Dina’s Diner 1/15/18

| Jan 15, 2018
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The New York Times had an article on January 3, 2018 about computer-generated facial portraits. The article was accompanied by a block of nine photographs of pretty women — none of whom were real. As The Times story leads off “The woman in the photo seems familiar. She looks like Jennifer Aniston, the “Friends” actress, or Selena Gomez, the child star turned pop singer. But not exactly. She appears to be a celebrity, one of the beautiful people photographed outside a movie premiere or an awards show. And yet, you cannot quite place her. That’s because she’s not real. She was created by a machine.”

Fabulous Fakes

The article reveals that, “At a lab in Finland, a small team of Nvidia (the company that developed the software) researchers recently built a system that can analyze thousands of (real) celebrity snapshots, recognize common patterns, and create new images that look much the same — but are still a little different. The system can also generate realistic images of horses, buses, bicycles, plants and many other common objects.” The software was created for use in computer gaming, movies and other media. The article notes that it is sort of the flip side of facial recognition software. Instead of recognizing unique facial characteristics — the Nvidia program assembles facial characteristics to create a unique but fake face.

The process takes days even for the computer to finish a believable fake face. According to the article, “As it built a system that generates new celebrity faces, the Nvidia team went a step further in an effort to make them far more believable. It set up two neural networks — one that generated the images and another that tried to determine whether those images were real or fake. These are called generative adversarial networks, or GANs. In essence, one system does its best to fool the other — and the other does its best not to be fooled. “The computer learns to generate these images by playing a cat-and-mouse game against itself,” said Jaakko Lehtinen, a researcher at Nvidia.”

Some observers have raised concerns that believable fake images used by dishonest parties could further lead to doubts about the media in a post-“fake news” age. The Times again: “But many of us still put a certain amount of trust in photos and videos that we don’t necessarily put in text or word of mouth. Tim Hwang (an artificial intelligence ethicist) believes the technology will evolve into a kind of A.I. arms race pitting those trying to deceive against those trying to identify the deception.”

Crossdressers already struggle trying to create a believable feminine portrait from a piece of software (our male faces) that seems to resist us at every step. Our photos of the finished product are our stock in trade (for those who remain indoors and online). Most crossdresser portraits are honest — warts and all, so to speak. I guess no one really has the time or expertise to Photoshop our mugs to feminine perfection. But what happens if this software becomes readily available in the future? Can a computer-generated avatar really replace the effort to doll up with cosmetics and wigs? Perhaps for some but for the true crossdresser only the physical effort of transformation would be satisfying, even if we don’t look quite like the mysterious computer-generated photos online.


The New York Times had an article headlined “Getting Over High Heels” in the Sunday Styles section on December 17, 2017. There are periodic articles predicting the fall (so to speak) of high heels and this one tied it into the women’s empowerment movement of 2017 that continues into this new year.

The article said, “It’s been a year of reckoning for women on many fronts. In January, they led what was likely the largest protest in American history. Their stories of sexual harassment and assault have prompted a purge of powerful men in entertainment, government and media. In growing numbers, they are running for public office. Some of them are also fighting gender discrimination with their footwear.” The new battlefront was started when Florie Hutchinson, a mother and arts publicist, saw a high heel emoji pop up when she typed the word “shoe” on her phone. “She’d encountered back-to-back examples of everyday sexism: a children’s book that preached the importance of female politeness and a wall of bjorns and bassinets whose boxes uniformly depicted women caring for infants.”

Ms. Hutchinson began her own resistance by contacting the “Unicode Consortium’s emoji subcommittee, recommending that they add a ballet flat, a shoe that reads as female but not seductive or sexualized.” Yeah, there is a subcommittee on emoji’s. The Times said that, “she was particularly concerned about children, whose first forms of communication are pictographic and who are exposed to technology at ever-younger ages.” This is an interesting point in that subtle cues of sexism in everyday culture can imprint gender roles (and footwear choices) into young minds. I imagine that transgender activists would agree that historically accepted notions of family roles, social interactions, and clothing choices that are ingrained in the culture can intimidate children who may feel different about their own gender. So the high heel emoji issue may seem inconsequential but may be just a start at trying to re-look at what feminine means. “My daughters are already being confronted by these gender-stereotypical norms, totally subconsciously,” Ms. Hutchinson said, “while all of us are having this very vocal conversation about gender biases.”

The Times article pointed out that several footwear designers are trying to make shoes that are both stylish and comfortable. For myself, I didn’t see anything that did anything for me. In fact, the utilitarian aspects of the shoes looked god-awful, in my opinion. But I’m just an old-fashioned girl, at heart. One interesting aside to the search for high heel substitutes is “safety.” After the New York bus station bombing in December, some Norwegian women tourists shopping for shoes in Manhattan wondered if New York women might want “something that’s comfortable to run in, something that you could get to safety in, that wouldn’t impede you in any way.” Other women mentioned the threat of criminal attack as a motivation to find a less vulnerable style than stiletto heels. Shoe designer Eree Kim told The Times, “If I know that I have to take the subway home late at night, I want to be dressed appropriately, Men have no clue that this is something a lot of women think of,” she said.

But red-blooded men and crossdressers everywhere, fear not too much. The Times looked up a noted fashion historian for context. “Valerie Steele, the director and chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, says that heels are here to stay. “High heels are the number-one sartorial symbol of erotic femininity, and that’s not changing anytime soon,” she said.” Sing it, sister.


Jungle Pam

While browsing around the web, I saw one of those clickbait articles that are always less than they promise to be. But the attention-getting photo showed a woman identified as “Jungle Pam.” Jungle Pam was a cult sensation on the 1970s drag racing circuit, known for her bra-less bosom in tank tops and denim cutoff short-shorts. She wasn’t a racer herself. Pam was the girlfriend of professional drag racer “Jungle Jim” Liberman. Hence her nickname of “Jungle Pam.”

I was a casual fan of drag racing in my car crazy early teen years which would have coincided with Pam’s heyday but I don’t recall her. She was a pit assistant to Jungle Jim and there are a lot of photos of her during races with her notorious boobs in full swing. However, in that era, there was a woman who was actually a drag race driver, Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney. Shirley was a top driver and frequent winner on the NHRA drag circuit. Part of her fan appeal — aside from winning — was her publicity photos where she often dressed in what were then called “hot pants” and patent leather boots. If you Google “Cha Cha Muldowney” you can find photos of what floated boats during the Vietnam War era. There were other drag race honeys also. Blonde bombshell Linda Vaughn seems to be the most famous of the pretty women who posed and preened and handed out trophies at the tracks.

But the internet photo of Jungle Pam brought another drag race related memory to mind. In an old Hot Rod magazine from 1973, there was an advertisement for racing wheels featuring driver Roy Hill and a female model. The wheel being advertised was brand-named the “Spyder” and the model was supposed to be “Miss Muffet” as in the children’s rhyme “along came a spider to sit down beside her.” The ad goes down in memory because Miss Muffet was wearing a pair of opaque pantyhose with a micro minidress. There was something about the way her legs looked in those pantyhose that made a young me want to try on a pair. Maybe Miss Muffet and I could have both put our pantyhose on and I could sit down beside her — instead of that nasty spider.


Jane Kaye with Jerry Lewis.

In one of the year-end remembrances of celebrities who died during 2017, the name and face of Jerry Lewis flashed by. Lewis died at 91 in August 2017.

I wouldn’t say that I was a big fan of Jerry Lewis but I enjoyed many of the movies that he made in the early 1960s. One of the non-network TV stations in Philadelphia showed Jerry Lewis movies every Sunday during the 1980s. I always found Lewis (in interviews and his telethon appearances) as sort of a Hollywood jerk/phony. But his movie characters and the slapstick elements were always funny. There was something else I liked about Jerry’s movies in that era. They were populated by beautiful women in both starring or supporting roles. Not only that, but they seemed to be lovingly photographed and outfitted to make them as pretty and/or sexy as possible. Lewis was the star and directed several of these films and I am assuming he was vocal in how the films should look — including the casting and wardrobe for his female stars.

Francesca Bellini loses her dress.

Although some of his female costars were well-known (like Stella Stevens and Jill St John), a lot of the actresses were relative unknowns. This was the era of the lacquered hairdo’s, the tight fitted dresses, sheer stockings, and pointy-toed pumps. Women — even thin women — still wore girdles. If you grew up in that era (as I did) it shaped your view of femininity. Even though I saw those Jerry Lewis films after I had grown up, they brought back a certain idea of how women “should” look. I don’t know many crossdressers who emulated hippie chicks or biker girls or other forms of more natural appearance.

There is a scene in Jerry’s 1963 film, Who’s Minding the Store? that brings together all of the elements I liked so much about his movies. Jerry plays a hapless department store clerk and he is demonstrating a vacuum cleaner to an older woman. In true Jerry fashion, he fumbles with the machine and he can’t turn it off as it becomes more and more powerful, sucking in everything it’s aimed at. The scene continues on as the vacuum creates a vortex of flying merchandise and personal belongings. Jerry’s female costar, the beautiful Francesca Bellini, rushes into the department to see what the commotion is about when in one glorious whoosh! the vacuum sucks her dress right off her body, leaving her embarrassed in her black lingerie, garters and stockings. Now that’s entertainment. Thanks for the laughs and the babes, Jerry.


This is not Dina’s doctor’s assistant.

I live in a smallish University city so I think something that I thought of recently is kind of strange. On a recent visit to my doctor, the Physician’s Assistant did most of the initial examination and interviewing. Afterwards, I was curious to know what her background was so I Googled her. One of the things that came up was her results in a women’s fitness competition several years ago. There were photos of her oiled up, posing in the tiny bikini top and thong in clear plastic high heels.

The strange thing is that this was not the first woman in this small city whom I had run into who had competed in similar physique contests. In fact, I counted five others. One of them is a recently moved-in neighbor. Yeah, really. Another is a University Assistant Professor. One works at an animal hospital. One of the University’s cheerleaders competed when she was still in high school. Holy Mackerel! And one is the fiancee of a former co-worker, whom you would never think was covering a smoking hot body in her everyday civvies.

When I lived in the Philadelphia area — with a population of millions — I never knew or knew of any fitness contest women. Go figure, huh?.

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Category: Transgender Fun & Entertainment, Transgender Opinion


About the Author ()

I started crossdressing and going out publicly in 1988. I joined the Renaissance group in the Philadelphia area that year and later became chapter leader for two years in the '90s. I always enjoyed writing and wrote for the Renaissance newsletter and magazine throughout my membership years. I've been writing for TGForum for several years now. I also contributed items to LadyLike magazine and other TG publications before the advent of the internet. My hobby-within-a-hobby is singing live as my alter-ego Dina Sinatra and I have had the opportunity to do that with several accommodating performers and in a number of venues over the years since the mid-1990s. In the Diner column items here, I try to relate crossdressing or transgender themes (and my own pet peeves and fetishes) to the larger world -- and vice versa.

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