a few years ago have been considered normal. I'm talking about people who make love at night in the missionary position behind closed doors, who close the windows so the neighbors won't hear and worry that the kids might wake up. Perfectly nice people, really, who pucker when they kiss and send Valentines to each other in the mail even though they're married and live together. In our modern world, they're the ones who worry whether they're normal or not.
Take away all the neurotic questions about penises and vulvas (vulvae?) and what you're left with is Rob and Laura Petrie. (Admit it: You were wondering about the picture, weren't you?) While the rest of us are out there having oral sex in cars behind gas stations, acting out chance meeting fantasies in hotel bars, or wrapping each other in black latex -- all perfectly normal, according to sex experts -- the "am I normal" questions that are starting to appear on websites are coming more and more from people who worry that they're abnormal because they're so normal. Here's one site with a whole section titled "Am I Sexually Normal," that is packed with questions like these:
Sex every two weeks is enough for me. Am I normal?
I need tenderness when we make love. Am I normal?
I don't like acting out my fantasies. Am I normal?
I don't have fantasies. Am I normal?
I don't make much noise when I have sex. Am I normal?
I bet it's hard for a lot of sex experts to answer those questions, straight up. I bet our definition of sexual fulfillment has spanned so vast a landscape of variety that those who stay close to home are automatically suspect. Normal? Maybe, technically, but come on: You've got to get your kink on. Normal people experiment with bondage. They take it up the ass. They throw their heads back and scream.
All across America there are women wearing nighties to bed and men pecking them on the lips and rolling over for a good night's sleep, and in the backs of their minds they're asking themselves: Am I normal? Shouldn't I at least occasionally grab her by the hair and tell her what she's going to do and how she's going to like it? Shouldn't I every now and then drive a spike heel into my husband's chest and growl that he's a girlie man? Should we invite the pastor over for a three way?
It is to those people that this particular Sex Day posting is dedicated. And it is to them that I, as an Internet sex expert say, in all sincerity: Whatever floats your boat. You're as normal as I am.
That's it for Sex Day! We here at FunctionalAmbivalent hope you enjoyed it, and we hope it won't be six months until we enjoy it together again. Maybe Sex Day would happen more often if you'd just put something a little slinky once in a while, just to let me know you're still interested.
Have a good weekend.
The University of California at Davis School of Management has conducted a survey of wine industry shakers and movers, and has issued predictions about wine's future. Wine, in their estimation, will soon be harvested by astronauts in hovercars and people will tour vinyards by jetpack.
No, wait! That's not what Davis said. This is what Davis said:
Consumers can look forward to purchasing high-quality wines at affordable prices as the U.S. wine industry matures and wine becomes more of an every-day beverage in American households..."The wine industry is basically healthy -- despite a record 2005 crop and a worldwide surplus of relatively inexpensive wine -- due largely to growing consumption by young adults,” said (Robert) Smiley. "Industry professionals expect the current shortage of pinot noir and pinot grigio to continue, and further expect average prices to creep up as the oversupply of other varietals is used up to satisfy growing demand.
Other findings: Brands are going to come and go faster among the fighting varietals, more wine is going to be vinyard designated, and people currently drinking inexpensive bulk wines are going to move up into the $10-14 class.
Of particular interest is the following, from which I deduce that mankind may survive its baser urges:
The greatest growth in sales among red varietals will likely occur in pinot noir, followed by syrah, red zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon, the (survey) respondents projected. Among white varietals, the growth is expected to be strongest in sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot grigio.
That's right: Growth of red zinfandel consumption without growth in white zinfandel consumption. There's hope for the world after all.
I swear to you, I just heard Mary Hart on Entertainment Tonight say, "Anna Nicole Smith's attorney says I'm the father of her child." Is Mary Hart being sued for paternity by Anna Nicole Smith? Is there video evidence somewhere that I can download?
Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning, found to be the 87th best Senator in a recent SurveyUSA poll, has introduced legislation to censure Venezuelan President/grandstanding psychopath Hugo Chavez for saying rude things about President Bush. On the radio this morning, Bunning explained that it was because "we cherish our freedom of speech" that he introduced this meaningless, empty, time-wasting legislation.
Because, of course, when you cherish the freedom to do something, you should censure people who do it.
Chris Wallace's interview with former President Bill Clinton struck me as less a right wing hit job and more of the type of thing you see all over journalism these days. Turn on any cable news show and what you'll see is that the host has become infintely more important than the guests. The host, after all, is on every night. While a good guest can cause a ratings spike, it's the host that creates viewer loyalty and the base rating of the show. Guests, in the modern broadcast journalism environment, are little more than grist for the hosts' mills.
Chris Wallace is an unlikely candidate for the O'Reilly formula, but one does what one has to do to put food on the table. Wallace genially asks President Clinton a question deep in right wing cant, a question so loaded with blame that it can be paraphrased like this:
You caused the end of the world. Will you burst into tears on camera?
Clinton commited the unforgivable sin of going off formula and addressing the premises of the question rather than the question itself. When Wallace tried to move on -- a favorite trick of shotgun journalists, who like to deliver the hit and then not give the person time to reply properly -- Cinton refused to budge until he'd addressed all of the issues embedded in the premise of the question. He was firm more than he was angry, but he wasn't going to move on until he'd had his say.
This refusal to play along has the right wing all frothy. Rush did the first part of yesterday's show on Clinton's "meltdown," ironically designating himself as a fact-checker -- ironic because Rush has a fairly casual relationship with fact himself. Drudge ran yesterday with "Purple-Faced Rage," which is an inaccurate characterization of the interview, and then led this morning with "Condi Says Clinton Lied" which, at least according to the inked article, she did not. (Drudge changed this morning's headline to the alarmingly punctuated, "Condi Says Clinton: Wrong!") The award for overstatement goes -- as it often does -- to the wrong-more-than-he's-right foot fetishist/Hillary obsessive Dick Morris, who described Clinton as an "angry, sarcastic, snarling, self-righteous, bombastic bully, roused to a fever pitch."
Sorry, kids, but I don't see it. I think Clinton handled himself quite well. It's no sin to refuse to be passive in the face of questions that are more geared toward showing the chutzpah of the interviewer and reinforcing the preconceptions of the target audience than they are at getting at the truth. In fact, what Clinton did is a public service. If more interview subjects did that, maybe the news would go back to being something more than professional wrestling in $3,000 suits.
The Pitch Drop Experiment at the Uinversity of Queensland, set up using inexpensive aparatus to demonstrate, as this article puts it, that "everyday materials can exhibit quite surprising properties." Pitch is a kind of hardened tar formerly used to seel the hulls of boats.
In 1927 Professor (Thomas) Parnell heated a sample of pitch and poured it into a glass funnel with a sealed stem. Three years were allowed for the pitch to settle, and in 1930 the sealed stem was cut. From that date on the pitch has slowly dripped out of the funnel - so slowly that now, 72 years later, the eighth drop is only just about to fall.
It is now 79 years later, and drop #9 is well-formed but still years from falling.
That drop became by far the largest in the series, and when the time arrived for it to fall there was insufficient depth to the bottom of the beaker below for it to suffer a complete break.
We now face a terrible ethical dilemma. With the ninth drop already forming, do we cut the cord that ties (so that the new drop has a fair go) and perhaps also raise the funnel to a greater height above the beaker, in anticipation of another large drop forming, or do we leave Parnell's experiment undisturbed? Those with purist inclinations may care to remember that the much admired mediaeval cathedrals of Europe would not now be there for our enjoyment had it not been for the unceasing replacement of badly weathered stonework.
Here's a picture of a hottie with asymetrical hair posing with drop #6.