Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why the Internet is Not Ruining Everything

Last Thursday, the Times online published an article called "The Internet is killing storytelling." The author, Ben Macintyre argues,
The internet has evolved a new species of magpie reader, gathering bright little buttons of knowledge, before hopping on to the next shiny thing...

If the culprit is obvious, so is the primary victim of this radically reduced attention span: the narrative, the long-form story, the tale. Like some endangered species, the story now needs defending from the threat of extinction in a radically changed and inhospitable digital environment.

Macintyre's arguments do not ring true to me for several reasons.

First, he is unable to prove that email, texting, twittering, blogging, etc cannot exist side-by-side with more traditional forms of story-telling. In this very article, Macintyre claims that America's rapt attention to the Obama narrative this past fall indicates our "hunger for narrative." One could just as easily argue that our ability to sustain interest in Obama's life story indicates that narrative story-telling is alive and well.

Second, a story does not have to be long to be a good story. I really didn't like how Macintyre was really criticizing damage to the long narrative, but did not make that distinction consistently in his article. One might argue that our attention span has shrunk to a ridiculously short amount, making even the most simple narrative impossible to digest, but hour long dramas on television would beg to differ. Perhaps television or a four page email from Mom, isn't what Macintyre has in mind, but it reeks of snobbery to pretend that something has to be printed and the length of Moby Dick to qualify as a narrative.

Third, even if we presume that narrative story telling is in trouble, I don't think that there is good evidence at all that the internet is the source of damage to the long narrative. In Claude Fisher's book, America Calling: A Social History of the Telephone to 1940, Fisher argues "telephone company management shifted advertising during the 1920's to reflect the demands of the private consumer. Prior to this shift, managers marketed the telephone as a practical, rather than social, tool. Once they realized more Americans were buying automobiles instead of telephones, the telephone companies changed their marketing strategies to reflect the predominant use of their product."

Consumers drive how content is developed and marketed. If internet technology is used to break communication down into smaller and smaller pieces, I don't think the technology that enables this is to blame. A better culprit would be societal forces that demand that people spend less and less time communicating and more and more time working or consuming.

Also, it's a little weird that a newspaper article is criticizing the loss of a long-form narrative. Pot calling kettle black, dude?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

follow through

Check out Jay Smooth's video "On Being First," which incorporates a concept he discusses a couple times at illdoctrine, The Little Hater.

My Little Hater tells me that I'm terrible at follow-through so why try to begin with (what a self-fulfilling prophesy...). It tells me that the things I write about are cutesy and predictable and that I fit really neatly into stereotypes. Basically, it tells me to STFU.

Do you have a Little Hater?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What the hell, Jezebel?

All day long this post at Jezebel (regarding Penelope Trunk's tweeting about her relief over having a miscarriage (while at work) as opposed to going through the three week waiting period to get an abortion in her state) has been driving me crazy.

It's this part in particular
And, unfortunately for everyone, now that this has gone national, the context and way in which Trunk framed this confirms the worst and most fantastical ideas of the anti-choice movement: that women (especially career women!) who have abortions all do so casually and callously on their lunch breaks, the way one might get a manicure.

Here's the tweet:
I'm in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there's a fucked-up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin.

What makes Lindsay think that this tweet indicates a casual or callous attitude towards abortion/miscarriage? Relief about a miscarriage or lack of regret about deciding to get an abortion DOES NOT indicate that a woman hasn't thought carefully about whether or not she wants an abortion. Neither does talking about it openly.

I'm tired of people telling Trunk to shut up about her miscarriage or if she's not going to shut then to at least grieve. I mean how much difference is there really between a pro-lifer telling Trunk that she should cry for her "dead baby" and Lindsay telling her that tweeting about this shows a callous and casual attitude about abortion.

My pro-choice movement isn't about advancing women's reproductive rights only if they have "appropriate" stories ("the life of the mother was at risk," "she really didn't want to have an abortion, but had to because the baby was sick," "she cried for days"). My pro-choice movement is about women having the right to choose when they're going to have children, how many children they're going to have, and how they're going to raise those children.

Please note: All pro-life comments will immediately result in a 15 dollar donation to a pro-choice organization, so please don't bother.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Arrived in CT around noon on Saturday. Sister et al were at the grocery store, but soon arrived. We all headed out on the boat for some swimming and sunning. Ate a late lunch and an even later dinner, BBQ ribs that Sis and her boyfriend made with a salad and read wine. Catching up before bed.

On Sunday we lazed around the house in the morning before heading back out on the water for tubing, swimming, and reading on the boat. I tried to teach H gin, but had forgotten everything except the most basic rules, so sis had to step in. H and I made Spinach-Feta-Pine Nut-Chicken pasta with a fry-up of zucchini, yellow squash, and corn on the side. Sis taught us a new drinking game involving dice called 3 men. Lots and lots of laughter.

Today H and I headed back to the grocery store to stalk up for the week. Now it's just the two of us as the gang had to return to their work/school weeks. We covered up the boat because it looked cloudy. Tonight we made breaded coconut shrimp and french fries for dinner. During the day I went on a five mile walk around the lake and caught up on podcasts. Tonight it's late tv and ice cream.

A good vacation has begun.

Friday, September 4, 2009

On anger

I used to think that I had to choose between not allowing myself to feel angry and blowing up. Now I see that there is another option: I can choose to feel angry, but control my temper. Feel it, but then let it go.

I am still working on understanding that disagreements do not have to make me angry at all. And that losing my temper when someone is trying to tell me something means, essentially, ending the discussion. If I choose to stay calm and hear what someone has to say, the worst thing that could happen is that I still disagree, but that I understand their position better.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Painting by Lucien Freud. From here.

Also, I'm reading Middlemarch and loving it.

Here and there a cygnate is reared uneasily among duckings in the brown pond, and never finds the living stream in fellowship with its own oary-footed kind. Here and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving heart-beats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances, instead of centering in some long-recognizable deed.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I am

I have been thinking about something lately. And it's probably the result of reading a lot of self-improvement blogs. Such as these, that L suggested to me.

What if I retired the phrase "I am" from my vocabulary? What I mean by that is the type of "I am" that lays claim to an idea of some aspect of myself as permanent and unchangeable.

Examples of some of the ones I've been thinking of ditching:

I am quick to anger.

I am not the prettiest girl here.

I am not good at trying new things.

I am too emotional.

Saying "I am" these things, allows me to see them as an integral part of *who I am*, things that others must accept about me if they want to be friends with me (and that I just have to accept about myself). But what if, instead, these are just ways I *can be* sometimes. Could I let go of them? Could I take responsibility for them as choices (maybe choices I am prone to, but still choices)?

I think it seems freeing to think this way.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sunday, July 12, 2009

follicle talk

I spent the weekend moving into my best friend's house across town. I've been gearing up for this for a long time, but the past two days were the final shove. H was a big help throughout it.

I love my new place, my cat loves my new place, and, for this blog at least, best of all, I now have internet at home.

Last week my sister sent me to this article from the NY Times, that discusses how body-shaving is now being marketed to men. I was particularly interested in two parts. Here's the first.

But now evidence from market research and academia indicates that more men are removing hair from their chests, armpits and groins. The phenomenon skews to mostly college-age guys or those in their 30s. Reasons run the gamut fromBecause My Girlfriend Likes It to a desire to flaunt a six-pack or be clean.
What interests me is the unexamined use of "clean." I think it's a common misconception that body hair is a sign of poor hygiene. Seems like these guys could use a refresher from KidsHealth. org, which explains:

The best way to keep clean is to bathe or shower every day using a mild soap and warm water. This will help wash away any bacteria that contribute to the smells. Wearing clean clothes, socks, and underwear each day can also help you to feel clean. If you sweat a lot, you might find that shirts, T-shirts, socks, and underwear made from cotton or other natural materials will help absorb sweat more effectively.

If you're concerned about the way your underarms smell, you can try using a deodorant or deodorant with antiperspirant. Deodorants get rid of the odor of sweat by covering it up, and antiperspirants actually stop or dry up perspiration.

The very next section in this grouping, Body Hair, explains, "You may want to start shaving some places where body hair grows, but whether you do is up to you. " Or, in other words, shaving is about personal preference with regard to appearance, not a hygiene issue.

Here's the other part of the original article that interested me:

Plenty of female commenters online dislike suitors with less body hair than they have. As Eleanorxjane wrote about a chest-shaving video on YouTube, “i want a real man, not one that’s trying to look like he’s 12 again!”

Having hair on one’s chest — as the expression suggests — signals maturity and boldness.
I think this section reveals how wide open body-hair choices are for men still. Shaving is presumably to make a man's body more "consumable" for sexual purposes. Not shaving on the other hand, indicates that a man has reached sexual maturity and has positive masculine characteristics. From this article, it seems like each option, shaving and not shaving, is socially acceptable for men (what you're doing just might not be the personal preference of your current sexual partner). Each way is just one way to be a man.

I don't think that is at all in effect for women. Women who don't shave their legs are often regarded as adopting masculine characteristics. And I wonder if the commentor above considers shaved women as representative of the fetishization of pre-adolescent girls.

These articles are often presented as evidence that modern men face just as much pressure as women in regard to beauty standards. Its true, I think, that there is increasing pressure on all of us to conform in appearance to a narrow standard. However, shaved or unshaved, a man's masculinity remains intact in our society's eyes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Again and again and again

H and I heard this song on the way back to Virginia from Connecticut last weekend and it's been in my head every since.


What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent then before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Friday, May 15, 2009

It's really weird that we still call him Czar

My sister and I recently had a conversation about three-strikes-your-out laws and a legal system bursting at its seams. In my opinion, one of the functions of three-strikes-your-out laws (and mandatory minimum sentencing) is to speed up the sentencing process in an attempt to unclog our courts. Sis (and H) convincingly argued that it's not appropriate to ease the burden on our court system by taking short-cuts with defendants' trials and sentencing. Both of them proposed throwing more money at our legal system, but frankly, I don't think that's likely as there are a lot of things that need a lot of money right now. One of the solutions my sister and I discussed is the possibility of legalizing or decriminalizing drugs as a way to deal with judicial and prison systems that are completely overwhelmed. It turns out that recently her law school's chapter of the ACLU had hosted Jake A Cole.

Cole is passionate in his belief that the drug war is steeped in racism, that it is needlessly destroying the lives of young people, and that it is corrupting our police. Cole's discussions give his audience an alternative perspective of the US war on drugs from the view of a veteran drug-warrior turned against the war.

Cole is part of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), which recently featured a letter to our new head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske. While the letter voices some concerns LEAP has with some Kerlikowske's statements, the Wall Street Journal had a story yesterday about his plan to "end the war on drugs." The article states,
The Obama administration is likely to deal with drugs as a matter of public health rather than criminal justice.
Already, the administration has called for an end to the disparity in how crimes involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine are dealt with. Critics of the law say it unfairly targeted African-American communities, where crack is more prevalent.
The article goes on to say,
The drug czar doesn't have the power to enforce any of these changes himself, but Mr. Kerlikowske plans to work with Congress and other agencies to alter current policies.
I think it will take some major political capital to convince members of Congress who are up for re-election and worried about being smeared as weak on crime to get behind some of these changes, but I also think we're getting closer. Something to keep an eye on.

Also, did you know that the ACLU has a blog?

And finally, check out Lock-Up from This American Life.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I would jump of the bridge if it was on fire (and everyone was doing it)

Via Feminist Law Professors I came across this article by Ian Ayers of Freaknomics fame.

In the article Ayers argues that perhaps we should educate teenagers that about 50% of them graduate virgins to combat the misguided notion (held by teenagers) that all of them are doing it.

The presumption behind this article is that remaining a virgin until post-high school graduation has some inherent value and that knowing this stat would decrease the number of teenagers who have sex pre-graduation. However, if Ayers is worried that teenagers are rushing to have (unsafe?) sex to join their peers, his own article refutes that concern (he states that the rate of teens who are actually having sex before graduating has remained the same for the past five years. As depictions of teen sex become more prevalent in our society, the number of teenagers having sex before graduation has remained the same).

Now onto the value of virginity. Perhaps the value in virginity consist in the fact that delaying sex until college means delaying exposure to the risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. However, a campaign that emphasizes "more of your peers are virgins than you think" sounds suspiciously like a spin off of "virginity is cool so sign this purity pledge" thing.

I think "virginity is a valid choice" has a place at the table in sex education, but in recent years marketing "virginity" to teenagers has proved to be ineffectual (and in cases where it has eclipsed comprehensive sex education, damaging), in part, I think, because it's built on the false premise that Ayers seems to buy into a bit. Ayers' reading of teenage sexuality assumes that the pressure to have sex comes from the outside, from believing that "everyone is doing it" and from seeing this reflected in pop culture. In reality, I think when thinking about sex education for teenagers we should begin from a place that acknowledges that some teenagers [1] want to have sex for the same reasons some adults do, as an expression of a biological drive, a desire for physical pleasure, and/or a need to express deep emotions towards someone. Telling these teenagers "you know, not everyone is doing this" isn't helpful. In fact, it's kind of condescending.

When you consider that teenage sexuality is often driven by the same impulses as adult sexuality (but perhaps hindered by teenager's less developed grasp of the consequences of and risks associated with their actions) it's easy to see why sex education messages that rely on conveying the "coolness" or even "normative-ness" of virginity fail. It doesn't matter if not as many people as you formerly thought were doing it are actually doing it, if your body, mind and heart are telling you that you do want to do it.

Our focus should be on providing comprehensive sex education and safe-sex, actively seeking consent, high-self esteem behavior models to teenagers (and the high-self esteem, seeing other people as human beings with agency behavior models should start well before teenage-hood).

[1] I say "some teenagers" and "some adults" here to acknowledge that not everyone identifies as having sexual drives.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Everyday is a things I like day

"It is because these characters depend to such a high degree on their own sense of integrity that for them, victory has nothing to do with happiness. It has more to do with a settling within oneself, a movement inward that makes them whole. Their reward is not happiness...What James's characters gain is self-respect."
- Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi

Painting is by Carole Marine and she has more for sale (follow the link).

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Georgia O'Keefe Summer Days 1936

Found this image in this blog.

Monday, April 6, 2009

This tornado loves you

Things I learned about myself this weekend: I can run ten miles in 90 minutes. I still love dogs, but prefer not to be licked. I kill plants. Dishwashers are amazing. I need very little (and a lot at the same time) to be happy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What I'm Saying

What I'm saying isn't exactly news
and to say it bluntly is no big deal:
once you decide to live, you have to lose.

But what if you could simply refuse
by claiming that life itself isn't real?
What I'm saying isn't exactly news----

the Buddhist think this world, hooked on adieus,
is just red dust. If that's true, why feel
that having to live you also have to lose?

Well, because we're bodies, bodies whose
mortal bruise is time's kiss and time's seal.
What I'm saying isn't exactly news.

The luckiest among us live in twos.
Yet love has tied them to a burning wheel
once they decide to live. They have to lose

because time's only tempo is the blues.
It's what we're born to, what our prayers conceal.
What I'm saying isn't exactly news----
once you decide to live, you have to lose.

- Gregory Orr, What I'm Saying

Monday, February 2, 2009

This is the water

I've been meaning to post a link to this every since throckmorton posted about it in the summer of 2007. This is a commence speech that David Foster Wallace gave in 2005.

I think about it a lot, but today, I'm thinking about this part:

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don't worry that I'm getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It's a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being "well-adjusted", which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.