Thursday, June 28, 2007

BlogHers Act -- Vote Now!

BlogHers Act
A few weeks ago I wrote about BlogHer's amazing project of mobilizing their members toward political action.

They tabulated all suggestions, and have produced a poll, so vote now!

And a few more items of interest:

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Read For the Record!

My fellow lit-mag editor Jen Pieroni works as a grant writer for Jumpstart and is currently working on Read For the Record, which purchases numerous copies of a single book (this year, it's The Story of Ferdinand) in order to help disadvantaged children learn to read.

I think Jen said it best in her email:

"One of the statistics that literally dumbfounds me is that children in economically depressed communities have 0-2 age appropriate books in their homes. 61 percent do not have any books at all. As a writer and someone who loves books, can you even imagine?

So we're doing Jumpstart's Read for the Record to raise awareness about these disparities between disadvantaged children and their more privileged peers, while also providing low-income children and families with a beautiful book, which includes tips for families for how to make the most of reading time with young kids.

We chose The Story of Ferdinand because of its great message of being true to oneself. It's about this totally self-actualized Spanish bull who's really just content to sit in the pasture and smell the flowers even though he could probably be getting a lot of glory be fighting like all of the other bulls. It's the perfect message for the kids we're working with."

Jen has generously donated some of her own money to the cause. Want help disadvantaged kids learn to read? Donate at Jen's page and help her make her $1,000 goal!

Fringe Binge 3 Recap

Didn't make it to this year's Binge? Or maybe you were there but can't for the life of you remember what went down? Well, here's what you missed:

Editors [from left] Katie Spencer, Beth Parfitt, Janell Sims, Lizzie Stark, Julia Henderson and Sarah Miles were at the Crimson Room at Tommy Doyle's in Harvard Square by 7, and by 8, the fabulous DJ Tanya Ca$h was spinning her records.

Tommy D's brought delicious munchies down for all to enjoy, and by the end of the night, about 50 people came to support Fringe, dance, drink and be merry. Overall, we brought in more than $200, so thanks to everyone who came out. If you couldn't make it, you can still make your donation on the Fringe site.

A few quotes:

[random guy, upon seeing the Crimson Room full of hot women]: "I always dreamed that a place like this existed."

[Tanya Ca$h, the excellent DJ]: "I had a shitload of fun!"

Make sure you don't miss the next one.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

National Day of Silence for Net Radio

Save it, kids! New royalty rates for internet radio are set to go into effect on July 15, which will put many small webcasters out of bidness. Broadcasters have declared today a National Day of Silence, and will be observing it at various times during the day today. Save Net Radio has organized the effort; here's more from their press release:

The regularly scheduled programming of millions of Internet radio listeners will be temporarily interrupted tomorrow when tens of thousands of U.S. webcasters observe a national Day of Silence. Protesting the recent 300 percent royalty rate increase for online music webcasters, the aim of the industry wide daylong blackout is to raise awareness of the threat these new rates pose to the future of Internet radio and rally support for legislation pending in Congress.

"Webcasters of every size and from every corner of the country will stand united tomorrow to protest a very real and fast approaching threat to their livelihood,” said Jake Ward, a spokesperson for the SaveNetRadio Coalition. “With nearly a half million emails and phone calls from webcasters, listeners, and the artists they support sent to Congress in just the last two months, this national grassroots campaign has certainly captured the attention of lawmakers, but there is more to be done and time is running out....

Internet-only webcasters and broadcasters that simulcast online will alert their listeners that "silence" is what Internet radio may be reduced to after July 15th, the day on which 17 months' worth of retroactive royalty payments—at new, exceedingly high rates—are due to the SoundExchange collection organization, following a recent Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) decision.

Grump! How many ways are there for big companies to steal entire markets from little ones? Write your congressperson and let em know how you feel. Today's the day to do it!

Friday, June 22, 2007

ING Direct Commercial - Yay!

I saw a great ING Direct commercial the other night that encouraged women to stop spending their money on expensive purses and start putting the money into savings accounts so that it can grow (and then be used for bigger, better purchases, like, uh, a house for instance).

See the ING commercial here.

I know that ING obviously wants more customers, but this commercial raises women's awareness about the temptation to spend hard-earned cash on non-practical items.

This culturally-encouraged pamper-spending has long been one of my biggest gripes. I get so angry at the notion that women should "treat themselves" to [fill in the blank here: lipstick, a massage, Botox treatment, Prada footwear] as a reward for hard work. If women were encouraged to save their money for big purchases, then maybe more than only 18% of home buyers in the U.S. would be single women.

Yay ING!

Fringe Binge 3: The Summer Solstice

That’s right, the summer solstice is upon us (okay, it was yesterday), and what better way to celebrate the longest day of the year than by partying with Fringe Magazine! It’s our annual fundraiser, and this time we’ve upgraded from my house to the fabulous downstairs at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square. The party is from 7-10pm – we’ll have hot munchies to share and rockin’ beats courtesy of DJ Tanya Ca$h. So if you’re in the Boston area, come out and support independent publishing! (Cost: $7 at the door)

Bring your dancing shoes and your drinking hat!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Bound: A Feminist Reading?

I'm a big fan of all things noir, but even though my father lent me this movie close to three years ago, I'd put off seeing it. I can't really say why, other than the unappealing cover photo, and the billing that it was the movie the Wachowski Brothers made before The Matrix.

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the gritty noir plot of two million dollars, mobsters, wife beating, and lesbians. A surface reading of this movie might extoll the way the film twists classic noir conventions by empowering the femme fatal Violet(Jennifer Tilly) to take control of her situation and try to screw over her abusive husband. Gina Gershon plays Corky, a butch lesbian thrown into the explosive situation by chance, and in it for love and money.

A different reading might comment that the central couple (Corky and Violet), while nominally empowered and in control of their situation, simply re-hash gender dynamics the film makers seem so desperate to escape -- Gershon is butch while Tilly puts the femme in femme fatale, Gershon is masculine to Tilly's feminine. Rather than breaking binary notions of gender, the two simply take the ballgame to a different arena.

I'm no Julia Serano (reading Bitch's recent interview with her prompted these thoughts) -- perhaps Bound simply replicates heterosexual dynamics with lesbians, perhaps reading heterosexual politics into their relationship is heterosexist of me, but in the end, you gotta love a movie where two women take on the mob and give them a bloody run for their money.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Confessions of a Girly Girl

I didn’t own a pair of jeans until fifth grade. But I had dresses aplenty. Dresses, lacy socks, even dolls with matching outfits. Maybe because when shopping with my Virginia-born grandmother, harsh denim fabric never seemed to catch her stylistic eye. That, and when placed next to my frilly wardrobe, jeans just seemed vulgar.

All of my friends wore jeans all the time. I was the only skirt-clad girl at my fifth birthday party at McDonald’s. As if sliding down the staticky plastic slide into a pile of sun-baked mulch weren’t tragic enough.

I would complain to my mom that I wanted to dress like the other girls—wear t-shirts, jeans, socks without lace, shoes without bows-on-the-toes. I hated being the only girl at a slumber party in a frilly nightgown while everyone else was in t-shirts and boxers.

But when I got my wish in those hellish teenage years, and pulled on the brand-regulated pair of stonewashed jeans, it was like a part of me was hiding. I finally looked like everyone else, but I still felt estranged.

This was the dawning of my love affair with fashion. Instead of copying what my friends wore, I decided to wear what I liked and thought looked nice. I began to see style as a unique language—a way to express my femininity, something my friends didn’t think was cool. I no longer had to hide my feminine taste; I could embrace it. Being a girly-girl was empowering.

I think that one of the many misconceptions of feminism is that appearance is essentially unimportant and that society’s excessive attention to it oppresses women. There certainly is a danger in placing too much importance on physical appearance; it often leaks into your source of self-worth. When the intrinsic value of a woman or a man is based upon appearance, there is the indication of a deeply rooted, unhealthy worldview.

But I like to go shopping. I enjoy wearing ‘outfits.’ I’m one who feels naked without earrings (and let’s face it, a necklace and bracelet also). So for me, being a girly-girl is part of who I am as a feminist: it’s simply an expression of myself, of what I like. It can even be my way of showing my friend that I’m thrilled to be meeting her for lunch—by putting some effort into my appearance, I’m showing her I respect her and the time we spend together.

And being a girly-girl doesn’t mean you have to sell out to materialism and support slave labor. But that’s another blog…

Fatwa: When Religion Meets the Modern World

Problem 1: According to Islam, unmarried men and women cannot work together. In fact, the only males women are supposed to keep company with are their relatives.

Problem 2: Modernization in Muslim nations means men and women need to work together to advance their countries and stay competitive with the rest of the world.

The Solution (according to some representative of Egypt’s religious authorities): Women must breastfeed their male coworkers five times, thus making them relatives.

You’re thinking this must be a joke. Sadly no – I nearly dropped my coffee when I read Michael Slackman’s article on Egypt’s fatwa’s in the New York Times yesterday morning. Slackman goes on to report that while some Muslims are uncomfortable with these two fatwas, or religious edicts based on Islamic principles, many Muslims count on the fatwas to help them navigate the modern world with their religious integrity intact. People seek fatwas for everything from marriage and divorce to buying products, although no one issued a fatwa is held to it – they may seek alternate counsel or ignore it all together. Despite that, there are agencies authorized by Egypt’s government to issue fatwas, and there are a host of other sources, like internet sites and television shows. And really, those asking for fatwas want to be told what to do – they need to reconcile their beliefs with their actual lives.

The fatwa I’ve sited above has caused great controversy in Egypt, and although this need to reconcile faith and modernity may seem laughable to Westerners, let’s not forget the recent controversy in the US over a single line in the Pledge of Allegiance, nor who won that argument. At the heart of this conflict is a much deeper issue, one that involves all peoples – how much should religious rules and values formed thousands of year ago be allowed define our modern lives?

I believe everyone has a right to their own beliefs, insofar as they don’t harm others in pursuit of these beliefs, but I also think that some of the old ideas just don’t hold sway anymore, and maybe never should have. Let’s face it – a lot of religions aren’t very friendly to women, but we know women are not inherently subservient to men, or more evil, or more wayward, etc. I am confident that most people recognize the difference between good and evil regardless of their religion, and act accordingly, and those who don’t probably wouldn’t be helped by religion. I hope that as we grow as human beings people will start to make their own decisions, rather than turn to religion as a guide. But it looks like that day is a long, long way off.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

BlogHers Act

BlogHer is trying to harness the power of women on the internet. They are asking women bloggers to identify two different things:

1. Choose a global issue as BlogHer's hot-button issue of the year.

My choice? is a tough one. On the one hand, I'd like to see folks address issues of global poverty and workers' conditions all over the world -- shouldn't all trade be "fair trade"? Like Leslie Morgan Steiner of the Washington Post blog On Balance, I'd also like to see women's rights improve globally. One way to address this issue might be through the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Many countries have not ratified this document because it would require them to treat women as human rather than second-class citizens. While I'm not sure that universal ratification would materially change things for women in other countries, I do think it is an important first step in changing attitudes.

2. Election '08 -- what four issues would you like to see presidential candidates address?

*How to end the war in Iraq and rebuild our tarnished reputation abroad.

*ERA now. It's back, we need it. I want my rights as a woman to be protected in the constitution. I do not believe in any of this "universal he" crap. You know, I heard that in the '70's French feminists got their rights enshrined in the constitution by buying billboards that said "Fifty percent of men are women". So women would have to risk being drafted. In my mind that is a tiny price to pay.

*Big money in politics and the two party system. I know it will never happen, but I would like to see the US change to a multi-party system because I think it will decrease the effect of lobbiests on the government. I think our current system is corrupt because it doesn't serve all of the people, like a democracy should -- instead it serves corporations.

*Health Care. Preferably universal.

What do you all want? Post here!

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Pool

Here it is, the Fringe Pool! After reviewing publication dates and writers' backgrounds, I compiled this list from suggestions tendered by the Fringe staff, several Emerson Professors, and my mother's book club. Folks often suggested several books by one author, so I chose a single work as necessary. Got suggestions for additional books? Put 'em in the comments!

Happy reading.

*Allison, Dorothy. Bastard Out of Carolina (Plume: 1993)
* Barrett, Andrea. Middle Kingdom (1991)
*Bloom, Amy. Away (2007)
*Burton, Gabrielle. Heartbreak Hotel (1985)
* Chang, Samantha. Inheritance (2004)
* Cisernos, Sandra. Caramelo (2002)
* Cliff, Michelle. Free Enterprise (1993)
* Cunningham, Michael. The Hours (1999)
* Divakaruni, Chitra. The Mistress of Spices (1997)
*Desai, Anita. Fasting, Feasting (1999)
*Desai, Kiran. The Inheritance of Loss (2006)
*Ducornet, Rikki. The Fountains of Neptune (1989)
*Eugenides, Jeffrey. Middlesex. (2002)
*Fremont, Helen. After Long Silence (1999)
*Gilbert, Elizabeth. Eat, Pray, Love (2006)
*Holmes, A.M. The End of Alice (1996)
* Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner (2003)
*Jen, Gish. Typical American (1991)
*Jones, Gayl. Corregidora (1987)
*Karr, Mary. The Liar's Club (1995)
*Kincaid, Jamaica. Autobiography of My Mother (1995)
*Kingsolver, Barbara. The Poisonwood Bible (1998)
*Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Fifth Book of Peace (2004)
*Krauss, Nicole. The History of Love (2005)
*Lahiri,Jumpa. The Namesake (2003)
*Lee, Chang-rae. Native Speaker (1995)
*Lee, Don. Country of Origin (2004)
*Lewis, Heather. Notice (2004)
*Livesey, Margot. Eva Moves the Furniture (2002)
*Mason, Bobbie Ann. In Country (1985)
*McBride, James. The Color of Water (1996)
*McLarin, Kim. Jump at the Sun (2006)
*Momaday, Scott. The Ancient Child (1989)
*Naylor, Gloria. Mama Day (1988)
*Patchett, Ann. The Magician's Assistant (1994).
*Powell, Patricia. The Pagoda (1998)
*Sapphire. Push (1996)
*Shields, Carol. The Stone Diaries (1993)
*Silber, Joan. Ideas of Heaven (2004)
*Smiley, Jane. A Thousand Acres (1991)
*Smith, Zadie. White Teeth (2000)
*Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club (1989)
*Tyler, Ann. Ladder of Years (1995)
*Walker, Alice. The Color Purple (1982)
*Wideman, John Edgar. Two Cities (1998)
* Williams, Joy. The Quick and the Dead (2000)
*Yamanaka, Lois-Ann. Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers (1996).

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Every Kiss Begins with Slavery

My boyfriend and I recently became engaged, and now we are preparing to purchase an engagement ring for me. (Who knew I'd want one so badly?) The only problem is that we don't want to begin our marriage by feeding the bloody and violent diamond trade.

John Ruskin said it best about glass beads in The Stones of Venice:

"The men who chop up the rods sit at their work all day, their hands vibrating with a perpetual and exquisitely timed palsy, and the beads dropping beneath their vibration like hail. Neither they, nor the men who draw out the rods or fuse the fragments, have the smallest occasion for the use of any single human faculty; and every young lady, therefore, who buys glass beads is engaged in the slave trade, and in a much more cruel one than that which we have so long endeavoured to put down."

Diamonds, I'm sure you'll be glad to hear, are much worse. But as with many things, there are degrees of badness.

Conflict Diamonds

Since the movie release of Blood Diamond last year, awareness of conflict diamonds has risen in the US.

* Conflict diamonds come from mines controlled or seized by rebel groups in various countries. These groups use the profits from the stones to buy guns, foment rebellion, genocide, etc. As you can imagine, labor conditions for those mining these stones are the thirteenth circle of hell.

* In 2000, a bunch of diamond retailers got together and formed the Kimberly Process which is supposed to prevent diamonds from militia groups from being sold. However, the folks over at Amnesty International say this process is full of loopholes, like the fact that there's no independent oversight and that the process is entirely voluntary. The upshot is there's no way to know if a diamond is conflict-free.

Diamond Labor Conditions

Just because a diamond isn't a conflict diamond, doesn't mean it's slave-labor free.

* It is impossible to know if your gem was cut by child laborers. Also, many diamond mines have horrible conditions of labor.

Canadian Diamonds

Canada has recently begun mining diamonds. These diamonds are the only ones and the world that you can be certain are slavery-free. All Canadian diamonds come with certificates of authenticity naming the mine of origin from the Canadian government, and many have serial numbers or maple leafs lasered on to the diamond.

Here are some vendors of Canadian Diamonds:

Polar Bear Diamonds

Canadian Arctic Diamonds

These diamonds are available at many stores in the US, and I intend to ask for them specifically. If you're interested in other gemstones, you might try Fair Trade Gems.

Concerned about gold and platinum, which are even less regulated that diamonds? There is only one place to go -- Brilliant Earth, which offers Fair-Trade EVERYTHING.

I don't what kind of ring I will get, but armed with my research, I hope that I will be starting off my married life with a kiss, and not by participating in the slave trade.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Best 25 Novels of the Last 25 Years, Fringe-Style

Remember the New York Times list of the top twenty five books of the last twenty five years? I decried it for being racist, sexist, and a few other ists in this blog post.

Well, I've never been one to criticize without taking action. I am pleased to announce that we here at Fringe have decided to make our own list of the Best 25 Novels of the Last 25 Years. However, the rules for voting are a bit complicated. Because we think that the NYT's oversight of minority writers resulted from lack of awareness of these writers rather than aggressive racism/sexism,(although the list of judges was a little over 25% women, pretty pitiful) our methodology is aimed at overcoming this hurdle.

Here is how it will work:

*Fringe staffers will create a Pool of recent novels, written solely by writers who are non-white, non-male, non-straight, or some combination thereof. Look for an unofficial version of the Pool on the blog in the next few weeks. The official Pool will appear in our August issue.

*In order to vote for Fringe's Best 25 Novels of the Last 25 Years, you have to read at least two books from the Pool. For each additional book you read, you are able to cast an additional vote, up to a maximum of five votes.

*Each individual may only cast one ballot (containing up to five votes), scout's honor. When voting, you will be required to list the books you have read from the Pool, scout's honor. If you choose, you may cast some or all of your votes for books that do not appear in the Pool. You may vote for up to five different books, or you may allot all of your votes to one book.

*Because we are competing with the NYT list, we wanted to make it fair by adopting some of their base guidelines. All books appearing in the Pool or on the final List must meet these criteria:

a) have an original publication date of 1982 or later
b) be originally written in English
c) have an author who is either an American citizen or who has resided in America for the bulk of their writing career.
d) only novels are eligible here.

I think that about covers the read tape (get it?). Stay tuned for more details and the unofficial pool.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Summer Reading!

Remember those summers you spent trekking your little pink backpack to the public library in town, filling it with as many Sweet Valley High books as you could carry, and then reading those books like it was your one and only summer job? Okay, so the details may vary, but I can bet that everyone did their share of summer reading as a kid. Whether it was the table full of classics on the 10th grade reading list (Ugh, Lord of the Flies, again?!) or just a breezy beach read, there's something about sitting in the sun with a good paperback in hand that puts me in the mood for more.

So, I'm giving all of you my brief list thus far--with the hope that you will send me some of your favorite summer reads as well. That's how it works people.

Special Topics In Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Not only does this novel have one of the coolest websites I've seen yet, but it is by far one of the most entertaining, beautifully written, and articulately crafted books I've read in a very long time. The story will have you guessing from start to finish--and even at the end you'll feel the need to flip back to page 1 and start again.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Yes, it's on my list. Deal with it. No, I won't be waiting in line for my copy at midnight on July 21, but I stand firm in my support of Harry and his adventures based on the fact that since Potter's first appearance in 1997 J.K. Rowling has gotten millions of children reading. Plus, this type of book defines summer reading. The last installment in the Potter saga is sure to be quick, fast-paced, dramatic and heartwrenching til the end.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

I'm in serious Hemingway phase right now, so if you want a classic choose one from the master. I have nightly dreams of Paris, sitting in cafes, and drinking from one of those wine sacks the characters all carry around. If you want something that won't disappoint--this one is a sure thing.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

McEwan's latest, which comes out TODAY, is the first in a long string of summer reads that are apparently... bringing virginity back? Read a short excerpt and decide for yourself.

Happy Reading!

Monday, June 4, 2007

In memory of Sarah Hannah

Emerson poetry professor Sarah Hannah took her own life on May 23rd. The Boston Globe wrote a beautiful obituary, highlighting Dr. Hannah's life and work. Tupelo Press of Dorset, Vt., has moved up publication of her new book, Inflorescence, from November to September, and Jeffrey Levine promises that Tupelo Press will hold a memorial for Sarah at Poet’s House in September when her new book comes out. "I will invite the entire writing community to come and read from her book, and to read tributes or poems in homage," says Levine.

Local poet Douglas Holder wrote a heartfelt blog post in his Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene blog, where he said "I sent her an email last week. I was told that she killed herself last week. She was only in her early 40’s. I know her high school teacher. She seemed so happy. Her star was rising. She had been through a divorce. She had everything to live for. I have only clich├ęs. I am sorry. I have worked at McLean Hospital for 25 years, but I am not immune to this. May she rest in peace."

In times like these, it is impossible not to look at your own life with a new perspective. Take a moment to focus on the good stuff, to appreciate the relative happiness you might take for granted. Kiss your lover, call your mother, write, eat a good meal, connect with an old whatever you need to do to feel alive, appreciated, loved, and important.