Beauty is in the belief of the beholder: cognitive influences on the neural response to facial attractiveness.

Stumbled across this research paper suggesting beauty actually is in the eye of the beholder. Lots has been said about how beauty is often ‘classic’ (that is, how it conforms to a natural rule…) and because of this there are certain faces that are beautiful because they are objective; they adhere to a standard that is beyond our will. These are people seen as ‘gifted’ when it comes to their looks, and because of bone structure (eye placement, jaw shape, nose size etc.) they fall into this ‘natural beauty’ category. Well, that may not be the case. Not exactly.

Could ‘classic beauty’ instead be the incessant/constant reinforcement of a specific standard throughout the years? Could it have obtained its greatness because it was ’shoved down our throats’ for so long? It may appear so. What the study found was that people’s ratings on beauty could be influenced by other people’s ratings on the same beauty. ‘Repetition’ as well factored into the formula by suggesting that the more one looks at another face, the higher the subjective rating that face receives. It’s why the old saying “He/she’s got the face only a mother could love” carries some weight to it.

“Collectively, this finding offers one piece to resolve a puzzling phenomenon in human courtship: much to their surprise, people often find themselves drawn toward individuals after multiple encounters, even when there was no initial attraction. That is, cupid’s arrow is often slow to strike. Although multiple psychological changes are sure to contribute to this steady growth, an important part of the phenomenon may be attributable to the gradual change in attractiveness from repetition.”

My interest isn’t toward ‘facial’ beauty however, but instead I have the feeling such connections can be made to Art in general; specifically music. Certainly there are songs and their structures that have been established as guaranteed ‘hits’ – as well, there are ‘classics’ that are deemed to be the epitome of structure …and ditto for composers. There is music that’s been deemed ‘superior’ because it’s been scrutinized for years by millions of critics who collectively proclaim its superiority. But I have to wonder, perhaps its perceived greatness is only a function of its popularity? A function of its repetition? Perhaps Bach was great not because he was great …but because everyone agreed he was great? Ditto for the Beatles?

You see where I’m going with this….

But I won’t go there lol, not just yet. I’ve started a piece a few years back somewhat frowning upon the idea that music is ‘great’ because it adheres to some outside, temporal force in the universe that says it’s great. I argue instead that it’s as much an individual choice as anything else. Certainly it may be a combining of both objective and subjective classifications, but when people dismiss the social aspect of Art I kinda get grumpy about it all …and I honestly feel a child’s investment in Twinkle Twinkle is no less important than an adults in Swan Lake. When the mood strikes I’ll revisit the whole thing and let you know what I come up with.

“Mambo #5 VS Beethoven’s Fifth – This Time It’s Personal!”
To Be Continued…

Yamaha Silent Brass

I took a trip to St. John’s the other day to try out one of them fancy, schmancy trombone mutes – a Yamaha Silent Brass system. I do most of my playing in the apartment and as such have to be kinda quiet. I guess I don’t have to be, but I am because I don’t like to be heard, and I usually use a bunch of different mutes to mix things up …my main one being the Manny Klein thing. It’s nice cause it keeps the pitch when playing low (other mutes give out below the Ab) and is also the quietest of the lot. Anyway, I thought I’d give the Silent Brass thing a whirl….

I didn’t buy it – $250 ish, but it wasn’t becuase it didn’t sound good. It actually sounded great ….and I even liked the reverb settings and the sound mirrored my dynamics no problem. The issue was that it was too constrictive and there was way more back pressure than any of my other mutes. The Yamaha system seals off the horn completely except for a small round hole in the front of the mute, and it’s through that hole that all the air passes. I think if they had a variety of ‘plugs’ that could change the diameter of that hole to allow more air to pass then the user could tailor the back pressure to what they’re comfortable with. Having a larger hole means the mute will be louder, but even if they doubled the size it still wouldn’t be much different from my practice mute …which is quiet enough.

So yeah, I didn’t get it. They ordered it ‘special’ for me as well, but I told the salesman that I won’t commit to buying something if I didn’t like it …and I think he had his mind set on me saying yes. Too much back pressure changes the way you actually play and breathe though, so it’s kinda important, and when you’re inhibited physically by something it screws with the detail (finesse) parts of what you’re doing. And so I’m sticking with the same old same old, and to experience the actual sound of the horn perhaps I’ll go muteless from time to time for the neighbours.

Pantless for sure.


Image from usa.yamaha.com

on prostitution and penises…

When I think of equality between the sexes I think of the old reverse-a-roo ploy; if something’s truly equal, then reversing the roles of men and women in that situation would still result in the same outcome. Whether it’s flipping burgers, feeding babies, sailing ships or sciencing a space station, women and men are equally able to accomplish similar feats given the same opportunities in training, education etc. There are unique physical characteristics between the two that favour one sex over the other, but generally and practically speaking, much of what one can do can be done by the other, and reversing roles is a great indicator of that equality.

In prostitution, it’s often argued that women ‘working’ in this field do so under the premise that it’s a job like any other; they take customers, charge a fee, work certain hours, have reasonable expectations for safety and fully admit that like most jobs, there will be times when you don’t want to be there. This ‘sex worker’ mentality is, on paper at least, pretty straight forward. It makes sense in the working world, and even though ‘sex workers’ are routinely coerced, abused, violated and led toward drugs as a coping mechanism, they still perform a job. It’s not exactly 9-5, but it’s a job. That’s the prevailing mentality at least, that prostitution is sex ‘work’ ….and like flipping burgers, feeding babies, sailing ships or sciencing a space station, women and men both can accomplish many of the same feats. But can they though?

Many have spoken publicly on the harms to prostituted persons, to their families, to the families of Johns or to the communities dealing with the culture and aftermath. Safety concerns routinely fall on deaf ears though, violence is downplayed and blame often placed on the ‘sex workers’ themselves. However loud the cries and warnings of harm, we have a hard time breaking from the mainstream narrative that this is simply another job and that fairness, consent and an ‘awareness of the dangers’ are part of its description. Left out of the argument against prostitution is the practical, physical experience men and women share while preforming this task ….and when reversing roles as mentioned, I feel it becomes obvious that the experiences for one are definitely not the same as the experiences for the other. The reverse-a-roo equality test fails big time, and the idea that equal footing exists is an illusion promoted by those who have the most to gain. What is viewed as a regular ‘job’ by some, becomes something entirely different if the idea of ‘servicing’ was on the other foot.

So let’s reverse some roles….

Prostitution, from a naive and simplistic point of view, is about sex ….although not exactly about arousal. In a perfect world sex happens when two partners are aroused by each other, however prostitution flips this intimate experience on its head by sacrificing the arousal of one for that of the other. The prostitute is not aroused (99.9% of the time) for if she/he were as a matter of course, then the act of sex would be mutually beneficial and no ‘work’ would be necessary nor money need to change hands. The John however is aroused, and it’s the prostitutes ‘job’ to service the John’s arousal to the point of completion.

If roles were reversed and men had to service Johns (as regularly and under the similar, typical conditions as women do) they’d need to have an erection. They’d need to maintain this erection for the duration of their ‘work’ as well; putting it in any orifices that were required (vaginas, rectums/mouths of males and females) allowing it to be touched and roughly handled, to be photographed and filmed, to be subjected to a variety of different objects, substances etc. They’d have to maintain this erection in all sorts of environments (alleys, vehicles, hotels, brothels etc.) with all sorts of clients (demanding, frightening, smelly, morbidly obese, sweaty, rough, sickly, drunk, high, deviant, physically violent, repulsive etc.) for all lengths of time (instantaneous, hours in a row, multiple appointments a day etc.) and be expected to adapt to changes in routines on a moments notice regardless of safety or security.

The thing about the male penis however, is that an erection is predominately dependant upon the penis-holder being in an aroused state, and an aroused state is definitely not what the ‘sex worker’ functions in. They operate based on demands from the John, and a male ‘sex worker’ will not, through the course of a typical day, be able to arouse themselves given the often horrible circumstances/environments they’re forced to ‘work’ in. Certainly the male ‘sex worker’ can take drugs (orally or through injection to the penis) to maintain their erection, but this is not a practical solution given the daily, monthly or yearly expectations the prostitution experience demands from its ‘worker’. Prospective Johns would as well be turned off by any inauthentic penis (strap on, implant etc.) as such items are not part of the experience they’re paying good money for; if Johns wanted ‘fake’ then they wouldn’t seek out a real person.

Vagina’s are far simpler machines though.

Women as prostitutes need only their natural body as it is. They’ve no need to be aroused or take drugs or injections to make their vaginas work …they just simply have to be, and in whatever manner the John desires; wear make up (or not), dress nice (or not), be clean (or not), make small talk (or not), fake interest (or really fake interest) etc. etc. Certainly much of this ‘extra’ stuff depends on the John’s secondary demands, however, the basic requirement of any prostituted women is simply for her body as it naturally exists; to be groped, unwantingly fondled, at times assaulted, and to have its ‘holes’ penetrated. Noting else is needed …especially the desire to be there.

And so the reverse-a-roo in this situation doesn’t work at all. Men cannot service Johns in the same manner as women can, and the idea of ‘sex work’ as an equal opportunity occupation denies the fact that the job as it stands biologically favours women over men. The act of prostitution is, by design, tailored primarily for females, and their unique physical ability to engage in sex (wantingly or not) without arousal, drugs or desires, not only places them in a position to be exploited, but disproportionately subjects them to acts of abuse and sexual violence. Of course there are situations where men won’t need to have an erection to complete the job; Johns may request a flaccid penis for example, or request only oral or work with their hands ….but women in prostitution experience these ‘easier’ demands as well, and if their jobs as a ‘sex worker’ were limited to oral or hand stimulation exclusively, their lives would be substantially better than what they are.

Male Johns are a demanding customer though – they demand penetration, they demand a satisfying outcome, and they demand it for as little money as possible. Male johns are aggressive and assertive and push boundaries all the time, and male Johns generally ‘get off’ on that inherent imbalance between them and the prostituted women. Power, and control, lies with the one in charge …physically and financially.

Finance is one of the main reasons women even consider prostitution in the first place, as well as being sexually abused as children which has normalized the idea that their body can be used for someone else’s pleasure. They’re usually powerless when they initially become involved and usually powerless still when they first leave. If ‘sex work’ was something glorious, empowering, liberating and regularly able to help one get ahead of or out of a bad situation, then ‘down and out’ men would be clamouring for the positions in droves. They’d be filling the Backpages with ads to help them establish their own businesses. They’d be lining up to work at upscale brothels or for some ‘high class’ escort agencies. Men would be accessorizing their sexuality for an opportunity to bring home some big money in a short period of time. But most men don’t for a few reasons; the majority of ‘prostitution services’ are not independent endeavours sought out by entrepreneurial females but instead regulated industries run and spearheaded by men themselves. Secondly, prostitution is largely about domination, and culturally men have been conditioned to be the ones dominating …not dominated. True freedom or independence does not exist in a dominating experience, no matter how wonderfully the available choices are portrayed.

Most men don’t prostitute because prostitution as a ‘choice’ for ‘work’ is a ruse. The demand is primarily for women because men demand it …they’re the ones in control, they’re the ones entitled, and they’re the ones often forwarding the view that women’s bodies as sexual objects is a form of ‘sexual liberation’. Certainly there’s a few success stories extolling the Happy Hooker mentality, but these are the anomaly and they’re happily shared/promoted by men (and others who deny the countless voices of women abused worldwide…) as ways to justify their desire for women to be sexually available. Prostitution exists because men desire to be satisfied ….after all, aren’t they the ones with the grand sexual appetites? The ones who require servicing? The ones with needs?

Unfortunately, I think that’s one of the larger fallacies of our time.

As a guy, I can honestly say our ‘need’ to be satisfied isn’t as big as we make it out to be. It’s somewhat of a myth. Sure it feels good, and sure it comes on fast, and sure it can feel overwhelming, and sure it can be over just as quickly as it came on ….but to place and burden the effective resolution of that ‘feeling’ upon women out of some animal-like physical necessity is – well, it belies what I feel is an uglier truth; that it’s as much about power and control as anything else. It’s about our needs. We require prostitution because we require women (or other males as women ….trans, young boys etc.) to be inferior. We require women to be sexless caregivers because for them to be otherwise would threaten the very thing we feel is special and distinctive about ourselves. It’s as if our emotional being has been summed up by one single organ and a few minutes of glory. We’re not animals, but it’s just easier to behave that way.

I don’t feel men have the grand sexual appetites we proclaim not because we don’t have grand sexual appetites, but because our sexual needs are most likely similar to those of women ….just made out to be a bigger deal. That men are more ‘visual’ in terms of arousal might have a small part to do with us staring at our junk for as long as we have; worshiping and grandizing its importance throughout much of our lives. And the idea that such feeling/emotion can physically grow – actually be seen and felt by our own eyes and hands, has probably contributed to the exalted status it holds. Let’s also not forget the entire ‘bigger is better’ myth; if something 4 or 5 inches gives us great joy, then surely something 8 or 9 inches would give even more. Women, as sexual creatures of their own, challenges our sexual importance, and the fact that our emotion expresses itself in such an obvious, physical form, has probably for centuries conditioned us to believe that we are the magical, gifted creatures on this planet. We are the ones with the sceptre or staff that has dominion over others, and the fact that prostitution (men’s dominion over women) is often referred to as the ‘oldest profession’ is most likely tied into this archaic belief.

And so perhaps it’s time to let that go.

Prostitution as ‘sex work’ isn’t at all an equal, empowering endeavour, but rather a thinly veiled attempt to convince our most vulnerable that they have power and choice of their own. Promoting this ‘sex worker’ mentality only benefits the men buying access to women’s bodies, and the fact that it’s both widely established and condoned throughout much of the world is testiment to the power of tradition, our collective blindness toward women’s sexuality, and to the pervasiveness of male control. Inequality between the sexes manifests in many different ways, but through prostitution it compels and ensures the abuse and sexual exploitation of women for the foreseeable future. The idea of it as a ‘job’ is not only demeaning and objectifying, but shifts the focus from its harms by reducing it to something commonplace and mundane.

It’s not a job ….it’s a form of modern slavery.


Rachelle borrowed me for a quick one-nighter in Vancouver the other day ….and by quick I mean quick….

  • Up at 6:30 and worked till just after 12
  • drove to airport and made Vancouver just after 3
  • Met Rachelle and cabbed it to the the site
  • Put up a PA (unexpected ….but unstressful too)
  • Checked in with about 20 min to change clothes
  • Made the ‘meal time’ at the gig (duck, lamb, salmon, open bar etc!)
  • Two slightly loud but well received sets
  • Tear down and hour long ‘hang’ with organizers
  • In bed by 2
  • Up at 6 and cabbed it back to airport
  • Arrived in Edmonton around noon
  • Drove to the shop and put in about 4 hours
  • Got home ….and relaxed :)

The gig was fine, but the quickness of it all kinda sucked. The hotel was on the harbour next to Stanley Park, the room was something called The Rowing Club (which was exactly that…) and the food, drinks and hospitality were wonderful ….but it all happened so fast that you couldn’t really enjoy anything. I would have loved to take some pictures – heck, I would have loved to have seen the place in the daylight! I’m not complaining ….not at all, I’m just kinda sad that I didn’t get more time to take it all in, cause it was fun.

The parts that I saw that is.



The Minty Green Wafers did a wedding the other night that was somewhat special for a few reasons. At the top of the list was the ‘potato bar’ …an ice-cream scoop of mashed potatoes in a wine glass which you personally adorned with whatever fixin’s you liked; green onions, bacon bits, gravy, sour cream, cheese etc. etc. You ate it out of the glass. The glass! I know, I was flabbergasted …but then I don’t get out so much. There was also the small jars of gourmet-type ‘mac & cheese’ …again, I know! The self-serve beef on a bun was standard, as well as the pork meatballs on a stick, the pan stickers and the candy bar, but when in the company of mashed potatoes IN A GLASS! ….well, everything rose to a whole new level.

The music however didn’t quite rise to the same heights. It was fine of course – ‘good enough’ as they say in the biz, but it sure wasn’t anything as remarkable as POTATOES IN A GLASS! Of course, there was the Bird Dance …now better known as the Atonal Avian Adventure. It was exciting too, but perhaps for slightly different reasons. Good thing I recorded it for posterity :)

*i will be accepting bribes for its destruction*renepatbride

Festival of Trees, Part II

It was another deja-vu gig kids; same event, same band, same venue …all just one year later. It’s funny though, you’d think I’d start to remember stuff lol, but they all blur together after a while. I think …or it could be the failing memory too. Anyway, it was fun. Christmassy. Somewhat ‘grand’ in terms of presentation. Pizza again. Champaign. Josh. Etc, etc, etc… Sandro was on the kit though, so that was different, and I think there were some new songs. I think.

Again, they all blur together.

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It was a return trip with the BBJ’s to Grand Prairie over the weekend …same road, same travel conditions, same crew, same crowd, same ol’ same ol’ you might say. I ran into St. Nick again as well, so it was the same accoms too. Fun times though, and nice to play with a pro-PA set up. I hadn’t worn my ear plugs the first set as the volumes weren’t that unruly, but I did after that out of habit ….but yeah, the sound was nice. There was a dance floor zamboni this time around though – I know! Long day however, as I got home for an hour or so and had another rehearsal to get to …and judging from it, next weekend should be fun too.

Yea for fun :)

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sugar, science, spots and sexism

cokeOk, it’s been about two weeks of limited sugar and I’m now officially back on the wagon. Or is that off the wagon? I’m not sure how a wagon works exactly, but I’m consuming sugar once more ….and I hope to keep it down to moderate amounts. If the relapse over the weekend wasn’t enough of a sign, then this offering of ‘health’ during a plasma donation yesterday was the icing on the cake. Seriously though, can pop and cookies be the go-to remedy for a blood donation? Apparently so …and who am I to argue with science.

Speaking of science, it seems technology has recently doomed the US (and by extension a good chunk of us other world dwellers…) by discovering even more oil reserves in its own backyard. Yep, Texas of all places. It’s ‘continuous’ oil, which means it’ll most likely be accessed through hydraulic fracking, which also means President (elect) Trump’s new climate-denying appointment will be able to stay in-house (despite Obama’s efforts) for those pesky energy acquisitions – essentially giving a big, Texas-style middle finger to the rest of the world. Not only will this be horrible for the climate state of things, but an energy independent southern cousin means our Premier will definitely have her work cut out for her in any re-election bid. Sadly.

cbcSpeaking of Notley, it appears she’ll have some new input for her NDP community as Calgary PC’er Sandra Jansen changed her spots and got the heck out of dodge. On one hand I think it’s unfortunate to mess with your voters’ decisions, but on another it is a personal choice, and what good are those we vote into power if they don’t have the ability/courage to exercise them. She’s leaving her somewhat male-dominated Conservative party, and I feel the good ol’ boys may not always play well with members of the opposite sex …especially if they veer from their traditional puppet strings. Too bad though, cause times are changing and those ol’ fashioned rules and roles are slowly going the way of the dodo.

And yes, times are a changing. Take the UK for example…

Nottinghamshire Police announced crimes ranging from harassment on the street to aggressive physical approaches will be recorded as hate crimes, becoming the first force in the country to change its definition.

I think it’s kinda great. As you may have figured out from my recent interest in somewhat feminine issues, much of the populous (approximately half…) is blissfully unaware of the effect harassment has on much of the other half of the populous. So unaware in fact, that harmful and even criminal behaviours have become standard and at times, expected. But they shouldn’t be, and the effects of all types of misogyny are eventually embedded into the female psyche to the point of debilitation. And is the implementation of such new laws going to be hassle free? Not at all. But time sorts these things out, and one day in the future we’ll look back on the silly things we did in the turn of the 21st Century.

Silly human-type creatures….

All Night

Here’s a video of Audrey Ochoa playing at the Yardbird Suite a few weeks ago. I was there. It was nice. It was a Thursday (which is strange for that place) but it seems they’re now doing shows that evening and judging from the amount of people in attendance, it should turn into a good thing. She did a ‘Pop’ music tribute of sorts; stuff from D’Angelo, Tears For Fears, Bjork, and Beyonce, not to mention a smattering of original stuff as well. It was a 90 min set too, but didn’t seem that long ….which is a good sign. Anyway, it was fun, and the people in attendance seemed to have a good time as well. If she lets me I’ll throw up some mp3’s of the other tunes I recorded …Chris Andrew on keys, Sandro Dominelli on drums and Paul Bergeron on bass, so it was fairly decent stuff.

Sadly the video wasn’t decent, as it seems my 10 year old kam-korder has issues with low light. It’s Beyonce’s All Night from her Lemonade album…


T’was a delightful little wedding just south of the city the other night with the BBJ’s. It was a country affair (I’m basing that on the fact the dance floor was at one point filled with line dancers) and lots of happy-type people celebrating somebody’s Big Day. Part of those celebrations included little cuppin cakes though, which was both good and bad; good cause dancing dancers like cuppin cakes, but bad because I do too. And I’m weak. And I started the day off with the PANNEKOEK from De Dutch (the strawberry cheesecake variety) which happened to be jam packed with sugar. What I’m getting at is the day was a complete write off for my ‘no sugar’ routine, and so this week I have to renew the efforts for a bit.

Just a bit mind you.