Beauty Is In The Eyes Of The Ancients

Sons of their fathers...

A friend of mine arrived from Lagos recently with a wonderful gift, he knows that I enjoy traditional music of the highlife genre and so felt that Sonny Bobo would be up my street. The dude did not disappoint. If you love Owerri language and enjoy Owerri delicacies such as Nkwobi and Ofe Owerri, then here is something that would aid the process of your enjoyment at home or at your local bar. What I enjoyed most in the song (an extended play experiment) was the artiste's lyrical flow in his native Owerri language, a language that I love so much but have been struggling to learn, many thanks to Uche who but for the odd word here and there can not even speak her own language.

(left) Portrait of an African woman

Being that my friend brought a bootlegged copy, I couldn't see what Sonny Bobo looks like on the CD sleeve to judge his assertion that he is truly a fine man, something he says that his mum, dad and the priest who baptised him all confirmed. Sunny Bobo may have carried this vanity a bit too far in the album as his name was constantly mentioned every step of the way through out the album but his vain style should not take away from his fine effort to immortalise his language, while at the same time entertaining his listeners.

While narrating the story of his encounter with the fine lady whom his mum set him up with, Sunny Bobo resorted to an adapted version of this phrase made popular by the Oriental Brothers – Elewe ukwu egbuo ewu to describe her virtues, his attempt at translating the phrase into the English language I am told is the main reason why the album has become a bestseller, as school kids and adults have since adopted the phrase which are now used commonly. Quoting directly from the record, Sunny Bobo describes the girl as a 'looking nyash killing goat' type, (words his).

You would have to go deeper into the Igbo culture to truly appreciate the true meaning of the phrase, taken out of context a modern day cosmopolitan girl may feel offended if addressed in such manner, as she may feel that she is being ridiculed or that her natural endowments are being riled, but to women of the old school, in the days of the fattening room experiment when women were well rounded and appreciated by men, such adulations were indeed to be savoured.

One could easily see that the ancients sure knew how to appreciate beauty, and our women knew how to wear and show it. For some of us that didn't witness the real African beauty in our women long before Fashion Fair and Mac Cosmetics took over, we are comforted by the stories and pictures of our women praised in songs such as Sunny Bobo's, and also told in books and magazines, the ink of which are fast fading. Such portraits usually depict the women in adorable poses, eyes shining and skin glowing like burnished bronze. The hairs are usually well plaited in different styles to highlight and accentuate their beautiful faces, what skin that is visible from below the chest area down to the waist line (which are covered by beautiful pieces of Akwete clothes) are painted with Nzu and Uri in many different patterns, of course not forgetting the Jigida beads nicely tied round their waists which jiggle in sync with the movement of their waists as they glide about their daily routine, going to the farm, cooking family meals with firewood and earthenware pots or visiting the village market square to sell home grown vegetables.

Those were the days.

The men of old rewarded the women with praise, for taking out time to adorn themselves. Such praises found themselves in local folklores, songs, names and even titles. For this reason adulatory names and titles such as enenebe eje olu, (looking woman no going work – borrowing from Sunny Bobo), mkpulu mma (paragon of beauty), akwa ugo (the egg of an eagle) and so on would forever remain evergreen.

Beauty would always be in the eyes of the beholder, while Sonny Bobo may consider the girl in question to be an Asa; Emeka may however regard her as Mgbeke. It is customary to hear some women in Alaigbo being called Asa Mma (the beautiful one), or Asa Mpete (the most beautiful) to signify either their beauty as beheld by the beholder or caller. Such women may then go on to assume the names which eventually become their traditional title (Afa otutu). You would not hear men calling women Mgbeke to their faces because it is a derogatory term for a naive woman as Mgbeke does not necessarily signify a not-so-pretty woman.

Other cultures may have their own ways of adulating their women, In America for instance it is normal to hear American rap artistes calling their women unprintable names, it probably works out for them, but surely our own ways of appreciating our women uplifts rather than downgrade them. Many thanks to Sonny Bobo and his likes, Onyeka Onwenu and Nelly Uchendu before him and all the many up and coming Nigerian artistes who have remained true to their culture. They are indeed true sons of their fathers.

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All The Men Are Gone!

Prostitutes' Pictures...

Don't you just love the Internet? This is the second in my pet series that explores phrases and words typed into search engines to produce Nigeria related results. Again, don't forget. The only reason why these searches specifically interest me is that they somehow led web surfers to my website and all webmasters are interested in what sends traffic their way.

The way some of us string words together in a search, it is a miracle of the modern day variety that servers don't crash along the way as the software and hardware work overtime to decipher our jargons. It is a bigger miracle still that we obtain any result even remotely close to what were looking for.

Take the following for instance: "Newspapers magazines man is nothing without the gods". What sort of result is that supposed to generate? I got tempted so I typed it into Google to see what would happen and it pulled up websites listing "Jesus' Alien ancestors", "Dungeons and Dragons" and strangely enough, 2 pages from this website. The Writers Write main page as well as the one page devoted to some of my attempts at poetry.

Well, here goes! Enjoy the ride, if you can understand it!

"Vultures at night"
Meeting time…

Will also be at the meeting.

"Thug life in America"
It's a hard knock life. That's what they tell me.

"Poems about broken bones"
Woah, if Wole Soyinka could pen a paean to his first grey hair, why shouldn't we have poetry talking about broken bones? So, will this be titled To My First Broken Bone or what? And when he gets another, that one will be To My Follow-Up Broken Bones? The same chap probably wrote those other masterpieces, To My First Attempt at Masturbation, To the Stink From my Left Shoe… and for his woman, he wrote To Her First Broken Fingernail.

"Naked Nigerian Women"
Go watch Chico Ejiro's movie, Shattered Home. Sick sick man. Still, I find it of particular interest when people search the Internet for naked bodies of particular ethnicity. Could it be that you can tell the difference just by looking at the nakedness of a Nigerian woman from a Ghanaian woman? Isn't black just that - black? Or are the "attacks" and "defenses" shaped differently, more ample in some?

"Naked Nigerian men"
We don't post our photos on the Internet, you hear? It is not a Nigerian thing. We may be sick, but our sickness never reach that yonder.

"Education in Nigeria since the inception of democracy"
Same as education in Nigeria before the inception of democracy. Why do you think things changed?

"Sensual massage Brooklyn"
The same guy probably searched for "Sexual massage New York city" Check the Yellow Pages. If your body needs some panel-beating, good place to start.

"Sir Shina Peters"
Ijo Shina. Dance with your chest.

"Misconception of Africa"
You're opening a can of worms, buddy. You could write a book on that topic. Hell, you could write a 20 volume encyclopaedia. Where do you want to start? The countries - individually misconceived?

"Will reparation for African Americans work"
It ain't gonna happen dude. Not in this lifetime and plane of existence. Besides, I had the impression you folks are kind of glad your great grandfolks got out of Africa before the ship went aground? Reparations? That's one boat that ain't gonna float.

"Search for secondary schools in Ibadan Nigeria"
Too many words, buddy. You have totally confused the engine. Next time, try "Ibadan + School". Or just hit one of those reunion websites.

"Wet Nigerian girls"
Oh, our girls get wet too. Honestly speaking, they do. But you will have to wait for the rainy season to see them in that condition. If you are fit and randy (I mean ready), you may also follow them to the river where they take time to pour water on their heads to cool down before returning home with the water they have gone to fetch. They also get wet when they are washing the clothes… You know, we don't use washing machines like all these Oyinbo pepper people. You should see the muscles on the "washer woman" in my area. She gets wet when she washes too. That's the sort of wetness you're talking about, right?

You can also get the girls on this side as wet as you want them to be, you know? Just get a bucket of water and splash it on any girl you run into in the nearest O'Dabro store.

"Picture of Sola powered car"
I don't power cars. What do you think I am? Batteries? Oh, you mean solar? Sorry.

"All Nigerians living in USA"
Na we be dis o, my mother's husband. We dey for dis yonder o! You no go fit find all of us for the Internet sha. Dat one go hard small. We plenty, ya hear?

"Yelling tree frog"
Hush up! People are trying to sleep!

"Nigerian men in America"
All taken! At least that's what my single female friends tell me. You have to find your own Nigerian husband before you come to America or you will have a tough task of it. All the good men are gone. Only the credit card swipers are left.

"Yoruba love poems"
You fit chant so?

"The wild man of Africa"
All moved to America. Really, web searches like this give Africa a bad name. Wild man…When will you folks shove this Tarzan "Bundolo" myth up some place where the sun never shines?

"Abnormal bossom"
Bro, I bow small. So, why would you be looking for that now? That's what turns you on? What is your definition of abnormal sef? Super large, so large the tower leans frontwards? Tiny ones so small, you can't even see the nodes? Cancerous ones? Mutilated ones? Why would you be looking for that anyhow? Cos you think you got a pair? I fear and I tremble.

"Female navel snuffing"
Is this about death fantasy and stuff like that? I tried the search and it took me to some terrifying websites. My broda, Oyinbo man dey try something. How to die go dey give some people romanciquine, I no know. But me I no get chest. Na mouth I get like person wey don chop bean cake. You try am if you get belle. No say I no wan you o!

The song or the real thing? Uche Ibeto never check out of Naija o. Likilikilikiliki sa sa sa sa!

"Sad poems about depression"
Are there any happy ones?

"I saw my cousin naked"
Dude, a little more info would have been helpful. We're truly curious. Are you male and you saw your female cousin naked? Your female YOUNG cousin, not someone in her 60s? Good for you! Enjoy the view.

Are you female and you saw your young male cousin naked? Was he at alert like he just woke up from a dream full of bossomy babes like on Baywatch? Enjoy the view.

Are you male and you saw your male cousin naked? Or you're female and you saw your female cousin naked? Is that making you feel excited? You're a homosexual. Get with the program.

Now, whatever you are, tell us how you did this. May be we can get in on the action. Next time, put in the address of your house and we will find our way there to come and enjoy the view too. By the way, you didn't see her on a porn site, did you? Send us the web address! We're all eager to crash the server!

"Naked dancers in house"
What is wrong with all these sickos searching for nudity on the Internet, visiting and… (Did I just say that?).

"Hairy buttocks"
Whatever floats your boat friend.

"I am going to write about Yusuf"
Good to know. I am sure Yusuf will be flattered. Thanks for informing us. While you're at it, why don't you write about Bature too. And Mohammed.

"Free men underwear pictures"
Are there some you pay for? And what do you want to do with underwear pictures anyhow? Not even with the men in it, just the pictures…That's what fries your egg?

"Very fat people women naked"
Pray one doesn't fall on you, you this very skinny perverted man naked.

"Pictures of people flirting then taking their clothes off"
You shouldn't be on the Internet. Go to a bar or the nearest Go-Go Club and your fantasies will become your reality.

"Benin city naked"
Wow! That's supposed to be poetry, right? You're trying to do that short poem magic John Pepper Clark Bekederemo did with Ibadan? Benin city…Naked. Wow! I shake my head for you. I shake am hard.

"Prostitutes pictures"
Get the real thing, buddy. Just watch out for New York's finest or whatever it is they call themselves when they're not shooting some unarmed immigrant.

"Picture of African Americans with corn rows"
Probably a brother from another planet. Haven't you seen the movie called Signs? Beware of them corn rows, buddy. Especially rows with black dudes.

"How to call Nigerian cell phone"
There you go, throwing away the one excuse you have for not calling home! Why would you want to do that? It worked so well for me because I wasn't lying. I really couldn't get through to those stupid GSM phones that my brothers and sisters and friends who were always broke somehow found money to buy. The day I figured out how to make those calls, my phone bills skyrocketed! Well, do not say I did not warn you. Dial 011 - 234 - then jump to the 80…etc. Drop the 0 before the 8 and all should be fine, if ALL CURCUITS ARE (ALWAYS) BUSY, PLEASE TRY YOUR CALL NEXT YEAR (LATER)!

"Dialling one number but reaching wrong number"
The NITEL Syndicate don reach you! Don't give them the MoneyGram details please! And don't believe whatever they tell you, it's a lie! Just abuse their mother and hang up.

"Pictures of Nigerian girls in America"
My brother dey find wife. Well, what does my pastor say…He who finds a wife finds a good thing. Ride on bros.

See ya some other time!

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Marriage and Divorce in the Gikuyuland

Marriage was a complex affair in the traditional society. It was the point where all the members of a given community met the departed, the living and those yet to be born, therefore, without procreation, marriage was incomplete. Everybody, therefore, had to get married and bear children, that was the greatest hope and expectation of the individual for himself and of the community for the individual.

Preparing for marriage was a long process, marked by rituals and in choosing a marriage partner, different customs were observed. A fairly widespread practice was the one in which the parents and relatives of a young man approached the parents of a particular girl and hence started marriage negotiations. In other societies it was the young people themselves who made their own choice and afterwards informed their parents about it. In the traditional societies, marriage was not allowed between close relatives. Where marriage was allowed within the same clan, carefully scrutiny followed to make sure that the couple were not close relatives. Taboos existed to strengthen marriage prohibitions. For example, it was feared that children of close relatives would die, and that the living-dead who were displeased with such a marriage would bring misfortune to those concerned.

The actual wedding ceremony lasted for many days and was full of rituals. In others the bridegroom and his party had to fight the bride's people in order to get her. There are lots of cultures and procedures that came before marriage and which had a lot of meaning. The custom of presenting a gift to the bride's people is still widely practiced. Different names are used to describe it, such as 'bridewealth', 'bride-gift', 'bride-price', 'dowry'. The gift may be in form of cattle, money, foodstuffs and other articles. This marriage gift is an important institution in African societies. It is a token of gratitude on the part of the bridegroom's people to those of the bride, for their care over her and for allowing her to become his wife. Under no circumstances is this custom a form of 'payment'. The man and his people were not the only people who gave: the girl's people also gave gifts in return, even if these may have been materially smaller than those of the man. To be unmarried is childhood, to be married is maturity and a blessing.

When the rite was over, the couple went into their special house and consummated their marriage. Virginity was the symbol that life had been preserved, that the spring of life had not been flowing wastefully, and that both the girl and her relatives had preserved the sanctity of human reproduction. A virgin bride was the greatest glory and crown to her parents, husband and relatives.

Polygamy was common in the traditional society. In popular usage, it is applied to mean the state of marriage in which there is one husband and two or more wives. It raised the social status of the family concerned. Often it was the rich families that were made up of polygamous marriages. If the first wife had no children, or only daughters, it followed almost without exception that her husband would add another wife, partly to remedy the immediate concern of childlessness, and partly to remove the shame and anxiety of apparent unproductivity. When a family is made up of several wives with their households, it means that in time of need there will always be someone around to help. This is corporate existence. For example, when one wife gives birth, there are other wives to nurse and her care for other children during the time she is regaining her vitality. If one wife dies, there are others to take over the care of her children. In case of sickness, other wives will fetch water from the river, cut firewood, cook and do other jobs for the family. If one wife is barren, others bear children for the family, so that the torch of life is not extinguished. The custom of inheriting the wife of a deceased brother is fairly common. By brother it should be understood to mean not only the son of one's mother but any other close relative. The brother who inherits the wife and children of his deceased relative, performs all the duties of a husband and father. The children born after this inheritance generally belong to deceased man.

Divorce was an 'accident' in marital relationships. Once the full contract of marriage had been executed, it was extremely hard to dissolve. The causes of divorce included sterility or barrenness especially on the part of the wife. This was probably the greatest single cause, since the inability to bear children blocked the stream of life. Where the husband was impotent or sterile, his 'brother' performed his duties and thus saved the marriage from breaking down. If the wife was barren, the husband could take another wife and keep the barren one which also in turn saved the 'first' marriage.

These religious and social uses of sex were held sacred and respectable. If there was a breach of any of them, this was taken very seriously. Sexual offences of one kind and another are many, these may include fornication, incest, rape, seduction, homosexual relations, sexual relations with a forbidden 'relative' or domestic animals all constitute sexual offences in a given community. Society dealt variously with these offences and people were very sensitive to any departure from the accepted norm concerning all aspects of sex. Marriage then, was considered a religious duty and responsibility for everyone. It formed the focal point where the departed, the present and coming members of society met. Therefore, marriage is a sacred drama in which everybody is a religious participant, and no normal person may keep away from this dynamic scene of action.

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A Separate But Equal Ruling for Gay Marriage

While the New Jersey court pats itself on the back for advancing the civil rights of gays and lesbians, lets pause for a moment to note what gays and lesbians have not won: actual equality.

The Supreme Court of New Jersey has ruled in favor of gay marriage, sort of. By a vote of 4 to 3, the court says the state must afford gay couples all the “rights and benefits” that straight couples have under the law. But the majority punted on the question of what to call gay marriages. If it doesn’t want to call them marriages, the legislature is free to come up with a term of its choosing for committed gay relationships.

In other words, the court is fine with a nomenclature under which some marriages would be separate—but equal. In a sentence that will seem silly—and unjust—in 20 years, the court says this explicitly: “We will not presume that a separate statutory scheme, which uses a title other than marriage, contravenes equal protection principles, so long as the rights and benefits of civil marriage are made equally available to same-sex couples.” The Plessy court couldn’t have said it better: separate railway cars for blacks are fine, as long as they are just as nice as the ones for whites. Don’t bother about that curtain between the black and white cars. “Marriages,” “civil unions,” “two guys shacking up with a lot of All-Clad cookware”—does the term really matter?

It does. Actually, I have a bit of sympathy for the court on what to call gay relationships. I was never certain what to call my boyfriend of eight years—ick, “boyfriend.” I’m 35, not 15. But “partner” sounds clinical, “lover” sounds too ’70s and “longtime companion” sounds pathetic, evoking two old queens in cardigans watching Bette Davis movies.

Nothing else sounds right because we already have a terminology for our better halves—spouses, husbands, wives. But because Michael and I couldn’t marry, calling him my “spouse” was a lie. So I always introduced him as my “partner” and put my hand around his waist, to show we didn’t just run a pet store or a restaurant or a Hollywood studio together. I also showed pictures of our two beautiful cats (wait a second, do we sound like “longtime companions” now?).

To be sure, the New Jersey decision has moments of ringing clarity. It enumerates specific ways in which gay couples suffer when they can’t marry, even gay couples in a state like New Jersey that protects gay individuals from discrimination. For instance, the court noted that if a lesbian dies, her partner doesn’t currently have access to survivor benefits under the state Workers’ Compensation Act. She can’t get the back wages owed to her deceased girlfriend. She can’t get the compensation available to spouses and other relatives of homicide victims. Gay parents in New Jersey can go through the long, expensive process of adopting the children of their partners, but straight people must only get married—anywhere, even in a quickie Vegas hitch—and the state automatically presumes dual parentage.

The court’s decision will end these (and many other) inequalities, and in that sense it stands in contrast to the embarrassing New York high court ruling from earlier this year. A skein of twisted reasoning, that 4-2 decision went against marriage equality. In an unpersuasive bit of reverse bigotry, the New York court said that because straight relationships “are all too often casual or temporary” and can lead to children born out of wedlock, the state needed to help straights by maintaining an exclusive, all-heterosexual club called marriage. Straight people used to be obsessed with the dangers of gay bathhouses; I guess sports bars and hetero dating sites are now the real dangers to society.

The New Jersey court didn’t engage in gimcrack sociology. It stuck to the law and declared that “there is no rational basis for, on the one hand, giving gays and lesbians full civil rights in their status as individuals and, on the other, giving them an incomplete set of rights when they…enter into committed same-sex relationships.” And yet like their New York counterparts, the New Jersey judges threw the decision of what to call these relationships back “to the democratic process.” The New Jersey court continued, rather lyrically: “In searching for the meaning of ‘liberty’…we must resist the temptation of seeing in the majesty of that word only a mirror image of our own strongly felt opinions and beliefs. Under the guise of newly found rights, we must be careful not to impose our personal value system on eight-and-one-half million people, thus bypassing the democratic process as the primary means of effecting social change in this State.”

The contrarian in me appreciates this part of the ruling: as a libertarian, I don’t believe the state has much business approving or disapproving relationships in the first place, so it makes sense that the people, not the courts, should decide what to call the arrangements under which those relationships are codified.

But if the state is going to be in the marriage business, and if we all agree there’s no rational basis for denying marriage rights to gay couples, how could there possibly be a rational basis for creating a separate-but-equal “marriage but not really marriage” statute for gays?

The court says allowing gays to wed is such a profound reconceptualization of marriage that it “must come about through civil dialogue and reasoned discourse, and the considered judgment of the people in whom we place ultimate trust in our republican form of government.” Similarly, in July, fellow contrarians like Kurt Andersen of New York magazine argued that “when courts make certain ‘good’ decisions too far ahead of public opinion and legislative consensus, the result can be hugely problematic, as we’ve seen since Roe v. Wade.”

But Andersen was wrong on the facts: since Roe was decided, support for abortion rights has increased, according to Gallup polls. Opposition to abortion has also intensified, but it’s silly to think that anti-abortion purists would be fine with baby killing as long as a legislature rather than a court had decided to allow it. On the flip side, millions of women didn’t have to resort to self-abortions while they waited for “civil dialogue and reasoned discourse” to arrive in state legislatures.

There’s an even more relevant example: since a court decided in favor of equality for same-sex couples in Massachusetts, support for gay marriage in that state has increased, not decreased, as Andersen’s theory would suggest. And more importantly, thousands of gay couples have been able to enjoy the rights and benefits to which they are entitled.

Obviously judicial activism can go too far. But this isn’t judicial activism; it’s judicial hair-splitting. While the New Jersey court pats itself on the back by saying “Our decision today significantly advances the civil rights of gays and lesbians,” let’s pause for a moment to note what gays and lesbians have not won: actual equality.

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Japanese women share the trials of a life without climax

Ryann Connell

Chizuru looks every bit the party girl in her revealing, body-hugging dress. The image is confirmed when she admits frequently picking up guys at nightclubs. But when she gets them home, she says she suddenly undergoes a transformation.

"I become this shy woman who can't say what's on her mind," she tells Spa!, admitting that she's never had an orgasm despite considerable sexual experience -- an affliction apparently plaguing every second Japanese woman.

"I love sex," Chizuru says. "It feels really good when somebody plays with my clitoris. And I really love it when their finger goes deep into me. But every time I reach the stage where it's like, 'Oh, God, just a little bit more, keep going,' they all stop. And I never orgasm."

The 30-year-old IT company worker says she's had plenty of partners who've tried their hardest to bring her to a peak, but she's never been able to assail the summit and often resorts to faking to avoid hurting feelings.

"The guys have tried hard for me, so I kinda feel obliged to fake it," she says. "I basically learned what to do by copying adult movies. I hold my breath for about five seconds, then let out a moan. I don't think anybody's ever realized. I don't want to act, though."

Chizuru is determined to one day reach orgasm.

"I can't bear the thought of dying without having come at least once. I think that idea's really sad. Nobody knows how much longer they've got to live, but I want to find out what it's like."

Aika Miyajima, a 27-year-old temp worker, knows where Chizuru's, er, coming from. Though she says she enjoys making love as much as the next person, she has no idea what it's like to climax.

"I don't really like cunnilingus, but I put up with it because I figure it might help in the end. Same with having my clitoris rubbed -- it hurt, but it's kinda like 'Ah well, I'll grin and bear it for as long as I can because something better might come up,'' Miyajima tells Spa!, adding that she's tried to bring herself off in the past. "When I put my finger in, I don't really know where to touch. Should I go deep? Or just stay around the edges? I figure if I knew where it felt good, I'd be able to make myself orgasm. But, in the end, I really have no idea how to masturbate properly. I keep trying, but I calm down and get to a point where I start asking myself what the hell I'm doing. Besides, I've got long fingernails, so I don't reckon I can masturbate."

Yoko Kirita, a 29-year-old construction company OL, is another woman who's never orgasmed. She sought the help of others to try and overcome her problem, joining a "threesome club."

"It was fantastic going together with two guys. I was totally at ease. I tried other stuff like orgies and with women," she tells Spa!, adding that she was still unable to reach her zenith. Even after meeting a chiropractor who learned every part of her body -- even through the back door -- and could make her ejaculate at will, she was still unable to orgasm.

"I've tried technically proficient types and unusual stuff, but I couldn't come. I thought that a woman had to love somebody before she could orgasm, but even when I was with a guy I loved there was nothing. I still don't know what it is to orgasm. I'm beginning to think I'll never know what it's like."

Noriko Kano, a writer on Japan's adult movie industry, knows exactly how Kirita feels... or doesn't feel, to be more precise. Despite having spent the past 15 years fiddling with her clitoris -- she calls it her "life work" -- Kano has never had an orgasm during sex.

"I figure it's because I've masturbated too much. I do it at least once a day, so I think my genitals have become desensitized. But I can't possibly give it up. I started when I was in elementary school and found my parents' porno mags. I think that really influenced my attitude toward sex. I became obsessed with making sure that I could bring a man to orgasm," the writer tells Spa!

Kano says that she's tried everything imaginable to have an orgasm, including using a vibrator and rubbing her nether region roughly up against her partner's pelvis every time he lets her ride atop of him -- but all to no avail.

"I guess him coming is like me coming. When he orgasms, I'm relieved and filled with pure pleasure," Kano tells Spa! "But if he gets excited by me having an orgasm, it looks like I've got a bit more work to do on myself yet."

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DVD's teaching raunchy English snapped up in Japan

Masuo Kamiyama

Shukan Jitsuwa "Eiki-mae ryugaku" (study abroad in front of the train station) is the slogan of a certain chain of English conversation schools, the implication being that one can "go overseas" and master a foreign language without ever leaving Japan's shores.

Fuhgeddaboudit, says Shukan Jitsuwa, affecting the Brooklyn dialect. Using conventional learning methods, there are some things you're simply not going to acquire by staying home.

One of these is knowing how to ask a sexy blonde to give you a blow job. Or about her favorite position in bed.

But now, thanks to "English by the DTM method," you can acquire these and other useful "Ero English" phrases for use in the unlikely eventuality that you encounter a blonde while on the prowl.

DTM stands for Direct Translation Method. But it might as well mean Dirty Talk Method. Here's a few examples of what you can learn from the sexy supermodel instructions that appear on a pair of DVDs that went on sale in September.

"Okay, students, now repeat after me:

- "What is your favorite position?" -- "I'm going to take you to heaven."-- "That's [sic] feels good. I'm cumming!"

Two discs -- named "Nancy" (beginner) and Rachel (intermediate) -- sell for 12,000 and 14,000 yen, or 19,800 yen for the set of two.

In a nutshell, the DTM learning method involves a learn-as-you-go approach to comprehension. Developed by a university professor (unnamed here), the method has begun to attract growing numbers of language learners.

As one example, when Japanese are taught the phrase "I love you," it is translated to them in natural Japanese syntax with the verb at the end, i.e., "Watashi wa anata wo aishiteimasu." But DTM translates the phrase using the English pattern of subject-verb-object: "Watashi ga, aishiteru no wa, anata desu" (literally, "As for me, the [thing that] I am loving, is you"). While appearing somewhat disjointed, this succeeds in conveying the way English is expressed more accurately than traditional methods.

What about the more risque contents, you ask?

"From the results of a survey we conducted, most of the buyers have been men between the ages of 30 to 60," a PR spokesperson for DTM tells Shukan Jitsuwa. "These customers have also indicated their preference for materials that are more adult oriented (i.e., with sexual contents). So we decided to produce the two DVDs."

After rehearsing their lines from the discs, presumably these thirtyish to fiftyish Japanese will head for one of Tokyo's so-called "gaikokujin pubs," where blonde-haired, blue-eyed ladies hang out, and after a self introduction and a few preliminaries, deliver their pitch.

And who knows? If their delivery is polished enough, some might even go for it.

"Japanese men of all generations are easy prey for blondes," says Tomoyuki Abe, a director and performer in his own adult videos. "The main factor that keeps Japanese men from making it with them is the language barrier. If they can learn how to deliver their lines right, it might just work."

Both the beginner and intermediate DVDs feature five scenarios. First the actors mouth their lines with no supplementary information, to develop their aural comprehension skills. The dialogs are repeated. Then the scenes are shown once again with English subtitles. Then finally, the English appears with a Japanese translation.

Among other things, Shukan Jitsuwa points out, the DVDs wean Japanese away from their own English word borrowings by putting terms such as "breasts" or "tits" (not "basuto"), or "butt" and "ass" (not "hippu") into their properly idiomatic perspectives. Some terms might add to the confusion, however. "Rodo" is introduced not as a paved surface, but as "semen" (load).

Those interested in acquiring such er, learning materials should seek out the DVDs titled "Kore nara Dakizu ni Eikaiwa. Amerkajin Onechan wo Eigo de Kudoite H Suru?" (With this, you won't tire of conversational English. Can you get laid by amorously approaching an American gal in English?")

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Sex scandal rocks Kashmir

William Sparrow

Underage girls, senior officials enmeshed in steamy prostitution racket.

For an area wracked for decades by terrorism, civil war, invasion and life on the razor's edge between Pakistan and India, the disputed region of Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir ought to have enough trouble. But in recent months the conservative area has been preoccupied by a high-powered sex scandal involving government ministers, business leaders and girls as young as 15 allegedly forced into prostitution and pornography.

Last week a district court judge denied bail applications submitted by 13 accused in the case and the scandal is once again roiling Kashmir as prosecutors work to finalize charges and combat criticism that they had covered up the case. More than 100 witnesses have been examined.

The ruling Congress Party and its opponents in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are blaming each other for covering up the scandal. The opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has joined Islamic radicals in Kashmir demanding punishment for the officials involved.

Asia Andrabi, who runs a women's group, Dukhtaran-e-Millat (Daughters of the Community), that has been investigating the sex trade and first uncovered the sex ring, told the website Hard News that her group has identified at least 50 current and former legislators and ministers involved in the scandal. According to Andrabi, about 300 local girls are working as sex workers and she accused the government of promoting and patronizing prostitution in Kashmir.

Two former government ministers are alleged to have organized and participated in the prostitution and pornography ring. Charges filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation in June also included a police Deputy Inspector General who has also been accused of rape by one of the teenaged girls involved.

Indictments have been filed against a number of other senior officials with eight prominent Kahmiris charged with rape, procuring girls for prostitution, intimidation of witnesses and wrongful confinement. If convicted, the accused face seven years to life imprisonment. Others are also being swept up in a scandal that has tongues wagging across the region.

The scandal was kicked off last March when a 15-year-old girl named Yasmeen told authorities she was by forced into the sex trade by Sabeena, a woman with one name who has now been arrested.

The girl and many others were allegedly forced to service government officials, ministers, police and security forces officials, the press reported, citing police documents. Yasmeen has implicated dozens of senior officials, according to Hard News. "I was a student of eighth grade when I first met Sabeena at a party," the girl is quoted as saying in a police report. "She told me she would arrange a job for me. When I went to see her at her house, there was no one there except a government gunman, Merajuddin, who drugged me. I don't know what happened afterwards,"

Yasmeen also told police that she was recorded on a pornographic CD whose appearance in public caused her to drop out of school in shame. Still, it was only after a national newspaper reported the scandal on April 29 that the state government arrested Sabeena and charged her with being the linchpin in the racket. She had been arrested on similar charges in 2004 but was later released without facing trial.

While sex scandals are nothing new in India, this one is taking on more serious political and social overtones. The current contretemps has reached as far as New Delhi, with the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association charging that the Central Bureau of Investigation, India's premier investigating agency, refused to arrest influential political figures. The case, the Bar Association said, "will expose politicians, bureaucrats, police officials, etc., who have sexually exploited teenage girls of Kashmir in the name of countering insurgency."

In May Justice Hakim Imtiaz Hussain stunned a packed courtroom when he said that police were involved in a coverup. "The police are directly hampering the process of investigation," he said, according to a BBC report.

In the volatile and religiously conservative region, demonstrators again clashed with the police over the scandal last month when an angry mob in Srinagar razed two houses owned by Sabeena. In nearby Chinkral Mohalla, protesters also attacked property owned by the woman with police eventually using tear gas to disperse the mobs.

A strike called at the time by the women's group Dukhtaran-e-Millat caused shops and businesses to close in Srinagar along with educational institutions, banks, and courts, many of which remain shuttered.

Jurisdiction in the case was transferred from Srinagar to Chandigarh last month by the Supreme Court after the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association refused to defend the accused in the trial saying they did not want to represent people who were accused of exploiting young girls.

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Dissecting the Vatican's Ramadan Diplomacy

The Pope remains concerned about soothing hurt feelings among Muslims, but some advisors are urging him to pursue the blunt dialogue he initiated in Germany

That singular Roman dialect known as Vaticanese can sometimes turn so vague as to be incomprehensible. But on Friday, when French Cardinal Paul Poupard presented the Vatican's annual message for the end of Ramadan, there was no doubt about what was meant by the "particular circumstances" that had heightened interest in what is usually a boilerplate goodwill missive. Five weeks since Pope Benedict XVI's speech in Germany about faith, reason and violence provoked a backlash among some Muslims, the wheels of Vatican diplomacy are still working overtime to "placate the souls," as Benedict himself had put it in mid-September, in his first discourse following his return from Germany.

The words of Friday's message — and Poupard's decision to hold a press conference for the first time to present it — were quintessential old-style Holy See diplomacy. "I wish you peace, tranquility and joy in your hearts, your homes and your countries," the Cardinal said in the message. "It is good to be able to share this significant moment with you in the context of our ongoing dialogue." Still the message, which is similar to other such annual missives to Buddhists and Hindus, doesn't answer the question that is on many minds in Rome, and beyond: When is Benedict going to pick up where he left off in Regensburg?

That's because in his speech at in Germany, the Pope had effectively challenged Muslims to an inter-faith dialogue less preoccupied with diplomacy. Of course, that speech turned into a worldwide diplomatic incident, largely because Benedict had cited a 14th century Byzantine emperor's statement branding the contribution to religion of Islam's Prophet Muhammad as "things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." The Pope has since clarified that he does not agree with those words, and has repeatedly expressed his esteem for Muslims. Says a senior Vatican official: "We always say that when the house is on fire, the first thing to do is put out the fire." Still, there is a sense that something is changing in Rome, which for decades has focused all dialogue with other faiths on "finding common ground." Asked at Friday's press conference if the conversation between the Catholic Church and Muslims is bound to get more frank, Monsignor Pier Luigi Celata, secretary of the Vatican's pontifical council for inter-religious dialogue, said: "We have to go forward, with more courage than before. This was necessary."

Vatican officials cite a recent letter the Pope received from 38 Muslim intellectuals, which responds to his September speech with detailed arguments. "An exchange on the theme of reason and religion has been launched," Poupard said. Benedict's decision of how and when to return to his talking frankly on the subject is a delicate balancing act. Some in the Vatican hope he continues his post-Regensburg conciliatory tone during his trip in late November to Turkey, noting that any misstep could be explosive in a country that is 98% Muslim. Others say it is a unique opportunity to speak clearly to what will surely be a worldwide audience. In the meantime, two things are certain: An entire diplomatic corps will be busy offering its advice and technical services; and just one man will ultimately decide.

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Why Tony Blair is Right About the Veil

Muslim women can't integrate with British society from behind a mask.

I dislike the veil. But last year, when I spent a month working all over Afghanistan, I wore one the entire time — because Afghan society cannot yet tolerate unveiled women, and I wanted to connect with people and do my job effectively. I could have gone bare-headed, but it would have sent the hostile message that I didn't care about integrating with the society around me. Did I enjoy having to reconsider my anti-veil stance? Of course not. I detested how wobbly it made my beliefs feel, and I trashed it on my flight out of Kabul. But I was the one who had gone to Afghanistan; Afghanistan had not come to me. That made it my responsibility to deal with how my presence affected those around me.

I've thought about this constantly since the debate erupted in Britain over whether Muslim women should wear full-face veils. Prime Minister Tony Blair has backed calls by his party's parliamentary leader, Jack Straw, that Muslim women in Britain should refrain from covering their full faces, particularly when dealing with the wider society. The indignation of British Muslims — their refusal, really, to even have a conversation about the issue — strikes me as particularly delusional, given the realities of post-9/11 Europe. It would be like me traipsing as an American into hostile, post-Taliban Afghanistan, imagining I could bare my hair without alienating those around me. To expect this would involve an unhealthy relationship with reality.

The fact that the issue in Britain does not seem to be the veil per se, but the more extreme full-face covering known as the niqab, the comments of Blair and Straw seem perfectly reasonable to me. Neither of them asked Muslim women to abandon their belief in hijab, or the custom of veiling, altogether. Both zeroed in on the niqab, a minority practice considered extreme by even mainstream Muslim standards. I come from a Muslim family and have spent years living in various Muslim communities around the Middle East. Ever single Muslim girlfriend I've had, from pious to secular, veiled to vixen, has been unable to befriend, or even hold a proper conversation with a niqab-wearer. The young son of a close friend, raised in a large Muslim family in a large Muslim country, calls them "ninja ladies." Covering the face, whether in Yorkshire or Beirut, seems to send a universal message of separateness. If the full-face veil is considered creepy by many Muslim women in the Middle East, why wouldn't it cause a twinge of unease among ordinary British people with no tradition of veiling at all?

The idea that women in niqab can assimilate properly into a community or be effective as teachers distresses me, because it is at heart disingenuous. Clearly, meaningful social exchange requires a face. And arguments about non-verbal communication being inessential only address half the problem. The obscured woman, who can see her interlocutor clearly through her slits, is enjoying contact with a face; it's the other party, conversing with a tiny black tent, that bears the burden of the discomfort. It would be more sincere for niqab-wearers to say they accept the cost of holding inflexibly to their tradition: the unease of their non-Muslim fellow citizens, and slower assimilation.

It's no coincidence the British debate surrounds a teaching assistant who refused to take off her full-face veil around male colleagues. Niqabs in school are an even more delicate issue than niqabs at the supermarket or the park, for teachers serve as role models to children, and the niqab sends a controversial message that may or may not be appropriate in the classroom. Even more so than the headscarf, the niqab is premised on the traditional Muslim belief that uncovered women are sexually stimulating to men, who are presumed to be incapable of controlling themselves. In a Muslim society where many men hold such an ugly view of their own gender, perhaps a heavily-veiled woman connotes no insult. But to a Western man living in a culture with very different norms of gender relations, the idea that a woman is covering her face and body because she considers him a potential sexual predator can seem deeply disrespectful.

Non-Muslim adult men may find this unpleasant, but in a diverse society, they are probably expected to just deal with it. Schoolchildren are a different matter altogether. They may not be briefed on the roots of such Islamic mores, but they'll still wonder why they can't see their teacher's face. I wouldn't want a niqab-wearer as a role model for my child, and I wouldn't want to explain that his teacher considers her bare face somehow immoral. It is ironic that living in an Islamic theocracy, this is something I would never have to do (the niqab is not worn in Iran), while non-Muslim British parents are being asked to do so on grounds of cultural tolerance.

None of this is to say that I consider the wearing of the more commonplace form of hijab, a headscarf, objectionable. If people, British or otherwise, feel uncomfortable because a woman has a scarf on her head, that's not a concern to be taken seriously. Men who wear unattractive baseball caps make me uncomfortable, but I've gotten used to the world not being aesthetically designed to my taste. No, the issue is very specifically the niqab, and the obstacle it poses to human interaction and smooth integration. What does seem obvious is that the assimilation of British Muslims is a troubled process, and that intrusive squares of cloth should remain an open, but peripheral debate.

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The Morbid Afterlife of Juan Perón

On Scene: Thirty-two years after his death, the remains of Argentina's icon will be moved for a third time — and a posthumous paternity suit will be settled. Now, his supporters want Evita moved, too

There was a gut-wrenching moment for Argentina's Peronists last Friday morning as genetic experts descended into the stone tomb of the Per�n family in Buenos Aires, where they extracted bone samples from the remains of revered former President Juan Per�n. The purpose of disturbing his resting place was a DNA test to settle a long-standing paternity suit filed by a woman claiming to be his daughter.

The spectacle of forensic experts working on the desiccated but still recognizable remains of "El General," who died in 1974, was too much for Alejandro Rodr�guez Per�n, the 45-year-old great-nephew of the legendary populist leader and custodian of the modest crypt at the Chacarita cemetery. Rodr�guez Per�n had previously insisted, "Per�n had no children, he was sterile," and Friday's intrusion saw him so overcome by emotion that he fainted half way through the proceedings.

Behind the DNA extraction is Martha Holgado, a 72-year-old woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Per�n, who claims that the then colonel and her mother Mar�a Cecilia Demarchi had conducted a brief affair in 1933, which resulted in her conception. "It was an open secret in the Peronist movement that Per�n had a daughter," says Ms Holgado.

But old-time Peronists scoff at the claim. "We never heard anything of the kind," says 84-year-old Antonio Cafiero, a former member of Juan Per�n's cabinet and a friend to his wife Evita during the early 1950s. "Per�n was not the kind of person who would have kept such a thing hidden."

But Ms. Holgado claims that until Per�n's death in 1974, she and Argentina's foremost political icon carried on a secret father-daughter relationship. When Per�n went into exile in 1955 after being ousted by his fellow military, Ms. Holgado says she followed him to Panama. There she says she met her nemesis, the cabaret dancer Mar�a Estela Mart�nez, who went on to marry Per�n before becoming better known under her stage name "Isabelita" and succeeding Per�n as president in 1974-76 after his death in office.

Until now, "Isabelita", who lives in Madrid after being ousted by the military in 1976, had managed to block Ms Holgado's 13-year legal struggle to prove she is Per�n's daughter, refusing to permit the removal of DNA samples from Per�n's corpse. But last week, the court handling Ms. Holgado's paternity suit refused permission for Per�n's remains to be moved to a specially-built mausoleum before bone samples were extracted first, because plans to re-embalm his remains could render them unsuitable for DNA testing later.

"We've won!" exclaimed Ms. Holgado at her downtown Buenos Aires apartment, adorned with photos of Per�n, last Wednesday afternoon, after lawyers for Per�n's widow granted permission for the procedure. With the DNA samples extracted, the way is now open for the remains to be transported by motorcade to a new resting place, on Tuesday, the anniversary of the 1945 popular uprising that catapulted Per�n to power.

Per�n's supporters hope the new mausoleum at San Vicente will be the final resting place for a corpse that has been unusually mobile. During a massive outpouring of national grief upon his death in 1974, Peron's preserved remains were displayed for thousands to pay their respects at the National Congress in Buenos Aires, before they were moved to the presidential residence in the suburb of Olivos, where they rested alongside the remains of his wife Evita Per�n, who had died of cancer in 1952. Then, following the 1976 military coup that deposed his widow "Isabelita," Per�n's body was moved to the modest Per�n family vault in Chacarita cemetery, where they were visited by the geneticists last Friday. Evita's remains, meanwhile, were moved to the upscale Recoleta cemetery, where they have remained since, under thick layers of steel plate to protect them from would-be tomb raiders.

While they may differ on everything else, Holgado and Rodriguez Per�n agree that Peronists are seized by a morbid obsession with the remains of their erstwhile leader. "My father is being used as a war trophy, all those politicians jostling to have their photo taken alongside his coffin," says Holgado.

Adds Rodriguez Per�n, who holds a modest job in a van hire firm, "We are a very morbid country. I understand the argument that his body should not be re-embalmed, but at the same time, I am in favor of his body being kept intact, vacuum-sealed, so that it can still be recognizable 300 years from now."

The next morbid challenge for Per�n loyalists is to have Evita's remains moved to a specially-prepared niche alongside her husband's in San Vicente. "Evita's one surviving sister refuses to grant us permission," regrets Cafiero, who is nonetheless adamantly against "Isabelita" — "respected" rather than loved by even the most fervent Peronists — eventually joining Per�n in San Vicente after her death. Says Cafiero, "Isabelita is not of the same political stature as Per�n and Evita."

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Advocates Cheer Gay-Friendly Benefits Programs


More U.S. Companies Promote Gay-Friendly Policies to Attract Talent, New Report Says.

Because of an increasingly common policy at U.S. companies, Vivienne Armstrong can choose from two different plans when she considers her health insurance: the one offered by her employer and one offered by her partner's.

Armstrong, a registered nurse, gets her health coverage through the defense firm Raytheon Co., which offers domestic partner benefits to her partner, Louise Young. Young, a senior software engineer in the Plano, Texas, office, said Armstrong chose Raytheon's plan simply because it has stronger benefits.

Young, a lesbian activist, said she is encouraged by signs of the growth of gay-friendly corporate policies within her industry and in corporate America. And a lobby group, the Human Rights Campaign, reports that gay-friendly policies are being added at a greater number of companies, where they are a draw to prospective employees gay and straight.

"Some of our competitors are starting to emulate our good workplace policies," Young said.

Raytheon was touted as the first in its industry to earn a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign in 2005. To earn a perfect score, companies must offer domestic partners health and other wellness benefits, enact nondiscrimination policies for sexual orientation and gender identity, and support GLBT resource groups and events.

The HRC recently released its newest list tracking company policies on rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees, and this time it included three other defense contractors: Boeing Co., Honeywell International Inc. and Northrop Grumman Corp.

Companies in the automotive, pharmaceutical and consulting industries, as well as law firms, followed a similar pattern with more firms being added to the list.

Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, attributes that to the growing sentiment among both gay and straight employees that companies should not only tolerate but encourage diversity of all kinds, including that of a sexual nature.

"The phenomenon of competition is actually an interesting one," Solmonese said. "What we're seeing when we're looking at specific industries, we see an emerging sense that if more than a few are at 100 percent, then we all need to be at 100 percent."

The HRC started its annual review in 2002. Since then, it has grown in visibility as an indicator of the type of culture a company cultivates, which is increasing in importance for gay and straight employees, Solmonese said.

"All of these things are motivated by what is good for business," he said. "I hear from corporate leaders every week, that they went after a very sought-after person, and they hear the question of whether they have domestic partner benefits. For straight applicants, it's a measure of the corporate culture."

The report's list -- it grew to 138 from 101 -- expands in part because more companies are becoming aware of its existence and deciding it is important to apply. Among the new additions in 2006: Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc., Bank of America Corp., Clear Channel Communications Inc., General Motors Corp., Google Inc., Morgan Stanley, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and Visa International.

Like Raytheon, Ernst & Young claims the distinction of being first from its industry to make the list. Mike Syers, a partner at the accounting firm, attributes that in part to the early grassroots effort among employees. He was a founding member of bEYond, the firm's GLBT employee group.

Chip Faught, associate director for national tax at Ernst & Young, and his partner Nathan Monell used the company's financial assistance to help bring their adopted son and daughter from Guatemala in late May of last year. Faught received $5,000 per child in assistance and company policies, he said, gave him the flexibility to complete the adoption process including three trips to Guatemala.

Syers said that gay-friendly policies, while good for employees, are also good for business.

"We have companies realizing they really can't afford to exclude anyone," he said. "Younger people are coming out of college and are out and open in their public lives, they're not going to go back into the closet to begin their professional careers."

At Merrill Lynch, the sense that gay-friendliness is important has actually translated into business opportunities. The firm's Domestic Partner Financial Foundation helps couples plan their financial lives, and Merrill Lynch manages the endowments of a number of GLBT nonprofits.

Todd Sears, a senior financial adviser in Merrill Lynch's global private client group, said corporate America -- more than the general public -- realizes the value of GLBT employees and consumers.

"Companies like Merrill Lynch understand that the LGBT community supports companies who support us, and will not do business with companies who do not," Sears said.

In many cases, the changing policies ultimately affect the culture of the office.

Philip Adkins first worked at the law firm Arnold & Porter, based in Washington, D.C., from 1989 to 1993. He left for another job, but returned to the law firm in 1997. He said the firm's policies have been a big factor in his job satisfaction and desire to work there.

Adkins, the director of benefits at Arnold & Porter, said that when workers see support for the sexual diversity policies among top managers, that sends a message.

"It filters down," he said.

Copyright © 2006 ABC News Internet Ventures

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Arnold Gets Flunked


Upset over Gov. Schwarzenegger's education policies, California college students are coming up with their own attack ads.

One of the best attack ads of the fall election season was filmed in a dorm room and ends with the allegation that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger eats babies. The ad, starring two California State University at Monterey Bay students, also makes the more accurate points that Schwarzenegger raised community college tuition and cut teacher tax credits. As for baby eating? "Dude, we can't prove that," one student says in the skit. "Shut up, it's an attack ad. I can say whatever I want," his rage-filled buddy responds.

The ad is part of the Flunk Arnold contest, an initiative launched in September by the California Faculty Association, a union of professors and other employees in the CSU system. The contest invites CSU students to create their own anti-Arnold websites or 30-second videos. The winner in each category will receive a year's tuition ($2,520), paid for by CFA members' dues. The video that receives the most votes online will also appear as an ad in California TV markets during Comedy Central's The Daily Show. CFA student interns, regular users of Youtube and Daily Show fans came up with the Flunk Arnold idea, says the union's president John Travis. "We believe our students have an interest in this election and we wanted to tap their creativity," Travis says.

Contestants have until Oct. 18 to post their videos, and about TK have been posted thus far. A Schwarzenegger campaign spokesman points out that's only a handful of the 400,000 CSU students. "Most college students understand Gov. Schwarzenegger has done more for them than previous administrations," he says. Like many campaigns this year, Schwarzenegger's has also made good use of Youtube, directing reporters to TV news clips catching his Democratic competitor Phil Angelides' missteps.

But for the two students behind the baby eating ad, Scott Waldvogel, 19, and Brandon Siciarz, 18, the Flunk Arnold contest was a chance to reject the governor's tuition hikes and have a little fun. "We're basically attacking attack ads," says Waldvogel. And that's a cause most voters can get behind.

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The Burden of Heroes



Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers adapts James Bradley and Ron Powers' book recounting the story of the three survivors of the flag raising on Iwo Jima during World War II. The event produced the most famous photographic image of the war, and the men were returned home to lead a war-bond tour, during which they were heroically--and, in their view, erroneously--lionized. Almost simultaneously with Flags, Eastwood, 76, made another film, Letters from Iwo Jima, that tells the story of the battle from the Japanese point of view. To be released Feb. 9, it's a horrifying account of men forced into a suicidal defense of the island by an imperial state. Its leading figures are two soldiers who question such fanaticism. The two films constitute a meditation on the nature of heroism, and the director sat down with TIME's Richard Schickel (a longtime friend) to reflect further on the topic.

What drew you to the book?

To begin with, I just liked the idea of telling a kind of detective story where the son finds out about his father after he passed away. The father didn't want to talk about the war. I was reading his last interview the other night, and the reporter was asking him tough questions, but the father just kind of said, "Oh, I don't want to comment on that." It gave you a good picture of what kind of man he must have been--very reserved. He didn't want to revisit the flag raising, much less the war.

But obviously the son knew he was one of the six guys who raised the flag?

Sure, he knew that. That's the start of the whole story. Why did this man seek anonymity to such a great degree even with his own family? Here is a man who won the Navy Cross--the second highest decoration you can get--but they didn't even know he'd won it until after he died.

When you read the book the first time, did you start thinking of what constitutes heroism and what doesn't?

Yeah, I did. The thing that I liked about it is there were no stories of people bashing down walls and running through doors. It was just the common man--skinny kids out of the Depression getting out of high school and going right into the war. And then getting into battle that just was more than they could fathom. Their average age was 19. What that must have done to the brain of a young kid. And then going home--but not normally, like most kids. The government put them out on this war-bond drive. They came back to a million people at Times Square and climbing these papier-mâché mountains, all this Hollywood kind of stuff. In fact, we're talking about the propaganda machine. The propaganda machine is our subject matter.

That's to me the most interesting aspect of the movie. These were just six guys who were standing around with a pipe and a flag.

And you don't see their faces. You could put anybody on those papier-mâché mountains and say, "These are the guys who raised the flag." Who was to know?

Does the very anonymity of Joe Rosenthal's photo make them seem more heroic?

Rosenthal always claimed that if he'd composed it, he would have ruined it, because he would have said, "I can't see your faces." It symbolized the whole country being heroic rather than an individual Medal of Honor winner.

Isn't the essence of heroism--as we understand it in the U.S., at least--dutifulness?

I think so.

And also shutting up about what you did later?

It's something like you're holding your soul in. You're just not baring it. It's something that is private, and if you brought it out, you might bring out a lot of bad stuff with it. Ira Hayes, in the scene on the train says, in effect, Wouldn't it be great if the other guys--meaning the other three compadres who are dead--could be here on this train eating with silverware and all these niceties? Hayes is in a drunken stupor, and he just says, "We shouldn't be here." And that sort of sums the whole thing up. They were beginning to realize that maybe they should either be back with their units or home.

Sinking back into anonymity.

Which had its costs. The idea of post-traumatic stress wasn't around in those days. It used to be called shell shock, and they were told, "Go home, and get over it." I met with a lot of vets. I went to a 60th anniversary [of the war] in San Francisco, and there was a panel of vets. All of them, to a man, said that they'd only come out in the last couple of years. One guy I talked to was Danny Thomas, who was a corpsman like Bradley--same decorations and everything. He said it took him 55 years before he could talk about it even in passing. And he had never married, and he never had children. He said, "I missed a lot of life because I could never adjust."

In light of stories like that, do you think WW II permanently changed our definition of heroism, especially battlefield heroism?

I think so. If you go back and think of the romance of WW I, you think of the pilots flying these Spads, and if they shot a guy down--and he'd be in a parachute--instead of shooting him, they'd salute him, you know. There was a certain gallantry, a certain code. I remember my dad took me to see Sergeant York when I was a kid, and I was taken by the fact that it was a story about a guy who was a conscientious objector but was a great shot with a rifle. But in the end, he just goes out and gets the job done. He too sort of represented the character of America at that time.

And now?

You know, heroism is so much different now. I think everyone is looking for who's the hero that is going to get us out of what we're in now. I heard somebody on the radio the other day--one of these talk shows--saying, "Oh, where's the new General Patton? Where's the guy who says, 'I don't give a s___ what the politicians want--this is what we should do.'" Well, that era's gone.

The military is so bureaucratized now. It's hard for a guy to assert that kind of will. He's going to end up a major on a base in New Mexico. He's not going to be a Colin Powell.

No, no--Powell's always been a person who likes to take the conservative way. He certainly isn't militant military. At least we don't picture him that way. Whether he could do the Pattonesque thing, I don't know.

Modern war almost in its nature negates the possibility of heroism as it was traditionally understood.

Absolutely. It almost takes that out of the equation. It puts us in the horrible position where in order to defend against cowardly deeds, you have to behave in what has always been seen as a cowardly way yourself. You're at some checkpoint, and you see a bunch of women in a vehicle, and then all of a sudden, some guy's there with a rifle shooting away, or he blows the whole vehicle up. So what do you do? What do you do? I was never one of those who were excited about going into Iraq. But you're there, so how the hell do you work your way out of it?

Let me change the subject a little bit. You've played a lot of heroes in movies. But can you name anywhere you played an entirely unambiguous hero?


Why not?

Several reasons. Mostly because I felt that heroes a lot of times are disturbed people. But I think a lot of people who do extraordinary heroic things sometimes have got some sort of a little insanity thing. So I've always played heroic people as slightly flawed, slightly haunted by something else. In Unforgiven, William Munny is definitely a flawed guy, and he only becomes heroic at the end because he's just kind of gone crazy.

Does Dirty Harry go crazy?

The background of that story was he was a lonely person--very lost, very lonely. His wife was killed in an accident, and his hate for the bureaucracy made him a renegade. But he truly was obsessed with the plight of the victim, which was his noble side. So, within a story like that, it was easy in those days for people who didn't want to think too much about it to say, "Oh, that's just a guy that's a crazy." But, you know, I just felt there are people like that.

You're really a postwar movie star.

I think you're right--we're looking at a postwar mentality and maybe just a different generation. It's not like High Noon, where the guy's a wonderful sheriff. Everybody loved him. He had saved the town. And the town deserts him when he needs them. I love that picture--but that hero does not exist in me. I don't see heroes that way.

So is there any conceivable possibility in the modern world for the assertion of conventional heroism?

I don't see it right now. I certainly don't see any politician that's a hero in any party anywhere. I think John McCain did something that I don't know if I could do and I don't think many men can look in the mirror and say they'd do: give up a chance to get out of prison because his dad was an admiral and the Vietnamese were going to let him go. I mean that took cojones, donating another 3 1/2 to four years of his life to stay in prison rather than be the one guy who gets to walk away: "Hey, fellas. I'll say hello to everybody." Pat Tillman, giving up his NFL career to fight--and die--for his country is like that for me too. But most of the political structure I get so disappointed at. We're reduced to a society that is sitting here arguing about who used the N word 30 years ago. You see grown men doing this stuff in order to get into a power position, and it's really kind of disgraceful.

But all that said, is there a hunger among Americans for heroic behavior? I think there is a hunger. I think that most people would love to see a heroic figure step forward. I can almost sound like one of those Christian-right guys: Where is the Messiah? •

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Japan: Wacky, weird or wonderful?

Venkatesan Vembu

Last month, Kazuhide Uekusa, one of Japan's most celebrated economists, was arrested on the charge of groping a schoolgirl on a Tokyo subway train: it was the third time in eight years he'd been caught in cases involving pretty young girls in short skirts.

The high-profile status of the accused served to refocus media attention on one of Tokyo's blights: the groping of women, including schoolgirls, by testosterone-driven men who take advantage of cramped conditions in trains.

Even the introduction of 'Women Only' carriages hasn't rendered commuting women entirely safe from the hands that stray.

Increasingly, however, Japan's inveterate 'train gropers' - among other fetishists - are finding new avenues for gratification, thanks to the thousands of themed 'sex clubs' that have come up in most big Japanese towns. A new book, Pink Box: Inside Japan's Sex Clubs (to which DNA gained exclusive access), offers insights into these uniquely Japanese institutions that pander to every conceivable male fantasy, for a price.

For instance, one of the clubs, which caters to train gropers, simulates a 20-minute train ride in a carriage, complete with conductors' announcements and 'stops' where women in short skirts (who are on the club's payrolls) get on and off. For about 6,000 yen (about Rs 2,300), 'commuters' can ride the train -and fondle as many of the pliant women as they please.

No other sexual contact is permitted on the club premises, but of course, there's nothing to stop the liaison continuing at a nearby "love hotel", another Japanese cultural icon! The club owners claim that by providing a release for gropers in simulated conditions, the train clubs actually make real-life train rides relatively safer for women.

Other clubs play on fantasies involving professionals in different walks of life, with appropriate settings and sexual props: waitresses, airhostesses, office secretaries, nurses, teachers -and even schoolgirls in skimpy tartan skirts.

Another doubles as a coffee shop with pantyless waitress (and mirrored floors!); and there's even a club where men can trade in their business suits for diapers and bibs and receive tender, loving care from a young "mommy"! Since these clubs cater only to Japanese males, they were a closed world to outsiders - until Pink Box came out earlier this week, with photographs of hundreds of clubs and of women who work in them.

The photographer, Joan Sinclair, a blonde American corporate lawyer who took a year off to pursue this documentary project, told DNA that she'd first heard of these clubs when she was teaching English in Tokyo some 10 years ago.

"Although these clubs are a part of mainstream modern culture in Japan, they're not something foreigners hear about."

At $20 billion, the sex industry is Japan's second largest industry (after automobiles). Sinclair notes that the clubs operate under very complicated licensing procedures -"so complicated that they were operating outside of their licensing, in a semi-legal state."

But in every other way, they operate transparently, she adds. "The prices and house rules are all written out in detail on 'menus'. Nothing is left to chance."

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Indonesian gays fight back

Doug Ireland

Indonesia's fledgling LGBT group, Arus Pelangi (Rainbow Flag), last Monday launched a national campaign against a welter of ultra-homophobic regional statutes based on Muslim Sharia law.

"Many LGBT people are arrested and detained, often without charges or clear reason, only to be released after a few days," said Widodo "Dodo" Budi Darmo, the 35-year-old director of campaigning for Arus Pelangi, which was formed in January this year as Indonesia's first explicitly activist LGBT group on the legal and political fronts.

"In 2004, the region of Palembang introduced a regional law that proscribes homosexuality as an act of prostitution that 'violates the norms of common decency, religion, and legal norms as they apply to societal rule,'" Dodo-a co-founder of Arus Pelangi-told Gay City News from Jakarta. "That law says that included under the term 'act of prostitution' are 'homosexual sex, lesbians, sodomy, sexual harassment, and other pornographic acts.'"

Dodo said that "this regional law was part of a chain of similar laws across Sumatra and Java that base themselves on Sharia law from the Koran," and that "52 regions have adopted or put forward such laws." In the special capital district of Jakarta itself, he said, "all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and transsexual people are legally considered cacat, or mentally handicapped, and as such are not protected by law. This contradiction of LGBT people falling outside the law while still being subjected to it is one of the injustices that Arus Pelangi hopes to combat."

Some 88 percent of Indonesia's quarter of a billion people identify as Muslims, making it the world's largest Islamic nation. Islamic beliefs take various forms in the country-there are the orthodox, Mecca-oriented santri, and also another Muslim current called kebatinan, or Javanism, which is an amalgam of Islamic (especially Sufi) beliefs colored by indigenous animist and Hindu-Buddhist influences, as well as ethnic traditions, in a country where 300 languages are spoken.

Three-fifths of the nation's population lives on the island of Java and Islamic precepts continue to frame public debate. There is considerable political coherence among traditionalist and modernist Muslim currents-all of them doctrinally opposed to homosexuality.

"There are many Islamic fundamentalist groups in Indonesia that thrive on premanism, or thuggery, against anyone that goes against what they feel their religion dictates," said Dodo. "These groups-in Jakarta they are most predominantly the FPI (the Front of Supporters of Islam) and the FBR (Betawi Council Forum)-will attack the offices, workplaces, and homes of people they consider to be of particular threat to the morals and values of Islam, and that includes LGBT people."

The International Herald Tribune noted in an October 9 article on Indonesia, "President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been criticized by some for failing to speak out clearly against" the "persistent [Muslim-instigated] violence."

Last Monday, Dodo recounted, "We had a forum with the Department of Justice and Human Rights, and met with the head of the office regarding regional laws in order to push the issue of discrimination against LGBT people evidenced in those laws, and as well to attempt to break through channels in order to meet with the only two people in Indonesian politics able to quash laws still in deliberation (the minister of Internal Affairs) or already made (President Yudhoyono.)" So far, Arus Pelangi has had no success in arranging those breakthrough meetings.

Arus Pelangi also has been lobbying hard against final passage of a sweeping "Law Against Pornography and Porno-Action" that is being pushed by Islamic-oriented political parties, and could be used to stifle any pro-gay agitation or writing. This draconian, homophobic law would prohibit any writing or audio-visual presentation-including songs, poetry, films, paintings, and photographs-that "exploit the notion of persons engaging in sexual relations" or "engaging in activities leading to sexual relations with persons of the same sex." Even portrayals of "kissing on the lips" of any gender combinations would be forbidden under this proposed legislation. Violations of this law would be punishable not only by fines but by prison terms of up to seven years as well.

"There are a few supporters within the Indonesian Parliament who are willing to help us seek equal rights for LGBT people in Indonesia," Dodo said, "and these are mainly from the PDI-P (Party for the Indonesian Democracy Struggle) and the PKB (National Awakening Party), and though their members are few, they have greatly supported Arus Pelangi's cause and have enabled us to come further in political discussions and alliances as a result."

Arus Pelangi is also striving, against great odds, to have sexual orientation included in a new Minority Rights law being considered by Parliament that was originally presented as a bill on ethnic and racial discrimination.

"There has been strong opposition from various [Islamic] fundamentalist and conservative parties who have threatened to block the Minority Rights bill should the LGBT issue be inserted," Dodo said, "but we are currently working in coalition with several [non-governmental organizations] and a few members of Parliament to further this issue."

Less than a year old, Arus Pelangi has some 400 members-about 40 percent are lesbians, 30 percent gay men, and 30 percent transsexuals. The large number of lesbians is in part due to the success of bi-weekly lesbian discussion groups the organization runs in Jakarta which, Dodo said, "have been successful in uniting groups with little to no ties with each other previously. They've become a popular forum for lesbians who are open about their sexuality as well as with those who have yet to come out," and involve discussions of everyday problems, violations of their human rights, and consciousness-raising.

Arus Pelangi has already facilitated the establishment of three autonomous branches outside Jakarta. In Surabaya, the LGBT organization Us was formed with the support of Arus Pelangi staff, and participates in the activities generated by the Jakarta office. An Arus Pelangi chapter has started in Medan to target LGBT issues in Northern Sumatra. And in Purwokerto, a new LGBT organization has been formed as a result of Arus Pelangi's activities in the region in response to the murder last year of Vera, a transsexual.

"The case of Vera, a transsexual who was murdered last October 28 in Purwokerto, Central Java, has received little attention from the local police," Dodo said. "Our staff traveled to the area, met with witnesses and the victim's family, and received permission to take this case to court. We've developed a network of partners to insure the protection of witnesses, only four of whom have as yet been questioned by the police but with no concrete action as a result."

In another horrendous case that is the focus of Arus Pelangi's work, three transsexuals were murdered in Jakarta by the Indonesian police.

"We've begun investigations with the families of the victims who live in Jakarta, and have raised the issue with the National Human Rights Commission," said Dodo, "but this case will require an extremely long process of data collection and campaigning with government authorities, as it involves charges being brought against the police. We've taken up cases like these, and are trying to build up our local communities and empower them to support themselves and each other, to decrease the fear experienced by LGBT people."

In fact, it is difficult to quantify with any specificity the level of bias-related anti-gay violence in the country because, until the founding of Arus Pelangi, there was no gay group collecting such information in Indonesia. A group called Lambda Indonesia was founded in 1985, sponsored social gatherings, consciousness-raising, and issued a newsletter, but it petered out in the 1990s. Gaya Nusantara is a gay group focusing on health issues like AIDS, and operating mainly in Surabaya, East Java. Yayasan Srikandi Sejati, founded in 1998, focuses specifically on health issue of the transgendered, running a free health clinic that provides HIV/AIDS counseling and free condoms to transsexual sex workers.

"In general, the public here is not well-informed about HIV/AIDS," Dodo said. "There is no sex education in the schools, except for that done by these other organizations with very limited means and despite hostility from school authorities. Because the other LGBT organizations before Arus Pelangi exclusively focused on health issues, they inadvertently perpetuated the notion of AIDS as a 'gay disease' and thus the stigmatization of the LGBT community concerning this issue. However, the stereotype of people with AIDS now leans more toward drug users and Papuans, the indigenous people living in the easternmost province of Indonesia."

Legal and police abuse of gay people in Indonesia is hard to document, said Julie Van Dassen, Arus Pelangi's Canadian-born international advocacy secretary, "because people often do not report cases due to their sexuality, and thus data is very hard to come by. Frequently, LGBT people are arrested for other reasons, or with no charges at all, which happens often enough in Indonesia, especially in certain regions (Aceh being the worst), and though it is obvious that they are scapegoated because of their sexual orientation, this is never formally issued as a charge, and thus hard to prove or not reported as a crime of discrimination at all."

In addition to this, Van Dassen said, "often gays, once taken into jail, are submitted to sexual abuse far beyond that of other prisoners because of their sexual orientation. These cases are also very hard to prove, especially as many of the victims are very traumatized and remain silent out of fear of returning to jail and being subjected to abuse, rape, and beatings again."

A good example of this police abuse, she said, is the case of Adang, a gay man who was one of many arrested in a protest against the opening of a an environmentally poisonous dump site in Bojong, Bogor, West Java.

"Adang was suffering from a mild form of tuberculosis at the time of his arrest," Van Dassan explained. "He informed authorities of this, but received no medical attention. He was further criminalized in jail, forced to kiss, masturbate for, and perform fellatio on the guards at the prison and other inmates were encouraged to take advantage of him sexually because he was a gay man, 'so he must love it.' His condition worsened while in jail, he was beaten and still received no medical attention. Upon his release, after seven months in jail, he received medical attention but died three weeks later due to complications connected to his injuries and tuberculosis."

Dodo dismisses the notion that a gay identity is a "Western" notion foreign to Asian or Islamic cultures.

"We have to make a separation between religion and sexual orientation," he said, "because sexual orientation is natural, it's a human right that needs to be respected and valued. My family was very open and pluralistic, so I was lucky to be raised in a family that was not too focused on religious rules or ethos. In Indonesia, religion is forced, you are not afforded the opportunity not to choose a religion-and as a result, many of the social norms, political policies, and laws are deeply rooted in Islamic ties and morals. I was not as affected by this as most others were."

In fact, said Van Dassen, "Dodo is one of very few (three, at most) of our staff that has actually come out to his family and friends. Most of the staff, even though they are passionate enough about supporting LGBT rights to work full-time without wages for Arus Pelangi, are still afraid to come out to the people close to them." Van Dassen explained that "their reasons vary-some come from moderate or more conservative Muslim families and are afraid to come out and be alienated from their families; some are less afraid of the reaction of their families but more the reaction of their community and the shame it would bring upon their entire family, which could have mild to severe social and economic effects-their business would no longer be used, they would be ostracized in social circles. Still others, and this was the most shocking for me, is that some, not working in Arus Pelangi but connected to it, are ashamed to admit it to themselves. They were raised in Muslim families and feel that their natural sexual inclinations are a sin, and have no idea of what to do about it."

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Korea: Do the anti-prostitution laws protect sex dolls?

A "doll experience room" is a place punters rent for some W25,000 (approx. USD $26.00) an hour, a fee that includes a bed, a computer, and an inflatable sex doll.

Gyeonggi Provincial Police take a dim view of such operations. "We understand that there are four doll experience operations currently open for business in the city of Suwon," they said. "We are currently looking into whether these businesses violate the law."

Known as a "real doll" or "dirty wife" in the West, the sex toys come in vaguely humanoid shape and have skin that manufacturers say is almost the same to the touch as the real thing. They were introduced to the Korean mainstream at the Sexpo at the Seoul Trade Exhibition Center in August.

After the Special Law on Prostitution went into effect in 2004, the press reported that certain motels were providing the dolls to customers to bridge the gap, but this is the first time establishments dedicated to the experience have sprung up in the city.

Ads looking for others who are interested in running their own sex doll rooms are springing up on the Internet, a development that leads police to suspect that more such establishments exists across the country.

But rubber is rubber and flesh is flesh, so it remains unclear if selling one violates laws against the sale of the other. "Since the sex acts are occurring with a doll and not a human being, it is unclear whether the Special Law on Prostitution applies." a police officer lamented.

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