The War Against Nipples

December 31, 2008

What a weird culture we live here in North America.  So much advertising is about, or uses, sex as a sales strategy — which in simple terms means good looking women wearing few clothes and preferably with a deep and well-rounded cleavage;  women’s breasts are to modern marketing what “god” is to religions.  And yet, at the merest suggestion of a nipple, the cultural warriors ride in on their chargers screaming about pornography and obscenity.

These musings were inspired by a Time magazine article entitled “Facebook’s War On Nipples“.   It appears that everyone’s favourite social networking empire has decreed that any image displaying part or all of a female nipple is prima facie obscene.  It has arbitrarily removed a lot of pictures — to the loud chagrin of some well-organised groups.   Not the least of these organizations is the Facebook group called “Hey Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!” which had 85,000 members by year’s end and arranged the simultaneous uploading of 11,000 breastfeeding images to Facebook last Saturday.


For me it is the simplest of issues:  Censorship is censorship and has to be challenged constantly and decisively.   I agree with Paul Rapoport, coordinator for the Topfree Equal Rights Association (TERA):  “[Facebook’s] policy clearly implies that visible nipples or areolas always make photos of women obscene. Facebook stigmatizes breast-feeding and demeans women.”

But the two cultural issues that fascinate me most are hypocrisy and self-reference.

The hypocrisy is implicit in my first paragraph:  We use sex everywhere to sell everything, and yet we wield a big stick if it goes “too far”.  One example was the ludicrous fine levied by the FCC because a Janet Jackson nipple may have been exposed for a fraction of a second on TV — only noticeable to a viewer who was already staring at her breasts at the exact time it happened.  The cultural hypocrisy was doubled in that case because for months afterward, it was hard to watch a TV show or read a magazine without seeing close-ups of the offending moment, sometimes with large red arrows in case we missed the point.

As for the self-referential nature of a Facebook group being used to hammer Facebook, it is so perfectly post-modern that I could weep.

Night Music: Velvet Underground & Nico

December 31, 2008

Odds and Sods #3

December 31, 2008
  • Robert Fulford has a lively review of a three-CD collection of spoken word by British authors:  Joyce, Woolf, Conan Doyle, Wodehouse and other.  As Fulford says: “Hearing the voice of a long-dead writer adds another dimension to a reader’s connection with an author’s work, not profound, but intimate.”
  • Specialists have confirmed that the human ability to attach stone blades to wooden handles by use of adhesive tars goes back at least 70,000 years, almost double the age of previous finds.  Isolated examples even suggest dates back to 100,000 years ago.
  • Some good folks are working on producing professionally made DIY glasses that do not need an optician.   The lens shape is controlled by adjusting the amount of water in the lens.  The target is to distribute up to 100 million pairs of glasses to the poor around the world every year.  A worthy aim, and I wish them all success.


Word On The Street #6

December 30, 2008


Give Us Today Our Daily Bread

December 29, 2008

In 1977 there was a long bread strike in England.  In some parts of the country one could pick up an expensive loaf from free-lance bakers; but I lived in a small town in Somerset and there was no alternative but to learn how to bake my own bread.  I remember the first few times being serious disasters with an inedible product, but I eventually got the hang of it.  Still, I was relieved when I could just pop down to the local store and get what I needed.

Fast forward thirty years.  We live on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, home to a number of bakeries that are well-known and popular across the city — Fratelli’s, Uprising, Strawberry, Aran Spelt, and Pane Vero to name just a few.  We’ve enjoyed bread from many of them over the years.  But a few months ago, my bride started to bake her own version of Tuscan bread;  most of the time we eat just that nowadays.  It tastes good and the process makes the whole house smell magnificent.

Last week I came across the world’s most simple bread recipe — flour, yeast, salt and water.  And best of all, no kneading is required!   A lazy man’s dream.  Last night I made the dough and this morning I cooked the loaf.   It is great — very crusty on the outside, soft and airy in the middle, and with a clean straightforward taste.  I’m pretty pleased with myself to be honest.


Thought For The Day

December 28, 2008

“America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between”

— Oscar Wilde

Keep Me Warm In the Snow Series: Pirates!

December 28, 2008


This was the evening view from our hotel room in Puerto Vallarta last week.  I’d post a view from our house right now, but it is just too depressing.

Both of us have been suffering badly from colds since we got back — flat on our back suffering — and making this image is therapy, a step away from reality.