“Why we’re never gonna give up on the Rickroll”: Milner + Phillips Article on The Conversation

July 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Do a barrel roll

Today my collaborator (we’re working on the title) Ryan Milner and I published an article for The Conversation on the history & significance of the Rickroll phenomenon, specifically the recent 5-second YouTube takedown that never was. Quoth:

Rick Astley, 80s pop singer and unlikely king of internet memes, is dead. Or at least the most persistent song in his catalogue is. Or at least its most popular unofficial YouTube upload is. Or at least it was, for a few hours, most recently in July 2014 but before that in 2012 and again in 2010. And in the exaggerated rumours of its death are lessons on intellectual property, internet culture, and what resonates in the ephemeral swirl of the socially-mediated web.

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On (Loving) Pit Bulls

July 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

Nathan Scott Phillips-Menning

Nathan Scott Phillips-Menning, terrifying Pit Bull

Yesterday Tom Junod at Esquire published a long, thoughtful, and at moments utterly heartbreaking article about pit bulls in America. As he explains, pit bulls –a category that includes pit bull mixes– are ubiquitous nationwide, not just in the inner cities but also, increasingly, in suburban areas. One would think that this would translate to greater acceptance of the breed (or perhaps more accurately, the classification, as pit bulls aren’t really a breed as much as a mix of common traits), but nope, not so much. As he writes:

We might accept pit bulls personally, but America still doesn’t accept them institutionally, where it counts; indeed, apartment complexes and insurance companies are arrayed in force against them. And so are we: For although we adopt them by the thousands, we abandon them by the millions. The ever-expanding population of dogs considered pit bulls feeds an ever-expanding population of dogs condemned as pit bulls, and we resolve this rising demographic pressure in the way to which we’ve become accustomed: in secret, and in staggering numbers. We have always counted on our dogs to tell us who we are. But what pit bulls tell us is that who we think we are is increasingly at odds with what we’ve turned out to be.

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One of the Greatest Things

July 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

…Is this video of Joaquin Phoenix’s super serious forehead flipped upside to look like a monster’s smiling face. Just trust me.

It’s Raining Fails O’er at Fox News

July 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

Fox News is REALLY MAD and super duper confused about why Illinois State University would bother redesignating existing family restrooms (i.e. restrooms where parents of any gender can accompany their kids of any gender) as all gender restrooms, thus allowing trans students to avoid weird bathroom run-ins with rude, ignorant, or well-intentioned but overly inquisitive cis people. The gender scholars over at Fox & Friends were like “WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN OH GOD? HOW CAN YOU HAVE A SYMBOL OF A BATHROOM LADY ICON MIXED WITH A BATHROOM BOY ICON AND HAVE ANYONE KNOW WHAT THE NEW ICON MEANS????” (video available in above link)

In order to prove how confusing this concept is to average Americans, crack reporter Steve Doocy gathered up some Fox News fans in front of the NYC studio & was like “pff! pff! what does this even mean?” and gestured at the new bathroom sign like “THIS GUY, am I right!” -to which the assembled group was like, “no we get it.” And when Doocy tried to mock the idea that the bathrooms would be all gender as in TRANSgender (implication: “that’s not even a real thing, I MEAN”), the guy he was talking to was like, “yeah, transgender,” totally matter-of-fact, because it’s all pretty self-explanatory. And then Doocy’s face just drops! And the reporters back in the studio are left scratching their heads. “Well they’re better people than us,” host Brian Kilmeade says, crestfallen. “I could not figure it out…and we had the story in front of us. It makes no sense. Why is the torso so big? And the dress so small.”

Fox News everybody!

A Tale of Two Friedmans

July 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Today I am reading stories on the internet, which is one of the better uses of a drizzly July Monday. The first two I stumbled across ended up being my favorites, and incidentally were both written by people named Friedman. The first is by Friedman comma Ann, and chronicles her decision to leave New York City. As she writes:

For me, New York is that guy I went out with only briefly and then successfully transitioned into friendship. We were always meant to be platonic. But in the years since I’ve moved away, I’ve learned that “I’m kind of meh on New York” is not a generally accepted point of view.

She goes on to describe New York as a “prom king,” someone who is great, knows it, and subsequently makes things difficult for the people who choose to love him. Because what are you going to do? It’s New York; you’re lucky just to be there, at least that’s what you’re supposed to tell yourself. The money quote:

A not-insignificant number of the vehement New York lovers I know — especially the young twentysomethings — are actually pretty unhappy day to day. I picture the prom king’s girlfriend sitting near him at the party, ignored but still kind of proud to be in the room and on his arm — and incredibly defensive should you suggest she break up with him for someone who dotes on her more. When I describe my West Coast existence (sunshine! avocados! etc.) to some New Yorkers, they acknowledge that they really like California, too, but could never move there because they’d get too “soft.” At first this confused me, but after hearing it a few times, I’ve come to believe that a lot of people equate comfort with complacency, calmness with laziness. If you’re happy, you’re not working hard enough. You’ve stopped striving.

I too meh New York, and while I’m grateful to have lived there (I guess? to the extent that I am grateful to have lived all the places I’ve lived), I am even more grateful not to live there anymore. The smell of hot blood was too strong for this Californian who occasionally likes to see the horizon!

The day’s second Friedman, Devin, published an article on/for/preposition GQ that everyone who has an hour to spare should go read. It’s a dark and twisty tale, but for those so inclined is a stranger than fiction true crime Craigslist narrative (I wonder if in ten years this will be a genre unto itself?). Friedman’s account had me at this sentence:

It’s like Rich’s Craigslist ad was designed for a certain kind of person: male, white, unattached, aging, no longer fostering unreasonable ambitions or fueled by fantasies about what he might turn out to be someday, someone on the downward slope of life for whom things maybe haven’t gone exactly as planned. It is sort of a retirement plan for the obsolete white man.

I’ll give you one guess on what happens next! Hint: the title of the article is “Craigslist Killers.”

In conclusion, read that rainbow!

The Wisdom of Puppies

July 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

I know, I know, I haven’t been posting much, largely because I immediately jumped from submitting my first book to working on the proposal for my second book, which will focus on antagonism, mischief, and humor online. Also, all these episodes of Broad City, Frisky Dingo, and Sins & Secrets aren’t going to watch themselves, oh well. I will likely return to a more regular posting schedule once my life schedule gets back to normal, or what passes for normal. For now, here is a puppy expressing concern for his elderly friend!

Fembot Schools of Shame (SOS) Map

June 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

The amazing humans over at the Fembot Collective have just put together an SOS map visualizing the discrepancy between expected incidence of college sexual assault (based on the White House’s recent report on the subject) and the assaults that are actually reported and disclosed per the Cleary Act. As anyone even remotely familiar with sexual assault on college campuses (or sexual assault generally) will be utterly unsurprised to discover, the discrepancies between these numbers are staggering. Here is that map, as well as Fembot’s explanation of the research process (full disclosure: I helped with some fact-checking).

On that same note, here is the story of one woman –one woman amongst thousands and thousands of women– whose experiences are not reflected in the Cleary statistics. Not reflected because she did not report her assault; and not reported because she didn’t think it would do anything, and more insidiously, because she’d internalized the idea that it was her fault for “letting” it happen. As writer and Yale grad Amanda Ruggeri explains of her decision to remain silent:

As the years went on, I became only more aware of just how commonly this happens — and how few of us have come forward. In our senior year, I was in an all-female secret society. There were 13 of us. We were 21 years old. As each of us gave our “bios,” or life histories, the traditional way to jump-start what was meant to be a lifelong bond, I kept count.

The number was four. And all four assaults had gone unreported, un-investigated, and uncounted.

A few years later, I was having dinner with two good friends. Somewhere between our second and third cocktails, we found out that each of us had, at one point during our university years, been raped. We were all strong women, and none of us had pressed charges. We were all smart, and none of us seemed to realize, deep down, that we were entirely blameless for what had happened. We were all writers, and none of us had published a sentence about our assaults.

“I was roofied and raped in college,” I told a different friend about a month ago. She took a swig of wine and laughed wryly. She had been, too, it turned out. A bartender. A glass of water. A ten-hour blackout. A naked wake-up. Vomit on her hands. She did a rape kit, but she wished she hadn’t: invasive, traumatizing. She did not press charges. She did not know where he was, these days.

“It’s like women are the walking wounded,” a friend commented to me once. Dealing with it on our own, quietly — whether because that’s what strong women do, or what good girls do, I’m not sure.

But one thing is for certain: Most of us don’t speak. No matter how strong we are, no matter how “feminist,” we carry around with us a sense that, somehow, we brought the assault on ourselves. We were too flirtatious. Or we didn’t say “no” loudly enough. Or we were wearing the wrong thing. Or we should have known better than to go to his room, get in his car, go for a drink, accept that shot.

I’d say I’m not sure where we pick up those signals, so much and so early. Except, of course, that I do — because they’re everywhere.

I won’t even try to throw together a tidy conclusion.

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