February 4th, 2010

[MUSIC] Liza Minelli, "Losing My Mind"

Gay stereotypes can have some truth, you know. One night a few months ago, I was idly browsing YouTube, looking for music videos. I remembered the Pet Shop Boys, remembered their 1995 B-side collection Alternative, and then remembered that it included the demo version of Liza Minelli's 1989 European hit "Losing My Mind." So, I went to a performance video of hers.



Midway through the video, I realized that I was listening to a Liza Minelli cover of a Pet Shop Boys song. "Wow. I fit the stereotype."

(And I really like the song, thank you very much!)

I've always been interested in the ways that queer men--or at least, a notable minority of queer men, in North America at least--seem to share a very particular taste in music, often electronic and certainly dramatic, and often featuring the vocals of female divas (as described aptly in Richard Montlack's recent My Diva, a collection of different queer men's particular divas). It's idiosyncratic enough that, in the Pet Shop Boys' hit "Can You Forgive Her?, one of the biggest and first clues that the narrator wasn't quite straight came with the lyrics "She's made you some kind of laughing stock/Because you dance to disco, and you don't like rock."

I wonder: what's up with that? It's quite certainly not part of our biological inheritance, but I don't have any certain idea why this taste exists. Maybe it's because the unabashed energy of these musics resonates with people who had to keep their personal lives under wraps? I wonder.

[LINK] WeFollow: A really cool Twitter app

While I was browsing my RSS feeds, I came across this Global Sociology post showing a listing of the top sociology Twitter feeds as listed by the WeFollow app. I'd never heard of it so I went to its website and took a look.

It's really quite a useful piece of web software, actually, providing novice Twitter users like me with an easy way to sort users by interest and location and influence. If you are on Twitter and are not subscribed to a similar service, you really should sign up for it.

[BRIEF NOTE] The Financial Times on Avatar

While reading the 30/31 January 2010 Financial Times, I noticed a rather interesting editorial concerning a recent movie.

A visionary company investing imaginatively in long-term scientific projects seeks a vital scarce resource for people on earth. But beings who live where this metal is found shun its offers of schools and medical care. Efforts to reason with them come to nothing. It is ultimately ejected from their world to the detriment of humankind.

If
Avatar had been told of the RDA Corporation in search of "unobtainium" deposits rather than the perspective of the Na'vi living on Pandora, not even dazzling special effects could have made it the highest-grossing film of all time.


The editorial's title? "Monsters Inc: real business contrasts positively with vilification in film."
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[LINK] "Avatar blues and the hopelessness of Pandora"

Over at openDemocracy, Tony Curzon Price's essay criticizes Avatar for its abandonment of those Enlightenment ideals based on the idea that it's possible to define the universe in terms of reason, with its grim implications for the ability of humans to rationally understand and respond to our own environmental crises.

The quotes are behind the lj-cut so as not to spoil those of my readers who haven't seen the film yet. (Go. Flawed but interesting is good.)

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Go, read the whole thing.

[LINK] "TTC driver caught on break suspended"

TTC workers continue to get not-so-great press through their own actions.



A TTC bus driver has been suspended after being caught on video taking late night breaks in a donut shop.

The Amalgamated Transit Union confirmed Thursday that the driver on the 310 Blue Night bus, who was photographed by a frustrated passenger, has been relieved of his duties pending an internal investigation.

[. . .]

Reuven Politi posted a dark, grainy video he shot Jan. 29 after being repeatedly delayed on the bus he takes up Bathurst St. on the way home from his job as a security guard in North York.

The 310 Blue Night bus usually stops at Finch and Bathurst at 2:46 a.m., where Politi gets on, and at Wilson Ave. the driver often leaves the bus, according to Politi.

The seven-minute video shows the driver exiting the bus and entering a doughnut shop, where he uses the restroom and then buys a drink. The bus is left idling, the door open. When a rider complains about the delay, the driver can be seen putting his finger to his lips in a gesture meant to silence her.

Politi said he only posted the video early Wednesday after politely asking the driver Tuesday night not to take his accustomed break when the bus was already 15 minutes late. According to Politi, the operator replied, “This is the 21st century, kid, not the ’60s; I can do whatever I want.”

Politi alleges that, after the driver again left riders shivering on the bus while he went into the doughnut shop, he confronted Politi on his return and dared him to complain. Politi said the operator gave his bus and badge numbers and told him that the union would protect his job. Politi alleges that the driver swore at him and noted that the video camera in the bus was recording the whole incident.

[LINK] "Gay men's evolutionary advantage: being 'super uncles'"

In light of my previous posts the past couple of days about evolution and homosexuality, I thought that this news report, written by CanWest's David Wylie, might be of interest.

It's a question which has troubled science since Darwin: if homosexuality is, at least in part, inherited, how are those genes being passed down to new generations?

Canadian researchers say they have found the first evidence to back up the theory that gay men have the evolutionary advantage of being "super uncles", a way of enhancing the survival prospects of close relatives and -- indirectly, at least -- making it more likely their genes are passed on.

Paul Vasey, associate professor in the University of Lethbridge's department of psychology, said his research found evidence that gay men may be more willing to support their nieces and nephews financially and emotionally.

The idea is that homosexuals are helping their close relatives reproduce more successfully and at a higher rate by being helpful: babysitting more, tutoring their nieces and nephews in art and music, and helping out financially with things like medical care and education.

The question of whether homosexuality clashes with evolution has puzzled scientists for decades. The trait appears to be inheritable -- but because homosexual men are much less likely to produce offspring than heterosexual men, researchers have struggled to explain why the genes for the trait weren't extinguished long ago.

[. . .]

Mr. Vasey and University of Lethbridge evolutionary psychologist Doug VanderLaan spent time on the Pacific island of Samoa surveying women, straight men and the fa'afafine -- men who prefer other men as sexual partners and are accepted within the culture as a distinct third gender category. "Some are so feminine that they pass as women to the naive observer," he said.

Mr. Vasey found that the fa'afafine said they were significantly more willing to help kin, yet much less interested in helping children who aren't family -- providing the first evidence to support the "kin selection hypothesis."

"We argue that this would allow the fa'afafine to distribute altruism toward their nieces and nephews in a more efficient and adaptive manner compared to men and women," he said.


Vasev suggests that the effects may be more visible in Samoa instead of in the United States or England because "[i]n Samoa, communities are closer geographically and families are more tightly-knit, while North American families are more dispersed, he said. Homosexuality is expressed differently in Western culture -- where it's also less accepted, he said." The Samoan pattern of life, I'd add, is more typical in the history of humanity and perhaps even in the early 21st century than the Anglo-American model of individualism.