On the Composition of Charles

Swarmed, by LouFCD on Flickr

Swarmed, by LouFCD on Flickr

In my spare time (haha) I’m again reading Darwin’s Origin of Species. It’s an incredibly insightful work for its day or any other, and even modern biology writers, with all the updated information available at our fingertips, are hard pressed to match its beauty.

In reading it again with my own now more advanced understanding of biology, I’m struck by two things in particular within the first several chapters. The first that stands out to me is Darwin’s mastery of the turn-of-phrase. In World Lit II last semester, the pieces we read were exemplars of their time period. The early and mid-nineteenth century works were chosen specifically to highlight the Romantics’ “rejection” of Enlightenment ideals. The systematic logic and naturalistic view of the universe was traded in for adornment, symbolism, and emotion. Yet even then I noted in an essay on my midterm that Darwin was an outstanding exception to this rule.

Romantics viewed the world around them as a natural extension of their emotions. Emotion and Nature are inextricably intertwined, the one often used as a symbol for the other. This was a rejection of Enlightenment ideals of the logic and order of Nature. They valued this emotion and its connection to the natural world almost to the exclusion of reason. (Charles Darwin was a notable exception, whose seminal 1859 treatise on evolution, “On the Origin of Species &etc” being a work replete with both the reason valued by the Enlightenment and the powerful emotive awe treasured by the Romantics.)

(I may transcribe my entire response as a separate post, just for fun – I was pretty happy with the way it came out, under pressure and unedited, and in response to a perfect prompt for taking modern Creationists to the woodshed – you know I took that bait with reckless abandon.)

I stand by that comment, and this latest read reinforces my opinion that Darwin exemplifies the best of both Enlightenment and Romantic writing. His synthesis is unparalleled among the writers of his day.

An oft-quoted example of his beautiful mastery of emotive language is found in the final passage of Origin:

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

The other glaring feature of the first several chapters is my own recurring frustration. On nearly every single page I read, I want to just scream backwards through time words of encouragement to get this greatest of minds to take that one last little step that in retrospect is so very very tiny. Darwin was one thought away from picking up the revolutionary idea of Gregor Mendel. He dances all around it, a ballerina doing elegant pirouettes without ever quite stepping on that one spot in the center – particulate theory of inheritance. (Genes, we call them.)

Thus it is, as I believe, that when the males and females of any animal have the same general habits of life, but differ in structure, colour, or ornament, such differences have been mainly caused by sexual selection; that is, individual males have had, in successive generations, some slight advantage over other males, in their weapons, means of defense, or charms; and have transmitted these advantages to their male offspring.

I have to sigh, and be resigned to the facts of history, else I might scream. Particles, Charles, particles.

From whence came the art:

That image is titled Swarmed, by me, and is © 2009.

From the Seashore, by Anna Petrovna Bunina (1806)

Pelican Sunrise, by LouFCD @ Flickr

Pelican Sunrise, by LouFCD @ Flickr

In 1806, a Russian poet by the name of Anna Petrovna Bunina wrote something strange, and dark, and beautiful. She titled it, “С ПРИМОРСКОГО БЕРЕГА”, roughly translated “From the Seashore”. We read a translation by Pamela Perkins (in the Norton Anthology) early in our semester in my World Lit II class, and honestly it took a while to grow on me.

When it came time to begin work on our creative project for the semester, I turned to this piece for my inspiration. Since I’d been working on my photography it seemed natural to blend the two and see what happened.

The photo above is an outtake from that project. (As usual, all images in this post are linked to their respective Flickr page. For desktop-sized versions, click through to Flickr and then click the “All Sizes” button above each photo.)

I’m very tickled. In fact, I’m so tickled that although it’s usually my policy not to put my school work on the blog until after it’s graded and returned to me, I just can’t wait any more. You’re getting this before it’s even due. (This Thursday, for the record.)

The poem in its original Russian, an English translation by me, my photos from the project, and a few more outtakes are below the fold. (If you have religious nudity-related neuroses, no need to tell me about them, just move along. I don’t really care.)

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To the Virgins, to Make Much of Wooden Horses

My Instructor's remark.

My Instructor's remark.

This is my second reading and response for Paul Verlaine (read the first here). The poem I chose to read and respond to was “Wooden Horses”  (1874), wherein Verlaine takes aim at using a carousel as symbolic for life. While this could have been his best of the lot, the didacticism of his Victorian mores is as sophomorically simplistic as it is blatant. “Wooden Horses” has all the subtlety of a sixteen-pound sledgehammer wielded by a bridge troll.

He uses gross stereotyping to create a strawman version of hedonistic pleasure, with as much negative imagery as humanly possible. I was particularly annoyed by “… the fattest maid / riding your backs as if in their chamber”, roughly translated into modern English as “the big fat ho / fucking the wooden carousel horse like nobody’s business”. Could he be anymore derisive or crass? I found it offensive in the extreme, what with my modern feminist sensibilities and all. That kind of crap is uncalled for in any time period, though it’s pervasive in the writings of fuckaphobes throughout history.

Fuck you in your dead ass, Paul.

I cannot stress enough how much I disliked reading Verlaine. Trite and unimaginative, puritanical and offensive. These are not the traits I look for in a decent writer, much less a poet. Fortunately, we have moved on through Mallarmé and now we’re on to Chekhov, writers with a bit of sense and perspective.

The poem by Verlaine (again translated by C. F. MacIntyre) and my response in rhyming couplets lies below the fold.

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Sir, You Do Not Know the Moon

My instructor's remarks.

My instructor's remarks.

Paul Verlaine was a French poet whose 19th century work sort of straddled the Romantic and Symbolist movements. Critics seem to love the guy, but I found his stuff rather uninspiring. While the case has been forwarded that Verlaine only sounds trite and prosaic now because it’s old and been done over and over since then, I would argue that it had all been done before by better poets (The Bard of Avon comes to mind).

Our assignment for World Lit was to read two of the five offered (translated by C. F. MacIntyre) selections and write a paragraph in response to each. As I was bored to tears with him and his shallow fling, I went a bit creative with my responses. About the only thing I found interesting about Verlaine was the progression of his style over time.

For my first response, I actually read and addressed two related poems, “Moonlight” (1869) and “The White Moonglow”  (originally untitled from 1870). Those poems and my Sonnet in response lie below the fold. (Read the second reading and response here in another post.)

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A Modest Reponse

Sonnet XVIII, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Sonnet XVIII, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Back in the days of yore when I went to high school, there were two kinds of Literature classes: British and American. With few exceptions, our reading selections were confined to the standard pantheon of a select few dead white guys from England or the United States. Both classes were as predictable as the sunrise; Brit Lit started with Beowulf, then Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales, then one of Shakespeare‘s plays, and probably finished with DickensA Tale of Two Cities. Variety was defined by whether the class read Hamlet or Macbeth. Poetry hit the five or ten standards like an old country church. Not comparing thee to a summer’s day would have been like not singing “Amazing Grace”. American Lit did the same thing for literature on this side of the pond, with Poe standing in for the Bard (“The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Raven” were the old standards).

To round out my English requirements, lo these many eons hence, I took English 262 this semester. World Lit II looked like it would give me something new and fresh, and it’s already doing just that. Among our first selections was “A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public“, the 1729 political satire by Jonathan Swift. Of course, in my mind to this point, Swift = Gulliver’s Travels. No matter how hard pressed I might have been, that would have been his only work I could have named, his being Irish and all. I’d read it on my own time as a kid. We’ve since moved a bit further from jolly old England and are now reading pieces by Russians and Germans and (gasp!) some of them are even women not named Dickinson or Bronte.

Our first written assignment of the class was to write a response to A Modest Proposal, organically incorporating the answers to five of the six following questions in the response.

Smoothies for cannibals from DavidDMuir

Smoothies for cannibals, by DavidDMuir @ Flickr

  1. What is “the reading” about? Give the simple and most obvious answer. (Substitute title for “reading”).

  2. Is there an experience of your own of which “the reading” has reminded you? Describe it.

  3. What is the most important “word” in the “reading”? Look it up in the dictionary and define it. Explain your choice.

  4. What is the most important statement or line in the “reading”? Directly quote the line if it is short, and paraphrase if the quote is long. Use an in-text citation that lists the page number (or line number). Explain your choice.

  5. What word, not in the “reading,” would you say best explains the “reading”? Define the word and explain your choice.

  6. Pretend that the “reading” is not about the subject you mentioned in #1. Pretend that there is something else, less obvious, that the “reading” is about. What is this “something else”? Define the word and explain your choice.

My response, for which I received a grade of “check +” (oh how I loathe this system already!), lies below the fold. I suggest you read “A Modest Proposal” first, if you’re not familiar with it, to really understand what’s going on.

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For the Love of Frost

An essay I turned in this morning for English 113.

For the Love of Frost

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,

So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,

Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask of gloom,

But stretched away unto the edge of doom. (Frost, “Into My Own”)

With these words in 1913, an awkward, gangling farm boy inexpertly expressed his interest in the most popular girl in school, the one all the poets wanted. Robert Frost had made written acquaintance with the American public some years prior but it was not until he moved to England that we took notice of our would-be suitor. His adolescent flirting would rapidly mature to the lingering kisses of a timeless affaire d’amour. Though there were some lovers’ quarrels through the years, his voice still whispers the little nothings we love to hear as we think back on relaxing in those peaceful moments of intimate connection. Our relationship with Frost began as an awkward courtship, tarried in sensual consummation, and now drifts restfully in the memories of half-conscious pillow talk.

Though his initial overture was unpolished and inelegant, our débutante’s attention was captured and our interest piqued. We had previously been courted by a boy named Edgar, but he was a bit too brooding for our collective taste. Edgar was fine enough to sigh over but not much fun to date, and we were looking for someone new with whom to share our evenings. We commented in our diary about our new beau, “Mr. Frost’s [A Boy’s Will] is a little raw, and has in it a number of infelicities; underneath them it has the tang of the New Hampshire woods, and it has just this utter sincerity” (Pound – emphasis in the original). Ezra Pound perfectly captured the country’s enchantment with Robert Frost. What set Frost apart from other poets was his skillful use of modest language to talk about everyday life. Grand pronouncements on cosmic-scale themes he left for other poets, and it was exactly those sincere infelicities that won America’s heart and soul.

(Continues below the fold)

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WordPress Staff Visits Elizabeth Wood’s Blog

Dr. Mike and Toni, apparently from WordPress’ staff are at least answering Elizabeth Wood, which is more courtesy than we’ve received thus far.

Elizabeth asks questions similar to our own and has (as yet) not been de-listed.

Please stop by and add your voice to this conversation about WordPress, censorship, and community.

I Have Now Been De-Listed

The heavy hand of Mark, the head of the McCarthy Censorship Board at WordPress has now silenced me, too.

Not for objectionable content, there is none on my blog, but for speaking up for the girls.

I have been de-listed.

Mark is obviously on a power-trip. Seems to be a lot of that going around lately.

On a brighter note, he’s stopped blocking the girls on the friend surfer.

I’m happy for them, but it’s a small victory.

Digg This 

WordPress Censors The Erotica Tag

Stop Censoring Our Blogs

Janie was just checking, and all the posts have now disappeared from the erotica tag (only two very recent ones are there, apparently added after the purge by Mark and WordPress’ McCarthy Censorship Board).

We can now only assume that Mark has suddenly decided to go on a Holy Crusade against erotic literature on all blogs, and we are apparently the cause because we mentioned the tag when we were bitching about being blacklisted.

For that, we are truly sorry.

But please, don’t just stop writing it, don’t roll over and just accept his whimsical crusade.

Do everything you can to stop the WordPress Purge.

Post the graphics, make your own, blog about it, comment about it on other blogs, email WordPress Support and tell them how unhappy you are about these McCarthy era tactics of censorship in 2007.

Do not allow WordPress to continue censoring our blogs.

This must stop now.

Joseph McCarthy Also Protests WordPress’ Censorship

Stop Censoring Our BlogsOver at Censor This, Joseph McCarthy further protests the censoring of UDreamOfJanie and KissingCorporalKate with his own graphic. (Don’t sweat the url – there’s no child porn, it’s a protest statement.)

For those who may not know, our blogs have been de-listed from WordPress’ internal listing, which means we no longer appear in the category pages, we no longer appear in the tag surfer, and we no longer appear in the friend surfer (a WP service where bloggers have to enter the URL of blogs they want to see there – 100% opt-in).

The vague reason we have been given by Mark, apparently the head of the McCarthy Censorship Board at WordPress is that our blogs “contain material which we determine is of a Mature nature will be removed from our tagging system.”

Meanwhile, the adults surfing the sex tag (or any other tag for that matter) who are looking for content like ours can find piles of it, just not ours.

There is no set of rules, no list of guidelines, and no specific item mentioned which put us over this arbitrary and invisible line.

We have been censored at the whim of one person, we were not notified before or after the de-listing, and we have been given no recourse or appeal.

Interestingly, the de-listing seems to have occured just after the posting of The Itch, Part The Last and before the posting of Sugasm 64. Other blogs continue to post material that is highly sexual in nature, so I can only assume that Mark’s issue is with our portrayal of a priest as a sexual submissive.

We are apparently not permitted to speak about the church that way without reprisal.

WordPress claims that is strongly in favor of the freedom to publish, yet that is apparently only so as long as you don’t say something Mark doesn’t like. Their own Terms Of Service states:

The Website may contain content that is offensive, indecent, or otherwise objectionable, as well as content containing technical inaccuracies, typographical mistakes, and other errors.

While we haven’t been deleted (yet), we have been censored from the WordPress community’s eyes.

Please add your voice to the growing chorus of protest against this practice of arbitrary and secretive censorship.

If Mark can censor UDreamOfJanie and KissingCorporalKate for what we say, he can censor (and even delete) your blog without notice for something you say which he personally finds objectionable.

Have you posted a picture that might have been too risque? Are you sure?

Have you divulged just a little too much about your sex life? How do you know?

Have you used language that offends Mark’s delicate sensibilities? Do you even know what words you can’t use?

Add one of these graphics to your blog, your myspace, whatever. Blog about this, comment about it, email your displeasure to mark at support@wordpress.com and demand that WordPress stop censoring blogs.

Stop Censoring Our Blogs

Stop Censoring Our Blogs!

Stop Censoring Our Blogs

Stop Censoring Our Blogs!

(Guest Post by JanieBelle of UDreamOfJanie – Censored by WordPress)

Tell WordPress To Stop Censoring Our Blogs!

Stop Censoring Our Blogs
If you are as upset as we are about these shenanigans, please express your dissatisfaction with WordPress’ arbitrary and selective censorship with this graphic.

Post about it on your own blog, comment about it on other blogs, put this graphic at the top of your sidebar.

What have you said lately that might get your blog shut down? Did you post a risque graphic? Write something Mark McCarthy might find offensive or too sexy? Drop the “F-Bomb” because you were pissed at your boss?

If Mark can de-list U Dream Of Janie and Kissing Corporal Kate, he can de-list you. He can even delete your entire blog without notice, destroying forever all the months of work, posts, and comments that you have created.

Tell WordPress that you will not accept this.

Show them we will not lie below.

Stop Censoring Our Blogs

Stop Censoring Our Blogs!

The Latest Bologna From WordPress Censors

Joseph McCarthy, WordPress SpokesmanWell at least we have his attention. Apparently only long enough for one EMail full of shitty vagueness again, however:

Hi,
You are not violating the ToS.
If you were, the blog would have been removed.

All we have done is removed your blog from our tagging system to protect users who may inadvertently visit and see content which is mature in nature. We have many users here of all ages and all views but we have chosen – because of a lot of feedback – to have this label. It is there to protect other users, to protect your blog from complaints and to provide a safe environment for those casually browsing blogs here.
The ToS does cover the action I took.

We have not restricted your blog from search engines. Google has a much wider audience than we do and it has unfettered access.

Mark

You didn’t answer my questions, Mark. So I ask them again.

I call bullshit.

Look through the sex tag for 5 minutes and you will find a ton of sites like mine listed. In fact, if you’re so concerned about adult content, why is there a sex tag in the first place? Why an erotica tag?

Kate and I are not the only ones writing adult material, but we seem to be the only ones being quashed.

Why? And why not explain your exact reasoning in public, in the thread set up specifically for that?

What specific violations of what specific rules brought you to your decision? Or was it just an arbitrary whim, as I and everyone else suspects?

Why was I not notified before being de-listed, or even after?

Why are none of the other adult blogs being de-listed?

Again, I call Bullshit.

JanieBelle.

But I have apparently been returned to the ignore list.

(From UDoJ)

For The Girls Censored By WordPress – Cross Posted from UDoJ

Joseph McCarthy, WordPress SpokesmanA blogger has started a new blog in our defense already.

He goes by the name of Joseph McCarthy and has started a blog called “Censor This” with an address of http://childporn.wordpress.com. (No, there is no child porn there, he’s making a statement with that url.)

Thank you, Mr. McCarthy, for coming to our rescue. A very long peek above our garters to you.

His very first post is entitled WordPress Censors Erotic Literature and Discussion.

He takes a good look at the Terms Of Service at WordPress, and shows that we have violated no rules therein.

WordPress has censored at least two blogs—UDreamOfJanie and Kissing Corporal Kate—containing writing of an adult nature. However, they contain no libelous content, no graphic nudity, no misleading tags or categories.

 

The WordPress Terms of Service offer little insight as to why.

 

You must not describe or assign keywords to your blog in a misleading or unlawful manner, including in a manner intended to trade on the name or reputation of others, and Automattic may change or remove any description or keyword that it considers inappropriate or unlawful, or otherwise likely to cause Automattic liability.

Well, the blogs aren’t named in a misleading or unlawful manner.

 

…the Content is not obscene or libelous, and does not violate the privacy or publicity rights of any third party…

Is the content obscene? Last I checked, people wrote and sold erotic literature all the time. We’re not talking mothers vivisecting their newborn babies here.

 

The Website may contain content that is offensive, indecent, or otherwise objectionable, as well as content containing technical inaccuracies, typographical mistakes, and other errors.

It seems that Automattic acknowledge that they are and will continue to host potentially offensive content.

Yet we have been removed from WordPress’ category pages on a whim.

Please stand up for us, we can’t even stand up for ourselves at WordPress, because no one can see our posts in the category pages or the Friend Surfer, an explicitly opt in service of WordPress.

We are being silenced for no reason, and we need you to make WordPress stop.

Please email Mark at support@wordpress.com. Tell him you disagree. Tell him to re-list our blogs.

Janie Asks Mark To Respond

Joseph McCarthy, WordPress SpokesmanJanie has EMailed Mark and asked for a public discussion of why she and Kate are being censored by WordPress. This would get interesting, but I doubt he’ll show up.

WordPress is unlikely to actually even have a specific criteria for who gets censored and who doesn’t. It’s probably just dependant on whether Mark got laid last night or not.

Arbitrary censorship should frighten us all. It’s not a big step from UDoJ to WhoreChurch (I’d be equally pissed if they went after Kevin) or any one of thousands of other blogs.

What have you said lately that might get you shut down?

WordPress Has Censored Janie And Kate

Joseph McCarthy, WordPress SpokesmanUDreamOfJanie and KissingCorporalKate have been censored by WordPress. Apparently not for sexual content, but because they wrote a sexual story involving a priest.

Janie has the story here and here.

The long and the short of it is that the girls noticed a precipitous drop in spam, the cause of which turned out to be that all of their posts have been removed from the category pages at WordPress.

When investigating, Janie noticed that the removal seems to have taken place between the time she posted The Itch, Part The Last and the time she posted Sugasm 64.

By that reasoning, Sugasm 64 could not have been the issue, and since there had been quite a few non-sexual posts since The Itch, Part The Fourth, it would certainly follow that the cause was The Itch, Part The Last. Since many blogs appearing in the Sex category are rife with sexuality, and since both she and Kate have written on sexual themes many times before without incident, the only logical conclusion is that the blacklisting occured because of her depiction of a priest as a submissive in a sexual situation.

In an EMail to Janie, Matt (from WordPress’ support staff) denied that she was singled out, and made the following statement:

I am sorry you feel this way but this is something that has been considered and used for some time.
There is no McCarthyism here – we believe strongly in the freedom to publish but we do have to consider the wider community and their feedback over time about what they generally find acceptable.

Janie has responded with the following EMail (in its entirety):

Hi Mark,

I really appreciate your quick attention to this. I see where you’re coming from about trouble at work, but if that’s an issue for someone’s place of employment, why are they trolling the sex tag in the first place?

It’s not like someone would accidentally type in http://udoj.wordpress.com or http://kissingcorporalkate.wordpress.com and just happen to stumble into our blogs. Someone finding my blog through a science tag will find a science post. It’s not like I’m posting erotica and labeling it as science. People find sexual material by looking for sexual material.

So again, I fail to see the issue here. I also fail to see why every blog with a sex tag isn’t being blacklisted. What prompted the decision to mark our blogs specifically?

Thanks again for taking the time to address this with me.

JanieBelle

She makes several good points, and she has suddenly stopped receiving communications from Matt.

Please join me, the girls’ friend and author, in calling for an end to selective censorship at WordPress.

This is despicable behavior coming from a blog hosting site that believes “strongly in the freedom to publish”.

More like they believe strongly in the freedom to publish, as long as you don’t offend their delicate sensibilities.

West By God

Wild, Wonderful,

West Virginia.

Beautiful state.

Lovely place.

I live my life

in this mountainous haven,

day to day,

watching,

the trees turn in autumn,

the bud in spring,

shroud in summer.

Winter set in some time ago.

October was blustery,

November was wet,

December,

January,

February,

now March.

all the stunning snow.

It fell,

it wafted,

it blew,

it sailed,

it covered,

it melted,

it returned again and again.

I think I’ll move to Florida,

and watch West Virginia on TV.

L.

3/21/96

Who Am I?

i feel like,

i’m not sure.

the words just aren’t there.

.

maybe just an ephemeral spirit

in an etherial plane of quasiexistence

maybe.

.

sort of a plasma

inside a plasma.

.

it’s not so much i’m scattered,

more like fuzzy at the edges.

like a pencil drawing

erased and smeared at the borders.

.

just a few months ago,

i was apathetic.

but vehemently apathetic.

i could scream

i don’t care.

.

now i’m just kind of

apathetically apathetic.

.

i can’t say who i am,

i’m not even sure what i am.

L.

2/13/96

This Morning

Sleepy,

Bleary eyed.

The sun streaming in the window,

Wakes me with its warmth.

I’m dragging,

Unmotivated,

Much to do,

But bored to tears.

My neck is sore,

and my back aches.

The children won’t be here this weekend,

they are snowed in.

I want to be excited,

to feel alive,

so long as there isn’t much effort to it.

Amuse me.

Something happen, please.

My God,

I’ve become lazy,

Fat,

Brain dead.

I think I must have gotten old last night.

L.

2/3/96

Her Emblazoned Mane

I do not know her name,

nor dare I ask it.

I have laid eyes this night

on the most enchanting hue of blaze,

to ever cross man’s field of vision.

These magic, curling locks,

could belong to none

save a Celtic lass

of purest spritely blood.

And I have no doubt

that she is of the race

that so enchanted Odyseus, Hercules,

and Sinbad of lore.

Nor would I swear

that she is not in fact the very one,

the selfsame siren

whose enrapturing spell was cast

so very long ago.

To ask her name,

by legend her most intimate possession,

would be to risk,

to gamble,

perchance to shatter,

the very sorcery

to which I cling.

L.

1/23/96

Stone

Stone.

A stone idol

to the goddess Life.

Hard.  Unforgiving,

Enslaved by a diety

he adores but cannot touch.

She waits for his worship,

Worship he can no longer give.

She yearns for his passion,

Passion he cannot possess.

She longs for his kisses,

Kisses that are but stone.

And she listens for his heartbeat,

But it does not.

In her unnecessary enslavement

of her one true disciple,

She has enslaved

herself.

L.

10/13/95