Mixed Media

Where Are All the Lady Bloggers?

| Wed Oct. 28, 2009 6:30 AM EDT

UPDATE: If you're on Twitter, lots of conversation arose out of this piece. Keep up with it by checking out the new hashtag, #followwomenbloggers. Lots of great suggestions for smart, sassy women whose blogs you should follow.

After the release of The Shriver Report, which lauded our becoming "a woman's nation," the media have been abuzz with talk of the gender gap in the American workplace. Joanne Lipman, former deputy editor at the Wall Street Journal and founding editor in chief of the now-defunct Portfolio, wrote an op-ed tempering the soaring proclamations of progress. Then, yesterday, Vanity Fair released a feature by Nell Scovell, one of seven female writers to ever staff Late Night with David Letterman.

Scovell described what she had considered a hostile work environment and noted, of the late night gender imbalance, "There are more females serving on the United States Supreme Court than there are writing for Late Show with David Letterman, The Jay Leno Show, and The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien combined."

And that's not all.

Last week, Technorati released its annual State of the Blogosphere report. Given that women rule the world of social networking, I was interested to find out that the opposite is true of the blogosphere. According to the report, 67 percent of bloggers are men—up a little from the year before.

That's a worse gender imbalance than in American newsrooms, which is saying something. (Mother Jones is a rare exception—by my quick calculation, our editorial department is 61 percent female, but that's hardly the case everywhere.) Women represent only 37 percent of American newspaper staffers, according the American Society of News Editors. And if newspapers are doomed and blogs are to take their place, then this can't be good for the supposed diversity of voices we're getting online.

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Music Monday: Can Rupa and the April Fishes Live Up to The Hype?

| Mon Oct. 26, 2009 5:35 PM EDT | Scheduled to publish Mon Oct. 26, 2009 6:30 AM EDT

San Francisco loves Rupa and the April Fishes. The local world-beat ensemble recently garnered a nomination in the alt SF Weekly's annual music awards, and packed the space with adoring fans at a performance piece I attended last week.

Part of the appeal lies in the group's personal narrative, which seems designed to bait music editors: Frontwoman Rupa Marya is a physician; their musical influences include gypsy swing, tango, and polka; they sing in Spanish, French, Hindi, and English.

Luckily, their music mostly lives up to the hype. Marya's vocals are a fine blend of slow-burn passion and buoyant belting, and her backing musicians are highly skilled and perfectly synched.

Music Monday: Kerouac's Big Sur Inspires Indie Collaboration

| Mon Oct. 26, 2009 5:15 PM EDT

In writing the music for Death Cab for Cutie's "Narrow Stairs" (2008), singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard holed up in a cabin in Big Sur, California, that was once owned by the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti—and the place where Jack Kerouac wrote his lesser-known 1962 novel Big Sur. Kerouac's pull evidently lingered with Gibbard. His latest project, released last week, is a soft, melodic collaboration with alt-country rocker Jay Farrar titled "One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur."

Far more melancholic than On the Road or The Dharma Bums, Big Sur describes a fictionalized (though clearly autobiographical) Jack; his flight from fame to the West, his alcoholism, and his ensuing breakdown. Musically speaking, Farrar and Gibbard's interpretation is lighter than that, even as it pulls various lyrics straight from the text. And while the artists meld well in songs like "There Roads Don’t Move" and "Sea Engines," the overall album feels like the work of two distinct artists.

Monday Mental Health Break: Backstreet Boys Edition

| Mon Oct. 26, 2009 12:46 PM EDT

Five cubicle jockeys simultaneously lip-dubbing a Backstreet Boys song for webcam doesn't sound like the stuff of great video, does it? But trust me. This 4-minute short will make you happy for no good reason, starting around minute 2. Watch it below.

Military Bans Ghost Riding?

| Tue Oct. 20, 2009 6:42 PM EDT

Via Noah Shachtman comes the shocking news that the Pentagon doesn't want its employees ghost riding the whip (or the MRAP, as the case may be). The military is actually encouraging social media, but telling soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines to use it carefully.

None of that means we can't reminisce, though:

 

Fiji Water Filters Into Fox, Cousteau

| Tue Oct. 20, 2009 4:45 PM EDT

Our September/October 2009 Fiji Water expose had a big impact, and it's still going strong. Today the story was tweeted by Fox News anchor Julie Banderas... and by Celine Cousteau, granddaughter of filmmaker Jacques Cousteau and daughter of oceanic explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau. Celine Cousteau travels the world on expeditions, and her family owns the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort, an "Eco Friendly Resort" on the island of Vanua Levu in Fiji. I'm not sure if the Cousteau resort stocks Fiji Water, but it's good to see the story strike close to Fiji Water's home.

Follow Jen Phillips on Twitter.

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Cookie Puss Shrugged: Investing With Ayn Rand

| Mon Oct. 19, 2009 6:00 AM EDT

A few months ago, Ayn Rand fans made a big stink about "going Galt"—threatening to bring down the federal government (i.e., Obama) by taking their productive genius and going home (i.e., working less and paying less taxes). In another sign that the screw-the-feds fad never really went anywhere, some objectivists with deep pockets have emerged from hiding to funnel more money to the moochers and looters. On Friday, Bloomberg reported that the Roark Capital Group, a $1.5-billion, Goldman Sachs-backed private-equity firm, is making record investments after a couple of slow years. Roark, which owns Carvel Ice Cream and Cinnabon, may be the nation's only investment firm that openly claims Ayn Rand as its inspiration. As it website explains, it's named after Howard Roark, the architect protagonist of The Fountainhead, who dynamites one of his own projects because it doesn't meet his exacting standards.

It's not news that Rand has plenty of acolytes among traders, fund managers, and former heads of the Fed. But as Wall Street Journal columnist and Randian Evan Newmark explains, walking the objectivist walk on Wall Street is easier said than done, even at capitalist bastions like Goldman Sachs—which features a corporate "culture that might have been dreamt up by Karl Marx if he had been more interested in profits than the proletariat."

So how well has Roark Capital followed its namesake's vision? A quick glance at the Carvel website suggests that Howard Roark's violent fastidiousness has not trickled down to the rank-and-file. In fact, company "spokescake" Cookie Puss, with his "tendency to melt under extreme pressure" and "friendliness and constant state of happiness" seems like just the kind of spineless loser Rand detested. His colleague, the "very laid back, nature-loving" Fudgie the Whale sounds no better. I hope that Roark Capital will wake up to this Goldman Sachs-style collectivism and restore Tom Carvel's exacting standards of architectural precision in frozen cake-making. The ice-cream fountainhead awaits!   

 

Another Ralph Lauren Anorexia Ad

| Thu Oct. 15, 2009 2:48 PM EDT

Does Polo Ralph Lauren find its models in a prison camp? Nope, it just alters them to look that way. (See the "before" version here.) Maybe uproar over this practice will prompt the company to express futher regrets. Geez! When supermodel Filippa Hamilton, who was fired in April for being "overweight," said that the clothier owes all women an apology, she wasn't kidding. (For the full story, read the Related Stories posts below, top to bottom.) And a hat tip to Photoshop Disasters for posting the ad.

Follow Michael Mechanic on Twitter.

Ralph Lauren Model Fired: Too Fat

| Thu Oct. 15, 2009 12:29 PM EDT

Holy haute couture! Ralph Lauren really doesn't get it. First the clothier sicced its lawyers on Boing Boing, one of the Web's most popular blogs, after a Boing Boing writer reproduced an ad photoshopped by the company's graphic artists to make its model look bizarrely skinny. An indignant Boing Boing declared a culture war against the attempted censorship, and the company eventually admitted that it had done a regrettable job on the ad.

Now, just when you thought this couldn't get worse, it comes out that Polo Ralph Lauren had terminated its contract with the model, Filippa Hamilton, back in April because she was too fat. (Hamilton is 5-foot-10 and weighs 120 pounds.) "They fired me because they said I was overweight and I couldn't fit in their clothes anymore," she told the New York Daily News on Tuesday. (See Hamilton's photo on the Daily News website to see what Ralph Lauren considers "overweight.")

According to the report, the 23-year-old model has worked for Lauren since 2002 and was distraught at being fired by an employer she'd come to see as "a second family." When the altered ad blew up online, she was surprised—and not pleasantly so—to see how her image had been distorted. "I think they owe American women an apology, a big apology," she told the paper. "I'm very proud of what I look like, and I think a role model should look healthy."

 Follow Michael Mechanic on Twitter.

Become a Fan of Auschwitz

| Wed Oct. 14, 2009 3:38 PM EDT

UPDATE: The Guardian is reporting that the Facebook page has been taken down! No explanation has yet been offered as to why, just days after it debuted, the Auschwitz Memorial fan page has suddenly disappeared. Those 2000 fans will be sorely disappointed. 

There is really no good way to get young people hyped about remembering the Holocaust. Faced with the extremely advanced age of remaining survivors, the increasing vehemence and prominence of Holocaust deniers, and the pervasive fear of collective amnesia, Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi death camp, did something drastic.  They created a Facebook page. 

You too can join the more than 300 "fans" of the Auschwitz Memorial, though some users may be put off by having "Fan of Auschwitz" appear at the bottom of their profile. Others may have a hard time finding the "official" Auschwitz page among a surprising number of unrelated groups also dedicated to never forgetting.  The Polish authorities charged with running the site have issued a response to those who worry that Facebook trivializes the more than one million people, mostly Jews, who died in the camp:

Auschwitz Memorial is experimenting with new ways of reaching and educating people - such as Facebook. There are many contemporary issues connected with historical memory and there are contemporary problems that we must solve now, after 65 years. The question is - should Auschwitz Memorial, as an institution, be closed for such new possibilities as Facebook with millions of people?

The camp has also launched a YouTube channel dedicated to education and memorial.

To be fair, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are a much bigger deal outside of America, and quite notably in Poland. A Polish-Jewish friend likened fighting anti-Semitism there to cleaning muck from a sewer.