Friday, January 30, 2009

Pocket Change: Reexamining the Value of Our Culture of Consumerism

Pocket Change: Let's Start A Revolution
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom

I just finished reading Stumbling on Happiness by psychologist Daniel Gilbert, in which he concludes that more money does not lead to greater happiness, once one’s basic needs are met.

After someone has enough to be lifted out of relative poverty, it doesn’t really matter if they make $100,000 or $100 million dollars, because more often, more money simply leads to less of what really counts in life.

However, much like Joseph Heller explains in Catch-22 through the shenanigans of his character Milo Minderbinder, sometimes organizations and national cultures are set up to irrationally self-propagate and perpetuate.

Thus, Gilbert likewise concludes that money only makes the world go around because it is self-serving. If we didn’t live in a society that valued its status as an economic superpower, we might all be happier because we’d be working less, have less debt and have less stress.

In turn, we’d have more time to spend time with people simply; more time to pursue activities that do not necessarily require an exorbitant amount of disposable income or use of credit cards that are already over-extended; and we’d allocate more time to all those intangibles that count and that we otherwise neglect because we are constantly trying to make or spend more money.

In other words, if we made an effort to spend less money, we might end up much happier in the end.

Today, with the dire economic downturn, for many of us, making an effort to spend and consume less is not only a prudent goal, but an urgent necessity.

Thus, I propose that maybe it is time that we reexamine the value of our national Culture of Consumerism. Maybe we need to actively watch less TV, buy things only if we really need them, and spend more time with others, and ourselves at home.

In essence, we need to first become conscious of those things that we unnecessarily spend money on and then we need to proactively not spend money on them, even, and especially, after the economy recovers.

Think about it next time you go shopping for anything—clothes, food or entertainment. Think about whether or not you actually have the time to enjoy or use it all; think about whether or not you actually are making the most of what you’ve already got at home; think about whether or not more actually means less.

Moreover, we’ve got to think about the value of everything we own or possess or store and have to maintain. When’s the last time you used the board games you have stored in the closet? When’s the last time you read all those books you have gathering dust on the shelf? When’s the last time you wore that outfit or those shoes or that tie?

If you find that you have all these things for no good reason, consider selling or better yet, giving them away. Because if you set out to sell everything on e-bay, you’re just using more time to perpetuate the ugly money cycle; whereas if you magnanimously donate your used goods to Goodwill or the Salvation Army you don’t have to worry about setting prices, packaging, shipping, corresponding, worrying and waiting.

Ultimately, you should sit down and assess how you might improve your life, your self and most importantly, the lives of others, by adopting a lifestyle that requires spending less. And then, you should systematically, over time, set out to change your life accordingly.

Over time, if we make an effort to be less materialistic as individuals, together we can ultimately change the culture that pressures us into proving our net worth. And over time we will improve our way of life by demonstrating that what is most important is that we have a grasp on what we are and not what we have.

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
Ralph Waldo Emerson


Check out 25 Lessons I’ve Learned (about photography) at

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What Do Women Want? Understanding The Fluidity of Female Desire

What Do Women Want? Understanding The Fluidity of Female Desire
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom

*Photo originally posted June 16, 2007, Un Deux Trois

What Do Women Want?
Understanding The Fluidity of Female Desire
New York City, January 28, 2009:

A recently published article in the New York Times (What Do Women Want?, Daniel Bergner, January 25, 2009) presents a thorough summary of many different recent clinical and behavioral psycho-sexual studies and confirms what many of us all already know—men and women desire differently.

As both rigid scientific studies and informal observations have shown over the years, men tend to draw a narrow-minded physiological path toward arousal, whereas women are open to being stimulated by almost anything, especially if it involves piquing their emotions and psyche.

More surprisingly though, the article seems to conclude that women not only desire differently, but who they desire is significantly different too. For recent studies show women who proclaim to tender only heterosexual inclinations (i.e. desire toward men only), may actually be in denial, as the results of measured vaginal transudation counters what the test subjects otherwise report verbally.

Research also found that men with high sex drives report a greater polarized pattern of attraction than most males (that is, heterosexual men are much more attracted to women than any inclination toward men, and likewise, homosexual men, are much more attracted to men than any inclination toward woman ).

However, this is NOT the case for women. Because in women the opposite is generally true: the higher the sex drive, the greater the attraction to both sexes.

That said, I also recently read a piece in Psychology Today (Finding the Switch: Homosexuality may persist because the associated genes convey surprising advantages on homosexuals' family members, May/June 2008) that argues that homosexuality may be a result of evolution.

As a result, it is argued that women have gay sons because it is to their advantage, because they will "protect" them, so to speak (i.e. they will never leave their mothers and will always love them...). The article also notes that women with a greater sex drive, often had a higher dose of testosterone (thus, more likely to have the same inclinations as a man so to speak) and thus were more likely to have gay sons.

Last week’s New York Times article also reports that there is a female equivalent of Viagra on the way called Flibanserin. “The medication was originally meant to treat depression — it singles out the brain’s receptors for the neurotransmitter Serotonin. As with other such drugs, one worry was that it would dull the libido. Yet in early trials, while it showed little promise for relieving depression, it left female — but not male — subjects feeling increased lust.”

That said, my personal experience has been, that within a certain demographic of women, aged roughly between 24-42, (see A Little Love and Affection (Is All We Need) for more on this controversial theory), lust is occasionally, if not often, driven by the desire to procreate…

In other words, I M U S T H A V E B A B Y!

As much as men (mostly) make fun of this nagging desire, in a few frank conversations I’ve had with women of this particular sector, it appears that this desire is actually quite real and physiologically (esp. hormonally) driven.

Thus, albeit the makers of Flibanserin are not being forthcoming as to what neurological receptors they are tapping or blocking, I would infer that it could very well be whatever ever causes baby fever.


Getting back to the basis of basic desire, the article also cites studies that conclude “men may rely more on such physiological signals to define their emotional states, while women depend more on situational cues.”

In other words, women are more sensitive to the people and world around them, they don’t have to be hit in the head to get a clue. Phrased differently, later on in the article the author concludes “Female desire may be dictated — even more than popular perception would have it — by intimacy, by emotional connection.”

However, that said, this is only another reason as to why women might naturally be inclined to have an attraction to other women—because women understand what makes women tick—feel good, feel bad, better, whatever. Women know how to make other women feel good much better than men generally do (“Uh, what? I’m like touching her, ain’t that enough?”).

As a related aside, this article discusses the idea that female lubrication is also evolutionary. Citing studies on rape, Bergner writes, “Evolution’s legacy, according to this theory, is that women are prone to lubricate, if only protectively, to hints of sex in their surroundings.” In other words, men should note that just because a woman is wet, does not mean she is whet—for apparently orgasms are not the only signs of arousal that can be faked too.


All that said, in addition to the empathy factor, I’ve long heard both men and women declare that women are simply more naturally beautiful to begin with. Hence, the millennia of art and odes and images that have focused on feminine beauty, as opposed to that of the harder, courser, often more rugged, male physique.

Moreover, as this New York Times piece proposes toward the end—there is something to be said about “being desired” too that makes women desirable to both men and women.

For women have long been perceived as, and made an effort to, make themselves desirable. Men, for the most part, at least straight men for the most part, are not as naturally inclined to be as preoccupied by their looks and their quotient of fatal attraction. Gay men on the other hand, seemingly readily understand and empathize women better and thus their impulse to make themselves desirable.

To support this insight, in a study of visual attention in heterosexual men and women where subjects looked at pictures of heterosexual foreplay, it was found that the men stared significantly more at the females than at the males. However, “the women gazed equally at the two genders, their eyes drawn to the faces of the men and to the bodies of the women — to the facial expressions, perhaps, of men in states of wanting, and to the sexual allure embodied in the female figures.”

To simplify and bring it back home, women simply want to be desired (but then again, who doesn't?)

Thus, as much as many women have, during a certain period in their life, had the impulse to find a good man she can trust, one who will provide a good home and protect her and her children—underlying this need is also the desire to be ravaged against a wall in some dark alley by some tall, dark and handsome stranger.


For the last decade or so, the AIDS epidemic has tainted sex. Subsequently, prevention, in the form or instilling fear and encouraging abstinence, made the natural feeling of desire a monster. Prudence concluded that the Summer of Love of 1969 and the following decade of indulgence, led us to where we are now. Thus, for the last decade or so, desire was denied entrance into the realm of life because it became the probable cause of looming epidemiological disaster.

However, as more and more studies on the alarming surge of STDs are confirming, because people are tired of denying their internal impulses, they are perilously traversing the divide between reason and desire, and have begun behaving in ways that may be worse than when this whole crisis began.

At the same time, people are looking toward alternative means of satisfying their sexual impulses safely.

Thus, I’ve found that some brave women are just starting to explore and accept their natural inclinations toward other women. Since it is perceived to be relatively safer than having sex with men and both sexes usually agree that women are on the whole more beautiful than men, it seems that more women, both young and old, are exploring their so-called Sapphic inclinations and allowing themselves to venture, to go where many women have not gone before, and dip their toes in the forbidden waters of Lesbos.


Twenty years ago, a Greek friend of mine, Phyllis, told me “I think we are all born with a natural desire and love for both sexes. It is only life that determines whether we lean toward one way or another.”

Even since that certain epiphany, I’ve pondered and wondered and inquired about the intrinsic nature and motivations of desire and love in us all.

Having long made an effort to be aware of my own deep-seeded sexual and amorous penchants and desires (i.e. I Love All Women), I have long been interested in understanding those whom I love.

Sexologist Lisa Diamond argues that “quite possibly for women on the whole, desire is malleable, that it cannot be captured by asking women to categorize their attractions at any single point, that to do so is to apply a male paradigm of more fixed sexual orientation…For women on average, she stresses that desire often emerges so compellingly from emotional closeness that innate orientations can be overridden. This may not always affect women’s behavior — the overriding may not frequently impel heterosexual women into lesbian relationships — but it can redirect erotic attraction.”

Thus, I’d be interested to hear from you and what you discern to be the truth underlying desire.

What do you think?

Do women want more women?

Do women desire differently than men? If so, how?

My enquiring mind wants to know…

“The Baroness has joked that she has helped my sex life. It’s possible, not because I’m binding or getting bound, but because that world can teach you a lot about being open about desire.”
Daniel Bergner (from Surveying the Outer Reaches of Lust: An interview with Daniel Bergner, author of The Other Side of Desire: Four Journeys Into the Far Realms of Lust and Longing, by Charles McGrath, New York Times Magazine, January 23, 2009)


Check Out My Bookstore:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Now, There is Hope

Now, There is Hope
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom

Photo: The inspiring view from my office window this afternoon, overlooking Madison Square Park at the corner of Madison Avenue and 26th Street in New York City, U.S. of A.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”
Barack Obama at Grant Park after his election, November 4, 2008

Now, There is Hope

January 23, 2009, New York City:

I’m feeling post-inauguration glee.

For now I feel, despite eight years of being misled by a confederacy of dunces, we now have a true leader at the helm.

Moreover, he is black.

Wow, how did that happen?

I honestly never thought I’d see the day when we might have an African-American, or any “person of color” really, in the Oval Office.

I just didn’t have that much hope for the American public and I was convinced that prejudice would still reign over reason.

Thank God I was wrong.

Because, now, I feel anything is possible.

Because, now, I feel that indeed we shall overcome.

Because, now, I feel that after 40 days and 40 nights in the valley of death, we can now begin our ascent in earnest to the mountaintop.

Because, now, I feel there is hope.

And for the first time in my life, I actually feel proud to be an American.

Thank you President Obama for instilling some much-needed faith in me.

I’m ready to pitch in to do whatever I can to help this country, and this world, recover.

I’m ready to make an effort to do more for others and less for myself.

I’m tightening my belt, making “less is more” my mantra, and I’ve already signed up to help out at the Soup Kitchen next month.

I’m also resigned to spend less on things I don’t need and more on those things that make life truly meaningful—more quiet time at home, more time reading, more time creating, rather than consuming.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’m looking forward to spending more time with those I love—my boys, my beautiful girlfriend, and all my great friends and family.

Thank you once again for inspiring me Mr. Obama. You give God Bless America new and truer meaning.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
America The Beautiful, Katharine Lee Bates

“What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize gladly.”
President Barack Obama’s inaugural address, January 20, 2009