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Apologies for the long absence–I’m in L.A. and will be defending that pesky dissertation on May 8, then graduating on May 10. Plenty to say about the weirdness and goodness that surrounds those activities, and will get those thoughts down soon. For now I’ll take suggestions for a new name for my blog, given that as of May 10 I will, technically, no longer be a grad student. Adventures in the Office? Adventures in Academic Limboland?

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Can we stop with this already?

There are plenty of public figures in the news these days whose views I find despicable. But why must criticism of them inevitably devolve into criticism of their age, size, or physical appearance?

Marcus Bachmann referred to gay people as “barbarians” who need to be educated. He runs a ministry that claims to cure homosexuality. There’s plenty to be disgusted by here. Why the fuck does it matter that he’s fat? Or has a feminine-sounding voice?

Rush Limbaugh said something stupid about women. Again. This is a guy whose ignorance could sink an oil tanker. Who cares if he’s fat and / or bald?

Criticisms of Newt Gingrich and his marital hypocrisy are not made any more meaningful by pointing out that he’s old, has multiple chins, or is generally unattractive.

No fan of Chris Christie–plenty to criticize there. So why does everyone feel compelled to mention his weight?

This kind of childishness comes from both sides of the political divide. Keith Olbermann’s credibility started dwindling rapidly for me when he felt compelled to always quote Lou Dobbs in a lip-smacking, mealy-mouthed, “old guy” voice. And of course there was his charming reference to Michelle Malkin as a “mashed up bag of meat with lipstick.” I adore Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, but even they can’t seem to lay off the ugly / fat /old jokes.

It’s mean-spirited. It’s hateful. It weakens any argument we might make. It’s pointless, distracting, and it promotes the kind of bullying mentality that we so often criticize on the far right. Finally, it’s simply unnecessary. With the wealth of verbal sewage being spewed by the likes of Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann, Marcus Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, and countless others, there is absolutely no reason to toss out an “AND you’re ugly / fat / old!”

Just stop it. Please. It’s low-hanging fruit, it’s not funny, and it distracts from the meaningful, rational criticism of these people that needs to be heard.

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I’ll be back with more posts soon–things have been a little hectic–but before then please read up on SOPA, the very scary might-just-pass bill that could make life really difficult for bloggers and many other small website operators.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that online piracy is a problem and we need to do something about it, but this bill is a mess. You can sign a petition in opposition to it here.

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I’m getting really tired of a resurfacing stream of articles / Twitter posts / random comments from supposedly smart people to the effect of “women just aren’t funny.” Rather than rail against it and provide a boatload of evidence as to how misguided the sentiment is (which has already been done here and here), I’d just like to showcase the work of some really funny women every now and then.

First off, comedienne Spring Day, who’s been cracking me up in Tokyo for years now. She’s played the Edinburgh Fringe, she just started a blog, and if you find yourself in Tokyo on the third Thursday or last Friday of the month, you should definitely check her out.

Next, a truly awesome website that’s written predominantly by ladies, though men are welcome. Check out The Hairpin for humorous essays on everything from how to decode movie reviews (“A sobering look” = narrated by Morgan Freeman) to how to make dandelions out of twigs and yarn balls.

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Okay, I have a few issues with this video.

1. “Studies have shown that women are more likely to watch a video if it features a hot guy.”

Uh…which studies? Sure you’re not projecting there? In my case, I’m more likely to watch a video if it’s funny. Or if Jay Smooth made it.

2. Not all ladies like hot dudes.

It’d be nice if there was a version of this app that featured a badass lady telling you to check your breasts.

3. Why do we feel the need to use sex to sell breast cancer awareness?

Plenty of people have pointed out the absurdity of the misguided “Save Second Base” campaign (get a breast exam, because not having boobs to grope is way more tragic than people dying!). Breast cancer isn’t just a lady problem–as one commenter over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books put it, “If you’ve got nipples you can get breast cancer” (yes, it’s much rarer in men, but it does happen).

At the same time, I actually like this video’s brand of humor a lot better than “save second base”–at least it’s playing a bit with notions of objectification. And doesn’t feature any pink ribbons or teddy bears.

So the video’s got its flaws. But it still made me laugh. And was I alone in hoping the guys would start making out?

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I never met Cheryl B., but I really wish I had.

I first read about her on Sinclair Sexsmith’s blog (the two of them created Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival together).She was a New York poet and performer who in November 2010 was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She chronicled her daily life in the wonderfully titled WTF Cancer Diaries blog–everything from having a spinal tap to chic outfits for cancer patients to hosting a head-shaving ritual in her apartment.

Reading her blog, I alternately laughed and cringed. What she wrote about sounded so painful and frightening, but she was so damn funny when she was writing about it. And she was right–she looked fierce with a shaved head.

Reading her blog, you knew she was going to be fine. Cancer, as scary as it sounded, would surely be just a blip on the radar.

Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Cheryl B. died on June 18. She was thirty-eight.

Other people have written some truly moving tributes to her: Anne Elliot and Kathleen Warnock, to name two. The video above shows Cheryl reading several poems–the first one, Reasons to Stop, is particularly awesome.

Wish I could have known you, Cheryl B.

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A large quake, registering around magnitude 6 in Sendai, struck off the coast of northeastern Japan at around 11:30 last night. Got me out of bed and under my door to ride out the shaking, but thankfully it was pretty brief. Everything’s fine here in Tokyo, though the northeast is reporting power outages and some injuries and fires. All tsunami warnings have been lifted, and there is no reported damage to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi or other nuclear power plants.

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I find myself getting testier and testier over the portrayal of Julian Assange in the media, and in particular the muddy, confused reporting of what he’s actually charged with (there is no such thing as “sex by surprise,” and a broken condom wasn’t the issue).  So here’s a quick rundown of what I would say in response to some recent statements that I find particularly irksome.

1. “The pursuit of Assange based on these rape charges is politically motivated.”  Yes, but…that doesn’t mean the charges themselves aren’t legitimate.  The women in question made their accusations in August–they didn’t rush to the police immediately before / after the WikiLeaks dump.  Under Swedish law, their charges are substantial–that Assange had sex with one woman while she was unconscious, and that he held one woman’s arms down and raped her after she told him “no.”  While I agree with Naomi Wolf that Interpol’s aggressive pursuit of Assange is “an insult to rape victims everywhere” (every rape case should get this much attention, not just the ones that involve well-known figures), I also think Wolf’s initial statement claiming that Assange had been arrested by the “dating police” was damned offensive.

So can we all agree that, even though the pursuit of Assange is politically motivated, we shouldn’t immediately assume that his accusers made it all up?

2. “We should do everything in our power to protect Julian Assange.”  Uh, no.  I applaud what Assange and Wikileaks have done.  We need more transparency.  We need people who are willing to stand up and expose governmental hypocrisy and outright lying.  But if the man’s accused of rape–and again, the accusations are legitimate, even if the pursuit is politically motivated–then he needs to stand trial.  Isn’t it possible to applaud and respect what WikiLeaks stands for without raising up Assange as some kind of saint?

Of course Assange is innocent until proven guilty.  I understand why anyone would be quick to condemn or dismiss efforts to prosecute him for anything.  He’s been vilified by politicians all across the political spectrum for the wrong reasons–for essentially allowing free access to information, as damaging as that information might be.  But in their quick dismissal of the charges against him as “hooey,” people like Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore are unwittingly contributing to a very powerful culture of victim-blaming and rape apology.  Regardless of who is accused or what the political circumstances are, every accuser has the right to be heard, and every accusation of rape should be given the serious consideration that it deserves.

The Assange case does not have to be an either-or situation.  We can stand up for the right to government transparency and take rape accusations seriously at the same time.  All the voices surrounding this case deserve a chance to be heard, especially when the voices that bring accusations of rape are so often dismissed or silenced.

 

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig11/wolf-n1.1.1.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/10/AR2010121006996.html

http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2010/12/michael-moore-doubles-down-on-rape.html

 

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Hello and welcome!

I seem to be getting a lot more visitors as a result of posting that So You Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities video, so welcome!  If you’re interested in more videos or posts of a similar sort, click on my “Grad Life” link.  You’ll also find similar stories and videos by clicking on the “Post Academic” link in the “Blogroll” section.  And if you have a minute, check out my random forays into spice rack puppetry by clicking on “Kameari Bookshelf,” also in the “Blogroll” section.

That PhD video has had a pretty profound effect on me, actually–more on that later.

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I seem to be spending a great deal of time online these days.  It starts out as just a ten-minute break from reading and writing, but unfortunately those breaks often get extended a little too long.  I heard recently about some software prototype that allows you to shut down your internet for a period of several hours at a time–if they could come up with a type that would allow me access ONLY to research-related websites, I would so buy it.

Anyway, to convince myself that all that surfing wasn’t a complete waste of time, here are some of the cooler videos and articles I’ve come across recently.

Jay Smooth being his usual brilliant self on Christine O’Donnell and a little phenomenon called “Gotnosensitive”:

Erin Gibson seems to be hitting her stride with Infomania’s “Modern Lady” segment (which replaced Sarah Haskins’ “Target Women”). Two recent videos poke fun at media coverage of female supreme court justices and Katie Perry’s boobs.

On a less humorous note, Kate Harding’s outraged response to the recent gay teen suicides was right on, and Liu Xiaobo’s words for his jailers and his wife left me pretty speechless.

Back to work…

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