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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

January 3, 2006

cuteness engenders gender differences

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 6:19 pm

– Welcome to those coming from Blawg Review Awards 2005.

For our reaction to winning the “Creative Law Blog” Award,

Nothing demonstrates the importance of cuteness in our  

emotional lives and consumer habits quite as well as the

Christmas gift-opening ritual among an extended, multi-

generational family.  “That’s so cute” and “Isn’t it-she-he

cute?” was repeated over and over last week in millions of



yyS But that same ritual, along with the entire Holiday shop-

ping, gifting, and decorating experience, also seems to show

significant differences between the genders in reacting to the

Cuteness Factor.  As I’ve opined on previous occasions,

“It’s cute” seems to be a sufficient reason for most women

to bring something home and for most men to want to smile

once and then leave it where they found it. 

evening star…
she sleeps with the lion’s tail
in her little hand


            Tom Clausen

An article in today’s New York Times, “The Cute Factor” (by

Natalie Angier, Jan. 3, 2006), provides plenty of information

on what we deem to be cute: “practically anything remotely

resembling a human baby or a part thereof” — to wit, “bright

forward-facing eyes set low on a big round face, a pair of big

round ears, floppy limbs and a side-to-side, teeter-totter gait,

among many others.”



Jessie Cohen/via Reuters 


The article also discusses why cute is important:

“Cute cues are those that indicate extreme youth,

vulnerability, harmlessness and need, scientists say,

and attending to them closely makes good Darwinian

sense. As a species whose youngest members are

so pathetically helpless they can’t lift their heads to

suckle without adult supervision, human beings must

be wired to respond quickly and gamely to any and all

signs of infantile desire.”

Therefore, “The greater the number of cute cues that an animal or 

object happens to possess, or the more exaggerated the signals

may be, the louder and more italicized are the squeals provoked.”


The Times article notes that “Primal and widespread though the

taste for cute may be, researchers say it varies in strength and

significance across cultures and eras.”  NYT appears to be too

Politically Correct, however, to suggest that the taste for cute also

varies in strength between the genders. Happily, I am not.  That’s

probably because: (1) I just finished reading Marriane J. Legato, MD’s

details the many differences in the male and female brains, bodies,

emotions, etc.  (2) I’ve never known a male who collected Hummels.


And, more importantly, (3) For over 50 years, I have noticed that

girls and women say “Isn’t that cute?” far more than boys and

men do.  Indeed, it seems to me that males almost never

initiate the topic of cuteness — unless they are trying to get on

the good side of a female.


maleSym femaleSym This gender difference makes sense.  The evolution and history

of our race have made it far more important and natural for mothers to

react to the needs of infants than the father.  (I’m not endorsing these

gender roles, just pointing out reality.)   If women were not more

attentive than men to the needs of children, the race would have

died out a long time ago.


cleaning the poop out
    his little Superman



The article mentions another aspect of The Cute Factor that also

seems likely to affect males more than females:

“Denis Dutton, a philosopher of art at the University of Can-

terbury in New Zealand, the rapidity and promiscuity of the

cute response makes the impulse suspect, readily overridden

by the angry sense that one is being exploited or deceived.


” ‘Cute cuts through all layers of meaning and says, Let’s not

worry about complexities, just love me,’ said Dr. Dutton, who

is writing a book about Darwinian aesthetics. ‘That’s where the

sense of cheapness can come from, and the feeling of being

manipulated or taken for a sucker that leads many to reject

cuteness as low or shallow’.”

Although I had never thought of it in quite this way, Dutton’s notion

resonates with me.  Many other males would, I think, also see

themselves as having the “rational” fear of being manipulated by

cuteness (could it be because men can never be sure just who

fathered an infant and are thus reluctant to make a quick familial

commitment?).   That is surely the male reaction to the advertisers

and product designers who, according to the article, “are forever

toying with cute cues to lend their merchandise instant appeal,

mixing and monkeying with the vocabulary of cute to keep the

message fresh and fetching.”  




That’s as far out as I’m sticking my neck tonight.  Your Comments

and insights are welcome, as always.  Hate mail should be directed

at Prof. Yabut. 



to the cat:
“that’s complete and
utter nonsense”





New Year’s …
recycling last year’s

second day
of the New Year:
taxes arrive



Tom Clausen
           from Homework (2000)





Judge Murtha: too kind to lawyer-felons?

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 1:26 pm


Early last week, we complained that Vermont U.S. District

Judge J. Garvan Murtha gave Anthony Doria, founder of the

Vermont Law School, only one month in prison, after

Doria pleaded guilty to tax evasion (relating to his spending

$115,000 on himself that he was entrusted to invest for a

woman in her 70’s.)  Doria’s lawyer had argued this his

embarrassment was sufficient punishment.


                                                                  scales rich poor neg


Later that week, Judge Murtha had the chance to redeem

himself in an embezzlement case which I have been closely

watching since 1997, when I attempted to have the lawyers

disciplined for conduct that eventually led to the federal 

charges.  (see prior post)  Unfortunately, Judge Murtha

let me — and thousands of injured “debt-reduction” clients —

down.   The defendant is Howard Sinnott, now a disbarred

lawyer.  As a Boston Globe article explained on Dec. 29, 2005:

“A former state representative and former chairman

of the Bennington Select Board was sentenced to

three months in prison for embezzling $860,000 from

clients of a debt-reduction business he operated.”


“Howard Sinnott, 55, also will have to serve three months

of home confinement after his release from prison.


“His sentencing was part of a larger series of federal cases

involving the Andrew F. Capoccia Law Centers of Albany,

N.Y., and the Law Centers of Consumer Protection, based

in Bennington. Capoccia has been convicted of 13 counts

of fraud and larceny, although he’s appealing. Capoccia in

2000 sold the Albany firm to Sinnott, who moved it to Vermont.

More than 2,700 former clients of the law firm that Capoccia

founded filed claims totaling more than $25.6 million against

the business.

“shark tiny gray”


Sinnott gets three months in jail for being one of the two major actors

in a complicated scheme to steal millions of dollars from people he

himself describes as “decent, hardworking people looking for an honest

way to resolve their debt issues.” [Bennington Banner, Dec. 30, 2005]

When the bar authorities in New York State finally woke up and stopped

the scheme (disbarring Andrew Capoccia for other activities), Sinnott,

who still had his law license, moved back to Vermont, where he attempted

to suck even more financially-troubled clients dry.  [They required up-

front payment of 25% or more of the amount of savings they estimated

would be achieved by their “negotiating” for lower debt amounts with

creditors. Click here to learn more.]

winter sun begins
to warm the steering wheel

prison visit day

    Lee Gurga from Fresh Scent (1998)   


Why only three months rather than thirty for forty?  I certainly hope

that Judge Murtha — who was a Peace Corp volunteer in Columbia

prior to law school and served as a Public Defender as part of his

Prettyman Fellowship — was not swayed by the arguments of either

defense counsel or Sinnott himself.


Attorney Lisa B. Shelkrot came up with the usual defense gobbly-

gook, including:

“What stands out [in letters from prominent members of

the community] is his selflessness and commitment to



“It was a fear of destitution, not a high flying lifestyle … that

lead him to this.”




Sinnott had a “deeply and tragically” flawed personality.

“When his moral instincts told him to do one thing, he didn’t

follow through with it.” His vanity caused him to believe he

could fix a hopeless situation.


“Mr. Capoccia was a genius at exploiting those flaws … Mr.

Sinnott was a perfect mark for Mr. Capoccia.”

Even more embarrassing was Sinnott’s Opraesque mixture of self-pity

and confession.  According to the Bennington Banner, he told the court:

[H]e wanted to quit many times because Capoccia was

“emotionally and mentally abusive,” but feared being unable

to find a job.


Sinnott also said an alcoholic father and stepfather, along with

the divorce of his parents when he was young, groomed him to

lack the self confidence and courage needed to stand up to

Capoccia. “My flaws with Mr. Capoccia’s personality combined to

make the perfect storm.”

Sinnott did, however, place the onus on himself, saying “Because of inse-

curity and financial desperation I went forward… I put the interests of myself

above those of the firm’s clients. I should have known better.” An article in

The Rutland Herald (Dec. 30, 2005), also states “Sinnott said his parents’

divorce when he was 6 years old may have led him to see in Capoccia a

mentor and role model he never had during his younger years.”  That’s

touching, but Andrew Capoccia was already known for his questionable

practices when he (then 54) and Sinnott (then 47) started their debt-

reduction gimmick and started milking clients dry while ruining their

credit.[see our “blame bar counsel for Capoccia scandal”]


another Christmas . . .
my parents visit
the son in prison

   Lee Gurga from Fresh Scent (1998)   

mjudge  Judge Murtha had this to say to Sinnott about the lenient

sentence  (per the Rutland Herald article):

“If you had not worked out an arrangement with the government

you would have faced a long time in prison,” Murtha said. “You

made the right decision to plead guilty and cooperate — it enables

me to impose a less severe sentence.”

Yes, pleading and cooperation normally lead to a “less severe” sentence,

but some would argue that 3 months is not the least bit severe.  Sinnott

will be expected to pay $500,000 in restitution.  The Bennington Banner 


“When asked by the judge how he planned to pay the restitution,

Sinnott said he did not have a plan, but said he has considered

writing a book about his experience and designating the proceeds

to the victims.   Sinnott said his last job was selling shoes at Sears.”

Howard Sinnott helped Andrew Capoccia hide money that could have

partially reimbursed their defrauded clients; he was also instrumental

in prolonging their debt-reduction scheme.  Three months is scandalously

lenient.  It also makes me very concerned that Judge Murtha may be

planning to give Andrew Capoccia a light sentence.  The public already

believes that courts unfairly give lawyers who have fallen into felony far too

much sympathy.  Judge Murtha seems to be proving them right.


                                                                                           scales over


through the open door . . .

her smile doesn’t forgive

all my sins







riding down

       the metro escalator



Randy Brooks, from School’s Out (Press Here, 1999)  





another argument unfolds the futon 




pet store
nose prints
both sides




credits – “pet store” – Frogpond XXIII:2 (2000)



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