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VMA Tribute Disappointments

August 29, 2011

Last night, I anxiously tuned into the Video Music Awards to see Britney Spears claim the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard  Award , which recognizes those who “made a profound impact on MTV culture”. Say what you will about Brit, but , if she deserves anything, she deserves that award.

Those who remember an older incarnation of this blog–hosted at blogger and now private due to the mountain of personal info contained therein–likely recall me speaking a great deal about various aspects of pop culture, most notably Britney Spears.  That young woman has fascinated me for years. First, because her overly sexualized image provided rich fodder for a budding academic studying the sex industry, and later because we seemed to face similar demons in the realm of mental health.

Over the past decade, her videos drove the medium, even if she lost that momentum over the last 4 years. What she accomplished before her public decline was enough to make MTV executives millionaires many times over: the inescapable hook, the unforgettable costumes, the choreography imitated world-wide. She may have been nothing more than a puppet, but she played her part perfectly. People ate it up.

At this year’s VMAs, she was to get due praise for those accomplishments, via the same forum that, in 2007, showcased a comeback that was more akin to a death knell for the singer. I’m sure many people expected to see an over-the-top tribute, in true Britney VMA fashion,  in addition to a sincere acceptance speech. (In regards to the VMAs, Britney has made unparalleled history on that stage: the python and the Madonna make-out for starters.) We got neither.

The performance preceding the award presentation was a hyper-fast run-through of hooks from her music video past, performed by young girls dressed in costumes matching those worn by Spears in the videos.  (The age of the performers in the routine is more than I’m going to take on in this post.)

Lady Gaga, in the drag persona she employed throughout the evening, presented the award and, after Britney was called onstage, seemed poised to re-enact the unexpected kiss Britney once shared with Madonna.

I was uncomfortable watching it. Britney looked uncomfortable standing there. She looked like a girl who knew what she was expected to do, and didn’t want to. She didn’t. She simply said, “No, I’ve already done that.” Kudos to her for not giving in.

She took to the mic, and barely said a word, just a brief sentence really, to acknowledge the hefty award she was holding, and said nothing of the performance in her honor. Instead, she segued into introducing the next performer, Beyonce.

This award means so much to me, especially on the night before Michael Jackson’s birthday. He had such a huge influence on me, Gaga, and our next performer, Beyonce. Beyonce and I started out around the same time, and just like all of her fans, I fell in love with her. The first time I saw her from her singing to dancing to acting, she can do it all, she’s a triple threat, and one of the most talented people I have ever seen.

(You can watch the entire Video Vanguard segment here. You can read the Huffington Post’s excellent review of it here. )

I sat on my couch, mouth agape, wondering if that was really it. The big tribute. The great recognition. I couldn’t believe it.

I started to think about comments made by writer, poet, and mental health advocate Bassey Ipki the previous day on her twitter, mostly suggesting that Britney’s recent zombie-like stage presence was a clear signal that she needed her meds adjusted. Normally, I wouldn’t feel it was my place to weigh in on that point–hell, I still feel weird doing it–but after watching her accept the Video Vanguard Award, I have to agree. Her behavior was odd, and I’ve been there.

Well, no, I have not been on stage at the VMAs, in front of the world, but I’ve been a zombie and I’ve had no life in me. It looks exactly like that. It feels like nothing. It isn’t life. Britney’s sorted out so much, and I hope this is yet another moment she will be able to sort out. Her life is too good to miss out on it, again. There is life between zombie and out of control. I hope she finds it.

But that wasn’t the only VMA tribute that let me down last night, although it was the most significant for me, personally. They also did the requisite Amy Winehouse tribute. I was excited about that one too, and after the disappointing Britney moment, I thought maybe there would be some respite in a moving portrayal of a young artist the music industry lost far too soon. In terms of memorial and introduction, I was more pleased. Tony Bennett graced the stage and shared footage from a recording session with Amy from his forthcoming Duets II album. His words were heartfelt and the footage epitomized how I’d like to remember her.

Then there was the performance: Bruno Mars covering “Valerie”. Yes, they  honored Amy by doing a cover of her cover of a song originally sung by The Zutons. Lovely. I kept thinking how amazing it would have been if, maybe, Adele did a cover of “Back to Black”, instead.

You can watch the full Amy Winehouse tribute here.

I hadn’t watched the VMAs in years, probably not since Britney shared the stage with Madonna. I remember loving the show when I was much, much younger, but I suppose the show lost its luster in direct relation to MTV’s loss of interest in playing music videos.


August 7, 2011

I’ve been spending more time on my Tumblr blog. I haven’t abandoned this place, and I have some ideas about adding regular content in the future. For now, though, I’m mostly on Tumblr, and always on Twitter.

Oh, I also recently participated in the My Name is Me campaign, and you can find my entry here.

Real Men Get Their Facts Straight: Ashton and Demi and Sex Trafficking

June 29, 2011

I have so much to say about this right now, but my left hand is still suffering from some MS symptoms. Suffice to say, everyone who is concerned, enraged, beside themselves, about child sex trafficking should read the linked article.

Please share this with your friends, and help get the word out so that we may move forward with helping survivors of child sex trafficking, instead of obsessing over its existence via invented numbers and Hollywood celebrities.

Real Men Get Their Facts Straight: Ashton and Demi and Sex Trafficking

The Naked Anthropologist

June 20, 2011

Laura Agustin, author of Sex at the Margins and “a lifelong migrant and sometime worker in both nongovernmental and academic projects about sex, travel and work”, discussed a new anti-prostitution video over on her blog, The Naked Anthropologist, yesterday.

In the one-minute video, the man (meant to be a sex worker though he looks anything but) doing the licking acts out feeling sickened by it. He brushes his teeth a lot. In contrast, the women throwing themselves back on his bed look quite pleased. Just how is this meant to discourage men from paying for sex? It seems possible that women seeing the film will think how great it would be if they could hire someone for oral sex, though they are always said to want a lot of cuddling and romancing first (which is a silly essentialising of ‘female’ desire). In any case, the psychology of this campaign certainly shows how anti-sex the campaigners are.

For many of you, the video is not safe for work, but her blog post is; the discussion in said post is priceless.


June 18, 2011

By Ben Sollee, from Inclusions, released 5/10/11.

Yes, I Am An Introvert

June 17, 2011

Top Ten Myths About Introverts, by Jerry Brito

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.

Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.
Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.

Birthday Books

May 26, 2011

I was lucky to get a great number of books given to me for my birthday. Well, I got the huge Amazon gift card, and did all the choosing myself.

The first book, Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates, arrived yesterday, Since I used about ten different sellers via Amazon, this gift-receiving thing will likely stretch on for another week, maybe longer.

Below is the list of books I ordered on Monday, alphabetical by author:

EDIT: A couple of books, now crossed out on the list, couldn’t be shipped.

Belated Birthday Presents

May 23, 2011

Though my birthday was last week, last night a lovely friend sent me notice of a belated gift, including many books from my Amazon Wish List. I’ve been in a state of pure elation ever since.

In the event there are one or two of you who would also like to give me with a belated birthday present, info about my Amazon Wish List is below.

I no longer include a link to the list on the sidebar, and I’ve actually organized it into multiple lists:

Both the Priority and the Entertainment list include entries relevant to Sex Work, but I thought it best to keep each item limited to one list. I also gave priority to the items I want most from each list; marked either “highest” or “high” on the right-hand side of the screen when viewing a specific list. I also believe in getting the cheapest item, so check for third-party sellers with books in good condition–no writing or highlighting, please.

Gifts or not, I still love you. But I do get a special tingle when I receive a package in the mail. 😉

New Addiction

May 20, 2011

I am full-on addicted to my tumblr.

That is where I’ve been the past couple of weeks, and that is likely where I’ll remain for the time being, at least until I get bored.

The Condom with Teeth

May 18, 2011

South African doctor invents female condoms with ‘teeth’ to fight rape

This is the condom with teeth. It is a condom specifically made to protect women from rape. It is inserted like a tampon, and won’t hurt the girl, only her attacker. When the man thrusts into her, the condom clasps down and can only be removed surgically. It was invented by South African doctor Dr. Sonnet Ehlers, and it was inspired when the Dr. treated a rape victim who said sadly, ‘If only i had teeth down there.’ The condom is being given out in South Africa, and to women in the military.

I can’t help but wonder if this won’t lead to greater physical injury to the woman, perhaps death, as a result of retaliation from the attacker.

Dancing with the MS Fairy

May 12, 2011

That is what I am doing this week, in North Carolina. Hopefully, I’ll get back to my country home this weekend.

Such is life, at least mine.

My friends are taking great care of me though, and I couldn’t ask for much more on that front.

Minor Update

April 21, 2011

The Conference on Southern Literature was splendid, and I am sorry I have not provided an acceptable update. I have pages full of quotes and thoughts. I also left the conference with pages full of story ideas, as well as a list of books to read. I’ve been working on those things instead of tending to the blog. Each time I sit down to write about the conference, I get stuck on another idea, and off I go in a different direction.

I updated my Good Reads profile with a few books. But, for now, the blog gets very little love.

Conference on Southern Literature

April 12, 2011

The 16th biennial Conference on Southern Literature, organized in conjunction with the Fellowship of Southern Writers, takes place April 14-16 in Chattanooga, TN, and I will be there.

Being able to count one’s self as a Southern writer, puts one among impressive company: William Faulkner, Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor, Mark Twain, Dorothy Allison, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, and Zora Neale Hurston, just to name a few.

I’ll have the pleasure of hearing Dorothy Allison speak twice on Friday. On Thursday morning, they’re showing Landscapes of the Heart: The Elizabeth Spencer Story, a documentary film, named after Spencer’s own memoir. Spencer lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and will speak before the film.

I’m also interested to hear Clyde Edgerton speak, and I must admit it’s because I am friends with his daughter, Catherine, who is one-half of the Durham duo Midtown Dickens.

This weekend, I’ll be sure to report on what an amazing time I had.

Book for Writers

April 11, 2011

75 Books Every Writer Should Read

The site linked above features an excellent list of books for writers. I’ve read a few of them, and a few more were already on my to-read list before I saw the post.

For a look at what I have read lately, visit my tumblr blog.

Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

April 11, 2011

By Margaret Atwood

1 Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can’t sharpen it on the plane, because you can’t take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils.

2 If both pencils break, you can do a rough sharpening job with a nail file of the metal or glass type.

3 Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch, pieces of wood or your arm will do.

4 If you’re using a computer, always safeguard new text with a ­memory stick.

5 Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.

6 Hold the reader’s attention. (This is likely to work better if you can hold your own.) But you don’t know who the reader is, so it’s like shooting fish with a slingshot in the dark. What ­fascinates A will bore the pants off B.

7 You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.

8 You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You’ve been backstage. You’ve seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a ­romantic relationship, unless you want to break up.

9 Don’t sit down in the middle of the woods. If you’re lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.

10 Prayer might work. Or reading ­something else. Or a constant visual­isation of the holy grail that is the finished, published version of your resplendent book.

Source features lists by many well-known fiction writers: Guardian UK

Ten Steps to Publication

April 10, 2011

This evening I thoroughly enjoyed Jennifer Weiner’s blog post, So you want to be a novelist?

The first step is, perhaps, my favorite:

1. The Unhappy Childhood

The big joke in the publishing community is that smart editors shouldn’t waste their time at lunches or conferences, but should instead proceed directly to the local elementary schools. There, they will carefully note the boys picked last in gym class, the girls sitting alone in the cafeteria – all of the outcasts, misfits, geeks, dweebs and weirdos – and give them some kind of small identifying tag (much like wildlife services will tag animals to follow their progress through the years). Twenty years later, the editors should track down the kids they’ve tagged, now hopefully grown to more successful adulthood, and say, “Okay, where’s the book?”

I am ready for step six: Get a Dog. I was already aware of that need.

She does put “Read” at step ten, possibly out of convenience, and I would place it at two or three. I think it’s no less important, as a foundation, than the unhappy childhood and the miserable love life.


Writer’s Notebook

April 6, 2011

I have dozens of writing notebooks. From the small ones that I keep in purses to the standard college-ruled variety that litter my home, there is always a notebook within arm’s reach.

The principal object in the epistolary novel I’m working on is a notebook, wherein the protagonist organizes her thoughts before writing overly long, overly personal letters to a select group of loved ones.

Needless to say, I found this blog post fascinating, and I think it’s definitely worth a read-through by every aspiring writer.


April 6, 2011

For now, most of the earlier posts are still hidden, and I haven’t activated the new archive site yet. Truthfully, I’m not quite sure where to go from here. I’m sure I’ll bring at least a bit of the old stuff back. I just need to get the new part of the changes straightened out first. Reading my blog is sometimes a bit too much like being inside my head.

As for new, I’m finally making use of my tumblr, as a place to discuss whatever books I’m reading. Interesting book related tidbits from other tumblr users will also find their way in. I was surprised to find out I had a jessicaland tumblr. I have at least a half-dozen other tumblr blogs, most of them being completely random names no one would connect to me. Apparently, at some point during my frequent, yet inconsistent, episodes of screwing around on tumblr these past few years, I was smart enough to secure the one name that really matters. Go me!

Ben Weasel Broke My Heart

March 21, 2011

After watching of video of this, I feel nauseous, heartbroken and embarrassed to be a fan.

Changing Things . . .

March 18, 2011

. . . around here. It’s been coming for a while, and I’ve put it off. I started moving content around tonight. I should be finished in the next couple of days.