Friday, April 30, 2010

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun... Without Getting Raped

OK, so clearly I've been more active with the movie reviews, but sometimes life gets so hectic that the thought of ranting about what pisses me off just exhausts me. But I am here to continue on with another thing that makes me oh so angry.

I don't know if any of you know (or care) about this situation with Ben Roethlisberger, who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but here's the gist: He was accused of rape, the girl decided not to continue pressing charges, and there's a whole bunch of dirt kicked up about the NFL sanctioning him or whatnot. Honestly, I don't know the full details of how he's being "disciplined", and I do not care. What I do care about is how people talked about what happened with this girl, and how they talked about girls and drinking, in general. Allow me to show you what has been happening...

Susan Reimer, who writes Commentary pieces for The Baltimore Sun, wrote a piece about two weeks ago called "Old rules don’t apply in Roethlisberger case". Within this piece, she shifts the blame to the victim of Roeth's (I am abbreviating his name, dammit!) attack because of her drunkenness, and proceeds to talk about how certain girls act with their rampant drinking and, perhaps, an item on their person indicating they are "DTF" (down to fuck). The fault is on THESE girls, because one can only assume that if they did not want to be raped, they wouldn't be out drinking a lot or wearing silly things that allude to them being sexually promiscuous.

Reimer ponders:

"When does it become rape? The rules have changed so fast and to such a degree that the law and the older generation are without a clue, and it has become tougher to assign blame, much less criminal charges, which in Georgia come with a minimum 25 years in prison.

Remember when "No" meant "No," even if she had said "Yes" 10 times before or 10 minutes before? That doesn't work if both parties are so drunk they might not be able to identify each other the next day, let alone remember whether permission was granted the night before."

Allow me to clarify, Ms. Reimer: rape is when the victim says no, or is unable to consent. Yes, that includes being too drunk to consent. If someone spiked her drink and she got so wasted that she couldn't say no, would that not be considered rape? Does it matter if she was the one who dictated how much alcohol she knowingly put into her body? No. If she was unable to give consent/said no, she was raped.

Reimer continues: "Remember when a woman's character or sexual history was not relevant? But what does a "DTF" button say?"

It says that she has class and taste issues. It doesn't say she's looking to get raped, nor does it excuse the man's behaviour in this situation.

The supposed details of the story indicate, in every way, that a rape occurred. Whether or not it did is clearly important, but it doesn't matter in this rant. The way that Ms. Reimer talked about the woman has nothing to do with her believing the girl was full of shit, and have everything to do with victim-blaming, which is revolting and, sadly, rampant in this country.

A few months ago, NPR did a horrific piece on rapes on college campuses. The rape of intoxicated women on college campuses is hardly rare, but what is surprisingly rare is how often the men accused of said rapes are held accountable for their actions. What is even more alarming is that these men are often accused numerous times--same for Roeth, by the way--by different victims, and nothing is done about it (or very little). And it seems to be because of the way our culture views women who "party".

Jaclyn Friedman, a very vocal feminist, was asked to comment on a CNN piece about living in a "dirty girl" culture. The piece describes the "scary" trend that seems to be on the rise, described as, "Young women who are rude, crude and sometimes very, very drunk. Are we living in a “dirty girl” culture?" The piece questions if the adoption of frat-boy behaviour is a form of "female empowerment", which they apparently found some 20 year-old girl to validate. But when they quoted Jaclyn, I was appalled at this supposed-feminist:

CNN anchor: "She says women having fun and making stupid mistakes is one thing, but adopting destructive, raunchy behavior is, well – scary."

Jaclyn: “When it comes to sexual assault, most rapists use alcohol to facilitate sexual assault.”

This was the first time I had ever heard of Jaclyn, and I was appalled at what she seemed to be saying. Little did I know that it was CNN framing things to better suit their story. Jaclyn wrote in to CNN to set the record straight, and I whole-heartedly agree with her.

Our culture is still trying to hold onto this idea of women as dainty and fragile. Women are not supposed to act like frat boys, and if they do, they are clearly asking for trouble. There are all sorts of things women are told throughout their lives, starting when they are pretty young, about how to 'protect' themselves from getting raped: don't go out alone, watch your drink, don't get drunk, don't wear slutty clothes, etc. These are good tips, and are certainly important for anyone's safety, not just women's. But that also puts the fault back on the victim if she does not comply.

To quote directly from Jaclyn:

"Every woman is going to sometimes choose short-term fun – even "bad" fun – over the abstract risk that someone might do something violent to us. We're all human. We'll inevitably take risks to have fun sometimes. What's not inevitable is that men will do violence to us while we're at it. If you want to keep girls safe, holding men responsible for their behavior is the place to start.

For example, did you know that, according to one study, if alcohol is involved in a sexual assault, the assailant is slightly more likely than the victim to have been drinking? And yet where are the messages telling boys not to get so drunk they can't tell if their partner is consenting?"

Why isn't it troublesome that young men are getting so trashed that they pass out or do things like force themselves on women? Why aren't people focusing on the rise of "rowdy" men who are targeting drunk women? Why are we even talking about women drinking, partying, and "being raunchy?" Are women only allowed to accuse someone of rape if they are angelic? This double-standard is ridiculous.

This relates directly back to the NPR piece. And, furthermore, Jaclyn refers to a terrifying situation that NPR has covered in other discussions about rape:

Psychologist David Lasik from the University of Massachusetts asked 2,000 men over a 20 year period questions like this: "Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated [on alcohol or drugs] to resist your sexual advances?" He also asked: "Have you ever had sexual intercourse with an adult when they didn't want to because you used physical force [twisting their arm, holding them down, etc.] if they didn't cooperate?"

About 1 in 16 men answered "yes" to these or similar questions. None of these men had ever been to jail or formally accused of rape.

This is the rape culture we face these days. Women are to blame because they put themselves in danger of being attacked, but why does that absolve the men? Alcohol doesn't rape women--rapists rape women. Each person has a responsibility to their partner to make sure sex is consensual, regardless of the situation. And excusing rape when alcohol is involved is something that is so disgustingly common that rapists actually count on that reaction when they target intoxicated women. I'm not saying that women shouldn't be at all accountable when they get so trashed that they become easy targets, but that hardly makes it their fault, nor does it excuse the people who decide it's appropriate to rape them. If a woman is drunk and making bad decisions, her body is a free-for-all playground? She no longer has control over it and cannot dictate who can have sex with her? This is how we treat these sorts of rape, and it has to stop.

I hate to keep stealing from Jaclyn, but she describes rape culture so well in this blog entry:

"Gossip blogger Perez Hilton is already suggesting she may be a lying golddigger. That’s rape culture. As this woman’s case proceeds, her body, her actions, her mental state, motives and her history will be put on public trial in a way that would never happen if she were accusing someone of kidnapping or attempted murder. That’s rape culture. When women are too afraid of being re-victimized by the courts and the media to come forward, and when the public gets the message that women who accuse men of rape are lying or did something to deserve it, the cycle continues."

This needs to stop. I'm not saying that every time a woman screams "rape" that we have to assume it is true and automatically imprison the accused. But dismissing the seriousness of rape just because alcohol was involved is abhorrent. Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes someone gets too drunk and passes out. It doesn't give me the right to do whatever I wish with their body. It doesn't give me the right to take advantage of them. And, if I'm drunk, and I decide to do something to that person that I wouldn't do if I were sober (and the person is either incapacitated or clearly says no), I am still responsible for my actions. Drinking so much that you do something silly or cannot keep your head up is one thing--drinking so much that you rape a person is entirely different. And failing to appropriately handle young men after they engage in that sort of activity only encourages them to continue to victimize other women using the same tactics. It's time to change the way we think about rape and start holding people accountable, drunk or not.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Things I Have Seen!

It's been quite the gap between entries, my precious little pixies, but that doesn't mean I have stopped ranting! I just haven't been ranting here, sadly. Since I rebooted my film blog, I figured I'd try to get this one going again. I've been thinking about this post for a couple of months now, and I think I've allowed myself enough time to heal before approaching this topic. Ready? OK...

On November 5th, 2009, I attended the Tea Party (or is it bagging?) rally at the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building. I was not there because I supported the ideas; rather, I was there to observe and report. I will be honest-- it's hard to observe such a spectacle without any sort of bias. I'm pretty much at the center line in the political spectrum, and I roll my eyes at both sides when they have protests and rallies that I think are completely ludicrous. But this was a beast of an entirely different nature.

The Tea Party Movement, which, I swear to God, was first called the "Tea Bagging Movement" by the people who started it, is more than just a silly group of misguided individuals. These protests were sponsored by Fox News. Not "officially", but they sent their correspondents out to the protests in order to meet with people, let people know when and where their correspondents would be there, and told people they should head out to protest. It's one thing when the New York Times or CNN gives their coverage a liberal spin; it's another thing to sponsor a political movement under the banner of "fair and balanced" news. Believe me when I say that I hate both MSNBC and Fox News, as I think they are practically two sides of the same coin; however, this sort of behaviour is why Fox News will always be the worst, in my eyes. Some of their normal newscasters are OK, but that the entire network promotes itself as "fair and balanced", including its entire op-ed team (which is largely where Fox made a name for itself), is simply laughable. And that team touts their slogan about, as if it makes their twisted comments more truthful. It doesn't. Not only that, but Fox News used footage from a previous rally and claimed it was from this rally to show inflated attendance (footage from a couple of months prior to this protest, so it's not like it was just laying around next to the new footage). Fox has used Photoshop on people's pictures in order to make them look unattractive simply because the people in question had the audacity to criticize Fox or people Fox supports. There is nothing fair or balanced about Fox News, as an entity. It is the single most laughable "news source" there is, and every time I hear people praise it, a part of me dies inside (same for MSNBC, but it's a smaller piece).

Back to the actual protest.

One of the first things I heard from the crowd as we tried to get up the escalator in the metro station was (shockingly) a complaint. "Why aren't both escalators going up?!" one woman demanded to know. One of her companions logically responded, "Well, because some people need to come down here to use the metro, so they probably need to keep the other one going down." A third member of the party chimed in and said, "I'll tell you why-- it's because Metro doesn't BELIEVE in us. Metro doesn't think we exist! THAT'S why!" I had to stop myself from turning around and going, "Are you fucking kidding me? You're claiming a Metro conspiracy?! Metro can't even get its act together in order to properly carry out a conspiracy, and you actually believe that this was an insidious scheme to thwart the protesters' plans?!" I had to keep calm, though. I needed to stand amongst these people for an extended period of time and try to keep from looking nauseous so as to avoid suspicion. The last thing I needed was a confrontation by an angry "true believer". And, to be quite honest with you, I was terrified that such a thing would happen.

I was amazed to see how many people did attend, even though it wasn't enough for Fox News' standards (wink wink, Hannity). I was even more amazed by how brainwashed everyone seemed. There were no casual supporters-- everyone was in staunch agreement with every single speaker. Again, to be perfectly honest, that frightened me. It's one thing to believe in something, but to question absolutely nothing? That just gives me bad feelings all over. I received several confused looks as I scribbled out page after page of notes while never smiling, cheering or clapping. Every so often the people around me would enthusiastically agree with something and look to their peers for like-minded approval. I gave them none. I tried not to scowl, frown, shake my head in disgust, throw my hands up in the air, or scream out "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!" Every so often, I'd accidentally mutter something under my breath, only to realize with a tinge of panic that someone nearby might have heard.

I tried to move throughout the crowd to capture images of people and signs. Oh, the signs. It's hard not to give nasty looks when people are using images from and comparisons to the Holocaust in their protests against health care reform. These people have no shame, and I'd wager no souls. How could you possibly compare the suffering people endured in Auschwitz to the inclusion of a public health care option? How? Who raised these people? I was in a sea of the most offensive, disgusting dreck I've ever been exposed to (thankfully, because this wasn't nearly as bad as a lot of other rallies from other more extremist groups). Part of what made it so shocking was that these people really don't see themselves as extreme, but these rallies and people like Glenn Beck at Fox News are blending extremism into the mainstream. I wasn't OK with the Bush as Hitler images when liberals were holding them up, and I'm not OK with the Obama as Hitler images. However, this movement is making the Obama-Hitler image acceptable because that sort of extremism is becoming the norm.

One of the most amazing things about this crowd was their complete lack of self-awareness. Everyone was shouting about the tyranny we are facing, the freedoms and liberties that have been stripped from us, and how we need to fight to defend this glorious country of ours, and yet no one seemed to realize that they were standing on the steps of our nation's Capital Building without fear of being arrested or physically harmed for saying these things. I wanted to ask which freedoms, exactly, have been stripped from us--especially any that President Bush didn't strip (and that's not a criticism of him)-- but I didn't want to call more attention to myself. I also wanted to understand why these people were the "true patriots" when these are very much the same people who called anti-war and anti-Bush protesters "Un-American" for not supporting our president. (Likewise, I'd love to know why the left pulling the same bullshit that they accused the right of doing only a year ago. The two sides have completely switched in almost every aspect of their tone in this political discourse, and yet no one seems to notice. It's completely fucking insane.)

The crowd was, unsurprisingly mostly white middle-aged and elderly Christians (that may be more of an assumption on my part, but considering how God-heavy this rally was and how many God and Jesus signs I saw, I think it's a safe bet). Genders were equally represented. One of the most depressing thing was seeing people using their young children as props. This is the kind of indoctrination that scares me. Children at that age don't question their parents' viewpoints that much. Bringing your kids to a rally is unfair to them and, in my opinion, makes you a terrible parent. Let your kids make up their own damn minds as they learn new things. Unfortunately, that requires them to look at sources other than Fox News (more than one person held a sign proudly proclaiming that Fox was their only source of news). The entire event made me feel disgusting and sad. Well, except for one moment.

At the end of the rally, the song "God Bless the USA" was played. This is basically the right-wing theme song, I think. However, it is a song I first heard after September 2001, and it did help to fill me with pride in those dark moments. I felt that feeling again while standing in this crowd of thousands of protesters. I was proud to be an American because I live in a country where thousands of people can flock to its capitol at the behest of failed comedians (Beck) and sleazy media personalities in order to shout about things they don't quite understand at the top of their lungs, and basically act like complete and utter ignorant assholes, without fear of persecution. These people were allowed to be idiots--in fact, that right is protected! And that is a beautiful thing.

However, if these assholes cause us to elect Sarah Palin in 2012, I'm moving to Canada.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Advice To Drivers Everywhere

So, today I went to one of the bowels of driving hell TWICE. It's a parking garage near two movie theatres, and since I saw two movies with two different people today, I had the pleasure of navigating through the garage that is Satan's asshole on two separate occasions. Both times it was pretty crowded. Both times, people drove like assholes.

I get that it's a really unpleasant situation for everyone: we're all in a structure, looking desperate for an open space, secretly hating all other people also looking for a space. But there has to be a certain amount of etiquette in such situations, dammit! Let's review the typical offenders:

1. The Slow-Mo-Stalker

This is probably the most common asshole in a parking garage. This person sees a potential space (as in, they see people walking FROM anywhere TO anywhere) and their speed drops to near-standstill as they try to discern where these space-occupiers are headed. This makes it impossible for the stream of cars behind them to get pretty much anywhere else, as there are typically cars coming down in the other lane, and we're all really not looking for an accident in lieu of a space. I can sort of understand doing this in a parking garage where there's never ANY spaces up top, but that is not the case here; I've NEVER been to this garage and found myself seriously unable to park there. So, to you creepy Slow-Mo-Stalkers, please ask yourselves if it's really worth it to piss off a whole line of drivers (some of whom are probably packing heat) just so you can park on level 3 instead of level 4.

2. The Speed Racer

This is almost the opposite problem of the Slow-Mo-Stalker. These are the people who are desperate to leave the garage, and, in doing so, decide that the safety and sanity of the other drivers in the garage are totally unimportant. They speed down the lanes, often ignoring that there's an OPPOSITE TRAFFIC lane, and take turns at the speed of light, rarely, if ever, using their signals. For some reason, these people think that the speed limit inside parking garages (as well as parking lots) is the same as it is out on the road; it is not. There are people doing all sorts of crazy things like parking their cars and pulling out of parking spaces, not to mention pedestrians strolling their way to and from their vehicles (and don't get me started on the people who walk in the middle of lanes to get to and from their cars. I hate these people with a passion and I sort of hope they get hit by a car someday-- just enough to cause a minor injury). Speed racers terrify me. These people obviously think they are hugely important and they NEED TO GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE PARKING GARAGE, NOW!!! Which only makes me think that they know something we don't know... like they've planted a bomb and need to make it out of the garage in 1.5 minutes or else they die with us.

3. The Spineless Gentleman

I call this one a gentleman because the attitude is very much a "No no no, by all means, after YOU" approach that is often very commendable, but is entirely inappropriate in a busy parking garage situation. Allow me to elaborate: these are the people who never assert themselves when they NEED to in order to allow their line of cars to move forward in the slightest. As with many parking garages, this garage had its two outermost sections turn into its middle section in order to steadily climb up the structure, which meant that if you were approaching the middle on the right-hand side of it, you needed to turn left after the corner to go up the ramp. Combine that with traffic coming down the middle ramp, wishing to turn both right and left, as well as the traffic from the OTHER side of the structure that is making a right-hand turn to go up the middle ramp. That puts the left-turning line of cars in a really shitty spot. You can't wait for the absolute right of way because you will never get it. You have to MAKE people give you the right of way. The only way to do that is to assert yourself. The Spineless Gentleman doesn't want to be rude or make a wrong move; he/she will wait patiently at the turn for five minutes while effectively completely gridlocking the entire line of cars behind him/her, and probably causing quite a number of people to be blocked into their parking spots due to the unmoving stream of cars in the way.

4. The Quick Droppers

These people may or may not take part in much of the driving inside the parking garage, but they do cause quite a disturbance, and it's terribly jarring when they pull their move: they stop their car somewhere near the beginning of the journey through hell to let people out of the car. There are appropriate places for doing such things, and none of them involve the entrance or first ramp to a parking garage. We are going there to park. We do not expect your car to stop unless there is an open spot. Since we haven't even entered the vicinity at this point, I know there's no way you're trying to park anytime soon. So, when you make a turn into a parking garage, and I make my left-hand turn right behind you (which needs to happen at a good time or else it will be another 5 minutes before I have the opportunity again), I do NOT expect to have to slam on my breaks because you decide that this is the perfect spot to drop off your hussy of a girlfriend. And then, the little tramp had the audacity to run right in front of my car. Wait, did I say run? I meant saunter unapologetically. Again, there are some people I'd like to see get hit by a car. Just a little.

I think that mostly covers the basics. But I write this entry tonight because, out of all my years of driving, I experienced something tonight that enraged me to such a point that I did something I have always thought of doing but have never actually done: I wrote an angry note and put it in someone's windshield. Allow me to set it up for you:

As we're making our way through the parking garage there is a single car in front of me. We have to turn a corner to the right to continue up the next lane of spaces. To the left, I see an open spot that extends into the on-coming traffic of the lane past the corner (as in, if you were coming down that lane, you'd be heading basically straight into that space. I know this because when I was leaving the garage, I was coming down that lane and I pulled directly into the space next to the offender's car). I look at the car in front of me, and he turned on his right blinker. "OK," I thought, "he clearly doesn't feel comfortable parking here and he wants to pass up this spot. Fine by me, I shall park here, instead." I start to head into the spot when I look to my right and, lo and behold, I see the guy's reverse lights on and he honks at me as he's backing up. It turns out that the "I'm turning right" signal meant he was turning right for two seconds so that he could be an asshole and BACK INTO A SPACE THAT WAS ON THE LEFT IN THE MIDDLE OF A BUSY PARKING GARAGE. Now, if I hadn't seen the right blinker on, I would have assumed he was passing it up. I would have watched him to see what he was doing next. But, since turn signals are typically used to let people know that you are actually making a goddamn turn, I didn't think I HAD to watch out for this guy. Oh, how wrong I was.

I was so angry that I actually lowered my window to yell at him, though I don't know if he heard me (but I'm sure plenty of other people in the garage did). I screamed out something along the lines of "Don't turn your fucking turn signal on if you're going to do that, you asshole!" and then I made my right turn up the lane to find an empty space within clear view of the fucker. I got out of my car, slammed the door shut, and looked back to his car, only to see that his lights were still on and he was still in his car. I gave him the finger and, fuming, went on my way to the escalator doors. I'm so glad that I saw a movie with a bunch of really satisfying killings tonight, because I wanted to shoot someone.

When we returned to the car after about 3 hours (it was a long film), I asked my companion whether or not I should leave a note for the asshole in question, if his car was still there. She said that he probably was not still around; as luck would have it, she was wrong. There sat his car, in all its back-in glory, poorly parked in the very spot that should have been mine (really, it wasn't about which spot I had, as I'm happy enough to go all the way up the garage; it's that the spot should have been mine simply because he was such an asshole). I sat for a moment to stew it over, and decided to go ahead and write a note, figuring that by the time I was done the driver would have returned and I could never follow through with my brilliant, albeit sinister, plan. Again, luck was on my side. Not only was there no sign of the driver, but few people were present, and there were no cars parked around the offending vehicle. To ensure a safe and swift getaway, I pulled out of my parking spot and easily coasted into one flanking the car in question. I immediately jumped out of my car, lifted one windshield wiper, and affixed my plus-sized sticky note to his windshield:

Pro-tip: Do not drive like an asshole while in a parking garage (or anywhere else)!

Let that be a lesson to you all. I always carry sticky notes and writing utensils with me. Always.

P.S. A review for Public Enemies is up at the other blog. I'm hoping to catch up on my movies, as I've actually been watching A LOT lately.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Deranking Amazon

Clearly I am behind the times, as I do not pay attention to Twitter and didn't notice the most popular search term in yesterday's Twitterverse, so this news probably isn't news to most of you. However, I just read about it, and I am so shocked and disgusted that I am staging a boycott of until they issue a full apology and are more transparent about their deranking system. had deranked books containing lesbian/gay/bi/transgendered content because they are "adult". I didn't say LGBT erotica, mind you. ANY book that someone has complained about that has that subject matter in it is no longer popping up in "popular search terms" searches and top seller lists, as well as the "if you liked ____, you might like ____" suggestions, all of which helps to sell books, which is what Amazon is supposed to do. As one blogger pointed out, when doing a search for the term "homosexual," the first book that pops up is "A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.” Because that's not at all offensive. Another blogger writes "Amazon has deranked Annie Proulx, E.M. Forster, but not American Psycho. Mein Kampf and books about dog fighting are ranked and can be searched from the front page, but not books about gay love or books with erotic content." Yeah, I guess protecting customers from understanding gay people really IS more dangerous than turning them onto the preachings of Hitler.

Amazon has issued an apology for this "glitch" in their system. And that would be fine and all... if they didn't have books that go so far as to display nudity in a heterosexual context escaping their deranking glitch, and it hadn't been happening gradually over a week, if not more. They even deranked "Becoming a Man" by Paul Monette, which won the 1992 National Book Award. When author Mark Probst was informed of his book being deranked a few days ago, Amazon responded with this lovely explanation (prior to the "glitch" excuse that managed to even keep the novel "Brokeback Mountain" from popping up in related searches):
In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

Best regards,

Ashlyn D
Member Services Advantage

Someone compiled a list of affected works here.

I don't buy the glitch. Call me a cynic, but that is way too convenient. I believe it's either something that Amazon does automatically when a book is tagged as being "adult" by their users (and I would bet, if this is the case, that it was done by the religious right), and they blindly apply the deranking system. Either that or there are people at Amazon who actually do think that anything discussing sexuality in any way that is not heterosexual is somehow "more adult". Either way, I am disgusted that this happened, and even more disgusted that they have yet to fully remedy this situation. I expect there to be a better response than "It's a glitch, we're trying to fix it" once this all ends. That is, of course, assuming they fix this revolting display of discrimination and censorship.

Until then, I shall adopt the new definition of "Amazon rank," as defined by Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, while boycotting Amazon. I encourage all of you who buy from there to do the same.

P.S. Why, exactly, is this less of a news story than Obama's new dog? Seriously, this country and our press piss me off so much sometimes.

Edited to add: More food for thought here. This is an interesting look at the books that were de-ranked and the categories they were listed under according to the publisher and Amazon. According to this posting, "It appears that all the content that was filtered out had either 'gay', 'lesbian', 'transgender', 'erotic' or 'sex' metadata categories. Playboy Centerfold books were categorized as “nude” and “erotic photography”, both categories that apparently weren’t included in the filter." And as for how long this has been happening, it appears that is has been going on since at least February. Here is author Craig Seymour's timeline of events when dealing with Amazon and its deranking of his book due to it's adult label.

I would like to further add that while I realize it seems like I am saying Amazon is full of bigots, I'm mostly talking about their response to the feedback about such books being deranked and their lack of effort in putting out an official statement or remedying the situation. That it had happened in the past and they issued a similar policy statement to two authors about why their books had been deranked is incredibly problematic, and the list of categories that seem to have a blanket-ban put on them is disturbing, as well. I'm not saying someone at Amazon hates gay people and did this in order to spread the hate; I think it's entirely possible that some people at Amazon made this decision in order to keep "offensive" material hidden. The notion that these categories could be seen as "offensive" and in need of censorship is also problematic, and smacks of idiocy rather than hatred. Here is a link that I think reflects my mindset pretty well.

And another thought is that this could be a result of trolling, which is potentially plausible (that is, the massive ban) but is still the fault of Amazon for having a system that allows censorship based on a system that is clearly easy to exploit.

UPDATE: By Tuesday, the day after I wrote this rant (not making a correlation, just giving a time line) Amazon has said this was "a ham-fisted cataloging error," and they say they are working to fix it. I am in the same boat as the people who are waiting to hear more about what they have to say about this situation. It's still really unclear. How it was possible for such a cataloging error to have occurred needs to be explained. And, as people who have worked for large corporations such as AOL have noted, this doesn't read as a technical glitch and I really do think that the "error" was more of a human kind rather than some programming issue.

I think one of the best points of view is being expressed by Christopher Rice in an interview over at Queerty. Essentially he said that a company like Amazon, a giant online megastore that has definitely hurt small book stores (and most homosexual-oriented bookstores are small), needed to have better PR about this and still does.
I mean you know, we already lost A Different Light in [West Hollywood, CA], several weeks ago and in no small part because of internet giants like Amazon. So, they need to stop acting like a drunken elephant and starting like a gentle giant. They need to recognize their influence and their size and they need to behave accordingly. I think there needed to be a much better P.R. campaign around this and there still needs to be greater clarity in their response.

Also, he begs the question of if this really was just a cataloging error, why did it all come to head this weekend? I mean, it HAD been happening before this. It's just that suddenly it all hit on Sunday (Easter Sunday, no less, which has definitely fueled some rumours of Amazon's intentions). I am glad they recognized the error and are working to fix it, but I need to see how far the fixing goes, and I think they need to be more open about this "adult content" policy, as well as this error that could allow for such a thing to happen.

So, not full-on ragefest anymore, but I'm still simmering. I really, really don't like the censorship aspect that was brought up during this whole ordeal. I mean, please, for the love of God, get rid of Ron Jeremy's autobiography if you're going to censor things.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Back into the swing of things...

Hey all (and by "all", I mean the 7 or so people following my blog),

Sorry about the lack of posts. My life decided to kick me in the ass recently, and I just haven't been able to focus on this stuff. But don't you worry your pretty little heads; I'll be ranting again soon!

P.S. Watchmen review here.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Reasons Why I Lose Faith In People, #379

I am sometimes amazed at the stupidity of people. I really shouldn't be. I should know better. But every so often I kinda forget about how intolerable a lot of people are in this world, until I stumble upon something like this.

Let me break it down for you.

President Barack Obama went to a basketball game and, while watching the game, drank a beer. This is apparently enough to spark outrage amongst some Americans who feel that he shouldn't be acting in such a way. Yes, people are pissed off that the President of the United States of America drank a fucking beer at a basketball game.

Let's forget that Churchill drank like he needed alcohol to live. But to say that just because Obama is the President that he shouldn't be allowed to drink a beer is absurd. Some woman actually called into the radio show hosting the discussion about this "scandal" and claimed that since being President is a 24/7 job, he shouldn't drink because he is drinking on the job. This means that he should never accept any wine, champagne or anything of the sort when having dinner, even with other leaders or dignitaries. This also means that Obama shouldn't sleep on the job, does it not? How psychotic are the people in this country?!

Another woman was angry because Obama was enjoying himself during a crisis. What crisis was happening at that very moment? Oh, just the economic crisis that is pervasive throughout our every waking moments. So, until this is fixed, Obama is not allowed to enjoy himself AT ALL, EVER, because it's just unfair. Brilliant logic. I mean, I know that being President is a 24/7 job and all, but he's a goddamn human being, people! Get over yourselves and let him do something like support the local NBA team! Besides, Obama's endorsement of beer might up beer sales! And then he's HELPING the economy!

This is a short rant because, thankfully, it seems like a small story and I'm not finding huge amounts of people fuming about Obama's beer-drinking scandal. I also don't know if I can actually conjure up anything else to say about this because it is so disgustingly stupid and obnoxious that I almost want to drink away the pain of ever having read it.

And this is another reason why I lose faith in people.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Twits Using Twitter

Before I start, I recognize that since I am not really doing daily blogging, and I'm not focusing on things that happen on the day of my post, that much of what I say is probably going to be considered "old news". That being said, I don't care. Rant, ho!

Last Tuesday, President Obama addressed a join session of Congress. The purpose was to address particular issues, talk about plans to fix them, and how Obama plans to move forward in his Presidency. I am not ashamed to admit that I did not watch his speech. It was largely focused on the economy, and I honestly have no idea how one would fix this situation, so I cannot really weigh in on his plans. All I can say is that I think if bailout money is given that the spending of said money needs to be strictly and unequivocally monitored. No exceptions. Anyway, I didn't watch it, but I don't feel bad about that partially because I am not a member of Congress, nor do I hold any position that requires me to understand the ins and outs of how these things work. Those are things that I expect from, say, my Congresspeople. And that is why I would expect them to be sitting there with their best listening faces on, being as attentive as can be.

Apparently, I thought more highly of our Congresspeople than I should. Numerous members of Congress sat with their heads down, looking at their mobile devices. Fair enough if that happens a few times, especially for important emails. I would NEVER expect to see members of Congress, people that the citizens elected to help run our country, fucking TWITTERING during Obama's speech (and yes, I am well aware of the fact that they call it "tweeting", but I say fuck them, because that is almost as dumb as the word "twitter", but not quite). Apparently Twitter has taken over Congress, as there is even an entire Twitter site dedicated to hosting the twitterings of our Congresspeople.

Let me first address the idea of Congresspeople (and also news anchors) using Twitter. My first response is simply this: Why? Seriously, why are you doing this? What could possibly be accomplished by using Twitter? I thought that Twitter was mostly for self-absorbed teenagers who honestly thought that people needed to know every single thing they did on any given day. But haven't the bases been covered for news shows with forums and blogs? Did they really need to put themselves on Twitter? Are people that desperate for immediate attention? And Congresspeople; what the hell are you doing that requires Twitter? I don't want you to be preoccupied with juvenile antics like this. I want you to do your goddamn jobs. Yeah, it's nice to know that you're doing things like going to a lunch to discuss economic issues, but that's hardly news. You're expected to do these things. You are a member of Congress, for Christ's sake! I'm not going to feel more secure about your activities just because you're telling me you're en route to a meeting. Couldn't you be using that time to call someone important? Email someone? Talk to your family members? This isn't transparency; it's idiocy. It makes you all look foolish. Senator Thomas Allen Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, is twittering links to "Pleasure Beach Pics", which sounds more scandalous than it should. So this is what you are doing during the workday, Coburn? Dreaming about beaches? Thanks for sharing that with me. It was really necessary and helps build confidence in you as a Senator. Good work. You should take the rest of the day off.

Now, back to where this rant started: President Obama's speech. I can't imagine having the balls to even glance at my blackberry while sitting as a member of Congress while being addressed by the President, let alone responding. I'm sure that if I were in that position, it wouldn't seem like as big of a deal. But that is a far cry from twittering throughout the entire damn speech. Who raised you people? How fucking rude can you be? And for WHAT PURPOSE?! Allow me to enlighten you all as to some of what was SO IMPORTANT for all of the citizens at home to read from their Congresspeople during Obama's speech:

"One doesn't want to sound snarky, but it is nice not to see Cheney up there."
-Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)

"Capt Sully is here -- awesome!"
-Rep. John Culberson (R-Tex.)

"Aggie basketball game is about to start on espn2 for those of you that aren't going to bother watching pelosi smirk for the next hour."
-Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) (with a message appearing soon after saying "Disregard that last Tweet from a staffer," which brings up OTHER problems)

Those were quotes pulled from that Twitter site that were featured in a Washington Post article. The article also shows how few people were actively following a number of twittering Congresspeople at about 9:50 PM--looking at three member of Congress a-twitter, less than 50 people were following, combined. It also frightens me to think that some of our Congresspeople do not have sole control of their accounts on Twitter, and that a staff member could easily write whatever insulting message he/she wishes from the voice of a Senator or Representative. I'm sorry, but if that happens to you, then it is still your goddamn fault. I don't care if you didn't type the words yourself; your staff should NEVER be able to do something like that. EVER.

So, why are they twittering? What's the point? The article mentions that some Congresspeople did a decent play-by-play of the points mentioned, but I would much prefer to read reactions from members of our Congress that were well thought-out AFTER all of the information has been laid for them, rather than reading their knee-jerk partisan reactions to hot-topic issues. But with the slew of comments that are no more insightful than a note passed during a 9th grade study hall period, one has to wonder if these people are really just totally bored by their jobs. None of this makes me feel better about our government. None of it makes me have faith in the people who are running the country. In fact, this, to me, marks the beginning of the end of days. When our leaders start acting like bored high school kids--especially while being addressed in an important speech about the future of our country, how certain issues are to be handled and policies are to be created-- constantly sending inane text messages, all I can do is expect the worst. We're in a goddamn crisis right now. Get your fucking heads in the right places and stop wasting ANY amount of time, no matter how small, on this juvenile system that you probably think will help your popularity with the youth of America. I am a part of that youth. I want you to set a fucking example, not just for me, but for all the kids in high school who will one day be in charge of things. It's stuff like this that makes me fear for the future.

Edit: And it just keeps getting worse. Twitter founder Evan Williams was asked to go to the White House for a meeting about the economy, while his site makes no money in the states (it sells some ads in Japan, apparently).