sleeping alone and starting out early

an occasional blog on culture, education, new media, and the social revolution. soon to be moved from http://jennamcwilliams.blogspot.com.

Archive for the ‘awesome’ Category

omg I just talked to Howard Rheingold

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on June 16, 2010

You can keep your Robert Pattinsons and Miley Cyruses and whichever other beautiful prepubescent sexy people you young people idolize these days. My idols are people like these folks:

That guy in the lower lefthand corner is Howard Rheingold, who is by just about all accounts one of the kindest, happiest, most curious, most fascinating, most colorful, and most thought-provoking media theorists around. (If you want proof, take a look at this little gem of his writing.)

Because Howard is kind and supportive of other aspiring intellectuals, I’ve had email conversations and twitter conversations and blog conversations with Howard. There’s this interesting feature of the new technologies that swell around us, see: They efface the distance–perceived and real–between our idols and our selves. If you’re patient enough and quick enough, you can use these new technologies to climb right up on the pedestals your heroes are standing on and tap them on the shoulder.

And today in a webchat I got to talk to Howard–with my voice–about crap detection, participatory culture, and pedagogy. It. Was. Awesome.

It may soon enough be the case that the structures and norms that allowed us to toss up celebrities and intellectuals as cultural heroes–well, it may soon enough be the case that those structures crumble, leaving our heroes in the rubble at our feet. I’m young enough to hope it’ll happen in my lifetime but old enough that I may not be able to fully shake the notion of the celebrity as icon. After all, I grew up alongside this:

And yes, I know that a huge chunk of Americans have never even heard of Howard Rheingold (or Lisa Delpit or Paulo Freire or Jim Gee or Henry Jenkins or Yasmin Kafai) and that these people don’t count as ‘celebrities,’ as least not in the “zomg the paparazzi are everywhere” sense. I don’t care. As Intel explains, our rock stars aren’t like your rock stars.

Advertisements

Posted in academia, academics, awesome, blogging, fannish, Henry Jenkins, Howard Rheingold, Jim Gee, joy | 2 Comments »

how I kicked the email monkey off my back

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on June 16, 2010

I receive about 100 emails a day, which from what I can tell is typical for youngish, tech-based professionals like me. Also typical is my struggle to manage my email inbox. Like a lot of people, I spent more time wringing my hands over how full my inbox was or studiously avoiding dealing with my email or doing email-filter acrobatics than I did actually responding to email.

No longer, I tell you! My PLN has come through for me once again!

After a long weekend away from my email, my higher-than-average email stress levels led me to call out in anguish for help:

I got lots of helpful advice, but the most helpful of all came from my Twitter pal Matt Thomas, who directed me to Gina Trapani’s solution: Control your email inbox with three folders.

I spent a few hours yesterday implementing this solution, with one important result: I got my inbox down to zero for the first time in literally years. As anyone in similar straits can imagine, the sight of an empty inbox left me feeling gloriously unburdened and a little giddy.

Who knows if it’ll last? But just in case it does–and just in case Trapani’s strategy can help someone else deal with inbox overload–I’m passing the news along.

Posted in academia, awesome, graduate school, productivity | Leave a Comment »

Pink, "Funhouse"

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on May 29, 2010

This is Pink’s video for her 2008 song “Funhouse,” from her studio album of the same name. Apparently, this album’s original title was “Heartbreak is a Motherfucker,” which would have made me so happy if it had stuck.

This is such an awesome video that it makes me want to light things on fire. I can’t help but point out my two favorite moments, both facial expressions, at  :43 and 2:40.

Enjoy.

Posted in awesome, beauty, creativity, evil clowns, gender politics, music | Leave a Comment »

Jay Smooth on people who act like they don’t pay attention to politics because they’re smarter than the rest of us

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on May 12, 2010

Here’s Jay Smooth smacking down people who say they don’t pay attention to politics because every politician is the same, nothing changes, etc.:

“You can’t be on the Know-Nothing team all season and then put on the Know-Everything jersey at playoff time. That’s your team. Stay over there. If you never pay attention to politics, then you don’t get to come over here and tell me how politics affects my life.”

Get mad at ignorant people. Visit Jay Smooth’s site, ill doctrine.

Posted in awesome, elections, politics | 1 Comment »

ice cold hands taking hold of me: planning for the Supernatural season finale

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on May 7, 2010

Next Thursday, May 13, at 9:00 ET, the season finale of Supernatural will air. I cannot tell you how excited I am about this. I’ve spent a lot of time pretending like I don’t care about Supernatural, just in case they find out and decide to cancel it on me as they like to do every time they learn about something I love.

But this is one of the best shows on broadcast television right now, and what thrills me most of all is thinking about how much this show has evolved. In the early days, it really was a show about a pair of ghost-hunting brothers who chased supernatural beings around. It didn’t even appear to be particularly courageous in those early days. The first time Dean Winchester died, back in season 2, he asked the reaper who had come to claim him what death was like. “Oh no,” she said. “No spoilers.” You figure, yeah, nobody wants to touch that one.

I shake my head and laugh in disbelief at 2006 me who thought Supernatural would take the safe road. Since then, we’ve seen heaven. We’ve seen hell. We’ve seen angels and demons and we’ve learned God’s backstory.

And you guys, this isn’t even the neatest thing about Supernatural.

The neatest thing is the evolution of the relationship between the Winchester brothers. They really did have hopes and plans for their lives, and everything got railroaded by a series of events that were out of their control. They hate each other for it, and they love each other desperately. And they squabble, and they nag, and they fight the hounds of hell to save each other, and they act as if they understand each other perfectly, even if they can’t see each other clearly. It’s beautiful and tragic and true to the dysfunction of life.

I wish I could embed an example here, but CW, the channel that airs Supernatural, has found a way to keep most clipes unembeddable. Instead, I’ll show you three clips that I can embed here: The promo that aired before ths season began, featuring Ralph Stanley’s song “O Death,” followed by the trailer for the season finale, also featuring Ralph Stanley’s song. Then the last clip is a music video that aired at the end of an episode this season. I’m including it because it makes me happy.

And here’s the music video.

Posted in awesome, beauty, creativity, fannish, television | 1 Comment »

best. live performance. ever.

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on April 24, 2010

I just got back from a show starring the Indigo Girls, with a special appearance by a band I’d never heard of. The group is called Girlyman, and they are drop-dead fantastic. They knocked us all absolutely dead, and it was obvious that the Indigo Girls, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, had a great deal of respect for these guys.

Here’s a vid of one of their recent songs, “Young James Dean.” In the live performance, they also had a drummer, JJ Jones, who added a nice kick to their sound. You might want to consider checking them out if they come to a town near you.

Posted in awesome, creativity, gay rights, gender politics, human rights, music | 1 Comment »

my mom gets on CNN

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on April 12, 2010

I recently published a post about my mom, Janet McWilliams, who has been fighting an excessively high water bill and has had a great deal of trouble getting local officials to respond to her attempts to communicate about the bill. After months of trying to communicate with township officials about her bill, she got tired of getting stonewalled and turned to local news media.

A letter to the editor of the local newspaper led to an article in the same newspaper, which led to a television interview with local news affiliate WDIV, which led to distribution across multiple national networks, including MSNBC and CNN. The video below ran on local stations, and clips from this video have been running on CNN’s Headline News for the last two days.

Despite the media attention, my mom hasn’t heard a thing from her local officials, who were also apparently contacted by the various media outlets and were not available for comment. I’ve also contacted several local and state officials about the issue and haven’t heard back. I’ll let you know if anyone does manage to get a response from those folks, but don’t hold your breath.

For now, enjoy my mom’s moment in the sun!

Posted in awesome, journalism, television | Leave a Comment »

how to make like an ally

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on April 11, 2010

You read Sady Doyle’s blog Tiger Beatdown, right? Everybody reads Sady Doyle’s blog Tiger Beatdown. If you’ve never been to this site, may I suggest you leave my blog immediately in order to immerse yourself in the glory and ladyrage that is Tiger Beatdown? Here, I’ll even do something I never ever do: I’ll give you a link to her blog that takes you directly away from my blog and deposits you at her blog, which if you haven’t read her blog is actually where you belong anyway.

Today I want to direct your attention to the most recent Tiger Beatdown post, which is about feminist allies and offers a nice description, in the person of one Freddie de Boer, of how not to be an ally. Freddie, it appears, is Sady Doyle’s enemy in the worst way: He explains that, as a feminist man, he’s tired of being silenced by feminist women who purport to have more right to speak about sexism than he does!

Well, Sady gives ol’ Freddie a glorious smackdown, which I’m sure he has already interpreted as yet another example of why we shouldn’t let ladies speak their minds. In the middle of her smackdown, Sady offers up what I consider to be most excellent advice for anybody who wants to serve as an ally to a marginalized group. I’m going to include an abridged version of her advice below, though this should in no way hinder your intention to read the entire post in its gorgeous entirety.

Sady writes:

A common phrase, which just about every ally has ever heard or been instructed to heed, is, “if it’s not about you, don’t make it about you.” That is: If someone is describing a gross, oppressive behavior that some people in your privileged group engage in, then there is no reason to get defensive unless you personally engage in that behavior, in which case you need to stop complaining about your hurt feelings and focus on how quickly and completely you can cut that shit out. And rushing to the defense of people who do engage in the oppressive behavior, even if you don’t engage in it, is not acceptable, because you’re showing solidarity with your privilege, rather than with the people who are being hurt or oppressed. There is no better way to announce that you seriously don’t care about racism than to leap to the defense of some racist-ass people and ask people of color to stop talking about them in such a critical tone, for example.

To illustrate what the ally behavior Sady describes above actually looks like on the ground, I want to tell a story about my friend Adam, in whom I recently–and unexpectedly–found an ally.

I have a history of being a woman, and I also have a history of being involved in romantic relationships with women. I talk about the first thing all. the. effing. time. I haven’t done much talking about the second thing, though I’m proud to announce that I’m getting better at talking about it.

I was out with a group of friends a few nights ago and decided to talk about it. Specifically, I decided to talk about my tendency to judge people who affiliate with organizations that make it their business to try to keep gay people as unhappy and unable to live freely and without risk of personal or psychological harm as possible. (I do not accept ignorance or political apathy as an excuse, in case you were wondering.) Uproar ensued around the table, which was filled with people who to my knowledge did not have any history of dating people of the same gender. Everybody wanted to weigh in on whether I was right or wrong to judge others. Everybody wanted to weigh in on whether I was being closed minded. Which was fine with me, really. These guys are my friends, and they seem to like me an awful lot, and I wasn’t mad or upset or anything. I was interested in learning how each of my friends (some of whom belong to their own marginalized–or even doubly marginalized–groups) understood the notion of marginalization. I was intensely interested in fighting about this issue for as long as they were willing to fight.

But Adam, who I believe to be a straight white man, did something I didn’t expect: He acted as my ally. He participated in the conversation, but he mainly did so to help me to clarify my stance and open up space for me to speak. He did this so gracefully and so intelligently that I assumed he agreed with me but only later realized I actually don’t know his opinion on my stance toward people who affiliate with anti-gay organizations. I don’t think he ever weighed in.

Adam is a classmate, and he’s near the end of his graduate career. In class, he’s kinda pushy and extremely talkative; he tends to dominate discussions and it’s sometimes hard to get a word in. But on the other hand, he knows an awful lot about his field and has a lot to say about it.

So I know Adam can dominate a conversation, which means that in Friday night’s discussion, he chose to stand back in order to give me more room to speak.

This is Adam:

Adam knows a thing or two about how to listen. Adam is an ally. I didn’t thank him on Friday night, so Adam, consider this my thanks.

Posted in awesome, bigotry, feminism, gay rights, gender politics, graduate school, human rights | Leave a Comment »

Time Lords walk among us

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on April 2, 2010

There are, it appears, Time Lords living among us.

According to this recent New Scientist article, up to 2 percent of the population is gifted with what’s called “time-space synaesthesia,” or the ability to see time as a spatial construct.

Here’s how the article describes this gift:

“In general, these individuals perceive months of the year in circular shapes, usually just as an image inside their mind’s eye,” says David Brang of the department of psychology at the University of California, San Diego.
“These calendars occur in almost any possible shape, and many of the synaesthetes actually experience the calendar projected out into the real world.”
One of Brang’s subjects was able to see the year as a circular ring surrounding her body. The “ring” rotated clockwise throughout the year so that the current month was always inside her chest with the previous month right in front of her chest.

For reasons I can’t understand, this article was accompanied by a photo of Matt Smith, the actor who will be portraying the 11th iteration of The Doctor, when it’s clear that a more accurate summary of this research would be accompanied by a photo of the real doctor, played by David Tennant.

There’s also no word yet on whether time-space synaesthetes are capable of absorbing radiation and expelling it through their shoe, outsmarting the Slitheen, the Daleks, and the Cybermen, or showing us all a better way to live our lives.

Doctor Who fanvid by seduff.

Posted in awesome, Doctor Who, science | Leave a Comment »