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Federal Judge Vaughn Walker performed one of the most rational smackdowns I've ever seen in his ruling overturning California's Proposition 8 yesterday. The ruling is worth reading (though if you can't spare the time for all 138 pages, do at least read through some of the findings of fact, half of which have been helpfully summed at the Yes Means Yes blog or in full in the ruling itself on pages 56 thru 111, and read through Judge Walker's conclusions starting on page 111 and running through to the end at 138.

You can also wander over to my other blog and read my full commentary on the Prop 8 ruling if you so fancy. (Also, for anyone who wants to follow the other blog on LJ automatically, I created a Livejournal Syndicated account for it you can follow and see any posts there in your LJ feed here.)

Also: I just now saw that Elena Kagan has been confirmed to the Supreme Court! :D

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Oh hey there Livejournal. Did you miss me? It's been almost two weeks since last we spent some quality time together.

  • Wedding came and went, and aside from some (frankly ridiculous) interpersonal hiccups from within the groom's side of the bridal party and a minor music glitch at the ceremony, things went swimmingly. It was very strange to be sitting at the head table, though, elevated above the rest of the tables. It felt very VIP.

    There was a Scrabble theme at the reception, complete with awesome Scrabble cake and a plethora of loose tiles spread around each of the tables. Probably unsurprisingly, it was not long before some gutter-minded individuals started up a dirty word/sex Scrabble challenge that ultimately used up every tile in the place. At one point half around half the guests were crowded around the table (and not just the young ones, either) brainstorming naughty things to add.

    Also! I got to drive an awesome car for the weekend. The bride and groom rented two Mustang convertibles, and I was in charge of one of them. :D :D :D And, since the ceremony was 45 minutes out of the city, I got to drive it on the highway! VROOOOOOOOOOM!! It was sad to return it on Sunday morning.

  • It was really awesome to see my friend L again, who came up for the wedding. I hadn't seen her in five years, and the last time she was up it was while I was still in theatre school and smack dab in the middle of the biggest show Grant MacEwan had ever put on, so I only saw her for about an hour after a disastrous dress rehearsal and when I'd been awake for something like 36 hours straight. Not exactly a quality visit, so this time around it was great to take a few days off and actually get to talk and hang out, even though there was a lot of wedding crazy going on. Excited that she's going to school in Vancouver this year, which is significantly closer-to than New Brunswick, so I'm certain I'll see her again within the year.

  • As anticipated, the iPhone 4 is likely going to be released in Canada while I'm on vacation in Vancouver. This means I'll probably have to wait an extra week to get my gimmie hands on it. :c This is especially annoying considering the iOS update, while awesome in many ways, is tediously slow on the 3G.

    In other iPhone related news, my mother just bought one, which means Apple owns the full Saunders set. Also, she's discovered (and is quite enthusiastic about) text messaging, and I am apparently one of her "fab five" or something. Uh oh.

  • Fringe meeting with my writer/actor last week! I'm excited for the show, and pumped to be doing some theatre again! The script is still in rewrites, but it seems like there will be some fun sound design and perhaps even some projection work. Hoping to do photos for the poster and marketing materials soon, maybe next weekend.

  • Wrote a post at about the research in Florida on engineering female babies in utero to be heterosexual and more stereotypically feminine that I haven't formatted for LJ yet. I also talk a little about the clitoral surgeries going on at Cornell.

    I'm likely going to start fake-cutting posts like this over to the other blog rather than duplicating them here in their entirety. There are two reasons for this: the first is that formatting longer editorial pieces like this takes long enough the first go-around, and having to do it twice is a massive pain the ass; the second is that, while duplicating content is more convenient for readers here, it's kind of an SEO no-no.

  • The YEGfeminist group I'm trying to get off the ground is having its first meet'n'greet social tomorrow, and there are actually people coming! :D Pumped to meet feminists in Edmonton in the flesh.

  • The whitewashed Avatar: The Last Airbender movie is getting abysmal reviews which has removed any and all temptation I had to go and see it, which I wasn't planning to do anyway. It sucking makes that easier, though. DarianeNabor has a long but worthwhile review of the movie on Darnivorous, and there's actually been a fair amount of press on the racebending issues in the film, which is good to see.

  • Edmonton Street Performers Festival starts this weekend and I am determined to go this year. I have never been, which is insanity.

  • Friend @Jillus drew another picture of me, and it was so awesome I had to make an LJ user icon out of it! :D
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This popped up on [profile] ontd_feminism today and, predictably, given my typical reaction when someone plays the BUT HER BREASTS ARE TOO BIG card, I has thoughts to share. Cross-posted to my other blog.

Some parents are in a twist because Mattel's new "Back to Basics" Barbie collection -- featuring a line of dolls in modern cocktail attire -- has a doll sporting a knee-length black dress with a plunging neckline and "bowling-ball cleavage".

Let's consider for a moment that all these Barbies, as a set, are themed around cocktail and evening wear. None of the dresses on any of the Barbies in this set strike me as particularly over-sexed: most of them are pretty standard fair, black dresses based on current trends or classic styles. There are only two showing off any extreme amount of cleavage, including the one in question and -- arguably, depending on your perception -- number 11 with the halter dress..

A concerned Minnesota mother says:

"I don't want [my daughter] to think she has to be this, you know, busty Barbie who's constantly wearing heels and these low-cut shirts. And that's really the image I think a doll that you're going to buy for a child is portraying."

Read the full article.

Not for nothing, but some of us HAVE naturally large breasts and for me the problem at the core here is a culture and society that over-sexualizes large breasts and judges them as automatically inappropriate. I have large breasts and I'm sick of being policed for them, especially by other women: they're no more or less appropriate than small ones.

What if the daughter of this woman grows up to have naturally larger breasts? What kind of messages are we sending to her then, that her large breasts are abnormal and 'slutty' just by virtue of their size? That she's forever doomed to the "fake-breasted stripper look" if she wears a top that so much hints at cleavage? How is that any better than telling small- or average-breasted teens they need large breasts to be sexy?

Also -- and I know I've said this before but I'm gonna say it again -- slut shaming and madonna/virgin worship are two different sides of the same coin: women are either pure, modest and sexually restrained or slutty, sex-crazed whores. The clothing choices on this set of Barbies seems very measured to me given the theme: the hemlines mix from long to short, the tops range from turtleneck to plunge, and the sleeves range from full to strapless. As a representation of basic cocktail dresses women in the current day and age wear, I think Mattel did pretty well representing a broad set of styles and degrees of sexual expression.

Of course, they're all identical body-types -- skinny, hourglass-shaped and tall. That's the bigger issue to me than what they're wearing. Wouldn't it be great if we could see a range of body-type as broad as the range of fashion? Short, stout girls, pear-shaped girls, flat-chested girls, tall and lanky girls, etc. Mattel is starting to think a little more carefully about race when they're building these dolls (though still not enough: hair and face shapes still tend toward a largely caucasian standard even when the skin tone is modified), so why not represent a broader range of body sizes and shapes as well?

Sure it would cost more to manufacture, but also think of the sales potential! With a variety of body types comes the need for consumers to buy a broader variety of clothing and accessories, especially for girls with multiple dolls that wouldn't always be able to draw from the same wardrobe. If I was Mattel's CEO that's where I'd steer the ship: good publicity and a whole host of new products to sell.

afterthree: (joy james marsters)
The Grocery Store Musical, brought to you by the awesome Improv Everwhere. Oh man stuff like this should happen all the time.

afterthree: (sketchy tea)
I played frisbee on on Friday, which was fun, but I now have a frisbee bruise on my right hand between my thumb and forefinger. Less fun.

Anyone else following the Caster Semanya story? She's the South African runner whose gender has come under intense scrutiny by the athletic world because she doesn't fit neatly into their gender segregated categories as either female or male. Lauren McLaughlin talks briefly about Semanya, the rigid either/or of athletics, and the continuum of gender here.

I don't feel knowledgeable enough on the issue to properly comment or add my two cents, but I do feel for this woman who is being subjected to this intense probing of her most basic (and private!) biological and personal self. I also have several long-standing problems with gender segregation in sports and games that I have no solution for.

More links here and here and here and here.

afterthree: (take my eyes i don't want them (orange))
Don't know what amazonfail is? Start at my Sunday post here, then continue on to my Monday post here.

A recap for those following along at home:
This may not be my final post on the topic, but with so many news articles and blog posts circulating, it's essentially impossible to keep track of them all. I may post a final recap -- mostly for my own benefit as someone looking to write up a comprehensive case-study on the topic for professional reasons -- later in the week, but unless something new develops, this is probably my final comment.

Obviously the first half of this story -- that GLTB, feminist, and disabled sexuality books, many of them not containing any erotic content, were flagged as "adult" and stripped of their sales rank, affecting their searchability on Amazon -- is well-reported and what caused the internet to rise up and strike at Amazon. And while I share that outrage, many people have spoken about why this matters very eloquently elsewhere, so forgive me if I switch to more professional gears for a moment.

The second half of this story is that news of this broke in social media, primarily Twitter, and Amazon was already attempting to fix the problem long before mainstream media news outlets even got a hold of the story. Also puzzling is why Amazon's PR department allowed this upsurge of bad PR to rise unchecked for so long, and why they are still continuing to allow bad opinion to circulate largely unchecked after their short and altogether unsatisfying statement about the issue without getting into the game. For a company that uses social data to great effect on their site and is considered one of the great Web 2.0 pioneers, their blasé attitude toward the negative up swell is at the very least shocking, and at the most dangerously ill-advised. I suppose we'll have to wait to see how their pre-canned comment strategy works out for them as things die down (or perhaps don't die down) over the next couple of days.

Was it a glitch? I think that's mostly spin. (And so does most of the rest of the internet.) At the very least I think this was probably and badly thought out attempt to "protect the children" without fully understanding their own complicated and increasingly irregular tagging and category structure. As an e-commerce professional specializing in usability, I can say in my professional opinion that it's a good thing most (if not all) people use Amazon's search tools to find what they're looking for, because their catalogue hierarchy is nightmarishly inconsistent, with different editions of the same book having different tags (some examples of which have been highlighted in this excellent post on Amazon's meta data).

This also may go to show how middle-management of a large corporation can be a flimsy creature indeed, and how someone in the middle-to-upper echelon of a large company can perhaps push through changes without considering their full implications or spending the time to do a thing properly. Was it a knee-jerk response to a right-wing trolling effort, similar to the infamous Livejournal strikethru incident? Was it a hacker? Was it a policy shift that got executed too quickly and very badly? Was it a translation user-error made by a French employee? As long as Amazon continues to be tight-lipped on the topic, we can't know for sure. Certainly anything that comes as an official statement from them will be painted up and spun round.

I tend to think it was another one of those unintentional things that reflects underlying social privilege and inclination to misunderstand and misrepresent those things that are different from so-called mainstream. Having said that, it was uplifting to see so many ordinary people rise up so quickly and say: no, this is not acceptable, and this is why. Rest assured that Amazon felt that slap, and hopefully other big corporations (and even governments) will think twice before implementing similar changes without a significant amount of research, thought, and openness.

Good job, internets. Sometimes you use you're flaily powers for wank and eye-roll worthy silliness, but this time you have used your powers for good. Well done.

ETA: I'm going to link some "fallout" articles here, mostly for easy finding. 

Amazonfail: Where Are We Now?
Amazon, Twitter, and the Gay Books Purge That Wasn't
Amazonfail: An Inside Look At What Happened
New York Times: Amazon Says Error Removed Listings
Some Thoughts On Amazonfail
The Lessons of Amazonfail
Press Questions I Just Answered
More From Neil Gaiman (Scroll Down, About Midway)
Amazon and the Cost of Freedom
[ profile] copperbadge's Thoughts
The Fallout of #Amazonfail Continues (National Post)
Why Amazon's Explaination is None At All
[personal profile] rydra_wong So
Amazon's "Glitch" Myth Debunked

afterthree: (broken brain)
For Day One recap and more links, click here.

Amazon still insisting it was a glitch but hasn't released any sort of detailed statement, just "we're working on it". Not exactly what the internets want to hear right now. The amazonfail hashtag search is just as hopping as it was last night. As of this post, wthashtag is showing almost 130,000 twitters tagged with amazonfail (over 30,000 already this morning), the petition goal post has been moved again and lists over 13,000 names, and more of the media has picked up the story including CBC, The Guardian, Entertainment Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, boingboing, The New York Times, The Advocate, and The Huffington Post.

Gawker wants you to know why they don't buy the glitch line, and neither does most of the internet. Queerty is not impressed by excuses. has started a petition-like letter-writing campaign over on their site as well.

For people who don't get why the internet exploded. After Ellen has a even better article about why this matters, the over-sexing of GLTB people, and what the larger problem is that everyone should read.

There's a good round-up
by [ profile] meta_writer right here on Livejournal. Also one from [ profile] ladyelleth. And [ profile] bodlon has an excellent, well-written summary. Some thoughtful thoughts from [ profile] copperbadge. And another summary from [ profile] lysimachia.

Dear Author looked at the metadata of each book and discovered the probable data links are exactly what the internet thought:

I looked up over 40 books that had been deranked and filtered out of search engines.  It appears that all the content that was filtered out had either “gay”,  ”lesbian”,  ”transgender”, “erotic”  or “sex” metadata categories.  Playboy Centerfold books were categorized as “nude” and “erotic photography”, both categories that apparently weren’t included in the filter.  According to one source, the category metadata is filled in part by the publisher and in part by Amazon.

Top Google news result for search term "amazon" gives you amazonfail topics by major news outlets. Unsurprisingly, searching for "amazonfail" gets even more hits, though last night both search terms only elicited a handful of top results on the issue. The Amazon Rank Googlebomb is now the top search result for term other than the news about amazonfail. A blog search shows over 6,000 results for the term amazonfail.

Over 1,000 affected books have been tagged on Amazon with amazonfail
(at least it will be easy for Amazon to find the affected books).

The merchandise has landed. So has the lolcat.

Social media experts are starting to take note and document the amazonfail case study.

And if you think this is a quick fix and are wondering why everything's still de-ranked, [ profile] sbisson explains why it isn't.

ETA: Salon article. And, from their excellent followup article:

At the very least, the "glitch" line suggests that this wasn't supposed to happen, and Amazon recognizes it's a highly undesirable situation for the company. Whether that means, "We had no intention of discriminating against anyone" or "We had no intention of so many people figuring this out at once and dragging our brand name through the mud" is an open question.

Also, ITWorld wants to know, and rightly so:

Getting back to my point, it's dumbfounding that Amazon would let this controversy grow unchecked for a whole weekend. For such a giant in the online space, they certainly seem to be behaving like a brick and mortar company from two decades ago. The fact that this past weekend was a holiday for many people doesn't stop the flow of information on the internet. Someone at Amazon HQ is going to have a very bad Monday, and deservedly so.

ETA2: Affected author Heather Corinna blogs about amazonfail on her Amazon blog. Meanwhile, [ profile] atara wonders about the pre-canned nature of customer service responses that may be complicating the way Amazon responds.

ETA3: This guy says he's responsible. After some clever detective work, people think not so much and call troll.

ETA4:  Apparently people will try to make money off of anything.

And Reunifygally wants to remind us it's not just GLTB books that are affected, but also books about sexuality and disabilities. I recently saw a performance of the Vagina Monologues that added a section on the disabled and how they are "protected" by their guardians and caretakers from their sexuality. It profoundly disturbed me.

ETA5: Neil Gaiman posts on his blog about amazonfail.

ETA6:  Getting reports that amazonfail is breaking on Channel 4 TV news. I don't have TV, but it's all over twitter. (ETA: Report has been posted online here. Fast-forward to the 8 minute mark to see the amazonfail report.) It's also starting to gain momentum on digg. There is an amazonfail tag on social bookmarking site delicious. And from Amazon's own twitter feed? Business as usual.

ETA7: Affected author Jessica Valenti calls her editor who contacts her Amazon rep, who notes that this is no glitch.

ETA8: GLTB books seem to be re-appearing in the bestseller listings as of around 1:15pm MST today. And more conversation about the PR disaster side of the story.

ETA9: Reports of an anonymous Amazon coder insisting it was a "real person" who mass-changed the tags of over 58,000 books, though anon. qualifies that they can't verify if it was intentional or accidental. Other reports indicate it may have been some sort of wacky translation error or an employee user error.

ETA10: Amazon spokesperson Drew Herdener admits error that affected over 57,000 titles in several categories:

This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles – in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

Also, someone screencapped this on the Twitter homepage. LOL. And new definition for Amazon Rank has made it into the Urban Dictionary.

More thoughts from The LA Times here. Amazon Spokesperson Drew Herdener's quote has also been picked up by The Seattle Times and The LA Times.

ETA11: Richard Eoin Nash on the social contract Amazon violated during amazonfail.
afterthree: (kill with my brain)
Amazon is suppressing sales rank information, affecting the searchability of LGTB books, calling them "adult". For a list of books that have been affected (includes quite a few young adult books and biographies as well as some critically acclaimed fiction) go here. For a growing list of twitters on the subject, peppered with links throughout, try #amazonfail. Here's a thoughtful link explaining why this matters. Someone has made an AmazonFails logo. And a petition, if you sign those. It's always better to take the time and mail a letter direct, though:

If you want to protest to Amazon direct, this is their email addy:
Other ways to get in touch with them:

Also try and the customer service phone number is 1-800-201-7575.

Or write to their CEO:
Jeffrey Bezos. (total annual compensation $81k - irrelevant but interesting). The address is 1200 12th Avenue South, Seattle, Washington 98144-2734, United States Phone: 206-266-1000 Fax: 206-622-2405

ETA: Google Bomb FTW! New definition of Amazon Rank. I believe there is a movement underway to get this definition into the Urban Dictionary. Also also: Here's a good base letter to start you off.

ETA2: Apparently Amazon Customer Support is being completely overwhelmed by this. Happy Easter Sunday, Amazon! People scoff at the power of social media. At some point in the next 12 hours as this hits the mainstream, the second half of the story will be how this broke on Twitter and no one else was there for hours.

ETA3: Apparently even children's books like Heather Has Two Mommies have been stripped of their rank. Amazon, meet PR disaster.

ETA4: Starting to break into mainstream media. LA Times Blogger has picked up the story. Also, it's appearing in Amazon's own forum threads.

ETA5: As of 4:30pm MST, the amazonfail hashtag Twitter search is updating way too fast to keep track of. Someone at Amazon is going to have a really, REALLY bad day tomorrow.

ETA6: Amazon cries glitch. (Traffic has killed the site; for screencap, go here.) But other people say this has been happening since February. Who knows at this point. Elsewhere, [ profile] tehdely has a possible theory that is not entirely out of the realm of possibility, but we'll see what Amazon's PR department comes out with. In the meantime, the amazonfail hashtag is updating at the rate of about 75 tweets per minute or so (estimated by me as I watch the number slide up in the tab as I make this edit). Also, popular site After Ellen has caught the scent.

ETA7: Amazon continues to be cagey about the "glitch", even with the LA Times. They really need to get out an actual statement about this, sooner rather than later. Likely that will get picked apart, too, but at some point soon they need to start playing defense instead of this incessant no-commenting. This is the kind of thing that really needs a comment. Users are now tagging as many of the affected books on Amazon with the tag amazonfail.

In addition, for anyone who's interested, I started tracking amazonfail at around 11:00am MST Sunday morning. At that time, a search showed around 1500 tweets with the hashtag #amazonfail. It's now 10:30pm MST Sunday night, and that same search shows over 80,000 tweets. When I checked the petition at around noon it was at just over 50 signatures. The same petition just passed the 7,600 signature mark.

ETA8: The Associated Press has also picked it up. So has The National Post. And CNet News. Now we've really got us a party!

ETA9: Interesting post about the real dangers of this recent set of events combined with an entirely digital world via the Kindle.

Jezebel has a really great write-up with a good time line tracking the events. And with that, it's bed time for me.

For Day Two recap & linkspam, click here.

afterthree: (edmond kicking ass)
Dear Work:

Please stop sucking.

No love,

To keep me sane, I choose to think about other things. For instance:

Skype iPhone application available for everyone except Canada. BOOO! *grumbles* 

Sometimes, being in Canada sucks. Our Apple store is a veritable goldmine of absolute suck. I would happily pay for much of the television I watch online if only someone was willing to charge me for it. But they aren't, so I won't. Do you hear me, giant media corporations? I would happily and regularly pay you for the pleasure of watching your shows if only you would get your head of your ass and give me that option. I am holding out a hand of money and you are stomping your foot and whining about people stealing your media. If you make it easier to buy something than to steal something, people will buy it. Right now, the exact opposite is true -- stealing is free and easier -- so of course people will steal it.

These are either the coolest shirts ever or an elaborate April Fool's Day prank. Either way, I love it.

In other Internet April Fool's Day joke shenanigans:

I'm sure there are others. These are just the ones I've found this morning and that I found amusing enough to share. Happy April Fool's day, all!



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August 2010

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