Political Flavors

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My Favorites of 2013

Posted in Book Reviews, Editorials, Podcast Reviews, Site News on December 31st, 2013

Happy New Year everyone! Here are some of my favorite things about 2013.

Favorite BookEighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman. In 1889 two women writers raced around the world to see if they could beat the fictional record from the famous Jules Verne novel. This is an amazing story and Goodman writes this non-fiction book like a novel. I feel like I have a grasp on what New York and other cities felt like in the late 1800’s and although a lot is different now, in many ways the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I read Around the World in Eighty Days before I read this book so I could understand the inspiration for the trip. Like Gulliver’s Travels, many people think this is a children’s story. But it’s mainly an homage to British Imperialism. Jules Verne is to H G Wells what Stephanie Meyer is to J K Rowling.

Verne was terrible at writing women, something that is actually addressed in Eighty Days. Bly gets to meet him on her travels and Verne’s wife says she thinks his books need more women characters. And although it seems redemptive that two women took on the challenge of Verne’s male heroes, unfortunately Bly and Bisland still had many of the same racist attitudes as Verne did.

Still this book is a fascinating read. Every page is better than the one before it. And send these quotes to anyone who tries to justify something sexist by making an appeal to tradition. Bly and Bisland quite frequently expressed feminist sentiments.

“After the period of sex-attraction has passed, women have no power in America.” -Elizabeth Bisland

“A free American girl can accommodate herself to circumstances without the aid of a man.” -Nellie Bly

“Criticize the style of my hat or my gown, I can change them, but spare my nose, it was born on me.” -Nellie Bly

New TV ShowMaron I don’t watch a lot of television these days, but I do really like Marc Maron’s show in IFC. The show brings to life all of Maron’s delicious and sardonic humor.

Podcast Host – Lindsay Beyerstein. Lindsay is a new host for the Center For Inquiry’s Point of Reason Podcast. Check out her interviews with Katherine Stewart, Paul Offit, Barry Lynn and Kathryn Joyce.

Blog PostThe Retro Husband by Ruth Fowler is my favorite blog post by anyone on the internet in 2013.

Video GameFiz: The Brewery Management Game This game is similar to the classic Lemonade Stand or newer Facebook games in that you are running a shop and have various aspects of products and personnel to manage. But it is so much more than that. There is a storyline that I got wrapped up with and very clever dialogue and plot twists. I played it through in a week, which took me about 22 hours total. Good thing I’m on vacation, it’s hard to put this game down once you start it.

Most Popular Posts at Political Flavors in 2013:
What’s Wrong With The Lingerie Football League? I didn’t know how many people search for the LFL online. I’m also quite pleased that I was linked by the Huffington Post and the French women’s magazine madmoiZelle.

For our Girls to Succeed, We Must Reign in Rakish Boys
aka “What if dress codes for boys looked like dress codes for girls?” I had fun writing this post although at times I felt that I was being incredibly creepy. I’m very glad people like it.

Best wishes for 2014!

Chelsea Handler: Sexism is Bullshit

Posted in Podcast Reviews on May 4th, 2012

Monday’s episode of Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast featured Chelsea Handler. It was pretty much what I expected, but what stood out to me was the way she handled Maron’s questions about sexism.

They were discussing Handler’s relationship with a producer at the E! television network, which began after her show premiered, yet still led to speculation that she only had a television show because she was dating/having sex with him.

MARON:It’s like fundamental sexism to…Obviously the show is a success, and you’ve written these books and you do standup but people are like..
HANDLER: I know, I mean, it’s like come on. Thanks a lot for all the credit!
MARON: Do you think that’s sexist? That attitude towards you?
HANDLER: No I don’t. Sexism is bullshit to me. I don’t even buy into that anymore. I mean men and women are equal. And that’s that in my mind.

Later in the interview, Maron asked again:

MARON: So you don’t even engage in the dialogue, that people are harder on you because you are a woman?
HANDLER: No. I don’t really care about that. No! I mean that, I feel like talking about that makes it real, it’s like, for me, that’s never been an issue. It’s like, I’m not I mean who cares? It’s not a sex issue. There’s funny women. There’s funny men.

At first I thought that this is an example of the accomplishments of feminism – powerful women feel like sexism is not an issue in their lives. It’s disappointing that she doesn’t think about why that might be so, or that it might not be true for other women, however.

Then I looked at the comments on the WTF website. Now, I have once commented online to Marc Maron that he should ask Carlos Mencia why he’s a no talent hack with a minstrel show. So I am not above writing mean things about celebrities on the internet. But looking through the comments about this episode, I lost track of the number of times Handler was called a bitch, someone insinuated that any women who don’t like her are, “insecure ladywhales” and a moderator posted that he had to delete many comments calling her a cunt:

Come on, people. You are free to dislike and debate the relative merits of anyone who is on the show, but in the end these people are still our guests. Let’s lay off the personal attacks and liberal use of the c-word. If you notice a previous comment of yours missing, it’s because I deleted anything with the c-word. Zero tolerance on that one until things get a little less prickly in here.

Good for Marc and Brendan PW McDonald for not tolerating that shit.

So Ms Handler, I can respect your discomfort in talking about the sexism, even if it indicates you really don’t believe that it no longer exists. One look at those comments disproves that idea. I understand that if you were to tackle the sexism of some of your critics either through humor or direct statements, you might not have a television show anymore or financial security for your family. But I wish you would acknowledge the absurd irony of a rich, white, traditionally attractive woman who denies sexism exists being called a cunt because she is otherwise extremely confident in who she is and what she wants.

Fun Fridays: Podcast Review: Opinionated

Posted in Podcast Reviews on February 24th, 2012

If you follow me on Twitter, you will see that one of the descriptive terms I use for myself is “podcast addict.” They are an integral part of my exercise routine, daily commute and errand running. In no particular order, I’d like to review some of my favorites. To see all of my podcast reviews, click here.

I was excited to hear that two of the feminist blogosphere’s most prominent writers were going to collaborate on a podcast. Amanda Marcotte and Samhita Mukhopadhyay record “Opinionated” the latest production from Citizen Radio. Their tagline, “The Feminists You Were Warned About” fits the show perfectly, and has quickly become one of my favorite podcasts.

Amanda and Samhita discuss current events and pop culture from a feminist perspective, providing insightful analysis with a deliciously
snarky brand of humor. Frequently, discussions involve the intersectionality of feminism with other social justice movements such as a recent discussion about interracial marriage or the way access to contraception and abortion care are more difficult for poor women. Other times they will talk about how a particular issue has impacted them directly – trying to navigate sex and relationships as a feminist or how to deal with the misogyny inherent in much of popular culture. They have excellent chemistry together – I feel more like I’m listening to an interesting conversation between friends over drinks than to a podcast.

Some episodes feature guests, Sady Doyle was interviewed about an article she had written on dating advice for teenage girls. Another recurring segment involves a twitter hashtag – #femquery – which was created to solicit questions about feminism which are answered during the show.

Highly recommended for any feminist with a sense of humor.

Both Sides Now – Way Off Base On HPV

Posted in Editorials, Podcast Reviews on September 28th, 2011

As I previously posted, I am a fan of the podcast, “Both Sides Now.” I think it’s refreshing to hear a debate between right and left that isn’t about name calling. However, I was shocked to hear such ridiculous rhetoric coming from all three participants about the HPV vaccine while listening to the September 17 episode. I’m really starting to understand Amanda’s obsession.

Mary Matalin and Arianna Huffington insisted that it’s wrong for the government to mandate vaccinations – especially this one because it’s “a personal decision.” Matalin made a point that her daughter is still a virgin and Huffington said “it doesn’t make any sense at all…They’re 12 year olds!” Both seem to miss the point that the vaccine is supposed to be administered before the onset of sexual activity, and so it would be most appropriate for a 12 or 16 year old who has not had sexual activity with a partner yet.

Mark Green, the moderator, chimed in that it’s not a personal decision because the disease is “easily spread.” Matalin retorted “Then vaccinate men!” No one brought up that the vaccine has been approved for men for the past two years! Huffington said that if you don’t have it, you can’t spread it, which is hopelessly naive considering the amount of people who have HPV – the chances of getting it from one sexual encounter (including vaginal intercourse with a condom, oral sex, manual sex or even kissing) are very high. It sounds like she’s promoting abstinence – which unlike the Gardasil – stops working the minute you have sex.

Green inexplicably states that a girl “without a mother as good as Mary or Arianna” could have sex and get HPV – and he sounds astonishingly ignorant, for someone who expresses concern about issues pertaining to women and girls all the time. Just because a person has sex doesn’t mean that they had bad parents. Each one of the people on the panel has has had sex, (evidenced by the existence of their children) and Mark Green’s daughter has had sex (as evidenced by his proud proclamation that he is a grandfather)- was something wrong with the mothers of these pundits or with Mark Green’s parenting skills? Parents who raise healthy children will not, in all likelihood stop them from having sex. Parents who get the HPV vaccine for their children can make sure that when they do have sex, their children will not get vaginal, labial, cervical, penile, anal or throat cancer.

Mark Green then suggests that people opposed to the HPV vaccine are anti science, but then immediately drops the point when Matalin scoffs at him that “it’s not measles, it’s not Contagion and it’s not the Ebola virus, you have to engage in sex irresponsibly – one would hope that you would find out from their partner if they have an STD [before you have sex with them].” Matalin ignores the possibility of one acquiring the virus during from shaking or holding hands, while kissing, during a sexual assault, or from a cheating partner one wrongly believed to be monogamous.

Green states “but science says that it works” before backing off completely. He doesn’t elaborate on the concept of heard immunity which, campaign donations aside, is the practical reason why governments mandate vaccines. I would be interested in a conversation about why Matalin and Huffington think an individual’s right to refuse a vaccine overrides the plain fact that if we are all vaccinated, we protect the health of everyone. How is a mandate for a vaccine different from a mandate for seat-belts (passengers ejected from a car during a crash can hit other cars and cause another accident) smoking bans in restaurants (which Green did bring up but no one addressed) or laws against drunk driving?

Matalin did say that the vaccine was too new and untested to mandate. However it has been on the market since June 2006, for over five years. At what point would it become acceptably safe for her?

They all do agree that it is a good thing that the vaccine exists though, which, regrettably, is something to be thankful for in the current climate. I was very disappointed with this segment, and while it wasn’t the first time I have disagreed with the hosts, it was the first time I felt like the discussion was just as silly and uninformed as most of the noise on cable news.

Fun Friday – Podcast Review – The Majority Report

Posted in Podcast Reviews on February 25th, 2011

If you follow me on Twitter, you will see that one of the descriptive terms I use for myself is “podcast addict.” They are an integral part of my exercise routine, daily commute and errand running. In no particular order, I’d like to review some of my favorites. To see all of my podcast reviews, click here.

Sam Seder’s daily internet radio show and podcast is both very informative and extremely entertaining. I’ve listened to Sam Seder since his days at Air America, although never as loyally as I have been during his newest endeavor. Seder is smart, funny and delivers insightful analysis on current events from a liberal perspective. He jokes about his lack of up to date audio equipment, and recording in the dollar lunch district, but his guests are top notch – Robert Reich, Glenn Greenwald, Digby, and also comedians Sarah Silverman and Marc Maron (I know he is personal friends with those two, but I really enjoy his segments with them.)

I enjoy Sam Seder’s take on current events. He has a way of stating his views in a very concise and straightforward way without apologies. It’s a fine line between distasteful brashness and intoxicating bravado, and he walks it well. When recently discussing the Republicans numerous attempts to destroy women’s rights, Seder called them out for blatant misogyny. It was refreshing to hear that kind of feminism (especially from a dude) in a direct and unqualified way.

Every Friday (Casual Friday) Seder welcomes Chris Rosen from Movie Line and asks for suggestions of what movies to stream on Netflix or watch instantly. He also does a bit called “name drop Fridays” were he non nonchalantly mentions encounters with celebrities. This has lead to many people staring oddly at me on the subway or at the gym as I erupt into giggles.

As of this week, The Majority Report has sequestered the second half of the show for members only. During this time Seder answers questions sent to him over instant message and may include bonus interviews. Honestly, I’d prefer to buy a year’s subscription and forget about it rather than be charged every month, or to have the option to purchase premium episodes individually like Marc Maron’s WTF does. But I’m probably going to purchase a monthly subscription just so I can finally watch “Pilot Season,” the miniseries written and directed by Sam Seder from 2004 that I have been hearing about and probably having inside jokes from go over my head for the past seven years.

Check out the Majority Report for great liberal talk radio with lots of humor.

Fun Fridays – Podcast Review Radio Lingua Network

Posted in Podcast Reviews on February 18th, 2011

If you follow me on Twitter, you will see that one of the descriptive terms I use for myself is “podcast addict.” They are an integral part of my exercise routine, daily commute and errand running. In no particular order, I’d like to review some of my favorites. To see all of my podcast reviews, click here.

Although my father’s first language is Spanish, I never made a serious attempt to learn it until junior high school. When school was over I have attempted to continue learning in various ways – mainly practicing with family members and occasionally listening to Spanish language music stations. I’m not fluent, I can get by in a restaurant or asking for basic directions, but my skills are more Sabado Gigante than Don Quixote. I had seen “Coffee Break Spanish,” one of the many podcasts put out by the Radio Lingua Network on iTunes and decided to give it a shot.

The initial lessons of Coffee Break Spanish start assuming you have no knowledge of the language, and over the course of 80 lessons get more advanced. Mark Pentleton presents the course with a student learner, Kara. They are Scottish, and while I think their accents are charming, others find it a distraction.

There is an intermediate course, “Show Time Spanish.” It has additional presenters and features a short soap opera about a teenage girl moving to Spain for the summer serialized into the episodes. This is the best of the Radio Lingua podcasts I have listened to, and it focuses on conversation, speaking and listening at native speeds.

In addition there is a third Spanish program, News Time Spanish where current events are discussed in Spanish. I’ll admit this one is a bit of a challenge for me, and I have to listen several times before I understand everything. It’s the only Spanish language podcast I have purchased the bonus materials for.

Radio Lingua also produces similar in depth podcasts for French, German and Italian. There are “one minute” podcasts for seventeen other languages. These are shorter and focus more on learning basic phrases than developing language skills. I have purchased the bonus materials for the One Minute Irish (Gaelic) course and enjoyed learning a few words in that language. I would recommend it for anyone wanting to dip their toe into a new language without too much commitment.

I really enjoy practicing my Spanish with these podcasts. Mark Pendelton, the instructor for both the Coffee Break and Show Time series is an excellent instructor and is very entertaining as well. His enthusiasm for languages is infectious and I find myself laughing in spite of his corny jokes and when he hams up a short song for the podcast to show off his singing voice. The other presenters I’ve heard are also wonderful. If you are thinking about learning or want to get back to your study of another language, you should check out the Radio Lingua Network.

Fun Fridays – Podcast Review – Both Sides Now

Posted in Podcast Reviews on February 11th, 2011

If you follow me on Twitter, you will see that one of the descriptive terms I use for myself is “podcast addict.” I first got into them during the days of Air America Radio and they’ve since become an integral part of my exercise routine, daily commute and errand running. In no particular order, I’d like to review some of my favorites. To see all of my podcast reviews, click here.

Both Sides Now

Liberal icon Arianna Huffington debates Republican strategist Mary Matalin every week while Mark Green, a New York City Democratic politician moderates. It’s not as annoying as it sounds. In fact, it’s worlds beyond any television counterparts like the past Hannity & Colmes or the current Parker Spitzer.

Huffington is always delightful and brings her sparkling personality, sharp wit and intelligence to every show. Fans of hers will not be disappointed.

I’ve come to really respect and admire Mary Matalin. She is an extremely intelligent woman, and she is much warmer and wittier on “Both Sides” than anytime I have seen or heard her acting in an official capacity for a Republican politician. Although she does occasionally drop a buzzword or talking point that makes me cringe (like this past week on climate change) she is genuine on this show in a way most conservative talking heads never are. For example, when she spoke about hugging her daughters and shedding a tear when Hillary Clinton dropped out of the Presidential race in 2008, I was really moved. And I give her credit for talking a stand on gun control in the wake of the Giffords shooting.

As for Mark Green, I was a bit apprehensive about another foray of his into radio – Air America collapsed under his watch. But he does do a good job moderating the show with a goofy charm. Civil debate is a cornerstone of Both Sides, and so there is no screaming to shout over or name calling to be reprimanded. No one pretends that Green is not unbiased, he is admittedly left of center, and I do like the questions that he asks of both women.

Several topics are covered every week, with enough time for some nuance, but it’s not a heavily wonky analysis either. At the end of the show each person shares something going on in their personal life and also something they are looking forward to in the coming week.

I come away from listening to Both Sides Now usually having learned something new about current events and like I just had a really stimulating discussion with smart, genial friends. Huffington, Green and Matalin are more like college professors debating their opinions at a department brown bag lunch than gladiators fighting to the death for the last word. It shouldn’t be so refreshing to hear people talk about politics in a fair and respectful way, but it is. It’s also the only space I’ve ever seen a liberal debate a conservative without any absurdities like the phony false equivalence insinuations made by the Daily Show and others. No one pretends that Democrats and Republicans don’t have deep philosophical differences. Both Sides Now is also unique in that it features two highly savvy women pundits, something I only otherwise see when Rachel Maddow welcomes a female guest.

Both Sides Now will probably never be as popular as forums where more sensational arguments occur, but Arianna Huffington has created something worthwhile and I hope that it is around for a long time.