The Flag of the city state of Singapore was designed by committee. It had to satisfy the Muslim population, so there's a crescent moon in it. It also had to satisfy the Chinese population, so it is both red and has stars. As flags, and compromises go, it's not bad. But recently the swim team from Singapore, competing in the Asia Games unconsciouly made clear the connection between nationalism and phallocentrism when they used the design of the flag for their swim trunks.
The always conservative and rather Victorian government has expressed outrage at the design, calling it inappropriate and lacking dignity. Some have called it obscene. Of course, I can only recall the motto of the Order of the Garter: Honi soit qui mal y pense, which means "the evil belongs to him who thinks it is evil." Sort of a medieval understanding of the psychological law of projection.
Certainly these swim suits say something about projection, but just what is projecting, well, I leave that up to you. I think the crescent moon looks like a horn, among other things, which also has phallic implications.
As a fashion statement, if the government of Singapore were smarter, they'd recognize they have a hot new export on their hands, and instead of calling out the team, they should be thanking them — and gearing up to sell these swim suits in stores worldwide. Or at least in Chelsea and Hells Kitchen.
Tomorrow night in New York there will be a rare screening of the 1968 British film If... as part of the Queer/Art/Film series so ably put together by Ira Sachs and Adam Baran. This film helped me get through my hellish high school experience — because even though I did not go to a British boy's boarding school and was never caned (or had my nipples twisted by a priest) I felt a complete identification with the students suffering in the stultifying atmosphere of the school in the film. And as a teen struggling with coming out one year pre-Stonewall the sub-plot in the film of a homosexual romance between two of the boys, presented without judgement — in fact presented romantically, I found the film transgressively thrilling.
Of course, the heroes of the film fight back against the school in a climax of bloody violence that makes Columbine look like a picnic — it was made at a time when revolt was in the air and student protests were taking place across the U.S. and Europe. But in the U.S. it was the students who were dying at the hands of the National Guard. In this film, Malcolm McDowell as Mick and his buddies take up arms and open fire on graduation ceremonies. For me, this was divine sublimation. I was that angry, but I certainly wasn't going to act out any of my fantasies of revenge. Today however, in a country where it's easy to get a gun, we actually have scenes like that in If... And they are not dramatically satisfying. They are tragic.
And everyone weeps for the fallen. But in the last few months, looking at the young suicides - those who killed themselves because they were tormented for their sexuality, real or percieved - I know that a suicide is rage turned inward, rage turned at a target where it will be effective since rage against bullies, schools, adults seems hopeless to these young people we have lost.
If... gave me courage to survive my high school years. And showed me an image of gay love that was casual, no big deal, just something that was simply right. More revolutionary that shooting prefects from a rooftop.
I haven't seen If... since the late 60s. In the last few years issues like Columbine and other acts like it have made me wonder if it were even more relevant today. Not because it made heroes of the boys who fought back, but it made it clear why they felt the need to do so. And with the recent increased coverage of lgbt youth suicide (I won't say increased suicide, because it's always been there, quiet and not covered by media with the serious it has always deserved) I find If... even more important to see and talk about in the lgbt community even here in the U.S.
Consider the case of Andrew Shrivell — a cyber-bully in a position of power. He might have been able to continue his insane attacks had not the recent events helped shine an light on his ugly little mind. But this is the tip of the iceberg, and like most icebergs, the vast majority of nastiness is below the radar screen and not covered by media. It is the living hell kids go through every day.
"It Gets Better" videos are a good thing. They give hope to those who have resources enough to find them. But it doesn't change day to day reality. And when you can members of Congress, and institutionalized religion on the side of bullies, it's no wonder teachers look the other way and our schools become our local version of Lord of the Flies.
The truth is that children are not comfortable with ambiguity at certain ages. They like certainty, categories, clarity, definition. And lgbt people upset those categories. Hell, there are adults who never grew out of the this childish need to see the world in black and white. Those of us who've been over the rainbow know there are all different shades in between and a whole universe of colors to play with. And that's nothing to be scared of — rather it is to be celebrated.
The problem with If... is that Columbine happened. And while I had revenge fantasies, I have no desire at all to shoot down the student body of Pat Robertson's Liberty University. I just want to shatter their color blinders.
I've been watching this Chrysler Town and Country commercial for months and every time I see it I am disturbed. It's clear the spot was directed so that the boy who jumps in his mother's van is running from a gang of boys who want to beat him up.
The voiceover suggests it's just a race home, though even in this challenge there is a note of menace.
You can see from the face of "Parker," the boy they are chasing, that he is running in fear.
What was the agency that made this thinking? It's bad enough that school teachers across the country turn a blind eye (or even participate) to bullying behavior. But for an ad agency, in this case, I believe it's Fallon since they're the agency of record for Chrysler, to run an ad which uses the situation to get attention (and entertain and sell) in the today's climate is irresponsible. Because while it's true this behavior is widespread, showing it in a commercial in this way normatizes it. Condones it, even as Parker manages to get away because of the hero product, and his clueless mom driving the Town and Country.
Chrysler should stop running this ad immediately. And both Chrysler and Fallon should be contributing serious money to organizations that combat the scourge of bullying and organizations that protect lgbt youth and youth at risk of bullying.
There has been enough written about this online for me to know now that I'm not the only person who sees this storyline. And some say that the voiceover track was changed from a more overt bullying situation. I wouldn't be surprised given the way the spot is directed. I would guess that the agency presented this to the client as an inexpensive fix to a bad mistake. Sorry guys, doesn't work. You ought to eat the cost, and reshoot a new spot. And pay for your mistake with support for bullied youth.
Take a look at the spot: do you see this the way I see it? And where the hell is GLAAD? After last week's awards to agencies for the good they do, why haven't they raised this as an issue?
Actor Erik Fellows wanders through the desert without a care how the sun will damage his skin. Why? Because he has the anti oxidant power of POM Wonderful. Ahem.
Okay, let me say I have been a customer. I actually seed pomegranates every week and put them on my cereal (along with blueberries). I drink pomegranate juice. I do this because there is anecdotal evidence for prostate health. However, last week the FTC finally woke up to its responsibilities and came down on POM for what they said were unsubstantiated claims. And heaven knows, POM does do its best to have people believe that their product will help protect men from prostate cancer. That it's 40% as effective as Viagra. Well, I think Erik Fellows on my TV screen (or anywhere in my home) would obviate the need for Viagra.
Now that POM is having trouble with their health claims, they've created some videos that get to the sexual potency claims without saying anything directly. Though in one ad they allude to the fruit's mythical status as an aphrodisiac. They also allude to the claims they can't make by saying "backed by modern science," but they don't say what claim is being backed up. This is classic weasel wording.
When I first started as a copywriter, I remember working on Cascade dish detergent. You know, it gets dishes VIRTUALLY spotless. Not spotless, virtually spotless. Almost. Because they can't make the full claim legally. UNSURPASSED is another weasel work: it means that the product being sold is equal to the competition — it's a parity product. The POM videos are beautiful examples of weasel wording.
These videos are beautifully shot. They use mythic imagery and eroticism to make the emotional association to the claims they can no longer say legally. And I suspect if POM had introduced their product with these video spots they would have become award winners, and given POM a classy image. They may yet do so. The spots certainly have what it takes to win some awards.
But nowadays, I get Marco Polo brand pomegranate juice. It costs a lot less, and isn't as sweet. And I know that unlike Persephone, even though I consume hundreds of pomegranate seeds in a week, I'm no prisoner of Hades.
You can see the full POM ad below, and you can read about the FTC complaint against POM here.
As broadcasters leave the airwaves, Wi-Fi providers are stepping in to the void to provide service across this spectrum that affords webcasting at a very high level.
The airwaves are a public trust. They are licensed and broadcasters pay for the right to use them. And they had to abide by fairness laws, and reserve time for educational, news and public service programming.
Now that this spectrum is being given over to webcasters (and you can be sure this means AT&T, Verizon and the rest) will they have to abide by laws updated for this technology? Because this is where net neutrality and Wi-Fi becomes a serious public debate.
Where does your elected representative stand on these issues?
There are hundreds of Facebook groups organized around political principles and action. I belong to some of them. A couple of weeks ago there was another Facebook firestorm when the Boycott BP page lost admin privileges. Facebook said it was a glitch and the page privileges were restored. Not so for the Target boycott page — and the paper with the business scoop behind it is Washington D.C.’s MetroWeekly: Facebook will be selling gift cards in Target stores this fall holiday season, so enabling a boycott through their platform directly goes against their business interests. And lets not forget that Facebook is a business.
The details were reported in USA Today:
The social-network giant is getting into the gift card business, starting Sunday, with Facebook Credits cards. The new Facebook gift cards will be available in values of $15, $25 and $50 at all of Target's 1,750 retail stores and at Target.com. Two or three more national retailers will start selling the cards in coming months. This will be the first time Facebook has had any presence in a retail store. Facebook already has an arrangement with online-payment services PayPal and MOL to purchase Facebook Credits.
How big a business is this? In today's New York Times, it is estimated that this year alone the market in Facebook credits will reach $835 million.
So it’s no surprise Facebook has disabled the administrative functions of groups that are organizing a boycott of Target in response to Target’s contributions to anti-gay politicians.
The Internet is a friend of the corporate oligarchy.
Facebook isn’t some non-profit service to the world community. Like Google, it is an advertising platform. Their value is in the private information they collect and use to help advertisers target prospects and customers.
In the world of advertising, when an advertiser asks for personal information from a prospect or customer there is always something called a value exchange. The customer gives up some personal information in return for an offer, a discount, something useful. Think of it as a trade.
Facebook is just such a trade — it has enabled half a billion people around the world to communicate in groups in ways that have never been possible. Of course, along the way, Facebook has collected enough personal information on all these people to make the secret police in any state quiver with desire. The Stasi would be envious of their info gathering ability.
Even without giving up specific information an MIT study last year demonstrated that Facebook friend connections could be used to determine with a strong degree of accuracy whether a man is gay even if he is in the closet.
An Unprecedented Level of Personal Information Given Freely Can Lead To Less Freedom
I am under no illusions when I use Facebook. Or Google for that matter. Just as I have given out information on this blog that could be used by a totalitarian government as evidence to imprison me for thought crimes and/or political beliefs, sexual practices, etc., my actions on Facebook and Google give corporations the information they need to imprison me in the net of the corporate oligarchy.
Remember, I’m an advertising executive. I like advertising. I believe it has a positive social role. I think the internet makes finding stuff I want amazingly easy — just last week I bought a book of Nepalese folktales from a publisher half a world away from their site. But search engines, or Facebook for that matter, like any tool, it can be used for ill. A hammer can be used to build a house or bash a head. And when you hold a hammer, you understand it’s possibility to do both those things.
When you use Facebook, you may not think about how it can be used against you. Many young people have learned already that posting photos of drunken student antics have ruined employment possibilities. That’s because today, human resources departments don’t need to seek references — they can simply Google your name and see whatever might be online. This is not news. What was news the other weeks was when Google head Eric Schmidt joked about it suggesting people change their names legally if they wanted to hide their past internet indiscretions.
Facebook as a public utility rather than a business — First Amendment rights should apply.
So Facebook has an economic interest in making sure Facebook users shop at Target. And they have an interest in making sure no one can use their service to spread information about a Target boycott.
However, when a service like Facebook becomes so ubiquitous as to have taken on the role as public square, we have to claim our role as citizens — not consumers. Facebook in fact is denying the right of free speech. Not unlike a shopping mall tries to deny political speech in mall common areas.
The public square, and the streets, as public property are protected by the First Amendment. Facebook however, is a corporation, and users give up their rights to use the service. This is the creeping danger of corporate media and the web.
Broadcasters, because they are licensed by the state to use the airwaves (how quaint a thought, airwaves) which belong to the public, must abide by certain rules — from providing community and educational programming as well as free advertising time for public service messages.
Webcasters like Facebook do not seem to have these restrictions — even though the infrastructure for the Internet was developed by the federal government. And while it has evolved far beyond that original infrastructure, the internet, like the airwaves, are a public trust. And corporate webcasters like Facebook should be subject to fairness doctrines just as broadcasters were — I saw were because if there were still a fairness doctrine Fox news would not exist. And while I don’t believe in censorship, I do believe that since Fox news is really propaganda and nothing else their license to broadcast should be revoked. The fairness doctrine must be restored to broadcasting.
The internet, since it was developed by the government, is a public trust, and net neutrality must be maintained.
The internet, as a public trust, is also a place where the rights around public speech must hold.
These are bedrock principles we as citizens (and lets remember our role and responsibility as citizens instead of the role we have been assigned by the corporate oligarchy as mere consumers) must demand are enforced by our elected officials before they are completely bought out.
Shai Gortler, a gay activist wants to see the LGBT community work with and on behalf of other marginalized communities in Israel such as Arabs, people with disabilities and manual laborers. "No one is free if not everyone is free," he says.
These brave citizens speak candidly about difficult circumstances that some service people have found more stressful than battle.
As DADT lumbers slowly towards repeal, you might think this film will be just another bit of history — documenting the past. However, what makes this film a moving portrait of LGBT Americans is how it captures the strong bond they feel towards the Naval Academy. And how it shows the many positive ways the Naval Academy shaped their character.
will be shown with Silent Partners, documenting how DADT affects the lives of
the partners of 3 deployed service
members and the screening is sponsored the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
If you don't check in regularly at Mark Fiore's site to see his weekly animated political cartoons, you're really missing something. Like this for example: