Archive | January, 2010

How to report the news

30 Jan

I’m the first to admit that journalism is not as easy as it looks. Staying profitable while ethically addressing tough issues in a way that will be appealing to a wide audience is hard. That’s why so much journalism – television, print, and otherwise – is really, really awful. But there’s a silver lining! Without terrible journalism, we wouldn’t get hilarious videos like this one:

The plural of clitoris

30 Jan

…is clitorides. Did you know that? It’s a fact!* OK OK, maybe not a fact so much as that’s how you’d pluralize it in Latin, and you’re supposed to say “clitorises” in English, which really is rather dull, is it not? Plus, “clitordes” lends itself to all kinds of fun derivations, such as “clitoridean.”

As an aside, but a not altogether unimportant one, defines clitoris as “the erectile organ of the vulva, homologous to the penis of the male.” But look up penis, and you’ll find nary a mention of the clitoris. Instead, the penis is defined as “the male organ of copulation and, in mammals, of urinary excretion.”

Why is it that the clitoris is defined in terms of the penis, but the penis is defined in terms of itself?

*Note: Wikipedia link is NSFW, since it’s a page defining clitoris, and contains pictures of same.

State of the Blah Blah Blah

28 Jan

I was invited to a “State of the Union” drinking game last night, and I have to say I declined the invitation. Strangely, I think I would’ve gone had it been Dubya behind the pulpit.
Why? Because it’s way more fun to get drunk and rip on an easy target than it is to get drunk and have nuanced conversations with belligerent frat boys I’m way too old to be hanging out with anyway. Dubya was, at the least, a galvanizing president for we left-wing nuts, and a terrible speaker to boot. In his speeches lay endless potential for grammar gaffe-based shot-taking, and lots of opportunity for idealistic moral outrage, followed by earnest head-nodding and more shots.

Say what you will about ‘Bama, but the potential for fun is just not there. It’s hard for me to congratulate him on being a better speaker, since it’s not like he writes his own speeches (no leaders do, nor do they write their own books, which kind of makes critiquing any of them pointless in the first place but that’s a whole other topic); and it’s hard for me to care on any real level about his (or anyone’s) rhetoric, which is what speeches are.

Speeches tell you nothing about politics. Actions are what people should pay attention to; yet I am often called a philistine because I refuse to slavishly follow the media circus around political posturing. The problem with that line of thinking is that allowing your brain to be invaded by carefully crafted rhetoric (definition: language designed to please or persuade; loud, confused and empty talk) just leaves you more snowed than you were before, gifting you the ability only to parrot what you hear on TV. Who’s the philistine now, huh?

To the crazy person in the ladies room

26 Jan

She lies in wait until I arrive at the office in the mornings. She lurks in the hallway, waiting for me to go to the office bathroom. She waits until I’m all settled in in the corner stall, then she bursts in, slamming her way into the stall RIGHT NEXT TO MINE. Then she remains there for as long as possible, rattling the sanitary napkin disposal box, collecting what must surely be reams of toilet paper, flushing, zipping, unzipping, rustling, throat-clearing, nose-blowing, and all manner of strange noise-making.

To you, strange morning bathroom lady, I have but one thing to say:
There are three stalls in the bathroom. Why do you always pick the one right next to me? I always pick one by the wall, that way, when you come in, you can easily place a comfortable distance of one stall between us. But no. You consciously choose to put your little feeties right where I can see them beneath the door. I for one am tired of seeing your orthopedic footwear so up close and personal every day. Please, for the love of all things scatological, choose Door No. 3!

For more on the perils of the ladies room, visit this clever lady’s bloggie.

EVERBODY PANIC: Some women make more money than their husbands

19 Jan

I was punched in the face during my morning commute by Morning Edition’s oh-so-fresh take on that age-old problem, women making more money than men. ‘Cuz as we all know, the womenfolk TOTALLY have all the money and all the power.


See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for incontrovertible evidence. If you can look me in the face (or the blog, for that matter) and tell me there is no gender pay gap (not to mention racial pay gap), then I don’t want to be your friend anymore.

So, in light of any reasonable human being’s assessment of the facts, why the big story? NPR should have access to all the same statistics that a schmo like me has, right? But instead, they staidly teased the story thusly: “We’ll hear how marriages have changed since the 1970s, and how the fact that the growth of women in the workplace is TURNING MARRIAGE ON ITS HEAD!!!” The smarminess in the announcer’s voice was actually palpable.

The entire segment was built on anecdotal stories, not facts, figures or scientific studies. They interviewed a few whiny dudes who were all, “Man, it sucks not being able to tell my wife how to spend her money, since she makes so much more than I do. But it’s awesome having a sugar mama!”

They paid lip service to the ACTUAL, DOCUMENTED FACT that women make less than men on average by dedicating an entire fragment sentence to that. At the end, right before the “commercial” break where they name off all the call letters for every single NPR station in the entire Pacific Northwest.

Color me idealistic, but when a news organization starts covering “stories” I see teased in all caps on the covers of checkout-line magazines like Cosmo (when it’s not covered up to protect our young’uns fragile eyeballs from the corrupting POWER OF BOOBIES), I lose pretty much all my respect for them. Sure, some women make more money than their husbands. This is not news, nor something we can draw reasonable conclusions from without a great deal more study. To top it off, the way the story was presented it was grossly misleading: Interviewing a bunch of whiny assholes does not a news story make.

If you feel like having your mind polluted, read the full story here.

UPDATE: The New York Times covers this “story,” too, going so far as to call those unfortunates who’ve wound up making more money than their menfolk “victims.” Victims! Seriously! They close with this carefully chosen quote intended to scare ladies who might try to set their sights on a high-paying job:

“Ms. Zielinski … said her best friend, a man, told her once: “ ‘You are confident, have good credit, own your own business, travel around the world and are self-sufficient. What man is going to want you?’ “

X vs. Y, or, How I Learned to Love the Manly Double Helix

14 Jan

NPR aired a brief segment this morning on the evolving nature of the Y chromosome. Apparently:

“A few years ago, scientists began wondering whether [the Y chromosome] was in trouble. When they compared it to the X chromosome, which is carried by both men and women, the Y chromosome didn’t seem to measure up.”

When they say “didn’t measure up,” they mean that the Y chromosome has been shedding genes like crazy, and now has only 70 or 80 or so. Compare that to the X chromosome, which carries hundreds of genes. White science-y dudes everywhere are worried because the type of evolution the Y chromosome is doing – gene shedding – “can’t go on forever.”

But rather than delving into the implications of the incredible shrinking Y chromosome, NPR reporter David Page chose instead to wrap the package up with a neat little bow, concluding that the Y chromosome (which is really just a fun science-y way of saying menfolk) is a paragon of agility, and should be commended for its innovative evolutionary techniques.

Left unanswered were several questions any reasonable listener, and indeed any self-respecting journalist, would ask:

Why are the genes evolving in this disparate fashion?
Why can’t the gene-shedding carry on forever?
What happens if said gene-shedding continues? Do men become obsolete, or somehow less complete? Or do they just get EVEN MORE AWESOME, as the story would have us believe?
Why isn’t the X chromosome evolving this way?
What are the benefits and drawbacks of the different forms of evolution for these two genes?
What are the freakin’ implications, huh?

The story brought up more questions than answers – questions that the reporter could’ve easily used the segment’s two minutes of airtime to address, rather than just reassuring his male audience that they needn’t worry about obsolescence, but instead should congratulate themselves on their superior evolutionary skills.

White male scientist David Page, of MIT’s Whitehead Institute, summed it up this way:

“It shows quite a degree of inventiveness and creativity that maybe the rest of the genome could learn something from.”

Thanks for the edification, white guys! I guess I should set about training my inferior X chromosomes to adopt an unsustainable pattern of evolution, huh?

Listen to the full segment here.

Bootstrap confidential

12 Jan

Conforming to the lady-dress code is tough. Those of you who know me or have followed my bloggery for a while know that I find that walking the sartorial line of acceptability is both fascinating and infuriating. I’ve been subjected to a host of judgments based on my clothing choices, from lectures on the inadmissibility of tank tops in the workplace to unsolicited advice on how to “spice up” my wardrobe. How on earth a single human being can wear clothes that are both slutty and boring at the same time is beyond me, but so it goes.

What we sartorially clueless ladies really need is a handy reference book with diagrams showing where one’s hemlines, necklines, and otherlines must fall in order to achieve that perfect balance of “professional-yet-feminine, hip-yet-approachable.” Show too much cleavage/leg/midriff/body-part-of-the-minute, and you’re a slut. Not enough, you’re a prude.*

So for all my fellow clueless boot-wearin’ brethren, I made this handy chart** you can use in the morning when you oh-so-carefully pick out your footwear. After all, you wouldn’t want to send the wrong message, would you?

*Stay tuned for future drawings laying out sleeve length, hemline and neckline requirements.

**Height recommendations and corresponding perceptions subject to change without notice.




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