Friday, November 9, 2007

Social workers not sexy, says new survey

I've just found another reason to hate my life. Speed-dating agency Fast Impressions has conducted a survey of 400 of its members, to determine which professions were the "sexiest" and "most dateable". You can read more about it here. Social workers, it turns out, are ranked somewhere near the bottom. That's right, not the top or the middle, but the bottom. F@#*.

Here I was, thinking that my profession's stereotypical qualities of compassion, striving for justice and sticking up for the powerless, were actually desirable things. But no! How wrong I have been. No wonder I never have sex. Apparently we are a bunch of namby-pamby bleeding-heart socialist wankers with no balls. Ok, maybe I'm reading too much into this, but without any explanation I'll have to draw my own conclusions.

Now perhaps I shouldn't get too shirty, since technically I'm not a social worker, but they didn't include "community development worker" as one of their listed professions, but "social worker" is clearly the closest parallel amongst those on the list. (No one knows what a community development worker is anyway, which perhaps makes my profession more mysterious and hence more attractive... but perhaps not. Anyway, I digress)

In the professions listed by females in the survey as being the sexiest, at the top are those you might guess: doctors, architects, models, firemen (it's the uniform and the long hose, apparently). Social workers are considerably lower - only 28% of women think its a sexy profession, and 61% would possibly date us. This puts social workers slightly higher than politicians, rat catchers, the terminally unemployed, parking ticket inspectors and human guinea pigs. (Ok, the last 4 professions weren't on the list, but you get the drift). Models rated highly on the sexy score (67%), yet only 56% on the dateability score.

(click on table for enlarged view)

It makes me feel better to know that social workers were not totally on the bottom - however, if you look at those professions we are rated as more dateable than, they have some pretty obvious negative points. For example, women considered social workers more dateable than plumbers (known for poking around in toilets and exposing their hairy butt-cracks), bartenders (substance addicted and may spike your drink when you're not looking), politicians (known for not being human), air hosts (quite possibly gay), dancers (gay), artists (sensitive but broke and possibly gay) and male models (quite possibly vacuous, gay and prone to doing drugs and having orgies). But that's about it.

And looking at the professions rated as more desirable than mine, it just gets more depressing. Lawyers (sure, they make lots of money and look glamorous on Boston Legal, but they also lie, cheat and snort coke), property agents (did I mention lying and cheating?), builders (can't utter a sentence without using the word f@#*) and musicians (substance-addicted, vague and unreliable - trust me, I used to be one). And accountants. ACCOUNTANTS! Apparently they are as sexy (or unsexy) as social workers, yet are considered more dateable. Sh#t, just cut off my testicles now, I clearly won't be needing them.

It may be purely a coincidence, but the top four most dateable professions listed (doctor, architect, lawyer, property agent) are also pretty much the highest earning. Hmmm... Of the males in "caring" professions listed (doctor, social worker, teacher and nurse), only doctors rate highly in the dateability stakes. Is it coincidental that they earn much more than the other three? Hmmm. If sex appeal correlates with bank balance, then the size of my annual wage means that I may as well make my vow of celibacy now so as to save on frustration later. I actually do have enough faith in womankind that I don't believe that money is as important as it seems... although in any case, we males will judge a woman based on her breast size, which is hardly any more noble than judging a man on his income.

But of course, I'm not really the kind of person to put too much stock in a survey of 400 people. Such things are always a bit flawed; after all politicians were the least sexy (14%), yet Bill Clinton was a politician and he has had more sex than anyone outside the porn industry, so surely that proves the survey is bollocks?

In a way, though, its actually a bit comforting. I always thought my lack of success on the dating front was due to me being an ugly, arrogant prick with no discernable personality and a chronic body odour problem. But now I know its just because I chose an unsexy career! It's all clear now. Where do I sign up to be a fireman?

(PS. If you clicked on the link you will have noticed that I am getting my information from a site called Don't think too much about why I am looking at such sites.)

What's rocking my stereo at the moment...

Common - "The People"
This is everything that is good about urban music. Common's usual socially insightful rapping and a smooth chorus from Dwele (my fave R&B crooner at the moment) would make any track a winner. But it is the production by Kanye West that elevates "The People" to classic status. I haven't been too enamoured with Kanye's solo work recently, with its too-obvious samples and lacklustre lyrics, but his collaborations with Common bring out the best in both of them. Here Kanye lifts a few inconsequential portions of an old Gil Scott-Heron track and flips it all into a tune that is both maddeningly catchy yet timeless and soulful. And damn if Com doesn't cut a fine figure in this video, he looks and sounds every inch the magnetic black leader. It's great stuff.

Donnie - "If I Were You"
Coming out as gay is career suicide for a black R&B artist. This is particularly tragic for an singer like Donnie, whose debut album "The Colored Section" is one of the few truly great soul albums of this new century, and who is the kind of singer whose pure artistry, in a more just world, could lift his genre out of the generally poor state it's currently in. I'm still not so sure about his new album "The Daily News", but this track from it is a killer. As ever, he evokes the spirit of Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway in a bouncy feelgood track of glorious harmonies and sunny horns, with an inspiring message. Just makes me wanna hug someone.

The Verve - "One Day"
I have yet to find someone who agrees with me, but I have always felt that The Verve's "Urban Hymns" from 1997 is one of the 10 greatest albums ever. And putting aside its well-known big hits, it is full of amazing songs like "One Day". Richard Ashcroft's world-weary yet hopeful vocal combined with Nick McCabe's fantastic guitar work and some deeply resonant psychedelic production result in a track that everyone should be singing.

Big L - "No Endz, No Skinz"
This is the kind of song I feel bad about liking, since it covers the well-worn misogynist idea in hiphop that women are just out for yo' money. But if you are gonna do such a song, you may as well do it right, and this is how it's done: classic NY ruff beats and jazzy samples, infectious chant-along chorus and Big L's unparalleled knack for one-liners. Big L's shooting death in 1999 at the age of 24 meant that he never achieved the stardom he deserved, but the album this song came from, "Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous", is regarded as a true classic by anyone who knows hiphop.

Fat Freddy's Drop - "Based on a True Story" album
It took a while to grow on me, but that's the kind of music this is. New Zealand's premier exponents of dub reggae and soul create a sound that is entirely their own, which eases its way into your consciousness until it is stuck there. Perhaps not coincidentally, it was only once the warm weather kicked in and I could cruise around with this in the car stereo that I started to appreciate how good these guys are. Pacific Islanders have an uncanny affinity with black vocal musics (gospel, soul, hiphop and reggae), and one of the pleasures of this album is Dallas Tamaira's effortless croon. Like the rest of the band he eschews aping Caribbean sounds for something more truly NZ in nature, and the result is a sly, groovy, addictive brew.

Naturally 7 - "In the Air Tonight" (live on the Paris subway)

If you haven't caught this on youtube yet, you should stay home more. There's little I can say about this accapella group, other than that they are simply amazing. Oh, and check for the one dude in the crowd who just doesn't appreciate being in the middle of an incredible experience. He's hilarious to look at.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Dancing Filipino prisoners

By now there is a good chance that you have seen this clip or heard about the dancing prisoners of Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Philippines. It has already attracted over 8 million hits on youtube after it was posted by Byron Garcia, the prison warden. Garcia forced the prisoners to participate in dance routines in order to encourage physical exercise and divert their energies away from violent behaviour. And apparently it works, with levels of antisocial behaviour said to have reduced dramatically and a more communal spirit seeming to take place amongst the prisoners. And aside from that, it's funny as hell.

Of course that may not be the full story; a report by ABC in America (below) implies a sinister side, in that the fearful prisoners have been forced against their will by the megalomaniacal Garcia.

So it's either a good news story of a model prison system, or a cruel and unusual punishment. The truth as usual is probably somewhere in between, but let's be optimists for a moment and assume that it is a good thing. Clearly, many of the prisoners in footage I have seen seem to be enjoying themselves.

What I have been wondering is this: obviously if this works, other countries might be tempted to try it in their prisons too. But could it actually work in any other country other than the Philippines?

There would be no chance of getting that to happen in an Australian or American jail, even at gunpoint. Most men in general, and especially prisoners, are simply too macho to engage in such an activity. Can you imagine the "Chopper" Reids of this world getting down to some choreographed calisthenics in the prison yard?

Yet Asian culture, and particularly southeast Asian culture, is rather more conducive to that kind of thing. I could see this happening in Indonesia or Thailand or India, for example. Asian culture, while oppressively male-dominated in its own way just like any other culture, has a different take on masculinity than the rest of the world. For an example, look at that great Asian export to the world, karaoke. The idea of average blokes getting up on stage and singing tender cheesy ballads is alien to most Western males unless they are extremely drunk. Yet karaoke is an enormously popular pastime throughout the Asian region. Likewise, in countries like Thailand, cross-dressers are accepted to a greater degree than almost any other place in the world. Even in Indian culture, which is extremely patriarchal and macho in many ways, males are passionate about dancing in a way that puts most other countries to shame. Just go to a Punjabi wedding or watch a Bollywood movie and this will be evident. Indeed, if any country could top the Philippines in a prison dance-off, my money would be on India for sure. But Western countries? Nah.

So while I don't hold out any hope for this method of rehabilitation in the West, I do long for an episode of "Oz" or "Prison Break" where all the inmates boogie down to "Fame", or Spandau Ballet's "Gold". Now that would be something.