When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often convincing." - Oscar Wilde


A businessman met a beautiful girl and agreed to spend the afternoon with her for $500. They did their thing, and, before he left, he told her that he did not have any cash with him, but he would have his secretary write a check and mail it to her, calling the payment "RENT FOR APARTMENT."

On the way to the office he regretted what he had done, realizing that the whole event had not been worth the price So he had his secretary send a check for $250 and enclose the following typed note:

"Dear Madam:

Enclosed find check in the amount of $250 for rent of your apartment. I am not sending the amount agreed upon, because when I rented the place, I was under the impression that:

#1 - it had never been occupied;
#2 - there was plenty of heat; and
#3 - it was small enough to make me feel cozy and at home.

However, I found out that it had been previously occupied, that there wasn't any heat, and that it was entirely too large."

Upon receipt of the note, the girl immediately returned the check for $250 with the following note :

"Dear Sir:

First of all, I cannot understand how you could expect a beautiful apartment to remain unoccupied indefinitely. As for the heat, there is plenty of it, if you know how to turn it on. Regarding the space, the apartment is indeed of regular size, but if you don't have enough furniture to fill it, please do not blame the management.

Please send the rent in full or we will be forced to contact your present landlady."
"I like an escalator because an escalator can never break, it can only become stairs. There would never be an escalator temporarily out of order sign, only an escalator temporarily stairs. Sorry for the convenience." - Mitch Hedberg



Pour se détendre... [Me: J'étudie français... ensuite j'ai la stress beaucoup]

How do you know my age? [Me: *points to class register*... Have you heard of the Christmas Cake Theory?...] *annoyed noise* [Me: It's okay. I see a ring.] *annoyed noise*

[On Tom Bombadil] Thank god they didn't show him in the movie, or I'd have died

[On Business Studies] I chose marketing, because you can say whatever you want

[On her babydoll fringe] I went for a talk with International Students and the woman asked, "Is anyone from China?" And she looked at me.

[On 'les deux hommes ont ouvert ses jambes'] At least you're studying beyond the book. [Me: Yeah. Sometimes I sexually harass my friend by sending her French pickup lines.]

[You do something] Avec ton ami, ton frère? [Student: Avec ton frère] You know my brother?

Singapore is a modern country. However there're still things which are very different in France or in Europe... Politically incorrect to put a picture in your resume... No name in your resume, it's just a number... Maybe if I carry African name, there're some people who don't like?... Maybe one day it will come [to Singapore] (have an, won't)

[On Singapore] If you compare with the countries around [the region], yes it's modern. If you compare with other countries it is not modern.

[On speed personality tests with questions asking the same thing in different ways] Your level of genuity (honesty)

Responsable de l'accueil! Pas manager. 'I'm the manager of the reception' 'Wow, how many people?' 'Me only'

[On some people in Singapore] La carte... 'President'. 'Wow!' 'How many people?' 'I'm by myself' (I don't employ anyone)

French people are lazy. I don't exaggerate... Le système en france... Le boulanger. You can make a good living.

Audacieux... some people really go to the edge of what is permitted... When you send your resume to a big company there are many resumes... They send a resume which is pale blue, so in the pile you see a blue line... People who send paper that is not A4. It doesn't fit in the pile... They try everything to be noticed. Some people send musical letters. When you open, 'wah wah wah'

'Vous voulez quoi'? 'You want what'?

Where can you not drink wine? [Student: In the train, in the church]

Elle a eu un an d'anglais à l'école mais elle ne peut pas dire un mot. She studied English for a year at school but she cannot speak a single word. Which is very likely, when you study Engish in France... [Me: At least we can speak a word of French] Very often it's English phobia. You do not want to learn English in France.

He reinstalled the Olympic Games (revived)

All the Latin countries. In Spain they do not want to speak English. In Latin America. In Africa... It was in Bei'gin. The conference was in Chinese and English... All the African delegation[s], being able to speak French but not English, they left. (Beijing)

[On the Olympics] Some countries, they are poor... Tell them: 'Get set, go!' 'Huh? Quoi?'

[On the Youth Olympics] They have to find people who speak French. It is extremely difficult. In August, all the French people are on vacation

[On homework] Pas panique. Some people are empty already.

[On 'oui, je l'ai mangée'] If it is femminin, even if it is avoir, you must add the extra e. [Student: *sotto voce* What the fuck] [Student 2: I knew that was coming]

I foe'cues on the second part (focus)

Comment réussir un interview: un entretien, pardon.

They learn by heart certain expressions, and they say it during the interview... C'est bizarre... Et n'est pas naturel.

If you want to be a manager in France, good luck. A lot of people don't want... it's very hard to move the immovable... [Student: Communist] N'est pas communist... People still shout at the boss... Manage what is unmanageable... They went to bomb the factory, because the trade union find, the agreement is not respected. They already destroyed half of the factory (them, found, was)

In the South of France, à Marseilles, people like to strike for the sake of striking. People find an excuse to strike.

11 or 12 years ago... CISCO. The people who guard the vans went on strike. Within 4 months, people attacked the vans with the bazooka... The people wanted more money... 2 vans. People won't know which one to shoot... Or they shoot both vans... You will explode with the van. They don't find you anymore, they find pieces of you... très violent... Les gangsters... They don't have a knife. They have a rifle. (a)

[On the Paris metro] The gang. They attack you at 1am... They have to find someone to kill. They [the drivers] go on strike. they want more protection. You have to pay the guard... They are wrong or they are right? [are they]

In Singapore, many times I hear people say 'ooh lala'. They sound ridiculous... Oh là là.

Qu'est-ce que c'est - 'ne quittes pas!' *claps hands* [Me: 'Don't dump me']

[On the test] I count on you to come. Not to skip it. Even if you fail, which is not possible, even if you fail, you can still continue.

[On the test] You have an oral. [Student: 1-by-1?] 3-by-3.

[On a test] I prepared a class of 12. Only 3 came. All the 3 didn't know about it. The next week, everyone came. 'I was sick'

Tu joues dans le film?... [Student: J'en fais beaucoup] Tu révé.

[Student: J'aime beaucoup de travail, mais je déteste -] Tu détestes des vacances?

Ever been to France before? [Student: Airport...] The most miserable airport you can imagine in the world.

Don't say 'je fesse' because that is 'my bottom'

[Me: Je veux lire du livre de Jean-Jacques Rousseau] En français? [Me: Oui] Bravo. That is hard, even for me.

Test is unpredictable. [It] Can be anytime. Don't think: 'Today there is a test. I will come late'. It can be at 9:45 [Ed: the class ends at 9:30] *laughs from class* You will not be laughing next time. (A)

How do you say 'rest' in Frence? [Me: Coucher?] Coucher is to have sex.

Tell me what you did during the last holiday. If you didn't do anything, you can lie. I don't care... It's not necessary to copy the sentences in lesson 19. I know them by heart.

You want a break now or a break later? Or no break? [Student: Not very French right] Ah ah!

[On grammar] This is like the rules in Singapore. Don't think, just apply.

[On grammar] The instructor is not a transvestite or bisexual.

Beaucoup. Not boo'koh. Boo'koh is a nice bottom.

[Me: Why is it chercheur and not rechercheur?] I don't know.

In case there are mistakes, one of you will do a striptease... [Student: There's only 1 person they want to see] [Only female: There's nothing to see, really] (if)

How much do you understand? [Student: Soixante pourcent.] [Student 2: Souxante pourcent. [Student 3: Moi aussi] [Me: Soixante-onze pourcent] C'est exact! [Me: Je suis statisticien]

I am pleased to inform you that in a few weeks you will have a test. A real one. 3 hours. [Student: Are you serious?] The teacher is always serious. Otherwise it will be unprofessional... Vous aurez une torture individuelle... If I have a camera now to take the picture (had, a)

'Pourquoi est-ce qu'elle est fatiguée?' [Me: Parce qu'elle a couché à ses amis.] Avec ses amis. [Student: Yuck] Autres raisons? *silence* Everyone wrote the same.

Tu as voyagé seul? [Student: Non] Jamais? [Student: I'm too young]

Tu préferes voyager organisation ou non-organisation? [Me: Non-organisation] Pourquoi? [Me: Je déteste {les} singapouriens... Autres choses? [Me: Ils sont kiasu] Shit, I don't know how to say that in French.

[Me on why Singaporeans like Bangkok: Les femmes sont belles] [Female student:] Les femmes [à singapour] sont belles aussi.

Le cheval... Le lapin. [Student: Yucks] Sorry, but the Chinese eat everything, okay. [Student: In China]

Tu n'est pas végétarien?... [Student: Carnivore] [Student 2: Carnivore] [Me: Omnivore] C'est précis

En france, a certain percentage mange cheval. Pourquoi? [Student: Le beaucoup {de} cheval.] *laughs from students* You stupid lah!... La personne beaucoup de cholestérol. Ne mange du bœuf... Mange le cheval. (Il y a)

Autre réponses? Everyone wrote the same. Fantastique.

[On a listening exercise] Petite dick? Vraiment. Really.

[On Cannes] C'est très très cher... Un café, soixante dollars.

[Student transforming 'on a mange' to past tense: On a se mangé.] You were eaten by cannibals.

Australie?... Masculin? Feminin? Unisexuel? Travesti?

The most important countries in Europe are female. [Student: Important? How do you know what's important?] Is Morrocco big? Is Vatican [City] big? [Student: Vatican? Where's that?]

Pas de logique. Bag. Should be female. It's male. Car. Should be male. It's female... Russian, it's even worse. Masculin, feminin. Et neutre.

[On L'Académie française] If you want to become one of these guys, you have to - how do I say - wait for one of them to die.

[On the second person singular losing the e in l'imperatif] C'est stupide. C'est ridicule. C'est absurde. Mais c'est français. Sorry... Stupidement, ridiculement, français.

Autres choses? Everyone wrote the same thing. Pouvoir la télépathie.

[Me on les conseils donnés aux vacanciers: Ne vous habillez pas à l'extérieur. Habillez vous dans votre chambre.] So you go naked in the streets.

[On someone writing about 'Luc'] Le personne qui parle est un homme ou une femme? [Me: Pas différent]... It depends on your sexual orientation. 'Luc'. She is in love with him. Probablement, c'est une femme.

Où restes tu, en vacances?... [Me: à les rues] Dans les rues.

[On a mistake] Non! Non! Non! [Student: I'm fine. Don't worry about me]

[Student: You're not teaching the next class right?] Unfortunately for you, I think I will continue. You are so unlucky, no?

What happened to you last week? [Student: Err, my girlfriend's birthday]... Merci. [Student: No choice]

[Student: Je me suis réveillée à six heures et demie.] Pour faire l'exercises français?

You look stressed [Student: Okay] I should take a photo of you... If you make a mistake, I [will] just scold you.

[Me: Je me suis reposé] Dans le bureau? [Me: Dans les toilettes] Combien de temps? [Me: Cinq minutes.]

Comment est-ce que vous partez en vacances? [Me: à pied] You will go very far.

[Student on survey results: Ils préfèrent la campagne et détestent - autres] *silence* C'est possible.

99 person't of the time (percent)

[Student on l'imparfait: Isn't yesterday in the past?] Yes. Don't- [Student 2: Think] *whisper* Just apply. Be a good Singaporean. [Student 2: Basket] Shut up.

'Ne vous achetez pas trop de choses.' How do you say [therefore,] give me your money.

[Teacher: Vous préferez partir à Singapour ou à l'étranger pendant vos vacances?] à Singapour! [Teacher: à Tampines?] à ma maison

[On the relief teacher] Her English is worse than my French.

Je déteste dormir mais j'aime coucher.

[Teacher: I want to know why you decided to study French, and not Spanish, or Italian.] Sounds nice

My husband's French. [Teacher: So no choice] So no choice.

[Teacher: Tu fais du sport?... C'est tout?] Huh? [Teacher: C'est tout?] I didn't come last week.

[Teacher: Quelles sont tes loisirs préférer?...] Étudier.

[On his weekend] Coucher. That's correct.

[Teacher on 'en': Tu bois du café?] It's easier to say yes.

[Teacher on vegetables eaten: Autres choses?] Lemon. [Student 2: Kiam cai]

Nous quittons notre appartement; il est trop buyant et très grand. [Teacher: C'est possible. Je préfér] Il est pas assez bruyant.

[Teacher: Any suggestions for the test?] Something simple

[Teacher: Is that alcohol?] I need it for your class.
"Posterity is as likely to be wrong as anyone else." - Heywood Broun



Message: Hello,
I am larry ricardo i am looking for a tutor that can tutor my 9yrs old son Maths and Engish and i will paying him or her $40 per hour.

i hope it meet you in good health.GOD BLESS YOU

Looking forward to read from you soonest.



Maybe they know how lucrative tutoring is in Singapore and want to cunningly lead takers into a Nigerian 419 scam.

And more FAIL phishing:

Dear [my e-mail address] ,

This e-mail was sent by Bell Canada to notify you that we have temporarily prevented access to your account.

We have reasons to believe that your account may have been accessed by someone else.
Please verify your details by following the link below :


(C) Bell Canada


( Please do not reply to this e-mail , this account is not monitored. Follow the instructions in the e-mail )

This message has been scanned for viruses and dangerous content by MailScanner, and is believed to be clean.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Jane Wagner


Some of the Detestable (MAKRUH) Conducts in Islam - "To be very optimistic about oneself.
To consider other's bad deeds as great.
To be awkward and not to get on with others.
Lying when joking.
To accuse someone of something in a joke.
To joke a lot.
Too much laughing.
To rely on others.
Doing useless things.
To express grief in hardship.
To complain about life.
To grief about worldly things.
To have long worldly hopes.
Discrimination, fanaticism, and racism.
To sleep a lot.
To be either extremist in one's affairs or indifferent.
Associating with sinners."
I assume anti-Semitism doesn't count

This Is a Photoshop and It Blew My Mind - Photosketch - "According to authors, their software can take any rough sketch, with the shape of each element labeled with its name, find images corresponding to each drawn element, judge which are a better match to the shapes, and then seamlessly merge it all into one single image"
This looks better than it sounds.

'Girls can't have it all... having a career AND children may be too ambitious' says leading headmistress - "Young women needed to realise that they will face challenges and be forced to make difficult choices in life, such as deciding to take a career break while raising children. This is not 'selling out' and young women should 'stop beating themselves up' about their decisions... Channel Five newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky, 37, declared that women cannot have it all after giving up 30 per cent of her £1million salary so that she could present just one bulletin a day and spend more time with her 14-month-old son Arlo... 'They will need to realise that there may be times when they might want to take a lesser job because their priorities have changed... Margaret Morrissey, of the family campaign group Parents Outloud, insisted that... 'Most females can do three jobs at once while most men can just about struggle with one.'"
Again, the paradox of women's lib. And you gotta love the double standards with the last quote.

Murder in America : The New Yorker - "The United States has the highest homicide rate of any affluent democracy... Roth’s argument is profoundly unsettling. There is and always has been, he claims, an American way of murder. It is the price of our politics... Spierenburg speculates that democracy came too soon to the United States... we became free before we learned how to control ourselves... [Monkkonen] hypothesized that four factors accounted for the centuries-long differences between American and European homicide rates: mobility, federalism, slavery, and tolerance... LaFree observed that the crime rate correlates, inversely, with public faith in government and trust in elected officials... “Big cases make bad laws” is a criminological axiom... "If we glance at the pages of history, we will find that laws, which surely are, or ought to be, compacts of free men, have been, for the most part, a mere tool for the passions of some""

Sexonomics Main Page - "Sexonomics is a new system for confused logical types who despite all efforts fail to understand how male-female relations work... Using simple principles like supply, demand, equilibrium, markets, and competition, we show how a theory of sexonomics can be used to make predictions and solve important real-world scenarios relevant to us all."
The case studies are shot through

Human ancestors had big-brained babies - ""This H. erectus would have even wider hips (than modern women)," says Simpson. One main difference between human males and females is hip width, which makes women sway as they walk and which allows men to run and walk more efficiently. "The reason women do have that sway is their hips are a little further apart," says Simpson. "[H. erectus] would have had a good one.""
One of the mysteries of life is solved!

Secrets of a woman's walk - "Women walking with a sexy sway may actually be sending out misleading messages to men to ensure only the males they are interested in are able to get close to them... When fertile the women were found to walk with their knees closer together and with less of a sway"

Author Paulo Coelho supports piracy: “share to get revenue” - "Coelho thinks that giving people the possibility to swap his books for free, actually has a positive effect on sales... When he uploaded the Russian translation of “The Alchemist”, sales in Russia went from around a 1.000 books per year to 100.000 and then to a million and more... He always had a dream of going to a lodge in the mountains and write the book of his life. So Coelho went to the Pyrenees and wrote his book. The result? The most boring piece of writing he had ever produced. Coelho: “From now on I live a normal life when I write a book, since I’ve to stay connected to reality”. "

Swedish parents keep 2-year-old's gender secret - "A couple of Swedish parents have stirred up debate in the country by refusing to reveal whether their two-and-a-half-year-old child is a boy or a girl... the parents were quoted saying their decision was rooted in the feminist philosophy that gender is a social construction... "Child-rearing should not be about providing an opportunity to prove an ideological point, but about responding to each child’s needs as an individual"... Both Nordenström and Pinker refer to a controversial case from 1967 when a circumcision left one of two twin brothers without a penis. Dr. John Money, who asserted that gender was learned rather than innate, convinced the parents to raise 'David' as 'Brenda'... David Reimer denounced the experiment as a crushing failure before committing suicide at the age of 38. "
Sounds like the child will become dysfunctional

Overdue school library books return 50 years later with $1,000

How to unlock a locked PDF file in Windows

Orchestra to play in brothel - "[It is] a novel effort to bring classical music "out of the concert hall and to where people are". Punters and employees at the Eros Centre in Leipzig will be treated on Friday (local time) to six musicians and a singer from the city's Forum for Contemporary Music performing "licentious and erotic" works, the orchestra promises."

Women banned from wearing trousers in Paris - "A decree banning women from wearing trousers in Paris is still technically in force, it emerged on Monday, making the laissez-faire French capital theoretically stricter than hardline Sudan in the fashion stakes."
This beats 377A

Belle de Jour sex blogger Bristol scientist Dr Brooke Magnanti - ""I've felt worse about my writing than I ever have about sex for money... I did have another job at one point, as a computer programmer, but I kept up with my other work because it was so much more enjoyable."... Spokesperson for Bristol University Barry Taylor said: ''This aspect of her past bears no relevance to her current role at the university.""
In less civilised countries, she'd be fired.
One comment elsewhere: "Given the state of funding in biomedical research, the low pay and poor career prospects in the UK and Europe, it's hardly surprising and she's probably not the only one."

Belle de Jour revealed at last: scientist who penned Diary of a London Call Girl outs herself to foil Daily Mail - "Finn Mackay, of the Feminist Coalition Against Prostitution, said Magnanti's positive experience was far from the norm. "To come out saying, 'It's so wonderful' is a slap in the face to the great majority of women who have had horrendous experiences in the sex industry... Helen Ward, professor of public health at Imperial College, said: "Belle de Jour's case is not the norm, but it's not that unusual either. Policy makers tend to portray sex workers as either drug-addicted young women like those murdered in Ipswich, or as trafficked migrant women who have no control over their lives. But I've been working with sex workers for over 20 years as a researcher and as a doctor, and I know that there is a wide range of people involved in sex work... said Catherine Stephens, an activist for the International Union of Sex Workers who has been a sex worker herself for 10 years, "At a brothel I worked in, I think I was the only one not doing a PhD.""

Cook To Bang – Recipes To Get You Laid - "Food and sex have been linked since the dawn of civilization. Cavemen once roasted saber-tooth tiger kebabs for their cave-babes, which set the mood for Cro-Magnon copulation... COOK TO BANG is not just gourmet recipes broken down into steps so simple a monkey could make them. It’s not just a smartass seduction guide. COOK TO BANG offers simple, effective methods for of enjoying the two greatest pleasures, food and sex. So unleash your inner Kitchen Casanova. COOK TO BANG!"
It's just a gimmick, but the recipes look quite innovative.

Do women really care what kind of underwear we wear? - "I asked six different women and got six different answers. There's only one rule of thumb — it's got to be clean."

30 Second Cure For Hiccups - "This has never failed me, and from the testimonials below, it seems to work for many people"

5 Signs You May Be a Bad Coworker - "I used to work with someone who was constantly making personal calls that involved yelling and swearing at the person on the other end. Crying wasn't unheard of either. She never noticed that everyone around her was cringing in discomfort."

Gay Marriage Lost, But It's Not Losing - "'A domestic partnership is not a marriage.'... The advantage of this bashful euphemism is that it accommodates gays on the most important issues related to family—legal recognition and rights, protection for children, access to pension and insurance benefits—while avoiding the weighty symbolism of calling this arrangement by a name that carries religious connotations... Many gay-rights advocates reject anything short of full access to marriage as a disgraceful revival of the old "separate but equal" policy—which was anything but equal for African-Americans. But you don't get across a broad river in a single leap. You get there by building a bridge that allows you to travel across one step at a time."
Self-fulfilling prophecies, the power of symbolism, discrimination, yada yada.

Indian couple divorce over 'soap opera' - "An Indian woman successfully divorced her husband after he refused to allow her to watch television soap operas"
Oppression has many guises indeed.
"A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor." - Victor Hugo


Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
I wonder how many people understand the icon or name of Nero Burning Rom(e).

Nestlé owning Jenny Craig is like the UN investing in arms makers.

Varèse's Ionisation is actually not bad.

"We thank the people of the Republic of Singapore, on whose island this film was produced" - the ending of St Jack. For their pains, the movie got banned for 27 years.

You can't drive motorcycles into Sentosa. This is a very sneaky way of introducing a class (racial, even?) divide.

Why is it alright to kill animals for food but not to have sex with them? I haven't heard a good argument yet. Basically it boils down to the argument from disgust - which has been used in the past against miscegenation, homosexuality and left-handedness. Unfortunately the bestiality lobby is even smaller than the polyamory lobby, and possibly even weaker than the incest one.

I was asked to explain the logic behind cockteasing. My abbreviated explanation (abbreviated for them, not here) was that girls want to be desired and be seen as desirable, but if they put out, no one can ever know. And also that being a cocktease gives girls power and self-worth. Although some people added that men do the same sometimes (though this doesn't fit the definition, since the implied offer is never withdrawn in these cases - except in the cases where straight men cocktease gay men), I noticed that everyone agreed with my explanation.
Addendum: Definition of cockteasing

I am amused at ignorant Malaysians who claim Singapore Char Kway Teow and Hokkien Mee are not real Char Kway Teow or Hokkien Mee. Considering that even within Malaysia Hokkien Mee differs in KL and Penang, one wonders if the only reason for the complaints is a sense of misguided patriotism (if not a parochial variety).

They should make a movie where a guy ignores work for his kid's birthday and gets fired. And then his wife leaves him and takes the kids. But then, people do not want to see reality on either the silver screen or the goggle box - they want to get away from it. This is why criticising the media for unrealistic portrayals is missing the point, and trying to force the media to be more (possibly, too) realistic in the hope of freeing people from the baleful aura of unrealistic portrayals risks oppressing the people who need an escape.

Just as clothes expand to fill available wardrobe space, so too does work increase to fill the time you allocate to it.

In school, the questions are more important than the answers. At work, no one cares about questions - they want answers.

"so far I've not heard/ met anyone who actually finished "War and Peace" and enjoyed it"

"Today, I got tired of people drinking my coffee creamer at work so I labeled it "breast milk." Problem solved. MLIA"

RT @infernoxv Born with half a brain, woman living full life http://edition.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/10/12/woman.brain/index.html?eref=rss_latest sounds like most women I know :p

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Speech is conveniently located midway between thought and action, where it often substitutes for both." - John Andrew Holmes


MFTTW: the speech is crock lah

it's like obama's speeches
inoffensive but yet ineffectual

[obama's] speeches are ineffectual what. they are usu just 40-45 min of eloquent babbling
he won't dare to make any strong proclamations

Someone: btw iwas writing in my offline diary
'gabriel is arguing with another woman again. i wonder if gabriel is just unlucky, or if all women are really that ridiculous'

Someone else on W4M: fuck lar, 65 leh. half my age is ok. double is not

Me: Listening to the prayer call from the Sultan Mosque

Someone: record it, blast it in your car and roll into zouk with style. That's what I'm talkin' about!

Me: you're very naughty today

MFTTW: indeed. somebody spank me.

Me: so naughty
I don't want *** to spank ME

MFTTW: i said "somebody" i didn't say "you"
it's ***'s b'day today

Me: hurr hurr hurr
is that ***'s present

MFTTW: i hope not.

Me: do people ask if you're an escort?
"professional services"

Someone else: haha
but honestly
that's what the big 4 firms like to say

"we provide professional services"

so we always tell each other we're hookers

Me: ...

Someone else: it's true

we get pimped
and my colleague says his butt gets rammed daily by our superiors
so it's not that far

we charge by the hour too

Me: well unlike hookers you charge more as you become more experienced

Someone else: haha
that might be the only thing to differentiate us then

MFTTW: haha i can't decide if that is funny or not
but since i said haha it must be funny on some level


Someone: have you been to ithaca
where cornell uni is?

major hipster
alamak, can you say granola?

Me: some people dig that shit

Someone: then as you go higher up the east coast, it gets progressively worse
by the time you hit woodstock, you're in the 60s and you wanna go home!

Me: your wings gone liao ah




Me: ... women

XMM: ... men


Someone on why European men are sexy: Can't speak for them as a whole, but those I've met a little more smooth, perhaps. But definitely sending more of a "I'm imagining you naked in bed" vibes than the other men I meet on campus.

It's a mixture of.. sweet compliments, awesome ballroom dancing skills, white wine, sexy accents punctuated with some silly italian(or greek or french) endearment, opening of doors, pulling out/pushing in of chairs... and this underlying sexual edge to everything they do combined with casual remarks about sex that make it blatantly clear they'd totally not mind sex after dinner. Or after lunch, or breakfast.

Me: Yet when Asians try that they get laughed off ;)

Someone: They tend to be a little more awkward when they try it. Or at least it tends to be less natural for them. I don't know how else to expain it.

Me: Maybe you are less receptive when it comes from them. HEE

Someone else: i used to walk like a guy

guys walk kicking outwards

that's the simplest way of explaining it

Me: so now you take smaller steps?

Someone else: yeah

Me: aww
isn't walking like a guy more efficient

Someone else: not really
i mean, it's just not nice to look at lor

Me: one thing I've never figured out is why girls sway their hips so much when they walk

Someone else: some are purposely one

but apparently i sway my hips alot when i walk
and i swear i dont do it on purpose

Me: I suspect it's to do with the female figure
is your figure very good?

Someone else: it's also the way we walk i guess

er.. i guess so.
when i take bigger steps i sway less
but then i nvr got anyone to look at my butt when i walk

only once my friend was walking behind me then she said in chinese "wah you sway until very li hai"

you can do a study on hip swaying and walk patterns
an excuse to stare at women's asses

just dont find me

Me: :/

Someone else: ?

Me: loss of one data point for my regression graph

Me: a playful girl is empowered, knowledgeable & modern
a playful guy's a pervert

Someone: a playful girl has genital herpes. so be careful

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily this is not difficult." - Charlotte Whitton, Canada Month, June 1963

Yay, I finally found the source of this misandristic quote!


Feminism vs Economics
(on SuperFreakonomics)

A: Levitt and Dubner strike me as what, in Internet parlance, are known as "trolls" - contrarian attention-seekers.

Sady Doyle has a nice take-down of their "analysis" (if we can dignify it with the term) of prostitution here:

http://www.guard ian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/oct/21/superfreakonomics-prostitution-dubner-levitt

B: Sadly, Sady Doyle's critique is more ad hominem than economic. I haven't read superfreakonomics yet but the analysis of prostitution in the original freakonomics gave some really good insights, including a remarkably elastic supply curve for street prostitutes in Hyde Park Chicago

A: Sady Doyle had a lot to say about Levitt and Dubner's method (or lack thereof) and the implicit assumptions about women as set out in the passage on prostitution that's been published in the news. Both are - not to put too fine a point on it or anything - rubbish. These are vital features of the excerpt and explaining how they are lacking is not "ad hominem".

C: I have to say also agree with B that Sady Doyle's analysis is hardly adequate in pointing out the flaws you mention. I found her writing off-puttingly rabid and rant-like. Entertaining enough for dinner conversation but certainly not the sort of balanced, dispassionate writing anyone on this list, past or present, should be emulating.

A: And I find Levitt and Dubner's writing off-puttingly trite, reductive and misogynist - not "balanced" or "dispassionate" but merely expressing disdain for women and girls in tones of perfect civility, much as colonialists might once have talked about the higher purposes of their civilising mission or Victorians might have spoken of the influence of the womb in producing hysteria and vapours in women, all without once putting in an impolite word.

I wish trite, reductive misogyny had no place on this list or in formal education too. We could make tone arguments all day, with equal merits on both sides (honestly, Levitt and Dubner's talk about the "ideal wife" being someone who gives in to all whims - essentially idealising rape, by the way, since the implication is that women who sometimes say no are falling short of what female life partners ought to be there for - and you're saying Doyle is the inappropriate one?). Quite aside from tone, Doyle makes a series of substantive points (failure to engage with the specificity of Sheena's circumstances, failure to consider structural factors like poverty, obvious misogyny in language etc.)

Me: I found [the article and the working paper it was partly based on] very interesting, and sensational only when compared with typical academic writing - surely to tell a tale in an un-boring manner is not a bad thing for a book.

Sure, prostitution involves a lot of other factors, but what Levitt is doing is very familiar to economists. It's called modelling. You take the essential elements of the situation, strip away extraneous elements and look what happens when you tweak the parameters you're interested in. Except that here, the "models" happen to be people.

Face it, if we substituted "wall painting" for "prostitution", no one would be hysterically accusing Levitt of objectifying painters - even though the underlying principles, assumptions and analyses remain unchanged.

Similarly, take an insurance company trying to find the optimum level of deductibles (or excess, for those readers still loyal to the Queen). For those not inducted into the Wonderful World of Insurance yet, this is how much of whatever you lost you have to pay for before the insurance company comes in and pays for the rest. So if my $2,000 laptop is insured has a $400 deductible, if I lose it I only get $1,600 back. The purpose of deductibles to reduce moral hazard and outright cheating, but no one accuses the insurance company of assuming that all its customers are cheats, frauds, careless tossers etc.

The fuss and hoopla that arise when economics is applied to non-traditional situations remind me of the reaction to another controversial theory about a century ago (which remains controversial in some quarters today) - the Theory of Evolution.

People said that it was degrading to humans, irreligious and outrageous, and that it assumed that humans were no better than animals - just because they did not like the theory and its implications.

Yet, just because you do not like a theory does not mean that the theory is not true - or that the theory is horrible, evil, misguided etc. Just because evolution lead to eugenics and the Holocaust does not mean that it is a bad or wrong theory, or that it cannot or should not be applied to humans.

Theories involving human behavior do not tell us how to behave - they tell us why we behave in certain ways. To explain is not to justify, and just because something happens does not mean that it is right (this is the moralistic fallacy). In some sense, this is kind of like the difference between positive and normative economics.

Human interaction is more than market interaction - but one cannot deny that market forces are at work.

Gary Becker has used economics to analyse racial discrimination, crime, family organization, and drug addiction - that does not mean that he has a cynical view of human behavior.

Just because you draw supply and demand curves to analyse the quantity of labour which a wife supplies if you vary the wage she could get working outside and other factors (e.g. whether she has a vacuum cleaner) does not mean that you view women as sources of free labour.

Once you get emotional, you are liable to miss all sorts of subtleties (or even major points).

Take for example Levitt's previous work on how the legalisation of abortion resulted in the declining crime rate in the US in the 1990s. A few people criticised his statistics but most people started going on about how he was saying that abortion was a means of crime control, which was really missing the point (and indeed was something he explicitly disclaimed). A more important (not to mention relevant) implication of that paper was that giving poor and single mothers support in raising their kids would lead to better life outcomes for their kids (as well as lower crime rates).

As an aside, anti-witch hysteria in the Middle Ages is usually explained by superstition, misogyny and religious factors. Yet, I read a paper which correlated cold weather (and thus bad harvests) with the number of witch trials. This does not mean that economic realities were solely responsible for anti-witch hysteria (that's a very Marxist interpretation) but it does suggest that ignoring the economic factors to flog your favourite ideological horse risks missing something important.

I would love to see more of such work in the future - as Levitt and Venkatesh note, research in this field is scarce - but am sure that the hysteria and sensitivity from some quarters cannot help but diminish our understanding of such a subject.

This is a pity as, for example, I'm sure the Chicago Police Department (as well as their watchdogs) needed to know that "for prostitutes who do not work with pimps... roughly three percent of all their tricks are freebies given to police".

Even those who are opposed to prostitution would benefit from such research; Levitt and Venkatesh find that the street prostitutes in Chicago earn four times as much as prostitutes than in their outside jobs - one wishing to reduce prostitution would thus look into making the alternative jobs pay better relative to prostitution (or, if a Singaporean policymaker were in charge, he would recommend retraining - or at least moving up the value chain, which we seem to see happening in Singapore).

Finally, let me end off with a quote from the feminist author Angela Carter:

"The whore is despised by the hypocritical world because she has made a realistic assessment of her assets and does not have to rely on fraud to make a living. In an area of human relations where fraud is regular practice between the sexes, her honesty is regarded with a mocking wonder."

PS: For those who don't know, prostitution is legal in Singapore

A: Nobody on this list, that I can see, is objecting to the application of economic analysis to prostitution. Gabriel is addressing a straw person. The objections from Sady Doyle which I have shared related specifically to the piece in The Times, which is the excerpt from the Superfreakonomics book. It does not relate to the draft academic paper...

- Nothing in the draft paper remedies the failure to investigate why LaSheena (I apologise for spelling her name wrong earlier) expresses a dislike of men. The fact that the academic paper found violence and sexual assault to be a common part of the street sex worker experience in fact makes it even more disturbing that the authors did not see fit to point out in the Times piece that those might be pretty good reasons why someone in LaSheena's position would express the sentiments she does.

- Moreover, nothing in the draft paper supports Levitt and Dubner's implication that LaSheena's attitude is (rather than quite probably a reasonable response to being frequently beaten and raped) some kind of fault on her part justifying her low wages by comparison to Allie's wonderful sex-loving nature. (By the by, I have to wonder about the idea that enjoying sex translates into enjoying prostitution. Enjoyable sex frequently requires one's partner to show some skill and make a positive effort. In prostitution one is paid to cater to the preferences of the client. There is a tension here, which is not to say some clients might not want to see the sex worker express enjoyment, but when that conflicts with their own enjoyment? I think we can guess the customer's wishes are almost certainly prioritised.)

- Nothing in the research, moreover, supports Levitt and Dubner's conclusion that it is somehow surprising that more women don't choose sex work. The academic paper itself points out that once you factor in attendant personal risks, the wage from sex work is not particularly high. So their own work indicates there is no basis for the very same conclusion they push.

- Finally, nothing in the research justifies the claim that, as Doyle points out, consensual non-paid sex is always and everywhere the same or even a comparable experience to paid sex. And nothing in the research justifies the claim that having no preferences of your own and acceding to every whim of the client/husband and never requiring any contribution or participation to the household (e.g. asking him to take out the trash) is the behaviour of the "ideal wife". Not only are these claims not backed up by any evidence, it's also virtually impossible to see how an economic analysis could lead to them. They are, funnily enough, ideological statements, just as much as objections to them are. Far from being a reasoned, evidence-led investigation into a fraught controversial area, the Levitt and Dubner chapter excerpted into the Times is simply another heap of prejudice, which makes one wonder how many other unexamined pre-theoretical assumptions are being imported into all the other allegedly economic analysis the authors conduct.

B: The working paper I've provided provides 1) support for the portion of the chapter in freakonomics that describes the conditions of street level prostitutes in Chicago and hence 2) rebukes Sady Doyle's accusation that Levitt and Dubner were not aware/failed to question LaSheena's circumstances (and by the way, their choice of the name LaSheena already alludes to her race).

Actually I don't think that Gabriel isn't addressing a straw person (and thank you Gabriel for providing your arguments). It seems to both Gabriel and me that the prostitution chapter in freakonomics isn't as prejudiced nor filled with misogyny as A mentioned. I think this contention has merely arisen because we have drawn different conclusions from the chapter. Where Gabriel and I see objective economic arguments relating to a commodity (in this case, sex), A sees the commodification of women. We're essentially looking at the same thing from two different angles.

Also, Sady Doyle and A argue that unpaid sex and paid sex are in essence, different goods. I wouldn't dare differ. However, the remarkably elastic supply of prostitutes at the extensive margin (from the working paper) does suggest a surprisingly small premium for paid sex amongst women in that area in Chicago. And A/Sady's point that they do so out of poverty does not hold weight, since the working paper used the 4th of July as a regression instrument (i.e. these women only became prostitutes at the extensive margin during that period of higher demand).

I would encourage everyone to read both Sady Doyle's commentary as well as the excerpt again. I think Sady/ A and many others have drawn a couple of inaccurate conclusions about the excerpt. In particular, they claim that freakonomics states that one of the reasons for LaSheena's lack of success is the fact that she hates being a prostitute. Somehow I think the excerpt never really made that causal claim.

Also, I would recommend that we not blame Levitt or Dubner for the use of the prejudiced term "ideal wife". I have personally met the elite prostitute at the centre of this argument (disclaimer: not because I was soliciting her services but merely as a student in Levitt's undergraduate class on crime), and the "ideal wife" term was brought up many a time by the prostitute herself to describe that service that she was providing. In fact, the entire excerpt of freakonomics could have just been a transcript of her two hour lecture that she gave.

That said, I do concede that prejudiced terms like an "ideal wife" ought not to make their way into economic commentary and I definitely do not agree with the book's definition of the ideal wife: "beautiful, attentive, smart, laughing at your jokes and satisfying your lust." But let's move on from this, and talk about the economics of freakonomics.

A: I don't think your first paragraph is accurate at all. The draft paper provides support for the idea that Levitt and Dubner know that many prostitutes experience battery and rape as part of their working conditions, as well as serious threats to their health and well-being - but that despite this knowledge of a dozen assaults a year for most prostitutes, regular rape at the hands of policemen (there is no other way to describe these "freebies" other than using the threat of potential arrest to coerce sex, i.e. rape) and frequent other sexual violence, they staunchly refuse to allude to these facts when describing LaSheena for the purposes of the book. Instead they caricature her as someone who "dislikes men" and then set up this comparison with Allie, whose shines with positivity! I'm not sure which is worse, their apparent ignorance from the Times piece alone or their wilful refusal to mention these extraordinarily salient facts when they represent LaSheena for popular consumption. What you point out is hardly a vindication.

The paper also establishes that they know pimps take a large cut of the money that johns pay for sex work, and yet Levitt and Dubner claim without qualification that this a "labour market" that women have "dominated". Well, sure, prostitution is "dominated by women" in the same way that cotton in the time of slavery in the American South was "dominated by blacks", in that they are the numerical majority at the front line. By the same token, lots of developing country labour is "dominated by children". But who's making the sigificant money out of it, while not running the major bodily risks or doing the main work?

And no, I repeat, I don't think consensual sex is the same as paid sex, and your talk about margins and the 4th of July doesn't change the fact that Levitt and Dubner explicitly claim it is. By talking about the sale of sex in a way which reproduces their inability to conceive that women might have sex because women enjoy having sex, you are failing to understand the critique being made. Do you consider spontaneously initiated hugs - to show sympathy or affection - a "good" which can be "sold"? Could the "value" that someone derived from being hugged by a friend be replicated if they paid someone to hug them? Or is the fact that they demonstrate authentic emotion - affection, sympathy, etc. - part of the whole point of the interaction for the people involved? There are many instances of mutually desired sex which operate in the same way as hugging, in that authentic mutual desire is a large part of the point of the experience for both people (and before anyone accuses me of naivete, I am not talking about Twue Fowevver Wuv, just genuine mutual **desire** to **have sex**), so that they and paid sex are in no way substitutes for each other, and it is disingenuous and nasty - man-hating as much as woman-hating - for Levitt and Dubner to posit otherwise.

The claim that the term "ideal wife" comes from Allie doesn't make it any better. It's misogynist whomever it comes from. Levitt and Dubner reproduce it uncritically - therefore they promote its misogynist assumptions without bothering to even note them.

And no, I don't see any reason to "move on" from Levitt and Dubner's misogyny. We are talking about an industry which their own research shows to be rife with battery and sexual violence. You may find it amusing, entertaining, almost as important as analysing football penalties even, to perform mental Lego tricks off the back of (primarily) poor women who are regularly beaten and raped, without taking into account the way dehumanising attitudes towards women and girls in general are part of the societal context which results in their being so treated. I do not share any interest in doing so.

D: Whether it is woman or man hating is beyond me. That particular judgment does not play a role in economics. The fact of the matter (sadly or no) is that it is quite plausible (i'm convinced at least) that the decline in the demand for prostitutes is explained (at least partially) by the availability of consensual sex as a substitute (and a superior one at that, and without an explicit monetary price).

A: I was thinking about precisely this issue further and I think again this points to the limits of economic analysis in addressing this for the following reason. You are arguing that consensual sex of the variety I described - which, like a hug, derives its value precisely from being an authentic expression of an autonomous emotion offered by an equal - and paid sex are imperfect substitutes. I would argue on the other hand that:

- Paid sex is not in any way a substitute, perfect or imperfect, for this experience of mutual desire. People who value consensual sex of the hug-like variety I described would get absolutely none of the relevant value from paid sex. What it is a substitute for is masturbation, or rapelike sex (e.g. where one partner is badgered into the sex, or frightened into it).

- The increase in the so-called "availability", as well as the human ability to imagine and the desire for, hug-like consensual sex is rooted in and parallels precisely advances in women's liberation and the recognition of women as autonomous sexual beings. This was to a very large extent mostly impossible for most people until women could be conceived of in any way as equals.

- The same is true of marriage. It's true that in certain classes and certain societies - certainly many of the literate English-speaking circles within which the language we use to talk about sex and marriage developed - "pandering to a man's every whim" and "ideal wife" were synonymous. In Singapore (as the No To Rape campaign illustrates) we are still struggling with redefining ideas of marriage, with understanding it as a partnership of equals, and with understanding the gulf between rapelike sex and genuinely, authentically mutually desired sex. When Levitt and Dubner talk about selling "the wife experience" that allegedly all straight men want, they are making certain implicit assumptions about the nature of marriages that exist, the nature of marriages to which women and men both aspire, and how either of those things can be translated into marketable services.

So when people throw around words like "sex" or "wife" and statements about "men wanting sex" or "ideal wife" they are including all kinds of implicit assumptions about the type of "sex" or "wife" concerned, the political backdrop against which these conceptions of sex can be formed, the attitudes of the men towards women etc.

In other words - and this is vital - it is not possible to even define the good concerned with here, or talk about substitutes and markets, without, as Mr S pointed out, venturing into sexual politics.

This is why, again, Levitt and Dubner's Superfreakonomics must be exposed as shallow. Because they make all kinds of statements of sexual politics all over it (e.g. how puzzling that more women don't want to be prostitutes! Here's a woman who likes sex and men, and another who doesn't! Here's a woman who is an ideal wife!) Their economic analysis on this topic cannot be clear and meaningful unless their analysis of sexual politics is clear and meaningful - and that it most certainly is not, since they are simply stating conclusions without even being aware, it would appear, that they are taking political positions. When they talk about more consensual sex being available for "free", they fail to understand that what is on "offer" here for "free" is a completely different thing of value, which cannot be made into a commodity, from what used to be conceivable let alone available before.

... Their failure to engage with any of these ideas just shows how shallow the analysis is.

E: I agree with A that there is a difference between hug-like sex and the kind of sex that D described, a one-night fling, no strings attached and no emotional attachment kind of sex. However, since there are still people who engage prostitutes for paid sex, it is the latter kind of sex that they demand and sex is, unfortunately, reduced to a one-dimensional commodity. This can quite plausibly be substituted by casual consensual sex, which Levitt and Dubner argues, is threatening the market for the provision of the latter kind of sex. However, it cannot be simply argued that "rather than a demand being fulfilled for free, the demand curve itself is transformed by a decrease in demand". The spread of STDs and abortion rates are all reasonable indicators of the prevalence of casual sex (the latter kind). It is common knowledge that STDs are becoming more prevalent and abortion rates are rising in many countries such as Singapore. To explain all that to be the consequence of an increase in frequency of hug-like sex with different parties seems to be rather far-fetched, hence I'm not sure whether the market has changed as drastically as you have made it out to be. With regards to their failure to mention the unfortunate circumstances of LaSheena (especially the sexual assaults and physical abuse that she is subjected to), I find that to be slightly irrelevant to the subject matter that Levitt and Dubner is trying to bring up. The question that they attempt to answer, is why Allie is paid so well while LaSheena suffers from a low wage even though both seemingly offer similar services. With specific regards to the abuse that LaSheena may have suffered, accounting for them in the book does not help in whatever superficial analysis that they are trying to make. To put it bluntly, to assume that there is a real need to mention such abuses (that this is such an important pillar in their analysis) will imply that how much abuse suffered is part of the model that helps us predict the amount that prostitutes are paid. This link, I am sure, is egregious. Hence, Sady's frequent use of the "rape" and "abuse" only make her writing emotionally-charged. Perhaps Levitt and Dubner did not find the need to include these details as they may find it to be more appropriate to be mentioned in books that raise awareness of the plight of prostitutes rather than freakonomics.

The analysis that Dubner and Levitt made is simple. Once it has been established that there is a fall in demand due to increase in substitutes, Allie decides to carry out a form of product differentiation. She becomes an escort, offering personalised services and where the market may have many LaSheenas, there is only one Allie. She is able to restrict supply and make demand price inelastic, earning much more than her counterpart. (All standard A level Economics material) In Singapore's context, this will be equivalent to "job re-design". The expression used by Dubner and Levitt may have been misleading in the sense that they described LaSheena as not liking men, a description or characterisation which I think is unneccessary. We do not know why LaSheena did not do the same, in which case, taking into account other circumstances such as poverty, education and opportuities will be relevant. However, that does not discredit whatever basic economic analysis that they have made.

F: To say that a given set of preferences is misogynistic does not mean that they do not exist. The binary division of people into one group that values only consensual sex and another that values sex of the rapelike/paid variety is as much of a simplification as the assumption that paid sex and consensual sex are (imperfect) substitutes. Given plausible arguments on both sides, the degree of substitutability is a purely empirical issue. D, B and I are of the opinion that, at least on the margin, there are (possibly misogynistic) individuals for whom there is a degree of substitutability between paid and consensual sex. A argues that said individuals cannot exist a priori. A statistical analysis to decide which assumption is more applicable is not difficult to conceive of: get data on individuals who pay for sex and regress the number of times they visit prostitutes on the incidence of consensual sex, controlling for other independent variables such as exogenous price shocks. Levitt and Dubner do not provide said analysis, but it would certainly be interesting to see if such work has been done (or is going to be).

Furthermore, just because an argument employs sexist assumptions does not mean it is devoid of truth. Regardless of whether their ignorance is blissful or willful, I disagree that it is impossible to provide a clear and meaningful analysis of prostitution without providing a clear and meaningful discussion of sexual politics. As Gabriel mentioned, the role of the social scientist is to increase clarity of analysis by building models that strip away some of the richness of the available narrative. Levitt and Dubner's approach to analysing prostitution isn't rubbish just because it fails to address salient points like race and poverty (though B rightly points out that empirical evidence suggests that poverty per se cannot explain prostitution, at least on the extensive margin). Rather, given the tradeoff between clarity and complexity, by ignoring said issues they focus on the entrepreneurial, rent-earning aspects of being a call-girl versus street-walking. This may be offensive, but since it is unclear to me why undiscussed factors might be correlated with the ones discussed in a distortionary fashion, it does not make their framework less valid.

This raises the wider question of whether the utilisation of misogynistic assumptions necessarily furthers misogynistic views. Just like how labour economists who do not discuss the inner struggles of the unemployed aren't necessarily furthering elitist views, I do not believe that Messrs Levitt and Dubner are explicitly or implicitly furthering a sexist agenda. It is interesting that A mentions the slave trade: Fogel and Engerman (1974) for instance find evidence to suggest that slaves enjoyed better nutrition than their free counterparts because owners sought to optimise production. However, no one - certainly not Fogel or Engerman - would suggest that slavery was a good thing. They were merely illustrating a point on the slave economy.

Back to prostitution and sexism: while I can certainly see the danger, I think there is still a place for the assumptions that Levitt and Dubner employ. Social scientists seek to prescribe solutions to specific problems. If our objective is to improve welfare, for instance, then the relevant prescriptions that their analysis (yes, I do think it is deserving of the term) suggests are the provision of education and capital to streetwalkers as well as the partial legalisation of prostitution to eliminate the inefficient rents that callgirls are earning. If, on the other hand, our objective is to work towards a gender-blind world, then A's objections to their language and assumptions apply. Sure, some might believe the microeconomic analysis of the former adversely affect the achievement of the latter. However, to impose a separate objective function on a piece of research that explicitly doesn't seek to address certain concerns strikes me as inappropriate.

G: I do not have anything more of great value to add to the role of assumptions in economics or in any social science. I think as far as social-scientific analysis goes, the point A might be - or, should be - making is that Levitt and Dubner's analysis is simply lacking in analytical rigour for having taken so many sexual assumptions for granted and failing to make explicit mention of them. I also agree very much with the argument that economic analysis based on questionable assumptions cannot be meaningful.

But with all due respect, I would like to point out that on the tangential topic (well, this is after all a group on Economics, which really does stop at assumptions in each of its models) of whether hug-like sex really is or should be regarded as different from 'instrumental' sex, surely it is the subjective perceptions of the individual male and female participants that determine whether the two varieties really are the same. So insisting that they are really different simply talks past anyone whom we might want to accuse of unfairly assuming that they are interchangeable.

And, as D has said, it is not as if they do not have good reason to make this assumption, in the same way that we do have good reason to suppose that the labour of a housewife is instrumentally substitutable for the labour of a hired domestic worker, even though they are clearly not the same.

Next, on the plausibility of the assumption that "they really can be considered as the same thing", which is a much stronger claim than their being substitutes, consider studies such as this, which are a dime a dozen in newspapers and academic circles: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/feb/16/sex-object-photograph. [no, it does not contain photographs of 'sex objects' as the name might suggest] What I am trying to say here is nothing more than that the possibility that some men really do not see a difference in the two types of sex is indeed there, whether it is offensive or not.

Then there is the issue of Allie. It does not help that Allie-type stereotypes are propagated on a regular basis by articles such as this one from today's Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/nov/15/belle-de-jour-blogger-prostitute. They are probably made out my the media to appear far more common than they actually are. But it is clearly a fact that such people can exist, as in Levitt and Dubner's assumptions. I am personally inclined to think they do.

For all these factual reasons, I straightforwardly think that Levitt and Dubner should not be criticised as shallow. Because for all the sexual-political questions that may be thrown up about the definition of the good they are talking about, they simply have a point, because sex of all kinds have at least one thing in common: they are all sex. These two authors sorely lack in analytical rigour in these aspects, and perhaps their assumptions should have and could have been less simplistic and more nuanced. But I don't think attacking their assumptions, especially as shallow (how sophisticated/deep-delving should an economist's assumptions be?) is the right way to go about exposing their most serious flaws. Neither is justifying their assumptions the point of their economic analysis.

If we cannot even agree on what the word 'sex' means - much less accept narratives of a changing conception of sex (whose conceptions, and how could anyone know anyway?) - then it is an essentially contested concept that therefore does not belong on this forum as a central topic of interest.

Me: Before F, E and G weighed in, this thread seemed to be in danger of lurching dangerously off-topic. I shall endeavour to similarly relate what I say back to Economics as far as possible.

I do think that it can be dangerous to draw general conclusions from a small sample size (in this case, 2 case studies) but we should bear in mind that Levitt and Dubner are writing a book - not an academic paper. They are using economic concepts to illustrate and examine phenomena from everyday life. And indeed, in the chapter we can see that they talk about the elasticity of labour supply, repackaging of goods, price discrimination, substitute goods etc. I still venture that if they had been talking about other, less sensitive topics, people would have ignored the factors they left out. More research is, of course, needed - but then, that is the conclusion of 99% of scientific, economic and psychological papers (i.e. those which look at empirical data instead of working from a priori conclusions).

I notice also that all the presumably positive things that Levitt and Dubner say - that women have been historically worse off, that women's lib has improved the lot of the fairer sex a lot, that women still get paid less than men and that street prostitutes are not paid well - are ignored.

Levitt and Dubner's thesis here is not that more women should be street level prostitutes - who are not paid well, suffer abuse etc, but that more women (including street level prostitutes) should be high class social escorts - who are paid much better. From what I have read of the higher end of this profession, entry and exit are uncoerced and working conditions are quite good. And yes the supply of labour is elastic - when the IMF and World Bank came around to Singapore, escort agencies upped their recruitment (http://www.lothlorien.sg/index.php?topic=288.0;wap2)

A claims that paid and unpaid sex are not substitutable, but it is no surprise that when the number of women in the population is low relative to that of men, prostitution flourishes. This explains why army camps in the past always had camp followers, Dubai was a hotbed of prostitution (at least during the boom: http://usa.mediamonitors.net/content/view/full/58509) and early Singapore, which had many male immigrants, was likewise "one of the centers of the sex industry in Asia" (http://www.onlinewomeninpolitics.org/NewsFolder_OBJuly16/SingaporesJapaneseProstitute.doc). More examples of a high male:female ratio resulting in more prostitution are discussed in Edlund and Korn's A Theory of Prostitution (http://the-idea-shop.com/papers/prostitution.pdf; which also has a mathematical model to explain prostitution). To say that this means that when the gender ratio equalises the men then engage in "masturbation, or rapelike sex" in lieu of patronising prostitutes is frankly a bizarre conclusion, not to mention a misandristic one.

I'm sure that many people do not view paid-for sex as a substitute for the "free" sort, but we cannot deny that for many others, it is and for even more, the coefficient of substitution is low but non-negligible. In simple English, some people happily patronise prostitutes, and others only visit if they are not getting any at all.

In related news, another post on the Comment is Free column:

Selling sex with a smile

"Sex is like crushed red pepper: guaranteed to add heat and spice to recipes that would otherwise be as bland and boring as unflavoured farina. Consider this dull economic dictum: "Service workers who enjoy their jobs generate more enthusiastic (and lucrative) customer response than workers with a bad attitude."

How obvious! A rude, unfriendly waiter gets smaller tips from diners. Even writers like me wouldn't land decent commissions if our every pitch to an editor carried the undertone "I hate you, Guardian. I loathe writing for you, and I'd never do it if I didn't have to support three kids and a cocaine habit."

No one would deny that "attitude matters" regarding waiters or writers, but observing that a sad and desperate prostitute makes less money than a happy, confident one – as authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner do in their new tome Superfreakonomics – generates a controversy that would never exist without that peppery red sex addition spicing up the farina."

A: I stand by my statement that the failure to engage sexual politics makes the Times piece extraordinarily weak as a piece of analysis of any kind, economic or otherwise...

Despite the fact that others have disclaimed the Levitt and Dubner divide between Good Prostitute and Bad Prostitute and claimed that the Times piece does not promote it at all, Gabriel at least in his last post has picked up on, and enthusiastically reproduced, the message that LaSheena's poverty is her fault for not being a good little automaton who sexually services men with a smile even though battery and rape of women in her position is common. So I disagree that Levitt and Dubner are "just" reporting on the mechanics of the situation in the same way as the Fogel and Engerman paper is claimed to do - by choosing to write the Superfreakonomics piece, which is not a dispassionate analysis but a supposed "insight" into prostitution which reproduces a lot of social and political observations, Levitt and Dubner are positioning themselves as social comment supposedly backed by the authority of economic insight. And it's lousy social comment.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ripped from Facebook, via Yung Hei:

How a guy (or very flat girl) can get decent cleavage with a few nu bras and a pushup bra

Also, what tops are suited for this method Ripped from Facebook.

Couldn't find it on Tudou since I don't know what keywords to use

Yung Hei: I'm sure Gabriel doesn't need as much effort to get his boobs. :p

Me: I like his hair
"Criticism is prejudice made plausible." - H. L. Mencken


This is very screwed up:

Apart from the poems written on the theme of Nature, she wrote more than a hundred poems on the theme of love. An overwhelming majority of them were written during the years 1861-1863. But with the passage of time, she altogether banished love from her poetry. Except for the years of adolescenthood, she lived in austere seclusion, declining in later years to meet even intimate friends...

The news of Wadsworth’s acceptance of a call to the calvary church was received by Emily with a sense of crisis and it is from this time onwards that she mentions calvary in her love poems. In 1862 alone this name appears in nine poems. In 1863, she began her incomplete poems in rough draft with the moving lines:

Where thou art - that is Home Cashmere or Calvary the same.

It is sometimes after this event that she adopted her “white election” and began to dress in immaculate white and withdrew from life to concentrate on her poetry. This withdrawl is often misinterpreted as renunciation. But the fact is that Emily had nothing to renounce...

With the above background of Emily’s life, it to not easy to give a clear-cut explanation of the workings of the mind and heart of Emily Dickinson. In fact, her heart and head is full of complexities which puzzle our mind incessantly. To fall in love with a married man is one thing; to cherish a love which is not even mutual is altogether a different matter. The desire to love and to be loved, is universal enough but to love without the desire to he loved is a unique case, and puzzles the mind of a the (sic) writers. If Freudian theories are pressed into service for explanation, it may appear neurotic. Neurosis, in psycho analytical terminology, is a convenient handle to explain everything which does not conform to the conventional pattern...

Emily never sought fulfilment of her love. In one poem she writes:

I’d rather recollect a setting Than own a rising sun.

Thus Emily Dickinson consciously endeavoured to preserve the freshness of her dream rather than see the reality. What she needed in life was a preceptor and a muse whom she could adore with physical passion in her imagination. In fact, it is in woman’s nature that the memory of longing survives the more fugitive memory of fulfilment. She shows her belief in the laws of opposition. According to her experiences of life, she concludes that defeat is superior to victory, since an achieved victory soon loses its value and worth. The idea of compensation or the superiority of defeat over victory is reflected in quite a number of poems of Emily. This is very significant aspect of her poetry as it reveals one of the paradoxes of Emily’s life. She mastered life by rejecting it; What she lacked in social life, she gained in secluded life. The idea of juxtaposition, paradox plays a predominant role in her poetry:

Success is counted sweetest By those who never succeed To comprehend a nectar Requires sorest need.

Here Emily expresses the idea of compensation; the idea that every evil confers some balancing good, that through bitterness we are able to appreciate the sweet that “water is taught by thirst”. The defeated and dying soldier in the above poem is compensated by a greater awareness of the meaning of victory or frustration over satisfaction. For the dying soldier, the material loss leads spiritual gain, which is more valuable, precious and everlasting. Thus the definition of victory is better comprehended by the defeated, dying ear...

Emily never accepted Emerson’s belief in the harmonious correspondence of man and Nature. She viewed man as an estranged, beleaguered creature, who is put under continual stress without any certainty, that his pain will merit salvation. A desire best defines a thing. Anticipation and search are all important. Desire allows the intellect and the imagination to comprehend nectar, something precious given only to gods in the heaven. Similarly she writes-

Love is done when Love’s begun Sages say,

Another example conveying the same idea:

Experience is the Angled Road Preferred against the Mind By - paradox - the Mind itself- Presuming it to lead.

Thus she ratioinalized (sic) loss into gain, relishing even the bitterness of life...

To a life of humdrum routine, she preferred the life in the world of her imagination where she could love with greater fullness and intensity.

The soul selects her own society Then shuts the Door-

--- Love Poems, in Thematic Patterns Of Emily Dickinson's Poetry / Neeru Tandon & Anjana Trevedi
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