Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Red Card

I get rules. I understand the need for them. So here's a rule: dumbasses are forbidden to officiate at kids' soccer matches.

According to the Globe and Mail, eleven-year-old Asmahan Mansour was about to play her third game of a tournament in Laval, Quebec, this past Sunday. The referee---who is Muslim (huh?)---pointed at her and then to the bench. The kid had been expelled for wearing a hijab, a Muslim head scarf.
After her expulsion, her coach, Louis Maneiro, was shown a memo from the Quebec Soccer Federation saying the hijab and other religious headgear were forbidden. His team forfeited the game in protest.

Good for the coach and kudos to the team.
Brigitte Frot, executive director of the Quebec federation, said in an interview it wasn't a religious matter and that her organization is just enforcing the laws of FIFA, the sport's Zurich-based world governing body, which bans dangerous equipment.

Uh huh. I saw the World Cup. Heads outta be banned. Ah, but the plot thickens:
However, FIFA officials have been promoting the game in Muslim countries by saying that it is all right for female players to wear the hijab.

The FIFA website even has a 2006 article praising the Iranian women's national team, with a photo of a hijab-wearing player taking a free kick.

And, reached in Zurich, a FIFA official said the game laws allow "non-basic equipment" as long as it isn't dangerous.

"We are bound to FIFA [rules]," Ms. Frot said yesterday, explaining that Quebec officials have in the past ordered the removal of jewellery in piercings and medical bracelets.

The 2006 supplementary FIFA guidelines, aimed at clarifying the game laws for referees, say that "non-basic" gear made with soft, light and padded material is allowed, such as some knee braces or goggles.

While made of fabric, the hijab could still be dangerous because the player could strangle herself, Ms. Frot said.

Amazing. And if you click on the FIFA link above, you'll see a whole team of hijab-wearing footballers! Mind you, they look friggin' warm with the long pants and shirtsleeves...

Apparently, the people who let the girl play two games of the tournament were "at fault." No, mesdames, I think the fault lies elsewhere

And They're Off!

I damn near spit my lunch (a salad) out my nose when I read this from today's Globe and Mail (registration required till I learn how to "share"):
Honda Racing will run a car on the F1 circuit this season that is covered in a map of the Earth rather than a collage of corporate logos. The team formerly was sponsored by a tobacco company

That will make quite an impression at 250+ miles an hour. And it gets better:
In a statement issued at a news conference in London yesterday, the team said that via its website, www.myearthdream.com, "anyone who wishes, will have the opportunity to have their name on the car, make a pledge to make a lifestyle change to improve the environment and make a donation to an environmental charity. Under the concept of 'our car is your car', each name will form a tiny individual pixel, which will help build the image of planet Earth on the car."

Previously, the Honda team was sponsored by a tobacco company.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

You've Come a Long Way, Baby Part 3

Perhaps I should subtitle this: That Ain't Cricket, Mate!

On one hand, the fact that Pakistani women get to go see their much-loved cricket match is a great thing. At least when they show up, they won’t be considered the equivalent of “puck bunnies.” They can yell and cheer as much as they want. Fabulous. The players are all women, too. Good stuff.

But no men are allowed except for player’s families and the officials. This is to be a segregated event.

Ok, but it’s a baby step, right?

"The decision proves that women's cricket is progressing in our country and through this event we would promote a softer and moderate image of Pakistan," said Shamsa Hashmi, secretary of the Pakistan Cricket Board women's wing.

What nonsense! That’s like the no-bodychecking rule in women’s hockey. For crying out loud, women aren’t fragile. If we can push the equivalent of a ten-pound turkey out a hole the size of a loonie, we can handle a little shoving in the rink or on the pitch. And if you think female sports fans are all warm and cuddly, you wait till their side is losing.

Don't get me wrong: support for women's sport is good. But women being allowed to openly attend and support any sport regardless of the gender of the players is better.

Ms. Hashmi, there are far better ways of promoting a “softer and moderate image” of Pakistan.

from Al Jazeera, photo by GALLO/GETTY

Food Fights and Dancing Gorillas

I laughed when I saw the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) ad featuring the Buzzcocks’ song, “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays.” I don't care anymore that pre-recorded songs are in commercials; indeed, I dare say Pete Shelly and the boys are well within AARP’s fifty-something demographic as are their original fans. But, like Jim DeRogatis, I do despair the lack of catchy jingles written specifically for an ad. They were fun and gave songwriters a good gig between shots at pop-star fame.

The “selling out” argument doesn’t hold for me, but DeRogatis points out a more important element of why this lyrical “editorialization” feels wrong:

The message of the AARP ad is that life will be one big, happy birthday party for retiring Baby Boomers, complete with food fights, balloons and dancing gorillas. But the theme of the Buzzcocks' song is exactly the opposite: The key line that sets up the catchy chorus of "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" is "Life's an illusion, love is the dream." The tune was a bookend to another 1979 single, "I Believe," that made the group's cynical worldview even clearer: "There is no love in this world anymore." In other words, the Buzzcocks are saying "life stinks," and AARP is saying "everything's peachy." But the Orwellian power of advertising and TV are such that ever such black and white distinctions can be obliterated

via Glorious Noise

You've Come a Long Way, Baby Part 2

When I was a girl,Charlie’s Angels and Barbie were going to make us into pliant, barfing, disappointments to the women’s movement. But they didn’t. We played at being Charlie’s Angels at dusk, chasing around in the streets in our torn jeans and grass-stained runners. And Barbie did what ever she wanted to do, when she wanted to, and drove her own van. And we had terrible corrupting teen magazines before we were actually teens (I got a Tiger Beat as part a loot bag from my friend’s tenth birthday. Shaun Cassidy was on the cover. I still have it.) But I have yet the need to check in to a eating disorder clinic.

So what the hell happened?

The Washington Post reports that according to the American Psychological Association's Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, “Throughout U.S. culture, and particularly in mainstream media, women and girls are depicted in a sexualizing manner," but admits that:
While little research to date has documented the effect of sexualized images specifically on young girls, the APA authors argue it is reasonable to infer harm similar to that shown for those 18 and older; for them, sexualization has been linked to "three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression."

Said report contributor and psychologist Sharon Lamb: "I don't think because we don't have the research yet on the younger girls that we can ignore that [sexualization is] of harm to them. Common sense would say that, and part of the reason we wrote the report is so we can get funding to prove that."

So this is a hypothesis. Normally, I would think this was just more hysteria, but I look around me and I think otherwise. I see little girls--—pre-pre-pubescent, barely out of Pull-ups—--dressing like little hookers. And they ain’t buying this crap with their allowance. No, parents, usually mothers, are forking over for this gear. Even more stomach churning is that makeup and spa treatments (I wish I was joking) are marketing to little girls. Shit, I wasn’t allowed to tart myself up till I was fourteen, the same year I could bear ear piercing. Sure, my mum and I would battle it out over lipstick, but invariably she won. I was too young and she was right. She was being a parent, not a friend.

Apparently, parents are an endangered species. Or is it worse? Are some actually encouraging their girls to “look good”:
Eight-year-old Maya Williams owns four bracelets, eight necklaces, about 20 pairs of earrings and six rings, an assortment of which she sprinkles on every day. "Sometimes, she'll stand in front of the mirror and ask, ‘Are these pretty, Mommy?’"

Her mom, Gaithersburg tutor Leah Haworth, is fine with Maya's budding interest in beauty. In fact, when Maya "wasn't sure" about getting her ears pierced, says Haworth,"I talked her into it by showing her all the pretty earrings she could wear."
What about all these sexualization allegations? "I don't equate looking good with attracting the opposite sex," Haworth says. Besides, "Maya knows her worth is based on her personality. She knows we love her for who she is."

"Looking good just shows that you care about yourself, care about how you present yourself to the world. People are judged by their appearance. People get better service and are treated better when they look better. That's just the way it is," she says. "I think discouraging children from paying attention to their appearance does them a disservice."

Staggering. So at what age do girls think they have to look presentable? According to the Post,“’A few years ago, it was 6 or 7,’ says Deborah Roffman, a Baltimore-based sex educator. ‘I think it begins by 4 now.’"

To be fair, apparently stores make it difficult to find age-appropriate clothes and accessories for girls. But a quick look at Old Navy’s website rendered the usual modest T-shirts, shorts, and jeans for girls. Nothing particularly risqué there. But then consider that Canada’s La Senza, the women’s lingerie store, has a girls’ shop. And the chain just been bought by Victoria’s Secret. Also, what you see online doesn’t necessarily reflect what you find in stores, or the overwhelmingly pink-glitter swathed malls.

But still, what ever happened to saying no you can’t have that? Ok, I don’t have kids, but I heard that phrase plenty growing up. Are things that different today? And if so, why? And what ever happened to saying no I won’t buy what you’re selling? Are consumers/parents that spineless?

Apparently, Bratz dolls are also culprits in the sexualiztion of girls as they (ahem) provide poor role models. But as the Guardian’s Caroline Bennett points out, reality and its television equivalent aren’t much better:
Meanwhile, the tale of [footballer fiancé] Coleen McLoughlin has been unfolding. Highlights from her life story, appearing simultaneously in the Sun and the Mirror, have explored the transformation from schoolgirl nonentity to international celebrity that pretty Coleen has achieved by the simple expedient of going out with the footballer and former patron of prostitutes, Wayne Rooney. Everywhere, from broadsheet to tabloid, the media celebrates her accomplishments: getting dressed, losing a few pounds, forgetting about Wayne's "auld slapper". How long before her first South Bank Show? Or before the makers of BBC2's The Verdict put in a request for her to play the judge in their next, cutting edge series? At the very least, acclaim for this modern-day Cinderella will, in the words of the task force, provide younger girls with a model "that they can use to fashion their own behaviours, self-concepts and identities".

When you consider the respect accorded to Coleen and her many C-list colleagues for their achievements in shopping and grooming, the Bratz team start to look a bit up themselves. Coleen and Wayne keep busy watching Emmerdale, Coronation Street, EastEnders, then Corrie again. Look on the Bratz website and you will find the dolls have favourite classes (Jade picks chemistry), movies and even, "fave books": "mysteries" for Cloe, and, for Sasha, "biographies of successful people". And what kind of sleazy, disempowering message is that?

But what’s a beleaguered parent to do? Well, look no farther than The Experts! They have all the answers…because common sense isn’t.

Just when you thought we’d progressed two steps forward, we fall four steps back.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Techhead Alert

Curvebender Publishing is a new publisher whose first book is Recording the Beatles, a very detailed document about, um, recording the Beatles. According to DM News:
“There are a lot of books out there on the Beatles, but this is the first one that goes through each and every one of their recording techniques,” said Brian Kehew, co-author of the book and co-president of Curvebender, Los Angeles

But the fun doesn't stop there. Nope, this monster book (which apparently took fifteen years to make) is 540 pages long, and weighs 11 pounds. And "it comes packed in a tape case reminiscent of an old tape-recording storage case that the Beatles recorded on." Too good.

What else is interesting, at least to people in publishing and marketing, is that this hundred-dollar book is only available from the publisher's website.
This news comes from DM News, a magazine targeting "direct, database, and Internet marketing."
Mr. Kehew said that the firm also started a Web site that gave information on the book and an option to subscribe to the book’s mailing list. Once a release date was set, about a year after the site was launched, Curvebender began taking preorders offering the incentive of signed and numbered books to the first 1,000 buyers.

The publisher also targeted Web sites with e-mail links to the book’s site. These included Beatles fan sites, recording forums and sites affiliated with products discussed in the book. As the book neared completion, publicity quotes were gathered from the proofreaders, most of whom had worked with the Beatles.

via Glorious Noise

Friday, February 16, 2007

China Covers Up Detention of AIDS Doctor

Why does this not surprise me?
From the New York Times:
BEIJING, Feb. 15 — The photograph and article in Tuesday’s Henan Daily could have been headlined “Happy Holidays.” Three highranking Henan Province officials, beaming and clapping as if presenting a lottery check, were making an early Lunar New Year visit to the apartment of a renowned AIDS doctor, Gao Yaojie.

They gave her flowers. Dr. Gao, 80, squinted toward the camera, surely understanding that pictures can lie. She was under house arrest to prevent her from getting a visa to accept an honor in Washington. Her detention attracted international attention, and the photo op was a sham, apparently intended to say, “Look, she’s fine and free as a bird.”

On Thursday, Dr. Gao said in a telephone interview, a handful of police officers remained stationed outside her apartment building in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou.

Year of the Pig, indeed.

Nine Days till Oscar Fashion Night

The Academy Awards are my weakness. It's the one night I can sit and sanctomoniously yell at the TV and know I'm right, especially after a couple of glasses of merlot: "She's had work," or "He'd look hot in a wet paper bag," or "Wow! I had no I idea she was knocked up. Looks good on her." (I think preggers is the new black, by the way.)

Oh, there are the "fil-ums" for our consideration. I happen to love a number of the nominees, which means they'll get one award apiece (like when Charlie Kaufman won the award for best screenplay in 2004 with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Sofia Coppola won the same award in 2003 for Lost in Translation). This year the two pictures that I like that are up for best screenpaly are Pan's Labyrinth and Little Miss Sunshine. My money says the former will not win. Fortunately, Guillermo del Toro is up for foreign-language film, for which I believe he is a front runner.

That brings me to the article I say today in the New York Times. Nothing earth-shattering or headline-making, but a decent read:

But as the Academy Award nominees for best picture suggest, it has been a terrific year for films about global politics. The culture clash between Japanese and American soldiers is at the heart of Letters; Babel ranges over several continents and languages to explore the anxiety and violence gripping the world.

And there is another, extraordinary group of Oscar films that grapple with explosive issues. The nominees for best foreign-language film are even more politically charged, and every bit as artistically successful, emotionally touching and accessible as the English-language candidates. Set mostly in the past, these films use a sneaky indirection that allows them to resonate with the most volatile questions of today.

Monday, February 05, 2007

You've Come a Long Way, Baby

From the Independent:
Mecca Laa Laa,20,one of the newly graduated lifeguards,said it would give Australian Muslim women the freedom to enjoy the beach while fulfilling their religious obligations. "The point is to get women active in the water, to encourage them to participate in sporting activities ... and wearing the burqini allows them to do that," she said.

From the Salon's Catherine Price:
On the other hand, it still bothers me that women should have to hide their entire bodies in public.

You and me both, Ms. Price.

Green is the New Black, Dahling

Climate change is getting you down? Musician and writer Rick Moranis gives us some much needed perspective in today's New York Times:
We should penalize S.U.V. idlers outside the building, the way that principal at the 92nd Street Y did. In fact, we should have a simple carbon footprint rating and award system in the building. Maybe the winner gets to miss a month’s maintenance charge. I don’t know. Maybe a plaque. It just seems like such a waste to have drivers waiting outside the building all the time, even in hybrids.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Myth-ing the Facts

Here's a great op-ed by Fergus M. Bordewich, author of Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America, from the New York Times addressing history, mythologizing, and missing the facts:
The larger importance of the Underground Railroad lies not in fanciful legends, but in the diverse history of the men and women, black and white, who made it work and in the far-reaching political and moral consequences of what they did.... Eye-catching quilts and mysterious tunnels satisfy the human penchant for easily digestible history. Myths deliver us the heroes we crave, and submerge the horrific reality of slavery in a gilded haze of uplift. But in claiming to honor the history of African-Americans, they serve only to erase it in a new way.

Lamenting the Mix Tape

I have been the recepient and the creator of mix tapes in the past, and I admit they do work as part of the ritual of wooing. They also work as part of proving you have a way cool record collection. With this in mind, a friend sent this Guardian article to me this week:
As any old-school mix-meister will tell you, compiling a tape takes a rare combination of skills, including instinct, knowledge, patience and, of course,
consummate good taste.

Ahem, Mr. O'Hagen, I would love a copy of that tape.

UK Tribute to Stax Records

From the Independent

In spring 1967 British audiences got the opportunity to experience the Stax Revue for the first time. The 13-date tour boasted a wealth of the label's talent - Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Arthur Conley, Carla Thomas and Eddie Floyd - performing with the musicians who had recorded dance-floor and jukebox favourites such as "Knock on Wood" and "You Don't Know Like I Know".

In the six years since former country-fiddle-playing bank clerk Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton had renamed their tiny Memphis-based label, Satellite, Stax had come to epitomise Deep Soul. The tour was thus a defining moment for British fans - young mods, future stars, even the Beatles - turned out to hail the visiting emissaries.Some were surprised to discover that the blend of rolling organ, punchy horns, compulsively danceable bass and drums that defined the Stax sound was created by a mix of black (organist Booker T Jones and drummer Al Jackson) and white writer, guitarist and A&R man Steve Cropper and bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn)musicians.

Sounds pretty awesome right?:
'Soul Britannia' starts at 9pm on BBC4 tonight. The Barbican Soul Britannia Concerts take place tonight, tomorrow and Sunday (which features Stax stars Sam Moore and Eddie Floyd). The musical tribute to Stax/Atlantic, 'Sweet Soul Music', begins its UK tour this month

So, brothers and sisters, tune to dial to BBC4, and prepare for the sweet soul music.

Record Labels 101

How to build a record label in the privacy of your own home.

via the Guardian