oh beezy

miscellaneous cultural commentary from two urban twenty-somethings. on this here interweb, we go by "bee" and "zy."

wow. i love living in the future!

Ugh. Valentine’s Day is coming up, and with it shitty jewelry ads. While I can’t find a video link (who wants heart-shaped shit when you can YouTube screaming chickens?), the sickly-sweet Kay Jewellers spot goes something like this: Woman is cooking, man is reading candy hearts. He reads them out to her to prove their oracular nature: “My girl! You’re sweet! You’re an amazing woman and you’re all I’ll ever need!” I’m about to propose to you… maybe.

“It doesn’t say that,” says sensibly-dressed girlfriend stirring pasta. You’re making me super uncomfortable…

And then he springs it: the heart-shaped diamond necklace. OMG!

“Gasp,” goes girl. I can sell this for a grand!

No you can’t. Because it’s cheap, silly! Oh, and because this necklace is supposed to complete you.

I suppose there’s not much point in railing against these kinds of V-day ads, but in a year where so much has already happened (earthquake, Prop 8 trial, worldwide economic collapse), pushing shitty mall bling seems a bit outdated. Girlfriend doesn’t even look as impressed and owned as she should!

V-day is rough for many people. The pressure, the idea of presents. The endless red and pink marketing. The stale themed candy displays that you can’t get rid of for weeks, or bring yourself to eat. I actually enjoy the day: I loved giving valentines as a kid, and I’m not too proud to admit that I like receiving the odd card or candy heart. Munch.

But once the heart-shaped advertising farce is done, let’s turn our attention to what should be the main event in nationwide love news: the Prop 8 trial. Watch the reenactment here. And fortify your hunger for justice with this little ditty:

Happy almost Valentine’s day, queerlings. I love you all.

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happy MLK day.

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tricks are for kids

I’m too lazy (slash have to run to a meeting, so don’t have time) to think of a relevant title for this post. But anyways, I wanted to recommend ya give a listen to this NPR podcast in which two pundits from opposite sides of the political spectrum re: gay marriage discuss their coming to a middle policy ground.

Just give gays civil unions, they say. To which a few callers said, civil unions for all! “Get the government out of the business of marriage,” was a phrase callers particularly fancied. Then some middle-aged, but well-meaning, I suppose, man called to talk about how he’s being discriminated against as a single guy. Whatevs. Anyways, it’s an interesting listen, and made my commute to work this morning feel oh so smart.

My response? Can’t we just start working from the baseline assumption that any political debate in which someone thinks someone else shouldn’t have the same rights s/he has is wack? Cloaking self-righteous, paternalistic, discriminatory thinking in euphemisms about “principles” and “morality”–Tricks, tricks, tricks.

(Gawd, yes, I’m that much of a nerd that I couldn’t wrap this up without trying to make the title relevant.)

FYI- Zy previously wrote an excellent post responding to the op-ed co-written by the two guys interviewed in the podcast.

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strange little man child

And now, witness Jonathan Krohn, the weird infant geriatric who has captivated the hearts of the GOP and its ilk. Some call him an inspired speaker, others an amateur, but it seems clear that many want him to become a recognized phenomenon.  Watch the clip below.  What do you see?

I’ll tell you what I see: a misdirected prodigy.

The NYT is somewhat skeptical, but mostly fawning (see A Conservative Pundit Turns 14, featuring the would-be spokesteen in a sweater vest and scowl that would make Robert Novak proud).  The Republicans want him to be the next Obama, a firebrand who will give the movement a much-needed jolt of idealistic juice.  (Too bad he’s almost two decades too young to run…)

But Krohn is neither a fully formed pundit nor a viable spokesperson.  He is a talented mimic, speaking with the exasperation of a seasoned politician and gesturing with the zeal of a Bible Belt pastor.  He has written a book and been a radio personality, and these are impressive feats.  But they are the accomplishments of a brilliant child encouraged by awestruck parents. Imagine the kind of energy that is behind them and what it might accomplish in other arenas.  In the wrong hands, he could be a burnt-out child actor.  In the right hands, he could be a Mozart, an Einstein.

Instead, he is devoting his precocity to the strategic study and practice of conservatism.  It is a narrow field within which to pursue greatness. The opportunities for insight are limited, and the possibility for narrowmindedness is great.

If only Krohn would devote his talent to something better served, like science, history, or green energy concerns–an issue that concerns many teens, few of whom have the capacity or audience to sway public opinion.  But it’s not going to happen as long as he chooses to be the darling of the right.  Perhaps it’s best to assume his parents’ stance: permissiveness, annoyance, and ultimately, boredom.

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nyt op-ed compromises: left-right talks, or PR move?

Usually the latter.

So, I was going to compose some elaborate commentary on the resuscitation of indulgence-granting in NYC churches, but it’ll have to wait. Because this NYT Op-Ed has me riled up.

A “reconciliation” on gay marriage? What, like it’s an arms race? Give me a break.  Oh, but wait. Let’s just compose ourselves and listen to the Brookings-American Values “solution” to our messy national debate:

It would work like this: Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own. All of these changes would be enacted in the same bill.

But hold on! Don’t get riled up! You don’t know enough to be upset!

For those not immersed in the issue, our proposal may seem puzzling. For those deeply immersed, it may seem suspect. So allow us a few words by way of explanation.

Whatever our disagreements on the merits of gay marriage, we agree on two facts. First, most gay and lesbian Americans feel they need and deserve the perquisites and protections that accompany legal marriage. Second, many Americans of faith and many religious organizations have strong objections to same-sex unions. Neither of those realities is likely to change any time soon.

And so we should settle for civil unions and allow religious institutions to decide when to recognize them. Church and state–well, why not appeal to them both? Thank goodness Blankenhorn and Rauch have come up with this novel way to appease both moderate politicians and Prop 8 supporters and their ilk.  I didn’t want to have any more of those unhealthy, messy disagreements.  They explain it so well…

And while most Americans who favor keeping marriage as it has customarily been would prefer no legal recognition of same-sex unions at either the federal or the state level, we believe that they can live with federal civil unions — provided that no religious groups are forced to accept them as marriages. Many of these people may come to see civil unions as a compassionate compromise. For example, a PBS poll last fall found that 58 percent of white evangelicals under age 30 favor some form of legal same-sex union….When a reasonable accommodation on a tough issue seems possible, both sides should have the courage to explore it.

Except that this is bullshit. Appeasing evangelicals with a non-marriage offer is hardly courageous. I am not a half-person, and federal civil unions that can be freely ignored are just about as useful as permeable reproductive rights and mutable voting practices. When it comes to equality, there is no compromise.

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news, recession blues roundup

So, there are a lot of amazing and informed writers out there, and I’m loathe to summarize what they’ve put out on the interweb this weekend. So I’m gonna let them do the talking today! Note: All of these subjects deserve endless amounts of discussion; the length of these summarizes is not meant to be dismissive. But the writers, artists and politicians mentioned below have already done the original thinking.  So please click, and respond, and hopefully we’ll continue discussing them here.  Three issues today:

1. The recession puts (or rather, keeps) women in the workplace, with backlash potential: Emily Bazelon sums it up.  But one, actually great, point: men are distressed by their female partners’ job losses.  Which is a great indication of respect for those jobholders.  And the opt-out trend is being exposed as a myth. Finally.

2. Immigrants in America are being worked to the bone, in industries ranging from meat-packing to harvesting to sheepherding.  Dan Frosch’s article highlights a slightly different angle than the one of overcrowded sweatshops we’re used to: the image of the isolated immigrant worker.

On a related note, watch Chambao’s “Papeles Mojados” for a Spanish take on the desperation that drives (and kills) those immigrants attempting to reach Spain, only to be treated as disposable workers until deportation.  The title and lyrics of the song refer to wet papers–the lost documents of immigrants who have drowned on the boat voyage from Morocco and other parts of Africa to the south of Spain. La Mari’s singing evokes the anger of the worker forced to swim to better work, and the unspeakable sadness of the realization that her companion has not survived the crossing.

3. There are psychological tests for hidden racial bias, and as Charles Blow shows, the results aren’t that surprising.  But I think we should respond to Eric Holder’s call for a more dramatic increase in the study and appreciation of black history without being afraid of confrontation, anger and hurt.  He is right when he says that “in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.” We’re not in a post-racial age; if black officials can’t tell the truth like this, then Obama’s election will just be a comfortable stopping point for liberal America.  This is the chance to push it, not to stay comfortable.

4. Ok four. I lied. But we’ll be discussing the return of indulgences later! Yeah, that’s right. Indulgences are being granted in NYC churches. TBC, beezies…

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link away (while you can)

The past week or so has seen a few interweb privacy and access issues blow up.  So here’s the deal:

1. Facebook is being sketchy about the ownership of your personal information. When Facebook changed its terms of use last week, it took out the clause that stated users could delete their profiles without fear of Facebook retaining that information. (Well, that was never entirely true; unless you erased the information in the profile before deleting the profile itself, it would stay in Facebook’s servers, just in case you came back–and then discovered that your old profile had never died.)  Anyhew, Facebook users noticed the deletion of the privacy clause, Zuckerberg waffled about who owns personal info, outrage continued, the board decided to meet about it, and the old terms of service were reinstated.  But don’t let your guard down, as we haven’t seen the last of Zuckerberg’s vaguely sinister ambiguity:

Going forward, we’ve decided to take a new approach towards developing our terms. We concluded that returning to our previous terms was the right thing for now. As I said yesterday, we think that a lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective so we don’t plan to leave it there for long.

Check ’em if they change ’em.

2. New Zealand’s recent copyright decision could be a model for access debates to come. That country’s Parliament has ruled that Internet Service Providers, including citizen-run websites, can be punished for copyright infringement by having their internet access cut off. Though the UK and EU have rejected these kinds of measures, they set a precedent for putting corporate copyright interests above the needs of creative artists.  Join the New Zealand blackout (Stephen Fry has–see his Twitter page) if this concerns you.

3. The BlockShopper-Jones Day debacle could affect your right to link. Jones Day, a law firm, sued BlockShopper for posting links to its employees’ pages.  The reason? The firm was angry that the real estate site was publicizing the houses its lawyers bought. The claim? That, even if they are publicly accessible pages, linking to them would confuse BlockShopper readers, who might think the firm endorsed it.  And the firm won for trademark infringement, setting the stage for restrictions on links to public sites. So watch your court.

Phew. Stressful.  Debate the weird Gatorade G spots (ooh, that sounds bad) for comic relief.  Or befuddlement.

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you would never support prop 8

if you saw this. My friend Erica’s uncle, David Gere, co-curated the 13 Love Stories project, a series of profiles of gay couples affected by the passage of Prop 8.  Each photo links to an interview; to get a taste, watch the especially touching one below.

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juvie sentencing excess: outrageous.

Juvie has never seemed like the best idea.  The kids who end up there, and they are kids, are exposed to the dangers and pathologies of prison culture for what are usually minor charges (or in the case of someone I once knew, charges invented by unstable parents).  So this story about the PA judges who have now pleaded guilty to sentencing juveniles for profit is one of the most horrifying criminal justice stories I’ve heard in a while.   (Solely domestic anyway–Abu Ghraib and the suspension of habeas corpus are no less horrific than they ever were.)

But one of the most shocking parts of the case is the fact that juveniles are not required to have legal representation in PA.

The United States Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that children have a constitutional right to counsel. But in Pennsylvania, as in at least 20 other states, children can waive counsel, and about half of the children that Judge Ciavarella sentenced had chosen to do so. Only Illinois, New Mexico and North Carolina require juveniles to have representation when they appear before judges.

Children should not have the right to waive counsel in a labyrinthine legal system that is clearly corrupt.  The U.S. is a country where most people cannot drive until 18, and all cannot vote until 18 or drink until 21.  Emancipation before the age of 18 must be approved by a judge on the grounds that being under 18 makes minors unfit to take care of themselves.  Having a system that tries minors without ensuring their supervision does not protect their privacy–it leaves them vulnerable, exposed to the whims of judges or advocates who may or may not come to their defense.

I wish there was some petition or movement to create a federal requirement for minors’ legal representation in court cases. If I find one, I’ll post it here.  In the meantime, please do visit the Juvenile Law Center, to donate and find out more about the case.

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a question of sexuality–or gender?

I’ve been thinking about this article on Seattle’s mayoral sex scandal a lot recently.  The author, Taylor Clark, contends that the mayor’s homosexuality–and the supposed leeway given to homosexual relationships when it comes to the age of majority–have prevented the scandal from decimating his political career.

Clark writes,

After all, there’s a massive double standard in how we think about the age of consent. When an older man courts a teenage girl, it’s predatory and sleazy; but when it’s a teenage boy receiving advances, gay or straight, we have trouble believing he’s being wronged. (Indeed, Breedlove was aggressively chasing Adams; he even has a dog named Lolita.) Critics see the movie The Reader, wherein a 36-year-old Kate Winslet beds a 15-year-old boy, and they speak of a “tender sexual awakening,” as every straight man in the theater (including me) thinks, “I would have sold my siblings into bonded labor to sleep with Kate Winslet when I was 15, you little bastard.” Portray a 36-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl, though, and you’re in … well, Lolita territory—no mercy there. Some have argued that if Breedlove were female, straight men would be high-fiving Adams, but this is preposterous. We’d understand the attraction—and when you peruse Breedlove’s unbelievably porny Myspace pics, you can certainly see what was on Adams’ mind—but we wouldn’t excuse the behavior. “Yes, she’s hot,” we’d say, “but they call it jailbait for a reason. You don’t touch underage girls, period.” The male-male relationship brings a moral gray area that helps Adams.

Reader ridiculousness aside, Clark’s examples cite heterosexual May-December taboos and kudos; they must, as he is comparing the Adams-Breedlove scandal (or relative non-issue) to the Monicagate-scale disasters that we’re used to.  But this doesn’t take the gender of the homosexual couple into account.  If this were a lesbian mayor who had had an affair with an underage girl, what would be the consequences then?  Would the younger participant be seen as aggressive, or victimized?  Would her MySpace profile be mocked as “unbelievably porny”–or would she be seen as innocent bait for the predatory?  And would the affair as a whole be seen as emblematic of a unique, and according to Clark, untouchable subculture–or as tawdry and salacious?  I, for one, feel convinced that were Adams and the younger person female, the office would now be empty.

Thoughts, please.

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