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26 Mar 16:30

World of Wonder: Fairyfly

by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Aimee Nezhukumatathil's previous World of Wonder columns for The Butter can be found here.

I’ve just returned from taking my kids on a surprise visit to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom (cue “The Circle of Life” here). And as such, have been thinking about hearts and blood and valves and hearts and thumps and extremes in the animal world—the biggest ______, the fastest_______, the smallest ______. But I wasn’t always like this—my seven year-old, who adores all manner of animals, thinks and questions me like this—in extremes: Mommy—what is the largest jellyfish? The tiniest reptile? What has the biggest teeth on this planet? You name it, I’ve probably daydreamed about it, all because of his incessant questions.

Which brings me to the answer of one of his recent queries—what animal has the smallest heart? My friends, I give you the fairyfly, of the family Mymaridae.

Read more World of Wonder: Fairyfly at The Toast.

26 Mar 20:30

A Loss For Words

by Haley Mlotek
by Haley Mlotek

There are approximately seven billion inhabitants of earth. They conduct their lives in one or several of about seven thousand languages—multilingualism is a global norm. Linguists acknowledge that the data are inexact, but by the end of this century perhaps as many as fifty per cent of the world’s languages will, at best, exist only in archives and on recordings. According to the calculations of the Catalogue of Endangered Languages (ELCat)—a joint effort of linguists at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, and at the University of Eastern Michigan—nearly thirty language families have disappeared since 1960. If the historical rate of loss is averaged, a language dies about every four months.

The mother tongue of more than three billion people is one of twenty, which are, in order of their current predominance: Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese, Javanese, German, Wu Chinese, Korean, French, Telugu, Marathi, Turkish, Tamil, Vietnamese, and Urdu. English is the lingua franca of the digital age, and those who use it as a second language may outnumber its native speakers by hundreds of millions. On every continent, people are forsaking their ancestral tongues for the dominant language of their region’s majority. Assimilation confers inarguable benefits, especially as Internet use proliferates and rural youth gravitate to cities. But the loss of languages passed down for millennia, along with their unique arts and cosmologies, may have consequences that won’t be understood until it is too late to reverse them.

Guys, I'm telling you, language is cool and we should all think about words and what they mean all the time.

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26 Mar 14:33

Southern States Lead Nation in Consumption of Gay Porn, But Why?

by Lisa Wade, PhD

According to data released by Pornhub, 5.6% of porn users in Mississippi seek out gay porn, compared to 2.8% in North Dakota.

4

On average, gay porn is more heavily consumed in states where same-sex marriage is legal than in states where it’s illegal, but every single state in the South has a gay porn use that exceeds the average in states with same-sex marriage.

1aFor me, this raises questions about what’s driving sentiment against same-sex marriage and porn use and if and why it’s related. I can think of at least three theories:

1. There is the (barely) repressed homosexuality theory, of course. This is the idea that some people express homophobic attitudes because they fear being non-heterosexual themselves. So, out of fear of exposure, or fear of their own feelings, they are vocally anti-LGBT rights. There’s data that backs this up in at least some cases.

2. Another possibility is that both homosexual inclinations and anti-gay hatred are high in Southern states, but not in the same people. This is one version of the contact hypothesis: the presence and visibility of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people threatens the norm of heterosexuality, increasing opposition. This is consistent with data showing, for example, that white racial resentment is higher in counties with larger populations of black folk.

3. Or, it may be that politicians in Southern states stoke anti-gay attitudes in order to win elections. They may be doing so as a simple strategy. Or, it may be part of that notorious “culture war,” a politics that supposedly distracts poor and working class people from their own economic interests by getting them to focus on so-called social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

As fun as it is to snicker at the fact that the part of the country that claims a moral high ground on homosexuality is over-represented in pursuing it (at least digitally), there’s also probably some pretty interesting social/psychology sociology here.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

26 Mar 16:00

Neurotica: Erotica For the Slightly Anxious

by Sonia Weiser
by Sonia Weiser

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He pulled me close to him, his hips grinding up against my own. "I promise you," he said. "I'm not into you because you remind me of my mother who was emotionally distant after my father died." I kissed him, my heart pumping furiously now that he had answered one question that had been plaguing me all along.

"Are you sure?" I asked. "You're not just saying that because you know it's what I want to hear? If you are, just tell me. I'll be fine with it. But honesty is really important to me." He stopped my ramblings by covering my mouth with his hand. "I'm not just saying that," he said, then dropped his hand to my waist. Before I could say anything, he added, his hot breath against my neck, "I washed my hands with soap and hot water just before this. Don't worry." I sighed, relieved that I hadn't just been exposed to a handful of New York City germs. Did he use brand soap or generic? I should have checked his bathroom more closely when I had gone in earlier, but I had been too busy examining the mold-less shower curtain. "Brand," he whispered as if he could read my mind. "Mrs. Meyers' Clean Day." He was sanitary and eco-friendly. My knees weakened and he pulled me towards him again, this time with more force.

He started unbuckling my pants. I was too drunk to stop him and he did it without asking whether I was ready to move on to that level of intimacy. We had just met. I imagined my therapist and the way he would claim to be entirely non-judgemental about my decision to have a one-night stand. I was conflicted in the same way I was always conflicted when ending up in a stranger's bed, which was something I really needed to work on.

He stopped, leaving my pants on. "You're not into this, I can tell," he said. "Do you want to make a pros and cons list? I have a legal pad around here somewhere." He scooted off the bed and looked in the top drawer of his dresser. I pushed myself onto my knees and peeked over his shoulder to see the contents and to assess whether, if need be, there would be enough room for me to eventually store some of my things in it. There was.

He found a notepad and pen and sat down next to me. If he had noticed that I was checking out the measurements of his drawer, he didn't say anything.

"Okay, pros," he said, writing the word in crisp Arial-like font. I looked at the blank yellow paper and back at the man who was holding the Pilot Dr. Grip pen. Possible pen-holding failures aside, which could technically be a symptom of a larger problem like weak finger muscles (was that genetic?), or could just be that he never learned how to hold a pen properly, he was the perfect man.

"We don't have to do this," I said, pushing the pad to the floor. "Even the fact that you would care enough to make a pros and cons list with me shows that it's worth it."

"Your lips are moving, but all I can think about is how beautiful you'd look basked in the glow of my computer screen as we legally streamed Game of Thrones after you've caught up completely."

"You would wait for me?" I asked, my lips twitching with desire. "You would wait for me to finish all four seasons?"

"And read the books first, if that's what you wanted to do."

"You're really something special," I said. "Someone," I added quickly, hoping he didn't think I thought of him as an object.

"I know what you meant," he said. "You're really special too."

Without saying anything else, he closed his eyes and slipped my tight satin shirt over my head. He turned around and grabbed a t-shirt from his closet.

"Here," he said, his eyes still closed as he handed me the shirt. "You'll be much more comfortable in this. It's new and 100% cotton."

"You can open your eyes," I said, once the shirt was on. He looked at me and smiled. "You look beautiful," he said, extending his hand. I took it, wondering what romantic adventure he had planned for us. He led me over to the bed. I lay down willingly, and he got in next to me, pulling the comforter over both of us.

"Let's just lie here, cuddle, and talk about the different female comedians that could take Jon Stewart's place," he said.

"That sounds perfect," I said.

He switched off the bedside lamp. The faint lights of Bleecker Street gave his half bedroom a hazy glow. He propped his head on top of mine.

"This is the best night ever," he said. "Five out of five stars."

"And no one's bribing you to write that review?"

"No one."

"Then you get a five out of five too," I murmured into his chest. I looked up at him, his shiny eyes, the way his scruff was perfectly trimmed so he looked manly without permanently scarring my chin when he kissed me, and at his gentle smile.

I sighed, closed my eyes, and went to sleep, dreaming a beautiful R-rated dream full of sunshine, picnics, and non-public displays of affection.

It was amazing.

Sonia Weiser is a writer and functioning adult living in New York City. You can follow her on twitter @weischoice or read more of her stuff here.

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24 Mar 16:00

Every Argument About “Buffy” On The Internet, From 1998 Until Now

by Nicole and Mallory

Joss Whedon: Inventer Of Feminism Or Literal Hitler?

  • Joss Whedon invented feminism. Before Joss Whedon, every female character on television was crushed to death under the weight of her male co-stars' heavier paychecks in the second-season finale.
  • Every female character Joss Whedon ever wrote was forcibly impregnated by a demon and brutally murdered, because Joss Whedon hates lesbians.
  • But Warren And The Trio Were –
  • EVERYONE GETS THAT WARREN AND THE TRIO REPRESENTED THE THREAT OF NON-SUPERNATURAL MISOGYNY, YOU DON'T GET CREDIT FOR PICKING UP ON THAT

Joss Whedon Doesn't Understand What Bisexuality Is 

  • Willow Identifies As Gay And You Are Robbing Her Of Self-Determination Because She Doesn't Have A "Gold Star"
  • I'd Feel More Comfortable With Willow's Lesbianism If It Weren't Sometimes Equated With Drug Addiction, Literal Vampirism, And Megalomania
  • But She Was Clearly In Love With Oz
  • Who Are You To Say What Love Is
  • Dark Willow Was Pretty Hot, Though
  • Yeah, Dark Willow Was Super Hot
  • I'd Watch Dark Willow And Doppelgangland-Era Willow Hook Up If It Weren't A Patriarchal Fantasy
  • Read more Every Argument About “Buffy” On The Internet, From 1998 Until Now at The Toast.

11 Mar 20:36

Campus ghost stories and real American history

by Fred Clark

The University of Pennsylvania is pretty old (by American standards), and with age comes ghost stories. But the ghost hunters of the Penn Ghost Project have still come up empty.

I do not believe in ghosts, but I’m still happy about this project:

“We want to understand it as a sociological reality and a cultural reality,” said Justin McDaniel, a professor and chair of the religious studies department at Penn. “It should be given a forum where people can talk about it.”

McDaniel’s group calls itself “the Penn Ghost Project” and later this semester, students will begin recording ghost stories on campus. The goal: to create an online ghost story archive for the ages.

“We want to kind of map out the ghosts at Penn, where are people saying they are,” said McDaniel, 42, a former Buddhist monk who isn’t sure whether he believes in ghosts. “If it goes well, we’ll start mapping the ghost history of Philadelphia, which is extensive, probably more extensive than any city in the country, just because it’s big and it’s old.”

I do not believe in ghosts, but I do believe in ghost stories. Searching for ghosts is bound to be a fruitless waste of time. But searching for ghost stories can be important and meaningful.

My alma mater is a few stops west of Penn on the R5 line. Eastern University has one decent campus ghost legend, but it’s basically a storytelling exercise working from a Hollywood template. The same is true for the much better ghost story across the street at Cabrini College.

But the best campus ghost story around here is even further west along the original Main Line railroad — at Immaculata University in Malvern. That story involves the ghosts of the workers who built that railroad — legends of spectral Irish laborers dancing in the woods.

DuffysCut

Haunted.

That story, it turns out, is a genuine haunting. I don’t mean that actual ghosts are haunting those woods, but that the community had, for more than a century, remained haunted by the memory of an otherwise forgotten tragedy — and an otherwise forgotten crime. The memory of that crime was retained in folklore — in ghost stories.

And those ghost stories helped two Immaculata professors locate a mass grave. Duffy’s Cut, along the rails in the Malvern woods, is the burial site of 57 Irish immigrants. They landed in Philadelphia in 1832 and signed on as railroad workers with a contractor named Duffy. Six weeks later, they were all dead.

The historical marker (about 8 miles from where I’m sitting) says the men died in the cholera epidemic that swept through the area that year. That’s true, sort of. But as Janet Monge — an anthropologist from Penn who is studying the site — says, “If they had cholera, it didn’t kill them.”

Monge has found injuries on the bones of some of the workers — bashed skulls and axe wounds — that suggest these men met a violent end. A 2010 Smithsonian article notes that the workers likely tried to flee the area when cholera arrived: “When cholera swept the Philadelphia countryside in the summer of 1832, railroad workers housed in a shanty near Duffy’s Cut fled the area, according to Julian Sachse, a historian who interviewed elderly locals in the late 1800s. But nearby homeowners, perhaps fearful of infection … turned them away.”

It seems they did more than turn them away. It seems likeliest that after a few of the workers died from cholera, the rest were killed. Murdered, in fact. But we may never know the true story.

What we do know is that 57 men were buried, all at once, in an unmarked mass grave kept secret by the railroad company and almost entirely forgotten. The only record of the crime was preserved in folklore — in ghost stories and legends that circulated for more than a century and a half before those Immaculata professors took them seriously enough to start digging.

So I don’t expect the Penn Ghost Project to find any ghosts, but I’m glad they’re cataloging ghost stories, and looking for the stories behind them. American labor history is full of ghosts.

Click here to view the embedded video.

13 Mar 16:00

Hysteria and Teenage Girls

by Hayley Krischer
by Hayley Krischer

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It was a typical Thursday night at Smash Burger. My friend was with her two sons who were furiously stuffing sweet potato French fries in their mouths. In the booth behind her, my friend saw a young boy who looked a lot like Justin Bieber. So she called her 16-year-old-niece, Kate (not her real name), a Justin Bieber fanatic since she was 12. Kate owns two life-size cardboard Bieber cut-outs—one with a squiggly black mustache drawn on his upper lip by a mischievous cousin—hovering over her bed.

No one knows yet that Justin Bieber was on a religious retreat in my small New Jersey town, at the home of the new pastor to the stars, Carl Lentz. Justin Bieber was just trying to have a burger in peace for about five minutes.

That all ends once Kate walked in and confirmed that, yes, it really was Justin Bieber. She screamed and fell to the ground on her knees. “She had a total nervous breakdown. Crying, hands shaking. She couldn’t move. I had to walk her to the booth,” my friend says. Kate’s screaming was Bieber’s cue to leave, but by then he was surrounded by a swarm of girls. He signed the autograph of a girl in a wheelchair, took a quick picture, left his uneaten food in the booth and bolted.

Kate cradled his empty soda cup in the booth, which is when my friend started filming her. And there she is, this young girl, her face stricken like she witnessed a shooting or an attack, tears and mascara streaming down her face, an expression society would call “hysterical.” Even the counter guy, who I spoke to a few days later, told me: “The Justin Bieber part was weird, but that girl screaming, that’s what made everything explode.” Kate babbled some half-coherent sentences like, “I’m going to die. Oh my God, Justin Bieber at Smash Burger. This is beyond my comprehension. I’m going to kill myself.” And then the phone rings. It’s Kate’s friend. “Alex,” she says, hiccupping through tears. “I’m holding his cuuuuuuup.”

All I wanted to do was hug her when I heard this story—I’ve had my own nervous breakdowns about musicians. What makes girls from the Beatles to Duran Duran to N’Sync to Michael Jackson to One Direction—full on freak out?

* * *

Hysteria has always been a women’s issue. The concept goes back about 4,000 years. In Ancient Egypt, hysterical disorders were said to be caused by “spontaneous uterus movement within the female body;” hysterical women who were diagnosed with a uterus too far “up” inside the body were treated with sour and bitter odors near her mouth and nose. If the uterus was too far down, then the putrid odors were placed near her vagina.

In Greek mythology, the Argonaut Melampus treated hysterical women who refused to honor the Greek’s massive phallic symbols and ran away to hide in the mountains from these Goliath-sized penises. During that time, the giant phallus was a representation of God, life and fertility. Melampus cured these virgins, according to research, by urging them to have sex with “young and strong men” because their uterus was being “poisoned by venomous humors due to a lack of orgasms.”

By fifth century B.C., Hippocrates was the first person to use the word “hysteria.” He took the notion of the poisonous uterus to another level—he believed that the “restless” uterus was because of a woman’s “cold and wet” body (as opposed to a man’s “dry and warm and superior” body). He explains that the uterus is a sickly organ—especially if it’s sexually deprived. Writes psychiatric researcher Mauro Giovanni Carta, “[Hippocrates] goes further; especially in virgins, widows, single, or sterile women, this “bad” uterus—since it is not satisfied—not only produces toxic fumes but also takes to wandering around the body, causing various kinds of disorders such as anxiety, sense of suffocation, tremors, sometimes even convulsions and paralysis.”

By the mid 1600’s, doctors like Thomas Willis and philosophers like René Descartes were explaining that hysteria wasn’t because of “bad” lady parts but as a psychological issue; specifically, a psychological women’s issue. For the next 200-250 years, hysteria was defined as part of female “nature,” a hostile “characteristic,” explains researcher Elanie Showalter in Hysteria Beyond Freud. “As a general rule,” wrote the French physician Auguste Fabre in 1883, “all women are hysterical and…every woman carries with her the seeds of hysteria. Hysteria, before being an illness, is a temperament, and what constitutes the temperament of a woman is rudimentary hysteria.” Meaning: women don’t need a reason to be hysterical. We just are.

By the late 1800s and the early 1900s, Freud took on hysteria, theorizing that some of hysteria had to do with traumatic events, but most of hysteria was because of sexual repression. I asked my therapist about this theory, and she told me that hysteria was treated as if there was nothing neurologically going on. “Doctors would take a woman, put her on a table and stimulate her clitoris to orgasm in hopes that she’d be cured of her hysteria,” she explained.

This wasn’t an enviable job though, historians say; doctors were burdened by the chore of bringing their patients to climax, complaining about how long it took. Husbands didn’t want to be sidled with this job of having to bring their hysterical wives to climax either. That's why the vibrator was invented, writes Rachel P. Maines in her book, The Technology of Orgasm. It was considered a medical instrument “in response to demand from physicians for more rapid and efficient physical therapies, particularly for hysteria.”

It wasn’t until the 1960s that feminists took the idea of hysteria and redefined it—feminist thinkers like Juliet Mitchell believe that hysteria was the first step to feminism, because it was feminine pathology that spoke to and against patriarchy. Hysteria, in other words, has always been a language that women have used to attempt to shut down centuries of mansplaining—and only until the 1960s were they successful at it.

* * *

In Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, two girls—9-year-old Elizabeth Parris and 11-year-old Abigail Williams—began having what was described as uncontrollable “hysterical” fits. They were screaming, crying, moaning, their bodies convulsed and they babbled incoherently. A doctor diagnosed the girls of being under the spell of witchcraft and soon, more girls became “afflicted” with the same symptoms. By the end of that year, 13 women and five men were accused of witchcraft and hanged, according to the Salem Witch Museum.

Though there have been a number of theories as to why this happened; some blame ergot (a fungus) poisoning, others say they were rebelling against their social standing, some historians say the fasting and the obsessive prayer rituals caused tremendous stress. Salem was very religious, it was a small settlement described by historians as “rife with anxiety,” a “crumbling providence.” The girls, in other words, did not just become hysterical out of the blue—there was a lot to be afraid of.

But because it spread from person to person like a social contagion, psychologists explain the hysteria in Salem as conversion disorder. Conversion disorder is a physical manifestation of psychological stress and anxiety. Like, say, the contagious hysteria that goes on at a Justin Bieber concert.

I started researching other cases of conversion disorder. In Monroe, Louisiana in 1952, 165 cheerleaders fainted during a football game. In 1998 in McMinniville, Tenneesse, a teacher noticed a gas-like odor and though the school was evacuated, her symptoms spread to 180 students and teachers. In 2007, in Chalco, Mexico, 600 girls became feverish and nauseated. But the most highly publicized case happened in 2012 in Le Roy, New York, when 14 students (13 girls, one boy), developed symptoms of involuntary twitching and clapping, snorting, muscle spasms and even loss of consciousness.

Two books came out this year based on the Le Roy incident: Megan Abbott’s poetic and creepy The Fever and Katherine Howe’s disturbing Conversion. Because Howe, who also wrote “The Penguin Book of Witches,” is something of a Salem encyclopedia, I spoke with her about the hysteria in Le Roy and if there’s a tie between what happened there and the hysteria surrounding pop stars. And though she was hesitant to name a connection, she did say that there seems to be an expression of excitement and release in conversion disorder.

“Here’s this space in which its almost socially sanctioned to release this kind of tension, especially for adolescent girls who are supposed to control themselves. It’s what they’re supposed to master as a teenager, to control themselves,” she said. Hysteria goes against every grain that adolescent girls learn: be good, be better than the next girl, don’t be loud, don’t be promiscuous. There’s an intensity to hysteria that’s significant, Howe says.

In fact, during her research of the Le Roy incident, she found that one girl described the experience as a “build up of tension which was then released by a verbal disorder and that she felt better if she gave into the physical disorder, the tic,” she said. “There’s a thread that connects it to female anxiety and female emotionalism.”

What is this thread, I wondered? I spoke to Jane Mendle, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Cornell University who specializes in adolescent girls. First, she made clear that the hysteria we see with girls in front of pop stars is not the same as what’s happening in conversion disorder. Conversion disorder is a diagnosable, psychological disorder; in the case of girls and rock stars, the term “hysteria” is really a metaphorical description of their behavior. But “that doesn’t mean that the elements of screaming and crying over rock stars and symptoms of conversion disorder in adolescent females aren’t driven by some of the same underlying principles,” Mendle told me. “There is a strong element of social contagion for both of these things.”

When a group of girls develop conversion disorder, it typically starts with somebody who is at the top of the social pecking order; the Queen Bee or someone close to her. But in the case of Bieber or One Direction hysteria, it may be more complex than just social ranking, because fame is more “valued now than it has been in the past,” Mendle says. A few generations ago, when girls were screaming over The Beatles or The Jackson Five, they didn’t have the option to share that experience on Instagram or Facebook. They shared it with each other, collectively, in the moment. Today’s fame component changes everything. “The majority of tweens and adolescents are extremely interested in becoming famous themselves—it is one of their top priorities for their lives,” Mendle says.

I ask her if this means fame alone would inspire hysteria. “To some degree,” she replied, “because fame as a value and considering Justin Bieber as a part of their lives, even though they’ve never met him, is really what has inspired a lot of this.”

What about conversion disorder? Even though it typically starts with the Queen Bee, there’s still an element that seems to be inspired by wanting attention. Mendle agrees. “One of the things that is most noticeable about conversion disorder is that it tends to occur in people who don’t necessarily command a lot of social attention; by social attention, I really mean society’s attention—in that they are not the focus of their society. And historically and traditionally that’s women,” she said. “So when you look to things like the Salem Witch Trials, these girls were by no means a focus of their community until they developed their physical symptoms. And then they became a center of a town’s narrative in a way they would have never have been able to otherwise.”

* * *

Doris Day’s “Que Sera, Sera” was number two on the Billboard chart in 1956. The narrative goes like this: A girl asks her mother about her future, “Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?” The mother replies:

Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera.

The mother isn’t wrong, the future isn’t ours, but when you look at it in the context of women’s place in society the song sums up patriarchal 1950s pretty well. There’s zero agency in it. There’s no question about her passions outside of looking good and being wealthy. Now look at the popular male artists of that same time: the dominators were ultra-macho crooners like Elvis, Frank Sinatra or Dion. As historian Kimberly Cura points out in her paper “The Beatles and Female Fanaticism,” Elvis used his sex appeal and pushy lyrics, Frank Sinatra had his sentimental crooner image and Dion had his womanizing songs like “The Wanderer,” which goes like this:

Oh well, I'm the type of guy who will never settle down
Where pretty girls are well, you know that I'm around
I kiss em and I love em cause to me they’re all the same
I hug em and I squeeze em they don’t even know my name

It’s no wonder girls lost it when The Beatles entered the music scene—they had remarkable differences to these hyper-masculine artists, namely in their lyrics. Adolescent girls went crazy when they heard “She Loves You,” a song that I never really paid much attention to because the chorus, “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah,” was repetitive and annoying. But revisiting the song now and deconstructing it, as well as giving it some historical context, changes it.

She said you hurt her so
She almost lost her mind
And now she says she knows
You’re not the hurting kind
She says she loves you
And you know that can’t be bad
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad, oooh

The Beatles then become this sensitive guy vessel with this song, injecting your stereotypical blockhead male rhetoric with an emotional narrative. Look, you hurt this girl and she knows you didn’t mean it, and she wants to give you a second chance, so why don’t you talk to her, man? “’She Loves You,’ not only speaks of a common real-life dynamic between lovers, but also—and most importantly—places responsibility on the man, not his partner,” explains Cura.

These early Beatles songs created a world where women had freedom from traditional gender roles (like in Doris Day’s “Que, Sera, Sera”). “Women in The Beatles’ songs weren’t depicted as the idealized figures described in typical rock lyrics, but instead were represented fully-formed characters,” writes Cura. This was the key behind the hysteria that surrounded Beatlemania: women and girls were free to express themselves—finally!—because they were understood.

The same has to be said for Morrissey who not only openly embraced a fluid definition of sexuality, but who also wrote from the perspective of masculine sensitivity. His lyrics created a safe place for female fans to scream, to cry, to hand him roses on the stage while he sang. Morrissey reveled and embraced male vulnerability; he exhausted heartbreak. Take the lyrics to “How Soon Is Now:”

You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does
There’s a club if you’d like to go
You could meet somebody who really loves you
So you go, and you stand on your own
And you leave on your own
And you go home, and you cry and you want to die

In this song, he reveals his insecurity and his isolation—he goes to a club and can’t even be consoled because he’s so lonely. Morrissey sings countless songs like this—take “I Know It’s Over” in which he cries, “Oh mother, I can feel, the soil falling over my head. And as I climb into an empty bed. Oh well, enough said.”

Though Morrissey and The Beatles and Justin Bieber have little in common musically, they have everything in common as vulnerable lyricists; Justin Bieber takes the same page out of the Morrissey handbook, especially during his earlier mall days. In his movie Never Say Never he brings up a girl for each performance of “One Less Lonely Girl” and serenades her.

How many "I told you’s" and "start over’s" and shoulders have you cried on before?
How many promises? Be honest girl
How many tears you let hit the floor
How many bags you packed
Just to take them back
Tell me that how many either ‘or’s’
But no more if you let me inside of your world
There’ll be one less lonely girl

The appeal here, like with Morrissey, is that Justin Bieber talks to his subject as if he understands what true vulnerability and heartbreak is about. (And who am I to say? Maybe he does.) These kinds of lyrics allow girls to feel comfortable and secure, giving them permission to engage in hysteria, most noticeably after the introduction of the Beatles. Cura puts it like this: “The Beatles… was the first widespread outburst during the sixties to feature women—in this case, teenaged girls—in a radical context.”

Though lots of critics at the time wanted to write off the hysteria around the Beatles as yet another example of crazy, hormonal girls, or some kind of “social dysfunction,” or as depressive loners—their collective hysteria was really about them stepping outside of their prescribed identities. “Teen and pre-teen girls were expected not only to be good and pure, but to be the enforcers of purity within their teen society—drawing the line for overeager boys and ostracizing girls who failed in this responsibility,” writes journalist Barbara Ehrenreich.

Has much changed? Girls are still expected to act a certain way—but screaming over a pop star gives them a say. It’s like sexual release that’s allowed. Michelle Janning, a sociology professor at Whitman College, who has written about screaming girls, explains this in an email: “This bodily and vocal sexual expression could have two paradoxical interpretations: either a girl screaming at a concert is defiantly protesting girls’ sexual repression in a highly sexualized society, or she is doing so as an unsuspecting part of the larger project to maintain girls’ sexuality as controlled, quiet, and contained."

But performers like Bieber and Morrissey and The Beatles and Michael Jackson have something else in common: their somewhat androgynous man-boy looks. Adolescent girls see a feminine quality in these kinds of men, sociologists say, that reminded them of themselves. Girls feel safe around more androgynous singers because they’re not pushing the macho stereotype which can be intimidating to a teenage girl. Girls saw the (early) Beatles and Bieber as reflection of themselves, “a phenomenon that would be imitated in the future by androgynous stars such as David Bowie and Michael Jackson,” explains Steven Stark in Meet the Beatles. In the ‘80s, hysteria followed Duran Duran and Adam Ant, as Nina Blackwood, one of the early MTV “veejays” explained in an interview with CBS, “The guys were so beautiful. Not handsome in the classic "movie star" way, but actually pretty— lush lips, cheekbones a mile-high, porcelain skin— and they all knew how to apply make-up better than most women I knew."

(Franz_Liszt_portrait,_16_years_old)_(4008456096)

It has to be the same reason women lost it around Franz Liszt, a pianist in Germany in the 1800s—so much that German critic Heinrich Heine, deemed it “Lisztomania.” Liszt also had that feminine quality (more so than other men that time who, at least in old-timey pictures, looked sort of inbred and hairy); Liszt was a Tori Amos kind of performer, historians say, in that he used his body liberally while he played, with “wild arms and swaying hips.” Women tore his clothes, pulled out pieces of his hair and one woman, wrote Alan Walker in a biography, picked up Liszt’s cigar stump, placed it in locket and monogramed it with his initials in diamonds.

The woman’s reaction to Liszt isn’t so far off from Kate’s who collected Justin Bieber’s cup. That plastic cup now rests on her bookshelf, sealed in a plastic zip lock bag.

* * *

“People started lining up five days ago.”

“I know they love me even though they don’t know me.”

“Because of you, we’re number one in 37 countries”

“AAAHHHHH!!!”

These are sound bites from the One Direction movie, This Is Us, which is cute and corny with stories about the boys and how they always wanted to be singers, but the primary story is of high-pitched soundtrack of thousands of screaming girls. They’re the screams of pleasure—which is exactly how the neuroscientist Daniel Levitin explains it to the Wall Street Journal. The screaming, he says, is from the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that allows us to feel pleasure—it’s the chemical in our brain that’s released when we eat chocolate, or when a compulsive gambler wins.

But Levitin's research also found something else interesting: because the neural pathways in our brains are forming when we’re teenagers, the music that we like as teenagers then becomes hardwired in our brains. It's not an accident that you still know that pretzel cross-legged move to Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” you studied a million times when you were 14. That’s not nostalgia, according to Levitin’s research; that’s your brain being hardwired to experience pleasure every time you hear that song.

I couldn’t help but think of the music I went hysterical over as a teenager—I wasn’t a Duran Duran girl in the ‘80s. I saved my hysteria for girls, not boys; my heart belonged to Madonna. I was 15 in 1986, the year her album “True Blue” came out—which had some amazing songs like “Live To Tell,” but also some really uninspiring, unremarkable songs like “True Blue.” There was also “Papa Don’t Preach,” which was a departure for Madonna—she changed her whole look from her “Lucky Star”/”Burnin’ Up”/”Borderline” days (which I had memorized the dance moves to as well, though I didn’t completely understand the sexual narrative yet).

In the “Papa Don’t Preach” video she wore boyfriend jeans, had short straight hair, a striped nautical shirt and carried a black motorcycle jacket over her shoulder. My mother called her a Jean Seburg knock-off, but I was mesmerized.

papa

I watched the “Papa Don’t Preach” video on You Tube and remembered those weird arm movements and the dance from that video clearly—then the oddest realization came to me. I’m still influenced by her style from that time, the jeans, the striped shirt, even the motorcycle jacket is currently in my fantasy shopping cart—which, okay, you the jacket has been an iconic staple since Marlon Brando wore it in The Wild Bunch. But then I made another connection. I named my dog, a rescue I just got nine months ago, Trudy Blue. When I started singing the song “True Blue” to her, I couldn’t figure out why—it really bothered me. Why this song?

But now I get it. The dopamine release I experienced as an adolescent girl is still affecting me years and years later. My Madonna hysteria never really waned. When I tell people I follow her on Instagram, they ask me why. And I’m like, “#BitchI’mMadonna,” but the real reason has a lot more to do with chemical engineering.

I wonder what that means for the swarms of Bieber fans like Kate or the One Directioners depicted in their movie. I thought about the years I spent being a hysterical teenage girl, either obsessing over Madonna or later over Morrissey or later REM, or over any of the countless musicians that impacted my life. Science has a great deal to do with hysteria—you can’t ignore the chemical impact of dopamine, but hysteria defined women and girls more broadly than just that; hysteria has been a method of communication in which women have used to separate themselves from men for centuries. I though about that video of Kate in Smash Burger, wondering if she’ll one day look back at it embarrassed, but I hope she won’t. I hope she’ll see it as her individuality shining through, as a way she was able to be true to herself at a very specific time in her life.

Hayley Krischer is a writer living in New Jersey.

Girls screaming via Flickr Commons, Franz Liszt via Wikimedia Commons, and Madonna via Papa Don't Preach.

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11 Mar 13:32

Why Lesbians and Gay Men Don’t Share Space

by Lisa Wade, PhD

Last month’s edition of Contexts had a fascinating article by Amin Ghaziani titled Lesbian Geographies. Most of us are familiar with the idea of a “gayborhood,” a neighborhood enclave that attracts gay men. It turns out that lesbians have enclaves, too, but they’re not always the same ones.

Here’s the frequency of same-sex female couples (top) and same-sex male couples (bottom) in U.S. counties. Census data tracks same-sex couples but not individuals, so the conclusions here are based on couples.

7

What are the differences between where same-sex female and same-sex male couples live?

First, Same-sex female couples are more likely than their male counterparts to live in rural areas. Ghaziani thinks that “cultural cues regarding masculinity and femininity play a part.” As one interviewee told sociologist Emily Kazyak:

If you’re a flaming gay queen, they’re like, “Oh, you’re a freak, I’m scared of you.” But if you’re a really butch woman and you’re working at a factory, I think [living in the midwest is] a little easier.

If being “butch” is normative for people living in rural environments, lesbians who perform masculinity might fit in better than gay men who don’t.

Second, non-heterosexual women are about three times as likely as non-heterosexual men to be raising a child under 18. Whatever a person’s sexual orientation, parents are more likely to be looking for good schools, safe neighborhoods, and non-postage stamp-sized apartments.

Finally, there’s evidence that gay men price lesbians out. Gay men are notorious for gentrifying neighborhoods, but data shows that lesbians usually get there first. When non-heterosexual men arrive, they accelerate the gentrification, often making it less possible for non-heterosexual women to afford to stay. Thanks to the gender pay gap, times two, women living with women don’t generally make as much money as men living with men.

Or, they might leave because they don’t want to be around so many men. Ghaziani writes:

Gay men are still men, after all, and they are not exempt from the sexism that saturates our society. In reflecting on her experiences in the gay village of Manchester, England, one lesbian described gay men as “quite intimidating. They’re not very welcoming towards women.”

Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

15 Mar 13:33

When aspies are right, they're right.

by Amanda J Harrington



I'm often a wrong aspie, as are lots of other aspies I know. We don't like being wrong but we're well used to it. We know how hard it can be when someone points out our faults and explains how we got it wrong all over again. It means we become awkward under criticism - obnoxious at our worst.

So it's ironic that an aspie in the right is such a big pain in the butt. (Yes, you are, you know it). If being wrong is painful to the aspie, then being right is at least as big a pain to everyone else.

It's not so much gloating (though some do like to gloat); rather it's to do with:

Making sure the person realises they are wrong, understands how they are wrong and can show the aspie they know they are wrong otherwise there will be absolutely no shutting up about it.

It's almost helpful, this need to point out your wrongness. If we tell you how you went wrong and the many vivid details of your errors, then you'll know not to do it again. We don't like to be wrong and always try to avoid it so we don't mind repaying the favour and helping others avoid wrongness too. It's a public service.

If you do something the wrong way and we know the right way then we will tell you the right way. And when good manners or social shock cause you to clam up and just let us go on, we will take that as your misunderstanding of what we are trying to explain and so we'll continue explaining. And there will be hand gestures and show-and-tells and detailed explanations with figure diagrams and also references to your wholly wrong effort, so you know where you went wrong.

None of this will be meant unkindly but there will be a firmness about it, as if you are 5 again and having it explained to you why it's a bad idea to talk and eat at the same time. You will be left in no doubt as to how you went wrong and that you are being Put Right.

At the end you have the choice to accept the staunch advice from your helpful aspie or venture a small complaint about the method of correction. This would be the moment when you try to explain how the aspie made the lecture kind of painful and did they know they had hurt your feelings?

If you manage to finish the sentence, your aspie will be dumbfounded, appalled, just totally brimming with disbelief - not at having hurt your feelings but at your ability to sidestep the whole point of this exchange and move onto your emotions (again!). All the effort put into explaining how you went wrong seems to have been wasted. How is your aspie expected to help you if all you do is lose concentration? No wonder you get things wrong!

The suggestion that the way your aspie explains things might be slightly abrasive or hurtful is irrelevant. As usual, if it wasn't meant this way then there's no point in you taking it this way. If you can't use good advice when it's offered, your aspie might have to stop offering it (no, there's no real hope of this happening, sorry).

Sadly, your aspie wanders off, secretly plotting how to help you be right once you've stopped being silly and are ready to listen. Or maybe you can just be shown the right way to do something? Be converted by the brilliance of the finished effort?

Smiling to themselves, your aspie closes the door, leaving you to wonder what on earth you did to deserve a ten minute lecture on the right way to clean a sink. Especially as you're the only one who ever does it!

Sighing, you take up the cloth and then hesitate, looking guiltily at the kitchen door as you start to clean the sink the way you were told. Sometimes it's better just to do things right...

Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!
16 Mar 14:00

Children, Chores, and the Gender Pay Gap at Home

by Lisa Wade, PhD

Girls do more chores than boys and are less likely to get an allowance in exchange for their work. When they do, they are paid less.

Research projects on children’s time use find that boys do 43 to 46 minutes of housework for every hour that girls do. When asked to list the chores they do, girls list 42 percent more chores than boys. Girls are as likely as boys to participate in outside chores and more likely to clean their own rooms, help prepare meals, and care for sibling and pets; the only thing boys report doing more often than girls is basic housecleaning.

3

Another study by the children’s magazine Highlights confirmed the finding: 73 percent of their girl readers reported being assigned routine chores, compared to 65 percent of their boy readers. Girls spend more time on chores than they do playing; the opposite is true for boys.

Not only are girls more likely to be asked to help out around the house, they are less likely to get paid. The Michigan study found that boys are 15 percent more likely than girls to get an allowance for the chores they do. And when they do get paid, they get a lower wage than their brothers. Male babysitters get paid $0.50 more an hour than females. Girls do 35 percent more work than boys, but bring home only $0.73 cents on boys’ dollar.

The gender pay gap starts early.

Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

19 Mar 20:39

‘I was homeless, and you chased me away …’

by Fred Clark

Kaya Oakes beat me to this joke, which would be funnier if it wasn’t a joke.

Screen shot 2015-03-19 at 3.33.01 PM

The link there is to this appalling story from San Francisco, where culture-warrior Salvatore Cordelione sets the tone for right-wing post-Christianity, “Saint Mary’s Cathedral Drenches Homeless With Water To Keep Them Away“:

Saint Mary’s Cathedral, the principal church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, has installed a watering system to keep the homeless from sleeping in the cathedral’s doorways.

The cathedral, at Geary and Gough, is the home church of the Archbishop. There are four tall side doors, with sheltered alcoves, that attract homeless people at night.

“They actually have signs in there that say, ‘No Trespassing,’” said a homeless man named Robert.

But there are no signs warning the homeless about what happens in these doorways, at various times, all through the night. Water pours from a hole in the ceiling, about 30 feet above, drenching the alcove and anyone in it.

Mark Evanier goes there: “I‘m so glad they’re doing this because all that stuff about priests molesting children and the church covering it up didn’t do quite enough damage to the faith.”

Oakes’ tweet highlights the stark contrast between Cordelione’s awfulness and Pope Francis’ response to the homeless who seek shelter in the Vatican. Francis commissioned showers for the homeless under St. Peter’s colonnades. The notable thing there is not just what the pope is doing, but why. He and his buddy Bishop Krajewski sometimes go out to dinner with their homeless friends, and one of those friends, Franco, said it was embarrassing to meet for dinner when he worried he smelled because he had nowhere to clean up. Francis responded because he knows Franco. Cordelione doesn’t know — or care to know — any of the people he’s been soaking off of his steps.

The auxiliary bishop in charge of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Bill Justice (ahem), has now apologized and says the sprinklers will be removed. “We are sorry that our intentions have been misunderstood and recognize that the method was ill-conceived,” Justice said. 

So apparently it was all just a misunderstanding. I think something crucially important was being misunderstood, but I don’t think it was their intentions.

Seriously, we’ve had 2,000 years to practice this stuff. You’d think we should have figured some of this out by now.

Screen shot 2015-03-19 at 4.31.39 PM

“Homeless Jesus,” sculpture by Timothy J. Schmaltz.

The Rev. Linda Kaufman is an Episcopal priest who runs a ministry based at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. Like St. Mary’s and many other big urban churches, Mount Vernon’s porches, doors and archways had also become places where homeless people sought shelter.

But their response was very different from Cordelione’s “ill-conceived” soak-’em-away plan in San Francisco: “No sprinklers required: How one church kept homeless people off church steps.”

Mount Vernon’s first step was far more in line with the approach of Francis and his Almoner — they invited the homeless living there to a meal and got to know them. That changed the nature of the project, and the outcome:

I am convinced that those individuals who were sleeping on the church porches are better off now than they were in January, before we started.

There is a way to keep safe, clean grounds while helping our homeless neighbors — and it’s both easier and harder than installing sprinkler systems or putting up fences. It requires the investment of time and resources to build relationships, listen and help. The community we formed still gathers at 7 a.m. each Tuesday.

19 Mar 19:05

Women Feigning Interest During Polite Conversation In Western Art History

by Mallory Ortberg

listen18

keep smiling, girls
keep him looking in that direction and i'll keep signaling for help

Read more Women Feigning Interest During Polite Conversation In Western Art History at The Toast.

18 Mar 18:47

Sen. Inhofe’s perfectly legal corruption is worse than former-Rep. Schock’s law-breaking

by Fred Clark

Rep. Aaron Schock has abruptly resigned following a cascade of questions about funding and spending by him and his office.

Congressional ethics and federal campaign finance rules can be arcane and complicated. I tend not to be deeply concerned by the occasional mini-scandals that erupt when members of either party run afoul of some more technical aspect of those laws. Yes, they ought to know better — lawmakers should know the law, or should at least know enough to hire people who do, or to consult with party officials whose job it is to ensure that members follow the rules. But when some member of Congress gets in trouble for using the wrong phone line, or charging some expense to the wrong line in a ledger, I’m usually willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

MerchantsIn most such cases, the usual principle involving money and politics applies: The scandalous thing is not what is illegal, but what is accepted as perfectly legal.

That was my initial response to the first several stories about Aaron Schock — the flashy, young, impeccably chiseled bro-dude Republican congressman from Illinois. The first bit of news that registered with me involved the elaborate decor in his congressional office, inspired, apparently, by Downton Abbey. His staff reported that this decor and design were not at taxpayer expense, but had been donated to the congressman as a gift. But he had failed to report that gift as election law requires.

That law is good and necessary. We don’t want our elected officials beholden to donors who can buy their favor with extravagant gifts, so we tried to forbid such gifts lest they be what they seem — bribes in kind, rather than in cash. Alas, it seems we were unable to ban such bribery-in-kind outright, and the best we managed to do was to require disclosure. Gifts have to be reported so that voters and constituents can, at least, research who it is that is buying our elected officials.

And Rep. Schock, reportedly, had failed to comply with that law. That’s not good, surely, but I wasn’t inclined to get too worked up about it. Correct the error, pay the fine, don’t make a habit of it.

The problem though is that Schock apparently had made a habit of it. Worse than that, really. He hadn’t so much run afoul of election and finance law as he had failed to acknowledge its existence.

Take for example the case that seems to have been the final straw for Schock, which involved mileage reimbursement for a vehicle he used in his campaigns. The problem wasn’t the usual semi-scandalous technical problem of one or several trips misreported as campaign expenses. Schock is reported to have been reimbursed for every mile ever driven in that vehicle — and for an additional 90,000 miles beyond what its odometer reads. He wasn’t just fudging his expense accounts, he was treating them like an ATM.

And that is why, despite easily winning another term in the last election, Aaron Schock is now leaving Congress.

Some commentators say they’re still waiting for another shoe to drop in Schock’s story. They’re sure there must be other, larger, darker secrets that forced him to resign. But nothing else is needed. Schock’s reckless disregard for the law — always in the direction of personal enrichment — is cause enough for him to resign. That’s corruption. And corruption is a sufficient reason for a public official to be forced to resign.

Even here, though, the principle applies: The real scandal is not what is illegal, but what remains perfectly legal. Aaron Schock was forced to resign because he was corrupt, but 534 members of Congress remain in office and many of them are far, far more corrupt than he has ever managed to be.

Consider, for example, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma. This guy:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Now, Inhofe may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but he isn’t dumb enough to believe the nonsense he has been spouting for years about climate change. He says these things because he is paid to say these things. Inhofe says these things because he is corrupt — because the only constituents he represents in the Senate are the fossil-fuel industry donors who have funded his election and re-election for decades. The money those donors have poured into Inhofe’s campaign coffers over the years vastly outweighs the chump-change that Aaron Schock is suspected of skimming for his personal benefit.

But Inhofe’s corruption is perfectly legal. Even though the crooked senator from Oklahoma is doing far more real harm to his constituents and to his country, he isn’t breaking the law. He’s following the law — and constantly rewriting that law to ensure that what he does can never be described as illegal.

Unethical, immoral, dishonest, damaging, stupid, sinful, ignoble, dishonorable and thoroughly corrupt, yes. But not illegal.

Here’s a short promo for Merchants of Doubt, Robert Kenner’s documentary based on the book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway.

Click here to view the embedded video.

 

What Kenner documents is corruption — perfectly legal corruption facilitated by thoroughly corrupt liars like Sen. James Inhofe.

Until such corruption is recognized as worse than the petty crimes of people like Aaron Schock, we’re all in big trouble.

19 Mar 06:30

Day 5190: A Budget of Signposts and Pitfalls

by Millennium Dome
Wednesday Budget Day Election Day Minus Forty-Nine:


So, for the last time in the first fixed term Parliament, Master Gideon did a thing.

Liberal Democrat policies once more featured strongly (and anonymously) in the form of future rises in the personal allowance towards the minimum wage and a promise of an end in sight of austerity.

But most of what he did was mess things about. A little. He cut some taxes a little; cut some spending a little less; made the tax system a little more generous to favoured industries/more complicated with more loopholes. And made several bad jokes. Mostly about the unfortunate Mr Milipede's kitchen arrangements.

When he wasn't cracking our sides with his rib-ticklers, he gave us not so much substance as a full meal, more a sort of taster's trolley to whet our appetites for the shape of Parliamentary things to come.

Most of the actual tax arrangements are, of course, post-dated, setting the sort of traps for a future Labour Chancer– in the decreasingly likely event of there being such a person – just as Mr Allstar Darling did for him, with the "for one month only" 50% tax rate (which did indeed successfully blow up in Gideon's face). The promise of a little less squeezing of the pips on higher rate taxpayers (in the assumption that the Venn diagram of higher rate taxpayers and Tory voters is quite a large overlap) gives a sweetie to his base today that might reward a second time if incoming Hard Labour have to reverse it to make ends meet after the election and post Financial Review. Likewise, the £1000 tax free interest is a giveaway to the "haves" that makes the tax system yet more needlessly complicated (with interest rates at ½% you can "have" up to two-hundred grand in the bank before paying any tax on the interest). And aside from the Chancer's personal delight in being able to string two catchphrases together do we really need yet more money injected into the housing bubble? I'm just surprised he didn't rename the newly in-out-shake-it-all-about ISA his "long term economic savings plan"!

Meanwhile he sketched out a – suspiciously "Coalition flavoured" – direction of travel, adopting that Liberal Democrat pledge to bring an end to austerity and offer a promise of better days to come. His compromise of beginning to increase spending on public services "after four more years" falling mid-way between the Lib Dem position of "after three more years" and the Tory one of "after hell freezes over". Cutting the lifetime allowance for payments into a pension was also a Libby Demmy way of raising a few more tax dollars from the richer end of the spectrum.

This is, as we know, typical Tory strategy: use the Lib Dems as a sort of THINK TANK from Planet Nice to generate socially acceptable policy and use this to detox the brand (while pretending to smile and nod along to the wingnuts, and occasionally unleash a "Go Home Van" to keep them drooling happily).

Just because he's EXACTLY as scary-right-wing as his Romulan haircut suggests, don't ever think Gideon isn't PRACTICAL.

(And, in many ways, another Coalition is actually the best way for GIDEON to keep his own job: if they lose, he'll have to come third to Boris and Theresa in the ensuing leadership bloodbath; if they win on their own, then he might have to think up some policies of his own without Danny to hold his crayons for him!)

And look at how he did bang on about how the Coalition had brought economic success.

Obviously that's a GREAT advert for letting the Tories RUIN it by running the country off the rails on their own!

Being in Coalition has given him GREAT COVER for making it all up as he went along (or in fact letting Nick and Vince and Danny make most of it up for him, and then copying their homework). For all that Gideon the Chancer is a man who's made much political capital out of sticking to "Plan A", it should be apparent that we are by now on something like the "F Plan" (the diet nobody sticks to) or the "G-Plan" (given his wooden delivery). Whatever, he's in danger of running out of letters!

"Plan A" only lasted about a year. That was the "stick to Alistair Darling's disastrous plan to cut all capital spending" Plan. Fortunately the widely underrated Mr Danny managed to persuade Gideon to go on an Obama-esque Keynesian spending spree. That would have been Plan B. Plan C was the disaster of the OMNISHAMBLES budget, quickly walked back to Plan D. The REAL disaster being that budget had contained some attempts to simplify some of the tax system, and there's no way Gideon was going to try THAT again! And even last year we were still on Austerity Eternal of Plan E, but it appears that that didn't test well with the voters.

The only thing "Long Term" about the Conservatories "Long Term Economic Plan" is how long they've been ramming the stupid message down our throats!

Not that Hard Labour have much to crow about.

(It won't stop them. That Mr Allstar Darling was on the radio last weekend crowing about his own last budget – because, as he himself admitted, nobody else would – and saying that the Coalition's plan has arrived us exactly where he predicted the economy would be… slightly overlooking the fact that this must mean his own plan would have missed the target by miles and landed us in much worse straits! And also rather undermining Hard Labour’s case that they’d have done anything at all DIFFERENT!)

But in the absence of having bothered to pay any attention to what Gideon was saying, Mr Milipede delivered the speech he'd memorised anyway. I KNOW it's the hardest job in politics, replying to the budget with no notes or notice, but do you think he could at least TRY to remain on topic?

And if "long term economic plan" is becoming the most BORING big fib in British politics, then surely there's some sort of mutant hybrid of Godwin's Law being spawned on the other side: "the longer a debate goes on the closer to 100% gets the probability of Mr Milipede claiming it will lead to the privatisation/dismantling (the meaning of these terms being indistinguishable to his audience) of the NHS".

So today Mr Milipede invented the Tories "secret plan to fight inflation"…

No, sorry, that's "secret plan to wreck the NHS"; it's just he's so clearly and painfully obviously been watching too many episodes of his "West Wing" box set. It's all that free time he has not doing any work on actual policies.

But PLAGIARISM, Ed? Again?

I mean, bless him, he's only got one trump card, but he does keep playing it… in fact, it looks like he's only got one card AT ALL, at least only one that doesn't say "the same as the Tories but, er, nice" (see also what Rachel the Reever wants to do with welfare and Tristram the, er, Hunt wants to do with Education.) But it's clear that his schoolboy debate club tactics are no good when the country is calling for a STRATEGY.

The worst part of his day was probably the moment where you can see the dawning realisation creep into his sad eyes that the Conservatories are going to win, to beat him, beat him probably quite a lot. It was probably the time when he laughed at the second or third second kitchen joke.

Even until recently I had expected Labour to improve, and the Tories at best to hold their ground in numbers of seats. How could the Conservatories do anything OTHER than go backwards after the PAIN and the AUSTERITY and the BEDROOM TAX? But today, Miliband looked like a loser. No, worse, he looked like HE believed he was a loser, and that sort of thing is INFECTIOUS.

And Gideon looked like HE thought he was a WINNER.

Because Master Gideon's real talent is luck. The sort of luck that lets him get away with it.

Because this recovery isn't really a result of ANY plan – long term or otherwise – by this Government. It's mainly driven by the Saudis response to American fracking, pumping oil like it's going out of fashion (because it is!) driving down energy prices.

What the Coalition has actually done is a series of smart economic tacks across the wind, sheltering most people from the worst of the storm of the recession, while the rest of Europe has been battered by the ongoing Euro crisis, and while the rise of China and India drove a huge spike in energy prices and food prices, all of which delayed any chance of real recovery. We’ve been keeping more people in work – at the price of depressing earnings; keeping down homes repossessed; shifting the burden of taxation a few notches up the income scale. When the Lib Dems were stronger, we also kept benefits rising with inflation.

That doesn't mean that the austerity was WRONG or didn't work. If nothing else, thanks to the Coalition Britain was at least in a position where we COULD take advantage when the wind changed in our favour.

But what we've also done, again largely Lib Dem policies, is laid the groundwork for FUTURE economic strength: the pupil premium, and add to that free school meals, already giving kids a better education; the apprenticeships scheme, not just getting young people into jobs, delivering two million more quality training places, but kicking off a total reappraisal of the worth of vocational verses academic further education; even the hated tuition fees cum sort of graduate tax has delivered more young people from less well-off backgrounds into higher education.

You can, as Cap'n Clegg is fond of saying, still do a lot of GOOD with a bit of goodwill and three-quarters of a trillion pounds!

All of which means THIS is where the fight gets DESPERATE.

Liberal Democrats, we might have thought that we could go quietly into Opposition, sit the next Parliament out, lick our wounds – which will be many – and rebuild our tattered reputation under the cosy leadership of Saint Tim, while enjoying the no-doubt-hilarious spectacle of a minority Labour administration giving new definition to being propped up with a (lack of) confidence and supply (of demands) from the SNP.

WE MAY NOT HAVE THAT OPTION.

The Tories are already planning how to wreck democracy: that infamous "black and white ball" they held, that wasn't to raise funds for the General Election. They've already GOT the funds to fight the General Election. THAT was to raise funds for the SECOND General Election.

Remember, our slogan is "Stronger Economy; Fairer Society; Opportunity for All".

It's NOT because we'd deliver a fairer society than the Tories and a stronger economy than Labour. (Though we would. But that's OBVIOUS.)

It's because we'd deliver a FAIRER society than LABOUR and a STRONGER economy than THE TORIES!

Labour: the Party of I.D.iot cards, 90 day detention, dog whistles on immigration, cutting benefits for young people, introducing ATOS, introduction Work Capability Assessments, introducing tuition fees (yes, that burns), cash for peerages, cash for Bernie Eccleston, Iraq… no WAY are Labour the Party of "fairer society".

But equally, the Tories: the Party of throwing our relationship with our single biggest trading partner into doubt, the Party of toying with GBrexit, the Party of slashing immigration and all the benefits that come with it, the Party of slashing benefits(!), the Party of tax cuts for Dead Millionaires (promised again, this week), the Party of blowing dirty great wads on Trident… no WAY are the Tories the Party of "stronger economy".

People, if you DON'T want the LUNATICS to take over the asylum, if you don't want the drawbridge pulled up and the curtain run down on five centuries of Britain being the greatest trading nation on Earth, we CANNOT let the Tories win! Labour are about to surrender. It's up to the Liberal Democrats.

No pressure, then.


In this post:

Master Gideon = Gideon known as George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer
Mr Allstar Darling = Alistair Darling, his Labour predecessor
Rachel the Reever = Rachel Reeves, Labour Shadow Welfare Minister
Tristram the Hunt = Tristram Hunt, Labour Shadow Education Minister
Mr Milipede, reverting to Mr Miliband = Ed Miliband, probably-doomed leader of the Labour Party
Cap'n Clegg = Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Mr Danny = Danny Alexander, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary (i.e. second in charge) at the Treasury
Mr Vince = Dr Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and widely respected as Lib Dem economic spokesperson and stand-in leader
18 Mar 14:46

Fifty Things I Love About Britain

by Alex Wilcock

Fifty days until the General Election. Fifty days of nothing but ‘why Britain is terrible’. Labour say it’s terrible now they’re in, so put back in the people who made it terrible in the first place. Tories say it was terrible when they were in, so don’t let them back in. UKIP say Britain has been terrible ever since we let any of ‘them’ in and hang up their ‘No blacks, no Polish, no gays’ signs. And the Lib Dems say it’ll be a bit less terrible if we’re a bit in. So, today, only things I love about Britain.

1 – My greatest Briton
…and Earthling, and citizen of the Universe, of them all, my husband, Richard Flowers

2 – Love and marriage
Having the right to marry the person I love, if they want to too, or not to marry at all

3 – That he did want to
…and that we did, after waiting only twenty years (to the day)

That’s all I need, really, but there are forty-seven more, including food, Doctor Who, more food, the Liberal Democrats (the whole bally lot of them), so much food… And that’s all just the other stuff that was at our wedding!

4 – Doctor Who
of course

5 – Being a nation made up of several nations
…all distinct and all having each in common, and being a people that has always been made up of many peoples and still mixing in people from everywhere else

6 – Being a nation where we all have multiple loyalties and identities
…by definition, and not letting people tell us what one thing they think we are

7 – Being always open to change
…whether it’s new people in our streets, new words in our language (often from someone else’s) or newly being comfortable with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and all sorts of other people who no longer have to be like everybody else

8 – My parents
…My Mum, who wasn’t born here but has always put her all into wherever she is, and my Dad, who was born in Glasgow, did some more growing up in Watford, and made a life for his family in Stockport, because we’re lots of different places and all one country too

9 – Inspirational heroes
…The four greatest British heroic myths: King Arthur; Robin Hood; Sherlock Holmes; and World War II

10 – Doubt
…and asking awkward questions

11 – Great big cliffs
…and windmills on hillsides

12 – Great crashing waves
…and nudist beaches when it’s bloody freezing

13 – Picturesque villages
…like Aldbourne, East Hagbourne, South Oxhey, Little Bazeley-by-the-Sea, Summerisle (but I’m more of an Escape From the Country guy, so…)

14 – Thrilling cities
…like London, Manchester, Edinburgh

15 – Stockport Town Hall

16 – The Beatles
…and especially George Harrison who, like me, swung wildly from terribly earnest to taking the piss, but who unlike me played the most gorgeous slide guitar ever heard – plus the movie of Yellow Submarine

17 – Electronic music
…from the likes of the Pet Shop Boys, The Human League, Heaven 17 and Delia Derbyshire

18 – Kate Bush
…and whatever the hell she does

19 – Punk rock
…Especially Tom Robinson and, right now, Ian Dury and the Blockheads and the wish that I could make my lists scan as well as Reasons To Be Cheerful

20 – Dame Shirley Bassey

21 – The Avengers
…Possibly the most British thing ever, and which wasn’t just style and subversion but which mattered – introducing to a mass audience the idea of intelligent, independent women who flung men over their shoulders. A fantasy of Britain where old-fashioned tradition and high-tech, sexually equal modernity went hand in hand (a hugely successful Conservative-Liberal coalition, you might say)

22 – The BBC

23 – Quatermass
…combining British ingenuity and a wish to build rocket ships with sheer naked terror (but doing it anyway)

24 – The Clangers
…encouraging us to love the alien and gently laugh at ourselves

25 – 2000AD
…the comic, not the year, particularly, which turned out a bit samey

26 – Carry On Up the Khyber

27 – Alastair Sim
…in drag

28 – BRIAN BLESSED

29 – Shakespeare
…A great many of his lines, anyway (and Queen Elizabeth the First, at least according to Blackadder)

30 – The works of JRR Tolkien
…even the ones scribbled on bits of toast and painstakingly reconstituted by his son. Mmm, toast…

31 – Clasping strange new foreign foods to our bosom
…over the centuries, making them our own so we couldn’t imagine life without them, like – the potato – and tea – and chocolate

32 – Chicken Korma

33 – Roast lamb

34 – Scotch eggs

35 – Pies
Pies. More pies. And especially appropriate today, Pieminister pies

36 – Margaret Thatcher, Tony Benn, Alex Salmond and Nigel Farage
…and the gladly exercised right to say thanks but no thanks, never have, never will

37 – William Gladstone, David Lloyd-George, Paddy Ashdown, Nick Clegg and Jo Swinson
…and the gladly exercised right to say yes, and I will again

38 – Being more or less democratic for quite a long time

39 – Mostly giving up an Empire with less fuss than is usual

40 – The NHS
…which on balance makes me go “Aaargghh!” less than it helps stop me going “Aaargghh!”

41 – Fulfilling the UN target of giving 0.7% of our national wealth in overseas aid and development
…a target set a year before I was born. It’s only in the last couple of years that we’ve finally met it (one of only about half a dozen countries that does), and in the last few weeks set it in law created by the Liberal Democrats

42 – The gap between rich and poor narrowing
…at last, over the last five years, after widening hugely ever since the 1980s

43 – The Rule of Law
…meaning that those in power get frustrated by the law applying to them too

44 – Signing the European Convention on Human Rights
…And not just being part of it, but Winston Churchill commissioning British lawyers to create it, in order to protect and spread our values

45 – Traditional British values
…like creativity, eccentricity, tolerance, generosity, fair play, standing up for the underdog, and universal, indivisible freedom

46 – Not having ID cards
…or being snooped on by the state at will, and the Liberal Democrats constantly being on guard whenever everybody else suddenly thinks that would be a good idea

47 – Making lists instead of doing anything
…making tutting sounds instead of hitting anyone, and grumbling but never giving up

48 – Inventing the train and the Internet
…even when each sometimes goes off the rails

49 – Many of the things we used to have but don’t any more
…like welcoming immigrants, Woolworths, Texan Bars, how Blackpool was in my childhood memories, The Daleks’ Master Plan, Nick Courtney, Conrad Russell and my Grandad

50 – The future
…even more than those I’ve loved and lost, and that there will always be many, many more new wonderful, beautiful, innovative, unpredictable and aggravating but loveable things to put on a list.
And that any list will be quite different for you, or even quite different for me tomorrow (I thought the best way was to write the lot off the top of my head), but still blatantly and brilliantly British.


So in fifty days’ time, why not vote for a Britain that offers more things to love than merely against the bits you don’t?


Here’s Nick Clegg on things he loves about Britain. I applauded him delivering this speech on Sunday and suspect he may have spent a bit more time and thought crafting this version than I did mine, but I agree with most of his, too.

17 Mar 16:00

Songs from a Johnny Cash Album Where the Law is Just and Your Loved Ones Can Be Trusted

by Michael Whitney

Previously in this series: An Album from The Hold Steady Where No One Gets Wasted or Shows Questionable Judgement.

"I Slept Fine Last Night Because I Know My Wife is Faithful"

"Riding Trains is Preferable to Robbing Them"

"A Ballad I Wrote Myself and Which Was Definitely Not Given to Me by an Inmate"

"My Moral Compass is Stronger than My Fear of Losing You"

"Our Relationship is Based on More than Fleeting Passion"

"Tommy Can't Wait (to Rehabilitate)"

"No One Will Be Executed Today"

Read more Songs from a Johnny Cash Album Where the Law is Just and Your Loved Ones Can Be Trusted at The Toast.

16 Mar 19:00

Lamp Options

by Anna Fitzpatrick
by Anna Fitzpatrick

Koala lampbartvsaustraliareference"For a nursery or child's bedroom or playroom"

Monkey chandelier lampweeee"Will lend a designer touch to your home."

Easter Island lampwhythelongface"These castings are popular with Tiki collectors."

Headless dog lamparf"Wonderful conversation piece!"

Clown lamplisa's first word reference"Sometimes he's referred to as Sad Hobo Clown."

Ice cream truck lampit comes with a free froyo"Driven by a sentient ice cream cone."

Troll head lampgo to sleep now"The light is conTROLLed (lol) by an in line on/off switch."

Baby head lampit sees you when you're sleeping"The back of the head has 3 large vent holes to be sure the vinyl doesn't get hot."

Eyeless baby head lampit knows when you're awake"Hand poured with liquid clay and fired."

Ribcage lampit knows if you've been bad or good"I then cut out the spaces in between each rib with a sharp knife."

Headless baby lampso be good for goodness sake"This item brings 'plug and play' a whole new meaning."

This lamphello clarice"Bernadette."

Previously: Soap options

7 Comments
05 Mar 15:00

Uncomfortable Attempts At Heterosexuality In Art History

by Mallory Ortberg

kiss2

okay
okay i'm ready
let's do this

kiss3

ah yes
this is how kissing goes
your whole face in my mouth, that's what kissing is
now stop squirming so I can absorb your essence

kiss14

No
no
no
no, that's quite all right

Read more Uncomfortable Attempts At Heterosexuality In Art History at The Toast.

22 Feb 16:41

"They called for more structure"

by Mark Liberman

From Kevin Knight's home page:

I think our approach to syntax in machine translation is best described in D. Barthelme's short story They called for more structure….

In case you didn't follow the link, and to guard against future link rot:

They called for more structure, then, so we brought in some big hairy four-by-fours from the back shed and nailed them into place with railroad spikes. This new city, they said, was going to be just jim-dandy, would make architects stutter, would make Chambers of Commerce burst into flame. We would have our own witch doctors, and strange gods aplenty, and site-specific sins, and humuhumunukunukuapuaa in the public fishbowls. We workers listened with our mouths agape. We had never heard anything like it. But we trusted our instincts and our paychecks, so we pressed on, bringing in color-coated steel from the back shed and anodized aluminum from the shed behind that. Oh radiant city! we said to ourselves, how we want you to be built! Workplace democracy was practiced on the job, and the clerk-of-the-works (who had known Wiwi Lönn in Finland) wore a little cap with a little feather, very jaunty. There was never any question of hanging back (although we noticed that our ID cards were of a color different from their ID cards); the exercise of our skills, and the promise of the city, were enough. By the light of the moon we counted our chisels and told stories of other building feats we have been involved in: Babel, Chandigarh, Brasilia, Taliesin.

At dawn each day, an eight-mile run, to condition ourselves for the implausible exploits ahead.

The enormous pumping station, clad in red Lego, at the point where the new river will be activated . . .

Areas of the city, they told us, had been designed to rot, fall into desuetude, return, in time, to open space. Perhaps, they said, fawns would one day romp there, on the crumbling brick. We were slightly skeptical about this part of the plan, but it was, after all, a plan, the ferocious integrity of the detailing impressed us all, and standing by the pens containing the fawns who would father the fawns who might someday romp on the crumbling brick, one could not help but notice one's chest bursting with anticipatory pride.

High in the air, working on a setback faced with alternating bands of gray and rose stone capped with grids of gray glass, we moistened our brows with the tails of our shirts, which had been dipped into a pleasing brine, lit new cigars, and saw the new city spread out beneath us, in the shape of the word FASTIGIUM. Not the name of the city, they told us, simply a set of letters selected for the elegance of the script. The little girl dead behind the rosebushes came back to life, and the passionate construction continued.

12 Mar 14:30

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/thehairpin/BdYj/~3/sM9zwBpMCCY/

by Jazmine Hughes
by Jazmine Hughes

Refinery29 has an incredibly thought-provoking, educational, and inspiring new feature on trans* and non-gender-conforming people. The entire thing is awesome (especially the FAQ!), but most touching are the essays by transgender millennials, each of them detailing their journeys to becoming who they really are. Here's an excerpt from Sweet Teen Mel Gonzalez: "If anybody had told me that I am the one who controls my own future, high school would have been a lot easier. So, now, I’m telling people that: You are the person who defines you. You are not defined by name-calling or labels, or being put down by anyone else. Whatever obstacles you come across, you need to know that you’re in control, and you have the potential to get through it. We’re all so much stronger than we think we are."

0 Comments
12 Mar 14:38

Unkind Architecture: Designing Against the Homeless

by Lisa Wade, PhD

I encourage everyone to go read this very smart and very sad essay from Alex Andreuo at The Guardian. It’s a condemnation of defensive architecture, a euphemism for strategies that make the urban landscape inhospitable to the homeless.

They include benches with dividers that make it impossible to lie down, spikes and protrusions on window ledges and in front of store windows, forests of pointed cement structures under bridges and freeways, emissions of high pitched sounds, and sprinklers that intermittently go off on sidewalks to prevent camping overnight. There is also perpetually sticky anti-climb paint and corner urination guards, plus “viewing gardens” that take up space that might be attractive to homeless people:

Here are some examples from a collection at Dismal Garden:41b 1c 2311

Here’s a picture of anti-encampment spikes featured at The Guardian:

1

Andreuo writes of the psychological effect of these structures. They tell homeless people quite clearly that they are not wanted and that others not only don’t care, but are actively antagonistic to their comfort and well being. He says:

Defensive architecture is revealing on a number of levels, because it is not the product of accident or thoughtlessness, but a thought process. It is a sort of unkindness that is considered, designed, approved, funded and made real with the explicit motive to exclude and harass. It reveals how corporate hygiene has overridden human considerations…

If the corporations have turned to aggressive tactics, governments seem to simply be in denial. They offer few resources to homeless people and the ones they do offer are insufficient to serve everyone. Andreuo continues:

We curse the destitute for urinating in public spaces with no thought about how far the nearest free public toilet might be. We blame them for their poor hygiene without questioning the lack of public facilities for washing… Free shelters, unless one belongs to a particularly vulnerable group, are actually extremely rare.

He then connects the dots. “Fundamental misunderstanding of destitution,” he argues, “is designed to exonerate the rest from responsibility and insulate them from perceiving risk.” If homeless people are just failing to do right by themselves or take the help available to them, then only they are to blame for their situation. And, if only they are to blame, we don’t have to worry that, given just the right turn of events, it could happen to us.

Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

12 Mar 18:00

Multiple-Choice Reading Quiz Answers Actually Selected by Students in Classes I Taught as a T.A.

by Emma Smith-Stevens

notepad-593363_1280Previously by this author: 7 Essential Modernist Literary Life Hacks.

A metaphor is a word or phrase in a foreign language that poets choose to include simply because they are pretentious.

The title of William Wordsworth’s poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” provides an example of delusion.

When reviewing literature related to your essay topic, you should avoid sources that come from a country with which the United States has recently engaged in military conflict.

A discussion of a poet’s diction focuses on whether he or she wrote by hand, computer, typewriter, or Etch a Sketch™.

This week’s reading from Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft was about how a career in writing fiction is both lucrative and practical.

In a work of fiction, prose style is defined solely by the author’s choice of font (e.g., Courier New, Times New Roman, Book Antiqua).

Read more Multiple-Choice Reading Quiz Answers Actually Selected by Students in Classes I Taught as a T.A. at The Toast.

12 Mar 19:15

Fantasy Author Terry Pratchett on Working on ‘Draft Zero’ of a Book

by Mike Dang

The BBC reports that author Terry Pratchett has died today at the age of 66. In April 2000, Pratchett gave an interview with The Internet Writing Journal about his book series, his collaboration with Neil Gaiman, and his writing process. Here, he talks about writing “draft zero” of a book:

I’m about 10,000 words into my next book. Do I know what it is about? Yes, I do know what it is about, it’s just that I’m not telling myself. I can see bits of the story and I know the story is there. This is what I call draft zero. This is private. No one ever, ever gets to see draft zero. This is the draft that you write to tell yourself what the story is. Someone asked me recently how to guard against writing on auto-pilot. I responded that writing on auto-pilot is very, very important! I sit there and I bash the stuff out. I don’t edit — I let it flow. The important thing is that the next day I sit down and edit like crazy. But for the first month or so of writing a book I try to get the creative side of the mind to get it down there on the page. Later on I get the analytical side to come along and chop the work into decent lengths, edit it and knock it into the right kind of shape. Everyone finds their own way of doing things. I certainly don’t sit down and plan a book out before I write it.

There’s a phrase I use called “The Valley Full of Clouds.” Writing a novel is as if you are going off on a journey across a valley. The valley is full of mist, but you can see the top of a tree here and the top of another tree over there. And with any luck you can see the other side of the valley. But you cannot see down into the mist. Nevertheless, you head for the first tree. At this stage in the book, I know a little about how I want to start. I know some of the things that I want to do on the way. I think I know how I want it to end. This is enough. The thing now is to get as much down as possible. If necessary, I will write the ending fairly early on in the process. Now that ending may not turn out to be the real ending by the time that I have finished. But I will write down now what I think the conclusion of the book is going to be. It’s all a technique, not to get over writer’s block, but to get 15,000 or 20,000 words of text under my belt. When you’ve got that text down, then you can work on it. Then you start giving yourself ideas.

Read the interview

12 Mar 16:12

Boy Band

q:who is the disgusting boy band

a:the beatles

13 Mar 10:53

It’s Friday the 13th once again …

by Fred Clark

Legend has it that on Friday the 13th, just before midnight, one of the greatest Americans who ever lived returns from the grave to chew bubblegum and kick ass …

douglas66

 

And Mr. Douglass is all out of bubblegum.

(Tonight’s optional soundtrack.)

11 Mar 18:00

Hot water activity on icy moon’s seafloor


Tiny grains of rock detected by the international Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn point to hydrothermal activity on the seafloor of its icy moon Enceladus.

10 Mar 18:05

Arthur Rimbaud, Dirtbag Laureate

by Mallory Ortberg

Previously in the Worst Boyfriends in Literary History Series: Lord Alfred Douglas.

hey
are you home rn

yes
can i come over
who is this
rimbaud
who
the poet?
i sent you like
a bunch of my poems
and you said i should come to Paris
anyhow im in Paris
and i dont really know anyone here so idk where to sleep or live or eat or anything
look don't worry about it just like
can i come over

oh
all right
great
you can come pick me up the Gare du Midi police station

sorry?
well i cant come over until someone pays this fine
and its sort of your fault that im even in Paris in the first place

Read more Arthur Rimbaud, Dirtbag Laureate at The Toast.

09 Mar 16:00

The Comment Section For Every Article Ever Written About Breastfeeding

by Nicole Cliffe
Holly

The last four are just "every comment section about anything ever."‎

Previously: The Comment Section For Every Article Ever Written About Intimate Grooming and Tipping and Recipes and the Third Trimester. Nicole is happy to report that after not being able to breastfeed Kid One, Kid Two is breastfeeding like a champ. LIFE IS A RICH TAPESTRY.

Breast is best.

Your issue sounds like a tongue tie, go get it snipped.

Three pediatricians have examined him and said he doesn't have a tongue tie.

It could be a posterior tongue tie.

It COULD be a lip tie.

It's obviously a tie of SOME kind. Just start snipping things inside his mouth until the situation improves.

Read more The Comment Section For Every Article Ever Written About Breastfeeding at The Toast.

09 Mar 09:20

A vibrant veil


Space Science Image of the Week: Hubble image unveils the twisted shockwaves of an exploded star
09 Mar 20:30

Approved Catcalls

by Emily Henry
by Emily Henry

catcalls_texas-2

YOUR MIND IS BEAUTIFUL, YOUR BODY STRONG, AND I WANT TO BUY YOU A BURRITO, IF YOU'D LIKE. IF NOT, B-).

SORRY IT LOOKED LIKE I WAS WINKING. I HAD DUST IN MY EYE AND I WAS TRYING TO CHOOSE A FAVE BEYONCE SONG. COULDN'T DO IT!!

DO U LIKE SPIRIT ANIMAL QUIZZES? ME TOO! WHAT'S UR FAVE STEVIE SONG? STEVE NICKS, I MEAN.

I’M SURE YOU'RE BUSY. THIS WILL ONLY TAKE A SECOND AS YOU'RE BIKING PAST: I BET YOU HAVE AN INDOMITABLE SPIRIT.

catcalls_brie

I HOPE YOU'RE EXPERIENCING DEEP, PROFOUND JOY DESPITE ALL THE BAD THINGS HAPPENING IN OUR SHARED WORLD.

I LOVE MULDER'S ONE-LINERS BUT I CAN'T HELP BUT THINK SCULLY'S THE BACKBONE OF THE DUO. SHE KEEPS THINGS AFLOAT.

WOULD YOU LET ME BUY YOU BBQ? IF YOU ARE VEGAN, I ALSO KNOW OF A VEGAN BBQ RESTAURANT.
IT'S REALLY GOOD.

ISN'T IT STUPID HOW OUR CULTURE SHAMES PEOPLE FOR LIKING FAST-PACED EXCITING BOOKS???

I AGREE THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH ENJOYING ROMANCE IN BOOKS AND MOVIES. IT'S FINE!!!

catcalls_polibolous

IF I WERE A FROZEN BEVERAGE, I'D BE A SHAMROCK SHAKE. CARE TO SHARE WHAT YOU'D BE? NO? OK, I HOPE YOU HAVE A NICE DAY!

IF YOU SUSTAINED AN INJURY, I'D CALL TIM RIGGINS AND HE'D CARRY YOU TO THE HOSPITAL.

I'M SORRY IF YOU'RE NOT SMILING CUZ THIS WORLD HAS YOU DOWN. IF YOU'RE JUST THINKING, SORRY FOR THE INTERRUPTION!

HERMIONE IS OBVIOUSLY MY FAVORITE CHARACTER. WHAT ABOUT YOU????

WHO ARE YOUR FAVE FEMINIST THINKERS? I'M TRYING TO EDUCATE MYSELF!

catcalls_tim-2

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE BRAND OF WHISKY? IF YOU DON'T WANT TO ANSWER, I UNDERSTAND.

IF YOU WANT TO BE A RAPPER OR A COMIC OR A GAMER, I SUPPORT THAT AND WON'T THREATEN YOU WITH DEATH AND/OR RAPE!

YOU WILL BE A WONDERFUL CAREERPERSON AND PARENT, IF THAT'S WHAT YOU WANT.

I BET YOU LOVE YOUR JOB.

YOU CAN HAVE THIS BAG OF CAPPUCINO LAYS POTATO CHIPS AS I THINK THEY ARE DISGUSTING. BEST OF LUCK.

catcalls_fire

I DON'T THINK VAMPIRE DIARIES IS STUPID. IT'S ACTUALLY REALLY SMART WRITING.

IT'S WEIRD HOW HATEFUL EVERYONE IS TOWARD KIM KARDASHIAN, DON'T YOU THINK???

ARE YOU AT ALL INTERESTED IN HEARING ABOUT MY FAVORITE UNDERRATED FEMALE HORROR WRITER??

EXCUSE ME, MS, CARE TO SIGN MY PETITION TO GET ALZHEIMERS-CAUSING INGREDIENTS TAKEN OUT OF WOMEN'S DEODORANT?

Emily Henry is a young, adult writer who is a young-adult writer, and she's wearing the same thing as last time you saw her. Her debut novel, THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD, will be available in 2016 from Razorbill/Penguin. She also tweets.

Illustrations by Hallie Bateman.

9 Comments