Issue #5    Summer & Autumn  1999

(Our First Entirely Web-Produced Edition)


His Master's Favourite Things

Rain formed pools in the front yard.
Trapped inside,
the cat perched on a case of Guinness Stout.
Surrounded by bottles
and litter strewn about a chaotic house;
the cat's eyes shone brightly,
as the wings of a dragonfly.
Amid bottles of Polish vodka,
Ching-Chang knew where to jump,
escaping his master's favourite things.
Figuring it better to be wet, than, trapped inside,
the cat skirted puddles,
taking residence in an abandoned Toyota.
And his eyes were far brighter
than the blown-out headlight
he replaced.
                   Joan Pond

             Copyright  (c) 1999 Joan Pond
                 All Rights Reserved.


Smut on the Web

        by dj otterson

        I have a ten year old daughter. She's almost ready to graduate from her 'cute as a button' stage. And the boys are starting to look at her a little more closely. Worse yet- I can remember what it was like for me when I was a ten year old boy. (No- I wasn't the wildest kid on the block. I thought I was the deepest... I thought I was the only boy in the world who didn't automatically hate every girl I met.)
        (I thought of myself as the knight in shining armour type whose job it was to protect girls (and other outcasts) from that thoughtless class of human being we will refer to as 'Bullies'. (-who were, in turn, most likely picked on by somebody bigger and stronger and less sympathetic than they were.) )
        (I had a neighbour, a 'thin' younger girl with stringy hair and glasses. She wanted to grow up to be a Veterinarian. Her parents were 'Socially Challenged' and 'Style-Unconscious'. Do I have to tell you? The poor girl was crucified every day by just about everybody in the (public) school.) (She was a year and a half younger than I was.)
        (She had her eyes on me (from a distance) as a possible friend from the first time she saw me make friends with a big, scary, stray dog. {Dogs [almost] always love me. They know who likes them and they respond.}
        (There was a shortcut through an overgrown half-acre lot we called 'the woods'. I had this habit of not waking up very well, even back then. She lived across the street from the 'woods'.  One day when she stayed home sick, she saw me cutting through there. She decided (on her own) that she would rather chance the rumoured monsters and evil humans who might lurk in the 'woods' than chance the known monsters and evil characters who taunted and tortured her all the way to and from school.)
        (You would have hated me in school, I got away with a lot because I was fairly intelligent, usually quiet, and knew how to manipulate adults. But even I got caught once in a while, and, after 'staying after school' for some typically childish prank (I forget which one at the moment...) I cut through the woods on my way home to chop some time (probably a minute or two) off my 'commute' time.  There she was.... hiding.)
        (When she saw me she screamed and jumped into a pricker bush. I told her not to move and we managed to get her out of the bush without losing an awful lot of blood. (This was in the days when girls had to wear dresses to school, guys-) And, when I asked her who she was hiding from, she said, "Everybody-" She admitted to being terrified of several different types of natural and supernatural beings who might be in the woods, even in daylight. I told her I'd never seen anything like that. She asked if I'd walk her through the woods.  I said, "Sure". She told me about her tormentors and verbal-abusers and I shrugged and volunteered, "They're afraid of me- want me to walk you to school?" And I think she fell in love with me on the spot.)
        (She met me at the edge of the woods every morning and I met her at the door they let her class out of school through every night. We made sure no one was looking and ran into the woods. She hung onto my arm the first couple days, asked if I'd hold her hand in the woods after that. By the end of two weeks she gave me a big hug and a little kiss on the cheek. That was our budding romance- {up to that point}.)
        (But then some 'civic minded' idiot [bully] caught a glimpse of us entering or leaving the 'woods' and told her father he'd seen us 'screwing around' in the woods. Her father came storming over to my parent's house, asked if I was walking his daughter to and from school- I thought I deserved a medal for bravery and sticking up for women and children and said, 'yes.'   'Do you cut through the woods?' 'Yes-' 'What do you do in there?' 'Nothing- she's afraid of the woods.' ((I did not have a clue- I had no idea what he was 'getting at'.  Everything might have been settled in my favour right there and then if I had the presence of mind to add, 'All the big kids in the world have been making her life a living hell, teasing her to death all the way to and from school-')) My parents and her parents had a little talk. I was absolutely forbidden to go anywhere near her. (She managed to pass me notes now and then, 'They don't believe me- I told them that you're the only one who cares about me in the whole school...') We planned to run away and live as beachcombers in Hawaii or Tahiti or someplace (and live happily after ever) as soon as we were old enough...) Years later, I learned that she'd had suffer the indignity of a gynaecological examination. Neither one of us had any idea what birds and bees did or what that had to do with protecting eight and a half year old future poets from every bully in the world by guarding her way through the wilderness of human customs .... and blah blah blah.. )
        The point of all this (above) is:  Today; I don't know a single ten year old boy who doesn't believe he knows all there is to know about sex. (There are some kids out there who haven't a clue, but , either they won't admit to that or I haven't talked to any of them.) Most kids that young have a few slightly confused ideas concerning some of the details. A few of them have very bizarre misconceptions. (I've never walked up to a kid I don't know and asked what he knows about sex. If anyone volunteers any information, I try to act like I'm bored with the subject, and, if something they say is way off track, I try to suggest they bring that up with their parents or somebody who can (hopefully WILL) set them straight.)
        Okay, so why am I writing this?
        I work for a Security outfit. The parent company is fairly recognizable as #2 or #3 in the country. I'm the geek, who, after years of loving night work, won custody of my daughter in a divorce fiasco (My ex was a 'no-show' at the hearing, having run off to California to live with a new agey 'co-op' that wasn't quite as crazy as the cult that thought they could get to heaven riding on a space ship that was hiding in some comet's tail, but they were in the running for the 'Kooks of the Month' club.) (Hey- 'California' that should tell some of you something...). I told the boss I needed something a little more lucrative and was going to find a 'real job'. He turned to his Second in command and she asked, "Do you know anything about computers? I heard you talking to the guys-"  I made them promise I'd never have to fire anybody and had my job code 'upgraded'.
        I'm the geek who has to sweat the last minute schedule changes and try to recruit 'volunteers' to watch our clients' properties in some of the seedier neighbourhoods in the area? A couple times a year I get to spend a week or three covering vacations? So I was sitting at the computer at two in the morning when the boss' brother in law (the police officer) stopped in to see if the coffee machine was full (It's been a while since anybody was actually arrested for letting the coffee maker suffer neglect...).
        And Officer Bother-in-Law made small talk, "Did Eddy tell me you're some kind of writer?"
        "Ahh- a buddy of mine has a silly little magazine. I do pieces for him every once in a while."
        He nodded, "You surf the web a lot?"
        "Not a heck of a lot- I can find my way around-"
        "You know how to find the Porno sites?"
        I laughed and told him how to get to a search engine and type in any key word he wanted.
        He said, "I mean the kind of stuff a kid can get into without stealing his father's credit card numbers..."
        I shrugged, "Your nephew?"
       He nodded, "The kid's at his grandparents' for a couple weeks.  His account is supposed to keep him away from any porno sites, but we're worried-"
        "I can't get into some kid's computer and find out where he's been and what he's logged on to- I have a couple friends who can do that-"
        He nodded, "Can you ask somebody to help us out here?"
        So, three nights later we had the kid's computer set up in the boss' office and there were five of us sitting around while one of our hacker buddies checked out the files and the cache- and opened our eyes a bit.
        The kid's paternal grandfather pointed at one picture and said, "Heck, if I had stuff like this to look at, it might have saved my second marriage-"
        (Everybody looked at him a little funny-)
        He ignored our expressions, "Probably a good thing- I'm better off without her."
        Then we went  on line with the kid's saved dial-up numbers and password and went looking for naughty pictures.
        We found them much too easily. (There is a lot of 'Bait and Switch' in the world of on-line porn. 'Click here for hard core photographs' will probably deliver you to a page that wants your credit card number. 'Free Membership! See all the Nasty Hard Core You want!' leads you to another 'sign up' page, where they explain that they need your credit card number to be sure you are not a minor. (How hard do you think it is for any adolescent kid to break into Mom's pocket book, and jot down her credit card number and expiration date?)
        One, almost funny, trick is 'Hot Pix #1'- you click here and you get a photo of a young woman with purple hair glaring at you while she looks like she's about to unbutton her blouse- so you go back to the menu and click on 'Hot Pix #2' and find yourself being transfered to another site where you have to twiddle your thumbs for several minutes before another page full of teasers and bait and switch links, all promising 'Free! XXX Pictures, Videos and More!' and you never quite get there- unless you're crazy enough (or desperate enough) to enter your credit card numbers (Or Mom's- or Dad's...) And then- I wish I could tell you that the pictures were all out of focus and all the subjects were ugly. But I can't.
        This kid is seventeen years old- I'm not a Psychiatrist, I don't know what kind of effect these hard core pictures would have on a kid his age. He hasn't foamed at the mouth and run around at night grabbing random women and biting them on the neck or anything. His girlfriend is a really 'nice' girl who wears a one piece bathing suit (in the presence of adults, anyway). He seems to be amazingly well-adjusted. He lives in a semi-rural section of New York State.
        Is any of the stuff we found on his 'Hard Drive' dangerous? To him? To his (sixteen year old) girl friend?
        I doubt it- He seems be remarkably well balanced.
        Could this sort of thing push an 'unstable' individual over the edge? Could this cause someone to become a danger to himself or his community? I suppose the 'consenting adult' clause needs to be invoked here. If somebody is already a danger to his or her community, I don't believe there's anything anybody can do to suppress all the possible 'triggers'.
        I mean, who knows? Somebody who already is dangerous might hear a cat shriek in the night and interpret that to be the voice of 'god' telling him (or her) to go and maim or mangle or kill or send developing minds into a lack-of-self-esteem tailspin.
        (We didn't go near any child porn sites. I don't want to. I don't want to feel the kind of anger I know I'd feel if I was confronted with something like that.)
        But- Should we worry about smut on the net? In a word: Yes.
        Do you have a daughter? Does it bother you that most boys in this country [USA] already view her as an object? (I had younger sisters) (I still do) so I always knew that girls were people with feelings and minds and ideas and lots to offer on a lot of levels (Spiritual, Intellectual, Emotional, Social, keep going... I mean, good old feminine sympathy probably saved my life on more than one occasion-) Seeing some of the photos on line on the computer gave me the gut wrenching feeling that guys with no sympathetic feelings for anybody now have easy access to stuff that might inspire, "Hey- that looks like fun, lets go get those slutty friends of yours and try it."
        Want to know what scared me the most? Pictures of healthy young women ["Barely Legal!"] looking like material for Pepsi commercials, but naked, beautiful, and obviously enjoying themselves... hard core... Why does this scare me? Because I have a ten year old daughter and if the wrong jerk showed her one of those pictures (if I hadn't already warned her about jerks who might have hidden motives, and accompanied her on our twice a week trips to the local Martial Arts Dojo and done everything I know how to do to make sure she knew she was a worth-while human being who never had to go along with anything she didn't particularly want to do in order to be anything as shallow as 'Popular'...) if Rachel's self esteem was suffering and the wrong idiot showed her one of those pictures at the wrong time... what kind of permanent damage could he (or she) do to my daughter; to this wonderful, (if not always angelic), growing, thinking, feeling, evolving young woman?
        And, like I said before. A couple ten year olds I've talked to have a really bizarre misunderstanding of the birds and the bees.  (Case in point? One boy. He told his friend in fifth grade, after he had just gone to the bathroom (urinated), "Well- there's another baby that will never be born...") (Another kid thought a girl could become pregnant if she was horizontal when he kissed her.) (But this sort of misinformation has been with us for centuries.) How much worse might it be when any of these misconceptions can fly around the world and touch thousands of other young, impressionable kids in no time flat?
        And I don't expect we can solve all the world's problems in less than a hundred thousand words... but- hey, we have to talk to each other about this.  We have to remember or re-learn how to talk to each other about a lot of things.
        So, Now What?
        "V" Chips will not make the world safe for growing girls (and boys). Family ties might make the world a little safer for growing kids. Censoring the Web will not make the world safe for growing girls (or boys). Let your kids know you care about them. YOU- take the time to talk and LISTEN to them. Ask them questions, the kinds of questions that might stimulate them into wondering about  how they feel about safeguarding the lives and feelings of their neighbours.  Get the boys to think about girls as people. (If you can't figure out how, then dangit- ask somebody-) Every human being in your orbit is a potential gold mine of information, wisdom, emotional support- We're all in this together. Nothing can be solved by looking for a scape goat. You can try to blame anybody or anything for anything and everything that you believe is wrong with the world, but that will not help make that world one tiny bit better.  Will it?
        Do you think we should 'clamp down' (or try to) on the behaviour of teen agers?  If you haven't already taught your kids that warmth and understanding keep the world alive and caring, it's too late.  It's every teen ager's job to grow up and part of that process is to question and believe that their parents are hopelessly stupid so they [the kids] feel the need to leave the nest and take responsibility for their own lives. I'd like to see a higher percentage of our neighbours living up to that- Too many people shift the responsibility (or try to, 'intellectually') to the government, the 'way things are', their own parents-
        I look around my neighbourhood here, and wonder how whatever I might do will effect the lives of the kids I used to see zooming around on their tricycles, then bicycles, now terrorizing the neighbourhood in their cars... Can anyone make a difference? The fact that you're there makes a difference. If a kid hears you shrieking like a mad man at your wife or kids, that kid's world just got a little crazier. If a kid sees you drop what you're doing to run over to a neighbour's kid who just fell off a bicycle, sees you make sure that that kid is all right- you've just made that kid's life a little more sane. Warmth empowers, coldness kills.
        So, what does that have to do with smut on the 'Net'?
        Stanley said it, "Our Country really has no clue when it comes to 'Smut'. Some people think it's the tool of the devil, others act like God sent it to them to improve their marriage. The people who want to control anybody but themselves have it wrong, and always will. Don't go thinking you have the slightest hint of a right to decide moral issues for anybody but yourself and your minor children. Don't go telling your children, "It's right because I say it's right-" they are not stupid. They see right through that. Do your best to show your children where to find all the tools they'll need to live a happy and productive life; and how they can get those tools and learn how to use them. Basically, that's all you can do.
        Because this country has no concept of how to deal with its own maturity. All kinds of screw balls believe that this world would be perfect if only they could force everybody else to do everything their way.
        And, no matter what any politician says about anything. There always will be 'questionable' materials available, as long as "Some Good (politically contributing) Republican" makes money from the creation and/or sale of that stuff.
        Reach your kids. Let them know that you'll always be there for them. Open the lines of communication. Let them know what your opinion is on the subject of 'smut' (and anything else they want to talk about). Expect them to make up their own minds. (Let your sister tell your daughter about the real birds and bees?) Hope and pray that you did all you can and don't worry about what anybody beyond your control is doing or thinking or feeling....
        You are the world. LOVE IT OR LOSE IT.

The Following was added in Septembre of the year 2008.... Holy Schnarr, we made it this far?



Collage of web cam snapshots and a photo of a friend (? does he think of me as a friend ?) who posted his photo in his live journal blog.
The paintings behind me and in the upper left corner of the collage are Cathi's. That's her as a desktop photo below...

Cathi Vermont

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