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01 Aug 14:00

Rhyme’s Challenge: Hip Hop, Poetry, and Contemporary Rhyming Culture by David Caplan

by Charlotte Pence

Rhyme. As a professor of English and creative writing, I often hear my beginning poetry students tell me that’s what makes a poem: rhyme. I’ll then assign ten pages from a contemporary anthology and ask them to discuss what surprised them. Rhyme, they say again. Where is the rhyme?

The lack of rhyme in literary poetry and the proliferation of rhyme in other genres is what scholar and poet David Caplan investigates in Rhyme’s Challenge: Hip Hop, Poetry, and Contemporary Rhyming Culture. “We live in a rhyme-drenched era,” Caplan asserts, which might be news to some who think of rhyme as the stuff of advertising jingles, greeting cards, and pop songs. Still, after finishing this book, readers will see that Caplan is correct. Caplan examines not just literary poetry, but legal documents such a verdicts from judges (“a groom must expect matrimonial pandemonium / when his spouse finds he’s given her a cubic zirconium”), novels, song lyrics, and most importantly hip hop, thus revealing how far-reaching and underappreciated rhyme is.

One of Caplan’s main points is that hip hop performers not only favor rhyme, but they favor types of rhyming that contemporary poets typically eschew: “A single quatrain by Eminem features more examples of identical, multisyllabic, forced, and mosaic rhyme than an entire volume of The Best American Poetry anthology.” This is no coincidence. What print-based poets have largely discarded, other artists have reclaimed, thus changing the rules to fit their concerns. For example, one of Eminem’s greatest talents is forced rhyme, which is when the usual pronunciation of a word is changed to fit the rhyme scheme. While a poetry handbook would say to never do this, Eminem embraces the technique. Whereas a contemporary literary poet might try to “hide” a rhyme within a prose poem or strategically placed line break, hip hop flaunts rhyme as a way to demonstrate an artist’s intellectual and artistic skills.

Caplan, a rigorous scholar who can explain a line’s brilliance without succumbing to theory or jargon, details many of hip hop’s unique rhyming practices in this collection of essays. He notes, for example, that hip hop favors timely references: “Instead of using rhyme to maintain distance from contemporary culture, hip-hop artists regularly use the technique to evoke the era’s distinctive features.” Examples include “heaven” with “9/11” or “very” and “Halle Berry.” The swiftness of rhyme reinforces the temporality of the pop cultural references, simultaneously demarcating and dismissing the present.

Another chapter focuses on the use of rhyme in seduction. Caplan quotes one rhyming quatrain and then un-writes it without rhyme to show all that is lost. The goal within the verses is not to tell the truth, but to suggest sexual skill through verbal skill. Thus, rhyme is a physical sensation in addition to being a sonic one: “rhymes excite and titillate; they coax eroticism from an unsexy vocabulary and syntax.”

Whereas seduction rhymes are prevalent, so are their opposites: insult rhymes. Citing a number of skillful and humorous insults, Caplan notices that the use of the rhymed insult is one way for hip hop artists to establish themselves. Imagine, though, a young poet boasting how she is better than Shakespeare. That would come off as simply arrogant—and incorrect. But such a practice is what helps establish hip hop artists. Take for instance the insult battle between Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown: “Even be at number two, your chances is slim / ‘cause when God made Adam, he should’ve made Kim.” Lil’ Kim’s replacing Eve’s name for her own is a rather brash and clever way of establishing herself as the first woman. Caplan explains the psychological effects of rhyme: “…Insult rhyme need not explain; it insinuates, calling to mind unsavory associations….” Whether it is using parallelisms to highlight opposition or enacting a sense of “blind consent” with the reader, the sonic echoes of the words moves the reader along, allowing no time to think. The result is the listener unintentionally participating in the battle.

Caplan_DavidSome readers may feel the impulse to say: “But hip hop artists are poets!” Caplan understands the complexity of such an assertion and addresses it. He reminds us that the term “poetry” does not maintain a stable definition; therefore, to insist something is poetry is to begin a new debate about poetry is. More importantly, he hones in on the real impetus behind the desire to call Bob Dylan or Kanye West poets, which is the issue of cultural prestige. Despite the fact that poetry maintains a marginal readership, people do value it. Poetry, unlike many other forms of entertainment, helps to give life meaning instead of advertising meaning. The desire to call hip hop poetry is essentially a desire to elevate its status. But as Caplan concludes, “Hip hop, however, contributes most to the fields of poetry and poetics once we acknowledge that it differs significantly from the most prestigious forms of contemporary poetry.” What print-based poetry has largely discarded, hip-hop artists have salvaged, reminding us how artistic innovation occurs: a wonderful combination of reclamation and innovation.

As evidenced by sonneteers from the 16th century and those from the 21st, rhyming practices change. Even within the relatively short life-span of hip hop, there have been shifts from mono-syllabic and end-stopped rhymes to the internal and triple rhymes that now dominate. Caplan points out that such changes are part of an art’s vigor. Ultimately, this is a hopeful book, one that sees flux as a positive and that sees analysis as an aid to enjoying art in all its facets and embodiments, from the commercial to the high brow. Considering how many contemporary poets have come of age alongside hip hop, it is impossible to not see bridges between the two genres. Whereas Baby Boomers published books using rock to suggest rawness, Generation X’ers use hip hop as a way to maintain relevance. Kevin Young’s use of music to spur the muse, Major Jackson’s ability to present multiple styles, and D. A. Powell’s triplet rhyming all speak to one truth: the valuing of both hip hop and Elizabethan poetry has shifted from an argument to an unstated premise. Thus, as Caplan foresees it, the increasing influence of hip hop will continue to challenge contemporary poets to see rhyme not as a stale technique but as an energizing one.

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01 Aug 14:37

Pagan Blog Project: “P” Is For Praxis vs. Paralysis

by syrbal-labrys

1gighting ov wrld“P” is for praxis. (Attention to Hannah Arendt!) Why don’t I just say “practice”?  Well, because it is more than that, and besides doctors “practice” and lawyers “practice”…and I am often unimpressed with their efforts.  I want something more.  And because I am a person who discovers myself and my choices almost always in opposition to something ELSE, “P” is for praxis vs. paralysis.

One of the things I hated about the dominant religious paradigms of my youth was the sense of paralyzing “thou shalt nots” enforced upon everyone. When I vocally questioned all the rules seeming to bind human behavior — especially female behaviors — I was told I had a defiant soul that needed to learn submission.  Um, no…so very NO.  I believe that it is a psychological truth that the more you disempower a person, the more depressed they become.  Women in particular are taught that their safety, their very lives even, depend upon being acceptably docile, proper, and obedient.  But this is a lie.  Safety is an illusion.  What every human needs is a sense of competency in managing one’s own life and knowledge that there are no guarantees beyond what you can ensure for yourself!

Even in neo-paganism, I find some strictures counter-productive.  In chatrooms, I was deluged with “Do no harm” — abbreviated sound-bites of the Wiccan Rede.  I am not Wiccan, but one reason I am not is because I believe it is impossible to live without doing harm SOME where.  To actually live by that little rule would be to be paralyzed unto death.  Every purchase, every bite of food, every light bulb turned on, every car started….even in these perfectly mundane things, harm IS done.  One can seek to mitigate harm at best.

And then, in the field of magical practice?  What divination can absolutely promise accuracy of lack of harm?  So, if one were strict in interpretation — very little magic would be acceptable.  It would rather send me running back to Crowley’s “Do what you will shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will,” as a better injunction!

So yes, praxis over paralysis.  To not act IS an act — I am also an existentialist pagan, you see.  To not choose IS to choose.  I choose my praxis, my practice in many fields of life.  I take political action almost daily.  I take physical action to control my environment, my body, my attitude.  I take magical action upon occasion, and yes I DO “smite” on occasion as the saying goes.  Not out of spite, but out of necessity to act — much as I hate to say something so fluffy sounding — out of love.  My love is not a fuzzy pink blanket with bunnies on it — it is a bit more like the terrible stereotype of the ‘tiger mother’, I fear.

My praxis has little to do with obedience and even less to do with worship of gods/goddesses.  One of my first definitions of deity is that if such exist, they need NOTHING from US humans and that they do not interfere much in our affairs. (“P” could also be for poly-deist.)  So of THAT necessity, my praxis is very much about seizing control of what makes my world spin and WORK for all.  It is about defusing fear and helplessness where and when I am able.  It is about taking and using every power humanity possesses.

I never act on only one end of the spectrum.  I first inform myself to the best of my ability on whatever has popped up on my radar, and I attempt to inform others to build a “front” of active participants.  Then I take whatever mundane actions I can apply.  If it is appropriate I take political action  – a phone call, a petition, a letter, a vote.  And if it is really important to me, or especially if it is something out of my mundane reach?  I take magical action — yes, something usually completely unverifiable as effective or not.  This is where I apply my own version of Pascal’s Wager — what do I have to lose by trying?

And the best thing about praxis instead of paralysis or apathy?  It is habit-forming.  The more one acts instead of sitting back, helpless — the more accustomed to taking action one becomes.  We are all the humans in the arena, fight to win!  As the most cogent passage from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech says:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”


Tagged: action, ethics, existentialism, magic, pagan blog project, pagan life, politics, practice, praxis
01 Aug 12:04

The Viper Strikes, and Lives

by Richard Jeffrey Newman

I have been fascinated by metaphor since I was an undergraduate linguistics major, when one of my professors assigned parts of Metaphors We Live By, by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. In that book, Lakoff and Johnson argue that, as human beings, we use metaphor to give structure to the world around us. They point out, for example, that we describe the process of having or making an argument the same way we describe war. As examples, they offer this list of expressions:

  1. Your claims are indefensible.
  2. He attacked every weak point in my argument.
  3. His criticisms are right on target.
  4. I demolished his argument.

Lakoff and Johnson don’t stop there, though. They go on to show that we don’t just talk about argument as if it were war; we actually experience it that way as well. Like wars, for example, arguments are won or lost; and the people on either side of an argument behave in some ways as if they are doing battle with each other, taking different lines of attack, or surrendering some points in the hopes of gaining others that will lead to victory. To illustrate by way of contrast, Lakoff and Johnson ask us to

imagine a culture where argument is viewed as a dance, the participants are seen as performers, and the goal is to perform in a balanced and aesthetically pleasing way. In such a culture, people would view arguments differently, carry them out differently, and talk about them differently. But we would probably not view them as arguing at all: they would simply be doing something different. (5)

Other examples abound. One of my favorite classroom exercises is to ask my students to list all the slang expressions they know for for getting drunk and/or high (the latter, of course, being a metaphor in itself). Here are some of the more common ones they come up with:

  • wasted
  • bombed
  • annihilated
  • blasted
  • blitzed
  • polluted
  • shitfaced
  • embalmed
  • hammered
  • pickled
  • plastered
  • smashed

Inevitably, my students are surprised not just at how violent the list is, but at the way these expressions portray getting drunk or high as violence one does to oneself–a way of structuring what it means to alter one’s consciousness that is very different from cultures that use such substances in religious or other spiritual rituals.

The story from Golestan that I have chosen for this week’s Sa’di Says is about the structure of power in a monarchy, and I think the metaphors that Sa’di uses in telling this story are fascinating. Before you read it, you need to know that Hormuz was the son of King Nushirvan, whose name is synonymous with what it means to be a wise and just ruler. Hormuz, on the other hand, was cruel and tyrannical. Here is the story:

When he was asked what crime his father’s viziers had committed, Hormuz replied, “None. I put these men in jail because they feared my power without respecting it. I knew that to protect themselves from the capriciousness they saw in me and the harm they thought might come to them because of it, they might try to kill me. So I had no choice. I took the advice of the sages, who said:

The power to wipe out a hundred men
should not replace your fear of one who fears you.
Watch when a cat is fighting for its life;
it plucks the tiger’s eyes out with its claws.
To stop the stone the shepherd might throw down
to crush its head, the viper strikes, and lives.

Hormuz is unapologetic in his explanation, but you have to wonder just how aware he is of how much his metaphors reveal about him. Look closely at the metaphor in those last two lines. By having the king compare himself to a viper, while at the same time comparing his father’s viziers to a shepherd, Sa’di uses Hormuz’ self-justification to reveal not just the fear and weakness at the heart of any tyrannical rule, but also something about the nature of power itself. The shepherd’s authority to kill the viper comes from his role as protector of the flock, though he can choose not to use that power if he doesn’t have to. (Hence, “the stone the shepherd might throw down.”) The viper, on the other hand–and I am following here the logic of the metaphor, not commenting on the behavior of actual snakes–because of the poison that defines it and the threat it poses to those around it, cannot afford to wait for the shepherd to make that choice. It must assume that the shepherd has assumed that it will attack and so it has no alternative but to defend itself accordingly.

The viper’s power, in other words, is defined by its fear of the world, its sense that the world is arrayed against it, while the shepherd’s power is defined by the choice that is available to him. Not that the fact of this choice will make the shepherd a good and wise ruler by definition; but it does seem to me that awareness of the choice is a prerequisite for a wise and benevolent rule.

The cool thing about a metaphor is that no single reading will ever capture its entire meaning, and so I know the reading I have presented here is a partial one at best. I’d love to hear what you think.


01 Aug 18:19

Monkey Impersonators Hired to Deal With Parliament's "Big Monkey Menace"

by Kevin

Maybe the CIA should consider blaming rogue monkeys for all that missing evidence. That'd be harder to pull off in Virginia than New Delhi, but it's at least as good as the current explanations.

A member of India's parliament suggested last week that monkeys were partly to blame for thousands of files missing from the Home Ministry, although he was plainly ridiculing officials who, he claimed, themselves blame monkeys whenever a file goes missing. 

"Files in the Home Ministry are in such a bad condition that old files are strewn all over the corridors," Rajeev Shukla said during a debate in the parliament's upper house. "Whenever a file is lost it is said that monkeys have taken it away. There is a big monkey menace there," Shukla declared, "and in this government there is a minister who is against any action against monkeys."

Everyone was amused, but the joke only works because the monkey menace itself is all too real.

Previous monkey-menace coverage here involved the city of Varanasi, a Hindu holy city where the problem is even worse. See "Tourist Files Complaint Against Primate Thief" (July 17, 2007). This is partly because of reverence for the god Hanuman, who is usually depicted as a monkey. According to this recent report, although more than 400 people are treated for rabies every day in Varanasi, partly due to monkey bites, an official said options were limited since "many Hindus believe the monkey to be a representative of Lord Hanuman and [are] opposed to any operation against them." (Dogs are also to blame but are less exalted.)

But there is indeed a "big monkey menace" in the capital itself, as the New York Times reported in 2012, and file-stealing is not the biggest problem:

Stories abound in Delhi of monkeys entering homes, ripping out wiring, stealing clothes and biting those who surprise them. They treat the Indian Parliament building as a playground, have invaded the prime minister’s office and Defense Ministry, sometimes ride buses and subway trains, and chase diplomats from their well-tended gardens.

This article puts the number of insurgents at about 30,000.

So, what do you do when you're plagued by a horde of little monkeys and it's not politically acceptable to kill them?

Well, you get bigger monkeys.

in Delhi

The main problem is the common rhesus monkey, which is relatively small (males average about 17 pounds). To scare them away, people turned to the langur, which is about twice that size. They aren't natural enemies—langurs are herbivores—but presumably smaller monkeys tend to avoid bigger ones anyway. According to the Times, the langur doesn't actually have to be present, because the smell of its urine is enough to scare the rhesus(es) away. So while the langurs would often go out on patrol, people were also paying their owners to have the langurs pee on things. "Mr. Singh said that he had 65 langurs urinating on prominent homes and buildings throughout Delhi," the Times said of one proud entrepreneur.

But wouldn't you know, there are langur advocates too. The langur is a protected species, and although officials looked the other way for quite a while, they have cracked down recently. It is a crime to own, sell, or rent langurs now, which was very bad news for the langur-men.

It is great news, though, for the 40 humans who have now been hired to act like langurs.

The country's urban development minister told MPs yesterday that 40 people had been hired to "disguise themselves as langurs" in hopes of scaring the rhesus monkeys away from Parliament. This was only one of several measures being taken "to tackle the monkey and dog menace inside and around Parliament House," he said—rubber bullets are another option—but it is not surprisingly the one that has attracted attention.

There might be a translation issue here as to the meaning of "disguise." While this report actually describes the uniform these people supposedly wear ("a smattering of grey, black and white, with a tail to boot"), other reports say the minister meant only that the men had been trained to sound like langurs. "These men are not dressed like langurs," an official said, "but only mimic their voices to terrorise the monkeys." A Wall Street Journal source apparently spoke to one of these "monkey impersonators"—who was guarding a Supreme Court justice's home from monkeys at the time—and he said he growls or waves a stick, but doesn't use a costume.

Officials said that the langur impersonators were only a "stop-gap" measure until better solutions can be deployed. That's good, because there is evidence that the langurs weren't really getting the job done anyway. "People said to get a langur," said one business executive, after a rhesus bit his maid's daughter. He did, "but the monkeys mobbed the langur and beat it up." He didn't blame the langur, really, it's just that the langur was seriously outnumbered. Given that there are only 40 langur impersonators, I hope those guys are getting combat pay, because it won't take too long for the monkeys to figure this out.

01 Aug 19:48

Waiting Patiently For The SEOer To Reply

by Ken White

Joel Marami

6:46 AM (5 hours ago)

to me

Dear Business owner,

This letter regards to the website

My name is Joel Marami. I am the director of digital marketing at NGRWebTeam. We have some very good news. We have discovered why your website has not been effective as it could be.


No.1 – The organic traffic to your website has been extremely low. We have measured it at less than 40 percent. It really should be at 80-90%. Since it is not, you are missing out on at least twice as much exposure that you could and should be getting.

No.2 – People who are searching for your type of Business on search engine like GOOGLE, YAHOO and BING are not being driven to your website due to an insufficient number of in-bound links instead; they are being driven to one of your competitor’s websites. This is business that your company is losing to the competition. This is totally unnecessary. Certainly, anything worth doing is worth doing well. With some adjusting this can mean an increase in business of many thousands of dollars per year.

No.3 – The social presence of your website is minimal to be most effective; your website should be actively found on over 10+ high social media websites. This increased social presence will expose your business and your website to people who live, work and frequent your local market and geographical area…If people are not aware of your existence, they will do business with one of your competitors instead. As the saying goes.. OUT OF SIGHT …OUT OF MIND..

Overall, based on our research, we can certainly improve the results you have been getting by increasing your Company’s online presence and resolving any critical online reputation management issues that you are having. We would also like to discuss your website’s conversion rate optimization with you. We can convert more of your visitors into becoming actual customer.

Invite for consultation…CALL NOW! Or Email Back. We can proceed from our corporate e-mail ID…this is just a once-off measure to avoid spam.

Best Regard,

The NGRWebTeam


Ken At Popehat

8:56 AM (3 hours ago)

to Joel

Dear Joel:

Thank you for writing! I was staring out at the vast expanse that is today, feeling the slight tremor in my hand, hearing the faint red song, and wondering, wondering, if today will be the day that . . .

. . . and then your letter came.

"We have some very good news. We have discovered why your website has not been effective as it could be."

Wow. That is good news. I've been thinking about that a lot, Joel, and it's been a complete mystery. The market for foul-mouthed easily-distracted clinical-depression-prone footnoted free speech over-analysis is HUGE. HUGE, Joel. I have built the better mousetrap, where "mouse" is "your free time and peace of mind." The world should be beating a path to my door. Other that incident with the Thai food delivery guy nothing of that nature has happened.


We're fallow? That's kind of harsh, Joel, but fair. We have plowed deep lands in the blogsoil but recently have not left our seed. That seed would grow into strong things — mighty things, Joel — things like police abuse rants and Downfall videos and apocalyptic fantasies and innovative communications paradigms like "snort my taint." But we have not left it, and so nothing grows.

Can you help us?

"The organic traffic to your website has been extremely low. We have measured it at less than 40 percent. It really should be at 80-90%. Since it is not, you are missing out on at least twice as much exposure that you could and should be getting."

This is outrageous. All Popehat content is organic, localvore, fair trade, and non-exploitatively cultivated, except the Clark stuff, but that's cultural. Why are we not getting organic traffic? Are the big blogs stealing it with their fake "natural" content? That chaps my ass. Should we market more heavily in Portland? I'm not going to have to wear skinny jeans again, am I? Because last time a rivet popped and the shopgirl lost an eye. She has to wear a patch. They will only let her work in pirate-themed stores and she's terribly allergic to parrots and morally I just don't think I can go down that road again.

"People who are searching for your type of Business on search engine like GOOGLE, YAHOO and BING are not being driven to your website due to an insufficient number of in-bound links instead; they are being driven to one of your competitor’s websites"

Unacceptable. Totally unacceptable. IF ANYONE IS GETTING DRIVEN AWAY FROM POPEHAT IT IS GOING TO BE BY DESIGN. Ideally as early in the process as possible. Is there a way to force a popup before people surf to Popehat? It could use algorithms. As many as 3 if they are reasonably priced. The popup could say things like "our analysis of your web browsing history suggests that you're a huge whiny fuckstick. Are you sure you want to expose yourself to the sort of blog written by someone whose parting words to his seven-year-old today were 'don't make me teach you Daddy's leisurely crawlspace game'?" That way we get only pre-selected QUALITY hits, like a record of the month club.

"The social presence of your website is minimal to be most effective; your website should be actively found on over 10+ high social media websites."

Got it. Question of clarification: does it have to be our website OPENLY hanging out on other websites, or can it be subtle? Because I troll 10 major websites every day, easy. Yesterday I left an Eid al-Fitr prayer on Townhall that made three guys so scared they got their camouflage sweatpants out of the hamper. Then I left a meditation on truck nutz colors on Salon that triggered an editor, twelve interns, and half the readers and apparently made Alex Pareene lose focus and get his foot caught in an escalator. But those don't say "Popehat." Do those still work building our social presence?

"resolving any critical online reputation management issues that you are having."

That would be great. I have a list of words. I want our site to be unassociated with those words and those words to have nothing to do with our reputation. The words include "taint" and "pony" and "twatwaffle," all of which we regret for various legal and philosophical reasons. What can you do for us? Can you manage us to be more cool-popular? Is it anything like managing a boy band? Can I be the cute one? I always have to be the sullen one. I've been the sullen one for forty-five years and it fucking SUCKS. I am THROUGH with it.

So see what you can do for me, Joel.

Very truly yours,


Waiting Patiently For The SEOer To Reply © 2007-2014 by the authors of Popehat. This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. Using this feed on any other site is a copyright violation. No scraping.

01 Aug 10:49

An Unsung Hero.

by Anna Raccoon

Post image for An Unsung Hero.

Lucy Faithful was a social worker. A no nonsense, old fashioned, put-the-children-first, social worker. Not one of your idealogical got-to-have-this-Saturday-off because I’m protesting about the ‘bedroom tax’ brigade.

She was so good at her job that she was elevated to the House of Lords – the first social worker to ever be so ennobled. Yeah! So she became one of those establishment ‘Tory Peers’ that we hear so much about who ‘protect’ Westminster perverts?

Scarcely! Lucy was formidable character – nicknamed ‘Lucy Faithless’ by the Tory whips for ruthlessly voting against the government when she thought the interests of children demanded it – she would have cheerfully fried and eaten for breakfast the entrails of any Peer, had she heard rumours of an ‘unnatural interest’ in children.

She was also an immensely practical woman. She founded the Lucy Faithful Foundation. You may never have heard of it – it doesn’t have the high profile of the NSPCC, nor the funding – but it does engage in practical work to protect children from sexual abuse. Note the term ‘practical’.

The Lucy Faithful Foundation doesn’t organise press seminars to disgorge titivating soundbites for the dying dead tree press, it doesn’t spend its money on afternoon television ads to bolster its profits, it doesn’t even work in tandem with ambitious ex-policemen to make gossipy commercial television.

It just quietly gets on with its work pioneering intensive therapeutic rehabilitation for sex offenders. It provides a help line where those who fear they may harbour sexual thoughts towards children can talk to qualified and experienced experts in the field and access the help they may need. That seems a lot more practical to me than demanding that those who harbour such thoughts keep them to themselves for fear of being hounded by the mob. 

There is something quite illogical about demanding that those who offended 50 years ago are locked up in prison – but not providing a safe venue for those who may be at risk of offending today.

They don’t claim to be able to ‘cure’ every potential paedophile – but every person they do work with successfully is genuinely a child saved from abuse. More genuinely so than the NSPCCs recent claim to have ‘rescued’ 400 children from abuse, which turned out to mean that the children – and nephews and nieces – of those individuals who had viewed on-line porn which ‘in the opinion of a police officer’ may have included pictures of those who ‘may’ be below the age of 18 – had been either taken away from their family, or the putative ‘offender’ had been removed from the family home.

Any armchair paedo-hunter who cheers at the news that 400 children have been taken into care and are thus ‘protected’ from abuse has obviously never been in care themselves. ‘State care’ is a grim experience. If you doubt that, I suggest you go and experience it for yourself for a few months. You’ll soon get off your high horse.

It has become desperately fashionable to be shouting from the sidelines about the horrors of ‘child abuse’ – it even has its own Twitter hash tag these days; #CSA. Full of spittle-flecked judgemental attitudes – it has provided the moral high ground for the same sort of people who used to scream blue murder about homosexuality. ‘Paedo’ has replaced ‘Homo’ as the insult of choice.

Anybody who expounds any view that deviates from the approved ‘castrate them all’; or who fails to cheer as yet another elderly celebrity is hounded through the civil courts in search of ‘closure’ (which is apparently not the same as justice, but involves hard cash being handed over for sexual experiences alleged to have occurred 40 years ago – there is another word for this practice, but to use it would be to denigrate an honourable profession); or who suggests calm debate on any of the issues, is subjected to a howl of outrage that includes barring them from their profession, or publishing their names and addresses so that other late night members of the sycophantic squad can vomit out their spittle lathered lunacy directly into their home.

None of those ‘moral crusaders’ is doing a damn thing towards actually physically protecting children. The High Priests of the movement are busy publicising their money making ‘child protection’ courses; the political wonks are using the uproar to further their political aims; journalists are hanging onto their jobs; the ambitious TV presenters are furthering their career – ‘I’ve got a great idea for a series; Your Big Fat Abused Child Next Door’; and the professional fund raisers are planning their next Gala in Monte Carlo.

Two weeks ago, the Lucy Faithful Foundation gathered together experts from across the globe to discuss practical methods of protecting children from sexual abuse. They sent out press releases to all the national media. Not one journalist bothered to attend. Not one journalist bothered to rehash the press release. The BBC promised to send someone to learn what practical measures could protect children – but at the last moment they were diverted to cover a glossy celebrity filled piece about ’600 Doctors and Teachers caught up in child porn sting’.

Actually working with sex-offenders, talking to them, treating them as the individuals they are, seeking to change the focus of their sexual orientation, especially to help protect the 90% of abused children that weren’t the object of some celebrity’s attention; rebuilding damaged families – well, there’s no column inches in that is there?

If you want to do something more than speculate on which celebrity will be arrested next – you can donate to the work of the Lucy Faithful Foundation HERE.

01 Aug 11:13

An Unconvincing Defense of the Poor Door

by Steven Attewell

Given the, shall we say, “unfavorable optics” of the poor door scandal, I wasn’t exactly expecting to see a defense of the policy, let alone from the putative center-left. But Matt Yglesias has made an attempt at one, so let’s have a look:

the idea of a single building with two different doors — one for the super-rich and one for the normals — works as a potent metaphor. But the building is not a metaphor. It is, in fact, a building. A building in which people live. A building whose construction employs people, and whose existence expands the New York City tax base. Even better, it’s a building that created subsidized dwellings in a desirable location for 55 lucky families. The serious problems with housing policy in America have nothing to do with poor doors and everything to do with the literally millions of people in the New York area who aren’t lucky enough to get a subsidized unit on the Upper West Side.

After all, Yglesias notes, if the developer had built two buildings, one for the rich and one for the poor (editor’s filibuster: one of the weird things about this story is that we’re not even talking about class segregation against the poor – the subsidized dwellings are going for $908 a month for a one-bedroom, which means by HUD guidelines you’d need to be making at least $36k/year to afford this affordable housing – but rather against the working class, which is an unsettling increase in classist prejudice), no one would be talking about discrimination, and the real issue is that there’s not enough affordable housing in New York.

However, if you dig into Yglesias’ argument, not only do you find some major holes, but there’s some nasty stuff inside the holes.

Yglesias’ real target here is inclusionary zoning, which he argues “blend together two policy ideas [redistribution and increasing the housing supply and do neither of them very well.” In the former, “the buyers of the market rate condos are being taxed to finance a subsidy to the renters of the affordable apartments. Soak the rich to subsidize the poor. It’s a reasonable idea. But the only rich people being taxed are the tiny minority of rich people who happen to be buying into a brand-new luxury tower. Rich brownstone owners in Brooklyn are unscathed.” In the latter, it would be better to “change the zoning code to allow for the construction of more and denser buildings” because “ultimately, the number of people who can afford to live in New York City is a function of the number of housing units that exist in the city.”

Yglesias’ preferred policy? Drop inclusionary zoning, deregulate zoning density, and “then if you feel low-income people still need more help, you can tax all rich people and subsidize all poor people.” (Note the way in which working class people just got turned into poor people; hint to Yglesias – inequality is a problem all the way up and all the way down the income scale. There’s a reason people are talking about the 99%)

The first flaw in this argument is the elision Yglesias makes when he says that “the buyers of the market rate condos are being taxed to finance a subsidy to the renters of the affordable apartments.” What he’s actually talking about is that the developers of One Riverside Park got two different forms of public subsidies – a “density bonus” worth between $2-26 million and a “421a” tax exemption for builders of affordable housing that’s worth $21.8 million annually. What he’s not saying is that it’s all New York City taxpayers who are footing the bill for this – which includes lots of people making $36,000 a year. Those people shouldn’t have to walk into a publicly-subsidized building, a public that was subsidized with their own tax dollars, through a door whose very existence threatens stigma and discrimination. That’s a massive civil rights violation, not a metaphor.

The second flaw in this argument is that Yglesias’ solution is a terrible one – and its flaws point to the precise reasons why inclusionary zoning is absolutely necessary. Yglesias argues that we should opt for deregulation over inclusionary zoning because we need more density, and because “even new luxury units in Manhattan do something to increase affordability, and reversing Bloomberg-era policies in the Outer Boroughs could unleash substantial new accessible development all around the city.” Now, I have no problem with increasing density, but I do have a problem with the idea that new luxury units add to affordability. Yglesias argues that deregulation adds to affordability because “there are only so many millionaires in the country. As the number of projects increases, developers need to reach further down the market to reach a larger base of customers.” The problem with this is that this is New York City we’re talking about, a place where the supply of millionaires is not limited by the country but rather by the world – hence the current situation of a vacancy rate of 1.64% in Manhattan and “30 percent of apartments between 49th Street to 70th Street between Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue, are not occupied for at least 10 months out of the year” because they’ve been bought up by international speculators looking to park their money. Given this sky-high demand from the absolute top of the market, without inclusionary zoning to require some units for the rest of us, it would be entirely possible that luxury housing would dominate the market, squeezing everyone else out.

Moreover, even if we deregulated housing density in New York, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t also use the public’s resources to make that added density more affordable. The land, air rights, loans, loan guarantees, density allowances, and tax benefits that new development depends on are all resources that go to someone in the end  - ending inclusionary zoning only means that the wealthy get the entirety of the benefit right up front, and then the city has to chase them down to recapture part of it in taxes. Why not, while the city has the upper hand when all of these resources are still under the public’s control, make the wealthy hand over a share of the benefits right up front?

And then we can tax the wealthy and redistribute to everyone else. New York City is perfectly capable of doing two things at once.

01 Aug 10:55

Gallery Whispers and Lunch in the Cafe: Mapping Museums Through Their Sounds

by Allison Meier
Still from John Kannenberg's "A Sound Map of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo " (2011) (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

Still from John Kannenberg’s “A Sound Map of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo ” (2011) (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

“There are so many sounds in museums that we usually ignore that are absolutely engrossing once you take the time to focus on them,” says artist John Kannenberg, who’s been recording museum noise for 15 years. “Standing in a space like the Great Court at the British Museum is so amazing to me — all that reverb and swampy, thick and thin sound. Sitting in a very quiet gallery while people whisper to each other, that dense amount of silence with wispy little bits of unintelligible dialogue, practically gives me goosebumps.”

Last month Kannenberg released “A Sound Map of the Art Institute of Chicago” with 3LEAVES, a Hungarian label focused on field-recording-based sound art. The hourlong soundscape is Kannenberg’s second in a series of museum portraits using their quiet and cacophonous elements. Back in 2011, also with 3LEAVES, he released a sound map of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the project that started him on turning his museum field recordings into psychogeographies of the institutions.

Smuggling his audio recorder into the Egyptian Museum by pretending it was a phone, Kannenberg returned over and over to different spaces, listening to the gasp of controlled air systems in the mummy chambers and the blistering pops of the old fluorescent lights. “Months later, when I started editing, I began trying to piece together a very linear walkthrough of the galleries, but it didn’t feel right — it didn’t seem to accurately reflect the memory of how I felt while I was in the museum,” he told Hyperallergic. “So I scrapped that and began listening even more closely to the forms of the sounds, then pieced them together in a way that I thought sounded engaging while communicating the different emotions I felt while spending time in the museum, which led me straight to psychogeography.”

John Kannenberg's "A Sound Map of the Art Institute of Chicago" (via 3LEAVES)

John Kannenberg’s “A Sound Map of the Art Institute of Chicago” (via 3LEAVES)

Psychogeography, that catchall term for mapping through an alternative sense of time and place, does seem especially suited to museums, with their rhythm of preserving a set, specific history while visitors rotate in a performative state. “When I’m in a museum, time seems to act differently: I lose track of it completely, and yet if I’m inside a history museum I’m intensely aware of time as a concept, so there are these two parallel experiences of time going on in my mind,” Kannenberg explained. “And I think a large part of that involves the sensory experience inside museums — losing yourself in a crowd, hearing massive amounts of reverb in huge spaces, then walking into a tiny gallery with only three people in it and everyone’s whispering and you become intensely aware of every sound in the room.”

The sound map of the Art Institute of Chicago (the artist’s current home city) feels immediately familiar as a museum: the build and hush of voices from entryway to gallery, the snippet of conversation from a tour group, the clicks of digital cameras, sirens from outside blaring into the space, lunch at the cafe, even a cameo of Lindsey Buckingham walking by a Henry Moore sculpture. Kannenberg spent time in almost every part of the museum in the spring and summer of 2013, from its original building to the 2009 Renzo Piano–designed Modern Wing, wrestling the sprawl of sound down to a single composed hour.

Below is a 10-minute preview of the Art Institute of Chicago sound map:

John Kannenberg’s “A Sound Map fo the Art Institute of Chicago” is available on CD from 3LEAVES.

29 Jul 20:30

Idiocracy Is a Cruel Movie And You Should Be Ashamed For Liking It

by Matt Novak on Paleofuture, shared by Annalee Newitz to io9

Idiocracy Is a Cruel Movie And You Should Be Ashamed For Liking It

Remember that 2006 movie Idiocracy? The one where Luke Wilson plays an average underachiever who wakes up 500 years in the future, only to realize that he's now the smartest person on Earth? And everyone else is dumb — like, really dumb? Well, that movie is cruel and terrible and you should be ashamed for liking it. Seriously.


31 Jul 14:47

Old Man’s War and Trans Folk

by John Scalzi

Note: This entry will have spoilers about my book Old Man’s War – which, inasmuch as the book has been published for nearly ten years now probably shouldn’t been seen as spoilers anymore but never mind that now — so if you haven’t read Old Man’s War and don’t want a relatively important aspect of it spoiled for you, here’s the takeaway: Yes, there are trans people in the OMW universe; no, it’s not a problem for the CDF/Colonial Union that they are trans. There, now you can go ahead and skip the rest of this entry.

Now, then, for everyone else:

I have been asked several times (and just yesterday, in fact, via e-mail), what happens to trans people who become part of the Colonial Defense Force in the Old Man’s War books. To recap, the CDF gets its soldiers by recruiting 75-year-olds from Earth and giving them new, super-awesome bodies that are based on — but not created solely out of — their own DNA. Because the creation of the bodies is only partly based on the recruit’s original genetic information, would it be possible to for transfolk to specify which gender they would like their new body to be?

This is a really interesting question. Let me try to answer it.

Let me note that with respect to Old Man’s War the book, I did not at all think about what would happen with trans people who join the CDF as I was writing it. Why? Short answer: Straight white male who didn’t know any trans people at the time, so it was not something in my consciousness. So everything from here on out is me adding commentary to the original text — but since it’s from me, the author, we can consider it canonical.

(Also, note: I am not 100% up on trans-related terms, so if I use terms incorrectly, it’s ignorance and not malice; please let me know in the comments and I’ll edit.)

1. First off, and to be clear, there would be no bar to trans people joining the CDF, because why would there be? The entrance requirements are a) you’ve signed up, b) you come from what are in the book rich, developed countries (which mostly align with the current slate of rich, developed countries). So yes, there would be trans people among the recruits.

2. By default, CDF bodies come in classically male and classically female forms. Note that thanks to genetic engineering, etc, the performance capabilities of both male and female forms are equal, so the gender presentation is strictly for the psychological comfort of the recruit, i.e., you’re (usually) used to being male or female, so you get to stay that way when you transfer into your new body.

3. Because the body sorting is a matter of psychological comfort, to the extent that the CDF knows about a trans person’s gender identity, it’ll sort them that way. So, for example, a post-op trans person will be sorted into their post-op gender identity, regardless of DNA profile, because that’s the clear preference for that person.

4. What about non-op, genderfluid, intersex or trans people who have not made their preferred gender public knowledge? The CDF initially sorts into male/female by best appoximation and then after transfer follows up for additional modification. The CDF is an organization that can grow back limbs and organs with minimal effort (for them; it’s slightly more traumatic to the person growing them back), so modifying bodies for the psychological comfort of the person inside is a relatively trivial matter. Most of this can be handled before the recruits get to basic training, although particular in the case of trans people who are not public, much would be contingent on them telling the CDF doctors and technicians.

5. And no, the CDF wouldn’t care about the gender presentation of the recruits. What it would care about is them being willing to fight. You’ll fight? Great, here’s your Empee. Go kill an alien. Thanks.

6. Would there be some other recruits who would have a problem with trans people? It’s possible; the CDF lets anyone in. The basic training drill sergeants will be happy to tell them to get over it. If they did not (indeed if they did not get over any general bigotry) the results for them would be grim.

7. Could a CDF soldier decide to change their gender identity and presentation during the term of service? Sure, why not? All CDF bodies have the same baseline capabilities and personal identity can be verfied via BrainPal, so there would be no penalty or confusion on either score. Are you following orders? Killing aliens? Great — change your presentation however you like.

8. Likewise, when a CDF soldier leaves service, they can specify the gender identity and presentation of the body they’ll be transfered into. Because, again, why wouldn’t they?

Short form: The CDF is happy to let trans people be who they are because it makes them comfortable with themselves — and that makes them better soldiers, which is ultimately what the CDF cares about.

With regard to the Old Man’s War series, I have not intentionally written about trans people in it (some of my characters may have been trans but did not tell me about it), but there’s no reason why I could not. So maybe I will at some point, if there’s a way to do so that doesn’t look like me transparently trying to gather cookies to myself. But regardless of whether I’ve written trans people into my books, there are, canonically speaking, trans people in the OMW universe. Because why wouldn’t there be.

(Update, 8:30pm: Making a few tweaks on language thanks to feedback from some trans and trans-knowledgeable readers)

31 Jul 16:18

Speak It, Carol!

by syrbal-labrys

image copySome time back, I used to spend time at a pagan website known as the Cauldron.  It was there I first encountered the Kirks, or as I first knew them, “Lark” and “Brock”.  Both were what I considered the best of the best.  Brock/Blake could discuss any hot subject with civility and  scholarly knowledge.  Lark, or Carol, was a Viet Nam veteran nurse with a marvelous sense of humanity and a luminous spirituality.

So, imagine me finding them embroiled in the task of making pagan religion as free to speak in public at meetings opened with prayer as the dominant paradigm faiths have always been?  Yes, in Huntsville, Alabama — a positive bastion of genteel liberality for a Southern city — Blake was to give an opening prayer.  And then NOT.

So, once more into the breech, dear friends — Carol’s article is in Time Online.

Tagged: freedom of religion
31 Jul 18:31

Marina Abramović Institute Seeks So Much Unpaid Work

by Jillian Steinhauer
Marina Abramović (screenshot via Vimeo)

Marina Abramović (screenshot via Vimeo)

Good news: the Marina Abramović Institute is hiring! Bad news: all four positions listed in this fresh New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) ad are unpaid — ahem, volunteer. They’re probably great “opportunities,” though, right?

Let’s take a look.

1. Administrative Volunteer

  • Work: “general administrative duties, planning art-based special events, and development.”
  • Skills required: “excellent writing skills, the ability to multi-task, proficiency in Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel, and prior experience working in a fast-paced arts non-profit or other administrative position.”
  • (Nonmonetary, intangible) benefits: “the opportunity to grow within the organization and expand professional networks.”

2. Tech and Production Volunteer

  • Work: “development and maintenance of IMMATERIAL, MAI’s digital journal.”
  • Skills required: Unclear, but they are looking for people “who would like to expand their knowledge of Javascript / JSON / Jquery, HTML5, CSS, Video streaming via Vimeo and/or Youtube Live,” which implies that you should already have some knowledge of these things.
  • (Nonmonetary, intangible) benefits: “a unique opportunity to hone technology skills on a highly visible, emerging arts platform.”
  • Bonus job volunteer position: “We also have volunteer opportunities for assistance with video and audio production, photo editing, and print layout.” Awesome, because I was wondering about that.

3. Special Projects Volunteer

  • Work: “preparing and working on collaborative in-person and digital projects.”
  • Skills required: “excellent organization and communication skills, proficiency in Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite and basic HTML / CSS coding, familiarity with non-profit administration, comfort collaborating with partners in and outside of the arts and strong passion for the expanding the role of arts and sciences in various communities”
  • (Nonmonetary, intangible) benefits: none, but “artists are encouraged to apply”!

4. Research Volunteer

  • Work: “researching for the content of IMMATERIAL”
  • Skills required: “based in New York City and have a college-level background in art history, performance art, and/or performance art studies. Strong writing skills required. Additional background in at least two of the following: the sciences, research assistance, curatorial practice, performing arts, fine arts, photography / video.”
  • (Nonmonetary, intangible) benefits: none, unless you are “a critical thinker who wants to apply their skills to a large-scale collaborative project” and find that this fits the bill.

All of these positions have at least two-day-a-week commitments — which, amazingly, makes them sound even more like part-time work than they already do.

Abramović raised over $660,000 for her institute on Kickstarter in June and recently “collaborated” with Adidas. Yet somehow she cannot afford to pay people to work for MAI. (In the process she makes Jeff Koons, who boasted on Charlie Rose this week about how many people he employs, look like a saint.) We can only hope that, one day, someone who toils without compensation within the MAI apparatus will grab hold of their social media and give us something as good as this:


Addendum: There have been some great, strong reactions on Twitter to the job posting, including:

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 7.08.52 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 7.09.21 PM

31 Jul 22:40

The King’s English

by Erik Loomis

I’m not sure Oak Ridge National Laboratory importing the ideas of Dr. Henry Higgins is such a good idea:

The rain in Spain won’t be falling mainly on the plain after all, at least not at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The Tennessee-based research facility canceled what it had billed as a “Southern accent reduction” class amid employee backlash; for some staff, it came off as a little too “My Fair Lady: Appalachia.”

“Feel confident in a meeting when you need to speak with a more neu­tral Amer­i­can accent, and be remembered for what you say and not how you say it,” reads an email sent to thousands of staff members last week, advertising the new course. “In this course you will learn to recognize the pronunciation and grammar differences that make your speech sound Southern, and learn what to do so you can neutralize it through a technique called code-switching.”

The weekly course, set to run through mid-September, was offered on a voluntary basis only (with an $850 price tag). But some employees were insulted by the premise of the course and wording of the email, and complained. The lab subsequently called off the class.

David Keim, spokesman for Oak Ridge, which is the Energy Department’s biggest research facility and home to the Titan supercomputer, said the lab regularly offers accent modification classes for its many employees who are non-native English speakers. The lab employs some 4,400 people from 90 countries, as well as from across the U.S., and their work is highly technical. That makes professional development designed to help international researchers communicate more clearly and efficiently in high demand, he said.

Or Americans, especially the snotty elite classes not living in east Tennessee who are going to be interacting with ORNL employees, could just get over the idea of a proper accent and be OK with someone if their accent is from southern Appalachia, Rhode Island, Texas, or Minnesota. While obviously working with non-native speakers is a good idea that empowers the individual, embarrassing your employees because of where they are from and how they grew up makes the individual ashamed of themselves. Not everyone has to sound like they are on TV. This is real classism.

31 Jul 23:39

Well, Somebody Doesn't Know What "Homophones" Are

by Kevin

It's either Clarke Woodger, who reportedly fired an employee for blogging about them, or people for whom English is a second language. It is plausible to think many in the latter group might not know what "homophones" are, but to join Team Woodger you must also believe that those people (1) would know enough English to recognize "homo" and (2) are also stupid enough to think it is always associated with sexuality.

That's what Woodger believes, according to Tim Torkildson, who says he was fired from his job at Nomen Global Language Center after he wrote a blog post for the company site explaining what "homophones" are. The post itself is now gone, but Torkildson told the Salt Lake Tribune he was "careful to write a straightforward explanation of homophones" because he knew part of the word could be, as the Tribune put it, "politically charged."

According to Torkildson, this is what happened next:

"I'm letting you go because I can't trust you," said [Woodger]. "This blog about homophones was the last straw. Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality."

I said nothing, stunned into silence.

"I had to look up the word," he continued, "because I didn't know what the hell you were talking about. We don't teach this kind of advanced stuff to our students, and it's extremely inappropriate. Can you have your desk cleaned out by eleven this morning?  I’ll have your check ready."

I nodded, mute.

Again, that's Torkildson's account, and based on a quick look at his Facebook page he appears to be something of a wise guy. Always trying to be funny, you know? You can't trust people like that. So maybe this was just him goofing around again?

If so, the Tribune is in on the prank, because it says it reached Woodger for comment, and here are those comments:

Woodger says his reaction to Torkildson's blog has nothing to do with homosexuality but that Torkildson had caused him concern because he would "go off on tangents" in his blogs that would be confusing and sometimes could be considered offensive....

Woodger says his school has taught 6,500 students from 58 countries during the past 15 years. Most of them, he says, are at basic levels of English and are not ready for the more complicated concepts such as homophones.

Well, there you go. Apparently it had nothing to do with— 

"People at this level of English," Woodger says, "... may see the 'homo' side and think it has something to do with gay sex."

Wait, what? You just said....

In the unlikely event that you, like Mr. Woodger, do not know what "homophones" are (assuming that part of the story is also true), they are words that sound alike but are otherwise different, such as ritewriteright, and wright.

I'd link to some sites for you but I don't want to be accused of promoting the homophonic agenda. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Employment in Utah is generally "at will," meaning one can be fired for any reason or no reason at all, subject to limited exceptions including "when termination violates clear and substantial Utah public policy." Given that Utah public policy apparently does not prohibit firing someone for being homosexual, it seems very unlikely that it would prohibit firing someone for using a term that you, if an idiot, wrongly believe has something to do with homosexuals.

That seems like a good question for the Utah Labor Commission, though. I'll let you know if they answer it.

31 Jul 12:34

6 things I learned about my orgasms

by stavvers

Today is National Orgasm Day, so of course I took this opportunity to TMI at you people, because TMI is my middle name. I’ve been having orgasms for more than half my life, and here are a few things I learned along the way.

1. I am my own best lover

Look, it’s nice having other people around. It enhances sex a lot. But I’ve been fucking myself for about 15 years, and so I think I’m best positioned for knowing exactly what works best. Only I know the full details, despite the fact that people over the years (usually, but not exclusively men) have taken it upon themselves to give me some sort of Entirely New Experience because they Know Best and pretty much every time that’s happened it’s ended in mutual disappointment. Even now, when I have two partners and a host of less regular lovers, I still make time for a date with myself. Nobody’s quite as good as me at making me come.

2. Having the same genitals as me doesn’t automatically make you better at sex

There’s a common myth flying round that cis lesbians are automatically better at sex with cis women, because they have the same equipment. That is categorically untrue. Having a cunt does not grant you a PhD in Cuntology. Everyone likes different things, and sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of egocentrism. I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of the assumption that having a fanny means knowing how every fanny works. Communication is key, rather than anatomy.

3. Squirting doesn’t mean you’ve wanked yourself incontinent

I was about fifteen, and having the sort of epic wanking session one tends to lose the stamina for once one is out of one’s teens. I brought myself to shuddering orgasm after shuddering orgasm, and then one felt… different. There was wet stuff everywhere. I panicked slightly. I sprayed Febreeze all over the wet patch. I was convinced I had managed to come so hard I’d peed myself, and I laid off the masturbatory marathons for a while after to make sure I didn’t develop some sort of bladder problem. I was quiet about this horrifying thing that had happened to me, the gross piss-pariah. Oddly enough, I only learned this was a perfectly ordinary thing to happen a few years later, while watching porn. Yep. Porn saved me.

4. Porn gives people hella weird assumptions about squirting

So, I squirt. This is apparently a little uncommon, although pretty popular in porn. The thing is, in porn, this seems to happen on demand (I imagine, in fact, it requires multiple takes and a whole bunch of fluffing and it’s probably a little easier to happen knowing nobody’s going to have to sleep in the expansive wet patch). This is pretty much not how it happens for me. There is no magical formula for ensuring ejaculation occurs. It just sometimes does. Or, more frequently, doesn’t. The thing is, once it’s happened once, there’s usually this assumption that it’ll happen reliably, which leads to crushing disappointment, because it’s not like in the movies. Going off like a geyser is something which is fetishised, and I can’t live up to it. Luckily, most people will get this once it’s been explained to them.

5. My orgasms make men sad

Once upon a time, I used to fuck cis, straight men. I gave up on this, because politically they’re rubbish, and I have successfully arranged my life so I just don’t even meet them any more. As an additional fact about me, I have super-powerful Kegels. This is always brilliantly fun for me, but not so much for the cis, straight men who think penis-in-vagina is the be-all and end-all to sex. You see, my Kegels can easily eject a penis at the moment of my orgasm. And after that, I’m usually kind of done, and might roll over, fart and fall asleep. This makes cis, straight men sad, because sex is traditionally centred around their orgasms: they’re the ones who get to roll over, fart and fall asleep. For some reason, when the roles are reversed, it makes them feel sad.

6. Orgasms really aren’t the be-all and end-all

I’ve had phenomenal sex without an orgasm. There’s something incredibly nice about focusing yourself on someone else having a good time. I can have spectacular sex without the need for the other person to even touch me. For the most part, sex is a pleasant way of passing the time between two or more people, and an orgasm isn’t a requirement for that to be fun. They’re like the marzipan on top of an otherwise-delicious cake: it’s awesome if it’s there, but it’s not necessary at all. And if you want it, later you can get a whole block of marzipan and eat it to yourself.


31 Jul 05:23

Leftier-Than-Thouism, Defined

by Scott Lemieux

Krugman draws some conclusions from California, where the ACA was permitted to work as intended:

So it now appears that most of California’s uninsured — 58 percent of the total, or well over 60 percent of those eligible (because undocumented immigrants aren’t covered) have gained insurance in the first year. Considering the complexity of the scheme, that’s really impressive, and it strongly suggests that next year, once those who missed out have had a chance to learn via word of mouth, California will have gotten much of the way toward universal coverage for legal residents.

But there’s something else the Kaiser report drives home: most of those gaining coverage are doing so not via the exchanges (although those are important too) but via Medicaid. And that’s important as an answer to critics of Obamacare from the left.

There have always been critics complaining that what we really should have is single-payer, and angry that subsidies were being funneled through the insurance companies. And in principle they’re right; the trouble was that cutting the insurers out of the loop would have made the plan politically impossible, both because of the industry’s power and because of the unwillingness of people with good coverage to take a leap into a completely new system. So we got this awkward public-private hybrid, which I supported because it was what we could get and despite its impurity it dramatically improves many people’s lives.

But it turns out that many of the newly insured are in fact being covered under a single-payer system — Medicaid.

All of which functions as a good intro to this shorter verbatim Lambert Strether:

I believe there should be equal access to health care for all, and so the fact that ObamaCare helps some people is just proof that it doesn’t help all, equally. Why is the random delivery of government services considered praiseworthy?

If a government policy cannot provide everything, we should not care if it helps anyone. Got it.

At this point, it’s probably superfluous to note that Lambert also refuses to criticize the irrational and immoral Halbig decision, while implicitly defending it with idiotic Republican talking points. Why shouldn’t he? His critique is for all intents and purposes incidental to the Republican one. Both would happily strip millions of people of health coverage to demonstrate their obsessive opposition to Obama. To both, no legal argument that could damage the ACA and strip people of insurance could possibly be too specious. Both would rather have a Republican in the White House (Obama, says Lambert, is the “more effective evil” because some people will purchase private insurance, and of course the whole industry would have spontaneously combusted without the ACA, and better millions of people go uninsured than any rentier make a profit.) That one side tries to cover up their cruelty by theoretically supporting bad alternatives they have no intention of enacting and the other tries to cover up their cruelty by theoretically supporting good alternatives that have no chance of being enacted is a distinction without a difference.

31 Jul 05:13

Gods—They’re Just Like Us! (Apollo’s Vacation and the Boozy House-sitter)

by Sarah Veale

The gods in antiquity often came under fire for their human-like behaviour. Jealousy, lust, revenge—these are just a few of the traits that were criticized as being less than divine. Xenophanes famously said that if horses could depict their gods, they would look like horses. Of course, this speaks to the question of which came first: the human or the god. The argument here is that when gods do human things, it’s because humans are projecting themselves upon the divine.

Case in point: Apollo.

Despite the obviousness of Xenophanes’ observation, once in a while, I am struck by how the gods do very human things. You know, how they act all normal when they’re not turning into mythical animals or smiting their enemies with lightning bolts. Recently, I found a discussion of the relationship of Dionysus and Apollo which seemed particularly indicative of this humanizing of the gods. In a commentary to the Orphic “Hymn to Dionysos Liknites,” Apostolos N. Athanassakis observes how the epithet Liknites was particular to the worship of Dionysus at Delphi (153-154).

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t Delphi the home of Apollo? And, yes. Yes, it is. But sometimes Apollo goes on vacation, and when that happens, Dionysos watches the house. Gods—they’re just like us!

Like the Canadian snowbirds who head to Florida when the weather turns cold, or those who skedaddle to the Bahamas during Spring Break, Apollo similarly takes a winter vacay. Giving his keys to Dionysus, the god of divination puts his mail on hold and absconds for three months of R&R, presumably to do whatever it is gods do. I assume it involves a sandy beach, a frosty margarita, and being fanned by palm fronds—but perhaps I am reading a bit much into it here.

Actually, I am. Apollo just went north to Thrace to hang out with the Hyperboreans. Which I’m sure is fun in its own way.

Why was Dionysus looking after Delphi in Apollo’s absence? Athanassakis observes that there is a pre-Apollonian link between Dionysus and Delphi, and perhaps a link between Dionysus and the snake, or Python, which Apollo slayed when he took up residence there. Furthermore, it is said by Plutarch that Dionysus was buried at Delphi:

The people of Delphi believe that the remains of Dionysus rest with them close beside the oracle; and the Holy Ones offer a secret sacrifice in the shrine of Apollo whenever the devotees of Dionysus wake the God of the Mystic Basket. (Plutarch, Isis and Osiris 201-202)

Perhaps this is a reference to the belief that Dionysus was ripped apart by the Titans. Or perhaps it refers to the half-god, half-human status of Dionysus (Born to Zeus and the mortal Semele). Either way, there was a belief that Apollo shared his space with Dionysus, either while he was alive or after his death. But most definitely while he was on vacation.

In much of the ancient literature, we often find associations between gods that deviate from the standard stories we know from “mythology.” New genealogies are created and strange alliances formed based on regional peculiarities or how the god is interpreted by his worshipers. The Orphic Hymns certainly fall into this category, and the “Hymn to Dionysos Liknites” underscores the atypical relationships the gods may have with each other. In this case, we meet Dionysus, not as the god of wine, but as the god of house-sitting.


  • Athanassakis, Apostolos, and Benjamin M. Wolkow. 2013. The Orphic Hymns. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Plutarch. Isis and Osiris. Full text can be found online here.

Photo by xymox.

Filed under: Ancient
31 Jul 03:00

Lydia Loveless

by Erik Loomis

One album I recommend very highly is Lydia Loveless’ Somewhere Else. This young, talented singer from Ohio is definitely someone to check out if you haven’t yet. If you haven’t heard her, this NPR performance is a good place to start, although quite a bit more subdued than her album. I read somewhere that her dad was in the band for awhile, but too many of her songs were about sex so it was too weird. Another excellent musician from southern Ohio as well, which seems to generate a whole lot of underrated music.

30 Jul 14:40

Amazon’s Latest Volley

by John Scalzi

Another day, another volley in the Amazon-Hachette battle, this time from Amazon, in which it explains what it wants (all ebooks to be $9.99 or less, for starters) and lays out some math that it alleges shows that everyone wins when Amazon gets its way.

Some thoughts:

1. I think Amazon’s math checks out quite well, as long as you have the ground assumption that Amazon is the only distributor of books that publishers or authors (or consumers, for that matter) should ever have to consider. If you entertain the notion that Amazon is just 30% of the market and that publishers have other retailers to consider — and that authors have other income streams than Amazon — then the math falls apart. Amazon’s assumptions don’t include, for example, that publishers and authors might have a legitimate reason for not wanting the gulf between eBook and physical hardcover pricing to be so large that brick and mortar retailers suffer, narrowing the number of venues into which books can sell. Killing off Amazon’s competitors is good for Amazon; there’s rather less of an argument that it’s good for anyone else.

2. Amazon’s math of “you will sell 1.74 times as many books at $9.99 than at $14.99″ is also suspect, because it appears to come with the ground assumption that books are interchangable units of entertainment, each equally as salable as the next, and that pricing is the only thing consumers react to. They’re not, and it’s not. Someone who wants the latest John Ringo novel on the day of release will not likely find the latest Jodi Picoult book a satisfactory replacement, or vice versa; likewise, someone who wants a eBook now may be perfectly happy to pay $14.99 to get it now, in which case the publisher and author should be able to charge what the market will bear, and adjust the prices down (or up! But most likely down) as demand moves about.

(This is where many people decide to opine that the cost of eBooks should reflect the cost of production in some way that allows them to say that whatever price point they prefer is the naturally correct one. This is where I say: You know what, if you’ve ever paid more than twenty cents for a soda at a fast food restaurant, or have ever bought bottled water at a store, then I feel perfectly justified in considering your cost of production position vis a vis publishing as entirely hypocritical. Please stop making the cost of production argument for books and apparently nothing else in your daily consumer life. I think less of you when you do.)

Bear in mind it’s entirely possible that Amazon sells 1.74 times as many books at $9.99 than at $14.99, but then Amazon deals with gross numbers of product, while publishers deal with somewhat smaller numbers, and the author, of course, deals with only her own list of books. As the focus tightens, the general rules stop being as applicable. What’s good for Amazon isn’t necessarily good for publishers, or authors.

3. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I think it’s very likely that if $9.99 becomes the upper bound for pricing on eBooks, then you are going to find $9.99 becomes the standard price for eBooks, period, because publishers who lose money up at the top of the pricing scale will need to recoup that money somewhere else, and the bottom of the pricing scale is a fine place to do it. Yes, the mass of self-published authors out there will create a tier of value-priced books (this has already been done), and I’m sure in a couple of years Amazon will release another spate of numbers that will show how much more profitable $6.99 eBooks are as compared to $9.99 eBooks, and so on. But at the end of the day there will be authors and publishers who can charge $9.99, forever, and they will. If you destroy the top end of the market, the chances you destroy the bottom end go up, fast.

4. I think Amazon taking a moment to opine that authors should get 35% of revenues for their eBooks is a nice bit of trying to rally authors to their point of view by drawing their attention away from Amazon’s attempt to standardize all eBook pricing at a price point that benefits Amazon’s business goals first and authors secondarily, if at all. The translation here is “Look, if only your publisher would do this thing that we have absolutely no control over, then your own income wouldn’t suffer in the slightest!” Which again, is not necessarily true in the long run.

To be clear, I think authors should get more of the revenue of each electronic sale, although I’m not necessarily sanguine about letting Amazon also attempt to set what that percentage should be. Increasing authors’ percentages of revenue on electronic sales is an exciting new frontier in contract negotiations, he said, having walked to that frontier himself several times now. That said, I also think I should be able to get more of the revenue of each sale and have the ability to have my work priced at whatever the market will bear, without a multibillion-dollar company artifically capping the price I or my publisher can set on my work for its own business goals, which may or may not be in line with my own.

5. While this is not going to happen because this is not the way PR works, I really really really wish Amazon would stop pretending that anything it does it does for the benefit of authors. It does not. It does it for the benefit of Amazon, and then finds a way to spin it to authors, with the help of a coterie of supporters to carry that message forward, more or less uncritically.

Look: As Walter Jon Williams recently pointed out, if Amazon is on the side of authors, why does their Kindle Direct boilerplate have language in it that says that Amazon may unilaterally change the parameters of their agreement with authors? I don’t consider my publishers “on my side” any more than I consider Amazon “on my side” — they’re both entities I do business with — but at least my publisher cannot change my deal without my consent. Which is to say that between my publisher and Amazon, one of them gets to utter the immortal Darth Vader line “I am altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it further” to authors doing business with it and one does not.

(I notice in the WJW comment thread someone opines along the lines of “Oh, that’s like EULA boilerplate and it would probably not be enforceable in court,” which I think is a really charming example of naivete, not in the least because, as I suspected, the boilerplate also specifies (in section 10.1) that disputes between Kindle Direct users and Amazon will be settled through arbitration rather than the courts.)

Authors: Amazon is not your friend. Neither is any other publisher or retailer. They are all business entities with their own goals, only some of which may benefit you. When any of them starts invoking your own interest, while promoting their own, look to your wallet.

30 Jul 20:18

Port Authority Claims Rights to New York Skyline

by Alix Taylor

Fishs Eddy products affected by Port Authority cease-and-desist letter (graphic by Mostafa Heddaya/Hyperallergic, source images via

New York housewares store Fishs Eddy has run afoul of the Port Authority’s apparent rights to the Manhattan skyline, the New York Times reported. On July 24, the popular retail operation received a cease-and-desist letter from the Port authority citing two of their best-selling patterns as “bearing unauthorized reproductions and names of exclusive assets of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.”

Patterns “212 Skyline” and “Bridge and Tunnel,” featured on products that range from dinner plates to tote bags — and even a 212 Everything Bagel Salt Tin — both allegedly bear representations of Port Authority “assets”: the iconic Twin Towers appear in the skyline print and the Holland Tunnel is similarly depicted in “Bridge and Tunnel.” The New York landmarks are visually rendered and named in the prints, both supposed rights violations with which the Port Authority has taken issue.

Fishs Eddy representative Julie Gaines expressed what she believed to be the motivation behind the Port Authority’s targeting of Fishs Eddy: consistency. “We’ve been producing the same pattern[s] for 27 years,” she told Hyperallergic over the phone. Gaines continued to explain that it’s easier for the Port Authority to use the store as an example rather than chasing down every “I Love New York” shopfront that turns over merchandise bearing their assets at a much quicker rate.

According to Gaines, the store’s lawyers have stated that they don’t plan to comply with the order to cease and desist production and sale of the home goods bearing the two patterns in question. Gaines further explained to Hyperallergic that the depictions are artistic renderings that don’t “erode the distinctive significance of the Twin Towers,” adding “it drives me crazy that people are calling it cartoonish, they’re artful silhouettes of the New York skyline.”

Gaines said that Fishs Eddy has received countless emails and phone calls from customers voicing their support for the store: “the support has been overwhelming … I thought, people really love Fishs Eddy, but I think [the reality is] people really hate the Port Authority.”

A representative from the Port Authority declined to comment.

30 Jul 10:01

Aversion Qualified

by Maggie McNeill

Are very shy women fit to be prostitutes?  Also, does semen always smell bad or does it depend on the man?

If by “shy” you mean “painfully introverted” or “extremely  modest”, sex work is definitely not for you.  Though a whore needn’t necessarily be gregarious (and in fact many are somewhat introverted), she needs to at least be able to meet and smoothly interact with new people in order to carry out the basic activities of her trade.  Likewise, she need not be so comfortable with nudity that she can flash crowds on Bourbon Street in broad daylight, but she can’t be so averse to it that she’s paralyzed by the prospect of getting undressed in front of strange men.  If, on the other hand, you simply mean the shyness that comes of inexperience and uncertainty, my previous column “Inexperience”  may provide an answer.

In answer to your second question: the smell and taste of a man’s semen varies with his body chemistry, health and diet.  The semen of two different men living in the same environment, or of the same man under different health conditions or diets, can vary to a surprisingly wide degree; however, some factors (such as muskiness) may be relatively constant in an individual no matter what his diet.  In other words, if you find the taste or odor of a particular man’s semen intolerable, it may be something he’s eating, or it may be due to a health condition, but it could also just be the way he’s put together (or the way you’re put together).

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

30 Jul 10:00

Dan Weiss’s Morning Coffee

by Dan Weiss

We can finally talk about our secret moon base (plans).

Sorry to link to the Huffington Post, but we’ve got to talk about these Siberian holes.

Maybe you’d like some early 20th Century Japanese graphic design?

Rogue waves are the scariest things in the world.

Now let’s all explore some Russian movie studios.

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30 Jul 11:02

Mapping ‘Madeline’ Creator’s New York Haunts

by Allison Meier
"Bemelmans' New York" (detail) illustrated by Adrienne Ottenberg (courtesy the artist & New-York Historical Society)

“Bemelmans’ New York” (detail) illustrated by Adrienne Ottenberg (courtesy the artist & New-York Historical Society)

Madeline, the smallest of the “twelve little girls in two straight lines” who lived in “an old house in Paris that was covered in vines,” was born in Manhattan. In Pete’s Tavern on Irving Place in 1938, Ludwig Bemelmans scrawled those first rhyming lines that would introduce his petite heroine of the Madeline books.

 “And sometimes they were very sad,” 1939 Madeline (Simon & Schuster, 1939) Watercolor and gouache Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection TM and © Ludwig Bemelmans, LLC.

Ludwig Bemelmans, “And sometimes they were very sad” from Madeline (Simon & Schuster, 1939), Watercolor and gouache (Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection,  © Ludwig Bemelmans)

Bemelmans, born of a German mother and Belgian father, arrived in New York City in 1914, passing his first night stranded on Ellis Island after his dad forgot to meet him. To mark the centenary of the children’s book author and illustrator stepping into Gotham, the New-York Historical Society opened Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans earlier this month. In conjunction with the exhibition, illustrator Adrienne Ottenberg created a map of “Bemelmans’ New York.”

Paris and its ornate environs may be Madeline’s home, but New York was Bemelmans’ base. He started in 1915 as a busboy at the old Ritz Hotel, working his way up into the upper echelons of society. Ottenberg’s map charts the places where he lived and died (the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park in October of 1962). There’s also the Museum of the City of New York, where in 1959 he had his first solo show, and the Carlyle Hotel bar on 76th Street, where you can still drink alongside his whimsical Central Park mural from 1947. Madeline in New York also holds relics of his New York wanders, including drawings of frenetic life in the Ritz and lampshades from the Carlyle, one showing the Statue of Liberty in his playful, impressionistic style.

The map of “Bemelmans’ New York” by Ottenberg is below, and can be found larger on the New-York Historical Society site.

"Bemelmans' New York" (detail) illustrated by Adrienne Ottenberg (courtesy the artist & New-York Historical Society)

“Bemelmans’ New York” (detail) illustrated by Adrienne Ottenberg (courtesy the artist & New-York Historical Society)

"Bemelmans' New York" (detail) illustrated by Adrienne Ottenberg (courtesy the artist & New-York Historical Society)

“Bemelmans’ New York” (detail) illustrated by Adrienne Ottenberg (courtesy the artist & New-York Historical Society)

"Bemelmans' New York" illustrated by Adrienne Ottenburg (courtesy the artist & the New-York Historical Society)

“Bemelmans’ New York” illustrated by Adrienne Ottenburg (courtesy the artist & the New-York Historical Society) (click to view larger)

Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans continues at the New-York Historical Society (170 Central Park West, Upper West Side, Manhattan) through October 19. 

29 Jul 13:12

Big Thanks to the Hippy

by Rude One
Last week, for three days, Andrew William Smith, aka @presbyhippy, aka Teacher Preacher, aka Teacher on the Radio, took over this here blog thingy while the Rude Pundit indulged in a mucho-needed time away from political fucknuttery.

Now, some of you may wonder, "Huh. I thought this here blog thingy was stone cold atheistic. What gives with this Christian bullshit?"

The easy, dickish answer is "Umm, my blog, fuckers." But the Rude Pundit specifically wanted Andrew to write because he thinks we do a disservice to our causes by separating ourselves into worshipers and heathens. As Andrew demonstrated repeatedly, and it's something that religious people everywhere would do well to remember, the seeds of much of modern liberalism have been sown in houses of worship by the churchgoing left.

Let's not belabor the point. Instead, scroll down and read his stuff. Sometimes the rudest thing in this sad world is unabashed love.
29 Jul 15:54

New York Times Arts Reporter Copies Renaissance Painter’s Wikipedia Entry [Updated]

by Mostafa Heddaya

Piero di Cosimo, “Saint Anthony with pig in background” (c. 1480) (image via Wikipedia)

The media blog Fishbowl New York is reporting that the lead paragraph of a July 25 New York Times article by Carol Vogel bears a striking similarity to the Wikipedia entry for its subject, the Renaissance painter Piero di Cosimo. The two passages in question are below, with the especially egregious second sentence appearing in bold.

First paragraph of “A Renaissance Master Finally Gets a Showcase” by Carol Vogel, published 7/25 on page C18 (and online the day before):

Artists can be eccentric, but the quirks of the Italian Renaissance master Piero di Cosimo are legendary. He is said to have been terrified of thunderstorms and so pyrophobic that he rarely cooked his food, subsisting mostly on hard-boiled eggs that he prepared 50 at a time while heating glue for his art. He didn’t clean his studio. He didn’t trim the trees in his orchard. Giorgio Vasari, the Renaissance biographer, described Piero as living “more like a beast than a man.”

Fourth paragraph of Wikipedia entry for Piero di Cosimo:

During his lifetime, Cosimo acquired a reputation for eccentricity — a reputation enhanced and exaggerated by later commentators such as Giorgio Vasari, who included a biography of Piero di Cosimo in his Lives of the Artists. Reportedly, he was frightened of thunderstorms, and so pyrophobic that he rarely cooked his food; he lived largely on hard-boiled eggs, which he prepared 50 at a time while boiling glue for his artworks. He also resisted any cleaning of his studio, or trimming of the fruit trees of his orchard; he lived, wrote Vasari, “more like a beast than a man.”

A spokesperson for the Times could not be immediately reached for comment, but poet Kenneth Goldsmith is on the case:

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 11.47.59 AM

Update, 7/29 1:21pm ET: Gawker has published an article on the Vogel imbroglio, drawing parallels to the recent firing of BuzzFeed’s Benny Johnson and quoting Times spokewoman Eileen Murphy, who says the paper is “aware of the situation and … looking into it.”

Update 2, 7/31 2:45pm ET: The New York Times has appended an “Editor’s Note” (below) acknowledging the Wikipedia duplication in the article, which has since been revised. Both Times public editor Margaret Sullivan and media reporter Ravi Somaiya have covered the issue in the paper, with the latter writing that a spokesperson “declined to discuss any disciplinary measures, beyond saying that ‘editors have dealt with Carol on the issue.’”

The Inside Art column on July 25, about a planned exhibition of the works of the Renaissance painter Piero di Cosimo, started with a description of the artist’s life and eccentricities. That passage improperly used specific language and details from a Wikipedia article without attribution; it should not have been published in that form. (Editors learned of the problem after publication from a post on FishbowlNY.)

29 Jul 18:01

Giving Indigenous Stories a Voice Against Stereotypes in Video Games

by Allison Meier
Screenshot of "Never Alone" (via

Screenshot of “Never Alone” (via

From inhumanly buff, tribally vague warriors in combat games to targets in cowboys-versus-Indians epics, video game representations of indigenous people have been spotty at best. This October’s release Never Alone — based on Inupiat culture — is planned to be the first of a series of game collaborations that give indigenous people a platform.

Colin Campbell at Polygon reported that Never Alone from E-Line MediaUpper One Games, and the Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) is paving the way for the “World Games” initiative, which “will release games based on cultures that have hitherto struggled to find a voice.” A continued collaboration between E-Line and CITC, World Games has reportedly already attracted interest from groups in Hawaii, Azerbaijan, and Siberia.

Never Alone features a girl named Nuna who, with her arctic fox friend, navigates a landscape of puzzles, all while a blizzard pummels the way, and threatens to destroy her homeland. Upper One Games was launched last June by the CITC as the first games company in the United States indigenously owned, with CITC President and CEO Gloria O’Neill saying:

“As an organization we want to be able to chart our own destiny. This isn’t about the status quo; this is about pioneering a new approach to sustainability, as well as meaningful and scalable impact by creating a global video game brand infused with our values and culture.”

Screenshot from "Never Alone" (via

Screenshot from “Never Alone” (via

The representation of indigenous people in video games has long been more stereotype than sensitivity (you can get a rather dire summary from Elizabeth LaPensée’s 2011 compilation of them here). Even a recent title like Prey (2006) has a Cherokee named Tommy battling aliens with his mystical powers that allow him to detach his spirit, and Assassin’s Creed III (2012) reportedly had a scalping scene removed that featured its half-Mohawk protagonist. The characters are almost always some sort of spell-conjuring shaman — Nightwolf in Mortal Kombat— or tomahawk-wielding behemoth — Chief Thunder in Killer Instinct. Yet video games offer an immersive narrative able to embrace the complexities of diverse cultures and its stories, such as with 2013′s Year Walk that turned Swedish folklore into an eerie experience exploring traditional stories through the intimacy of mobile gaming. There’s also the educational Mission 3: A Cheyenne Odyssey that won Most Significant Impact from this year’s Games for Change festival, centering on relocation and loss of traditions, told in a choose-your-own-adventure structure.

Never Alone and World Games are promising to counter appropriation with collaborative games inspired by the rich art, legends, and history of indigenous cultures, and by showing that an engaging gaming experience can give indigenous stories a voice.

Never Alone from Upper One Games is available on Xbox, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC this October.

29 Jul 22:34

An Unforced Error

by Big Bad Bald Bastard
Talk about big mistakes! The National Review has decided to pick a fight with, of all people, Neil DeGrasse Tyson:

First of all, if you are a National Review reader, then it is safe to say that Dr Neil Degrasse Tyson (BA: Physics, Harvard University; MA: Astronomy, UT Austin; MPhil: Astrophysics, Columbia University; PhD: Astrophysics, Columbia University) is smarter than you. He's smarter than me. He's pretty much smarter than anybody (antipodeans not counted) you'll meet.

That out of the way, Dr Tyson always seems to be very diplomatic when it comes to political issues, and even praised Republicans when it came to funding science- I'll note that funding projects in astrophysics funnels money into the Military Industrial Complex, due to all of the hardware involved. By dragging Dr Tyson, who is a popular, charismatic figure, into a political brawl, conservatives can only lose. Bill Maher offered up Tyson's combination of race, intelligence, and charisma as a reason for the conservative hate-on for Dr Tyson, while D.R. Tucker opined that it is Dr Tyson's belief in anthropogenic climate change.

Sadly, only the opening of Chucky Cooke's article is available on the web for free, and I absolutely refuse to pay money to kill my brain cells unless alcohol is involved. The smart Charles, Mr Pierce, took the dumb one to the woodshed.

I've met Dr Tyson on two occasions, and he is as nice a gentleman as he is a brilliant populizer of science. I don't think he'd want to be dragged into a pointless Left/Right "battle", but if the Conservative establishment wants to pick this fight, all I can say is, "Please proceed, conservatives!"

Edit: Special thanks to Buddy McCue, who not only clued me in to this article, but linked to a thread in which the article was cut-and-pasted. Yeah, it's even worse than you think. My favorite part was this:

"Science and 'geeky' subjects," the pop-culture writer Maddox observes, "are perceived as being hip, cool and intellectual." And so people who are, or wish to be, hip, cool, and intellectual "glom onto these labels and call themselves 'geeks' or 'nerds' every chance they get."

Which is to say that the nerds of MSNBC and beyond are not actually nerds but the popular kids indulging in a fad. To a person, they are attractive, accomplished, well paid, and loved, listened to, and cited by a good portion of the general public.

It's a funny juxtaposition, especially since people like Rachel Maddow are actual scholars. The real news is that the actual nerds won the culture war- we're living in Gary's world now. Chuckie Cooke goes on to whine:

In this manner has a word with a formerly useful meaning been turned into a transparent humblebrag: Look at me, I'm smart. Or, more important, perhaps, Look at me and let me tell you who I am not, which is southern, politically conservative, culturally traditional, religious in some sense, patriotic, driven by principle rather than the pivot tables of Microsoft Excel, and in any way attached to the past.

To that I say, there's nothing that says that a person who is "southern, politically conservative, culturally traditional, religious in some sense, patriotic, driven by principle rather than the pivot tables of Microsoft Excel, and in any way attached to the past" needs to be stupid, but conservatives like Representative Paul Broun choose stupidity. The whole article is merely a whine that the Movement Conservative base chooses to let the stupid people not only speak to them, but to set the policy goals for political conservatives. If Cooke has a beef, it should be with the knuckle-draggers, not the "smart set" that ridicules them.

29 Jul 21:38

That Pro-Life Hobby Lobby

by Erik Loomis

Hobby Lobby puts its pro-life, pro-child policies into practice:

When a very pregnant Felicia Allen applied for medical leave from her job at Hobby Lobby three years ago, one might think that the company best known for denying its employees insurance coverage of certain contraceptives—on the false grounds that they cause abortions—would show equal concern for helping one of its employees when she learned she was pregnant.

Instead, Allen says the self-professed evangelical Christian arts-and-crafts chain fired her and then tried to prevent her from accessing unemployment benefits.

“They didn’t even want me to come back after having my baby, to provide for it,” she says.

And here I thought Hobby Lobby was acting out of very strong principle for life and not because it hates women and wants to punish them for having sex.

There’s also this gem:

When Allen applied for unemployment benefits, she says Hobby Lobby’s corporate office gave the unemployment agency a false version of events, claiming she could have taken off personal leave but chose not to. In the end, Allen says she won her claim for unemployment benefits, but she felt she had been wrongly discriminated based on the fact that she was pregnant. In February 2012 she sued Hobby Lobby, but her lawsuit was swiftly dropped because, like most—if not all—Hobby Lobby employees, Allen had signed away her rights to sue the company.

Though the multibillion-dollar, nearly 600-store chain took its legal claim against the federal government all the way to the Supreme Court when it didn’t want to honor the health insurance requirements of the Affordable Care Act, the company forbids its employees from seeking justice in the court of law.

Allen had signed a binding arbitration agreement upon taking the job, though she says she doesn’t remember doing so. The agreement, which all Hobby Lobby employees are required to sign, forces employees to resolve legal disputes outside of court through a process known as arbitration.

Lying so she couldn’t get unemployment is very special, but forcing employees to sign documents waiving their right to sue the company in order to be hired should be as illegal as the yellow-dog contract. I would ask how something like that is even legal in this nation, but of course I already know why–because corporations control our lives in ways they have not in a century.

30 Jul 08:13

Sleepless in the Big House

by syrbal-labrys

haven altar lightThe move-in is almost done, the real back-breaking stuff is almost all complete.  And yet, as exhausted as I have been for almost two weeks of solid work?  I cannot sleep.  Right before we began the big push, the moon came full.

I lit up my Haven altar… not then realizing it would be the last full moon lights lit there.  I had planned a long slow re-entry to my marital home, something gradual and peaceful in contrast to my harried emotionally painful withdrawal to the second dwelling on our property when my husband of over three decades had his belated PTSD meltdown in 2011.  But, as with all plans?  They are great on paper.  When the thing itself begins, it has its own plans.  My husband was suddenly fed up with my absence from our home!

He took last week OFF work using vacation to stay home and help.  He wanted me in the house in quicktime-march.  Damn.  It was really hard, frantic, and nearly as traumatic as my exit!  The study was restored first, and then my bedroom.  I have a public “front room” sort of altar, but my more personal shrine is now a seven foot shelf on my bedroom wall. altar wall It is what I see last going to bed, and first upon rising.  It has my favorite things, and some whimsical things; things that smell nice and things that make flames glow at night.  It has a lampshade older than some readers!  That lampshade hanging  there was bought used for $3 in about 1990.  It has been painted three different colors.  I still love it.

The items that remain to move inside are minor, though exhaustion makes them loom larger.  The Manchild has a lot more work to do, the garage and part of the living room are filled with his things.  He painted the Haven ceiling today, and can start moving things soon. By September, I hope it is all complete.  In the meanwhile, I’ve learned NOT to refinish furniture non-stop for six weeks without wearing a painter’s mask.  I got seriously ill towards the end, even mild indoor paint smell makes me ill again now.  I had thought working outside in the open air would be safe enough.  I was wrong.

And every project needs a surprise, right?  When I painted my bedroom-to-be, there was an odd dark spot in one ceiling corner — since I had not used the room in sometime, I wondered if I had simply not noticed it before.  It wasn’t wet, gave no sign of having been wet, either.  Today, lying down there, I kept hearing that buzzy trapped insect in a jar sound and a horrid suspicion came to me.  I jumped up and ran outdoors and around the house.  And there, exiting the soffit?  Buzzing black and yellow — some sort of wasp has a next above my bedroom in the attic!  Well, we can’t have THAT at all.  So MORE to do, deciding how to eliminate the wasps, it isn’t a walk-around storage attic….but the horrid no clearance low sort with insulation and darkness.

Better to know now than a week from now when I send a handy man up there to replace a leaking roof vent, right?  Tomorrow, I’m calling Orkin, I believe.  And then switching food in fridges and freezers between the two households.  Life goes on….and the ‘beat’ that goes with it is going to do it without a buzzing section!


Tagged: altars, marriage, pagan life, renovation
30 Jul 05:00

Animal Rescue

by admin