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Am I newly elite?

Charles Murray thinks there’s a new elite, out of touch with “ordinary Americans”. Claire Berlinski makes it a quiz. Other elitists say it’s worth spreading. I concur. So – how much of a new elitist am I?

  1. Can you talk about “Mad Men?” At length (Elitist)
  2. Can you talk about the “The Sopranos?” Not even kinda (Regular)
  3. Do you know who replaced Bob Barker on “The Price Is Right?” Yeah, apparently (I checked if I was right.) (Regular)
  4. Have you watched an Oprah show from beginning to end? No. (Elitist)
  5. Can you hold forth animatedly about yoga? Not really, but I can get really into how it’s co-opting a spiritual tradition that it has completely divorced itself from in the U.S. (We’ll call that “Elitist”)
  6. How about pilates? No idea. (Regular)
  7. How about skiing? I’ve been, once, but no. (Regular)
  8. Mountain biking? I’ve never actually biked on a mountain (Regular)
  9. Do you know who Jimmie Johnson is? No. (Elitist)
  10. Does the acronym MMA mean nothing to you? I know what MMA is. (Regular)
  11. Can you talk about books endlessly? Yes, but not necessarily informedly (Elitist)
  12. Have you ever read a “Left Behind” novel? No, but I’m not an evangelical Christian, so it doesn’t really appeal. Seems like an unfair metric (Elitist)
  13. How about a Harlequin romance? Does more male-targeted smut count? I think it should (Regular)
  14. Do you take interesting vacations? Yes. (Elitist)
  15. Do you know a great backpacking spot in the Sierra Nevada? I don’t even know a great backpacking spot locally. (Regular)
  16. What about an exquisite B&B overlooking Boothbay Harbor? I don’t know any great B&Bs. I know great places for brunch, though. (Regular)
  17. Would you be caught dead in an RV? I loved RV trips. It’s getting harder to rent them, though. (Elitist)
  18. Would you be caught dead on a cruise ship? Im going on a cruise and have been on a cruise, and haven’t paid for either (Regular)
  19. Have you ever heard of of Branson, Mo? I know of it – is there particular significance? (Regular)
  20. Have you ever attended a meeting of a Kiwanis Club? No (Elitist)
  21. How about the Rotary Club? No, though my scout troop was sponsored by a chapter. (Elitist)
  22. Have you lived for at least a year in a small town (not counting college)? I lived for a couple years as a pseudo-townie-cum-grad student in my college town. I think it counts. (Regular)
  23. Have you lived for a year in an urban neighborhood in which most of your neighbors did not have college degrees? Doubt it. (Elitist)
  24. Have you spent at least a year with a family income less than twice the poverty line (not including grad school)? No. (Elitist)
  25. Do you have a close friend who is an evangelical Christian? Yes. Why do Christians get a pass on elitism – “Left Behind” and now this. (Regular)
  26. Have you ever visited a factory floor? I feel like I have, but the fact that I can’t tell you which means “no”. (Elitist)
  27. Have you worked on one? No. (Elitist)

By this metric, my elitist yin and my regular joe yang are carefully balanced, leaning a bare minimum towards elite.

In seriousness, it’s fun to poke fun and banal and vacuous social analysis (for instance, Murray’s article ignores the definitional question of “mainstream America”) but seriously, the description the above quiz is based on is like a parody. I know many people who should in theory be members of this reviled “elite”, but I’m guessing I don’t know more than one person who would break a 75% on the above quiz, and they would all break different ways. We’re all connected some way. Creating the elitist strawman and then pointing at him screaming “AHH! It exists!” doesn’t actually tell us the truth about anything.

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Dangerous Advice

I’m not usually one to post about sex-related topics in this space, not least because my parents know where this blog is. (Hi Mom! If you’re reading this, please close your eyes and go on to the next post.) I would additionally like to preface this with the statement that you may find some of the following text pretty profoundly disturbing. That said…

As I was reading Google Reader’s recommended (i.e. popular) items, I came across AskMen.com’s Top 10 Female Sex Fantasies. I don’t know wy it’s popular, but I can say I found part of it shockingly irresponsible. In a magazine aimed at giving (straight) men sex advice:

“you may be surprised to know that many women want to do more than just fantasize. Some women spend just as much time hoping their men will help put their female sex fantasies into practice.”

“rape is a massively popular fantasy among women. Most psychologists believe this top 10 female sex fantasy allows a woman to have the wild, dirty sex she craves, without having to suffer the guilt that often follows. These female sex fantasies usually involve a gorgeous man carrying her off to his bedroom and quickly getting down to business. She’ll protest as he tears her clothing off and expertly arouses her body, but on the inside, she’ll love every minute of it.”

Really? Really? It’s now okay to publish stories that overtly encourage men to have their way with “their” woman, even over her vocal protests? “Don’t worry,” they say, “she’ll enjoy every minute of it.” Seriously, what. the. fuck.

Look, I don’t know anything about the prevalence of rape fantasies among women — honestly, I don’t see any evidence that the author does, either – she seems to be a sex columnist, but I’m not really sure what her sampling methodology or sources are for this supposed “top 10” ranking are — but whatever the prevalence, I can pretty much guess that if they were made real, no matter how “gorgeous” the man, it would not be an amazing turn on for her. It would be a profound violation that would leave a lasting and damaging effect. I’m not a woman, but I know a few, and I’m pretty sure they’d agree with me; if I’m wrong, please put me in my place – I’ll have learned something new. I fully believe that there is consumption of erotica and a healthy fantasy life around the subject of this kind “guilt-free” freak-nastiness, but this article practically instructs men that this is what women secretly want.

Listen, if this is something that you’ve discussed with your partner in the vein of a safe role-play or similar, vaya con dios. But for the love of everything good and right, don’t assume that this is any woman’s third favorite fantasy that she would like put into practice.

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Addenda

I’ve been discussing and re-reading my previous post, and realize that I may have left people with the wrong impression of my opinion. So here, in a more reasoned, and calm voice, let me clarify:

  1. I did not mean to imply that I believed that all white Arizonans are racists. I know many white Arizonans reviled the law and spoke out loudly against it. What I did mean to say was that the supporters of the law are inordinately going to be those who do not feel the burden that it introduces, those who look, nominally, “American”, and therefore while I don’t believe that almost all white Arizonans supported the law, I do assume that almost every Arizonan who supported the law was white.
  2. I did not mean to presume that I could ascribe motivations to everybody who supports the law – I don’t know them, they don’t know me. However, I do believe that regardless of motivations, support for that law is a prejudiced act. N.B. I am not saying that, a priori, all immigration reform law is prejudiced, just that supporting a law that places on people of dark skin the burden of proving their right to be where they are in a way that no segment of a free society should  be is prejudiced.
  3. Despite not claiming to know all their motivations, based on the public statements of supporters of the law, I feel confident making these claims about their motivations as a group: a.) some percentage of them are openly racist (probably a small number), b.) some percentage of them are implicitly racist (people who think “looking American”, means looking white – probably a larger number), c.) some percentage of them are so removed from being a minority that they don’t realize the burden this puts on people not like them (probably a larger number), and d.) some percentage of them are other. It’s possible there is some “other” category for whom it will make no difference, but for those other lines of reasoning, I believe exposure to the minorities they are hurting can help them get past their wrong-headedness. Unfortunately, AZ Senate 1070 will have the opposite effect (which will delight people people in groups (a) and (b)) because the natural inclination of anybody exposed to this level of hostility will be to avoid it. There is a reason I included the quote from Kris Kobach at the beginning of my post – the important words he didn’t mention are “guilty” or “illegal”. The reality is that if you ratchet up the enforcement on anybody, including the innocent, they will leave. The fact that this law increases enforcement against those who are here legally but who look different doesn’t seem to bother him or other proponents of the law, and so they clearly have no problem with the result that they are driving away law-abiding brown people. I think anybody who thinks that’s okay should be inundated with law abiding brown people. I think that people so far removed from seeing that brown Americans get no worse treatment than any other Americans should maybe meet a few brown Americans.

So in conclusion – brown people, flock to Arizona – don’t flock away. The people there who have no prejudice against you won’t mind. We can only hope that the people there who do will have a little less.

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Gmail, and Dealing With Notifications

Google Wave recently added email notifications, which I’m not sure is the best notification solution, but it’s a common one, and it works for the time being. However, it reminded me that I should take a look at how I handle notifications in my email. Having done so, I’d like to take a moment to share, in the hope that some people will be able to use this to their advantage.

I should start by saying that there are only really three sites I visit every day outside of work – my Gmail, Google Reader, and Twitter (through whatever client – lately it’s Seesmic). When I feel bored I’ll hit my Buzz tab, occasionally I’ll check the Livejournal ghost town, and I almost never visit Facebook. I still participate in some form or another on these an other forums, but in many cases because I have asked all relevant things to go to my email.

Of course, this grates on the ears of anybody trying the Inbox Zero philosophy, or really anybody who just has to deal with information overload. Indeed, my inbox used to get relatively cluttered with emails like “so-and-so is following you on twitter/has sent you a message/is growing a virtual tomato the size of your head” until my periodic cull-and-archive. But now, I have a way to make this information useful but ephemeral, and it’s thanks to some heavy filtering, and a couple Gmail labs.

To start, for each type of notification, I set up a filter and add a label. As an example, I have all email from the domain facebookmail.com go to the label “Facebook” and skip my inbox. (I’ve exported most of my notifier filters to this file, which you can import by enabling the “Filter import/export” lab in Gmail Labs and then clicking “Import filters” on the Filters Settings page.) This ensures that those notifications do not add to my unread count, don’t beep my phone, and generally stay out of my way. Of course, if I leave it at that, it also means that I never see them, which defeats the purpose of receiving them at all. To remedy this, I have enabled the “Multiple Inboxes” lab in Gmail, and then added a pane in the Multiple Inboxes settings called “notification” that searches for all unread messages in those labels, e.g.: “in:(buzznotify OR wavenotify OR voicmail OR latitudenotify OR facebook OR twitter OR livejournal OR events OR linkedin) is:unread”. Of course, if I didn’t care about differentiating the kinds of notifications, I could have just made all my filters set the label “notify” and set the pane search to: “in:notify is:unread”.

Once I’ve done this, my inbox has two panes – my “traditional” inbox, and a pane containing only my unread notifications. This notification pane usually doesn’t interfere, since it remains empty if I have no unread notifications. I personally keep my notifications pane at the top, but you can choose to put multiple inboxes below or next to your inbox – whatever works for you. Mine looks a little like this:

Try it out, let me know if you like it. Remember, reading a notification will remove it from your multiple inbox view, so if you want to keep it around a bit longer, either move it to your inbox, or mark it as unread.

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On Humour

From Websnark via tailsteak: this thread on Truth and Beauty Bombs is a stroke of genius.  I like to consider myself something of a student of humour, even if my jokes are terrible.  I still like to see what makes things funny, and what people do correctly and what people do incorrectly when expressing humour.  Removing Garfield’s thought bubbles is just sheer genius – it doesn’t insult the reader’s intelligence, and in so doing makes the joke that much more poignant.  Check it out.

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Test 1-2-3

Anything but that

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