Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Letter to a non-misogynist writer

In an attempt to tackle misogyny, a known Romanian writer/editorialist Tiberiu Lovin stumbled on definitions, ideas, and arguments. He wrote a completely inadequate op-ed, 'Am I misogynistic?' meant to explain why, in his view, he doesn't qualify as a misogynist. I will translate mot à mot from his published op-ed. 

The following excerpt contains offensive language. 

His frustration came about after various social interactions on the topic of women ‘If you make a joke about women, you are misogynist. If you say that you dislike fat women, you are misogynist. If you have the guts of stating that you only like beautiful women, you are misogynist. But if you say that men are pigs, you are honest (?), and deserve public ovations.’  

He continues ‘my humble opinion is that the women that consider any joke just apparently against them or any critique addressed to them represent proofs of misogyny should go to a psychologist or should have more sex. Not because they are crazy, but because they have been traumatized.' - (Dear Mr Lovin, this is hard core misogyny. It shows your logic: attributing the cause of offense to lack of something on their part. You simplify, denigrate, and assume offense-taking is because of lack of intelligence, or worse, sex, or some unknown 'damage.' not because of the lack of tactlessness or the offensiveness of the statement made. It shows your mental shortcut. )

After regurgitating some  more nonsensical ‘blah blah’ (‘I apologize, but something intelligent doesn't come to mind’, he says), he offers the proof that he is, in fact, not misogynist:

‘For those women (n.p. see above), I have to mention that I’m neither gay, nor a retarded person who does’t know “a chip” about (heterosexual) relationships.  It would be impossible to live without women, and also illogical for me to be misogynistic as I am the dad of a wonderful daughter., which, I hope, will be followed by two more. Of course, that would be possible only if I will spot that smart, beautiful, funny woman for a mother - which is hard to find, but not impossible’ 

The following conversation was a result of not having coffee (and sex, like Mr Lovin would say) before reading his article. Offended, I was not. Not by him, at least; but by the multitude of women that FB-liked his article and praised his writing/ideas (the blog has a female audience) so that I decided to team with the little ones that saw the danger in his train of thoughts. 

My arguments on his arguments were met with childish-like behavior: ‘if you really wanna know what I think about women’, he said, ‘you should read this article I signed in this (Tango) magazine.’ Or ‘I will grade your (mine) comments low, but not by much, because you are a woman and I’m afraid being accused of discrimination.’ To my plea of a more read on the subject, because he is using a frivolous angle, inadequate language and arguments while discussing a serious topic, especially in Romania, he mentioned that he is not, in fact, interested in the topic of misogyny at all, and that he just wrote about it as ‘a matter of fact.’ At the end, the writer/editorialist acknowledged that he is not writing academically (though nobody would ever accuse him about that.) He accused his publisher of not fulfilling her ‘moral obligation to take a stand (his side) when the conversation got out of control.’ (?) 

His stands as a writer were equally disappointed  A ‘lover of debates’ (his words) - he asked one of his readers, also in disagreement with his approach to the topic, to ‘stop reading and move foreword’ if he doesn't agree with his POV. 

What does Mr Tiberiu Lovin think about women?! Well, we have another article to work with.  In the op-ed titled: 'The Fat Women in Our Lives - a Blessing or a Curse' (sic), he starts by saying 

'If someone's mother is fat, nobody cares - she is uninteresting to me as a woman and she also has an age... With little sisters is the same, unless she has a brother like me who capaceste  her [beats? pursues? hard to translate Romanian word which can mean both, although it is used in the first sense mostly] until she sends her fat ass to the gym. And not because I'm into incest, but because I care about her image in society. 

[If fat women want you], you have to make them understand that you are not interested. No way, no how. It is very hard, thrust me, I'm talking from experience, because fat women insist that they will drop wight if you are with them. But they don't. They wanna have you fat as they are.' 

You might ask why would I ever listen to this guy and not take his advice. It is not about him. Did I mentioned that he wrote all these on a blog with a women audience, and that he is also the editor in chief at one of most successful Romanian online media website 'virtual reporter'? Yeah, that's why it pisses me off. But maybe he indeed does not get it. Why is he actually wrong? 

Dear Mr Lovin, it's not joking about women, or disliking fat women, or liking beautiful women, that make you a misogynist. It's the fact that you are a misogynist that makes you a misogynist. Jokes are funny, often because they are offensive. You can say offensive things, offend and be offended, without believing that the statements or the intent behind them are real. You can laugh at polish joked, romanian jokes, black jokes, lawyer jokes, blonde jokes, any joke predicated on a stereotype, without truly believing that the stereotypes are, in fact, true. Conversely, you can be a racist and claim you are not a racist. 

"Men are pigs" haha. Yes, that's funny, many a man would laugh. Some may even be proud to be called one. It's a joke, you see! Saying so doas not make you anti-male. Who is offended by this statement? Men who don't get enough sex? I don't think so. I guess Pigs would be offended by the statement if they could understand the language. 

You can prefer fat women, short women, tall women, or pretty (as per your definition) women, without being misogynistic - but to think that the reason people might take offense to such tactless (for that's why they are) statements is due to lack of sex, IS evidence of misogyny. It shows your jump to conclusions, because you don't give women the benefit of a doubt you may offer yourself and to other men. 

Misogyny and its sistering sexism and antifeminism are highly sensitive topics in the Romanian society, thus, not a paradox that it is not discussed in the male-dominated Romanian society and media. Mr Lovin's op-eds demonstrate that the damage done but not talking about something is not so bad than the damage done by talking poorly about it. Reducing the debate to some ‘club’ conversation with arguments like ‘I love women, I have a daughter myself, thus I’m not a misogynist’, coming from anybody but even more when they come from an editorialist, are as poor as saying I’m having interracial sex, thus I'm not a racist. 

I talked to a friend about it, and he had the following message to my non-misogynist con-national. 

From male to male:

‘Mr X,

Sending links to convert me to the opinion that you are not a misogynist based on what you wrote elsewhere is a wasted effort. 

As you are a writer and an editor, you should be proving to all your readers through your words and opinions - including the readers of this blog - of your actual beliefs. 

As it stands now, Shakespeare would say “(he) doth protest too much." 

Don't scream “I am not a misogynist”; publish articles that extol the amazing qualities of women.


Mr Y.’ 

*I do not believe that the discussed writer hates women and girls. Or at least I hope he doesn't. Althoug, saying 'I am not a misogynist' does not make it true. Showing you respect women, not as objects of your desire (beauty) or lack thereof (fat), but as equals, through your actions and writings - that is what it takes to prove that you are not. 

What I do hope is that he will never write about topics that doesn't know or care about. In Romania, we have too manny of these. He should stay with things that are less foreign to him so that his writing has some sort of esthetic or informational value. Or, giving his take on things, he should look for another job ASAP. In a different country, he will be banned even from twitter...

**To make things clear, I am not sure what Mr Lovin's definition of misogyny is: 

Wikipedia english: hatred or dislike of women or girls. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women

Wikipedia Romanan: an atitude of hostility or contempt in regards with women. adds: dislike, or mistrust of women.

Oxford dictionaries: dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women

Thesaurus synonyms: chauvinist, sexist, anti-feminist, misanthrope.

Or Bill Shorten: 'people who have a prejudice about women in certain occupations and they have an unexamined view in their own head about the status of women and the equality of women to do a whole range of things'

But, at the end, I don’t think that it matters much for him. Obviously, he has no interest in the topic...

Monday, April 28, 2014

Lolita, the cover

There is still time to see the Gauguin Metamorphoses at the MOMA. Among a vast work incorporating all fine arts mediums, from monotype to lithography and woodcuts, paintings to drawings, you will find a ceramic sculpture protected by a bloc of glass,  in one of the rooms on the top floor - the goddess of his invention Oviri, or "Savage" in Tahitian. Out of all his creations, Gauguin wanted to take just this one to his grave - or, the way he put it, he wanted Oviri to be placed on his tomb. You might ask yourself what is the original sculpture doing in a museum. Despite the fact that he was at the end at his physical powers made even worse by the cruel poverty, he knew, not in a bragging way, that he was a great artist. He probably did not know that he will become so famous that would be impossible to leave any of his creations unsecured on a field of death. A bronze cast was placed on his tomb instead of the original ceramic sculpture. 

This has something to do with Lolita. Nabokov had a clear picture of how the book cover of his own masterpiece should look like "

"I want pure colors, melting clouds, accurately drawn details, a sunburst above a receding road with the light reflected in furrows and ruts, after rain. And no girls. If we cannot find that kind of artistic and virile painting, let us settle for an immaculate white jacket,  with LOLITA in black bold lettering." 

What happened to his wish?Though, the "slave to the image" became more flexible, he was still surprised at the pop culture and marketing decisions that influenced the cover of his novel. 

Good and bad examples are bellow: 

A. Old Lolita's obviously allowed to drink alcohol and vote in most countries: 

B. The anonymous Lolita:

C. The butterfly Lolita:

D. Various cultural interpretations:


E. the overly sexualized Lolita

F. And, lastly, Lolita the stripper...
 My Favorite:


A great book on the topic: Lolita: The Story of a Cover Girl: Vladimir Nabokov's Novel in Art and design, by John Bertram and Yuri Leving. 

Dieter E. Zimmer gathered about a hundred and eighty-five covers from thirty-six countries in his online “Covering Lolita” gallery at this moment. 

If you prefer moutitasking, check out the audiobook book read by Jeremy Irons. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Issaac Julien

Something you must absolutely see: Issaac Julien's film installation at MOMA. You have a goddess, an artistic representation of a tragedy, and a breathtaking narrative unfolding concomitantly, but not simultaneously, on eight wide, suspended, screens. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

More boring than visiting a boring place is to talk about it

Let us say that it so happens that you are in Atlanta for a weekend. And it is not for conference. Maybe it is due to some unfortunate truth or dare game, in which case, you probably deserve it. Or maybe it is because somebody paid you to be there. Lots. But, regardless, let us assume that life brought you to Atlanta and you have to survive it a weekend, for suicide is not an option. You can chose between two things: lock yourself up in your boring hotel room for the next 48 hours and catch on with Breaking Bad, Orange is the new Black, or Homeland series - which are Emmy winners, and you know that because you read all the newspapers available while trying to kill some hours; or you can give the city a chance and go out. Mind you, Atlanta appear in all the blogs as top 10/20 in the race for the ugliest cities in the world. And there are some bad cities out there.  The downtown in unwalkable, the scenery is not at all pretty, it's a heaven for all chain restaurants, and graffiti seems to be the only source of art.

You probably know that aquariums are family traps, with more kids per square meter that in a kinder garden; not for you, the fancy bachelor or successful blogger fashionista. Loud, excited, running all over the place kids, screaming whenever they see a strange looking fish, which happens every ten seconds. The adult you says that that's a NO no.  My advise, just go. Once you get in, you'll be a kid again because, chances are, you haven't seen so many species of crazy looking fish in your entire diving career, though you paid hundreds of dollars cruising the bottom of the oceans after the thousands of dollars for lodging and flight expenses. Marine creatures like wheal sharks with 3 meters wide mouths and throats the size of a nickel and dolphins moonwalking on water. Pay for the behind the scene tour. I never thought I'd go crazy seeing kilometers of pipes, enormous pumps, centrifuges, and complex installations that create artificial waves every two minutes, on the clock, everything behind that keeps 8mil+ gallons of water proper for all the species inhabiting the space. You'll enjoy it even if you're not a plumbing phd.

While you're there, cross the street to the World of Coke museum. I know, you don't drink coke as part of your detox routine, and sugar is the most evil of all foods, way before salt and trans-fats (a new study says so, trust me.) But incorporate it into your Atlanta tour and you won't be sorry. After all, you can start your diet again on Monday. You'll get to taste 60 coca-cola beverages from all aver the world, except Cuba and North Korea, which have national plans agains americanization, thus, no Coke. And see some pop art, like the Coke altarpiece on the left.

Krispy Cream donuts 
One day passed. You're safe and not dead of boredom. After visiting CNN - yeah, I was disappointed too, I mean, it looks like you are in the food court of a NJ mall - the last hours should be spent around eating. Use uber to get by, cabs are hard to find and more expensive.

The Vortex
Eating: forget all your doctor says and hit the diet-unfriedly restaurants. Like Ted's (Turner) steak house downtown. The man has a bison farm, and he best likes his animals medium-rare. I'm not a carnivore, but that 2x2 inches piece of meat stirred all my natural instincts. It is done to perfection and all other clichés, and, I know, 'melts' is usually just an expression, except when it is true. The good thing about enjoying this fest guilt free is that, afterwards, you'll became a vegetarian. Nothing can top the taste, flavor, and texture. Not even a French Michelin chef in a Parrri restaurant. Hold that thought.

The Earl
Tijuana Garage restaurant 
The next day you'll wake up with a food hangover (researched) and your body will crave for anything green, fruits or veggies. Fortunately you're in Atlanta, so can go to the first bar and ask for a bloody marry. I know, I preferred them stirred or in a salad too, but this concept is completely missing in this part of the world. Hey, the bloody marry's are 90% tomatoes, pickles, salt and peper, ran through a blender, as far as I know, so there you go: liquid vitamins spiced with the right amount of alcohol, exactly what you need to start the day.

And the appetite will come back naturally. As much as you want to go back and eat a bloody bison again for brunch, resist that instinct and go in the williamsburg part of Atlanta. $15 (or $7 on uber) later, you'll find yourself in front of Tijuana Garage restaurant, a blend of chipped walls and kitchy decoration gathered from 60 years of American cigarette, canned foods, etc, ads coca-cola street banners. Ask for the tacos platter. Thank me later.

Mary Mac's tea room
Leave your stomach untouched until dinner time, and go to Mary Mac's Tea Room. The history of the place is written on the pictures on the walls. I mean, everybody, except for Justin Beaber, ate there. All US presidents and their counterparts since 1945. They were all driven there by the original receipes kept intact, still, by cooks that are deep frying everything in the old fashion way. Onions. Potatoes. Meats. Cucumbers. Tomatoes. Okra. Younameit.

In all my travels though Atlanta I met friendly people (a BIG+.) All asked me where I'm from, and then, astonished, what I'm doing in Atlanta. I should have said I came for a conference, as an easy way out, but I was afraid of being associated with the only event in town, something with Jesus, gathering hundreds of  enthusiastic christian teens, so I told the truth: I'm visiting for the weekend. Many found this very strange, so I almost had to come up with excuses: it's good to leave the city, you know, change the air...Even natives from Atlanta, I guess, know that people just don't come here to visit. Granted, I did not see everything, but my feeling is that one doesn't need to. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Virtual Drawing - The search for THE App has ended

I thought that nothing can top the remote control app, instagram, or uber, but boy does this keep me procrastinating on the couch. No more charcoal in my ear (oh yeah, that happens every time...), no more paint drops on the floor, and no more back or arm pain. The dubbed pencil and virtual paper come with endless possibilities and it transforms the mediocre sketcher into a full artist. It doest the simplest task, writes directly on your iPad. Easy and forgetful of mistakes, it feels natural and organic, which is what you need when expressing yourself in an artistic way. It has features like palm rejection, build in eraser, and hands-on blending (meaning that the paper app can determine the difference between your finger and the stylus), and you can make your own palette of colors. Check it out
These are my first experiments so don't be harsh on me (Not life models. I drew bodies from Robert Hale's book. Click on his name, an amazing artist)

Thumbs up & down:
 -Unlike on a canvas, the 'paint' doesn't dry out. That means that nothing is final. You cannot add layers in top of payers and, although you can zoom in, I still did not figure out how to work on little details - see girl portrait. Her face will forever be blurry. Same for Jesus'. I would have loved a pre-save option, so you can add tiny details without changing, or risking to mess up, what you've done so far.
-The paintbrush, though has a faint look and you can reach the softest highlights and darkest darks, does a bad job in imitating brushstrokes (paintbrush used for the background of woman nude bellow.) However, the pencil tool is great (visible on Jesus's knees.)
-Missing the virtual charcoal. So far it has marker, fountain pen (highlights on Jesus), ballpoint (male nude), pencil (which, unfortunately cannot be changed from soft to hard for more drama), and paintbrush (one size fits all...)
-You can mix up to two colors, but it has a variety, and you can create your own tones.
-The virtual pencil is fairly inexpensive and easy to use
-There is just one type of virtual paper. You can change its color, but not the texture. Oh well, not so bad for what it promises. For a fuller experience, one must go back to the canvas...
-Big big  --->  you cannot import photos of your girlfriends so you can apply a big, thick, black, hairy mustache...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Don't mess with cowboys

We don't do much in Dallas, a 25 year old accomplished fundraiser for the Republican Party told me. Gyms are not very successful a business; though we have the most museums per capita in US, we leave them for tourists. We pass by them everyday to work, so we feel that there is always time to visit.

Nasher Sculpture Center 
All groups, regardless of political affinities, skin color, and immigration status, meet in one place: the restaurant. The main, and almost exclusive, outdoor activity evolves around eating. That's why the food is good and diverse, running from breakfast tacos to steamed artichokes.  As a tourist, you will not get bored for a weekend. Give it a week, if you are a slow walker and patient with reading museum tags. Definitely one day should be reserved for the George Bush library and one Sunday morning for Church. I am serious, and I am not religious; but, if you really want to grasp the culture of this place, this is as good as spending two hours at a bar mingling with people (apropos about nothing, the sermon was around a group of 6 men that went incognito to Cuba to attract new clients...)

Now, Dallas is not a touristic attraction. Looking like NY only with wider streets so that you can see the top of the buildings, the architecture is massive and fairly new, though they did a great job in restoring the historical sites. The buildings make most of the sun light, so they are contortioned, rounded in the corners, twisted, tilted, modern.

Two topics should never be discussed over dinner in US, I was told six years ago: politics and religion. In Dallas, the list broadens: guns and any related activity, NY sport teams, or Ayn Rand (Dallas is, after all,  the bastions of the Tea Party conservatives.) Dallas feels very much like a country, having its own flag as high as that of United States'.

Things to do:

Go to JFK memorial and spend a few bucks on listening to the clandestine tour guys' stories of what exactly happened in 1963. You'll hear in detail as many as 10 different conspiracy theories, each one convincing in its own way.

Best tacos in the entire world are in a supermarket. A small window with about 6 options, in the back of the store, hard to find and hard to forget. People eat them outside, while admiring the amazing view: either a parking lot or the 6 gas pumps busily filling the trucks. "This is Dallas!", one friend told me mocking a toy car just parked (it was a small, hybrid, green car) - "we have lots of oil and space on the streets. Small cars are jokes here." Did I mention that they have drive-through Daiquiris?

Everywhere, and I mean everywhere, you get a sense of the fauna of Texas. Mounted heads and stuffed carcases of animals are the preferred decorations in this part of the world. Long associated with hunting lodges and ski cabins, taxidermy is popping up in surprising places. Like in this store.

Some decided to have so fun. Why not display the ass instead of the head? I've seen that. A ox's ass as big as a Sunday set up on a bar.

In Dallas you'll meet oil moguls and smart casual dressed politicians. If you wanna see some real cowboys, drive one hour to the sistering Fort Worth and be prepared for some raw conversation. Cowboys are bluntly honest and least nice. They won't call you 'darling', they won't compliment you, and they definitely won't try to butter you up. If you're good to them, they'll show you their guns. If you're bad, they might use them.

About guns: do go into a 'hardware' store. You might be impressed what type of artillery you can buy. Enough and powerful to build an army. Yes, you need ID (driver license.)  No, you don't need a head doctor's note. You do need to fill out this form  which asks some questions like are you a felon, are you a danger to yourself or others (I wonder who says yes to that...), and other immigration related questions (if you are illegal immigrant, you probably have no right to buy a gun, not to mention be in Dallas altogether), but the process is fairly easy. Your investment will be protected: "the sheriff in Midland County, Gary Painter, said  that he would refuse to confiscate people’s guns from their homes if ordered by the Obama administration."... (NY Times)
After tacos, my friend drove me to the hotel, and could't help to notice the cover of the Texas Monthly magazine on the back seat (cover bellow, Attorney general Greg Abbott.) "OMG", said I, looking distressed, "this photo is so wrong!" Not understanding my vexation, he asked "what?! do you have something against handicapped people?!" ", "Hell no", I said, "He posed with a firearm!" Of course, seeing that is so random here that he could not grasp the reason of my wonder. 

Some fashion advise: wear your coolest sneakers in Dallas and your cowboy (authentic) boots in NY if you really want to make a statement. My (cheapest, for I could not touch the all alligator belly over $10k per pair) cowboy boots were admired intensely in NY upon my return. "She got them from Dallas", my art professor said to another student interested in getting some.  

-------------Random stuff of you ever get bored:
 Go to a hockey game
"Best $40 I ever spent", my Dallas girlfriend told me: blow-dry and a cocktail. In and out of the salon in 20 minutes. This is, I figured judging by the hairdo of women there, a local sport. 
Chances are that you won't ride a buffalo, but do try your riding skills. 

Go to the White Elephant bar and talk to people there. They have stories to tell, and tequila to drink. And smoking is allowed. Texas, baby! The woman in the photo is the most charming and elegant young at heart and a character I ever met. She is a Katrina survivor. I asked her what did she do after she lost her home and almost everything in it. "I moved. And I moved on. Life is too short, my dear, to cry over material things." 

And, keep in mind: