Bullying as Journalism

EDIT: ESPN actually is the publisher of the article, since they own Grantland.
Submitted to https://r.espn.go.com/members/contact/tvindex

Dear sir or Madam,

I am writing because I saw an advertisement for you on an article that I think you may not wish to be associated with. You may be aware of article on Grantland in which the journalist, Caleb Hannan, harasses his subject to the point of suicide. He is clearly aware of the harm he knows he causing her and uses it as part of his narrative arc. I’m sure that you do not wish to have your name associated with this kind of horrific bullying. Yet there is a link to you at the top of the page, implying endorsement. I would like to strongly encourage you to end your relationship with Grantland. I would also like to enquire if you have any policies which would apply if one of your own journalists submitted a similar story.

Thank you for your time,

Charles Hutchins

I’m not linking to the article. A ‘journalist’ decided to investigate the inventor of a new kind of putter. He speaks to her former employer who had used the threat of outing to get her to drop a discrimination lawsuit and then decided to out her anyway. He then called up everyone she knew to tell them personally that she was trans and ask them for comment. Having completely socially isolated her, he then calls her on the phone and tells her he’s going to out her in the press. She wrote him an email saying he was engaging in hate crime, which he included in the story. She took her own life, and he made sure to mention that the person who told him about this hated her and quote that person’s misgendering. He straight up caused somebody to die and then reported his role in it without a hint of remorse.
I’ve read some hateful shit. I’ve read bullying. I’ve read things that are intended to make the victim feel bad. But this, this kind of bloodless dispassionate, emotionally blank destruction of another human being is something I’ve never seen before. This is worse than anything I’ve ever encountered before. He kills someone and really is not at all bothered by it.
There’s a link to ESPN at the top of the socippath’s article and so I wrote to them. Their other adverts are automatically served by outbrain and are the same meaningless shit you see at the bottom of every article on earth. I clicked through on something that’s gone viral and the website is making money off of this. Because they have no qualms about bullying someone to death. Because it’s just a trans woman, so who cares.

How to talk about Pvt Manning

Some news outlets seem to have absolutely no idea how to talk about Chelsea Manning, who was known until last week as Bradley Manning and has been sentenced to 35 years in prison after she sent classified documents to wikileaks. They’re confused on how to describe her actions before she announced her social transition and which pronouns they should use to talk about the period in her life when she identified as a gay man.
(hint: see previous paragraph)
Chelsea Manning is already famous under a different name, so it’s fine to mention her former name. But really, don’t get cute about pronouns. It is more confusing, not less, to have a jumble of ‘he’s and ‘she’s. You know from her press release that she wants to go by ‘she’, so use ‘she’ whenever you’re writing about her, no matter what period of her life.
If you want to talk about something inherently gendered, then you might want a wee bit of vocabulary. She identified as a gay man for a while, meaning that’s what she told people she was. Other people at the time read her as male, because that’s how she presented herself. If ‘read’ is too jargony, try ‘viewed’, or ‘perceived.’
You can talk about her childhood, but again, avoid being cute about it. For example, if you want to use the word ‘boyhood’, is there a good reason for it? Is it somehow very important to the sentence or is it a word she used herself? Don’t project gender unless you’re using the subject’s own words or unless its needed. ‘She was a quiet child’ is fine. ‘She was a quiet boy.’ is confusing and unnecessary. ‘She seemed like a normal boy.’ is ok for two reasons – one is that the gender is an important part of the sentence. She didn’t just seem like a normal child, she seemed like a normal boy. The other reason that it’s acceptable is the word ‘seemed.’ She was perceived as a normal boy, which is about how she was viewed, not what she actually was. ‘She was a normal boy’ is not ok because it is factually incorrect (she already knew she wasn’t really a boy) and because it’s confusing and because it’s contrary and coercively assigning a gendered identity that the subject has not assigned themselves.
In summary, use ‘she’ all the time. If you have to use gendered terms to refer to the past, put wiggle words around it: seemed, appeared. (I’m sure journalists are well familiar with such words.)
If Manning keeps making headlines, at some point, it will become appropriate to drop the “who was previously known as Bradley Manning,” much like it’s no longer necessary to mention Wendy Carlos’s former first name. The point of mentioning the old name is not to draw attention to it, but to ensure that the reader knows who is meant.
Normally it’s rude and somewhat irrelevant to talk about the medical aspects of a person’s transition. However, because Manning is going to a prison that has specifically said it plans to violate her rights with regard to appropriate treatment, it’s definitely on topic in this case. Manning has said she wants hormones. She has not said that she wants surgery. It is not necessary to mention that she doesn’t currently want surgery. At some point, the repetition of this fact may become problematic. While media likes to make a big deal of ‘the operation,’ the reality for trans people is that hormones are much more important and that there is not one single dramatic moment during which transition occurs. Not all trans people have operations and there are a variety of operations available, rather than a single, monolithic process. The discourse around ‘the operation’ is a media construction. Which is not to say that trans people don’t often need operations, just that the context has been distorted in popular culture. This distorted context can cause statements about anyone’s lack of plan for surgery to make them seem as if they lack legitimacy or authenticity or further other them. Most trans people start out by seeking hormones and don’t immediately make further plans. Therefore Manning’s statement is entirely unremarkable and should not be treated otherwise.
Finally, and this should be obvious, people have a right to their gender identity that is inherently their own human right, unconnected to whatever else they’ve done in their lives. Whether you think Manning is a hero or a traitor, the only correct way to refer to her is through her current name and pronouns, as she has publicly requested.

An Open Letter

Background information below.

Dear Madam or Sir,

I am writing to ask what trans-run or trans-lead organisations or campaigners you are collaborating with for your campaign to drive mobile billboards around the Daily Mail?

I am also writing to ask you to reconsider this campaign. While I broadly agree with your goals, this campaign is expensive and I think the money could be better spent elsewhere. Due to the effects of economic discrimination, most trans people in the UK are far from rich. Many struggle to meet normal expenses or those transition -related expenses that are not met by the NHS. Obviously, harassment from the Daily Mail makes the daily lives of many trans people that much harder and contributes to the economic discrimination they deal with, and it’s a good use of funds to fight this. However, because these funds are limited, it’s important to be judicious as to how they are spent. Existing community organisations like Trans Media Watch are already running campaigns around newspapers and other British media. They also have relationships with media organisations and MPs. Donating money to them would certainly go further than a short-lived publicity stunt involving mobile billboards.

Indeed, I wonder who the intended audience of the billboard campaign is. Surely the Daily Mail is already aware that they’re full of hate. After Leveson, Parliament is certainly also aware. I would think even the general public is broadly aware of this at the moment. Therefore, it seems this would most succeed in drawing attention to your own organisation rather than the problem at hand. And while I’m sure you’re a very worthy cause and have admirable values, again, I don’t think you should be asking trans people to pay for your advertising campaigns. Would you consider dropping the billboard idea and raising money for a pre-existing trans organisation instead, like TMW, GIRES, Press for Change or one of the many other advocacy or front-line groups that are dedicated to helping trans people or improving our lot politically?

I fear that most of your money will not come from tans people at all, but from those with a strong and commendable interest in being allies, who want to Do Something and feel good about themselves in the process. Again, this is not the most judicious way of directing those well-meant donations. Our allies can feel just as good about themselves if they give to an established, long-running, sustainable campaign that succeeds at meeting it’s goals as they would feel giving to this publicity stunt. Perhaps they might even feel better, as the organisation the decided to support keeps making progress, vs having only a fleeting feeling of do-gooding which dissipates quickly as the Daily Mail continues to be awful after your short billboard stunt ends.

Thank you for your time,
Dr. Charles Céleste Hutchins

I’m not linking to the fund raising campaign that I’m writing to because I would rather not send users to their site. Briefly, this group has decided to raise £5000 to ‘encircl[e] [the Daily Mail’s] headquarters with mobile billboards plastered with the stories of the people whose lives [they have] ruined.’ This is all related to the untimely and tragic death of Lucy Meadows. She was monstered by the press in general, and specifically her home town paper, but outrage has largely fallen on a Rush-Limbuagh-esque columnist named Richard Littlejohn who wrote some rather nasty things about Lucy a few months ago.
There was a candle-lit vigil in front of the Daily Mail headquarters on Monday in reaction to this. Accounts I’ve read say that a large number of cis people showed up to stand in solidarity. Indeed, at the last protest I went to that was in regards to how the media treats trans people, cis people also outnumbered trans people.
I see this absolutely as a positive thing. I’m very happy that we have allies standing with us and that outrages against us are drawing general outrage. However, as with any instance where one is acting as an ally, it’s important to remember that allies are necessarily present in a supporting capacity. This means listening to those with whom one is allied and letting them take the lead and decide the direction of things.
I strongly suspect the the US-based for-profit company running this fund-raising campaign has slightly overstepped the normal boundaries of being an ally and tried to move more into a leadership role. Indeed, as they are for-profit, what is their revenue model? It’s obvious that they, like every petition site, are harvesting our personal information to sell it. How much of the money their raising for this silly stunt are they keeping? How much is going to overhead? How much is allocated for graphic design? Who is doing the graphic design? Who is going to be included and excluded from this billboards? Who decides? Is this even a trans-specific campaign? What is their ultimate goal? To target DM advertisers? Subscribers? To get the paper to entirely re-think their content?
This is all a reminder to pause and think before donating on something, including rage-donations. These can be really powerful and positive, like in the case of Feminist Frequency. But in that case it was very easy to see where to donate. Because Meadows cannot tell us what she wants, we need to be wary of those purporting to speak for her or for the community in general. The most important thing in giving money is not that feeling you get upon having done so, but whether it actually goes to the goal you are trying to support. Are you helping the person targeted? Are you making lasting change? Alas, we can’t help Meadows and I don’t see how this could make lasting change.

Some cis people don’t like the word ‘cis’

Before you ask, here’s a article in the New Statesman today where a cis woman complained that she was being asked to be aware of privilege when approaching feminism (horrors, I know) and complained specifically about the word ‘cis.’ Others have done a better job than I responding to that article. But I want to put my oar in.
This reminds me about some previous and ongoing conflicts in feminism and society. One has to do with LGB issues. A lot of straight people didn’t like the word ‘straight’ at all. Nobody asked them if they wanted the name. Gay people just foisted it off on them and then told them to check their privilege when they complained. ‘We’re not monolithic!’ they said. ‘We all have differing and subtle approaches to our sexuality and deserve to be taken as individuals!’ Which is funny, because a lot of gay people feel the same way about themselves!
No group is monolithic. There are as many ways to be gay as there are gay people and as many ways to be straight as there are straight people. The word ‘straight’ actually was meant as a value judgement, wherein heterosexuals were being called uptight and boring. Speaking as a straight person, I think that’s a bit unfair, but then given that straight people then were insisting that they be called ‘normal,’ I’m not overly excited about a minor slight in return.
Trans people are also not monolithic. There are a lot of ways to be trans – despite medical gatekeeping insisting on a standard narrative, we still have a huge amount of variation. And, indeed, there are as many ways to be cis as there are cis people.
Maybe you’re a cis person who doesn’t like the word ‘cis.’ You weren’t consulted on this. You’re not a carbon copy of your gender ideal. How dare people imply that there should be category for non-trans people! You should just be called ‘normal.’
I would like to urge you to examine your privilege. Which is another way of telling you to get over yourself. There’s billions of cis women and cis men on the planet. Nobody is alleging that you’re all carbon copies of each other. You say you’re more complex than just that. Well, so is everybody.
Another monolithic grouping is ‘white’ as in ‘white people.’ Past arguments and current about privilege in feminism often revolve around race. White feminists didn’t want to have to deal with their dual status as both members of a victim class and members of an oppressor class. Some meant well. Some were all for their own liberation, but still wanted people of other races to know their place. Many found it jarring to think about themselves as privileged.
And indeed, cis women who are fairly gender non-conforming don’t tend to think of themselves as having privilege. And in many ways, they certainly don’t. Yet, they still aren’t compelled to tell their life stories to psychiatrists in order to access appropriate medical treatment, but even aside from that something else came up in the news today.
A primary school teacher named Lucy Meadows killed herself. She had transitioned over winter break. The UK is a small country, so this was national news. The media was swarming around her home and her work. Richard Littlejohn (the UK’s equivalent of Rush Limbaugh) wrote a column attacking her. She was just trying to live her life and the media decided, during a vulnerable time, to turn her life into a spectacle and showcase her as a freak.
So no, gender-nonconforming cis people don’t live lives of amazing luxury, but they don’t need to worry about being attacked in the Daily Mail, misgendered even in death. Effeminate, straight cis men don’t need to worry about facing jail time for having relationships, but this has happened twice recently to young trans men in the UK.
But hey, nobody forces cis people to hang out in the feminist haunts of tumblr or other corners of the internet. If they don’t like the word ‘cis,’ they don’t have to engage it. Nor pay attention. Nor let it define their lives at all. And trust me, that’s a privilege trans people don’t get.
The purpose of talking about privilege is not a contest to give an award to the least privileged person on earth. It’s to be respectful in dialogue and to prevent furthering of injustice – something that can easily happen by accident. And really – I’m not overly impressed with somebody taking to a newspaper column to complain about being made aware of their privilege. Especially not given the role of newspapers in Lucy Meadows death.
If you’re feeling despondent over this and are in danger, please contact your doctor or GP (Americans can google to find free clinics in their area). There is also help over the phone. In the UK, LGBT people can call the LGBT switchboard (before 11:00 pm) 0300 330 0630, call the samaritans: 08457 90 90 90 or ring 999. In the US, LGBT people can call 1-866-488-7386 or anyone can ring 1-800-suicide. In an emergency you can got to a hospital emergency room or call 911. You are not alone and there is help available.

Microagressions: ‘Brazilian Transsexuals’

This has been a bad week for trans people (especially trans women) in the UK media. Here is a fairly neutral summary of the latest thing in a long week of things.
A friend asked me on facebook, why people were upset about Moore’s original phrasing: “The cliché is that female anger is always turned inwards rather than outwards into despair. We are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual.” The tl;dr answer to this question is that no minority group wants to be used as a metaphor for otherness.
The long answer is somewhat more complex. I don’t want to pick on the writer, just to discuss the issues raised, so let’s first note this is not a big deal – by itself. This is a microaggression. I’m sure everyone has been in situations where they were given little, frequent reminders that they didn’t belong or were disapproved of. Alas, this is routine in some interpersonal relationships. It gets you down, but it’s such small things that you can’t ever bring it up. Over time, so many small things turns into kind of a big thing. For people who are members of a minority group, they get this more often than just from dysfunctional family. Some people have to deal with microaggressions whenever they engage the public sphere. As you can imagine, it gets them down. This is why it’s a good deed to say something if you see a microaggression against somebody else. They might not want to say anything because it’s a single small event (in a long stream of events) that might lead to an awkward conversation, that they would need to have every single time they decided to engage.
My friend wanted to know if the problem was the phrasing. Indeed, using the word ‘transsexual’ as a noun is a bit like saying ‘the gays.’ It’s best avoided. Also, using the word ‘transsexual’ as a synonym for trans women erases trans men. Again, not cool. But the problem here is not just the phrasing but also, more importantly, the idea. She has a stereotype of a particular body shape in mind. Alas, she is referencing porn. I googled the phrase, ‘Brazilian Transsexuals,’ and all but two of the first page of results link to porn. One links to a question about porn on a general discussion forum. And one links to the news story that triggered this post.
I would strongly suspect that the reason this phrase is so linked to porn has to do with a lot of factors. Obviously, it’s now a self-perpetuating meme, but how it got there probably involves racialised stereotypes about South American women, sexualised stereotypes of trans women, and, indeed, a pornified view of women in general. Porn is not IMO intrinsically bad, but seeing a group of real, diverse humans as synonymous with porn actors is bad. Nobody wants to be seen that way.
This particular stereotype is also troubling because of the actual, real-life situation of trans women in Brazil. Last year, more than a third of trans people murdered in hate crimes were Brazilian trans women. A trans woman is murdered there more often than once every three days. They face horrific levels of violence. Many trans women flee for their lives to other countries. Even though they face a reduced chance of being killed, they still face discrimination based on being women, based on being trans, based on being an immigrant, based on being a refugee and possibly undocumented, sometimes based on language. (Yes, some get into sex work in order to survive.) Their situation is so dire, that some commenters have compared Moore’s statement to saying that (please pardon the next phrase, it’s fairly offensive) women desire to look as thin as refugees of a Nazi concentration camp.
Alas, this phrase has wider implications than just Brazilian women. There’s also the problem of gender-based othering. In Moore’s formulation, women are disappointed they don’t look like ‘Brazilian transsexuals.’ Of course, one group of women that look like Brazilian trans women are Brazilian trans women. However, in Moore’s formulation, Brazilian trans women are other – they are not women. Thus, by extension, trans women are not women. This is the central tenent of transphobia.
This was not said deliberately. Like many microaggressions, it was a thoughtless expression of unexamined biases. By itself, it’s a very small thing, but it’s part of a much bigger context where this idea is repeated over and over again in tiny ways.
If you’re a writer, or especially a journalist who might be called upon to write on a variety of topics, this may all seem alarming, as it is definitely possible to cause unintentional offence, and, indeed, nearly everyone does from time to time. However, fear not! If you do get something wrong, do NOT follow Moore’s example! Apologise and say that you did not mean to offend.
Of course, it would be better to avoid this kind of slip up in the first place. The rule of thumb is mentioned at the top of this post – don’t use any group of people as a metaphor for otherness. If you’re not sure about a turn of phrase, try substituting other minority groups and see if it sounds bad. Or ask a friend.
Sometimes we do need to reference otherness. The original quote could have said ‘femmebots’ and gotten the point across without causing any offence. They’re more widely known than the stereotype she did invoke and, even more importantly, they’re not real. They are fictional constructs, designed to represent exactly what she means. How perfectly convenient it would have been to use them.


Dear Editor,

I am writing in regards to your recent headline, HEARD THE ONE ABOUT A SEX SWAP MAN WHO REPLACED A FEMALE COMIC?.
The transgender comic involved in the story is not a man, but a woman, something which you seemed to be aware of when writing the story. Also using the term “sex swap” is derogatory. A better headline would have read, “Have you heard the one about the transgender woman who replaced another female comic?”
The rest of your article seem to be fine and it’s a shame that it had this headline attached. If you have any questions or are in need of advice when writing about transgender people in future, the website for Trans Media Watch has a section in order to advise journalists and editors. http://www.transmediawatch.org/guidance_for_media.html
Thank you for your time.

Writing to the New York Times

Dear Editor,

Thank you for your article on January 12, 2012, “Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?” I have long suspected that the Times was entirely unconcerned with the truth and was slavishly repeating the claims of people in or seeking power, but it’s nice to have it confirmed as the official policy of the newspaper. This will especially come in handy when I am arguing with others about the lack of merit of your newspaper.

As to your question about whether you should bother yourself with reporting the truth, I would say no. You don’t have any credibility anyway and it’s cheaper just to print press releases without doing research.

Thank you for taking the time to solicit reader opinion,
Charles Céleste Hutchins

Recently, I’ve learned that freedom of the press is much, much better protected in the United States than it is in the United Kingdom. Journalists are free to make claims with good evidence without having to be in fear of overly-strong libel laws. In the UK, you cannot make a claim without absolute proof. In the US, you just need good evidence and the occasional “alleged” and you’re good. UK journalists are jealous of the many press protections afforded American journalists.
And yet, with all the freedom to actually point out lies and fraud and corruption and to let their readers know when somebody is obviously lying – with the freedom to look into things and print what they find, with all of the great and wonderful legal protections the US provides to it’s journalists, the newspaper of record wonders if readers actually expect them to do any journalism. Brisbane, the editor, writes, “I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge ‘facts’ that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.”
I wish I could say I was shocked.

I wrote a letter to the Metro

I wrote to the Metro about this article which differs from the print version. The print headline was “Boy, 10, returns to school a girl.” The first sentence repeated the word “boy” and thereafter used only terms like “child,” and avoided any use at all of pronouns.
I’m not sure how much of an improvement it is to say that a 10 year old wants a “sex change.” I guess they thought the word “transgender” would be too difficult for London morning commuters.
This is the letter I wrote:

Dear [Editor],
I am writing in regards to yesterday’s Metro front page article,
“Boy, 10, who went back to school a girl” in regards to misgendering
the subject. The correct way to refer to a trans person’s gender is
to follow their choices. The girl in the article clearly wishes to be
known as a girl and your use of “boy” in the first sentence and
headline is therefore inappropriate. The rest of the article uses only
the term “child.” It is not appropriate or neutral to treat this
girl’s gender as if it is a subject of open debate. You also use
words like “youngster” to avoid using pronouns outside of direct
quotes. This, plus the use of boy does seem to undermine the gender
identity of the girl.
There is a very helpful website, trans media watch, which offers
advice to journalists writing articles about trans people:
http://www.transmediawatch.org/guidance_for_media.html This website
advises the media to avoid phrases like “sex-change,” which also
appears in the first sentence of your article. Your article is
otherwise sympathetic, so I hope you can keep these things in mind the
next time you write about a trans person.

Did I mention they picked it as their front page article? This is something that happens every single autumn in at least one school in the UK. It was in other news outlets, including on the BBC, as the girls’ mum talked to the national press. I’m all for raising awareness of anti-trans bullying, but large shocking headlines seem to be participating in, rather than decrying, adults calling this girl a “freak.”
The Metro has not acknowledged my letter, although they did correct the web version. I thought I’d post the letter here.
I’m trying to imagine how it would have felt to have a newspaper headline when I returned to uni with a new set of pronouns… I hope the girl’s mum is keeping her away from the news.

A Fab Photo Shoot

My Alarm went off at 6:30 am. I probably should have gone to bed earlier. Three hours sleep, then photos? Alas. I drug myself to the train station and started poking at the ticket machine. Brits and Americans actually use language in completely different ways. So the words were English, but the machine was not communicating with me. The ticket guy called me over and asked where I was going. I said London. He looked at the clock, furrowed his brow and asked if I had a discount card. I do not. “Ok, mate, it’s rush hour, so that’s going to be £123.” (For you ‘Merikans, that’s $250) For a two hour train ride. I asked for a receipt.
I was instructed, upon arrival in Lodon to get a black cab, which took me to the photo location. They offered me coffee, so I drank a cup. It was in Hackney, which is apparently a hip London neighborhood. The studio was carefully designed to look as if it was an extremely hip loft that somebody actually lived in. There was shampoo in the shower. More or less the normal furniture. I thought maybe someone did until I opened the refrigerator. If somebody lives there, they never eat there.
All the people working at the shoot were women. There was a makeup person, who described what she did as “grooming.” There was the producer from the magazine. There was the photographer and her assistant. And there were three of us to be photographed. The guy who arrived ahead of me was hung over, or possibly not. The groomer started plucking his eyebrows and he got mysteriously ill. So it was my turn to be groomed
She brushed foundation on and then some sort of powder making me look very orange. She dabbed stuff overly my freshly formed acne (when i saw a crop of zits break out two days ago, I knew the shoot would definitely go forward). And she carefully removed the dark rings under my eyes. I applied my own lip balm. The orangey stuff went on my neck too and even my ears. It was bearable. My eyebrows, which have been kind of filling in between them lately, were untouched. I closed my eyes and thought of Lee Adama. He does all these pouty pin up shots. If makeup is his ticket to being fetishized by millions of het and bi women, well, I can do it too. “When I open my eyes, I will look like Lee Adama”
I opened my eyes and I still looked like me, which is just as good. I had a cup of coffee. There was a bag of clothes for us to wear, but the bag was missing. The producer was madly on the phone, trying to find them. I drank another cup of coffee and chatted with the groomer about Yosemite. Finally, they had me put on some jeans and a bright purple flannel shirt. They blocked out where we would sit and took some test shots, emailed them back to the magazine and then wait for a go-ahead. I had a cup of coffee and chatted with the other two guys, who were also low brass players and uni students. The eyebrow bloke is a conservatory pianist.
They deiced I should wear my own shirt, so I changed. Then there was some other delay, so I had a cup of coffee. Finally, they had us groomed, dressed and blocked and had official approval, so they started taking the pictures. The producer came around periodically and tugged at our shirts, to keep them from getting bunched from us being in the awkward “relaxed” poses they put us in. The groomer dabbed more orange crap on us. The photographer alternately ordered us to smile or be serious. The assistant sat at her mac and made sure the photos looked ok on the screen. This sort of click click fuss fuss, “your serious look is a little too much like an axe murderer” went on for quite a while. Then they had us do individual shots. I was on second, so I waited and drank a cup of coffee. Afterwards, I changed into my own clothes, wiped off the makeup and got some of the lunch they had catered. It was the weirdest thing, but my hands were kind of shaking when I was trying to spoon up some rice.
Today, somebody called to read back my quotes to me to make sure they were factually ok. The questions the writer asked were really broad and I had just read the New York Times Magazine article on ftms, so obviously something on such an important topic would be many pages in this glossy mag. Also, it’s easier to blah blah blah about yourself than to write music and it’s cheaper than therapy, all of which meant that I sent her ten pages. Yeah, I’m so fascinating. She said she wanted really specific examples, so I cut and paste a bunch of stuff from my blog, where I recounted conversations I had and stuff. When the assistant read back my part, it was down to a single paragraph. That poor writer must have felt like she was drowning in my blahblahblah. Which would explain why, out of maybe 3 or 4 factual claims, one was substantially wrong and one was minorly wrong. So their fact checking necessary and good. The story will be out next Tuesday.

When in London . . .

After the photo thing, I walked to the Tate Modern. It’s big and free. They have a lot of stuff. I think it’s one of the best. But it’s still, you know, a modern art museum. Signed urinals. Bike wheel on stool. check. check. check. I heard some posh guy explaining to his female companion that judging modern art is entirely subjective. I wish I wrote down what he said. He thought that works had no “craft” component and that you wouldn’t talk about execution or even context, since they weren’t representational. Right. Well, call me when art has no craft or context and I’ll get back to you. He sounded so very sure of himself, though, that I thought I was overhearing art students are first. Ironically, part of what I love about the Tate is the excellent program notes and strong efforts towards arts education within the museum. It’s possibly the best modern art museum in Europe. But, alas, it’s still a modern art museum and I’ve been to way too many of them. After about an hour, I walked to my friend Paula’s flat.
London is so gigantic. Every time I go, I want to move there. There’s just all kinds of stuff. Going on. Everywhere. It’s way bigger than Paris, it’s more like NYC. And I don’t think I can afford to live in central London any more than I can afford to live in Manhattan below 176478921649 street. Not to mention the weekly train fare to school.
I got to Paula’s and her best friend was there. He stays over one night a week. Like her, he’s a crit theororist. And he loves sci-fi. He started talking about the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and specifically the Doctor Who episode Genesis of the Daleks. ZOMG! The music on that episode is so so so so so good. There’s this prepared piano leitmotif. When I talk about incidental music on the original Doctor Who and how good it was, I’m usually thinking about that episode. I think I’ve even blogged about it. Anyway, we got on all right. (I want to conspire a way to surround myself constantly with queer, crit theory sci fi geeks.)
Paula popped open a bottle of sparkling wine and we decided to order food delivered because that would be faster. The food arrived about two hours later after we’d been drinking sparkling wine with no food. It was around this time that I decided maybe I should look at a train schedule. And then I called up my dog sitter, Um, gosh, I’m really sorry. No, it’s ok if she goes without food for one night. Gosh. Sorry.
Paula’s kittens slept curled next to my feet. So cute!
And the nice thing about a a £123 ticket is that the return doesn’t need to be the same day. Huzzah.
I’ll post a scan of the magazine a week from Tuesday, when it’s no longer the current issue.

Not Buying It

There are no CDs on my xmas list this year. I love music, but I’m done with major record labels. I just read that the RIAA is trying to remove financial aid from college students who file share. Enough is enough. If they want to prevent fans from going to school, I’m going to prevent my money from going to their companies.
There are enough (real) indies and podcasts and the like to keep me in great music for years. Indeed, there is also Pandora, which requires no capital investment at all and keeps me in good music by analyzing what I say I like. It actually works and they have classical music now too.
Alas, Pandora is not a real break from the RIAA because they track music based on CD barcodes. Everything they play is therefore at least somewhat corporate. So I guess I’m giving their money to the RIAA (and indies) instead of mine. (And, alas, as I have no barcodes, I’ll never turn up in a playlist.)
Frankly, I’m highly displeased with the state of media distribution in America. I purchased Battlestar Galactica from the iTunes store – because I liked the show. It has great writing and acting, etc. And then I learned from the writer’s strike that none of the creative people are seeing any money form my purchases. I have not yet decided how to proceed. If I buy DVDs, the creative people get some revenue, but too little and I’m stuck with a bunch of media when I probably only want to watch an episode once. And I’m left without instant gratification. In fact, if nobody who does anything productive is getting money from my buying it online, why shouldn’t I just pirate it? The writers are getting the same amount whether I get it from bittorrent or iTunes.
So yeah, in solidarity with the writer’s strike, I’m doing a consumer strike. Screw the media companies.