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THE GODS OF SMALL THINGS
The maverick environmentalists of the Center for Biological Diversity have brought their new rules of engagement to the Southland. Some have called what will happen next the environmental battle of the decade. BY SUSAN ZAKIN

THE EYES OF PERPETUAL WAR
James Nachtwey on a career documenting human catastrophe and what it means to be the "anti-war" photographer. BY STEVE APPLEFORD

REBEL WITH A CAUSE
Gioconda Belli on politics, passion and her new memoir, The Country Under My Skin. BY MICHELLE HUNEVEN

News

RIORDAN THE MEDDLER
Richard Riordan is sure anxious to run a candidate against L.A. Unified’s David Tokofsky. It certainly didn’t help their relationship when the outspoken school-board member opposed a $107 million project put together by the ex-mayor’s law firm. BY HOWARD BLUME

USA, INC.
Bush’s plan to privatize half of the federal work force means the return of a spoils system that will benefit political donors and corporations. BY DOUG IRELAND

TEST PHOBIAS
Attorneys for inmates on San Quentin’s death row are upset about a state plan to test the IQs of all prisoners. They worry that any faulty tests could make it harder to keep mentally retarded inmates from being executed. BY SARA CATANIA

MR. CALIFORNIA
If the 2006 election were held tomorrow, chances are good that the next governor of Caw-lee-foh-nyah would be Arnold Schwarzenegger. BY BILL BRADLEY

PLUS: JEFF BERNSTEIN interviews a woman who’s fasting outside the state Capitol to protest Gray Davis’ tree policies.



LETTERS
We write, you write...

A CONSIDERABLE TOWN
Hanging with Mr. Winkle: JOSHUAH BEARMAN meets the cutest dog in the universe.
Punch-drunk lugs: Why would anyone pay to watch two seminude adult males step into a chainlink cage for the purpose of beating one another into submission? ALLAN MacDONELL watches the no-holds-barred brawls put on by the Universal Above Ground Fighting league to find out.
Plus, one man’s 911 to our new chief of police.

OPEN CITY
STEVEN MIKULAN fires off a round on what he misses about the Beltway sniper.

DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD
NIKKI FINKE blasts the deafening silence that corporate takeovers are bringing to the field of media criticism.

ON
Quiet Americans: JOHN POWERS on British writer J.G. Farrell and America’s missing novels about Empire.

CAKEWALK
When manners were metaphor. BY ERIN AUBRY KAPLAN

RESTAURANTS
Thursdays with Vincent: Slow food at Alto Palato. BY MICHELLE HUNEVEN

WHERE TO EAT NOW
A list of favorite restaurants compiled by JONATHAN GOLD and MICHELLE HUNEVEN.

ASK MR. GOLD
A weekly Q&A with our critic.

ROCKIE HOROSCOPE



FILM
Ghosts of the missing dead: JON STRICKLAND sifts through the subplots of Atom Egoyan’s Ararat and untangles the conspiracy at the heart of Neil Burger’s Interview With the Assassin.

How sweet it is: ERNEST HARDY tells what’s going on in the music documentaries Standing in the Shadows of Motown and Pleasure and Pain.

THEATER
Sugar water: Big River, Deaf West Theater Company’s musical adaptation of Huckleberry Finn, is Twain without his saltiness. BY STEVEN LEIGH MORRIS

ART
Baldesaurus Rex: The painterly conceptualist. BY DOUG HARVEY

MUSIC
Bryan Ferry’s renditions of you. BY JOHN PAYNE

Steal the best: Dance masters Thievery Corporation. BY ANDREW LENTZ

Add N to (X): Electrokitsch in the key of sleaze. BY DANIEL SIWEK

LIVE IN L.A.
Performance reviews: Frou Frou, Neko Case, Bellrays/Datsuns, Dio/King’s X/HammerFall, Raveonettes/Quintron & Miss Pussycat/Stereo
Total, Legendary Pink Dots/Origami Galaktika, the Music, Bobby Horror Dylan Show.

A LOT OF NIGHT MUSIC
L.A. Master Chorale engulfed in the Cathedral; exemplary XTET; L.A. Phil’s gooey Grieg, sub standard Sibelius, notable Nielsen. BY ALAN RICH


STYLE
Tote couture: LINA LECARO goes in hot purse-uit of handbag designer Allison Burns.

PULPit
I’ll leave you alona if your name’s not Ariel Sharona. BY ROBBIE CONAL

COMICS
"BEK," BY BRUCE ERIC KAPLAN

SNAP
A photo by ANNE FISHBEIN.

 

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MARCH 26 - APRIL 1, 1999

Inside Orgasmatron
A closer look at the motor of joy
by David Kushner

THE BUZZ AROUND VIBRATORS IS reaching a fever pitch these days. In Alabama, six women recently challenged a law passed in November that bans the sale or distribution of sexual devices. (The ACLU is fighting the Alabama decree.) Dong dealers face up to $10,000 in fines and a year of prison or hard labor; in jail, they presumably take your batteries along with your shoelaces.

Still, though at least 12 other states have passed similar legislation against sex toys, there's no law preventing their use. One retailer, the 22-year-old Good Vibrations in San Francisco, reports annual sales hitting over $5 million. The boom is due, Vibrations reports, to the rise of e-commerce. Shy customers no longer have to sneak into sex shops; they can just boot up goodvibes.com.

It's rather poetic in a McLuhan sort of way. This new technology (the Internet) is rescuing the old technology (vibrators). And as author Rachel Maines reports in her historical tome The Technology of Orgasm, published in January, vibrators are way old indeed. The first model came out in the late 1880s, shortly after the iron and the sewing machine, and was marketed as a therapeutic home appliance. "Vibrators were contemporaneous with the toaster," Maines says, adding that "a woman cannot live by toast alone."

Electromechanical massagers have come a long way since turn-of-the-century physicians used penile-looking contraptions to treat women for so-called hysteria. Today in Japan, the mecca of masturbation tools, there's no shortage of inspiration for new and unique designs. It seems every time these manufacturers see something, they think, "Hmm, wonder if we can rub that against a clitoris and make it vibrate?"

Vibrators come in the shape of cultural icons: Santa Claus, Satan. There are vibrating eggs, vibrating balls. Most recently, there has been a Noah's ark of vibrating animals: butterflies, rabbits and the conveniently shaped dolphins. Understandably, no rhinos.

But like any effective rocket, a vibrator is only as good as its engine. And because the shafts are seldom larger than life, there's little room to play with. For this reason, most battery-operated devices contain an ingenious bit of technology that's equal parts Radio Shack and Barbarella: a thumb-sized oscillating motor.

These tiny engines are not easy to examine, since they're usually encased in hard plastic. I had to run over the Smoothie -- an ultra-smooth multispeed stimulator -- five times in my car just to crack it open. Inside the tip, I found the guts of many a high school science project: a spool of thin copper wire surrounding a tiny metal rod. At the tip of the rod is a small, off-balance weight. The battery's current causes the rod to spin the weight, which oscillates and buzzes and vibrates. Bliss is centripetal motion.

Mubuchi, a Japanese company that makes motors for cameras and garage-door openers, is the Rolex of vibrator motors. Though most consumers might not know the difference, American companies like Vibratex sure do. According to general manager Dan Martin, Vibratex works closely with the Japanese to build love machines that, like good Spinal Tap amps, go to 11.

ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR INNOVAtions since the introduction of battery-operated vibrators has been the Rabbit Pearl. Made of translucent pink vinyl, the Pearl has a "tickler" in addition to a shaft. Each has its own motor, with the one in the shaft customized to rotate as well as shimmy.

When the Rabbit Pearl was featured on a recent episode of HBO's Sex and the City, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, the Pleasure Chest in West Hollywood was inundated with requests. The same phenomenon occurred after Howard Stern featured a new remote-control-operated vibrating panty on his show.

One classic vibrator has outlasted all the innovations. The Hitachi Magic Wand Household Electric Massager, one of the bestselling items out there, actually harks back to the first era of inconspicuous home appliances. For true connoisseurs, the electrical option is a no-brainer. Compared to battery-operated devices, says Maines, electricity delivers "all the power of Niagara Falls."

AND, YES, THE RIVER RUNS THROUGH Alabama. Despite the cock-a-doodle crackdown, so-called appliances like the Magic Wand are readily available in the state. "Clearly, [the Wand] is a straightforward product," says Gerry Corbett, Hitachi's head of corporate communications. "There are no implications of anything beyond standard health-care use." But of course.

Reprinted from the Village Voice.

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