Site Meter

America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The porn threshold

Check out some of these statistics on the porn industry. They're staggering.
At $13.3 billion, the 2006 revenues of the sex and porn industry in the United States are bigger than the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball combined. Worldwide sex industry sales for 2006 are reported to be $97 billion. To put this in perspective, Microsoft, who sells the operating system used on most of the computers in the world (in addition to other software) reported sales of $44.8 billion in 2006.
Obviously, porn is insanely big business. The same page reports that the industry cranks out about 11,000 movies per year. Non-porn American studios do about 400-500 (although that number itself has been creeping steadily upwards as technology decreases filmmaking costs and the distribution system flattens.)

The obvious question: Why do we need 11,000 new porn movies a year? Shouldn't there be some porn event horizon, beyond which we simply don't need any more movies? Is there really a ravening fan base out there, desperately awaiting the arrival of Booty Talk 67? Who would the industry alienate if they said, "Hey, you know what? There're enough dirty movies out there already. Here's a catalog, go order some old ones."

Especially when so many of them are just one in an on- (and on- and on-) going series. Who's going to notice if they slip in some footage from a previous entry? Are there porn mavens familiar with every frame of Screw My Wife Please #24 who are going to raise holy hell if they notice a repeat 15 titles down the road?

These are the questions that keep me up at night. Well, that and my breathless anticipation of Thick-n-Chunky Fat Freakz 2.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The myth of the super-skanks

I don't imagine that mathematicians get invited to the same parties as sex researchers very often. Human sexuality professors, the rockstars of the behavioral sciences department, walk into their classes and stare out at a sea of horny freshmen; your average number theory seminar is basically full of guys who couldn't hack it in computer science.

So I imagine it was rather satisfying this week when the mathematicians got to publicly tell the sex researchers they're full of shit.

For years, researchers have been telling us something that doesn't really surprise anyone: men report a significantly higher number of sexual partners than women. A recent study by the federal government put the number at seven for men and four for women, while the Brits (who knew?) reported 12.7 and 6.5, respectively.

What sex researchers would know, if they spent more time studying statistics and less cataloging items found in body cavities, is that those numbers are frickin' impossible. Since (straight) men can only have sex with women, the averages have to be the same on both sides; every time two people sleep together, a number gets added to both sides of the equation. Or, if you want to get all mathematician:
By way of dramatization, we change the context slightly and will prove what will be called the High School Prom Theorem. We suppose that on the day after the prom, each girl is asked to give the number of boys she danced with. These numbers are then added up giving a number G. The same information is then obtained from the boys, giving a number B.

Theorem: G=B

Proof: Both G and B are equal to C, the number of couples who danced together at the prom. Q.E.D.
This kind of explanation, of course, is why mathematicians don't get invited to the good parties.

Since men sleeping around more than women dovetails so nicely with our preconceived notions, it's easy to hear numbers like those and just nod. I know I have. But I like what the previous acceptance of those numbers says about our ideas of female, rather than male, promiscuity. Because even for the mathematically illiterate, the numbers sound a little hokey, and require some pretty stupid mental contortions to make them work out. For me, it goes something like:

"Well, sure, most women only sleep with like four guys. But somewhere out there there are these total sluts, these super-skanks from hell who have slept with like 75 guys, which brings the guys' average up to 7. So it all works out."

1. As I said, this is pretty stupid. Mathematically and otherwise.
2. Alas, there are no super-skanks. Or at least no more than there are on the male side.

All this really means, in the end, is that men over-report their number of partners and women under-report, which falls into the "New Study Finds College Binge Drinking To Be A Blast" department. Except it would have been nice if the sex researchers could have previously mentioned that their research proves people lie, not that guys get laid a lot.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Blogging will recommence in 3..2..1...

Avast, there be non-sequiturs ahead!

A lot of people seem to be all atwitter about Karl Rove leaving the White House. I'm not exactly sure why. I guess it's a good thing that one of the people most responsible for the sorry state of our democracy is no longer able to pop across the hall to help Bush pick out his socks or give him a backrub or whatever. But somehow it doesn't make me feel better to know that dickhead will soon be awash in more gold-plated doughnuts then he's ever dreamed of. Republican flacks don't resign, they just go to consulting heaven.

I just finished one of the best science fiction books I've picked up in years, William Gibson's Pattern Recognition. It was published in 2003, but the pop culture and technology entwined throughout the book was so fresh then that it's still bleeding-edge today. It can't even be called science fiction, really, since it's set in the present day and doesn't feature any events or people that couldn't plausibly exist. But it feels like science fiction, which just drives home how fast things are changing. Remember, technological change is exponential, not linear.

Right up there with Pattern Recognition is Cory Doctorow's recent collection of long short-fiction, Overclocked. Criticism of intellectual property law meets cyberpunky sci-fi? Sign me up! Plus, it includes a story called "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth". Nerdgasms. And lots of 'em.

Speaking of nerdgasms, I was at a wedding Friday night that, I shit you not, was held in the same room they'd filmed part of The Dark Knight in a couple days before. Rumors say it might even have been Bruce Wayne's penthouse bedroom (apparently, he's living the pimp life while Wayne Manor is being rebuilt) — which would be appropriate because Hotel 71's 39th floor is a gorgeous location with views of downtown Chicago and the river on three sides. Don't know about you, but I want a wedding where a Batman DVD serves as an anniversary present.

I leave you with Dick Cheney, speaking about the first Gulf War, circa 1994:

Everyone was impressed with the fact that we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had. But for the 146 Americans killed in action and for their families, it wasn't a cheap war. And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad and took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? And our judgement was not very many, and I think we got it right.
That's 3,676 dead American soldiers so far. Oh, and at least 1,000 civilian contractors. But who's counting?
Jeff Goldstein is a wanker.