Making Books Disappear

12 04 2009

A few months ago, I posted here about the dangers I saw in the Amazon Kindle and the rise of digital publishing—namely that as we move our books and other media from a printed to a digital format, we increase the odds that they can be altered or even deleted without our consent and possibly without our knowledge.

censorship

It’s a bit of a paranoid thesis, but I think it moved closer to reality today when it was revealed that Amazon had “reclassified” a whole slew of books dealing with LGBT issues—from gay romances to academic works on the impact of homophobia to Heather has Two Mommies—as “adult” and thus removing them from some searches, sales rankings and bestseller lists on Amazon.com.

That Amazon chose to reclassify books with any sort of gay theme—be it academic, literary, or journalistic—but not those with much more explicit heterosexual content is blatantly homophobic and certainly worthy of discussion. But what I’m more concerned about is the creeping corporate control over the flow of information and ideas.

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Steve Harvey wishes you weren’t such a slut

25 03 2009

So I was browsing through Oprah.com yesterday, for, uh, RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY, and I came across O’s interview with one of the original Kings of Comedy, Steve Harvey. Being someone who occasionally likes to “laugh” at “jokes,” I thought the Harvey piece would be right up my alley.

Oh, my.

Turns out our friend Steve fancies himself as something of a social commentator. And you know his favorite thing to offer commentary on? Women. Specifically, Steve was on Oprah to share with us his pearls of wisdom regarding how ladies ought to behave.

Harvey’s first book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” currently tops the New York Times best seller list in the advice category, and Oprah, apparently, is lapping it up. According to Harvey, whenever a man approaches a woman, he knows what he wants from her and is trying to determine what it’s going to cost him—a premise that’s hardly revolutionary. In fact, I’m fairly certain I’ve heard it somewhere before.

 

What a dick!

The problem, Harvey says, is that modern women “have stopped setting the bar high.” You sluts are basically giving it away for free. And because, according to Harvey, a gal’s vagina is pretty much all she brings to the table, by giving it up, you’re giving away all your power. Steve is just looking out for you, see.

For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, though, Harvey isn’t comfortable calling sex sex. Instead, he calls it a “cookie”: “We’ve got to have a cookie. Everybody likes cookies. That’s the thing about a cookie. I like oatmeal raisin…but if you’ve got vanilla cream, I’ll eat that too.”

Honestly, I don’t even know what that means.

And how long does Harvey think a lady should wait before giving up her “cookie”? Three months. Months. Look, I’m all for taking things slow if that’s what you feel like you want to do. Fine. Good. But 90 days? I’m a lady, Steve, not a saint.

Of course, Harvey says, you can put out the cookie platter before then, but only at the risk of looking “desperate.” “You all keep changing the rules,” Harvey writes. “And men are aware of the fact that you are changing the rules. We’re aware of the fact that you act desperate. We’re aware of the fact that you think there’s a good shortage of good men out there.”

The flaws, insults and outright misogynies in Harvey’s argument are both too numerous and too obvious to outline here. But it all goes back to the idea that sex—I mean, the “cookie”—is the only thing a woman has to offer that a man could possibly be interested in. Which, when you think about it, is degrading to men maybe most of all.





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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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:

020209_1154a





The essential guide for visiting DC during Inauguration

18 01 2009

Welcome to the nation’s capital! We’re glad you’re here. To ensure this weekend is a great time for everyone, we’ve put together some friendly pointers to help you navigate the city.

  • Stand right, walk left. I cannot overstate this point. The entire city is going to be on edge this week, and blocking everyone’s progress is enough to get you shoved down the escalator.
  • Once you’re in the station, have your Metro card ready to avoid rummaging through your Spy Museum gift bag while everyone waiting behind you thinks about throwing you on the tracks. You knew you were going into a Metro station, right? This isn’t a surprise.
  • Should you make it all the way down the escalator and onto the train, your work still isn’t done. Please do not plant yourself directly in front of the door and then wonder, aloud, why everybody is pushing you. Grab your fannypack and get the hell out of the way.
  • Similarly, don’t walk three wide down the sidewalk at a pace slower than Robert Byrd on a bad day. Move it or lose it. Seriously.
  • When you’re eating out, if you don’t know what it is, you probably shouldn’t order it. You can try a kay-suh-dill-uh some other time.
  • Be advised that while your waiter probably will ask you where you are from, this is not your cue to recite the entire 300-year history of Texarkana. He’s only asking to be polite, and because he probably can’t think of one single other thing to chat you up about.
  • Despite the fact that you’re on vacation, this isn’t Disney Land. DC is an actual city where actual people work at their actual jobs. You might get lucky and find somebody who wants to stop and explain the difference between the 14 Smithsonian museums, but don’t count on it.
  • Nobody wants to know that this isn’t the way they do things in Toledo. God willing you’ll be back there soon enough, so shut the hell up already.

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Enraged to be married

29 12 2008

*You can read Part 2 of this post here

As many of you know, this weekend my little sister is embarking on what can only be described as the Matrimonial Olympics, and yours truly has the (mis)fortune of playing a supporting role. With that in mind, and with a serious debt of ingratitude to what has to be the single most horrifying list of wedding etiquette in history, I drafted a form letter that I plan to include with every wedding RSVP I send from this point forward.

Dear Bride,

Congratulations! I really am happy for you two. Whether you are getting hitched for love, for security or just because the baby Jesus wants you to, your wedding is sure to be a day you’ll remember forever.

That said, I’d just like to offer a few guidelines so that you don’t come out of your wedding having fewer friends than you have ecru-and-celedon ceramic gravy boats.

 

  • Contrary to popular belief, bridesmaids are not dolls, they are real human beings with lives, concerns and finances of their own. Please consider that 50 lbs of pink taffeta is probably not how these women would have chosen to spend their annual bonus and tread lightly. The point of having a wedding party is to share an important day with the people who matter to you most-not to incite resentment by insisting they refrain from hazardous activities like skiing, driving and walking for a month prior to the wedding, lest somebody has the nerve to get injured and ruin your big day.
  • And speaking of, it’s your day, not your week.
  • In regard to gifts: That’s precisely what they are, gifts. Marriage is an important milestone, but your particular life choices don’t mean that anybody owes you anything beyond a warm “Congratulations.” And please spare everyone the lecture on how much a head your reception is costing. You’re the one who had to have the arugula and glazed duck; we’d have been perfectly happy with mac & cheese.
  • And don’t get all huffy if somebody decides to go off registry. Again, it’s a gift. And they’re wedding guests, not Santa.
  • Finally, spare us the martyr act. The more you whine about the crippling stress involved in throwing yourself a big goddamn party (often with somebody else’s money), the more we want to smother you with an embroidered satin pillow. Seriously, some people have real problems.

 

All that said, I hope your wedding is the beginning of a wonderful marriage. Because if this doesn’t work out, next time you’re not getting shit.

Love,

Me