Archive for March, 2012

On the Etymology of Ejaculation – “I’m Cumming” vs. “I’m Coming”

Am I the only one that hiccups to a brief, awkward stop when I read the word “come” in a sexual description?

C-O-M-E come, like in “come here boy.” Or, more perplexing to me, like in “and in that moment, sweaty-handed, I felt her coming beneath me,” etc.

We have a word for getting off, the ejaculatory part of it. Actually we have a lot of words for it. But “come” and its variant forms is not a good one.

I want to know why people are still using this. (I most recently saw it in the pages of an Esquire magazine masquerading as something other than porn, badly, but I know I have seen it before and will see it again, more times than I could efficiently footnote).

It smacks of that same Puritanical urge that makes you ask the store clerk “do you have a washroom?” instead of “where is the bathroom?” You might as well say garderobe.

I find myself wanting scientific studies. I want control groups, I want gender and age brackets; I want to know if people who use the internet more frequently are more likely to default to the properly-differentiated cum instead of its mincing cousin. I want to know why people who are actively describing the moment of sexual climax feel the need to be fucking discreet about it. I want to know whether the OED has added “var. cumming” to its definition yet.

“I’m coming” is what I used to shout from the backyard when Mom called us in for suppertime. Its associations with the orgasmic moment are ominous at best. Think on that one for a while.

And what about the illiterate? If you don’t know how to spell, or even if you do know how to spell but you have never seen a dirty book or a naughty movie cover or a salacious banner ad, does it even cross your mind that using c-o-m-ing versus c-u-m-ming is a really weird thing to do, or is that purely a bedevilment of people who think too hard about words?

Vidi, vici, veni.

I suppose there are real, practical considerations here for the romance/erotica writers among us. For me it’s purely an abstract bedevilment, albeit one that rears its head at awkward moments. It is a difficult conclusion to come to.

Bloggers always say “leave a comment.” But I’m genuinely interested in knowing how you all spell cumming/coming, and whether you’ve ever thought about it before. And, for that matter, whether you always will think about it from here on out, damn my soul.

So leave a comment.

MA101 Featured on /b; Today’s Post Canceled on Account of Honorable Suicide

There are better ways to wake up than glancing at yesterday’s page stats and realizing that a big chunk of inbound traffic came from the dark, puckered asshole of the internet.

If you don’t know what 4chan is, don’t Google it or look it up or whatever. You’re happier not knowing. But if you do know, you’ll be happy(?) to know that someone thought yesterday’s post about Joss Whedon was a great fit for the /b board.

Happily, the post linking to MA101 has already dropped off, because, well, /b. Traffic moves fast over there. So that’s the end of that. But life holds no more honor, and now I must go to die with honor. The next update may be accordingly late.

Man, we just cannot stop posting pictures of shirtless men around here.

Should I rise from the grave unexpectedly early, there’ll be a post tomorrow as usual. In the meantime, why don’t you wander back over to /b and remind yourself why life isn’t worth living for any of us, really?

But only if you’ve been there before. I don’t want to take the blame for anyone’s first exposure to 4chan.

Next week, we shoot for a link on /d.

Just So You Know, That Inspirational Joss Whedon Quote Is Total Bullshit

Hey, look, a popular Facebook quote that’s total bullshit. Whodathunk? In this case it’s a Joss Whedon quote that reminds us all how wonderfully feminist his work is, and it is, as mentioned, bullshit:

Or I guess it would be more accurate to say that it is not bullshit, and that the citation is in fact 100% accurate. Mr. Whedon did say that — all of it. The question and the answer both.

This was not an unscripted, off-the-cuff exchange with some journalist. It was not a moment of unexpected and sublime brilliance, or even of particular candor. It was part of a written speech wherein Mr. Whedon pretended to be a journalist asking himself questions.

You can read the whole thing at the American Rhetoric archives if you want to, but don’t bother. It’s just Joss Whedon pretending to be a journalist who can only ask that one question over and over again, presumably because she (or “he,” but let’s be realistic about Mr. Whedon’s fantasy here) is so stunned that this strange, rebellious, sensitive man was willing to defy convention and write strong women characters like no one before him.

Which would be very flattering, albeit inaccurate, if it had been a real person, but it wasn’t. It was a straw man of Joss Whedon’s imagining, and his wonderfully-quotable reply has all the improvisational genius of that witty retort you thought up two hours after getting your head flushed.

But I suppose, to hear him tell it, that happened to Mr. Whedon a fair amount. So perhaps it’s forgivable.

If You’re Smart Enough to be Angry at This Article, You’re Smart Enough to Read Grown-Up Books

Quick — name the last massive domestic pop-lit blockbuster that shattered sales records, swept the nation, filled every conversation, and was actually meant for adults.

What did you go for? The Hunger Games is obviously right out, as is Harry Potter. The “Millennium Series” (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.) is an import that arrived with major Swedish awards and success already under its belt before the American public got a whiff of an English-language translation.

For home-grown pulp successes with talk-around-the-water-cooler levels of cultural penetration you have to go back to Stephen King’s heyday and the early Dark Tower novels in the 1980s, or even further back to James Clavell’s Shogun in 1975.

So why the American love affair with kid’s books?

On the publishing side it makes perfect sense, of course — lower word count, shorter page length, if it flops you can always ram it into the Scholastic catalogs, and if you do stumble onto a smash hit they’re much more conveniently-sized for movie adaptation. It’s tough to cram an adult novel into 90 minutes, but a YA book fits just right with only minor, non-diehard-offending tweaks.

But are we really that much of a fast-food nation of literary consumers? There’s nothing wrong with entertaining pulp — not every book has to challenge you — but there’s pulp written for adults out there. It’s longer, it uses bigger words, and it doesn’t simplify interpersonal relationships to quite such an accessible-for-people-who’ve-just-started-dating level (sometimes). So why is the only sure hit these days a book made for middle schoolers?

I suppose I’m part of the problem. A good blog post is rarely more than 500 words long. 1000 words is “kind of a long read” in the Facebook comments. Text unbroken by pictures is intimidating on-screen. Sentences with commas are discouraged. This whole paragraph should really have been broken up into each individual sentence on its own line — it looks more “hard-hitting” that way.

  • Bullet points are good.
  • And so on.

We’re not actually that stupid, Americans. We have more access to literature than just about anyone in the world. Public schools, public libraries, public teachers and librarians so dedicated to the idea of an educated society that they work for absolute peanuts plus the thrill of getting pissed on by Fox News every week or so — we could be savvy, critical readers if we wanted to.

Or we could re-read a novel meant for a 13 year-old one more time before going to see the movie adaptation. Your call, really.

The Broken-Home Giraffe Ad Guys are At It Again

Loyal readers will remember a very sad story from a while back about our local zoo’s giraffes and their poor, broken home. If you’re not a loyal reader (or just have a bad memory) it’s worth reading. The hilarity was less in the actual giraffes and more in the nearby advertising for divorce lawyers that touted the protectiveness of mother giraffes.

So imagine my delight when, at the local shopping mall, I saw the now-familiar Axley-Brynelson logo on another poster-sized ad. This time around the theme seemed to be a screaming, well-dressed woman being subjected to some kind of tiny-box torture, which makes a surprising amount of sense when you think about the shopping mall location.

But what really made me happy (and made me feel like it was a bloggable story) was the nearby children’s toy looking on serenely from a shop window:

Giraffes! Again! What is it with these people?

And more importantly, what is it with WordPress, that these photos look normal in any program I use to open them, but are determinedly displaying themselves sideways in this post? Time to go futz with the theme again. Stay tuned.

Susan G. Komen: A Case Study in Post-P.R. Crisis Existence

Do you remember the Susan G. Komen blow-up this February? Probably only vaguely, and that’s the natural life cycle of these things — there hasn’t been much media coverage for about a month now, so out of sight and out of mind. But The Washington Post (bless their black little hearts) ran a good follow-up article this week on departures and reorganizations within the Susan G. Komen for the Cure leadership.

It’s a good look behind the scenes at what happens once you stop hearing about a company for the boneheaded shit it stumbled into. It doesn’t always play out this way, of course — B.P., for example, sells oil for a living rather than begging for charity dollars, so their profits are just fine regardless of how smelly your beachhouse is. But for companies that don’t enjoy a drug kingpin’s immunity from public censure, the Komen follow-up is educational:

People who can quit for a better opportunity, do.

A company in public crisis is a free-falling airplane. There’s a right moment to jump and a whole lot of wrong moments to jump, and there’s the hope that you can ride it out and survive the crash. Everyone gets to make that calculus for him or herself. But what mostly ends up happening is that people who did good work with the company and were not involved in the bone-headed lethal mistake (or better yet were opposed to it publicly from the outset) develop a sudden interest in good offers from other employers. Other employers, of course, vulture-like, are not shy about those offers when they catch wind of talented staff looking to change careers in a hurry. From the Post article:

The [departing] New York chief executive, Dara Richardson-Heron, declined to comment Wednesday. In a statement on the affiliate’s Web site, she said the decision was not “easy,” but the right one. Her counterpart in Oregon, Christine McDonald, said last month that she was stepping down. McDonald, who did not return phone calls Wednesday, said “deep frustration about the distraction” caused by the Komen headquarters’ actions was a factor, a statement on the affiliate’s Web site said.

The three executives who have left or plan to leave the Dallas-based national organization are: Katrina McGhee, the executive vice president and chief marketing officer, leaving May 4; Nancy Macgregor, vice president for global networks, leaving in June; and Joanna Newcomb, a director for affiliate strategy and planning, who left at the end of last month, according to Aun.

These are not small losses. Your chief marketing officer is an important person when you are basically one giant pink-waterbottle-marketing company. Top staff like these people fleeing is a good sign that the public relations cannonball holed you below the waterline.

Funding craters.

Bad P.R. can hurt companies that sell goods — or it can not. Apple is battling ongoing scandal about the work conditions in their affiliated factories oversees, but the company is not exactly facing financial crisis. As mentioned above, B.P. is likewise sailing on unperturbed by the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and if anything J. C. Penny seems to be enjoying a bump in sales from the ill-fated and idiotic One Million Moms campaign against them.

Unfortunately for Susan G. Komen, they are not selling a product that most of us need (or at least think we need). Giving up that feel-good rush from throwing a few bucks at a cancer charity is a lot easier for most of us to part with than our iPhones. More importantly, if you’re willing to believe that Susan G. Komen is now the villain, you can get the exact same feel-good rush by denying them funding. It’s all the emotional reward of giving to charity without having to actually spend the money! People are feeling genuinely good about cutting off previous giving, and it’s showing:

Meanwhile, questions are being raised about the breast cancer charity’s ability to raise money after the public relations fiasco. The New York affiliate postponed two events, including its annual awards gala, “because we were not certain about our ability to fundraise in the near term,” spokesman Vern Calhoun said Wednesday.

Komen is asking staff members at headquarters to review budgets for the fiscal year beginning April 1 because of anticipated drops in revenue, according to a source familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. Budgeting for the coming year was basically completed before the Planned Parenthood controversy erupted.

Authority changes hands.

This is possibly the most interesting part, to me. In light of what they see as failure on the part of the board and the national executives, Komen state affiliate directors seem to be staging something of a long-overdue coup:

At its annual meeting with affiliates in Dallas this month, top leadership apologized and sought ways to give affiliates more of a voice in decision-making. Komen established a new group of local affiliates that will work with the national board to set policies and priorities, officials said. Details still need to be worked out.

“Currently, there is one affiliate representative on the board, in a volunteer job,” [the executive director of Komen’s Maryland affiliate] said. With 122 affiliates, “the idea is to have a group that can vet some of the concerns we have in another way.”

So change seems to be in store for the entire leadership structure and decision-making process of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Of course, you sort of have to wonder if their best shot at hanging onto power might not be to give it up right now, let the local affiliates run things for a year, and then blame them when the end-of-year financial reports are, inevitably, dire…

All in all it’s an ugly damn mess, two months after the fact. But for those who did speak out and weigh in with the general public outcry, it may be comforting to know that, in a rare David-and-Goliath moment, an unorganized negative public backlash really did cripple a multi-million dollar organization, possibly permanently.

The Most Popular Guinness World Record: A Feat We Can All Admire

From the front page of the “Guinness World Records” website:

“Most Popular,” indeed.

I have to admit, I’d never really paid much attention to the Guinness World Records. But the Wall Street Journal ran an article about three men setting the record for “longest taxi ride,” and O Best Beloved immediately needed to know if there were a record for “most ponies ever given to a girl,” and could we break it please?

Turns out there isn’t, or maybe there is and they’re just not telling us. As a reference material, the latest incarnation of Guinness World Records frankly sucks:

The ousting of Norris McWhirter from his consulting role in 1995 and the subsequent decision by Diageo Plc to sell the Guinness World Records brand have shifted it from a text-oriented reference book, to an illustrated product. This shift means that the majority of world records are no longer listed in the book (or on the website), and can only be determined by a written application to Guinness to ‘break’ the record. For those unable to wait the 4–6 weeks for a reply, Guinness will process a ‘fast-track’ application for £300 (~US$450). (Wikipedia)

So maybe there is a pony record. But I couldn’t find it on the site. I also couldn’t use the website to settle the initial dispute that started Guinness World Records in the first place:

On 4 May 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver, then the managing director of the Guinness Breweries,[6] went on a shooting party in the North Slob, by the River Slaney in County Wexford, Ireland. He became involved in an argument over which was the fastest game bird in Europe, the koshin golden plover or the grouse. That evening at Castlebridge House, he realised that it was impossible to confirm in reference books whether or not the golden plover was Europe’s fastest game bird.[7][8] Beaver knew that there must be numerous other questions debated nightly in pubs throughout Ireland, but there was no book in the world with which to settle arguments about records. He realised then that a book supplying the answers to this sort of question might prove popular. (Wikipedia)

Ah well. Time and television march on, destroying basically every book you ever read in your elementary school library. Really, are there any popular properties they haven’t turned into a shittier TV show (and now website) these days?

At least the website still, ah, “supports” feats that we can all admire. Hur hur hur.


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