It’s hard to write this without sounding like a prig. But it’s just as hard to erase the images that planted the idea for this essay, so here goes. The scene is a middle school auditorium, where girls in teams of three or four are bopping to pop songs at a student talent show. Not bopping, actually, but doing elaborately choreographed re-creations of music videos, in tiny skirts or tight shorts, with bare bellies, rouged cheeks and glittery eyes.
They writhe and strut, shake their bottoms, splay their legs, thrust their chests out and in and out again. Some straddle empty chairs, like lap dancers without laps. They don’t smile much. Their faces are locked from grim exertion, from all that leaping up and lying down without poles to hold onto. “Don’t stop don’t stop,” sings Janet Jackson, all whispery. “Jerk it like you’re making it choke. ...Ohh. I’m so stimulated. Feel so X-rated.” The girls spend a lot of time lying on the floor. They are in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
As each routine ends, parents and siblings cheer, whistle and applaud. I just sit there, not fully comprehending. It’s my first suburban Long Island middle school talent show. I’m with my daughter, who is 10 and hadn’t warned me. I’m not sure what I had expected, but it wasn’t this. It was something different. Something younger. Something that didn’t make the girls look so ... one-dimensional.
It would be easy to chalk it up to adolescent rebellion, an ancient and necessary phenomenon, except these girls were barely adolescents and they had nothing to rebel against. This was an official function at a public school, a milieu that in another time or universe might have seen children singing folk ballads, say, or reciting the Gettysburg Address.
It is news to no one, not even me, that eroticism in popular culture is a 24-hour, all-you-can-eat buffet, and that many children in their early teens are filling up. The latest debate centers on whether simulated intercourse is an appropriate dance style for the high school gym.
What surprised me, though, was how completely parents of even younger girls seem to have gotten in step with society’s march toward eroticized adolescence — either willingly or through abject surrender. And if parents give up, what can a school do? A teacher at the middle school later told me she had stopped chaperoning dances because she was put off by the boy-girl pelvic thrusting and had no way to stop it — the children wouldn’t listen to her and she had no authority to send anyone home. She guessed that if the school had tried to ban the sexy talent-show routines, parents would have been the first to complain, having shelled out for costumes and private dance lessons for their Little Miss Sunshines.
I’m sure that many parents see these routines as healthy fun, an exercise in self-esteem harmlessly heightened by glitter makeup and teeny skirts. Our girls are bratz, not slutz, they would argue, comfortable in the existence of a distinction.
But my parental brain rebels. Suburban parents dote on and hover over their children, micromanaging their appointments and shielding them in helmets, kneepads and thick layers of S.U.V. steel. But they allow the culture of boy-toy sexuality to bore unchecked into their little ones’ ears and eyeballs, displacing their nimble and growing brains and impoverishing the sense of wider possibilities in life.
There is no reason adulthood should be a low plateau we all clamber onto around age 10. And it’s a cramped vision of girlhood that enshrines sexual allure as the best or only form of power and esteem. It’s as if there were now Three Ages of Woman: first Mary-Kate, then Britney, then Courtney. Boys don’t seem to have such constricted horizons. They wouldn’t stand for it — much less waggle their butts and roll around for applause on the floor of a school auditorium.
__________________________________________________________________________________ December 28, 2006
Most Important Science Stories of 2006
computers with the power of thought, built an invisibility cloak,
cracked the mystery of a 3,000-year-old computer, discovered a new
element, unearthed a missing link and kicked Pluto out of the planet
club--and those are just the highlights.
Dubbed Tiktaalik roseae,
this large, predatory fish bears a number of features found in the
four-limbed creatures that eventually gave rise to all amphibians,
reptiles, birds and mammals. Plus, it gave our editor in chief another
chance to take on creationism.
This website provides 101 amazing facts about the place we all call home. The complete list is here, but here are my favorites:
9.What two great American cities are destined to merge?
The San Andreas fault , which runs north-south, is slipping at a rate of about 2 inches (5 centimeters) per year, causing Los Angeles to move towards San Francisco. Scientists forecast LA will be a suburb of the City by the Bay in about 15 million years.
29. What is the wettest place on Earth?
Lloro, Colombia averages 523.6 inches of rainfall a year, or more than 40 feet (13 meters). That's about 10 times more than fairly wet major cities in Europe or the United States.
60. How old is Earth? Our planet is more than 4.5 billion years old, just a shade younger than
the Sun. Recent evidence actually shows that Earth was formed much earlier than previously believed, just 10 million years after the birth of the Sun, a stellar event typically put at 4.6 billion years ago.
89. On average, how much water is used worldwide each day? About 400 billion gallons.
99. What are the most extreme locations in the United States, compass-wise? This one is a bit tricky, and as it turns out three or even four of the answers may catch you off guard. The westernmost point is the aptly named West Point of Amatignak Island, Alaska. The northernmost point is Point Barrow, Alaska. The southernmost point is the southern tip of the island of Hawaii. The easternmost point -- go ahead, take
a guess! -- is Pochnoi Point at Semisopochnoi, Alaska. Huh? Look at a world map. The
tip of the Aleutian Islands lies on the other side of the 180-degree longitude line --- the International Dateline -- putting Pochnoi Point barely but officially in the Eastern Hemisphere.
101. Will Earth always be here? Astronomers know that over the next few billion years, the Sun will swell so large as to envelop Earth. If we're still here, we'll probably fry and the planet will be vaporized. There's a chance, however, that the changing mass of the Sun will cause Earth to move into a more distant and pleasant orbit. One mathematical calculation shows it would be theoretically possible for humans to engineer such a move before it's too late.
Today's London Times includes a very disturbing article that sounds like the plot of a mediocre movie. The Times reports that in April 2029 a 40m ton asteroid will pass within 22,000 miles of Earth, a distance so close that the asteroid could destroy orbiting satellites.
The article says that NASA estimates that if it hits Earth, it would release energy equivalent to the detonation of 880 megatons of TNT, more than 4 times the power of the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883.
is drawing up a shortlist of ideas to be unveiled early next year for
diverting a 40m-ton asteroid that is on course to pass dangerously
close to Earth.
The schemes will be presented and discussed at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Fears that the planet may be in danger from asteroids were
heightened by the discovery of one orbiting the sun that, on its
present path, will pass within 22,000 miles — a hair’s breadth in
astronomical terms — in April 2029.
Nasa’s idea is to engineer a minor shift in its trajectory
that would make the asteroid miss Earth by a wider margin on this and
all subsequent passes. Under one possible plan, a robotic craft would
be sent to the asteroid to attempt to alter its course. One option
might be to install a propulsion system on the surface to nudge it onto
a new course.
For more than 50 years, NORAD and its
predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked
Santa. The tradition began after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck
& Co. store advertisement for children to call Santa on a special
"hotline" included an inadvertently misprinted telephone number.
Instead of Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD
Commander-in-Chief's operations "hotline." The Director of Operations,
Colonel Harry Shoup, received the first "Santa" call on Christmas Eve
1955. Realizing what had happened, Colonel Shoup had his staff check
radar data to see if there was any indication of Santa making his way
south from the North Pole. Indeed there were signs of Santa and
children who called were given an update on Santa's position. Thus, the
tradition was born. In 1958, the governments of Canada and the United
States created a bi-national air defense command for the North American
continent called the North American Air Defense Command, known as
NORAD. Canada and the U.S. believed they could better defend North
America together as a team instead of separately.
NORAD carried out its first Santa tracking in
1958 after inheriting the tradition from CONAD. Since that time,
Canadian and American men and women who work at NORAD have responded to
phone calls from children personally. Additionally, media from all over
the world call NORAD on Christmas Eve for updates on Santa's location.
Last year this Website was visited by millions of people who wanted to
know Santa's whereabouts. This year, the information is provided in six
NORAD relies on many volunteers to help make Santa tracking possible.
Hundreds of volunteers spend part of their Christmas Eve at the Santa
Tracking Operations Center answering phones and emails to provide Santa
updates to thousands of inquiring children worldwide.
HB 234 by Bohac and SB 84 by Hinojosa: relating to increasing the maximum amount of the local option residence homestead exemption from ad valorem taxation by a taxing unit from 20 percent to 30 percent.
SECTION 1. Section 11.13(n), Tax Code, is amended to read as follows:
n) In addition to any other exemptions provided by this section, an individual is entitled to an exemption from taxation by a taxing unit of a percentage of the appraised value of the individual's [his] residence homestead if the exemption is adopted by the governing body of the taxing unit before July 1 in the manner provided by law for official action by the body.If the percentage set by the taxing unit produces an exemption in a tax year of less than $5,000 when applied to a particular residence homestead, the individual is entitled to an exemption of $5,000 of the appraised value.The percentage adopted by the taxing unit may not exceed 30  percent.
SECTION 2. This Act applies only to ad valorem taxes imposed for a tax year beginning on or after the effective date of this Act.
SECTION 3. This Act takes effect January 1, 2008, but only if the constitutional amendment proposed by the 80th Legislature, Regular Session, 2007, to increase the maximum amount of the local option residence homestead exemption from ad valorem taxation by a political subdivision from 20 percent to 30 percent is approved by the voters.If that amendment is not approved by the voters, this Act has no effect.
This website provides a ton of information about each of the Top 100 Wonders of the World, as selected by the website's author, Howard Hillman. For example, I didn't know that originally the pyramids (Ranked #1) had a smooth exterior or that the Acropolis (Ranked #21), built by 5th century BC Athenean
statesman Pericles, was considered to be in poor taste by some of