Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday Reading List

"We Are Not Animals in the Hood":
Lisa Gray-Garcia says the tours “zoo-ify” poor people and people of color, who will clearly not be paying $65 to drive around looking at projects, tags and bullet holes.
Does that go back to the idea that being single is seen as a threat to those in relationships? The idea seems laughable, but somehow it always come roaring back. There are also still so many (namely lumped into the category of “relatives”) that find it strange when you don’t bring a love interest to the Christmas party every year.
Why I Hate Label-Hating:
What is a label? It’s a description. It’s a name. Words are the primary tool our species uses to communicate and “labels” are just that: words we use to explain ourselves and others. The wrong word, especially when it is instituted upon a person by the entire culture, can do tremendous damage, and I understand that most queer people are walking around with considerable baggage because of this, myself included. But that isn’t an argument against labels per se. Once again, it’s an argument against coercion.
When Men Were Men, And Burned To Death:
When men were men and film was in black and white, race car drivers died and were injured in crashes with what now seems like shocking regularity. European motorsports resumed after a nearly decade-long hiatus caused by the Second World War, with sports car and Grand Prix racing adopting advances in engines, materials and aerodynamics spurred by military technology, and the cars went faster and faster from the early fifties on. The speeds quickly outstripped the cars’ rudimentary abilities to protect drivers in a crash, leaving ever thinner margins of for lightweight machines with hundreds of horsepower on tracks made of winding public roads.
From Cute Overload:

Friday, December 25, 2009

Friday (Not So) Random Ten, Christmas Edition

I was originally planning on simply posting my 10 favorite Christmas carols. But then I thought, why not do a list of my favorite Christmas albums?

And so, in no particular order, and some choice tracks:

1) A Charlie Brown Christmas - Vince Guaraldi
"Linus & Lucy"

2) Barenaked for the Holidays - Barenaked Ladies
"Elf's Lament"

"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" (feat. Sarah McLachlan)

3) Joy - A Holiday Collection - Jewel
"Ava Maria"

4) The Christmas Song - Nat "King" Cole
"O Come All Ye Faithful"

5) Pretty Paper - Willie Nelson
"Pretty Paper"

6) Christmas Island - Leon Redbone
"Christmas Island"

7) Have a Holly Jolly Christmas - Burl Ives
"Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer"

8) White Christmas - Bing Crosby
"White Christmas"

9) A New Thought For Christmas - Melissa Etheridge
"Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)"

10) Christmas in the Heart - Bob Dylan
"Do You Hear What I Hear?"

"The first couple of songs, I thought were horrible but fascinating. Then it grew on me." - My mother's review.

My Favorite Christmas Song (not on any of the albums):
"Little Drummer Boy" - Bing Crosby & David Bowie

There are a couple of other albums I consider essential. Unfortunately, one of them is a Victorian Christmas cd and the other is a Japanese Christmas cd I picked up one year, and I can't track down either of them. So I can't tell you what they are. Sorry about that.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Watching

(This is a recycled post, made out of two from last year)

Christmas is probably my favorite holiday, and one of the reasons why it is my favorite holiday are the specials - the Christmas movies, the television specials, the Christmas episodes of television series', I love so many of them. Throughout the Christmas season, I watch my favs, and ignore the ones I don't love. So, just like Thanksgiving, here's my list:

1) A Muppet Family Christmas: The 1987 television special featuring all of the different muppet creations and Jim Henson is my absolute favorite Christmas special ever. We had it on tape for years and years, until my father recklessly threw out a bunch of VHS tapes and lost it forever. Now, I watch the subpar legal release, which is missing such classic scenes as Fozzie singing with his snowman and the muppet babies in movie form and part of the ending medley of songs. But even the subpar Christmas special still has memorable lines, and Doc seeing the muppets and asking Sprocket if those were anything like those Fraggles he was always talking about. The Sesame Street gang is all there, and make "small talk"; the Fraggles are in the basement, and pass around a lucky yellow pebble. And it is full of good, Christmas fun.

2) The Nightmare Before Christmas: This is both a Halloween movie and a Christmas film. It works as both, and it is brilliant. Jack visiting Christmastown is wonderful, and the very idea that a holiday would get tired of doing the same thing year after year is exciting - especially when he steals someone else's holiday. Santa Claus is wonderful, and the kids reacting to their "presents" are great too. It also manages to be both creepy and oddly heart-warming, so kudos to Tim Burton for that.

3) The Santa Clause: I like Tim Allen; and although vaguely morbid (a woman at work had to explain to her five year old that Santa doesn't really die like that and that it was just a movie), it is fun and spreads good holiday cheer. Yes, Santa can be crassly commercial; but he also inspires kids to leave out soy milk because he's lactose intolerant. And Christmas, at its best, is really about family. The way Scott Calvin reconnects with not only his son but his ex-wife and her new husband warms the cockles of my heart.

4) Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer: No list is complete without Rudolf. Bumbles that bounce, the island of misfit toys, Rudolf lighting the way and getting all of those misfit toys new homes, and the message of accepting differences in others is holiday joy. Plus, it has Yukon Cornelius, one of the best creations ever. We certainly quote him a lot in this house. Throw in a story where the mother and girlfriend set off to find the young buck even in 1964 and an extremely tall elf in sunglasses, and I'm there.

5) A Christmas Story: Jean Shepherd's childhood tales are timeless. Just today I labelled a gift "FRAGILE: It must be Italian". Electric sex, laying there like a slug to avoid bullies, not getting in trouble at school after making your friend stick his tongue to a pole, "You'll shoot your eye out", manipulative and disheartening advertising, and Chinese turkey make A Christmas Story beyond awesome. It has sweetness, but it isn't cloying. It is about Christmas, but not just about Christmas; it is about life in that particular family and community that just happened to take place in that time of year. I'm sure Ralphie and the others could have run from Scut Farkis in the spring or fall as well (and that they did), but having it in the constant snow of the Christmas season just further highlighted the juxtaposition of life.

6) Sports Night's "Six Southern Gentlemen of Tennessee Tech": Aaron Sorkin delivers on Christmas; not only does the logo get a little Santa hat, but I think this end scene sums it up:
Casey: That's all for tonight, but before we sign off, we felt that with Christmas only a few days off and people making up lists and checking them twice, it was as good a time as any to mention some people who are important to us here at the show. It seems that quite a few of you, for instance, like the way Dan and I dress on the air, and you should know that we're dressed by Maureen Gates and Joseph Roveto. Maureen and Joseph are assisted by a young woman named Monica Brazelton, and Monica is not to be trifled with.
Dan: Our camera operators are Ray, Wayne, Bruce, John and Jerome, who wishes we'd do more features on hockey.
Casey: Not gonna happen, Jerome. Every time I pick up a pencil or put down a coffee mug, that's Jody Mann, and her trusty aide John Frantz, and if you've ever wondered what a gaffer was, or a best boy, you should ask Keith and Mark.
Dan: We've got some people who don't get paid much, but that's okay, 'cause the hours are terrible. They're our PA's, and their names are Lauren, Victoria, Jake, Lee, Ashley and Brad.
Casey: This is a script. Dan and I write it and then two people come along and put it together so that we can also read it. Their names are Joan and Chris and they, us and everyone else here are pretty much at the mercy of the script supervisor, Carol McKechnie, who's got
a little thing for me, and I think it's time she admits it.
Dan: Keri McIntyre--
Casey: Nicole Burke--
Dan: Shawn Manley--
Casey: Jeff Wheat--
Dan: Mark Johnson--
Casey: Cajun.
Dan: Cajun.
Casey: How 'bout Skip Cook--
Dan: How 'bout Phil Heath--
Casey: How 'bout Karen, Julie and Angela in make-up--
Dan: How 'bout Brenda, Cammy and Jody in hair-- We've got film on this show. You know who cuts it?
Casey: Janet Ashikaga. You know who her assistant is?
Dan: Laura the Wonderful.
Casey: We've just named a small fraction of the people who put this show on television, which means we've left out many more and we'll try and rectify that as we head toward December 25th. But for now, I'm Casey McCall alongside Dan Rydell, wishing everyone in your home, along with everyone here at my home a very happy Christmas.

Sorkin has a tendency to get meta, to draw directly from his life; and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I know that I disliked Kristin Chenoweth before I worshipped her due to Harriet Hayes of Studio Sixty being based on her, and Harriet not containing one iota of the sparkle and poise and charm and sweetness Chenoweth herself has. But some of his best moments come from that meta-tendency as well. Isaac's stroke stemming from Robert Guillaume's own stroke; fights with the network over Sports Night; and this. Those names Dan and Casey rattle off there at the end of this episode the show within a show Sports Night are names of people who worked on the actual show Sports Night - the one that did air on ABC. That is incredibly sweet and very cool, especially coming from an atheistic Jewish man.

7) Studio Sixty on the Sunset Strip's "The Christmas Show": I've got two words for you, and those are "Nazi Santa". Seriously. It is awesome and funny. Actually, I've got a couple of more for you. An atheistic Jewish man bringing Christmas spirit to a sketch comedy show that doesn't want any, leading to fun and friction. Also, Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. And for the sweet and moving part, a storyline involving band members from various TV shows taking sick days in order to get musicians displaced by Katrina work - and a band made up of New Orleans musicians displaced by Katrina playing "O Holy Night" at the end:

It also brought attention to Tipitina's Foundation, an organization meant to foster New Orleans' continued musical heritage. Those musicians? Are from Tipitina's.

8) Buffy the Vampire Slayer's "Amends": Okay, so it's hokey. But it is BtVS, and no holiday of mine is complete without it. Plus, I'm a sucker for miracle snow and Buffy and Angel's romance. I also love Willow's Jewishness, Xander getting the Channukah spirit, and the fact that not everything is white-washed. Xander's still sleeping outside of his house in an attempt to avoid his family's drunken gatherings because his home life sucks, and the snow isn't going to change that. Angel's still guilt-ridden, and snow isn't going to change that. After all, "Strong is fighting! It's hard, and it's painful, and it's every day. It's what we have to do. And we can do it together". But Christmas, at its best, offers a respite from the fight and from the hard painfulness of life. It isn't about the presents or nog or what religion your giving and charity come from, but about the people we surround ourselves with and whom we choose to buoy up and who we are buoyed up by. And that is what Amends, even with its saptastic ways, gives me.

9) A Charlie Brown Christmas:
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men'." That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
I'm with the guy on NPR's Talk of the Nation: that sounds better being spoken with a bit of a lisp. Or maybe it just sounds better by Linus.

10) The West Wing's "In Excelsis Deo": The choir boys singing Little Drummer Boy intercut with the burial of Toby's homeless soldier is incredibly moving. And its The West Wing.

11) The West Wing's "Noel": Yo-Yo Ma and Josh dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder makes an interesting Christmas episode combination. But it works, especially with the interconnectedness of Josh and Donna, and Josh and Leo.

12) Chuck's "Chuck vs the Crown Vic": Lester cheating at dreidl makes the entire episode; but Sarah and Chuck sweetly deciding to be friends and not letting Jeff pressure them with the mistletoe is also great. Plus, it includes Casey's prized car getting blowed all up.

13) Rugrats' "The Santa Experience": I love how Angelica gets a little piece of coal in her Cynthia dream house thing.

14) Rugrats' "Chanukah": Yeah, not Christmas; but it is still in the holiday spirit, and I personally love the pop up Torah and lines like "A Maccababy's gotta do do what a Maccababy's gotta do" and "It's hard to find the meanie of Chanukah". Plus, I love Santa versus the Aliens - which is very much like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

15) The Muppet Christmas Carol: This one is from John, and he's right. No list is complete without Gonzo reciting the back of his hand, and Statler Waldorf as Marley. Michael Caine is pretty terrific as well as Scrooge. And the Spirit of Christmas Day is awesome.

16) Bones' "The Man in the Fallout Shelter": The Jeffersonian gang gets stuck in the lab due to the bio-hazard alarm going off. And Christmas is celebrated through a glass partition, and later at a Chinese restaurant. Between a solved murder and a fortune given to those left behind and Bones opening the Christmas gifts from the year her parents disappeared under Angela's holographic Christmas tree.

17) Bones' "The Santa in the Slush": Santa's dead. And apparently people have made shanks out of Christmas trees. Plus, Caroline's feeling Puckish. Also, it is not morally wrong to lie around the Christmas holidays. It is kind of wrong for the death of a Santa to be so much fun.

18) Doctor Who's "The Christmas Invasion": Another John recommendation! Now, I'm a fan of the 9th Doctor; but Rose having to deal with the newly regenerated 10th Doctor being out of commission during an invasion and homicidal Christmas trees.

19) Frosty the Snowman: A holiday classic, for a reason. Even if Frosty is a moron for going in a greenhouse.

20) Elf: My family loves this movie, but I think it is worth watching for Zooey Deschanel and some great quotes.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday Reading List

From 'Vibrator' to 'Cougar Town', Sex Is Still A Man's World:
“Men comprise the majority of the creative community,” said Martha M. Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, and one result is “male fantasies of women’s sexuality.” Dr. Lauzen studied the 2008-9 television season, surveying more than 2,100 of the most powerful jobs in prime-time network broadcasting, and found that only one out of four was held by a woman.
Bending Gender Online for Fun, Profit, and Faux Feminism:
Ironic, but not surprising. Sociologist Shelly Correll has demonstrated that women with kids face a “motherhood penalty.” They’re less likely to be offered jobs and less likely to be paid well. When Correll gave potential employers fake resumes that varied only in subtle references to parenting activities, she found that supposedly childless women were twice as likely as mothers to be called for an interview.
What I like about the atheist reactions to these pieces is that they are not down with the sexism in them. What I don't like is that atheist authors are more likely to see misogyny as a problem of these authors and religious folks, and thus not our problem. But sexism is alive and well among atheists, and while it shouldn't be tackled by people like Lofton, who are clearly hostile towards atheists, it can't just be projected onto religious folks and ignored in our own community.
Disability Symbology:
Notice how the second symbol represents people with disabilities as active and independent. There are motion signs and the figure is pushing its own chair.
An organization called Not a Doll is taking the human trafficking element of Dollhouse and bringing attention to it (via Stephanie, who also says, "if Whedonites can get a giant studio to make a high budget movie out of a show that didn't even get a full season, they might just be able to create quite a bit of real life change.")

The How Stuff Works Kiva team has raised $46,950 as of this morning.

And comic:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pink Sportswear

So, I'm watching the UConn Women's Game on CPTV, and they're doing a pledge drive, due to the loss of several corporate sponsors due to the economic downturn. And what do mine eyes see?

These lovelies:

What is wrong with this picture?

Could it be that UConn's colors are not, in point of fact, pink and white but blue and white:

Now, you could ask, "Why is this a problem?"

And the answer would be, because this isn't a UConn only issue. Almost every team I can think of offers their team merchandise in pink. And the problem with that, from a pragmatic perspective, is that it totally eliminates the whole "wearing your colors" aspect of buying your team's merch.

But then there is this other issue of making sports feminized. Especially, like in the case of UConn Women's Basketball, sports women are playing. Maya Moore and Tina Charles and the rest of the UConn Women's team aren't out there in pink jerseys, maintaining their femininity as they throw down on the basketball court. They are women, and they play basketball. They are women, and they give up none of their femaleness by wearing the blue and white jersey. And yet, in order to make liking sports and expressing a love of a sport or a specific team acceptable to some women, the very distinguishing characteristic has to be pink-washed.

I'm not against women liking pink. I'm just not a fan of pink-washing. I'm not a fan of signifying "women fans" from just fan-fans.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Risk and Poor Judgement

In the wake of the Amy Dickinson drama, there is a mindset that concerns me greatly, and that is the correlation between risk and poor judgement. Risk is inevitable. Every action holds with it a certain amount of risk, and at certain times the risk offered by a situation far outways the rewards. But that doesn't mean unnecessary risk automatically is a symptom of bad judgement, and your unnecessary risk is going to be different from my unnecessary risk. I'm sure there are places where most people's unnecessary risk overlaps; but there are people who also don't lock up their guns when there are children in the house, so I'm not betting on anything.

In terms of the financial crisis, I'm willing to say some poor judgement went down; but more than that, unnecessary risk was present in droves. And it was a situation where more than just the primary, or even secondary, players were to be greatly and acutely and intimately affected. That is a risk I am not willing to take, but that is because until I got to college, I had a tendency to shake after making a very large purpose and have immediate buyer's remorse, even for things that were necessary. However, it is also a greater risk because its effect went beyond those making the original assessment. The amount of risk in terms of life-destroying financial decisions should be, I think, couched in part by how many lives will be destroyed. It's an inexact science, to be sure.

But then, there is the risks that, generally, affect only ourselves. The risk of wearing a miniskirt in 1960s America. The risk of riding the subway whenever as a woman. The risk of talking to a stranger at a party.

There are all sorts of risks that are both greater than the average and exhibit poor judgement, without being immoral or criminal. Lighting one's own head on fire. Taunting a group of Hells Angels with your police badge. Yelling at a police officer. Getting a piggie back ride from an extremely drunk friend. Doing anything ever first demonstrated on Jackass.

Talking to a stranger at a party, going to another room with a new acquaintance at a party isn't on that list. Even while drunk. There is a risk factor, yes. But there is (a) also the risk of reward, and (b) the assumption your companion isn't about to break the law. Does (a) or (b) always hold up? No. But it is there, and it is the counterbalance. It is the thing that makes the risk worth the reward, meeting someone new.

Rape is frequently compared to muggings or walking down dark alleyways. And while a post by someone else I can't find at the moment details the problems with comparing a violation through sex to the removal from your possession of your wordly goods, there is a deeper issue at hand. What happens if your life includes that dark alleyway? I don't mean, "Oh, I'm going to wander down a dark alleyway I don't know tonight!" but "That dark alleyway is in my neighborhood, and it is a way of getting from place to place". You could still say it is stupid to take it, but is it really? If it is your neighborhood, if walking through all of the other streets is just as risky? Women get drunk. Women drink. The people women drink around are not always going to be people they know. And women are, generally, in the presence of men. If a drunk man is a dark alleyway, the chances are a woman has been alone with multiple ones over the course of her life. Because she has to interact with that dark alleyway sometimes. Because rape doesn't happen with strangers leaping out at us from dark alleyways. Rapists are most often the people close to us, and the people close to the rapists are most often their victims. And because, all things considered equal, talking to a drunk guy alone isn't that much more risky with talking to any guy unfamiliar to her alone. Which is to say, it could go rather poorly - or he could be wonderful and end up as her not-boyfriend before the week is out, and everything in between.

I don't go to parties, and I never much enjoyed them in college. My risk ratio was that I don't like people, I don't like large gatherings of people, even among those I know, and I'm not the most fun person to meet at parties. I prefer to hang out with my friends, the people I know and can talk to. But, if I were someone who enjoyed people and hanging out with a whole host of them when we were all drunk, the risk-reward ratio would shift. A lot.

And then there is the other part of this, and that is that with all of the concern Amy and others have placed on how this girl exhibited poor judgement, the actual criminal and his criminal act gets lost in the shuffle. We're not talking about his risk-ratio, his poor judgement, his criminal actions. We're not talking about how to talk to men about rape, committing it and how to not. We're talking to a woman, and to all women, about their poor judgement, and the rapist suddenly disappears from the conversation.


The rapist should be front and center. The rapist should not have as a comfort the "rape is always wrong - but" going on. The rapist needs to be the focus, because otherwise we're just having another conversation about women and how they get raped. Women don't "get" raped. Women are raped, by other people. Most often, by men. And the way we help victims isn't by foisting upon them some idea of agency, some idea that if we can teach them how they've done wrong and they have to own their poor judgement. We have to talk about how, by being raped, someone didn't acknowledge their agency, didn't recognize their humanity. We have to change the conversation. Because for too long, it has been about women, and what they do or don't. For once, it really is a "what about teh menz?!" issue.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday Reading List

Clothing: The Newest Weapon Against Sexual Assault:
Adam Whiton, an MIT student, and Yolita Nugent, a clothing designer, are leading a research project to develop sensor-studded clothing for women that will record data about an attack in real time and store that information on a computer. Having such hard evidence about an attack may persuade more women to turn to the authorities in crisis situations, and this evidence may make it easier to prosecute and convict offenders.
Just How Pro-Choice Is America, Really?: late 1995, a Florida Republican congressman named Charles Canady had a stroke of insight that would shift it to the realm of both the metaphysical and brutally physical, which is precisely where the pro-life movement wanted it all along. On the floor of the House, he introduced a bill that would ban so-called “partial-birth abortions,” a second-trimester surgical method previously known as intact dilation and extraction. The procedure was extremely upsetting to behold. In it, the fetus—or is it a baby?—is removed from the uterus and stabbed in the back of the head with surgical scissors. It’s a revolting image, one to which the public was ritualistically subjected on the evening news as the debate raged on the House and Senate floors. Defending it was a pro-choice person’s nightmare. Pat Moynihan compared it to infanticide. Clinton still vetoed the ban in 1996, but it was eventually signed into law in 2003 and withstood a Supreme Court challenge in 2007. More important, women were spooked. “A lot of our patients started asking whether or not the fetus felt pain after that, even if they were early along in their pregnancy,” says Albert George Thomas, who until two years ago had spent eighteen years as the head of the family-planning clinic at Mount Sinai.
Ads Gone Bad: The Dockers Man-ifesto:
Once upon a time, men didn't have anyone questioning their shit. They wanted to be congratulated for opening doors and walking across streets. Men were in charge because they kept everyone else down. But somewhere along the way, women wised up and were like, these dudes are fucking assholes and we'd like some freedom and autonomy now, please.
Three Examples of Rape Culture in Nice Guy (tm) Breast Cancer Activism:
Do you feel safer yet? Oh, but this is hilarious, right? Because no-one ever ACTUALLY touches breasts against their owner’s will! See? It’s SATIRICAL. Don’t you get it? The threat is just a JOKE! Lighten up, chicks! God, you’re so SERIOUS.

John's working on a new project, Operation Backlog Slog, Days 1-5, Day 6, and Days 7-9:
Beginning December 1st, I swore off purchasing any new music, movies, TV shows, video games, graphic novels until I finish my existing stockpile of each. I haven’t done a full inventory yet, but I’ve got at least 10 video games, 10 graphic novels (here, plus hundreds back home), two high-capacity DVD binders full of movies and TV shows and several albums to go through.

Stuff You Should Know's Josh and Chuck have a Kiva Team, of which I am a part, has raised $38,600, well on their way to the $100,000 challenge they've set for themselves.

And Toothpaste for Dinner!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Charity Via Cake Wrecks

I like mocking the unfortunate results of other people's faulty creative output and I also love looking at pretty things, so I really love Cake Wrecks, the site featuring horrible, professionally made cakes days Monday through Saturday and really fantastic professionally made cakes every Sunday. Also, I have a love for passive aggressive notes, which, while not fulfilling the "pretty things" quotient more than makes up for that in the hilariously creative ways people passive-aggressively communicate via the written word.

Anyway, Cake Wrecks has a large following, due in part to the heinous cakes and in part because of the snark that accompanies them. And so, the creator(s) of the site have decided to do this really cool thing, charity-wise. And that is this:
So here's the deal: instead of buying gifts or trees or decorations this year, John and I are going to donate a minimum of $200 to a different charity or worthy cause, every day, for the next two weeks.

Which ones?

Well, that's where you come in.

See, we have a few organizations in mind, but certainly not 14. So, I'm asking for your recommendations.What are you passionate about? Where do you volunteer your time, talents, and money? Who do you know that needs help? Tell me in the comments (not e-mail!), so that we all can read and learn and maybe even give a little together.

Oh, and if you're worrying that CW is going to turn into a charity-pushing propaganda site for the next few weeks: don't. I'll just be adding a footnote to each day's post giving you the name of the organization, a one-sentence summary, and a link if you want to learn more.

Now, John and I will be choosing each day's charity based on our own individual passions - which might not match up exactly with your own - but even so I'm going to issue you a little challenge. Ready? Here 'tis:

Give one dollar to each day's charity.

If you each give one dollar - just one solitary smackeroo - together we can raise over $80,000 each day. BAM. Just like that. Imagine that 14 times over, all for worthy causes. Imagine the number of lives that could impact. Imagine, if you will...the bragging rights.

Yeah, you heard me. When you get involved in something that awesome, you get major bragging rights.

Ok. So. You pumped? You with me? You...ready for this post to be over? Heh, I hear ya.
I, for one, am pumped! I am ready and willing and able to give one dollar per day to a charity for the next 2 weeks! And I've decided to spread the word! They've already got three charities up. Those are:

Heifer International And, for ease of payment, Cake Wrecks has set up a Firstgiving page.

So, if the Christmas spirit grabs you, stop by Cake Wrecks, check out the wreckage (or wonder), and peruse the charity o' the day.

Yes, Virginia, It IS Victim Blaming

There has lately been a big stink raised about Amy Dickinson's advice to a college girl asking if she was raped at a frat party. I let most of it pass me by in spite of my antipathy for advice columns of late, because, frankly, faster and more precise fingers flew on the issue. But then, a friend was shown an article criticizing Dickinson's advice. And although I've already commented on the post itself, something naggled at the back of my skull. So, in the midst of rewatching A Love Supreme for review purposes, I was compelled to respond to my friend's response.

First, the letter:
Dear Amy: I recently attended a frat party, got drunk and made some bad decisions.

I let a guy take me to "his" room because he promised that he wouldn't do anything I wasn't comfortable with.

Many times, I clearly said I didn't want to have sex, and he promised to my face that he wouldn't.

Then he quickly proceeded to go against what he "promised." I was shocked, and maybe being intoxicated made my reaction time a bit slow in realizing what was happening.

We were soon kicked out of the room by the guy who lived there, who was pretty angry.

I guess my question is, if I wasn't kicking and fighting him off, is it still rape?

I feel like calling it that is a bit extreme, but I haven't felt the same since it happened.

Am I a victim?

-- Victim? in Virginia

Dear Victim?: First of all, thank you. I hope your letter will be posted on college bulletin boards everywhere.

Were you a victim? Yes.

First, you were a victim of your own awful judgment. Getting drunk at a frat house is a hazardous choice for anyone to make because of the risk (some might say a likelihood) that you will engage in unwise or unwanted sexual contact.

You don't say whether the guy was also drunk. If so, his judgment was also impaired.

No matter what -- no means no. If you say no beforehand, then the sex shouldn't happen. If you say no while its happening, then the sex should stop.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network Web site (

"Alcohol and drugs are not an excuse -- or an alibi. The key question is still: Did you consent or not? Regardless of whether you were drunk or sober, if the sex is nonconsensual, it is rape. However, because each state has different definitions of "nonconsensual," please contact your local center or local police if you have questions about this. (If you were so drunk or drugged that you passed out and were unable to consent, it was rape. Both people must be conscious and willing participants.)"

Go to your college's health department to be tested for STDs and pregnancy. See a counselor to determine how you want to approach this. You must involve the guy in question in order to determine what happened and because he absolutely must take responsibility and face the consequences for his actions, just as you are prepared to do. He may have done this before.

My friend agrees with Dickinson's advice, saying:
In her letter, the alleged victim initially states that she "made some mistakes." And, based on her story, she's right. Despite what Dickinson's critics say, it is risky for a girl to get drunk at a fraternity party and go off with a fellow she doesn't know very well. This decision reflects poor judgment.
To say I disagree is an understatement. In the aftermath of a sexual assault, it is fairly normal to assume much of the blame. "I made some mistakes" is not an admission of anything more than the feelings of assumed guilt of someone who endured a traumatic experience. "I made some mistakes" is a qualifier for someone who is feeling ashamed and confused and violated. "I made some mistakes" is not, strictly speaking, the mark of mistakes being made. Is it possible she actually did make some mistakes? Sure. Are any of them outlined in her description of the event? Not really.

And why? Because trusting people is not a demonstration of "poor judgement". Because what Amy Dickinson, and my friend, is suggesting something that is not possible.

What my friend and Dickinson are suggesting is that it is poor judgement for women to drink, and for women to meet men while drinking. Sorry, but that's a whole huge swath of human interaction - especially in college - being denied to women on the basis that participating in this type of fun is an exercise in poor judgement.

Look, rape is a difficult crime. You can say that women (and men) should abstain from taking certain risks. But risk is a part of life, and interactions between women and men unfamiliar to them is how one gets to interactions between women and men who are familiar to them.

The same thing that makes rape a hard crime to get a conviction for is the same thing that makes simplistic "well, you shouldn't have gone there with him, and if you did you were a victim of your own poor judgement" absolute bullpucky. And that is this: women like sexual contact. Not always and not always all the way to sex, but a lot of women are attracted to men and a lot of women like to do things like kiss men, and fool around with men, and sometimes they even like to have sex with men. And in order to get to the kissing, the fooling around, and/or the sex, women have to meet men and spend time alone with them. And to be told that spending time alone with strange men is a product of our own poor judgement, but don't you dare think of all men as rapists because that is misandry at work, is such a piece of work.

And then there's this. Say there was a second girl at this precise party. She meets a guy. They're drinking. They're laughing. She lets him take her to "his" room. She makes it clear she doesn't want to have sex. He makes it clear he isn't going to do anything she isn't comfortable with. And he doesn't. They don't have sex. They go precisely as far as she is comfortable with. They're giddy, and having a good time. Soon, they are kicked out of the room by the guy who actually lives there. She laughs at her companion, he explains that he just wanted to spend some alone time with her. She finds him sweet. They see each other again. They end up dating. Was she the victim of bad judgement? Or is the bad judgement of the first girl in the situation contingent upon the events that transpired after she entered the room? I think, it is the second option. I think we foster ideas about bad/poor judgement on women who have already been victimized, when if after 50 years of marriage, the second girl were to write into whomever was Ask Amying it up in the future to tell her "funny, romantic" tale, there would be no "And you were lucky he wasn't a rapist!" anywhere in Future Ask Amy Columnist's response.

Rape isn't like other crimes. We generally don't want our money stolen, our houses broken into, our noses broken, etc. We do, generally, want to converse and mingle and have sex with those who have the power to rape us. And there are no easy answers for why rape occurs or how we can stop it from occurring, if we want to be serious about either. Thomas from Yes Means Yes has written something in the past I find to be quite right, so I'm going to quote it now:
We will also surely see remarks from people who don’t want to be called rape apologists, and who may even think they are not rape apologists while they gyrate wildly to turn the focus on the victim instead of the rapists and their crowd of aiders and abetters where it belongs. These people will almost always start with some version of “of course I’m not blaming the victim and what the rapists did was wrong and all that …” And then will come the key word, BUT.

Then they will make their real argument. And their real argument is that they are unwilling to actually take rape seriously or do anything to hold rapists accountable. What they believe and argue (but will avoid saying outright) is that the rapist’s behavior is unavoidable, as much a natural disaster as a hurricane or an earthquake, and so the only sensible thing is to plan for its inevitability. The argument will proceed from the dreaded BUT to focus on what SHE did, and how wrong and stupid it was, and ultimately conclude that if women just curtailed their behavior in one or several additional ways, the problem would be solved.
My friend, who is a good, kind, and decent human being, is guilty of the same thing I myself have been guilty of, and will continue to be guilty of in the future when I first hear of these events. And that is the "but":
Rape is never the victim's fault, but that doesn't mean that the victim's prior decisions are always value-neutral.
The victim's prior decisions are, in many ways, value-neutral in that the value we assign tends to correlate to the outcome of the situation. And they are value-neutral precisely because those "risky behaviors", those exercises of "bad judgement", are living. Simply living. They are what men get to do, almost automatically. They are what women should be able to do, with the patronizing "Silly women, living's for men!" hanging over their heads. And they are in the course of normal human interaction. The "but" is easy, because it allows us to assign a certain action for a certain outcome. Of course, she was raped. She did X. Of course, she was raped. She didn't do Y. Of course, she was raped. She was wearing Z. She just shouldn't do X, should do Y, and should never, ever wear Z.

Except, that doesn't do anything to answer for why he did A. And why men rape is, I think, a more important question to answer than instructing women on how to not be raped. Because The Rules for that are arbitrary and dependent upon the situation. Because The Rules for that are limiting, and confine women too much. Because The Rules accept the inevitability that if a woman is "stupid" by the dictum of The Rules - that is, if she doesn't conform to what we would consider 'good girl behavior' - she is likely to be raped. Because if every women ever followed The Rules, mini skirts would not be the thing and women would barely be able to exit their homes without being accompanied by a male companion. I like my independence. I like my mini skirts. I like knowing that The Rules are more about the illusion of safety than the promise of ensuring it. What I would like is for more people to recognize that too.

A Post In Which I Review Dollhouse's "Meet Jane Doe, Part 1"

Bennett has twice the resources I have. She thinks she runs that House. And she might, for all I know. But there is one thing of which I am certain. I have a cooler office.
This is something I didn't touch upon in my review of The Left Hand, and that is this. Topher does have a very cool office. But it also does a couple of things. One, it reinforces the very large God-complex Topher has. It is literally an office encased in glass, situated above those he has complete power over. He can make any Doll whomever and whatever he chooses. Bennett's office is farther removed. It is an actual office-like area, filled with books and music and tea. It is more analytical. It doesn't create the same sort of Doll-Programmer familiarity Topher's arrangement allows. It doesn't create a bit of emotional pull; it doesn't facilitate getting to know the Dolls, their personalities and their grouping patterns. Topher has the cooler office for any number of reasons; his is more like a day care center in terms of toys than any actual office. But what really makes it so that he has the cooler office is how it pulls him into the overall Dollhouse community. He is not separate. He is above, but not aloof. He is apart, but still included. Because of that, his reaction to things like "grouping" is different than those who are separate, who are not a part of the overall community. It is what allows him to call Echo a friend, and it is what leaves him less than thrilled at the end of this exchange:
HARDING: Are they grouping?
TOPHER: Oh... They, uh, technically...
HARDING: They're grouping, aren't they?
TOPHER: I'm sorry to say, yeah.
HARDING: Oh, it's okay. It happens all the time.
TOPHER: It does?
HARDING: Yes. It's very common and easily dealt with.
TOPHER (looking a bit apprehensive): It is? Of course it is, yeah.
HARDING: Split them up, place them in separate Houses. They'll be fine. The girl would be perfect for Dubai.
And this exchange allows us some other insight. Victor and Sierra aren't special. The Los Angeles Dollhouse isn't the only breeding ground for un-Doll-like behavior. Dolls naturally gravitate toward each other. The need for true companionship, for interaction is still present and strong. There have been many studies about the human need for socialization, for friendships. Dolls aren't too separate from that. Even if Sierra and Victor are particularly adorable in their personal grouping.

What also comes through clearly in the episode is that Dolls are not simply a Tabula Rasa of the person they were before being Dollified. Ballard had been working from that basic assumption, and it didn't seem too far off in the early episodes of the show. What we knew about Caroline, her altruism and her bend towards justice, seemed to be mirrored in Echo's more child-like attempts. But the Doll is separate, and Echo isn't necessarily too keen on the possibility of Caroline coming back:
BALLARD: You said Bennett gave you her own memory.
ECHO: Of Caroline. And it wasn't... I didn't like it.
BALLARD: Well, that's Bennett's perception, and she doesn't sound remarkably stable.
ECHO: But the idea that Caroline might not be... I've been saving this body for her, but I'm not her.
BALLARD: You don't know that. You've resisted the wipes from the start. You tracked down my cell and you couldn't remember my name. You knew that I would help you, keep you from DeWitt. DeWitt was Caroline's enemy, not Echo's. Maybe it was Caroline picking up those shells.
ECHO: I'm not her! My name is Echo.
ECHO: You think I'm a freak - or a child.
BALLARD: I think I don't have the right.
ECHOL It's not my other... personas that make me feel what I feel.
BALLARD: The Dollhouse made you fall in love over and over. You told me that.
ECHO: They also made me aggressively sexual and phenomenally creative in bed.
BALLARD: Now, that's just cruel.
ECHO: Also, sociopathic, inexperienced, blind, and - at least seven times - gay. There's a lot of noise from the Chorus Girls, but they're not me. There is a me. This is me.
There are couple of issues I have with this part of the episode. Part of it is the reverse Florence Nightingale effect, what with Echo falling in love with Ballard as he's devoted himself to taking care of her and helping her get ready in her quest to take down the Dollhouse. But part of it is the fact that Paul Ballard has, in essence, been chasing after Caroline from episode one. It is creepy, because just four episodes ago he was leering at her recently college-decked out body in Belle Chose. It's creepy, because Echo has been programmed to trust and rely on Ballard.

But what it also highlights is Ballard's concern that he doesn't have the right to the body Echo inhabits, even if there were no creeptastic factors, because it is in actuality Caroline's body. Here's where the problem lies. Because it is a violation of Caroline's body, just like a person can rape the comatose. But it isn't just Caroline's body anymore. It is now also Echo's. She is a person, separate from the other personas in her head and separate from Caroline. She doesn't have a body of her own, and being in Caroline's body may have helped form her. Does she have some say? Is she independent of thought? Does she have the right to a romance, to a love affair, to a sexual release? The Dollhouse, by creating someone who was intended for nothing more than caretaker and not for personhood in hir own right, denied the Doll in question the right to a full existence, and that is as cruel a thing as every other despicable action they have foisted upon these Dolls. Echo, Whiskey, others who come to consciousness, seem to live in the agonizing in between where they are aware their bodies and lives are not truly their own, and have to ponder their own mortality in a way few of us ever do or ever shall. They have to face the possibility of voluntarily disembarking, ceasing to exist, so another could live the life interrupted.

Which leads us back to Topher, who lives the agonizing life of being a friggin' genius. And one who has seemingly backed away from the "progress is always a-okay!" viewpoint he held not two episodes ago. It's no secret 'round these parts that Topher is my favorite. And this week he's my favorite because he is absolutely in way over his head, and he knows it. He's my favorite because he is just so bad at the whole moral thing, and yet keeps on trying. I also love how profoundly desperate he is becoming in his attempts to figure out how to prevent the future he foresees as the inevitable conclusion of the tech he develops from coming to pass. And how he turns to the one person he probably shouldn't for guidance and conspiracy:
ADELLE: I've been hearing about your new device all day. I don't need to see it. I'm sure it's very impressive. But with the resources at your disposal now, I'm surprised it took you this long.
TOPHER: It didn't. I finished it two months ago. I spent the rest of the time trying to come up with another way to do it, a stupider way, a parlor trick... that wouldn't lead to anything else, anything bad.
ADELLE: What else, Topher? What "bad"?
TOPHER: Harding's got me working on a portable remote wipe, right? I saw Bennett working on a somatosensory system override. And there are what? 22 Houses, right?
ADELLE: 23, now.
TOPHER: Each working on their own small, specific, relatively harmless technology. So I got to thinging -
ADELLE: It's a component. It is a piece of a larger whole.
TOPHER: The next question is...
ADELLE: For what?
TOPHER: I think they're hoping to build a portable device that will be able to imprint anyone without any Active architecture implants. Any innocent on the street with a new personality.
ADELLE: That's unnerving.
TOPHER: No. What's unnerving is I figured out how to do it.
TOPHER: Are you out of your British mind?!
ADELLE: I acted in the best interest of the House.
TOPHER: You gave Rossum the deadliest tech I've ever heard of.
ADELLE: Which you designed.
TOPHER: I was trying to figure out what they were up to!
ADELLE: You were fascinated. You were playing.
TOPHER: No. Don't put this on me. I trusted you!
ADELLE: Well, who thought that was a clever scheme?
Which, wow. No wonder Adelle feels responsible for Topher in the aftermath. I had originally thought it was more of the maternal instinct mixed in with a healthy bit of the belief she was just as complicit in the Dollhouse meltdown. Now, it seems as though more than a little bit of guilt is also there. What is also interesting to me is how Adelle characterizes Topher. I'm sure she's not wholly wrong; I'm sure Topher messed because he was revolted and intrigued by the idea. But I'm also sure she isn't wholly right. I'm sure Topher is revolted by the tech. There's a reason he didn't roll out the remote wipe tech once he was done with it, a reason why he didn't deliver the plans that would give him the title of Harding's (and Rossum's) Golden Boy for all eternity. The amoral Topher we originally met probably would have; but this Topher has grown. He grew through his disastrous attempt to save Sierra. He grew through his interaction with Echo. He grew from the belief that there is no such thing as morality. He accepts that there are such things as innocents. And he sees the big picture well enough to understand that doing what is in the best short-term interest for the House is not what is in its best long-term interest, nor in the best interest of the whole "world not ending" scheme.

Random Observations:
  • Why does Galena trust Echo? I would totally not be prepared to put my faith in the person who got me into jail in the first place.
  • Wow, does this show borrow from the Matrix.
  • Wow, Tahmoh Penikett is really good looking.
  • He also can't really act.
  • The whole "moving between personas" would be better if Enver Gjokaj were the one to do it.
Grade: B

A Post In Which I Review Dollhouse's "The Left Hand"

I'm kind of depressed about how long it has taken to write this review, partially because after Hulu kept crapping out during the episode I broke down and bought it for 3.99 on iTunes. Of course, I now have one of my favorite scenes ever on my iPod constantly, so maybe it's all a wash in the end.

So, I'm going to do something I've been avoiding since this Healthcare debate thingy started in Congress, and that is talk about the state of Healthcare and those Congresspeople making the laws. Because Joss Whedon told me to. Seriously. Don't believe me? I offer Evidence A (which is actually from The Public Eye):
No one is saying the work these corporations do isn't vital, but there must be accountability. The health of our citizens cannot be held hostage to a profit motive.
Sounds like some healthcare angst to me. Evidence B is the fact Perrin is a man made and supported by the very industries he is supposed to be going after. Say, that's kind of like my own state senator, a Mr. Joe Lieberman! Who is a guy I voted for, in part because he campaigned in 2006 on the promise of fighting for a Public Option! Which, in turn, has made me into the schmuck of my immediate family! Who, of the two other members who are legal voting age, voted for Ned Lamont! Damn Lieberman! Oh, this also goes for a whole bunch of other people in Congress. Perrin, who is very much a demonstration of false consciousness, is used to validate and prop up the very industries that are going to bring about the end of civilization, Epitaph One style. Which, in turn, makes me think those Whedony people are probably pretty pissed and concerned with the way the Healthcare fight is going. Also, kind of like they think our elected officials are bought and paid for by Big Corporations, which is also the tale of today's Non Sequitur. There's probably a lot more to say about this issue and Dollhouse's handling of it, but I'm going to move on, now.

To Cindy Perrin. Who kind of gets the bad end of every stick. I know I'm not supposed to sympathize with someone who is clearly not on the Moral Train, but Cindy does stir something in me resembling empathy. And that is because she is pretty much in the exact same position as the Dolls, except she doesn't have the benefit of being a True Believer. She is used as just another object for the Dollhouse's purposes. And she is trapped by her role as a wife:
I can't stand you. Having to be your wife, letting you touch me, pretending that when it doesn't disgust me, it doesn't bore me? That has been really hard.
She is being forced to have sex with a man she does not love, forced to allow someone she doesn't even like, to touch her. And while I think her anger and hatred is more than a bit misguided - it isn't Perrin's fault, after all - it is also entirely realistic to rail against the person trapped with you in this type of farce than the nameless, faceless decision-makers that put you both there. And then, she dies. Cindy Perrin's situation just drives further home the idea that the Dollhouse - and Rossum - don't actually see people, merely opportunities to do what is best for their own self-interest. Which is, actually, yet another arm of the "corporations are soulless and need to be controlled for our own good" argument the entire show seems to be making.

What I really want to discuss, though, is the geekiest love affair known to man, and that is the mutual lovefest between Bennett Halverson and Topher Brink. Mostly for this:
BENNETT: How do you work it? The disrupter?
TOPHER: How'd you know it was called that?
BENNETT: What else would you call it?
TOPHER: A signal goes out for 50 feet, but everywhere. That's what messed up your senator and ruined your evil plan.
BENNETT: If you route the signal through here, it becomes directional. Not like a bomb. More like a taser.
TOPHER: Huh! (Tries To Tase Bennett) Huh.
BENNETT: Did - did you just try to tase me?
TOPHER: No? No, No! That would result in - you'd be unconscious. Why would I want that?
BENNETT: And it only works on Actives. I'm concerned that you may have just tried to tase me.
If only there were more times in life when one could say, "I'm concerned that you may have just tried to tase me". But it is their geekitude, their giddiness when bouncing ideas off one another, and their ultimate betrayal of each other - Topher by stealing Perrin's brain scan, Bennett by trying to kill Echo - that truly makes the episode for me. Well, them and:
VICTOR-TOPHER: What you're not getting, man-friend, is that this whole operation is dependent upon me. Not, uh, brain-constructy me, but "Bond, James Bond" me. Which is, not so me.
BOYD: Vic-Topher. All you hae to do is stay calm.
VICTOR-TOPHER: This from the guy who had to dismember my last little outing?!
Whedon has done the one person in two bodies before with Xander Harris on Buffy, being played by Nicholas Brendon (who was normally Xander) and his twin brother (who normally was not). This was better. Giving Enver Gjokaj opportunity upon opportunity to shine makes Dollhouse an incredible actor's vehicle - just not the actor it was designed for. Gjokaj's ability to go beyond mimicry, to actually embody the character created by another actor, is incredible. I was beyond impressed when he became Dominic last season. His Topher was even more superb, possibly because Topher is a exaggerated character to begin with. The concept could have become a gross parody of itself, but instead it was both masterfully written and acted. It was fun and self-aware and perfect, for the show and for the two actors. And my favorite moments were their interactions, possibly because two Tophers are always going to be better than one in my world.

But, again, it is Topher-Topher who truly makes the episode for me. From his:
I'm just here for Echo. My last ethical quandary was... unhelpful.
to his:
This isn't about Caroline! This is about Echo!
to his:
It wouldn't be a second opinion! It would be the same opinion twice!
It is Topher's emerging and continuing humanity that keeps me engaged. It is his continuing moral development that makes him still profoundly interesting. The fact that both he and Victor-Topher are still so focused on his last "ethical quandary" makes him a person with real regret and remorse. The fact that he sees Echo as a distinct person, as a friend separate from Caroline, makes him someone for whom the Dolls are becoming more and more, as themselves, actual people. And then there is the continuation of the idea he first expressed in the season opener to Whiskey/Saunders. What Topher is concerned about intellectually isn't so much having someone who agrees with him, who thinks like him and who will come to the same conclusions he has, but someone who will be able to see where he is blind. The fact that he doesn't want himself around for help analyzing Perrin's brain map could just be an ego thing, until it is related back to the idea that he is terrified he is going to miss something, and that someone will get hurt.

And yet, the most important part of the episode may be something Bennett herself was blinded to. She tells Topher:
I have a theory that the human brain can hold multiple imprints and still function... ...Not a composite. Something new.
This is what Echo is. This is what Echo develops into. This is what Bennett herself doesn't see when she at first tells Echo, and then Topher, that Echo is merely a shell - and at the same time Caroline. Topher seems to have a better handle on the fact that the person Echo is now is separate from who Caroline was, but the implications of that statement are far-reaching. What it does is offer a bit of hope for humanity even as it explains Echo's own existence. It offers up a new kind of humanity, after we have been ravaged by the world of Epitaph One. It is the series' optimistic rallying cry, that all is not lost. And, it creates a whole host of coolness we'll never have a chance to see fully examined.

We do see it examined partially, though, through the experiences of the escaped Perrin and Echo:
PERRIN: Even if I could, I don't know if I want to be the man I was before.
ECHO: I understand.
PERRIN: You do, don't you?
ECHO: I'm afraid of Caroline. If she comes back, where do I go? I don't want to fall asleep, even for a little while.
Echo is probably afraid of Caroline at least in part because she saw what Caroline did to Bennett, but the underlying fear that coursed through Whiskey/Saunders is also present here. These are people, and they exist. But the bodies they exist in are not, strictly speaking, theirs. And what we see through Perrin and Echo is this desire to continue to live on, to not disappear into the night. And it makes Echo into what she needs to be, a character in her own right and not just a placeholder for a person we have yet to truly and deeply meet. It creates just that one more level of moral and emotional conflict. And that, along with the fun, makes The Left Hand possibly my favorite episode of Dollhouse.

Grade: A+

Quotes of the Episode:

VICTOR-TOPHER: She's going to look at my 1.0, and she'll know!
BOYD: I have to track down Ballard. You just run the house and wait for yourself to call.

TOPHER: I poo you not!

BENNETT: I'm concerned that you may have just tried to tase me.

BENNETT: You hacked into my system. Stole Perrin's brain map.
TOPHER: You're trying to kill Echo!
BENNETT: So we're even?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday (Not So) Random Ten

This is a special edition of Friday Random Ten, inspired by a (short) conversation I had with a friend regarding Conor Oberst and how he is depressing. I, in fact, love Conor Oberst. So, here are my ten favorite Conor Oberst songs:

10) "I Don't Want To Die (In A Hospital)" - Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Conor Oberst

Rowdy and slightly raucous, I can bounce around to this one like no one's business. Ironically, this one isn't my favorite based on any sort of lyrics that made my spine tingle. This one is all about the fun. Which is strange, since it is, after all, a song about death and dying. Just to get us started, though, I laugh at these lines every time:
Can you make a sound to distract the nurse
Before I take a ride in that long black hearse
I don’t wanna die in the hospital
You gotta take me back outside
9) "Devil Town" - Bright Eyes, Noise Floor (Rarities: 1998-2005)

This isn't actually a Bright Eyes penned song, but it's an awesome cover (you can listen to a snippet of the original here).

8) "Another Travelin' Song" - Bright Eyes, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

There are two subjects above all others where I enjoy Conor Oberst's musings, and those are religion and spirituality, and the very state of writing itself. This one is all about the latter:
Now I'm hunched over a typewriter
I guess you call that paintin' in a cave
And there's a word I can't remember
and a feeling I cannot escape
And now my ashtray's overflowing
I'm still staring at a clean white page
Oh and morning's at my window
she is sending me to bed again
7) "I Must Belong Somewhere" - Bright Eyes, Cassadaga

And, lyrics:
In truth, the forest hears each sound
Each blade of grass as it lies down
The world requires no audience
no witnesses, no witnesses
6) "Waste of Paint" - Bright Eyes, Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground

So now I park my car down by the cathedral,
where the floodlights point up at the steeples.
Choir practice was filling up with people.
I hear the sound escaping as an echo.
Sloping off the ceiling at an angle.
When the voices blend they sound like angels.
5) "From A Balance Beam": - Bright Eyes, Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground

This one's a little more depressing:
It was in a foreign hotel's bathtub
I baptized myself in change
And one by one I drowned all of the people I had been
I emerged to find the parallels were fewer
I was cleansed
I looked in the mirror
And someone new was there
But, I was as helpless as a chess piece
when I was lifted up by someone's hand
And delivered from the corner
my enemies had got me in
But in all of my salvation
I still felt imprisoned inside that holding cell
that is myself
4) "Moab" - Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Conor Oberst

I don't like comparisons between musical artists. I hate it when bands are described as "Bigger than the Beatles" (because, clearly, if we're still comparing them to the Beatles, they weren't/aren't); and I hate it when music critics call Conor Oberst the next Dylan. Because (a) Dylan isn't done being Dylan yet, and (b) there is only one Dylan. And then there are songs like this one that make me think, "Yeah, that's pretty Dylanesque". It's pretty much all in the vocal delivery. Anyway:
You can't break out of a circle
That you never knew you were in
And there's nothing that the road cannot heal
Nothing that the road cannot heal
Washed under the blacktop
Gone beneath my wheels
There's nothing that the road cannot heal
3) "First Day Of My Life" - Bright Eyes, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

Songs like this are what make me astounded when people talk about Bright Eyes being incredibly depressing. Because when I hear this song, I hear something full of love, and hope, and optimism. Nothing demonstrates that better than the second verse:
Yours is the first face that I saw
I think I was blind before I met you
Now I don’t know where I am
I don’t know where I’ve been
But I know where I want to go
2) "Four Winds" - Bright Eyes, Cassadaga

Cassadaga is my absolute favorite Bright Eyes album, and I've been knocked out by this song since I first heard it. Some of the lyrics that did it for me:
Well I went back by rented Cadillac and company jet
Like a newly orphaned refugee retracing my steps
All the way to Cassadaga to commune with the dead
They said, "You'd better look alive"
1) "Bowl of Oranges" - Bright Eyes, Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground

This is my favorite Bright Eyes song; it has been since the first time I heard it, and that's because I loved all of the lyrics. But if I had to pick my favorite of the song, it would be:
But if the world could remain within a frame like a painting on a wall.
Then I think we would see the beauty.
Then we would stand staring in awe at our still lives posed like a bowl of oranges,
like a story told by the fault lines and the soil

Honorable Mention:
"Classic Cars" - Bright Eyes, Cassadaga

This song has some of my absolute favorite lyrics ever:
And I keep looking for that blindfold faith
Lighting candles to a cynical saint
Who wants the last laugh at the fly trapped in the windowsill tape
You can go right out of your mind trying to escape
From the panicked paradox of day to day
If you can’t understand something then it’s best to be afraid

As an apatheistic atheist, I don't have these sorts of pained moments of religious soul-searching. But I love the way religion moves people; I love the art and books and buildings that come out of it.

Quote of the Day

I'm one of ten girls in a room with 700 guys, and I'm not prepared for that. It doesn't feel comfortable for me to sit there and watch that.
- Natali Del Conte, summing up in under 30 words the problem with using female nudity to generate excitement at a tech event.

(From Buzz Out Loud, CNet's podcast of indeterminate length, episode 1121).

Seriously, though, Del Conte is discussing an event for the Boxee where the Suicide Girls (just linking the Wiki article for that one) performed. Her description of the actual offending event is about 3 or so minutes into the BOL podcast, but the gist is that there was full frontal nudity and a couple of girls making out with each other.

What this does is set a clear line of delineation about who the tech product (in this case, Boxee, but this is hardly the first time some geekery has gone awry in its gender presentations) is designed for, and who they don't particularly care about building as their demographic. Because even if some of the other 10 girls in the audience were gay or bi and would enjoy a Suicide Girls show, that doesn't change the underlying assumption - and that underlying assumption should, actually, make the gay or bi girls just as uncomfortable.

The underlying assumption isn't "This is for people who enjoy women making out with each other". The underlying assumption is "at a tech event, this is what women are good for". It turns women into objects, and - as Del Conte flat out says - makes the event an uncomfortable space for those women who dare to venture in. Because even if a girl in question is attracted to women, she's still sitting near a couple of dozen guys who are not aware of her inner life or thoughts, and for whom the Suicide Girls show has been performed for.

I'm not all that interested in tech. I buy what Apple tells me to buy, and I go on my merry way. I don't have an e-Reader, and I'm not exactly entirely sure what makes a good or bad interface. But if I were interested in tech, if I wanted to get a job writing about tech for a tech site and talking about tech on tech podcasts, the last thing I would want is to have my minority status demonstrated so blatantly at any event, but especially an event I was supposed to be covering for my work. The last thing I would want is to see that at the very least the product I was about to be covering, if not the rest of the men in the room, didn't recognize me as a journalist or as a potential consumer. I would not be prepared for that, either.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday Reading List

The Company We Keep:
We rely on gay-rights groups to battle it out alone for marriage rights in Maine. We expect feminists to secure abortion rights in health-care reform legislation. We look to the NAACP to effectively respond to racist statements about Obama. And yes, those groups will work hard for those goals. But when they fall short, they are not the only ones to blame. It's fair to look at the entire progressive coalition and ask the hard questions about our movement: What's the use of having a community, a coalition, if you aren't going to fight for each other?
As Veronica Arreola said on her Twitter, while the media insists on calling this a “sexting-related suicide,” it’s much more accurately referred to as a “slut-shaming suicide.” Because the photograph she sent is not what drove this poor girl to kill herself — the non-consensual spreading of the photograph, and the subsequent reaction that her classmates and all adults in positions of authority had to it seems to absolutely have been what drove her to despair. And that is a truly vital distinction to make if we actually care about the fact that a 13-year-old girl is dead, and why.
The Real Obesity Crisis:
...even though we tend to believe that children this young are living in their own little fantasy universe in which the actions of adults are only momentarily relevant, this study makes clear that children live in the adult world as well, where diet-talk, body-bashing, and constant, constant hand-wringing about what we look like affects them, and quite deeply, too.
Romance and Sexuality in Harry Potter:
Harry Potter is a bit of a sore spot for me. How much I loathe books can be expressed by the formula L = TP, or Loathing equals Terrible (how terrible it is), times Past (how much effort I put into it when I used to like it). So for that reason, Twilight, whose P is zero, also has an L value of zero–doesn’t matter how bad it is, I don’t happen to give a shit. As it happens, Harry Potter is no slacker in the T department and has the highest P of any book series in existence. You do the math.

So without further ado, I present “Things that come to mind as examples of the twisted sexuality in Harry Potter.“
Yes, I Will Always Play Zoey:
An article on cites research firm Electronic Entertainment Design and Research’s numbers on the subject: of the games on current generation consoles, female characters star in only 3% of games, versus 46% with male protagonists (the remaining are games with a customizable lead character or none). In action games specifically, it’s 3% female, 51% male, and if you venture into shooters, it drops to an abysmal 1%-73%.
Should We Remember Mike Penner or Christine Daniels?:
Penner never spoke publicly about his motives for transitioning back to Mike. But when Penner chose to “detransition”—when he stopped identifying outwardly as Christine Daniels—several experts weighed in on the latest development in Penner’s public persona. According to psychologists, most transgender people who choose to “detransition” do so as a result of external pressures resulting from their public gender transition, and not because they no longer internally identify as transgender.
And, instead of a comic, Twilight's New Moon in Lolcats. A taste, and then just follow the link: