Archive for the 'musings' Category



weirdly enough, or: some thoughts on Google+, or: just call me Polyanna

note: i do believe — although i could be wrong so don’t hold me to it — that G+ is open to most, if not all, pre-existing Google users. if you are a Yahoo fan, though, i don’t think you can get an account yet. but i could be wrong. it’s hard to tell.

my enthusiastic foray into Google+, rather than producing the burnout that a lot of folks are talking about (ZOMG TOO MANY SOCIAL MEDIAZ WHICH ONE(S) TO KEEEEEP), has actually revived my interest in my other social networks. Tumblr has never lacked for my love (I LOVE YOU TUMBLR, TUMBLR I LOVE YOU, LET’S NEVER FIGHT OK) but i’ve had some epic frustrations with Twitter (see here here here and here) and Facebook.

but as i groom my Circles and poke at the workings of +, i find myself jumping over to TwitBook more often than i have in months. it should be the opposite, right? what’s wrong with my brain!

i think it might be that Google+ is still new and shiny. people are fiddling with it and figuring things out, and in the meantime the artists and creative folks i’m following are, in particular, taking full advantage of the fancy sharing features. and it reminds me that people are doing, and talking about, interesting things ALL THE TIME. the trick is to filter out the extra (and of course what is extra changes from day to day, or minute to minute. sometimes you want a funny cat video and sometimes you want to rant about politics, sometimes you want both; that’s the beauty of the internet). maybe a particular network is going to do it for you, and maybe it’s not, but in any case i now remember why i got on here in the first place.

talking about things i would rather not talk about, take 2

about a week ago, i received an inappropriate email at my work address from someone i have never met in person, and in all likelihood never will. it was in response to this sound-byte of text:

“alina’s book-excitement also coaxed me to greenpoint, brooklyn, where me, her and wesley stace (aka john wesley harding) played in a basement of WORD bookstore, which is a rad independent joint run by very hot-looking brooklyn chicks.”

i’m sure you can figure out which part of that quote was in question. it was not hugely inappropriate, but it was also not innocent. at the time, i just hit Archive — better, i thought, not to reward it with a reaction. better to just ignore it. i figured the sender would get the message.

and maybe they did, but it’s been bugging me ever since. i can’t seem to let it lie. two things today brought it bubbling back up to the surface, enough so that it woke me up in the middle of the night and forced me to write this post. one was a conversation with a friend in which i explained the concept behind the upcoming Slut Walk NYC (august 20th!); the other was seeing a post make the rounds on google+ in which a user thanked others for calling out an inappropriate commenter. (i’d link to it but that’s pointless since it’s still in testing and lots of folks don’t have in yet.) suffice it to say that the user made the point that the digital space can easily become a space in which inappropriate behavior, usually disguised as joking, becomes the norm, and she appreciated that people were being sensitive to it early on in the life of this new social network.

i am telling you guys about this because i feel like it’s important to point out that, whether it’s a sound-byte about how someone is hot-looking or an outfit that is revealing or whatever, there is a difference between inviting attention and inviting harassment. they are not the same thing. it’d be nice if people would err on the side of caution, rather than the side of “well what did you think would happen, i mean really!”

that’s all, i guess.

you give love a bad name (or: sexual politics in romance novels)

note: credit for the title goes to ali the wonder room-mate

so yeah, i read romance novels. YOU KNOW THAT ALREADY. and the more i read, the more this one particular trope makes me nervous. i’m not a finger pointer by nature, so i’m just going to paraphrase/reinterpret for you. the trope i am referring to comes in several guises, such as:

  • punishing kisses (which gave rise to this short-lived project)
  • he would pleasure her ruthlessly
  • he loomed over her, trapping her between his powerful thighs

and you guys, THOSE ARE REAL WORDS FROM REAL NOVELS, but the point is that there’s this weird unacknowledged dominance/violence trope. unacknowledged being the operative word — it’s never actually addressed, and we are otherwise to believe that this is a potentially loving and entirely consensual relationship. and yes, these are current novels! not some crazy written in the ’80s women-can-only-be-submissive bodice-rippers! sure, some of them are set in historical time periods, but now that i’m looking for it i’m finding it across the board — paranormal, contemporary, regency, you name it.

why does this bother me? because i can’t help but hear “she was asking for it” in the subtext every time i read these kinds of scenes. acknowledged and consensual dominance/violence is one thing (for this done right, see also: Coin Operated and that episode of Buffy where she and Spike have sex for the first time, you know the one i am talking about). but the kind of dominance/violence apparent in the examples above is a vague, “manly”, she-is-so-beatiful-that-she-is-driving-me-to-this impulse that is, i guess, supposed to be sexy but ends up just feeling creepy. if you are punishing a woman with kisses (however laughable that might seem), you are saying that she needs punishing for … being desirable? if you want a woman “helpless with desire, begging for mercy” in your bed, you’re saying that she needs to be … controlled until she submits? are you creeped out yet? because i sure am.

i don’t know. maybe i am unreasonably obsessed with sexual politics of late. what i’m trying to figure out is why an author would use such a loaded, misogynist trope. is it just careless writing? or is it a deliberate choice? and if it is a deliberate choice, why not have your characters acknowledge and/or examine the inherent violence in their feelings? as it is, the second i hit one of these i stop reading the book. because if i’m going to be a smart bitch reading trashy books, to borrow a phrase, then the books sure as shit better be smart too.

nota bene: any romance novel i have reviewed on this site is guaranteed to be “punishing kisses” free, btw. i don’t blurb the ones i throw at walls.

thinking about things i would rather not think about

subtitle: the function of literature?

i went to Cara Hoffman‘s reading for SO MUCH PRETTY at Bluestockings tonight (which, btw, if you are in NYC and haven’t been to yet you should go, i will be returning with $$$ for to buy all their ridiculously well-curated books), and probably because it was a feminist bookshop and the author and the book itself are outspokenly deliberately feminist, the Q&A got pretty intense. i haven’t read the book yet, but if you look at it for two seconds (or hear the author read from it for fifteen minutes) you know right away it is about girls who are missing. and i thought to myself, maybe she will have a theory on this Season of Missing Girls we are having (see also: Hannah Pittard’s THE FATES WILL FIND THEIR WAY, Jane Bradley’s YOU BELIEVERS, Emma Donoghue’s ROOM, Timothy Schaffert’s THE COFFINS OF LITTLE HOPE).

Cara is, it should be noted, a big fan of Hannah Pittard, and interviewed her, and actually said something along the lines of “FUCK MY BOOK! GO BUY HERS!” at this point of the reading, which will forever endear her to me. and so there i am, wondering out loud to her about what it is, is it like in Hollywood when there are four blockbuster movies about asteroids hitting the earth in a row, or is it something else, like our social conscience bubbling up, and she said yes (and i am paraphrasing here, obviously) — that it was the latter, and that if you look at the statistics, it is mind-numbingly clear that we should be paying more attention to this. some of the statistics she mentioned (with a little help from NOW):

  • an average of 3 women a day are killed by an intimate partner
  • more than 600 women are raped or sexually assaulted every day

i couldn’t find any stats on abduction, but i imagine it’s equally horrifying. so after we’d talked about this a little bit (CHEERFUL!), another woman in the audience asked how Cara deals with thinking and writing about this, if it isn’t hugely depressing. Cara said that it makes her angry, which is useful creatively, and then turned the question around. and the woman said, well, i stopped thinking about it.

which i 1,000,million percent relate to. i am an ostrich — get me in too heated of a conversation, and i bury my head in the sand. except for very rare things like Planned Parenthood, for which i will READ YOU THE RIOT ACT, but those things are few and far between. i just don’t like to argue, is all.

but this isn’t really about arguing, is it? i mean, this is about how i carry mace and walk purposefully and hope like hell that it’s enough to keep me mostly safe when i’m out by myself at night (which i try not to do very often anyway). this is about terrible terrible things happening all the time and us as a society not thinking about it until we absolutely have to. and it’s about people like Hoffman and Pittard and Bradley and Schaffert and Donoghue writing queasy-making books about girls going missing, and all the many ways we get it wrong when we have a chance to address the issue. it’s about people like A.S. King writing posts like this. it’s about the many ways we fail to look out for ourselves and each other. and it’s about what good literature does — it makes us think about things we might not (and might rather not) otherwise think about. and for that i am, as ever, thankful.

OH. MY. GOD.

that was the hardest thing i have actually ever done in my entire life. i actually had to NOT LOOK AT THE SCREEN. terrifying.

but here’s another thought i just had about this whole process. a friend of mine, with whom i hang out on a regular basis, does not follow me on twitter. “no offense, jenn,” she told me, “you just tweet too much.” or, to put it another way, the way i use twitter doesn’t mesh with the way she uses twitter. was this upsetting? not really. i see her all the time! we communicate via email and text. we’re friends on facebook, too, even though i don’t really use that much. so in the grand scheme of things, does twitter matter? not really

how many places am i friends with you? how much information about you and what you’re up to do i have access? does the way you use twitter mesh with the way i use twitter (when i figure out what that looks like)? these are questions that are worth considering, i’ve decided.

i am probably spending way too much time and thought on this, but hey. what’s a 21st century gal to do?

losing followers and alienating tweeple, pt. 2

i just got back from Winter Institute 6 (post forthcoming). one of the highlights of the conference was David Allen’s (Getting Things Done) (HI DAVID) talk on efficiency. that guy knows from smart. and while he did not specifically tell me to unfollow absolutely everyone on twitter (he really didn’t, promise), one of the exercises we did showed me that i was still feeling pretty overwhelmed by the amount of input i was getting. there’s no twitter equivalent to the coveted Inbox 0 concept, not if you actually want to use twitter, but apparently following 385 accounts is still too much for me.

librarythingtim, upon reading my last post, told me that he’ll periodically unfollow everyone he’s following, and rebuild from zero. so i’m trying that.

and listen. i know that the other option is just to ignore my public timeline, maybe build some lists and focus on those. i know that because it’s what i’ve been doing. but if i’m going to do that, why the hell am i on twitter anyway? i don’t particularly want to not use it, but i do want to use it in a way that makes me not crazed by how much people are talking and how many conversations i’m missing. so. here goes attempt number two!

also also: have you noticed how many different programs there are to help you manage twitter? THERE ARE A LOT. which makes me feel better, because if it was easy to do then there wouldn’t be so many people trying to help me do it.

how to lose followers and alienate tweeple

note: my twitter sabbatical will continue through the end of the year. i’m barely going to have the brain power to tie my shoes, let alone have conversations online, until the holiday season is over.

i unfollowed 751 people this week.

no, seriously.

one of the reasons i decided on my twitter sabbatical was because the overwhelming amount of information available to me. it was an embarrassment of riches — smart people talking about books (and stuff) ALL THE TIME. what could be better, right?

….. yeah. not so much.

turns out that when you are me, and you have that much information coming at you, you freak the hell out. WHICH LINK DO I CLICK FIRST? WHICH OF THESE 200 PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT THIS VERY INTERESTING TOPIC SHOULD I RETWEET? WHICH OF THE 8,529 BOOKS RECOMMENDED TO ME THIS WEEK SHOULD I READ FIRST?

there are people on twitter, smart, savvy, interesting people, who know how to handle this kind of thing. they have lists, and techniques, and stuff! i know, because they told me so! but it turns out, even when i fiddle with lists (and LORD have i done that) it’s still too much. i want to look at all of it, all the time.

so, once i felt like i had some perspective, (i.e. i hadn’t been on twitter in a month, give-or-take) i started looking back over the list of folks i was following. THERE WERE 1151 OF THEM! and i didn’t even recognize MORE THAN half of them. WHO WERE THESE PEOPLE? i grant you, i have no doubt that i had good reasons to follow them and that those reasons remain valid. but it occurred to me that if, in the time that i have been following, i haven’t engaged with them in a way that allowed me to look at their avatar and say “oh, they like this!” or “hey, that’s that person who told me about that” then it probably didn’t matter one way or the other how interesting they were — we just didn’t have anything to say to each other. it happens. no blame, no fault, just plain old DAMN THE INTERNETZ ARE A BIG PLACE!

i used an automated thingummy to clear out a bunch of folks that i was following but  weren’t following me back and/or were inactive (no hard feelings, y’all!); that was probably about 500 right there. (TERRIFYING, yes, i know.) then i started pruning by hand. if i couldn’t do what i mentioned above, remember one salient detail about an account, i unfollowed.

in case it’s not already abundantly clear (WHICH IT SHOULD BE), this is about me, not you, twitter. i’m not going to apologize for unfollowing whoever i unfollowed, but i’m also not saying that you are not interesting and/or worthy of following. just that, you know, we never talked! and if i’m going to use twitter at all effectively ever again, it’s got to be about quality conversations, not me attempting to cram as much information into my brain via my eyeballs until either the monitor or my brain shorts out (and fyi? the monitor wins every time).

i also unfollowed all the publishers and bookstores that i was following and put them on a list, respectively. why? because i want to know what they’re up to, but i don’t need to be following them to do that. that is the beauty of lists! i can still see your feed, but not be overwhelmed with your info (which is often advertising, btw, which is totally fine and necessary BUT STILL) in my regular hey-these-are-people-i-actually-kinda-know timeline. also, most of the folks who run these accounts have personal accounts that i am already following, so it seems redundant to be following both. and i mean, really. if, say, AAKnopf needs to get in touch, i’m pretty sure they can get my email from yrstrulyREL. they don’t need to DM me. so that took out a nice chunk of accounts as well.

the fact that i am still following 400 people/feeds (AND THAT I CAN TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT ALL OF THEM) astonishes me. i thought that final number would be MUCH much smaller.

i’m tempted to set a cap, going forward, but i think that’s probably unnecessary. maybe i will just take a month off every year; maybe i will pay better attention; maybe i will have fewer conversations; and probably there will be some revenge unfollowing, but that’s cool. i feel like i’ve got a better handle on what, for me, the whole point of twitter is — to create and cultivate relationships that feed my brain. and 400 of you should be MORE THAN ENOUGH to accomplish that.


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