Things Consumed

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Like a brush with fame / or perhaps it's infamy / for my bad haiku

  My haiku Twitter feed, was featured in BART's less official blog on the 19th: Play us a song, BART piano man - SFBART's blog ( Thanks to Mini Me and Margot (MS and MS) for calling this to my attention.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)11:13 PM

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Kim Chee Explosion

  Is this (a) a Korean experimental jazz trio or (b) what happened in my kitchen this Saturday morning?

Kids: if you try out kim chee in a jar from a refrigerated display case, and if that kim chee comes with a warning, printing on the top of the jar, warning that it must only be opened over the sink because natural fermentation is creating internal pressure, you should probably keep it refrigerated and open the jar over the sink. Unlike, say, what I did.

It was delicious. And I wasn't wearing anything I was fond of.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 AM

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wal-Mart and books: natural enemies

  I have never purchased anything at Wal-Mart, and have yet another reason not to: they ban/censor books. Which is to say they refuse to carry certain books that don't make it past their screens for certain ideas and imagery. If you go to PostSecret ( right now, you'll see a little note in the text, just above the image showing that the latest PostSecret Book made its debut at number 1 on the NYTimes ( Advice, How-To, and Miscellaneous hardcover bestseller list(!). The note:
The new book is available from bookstores everywhere* and online.

Thanks for making our secrets #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List.

* Wal-Mart stores continue to ban/reject all PostSecret books.
It is GREAT that the new PostSecet book is doing so well! It's an enjoyable project. It is selling well! How could a chain store ban it?

In theory, all stores are private businesses which can carry whatever they like, and people are free to shop wherever they like. In practice, the predatory business model of certain big-box chain stores is to drive all competition in smaller 'markets' out of business, and then engage in oppressive monopoly practices. Small communities can find their access to birth control, books, magazines, "fair trade" products, movies, and music CDs dictated by the policies of the only retail venue they have access to, which has its own agenda.

Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town ( discusses the scope of this one chain's ability to censor, using a series of conservative screens:
While Wal-Mart is the world's largest CD retailer, and in some regions the only place in town to purchase music[,] entertainment products represent only a fraction of their business. However, it is a different story for recording artists. Because Wal-Mart reaps about 10 percent of the total domestic music CD sales, most musicians and record companies will agree to create a "sanitized" version specifically for the megastores.
They don't use my favorite example, which is an Eels song about how difficult it is to live without a loved one, using a profane word for emphasis. W-M banned the album until the Eels re-recorded the song and changed the title for a sanitized version, though they did it sarcastically: E yells "MONSTERTRUCKER" over the offending word whenever it appears. I learned about this through someone who had purchased the CD at the offending big box chain store in his small-town area without knowing that there was another version of the album available, because no disclosure is required.


I want to say that at least W-M is not vandalizing the songs themselves, but the upside to that would be that it would be more obvious. A friend who attended a religious school in Utah reported that the school had movie night, during which the school would show mainstream movies which they had censored themselves - and often not well, so the students at least knew that they weren't getting the film as its creators intended it (in violation of the license that comes with the films, but that's another matter). The kids who had relatives out of the area would later see the whole film elsewhere if it interested them; the locals didn't have many options.


Can you imagine a censored version of Reservoir Dogs without the violence? Or The Terminator without the one scene that explains where Sarah Connor's son comes from? The English Patient without the adultery? It would make more sense not to watch those films at all, rather than to sanitize them, which is the aspect of censorship that confuses me. I think of films, and albums, and sculptures as complete works: if the content is objectionable, it makes far more sense not to watch it at all than to demand the right to see it 'cleaned up' for your restrictions.

It would make even more sense to make your own original films that follow your subculture's values. But that would require creativity.

I suspect I fail to see that mainstream mass-cultural products have a desirable credibility that even fringe groups want access to, and sanitizing and censoring those products is one way to claim an association with the mainstream, even if that association is fractured at best.


This isn't new: art history is full of incidents in which art was suppressed, especially any accurate depictions of the human figure - a figure we all have, more or less, last I checked.

Michelangelo's sculpture David was considered scandalous, and a strategically placed fig-leaf was installed on reproductions of the work in the presence of important ladies, who weren't supposed to understand male anatomy. That was stupid, too. Funny in retrospect, but stupid.

It is also a bit ironic, if Wikipedia's note that the statue came to represent the struggle for civil liberties is accurate.


Just so you know: during a zombie plague outbreak, I'd be okay with looting a Wal-Mart. That is a very special circumstance, possibly the only one in which I would set foot in one. Just so you know.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)7:00 AM

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