There are 45 indigenous species of snakes in Florida, although only 6 are venomous. We learned this last night when we were trying to name the 5 venomous species that exist in this area. We were thinking pygmy and timber rattlers were the same, that those were just regional nicknames for the same species (they aren’t). Plus, I kept trying to count cobras. I think they should count, since there’s no getting rid of them at this point. It was, I would like to add, a mistake to review the 41 species of snakes right before bedtime.

I watched Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. I’ve been looking for my lost IQ points ever since.

Reading the incredibly vapid Sunday Source section of the Post shaved off a few more points this morning. Husband had opened the paper and was surprised to see one of his Mantis cohorts pictured on the front in an article about beards, so I felt like I ought to read it. I still don’t understand why it’s necessary to have a Sunday Style section and a Sunday Source section. It’s not the insipidness of either individual section, it’s the fact that there’s two of them. As though this inspidiness is somehow hipper than that insipidness.

On the other hand, if this is the most annoying thing I encounter all day I’m in pretty good shape.

And now, here are some images of a praying mantis eating a hummingbird. (note to self: find this image and relink it!)

Anyone who doubts the popularity of the Berenstain Bears amongst the toddler-crowd hasnt been hanging with the toddler crowd. Wildy, rock-star popular, those bears are. Right up there with Dr. Seuss and Curious George in the category of books I spend the most time de-drooling and recovering and reshelving.

Childrens librarianship is just like academic librarianship – the only difference being the specific titles one has to clean the saliva and peanut-butter encrusted fingerprints from. Additionally, toddlers wear diapers and don’t pee in the library. Academic and law school librarians only wish their patrons wouldn’t pee in the stacks. But I digress.

I always liked the Berenstain Bears, but even more so after learning of Charles Krauthammer’s dislike of them:

(link dead or missing)I hate the Berenstain Bears, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer fumed in 1989. The raging offense of the Berenstains is the post-feminist Papa Bear, the Alan Alda of grizzlies, a wimp so passive and fumbling he makes Dagwood Bumstead look like Batman.

In 1996, Mr. Berenstain told The Post: ve gotten unkind letters complaining that we are emasculating the men in the family. The absolute truth is that Papa Bear is based on me.â

One of the Berenstains’ early editors complained that the bear family’s clothing, language and general mores were several decades out of date: s just not that way in the real world.

But that’s the way it is in Bear Country, the Berenstains replied.

I’m just genetically predisposed to like almost anything that man dislikes. I can’t help it.

Today’s Post, in a column that is, oddly enough, titled appreciation, levels quite a lot of criticism at the Bears, especially in it’s conclusion:

The larger questions about the popularity of the Berenstain Bears are more troubling: Is this what we really want from children’s books in the first place, a world filled with scares and neuroses and problems to be toughed out and solved? And if it is, aren’t the Berenstain Bears simply teaching to the test, providing a lesson to be spit back, rather than one lived and understood and embraced?

Where is the warmth, the spirit of discovery and imagination in Bear Country? Stan Berenstain taught a million lessons to children, but subtlety and plain old joy weren’t among them.

Now, even when you account for the repetition factor, which I’ll return to in a moment, it’s probably rare for any child to be raised on a strict diet of Bears books. Sure, Bear Country is a kind of freaky place, but all children’s book environments are a bit off-kilter, the enduring ones, anyway. So kids get variety, and I doubt very much that many of them are scarred from the lessons they learn from the Berenstains.

Kids love repetition. I doubt there’s anyone on the planet who doesn’t know that. But even when a kid is hooked on a specific story, you put multiple kids in the story area at the same time and they run the mommys, daddys or nannys ragged – insisting on hearing as many different stories as possible, often read as fast as possible.

It’s like watching toddler speed-dating.

Poor Husband thought I’d finally gone completely mad when I, in the course of random conversation in the car, mentioned the daily shark and alligator feedings at the aquarium downtown.

“We don’t have an aquarium downtown!”

He was laughing at me.

“Sure we do,” I replied. “It’s in the Treasury Building.”

Now, as soon as the words came out of my mouth even I realized it was one of the most ridiculous thing I’d ever said. As Husband is a native Washingtonian, if he didn’t know about this secret aquarium, it must not exist. But I was sure I’d been there. I could see the location vividly in my mind. Had I imagined it? Was that possible?

As it turns out, I had my building names confused, but not the physical location. I want that on the record, please. There is so a National Aquarium in Washington, DC and it’s every bit as loony as it sounds.

And they do have public shark and alligator feedings. Piranhas, too, if you’re so inclined.

A couple of days ago I had plans to attend an early evening meeting and then stop by the Hirshhorn for cocktails and a gander at the Gyroscope show. I took the Metro, so you already know that I’m about to tell you that wackiness ensued.

I ended up playing tourguide to a Norwegian soccer team. I think they were a soccer team. Their English was only slightly better than my Norwegian (read: nonexistent) so it’s entirely possible they were just telling me they like to kick small dogs. They kept saying the word soccer a lot, so I’m going to go with my original assumption – my friends in highschool were Norwegian and used the term soccer instead of football so I think it’s a safe guess. But I digress…

To make a long story short, I took them to Natural History to see the Spirit of Ancient Colombian Gold exhibit (splendid), the hall of mammals (we took a group picture with the taxidermied deer), and, of course, the yellow-bellied sapsucker (to prove there really was such a thing).

As an aside, may I just say that the new(ish) Hall of Mammals resembles the interior of an REI store. It’s really rather, well, wrong.

There’s an exhibit of photos of Norway in the hallway leading to Baird Auditorium. It looks very cold in Norway. My new friends were very keen on the idea of migrating to La Florida until they saw the bizarre little display case just representing the Everglades. The case is just before the entrance to the insect zoo and it shows a small gator and 4 snakes in a space that is maybe 15 square feet. I tried explaining that snakes are not herd animals like reindeer, but that seemed only to frighten them further as for a while they thought I was explaining that we eat the snakes just like they eat reindeer.

I left my new friends at the Museum and went to my Artomatic meeting, expecting to never see them again since I was fairly certain my explanation of the Hirshhorn’s evening programs was lost in the (lack of) translation.

Amazingly, we were reunited at the Hirshhorn to consume lovely rum drinks and view the Gyroscope exhibit, which was also quite good. You have to watch out for the combination of intoxicants and works by Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, and Willem de Kooning as that way lies really strange dreams. If you have even the slightest interest in Contemporary and Modern art and you haven’t seen this show you should scurry down there and check it out. And if you don’t have any interest, you should go anyway. It’ll be good for you.

But Husband and I think that they should have let the cheetahs keep the deer.

A deer got into the cheetah yard at the National Zoo yesterday and was pounced on by a mother cheetah before the deer escaped into Rock Creek Park, according to a witness and a zoo spokeswoman.

The young buck appeared in the largest cheetah yard shortly after 7 a.m. It bolted from a pond there and was chased by the mother cheetah and her four cubs, according to a witness. The mother cheetah jumped on the buck, and it ran back to the pond.

Admit it, cheetahs are way, way cooler than deer. I’d have said that even before last night, when a deer decided to try and kill itself on the hood of Husband’s car. In the same place a deer once flung itself onto the hood of my car, although that was some years ago. Still, a bit of a coincidence.

Husband is fine, the car is a loss. The damned deer got up and ran off.

[ed note: like everything prior to 2006 on this site, this one dates back to, as you probably guessed from the title. Quoted articles are from the Washington Post but I’m having trouble finding the links again. The post goes on an excessive length because a linkback from had provoked an exciting series of exchanges between readers in the comments – sadly now lost]

Victoria’s Secret renovated their storefronts and placed provocative mannequins in the windows. Outrage ensued and a protest, boycott and picketline were announced for the day. This made the Bunny and I….really want to go shopping.

So today the Bunny and I spent 5 hours at Tyson’s Corner Mall, without a single incident. Actually, that’s not entirely true.

Our plan was to meet for coffee before the mall opened, scope out Victoria’s Secret and then prowl the mall. When I first arrived a woman in the parking lot asked me, “What time do you open?”

Having sex on the brain, I couldn’t quite grasp the meaning of her question. It seemed rather presumptuous. I stared at her for a moment and then asked for clarification. Turns out, she wasn’t propositioning me at all. She thought I was a MAC cosmetics counter girl and she wanted to know what time the store opened. It was odd. Odder still, since there isn’t a MAC at Tyson’s.

At any rate, we wandered the whole mall and saw many, many luridly dressed mannequins in “suggestive” poses. No one seemed to have a problem with any of those. Not even the ones at the stores specifically targeted at teen and pre-teen girls. Not even at the department store (was it Nordie’s or Lord and Taylor?) where the lingerie section and children’s sections were 3 feet apart (I measured while the Bunny took photos of the mannequin in the thigh-highs and thong thrusting her hips at the children’s mannequins across the aisle).

The window displays of teen/preteen-oriented retailers like Wet Seal (all g-strings on sale!) or Delias (nothing sexual about preteen lowrider jeans with the crotch bleached out!) may not be displayed in a manner that mimics the suburban ideal of a sex shop, but they’re not selling little girls images of ice cream and puppies.

The forbidden is appealling and sex sells. In the case of Victoria’s Secret – sex and a little safe controversy? That’s just got to just be a shareholders (wet) dream.

So far there’s been only a marginal stockprice increase today, and I doubt that’s about this one isolated incident. Limited sales overall are down 2% from last year at this time (even excluding the stores impacted by the hurricanes). If they can fan the flames of this a bit by taking the controversy nationwide, maybe get a boycott going in time for the Christmas shopping season, they could turn things around in no time.

At least for the Tyson’s store, a shot of cheap loud publicity has worked in the short term. There was a long line (52 people when I counted, again while the Bunny took pics) behind a velvet rope of shoppers anxious to enter the store. There was one protestor that I saw. She was holding an index card sized sign that read, Smut Peddlars.

Smut peddlars? They sell underwear. Just like the store directly across the hall from them, Gap Body. And just like at least 2 dozen other stores in that same mall. Abercrombie and Fitch, which has been targeted for years for selling thongs for pre-teens, is also right across the hall – next door to Baby Gap.

Since the initial fracas, the mannequins at VS have now been reposed, but the window displays themselves are not contextually especially racy. The interpretation of the clean, minimalistic, windows at VS as anything like a redlight district is truly in the eye of very imaginative beholders.

The store itself isn’t really even very eyecatching. Had there not been such a crowd they needed a security guard, it would have blended in with the rest of the stores. The store is actually in an area of the mall with a narrow hallway, since the center of that hall is open-air (a railed off opening looking downstairs). Across from the store and on the other side of that opening, the store isn’t really that noticeable. In the bright lights of the mall, the neon isn’t all that eye-catching.

Yes, the windows look more Fredericks than “traditional” Victoria’s Secret – but why isn’t there an outcry about the racy window displays in the Pentagon City Frederick’s store? It’s been there forever and those windows are clearly visible from their prominent corner location and often feature mannequins in highly suggestive poses. The problem at Tyson’s seems to be that they hit a nerve – negative attitudes about the suggestion of girl-girl action with no male participant or viewer as presented in the original displays. Remember, lesbian sex for male voyeuristic pleasure is good.

Lesbians running loose on their own are bad, bad, bad.

Write that down, it will be on the quiz.

As we wandered the mall I made the Bunny stop and eavesdrop on the most promising debate I overheard but the women expressing their outrage were refusing to even go see the windows. Their minds were made up. It turned out to be a boring conversation so we moved on. They’d been told that the window displays heralded the end of civilization and that was good enough for them.

The “what about the children!” hysteria, whether concious or not, sounds mor like a cover. If it offends you personally, say so. Hiding behind “the children” is ridiculous. If they’re too young to be out on their own, then you control where they go and what they see. Those windows only become “dirty” to children when someone tells them they are. You don’t have to take psychology to figure that out. What’s the surest way to spark a child’s interest in something? Tell them it’s bad or wrong or evil and make a production over it. Come to think of it, this is the best way to spread hysteria among adults, to boot. There must be a hundred things a day that society pours into your child’s brain that are confusing or strange to their little minds. And what you tell them how you react, makes much more of an impression than the initial object or image.

If they’re old enough to be at the mall on their own, well, then there’s nothing at the mall they haven’t seen on network TV.

Still don’t like it? Vote with your dollars. Take your business elsewhere. Ban your children from the property. It’s a mall, not the (direct) product of your tax dollars. Hell, if you want to make a ruckus, knock yourselves out, but don’t claim to speak for everyone. Be honest, admit that you personally are offended, that’s your right. Just like it’s my right not to be offended.

Can you imagine what great publicity huge protests would be? The Victoria’s Secret image was getting a bit stodgy and dull. The “fashion show?” A bit of a non-issue these days. The catalog? Costing them a fortune to print and not really boosting their sales much, apparently. A boycott would be a real shot in the arm. Make the place hip and sexy and (safely) transgressive again. You can’t buy rebranding like that. A boycott would be akin to the RIAA slapping warning labels on record albums – which made any album with a parental warning sticker automatically better in the eyes of your average kid.

The show’s over folks.

Time for everyone to go find a new way to teach their kids that female sexuality is bad.

That is, when all is said and done, what’s at stake here: an image of women’s sexuality that is threatening to the straight and narrow. Unless you’re threatened by women, insecure about your own sexuality, or think women are by nature dirty there’s not a lot left to say.

I am not defending the Limited. In fact, I think that the warped body images the Victoria’s Secret catalog pushes are, well, warped and unhealthy. It pains me to defend this company in any way shape or form. But think about it – it’s interesting that when they present women as fluffy pink sex kittens or angels clearly meant for male pleasure it’s a-okay. But make the mannequins lifelike and, quite frankly, powerful and aggressive looking, and it’s suddenly a problem. The problem isn’t the company’s, it’s the viewers.

Tyson’s boosted their traffic (and branded themselves as being highly moral and sensitive to the public), Victoria’s Secret gets tons of free advertising, and capitalism trundled forward. Everybody wins.

I can’t believe I’m defending Victoria’s Secret’s image of women, gender, and sexuality.

The world has turned inside out and the apocalypse is certainly nigh.

I need a drink.

I almost gave the baboon post and the final Victoria’s Secret musings seperate posts because they’re unrelated, but actually they aren’t.

Not really, since you could argue that both subjects involve festive displays of genitalia.

But I digress.

After yesterday’s Victoria’s Secret post, my inbox is still slammed with emails from Washington Post readers who took offense at my taking offense at their being offensive. Or something like that.

So yes, after skimming through a zillion emails I have to say: I disgree with most of you.

At it’s heart, I don’t think this issue has much at all to do with public morality or censorship or art or free speech or the need for indecency legislation.


Because it’s a mall. Private property. And it’s a window display, not the Louvre. This is about commerce, not personal expression. The free market, Milton Friedman and all that jazz. Don’t like it? Do exactly what the people in the article are doing – vote with your feet and your dollars. No one makes you walk into that store anymore than anyone makes you walk into that mall.

Is Victoria’s Secret introducing erotic stores to Northern Virginia? No, we’ve already got those. Is this about capitalism and not free speech? Yes. Are they committing acts of bad taste and demeaning women? I don’t know, but I’ll try to meet the Bunny there tomorrow and find out. Is this the end of the world as we know it? Probably not. Is this brilliant publicity for VS? You bet.

So that’s all I have to say about that. Now, on to the baboons.

I’m afraid of baboons. Have you ever seen an adult baboon? You would be, too. Nevertheless, I would like very much to go to CARE (Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education) for about a month sometime in the future. (I take the fact that Animal Planet reran their documentary, Growing Up Baboon, yesterday as a sign I should do this).

Plus, baboon. Fun to say. Try it now. Baboon.

Yes, so, I picked up a copy of Robert Sapolsky‘s A Primate’s Memoir: A Neuroscientist’s Unconventional Life Among the Baboons [ link].

Sapolsky is a splendid writer and it’s only because I’m partial to other apes over baboons that I’ve never read this one. I’ve been missing out. It’s a great read and I was hooked from the very first paragraph:

I joined the baboon troop during my twenty-first year. I had never planned to become a savanna baboon when I grew up; instead, I had always assumed I would become a mountain gorilla. As a child in New York, I endlessly begged and cajoled my mother into taking me to the Museum of Natural History, where I would spend hours looking at the African dioramas, wishing to live in one. Racing effortlessly across the grasslands as a zebra certainly had its appeal, and on some occasions, I could conceive of overcoming my childhood endomorphism and would aspire to giraffehood. During one period, I became enthused with the collectivist utopian rants of my elderly communist relatives and decided that I would someday grow up to be a social insect. A worker ant, of course. I made the miscalculation of putting this scheme into an elementary-school writing assignment about my plan for life, resulting in a worried note from the teacher to my mother.

Still, baboons have very, very big teeth.

My affinity remains with Orangutans. Iris will always be my favorite.

[disclaimer is on the October 7th post]

I spent a whole year dressing the windows of the Georgetown Park Victoria Secret store. I’m looking at the pictures accompanying this morning’s Post story, “Skimpy Underwear, Ample Commentary At Tysons Corner – Shoppers Appalled, Transfixed By Racy Store Display at Mall” and I just don’t understand why there’s suddenly an uproar. I’m not seeing what’s so different from the old window displays. We were one of the earliest stores to start phasing out the white mannequins in favor of the flesh-colored ones, if I remember correctly, so I’m pretty sure those have been around for a while.

Maybe it’s just difficult to gauge from the pictures. Is it the shoes? I honestly don’t remember if the mannequins always wore shoes in the Good Old Days. Highheels and thigh-highs most assuredly create more provocative poses than barefoot mannequins, no doubt about that.

Mostly we had those stupid bustforms, which were a challenge to dress. On the upside, it was very easy to pin the merchandise on them so once you dressed them they stayed dressed. Mannequins aren’t as easy to manage.

Maybe if I saw the Tyson’s display in person I’d get what the fracas is about? I walked by a display at Pentagon City recently and don’t remember anything different, other than the fact that they are now cramming way too many mannequins into each window, which looks cluttered. The windows have never been artistic, they’ve always been a visual merchandiser’s definition of hell. Static and uninspired, with zero option for creativity or deviation from the designs dispatched from the home office in Ohio. It is, after all, a corporation with a visual identity to protect, I do get that.

From the pictures that accompany the article, it appears to just be more of the same.

According to an 8 month old complaint on a consumer affairs website in Raleigh, North Carolina, the VS display featured thong-wearing, blindfolded mannequins in suggestive positions. I could see that being questionable in a mall, but there’s not mention of that in reference to the Tyson’s article.

This part of the article was so funny I nearly choked on my coffee:

“I’m anxious to see for myself what the buzz is all about,” John Zolldan wrote in an e-mail to the mall management, “and if it is really true that Victoria no longer has any secrets . . . maybe your intent is to provide consumers in Northern Virginia with our first erotic boutique.”

Dear Mr Zolldan, you clearly need to get out more. Not only are the plenty of adult stores in Northern Virginia, but one local chain, Night Dreams has it’s flagship store in Tyson’s Corner. Driving, it’s .81 miles from Night Dreams to Tyson’s Corner, according to mapquest. As the crow flies, I suspect it’s roughly one quarter of a mile. Either way, it’s 2-5 minutes away.

(The Night Dreams site is probably not work-safe. I guess. Depends on where you work).

UPDATE: edited a few points for clarity. Specifically: why I mention shoes on mannequins. And that I understand why corporations want uniformity in their shop windows so that people can quit emailing me lectures on corporate identity and why individual stores don’t get to design their own displays. I get it. I get it. Really, I get it.

Over the years I’ve sat through innumerable productions of Godspell out of support for various actor friends. I was fairly certain that at this point in my life I need never see Godspell again. Ever. Ever. Ever.

Or so I thought.

Despite an allergy to musical theatre and lifelong overexposure to said production, I’ve purposely rented Godspell.


Because I’m obsessed with Alias. My favorite character is Sydney’s father, Jack. He’s such a tortured soul. Lena Olin (who plays Jack’s sort-of deceased wife in season 2) is the most beautiful character on the show, but Jack is the most consistently interesting. Poor Husband. He sometimes missed whole chunks of dialogue because I just have to comment on how beautiful she is everytime she’s on screen.

But back to Jack.

Jack is played by Victor Garber. Victor Garber was Jesus in the original Broadway production of Godspell, as well as the painful 1973 movie.

The things I will do to feed my mania.

I realize that the man has been in tons of things, and I am most assuredly not going to watch most of these movies. However, Jack is not only a tortured soul, but he’s a soul who’s rather enthusiastic about torturing others. It seems like it will be amusing to watch him playing a singing, dancing hippie Jesus, just for contrast.