Tina K. Russell

November 29, 2009

Our presumed obsessions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:49 pm

To the Editor:

The discovery of water on the Moon is indeed one of the greatest discoveries in human history. The possibilities for expansion of our heretofore single home base have just multiplied to a greater extent than when early hominids first jumped down from their tree perches and began a terrestrial expansion.

It is indeed shocking, but not at all surprising, that outside the scientific community this discovery has next to no interest to most people. The average American is apparently more interested in what foolish thing Sarah Palin will say or do next.

Americans no longer want to be informed; they just want to be entertained. The promise of the 1950s and early ’60s has now ended in the reality that most Americans are not “smarter than a fifth grader” and don’t really know, or care, about things of cosmic importance. I fear for our future.

Michael Davis

Madison, Wis., Nov. 20, 2009

via Letters – Water on the Moon, Reality on Earth – NYTimes.com.

While I have a lot of sympathy for this person’s argument, I think there’s a bit of a straw man—or a straw population—in it. It’s annoying that TV shows focused more on Sarah Palin than on a discovery that changes our perception of the universe forever, but I also know that TV shows often rush to judgment on what Americans care about and then attempt to dictate their assumptions to us. So, I wouldn’t assume right away that TV shows focusing on Palin means we “don’t care” about spaceflight; maybe we’d watch more science news if networks were willing to take the risk of treating their audiences like adults.

I spent eight months wondering who the hell Jon and Kate were and why I should give a damn. I suspect I’m not alone.

See also: Majority Of Americans Out Of Touch With Mainstream

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The tragic life story

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:15 pm

THE tragic life story of a murdered Kentish Town transsexual became clear this week when it was revealed the victim’s mother had committed suicide four years ago and her uncle spent 15 years in prison falsely convicted of an IRA bombing.

Destiny Lauren, 29, born Justin Samuels, was found dead at around 1am on Thursday November 5, in her flat on Leighton Crescent.

It was almost four years to the day since her mother Elizabeth Hill took her own life outside the same flat.

via Hampstead and Highgate Express – Tragic story of murdered transsexual, whose uncle was one of the Guildford Four.

I’m really impressed with this article. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an article about the murder of a transsexual that really gave the victim, and the family, a story. For once, we’re not just statistics, we’re individuals.

The ninth paragraph—count it, nine—mentions that she was a sex worker. I was even more impressed after reading that, both because they didn’t choose to make it their lead (“transsexual prostitute murdered in back alley” is the usual angle, which comes with an air of dismissal), and because it’s rare for a transsexual murder victim to get any kind of life story printed, and rarer still if the victim is also a sex worker.

It’s a little chilling that I’m so used to stories of the murders of transgender people that I find myself celebrating one that is well-written. But, such is the reality of our lives. Reductionist, sensationalist stories of transsexuals’ deaths put us in danger by making us seem less than human, reinforcing a belief that discrimination against us is tolerable and our murders inevitable. However, treating these deaths as what they are—promising lives cut short by evil acts—will get people to think twice about mean things they do or say to transgender people, which will help create a climate in which no murder, of anyone, is tolerated.

November 25, 2009

Pronouns and the brutal power of language

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:05 pm

ROME (Reuters) – A Brazilian transsexual caught up in a scandal which prompted the resignation of a senior Italian politician — the center-left governor of Lazio region, which includes Rome — was found burned to death in his home Friday. Police found a body following a fire in a basement flat in a neighborhood frequented by transsexual prostitutes and court sources said magistrates were treating the death as murder.

Forensic tests were expected to identify the remains as those of a transsexual known only as Brenda, police said.

Brenda and another Brazilian transsexual were at the center of a case involving the blackmail of former Lazio Governor Piero Marrazzo by four police officers who secretly filmed him having sex and taking drugs with one of the transsexuals.

via Transsexual in Italian political scandal murdered | International | Reuters.

Here’s what I wrote to Reuters:

I’m upset that you referred to Brenda, the murdered Brazilian transsexual at the center of an Italian political scandal, using male pronouns (“he” and “his”) rather than the correct female pronouns. It was even more shocking to see such direct insult in an article about how she burned to death in a firebombing.

It’s rather terrifying to the transgender community, worldwide, to imagine that our identities will not be respected even after our deaths. I can only hope that tragedies like this, the sadly regular occurrence of transgender people murdered for being honest about who they are, will serve as a wakeup call about the brutal power of language. Organizations like Reuters set the tone for society with their use of language, and differences like “he” and “she” mean the difference between “normal” and “abnormal” (whether or not someone’s gender is “legitimate”), which can mean the difference between life and death.

The Reuters stylebook (thank you for putting it online!) does not directly address transgender pronouns, but here is the advice of the AP stylebook: “Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.” I hope you will use this wise advice in the future. Thank you!

July 31, 2009

Beck-ing the question

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:47 am

The White House doesn’t want to give Glenn Beck a bigger platform or extra oxygen — especially regarding his remark yesterday that the president has “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture” — so they won’t comment, even off record. Beck, after all, is a radio DJ who somehow ended up getting a national platform to give his opinion on politics. What’s most amazing about this episode is that what Beck said isn’t a fireable or even a SUSPENDABLE offense by his bosses. There was a time when outrageous rants like this would actually cost the ranters their jobs. But not anymore; if anything, it’s now encouraged. And all of this could turn ACTUAL journalists into the next Howard Beales.

via First thoughts: Losing the message war? – First Read – msnbc.com.

I know that Glenn Beck is an idiot, but what he said really bothers me because I’ve seen it before. Barack Obama is someone who grew up in Hawaii, was raised by a while family, and read Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics as a kid. Yet, somehow he gets pigeonholed as hating whitey. It just doesn’t make sense.

I remember reading something a long time ago where a black woman who was a science-fiction fan called for more people of color in science fiction and fantasy works, and commenters screeched “Why can’t you identify with white people?” The truth is that she wouldn’t ever be a science-fiction fan if she couldn’t identify with white people, because she’d completely out of luck given the dearth of black protagonists in the genre. In fact, as should be obvious, she loved the strong characters and stories that made her a fan in the first place; all she wanted was to see her people represented there, too.

Too often, though, that nuance gets lost whenever race comes into the discussion, making it difficult simply to be proud of who you are. Someday, we’ll take it for granted that a proud black man isn’t automatically out to “get” whites or somesuch, and I wish it were today.

July 19, 2009

Amazon.com’s memory hole

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 5:05 pm

In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them.

An Amazon spokesman, Drew Herdener, said in an e-mail message that the books were added to the Kindle store by a company that did not have rights to them, using a self-service function. “When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,” he said.

Amazon effectively acknowledged that the deletions were a bad idea. “We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,” Mr. Herdener said.

via Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle Devices – NYTimes.com.

Two thoughts:

  1. I had no idea that my skepticism of the Kindle would be vindicated so soon. I never liked the idea, in theory, that Amazon.com can remove, remotely, any feature or purchase from your device without your knowledge or consent. I didn’t like the theory, and now it’s in the realm of practice. (Yes, they won’t do it again, they say… sure. Let’s see how they hold up the next time they’re assaulted by a gaggle of lawyers carrying pitchforks and legal briefs.)
  2. Wait… the bogus publisher placed pirate versions of Orwell’s books onto the Kindle store using a self-service feature? Amazon.com allows you to add books to the store on the honor system? That’s insane. And, incidentally, be on the lookout for the ultra-bestseller Twilight, now from Tina Russell Publishing, LLC, available on the Kindle Store in about fifteen minutes.

June 18, 2009

The One I Feed

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:46 am

This is what Bill Moyers said after a report on the man who, last year, walked into a Unitarian church with the intention of killing “liberals,” murdering one congregant before being subdued. With the murders of an abortion doctor and a Holocaust museum guard, and questions of the media’s role in these crimes, I feel it is even more important to heed Moyers’s words.

Bill Moyers Journal . Transcripts | PBS
We may never know what finally triggered the killer’s rage, unless he chooses at his trial or later to tell us. But not for a moment do I think any of the talk show hosts mentioned by the police would have wished it to happen.

We asked several radio hosts to come on this broadcast and talk about the story; they either declined or didn’t return our calls. The issue of course is not their right to say anything they want on the air. The First Amendment guarantees their free speech as it does mine. Government shouldn’t be the arbiter of what the Bill of Rights leaves to one’s own sense of fair play.

Watching that report, however, I was reminded of a story from folk lore about the tribal elder telling his grandson about the battle the old man was waging within himself. He said, “My son it is between two wolves. One is an evil wolf: anger, envy, sorrow, greed, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is the good wolf: joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The boy took this in for a few minutes and then asked, “Which wolf won?” His grandfather answered, “The one I feed.”

So, too, America’s public life. The wolf that wins is the wolf we feed. Media provides the fodder.

May 20, 2009

Screw You, GQ

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 9:35 am

AND HE SHALL BE JUDGED: GQ Features on men.style.com

Bloody hell.

So, GQ magazine (yes, that GQ) decides to go all highbrow and run a thrilling exposé on Donald Rumsfeld being an even bigger jerk—and even more incompetent—than we ever knew, which, given what he knew before, is really saying something. I saw the coverage on The Rachel Maddow Show, and it did look very interesting. And, guess what.

You might be aware that I have ADD. You might not be aware that I, uh, swing both ways. Perhaps I shouldn’t call myself out on that, here; I imagine that any straight woman can appreciate a beautiful woman, just as any straight man can and won’t admit to appreciating a beautiful man. But, yes, Tina Russell is bisexual, though this does not need to come up often in my blog topics.

And so, the sadistic fools at GQ decided to design their brilliant exposé to be the sort of thing that would interest and anger me; a veritable Tina trap, geared to be the most painful to my personal psyche. Here we go:

The text is tiny. I mean, really tiny. You can make it bigger, of course, but that’s beside the point.

The article is on ten pages. I loathe multi-page articles; you might notice that I link to the full-page versions of articles whenever I can. Reaching the end of each page, each click, each wait, each load, is a new opportunity to forget whatever it was I was doing, or, more accurately, to lose the wonderful sense of being lost in my reading. These page breaks are heinous crimes against those with ADD.

And, just to rub salt in the wound, there isn’t even much on each page; I guess they wanted it to be “more like reading the magazine,” that is, if the magazine required you to point at a small link, wait ten seconds, and watch your field of vision redraw itself each time you wanted to turn the page. (Though, this is GQ. If I were reading the magazine, I’d probably have to flip through pages of cologne ads, quizzes, and bulleted lists of things “she” won’t tell you she loves in bed, because you’re too shallow to ask her and you’ve decided that buying this magazine is an appropriate substitute for communication in your relationship. Moving on…)

Each page has a promo for GQ in the upper-right corner. Specifically, it’s the GQ cover with Jennifer Aniston naked.

How in the Lord’s name am I supposed to read an article that’s a) on ten, separate, short pages, b) in bizarre, tiny text, and c) when Jennifer Aniston is naked in the upper-right corner?! They want to be reading about Donald Rumsfeld this way? Are they nuts?

And this is an important piece! This is a vital journalistic service! In fact, this may be the first vital journalistic service to be completely undone by a nude Jennifer Aniston. And to that I say, shame!

(I should mention that, as a transsexual woman who likes other women—it actually seems to be rather common, as gender identity and sexual orientation are seperate phenomena, and transsexuals have the privilege of seeing under the table of gender and perceiving what a charade it all is anyway—naked Jennifer Aniston does two things to me. One, she is beautiful, so I drool. Two, she is out there, with the body I would want, using the body I would want, using it to make people happy. I imagine this feeling of conflict is common to all women who have a thing for our fairer sex, however… when you’re transsexual, it’s the source of the deepest sort of existential angst, the kind that keeps you awake at night and can break your spirit at its core. I might talk about it sometime… if I feel like it.)

I suppose GQ wants to be more like Vanity Fair these days: ten percent fairly good journalism, and ninety percent utter vanity. Well, good luck. Perhaps, not long from now, people will say they read GQ just for the brilliant exposés. And, of course, they won’t, they can’t, because they’re too distracted by the exposure.

February 14, 2009

The Smut-Hawley (UPDATED)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:09 pm

Washington porn tax would fund social program – OregonLive.com
OLYMPIA — State Rep. Mark Miloscia of Federal Way has proposed a 19 percent tax on pornography.

He wants the revenue to save a program that provides money to people unable to work because of physical or mental disabilities.

The General Assistance-Unemployable program would be cut in the budget proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The legislation would tax adult magazines and video, telephone services and paraphernalia.

The tax would need a supermajority vote of the Legislature or approval by voters. Miloscia told The Spokesman-Review he’s confident his proposal would pass if it went to a statewide vote.

I think this is a terrible idea for 3 reasons:

  1. You’re taxing a specific kind of speech. Why not single out action movies or picture books for a tax? It’s not even the medium that defines what is being taxed in this proposal, just the content.
  2. A program that depends on revenue from porn taxes is a program that depends on the flourishing of the porn industry, not exactly I goal I think lawmakers in Washington State have in mind. Here in Oregon, a distressing amount of our money comes from the lottery and from video poker machines, and as a result, the government rolls over instantly whenever the gambling industry asks us for anything.
  3. It creates an inappropriate stigma. Gasoline taxes are often used for road repair because the costs and benefits stay within the same group (people who use roads). What is the connection between porn and the difficulty of people with disabilities to find employment? As someone with a learning disability, I benefit from school and government considerations all the time; society as a whole benefits when all are able to succeed regardless of circumstance, so I’m not sure why consumers of pornography should be singled out to pay.

In short, I see no reason why we should tax porn-consuming Peter to pay disabled Paul; it’s mean-spirited, it’s opportunistic, and it’s offensive. I support these kinds of government programs and wish the taxes would be spread among those who benefit (everyone), rather than targeting a specific group for no reason.

Update: It died. One reason cited is that a fellow state senator “foresaw problems with a bill that would put a different sales tax on goods based on content.” I believe the legislative term for this is “no sheezy.”

February 3, 2009

Learning the Tropes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 7:15 pm

What Do You Mean, It’s Not Didactic? – Television Tropes & Idioms
Right, so you’re looking through the library and come across a copy of Moby Dick. First published in 1851? Wow, if it’s still being published after more than 150 years, it must be good! You’ve heard a lot of good things about this novel, so you eagerly check it out and head home.

Later, you open it up and discover there’s a preface. Might as well read that to get an idea of the context it was written, and so maybe enjoy it even more. You start reading, and naturally the preface begins by summarizing the plot… wait, why are you annoyed? You weren’t planning on reading it for the story, were you? This isn’t just literature, it’s a work of True Art! In the minds of Really Clever Literary Critics, the true worth of a book, movie, or TV series is not in telling an engrossing story with interesting characters, but in allowing people to write long, complex, deep essays on the true meaning of the subject matter, whatever they think that may be. Once the critics have done this sort of analysis, they can objectively declare these works as True Art: it doesn’t matter how much you personally like or dislike these works so long as you understand the deeper meaning behind them. Only ignorant fools don’t understand. Such an attitude may be expressed in several ways:

You can even get away with Completely Missing The Point if you’re a Really Serious Critic who wants to reveal all sorts of Family Unfriendly Aesops inside a work, whether or not they have anything to do with the actual characters or plot. Goodness forbid that the author(s) wanted you to do so. How long will it be before high school/college students are forced to write long-winded essays about the philosophical and socio-religious undertones of Harry Potter? (Answer: Already happened.)

Note that having the plot given away becomes less and less of an issue the older the subject is. Most people who haven’t read, for example, Moby Dick will still be familiar with key plot points due to Popcultural Osmosis. See It Was His Sled.

See also True Art Is Angsty, True Art Is Incomprehensible.

Good God, this website is brilliant! It’s already sucked away hours of my life. It’s a complete listing of clichés that have appeared in (despite the site’s title) every fictional work, ever. All are named, identified, and catalogued. It feels like a certain consumer comeuppance. And, as such tropes are not necessarily bad (as the site eagerly points out), it’s like revealing that the emperor has no clothes—and hey, the emporer’s not that bad looking. He could be Mr. September on the Vainly Deceptive Heads of State swimsuit calendar. (I hope there’s a trope entry for what I just did, going too far on an allusion. You know, like instead of going out on a limb, you’ve staked out a tree for a week as part of an anti-logging public protest, only to find that the threatened tree you needed to protect is a couple meters over and already chopped down. It distracts from the text.)

January 13, 2009

Moyers on Middle East violence

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 6:57 pm

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Please watch.

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