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24 Jul 07:01

Swinging Modern Sounds #56: On Song-Sharking

by Rick Moody

Remember The American Song-Poem Anthology: Do You Know the Difference Between Big Wood and Brush? It was released by Bar/None records in 2003, and represented unprecedented visibility and cultural penetration in the history of the song-poem, the practice, in earlier decades, of setting lyrics, any lyrics, to music, for money. People collected the song-poem recordings (and made anthologies of these collections) because, in general, they amounted to an awful, shocking, or highly comical mismatch of lyrics with bland musical contrivance. It was not just that the lyrics were bad, it was that someone was tasked with spending their week creating charts, and hiring a band, and dummying up some hitherto existing musical idiom (disco, let’s say, or soul, or country) into which the lyrics might fall with some apparent ease. The song-poems are generally bad. No one would want to listen to them in conventional listening circumstances. (I remember a musician of note bringing in a racist song-poem to my Brooklyn Record Club meeting once upon a time, an anti-miscegenation song-poem, set to something that sounded like the Starlight Vocal Band. It was bad, creepy, horrifying, and imponderable in the fact that it had ever come to be, that some poor musician had felt he had to create this music, in order that he might put oleo on his table.)

But song-poems are also uniquely fascinating. Their particular badness is of the kind that record collectors, for example, love to attend to: the mixture of dread earnestness and camp, the mixture of mastery and inability, the collisions of historical eras, the inexplicability of certain cultural tendencies. Irwin Chusid, the WFMU deejay, and world-class collector of musical strangeness (of Wesley Willis, e.g., of the Langley Schools Music Project recordings), and author of Songs in the Key of Z, served as a key booster of the song poem in the nineties, and helped propel the Bar/None releases into view. And Chusid’s interest is the sign that some kind of Brechtian detachment from the product’s emotional field is at work in the phenomenon. In Brechtian fashion, you can find these songs fascinating historically and conceptually, and be highly amused in a hipster sort of way, without really liking them at all.

And yet: there is something in the song-poem contract between lyricist and vendor that bespeaks a different idea of what music is. In this song-poem modality, the music is made to order, and involves a collision of ideas about who the owner of the track is, and in what relation the maker of the music stands with respect to this owner. A song-poem recording is never, according to this view, made by inspiration, or because of the waves of music impressing themselves upon the creator, or because of the need to say something in melody and rhythm. The song-poem recording is made according to the dictates of the almighty dollar, and to the specifications of the lyricist. They call this song-sharking, occasionally, which I guess means it is next door over to tendering loans with unpayable interest rates.

Now, if the stream is the preeminent contractual relation between consumer and maker of music these days, in which the consumer has diminished role in the delivery of the release, and consumption of the music, the song-sharking model in a way is more genuine than the stream. Which is a circumstance that we probably did not expect to come to pass. In song sharking, the musician is custom-making the song according to the consumer’s wishes. As corporate capital arrays itself behind the stream, there will be, naturally, a lot of counter-reactions and counternarratives of what music is and could be. There will be explosions of the local, and relationships between music maker and consumer that bypass a corporate stranglehold on the medium. Live music is one such example of this music of contemporary exile, especially americansongpoemanthologylive music in small clubs that do not require Ticketmaster. Busking would be a sub-category of live music that is interruptive of the stream. The house concert is also a fine idea along these lines. Bartering for recordings would be a reasonable approach, as would a Patron.Net sort of model, in which musicians produce works by subscription from the fans. All of these models, in a world of globalized capital, are quaint and deeply necessary. They are not the route to worldwide pop domination, they are not white guys in a bus crisscrossing the nation with a semi behind them carrying the amps. They are not a nightly Vegas spectacular with seventy-two dancers and backup singers. And that is perhaps why they are interesting approaches. How would we codify the “interesting approach” exactly? I would codify it in this way: music is interesting in the present to the degree that it brings the audience closer to the musician and to the means of production, which should be as close to produced on the spot as possible.

This is exactly what I felt upon beholding a recent example of song-sharking along these very lines. Song-sharking conducted in a live setting. I learned about the project by press release (which features a great video), which should, from my point of view, count against it, but in this case I knew the mastermind, one Grey Gersten, as the particularly sensitive and able lead guitarist in Jolie Holland’s band on the albums Pint of Blood and The Living and the Dead. Gersten has also played with John Zorn and Kyp Malone, and, as such, he has been an admired hired hand on the experimental fringe of Brooklyn and Manhattan for five or ten years. Earlier this year, Grey Gersten created an EP by an imaginary band called Eternal Lips. This EP has almost nothing to do with what he was best known for. The Eternal Lips EP is a synthetic dance pop album of the sort of English variety, circa 1986. It sounds a bit like Depeche Mode in spots, or like The Cure, circa Pornography. There’s not an acoustic guitar to be found on the entire thing. Guitar played backwards or with e-bow is heavily processed on the computer, etc. It is fair to say that when I first heard this EP, I didn’t understand it exactly; or, I understood it in a way that limited its expressive range, and this was to ignore the imaginary band piece of it, the conceptual distance implied.

The Eternal Lips EP has nothing to do with song sharking, not exactly, but it is the starting point for an Eternal Lips “Custom Melodies” project, a related work, at least in terms of personnel. The press released I received was about this exactly. The Custom Melodies project worked in the following way: for four hours a night for something like ten days, Grey Gersten would labor musically, in twenty minute increments, for individual music consumers, at a particular site, on songs specially designed via a questionnaire. That is, you, the consumer, showed up at your appointed time, filled out the questionnaire, and then, while you stood there, interacting with Grey Gersten (or, perhaps, more exactly, interacting with the band called Eternal Lips), he made a song essentially to your specifications, to your exact size, to your essence. The price was $20.

The site of the piece is incredibly important to the effect of this project. There are, today, in America, probably many hundreds of street musicians who are song sharking, in Venice, CA, maybe, or Washington Square Park, willing to go E-A-E-A on their beat up acoustics for a few minutes, warbling a melody, for the price of $1 or a cigarette. Had Grey Gersten done that, he would not have managed a conceptual victory, which he did do. Grey chose an alley in Soho (or Soho-ish, slightly below Canal, not too far from where the Knitting Factory used to be), where there is a tiny collecting institution known as the Mmuseumm, which is a tiny storefront, suitable, perhaps for ice cream cones or falafel sandwiches, but converted into a tiny curated cabinet of wonders-style space. It reminded me, in terms of its idiosyncratic ideas of scale, of Reykjavik’s Phallological Museum, though it is much much smaller. Another example of similar thinking would be Maurizio Cattelan’s Wrong Gallery. Mmuseumm is open on weekends, and is in its third season, and it is on an alley (which, on the night I was there, had no traffic at all, except a dad and a little boy passing a soccer ball around and expostulating about the World Cup).

The Eternal Lips “Custom Melodies Project” installed itself into the Mmuseumm, with a shelf and a Plexi window that made it seem a lot like an ice cream stand or one of those old liquor stores in Hell’s Kitchen where they used to slide the Night Train out in a bag after you slid the grimy ten dollar bill in, and there was Grey Gersten, whose presentation and affect definitely has a bemused Mr. Science component. I’m getting ahead of myself. When first we arrived, and I say we because I’d brought my daughter along (we came straight from the Bang on a Can marathon in the Winter Garden, downtown, where we heard Meredith Monk, and some other stuff, all of it moving), we had to stop at the card table across the alley, whereupon a Custom Melody staff member checked us in and gave us the questionnaire to fill out. My daughter, who is five, was only too happy to fill in the questionnaire, especially the part where you had to draw hair on a faceless and stylized head.

The questionnaire was both relevant to the project, in that it asked if there was any kind of music you disliked (and because we had to put down something, my daughter and I agreed that for the day we did not like klezmer, zydeco, and country, though I like some of these things some of the time), and fanciful, in that it asked if you had any recurrent nightmares, and if you have ever tortured anyone in your lifetime. Agree or disagree with the following: Strict observance of the rules is likely to prevent a good outcome. Do you ever perform life-risking activities? For what reason did you last get goosebumps. You were, toward the close of the questionnaire, asked for an imaginary band name. The five-year-old chose this band name: The Jewel Fire. I don’t know where she got this name. And she also chose the name of our song, “No One Ever Spots Me.” I asked my daughter, while we were filling out the questionnaire, if this was to be a song about her own life, and she said: “The songs don’t always have to be about you.” Which is both true and somewhat sophisticated. Most of the time, during the questionnaire phase of the Custom Melodies Project, my daughter was eating butterscotch candies that she had cadged from the Custom Melodies staff member. She seemed excited, and bored, in equal measure. Across the alley, it was possible to overhear a bit of what was taking place with the customer (a young woman) ahead of us. There was some droney stuff, and then a nicely uninflected melody that she perhaps sang herself. Sounded a bit like Cocteau Twins and a bit like The Waitresses.

And then it was our turn. We approached the bemused Mr. Science character. Up close, in addition to the eccentric and somewhat pop collections of the Mmuseumm, there was a small wonderland of contemporary musical instruments. That is, Grey Gersten was in possession of one legitimate guitar, and one somewhat plastic looking guitar that had something in common with those petrochemical saxes that Ornette Coleman favors, a pocket piano, which is one of those analogues synths that all the kids dig these days (I have one myself! Love it!), an iPad, and a small digital recorder. Oh, I think there might have been a small xylophone, too, though I may be making that part up. Gersten lobbed a few softball questions at Hazel, who allowed as how she liked it loud and fast, to which Gersten observed he had just the right drumbeat (a drum machine), a sort of fast thing of the kind to which you would do the pony.

What emerged was a sort of instantaneous guitar song, part Pavement, part Sebadoh, part Monochrome Set, of a sunny, accessible sort. I was very impressed by the fact that the very first chord progression to come out of Gersten was the final chord progression, and it was followed by a solo, an off-the-cuff guitar solo, that was unique for its melodic aspect. That is, Gersten did not just phone it in; he fashioned a great solo. There was also some rather psychedelic organ played on the pocket piano, and some drum fills, eruptions of rhythm, on the iPad.

Then we came to the vocals. It is fair to say that my history as a singer takes place under carefully controlled circumstances. I have worked hard to be a singer, but I can’t sing on the spot without sounding something like a crooner from the twenties, or like Michael Stipe on an off day. Nevertheless, Gersten, working at top speed, asked me to sing a line based on my daughter’s uncomfortable memory of getting in the tub one day when it was too hot, and Hazel was supposed to sing along, and I was awful, and Hazel was so nervous and worried that she mumbled something and had then done all she was going to do. This was a not terribly comfortable vocal to listen back to, and Grey edited it down to the absolute minimum.

custommelodiesA couple more tweaks, and then we were done, and Grey played the finished version of the song. Hazel, unfortunately, was deeply disappointed that her voice wasn’t used on the final recording, as most five-year-olds would be. She expressed this disappointment vehemently. This turns out to be an important part of the song sharking contractual moment. Whose song was this? Were we the raw material for a Custom Melodies song? Or was Grey making a song to our custom specifications? The truth, in this case, was somewhere between, in which Grey, with a minimum of interaction, was basically improvising, and we, to some extent, were attempting to influence those improvisations. Both Grey Gersten and my daughter were a little shocked at Hazel’s disappointment, but from my point of view she demonstrated the strange limitations of this form. Which means, in the end, that this particular episode of song sharking, which was a performance of the form, not the real thing, was about the human. The human relationship to music is a passionate relationship, or at least it is in the kind of music I like. On the one hand, the consumer is free to dislike the product, or to feel outraged by it, or to feel that it is incredibly moving. What is boring is when music is forgettable, when it’s just a bunch of digital noises owned by large corporations, distributed by large corporations, over a distribution vehicle that soon, it seems, will be owned by large corporations, and all of these tracks are more or less the same. The same chords come around again, all played on computer, it seems, more or less, in the same rhythms, all expressing the same two sentiments, I want you, or Where did you go? Song sharking, if it interrupts this dwindling away of the human aspect of music, the outrage and the disappointment and the joy, is a good thing indeed, and our judgment of it, from some great height, in which the pinnacle of human accomplishment is the stream, is, well, pretty hypocritical. Grey Gersten has imagined a different distribution apparatus, a direct-to-consumer distribution technique, and he even made some money on it (he sold out ten nights of Custom Melodies). My excitement about the project is about the way it caused me to see and hear music anew, and the way it caused me to feel the human part of the musical engagement, the instant of creation.

We took a taxi back to Brooklyn from the Mmuseumm, and in the taxi, my daughter said, “I guess I didn’t sing loud enough, and it’s just because I am very nervous around rock stars.” I think she said this because it was so clear that Custom Melodies was a real star turn, in the starless firmament that is the historical present. Smart, original, strange, funny, and new.


The Rumpus: What would be the question you would most like to see in an interview with any prominent contemporary musician?

Grey Gersten: When music comes through you, and it feels beyond your control…where is it coming from? How does this inform your spiritual beliefs? How do we open ourselves up to allow as much to come through as possible?

Rumpus: Why Mmuseumm?

Gersten: There are various types of collections at Mmuseumm but I am always attracted to the mass produced objects that have been modified in a revealing way. This season there is a collection of inflatable pool toys from Saudi Arabia in their original packaging. Because they are sold in Saudi Arabi, the women on the pool toy’s packaging are covered with a black Sharpie marker. Bikini girls are obscured by hand-drawn amorphous black blobs—it’s very psychedelic!

We all have personal relationships with mass produced objects. We modify them so that they feel personal and make sense within our reality. Mass produced pop songs are apart of this phenomenon. We may be singing “I wish that I had Jessie’s girl” but we are thinking about someone in our lives. Custom Melodies offers people an opportunity to express themselves through their own custom song. Instead of modifying a mass produced cultural object (pop song) they get to create their own personal song. It made sense to put the Custom Melodies song factory amongst Mmuseumm’s collection, but hopefully it will occur in many places around the world.

Custom Melodies is not an attack or criticism of Pop Culture or Consumer Culture. Our only interest is to present another option for how people can experience, create and share music.

Rumpus: If you could come up with an imaginary band besides Eternal Lips, what would this second imaginary band be like?

Gersten: Eternal Lips is a very new project so I don’t feel confined by it in any way. The beauty of an imaginary band is it isn’t designed to represent a singular reality. There’s no scene that it grows out of, no genre it’s associated with, no singular identity that it embodies. It’s whatever you imagine it to be. And that’s endless, always changing.

If I created other imaginary bands, I’d want them to be truly anonymous. Uncredited. No one would know who/where/when it came from. I love mystery and with Internet culture and social media we’ve lost a lot mystery. I’d love to press 500 copies of a record and scatter them in random locations and never think about it again.

Rumpus: Why perform the songs live, instead of taking them by email and delivering them more remotely?

Gersten: Being able to embody different perspectives and personas is a fundamental aspect of songwriting. The songs generated by Custom Melodies are reflections of the people that participated in the project. I don’t think I could get a true sense of someone via email.

Often we aren’t aware of what is compelling about ourselves. At Custom Melodies, we designed a bureaucratic custom song form that each visitor fills out before they enter the Song Factory. The form is helpful, but meeting face to face is more revealing. Most of the songs are based on conversations I had with the visitor (prompted by information provided on the custom song form). As a musician and an artist, I’m interested in broadening the audience’s interaction with music and sound. I love records and live shows but there’s other ways for people to experience music and sound.

At Custom Melodies visitors become apart of the songwriting process. That’s a place most audiences haven’t been before. When a song is being born, it’s like having a lucid dream. Performing the song later, after that initial birth, is like trying to explain a wild dream you had to a stranger. The birth of song is a special moment and it only happens once.

Rumpus: What is the most unusual interaction that you’ve had on the project so far?

Gersten: Most visitors were incredibly open and a lot of unique work was generated. However, some people came to Custom Melodies with a very specific agenda. They completely disregarded every aspect of the experience/installation and just presented their demands (“Make a jingle for my business”). In those moments I felt like a burger boy at a fast food joint. I did not accommodate their demands.

Rumpus: For what reason have you most recently gotten goosebumps?

Gersten: There was a tribute to Ornette Coleman a few weeks ago in prospect park. Patti Smith read a poem about rain and it began raining. Four of Lou Reed’s guitars and amps howled feedback accompanied by Laurie Anderson, John Zorn, Bill Laswell, and Master Ren’s Tai Chi. Ornette Coleman appeared (unannounced) in a beautiful purple suit and he said “I want to feel alive while I’m alive.” It was an incredibly intimate and moving experience, lots of goosebumps.

Rumpus: What kinds of things do you read online? What do you particularly dislike reading about online? What are your reading habits generally?

Gersten: In general, I want to cut down on screen time. The glow can be deadening. Sometimes l read interviews on the internet with artists I admire like Neil Young, David Lynch, or Louis CK. If I’m traveling I read the New York Times on my phone and occasionally glance at bizarre tech articles in my Twitter feed about our inevitable entry into virtual reality. There’s a bunch of books I want to read, but lately it’s been hard to find time. The Master and Margarita is at the top of the list.

Rumpus: Do you believe that strict observance of rules is likely to prevent a good outcome?

Gersten: Yes, and no. It depends who is making the rules. Rules can be thought of as limitations, and I believe limitations are an important and useful part of creating. I often create and impose guidelines and limitations on my projects. At Custom Melodies, one of the rules is every song is only recorded once. There is no second take.

It’s also important to keep an open mind about whatever you are pursuing. Nothing about your process should be taken for granted. Question every aspect. Sometimes the most fundamental element needs to be discarded. Sometimes what seems like an irrational route is actually the most pragmatic solution.

Rumpus: How does this project relate to the more conventional recordings of Eternal Lips?

custommelodies2Gersten: I’ve worked mostly with experimental musicians and artists like John Zorn, Michael Hurley, and Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio. I avoided pop music for a long time because I thought it was all about consumerism but recently I realized it’s also about dreams and fantasy. Planet Pop felt very foreign to me so I made up an imaginary band to explore it. I created Eternal Lips to see what happens when an outsider plays with the language and fantasy of pop music.

I felt liberated by the idea of an imaginary band and I wanted to invite others to create their own. Not everyone is musically inclined so I created an interactive custom song factory. Eternal Lips is my fantasy of an imaginary band; Custom Melodies is an interactive Song Factory where your imaginary band is realized. During the 11-day installation, over 100 custom songs were created. The material is a reflection of the participants and that’s what makes it unique. When an outsider participates in a foreign culture something about that culture is revealed.

Rumpus: Are their kinds of interviews that you particularly dislike?

Gersten: There are good interviewers and bad interviewers. It is always the interviewee’s responsibility to make the conversation compelling. As artists we should be able to create magic under any circumstances.

I prefer unedited video, radio, or written interviews because then your words are unaltered. In articles/features, snippets of your voice get through but someone else is re-contextualizing them. It’s tough not to feel misrepresented but it’s foolish to expect the press to accurately articulate your voice. The only place your voice isn’t compromised is in your work. That’s where I invest my energy.

Rumpus: Will there be a “Custom Melodies” release of compendium of the best things produced during this project? How are you documenting it?

Gersten: The songs generated at the Custom Melodies song factory will be collectively released by New Mirage records on an interactive online database. Each of the songs will be credited to the participant’s imaginary band (not Eternal Lips). On the custom song form participants wrote about their dreams, their best advice, drew cover art…all of this will be included on the interactive online database. You won’t just be exploring songs, you’ll be exploring people. On the custom song form, we asked lots of multiple choice questions. The answers will be used to generate different mixes or playlists. For instance you can create a playlist of just people that answered “Yes” to “Have you ever been possessed?” Or create a playlist of people who said “Yes” to “Do you believe that strict observance of rules is likely to prevent a good outcome?”

I’m hoping to curate artists and musicians to set up Custom Melodies in other countries. Eventually, the interactive online database could grow into a Song Map. A constellation of stories, told through song.

Later, we may press vinyl of the best of Custom Melodies, but the interactive online database creates a better context for the work.

Rumpus: What other question ought I ask you?

Gersten: Do you have plans to produce Mingering Mike’s LP?

Related Posts:

23 Jul 09:31

The Minister for Global Porn.

by Anna Raccoon

Post image for The Minister for Global Porn.

The latest Criminal Justice bill is a hotch potch of planning law, provisions for educating 15 year old girls in a ‘secure environment’ incarcerated with several hundred young men, and a bid for world domination in the Porn market…..the earlier clauses are possibly so sleep inducing that you didn’t notice the plan to reduce the national debt by ‘licensing the global porn market’.

Baroness Thornton, known as Glenys Thornton, is a Labour member of the House of Lords and is married to John Carr - one of the most outspoken advocates of limiting internet porn to ‘protect the children’. 

The Crown Prosecution Service has been reluctant to authorise actions against hard core porn web sites under the Obscene Publication Act. They say juries do not want to convict. That being so, the answer is obvious. Remove the need to bring obscenity charges. Create a new regulatory offence. Web site owners would be required to show they had a robust age verification mechanism in place. Not having one would be a crime. This is not so very different from what we already do with online gambling web sites.

Because most of the owners of the porn sites in question reside overseas the penalties for the proposed new offence would have to be sufficiently severe to allow extradition treaties to be invoked to bring people to the UK to face trial in our courts.

Such a new law could also make clear that companies providing any sort of service in connection with the provision of an online hard core pornography web site e.g. a bank or credit card company, an advertising agency, a web hosting company or domain name supplier for that matter, would need to satisfy itself that the site was complying with the age verification law otherwise they too would be committing an offence.

Lo and behold – we have his wife asking that the government:

Insert the following new Clause—

“Licensing of foreign pornographic services”

(1)     The provider of a foreign pornographic service is guilty of an offence if the service is not a service licensed by the appropriate licensing authority.

(2)     An application for a licence to provide a foreign pornographic service—

(a)   must be made in such a manner; and

(b)   must contain such information about the applicant, his business and the service he proposes to provide, as the appropriate licensing authority may determine.

(3)     The appropriate licensing authority may require an application for a licence to provide a foreign pornographic service to be accompanied by a fee if such fee is payable in accordance with a tariff approved by the Secretary of State.

(4)     The Secretary of State may for the purposes of subsection (3) approve a tariff providing for different fees for different classes of foreign pornographic service and for different circumstances.

It could almost have been written by John Carr himself, d’you not think?

It requires that in order to avoid a ‘six month prison sentence’, our grubby foreign porn provider (foreign being defined as outside the European Union!) must not only pay the Secretary of State the appropriate fee, but must ensure that his material cannot be viewed by those under the age of 18 within the United Kingdom – otherwise the long arm of the ‘Minister of Global Porn’ will reach out to Uzbekistan or Shanghai province or wherever he resides and extradite him to the UK…where he will face the full force of our new victim centred justice system. Should be fun to watch.

Lord Beecham, another Labour peer, who has yet to ‘find the right woman to marry’ supports this amendment – and another intriguing one.

“Disregarding certain convictions for buggery etc: making an application on
behalf of another person”

(1)     In section 92 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (power of Secretary of  State to disregard convictions or cautions), after subsection (1) insert—

“(1A)    A person may make an application under subsection (1) on behalf of another person if that other person is deceased.”

Whilst those who are falsely accused of a sexual offence against a woman will continue to find that accusation, baseless as it may be, on the Police National Computer and thus showing up on any enhanced criminal record checks, Lord Beecham wants a blanket removal of the names of those actually ‘convicted under homophobic laws in the past’ for buggery against the under 21s removed from the record of the estimated 59,000 who are now dead. Those convictions have already been removed from the record of 16,000 men who are still alive.

Any suggestions for who should be the Minister for Porn and collect those fees? Will Oscar Wilde get a post-humour pardon?

23 Jul 15:24

Waking to Wet

by syrbal-labrys

honeyhouseThe thunder woke me first, it was still dark outside.  I listened attentively, but there was no sound of rain and no flash of lightning that I could see.  But an hour later, a soft sound woke me again — no thunder, but the whisper of gentle rain on dry leaves.  I rose and went to a window and could smell the fine rain I couldn’t see. I could hear it’s patter on the Honey House porch across the Labyrinth.

I laid back upon my bed, thinking at the clouds, “Go East, go East — to quench the fires of Eastern Washington.”  And of course, if I wanted to wish away our much needed rain, I could have wished it South to parched California — or North to Canada where the wildfires are so massive the smoke will increase global climate change.

Soon, with the heat and the fires and little rain, we will all need One Drop more won’t we?

Tagged: ecology, rain, water, wildfires
23 Jul 05:01

Violence is Worse Than Sex. But Fictional Violence Is Easier to Publish Than Fictional Sex.

by A. Vivian Vane

Every time I try to publish something kinky and run up against one bookseller or another’s unwritten rules of acceptability (a fairly regular occurrence), it makes me sit back and think about what I could have published instead.

noblewomanFor example, A Noblewoman’s Fall as it’s currently written isn’t eligible for most markets because it involves romantic and sexual relations between a brother/sister pairing. (It manages to squeak into other markets via “pseudoincest” — a cheesy workaround wherein “related” characters aren’t technically blood relatives, usually thanks to adoption or some similar mechanic.)

Now, had I wanted to write a mystery about that same brother strangling his sister, that would have been fine. I could potentially have even billed it as a “cozy mystery” if the descriptions weren’t too graphic.

Alternatively, I could have labeled it “gritty” and had the brother rape the sister, but off-screen and before the action of the book begins, to be revealed only in an autopsy scene with a suitably grim-faced coroner.

Or I could have written about a brother and sister abducted by a tyrannical government and forced to fight each other to the death in a high-tech arena, and it would be billed as YA. Yes, for “young adult.” Emphasis on the “adult” rather than the “young,” amirite?

Any of those would have been fine. More than fine — they would have been all-audiences fine, which A Noblewoman’s Fall wouldn’t be even if I’d cut the incestuous overtone completely. Just your basic ol’ bodice-ripper qualifies for adult-content filtering, keeping it off most search results, before you even start getting into fetishized content.

A butter knife in the eye is literally more socially acceptable to read about than a penis in a vagina. Pause and roll that thought around in your mind for a minute.

It is a strange world where consenting sexual relationships — even odd ones — are considered more taboo than violent, non-consensual ones. We don’t blink at murder, while desperately walling off anything but the most conventional romantic and sexual relationships. Even depictions of rape get a pass as long as they’re in there to provide “character depth,” rather than titillation. (And by “character depth” we of course mean making heroines sad and villains extra-double-plus mustache twirly evil.)

“Kill the bad guys, kill ‘em dead. But don’t kiss the wrong person!” That’s the lesson behind what can be published freely and what has to dance delicately around a maze of invisible, unspoken lines in the sand.

I suppose I should be clear in closing here that I don’t think we should be banning violent fiction, or filtering it more aggressively. But I do think that any argument in favor of censoring erotic content is an argument that can logically be extended to violent content as well, and if we’re not going to do that…well…I’ve got books I’d like to sell, here.

The post Violence is Worse Than Sex. But Fictional Violence Is Easier to Publish Than Fictional Sex. appeared first on One Handed Writers.

23 Jul 16:05

They Criticize What They Can’t Understand

by Scott Lemieux

To the extent that there’s an argument against reading the ACA to include subsidies on the federal exchanges, it has to be that while Congress intended the subsidies to be available on both, reading the literal language of an isolated provision it says that the subsidies are only available on state exchanges, so tough luck.  This is, to be clear, a terrible argument, but it’s the best one available.  To my amazement, as I first saw on Twitter yesterday, some conservatives are arguing that Congress actually intended for the federal exchanges not to include subsidies.  For example, Ramesh Ponnuru:

Supporters of Obamacare have been lamenting that the law shouldn’t be crippled by a mere “drafting error.” But it’s not at all clear that restricting tax credits to state-established exchanges was a drafting error. If Obamacare had proven more popular, or resistance to it weaker, then most states would have established exchanges. And if the law were put in place as written — with the restriction on tax credits — then the few holdouts would be under pressure to establish exchanges to get credits for their residents. Other health-care legislation before Congress at the same time as Obamacare had the same restriction.

It’s wrong, then, to say that Congress obviously didn’t intend to include this restriction.

This argument is…amazing.  It may be true that many members of Congress were too optimistic about states creating their own exchanges.  But we also know that Congress anticipated that some states would not create their own exchanges…because the statute gave the federal government the power to create exchanges when states wouldn’t.  Ponnuru’s reading of the statute can’t explain why they bothered to do this at all.  The actually existing Congress assumed that some states would not participate but wanted the exchanges available in all 50 states.  So Ponnuru’s explanation is plainly wrong, and we’re left with an implicit assumption that Congress established the power to have the federal government to create exchanges but wanted them not to work, which is absurd.

In addition, we know that Congress anticipated significant state resistance because of the way it structured the Medicaid expansion.  If Congress thought that all but a few states would establish exchanges with little direct incentive to do so, then surely the huge gobs of federal money that comes with accepting the Medicaid expansion would be more than enough for states to buy in.  But Congress didn’t think that, and until the statute was ineptly re-written by John Roberts all existing Medicaid money was contingent on accepting the expansion.  Ponnuru’s explanation cannot account for this either.

But there’s a more fundamental problem with the arguments made by the majority of the D.C. Circuit panel and the Republicans cheering them on.  The ACA was not written by Republicans — it was written by public officials who wanted to substantially increase access to medical care.  The central function of the subsidies wasn’t to create incentives for state governments; it was to ensure that the non-affluent uninsured who didn’t qualify for Medicaid could purchase insurance on the exchanges.  To not provide subsidies on the federal exchanges would defeat the very purpose for which they were constructed.  If you understand the ACA from the standpoint of those who passed it, this couldn’t be more obvious.  Conservatives trying to evaluate the goals of the ACA are like elephants trying to play a toy piano.

And, needless to say, this is why as a first approximation zero supporters of the ACA either inside or outside Congress are persuaded by this latest ad hoc attack on the law.  In addition to the other ways in which it’s silly it’s premised on not comprehending what the ACA was trying to accomplish.

23 Jul 18:09

Unpacking the Medicated Motherhood Mystique

by Christen Clifford
Marni Kotak_Mad Meds_7

Marni Kotak starting her 6-week durational performance “Mad Meds” on Friday July 18, 2014 (all images © Marni Kotak, 2014; courtesy of the artist and Microscope Gallery)

CHICAGO — On February 13, I found myself in the back seat of a bus in Chicago with the artist Marni Kotak. We felt comfortable in the back of the bus. We are those kinds of women. We had met a few times in Brooklyn, I was a fan of her work, but we were in Chicago because we were each invited to present our work on motherhood and art at the Feminist Art Project’s day of panels at the College Art Association conference. After a few glasses of wine at Woman Made Gallery, I broke out my microphone and recorded our conversation about depression, art and her upcoming show, Mad Meds, that opened last Friday at Microscope Gallery in Bushwick.

*   *   *

Marni Kotak: It’s such a fucking taboo.

Christen Clifford: Yes, it is such a fucking taboo.

MK: I think it’s something that really scares people. I had a bad experience with postpartum depression —

CC: Me too …

MK: It kind of grew into having other issues that I’ve been dealing with and I don’t want to be on medication anymore. I’m on medication. And so I want to come off.

Marni Kotak_Mad Meds_3

Marni Kotak, “Waiting For Wisdom” (2014), two custom upholstered and painted hospital waiting room chairs, gold-leafed end table with fresh flowers, gold bookshelf with relevant literature, custom photo-printed rug, iridescent gold-painted walls, 5 x 7 ft. (installation view)

CC: What are you on? I’m on Lexapro.

MK: Oh, I was on Lexapro for a while. Now I am on Wellbutrin, I’m on Klonopin, and I’m on Abilify.

CC: Wow, that’s a lot.

MK: It’s a low dose of Klonopin and Abilify; it’s supposed to even me out if I get too manic from the antidepressant. But then it’s like, Okay, maybe I shouldn’t be taking any of this stuff. I don’t really know if it’s helping me.

So I’ve been researching this radical mental health organization called The Icarus Project based in New York City, and they advocate for mental health awareness and developing ways for people with mental illness or people who are just, basically, different, who have “mad gifts” as they say, to be more accepted in society.

Instead of like, “Okay we can just drug everybody,” they put out a pamphlet for helping people to safely come off of psychiatric drugs. I read this book Your Drug May Be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications by Peter R Breggin, M.D. and David Cohen, Ph.D and there are practitioners who will help people do this. I want to do this.

A few months after having Ajax, I had crazy, intense hormonal mood swings and I was hospitalized for a few days. It’s hard to talk about all this.

Part of this project is that I want to get other women who have had other experiences with mental health issues to share their stories. So I was going to give a series of questions and people could shoot themselves with their webcams on their computer so it was very raw and I would edit the footage together as a video installation, which would be part of my show. (Full disclosure: I participated in this part of the show in June 2014. —CC)

Because I just feel like the world needs to hear these stories. And people need to be able to tell them and it needs to be safe.

I had severe post postpartum depression; it was triggered for me because I had to go back to work. I did not want to. I just wanted to be with Ajax, but I was the breadwinner of my family, and I felt like, “Okay, I just have to do this. I have to suck it up.”

But the stress of having to go back to work triggered this mania in me. I was at work and I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t – (laughs) So I went home and then it started progressing and my husband called a psychotherapist and she said “You know, you should go to a hospital and we will get you some medication.” Basically the idea was that we were going to go there and get me medication and leave. I got there and I started getting all paranoid, and I didn’t trust the process and I thought, oh maybe this is not good, so then they ended up keeping me there. They made me basically… do you know anyone who has been to a psych ward or anything like that?

CC: I do.

MK: Yeah, so you know. It’s like you’re going to jail. You have to give them all of your stuff in a brown paper bag, take off all your clothes, put on the hospital outfit. So it’s really weird. And they put me in this room, I was at Beth Israel, and I –

Marni Kotak_Mad Meds_4

Marni Kotak, “Waiting For Wisdom” (2014) (detail)

CC: Were you still nursing at the time?

MK: Yes. And that fucked up that really bad —

CC: Of course!

MK: And that was really hard for me. They were supposed to help me pump, they didn’t at all. They totally neglected it. I would have to keep going up to them and reminding them I needed to pump. Because they wouldn’t let me have the pump in the room because, like I could strangle myself with it or something. The first room they put me in was a cold, dark room in a basement- it was a white room, it was dark… and (laughs)

CC: Gosh.

MK: It was just awful! Right? This is the way our society treats people who have mental health issues. I mean can you imagine?

CC: That does not sound like the fantasy that I have, of like … Checking myself in — (laughs) like I have fantasies of checking myself in, it doesn’t sound like that.

MK: Yeah, you need a lot of money to go to like, one of those fancy rehab centers or something…

CC: (laughs)

MK: And this is not even the worst place! This was actually a decent place but that environment made me feel so much worse. You are supposed to lie still alone in a dark room, not exercise, not be with family and friends. I was freaking out because I couldn’t be with my baby and when Jason came to visit me at the hospital I had milk stains like all over. Okay we are supposed to take people and we are supposed to remove the outside distractions so that somehow they can get better? I think that’s the philosophy? Right? You’re in a white room, there’s nothing else there. And I even said something about it to someone “This is just such a stifling environment” and they said “Well that’s the point of it.” … but this does not make me feel better (laughs) it makes me feel worse!

Marni Kotak_Mad Meds_2

Marni Kotak, “All The Meds I Took” (2014), ornate mirrored glass and wood medicine cabinet, custom-printed prescription vials (all of the meds taken by the artist since her stay at Beth Israel Hospital in February 2012), 15 x 24 x 4”

CC: I feel like what I would have wanted for you is like to put you in some big fancy apartment with your baby and your husband and like a live-in psychotherapist and a live-in nurse … an apartment that had a hot tub and your friends would come and talk to you and you could sleep all the time … Just that you would have a ton of loving support instead of that antiseptic experience.

When I was really depressed no one knew what to do; people stopped asking me how I was. Because I would just start crying and, I mean, no one wants to be around that. And I kind of understand that. The repulsion of it.

It started when my daughter weaned, I felt the hormonal shift- I definitely had postpartum depression. I knew I really needed help one evening I was driving on the LIE and I just thought, “Oh, I’m just going to drive right into the opposite lane of traffic, that would make everything better.” And the next day and the days after that I felt just soooo bad. And I remember thinking, “Okay, I think I might actually need medication now.”

I had been in therapy throughout that time, but the Lexapro helped take the edge off. It did. It’s not an end all, be all, by any means.

There’s still so much more to explore. But you’re doing it with your work or I’m doing it with my work. Martha Wilson talked about all performance art being therapy.

MK: Oh yeah, I agree. Yeah I think there is a use for medication as a temporary basis. But this idea that people should just go on it, like, “Oh if you have depression or you have bipolar or whatever, you have schizophrenia, you need to be on this medication forever” is like, crazy to me.

I thought about the economics of the situation and I thought about how if I had been wealthy and I didn’t have to go back to work, or if my husband had been wealthy or something then I don’t think that would have happened to me.

CC: It’s capitalism!

MK: It’s capitalism.

CC: I feel like that is kind of why I want to go off of them.

MK: We all need to have support to get off meds if we want to.

Marni Kotak_Mad Meds_1

Marni Kotak, “A Sanctuary To My Madness” (2014), gold-leafed hospital bed, gold-leafed hospital side-table, gold-leafed hospital lamp, wall-mounted video “Where I Feel Peaceful”, ornate velvet robe, gold satin sheets, two custom-photo woven pillows, custom-photo woven blanket, iridescent gold-painted walls, panoramic 36” x 152” wall canvas (installation view)

Mad Meds continues at Microscope Gallery (4 Charles Place, Bushwick, Brooklyn) through August 25.

23 Jul 18:30

Spike Lee Draws Out the Parallels Between Art and Life (and Death)

by Jillian Steinhauer
Scenes from Spike Lee's mashup (GIF by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

Scenes from Spike Lee’s mashup (GIF by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

Does art imitate life, or is it the other way around? In Spike Lee’s legendary 1989 film Do the Right Thing, one of the lead characters, Radio Raheem, suffocates to death when a cop places him in a chokehold. It’s a vivid, chilling scene — and it played out in real life this week when NYPD officers killed a 43-year-old man named Eric Garner, who was asthmatic, by placing him in a chokehold.

The NYPD actually banned chokeholds in 1994, after a cop killed a man named Anthony Baez, 29 at the time and also asthmatic, by putting him in one. It wasn’t the first time that had happened; in 1983, graffiti artist Michael Stewart died in the same way. Stewart’s real-life death was the impetus for Radio Raheem’s fictional one, which now eerily resonates once again in real life with the killing of Garner.

The difference this time is that today we all have cell phone cameras, which allowed a bystander to capture Garner’s killling on video; it is a horrible, extremely fraught thing to watch. In response, Spike Lee has taken this footage and spliced it with clips of Radio Raheem’s death from Do the Right Thing. The resulting video isn’t the most artful, but it is powerful.

On the surface, despite the shared circumstance, the two scenes seem quite different: in the film, Radio’s death happens in the midst of a riot, with people screaming and fighting all around; in Staten Island, Eric Garner was killed on a sidewalk so quiet and empty you can hear him plead for his life (“I can’t breathe”). Yet both show the terrifying ease of committing police brutality, and manslaughter, in plain sight. The only real distinction is that one is fiction, while the other only feels like it.

h/t Salon

23 Jul 18:38


by syrbal-labrys

Rain, a voice in the desert of July,
Wet, singing with bird arias electric,
In the rain, birds in puddles ecstatic,
Flowers still lifting sodden faces,
People shivering with drops down necks!

But go, oh go…thanks for the drink,
Go, oh go East over the mountains,
Drench the fires of July ranging,
Quench the thirst for other than smoke,
Give my share to fire parched East.

Tagged: rain, summer, water, wildfires
23 Jul 19:00

The Eager

by Jen Palmares Meadows

We were then young girls and our want was written on our skins. Between our legs and along our necks and wrists, our skin craved friction and more friction. We kissed calluses into the backs of our hands, murmuring comfort at the enflamed flesh, but still, our skin would not be satisfied. In the dark, we rubbed pillows against stinging nipples and curled knee to chin, hoping to keep the skin from flying from our bodies. Stay with me, we said. In the mornings, we woke to puddles of wet sugar in our beds and wrung moisture from our underwear.


We didn’t know then that the skin was unraveling already. By the time we realized, it hung loose and ethereal, trailing after us as a veil. Afraid our nails might tear the delicate tissue far worse, we pulled it back on as best we could, hiking it up our legs and over our torsos, clamping it beneath our armpits. Attempts to secure it with barrettes and ribbon failed. The skin would not come back together; it would not be mended. We covered new flesh, hiding steaming breast and sinew, though little wisps of want kept escaping from beneath the hems of our skirts. We could not stop it. On Sundays, we kept the moans behind our teeth and our tongues tasted bread. On our knees, we wondered how to accept His flesh, if not our own.


eagerillu2To our parents, we became like voracious animals, eager prey to Buntis, that fiendish possessor of young girls. Buntis takes them, our parents said, these girls. These eager girls. Taken and their legs parted, their bellies palpated. Paraded through streets, intricate letter B’s woven onto their chests. We would know the fallen by their linea nigra, a line that could be traced from their pelvises to their breasts, evidence of the shame Buntis brought them. And when it was time, our parents said, Buntis would unzip these would-be-monsters from the inside out. We accepted their stories without question, afraid inquiry might draw attention to what we could no longer hide—our skin was unzipping itself.


But even the fear of Buntis could not keep our want silent. We whispered behind closed doors and in our inventiveness repurposed everyday objects into talismans: douches, plastic wrap, party balloons, Coke bottles for shaking into makeshift spermicide. And inevitably, rollercoasters to churn our wombs, herbs to coax cramps from our sides. And then there were always rocks to sit on. Stairs to fall down. Hangers to swing from. On the nights we are at our most monstrous, we play at rape, the act we thought took choice and blame from us. We sit cross-legged on the floor taking turns kissing ruled paper, leaving signatures of our want on the lines, openmouthed kisses in gloss and matte lipsticks that yawn like empty pink circles just waiting to be filled. “I’m afraid I might like it,” she says between kisses. Her skin is almost entirely off now. She doesn’t bother hiding. “I’m afraid I would need to pretend to be scared.” And maybe we would. Like it. Being held down and filled. The friction sawing us apart.


I sit on the lid of the toilet listening to her bathe. The lights are off at her request, and like the thin shower curtain separating us, the darkness hides nothing. “Did you say no?” My tentative question lingers in the warm air when her light splashing stops. “Did I no him?” Her voice is soft, yet easy to hear in the echoing confines of our small confessional. eagerillu3“I knew him. If that’s what you mean. Or thought I did.” She lifts herself from the tub and pulling on her robe, hesitates, then sits back in the water. Taps on again, steam rises in great whorls away from her, the fabric of her robe clinging and tangling, almost translucent against her body. We always assumed our eagerness would be yes enough, and because we are wrong, any act of contrition on our part seems impossible. We should have held onto our skins more tightly. Should have stitched ourselves together with needle and thread. Instead, we wonder what was ever such the hurry.


Rumpus original art by Erech Overaker.

Related Posts:

23 Jul 21:06

U.S. Patent App. No. 20140159444: Airline Passenger Torture Device

by Kevin

The application calls it "Seating Device Comprising a Forward-Foldable Backrest," but I like my name better.


The inventor describes the alleged motivation thusly (my annotations below):

[T]o increase the number of cabin seats [and thus profit], the space allotted to each passenger must be reduced.

However, this reduced comfort remains tolerable for the passengers [1] in as much [sic] as the flight lasts only one or a few hours. [2]

According to a first solution … , it is possible to reduce the seating width allotted to each passenger in order to place an additional seat in the width of the cabin.

This first solution has already been pursued, and it is now no longer possible to further reduce the seating width, particularly in economy class. [3]

According to a second solution … , it is possible to reduce the distance available between two seats, that is to say the distance needed for the legs of the passenger.

This second solution has also been pursued hitherto, and it is difficult to continue to further reduce this distance between the seats because of the increase in the average size of the passengers. [4]

According to a third solution …, the design of the seats has to be optimized so that they present the smallest possible bulk. 

[1] The passengers themselves might feel differently about this. Did you ask any?

[2] The difference between one and "a few" hours on a bicycle seat can be pretty dramatic, my friend. And do your lawyers know you don't think the difference between one and "a few" hours is significant?

[3] Translation: Americans are getting wider, not narrower.

[4] Same as above, but thanks for suggesting that the main problem is that our legs are getting longer. You're very kind.

23 Jul 22:08

Daddy Spank

by driftglass
This by Chris Hayes is making the rounds. (h/t Crooks and Liars):
“Let me take you behind the curtain of cable news business for a moment,” Hayes told his viewers. “If you appear on a cable news network, you trash that network and one of its hosts by name, on any issue — Gaza, infrastructure spending, sports coverage, funny internet cat videos — the folks at the network will not take kindly to it.”
It should not come as a surprise to learn that this is how the sausage gets made: anyone with a lick of deductive sense sussed this out long, long ago.

No, what intrigues me are how the exceptions to Mr. Hayes'  Golden Rule of Cable Teevee play themselves out.

For example, if you are Rula Jebreal and you talk a little smack about MSNBC, once, then MSNBC cancels your contract and disinvites you.
Jebreal is the author of Miral, a memoir about her coming of age in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Her former partner, Jewish-American filmmaker and artist Julian Schnabel, adapted the book into full length film. A widely published journalist and former news presenter in Italy, Jebreal was a vocal supporter of the now-extinct peace process and a harsh critic of Islamist groups including Hamas. Her termination leaves NBC without any Palestinian contributors.
According to the NBC producer, MSNBC show teams were livid that they had been forced by management to cancel Jebreal as punishment for her act of dissent...
That's the rule.  And rules are rules.

OK, but then what rule applies to Glenn Greenwald?

Mr. Greenwald, as you might recall, has spent the last year alternating between smiling his way through softball, "Golly, Glenn, tell us more about your intrepid adventure!" interviews on MSNBC...

...and using seemingly every media platform to which he has access -- cable (including MSNBC), print, blogs, Twitter -- to denounce MSNBC over and over again as a vipers nest of hacks, drooling Obots and  jackbooted servants of fascism.
@LilianaSegura Lean Forward: Until You're in the Kneeling Position.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) September 27, 2013
So, Chris, explain to me please what rule applies

to your friend Glenn?

And while you're explaining to us rubes how Mommy and Daddy make grownup decision behind the cable teevee curtain, maybe you can also clarify which rule applies to Joe Scarborough, who Rula Jebreal herself noted devotes a slice of the three hours a day which MSNBC wildly overpays him to squat on to trashing the rest of the network as Commie Symp pointy-headed Libruls.
In fact, MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough has publicly attacked fellow MSNBC hosts and slammed the network for its support for the Democratic Party.

“I did not think that i was stepping in a hornet’s nest,” Jebreal told me. “I saw Joe Scarborough criticizing the network. I thought we were liberal enough to stand self criticism.”
So, Chris, to quote Lucius Fox:
Mister Wayne, if you don't want to tell me exactly what you're doing, when I'm asked, I don't have to lie.  But don't think of me as an idiot.
23 Jul 01:52

Dystopia Arriving

by syrbal-labrys

wethepeople_editAnyone reading ever watch “Running Man” — that “Ah-nold” movie about a society that lied to the populace and doctored video of starving people, portraying them as wild, dangerous armed mobs?  How criminals being pursued to death in the interests of ‘justice’ made it a thrilling movie, eh?  How long, in a country that now openly talks about televised executions?

Our media must not be quite so talented at doctoring yet, so they ignore the news that in Detroit masses of people are protesting having no water.  And they being dispersed using a military weapon that utilizes sound to drive people away.  You know, like those used to disperse Somalian pirates!  Please sign a petition to help people have water in America — or get ready for third world standards coming to a place near you soon, when YOUR water supply is privatized and you can’t afford it.

And I have long been a donor to the Remote Area Medical Foundation.  Stories like the link ahead are now why I continue to skimp on things that would gratifying to have in my life — because I hope doing so means some other American will have teeth to eat with, among other things.  I was shocked, a few years into donating, to learn that “remote” now means a lot of places right here in America, land of the free (to do without) and home of the brave open carry idiots.

Filed under: Media Morons, Politics, WTUnholyF? Tagged: health care, human-rights, water
23 Jul 02:14


by Erik Loomis

I know I am supposed to be all doom and gloom all the time. But that’s only true 99% of the time. Sometimes there are victories. Such as the concession workers for the San Francisco Giants who just ratified their first contract with 98% of the members voting yes.

Instead, it took place in the stands where 800 seasonal concession workers organized by UNITE HERE Local 2 just ratified by 98% a contract with Centerplate, the subcontracted concessionaire at Giants Park and one of the largest hospitality companies in North America.

The agreement provides the best wages and benefits in the country for their type of work.

The terms included an immediate raise of $1.40 an hour with some back pay, strong job security protections, dental insurance and fully paid family medical coverage without co-pays through the contract’s 2019 expiration date.

The agreement will also fund a big improvement in pension benefits and will tie future health care and wage increases to San Francisco’s big hotels – so when Local 2 hotel workers get wage and benefit increases, Centerplate will match them at Giants stadium.

This convergence of interests is not accidental.

Local 2 members regularly discuss the importance of solidarity. Membership unity across job classifications and work sites strengthens the union and, as results indicate, increases its bargaining leverage considerably.

Tying their salaries with those of the hotel workers in a strong local is a big deal.

23 Jul 07:01

We Used to Be So Close

by Yumi Sakugawa
23 Jul 01:04

Archeologists Find Possible Ancient Cat Costume in Peru

by Laura C. Mallonee
(photo by Johnny Aurazo)

An archeological researcher examines artifacts recently found in Peru at Huaca de la Luna. (photo by Johnny Aurazo)

Archeologists in Peru have discovered the 1,500-year-old tomb of a Moche nobleman, which they say could shed further light on the pre-Inca civilization. Along with some things you might expect to find in an archeological dig — human remains, a copper scepter, gold earrings, brass instruments, and a mask — was a curious pair of metal feline paws with sharp claws.

Cerro Blanco and Huaca de la Luna (via Wikimedia Commons)

Cerro Blanco and Huaca de la Luna (via Wikimedia Commons)

Researchers told the newspaper El Comercio that these might have been part of an animal skin costume. It would have been given as a prize honoring the winner of a ritualistic game, while the loser would have been sacrificed. The tomb was unearthed near Trujillo at Huaca de la Luna, a massive pyramid-temple where the bodies of 70 similarly doomed warriors have been found.

Like the ancient Egyptians, who liked to bury real cats, the Moches had a thing for felines. The culture, which flourished between the 1st and 7th centuries CE, revered Ocelots, Margays, Pampas, and Pumas as symbols of leadership and power, often interring objects inspired by them in the tombs of the elite. That of the ruler known as the Lord of Sipán, discovered in northern Peru, is filled with objects embellished with cat faces. These animals bore all the qualities a great warrior could hope for: stealth, class, and killer instincts — you know, kind of like Choupette.

22 Jul 10:01

Magdalene’s Day

by Maggie McNeill

There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary.  -  The Gospel of Philip

Today is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, long considered to be either a prostitute or “reformed” prostitute and therefore the subject of special devotion by many Catholic (and Orthodox, and Anglican, and Lutheran) whores.  As I have explained before, there is no canonical evidence for this; the idea seems to date to a sermon  delivered in 591 by Pope Gregory the Great, in which she was identified as a repentant harlot (possibly by identification with the “adulterous woman” whom Jesus rescues from being stoned in the 8th chapter of John).  But the four canonical Gospels are not the only ones:

…among those used by Gnostic congregations (and subsequently excluded from the canon) were four more Gospels:  Thomas, Philip, Mary and Judas, all but the last of which assign a much more prominent role to Mary Magdalene than the four canonical ones; indeed, the Gospel of Mary is actually attributed to her.  These Gospels refer to Mary as Jesus’ “companion” and describe him as loving her more than his other disciples and often kissing her on the mouth…the Gospel of Mary identifies her as the unnamed “disciple Jesus loved” mentioned so often in John…

Pope Gregory may well have been aware of these gospels, and perhaps intentionally conflated the Magdalene with the adulteress as a way of smearing her in a time of increasingly-patriarchal Church practices and increasingly-prudish Church attitudes toward sex.  It is possible that one of the reasons Mary the Harlot caught on so quickly as a mythic figure was that she built upon and supplanted the clearly sexual (though not specifically professional) portrayal in the Gnostic gospels, oral traditions of which could well have survived their suppression two centuries before Gregory’s sermon.  I might even point out that she could well be viewed as a Christianized Venus, just as the Blessed Mother is a Christianized mother-goddess and Jesus himself a Christian solar deity.  The actual biographical facts of the lives of the human beings upon whom the mythic figures are based is of no more importance than whether Buddha could actually perform miracles, King Arthur pulled a sword from a stone or Mohammed flew into heaven on a winged horse; as in the case of Saint Nicholas (the official patron saint of whores), the mythology which has developed around the historical Mary Magdalene has a life of its own independent of the mundane facts.  The process of apotheosis creates a new being separate and distinct from the long-dead person whose name he or she shares, and that being inhabits the irrational realm of faith rather than the rational one of fact.

Simply put, Mary Magdalene the symbol is an entity wholly distinct from Mary Magdalene the first-century Jewish woman, and whether the latter was a whore, wife or mere follower to Yeshua bar Yosef is immaterial to the power of that symbol.  For centuries, the name “Magdalene” has been synonymous with “prostitute” in Christendom; when in the 13th century the idea arose for the first time that whores were “fallen” women in need of “rescue”, the asylums established for the purpose were called “Magdalene homes”.  Though few of these institutions survived the Black Death, the movement was revived in the mid-18th century and the number of such places multiplied with the rise of the “white slavery” myth a century later; though they again died out in most places in the early 20th century, they continued on in Ireland until 1996.  In various parts of the British Isles, the term “Magdalene” became “Maggie”, and applied either to whores in general (in England) or ones confined to Magdalene laundries (in Ireland).  The working girls in a number of folk songs are named “Maggie”, and of course Stephen Crane gave us Maggie:  A Girl of the Streets; some of y’all have probably guessed that I chose the name “Maggie” for a reason, and perhaps noticed that the name “Maggie McNeill” has a similar cadence to “Mary Magdalene”.

So even though I well understand that Mary Magdalene may not have “really” been a member of my profession, I also understand the difference between fact and truth.  The sacred whore may have largely ceased to exist in the mundane world of matter, but she still exists in the human unconscious.  And in the West, it has pleased her for a number of centuries now to work under the stage name Mary Magdalene.

21 Jul 19:05

Thomas Friedman Wants You To Be Happy With Your Scraps

by Rude One
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is like your uncle who phones you up and tells you about this awesome new thing he's found called Netflix. "You can see whole TV series, one episode after another. I tell you, it's gonna change the way people watch television," he excitedly informs you. Now, perhaps Friedman thinks he's writing to an audience of those uncles, aunts, and various people in the "old, sweet, but kind of dumb" demographic, but when he says, as he does in his "column" on Sunday, that the lodging website Airbnb succeeds "a platform of 'trust' — where everyone could not only see everyone else’s identity but also rate them as good, bad or indifferent hosts or guests. This meant everyone using the system would pretty quickly develop a relevant 'reputation' visible to everyone else in the system," the first thing the Rude Pundit thought was "So you mean Yelp. Or Angie's List. Or the comments on Amazon products. Or every website selling shit under the sun."

Or, if you want to get down to the nitty-gritty of the history of the Interwebs, it was eBay that pretty much pioneered and popularized this whole "you're only as good as your comments and ratings" platform.

The rest of Friedman's examination of Airbnb is representative of a fuckin' awesome shift in the economic tide of the 21st century can be summarized thusly: Let us say, and why not, that you're getting fucked in the ass. Now, while getting fucked in the ass, you start to jack off because, let's face it, that prostate action is hot, but you can't finish before the dude is done fucking your ass. So the next time you're getting fucked in the ass by the kind of lover who won't give you a reacharound, who won't blow you or handy you in return, you try again to jack it to orgasm. And you get so close, but then, damnit, he's done, where's the towel? Sure, you can masturbate on your own, but that's got it's pleasures, but it's more of a hobby than an act done during sex with a partner or partners. You know that it should all be mutual, that your pleasure should be part of the whole act of fucking. But you choose shitty, selfish partners who don't care if you get off. Finally, sweet Jesus, you do it. You blow a load while getting fucked and it feels so awesome that you're ready to get fucked in the ass again and again.

For Friedman, the global economy is doing the fucking and Airbnb is allowing you to do the jacking off, but you're supposed to pretend that your little ejaculation is enough to change the world.

Oh, dear uncles and aunts, Airbnb is a website where you can go to rent rooms or apartments or homes or yurts for when you're on vacation. It's supposed to give you a more authentic experience of a place than a hotel or a bed and breakfast, although a good many bed and breakfast inns do use Airbnb (as has the Rude Pundit). Friedman interviewed one of the founders of the website, Brian Chesky, about what Friedman calls "the sharing economy," which is people using their homes or, in the case of Uber, their cars to make a living.

Friedman, using Chesky's words, romanticizes this whole concept. Quoting Chesky, Friedman writes, "There used to be a romanticism about ownership, because it meant you were free, you were empowered...I think now, for the younger generation, ownership is viewed as a burden. Young people will only want to own what they want responsibility for. And a lot of people my age don’t want responsibility for a car and a house and to have a lot of stuff everywhere. What I want to own is my reputation, because in this hyperconnected world, reputation will give you access to all kinds of things now."

In other words, you get to own nothing, says the very, very rich man to the very rich writer. Because, see, you used to be able to own your reputation and also be able to afford shit to own. You should be satisfied with a compliment online, a little bit of money from renting out part of your home because you can't find a job that pays you enough to just own, and the scraps of the world.

But for Friedman, this is the future, where he sees megacorporations yielding to hyperconnected small enterprises where people get to never stop working: "This will be a struggle between the 20th-century economy and the 21st’s. The 20th-century economy was powered by big corporations that standardized everything because they never really knew their customers, argued Chesky." Yes, giant consolidated corporations that have spent huge amounts of time and money accruing political power will no doubt be overthrown by a couple with a cute room that overlooks the beach. But at least you don't have to tip those now-unemployed bellhops, concierges, and waitstaff.

Airbnb and Uber are charming blips that will either die gruesomely or become part of the machine that they supposedly are attempting to confront. Ask anyone. Ask Microsoft. Ask Google. Ask Facebook. Every time we try to change American capitalistic paradigms, those paradigms just absorb and transform them into the same entities that ever were. And Chesky will get richer while you clean the semen stains from your sheets.

(Note: All of this ignores the smarmy little introduction that Friedman opens with, which says, more or less, "There's lots of bad shit going on in the world. But I wanna talk about how cool Airbnb is.")
21 Jul 23:00

140 Keystrokes

by Sarah Edwards

It’s hard to go a day without the question, does poetry matter? crop up somewhere, and if you’re in the mood for a longread, David Lehman has written an excellent essay on anxiety about poetry, in an Internet age.

Is poetry dead, does it matter, is there too much of it, does anyone anywhere buy books of poetry? The discussion is fraught with anxiety, and perhaps that implies a love of poetry, and a longing for it, and a fear that we may be in danger of losing it if we do not take care to promote it, teach it well and help it reach the reader whose life depends on it.

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21 Jul 23:14

The Vivian Maier “Discovery” Is More Complicated Than We Thought

by Jillian Steinhauer

Vivian Maier, “Untitled” (1959) (© Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery)

Finding Vivian Maier, the documentary about the nanny who’s gained incredible posthumous fame for her previously unseen work as a photographer, was released this past weekend in the UK. But in addition to garnering reviews, it’s also bringing a longstanding but little-covered conflict over Maier’s work and archive to light. The film’s release has “fuelled a row between the men whose accidental discovery of her work … led to Maier belatedly coming to the world’s attention and garnering a posthumous reputation on a par with Henri Cartier-Bresson,” the Independent reported.

The documentary was made by John Maloof, the principal holder of Maier’s work and belongings. It follows his journey of discovery, from purchasing a box of her negatives on a whim at a Chicago auction in 2007 to Googling her and finding her obituary in 2009; from beginning a quest to learn who she was to representing her estate and making contemporary prints of her work in conjunction with Howard Greenberg Gallery. Finding Vivian Maier is singularly focused on Maloof and his relationship with the dead photographer; nowhere along the way does the film mention that anyone else had also bought and discovered Maier’s work at that same Chicago auction.

As it turns out, two people did: Ron Slattery and Randy Prow. According to the Independent, Prow sold his Maier collection in 2010 to a man named Jeffrey Goldstein, who has since gone on to befriend and collaborate with Maloof. “Maloof and Goldstein both sell posthumous prints from Maier’s negatives — and they both put their own signatures on the backs of these prints,” said photographer and professor Pamela Bannos in an interview earlier this month with Spolia magazine.

As for Slattery, he posted some of Maier’s images online even before Maloof, in 2008, writing at the time: “I don’t know much about her … I bought a ton of her stuff at a small auction. Part of what I got are 1200 rolls of her undeveloped film. They sit in boxes next to my desk. Everyday, I look at those boxes and wonder what kind of goodies are inside … ” In an interview with Gapers Block, Slattery explained that he and Maloof were in touch between 2007 and 2009, discussing Maier’s work and their discoveries, until he decided to sell a chunk of his collection to Maloof because he needed money to pay medical bills. Slattery still owns “several thousand vintage prints and an undisclosed amount of negatives and slides,” according to Bannos, but seems to have disappeared from the ‘official’ Maier story.

“The site [] states that they are setting themselves up as the validators of Vivian’s work and I am worried they are trying to cut me out,” Slattery told Gapers Block in 2011. “I don’t want to be in the position to have to prove I have the real thing later when they all know I do now.” In conversation with the Independent last week, however, he seemed more accepting of the situation:

“I really don’t care who decides to be the champion of her work because frankly it doesn’t matter. Vivian Maier matters. We are in an age where the curators want to be stars, and often become via storytelling, but the bottom line is, it’s the artist who is the shining light. Vivian Maier is that light.”

Why does any of this matter? Because the fracturing and complicated case of Maier’s archive affects how we understand her and her work. Maier is no longer alive (nor does she have any descendants), which means the printing and presentation of her work and story are controlled almost entirely by the private collectors who own her effects — none of whom she knew, let alone chose to represent her.

“I feel conflicted about Maier’s archive in general,” said Pamela Bannos, who claims she’s been repeatedly denied access to study Maloof’s Maier collection. She continued:

This was a very private woman who chose not to share her personal life or her photography. That apparently is what has made her into a “mystery woman.” The selective editing of her work has perpetuated her mystery. After viewing more than 20,000 of Maier’s negatives and prints, a different photographer emerged for me than the one first presented by John Maloof. I feel intensely uncomfortable with the way that he has presented her personal belongings alongside her photographic history — putting her shoes on display, and laying out her blouses in his movie, for example. I think he’s done a good job of transforming her into a cult figure and fetishizing her objects follows that model. I don’t know how any of that would fit into a traditional concept of an archive.

Bannos is working on a book, Vivian Maier’s Fractured Archive, about Maier’s work and posthumous fame. There’s also another documentary out there, The Vivian Maier Mystery (originally aired on BBC 1 as Vivian Maier: Who Took Nanny’s Pictures?), which tells what you might call the other side of the story — or at least a slightly different one — by including interviews with Slattery, Bannos, and others. Maloof declined to participate.

22 Jul 06:19

The Teleological Fallacy

by Scott Lemieux

K-Drum makes a good point about the recent Thomas Frank Salon article that I neglected to:

But if it’s so easy to see this conservative delusion for what it is, why isn’t it equally easy to recognize the same brand of liberal delusion? Back in 2009, was Obama really the only thing that stood between bankers and the howling mob? Don’t be silly. Americans were barely even upset, let alone ready for revolution. Those pathetic demonstrations outside the headquarters of AIG were about a hundredth the size that even a half-ass political organization can muster for a routine anti-abortion rally. After a few days the AIG protestors got bored and went home without so much as throwing a few bottles at cops. Even the Greeks managed that much.

Fearless navigator of our new comment system JeremyW puts it well:

[W]hat strikes me about this article is that he seems to have replaced the institutional status quo bias of our current political system with something that works the opposite way. Rather than a system where actual progressive change is difficult to win support for and subject to several veto points, he seems to think we have one where radical changes are constantly on the cusp of occurring and the whole neoliberal enterprise must be held together by a dastardly sellout president who can subvert the will of the people.

The most crucial underlying premise of Frank’s argument is that the American political economy was on the verge of a radical transformation in 2008, and this was prevented from happening because Barack Obama saved neoliberalism’s bacon. This is a rather problematic for his argument given its transparent falsity. It’s simply not true that most Americans drew the same conclusions from the financial meltdown that Frank did, and even they did the elites who control or strongly influence many key veto points in the American system certainly didn’t. As someone capable of being elected president of the United States Barack Obama is not a radical critic of capitalism, but in terms of whether American capitalism was going to be “put out of business” this is neither here nor there anyway.

Similar premises are also generally seen on attacks on the ACA from the left. To argue that the ACA isn’t better than the status quo ante from a progressive standpoint would be ridiculous, so the strategy is to change the baseline and compare the ACA to another alternative. In policy terms, this isn’t challenging, since you could throw a dart at a map of Western Europe and get a health care system preferable to the ACA. But it’s also completely irrelevant, because the choice wasn’t between the ACA and the French health care system but the ACA and nothing or almost nothing. To get around the obvious political reality, left ACA critics smart enough not to argue that Barack Obama could have forced the Senate to pass single payer through such brilliant strategery as promising senators that he would campaign for them in states where he’s enormously unpopular turn to assertions that the American insurance industry was on the verge of collapse before Barack Obama saved it. And, again, this is sheer lunacy. The American health care system circa 2008 was grossly inefficient and disastrous for many Americans, but for the most politically powerful vested interests — insurance companies and their executives, medical professionals, affluent customers, people over 65 — it works perfectly well or better. (To people who confuse American politics with the Oxford debating society, the success of Medicare should make Medicare for all highly popular. In reality, the overwhelmingly conservative white beneficiaries of Medicare are much more likely to take the lesson of “I’ve got mine and to hell with you.”) The American health insurance industry wasn’t going anywhere had the ACA not passed.

And what’s going on with Republican statehouses and the Medicaid expansion should draw a line under that. The typical Republican state politician is willing to turn down huge pots of free money from the federal government to validate the principle that if the working poor get sick it should be left to the Great Market in the Sky to sort things out. To believe in this context that the collapse of the private American health insurance industry was inevitable absent the ACA is to enter a land of fantasia.

17 Jul 01:11

Sex workers voices at AIDS2014 (and absent)

by bppp

This week a small but feisty contingent of sex worker rights activists from the United States travel to Melbourne, Australia for the International AIDS Conference (AIDS2014). They will be joining sex workers converging at the conference at the Sex Worker Networking Zone in the Global Village and numerous other events to ensure that sex workers voices are heard. Jules Kim, the manager of Scarlet Alliance’s Migration Project who has been central in coordinating actions in Australia, has described the zone as a, “vibrant hub for everything by and for sex workers at the conference… if you are coming to the conference look for the red umbrellas- the symbol of our fight against stigma and discrimination and towards sex worker rights.” A schedule of events is available online. Best Practices Policy Project and A Kiss for Gabriela will be covering events on Twitter.

To the best of our knowledge, no sex worker representative from the United States received a complete scholarship to attend. A number of the key presenters from the United States addressing the concerns of women of color, sex worker health initiatives and youth were not given space to present at all. In order to address the shortfall, US sex workers have come together to fundraise and have pooled resources. The team has also worked with the local host committee to have space at the Sex Worker Networking Zone for presentations that were not accepted, organizing that the presenters will show videos of their work and be available online to respond to the audience. One of the United States most eloquent representatives on the issue of sex work and HIV/AIDS, Sharmus Outlaw a co-coordinator of the Desiree Alliance, who was unable to travel to the conference will be posting her comments online and via video presentations.

Some key events showcasing US Sex Worker rights organizing include the Not Your Rescue Project Sex Worker Mini Film Fest (July 21, 12.40 pm to 2.10, Global Village Film Screening, Clarendon Room C), the Sex Workers Rights and HIV Global Village Scavenger Hunt (Wednesday 23 July from 12noon – 2:30 in the Global Village); Pretty Woman REdux: REmixing, REviving and REclaiming Mainstream Perceptions of Sex Work! (Live Performance in the Community Dialogue Space, Tuesday 22 July 2014, 1:30pm – 2:15pm);  “In My Skin” (short documentary), Thursday 24 July 2014, 4:45pm – 5:05pm (Level 2, Clarendon Room 2). The Best Practices Policy Project, Desiree Alliance and SWOP-USA  together will be hosting a booth in the Global Village, US Sex Workers United! (booth number 608, quite far from the Sex Worker Networking Zone… but see if you can find the team there or in the zone).

Our colleagues in Brazil at Davida and A Kiss for Gabriela were not granted an official spot to screen “A Kiss For Gabriela” and to host a “minute of noise” to honor Gabriela Leite (a sex worker rights leader who died in 2013). BUT, the film will now be shown in the sex worker networking zone, followed by discussion and twitter presence, Friday 25th July, 10-11am. Tweet #akissforGabi and #umbeijoparaGabi on the day of the screening to add to the online “noise” honoring all of her works and how they have inspired real change. Similarly WHORE LOGIC with Incredible, Edible, Akynos will screen Wednesday 23rd of July, 12.30-1pm. In order to ensure that sex workers unable to attend AIDS2014 can see Akynos video-taped performance, filmmaker PJ Starr will stream the video for the day.
Most conference events and activities will be held at the International AIDS Conference at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, 1 Convention Center place, South Wharf, Melbourne, VIC.

17 Jul 18:51

GOP Rep. Ellmers’ Promises Women Voters Nicer Tone And No More Pie Charts

by Bette Noir


Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) stepped in it, last Friday and managed to get more on her when she tried to wipe it off.  And it just shouldn’t have happened. 

It happened at an under-advertised Friday afternoon panel put on by the Republican Study Committee, the House’s conservative caucus.  It didn’t even make it to the RSC website.

Only one reporter was in attendance and that was Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner who was covering a panel discussion on the Republican Party’s outreach effort for women voters.  The GOP has entrusted that job to Rep. Renee Ellmers who heads up the Republican Women’s Policy Committee . . . a move that they might want to reconsider.

When Ashe Schow filed her report on Sunday, in an article about why the Republicans’ women’ narrative needs work, she cited, among many other things, Rep. Ellmers’ prescription that Republican men need to bring their policy discussions “down to a woman’s level” to get more female votes.

Whereupon, Rep. Ellmers responded with a statement containing the standard charge that Schow was a “liberal woman reporter” who had taken Rep. Ellmers’ words “completely out of context.” 

And, furthermore:

It is a shame that such an important moment for addressing solutions and empowering women was used to attack the open exchange of ideas. In answering a question regarding how Republicans can improve their messaging, I took the opportunity to note that everyone comes from different backgrounds and experiences - and our messaging should do the same.

If there is a problem, who is perpetuating it? Was it a room full of women laughing, bonding and sharing solutions - or a liberal woman reporter attacking the event and taking it to a dark place that does not exist?


Well, actually, the joke was on Rep. Ellmers, because the boogeywoman “liberal reporter” is actually a fairly well known writer with impeccable conservative credentials, who has written for Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action and now is a reporter for the very conservative Washington Examiner.

Actually, I’d venture a guess that Ashe Schow was insulted by Rep. Ellmers’ words that took her to a dark place that does exist, in which inferior women must be talked down to by superior men.  Men with complicated pie charts, if you will.  She was offended at the notion that women might understand GOP policy ideas better if they come in a more accessible format, more germane to their lives as “moms,” perhaps a scrapbook format?

Obviously, Rep. Ellmers likes things to be “nice” with everyone agreeing on the life-enhancing rightness of conservative social policy.  It was clearly beyond her ken that a conservative young woman would have the personal and professional integrity to disagree with Ellmers’ approach. 

Indeed, in one of the funnier moments of this tense exchange, Ashe Schow published the full transcript of Ellmers remarks to demonstrate that she had not left out important relevant context;  whereupon the Honorable Mrs Ellmers tweeted Schow’s link, to her world, to prove the opposite.

As it turns out, I almost wish she hadn’t because it afforded an opportunity to read the full transcript of Ellmers’ comments which infuriated me even more and demonstrated perfectly why Republicans have a “women” problem and how utterly incapable they are of addressing it.

It’s been my impression, over the past year, that GOP outreach to women voters doesn’t go much further than their own base.  Again and again, they spend a few hours preaching to the choir then congratulating themselves that they have proven that “there is no war on women.” 

For example, how many hours do you imagine that Rep. Ellmers or any of the other good ladies of the Republican Women’s Policy Committee have spent meeting with La Raza, or women in a welfare office, or unemployment line or Planned Parenthood office to find out what their views and needs are?

Rep. Ellmers’ own words just confirmed my impression:

I will tell you that definitely at chairing the Republican Women’s Policy Committee, that has been one of our main goals; is really working with our male colleagues.  Tone matters. How you speak to people matters.

Republican men should talk about how they had wives, sisters, and daughters, Ellmers said; they should tell women that Obamacare “is hurting your family”

Trust me, Rep Ellmers, I’m a mother and grandmother and when something is hurting my family, I don’t need a lady wearing a red-white-and-blue elephant pin or men with female relatives to mansplain it to me, I know what it is and I take care of it as best I can.  Likewise when something helps my family, I know what it is and where it came from. 

Then Ellmers’ drops the bomb and I know, for certain, that she is living in a fantasy world and is in desperate need of an intervention:

Women, by and large, agree with us on all of the issues. If you go through each issue, they agree. It’s how we are able to articulate (sic) ourselves – make sure that we’re getting the point across that we care, before we do anything else. That we relate to them, understand what every woman in this country is dealing with.

Well, I’m sorry Mrs. Ellmers, I know that you value politeness, but you are just stark, raving mad if you truly believe that.  Want me to prove it?  With facts?  I know that you don’t think much of charts but this one is pretty simple:


President Barack Obama won the two-party vote among female voters in the 2012 election by 12 points, 56% to 44%, over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, Romney won among men by an eight-point margin, 54% to 46%. That total 20-point gender gap is the largest Gallup has measured in a presidential election since it began compiling the vote by major subgroups in 1952.

Obama’s campaign stressed maintaining the social safety net, raising taxes on the wealthy, maintaining abortion rights, and requiring healthcare coverage for contraception—all in contrast to Romney’s more conservative positions on these issues of potential interest to women.

Women have supported the Democratic candidate in each of the last six elections.  That is not serendipitous; that is not a Republican failure to communicate.  That is millions of American women getting up on a cold weekday morning and, while putting on their face, looking themselves in the eye and resolving to squeeze a trip to the polls into their busy, busy woman-schedules.  And they also, increasingly over the years, resolve to vote for a Democrat because Democrats respond to their issues without having to learn to modulate their tones.  They know that Democratic social policies are more resonant with the real world that they live in.

It’s not about tone.  It’s about quality of life and safety and prosperity and having one’s representatives in government represent and respect everyone and insult no one.  Please excuse me, I know this isn’t ladylike but Republican policies absolutely suck for most people, but especially for women, and no amount of articulation, dumbing-down or dulcet tones will make them more palatable, Rep Ellmers.

You know what would really demonstrate to me that you care about women’s issues?  Stop voting against the Violence Against Women Act.  That would be a good start . . .

11 Jul 13:30

How to Buy a Car Without Interacting With a Human

by Nicole Cliffe

fried-green-tomatoes-driving3It’s true. I have recently (yesterday!) purchased a motor vehicle. It was a pleasant and invigorating experience, and my car is very beautiful and full of confusing technology and excessive purse storage. I have named him Dracarys, and he will serve me well. Having accomplished this task in less than 48 hours with only a brief flurry of emails, one telephone call outsourced to A Man, and a ten-minute in-person visit merely to sign pre-arranged paperwork and receive a bucket of swag and two sets of keys, I now wish to share with you the lessons I have learned along the way. They’re applicable to those of you who might want to purchase a new or certified pre-owned vehicle, I will not pretend to know anything about the niceties of used-car-haggling. I hear Roxane Gay’s dad is who you should bring along for that. Otherwise, this is what you should do.

Step One: 

Figure out exactly what car you want to buy. Do this online. Do not walk into a dealership. The internet is literally stuffed with rankings and reviews and Best Mid-Price Blue Sedans lists. “Shouldn’t I test drive some cars?” No. Can you drive a car? You’re set. After you’ve been driving it for a week, you won’t be able to imagine driving a different car anyway. Why spend a couple hours of your life trying random cars like you’ve flown into Phoenix for business and are trying to figure out where the parking brake is on your rental? It’s a new or certified pre-owned car. They drive. They go vrroooom. I am glad you have picked a car.

Step Two:

Discover who sells this car in your area. Let us now move to my beautiful, personal story of triumph. I decided on a particular car, as per Step One, let’s call it a Dragon. There are two Dragon dealerships in Salt Lake City. I went to the dealership websites.

Let’s get one thing straight: I do not talk on the phone.

You don’t have to! You never have to talk on the phone if you don’t want to. That is because you can…

Step Three:

Contact the internet sales department! There will either be an email address for this, or a generic “Make an Inquiry” box, into which you type “please email me, I would like to buy a car.” Then you wait. You will probably wait about four minutes, because car dealers are like travel agents were fifteen years ago: hungry, and aware the end of their industry is upon them. Okay, you have received an email from a person. Ideally, you have received emails from a minimum of two dealerships. If there is only one in your town, email one in the NEXT town. You need two to tango, trust me.

towandaStep Four: 

Say “Hi! I’ll be doing this over email. I would like to purchase a 2014 Model X with the extra-fire package. What is your best price on that?” At this point, I received a very rapid response from each of my two dealers. Dealer One said: “That model is retailing for Money, I can offer you a discount which will bring it down to Money – $1000.” Dealer Two said: “I would have to order that in for you special, so it would probably cost Money.” NOW THE DANCE BEGINS.

SIDEBAR: In lieu of offering you a PRICE, you may hear “I can offer you 0.9% financing over 60 months!” Pay no attention to these words. You want the best price, not to be distracted with what your monthly payments will be. And, if you are actually planning on paying cash, do not tell them until the very, very end, because they make a lot of money off financing, and you will probably not get as good a deal if they know upfront they will not be making said money. Speaking of not mentioning things, if you have a trade-in, keep it to your damn self until I tell you it’s safe to mention it.

Step Five:

Email Dealer Two (or whoever made you the inferior offer) and say: “Oh! I’m talking to Dealer One, and they have one on the lot they’re willing to offer me for Money-$1000.”

SIDEBAR: The beauty of this system is you need speak only truth! You are merely a CONDUIT for the truth to be passed back and forth between two dealerships. You are not the enemy, the other dealer is. It is they with whom they do battle. You will drink the blood of the fallen.

Now, in my case, Dealer Two responded instantly to that message to announce that HE HAD FOUND a 2014 Model X with the extra-fire package, right there on the lot, like magic! Isn’t that incredible? And I could have it for Money – $1200!

Step Six:

Email the Dealer Formerly Known As The Best Deal and say “I’m talking to Dealer Two, and he can do Money – $1200.” Wait. Dealer One can now do Money – $1400! You’re no fool. You know we’re going to email Dealer Two and tell him that Dealer One has countered with Money – $1400. Wait.

Step Seven:

This is a great time to take yourself over to, plug in the model and year and package info, and see: 1) the MSRP (what you would pay for this car if you just showed up like a yokel and handed them your money no questions asked) 2) the invoice price (probably what the dealer paid for the car and will basically never go below – I mean, it can happen, but I’m not a WIZARD) and 3) what other people in your area have wound up paying for this car. It will also say things like “a good price for this car is below X,” “a great price for this car is below Y,” and “a YA GOT SERVED price for this car is F for FOOL.” Then you know these things, it’s nice. Back to the dance.

5518689_stdStep Eight:

Obviously, this elaborate gamesmanship could go on forever. It will not, though, because one of two things will happen!

Scenario One: Eventually, one dealer will just give up. You have taken him to the ragged edge of invoice pricing, and he can go no further. In this scenario, you will buy from his competitor. We’ll come back to this part. But you have won!

Scenario Two: Both dealers will have gone through the basically inevitable step of saying “I have to go talk to my GM to see if I can go any lower on this car.” (Spoiler alert: when the alternative is losing the sale to another dealer, the GM will tell them they can go lower on this car.) At which point, they will say to you “I am authorized to do whatever it takes to beat the other dealer.” This is great! This is not helpful, however, to your dance. You want numbers. Again, you will speak only truth: “Hahahaha,” you type, “that is exactly what Dealer One is saying to me! What is your absolute bottom dollar on this car?” They may not tell you. They may simply repeat that they will beat the other guy. What do you do now?

Step Nine:

Those numbers you ran earlier on Now you’re going to use them. You are probably in “great price” territory already, having brought these two dealers to their knees. Whatever increments prices have been dropping by ($200, $400, etc), double up, and make sure that the amount you are about to offer is ASPIRATIONAL and BOLD. Email your favourite of the two dealers. Trust me: you will have a favourite by now. Mine was Dealer One. Email him and say “Okay, I’d really like to buy this car from you. If you can give me this car at Most Recent Best Offer – 2x The Usual Drop We’ve Been Doing As We Go Back and Forth, I will not email Dealer Two and ask him to beat it.” He will probably say you have a deal. If he does not, you’re not an idiot, take it to Dealer Two.

NOW, if he says yes, you could theoretically still email that number to Dealer Two, like a jerk. It’s probably fine. I couldn’t do it! I gave that nice man my word, and we barely scraped above invoice, and I was very happy.

The important thing is, one of these two dealers is going to give you the absolute lowest price you can get away with paying for this car. You have won.

Optional Step Ten:

Do you have a trade-in? THIS IS WHEN YOU MENTION IT. Trade that lil fucker in. In our case, we had already unloaded our 1999 Chevy Tracker for a thousand bucks to a nice young couple and wished them luck.

kathy-batesOptional Step Eleven:

DISASTER STRIKES. Because you cannot talk on the phone, but want to pre-do most of the paperwork (again, you want no surprises when you walk into the dealership to sign), you pass this phase off to your husband, A Man. (Gay women would never be so silly, I do not include them in this disaster scenario.) While your husband is on the phone, he remembers that you need a roof rack. Because he is not engaged in THE DANCE, he finishes the call, walks into the room where you are working on your misandrist blog, and says “we’re good to go! Oh, I had forgotten we needed a roof rack.” It transpires that he has paid MSRP for the roof rack, and thus eaten into some of your hard-won gains. You will hold this against him for at least a day, probably less if your misandrist blog money is not paying for the majority of said car. But it’s the PRINCIPLE.

Step Twelve:

Go pick up your car (do not buy an extra warranty, do not buy magical sealing paint, do not buy anything extra.) It is yours now. Finance, pay cash, who cares. You have forced men to the breaking point and beyond. You are a feminist hero. Play Liz Phair very loudly on the trip home.


Special thanks to John Adams of Jody Wilkinson Acura of Salt Lake City, who was a really nice guy. Additional thanks to Twitter user Pete Gaines, who spent many years in the car business and told me I didn’t have to talk to someone if I didn’t want to.

Read more How to Buy a Car Without Interacting With a Human at The Toast.

15 Jul 06:06


15 Jul 18:00

Caught With Their Pants Down

Office | TX, USA

(Company policy requires us to lock our computers when we walk away from them. Thanks to our office prankster, if someone leaves a computer unlocked, we have a running joke of sending an email from their computer to the rest of the IT staff along the lines of, ‘I seem to have lost my pants.’ One morning, we receive such a message from the prankster’s computer.)

Prankster’s Computer: “Has anybody seen my pants? I had them on this morning, but now I can’t find them anywhere. If you find them, please let me know where they are!”

Coworker #1: “Have you checked in the fridge?”

Coworker #2: “You should really be more careful with your pants. I think they were in the training room.”

Me: “I saw some guys walking by wearing pants earlier. Maybe they took them?”

(Everyone gets a chuckle, and we get on with our work. Half an hour later, the employee in question walks out of his cube wearing only his shirt, socks, and boxers.)

Prankster: “Seriously, has anyone seen them? Anyone?”

(It’s a good thing we have such a laid-back boss, and no female coworkers…)

15 Jul 17:00

So No No

by Wapping1701
College & University | Grand Rapids, MI, USA

(I am a lab assistant in our computer lab. I am telling another assistant that the majority of student questions can be answered with just ‘Yo,’ ‘Oh,’ ‘So,’ and ‘No.’ My friend laughs and is just about to tell me I am full of it when a student walks up to me:)

Student: ”Excuse me.”

Me: ”Yo!”

Student: ”I’m working on this program for the intro class.”

Me: ”Oh?”

Student: ”I have the program ask for a number from the user.”

Me: ”So?”

Student: ”Can the person type the word for a number instead of the numbers?”

Me: ”No.”

Student: ”Okay, thanks.”

(I smiled at my friend who was laughing and speechless.)

14 Jul 13:05

Mapping microwave relay links from video

by Oona Räisänen

Radio networks are often at least partially based on microwave relay links. They're those little mushroom-like appendices growing out of cell towers and building-mounted base stations. Technically, they're carefully directed dish antennas linking such towers together over a line-of-sight connection. I'm collecting a little map of nearby link stations, trying to find out how they're interconnected and which network they belong to.

Circling around

We can find a rough direction for any link antenna by approximating a tangent for the dish shroud surface from position-stamped video footage taken while circling the tower. Optimally we would have a drone make a full circle around the tower at a constant distance and elevation to map all antennas at once; but if our DJI Phantom has run out of battery, a GPS positioned still camera at ground level will also do.

The rest can be done manually, or using pattern recognition from OpenCV. In these pictures, the ratio of the diameters of the concentric circles is a sinusoid function of the angle between the antenna direction and the camera direction. At its maximum, we're looking straight at the beam. (The ratio won't max out at unity in this case, because we're looking at the antenna slightly from below.) We can select the frame with the maximum ratio from high-speed footage, or we can interpolate a smooth sinusoid to get an even better value.

This particular antenna is pointing west-northwest with an azimuth of 290°.

What about distance?

Because of the line-of-sight requirement, we also know the maximum possible distance to the linked tower, using the formula 7140 × √(4 / 3 × h) where h is the height of the antenna from ground. If the beam happens to hit a previously mapped tower closer than this distance, we can assume they're connected!

This antenna is communicating to a tower not further away than 48 km. Judging from the building it's standing on, it belongs to a government trunked radio network.

12 Jul 13:14

How to (not) trip/blow up poly relationships

by aggiesez

I don’t know about you, but I flunked telepathy. Which is a big reason why the culture of polyamory is, in many ways, so refreshing to me: the generally heightened expectation of self awareness and direct, ongoing communication. Not just between partners, but (often) throughout a network of overlapping relationships. Usually, when people can see and discuss their needs and boundaries clearly, there’s at least a good chance that they can cooperate to address them constructively.

This takes time, energy, and practice, of course. But in the long run, it’s easier and safer than avoiding seeing clearly (or discussing with your partners and metamours) what you really need, what you can really offer, and what really scares you.

…At least, that’s the goal. Like anyone, poly people are quite capable of falling short of their goals from time to time. Which is why it also helps to be patient and flexible (to a point) as people develop the emotional and communication skills to handle adult relationships, especially poly/open ones.

The catch is, some people don’t necessarily value self awareness or direct communication, even if they have poly/open relationships. This is a skill, and sometimes a goal, that must be learned. Rather than look inside themselves, speak up clearly, and listen closely, and practice courage, some people prefer to rely on their partners and or metamours to guess what they really need (despite whatever they may have said) and to automatically shield them from their unarticulated fears.

This amounts to outsourcing your emotional responsibility. And it leads to two of the most common (and often fatal) problems in relationships, especially poly/open ones: invisible fences and fuzzy landmines.

Invisible fences

Invisible fences are unstated boundaries or rules in relationships. Partners and metamours only discover them when they trip over them — often repeatedly. This generates considerable pain, insecurity and frustration for everyone involved.

Sometimes people in one relationship (couple, triad, etc) know about and have privately discussed the invisible fence — but other partners or metamours in their network do not know. Sometimes the invisible fence is unconscious, a secret even from the person who built it.

EXAMPLE: Joe requires his wife Sarah to spend every weekend with him (and no other partner) as a symbol of his primary rank in her life. Joe and Sarah realize that admitting this to anyone, including potential partners, would highlight Joe’s insecurity, which would embarrass both Sarah and Joe.

So Sarah claims to be flexible about her time, but then avoids makings weekend dates with her boyfriend Sam. Rather than explain the true reason, Sarah always has an excuse ready when Sam asks or complains about this pattern. Or she tries to dismiss each instance as isolated and “not a big deal.” Such diversion cuts off opportunities for the three of them to explore options to collaboratively resolve the underlying issue of Joe’s insecurity and possessiveness.

Since Sam has a demanding weekday job, this time restriction significantly limits how his relationship with Sarah can develop. Eventually he breaks up with Sarah in angry, bitter frustration.

Fuzzy landmines

Fuzzy landmines are rules and boundaries which are stated — but only in deliberately vague terms. This leaves it up to partners and metamours to guess where the landmines really lie — which means at some point they’ll guess wrong, and blow up the landmine.

Effectively, this means that people who plant fuzzy landmines are reserving the right to freak out (or withdraw) when their partners or metamours inevitably fail to meet their nebulous (and therefore impossible) requests or demands. They’re outsourcing responsibility not just for avoiding their own triggers, but for mapping those triggers so they can be addressed. They’re also attempting to maintain control through passive aggression.

After each inevitable explosion, it’s common that whoever sowed the fuzzy minefield requires considerable attention and care to be soothed, since they typically have avoided developing skills to soothe themselves — another way to outsource emotional responsibility. This further sabotages relationships and hurts/drains everyone involved.

Example: Dave, a single guy, starts dating Anna, a solo poly woman.* Anna also has a longstanding relationship with George, a married poly man. Dave has never been in a poly relationship, but since he’s strongly attracted to Anna he says he wants to try.

Although Dave has met George and likes him, he feels jealous and doesn’t know how to manage that. He tells Anna, “Don’t tell me anything about your dates with George.” When Anna asked Dave to clarify what exactly he did not wish to hear, Dave refused strenuously, even protesting that it was “crazy to discuss such stuff.”

From the start, Anna had told Dave that she avoids compartmentalized “don’t ask, don’t tell” relationships for ethical and practical reasons. But since she felt invested in her relationship with Dave, she was willing to make temporary concessions on disclosure to support Dave in gradually expanding his comfort zone with polyamory.

However, Dave would become highly insecure and upset whenever Anna mentioned George in any context, not just about their dates. If anything, he became steadily less comfortable, not more. Worse, Dave would blame Anna and sulk for days whenever his landmines blew up. Eventually Anna realized that Dave wasn’t even trying to overcome his jealousy and insecurity, despite his claimed intention.

The truth was, all along Dave had had a conscious but secret agenda to manipulate Anna into monogamy with him. This caused months of stress, especially for Anna, yielding bad ripple effects on her relationship with George. In the end, Dave secretly initiated a new relationship with a monogamous woman, and then suddenly dumped Anna, claiming polyamory had been their problem.

*Note: True story, this happened to me.

Why invisible fences and fuzzy landmines fail everyone

When boundaries/rules are left vague (or perhaps even denied) because the people who create them are ashamed of them — or because they wish to retain power by keeping others off balance, or because they wish to manipulate others, or because they simply lack self awareness and communication/negotiation skills — that’s never good for relationships or people. No one is left unscathed: the damage zone almost always includes the very people who erected the invisible fences or planted the fuzzy minefield.

Importantly, people don’t always create invisible fences or fuzzy landmines intentionally. These strategies aren’t necessarily malicious. They’re often done automatically, because so much of the mainstream culture in which we’re all marinating discourages emotional and relational responsibility.

Although they’re intended to increase security (at least, for some people in a relationship network) these strategies almost never end up “protecting” anyone or anything. In fact, they virtually guarantee distrust, drama, perpetual insecurity, strife, and ugly breakups.

Everyone experiences insecurity and other uncomfortable feelings in relationships. That normal. However, part of being an adult is learning how to manage and express your emotions in healthy, safe ways.

It may be tempting to offload to your partner(s) or metamour(s) your personal responsibility for emotional management — or to skip the work of communicating clearly and negotiating fairly. Because being responsible is hard work (until it becomes second nature).

Indeed, some strictures of the standard social relationship escalator model (such as not acknowledging or acting on attraction to other people) often are at least partly intended to make partners responsible for anticipating and managing each other’s emotional triggers and reactions. Similarly, people who prefer to just “wing it” with poly/open relationships often do so not because they’re flexible and carefree, but because they’re lazy and reckless.

Unfortunately, most people are lousy telepaths. They simply cannot anticipate and manage your emotions for you — not perfectly, anyway. Especially in situations like poly/open relationships where you’ll regularly encounter new emotionally charged situations involving more people. The circle of damage can spread quickly.

While invisible fences and fuzzy landmines aren’t strictly a polyamory problem, they may affect poly people more since poly/open relationships tend to offer unfamiliar or emotionally challenging circumstances more often. When you lack a default script for navigating relationships issues, you must think harder and more clearly in order to act responsibly.

It seems to me that being good at being solo poly (being poly as a free agent, without any primary-style relationships) may have the side benefit of teaching you how to spot and handle invisible fences and fuzzy landmines. That’s because solo poly folk must rely more on internal resources and awareness, since our relationships usually leave far less room to assume that others will manage our feelings and needs for us.

…But of course, this skill also gets honed through experience. And nonprimary partners (which includes most solo poly people) tend to disproportionately bear the brunt of other people’s attempts to outsource emotional responsibility.

True security: Fostering resilience and cooperation

The key to resolving this quagmire is to learn to be vulnerable, and to honor the vulnerability of others. Own and admit your insecurities, and commit to overcoming them.

Also, assume goodwill Your partner(s) and metamour(s) probably want to support you in safely achieving personal growth — because the entire relationship network would benefit.

If you’re on the receiving end of an invisible fence or fuzzy landmine, don’t assume ill will. Remember that people don’t always intend to build invisible fences or fuzzy landmines. Often they do it without considering options — or without even knowing they have options. It’s possible to give people a chance to learn better and do better, just don’t sacrifice your integrity in the process.

And ultimately, though it sucks, having the courage and resilience to leave unhealthy relationship dynamics that won’t change is an option — not to resolve this quagmire, but to avoid becoming collateral damage, or at least cut your losses. Fortunately, in relationship networks involving mostly emotionally responsible adults, it’s usually not necessary to hit that kill switch.

Yes, this process feels difficult, risky and scary. It will challenge and change you. But in the long run, it’s still a much, much safer bet for you and your relationships than building an insecurity system comprised of invisible fences and fuzzy landmines.

You will become more resilient and secure by developing emotional management and communication skills. And your relationships will become more stable and happier. As hard as this may seem, it is far easier and more achievable than expecting anyone to get better at telepathy.

13 Jul 20:58

cameron canada wet food 5

by admin

The post cameron canada wet food 5 appeared first on droolingfemme.

14 Jul 01:01

What on earth is a dominant bottom?

by stabbity

Some time ago now, I mentioned that dominant bottoms are a thing. I think it’s worth going into a little more detail about just what I was talking about, because that’s kind of an oxymoron for a lot of people.

First of all, credit where it’s due: I got the idea of human sexuality & kinky interests as a number of separate spectrums from Midori, who teaches fantastic classes and who you should definitely go see in person if you get a chance. She presented a really interesting class on the idea that if you were to graph any given person’s position on the spectrum of sexuality/kinkiness (because not everyone links sex and kink), you would need far more than just one axis for kinky/non-kinky and one for gay/straight. You would also need axes for interest in kink in general (don’t forget, there are plenty of kinks that don’t have to involve power exchange), interest in power exchange, interest in pain, interest in bondage, etc, etc. For example, a person might be could be very interested in giving pain, but that doesn’t mean they care at all about being in charge, and they might or might not have any interest in bondage.

To bring that back to the idea of dominant bottoms, there’s no reason that a person couldn’t be very interested in receiving pain, very interested in receiving bondage, and have no interest at all in actually giving up any control. That might seem completely contradictory if you’re stuck on the idea that actions have any inherent meaning, but if you can let that go it makes perfect sense. If, for example, a dominant woman with a masochistic streak orders her submissive to give her a spanking where and when she wants, exactly as hard as she wants, for only as long as she wants, she is clearly the one in charge. Receiving pain doesn’t magically make you submissive if you’re telling the person giving you pain exactly what to do, and giving pain doesn’t magically make you dominant if you’re doing exactly what your dominant tells you.

As long as everyone knows what they want and can express that, everything is great! But where things get complicated is where people don’t think through what it is that they really want. To use an example terribly common in the female dom community, if a dominant man with a fetish for bondage and pain play assumes that means he’s submissive, he’s going to irritate the shit out of every dominant woman he tries to order around and will probably end up lonely and frustrated because he can’t seem to find a “real” dominant woman. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad person (although I do sincerely want to smack that guy upside the head and tell him to be honest about what he wants already), and it doesn’t mean that the doms who get fed up and dump him are bad people either, it just means that a lack of self awareness makes it really difficult to find good relationships.

To complicate things even more, it’s totally normal for even really submissive people to want to act out their fantasies just the way those fantasies have gone in their heads. I mean, would you go into a scene thinking “Oh, you know that thing I think about all the time? Let’s do a scene where we don’t do any of that!” I know I wouldn’t. Having a bit of a fixation on acting out a certain scene in just the right way doesn’t mean the person who wants to bottom to that scene can’t possibly be submissive, but it does mean they’re going to have to work harder to convince me they really are interested in my needs too.

If you’re a dominant bottom, great! Good on you for figuring out what you want and looking for people who are compatible with you. I might even be willing to service top you if we have compatible kinks and you can make it through a whole scene without trying to order me around. However, that only works if you know what you want. If you’re a dominant bottom who doesn’t know it or won’t admit it, well, it’s going to suck to be you until you figure your shit out. Best of luck with that!