Tag Archives: Sex

Tip of the white hat, wag of the cheating finger

Ashley Madison dot com is one of those corners of the internet you never knew existed, but when you find out about it, it kind of makes a sick sort of sense. Madison, whose tag-line is “Life is short. Have an affair.” has a pretty simple mission statement, help more than 37 million married people have secret and fulfilling sexual dalliances. It was perhaps only a matter of time till they were the targets of hackers. A group calling themselves “The Impact Team” posted a large quantity of client information and promised to release all the private details, photos, credit card numbers, et cetera for every cheating cheater should Madison refuse to shut down.

Image Source: NPR

Image Source: NPR

This is the kind of story that feels viscerally satisfying even though deep down all parties are a little bit icky. Even those of us without a particularly strong moral compass like the idea of people getting what’s coming to them. It’s the same satisfaction we get when Donald Trump makes an ass of himself on television. It’s a natural impulse to like to see unlikable people, or people who have done something wrong, get their comeuppance.

Thing is, it’s a little hard to defend this hack. Sure there’s some chivalrous impulses in revealing philanderers and also highlighting the ways Madison might be cheating the cheaters with phony profile deletion fees. But posting personal information is just wrong. If the credit card transactions contain info that can be used to get card numbers, then you’ve hurt the victims as well as the cheating spouses. Posting naked pictures of the users of this site is just another form of revenge porn, and isn’t born out of anything but a prurient impulse.

A white hat hacker would have taken down the site, or posted a bunch of phony profiles, or some other prank to make the users look foolish. They wouldn’t hold the site hostage. No for profit website is going to shut itself down because of a threat, even if it should.

I don’t particularly see  this hack as a sign of something more sinister, of a moral policing of the internet. Such an effort would be as ineffective as it would be fool-hardy. For every site you take down or attack, two more spring up in its place, and a dozen more in the dark net and the deep web.

This is not to say that I want to let philanderers off the hook. I think that cheating on someone, especially your spouse, but even your girlfriend or fiancée is terrible. Here’s why, besides the obvious. It’s a sign there is something seriously wrong in your relationship and you’re too much of a coward to fix it. “But I still love her, I just need something more.” Bull. Deal with your problems like an adult, break up, seek counseling, whatever you need to do. Do that first, then go seek other relationships.

But hacks like this one aren’t going to solve the problem. Frankly, if we’ve got 37 million people wanting to cheat on their spouses (and those are just the people who have heard of this website) then we may have some problems to deal with as a society as well. Over emphasis of the sexual part of our relationships. Lack of understanding of how our sex drives wax and wane over the course of long relationships. Over emphasis on everything being novel and new.

So maybe take a moment to be satisfied that a bunch of cheating people have at least been made nervous, then hope these hackers move on to something a little more productive.

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Sex and The Simpsons

Long time readers of the blog know that my weekly Friday afternoon ritual is to listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour and enjoy a little reportage on the latest movies and musings on pop culture. Last Friday featured a discussion on the way sex is portrayed for parents with children, whether its played for laughs or if the people involved actually seem to have some passion. Usually I can count on fellow nerd Stephen Thompson to be right there with a way to relate almost any discussion to The Simpsons, but this week he let me down. Maybe you were just feeling you bring up The Simpsons too much Stephen, though I don’t know how such a thing could be possible. The Simpsons touches on almost all the areas you discuss when it comes to its portrayal of sex, something I will now demonstrate for you with 12 episodes.

Homer desired by other women

Despite being bald and overweight, Homer has had several opportunities for extra-marital affairs, all of which he has declined even in times of marital trouble. In “Colonel Homer” (Season 3 Episode 20) after a fight with Marge, Homer takes country singer Lurleen Lumpkin from cocktail waitress to country TV star when a song of hers relates to him. Lurleen is both grateful for Homer’s interest and faith in her, and lack of expecting something in return. She tries to invite him to “bunk with me tonight”, but Homer declines (and later asks Lurleen to clarify if she would have gone all the way, to which her reply is an enthusiastic yes).

Great line from this: “It takes two people to lie. One to lie, and one to listen.”

More notably in “Last Temptation Of Homer” (Season 5 Episode 9), a new employee at the nuclear plant, who shares Homer’s love of donuts, beer and sports, causes a real conundrum for Homer. He’s obviously attracted to her, and she to him. Despite being shown by the ghost of Colonel Klink that both his and Marge’s lives would actually be better if he left her, and being told by a fortune cookie that he will find happiness in a new love, Homer stays and shows Marge the night of her life. “Oh Margie, you came and you brought me a turkey, on my vacation away from workee”.

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Marge desired by other men

Marge has been pursued by a lot of would be Letharios, from Moe to Mr. Burns to a Manatee loving Alec Baldwin to old high school flame-out Artie Ziff. But the most notable is Jacques from Season 1 Episode 9’s “Life on the Fast Lane”. A selfish birthday present from Homer sends Marge to the bowling alley, where she meets a sensuous bowling instructor who invites her back to the Fiesta terrace. Marge is annoyed at Homer, and enamored of Jacques, and was saved only by “an ironic street” depicting love’s blossoming, to old age, to death, to skeletons in a shop window. This leads to one of the most classic endings of The Simpsons where Marge meets a depressed Homer at the power plant, and he carries her out in his arms. “I’m going to the backseat of my car with the woman I love, and I won’t be back for ten minutes!”

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Season 14 Episode 4 “Large Marge” also brought Marge a lot of attention, from her husband and other less desirable corners. Her new bazoomas even inspired Homer to song, though they did prove to be an awful strain on her back.

Grandpa vs. Sexual Inadequacy

Season 6 Episode 10 brings a double whammy to the discussion of sex, “Grandpa vs. Sexual Inadequacy”. Here we see Marge and Homer’s problems in bed frankly depicted, with reasons for lack of loving being TV movies, enchiladas, and the classic TV trope of the kids running in. Grandpa has the solution, and while the idea of old people having sex is mostly played for laughs, Grandpa provides a tonic that puts the spring back in Homer’s step, so much so that the two decide to go on the road selling the tonic to everyone.

Both Abe and Mr. Burns fight over the hand of Marge’s mother in “Lady Bouvier’s Lover” (Season 5 Episode 21). Notably Mrs. Bouvier turns both Burns and Abe down for sex and marriage, but while some moments are still played for laughs, particularly Homer giving his Dad “play it cool” advice to get a kiss, some moments are really sweet and show Grandpa can be more than just an old coot.

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Homer’s weight is rarely discussed as an issue with his relationship with Marge (less than you might think), though a notable exception is “King Size Homer” Season 7 Episode 7, in which a scheme to get disability payments by gaining weight forces Marge to make the admission that she is less attracted to Homer.

Homer goes too far

Homer does occasionally get himself in real trouble with Marge on the issue of sex. In Season 1 Episode 10 “Homer’s Night Out” a photo of Homer dancing with Princess Cashmere circulates through Bart’s school and Homer’s work, eventually leading to Marge throwing him out. Homer redeems himself by teaching Bart that women are not just objects (sort of), but his impassioned plea is good enough for Marge.

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More ruinously, Homer reveals many of Marge and his private moments in Season 5 Episode 22 “Secrets Of A Successful Marriage”, thoroughly embarrassing Marge, and causing her to believe she can’t trust him anymore. His plea for forgiveness of “complete and utter dependency” is a little weak, but while Homer doesn’t always say the best things, he says them in the right way.

Homer the Lover

Homer and Marge have on balance a fairly healthy sex life, with some ups and downs. They do occasionally engage in roleplay (or at least winter coatplay) “That name again is Mr. Plow”. When the kids are away in “Kamp Krusty” (Season 4 Episode 1), Marge and Homer get frisky in the shower, though all the lost weight, new hair and love life evaporate as soon as the kids return.

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In “Natural Born Kissers” (Season 9 Episode 25) Marge and Homer’s dull anniversary leads them to believe the passion is gone. But after nearly getting caught hiding in a farmer’s barn, the element of danger adds new zest. This leads them to try nookie in all sorts of dangerous places, leading to nearly being discovered in their old love nest in the putt-putt windmill, and finally ending up standing naked in a loaded football stadium. While a lot of this is played for laughs, and there is definitely some “ew, gross” from the kids, much of the episode does show the two of them having fun.

So, as we have now learned, The Simpsons belongs in every discussion of pop-culture. You would do well to remember this, Stephen 🙂

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Writing Drunk

A dear friend who was kind enough to read the rough draft of my very first novel made a comment that is still very true of my writing today. I need to spend some time in bars and see how people really talk when they’re drinking. Now I was 18 at the time, so I had little in the way of life experience, but now 12 years later I still can’t say I’m any better qualified to write a scene in which the characters are believably drunk.

I tend to get very geeky when I’m drunk which is probably not a very good model of the population  as a whole. Probably the only characteristic I share in common with people under the influence is a slightly increased use of colorful metaphors, and a decidedly increased interest in the beautiful little red haired girl (my wife in case any of you are new to the site).

Part of the problem in this particular case is that I’m still figuring out the baseline of my character, so it’s a little hard to figure out how he’s different when he’s been drinking. We all have slightly different personalities when we’ve had a few, though our drunk traits have their roots in how we are when we’re sober. In my story we’ve got a priest who’s an alcoholic saying “f— it” at the end of the world and talking about women. Most of us can probably relate.

So the obvious possibilities for getting past the block are writing this in a bar, or at home after a few pints of Guinness. This brings to mind something that all writers have to figure out at one time or another. How much can they write about things they have never really experienced? Now I’ve been drunk before, but my experience of being drunk is pretty different than the one I’m going for.

Another big one on this list is sex. I generally feel like this is one of those things you need to experience to write about well. Whether or not you choose to be explicit or Victorian is up to you, but even euphemism comes from basic understanding. But even someone who’s had great sex might not be able to write about all kinds of sex in all kinds of circumstances. As writers we have to have some basic ability to put ourselves in circumstances we can never experience. I’m probably never going to space, and it’s even less likely that I’ll commit a murder, so I kind of have to figure out how to get into the minds of characters who would do these things without doing them myself.

But even things we can experience can be tricky to get a hold of. Ultimately it takes spending time with your characters and knowing when to take a break and live to write another day. Maybe try to figure out some good source material to review, a scene that does something similar to what you want to accomplish. And maybe a little liquid libation will loosen the literary logjam.

I swear to you all I’m drinking right now is lemon-lime.

What do you talk about when you’re drunk?

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Reviews: Starbucks Marathon

Sitting here in Starbucks typing this into a text editor since Opera refuses to accept any of the security certificates Starbucks is laying down. Still, I can get through a couple of reviews and post them later. This post in particular has some eclectic material so their should be something for everyone (if not always me).

Bang! Tango
Writer – Joe Kelly, Artist – Adrian Sibar

coverImage recently reissued this apparently classic work from Joe Kelly for wider distribution recently. I’ll start up front by saying that my interest in crime stories has been waning over the years. I really liked gangster movies and shows like The Sopranos more in my teen years, but by the time I was maybe mid-way through college my interest waned (though works like Road to Perdition can still grab me). So, I’m probably not the primary audience for this story.

Vincente Ponticello has built a new life for himself, away from the dark streets of San Francisco. But when Autumn breezes back into his life asking for his help, Vicente must find a way to put his old life finally behind him while preparing for dance competitions with his demanding partner Mel. Autumn’s the woman who ruined his life back in New York, when he found out she wasn’t really a she, at least biologically.

Perhaps the playful cover here makes a little more sense to you now.

This is a “sexy” book, with a lot of betrayals, lust, lies, money, and deviant behavior (not Autumn, but more the predilections of a mob boss who prefers pointed objects instead of his own member). As might be apparent, the story didn’t do a lot for me. It’s violent, and doesn’t really end well for anyone involved. The trajectories of most characters have been determined from the beginning and it can be a little difficult to tell if Kelly is really sympathetic to the trans community or is using it for shock value. The reactions of a prideful man like Vincente ring true, but are they really a perspective I want to read about?

I’d love to see Sibar’s work on a better piece. Each page uses a different color as the main motif, giving it a gray-scale quality while conveying mood. He also does a great job with illustrating the music of each tango, showing the words instead of the notes on the stanza flowing throughout the dancing action.

This is probably a story that will appeal to some of you. It’s well-paced, action packed, and well illustrated. But personally I found it a little too grimy for my taste.

(2 stars | Rounded down from 2.5)

Bad Machinery Volume 3
Writer and Artist – John Allison

coverAnd now for something completely different. John Allison is a master of the web-comic, writing series since 1998, and author of previous series Boom and Scary Go Round. Bad Machinery seems to have kicked it up a notch in terms of the quality of the art and the story-telling. It’s worth noting that there are some jokes that are set up in the beginning of the book that aren’t paid off until almost the end, which is several months in real time.

Though this is Volume 3, it’s pretty accessible to someone who hasn’t read the material before. Allison organizes his run of the comic into cases which run for a few months to nearly a year, then he takes a few months off before the next one. The structure seems to be less about the case, which in this case involves a series of fires set off in old buildings, and whether or not a mysterious and simple man who lives in the woods might be responsible, and more about the lives of three main boys and three main girls in the UK city of Tackleford.

There’s a lot of UK specific phrases and humor here, but there’s a handy guide at the back for anyone who might not pick up everything. I’m a fan of this sort of humor, so this kind of thing just speaks to me. Allison seems to have mastered one of the difficult skills of long-form web-comic story-telling which is to have each page feel like it can be self-contained without always having an obvious punch-line. The book version of this story-line seems to rearrange some of the on-line material, inserting some new pages, so this is probably the best and most definitive way to read the story, though I’ve pulled down the rest of the on-line material (which is about 8 cases now) for my own amusement.

The story is pretty silly and fanciful, but it fits the overall tone of the work. This book is worth it alone for the phrase “swit-swoo” and an embroidery of a tank.

(4 stars | More like 4.5, wish the dimensions of the book fit better on my tablet, but that’s web-comics for you)

Wizzywig

Writer and Artist – Ed Piskor

PrintThough published as a single graphic novel, this story bears some structural relationship to a web-comic. There are longer sequences, but many of the jokes and stories are told in two page comics.

Kevin (a.k.a Boing-Thump) is a burgeoning computer hacker and phone-freak in the early days of computers. He starts from using his perfect pitch to make long-distance calls, to pirating software to floppy disk, to inadvertently unleashing the Boing-Thump virus. The story is told through chapters corresponding roughly to a year of Kevin’s eventual incarceration, and flashbacks to his evolution as a hacker, and the lengths he would go to learn about machines and to evade the law. Most of the present day material is told by his best friend who broadcasts over the air to get Kevin out of prison, or at least for the FBI to come up with the charges to give him a trial.

The era of hacking portrayed here doesn’t really exist anymore. It was a time when anyone who was mechanically inclined, and could string together a few lines of code could get into some surprising places. As evidenced by recent data-hacks, security is something that lags behind a lot in the corporate world, particularly in the 1980s. Boing-Thump serves as an amalgamation of some of the more famous hacks and perceptions of hackers from that period. For us techies it’s great nostalgia, and for others it can even be slightly educational.

There’s some language and crude humor. Piskor’s drawing style renders Kevin as having an almost child-like cartoonish face, but the rest of the world around him is much grimier. Still the humor doesn’t feel artificial in this environment, as anyone who’s been on a few message boards or seen internet comments can attest. And the origin of the moniker “boing-thump” is pretty funny.

This is a long work, and it took me setting it down and coming back to it to get all the way through. I probably liked the early sections best before Kevin delves into helping real criminals, back when it was just about finding out how things worked. But the ending was worth the slog and even gets into a bit of a discussion of WikiLeaks and some of the issues that would lead to Edward Snowden.

Interesting side-note, this is one of the few graphic novels I can check out from my digital library. They may not have any DC or Marvel digitally available, but there are some gems to be found if you look.

(4 stars | At least read maybe the first 80 pages to see if you like it)

Incredible Change-Bots Two Point Something Something
Writer and Artist – Jeffrey Brown

coverThe copy of this from NetGalley was pretty lo-res, so I wasn’t really able to read one of the main story-lines, but this volume seems largely made up of miscellaneous material from a (web-comic?, indie?) parody of Transformers. If I was someone who’d followed the 1980s cartoon series, the jokes might have landed a little better for me. The art is imaginative, I personally like the golf-cart and microwave machines. A lot of what you’re getting here could come out of an artistically inclined sixth-grader who doodles in class, with writing to match. There are some romantic lines explored between a police car and a pick-up truck, mostly for some bad jokes about rust and dating.

Good for maybe a chuckle or two, especially if you like Transformers.

(3 stars | Rounded up from 2.5, wish I could’ve read it better)

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USB-C – Sex will never be the same again

It’s an old joke to those of you who are fans of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, but the way USB cables used to work was this:

  1. Try to plug USB cable in
  2. Doesn’t work so flip over
  3. Try to plug it in
  4. Doesn’t work so flip over
  5. Plugs in

For those of you who chose geekier ways of giving the sex talk (if you’re gonna call the connector ends male and female this is bound to happen somewhere), using a USB cable analogy for men and women might lead to some confusion later in life.

But there’s a new USB standard that’s been floating around for a few months, and Mac’s latest laptop is the first to implement it, USB-C.

With USB-C the steps are:

  1. Plug it in

In typical Apple fashion this is the only port on their laptop and will only be compatible with older devices if you use an adapter (try having that talk with your kids).

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Image Source: Apple Insider

Probably this will start cropping up as an option on other laptops later this year, but should you worry now about all the old USB drives you have lying around? (Hint: NO).

USB Type-A (the kind you’re probably most familiar with if you’ve ever used a flash drive) has been around for nearly two decades (my first computer that had it was purchased in 2003). This means the vast majority of computers you will ever encounter in the world will still use Type-A for a long time to come, and it will probably take years for Type-C to take over the marketplace to the point where you could reliably use those drives elsewhere. The new MacBook lists for a base price of $1200 so only your hipster friends with money will use these anyway.

You’re better off buying a good USB 3.0/3.1 drive which does have considerably better write speeds than 2.0 (though not the order of magnitude change in practical use that most people claim). 3.0 flash drives are better at running programs than a 2.0 flash drive (closer to what you’d get with a portable hard drive though still slower). And they’re only a couple of bucks more at places like MicroCenter (good USB 3.0 32GB for about $12).

And though I know there are some under the hood changes allowing for some potentially faster protocols in Type-C, for right now you’re really only saving the five seconds you’ve been spending trying to plug in a device the wrong way.

And foreplay’s the best part anyway 🙂

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