24 December 2008

Christmas special

I respect people who love Charlie Brown, the muppets, and even those goofy Rankin-Bass cartoons, but my all-time favourite is undoubtedly The Twilight Zone: Night of the Meek. Magic all the way through, and a perfect ending.

15 December 2008

It is the Russian word for Truth

Take a moment and reflect on the url english.pravda.ru: what should be there? what do you expect to find there?

Then go see. It's perfect.

12 December 2008

Pin-up

Bettie Page
Pin-up model
1923-2008

You may not recognize her name, but you surely recognize her. The only woman's image whom you could argue has been more reproduced and imitated than Bettie Page's is Marilyn Monroe's.

Maybe.

Like with Marilyn, Bettie worked a strange magic with the American virgin-whore dichotomy, knowingly sexy and innocently pretty at the same time. But Bettie could walk even deeper into the paradox; she did countless pictures that were a lot racier (and fetishier) than Marilyn ever did. Don't let that deter you from looking for them, though, as even the wickedest of her pictures are only wicked by ’50s standards—and more importantly in every one of them she radiates joy. I remember reading somewhere that the photographer best known for working with her, Bunny Yeager, said that she didn't have any unreleased photos, because Bettie had been so uncannily photogenic that she had never managed to take a picture that wasn't good enough to publish.

Life was not nearly so kind to her as the camera had been. How could it have been?

10 December 2008

Rights

I just found out that today is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the full text of which appears in the following pages. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.”

Preamble

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore the General Assembly proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
....

Good reading.

07 December 2008

Haven

This story contains about a hundred layers of heartbreak.
There's growing support among many Nebraska lawmakers to limit the safe haven law to children no older than three days. But several lawmakers said they'll push for something closer to a 30-day age limit.

The safe haven law was meant to protect infants, but there is no age limit under the current law. Five of the abandoned children were brought to Nebraska from out of state. Parents have traveled into Nebraska from Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Florida and Georgia.

Tysheema Brown drove from Georgia to leave her teenage son at an Omaha hospital.

“Do not judge me as a parent. I love my son and my son knows that,” Brown said. “There is just no help. There hasn't been any help.”

05 December 2008

Doctor

As a teenager, I'd watch Doctor Who on Sunday afternoons on PBS. (Pertwee, Baker, and Davison, for those who care enough to recognize the names; otherwise never mind.)

My father would always comment that he didn't understand the appeal. “All they do is walk around in corridors and talk!” But like many American fans, I loved the cheerful goofiness of the show. It's difficult for me to imagine what it's like for Brits, who grow up as children watching from behind the sofa, terrified of the un-threatening Daleks.

I'm late to the party on the recent revival of the show. A little while back I finally sprung for the first couple of seasons on DVD but didn't motivate to watch them. I write this having finally watched the first episode. Exactly the sort of good fun I was hoping for.

And oh, the ending. Young Rose Tyler, her boyfriend in tow, has just survived the adventure in which she meets The Doctor.




Who doesn't want that to be their life?

03 December 2008

Cocktail

Oliver Schwaner-Albright writing for The New York Times identifies eight hot new bartending philosophies:
  1. Pre-repeal revivalists
  2. Neo-classicists
  3. Farm-to-glass
  4. Liquid locavores
  5. Home brewers
  6. Minimalists
  7. Molecular mixologists
  8. Faux tropicalists

02 December 2008

Belly

Much as I hesitate to assert that my inclination to admire the beauty of women reflects some deep commitment to Truth, Spiritual Enlightenment, and Social Justice, a recent bit of news has gotten under my skin and has me tempted, just a little bit.

A week or three ago, someone pointed me at this little music video by Amanda Palmer, of cabaret-punk band Dresden Dolls fame, for her song “Leeds United:”




How good is that? It's a super spiffy pop song, a fun video full of stuff that makes my cabaret-lovin' heart sing, and — bonus! — Ms Palmer is awfully ... ah ... charismatic. (If you dug that, I also commend to your attention LeAnne Rimes' video for “Nothin’ Better to Do.” Zowie.)

I don't buy a lot of new music, but I got to thinking that it was past time I invested in the Dresden Dolls and Ms Palmer.

Then, via Warren Ellis, I learned that the record company had really jerked her around about this video. She explains:

the label i’m on (roadrunner records) had wanted to pull shots from the video so that my bare belly wasn’t exposed. they thought i looked fat. i thought they were on crack.

dude. i’m a vain motherfucker. i know when i look fat. i had beth hanging out on the set of the pope videos, keeping an eye on my figure as i pranced around in my slip in case pope was getting a particularly pregnant-looking angle. i hate shots of myself where i look heavy with child.

but THIS?? this was just nonsense. i thought i looked HOT. i really, really didn’t see where they were coming from. at all.

so i didn’t budge.

they weren’t happy, but then again they’re not very happy with anything i’m doing lately (including putting out a record that has “no commercial potential” and is impossible to promote, since nobody will like it).

the video was left as is.

WTF?

Look, as someone who was on the leading edge of the “video killed the radio star” generation, I hate to bite the hand that gave me Annie Lennox, but what the %#&@!! is wrong with these music industry clowns?

What the &*%!! is wrong with a society which creates people paid to tell sexy pop stars that they are unattractive?

I know as a good feminist my first reaction should be to point y'all at the reBELLYon where fans are posting pictures of their “no commercial potential” bellies in a zany pro-postive-body-image protest, rather than to allow a BS chivalrous reflex of protectiveness toward pretty girls to muck up the discourse, but my tastes in pretty girls are better than theirs nyah nyah nyah and I'm pretty fromaged off about it.

Clearly I must go see her show and thereby put some money in the lady's pocket. That'll show ’em.

01 December 2008

Freedom of Speech

Today Neil Gaiman got an anguished letter from a fan named Jess about his support for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
The question, for me, is even if we only save ONE child from rape or attempted rape, or even just lots of uncomfortable hugs from Creepy Uncle Dave, is that not worth leaving a couple naked bodies out of a comic?
He answered, at length, with the post Why defend freedom of icky speech? Some key bits:
If you accept -- and I do -- that freedom of speech is important, then you are going to have to defend the indefensible. That means you are going to be defending the right of people to read, or to write, or to say, what you don't say or like or want said.

The Law is a huge blunt weapon that does not and will not make distinctions between what you find acceptable and what you don't. This is how the Law is made.
....
I was born the day of the conclusion of the Lady Chatterley trial in England, the day it was decided that Lady Chatterley's Lover, with its swearing, buggery and raw sex between the classes, was fit to be published and read in a cheap edition that poor people and servants could read. This was the same England in which, some years earlier, the director of public prosecutions had threatened to prosecute Professor F R Leavis if he so much as referred to James Joyce's Ulysses in a lecture (the DPP was Archibald Bodkin, who also banned The Well of Loneliness) , in which, when I was sixteen and listening to the Sex Pistols, the publisher of Gay News was sentenced to prison for the crime of Criminal Blasphemy, for publishing an erotic poem featuring a fantasy about Jesus.
....
you could rewrite Jess's letter above, explaining that only perverts would want to read Lady Chatterley, or see images of women being abused, or read Lost Girls or the works of Robert Crumb, and mentioning that if only one person was saved from a hug from a creepy uncle, or indeed, being raped in the streets, that banning them or prosecuting those who write, draw, publish, sell or -- now -- own them, is worth it. Because that was the point of view of the people who were banning these works or stopping people reading them. They thought they were doing a good thing. They thought they were defending other people from something they needed to be protected from.
....
So when Mike Diana was prosecuted -- and found guilty -- of obscenity for the comics in his Zine “Boiled Angel”, and sentenced to a host of things, including (if memory serves) a three year suspended prison sentence, a three thousand dollar fine, not being allowed to be in the same room as anyone under eighteen, over a thousand hours of community service, and was forbidden to draw anything else obscene, with the local police ordered to make 24 hour unannounced spot checks to make sure Mike wasn't secretly committing Art in the small hours of the morning... that was the point I decided that I knew what was obscene, and it was prosecuting artists for having ideas and making lines on paper, and that I was going to do everything I could to support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Whether I liked or approved of what Mike Diana did was utterly irrelevant ....

It's worth reading the whole thing; Mr Gaiman really kicks out the jams.

And this makes today a particularly good day to donate to the CBLDF.

Anonymous

You may recall me blogging Anonymous' spooky anti-Scientology videos. In the months since then, they've succeeded in organizing several actual protests. I stumbled across one in San Diego, and they seemed to be running a surprisingly tight action for folks who broadcast on the 'net.

Steven Croop at The Escapist reflects on how this happened.

So, how in the world did a secluded online community, widely considered to be a bunch of social misfits and outcasts with little vested interests beyond expanding their collections of violent fetish porn, become a potent, organized activist group that has protested against the Church of Scientology since January in an operation called “Project Chanology”?
He doesn't manage to offer an answer per se but he does have some interesting history of what happened.
How, then, did the raid on the Church go from DDoS attacks to standing on street corners in major cities around the world with signs, masks and cake — all within less than a month? How was it that Bunker watched “Anonymous virtually pivot on a dime?” For his part, Bunker became Anonymous' advisor, Wise Beard Man. “I made a video to suggest they stay within the law and do things the right way,” Bunker says. “I worried Anonymous would attack me for daring to make the suggestion, but I felt I had to say something. Happily, most understood my points and agreed with me. They dubbed me Wise Beard Man and started to rethink their involvement and their tactics and quickly transformed in a way Scientology has never been willing to do.” And there it is, in all its glorious simplicity — Anonymous rethought, transformed and changed. Did a convincing paradigm shift carry Anonymous into the real world with an ennobling goal?

Not necessarily. It was also an internal polarization: We only saw the more elevated, optimistically charged side in the real world, while its opposite sunk further ...

Croop basically supposes that it may turn out that in a Fredrick Jackson Turner-ish way, the existence of internet-based troll pits may help to actually help stabilize social activist movements. I'm skeptical, but it's an interesting datum.