update at the bottom of the post, edits made at 1:53 p.m.

Somehow, through some wrinkle in the space-time continuum, many of my friends have tween or teenagers. Most of them being at least middle class, they play musical instruments.

Some have formed or joined bands.

In addition to learning all the stuff that goes along with being a band, some of them are learning the sad, sexist, body-shaming gender politics of rock and roll.

A friend shared some screenshots of her young teenaged daughter’s facebook wall (with daughter’s permission).

I was saddened by what I saw, but I was also amazed and impressed by what I read. I asked if any of them wanted to write a guest post, but I didn’t get any takers. I did get permission to blog about what happened, as long as I hid all identities and didn’t quote anyone directly.

“Lucy” is lanky – she’s pretty tall and her mom says she averages a size 2. She’s kindof sortof maybe dating this boy. They know each other from school and extracurricular music activities. In the Fall he joined a rock band with some friends.

One of the mean kids posted this image on Lucy’s facebook wall, along with a note that she’d better do a New Year’s cleanse if she didn’t want him to dump her for a thin(ner) girl.


It’s an image makes the rounds a lot and I know very few female musicians (or women, in general) who think it’s cute, although when male musicians are called out on it they invariably fall back on the the “I know one chick who thinks it’s GREAT, so you all should” cliche.

That’s a post for another day…

I had no idea it was showing up on on twitter or fb as a tool of teenage repression. Lucy’s mom indicated that this wasn’t the first time Lucy had seen the image, it was merely the first time she’d been it’s target.

I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be hurt by this kind of public ridicule and body-shaming. What impressed me was the way Lucy’s friends stepped up and critiqued the hell out of the image and the message, instead of engaging in a flame war with the mean girls, who are apparently experts at wielding “thinspirational” images as weapons.

The primary issues that they called out the image for were:

Depicting males as musicians and girls as groupies.

They discussed at length how the boys in their music classes at school are encouraged to be in bands, but if they express interest they’re discouraged, even by some women they meet in bands who encourage them to be musicians but express ambivalent opinions about band participation.

Depicting male musicians as automatically have a higher status that doesn’t rely on physical appearance, while female musicians are held to different standards.

Lucy decided not to join a band because she hates the way famous female performers (and her female musician friends) are held to such ridiculous physical standards while males are given much more leeway about their appearance. Lucy’s best friend talked about how she sings and plays a number of instruments, but has been told more than once by boys that she should take up the the drums because that would hide her “fat ass.” She’s an extremely slim young woman who is active in several sports.


Fat-shaming the girl on the left.

They called this out, but it didn’t really need any explanation.

Slut-shaming the girl on the right.

They felt sorry for the girl on the right, who they read as seeking an identity based on associations not actual social connections. They also felt sorry for the boy in the picture, because they thought he was dumb to dump the girl who liked him for who he was just to go out with a girl who it’s implied only likes him for the status he confers on her.

I’m impressed that teenagers could offer such sophisticated readings of this image and it’s message(s) in the face of such ugly bullying, but I’m depressed that they need to do so.

I struggled for weeks over whether to include any size information about the girls being bullied. Ultimately, I left “Lucy’s” size to indicate that this kind of body-shaming happens no matter what size the girl is and whether or not she’s happy with her size. I changed the information about her friend to be more vague because her exact height and size were irrelevant to the story. If it matters to you, you’re missing the point altogether.

Original image source: unknown. I’m not linking it to the page it came from in the incident I describe in this post because I want to keep the identifying details to a minimum. I left the original file name, “no fat chicks” because I think it tells it’s own piece of the story.

Please clap.

Stephen Colbert (Comedy Central, 2014)

Years ago, I ran into Stephen Colbert on campus. We chatted for several minutes before I realized he wasn’t a coworker, but was instead a magical television friend. That was back in ye olde days when Colbert was a correspondent for The Daily Show.

(He was exiting the men’s room in our department, in that context, he was familiar but in the wrong context).

Little did I know that one day he’d be the First Lady of France!

On The Colbert Report last night, Colbert explained that he was French President François Hollande’s date for the White House State Dinner Tuesday night.

Colbert Report: White House State Dinner

Later in the episode, Colbert presented “Because Shep” – a Fun Sized serving of inspire lunacy in which Shep reviewed the State Dinner menu with viewers. If you don’t watch Fox regularly, you may not realize that the foods the Obamas eat are elitist and foreign, not at all like the (exact same foods) that Conservative leaders serve at formal dinners. There’s usually a lot of implied classism, with a crunchy undertone of bigotry, but today Shep turned the Fox Bumpkin routine up to 11 with truly divine results.


Colbert Report: Because Shep

Remember people, Smith is rumored to the smart one up there on Bullshit Mountain.

Image: Stephen Colbert (Comedy Central, 2014)

Please clap.

Abita is a haunting animated short that portrays the impact of the Fukushima tragedy on the children in the region.

Abita from Shoko Hara on Vimeo.

This film, which has such a clean and simple visual style, grows more haunting with repeated viewings. The sound design is particularly beautiful.

The filmmakers chose the dragonfly because it is symbolic of the island of Japan. They write, in answer to a viewer’s question about the symbolism, that the dragonfly “…symbolizes hope, perspective, dream, energy in Japan and it unites all the natural elements like water, earth and air….The Dragonfly represents the innerworld of the child, that it wants to be free in nature, but it can’t.”

Abita is a Graduate Thesis film by Shoko Hara and Paul Brenner.

New readers may be unaware of an incident in the Fall when “activists” (read: profiteers and hucksters) set their sights on my blog. Promoting fish farming in the Great Lakes with hysterical propaganda about the dangers of eating fish caught by indigenous commercial fisheries in the Pacific Northwest, making false or unverified health claims in an effort to sell affluent California parents anti-radiation pills for their children, and propagating a reframing of the nuclear disaster as an insidious plot to poison America topped the trolling topics hit parade.

In all of that noise, the plight of the vulnerable populations closest to the disaster are easily forgotten.

Please clap.

“Aerodynamics of the flying snake Chrysopelea paradisi: how a bluff body cross-sectional shape contributes to gliding performance.”

This research was partially supported by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) grant W911NF1010040 to J.J.S. and P.P.V.

I guess it turns out it wasn’t a secret.

Holden, Daniel, John J. Socha, Nicholas D. Cardwell, and Pavlos P. Vlachos. “Aerodynamics of the flying snake Chrysopelea paradisi: how a bluff body cross-sectional shape contributes to gliding performance.” Journal of Experimental Biology. (217):382-394. (available February 1, 2014)

Please clap.

trollI’m closing the comments but reserving the right to re-open them at a later date.

The comments you don’t ever see because I don’t even approve them aren’t constructive, useful, or worth the time I spend reading them.

I have a lot of funny, smart, insightful readers. They tell me they rarely comment because they fear the trolls. That makes me sad.

This blog is mostly a sketchpad for popular culture musings, outbursts about squirrels, and observations on the small absurdities of life. I rarely blog about my research on online communications, but I have to mention that I’m fascinated by the arguments trolls make for their behavior.

A perpetual favorite of mine is the nostalgic re-appropriation of American West mythology into a “Ye Olde Internet as Frontier” argument – a popular argument for maintaining the status quo in many domains, to be sure, but even more ridiculous, in my opinion, when applied to blogging.

“Our communication style (read: swarming schoolyard bullying) used to be the norm when the Internet was like the Wild West (read: people who had the privilege/financial ability to be online had a megaphone and majority for shouting down minority groups online) but now it’s all puppies and rainbows online (read: people call them on their shit) and we’re the only ones still speaking Truth.”

Simply because there are people pushing back against you now doesn’t make you a persecuted minority.

“I got away with it then, I should get away with it now!” is a poor justification for being a jackass. Anywhere. Full stop.

And, to be clear, adopting these tactics to troll trolls is, in my opinion, a bad practice.

Communications research is increasingly bearing out the hypothesis that trolling commenters are becoming bolder, more aggressive, and that their presence affects the ability of other readers to critically evaluate the information they read.

Curious about this? Here’s a fascinating study to get you started, from the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication: “The “Nasty Effect:” Online Incivility and Risk Perceptions of Emerging Technologies” (Ashley A. Anderson, Dominique Brossard, Dietram A. Scheufele, Michael A. Xenos, and Peter Ladwig. Article first published online: 19 FEB 2013 DOI: 10.1111/jcc4.12009).

My decision to cut off the comments is based on the less high-minded fact that I just don’t have the energy or patience to wade through all of the misogyny, creationism, and anti-science hysteria to decide what to approve and what to moderate.

You can still reach me on twitter, and I hope this change doesn’t end up being permanent, but for now that’s just the way it’s got to be.

Please clap.

I’ve been ignoring the links to the devil baby video on facebook because, up until a few minutes ago, I thought it was a promotional stunt for an energy drink. Apparently, based on how hard Husband is laughing at me, this is not the case. I think babies are demonic and I watch horror movies, so, um, maybe the marketing team was a little too oblique in their approach.

I suppose they’ve succeeded on some level, in that I’m sharing it. So, um, there you go. I guess.

Please clap.

Dr. Isis: On Waking Up From Your Fear of Academic Writing…

While directed at scientists, this post is applicable all academic creatures. Unless you’re a delicate flower & can’t handle profanity…in which case you should read this shit twice because you might actually need an extra dose of Dr. Isis’s character-building ass-kicking. Or not. Whatever. At the end of the day, only you can make you get your work done.

Please clap.

Yesterday, I posted about how puzzling it is that a clearly false story about Jenny McCarthy recanting her anti-vaccinating ways has caught fire on facebook.

Apparently, the New York Daily News couldn’t be bothered to look at the date on, or even read, that old Time Magazine article, either. Although the use the word “suggests” in reference to the Time article, the headline plays on her role as co-host of “The View” to reinforce the rumor that McCarthy is changing her tune about vaccines.

JENNY CHANGES HER ‘VIEW’ – January 5, 2014

Jenny McCarthy’s immunization bashing may be coming to an end. “The View” host, who rallied publicly about her belief that MMR shots caused her son, Evan’s, autism, was interviewed for a Time magazine article, which suggests her son instead suffers from Landau-Kleffner syndrome, “a rare childhood neurological disorder.” McCarthy had been a voice to help those with autism since Evan’s diagnosis in 2005.

They don’t even mention the intermediary blog post that started the whole rumor.

Please clap.

That sounds like the title of the worst children’s book ever written.

I’ve been mostly off the grid for the last few weeks, so I was surprised to see links to a 3 year old post about Jenny McCarthy at something called The Sports Pig’s Blog were sprouting on facebook like mushrooms. “Jenny McCarthy: My bad, turns out my kid doesn’t have autism.”

McCarthy’s latest tweet told a different story:

@jennymccarthy via twitlonger:
Stories circulating online, claiming that I said my son Evan may not have autism after all, are blatantly inaccurate and completely ridiculous. Evan was diagnosed with autism by the Autism Evaluation Clinic at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Hospital and was confirmed by the State of California (through their Regional Center). The implication that I have changed my position, that my child was not initially diagnosed with autism (and instead may suffer from Landau-Kleffner Syndrome), is both irresponsible and inaccurate. These stories cite a “new” Time Magazine interview with me, which was actually published in 2010, that never contained any such statements by me. Continued misrepresentations, such as these, only serve to open wounds of the many families who are courageously dealing with this disorder. Please know that I am taking every legal measure necessary to set this straight.


Here’s what the Sports Pig’s blog post states:

Now in a stunning article in Time magazine, it’s revealed that McCarthy’s son NEVER had autism in the first place. It turns out the boy had been misdiagnosed and really has a rare neurological disorder. Fortunately, the child is getting better and no longer displays any signs of autism. However, McCarthy has not apologized for her misdirected zealotry against having children vaccinated. Even if she did, APOLOGY NOT ACCEPTED.

Except that’s not what the Time article said.

Here’s an archived version of the original Time article: The Autism Debate: Who’s Afraid of Jenny McCarthy? by Karl Taro Greenfeld, published Thursday, February 25, 2010. The section in question is from the 2nd page:

She believes she did fix her boy. A psychological evaluation from UCLA’s neuropsychiatric hospital, dated May 10, 2005, was “conclusive for a diagnosis of Autistic Disorder,” and yet here, running toward us on a warm California afternoon, is Evan, shouting out, “Are you here to play with me? When are we going to play?” McCarthy’s boy is a vivacious, articulate and communicative child who seems to have beaten the condition. He is an inspiration, the fact of him as incontrovertible as any study done in any laboratory in the world.

Or is this the truth? There are dark murmurings from scientists and doctors asking, Was her son ever really autistic? Evan’s symptoms — heavy seizures, followed by marked improvement once the seizures were brought under control — are similar to those of Landau-Kleffner syndrome, a rare childhood neurological disorder that can also result in speech impairment and possible long-term neurological damage. Or, as other pediatricians have suggested, perhaps the miracle I have beheld is the quotidian miracle of childhood development: a delayed 2-year-old catching up by the time he is 7, a commonplace, routine occurrence, nothing more surprising than a short boy growing tall. It is enraging to the mother to hear that nothing was wrong with her boy — she held him during his seizures, saw his eyes roll up after he received his vaccines — and how can you say that she doesn’t know what she knows?

That’s not a scientific diagnosis. It’s conjecture by a journalist who repeats “dark murmurings” by unnamed scientists and doctors to identify a potential neurological disorder that this child could have.

I can’t imagine how painful this is for parents of autistic children who’ve suffered abused, guilt or fear as a direct result of McCarthy’s behavior. I certainly get why all parents would be incensed by the idea that McCarthy’s child was never autistic, why all people should be incensed by her actions.

I don’t know whether McCarthy’s child is autistic or not. No matter what, I feel for the poor child. What I’ve been perplexed about is why this story was suddenly mutating and rising from the dead.

I found this informative blog post by Jen Gunter: Jenny McCarthy is still anti-vaccine despite what you may have learned today on Reddit.

Ah, Reddit.

Today I learned: Jenny McCarthy’s son doesn’t even have autism. 1511 comments and it appears no one read the original Time article. I don’t honestly know, I skimmed the top comments and read the original poster’s ongoing defense of her link, but I didn’t invest a lot of time in the venture. (Yet).

It’s fascinating and bizarre how quickly this link to a dead sports blog has spread.

I blogged this because I’m interested in science communication and media literacy and I wanted to capture the evolution of this strange story before links started vanishing.

If you see this story mutating and/or being reported (on a media site, not someplace like your aunt diane’s facebook page), would you take a moment to leave me a note and link in my comments? Thanks!

In the meantime, if you want to read more about why McCarthy’s anti-vaccine crusade matters, here are a few links for your edification:

The New Yorker: “Jenny McCarthy’s Dangerous Views”

Slate, Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy Blog: “Vaccinating Against McCarthyism”>

Time Magazine: “Viruses Don’t Care About Your View: Why ABC Shouldn’t Have Hired Jenny McCarthy

The Jenny McCarthy Anti-Vaccine Body Count

Please clap.

image: meanlouise

A visit to Fort Myers beach (that included dinner with the JunglePete Family) before heading back up to Sarasota for some wandering around Lido Key was an excellent way for Husband and I to conclude a year that swooshed by incredibly fast.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go create a “true life 2014” category. Crazy.

Please clap.