Buggered Mind of Neale Sourna, The

Opines, comments, rants, concerns, imaginings from Neale Sourna, fiction author and more -- www.Neale-Sourna.com, www.PIE-Percept.com, www.ProjectKeanu.com, www.AuthorsDen.com/nealesourna, www.CafeShops.com/NealeSourna, www.Writing-Naked.com, and www.CuntSinger.com

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The books that move men

The books that move men
When Lisa Jardine and Annie Watkins asked women which book had helped them most during their lives, the clear winner was Jane Eyre, with Pride and Prejudice not too far behind. When they repeated the exercise with men, a very different reading list emerged ...

Lisa Jardine and Annie Watkins
Thursday April 6, 2006


A little over a year ago, we conducted a survey of women readers to find a "watershed" women's novel - the book which, above all others, had sustained individual women through key moments of transition or crisis in their lives. We began by polling women who were prominent in the arts and the media, then moved on to women journalists, academics, university students, schoolteachers and sixth formers. By the end we were polling every woman reader who crossed our paths; in total, 400 women responded to our inquiry.
Absolutely every woman we spoke to had her favourite. The top titles that emerged were surprisingly varied. They ranged from The Lord of the Rings and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to Catch 22, Gone With The Wind, Rebecca, Heart of Darkness and The Golden Notebook. This was alongside such perennial favourites as Jane Eyre (our way- out-in-front eventual winner), Mrs Dalloway, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Middlemarch and Anna Karenina. Jeanette Winterson's Passion and Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, Toni Morrison's Beloved and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale had bands of loyal followers.

This year, we tackled the obvious next question: what do men read to get them through life? If polling women's reading habits had thrown up such an astonishing variety of reading, surely men's reading would be equally revealing. After all, as two female researchers, we might have been prepared for women's reading choices; in the case of men, we admitted we really hadn't a clue.

Our sample of reading men was selected on exactly the same principles as the women - that way, we felt the results could be directly compared. The first thing we found, unexpectedly, was that the men were more reluctant than the women to discuss the influence reading might have had on them. Or, perhaps it might be more accurate to say, they seemed suspicious of the question. Women had responded to our questionnaire without hesitation, producing a number of key moments in their life at which they unselfconsciously acknowledged that fiction had offered them guidance or solace. Many men we approached really did not seem to associate reading fiction with life choices.

"Perhaps it's the gender of the interviewer," suggested Stephen Beresford, one of a number of informants from the world of theatre. "Perhaps certain men have a problem opening up to a female interviewer. I don't really see why, but maybe it's a macho thing." Jon Elek, lecturer in English at University College London, told us: "I guess that if you admit to having a watershed novel, then you're admitting to having a watershed moment, which is something that a lot of men don't necessarily want to admit to. And to admit to having five [as respondents were asked to do] - oh, come on!"

Where they did produce titles, men's reading did not show the same range as the women's had done. For the women's project we interviewed 400 women and ended up with some 200 titles. We found we had to approach a significantly larger sample of men to get a similar number of responses. From an early stage, the choices clustered around a set of out-and-out favourites: Camus's The Outsider, Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. These titles remained consistently popular, which was something that failed to happen with the women's titles, which changed daily, throwing up little-known books alongside familiar classics.

Still, in spite of a certain angst about revealing that fiction had any impact on their day-to-day lives, the great majority of our respondents were intrigued by our inquiry and happily offered us time, leading to some fascinating results. Men's formative reading does indeed differ markedly from women's. Only four titles were shared between the women's and men's top 20, and there was no overlap at all in the top five.

Our final top 20 of men's reading clearly shows a majority of books with strong active narrative themes - books that might traditionally be described at quintessential boys' books. No surprise there, perhaps. Except that both our recorded interviews and questionnaire responses show these choices being made on the basis of a conscious commitment to novels that take the reader in a direction of personal development. Men's reading choices tend to identify themselves with novels that include intellectual struggle. Personal vulnerability is represented as a more or less angst-ridden struggle against convention, a sense of isolation from social normality. Catastrophe and the struggle to rise above circumstance characterise the plots.

Part of the reason for this, we decided, was that, to a far larger degree than women, men's formative reading was done between the ages of 12 and 20 - indeed, specifically around the ages of 15 and 16. For men, fiction was a rite of passage into manhood during painful adolescence. Many men admitted that they had read little fiction since, though mature men returned to fiction reading in later life, and expressed increasing enjoyment in reading for "self-reflection".

Between 20 and 40, many men we talked to openly showed an almost complete lack of interest in reading which drew them into personal introspection, or asked them to engage with the family and the domestic sphere. On the other hand, those who had remained avid readers could see distinct patterns emerging in their choices which differed from those selected by women.

Professor Rob Dickins, a record-industry impresario with boundless energy for reading whom we had interviewed early on in our survey, pointed out that reading in later life was bound to be influenced by that emotionally shaping reading at 15 to 16, and that women and men would surely arrive in maturity at different patterns of reading based on adolescent choices. "Depending on whether you read Alcott's Little Women or Kafka's Metamorphosis at 15, your reading paths are bound to diverge later on," he said.

We found a strong sense of nostalgia among male readers as they looked back to their formative years; many had tended to lose interest in fiction in favour of non-fiction on entering into adulthood. One consequence of this was that several men admitted that they were reluctant to reread a book which had been almost painfully important to them at puberty. "I'm afraid I might find it mawkish now", "It might not live up to my memories", "It might read as dated now" became familiar responses.

Men also recalled a kind of "mentoring" by authors encountered as a teenager - the same word was used by a surprising number of those we interviewed. Having found an author who "spoke" to them, a man would have trusted them as a literary guide, reading all of their works, and also works quoted from or cited by them. Orwell, in particular, was cited frequently as having guided our male reader in his choices of author. This idea of mentoring had never cropped up in our survey of women's reading, though word-of-mouth recommendation by other readers regularly had (men mentioned word-of-mouth much less often).

And what of female authors? Six male authors made it into the women's top 20. Only one woman has made it on to the men's: Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird). Is it churlish of us to suspect that some men did not realise that Harper was a woman? Women consistently told us they read books by men and women indifferently, and this has been borne out by other research than our own. Men consistently told us they too were not influenced by the gender of the author, but they were much more specific and literal about the kind of plot and character they were interested in reading about. This may have produced an accidental concentration on male authors, for "adventure" and "triumphing over adversity" fiction. It was clear to us that men who continued reading fiction into maturity became increasingly open to novels by women - Iris Murdoch was a particular favourite here.

So how, in the end, do we interpret the men's list, and our outright winner - Camus' The Outsider, in translation? From the face-to-face interviews as well as the raw data a real pattern emerges: men use fiction almost physically as a guide to negotiate a difficult journey (but would rarely admit to this downright being the case). They use fiction almost topographically, as a map. Many of our women respondents last year explained that they used novels metaphorically - the build-up to an emotional crisis and subsequent denouement in a novel such as Jane Eyre might have helped negotiate an emotional progress through a difficult divorce, or provided support during a difficult period at work, or provided solace when things seemed generally dull.

This did not seem ever to be the case for men, though some men admitted to having made a sound investment in an author - such as Orwell - whom they used as a guide throughout their adult life on the basis of a first encounter in adolescence.

It is Orwell who leaves us with our final sense of fascination with men's choices of fiction reading. For Orwell's writing has traditionally been associated, by critics such as Raymond Williams and Richard Hoggart, with a transition from "grammar-school boy" to mature membership of a British intelligentsia whose feelings and beliefs transcend class and community. Is that aspiration still strong among men in culture and the media (our chosen constituency) today?

Brontë v Camus

Jane Eyre By Charlotte Brontë

Number of pages: 502, in quite small type

Plot: A young orphan raised by a cruel aunt then sent away to boarding school becomes the governess at a grand house. She falls in love with her handsome, brooding boss, Rochester. Unfortunately he has omitted to mention he is married, to Bertha, who is mad and confined to the attic. Fortunately Jane finds out in the nick of time and leaves. Unfortunately she cannot forget Rochester, even when an upright missionary type offers marriage. Fortunately Bertha burns the house down, killing herself, so Jane gets her man.

Standardbearer for: Female independence and refusal to be compromised. The message is that love will triumph over any adversity - class, madness, plain looks.

Prevailing atmosphere: Dark. Victorian. Strong sense of wild moors, over which Jane somehow hears Rochester calling her name.

Most memorable line: "Reader, I married him."

Cultural spinoffs: Any number of ruffle-shirted adaptations giving excuses for brooding men and not-so-plain women to smoulder at each other: Ciaran Hinds and Samantha Morton, William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg, Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine ...

The Outsider By Albert Camus

Number of pages: 117, in rather larger type

Plot: A young, amoral bachelor called Meursault kills an Arab on a beach in a fit of heat-induced rage. At his trial, the fact that he did not cry at his mother's funeral is a central piece of circumstantial evidence. He is sentenced to death, which merely serves to confirm his conviction that the universe is indifferent.

Standardbearer for: Brooding lonerdom. Sartrean existentialism. (According to Camus himself, Meursault's refusal to express remorse - his adherence to a kind of absurd truth - is a sort of bravery. "I tried," Camus said, "to make my character represent the only Christ that we deserve.")

Prevailing atmosphere: Blinding light off water; unbearable heat. Anomie. Detachment punctuated by sudden flurries of violence and anger.

Most memorable line: "Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know." (It is the first line of the book.)

Cultural spinoffs: Lo Straniero (1967), by Luchino Visconti. Inspired the Cure's Killing an Arab, as well as, some say, Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.
Aida Edemariam

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Lesbian named college homecoming king

Lesbian named college homecoming king

Associated PressTue Mar 7, 7:55 PM ET

SUMMARY: Maryland's Hood College is reviewing its homecoming rules after a 21-year-old lesbian senior was crowned king at the private college last month.

FREDERICK, Md. -- Hood College is reviewing its homecoming rules after a lesbian was crowned king, a college official says.

But Jennifer Jones, the 21-year-old senior who beat out three men for the honor, says her victory last month was a plus for the private liberal-arts college.

"It is cool that Hood allows people to be themselves," Jones, of Newark, Del., told The Frederick News-Post. "If people didn't want me to be king, they wouldn't have nominated me and voted for me."

Waves of discontent are still rippling through the 2,100-student campus in western Maryland more than two weeks after Jones was crowned at the Feb. 18 homecoming dance, the News-Post reported Monday.

"She is not a man," said Singleton Newman, a 22-year-old senior who was among the queen candidates. "It is a gender issue, and she is a woman."

Santo Provenzano, 21, who competed for king, said Jones' selection made the event seem like a joke. "It discourages guys from wanting to take part in the future," he said.

Donald Miller, Hood's student activities director, said all homecoming events will be reviewed and possibly changed. "We will look at what students want Hood's homecoming to be," he said.

Jones, who is openly gay, received 64 of 169 votes cast, the News-Post reported. She is known on campus as a multi-sports athlete, member of the Student Government Association's executive board and president of Tolerance Education Acceptance, a support group for gay and bisexual students.

It was only the second annual homecoming at Hood, which didn't allow male students to live on campus until 2003. In 1912, the school's board of trustees changed its name to honor a wealthy benefactor. The institution became fully coeducational in 2002.

Jones tried to run last year for homecoming prince but the student committee wouldn't let her on the ballot, even though she had gathered the required number of signatures on nominating petitions.

"We were trying to be inclusive of the male population and felt that because of this, we shouldn't allow a woman to run for the position," said Cheryl Banks, a committee member last year and this year's homecoming queen.

Miller said a rule change this year abolished the petitions and required that candidates be nominated by student ballots.

Jones said she didn't even know she was nominated until she saw her name on the final ballots that were distributed Feb. 13. Those ballots had been reviewed the night before by only half of the homecoming committee members at a hurriedly scheduled meeting, the News-Post reported.

Sophomore Jovanni Mahonez, who chaired this year's committee, said that before the ballots were distributed, she told both Miller and Olivia White, dean of students, that Jones was a king candidate.

Miller said the meeting was "more of an FYI than for her asking our permission."
If you'd like to know more, you can find stories related to Lesbian named college homecoming king.

Copyright © 2006 Planet Out.
Copyright © 2006 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

Ang Lee's Oscar hot topic in China

Ang Lee's Oscar hot topic in China

By Jonathan LandrethWed Mar 8, 4:48 AM ET

"Oscar honor brings joy to Chinese" read a front-page headline of Tuesday's China Daily, after "Brokeback Mountain" director Ang Lee became what the state-run paper called "the glory of Chinese cinematic talent."

But Lee's film about romance between two men -- which made him the first Asian to win the best director Oscar -- is not likely to screen in China, industry critics say, and has turned the Taiwan-born filmmaker into something of a political football.

"China's a socialist country and, like in the Soviet Union before us, many subjects cannot break through in this system," said Cui Zi'en, an openly gay filmmaker and professor at the Beijing Film Academy.

While its mature themes didn't stop "Brokeback" from distribution in Hong Kong and Taiwan, its R-rating in the U.S. works against it in China, where homosexuality wasn't removed from the China Psychiatric Society's list of mental disorders until April 2000.

Foreign film companies -- limited as they are by law to a total of 20 revenue-sharing theatrical releases in China each year -- tend to submit titles they guess won't offend Beijing's censors, who tend to frown on sex and violence.

Either way, Chinese already can buy widely available pirated editions.

Observers say that the chances of "Brokeback" screening here might be further complicated by the fact that Lee, 51, hails from a self-governing island that Beijing calls a renegade province; and yet he has just won an honor that has eluded mainland directors for years.

"Lee must be the envy of Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige," Yang Rui, China Central Television host, said Monday night on his primetime talk show "Dialogue." (CCTV's movie channel showed the Oscars the same morning with a two-hour delay to accommodate interpreters' voiceovers and censors' cuts, producers said.)

Appearing on "Dialogue," Beijing Foreign Studies University film critic Teng Jimeng called Chen's "The Promise" -- China's foreign-language Oscar submission this year -- a "failure" and praised "Brokeback."

Not making things any easier for Lee on the mainland, he was hailed as "the pride of Taiwan" by the island's democratically elected leader Chen Shui-bian, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported from Taipei on Monday.

Chen is perennially in hot water with the mainland for his talk of lasting independence for Taiwan, and is the object of unusually sharp criticism this week in Beijing, where China's legislators are gathered for their annual meeting to discuss, among other things, reunification with Taiwan.

Printed directly above its story hailing Lee for bringing "joy to Chinese" through film, the China Daily ran a story saying Taiwan legislators loyal to Beijing had condemned Chen for his "radical secessionist path."

Oscar coverage in other mainland media also reinforced the communist party's "One China" stance.

On Monday night, CCTV cut from its Oscar re-cap the part of Lee's acceptance speech in which he thanked Taiwan and Hong Kong separately from China.

On Tuesday, the Beijing Youth Daily gave strong play to the fact that Lee punctuated his English-language speech to Hollywood with a "Thank you, everyone" in Mandarin Chinese, the official language of both the mainland and Taiwan.

Notably absent from CCTV's Oscar coverage was the translated voiceover for the film montage introduced by actor Samuel L. Jackson about Hollywood's power to reflect political and societal change. The editorial choice left the majority of viewers in China unable to fully grasp clips from films such as "Philadelphia," in which Tom Hanks plays a man dying of AIDS, and "All the President's Men," in which Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman play reporters who reveal government corruption.

Gay director Cui's films have not been distributed on the mainland, but he acknowledges that there have been minor recent advances in open discussion of gay issues in some media in China.

A single line in Tuesday's China Daily reported, "the gay community was especially upset" that "Brokeback" did not win best picture.

Jackson Conspirators Plead Guilty

Jackson Conspirators Plead Guilty
(Soundbuzz, Thursday March 9, 9:00 AM)

The two men who taped Michael Jackson as he flew from
Las Vegas, Nevada, to face arrest for alleged child
molestation in Santa Barbara, California, have pleaded
guilty to conspiracy charges.

Jeffery Borer and ARrvel Reeves installed a camera to capture conversations
between Jackson and his attorney MARK GERAGOS onboard
the Gulfstream jet journey in 2003. Borer was the
owner of XtraJet, a charter jet company that operated
the Gulfstream and Reeves owned the company that
serviced the XtraJet fleet, according to entertainment
news website TMZ.com.

The pair pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy. In exchange, federal
officials agreed to drop charges of endeavouring to
intercept oral communications and witness tampering.
Brer and Reeves will be sentenced in July. (wenn)

Dakota Sioux Language Saved by Scrabble

Dakota Sioux Language Saved by Scrabble

Mon Mar 27, 6:13 AM ET

HANKINSON, N.D. - Those who hope they can stop the Dakota Sioux language from dying have hit on the perfect word: Scrabble.

A special Scrabble tournament in the language made its debut Friday, pitting teams from Sioux reservation schools in North Dakota, South Dakota and Manitoba.

The game is part of the tribe's campaign to revitalize the Dakota language, now spoken fluently by a dwindling number of elders. One survey predicted the last fluent Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota speaker would die in 2025.

"With these efforts, we'll try to prolong that," Darell DeCoteau said as he gestured to a nearby Scrabble board. "This will probably push that back a little bit."

"Start in the middle," David Seaboy told a group of middle-school students from the Enemy Swim Day School at Waubay, S.D. "Everybody help somebody make a word."

The first word to take shape was sa, pronounced "shah" — the color red.

After a few minutes of frantic consultation with the official Dakota Sioux Scrabble dictionary, a team built on the base to form the word sapa, pronounced "shah-pa," or dirty, a word worth seven points.

"This is a good stimulant for the mind," said Seaboy, 63, one of a group of Sisseton-Wahpeton elders, all fluent in the language, who wrote the 207-page Dakota dictionary.

Appeals court: Marriage ban trumps home violence law

March 31, 2006

Appeals court: Marriage ban trumps home violence law

Latest ruling goes against five others, sending the issue to the Ohio Supreme Court

by Eric Resnick

Dayton--An Ohio appeals court has ruled that the state constitution’s marriage ban amendment stops the domestic violence law from applying to unmarried couples.

By doing so, the Second Ohio District Court of Appeals has ensured that the state’s highest court will ultimately decide how much the 2004 amendment affects the domestic violence measure, and possibly other state laws.

It is the first appeals court to say that the law runs afoul of the amendment’s second sentence because it applies to a person “living as a spouse,” of either the same or opposite sex.

The second sentence reads: “This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.”

Five other Ohio district courts, the Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Twelfth, have come to the opposite conclusion. Trial courts have been evenly split in similar cases, in almost every county in the state.

In this case, Karen S. Ward of Fairborn allegedly assaulted her live-in boyfriend Fred Almonds, Jr. She was arrested and charged with one count of domestic violence, a fourth-degree felony.

Ward’s attorney, Ellen Weprin of Dayton, moved to dismiss the charge. She argued that since the domestic violence statute is based on a person “living as a spouse,” using it here violates the constitution.

The Greene County Common Pleas Court agreed, and the charge was dropped. Assistant prosecutor Elizabeth Ellis appealed this to the Second District.

Amendment could affect many laws

At the heart of the argument is whether the amendment’s second sentence will be construed broadly or narrowly across a wide array of Ohio laws affecting everything from domestic violence to partner benefits, child custody, probate, insurance and others.

Child custody cases testing the amendment are making their way through the courts, as is a suit against Miami University’s domestic partner benefits. A suit challenging the Cleveland Heights domestic partner registry ended last year, leaving the registry intact.

But dozens of cases challenging the domestic violence law have been filed under the amendment, even before it took effect. They have drawn the most attention, and the most arguments filed by groups and individuals as “friends of the court.”

The “friend” briefs seen as affirming lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families seek to narrow the amendment’s overall effect. They argue that only marriage approximates marriage, and that the voters never intended the amendment to have any effect outside preventing same-sex marriages.

Those seen as hostile to LGBT families want the courts to interpret the amendment broadly enough to strike down most legal protection and benefits they might currently enjoy, and prevent the possibility of creating new ones.

In the domestic violence cases, the LGBT-affirming groups are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Action Coalition of Battered Women, the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, and the Ohio National organization for Women Education and Legal Fund. They argue for the prosecution, that the charges should stick.

The anti-gay Citizens for Community Values, which campaigned to pass the amendment, argues with the defendants that the charges should be dismissed.

Constitution is supreme

There were no “friend” briefs in the Second District case, but the court took notice of the ones filed in other cases, because they are all the same.

“We have considered those briefs, all of which have been helpful, in deciding this appeal,” wrote Judge Mike Fain.

Fain was joined in the majority by Judge James Brogan. Judge Mary Donovan dissented.

Trial judges who have ruled that unmarried couples can’t be covered by the domestic violence law note that the definition of “cohabitation” agreed on by Ohio courts has been used in the past to protect the rights of LGBT families and should be preserved.

Fain touched that point, but instead made the crux of the decision one of constitutional construction.

“The Constitution of Ohio, including, of course, Article XV, Section 11 [the marriage ban amendment], is the supreme law of this state,” wrote Fain.

Fain rejected a claim in the ACLU brief, embraced by the other district court rulings, that amendments and laws should be construed in such a way that conflict between them is avoided.

He wrote that the voters could have put provisions in the amendment so that it excluded other laws if they had wanted it that way.

“They did not do so,” wrote Fain.

“It is no more appropriate to construe the provisions of the [marriage ban amendment] deferentially to existing statutes than it would be to construe the provisions of Article I, Section 11, for freedom of speech and of the press, in a manner deferential to statutory law,” wrote Fain.

Fain cited the 1919 Ohio Supreme Court case State, ex rel. Rose v. Donahey saying, “the adoption of an amendment to the Ohio Constitution may implicitly have the effect of repealing various statutes that are in conflict with the newly adopted amendment.”

“The [marriage ban] amendment is no less a part of the fundamental, organic law of Ohio, by reason of its recent vintage; if anything it is entitled to even greater deference,” Fain wrote.

“In stating this obvious fact, we make no observations concerning the wisdom of the electorate in having adopted the amendment,” Fain wrote. “Our sworn obligation to uphold the Constitution of Ohio is not limited or qualified in any way based on our assessment of its merits.”

One ‘effect’ of marriage is enough

Fain noted that the second sentence of the amendment “appears to be an attempt to prevent the legal recognition of quasi-marital relationships.” He said the issue was whether a law must give all of the effects of marriage to an unmarried couple to trigger the amendment, or just one effect of marriage.

One effect is enough, he concluded.

Otherwise, “At what point would the second sentence of the amendment be deemed to have been violated?” He then listed several other possible exceptions.

“It is tempting to speculate which . . . would have found favor with a majority of the Ohioans who voted for the amendment, but this would be mere speculation.”

Donovan disagreed in her dissent, arguing that Fain and Brogan used conjecture and speculation in their analysis, too.

“What is a ‘quasi-marital relationship’ or a ‘quasi-spouse?’ ” wrote Donovan. “These are not legal terms in the state of Ohio and probably would be as incapable of definition as quasi-marriage proposals, quasi-pregnancies and quasi-divorces.”

“The second sentence should be read to buttress the narrow legal definition of marriage set out in the first sentence of the [amendment],” she continued.

“Specific terms appear in the first sentence of the amendment, defining marriage as ‘a union between one man and one woman,’ ” wrote Donovan. “The term ‘legal status,’ therefore, relates to a union between one man and one woman, and the second sentence merely prohibits recognizing a marriage of two or more persons other than one man and one woman. A broader reading would render one man/one woman entirely superfluous.”

Donovan added that the domestic violence law was intended to cover “family or household members” when it was passed in 1979.

“A person ‘living as a spouse’ is a family or household member,” she said.

“It is illogical to conclude that a person ‘living as a spouse’ and/or cohabitating somehow is elevated to the position of a state-sanctioned marriage,” Donovan wrote.

It is not yet apparent which of the cases will lead the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, only that one will, and it will likely be soon.