Archive for February, 2012

Mainstream Media Catches Up to Disappearing Santorum – Links

Well, you heard it here first, folks, but now it seems like everyone else whose editors will let them use the word “poop-lube” in print is finally running the Story of the Disappearing Santorum:

  • Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land has the most thorough examination of the Google changes affecting search results.
  • Yahoo! News raises the interesting point that the “spreading Santorum” page still tops the search results at Bing and Yahoo.
  • Dan Savage, the man who started it all, comments at The Stranger.
  • ABC News gets their facts wrong by their second sentence, claiming “people got a vulgar term for anal sex as their first result when they searched the word ‘Santorum'” (santorum, as we all know, describes a physical byproduct and not the act itself).
  • The New York Times finally jumped into the action around 4:30 eastern, so it’s safe to say it’s now news. How gross is that?
  • SeattlePI has a pretty basic retelling of the story, though their website has a certain freak-show value for hosting the most annoying pop-up ads ever. Thanks to commentor jay p laughlin for pointing this one out.

But just remember…you heard it here first. If you see the story popping up in other interesting places, let me know and I’ll add the link. I’m always happy to go on spreading Santorum.

Whatever Happened to Spreading Santorum?

BREAKING NEWS?

NEW: Updates below article.

So far as I can tell, Googling “santorum” no longer returns the familiar Spreading Santorum page, though the page itself is still live.

It’s very odd. The page’s associated blog, at URL http://blog.spreadingsantorum.com/, comes up on the Google search, and from there you can get to http://spreadingsantorum.com/, but Google itself will not return a link to http://spreadingsantorum.com/. See for yourself:

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

I scrolled through several more pages and couldn’t find a single direct link to the page we’ve all linked to so many times (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about you can read the backstory on Wikipedia; also hello and welcome to the 21st century).

It’s odd. Saying that it “smells like conspiracy” might be prone to misinterpretation, under the circumstances, but I’m genuinely curious why the website that was the specific target of such assiduous Google-bombing is suddenly the one thing connecting Rick Santorum and frothy poop-lube that isn’t still turning up in Google searches.

If anyone has insight into the matter, do let me know. Inquiring minds want to know. About frothy poop-lube, in this case, which tells you just about all you need to know about those inquiring minds.

UPDATE: Danny Sullivan has a much more thorough investigation of the disappearing Santorum site over at Search Engine Land. His is from the wee hours of this morning too, so apparently we’re all just suddenly sitting up today and realizing that our frothy poop-lube is gone. Ew.

UPDATE 2: The Sullivan article I linked to now has responses from Google. They state that they did not do anything to specifically affect the Spreading Santorum website but that it may have been affected by general search engine changes. Which sounds a lot like what Susan G. Komen said about Planned Parenthood’s new ineligibility at the start of the month, when you think about it…

Maintenance Day: Playing with Some New Themes

You can blame my buddy Joe for this one. He didn’t like the boring layout (I like boring), and finally bullied me into at least trying some changes out. I thought about making today’s appearance neon pink on black, in his honor, but dutifully restrained myself.

I don’t know if the new look will be a keeper or not. I’m experimenting, for the time being, so expect to see some changes around here (I’m already not thrilled with how the Facebook link on the right side came out in this set-up, for example). Now’s a good time for you to weigh in and tell me if you liked the old look better; I’ll post a screenshot of the old one and the new one below:

The old look.

The same post in this current look.

(You should be able to click on either of these to see the full-size image)

I’ll leave the comments open for feedback. As a closing thought, have you ever Googled “under construction” for some quick website filler graphics? People have put a lot of time and effort into coming up with web-themed variants on the traditional “Men at Work” pictograph!


I couldn’t pick just one, so here they all are. Let me know your thoughts on the new theme, and we’ll be back in a day with some real content, and possibly yet another new look if I can’t get this one just right!

Don’t Don’t Quit Your Day Job

I made one rule for myself when I decided to be a writer. Well — two, if you count “never read the comments.” But mostly just one:

Don’t quit your day job.

Wisdom for the ages (especially the ages of 21-25 or so, those awkward post-college years).

But as of last Friday — or a few weeks before, really, when I actually gave notice — it’s wisdom I’ve parted from. I worked my last shift in the Real World on Friday afternoon, and will not be going back in on Monday. Which brings us to our new rule for young writers:

Don’t don’t quit your day job.

That is to say, don’t work the safe hours you know you can keep just because you know you can keep them.

Don’t put the draft, the edits, the query letter; the agent hunting off because you need to work long shifts for the overtime.

Don’t settle for $8.50 an hour when you can make more at $0.03 a word and some decent self-promotion.

Don’t get content.

Don’t get boring.

Don’t get old.

It’s an insecure world out there. The people who played by the rules, worked at the same company for 40 years, and put money aside into their pensions are looking for second jobs now, at retirement age. The people who gave up doing something different for doing something safe are getting divorced, addicted, suicidal, depressed; indicted.

You might not be happy scrabbling for enough contracts to make rent month to month. But are you all that happy now?

Don’t don’t quit your day job. You’ll know when.

Divorce Lawyer Ads Continue to Be Hilarious

I don’t actually find divorce itself hilarious, I swear I don’t, misanthropic namesake notwithstanding. But the guys who advertise divorce aid just continue to make my day.

Nothing will top the broken home giraffes, of course. (As far as I know that ad is still up at the zoo, too.) Still, this little sidebar ad caught my eye, mostly because it A) demonstrated a really alarming trend toward using text-message shorthand to save on paying for space, and B) didn’t seem to take into account that diamonds are generally harder than hammers.

But you can’t fault their taste for drama, and maybe it was cubic zirconium anyway. No wonder you’re leaving the bum.

Still. They at least seem to acknowledge that divorce is a dreadful, ripping process that destabilizes your life, and is something no one wants to consider until they have to. Especially not when they’re first celebrating their happy nuptials, perhaps ones that had been forbidden up ’til recently, and…say, what article did they run that ad by, anyway?

From the lovely gals at Wonkette. The article, that is; I doubt they had anything to do with the advertisement. It’s the juxtaposition to the big “Marriage Works” billboard that really sells it, don’t you think?

It’s Friday, so that’s all you get from me for a couple days. I’ll see you on Monday, and try not to get divorced in the meantime. Or gay married and then divorced, as the case may be. Happy marriage equality Maryland, though!

You Are What You Tweet

Remember when this was a “writing blog”?

Yeah, me neither. But that was the idea, way back in the day when MA101 was the biggest writing obligation I really had.

Actually landing some writing jobs, and some other jobs, has changed that a bit, and someone recently commented on a slightly more “political” flavor lately. It was hard to tell if this was supposed to be a good thing or not, and I didn’t press for clarification. But I did think I could blog about it, and let that be a warning to anyone who has conversations with me ever.

"Ok, go ahead -- you had what, exactly, for lunch today?"

MA101 is not a “politics” blog by any stretch of the imagination. But “you are what you tweet” — if you spend your day swimming around in social media for a particular cause, it’s going to end up having an influence on the store of casual knowledge that you rely on for cocktail conversation, blog fodder, etc.

I've been wanting to use that "you are what you tweet" line for weeks now.

Hence the slight uptick in what I’d call “social commentary” rather than politics. MA101 is, after all, supposedly all about “the critical — highly critical — study of human culture and behavior.” Politicians do occasional behave in a manner that invites criticism.

But I’ve always tried to keep it non-partisan and purely on the side of general, applicable-to-all-humans mockery. That won’t be changing in the foreseeable future. If you do start seeing a particular political bias showing through, feel free to point it out to me — I’m all about fair and balanced reporting here.

(Hey, that’d make a good slogan, now that I say it. I’d use it, but some inconsequential and irrelevant cable network has probably already leaped on it, huh?)

So okay, there might be a little bias. You are what you tweet. But if you stick around and leave me good comments maybe together we can keep me mostly in line.

I might even write about writing again some day. Stay tuned!

Glam Mags are Sexist, Story at 11:00

Hey look at that, it really is 11:00 as I’m writing this. Of course that means actual post time will be a little later. But hey! Welcome to the grassroots.

I subscribe to Details magazine out of professional necessity. It is, theoretically, a fashion magazine, and I am from time to time a fashion writer, QED. And it is nothing if not educational.

I was struck particularly, for instance, by the juxtaposition of two two-page spread pieces on movie stars: one on Ralph Fiennes, pp. 34-5, and one on Kerry Washington, pp. 36-7. You don’t actually need to know who these actors are for this to make sense, just that the one named Ralph is male and the one named Kerry is female. Here’s Ralph’s spread:

And here, when you turn the page, is Kerry’s:

Some slight differences in graphic design, as you may have noticed. And maybe that’s fair. Maybe a whole lot more people want to see Kerry Washington mostly-naked than Ralph Fiennes, although my mother might argue with that. So arguably they’re just playing to the numbers here.

And that might be enough to soothe the ruffled feathers if this were just one of those provocative images circulating Facebook that juxtapose two obviously different things in the hopes that you will recognize the inequity inherent in them and, I don’t know, be shocked for a couple seconds before going back to Farmville or something. This sort of thing:

But this is in a magazine, and I’m actually a writer and not a graphic designer, so what interests me is the stories printed along with these images.

Both fill somewhat less than half a page of text when you take the headers and graphics into account. Both are subject-friendly little fluff pieces.

Ralph Feinnes’s is a Q&A format interview transcript. You have a bold-faced “Q: Blah blah blah” and then, a line later, Ralph’s “A: Blahdy blah blah blah.”

Kerry Washington’s is basically a short bio and credits listing interspersed with quotes that the author obviously got in an interview with her.

I don’t want to read too much into this. No, that’s a lie, I do — it’s a pretty pointed editorial decision to get interviews with two different stars, run them side by side, and keep one as a Q&A interview where the star does most of the talking while changing the other into a few select quotes surrounded by your magazine’s own editorial voice.

Maybe it has nothing to do with one star being male and the other being female. Maybe Kerry Washington just gives a really bad interview and they had to do some cosmetic surgery to it.

But with one article set up to look like it came out of Business Weekly and the other laid out like a Playboy centerfold it’s a little hard to believe that that’s all we have going on.

So…glamor mags are aggressively sexist, story at 11, like the title says, right?

And yes, boys, Details is a glamor mag. Sorry.

Netflix’s Comfortingly Bad Recommendations: Machine Tyrrany Still a Long Way Off

Now I know a dozen eye-rolling bronies are going to jump on me if I don’t clear this up right at the start: yes, I know you can watch all of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic online for free. Why I wound up searching for it on Netflix is a long story with little of interest in it. All we need for today’s blog post is the result of that search:

You can’t mouse over these for descriptions in the screen capture, obviously, but I’ll help out just so we’re all clear what Netflix thinks pony-lovers might accept as a substitute for their Equestria fix:

The Border – 2008: A dramatic series set in a paranoid post-9/11 world, Toronto’s elite Immigration and Customs Security squad takes on tough cases such as terrorism, smuggling, assassination plots and all things concerned with the border.

Charlie Jade – 2005: During a murder investigation, an enormous explosion at a top-secret facility hurls cynical private eye Charlie Jade into a strange parallel world — where he’s soon reluctantly embroiled in a conflict involving three universes.

Afterworld – 2007: After a catastrophe annihilates nearly all of Earth’s population and renders all technology useless, Russell Shoemaker walks from New York to Seattle in the dim hope that his wife and child are still alive.

Just so we’re not chalking it up to a weird database error, Netflix does at least seem to understand what My Little Pony is about:

This enchanting animated show follows the adventures of Twilight Sparkle, a unicorn pony sent by Princess Celestia to Ponyville, where she and her pals Fluttershy, Applejack, Rarity, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash learn all about being true friends.

Soooo…something about the “sent by Princess Celestia to Ponville” triggered “border crossing” and “alternate reality” keywords somehow, maybe? Or maybe someone at Neflix HQ just really hates bronies and wants to mess with them?

Either way, I think it’s safe to say that the robot-overlords-in-training down in the basement trying to understand our brains well enough to make movie recommendations are still a few software generations away from SkyNet.

Guess they just can’t understand the magic that is friendship.

Nike’s Big Butt Ad Is Fake, Just Not as Fake as You Think

Every once in a while a good hoax gets a second lease on life. The Onion‘s old “Planned Parenthood Abortionplex” story bounced back up on Facebook (and snagged a U. S. Congressman) a couple weeks ago when the Susan G. Komen debacle had everyone frantically Googling “planned parenthood abortion omg” and similar terms. Eugene Shepard’s 1893 hodag hoax was so popular he practically had people begging him to bring it back three years later, and the mythical creature is still the school and town mascot in Rhinelander, WI.

City Motto: "Proud Suckers for 119 Years and Counting!"

So it’s never exactly a surprise when an old, discredited image or video pops back up on the internet as real news. But it is interesting to consider why the hoax endures, especially if the real story it’s based on never received the same coverage.

Lately I’ve been seeing this one on people’s Facebook, Twitter, &c. feeds a lot:

This is a fake. Always has been, always will be.

That didn’t stop a bunch of people from posting insightful essays weighing the merits of such advertising back when it popped up in 2010, and I’m not just talking about Facebook commentators — The Atlantic offered coverage and commentary, later updating when they realized it was a fake, as did Salon and a variety of other magazines’ and newspapers’ online sections. Then both Jezebel and AdAge contacted a no-doubt wearied Nike rep and confirmed that it was all bogus.

But (butt!) the ad lives on, and there’s two take-aways here:

1) The enduring popularity means the ad has hit on the key of a good hoax: it found something that people want to believe. We like the idea of an advertising giant pushing big butts on us. I’ll go ahead and say that this clinches what savvy observers have known for years, which is that most people actually like bottoms and wish we could get a little more on our celebrities and models, as long as we’re going to have to look a them anyway.

2)  Ugly, ugly racism rears its head: as both the Jezebel and AdAge articles mentioned and then went nowhere with, the ad copy comes directly (albeit with a spelling error) from a 2005 Nike ad that really did say exactly what the fake one says. It looks like this, and it never “made the rounds” on the social networks and media commentary like the fake:

If you’re thrown by the black-and-white image with the weird colors in the background, that’s a dark-skinned woman wearing light-colored panties. The text is the same as the fake ad’s, apart from “ambassador” being spelled right.

Cue the uncomfortable squirming in our chairs.

This ad ran in 2005. It was part of a campaign that highlighted various other body parts: “my thunder thighs,” “my shoulders,” etc. They weren’t everywhere, but they were Nike ads, so they weren’t exactly obscure either. And they at least had the head-start of appearing on posters and in publications, rather than starting from scratch in the blogosphere like the fake did.

Maybe we can chalk the different responses — lots of coverage for the fake, substantially less for the original — to the five year gap. Social networking added a lot of tools and uses between 2005 and 2010, and more on top of that between 2010 and the fake’s resurgence in 2012.

But it’s sort of hard not to look between the two and realize that, apart from the misspelling, the major difference is that we can see more of the girl than just her butt and that she’s a whole lot “whiter.”

So the Nike “big butt” ad does exist. It’s a fake but it’s also a real ad. And everyone that forwarded it to you liked the fake a whole lot better.

That bears thinking on.

God Damn But That Union Banner Looks Familiar

You remember way back like a week ago when I quoted A. A. Dornfield’s old line about “if your mother says she loves you, check it out”?

Turns out that there are still some real-life journalists, or at least people whose paychecks say “POLITICO” (which is almost the same thing), that need to internalize this rule a little better. As the hastily-removed photo caption on their website yesterday had it,

This must have seemed like serious editorial gold to everyone on the POLITICO staff that didn’t, you know, Google “Wisconsin 1848.” Or maybe they did, and their take-away was “huh, how fucking arrogant can you get; this union named themselves after the year the state was founded! And then they put it on their flag! Almost as if it’s the state flag or ooooooohhhhhshit.”

No credit to MA101 for this story, of course. I had it from Wonkette, who in turn had it from the Huffington Post, further proving that political news is a lot like STDs. But it was too good not to share.

Long may she wave.

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