aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
I recently said to a friend that I love online ads. He was aghast.
I worked in interactive advertising in the early days and the things I wanted to do then but couldn’t due to bandwidth and browser limitations are done beautifully now.
So I like advertising, even in some spaces that others don’t. But this is a very bad idea:
MEGA MEDIA SHOP OMD in the next few weeks will begin testing a new type of media buy that will deliver an advertising message even when TV viewers are fast-forwarding through their TV commercials. The agency’s plans for the new “fast-forward commercials” were revealed Monday by David DeSocio, OMD’s U.S. director of strategic marketing, during a keynote address on the second day of the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau’s local advertising sales conference here. Asserting that DVRs “are not a threat” and may actually enhance the TV advertising experience by serving more relevant advertising to consumers who are more in control of the content they see, DeSocio said the new fast-forward ad tactic nonetheless would enable OMD’s clients to “involve the consumer even when they are in avoidance mode.”
Not just a bad idea, a stupid idea. If the consumer is “in avoidance mode” the consumer is really, really likely to be annoyed.
I’ve yet to be subjected to a fast-forward ad but I can’t see how they could possibly work. When fast-forwarding, the focus is on where to stop fast-forwarding. TiVo patented an enormously popular Automatic Playback Overshoot Correction System to help with that (and Microsoft may be infringing with its Reaction Time Compensation system). The advertiser wants to shift the focus to the ad.
If the ad-impaired viewer overshoots in fast-forward (and then reverses, pulling up another ad--or will they only put ads in forward mode?) the result is guaranteed to be major annoyance. How can that be good for any product?
Yo, adman! THE GOAL IS ATTRACTION. And Attraction works:
The latest tactic for the 100,000-members of the Spread Firefox movement is to make commercials. Funnyfox, three humorous video clips showing web surfers using the browser for the first time, is the slickest contribution to date. Designed to be emailed to friends, the videos—one of which shows a user’s head falling off—have proved so popular extra servers had to be set up to cope with the load.
That for a bunch of ads I didn’t even like! Here’s one I did like: Store Wars.
Monday, May 23, 2005
No one likes it
So it’s possible they’re doing something right.
My opinion of whether the deal was a victory for Democrats has increased somewhat after looking over the rather astounding reaction from Republican blogs and netroots.
He points to Captain’s Quater’s, Powerline, Hugh Hewitt and Michelle Malkin who hate it, and Crooks and Liars has lots more.
Meanwhile, MaxSpeaks for many on the left:
It’s late for me and not all the cylinders are firing, but from what I can see this Senate deal looks like a giant steaming pile of monkey crap. As far as I can tell, we get the three wingnuts that everybody has been talking about—Pryor, Brown, and Owens—and maybe not two other nitwits. There seems to be no bar to squashing any future filibuster effort. Supposedly a filibuster might be permissable under “extraordinary” circumstances. That means not very many times, and there could be quite a few judgeships to fill with the deep bench of loonies on the Right. I see some email urging me to spin this as a victory for the Dems. Please eat me.
UPDATE: Last night Chris Bowers said:
Outside the Beltway is the only “big” Republican blog I can find that actually thinks the deal was a good thing. When Republicans are this upset, we must have done something right.
This morning James Joyner says:
The “compromise"--which is a strange term for a solution wherein the Democrats get most of what they want while the Republicans get only part of what they would have gotten without the deal--basically takes us to the status quo ante-Bork...Further, agreeing to this “compromise” weakens the Republicans’ hand in the longer run.
That ‘Prozac’ Man Defends The Gravity of a Disease
Guest post by Jen, and continuation of a thread from 22 April.
Kramer’s book emphasizes that depression, rather than being a fuel for artistic creativity, is a grave and often-fatal disease. Says Maslin in her summary,
When regarded in purely medical terms, evaluated as a quantifiable form of degeneration, depression loses its stylishness in a hurry.
If depression is a disease, so is courage, heroism, love, and faith.
Troubling. But Szasz’s blissful ignorance pales when compared to the active discrimination advocated by Recruiting’s official blog, which warns
So, hiring authorities, beware. Depression is a physical disease which harms the brain, not a sign of some heightened sensitivity that leads to genius.
UPDATE: Many thanks to Recruiting.com’s Canadian Headhunter for his comment.
I’d like to apologize back, Canadian Headhunter, for the melodrama of my post.
I am thankful to C.H. for his clarification, and for his original blog entry’s bringing this issue to the attention of potential employers. The main problem depressed employees face from their employers is lack of education about mental illness.
On Heroes or villains
Both [Spokane Mayor Jim] West and [former NJ Governor James] McGreevey faced allegations of sexual improprieties and using their political power to further sexual relationships, but gay leaders interviewed this week said there are important differences in the two cases.
One politician hid his sexual orientation until outed by a newspaper, while the other came out on his own, albeit likely under pressure. One is a Republican who opposed gay rights legislation; the other is a Democrat with a more moderate record.
But the key difference between West and McGreevey is the age of the alleged subjects of their attention, gay leaders said.
McGreevey and Cipel were both adults, while West stands accused of sexual acts, or attempted sexual acts, with boys and teens.
I agree with innocent until proven guilty but I think gay groups would have done better to withhold praise for McGreevey. McGreevey reeks of using coming out to cover his political sins, and we should address that directly--either acknowledge that you stand by him despite those accusations (and explain why) or wait.
Matt Foreman of the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force is quoted in the article:
“It’s pretty obvious to me there are differences - Mayor West was preying on young people,” Foreman said. “To have sexual relationships with boys - that’s not about sexual orientation. That’s about pedophilia.Ã¢â‚¬Â�
McGreevey’s case was about the politician publicly coming out, Foreman said, and “there was no question of the exploitation of children.”
Yes, exploiting children is clearly worse. But exploiting adults and citizens through an abuse of power is still wrong.
Meanwhile, R MN Paul Koering also came out under pressure, but the pressure was much more personal and explicitly did not include any allegations of abuse of power. No comment to be found from Foreman on him.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
A flap has emerged in Israel over the popular song “Jerusalem of Gold.” Composed after Israel captured East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, the song quickly became a sort of second national anthem. On her deathbed, the composer confessed she hadn’t really written the melody, but taken it directly from a Basque lullaby. The revelation has set off a round of introspection and recrimination.
I heard the story, which includes the offending clip from the song along with the Basque lullaby, but what I didn’t hear is a deathbed confession. The Forward reports it this way:
In the spring of 2004, however, as she was dying of cancer, she wrote to Aldema that she needed to tell the truth. “The whole thing was a terrible accident,” she wrote. At some point in the mid-1960s, “my friend [and fellow songstress] Nehama Hendel visited me and apparently sang the well-known Basque song to me. It must have entered one ear and gone out the other one, but in the winter of 1967, as I was laboring on ‘Jerusalem of Gold,’ it must have unconsciously crawled back into my mind.”
It sounds to me like the woman was tortured by the possibility that something she once heard crept into the writing of her own song. It sent me right back to Malcolm Gladwell’s wonderful New Yorker article from last year, Something Borrowed: Should a charge of plagiarism ruin your life?
I went to see a friend of mine who works in the music industry. We sat in his living room on the Upper East Side, facing each other in easy chairs, as he worked his way through a mountain of CDs. He played “Angel,” by the reggae singer Shaggy, and then “The Joker,” by the Steve Miller Band, and told me to listen very carefully to the similarity in bass lines. He played Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and then Muddy Waters’s “You Need Love,” to show the extent to which Led Zeppelin had mined the blues for inspiration. He played “Twice My Age,” by Shabba Ranks and Krystal, and then the saccharine seventies pop standard “Seasons in the Sun,” until I could hear the echoes of the second song in the first. He played “Last Christmas,” by Wham!, followed by Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile Without You” to explain why Manilow might have been startled when he first heard that song, and then “Joanna,” by Kool and the Gang, because, in a different way, “Last Christmas” was an homage to Kool and the Gang as well. “That sound you hear in Nirvana,” my friend said at one point, “that soft and then loud, kind of exploding thing, a lot of that was inspired by the Pixies. Yet Kurt Cobain"--Nirvana’s lead singer and songwriter--"was such a genius that he managed to make it his own. And ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’?"--here he was referring to perhaps the best-known Nirvana song. “That’s Boston’s ‘More Than a Feeling.’” He began to hum the riff of the Boston hit, and said, “The first time I heard ‘Teen Spirit,’ I said, ‘That guitar lick is from “More Than a Feeling.”’ But it was different--it was urgent and brilliant and new.”
He played another CD. It was Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” a huge hit from the nineteen-seventies. The chorus has a distinctive, catchy hook--the kind of tune that millions of Americans probably hummed in the shower the year it came out. Then he put on “Taj Mahal,” by the Brazilian artist Jorge Ben Jor, which was recorded several years before the Rod Stewart song. In his twenties, my friend was a d.j. at various downtown clubs, and at some point he’d become interested in world music. “I caught it back then,” he said. A small, sly smile spread across his face. The opening bars of “Taj Mahal” were very South American, a world away from what we had just listened to. And then I heard it. It was so obvious and unambiguous that I laughed out loud; virtually note for note, it was the hook from “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.” It was possible that Rod Stewart had independently come up with that riff, because resemblance is not proof of influence. It was also possible that he’d been in Brazil, listened to some local music, and liked what he heard.
My friend had hundreds of these examples. We could have sat in his living room playing at musical genealogy for hours. Did the examples upset him? Of course not, because he knew enough about music to know that these patterns of influence--cribbing, tweaking, transforming--were at the very heart of the creative process. True, copying could go too far. There were times when one artist was simply replicating the work of another, and to let that pass inhibited true creativity. But it was equally dangerous to be overly vigilant in policing creative expression, because if Led Zeppelin hadn’t been free to mine the blues for inspiration we wouldn’t have got “Whole Lotta Love,” and if Kurt Cobain couldn’t listen to “More Than a Feeling” and pick out and transform the part he really liked we wouldn’t have “Smells Like Teen Spirit"--and, in the evolution of rock, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a real step forward from “More Than a Feeling.” A successful music executive has to understand the distinction between borrowing that is transformative and borrowing that is merely derivative…
If you missed his article and are interested at all in the topic, you must read it. Everything’s derivative in one way or another. This era we’re living in --of patenting ideas, trademarking phrases and copyrighting everything--has gone way past protecting a creator’s work. Instead we’re stifling creativity in the interest of corporate commerce.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
A graduation in Alabama
A pregnant student who was banned from graduation at her Roman Catholic high school announced her own name and walked across the stage anyway at the close of the program.
Alysha Cosby’s decision prompted cheers and applause Tuesday from many of her fellow seniors at St. Jude Educational Institute.
But her mother and aunt were escorted out of the church by police after Cosby headed back to her seat.
What about the boy?
The father of Cosby’s child, also a senior at the school, was allowed to participate in graduation.
It’s not often that I feel a tremendous amount of pride in the actions of a complete stranger, but this incident definitely was inspiring. The question remains, however, how a group so adamant about sending a message to women to not have abortions can behave so shamefully towards a young woman who did exactly that, and add insult onto injury by welcoming the father of the child to participate in commencement with impunity.
While on the topic, check out this Washington Post article, Centrist Courage on Abortion:
The 42-year-old Nassau County executive is a churchgoing Catholic who believes that abortion should remain legal. He is also a Democrat who thinks that government should take concrete steps to make it easier for women to choose against abortion. He’s proposing that his suburban jurisdiction on Long Island spend some serious money to make that happen.
Via Steve Gillard (who’s take on the topic differs from mine--I believe there is a middle, difficult as it is to find).
As we leave Philadelphia via the requisite cheese steak stop in South Philly on the way to the airport to drop off mom-in-law, I note that my alphabetical neighbor and Center City resident blogger has linked (a metaphor for our times) to the sinking of the America:
The retired aircraft carrier USS America is on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, sunk by the Navy in a series of explosive tests...No warship this size or larger had ever been sunk...Since its decommissioning in 1996, the America had been moored with dozens of other inactive warships at a Navy yard in Philadelphia.
Luckily, there’s still time to save the United States.
Friday, May 20, 2005
Our last night in Philly
We had friends come down from New York tonight for dinner and had to pick a place to meet. We’re staying across the street from Woody’s so you might think we’d pick there.
You’d be wrong.
Now I’m not an Ikea critic, I like the place just fine (and Doug does the assembly in our household), but on vacation we’re furniture shopping? We can’t wait for the late June opening in Atlanta? Not Doug. Friends Alex & Howard agree. I get with the program and we buy an umbrella for our backyard table.
As it happens, Alex is the friend I went with to the opening of Attack of the Clones. You may recall what we thought of that. Tonight we laughed together at his recapping of Anthony Lane’s New Yorker review of episode three:
The general opinion of “Revenge of the Sith seems to be that it marks a distinct improvement on the last two episodes, “The Phantom MenaceÃ¢â‚¬Â� and “Attack of the Clones.” True, but only in the same way that dying from natural causes is preferable to crucifixion. So much here is guaranteed to cause either offense or pain, starting with the nineteen-twenties leather football helmet that Natalie Portman suddenly dons for no reason, and rising to the continual horror of Ewan McGregor’s accent. “Another happy landing"-or, to be precise, “anothah heppy lending"-he remarks, as Anakin parks the front half of a burning starcruiser on a convenient airstrip. The young Obi-Wan Kenobi is not, I hasten to add, the most nauseating figure onscreen; nor is R2-D or even C-3PO, although I still fail to understand why I should have been expected to waste twenty-five years of my life following the progress of a beeping trash can and a gay gold-plated Jeeves.
No, the one who gets me is Yoda. May I take the opportunity to enter a brief plea in favor of his extermination? Any educated moviegoer would know what to do, having watched that helpful sequence in “Gremlins” when a small, sage-colored beastie is fed into an electric blender. A fittingly frantic end, I feel, for the faux-pensive stillness on which the Yoda legend has hung.
Guest post by Jen.
Jennifer Wilbanks hails from a slice of the South where 32-year-old-never-married women are either insane, in prison, or gay.
Three months until I am 32. But there may be a hidden benefit to spinsterhood, says Brutal Women.
Waiting to have children may add years to a woman’s life, says Jenni Pettay of the University of Turku in Finland. The evolutionary biologist analyzed 5,000 birth records from four generations of 17th- and 18th-century Finns and found that women who waited the longest before having their first child were statistically more likely to live longer. The delay in childbirth seems to be inherited: Late mothers’ daughters also tended to become late mothers themselves. (Late was defined as after 30.)
Something to look forward to, even if I am insane, in prison, or gay…
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Georgia Dems say Clinton in ‘08
I had lunch the other day with a Democratic donor (and Gore fan) who believes a Hillary presidential run spells doom for the Democrats. I like Hillary and don’t like the liberal Clinton bashing (and said so).
A couple weeks ago I read the Quinnipiac poll as saying that New York dems want Hillary to run for pres in ‘08. Now it turns out that Georgia Democrats Back Rodham Clinton in 2008 too:
New York senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is the top presidential candidate for Democratic Party supporters in the Peach State, according to a poll by Strategic Vision. 30 per cent of respondents in Georgia would like Rodham Clinton to become the party’s nominee in 2008.
Via Jerome Armstrong at MyDD who adds:
On the Democratic side, the script seems already written. We have Clinton with a solid 30%, and from there, the question being, who will emerge to challenge her? Right now, it’s way too early to tell (about 2 years too early); the guy in second (Gore) is not running, and the guy in 3rd (Kerry) is probably going to lose his staff-base to Clinton. That leaves us with single-digit candidates, one of about a dozen or so, that might emerge as a candidate by ‘07, the top tier of which has run previously.
This all sent me back for a second look at Chris Bowers’ January post Hillary Hatred on the Left wherein he asks that we please stop “swallowing right wing lies about Hillary Clinton.” I agree with Bowers’ conclusion:
I have not decided whom I want to work for yet, although I am nearly certain that I do not want it to be Hillary. However, that does not mean that I can stomach it when the netroots swallows Limbaugh-esque lies about her. It has to stop. I for one refuse to carry water on behalf of the Noise Machine.
UPDATE: Er, I’ve corrected the spelling of Hillary.
“The Blog Backfired”
(Guest post by Jen).
Roberts began the blog in December 2004 as a forum for discourse with his fellow LANL employees. The site hosted numerous complaints, as well as a petition to oust Director Pete Nanos (who resigned May 6th).
A U.S. House subcommittee hearing on LANL used the blog’s entries as evidence for problems at the lab. In fact, the site was used to argue that LANL itself should be shut, or run by a private company.
Roberts said, when asked whether he regretted starting the blog,
...any process that can’t withstand the scrutiny that an open venue of discussion provides probably has some serious flaws in it…
It’s not lost sir; we just don’t know where it is
Graduation day. The big ceremony is this morning; the school-specific one later.
We picked his mother up from the airport yesterday. Fog in Atlanta meant her flight was cancelled. Switched to another airline, she made it here on time for the awards ceremony. Her luggage didn’t.
They (Doug and his mother) were confident it would arrive; I much less so. It hasn’t yet. Doug’s been on the phone with the airlines since. The word is, it’s not lost. They just don’t know where it is.
UPDATE: the luggage has arrived. And his mother was given his father’s hotel bill. Divorced since he was 3, this is their first time together in 25 years…
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Standing in line for Star Wars
Doug’s on the phone with his half-brother Josh who’s in Phoenix waiting in line for Star Wars tickets. So I decided to check-in and see what’s happening with the Star Wars line geeks. No link to NPR’s visit Friday. Maybe they stopped updating.
Yes, I know, the line geeks really are so April but I’m on vacation and everything else I want to blog on will raise my blood pressure and eat up too much mindspace. I’ll get to that when I get home. Tonight it’s line geeks or nothing.
Much has been written since people started lining up a couple months back, but for me Wil Wheaton’s original post is still the very best:
So there are these Star Wars fans ÃƒÅ“bernerds who are lining up in front of Grauman’s for the premiere of “Revenge of the Sith” in a couple of months.
The only problem is, “Return of the Sith” isn’t going to screen at Graumans. For reasons that are best left to the shadowy corners of The Film Distribution World, it will be playing at the Arclight, which is about a half-mile away. (The Arclight, by the way, is the best theater in Los Angeles. Nobody else even comes close.)
When they found out about this unfortunate turn of events, the Star Wars Nerds naturally packed up their stuff, and walked down the block to Arclight.
Except they didn’t.
They’re keeping the line right where it is . . . as a self-described act of protest.
Boy have things changed. See, in 1977 I stood in line at Mann’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd for the original Star Wars. In those days we didn’t have sign-in sheets or laptops with movies. We got no press coverage. Or t-shirts. And though it was a very long line, we didn’t bond.
I haven’t read the reviews for Revenge of the Sith, but I know this--back in 1977, that movie was worth the wait.
REPORTER: In context of the Newsweek situation, I think we hear the caution you’re giving us about reporting things based on a single anonymous source. What, then, are we supposed to do with information that this White House gives us under the conditions that it comes from a single anonymous source?
SCOTT McCLELLAN: I’m not sure what exactly you’re referring to.
REPORTER: Frequent briefings by senior administration officials in which the ground rules are we can only identify them as a single anonymous source. ...
Later in the briefing:
REPORTER: With all due respect, though, it sounds like you’re saying your single anonymous sources are okay and everyone else’s aren’t.
McCLELLAN: No, I’m not saying that at all. In fact, I think you may have missed what I said. I think that we should move away from the use of—the long-used practice of the background briefings, and we’ve taken steps to do that.
What steps? Let’s end the background briefing.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
We’re in the city of brotherly love, and home to my alphabetical neighbor. Awards (and arrival of parents) tomorrow; graduation Thursday. Yesterday we did our Sideways-style tour of vineyards, not what it once was for me as my love of wine has been trumped by my propensity for migraines. But I did note that our tour took place on the day the Supreme Court freed vineyards to sell directly to out-of-state buyers.
I expected more comment on the unusual alliances; Thomas and Scalia on different sides? The majority sure sounds reasonable to me:
Justice Kennedy wrote today that the real object of the Michigan and New York statutes was not protection of minors but rather to give in-state wineries a competitive advantage over those in other states. Justice Kennedy, who was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, said New York and Michigan “provide little evidence for their claim that purchasing wine over the Internet by minors is a problem.”
Justice Stevens conceded that the New York and Michigan laws would be “patently invalid” if they regulated sales of “an ordinary article of commerce,” not wine. “But ever since the adoption of the 18th Amendment and the 21st Amendment, our Constitution has placed commerce in alcoholic beverages in a special category,” Justice Stevens wrote. (The 18th Amendment ushered in the era of Prohibition and, some social historians have said, the bootleggers and speak-easies that accompanied it.)
So what’s that “special category” all about? Digby again, from the same must read post, commenting on the roots of prohibition:
Most people assume that when it was enacted in 1920, it was the result of do-gooderism, stemming from the tireless work by progressives who saw drink as a scourge for the family, and women in particular. But the truth is that Prohibition was mostly supported by rural southerners and midwesterners who were persuaded that alcohol was the province of immigrants in the big cities who were polluting the culture with their foreign ways. And progressives did nothing to dispell that myth --- indeed they perpetuated it...This was an issue, in its day, that was as important as gay marriage is today. The country divided itself into “wets” and “drys” and many a political alliance was made or broken by taking one side of the issue or another...And prohibition turned out to be one of the most costly and silly diversions in American history.
Guest post by Jen.
In 2000, I gave a lecture on evolution to my junior college biology students (in another southern state). When I announced the day’s topic, a fifth of the students left in protest. Here, no one has questioned me (directly) until today.
Student X asked me what topics were covered in BIOL 1XXX. When I told him that half of the semester’s lectures would be about evolution, he balked, refusing to “learn about how we came from monkeys”. When I calmly explained that the hominid (Homo) lineage diverged from other primates more than 2 million years ago, he dismissed me, saying that the world was not even around until ~6,000 years ago. I was too stunned to respond.
But what can you expect from a student whose high school textbook had a sticker stating that evolution is a theory, not a fact?
Where is famous paleoanthropologist (and friend of Joe’s friend) Don Johanson when I need him?
Why they hate us II
From Digby in an absolutely must read post, quoting J.M. Balkin’s Populism and Progressivism as Constitutional Categories:
Indeed, both populism and progressivism have symmetrical failings, each of which is more easily recognized from the opposite perspective. History teaches us that populism has recurring pathologies; it is especially important to recognize and counteract them. These dangers are particularly obvious to academics and other intellectual elites: They include fascism, nativism, anti-intellectualism, persecution of unpopular minorities, exaltation of the mediocre, and romantic exaggeration of the wisdom and virtue of the masses. What is more difficult for many academics to recognize is that progressivism has its own distinctive dangers and defects. Unfortunately, these tend to be less visible from within a progressivist sensibility. They include elitism, paternalism, authoritarianism, naivete, excessive and misplaced respect for the “best and brightest,” isolation from the concerns of ordinary people, an inflated sense of superiority over ordinary people, disdain for popular values, fear of popular rule, confusion of factual and moral expertise, and meritocratic hubris.
And there you see the basis for right wing populist hatred of liberals. And it’s not altogether untrue, is it? Certainly, those of us who argue from that perspective should be able to recognise and deal with the fact that this is how we are perceived by many people and try to find ways to allay those concerns. The problem is that it’s quite difficult to do.
This I agree with wholeheartedly. I’ll want to read more, but it hints at the direction I want to take in my efforts as a liberal in rural Georgia who intends to, one by one, turn this Red state Blue!
Monday, May 16, 2005
Guest post by Jen.
Christians are playing defense, not offense.
in the modern culture wars, Sic Semper Tyrannis complains about the
chilling attack on the Christian right
and Blogodoxy (May 13) calls the author’s comments
childish snot rockets
Have Christians forgotten that, in today’s U.S. citizenry and government, they are the majority?
The beach shack
We arrived last night at our friend’s lovingly preserved cabin. Situated on the most beautiful beach, it’s a favorite spot of mine. Guests were having sunset drinks on the porch, one an executive in a theater company ("usually the summer is slow but we have a show going up nest week") and his partner a UN peacekeeper (on John Bolton, “it’s safe to say that no one’s looking forward to it"). The weather is sunny but cool. Fresh fish on the grill for dinner…
...and the rules are: no blogging.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
More on sex offenders & O’Reilly
More fallout from O’Reilly and the Houston Chronicle. You’ll recall O’Reilly mischaracterized and misquoted a Chronicle editorial, and the Chronicle answered back. Now O’Reilly has admitted the misquoting, but continued the attack anyway. Comments World O’Crap:
Bill started today’s program by admitting that yes, Tuesday’s Chronicle editorial didn’t actually SAY that they thought that the punishment for sex offenders mandated under Florida’s new Jessica Lunsford Law was too harsh, but that after reading the piece, he thought that’s what they meant. He even asked, “What else could they have meant?” Well, Bill, I read the editorial too, and it’s pretty clear what they meant: that this law, although it makes people feel good, won’t keep Florida’s children safe, because most children who are molested aren’t abused by convicted sex offenders. I think the subtext to their piece is: “If it makes you happy, go ahead and lock up convicted for 100 years, but if your goal is to make kids safer, don’t abandon some of the low-tech options, such as teaching children to recognize and report abuse.”
As it happens, NPR’s Science Friday had a much more reasoned segment on sexual abuse. The three panelists agreed that the law enforcement approach to sex offenders is failing and that prevention measures used to date which emphasize educating the victims have merely led to perpetrators choosing other victims. Prevention should be targeted at educating potential abusers as well as potential victims.
As for community notification laws, since these experts contend that sex abuse is underreported, communities can have a false sense of security thinking that they know where the abusers are, and those potential abusers who may want to seek help have a powerful disincentive to NOT get it.
On recidivism, they weren’t unanimous. John Q. La Fond, author of Preventing Sexual Violence: How Society Should Cope With Sex Offenders said studies have shown a 20% recidivism rate 5 years out, which is a very low rate. One of the other panelists argued that since sex abuse is underreported, it could be higher, and that 5 years wasn’t a long enough window. I’m not inclined to agree, but in any case it is way lower than the presumption that there is no cure and no efffective treatment, as the O’Reilly crowd claims.
The other day I asked, are there really that many? According to the segment, the answer is apparently yes. But one-size-fits-all solutions and harsh criminalization targets resources too broadly, tarring all with the same broad brush. I still find it hard to believe that hard-core sex offenders make up that much of the population or that all people listed in these community notification registries are dangerous. I am convinced that the frenzied hysteria surrounding the topic leads to faulty convictions of innocent people.
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Everything Bad is Good For You
The thesis of Everything Bad is Good for You is this: people who deride popular culture do so because so much of popcult’s subject matter is banal or offensive. But the beneficial elements of videogames and TV arise not from their subject matter, but from their format, which require that players and viewers winkle out complex storylines and puzzles, getting a “cognitive workout” that teaches the same kind of skills that math problems and chess games impart. As Johnson points out, no one evaluates the benefit of chess based on its storyline or monotonically militaristic subject matter.
Johnson’s thesis emerges in a delightful and accessible blend of stats, anecdotes and argument. His chapter on television, which compares the plots of Dragnet, Hill Street Blues and the Sopranos, is a flat-out hoot, which made me re-think the way that I judge the value of TV. Likewise the stuff on video games, and the idea that the point of most games is to first figure out what the point of the game is, mirroring the real world, where the point is often to figure out what the point is.
Why “They” Hate “Us"Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
Guest post by Jen.
People like Pastor Ted Haggard, founder of New Life (megachurch in Colorado Springs, near Focus on the Family‘s headquarters) make me hesitant to identify as part of the Judeo-Christian tradition. In a Harper’s article this month entitled “Soldiers of Christ”:
Pastor Ted noted that the tsunami had hit “the number-one exporter of radical Islam”, Indonesia. “That’s not a judgment, that’s an opportunity”.
Yesterday was my first time to Panera Bread - love them! There’s no good bread where I live in Georgia. Hopefully there’s a Panera somewhere within 90 miles of my home.
And they have WiFi. Since I’m not a frequent traveler or user of public WiFi, I’m not used to having terms of service agreements to use it. Just for kicks, I read this one, and the legal gobbledy-gook didn’t let me down. A choice paragraph:
For purposes of your using this Service, Panera will assume (and by using this Service you warrant) that either you have legal capacity to enter into this Agreement (i.e., that you are of sufficient age and mental capacity or are otherwise entitled to be legally bound in contract), or that your parent(s) or legal guardian(s) have consented to your use of this Service and accept this Agreement on your behalf. You are agreeing to this Agreement in consideration of your use and access to this Service and other good and valuable consideration…
I know we click agreement to these things all the time, but how on earth can it be that they are legally binding? The whole thing in the extended entry.
Friday, May 13, 2005
Missed it in New York and Atlanta; finally saw it last night in Greensboro, NC: Good friends. Good seats. Good fun.