Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Freedom to Read Week

September 23 to 30 is Banned Books Week as brought to you by the ACLU! According to the American Librarians Association, the following are the top ten most challenged books of 2006:

It’s Perfectly Normal:Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health for homosexuality, nudity, sex education, religious viewpoint, abortion and being unsuited to age group;

Forever by Judy Blume for sexual content and offensive language;

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger for sexual content, offensive language and being unsuited to age group;The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier for sexual content and offensive language;

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher for racism and offensive language;

Detour for Emmy by Marilyn Reynolds for sexual content;

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones for sexual content and being unsuited to age group;

Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey for anti-family content, being unsuited to age group and violence;

Crazy Lady! by Jane Leslie Conly for offensive language; and

It’s So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families by Robie H. Harris for sex education and sexual content.

Off the list this year, but on the list for several years past, are the Alice
series of books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Of Mice and Men by John
Steinbeck and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Inside the Box

To my knowledge, Toronto does not contain a Container Store per se. The city does contain a Solutions Store, which solves the problem of not having a Container Store. That problem being a lack of containers, or as some would corporately put it, “organizational tools.” In my mind, however, one using said term is merely describing oneself.

I like lists. I am organized. I have stuff (even George Carlin–type stuff) which is, nine times out of ten, tidily available when I need it. My records are alphabetized as are my books (which are also split into fiction, non-fiction, music, reference, and cooking). People call me anal. Yet I am often the person to whom these people ask about things because I can find the solutions.

These solutions can be found without a large bill from a store purporting to sell me them. I’ve been in the Solutions Store, but alas, I find more problems than solutions. Why do I need pretty empty boxes? More to the point, why do I need stuff to put in those boxes? Perhaps this reflects more on consumerist mentality than it does on the need to be organized in order that information be found.

I admit that as I write this, I’m thinking that I really ought to replace the magazine boxes that house my periodicals. Note, however, that I’m replacing and not adding to a situation based on current and projected needs: Magnet and The Believer are keepers. I have also made notes in them as to the music I want to hear, movies I want to see, and the books I want to read. This marked information makes it on to one or more of my lists.

Buddhism, simplicity, and basics (the idea not the store) wind their ways into mainstream consciousness, and all are valuable concepts. And all have been “leveraged” into marketable commodities—mats, clothes, bags, books, classes, television shows, magazines—flying in the face in the original premise that they share: minimalism, use your resources and make do with what you have. Indeed, why add to your stuff if you cannot handle the stuff you have? For example, how badly do you need a new garlic press when a knife will do? If it’s good enough for Anthony Bourdain, when it’s good enough for me.

On reflection, that last paragraph seems out of place in a essay/rant about a store that sells storage. Hell, I rented my current apartment based on its glorious storage. I kept the original packaging for my computer and other large, expensive items, and it all needs to be stored. It’s all about reduce, reuse, and recycle, and it didn’t cost extra dimes.

Sure I participate as a consumer, but I know when I’m full. And I don’t get all friggin’ anxiety ridden about not having the latest so-handy, purse-sized, pretty-pink, empty box. For one, that anxiety feeds a related market that deserves its very own rant. And two, there are enough “empty boxes” walking around; I’m not in that demographic.

As the Head of Lettuce Crumples

Organizers of fashion week in Madrid have put the kibosh on skinny girls on the catwalk. And they face the wrath of some designers who feel their “artistic vision” is being tampered with. Incredible.

From "When Is Thin Too Thin?", New York Times
The producers of these fashion events have largely dismissed the concerns. On Saturday a British cabinet member, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, called for London designers to follow the example of Madrid by banning underweight models. But the British Fashion Council, led by Stuart Rose, the chief executive of Marks & Spencer, said it would not interfere with the designers’ aesthetic. And some designers said it was misleading to equate thinness with being unhealthy and that the standard cited by the organizers in Madrid did not take into account age and puberty, which may cause a model who is unusually tall to appear frighteningly thin.
Um, I get that some girls are skinny, boney even. Perhaps even tall, too. I find it an amazing quirk that these same skinny, tall girls have the other “appropriate” criteria that allows entrance into the great houses of couture. Not a zit among them, which is equally astounding for young models are approaching puberty. So, what are these designers saying? That the girls in their frocks are ten to twelve years old?

From "Like It or Not, This Sells," Globe and Mail (requires login)
[Elmer] Olsen said, "because on a runway, like it or not, thin sells. The pictures turn out better."
Sells to whom? These shows are not marketed to the prêt a porter crowd; indeed, many creators in the industry argue that haute couture is art, and that what they parade on the catwalks is not intended for everyday wear. And I totally buy this argument. There is room in the art world for textiles. Humans are used to exhibit art in most other disciplines (i.e., music, painting, performance). But these art forms see beauty in all types of humans, not merely those that resemble fully-starved gazelles.

British cabinet minister calls for ban on super-thin models,” Globe and Mail (requires login)

So can a government ban or legislate against this practice? Well, yes, technically it can. Certainly, the industry is not going to self-regulate. The issue of sickly stick figures wearing more weight down the aisle than they do naked on a scale is not new. And designers have not seen fit to dress healthy models. Will said ban or legislation have any effect? That remains to be seen. I highly doubt it.

Karen Von Hahn's column, “The Skinny on Self Esteem,” Globe and Mail (requires login)

Yes, girls often want to look like magazine covers and catwalk models. But body weirdness usually starts at about age twelve. Telling kids “it’s what’s inside that counts” works only up to the point when the insides start making appearances outside. Then the brain goes nuts, people that were icky aren’t icky anymore...and it doesn’t stop till menopause.

So, back to the stage. Can healthy be the new black, dahling? Perhaps for a season. It will last as long as faux fur and heroin chic.

PS: One model agent, Ben Barry, is actually making a dent. For more information, you can visit his website.

Is It That Time of the Month?

Or is it just me? Have we entered a Tardis destined for another past era or is the present day manifest of the adage, "The more things change the more they stay the same"?

Exhibit A: The recent curfuffle about death-defyingly thin models versus "artistic vision." Note that many of the artists in question are men.

Exhibit B: The assassination of women's rights activist and provincial director of Afghanastan's Ministry of Women's Affairs, Safia Ama Jan. According to the Times,
As a well known women rights campaigner, she was aware that she was vulnerable
to attack and had asked for official transport and personal bodyguards. The
Afghan Government rejected these requests. It is thought that she was getting
into a taxi on her way to work when she was killed
She was wearing a burqua at the time.

Exhibit C: On a slightly lighter note, Maud Newton posted this amusing advert concerning vaginas and Lysol.How droll! Oh my, how modern we are now. Not a douche to found on the "feminine hygene" shelves these days, no ma'am. But what's this Ms. Newton points out? Slice and dice my glory hole? Sweet Mary Mother of God!

I guess 1970s nostalgia goes further than just aviator shades. Sigh.

Seth in the New York Times

Canadian cartoonist Seth has a serial novel published in the New York Times.

via Quill & Quire

Cory Doctorow on Copyright

I'm home coughing, weezing, and blowing my nose today. Because daytime TV blows chunks, I'm cleaning out my email. I found this posting from Locus Mag by Canadian sci-fi writer Cory Doctorow as part of a digitial copyright list to which I subscribe.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

New on the Tube

Every fall I end up getting suckered into watching at least a few episodes of new television, liking a couple, then one of them gets cancelled, and I forget to watch the rest. Here's this year's picks, why I picked them, and a very quick review:

Show: Standoff
Why: Ron Livingston is hot
Review: Weak writing, but "Burger" is way easy on the eyes. Not sure if this will survive, though.

Show: Weeds
Why: Mary Louise Parker is completely relatable
Review: Good, funny, adult writing. This is cable and not new, but their season was only about six shows long.

Show: Smith
Why: Ray Liotta...I dunno there's something about him. Gotta be the Good Fellas factor
Review: After one show, I want to know if my fearless predictions come true. If I wrote the show, one of his crew would die per episode. The Terence Malik--Thin Red Lineapproach.

Show: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Why: Matthew Perry could do drama
Review: Feels like West Wing goes Hollywood. Could be worse, but the first episode felt stiff. It needs to stretch and gets it's own voice.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Little Finger Pickin

According to the New York Times ("Who’s This Guy Dylan Who’s Borrowing Lines From Henry Timrod?"), Bob Dylan is doing a little finger pickin' of Henry Timrod's poetry on the nasally one's latest CD, Modern Times:

It seems that many of the lyrics on that album, Mr. Dylan’s first No. 1 album in 30 years (down to No. 3 this week), bear some strong echoes to the poems of Timrod, a Charleston native who wrote poems about the Civil War and died in 1867 at the age of 39.

“More frailer than the flowers, these precious hours,” the 65-year-old Mr. Dylan sings in “When the Deal Goes Down,” one of the songs on “Modern Times.” Compare that to these lines from Timrod’s “Rhapsody of a Southern Winter Night”:

A round of precious hours

Oh! here, where in that summer noon I basked

And strove, with logic frailer than the flowers.

Reactions are mixed. Some fans are disappointed ("Bob really is a thieving little swine."), some scholars are aghast ("Maybe it’s the teacher in me. If I found out that he had done this in a research paper, he’d be in big trouble.” ), and others are just pleased that the poet lauret of the Civil War is even getting read (“If I were Timrod, I would love it.... I would say he’s doing a great honor to Timrod and let’s celebrate that.”)

Some cite folk-music traditions for the borrowing, and copyright isn't an issue:
Because Timrod is long dead and his work has fallen out of copyright — you can find his collected poems on the Internet — there is no legal claim that could be made against Mr. Dylan.

Whew! I bet SonyBMG is glad about that.

Still, it would have been kinda classy to give "influenced by" or some sort of credit to Henry Timrod.

via Quill & Quire


Lenny Kaye on CBGBs and the end of an era:

You had to be there, and if it was a-happening, there you were, though because it was so happening, you weren't thinking or even appreciating it much, just
living in the groove of its moment, not wondering how its movement into legend was influencing and inspiring and creating waves that soon found a CBGB in every major city, each with its own roster of local bands and camp followers.

front the what's left of the Village Voice

You Are What You Eat

Man, this takes the cake...and the chips...and the fizzy drinks. Apparently two English mums are fed up and aren't going to take it any more! Dammit, no health nut like Jaime Oliver is going to stop their little darlins from eating junk food. Poor wee lads and lasses aren't gettin' a proper dinner of fat and sugar so they can get doze off in class be tired enough to fall asleep in front of the telly at night. All this veg and fruit is turnin' 'em into picky eaters and that just won't do.

Sadly, this isn't from the Onion. It's from the former great Britain. Remember, the one that gave us Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Nick Hornby, and The Clash? Well, now it's breeding stupid people who really want their offspring to drop dead early from heart disease and diabetes. Yup. I can understand why my folks left in the first place.

Black Cawfee

While copy editing a book today, I found this caffeine website. Apparently it will take 85.71 cups of brewed coffee to kill me. Presumably, this is all in one day.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Impeach the Rat Bastard

The Globe and Mail reports that "Bush acknowledges secret CIA prisons."

Incredible. The smarmy, smug, lying frat boy actually seems to believe, or wants the American public to believe, that lives were saved. Yeah? So, if this is treatment so legitimate, why the FUCK did the prisons have to be secret and located overseas? This is not legal. The war in Iraq is not legal. His presidency is not legal.

Impeach Bush before he kills again.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Book Review: Lost Joy

I dug this review up after logging Lost Joy in LibraryThing. It was originally published by a long-gone webzine out of Milwaukee, WI, Actionman, for which I also reviewed CDs. Thanks to Michael W. of No Karma Music for hooking me up:

Title: Lost Joy
Author: Camden Joy
Published in 2002 by TNI Books

There is the clichéd scene in High Fidelity where Rob goes through his record collection and rearranges it in order of life’s moments. I’m sure I’m not the only music geek to go home after a big break up and think about doing the same thing. And I’m not the only one to shudder at the idea, turn the stereo up, and cry in her beer. Camden Joy understands. Rock and roll isn’t his hobby, or passion, or new love, or even a religion. His records and CDs aren’t collectables over which to get all alpha male. No. It goes deeper than that. Rock and roll, what it means, where it comes from, where it takes you, how it connects is the physical and psychic make up of Camden Joy and his writing.

Lost Joy is a collection of manifestoes, essays, and other prose that until now have not been available in one volume. Unless you consider the walls and hoarding boards of New York City to be a volume. Then walk the walk and read the talk before the latest soft drink sponsored saviour of rock and roll pastes its face across Joy’s musings. No doubt he will organize his thoughts quick enough to foil the designs of the twenty-first century Svengalis. He made a name for himself as a gonzo rock critic in 1995 and his titles include The Last Rock Star, or Liz Phair: A Rant, Boy Island, Hubcap Diamond Star Halo, Palm Tree 13, and Pan that he co-authored with Colin B. Morton.

Joy ably combines the adamant style of Hunter S. Thompson with the enthusiasm of Jack Kerouac. I wouldn’t burden the author with being a voice of Generation X; certainly there are lessers more deserving of that terrible yoke. Joy does speak to those of us who listen to the song or an artist and recognize more. The story “The Greatest Record Album Ever Told”, a tribute to Frank Black’s Teenager of the Year is a good example. The author weaves his life and thoughts into a passionate review of a record. Real simple, but there are always songs and CDs that hearken back to a time dark, or light, or just overcast. Joy sits us down and lets us in to his experience of Black’s discography.

Lost Joy isn’t all glimpses of Joy’s life, or a fictional facsimile thereof. The opening story, “Dum Dum Boys,” sets the tone of the journey upon which the writer takes us. Coming of an age after the zits have been exfoliated away. He undermines studied cynicism evoking a sadness that gives more foundation for jaded wisdom.


From today's New York Times article "MySpace Music Store Is New Challenge for Big Labels ":

MySpace, the online community site owned by the News Corporation, said on Friday that it would sell music through a partnership with Snocap, a technology company started by the creator of Napster, Shawn Fanning. When the online store opens this fall, it will allow bands andlabels of any size to sell songs online for whatever price they want.

At first glance, I see a number of good things about this:
  1. Poetic justice for the Napster guy
  2. Small, unsigned bands can sell their music; maybe not acutally make a profit since Snocap takes forty-five cents per song. (According to the article, iTunes takes thirty-five cents, but the file is sold in its proprietary format, boosting sales of its device.)
  3. Purchases can be made using PayPal, which includes the teen and twenty-something demographic
  4. It's competition.

Granted, MySpace, as noted in the above quote, is owned by a huge media conglomerate. And EMI are apparently "in talks," so there is a chance the majors will hop on this bandwagon (they'd be characteristically foolish if they didn't). But MySpace offers an option for musicians, and options and choices are always good. Something to keep track of.

Friday, September 01, 2006

How Many... and western singers does it take to change a lightbulb?

Three. One to change the bulb and two to sing about the old one.

Thank you...I'll be appearing all week at Yuk Yuks.

via Never Trust a Hippy

All You Need Is....

...a lawyer. Apparently The Beatles haven't broken up or faded away, but exist as an entity neither animal nor mineral nor Rutle. So with a swipe of Ed Sullivan's arm, here, straight from the UK's Independent, are the Top Ten Beatles Lawsuits (current divorce cases not included):

10 1971: McCartney versus the rest of The Beatles
9 1981: Beatles versus Apple (Round 1)
8 1979: Beatles versus EMI (Round 1)
7 1989: Beatles versus EMI (Round 2)
6 1991: Beatles versus EMI Round 3
5 1989: Beatles versus Apple (Round 2)
4 1995: Beatles versus EMI Round 4
3 1998: Beatles versus Lingasong Music
2 2003: Beatles versus Apple Round 3
1 2005/06: The Beatles versus EMI (Round 5)
And the legal case that wasn't... 2002 Yoko Ono versus Paul McCartney

For all the juicy details, check out "The courtroom hit parade: The Beatles' top ten (lawsuits) "