I really must insist that you kids get off my lawn.

June 14, 2008

That’s it, hipsters. I used to tolerate your presence. At times I even found you an amusing diversion. Yes, some of our fashion tastes overlap slightly, but I buy my western shirts at actual feed supply stores in the West, and the only bandanas I’ve ever purchased are used by my father. Who blows his nose on them. And we may share some of the same taste in music, but I’m also unashamed of my more mainstream tastes.

At first I thought you were harmless, hipsters. Oh, sure, your fashion sense and tendencies toward the mullet have sadly infiltrated some of the (previously) attractive lesbians my age, but really that only hurts my tender sensibilities. I can even forgive your taste in beer, because you’re supporting the sagging American economy by keeping Pabst Blue Ribbon in business.

But then I came home at eleven last night to a cringe of hipsters* on my front stoop, and I knew something had gone horribly wrong.

*Pod of whales, murder of crows, herd of sheep… cringe of hipsters. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Neighbor:

December 7, 2007

I’m sorry if I woke you or your kids up this morning when I rang the doorbell. I was just trying to make sure you got the bag of trash I left on your stoop. And I’m sorry if I raised my voice–we were talking over your intercom, and that inspired me to behave like someone making an international call who foolishly believes that yelling will help get my conversation over the Atlantic Ocean.

You might not be aware of this, but we’ve had a bit of a trash problem for some time now. In fact, we’ve had a trash problem since I moved in 18 months ago. People leave diapers in our bins, throw fast food leftovers on the asphalt, and leave gigantic black trash bags amongst our own garbage. After a quick survey of our apartment, we established that none of us have had a baby recently, and none of us use black trash bags. We’d suspected the culprits might live in your apartment, but our suspicions weren’t really confirmed until those jack-o-lantern leaf bags from your front stoop ended up in our trash cans shortly after Halloween. (We returned those to you, too–hope you got them back intact!)

I’m not trying to blame all the mess on you. I believed you when you said the people on the third floor have been dumping there, because I’ve often seen their small child dangling out the third floor window tossing packing material and mops in the general direction of our trash cans, and I’m just the kind of judgmental asshole who thinks that people who leave their remarkably foul-mouthed four year old unattended might be capable of ditching their trash in a neighbor’s cans. But I’m also the kind of asshole who reads, and the piece of mail on top of the bag I found this morning? That was addressed to your apartment, not the third floor.

You mentioned that your kids are the ones taking out the trash. I commend you for trying to instill a sense of personal responsibility in your children. It would be pretty awesome, though, if you could try to teach your kids a little bit about personal property, and show them the clearly posted sign on our gate where our address is written.

Look, I get it. There are a lot of people in your apartment complex, and that means a lot of trash every week. I’ve seen something like six cans in front of your door on trash day, with several loose bags besides. I’m sure it’s a hassle to get all those cans to the curb, and I realize our cans are just steps away from your door. But you don’t seem to realize that because we have an uncovered trash area right off the street, we already have to deal with random pedestrians tossing their refuse onto our back porch. And the last time my roommate went out there with rubber gloves and meticulously cleaned the area, it was back to looking like a dump the very next day. So you’ll forgive me if I get a little huffy when you suggest it’s our fault that the sidewalk we share sometimes looks like a pigsty.

Look, if you’re going to keep dumping in our cans, could you at least take out the trash more often so the bags aren’t so damn heavy? When they’re heavy they rip, and when they rip we get Froot Loops all over the sidewalk. And we don’t even eat Froot Loops.



You, sir, are an ass basket.

June 1, 2007

So. I’ve been bad at blogging lately, for a variety of reasons–allergies have totally knocked me out, I’m now the sole owner of my NetFlix account and bumped up to four movies at a time, and I’m back to 35 hours at work. I assume my modest readership isn’t too put out.

I have been reading a lot lately, though, so expect something about Nobody Passes and Whipping Girl soon.

In the meantime, though, I’ve been thinking about blog civility. After wading through ridiculous reviews of The Feminist Mystique for a paper, the Sig Fig asked me how I can handle reading comments on the various blogs I frequent. It’s a fair question; internet anonymity really lets loose the hounds of hell, and a lot of them seem to share my taste in blogs. But just as I was able to stomach conservative talk radio in high school, somehow I can stomach even the worst of blog commenters. (Although I don’t spend as much time yelling “YOU IDIOT! SHUT THE &%$# UP!” at my computer as I did at my radio.) Sometimes you just want to get really riled up. I truly believe that getting really, really angry can actually help clarify one’s own beliefs.

On the other hand, it does really bother me that so many people seem perfectly willing to be rude, threatening, and downright abusive online when they would probably never consider saying the same things face to face. I don’t want to say that these people are overwhelmingly conservative, because I mostly read progressive blogs; I’m sure there are some outstandingly rude liberals who frequent conservative blogs. Regardless, here are three of my least favorite commenter tactics:

1. “You misplaced a comma/used the wrong homonym/misspelled a word. Learn to fucking read, asshole.” Now, I admit that occasionally I run across a comment that is so poorly written as to be nearly indecipherable. But the bulk of comments that get criticized for grammatical or syntactical errors are usually full of pretty common mistakes, and it’s really rude to accuse someone of illiteracy just because s/he uses the wrong “their”or something. (Not to mention insensitive to the issue of actual literacy and learning issues.) And if a comment is generally understandable but has a few typos or whatever, responding only as the Grammar Police rather than to substantive points (or a lack thereof) stagnates discussion.

2. “You’re a total asshole, so I’m not even going to listen to you. Asshole.” Now, really, what does this accomplish, Mr. Pot? I absolutely think we should call people out for being racist, homophobic, misogynist, and on and on–but resorting to name-calling, rather than clearly spelling out why certain views are despicable, really only adds fuel to the fire. If someone already hates on women, for instance, having a woman call him an asshole is only going to confirm his belief that women are bitchy. I’m not trying to be a prude or anything, but insults without substantive criticisms attached are pretty useless.

3. “Apparently you ladies have learned nothing from the Duke lacrosse case.” This just happens to be the most salient example, but I see people pull this all the time with other incidents. “Ohmigod! I have this friend who really loves gangbangs. How can you say porn is demeaning and unrealistic?” “Ohmigod! I read an article about a Jewish country club. Racism is totally dead!” “Ohmigod! Giraffes! Bananas.” The third one I haven’t actually seen anywhere, but the first two seem pretty common. It’s a simple equation: Irrelevant or exceptional example + smug superiority = stop talking about this thing, because it makes me uncomfortable. Also, it’s just really annoying to keep bringing up Duke Lacrosse as some kind of shining example.

If I can pick, I’d prefer to be a screwdriver.

March 8, 2007

Man. Two posts involving the Crimson in rapid succession. I generally don’t like to blog this much about Harvard, but, well, it’s been a busy day.

The comments thread following this column erupted when I suggested that homophobia still exists on the Harvard campus. (Disclaimer: I originally did so by using the example of an undergrad who was assaulted two years ago by two non-Harvardians who first yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him. It’s clear that in doing so, I knowingly misinterpreted another commenter’s wording–“on campus”–to mean “everyone who interacts with the Harvard campus,” not “Harvard students.” I later admitted this was wrong of me, and apologized for making the thread more inflammatory than it needed to be.)

This isn’t actually what the column itself was about. Basically, the author makes a distinction between funny homophobic jokes (like those shared by friends) and actually hurtful homophobia, and asserts that queer activists need to better recognize that distinction. I can’t say I really disagree with any of that, although it does open the door for the usual “Ooooh, see, gay people call each other names all the time! It must be okay when I do it!” argument that always seems to follow any discussion of in-group language otherwise prohibited in polite speech.

What I was actually responding to was a commenter, who interpreted the column as saying “homophobia is pretty much gone at Harvard, so everybody needs to stop getting their panties in a knot and focus on more important things, like marriage equality.”

Here are the things I love about this thread:

1) The ol’ “Let me tell you the things you should think are important” ploy. Always fun from an outsider (I’m making an assumption here based on that commenter’s wording that s/he doesn’t identify as part of the queer community), especially when the group in question is already directing energy toward those “important” things. (Not enough, apparently.)

2) The fact that someone felt the need to repeatedly sign him or herself off with variations on “mk is a tool.”

3) People who put phrases in all caps telling me I need to chill.

4) Being accused of being “one of those loud people that always scream about how bad the Harvard community is, when in fact [I’m] only making it worse.”

I love it when anonymous blog posters call me names. Granted, being called a tool ain’t half bad. It happens to be one of my favorite insults (second only to “assbasket,” which I largely reserve for close friends) and it’s pretty innocuous, relatively speaking. But I’d bet money that if we were having this conversation in person, things would be way more polite.

I also love that pointing out that homophobia exists on the Harvard campus makes me a negative, divisive screamer who only complains about how bad Harvard is. Seriously?