Pop Culture


I really like these AdoptUsKids.org ads. They show a teen arguing with or being embarrassed by a parent (usually a mother, I think), and then end, capturing so much in a single line, “There are thousands of kids in foster care who would love the chance to put up with you.”

At first I was thinking it’s too bad they can only afford to run the ads at 1am, but maybe that’s actually a good demographic.

* * *

I’m perturbed that the religious channel is showing a “documentary” on the martyrdom of the Waldensians, who were imprisoned and then forced out of Italian Piedmont in 1686 by the vicious Roman Catholics because they refused to give up Protestantism. I did not know these things were out there. It seems to me to be stoking old hatreds that should be let die.

And then I wondered why I don’t think that about documentaries on slavery.

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“I” is often unnecessary. I mean, who else would be speaking (in such a self-centered medium)? Gaining a new appreciation for Spanish. (This one has made it’s way into my email.)

Conjunctions such as “and” “because” “since”, etc, can often be replaced with a period and left unsaid, merely implied. Likely NOT a good idea for email.

Actually using my pretty decent vocabulary. Picking the precise word becomes very important; active verbs are usually the shorter way to go.

Incidentally, blogging is totally jacking up my concept of title case. Not capitalizing “about” and “from” just doesn’t look right.

So, Apple released a new version of iTunes on Wednesday, and changed the icon for the first time since 2006 or so, and a lot of people think the icon is ugly.

So, yesterday, the iTunes 10 icon started tweeting. And for about six hours or so, suddenly about twenty different computer icons were tweeting, snarking on each other, pushing back at people. The Safari icon is a good place to get a bit of the flavor. People are talking about it under #iconsftw—it seems to still be going on a bit.

And, yeah, pure trivial silliness—but also a spin on the internet meme that I think takes a bit more work than hashtags, and works a bit more directly interactively than lolcats, and maybe has something intriguing to tell us about personas…. And I’m not really paying attention and don’t know much about various types of fandom, but what’s going on with these Star Trek characters?

Also, is anyone on twitter that I’m not already following? Because I’m terrible at commenting these days, and have just been lurking (or letting the RSS pile up over a thousand). And I’m not posting very much, either (though per usual, thoughts on brands, sewing, and community are brewing in drafts). So, anyhow, leave a twitter name in the comments if you’ve got it.

A funny review of a movie I haven’t seen:

I find myself expanding the English language to properly encompass the unremitting catastrophe that is M. Night Shyamalan’s latest work, inventing words like omnihorrific and vomitacious and spectacuturd. My favorite of these new words is nontage. I believe this is a truly new word, as I can’t even find it in the Urban Dictionary. Formally defined, a nontage is a montage in which nothing happens. Airbender is full of these.

A long while back, I asked FLG for a real counter-argument to the social constructionist approach that even little things matter and are worth addressing and protesting, such as the notion that pink is for girls. (Full context at Pink Wars, More on Pink, More on More on Pink, Pink Follow-Up, in December 2009, but this is a narrower focus.)

When social constructionists say “no, it’s isn’t just a kid’s toothbrush, it’s part of an overwhelming system of messages that will bombard Miss FLG every day for the rest of her life”, what counterargument do you offer to prove that that system doesn’t matter? Or that this is not a good way to attack it?

I got an immediate answer from commenter Robbo, which I will paraphrase as:

if you raise happy healthy well-adjusted children they’ll be able to ignore the messages.”

Fair enough, I can respect that viewpoint. I don’t necessarily believe it myself, but it’s a good answer. Less convinced by Robbo’s hint that teaching children about the messages makes them less well-adjusted, but that seems like a different debate.

But FLG also gave me several responses, and I am overdue in responding to them.

If the tiniest human interaction is part and parcel of a social construction and is consequently tremendously important then nothing is important.

First of all, there’s no reason you can’t have priorities within “important”, different angles of attack for one large problem, or specialize in what’s doable rather than what’s ideal. Indeed, those are techniques useful in any problem—rejecting them doesn’t scale.

But more importantly, this is hardly better than “sometimes it’s just a toothbrush.” It’s a rather more sophisticated version of “we can’t worry about everything,” that conflates “matters” with “everything is tremendously important.”

I have known men to run circles around me or elbow me out of the way because they apparently believe women are not allowed to expend simple human courtesy in the act of opening a door for a man. Do I have to wait until I actually trip over them and fall before such behavior escapes the label “the tiniest human interaction”?
If one endorses FLG’s statement as a general principle, then the list of things not worth doing includes:

  • holding a door open for anyone at all
  • the military practice of saluting officers and calling them sir
  • starting emails to a stranger with Dear So-and-So

Either small things matter, or they don’t. You can’t say “the ones I believe in matter but the ones I don’t believe in are too unimportant for anyone to worry about.”

To attack pink is to attack the symptom and not the cause“.

Absolutely a legitimate claim.

There’s a strong argument to be made that the billions invested in children’s toys and marketing those toys, and in Disney’s princess industry in particular, have turned pink into a cause rather than a symptom, but let’s set that aside and assume that pink toys are just a symptom.

However, attacking the symptoms can be an effective approach—it’s certainly used in modern medicine a lot. You can’t destroy an entire system at one sweep. Previous campaigns to change vocabulary, etc, have succeeded. FLG himself stated that “Ridding acceptable discourse of the word [nigger] was a necessary and relatively simple step in the long march toward equality.” Consumer boycotts and protests are a proven means of effecting change in big companies.

In fact, separating individuals from the system and attacking the symptoms actually balances out an undesirable tendency of social constructivists to operate on a meta, structural level. It’s really a very conservative approach, and it puts the responsibility for change in the hands of the individual to act as they believe, rather than demanding big systemic fixes, for which government regulation seems to be the main tool we have.

And if people choose one aspect of a bigger problem as their personal campaign, what’s it to you?

The things I worry about are things that construct gender roles AND have reasonably direct negative consequences. Saying girls don’t do science or math or whatever are in this category.

But the argument here is not that pink toothbrushes construct gender roles, or that parents should resist when girls pick pink as their favorite color. Rather it’s that when pink is the only option for girls, either because of manufacturing or because the dental hygienist says “oh no, honey, girls get the pink toothbruth”, then that constricts gender roles in the same fashion as “girls don’t do science”.

Creating the notion that certain colors, toys, and activities are for girls while others are for boys helps “girls don’t do science” land on fallow ground—“girls don’t take computer science” becomes an extension of a pattern that already exists. Different form, but same function. Girls hear “girls aren’t good at math” and accept that it makes sense, because it fits with other things—“girls don’t play trucks, girls don’t like blue”—they’ve been told all their life. That’s direct enough for me.

Clearly I’m the only professor out there listening to crap radio, or else this song (the winner in the evening competition a couple of times and a song I hear regularly) would be all over the internets along with the entitled student articles. Actually, maybe RYS already made it their video—since I never even see those in my RSS reader, I wouldn’t know.

Chorus:

That party last night was awfully crazy i wish we taped it
i danced my ass off and had this one girl completely naked

drink my beer and smoke my weed
but my good friends is all i need
pass out at 3 wake up at 10
go out to eat then do it again

man i love college (hey)
and i love drinkin (hey)
i love women (hey)
i love college

The line at the end of this verse I suppose has a little redeeming value:

i cant tell you what i learned from school
but i could tell you a story or two
um yea of course i learned some rules
like dont pass out with your shoes on
and dont leave the house till the booze gone
and dont have sex if shes too gone

It’s kinda catchy, actually.

I remember when I first went to the East Coast, and found that people said “what’s up?” instead of hello, and it took me some months to realize no one really wanted an answer. Months which I spent yelling responses to people walking the other direction.

Now, whenever colleagues say, “we should do coffee”, I say, “what’s your schedule looking like?” But people seem to be really busy.

Is this just another “what’s up?” thing, where people don’t really mean it?

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