Not Without my Daughter’s Hymen

24 02 2009

I’m not big on movies. Really, really not big on movies. Saying that I’m not a movie buff is sort of like saying Stalin wasn’t really a people person. An understatement. On anybody’s list of Great Cinema, I’ve probably seen one out of maybe 10 or 15, and even then I was simultaneously playing very competitive game of Scrabble, Twittering, and trying to assemble a bookshelf from Ikea, in the dark.

But, Internet, this economy is not just going to reach around and stimulate itself, so this weekend I ponied up and bought a ticket to Taken, the Jack Baueresque action flick featuring everybody’s secret boyfriend Liam Neeson.

The plot is pretty straightforward: Retired superspy (Neeson) is trying to build a relationship with his 17-year-old daughter, much to the chagrin of her ice queen mother and mom’s wealthy new husband. Daughter goes to Paris, daughter is abducted by sex traffickers, Dad flies to Paris and uses his mad spy skills to save the day. Daughter is saved, mom is grateful, scores of bad guys die in grisly and intensely satisfying ways (and if you think any of that constitutes a spoiler, well, you see even fewer movies than I do).

Fine. Good. It’s an action movie. BUT, oddly, Taken left me with a lingering sense of discomfort, and I think I know why. The producers of the film went to near-exhaustive lengths to first inform and then remind us again and again that Kimmy, the daughter, was a virgin. From her wardrobe of jumpers, jean jackets and sneakers more suited to a 7-year-old than a high school senior to Kimmy’s squealing glee at receiving, yes, a pony for her birthday to the repeated references to her ‘first time’ in future tense, the message is agonizingly clear: Virgin. Virgin, virgin, virgin.

What Taken implies is that this young woman’s assault, kidnapping, trafficking and ultimately systematic sexual abuse would have somehow been less awful, and her plight less sympathetic, had she been sexually active in the first place. Case in point, about halfway through the movie, Neeson is in a grimy makeshift brothel, searching for his daughter. Instead, he finds Amanda, Kimmy’s much more overtly sexual friend who brought her to Paris in the first place. Amanda is handcuffed to a bedpost, beaten and dead. Without pausing even a beat, Neeson and the film move on. Amanda was a slut; she got hers. Point taken.

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Breakup 2.0

17 02 2009

Breakups have never been simple affairs. No matter how quickly we try to tear off the Band-Aid, there’s the inevitable period of disentanglement between the initial conversation (“We have to talk…”) and the final separation (“Kthxbye”). And generally, the longer the relationship was, the longer this period lasts. We return each other’s things*; maybe bid farewell to each other’s families; and if you happen to have been living together, well, that’s a whole other fistful of horrible.

But now there’s a new step. In addition to the tears, the drama, the fights over furniture and real estate, there’s the Social Media Separation. It’s hard to end a relationship quietly or privately when the entire saga is played out in news feed updates and little broken-heart icons on Facebook. It’s the electronic equivalent of standing up in front of everyone you know and shouting, “Hi. My relationship failed. Just thought you should know.” And then taking questions.


Of course, there’s often something to be said for public humiliation. Particularly for those tender souls who feel things like “shame” or “remorse,” a good calling-out can be a good way to administer punishment, modify behavior, or just stir up some resentment, if that’s what you’re after. But breakups are hard enough without the digital self-flagellation inherent in social networks.

Really, there is no moving on in the world of social media, or if there is, it isn’t easy. Are you supposed to un-friend your ex? If so, who goes first, the dump-er or the dump-ee? What about friends of theirs who you’ve friended? Do you give them the boot too? Awkward.

How about Twitter? Even if you stop following your ex, you’re still able to see his Twitter feed, and you know that in a moment of weakness, you will go there. Do you really want to see him flirting with other users? Do you want him to see you?

I’m not suggesting that anyone sit digital Shiva for weeks after a relationship ends; We’ve all got lives to live, jobs to do, beers to drink, bad decisions to make, over and over and over again. It’s just that for all the advantages of living in a hyperconnected world, it’s also hard, when all you want to do is disconnect.

*Unless you break up with me via text message. Then I’m giving your shit to the homeless. You know who you are.

I’m back (sort of)

15 02 2009


So apparently I write a blog here or something?

Sorry about the lack of posts lately; I’ve been dealing with some stuff in the past week. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming soon.

On the bright side, Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish blog on referred to this post on Saturday. Neat!

Amazon Kindle = Privacy FAIL

9 02 2009

Everyone’s abuzz about the Kindle, Amazon’s handheld reading device that lets users read “what you want, when you want it” by getting books, magazines and newspapers delivered wirelessly in less than 60 seconds. The second incarnation of the Kindle, released today, weights 10.2 ounces and can hold more than 1,500 books. “No longer pick and choose which books fit in your carry-on,” the Amazon site exclaims. “Now you have your entire library with you.”


Not so fast. Leaving aside for a moment that the Kindle’s very name is weirdly evocative of book burning, consider that for everything we gain with a Kindle—convenience, selection, immediacy—we’re losing something too. The printed word—physically printed, on paper, in a book—might be heavy, clumsy or out of date, but it also provides a level of permanence and privacy that no digital device will ever be able to match.

In the past, restrictive governments had to ban whole books whose content was deemed too controversial, inflammatory or seditious for the masses. But then at least you knew which books were being banned, and, if you could get your hands on them, see why. Censorship in the age of the Kindle will be more subtle, and much more dangerous.

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You will never hate me like I hate me

5 02 2009


Will BS for Bylines

3 02 2009

Look, I know I’m not a journalist. I know that. Heck, I’m barely even a blogger, and while I do get paid not terribly poorly for my ability to string together a coherent English sentence, I have no illusions about being a media expert of any kind. So, please, take what I’m about to say with a huge hunk of salt.

Also, you should know that I love journalists. I do. They perform an essential service for practically no money and even less respect and can drink any other profession under the table with cirrhotic liver to spare. Hell, I even wanted to BE a journalist once, before I realized that I could probably make more money smashing my face against a wall and posting the video to YouTube.

But there’s one kind of journalism that makes me want to throw my borrowed MacBook across the room: The “trend story.”

I hate trend stories. I hate them.

Whether it’s the perennial report on female sexual desire that’s invariably written by a dude, or the assertion that legions of Ivy League women are forfeiting careers to care for their families based on one personal account and no research, the trend story is one-third speculation, one-third arrogance and one-third ham-handed obfuscation.

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Maybe this will get through to them

2 02 2009

I work in a pretty informal office. We don’t have cubicles, Thursday is bagel day, and if you wear anything other than jeans and a sweatshirt people assume you’re probably up to something. Even in this environment, though, I absolutely cannot understand how the sink continually fills up with dirty dishes that sit and fester for weeks at a time. Who do you think is going to come around and wash them for you? The magical dish fairy? God? Your mother?

I’m hoping my friendly new sign will help alleviate the situation: