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I’m in lovely sunny Las Vegas, and as I just reached a wall with my novel, I thought I’d unwind a bit and look at Facebook. Where I’ve received 3 invitations each to two FB events. One, Porchlights for Caylee and the other Balloons for Caylee.

Enough. It’s not that I don’t understand the outpouring of emotion at what people perceive to be a lack of justice. It’s that there are so many other missing/exploited/murdered children that don’t even receive 1/1000th of the attention that Caylee Anthony’s death received.

I roll my eyes at the attempt to right a wrong by passing Caylee’s Law, which would make it illegal for a parent to not report the death of a child within a specific time frame or to not report a missing child in a longer time frame. Both of which are unrealistic- there are plenty of circumstances where a parent might not be able to contact police, and a law would likely be unfairly applied to parents in shock (how can you disprove that a parent was so overwhelmed at the sight of their dead child that they fainted for hours?) or injured. Don’t believe me? Following Columbine, zero-tolerance rules for weapons were issued in schools across the country, and now you have kids being expelled for having a Swiss army knife in their backpack.

And sadly- kids lie. A lot of children who go missing usually do so after telling their parents that they were at their friends for a sleepover. How is a parent supposed to know that their child has been missing for 24 hours?

We can’t turn back the hands of time, people. While it’s wonderful that people want to raise awareness by letting balloons go… shouldn’t we be doing more to make sure that we say something when we see a child whose parent is neglectful at best? Shouldn’t we be speaking up when a child in the neighborhood like Christian Coate suddenly stop going to school and pushing to make sure that things are done? Shouldn’t we be speaking up to children’s services when children who’ve been in the foster system are being sent back home to birth parents that are dangerous?

The justice system didn’t fail Caylee. Sadly, there just wasn’t enough evidence. In this day and age where forensics make for exciting television, jurors want forensic evidence- a strong link to show that definitively that person killed someone. But there just wasn’t enough. Casey Anthony is a vile person, but the evidence just wasn’t there.

Someone once said that they’d rather 100 guilty people go free, than one innocent person be jailed. If we start insisting that juries make leaps of faith regularly, it’d be far too easy to say that person X was a narcissist in real life and put them in jail for something they didn’t do.

My heart breaks every time I hear of a parent harming their child. I just don’t understand how you can look at someone who shares your DNA, or in the case of adopted/foster children, someone that you’ve taken in to care for… how you can look at them and not see that they’re a human being that needs protection and love. But it happens. Instead of continuing to focus on a child that was sadly lost…. shouldn’t we be looking for children that we can save?

If you want to make a difference, stop doing something passive. Joining an event, RTing a link… it spreads awareness, but it means nothing if you don’t actually do something to help. Find a children’s charity, pay more attention to the kids in your life. Just do something.

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Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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I think that the internet has been a good thing for news. Instead of having to wait until the next airing of the local news, you can get access to what’s going on in your area right now. Very useful.

However, there are a couple of problems with internet news. Big ones, too. The first problem is the human tendency to want to be… first! Look at any comment thread on a site, and you’ll find the person who feels the need to post “first” even though they have nothing else to say. What does this have to do with news? It seems more and more often that in the rush to be first, a lot of news desks will put up incomplete stories, often with unverified information. A good example of this was the story that broke nationally from rural Texas, where police were searching a property after getting a tip from a psychic that there were bodies buried there. No bodies were found, but by then nearly every major media outlet was throwing out headlines about remains being found. Corrections were issued, but not until everyone looked a little silly.

It was clear that news agencies were getting their information from other news agencies, playing telephone. Had anyone called the law enforcement agency in question, they would have said that it was merely a tip.

Which leads to the second problem, which is that news sites are also driven by page views. Headlines are written to entice people to click on the story. Which is how you wind up with stories like last nights’ “Glee’s Lea Michele, Chris Colfer and Cory Monteith not returning next season”. It reads as though they won’t be coming back for Season Three, but instead all the stories were about an interview that Ryan Murphy gave where he confirmed that Season Three would be their last seasons- since they’d be graduating. Which is nothing new for anyone who watched Glee. Each season has been a school year, it’d be a little silly if the majority of the seniors didn’t graduate.

Even when the headlines weren’t ambiguous, they were trying to push an idea that anyone who was a fan of the show already knew. After all, you can’t exactly call it “Glee” if the show is about the same kids after they’ve graduated.

Is it too much to ask to actually get something that’s been researched and proof-read, and have headlines that are less tabloid, more news?

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Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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I talk a lot about my mom, and how much she influences me to this day. But there’s so much of me that I owe to my dad. Most of my facial features come from my dad, though most people say that I take after my mom. Other than skin tone, it’s pretty much all my dad. Serious super dark eyes? My dad. Straight dark brown hair with cowlicks in the back? Dad.

I’ve said quite often that food was an important part of my life, and I have to say… I learned a lot from my dad, even if he’d never imagine that I would have. Being that my mom’s a pescetarian, when I have questions about cooking meat, I usually go to my dad. Also, he worked at a steakhouse during college, both in the kitchen and waiting tables- so he actually is a much better cook than he gives himself credit for. I have many fond memories of eggs benedict with hollandaise sauce that he whipped up for us (and this was after I’d sworn off of eggs), and of the amazing Plankhouse fried zucchini (which used panko bread crumbs before they were trendy).

But most importantly, his stories from his time working as a waiter taught me a lot about restaurant service. And well, people in general. I remember a story about a family who came in near closing time, all dusty, dirty and grimy. None of the waitresses wanted the table, so my dad took it. He looked past the grime and took care of the group, and discovered that it was the son’s birthday. They’d been working on their ranch the whole day (I grew up in Arizona, and yes, people do have cattle ranches out there) and knew that if they took the time to wash up and change, that they’d never make it to the restaurant in time. They thanked my dad for treating them kindly and left him a HUGE tip. Lesson learned: don’t judge a book by its cover.

My dad wanted to have girls, and he got two of us. He wasn’t about to push us into sports, but he did make sure that we knew how to throw a baseball, catch a ball, and properly hold a bat. I loathed PE. Being one of the shorter kids in school, and not exactly the most athletic I was always on the team of losers. It’s rude to say, but it’s true. I was on the team with the other short, scrawny kids and the chubby girls. Except for two sports. When it came to softball, I was always on the best team, playing shortstop. Unlike the other girls who were afraid of being hit by the ball or of colliding with someone when running for a base, I went for it. (The other sport I excelled at? Tennis. Another sport my dad taught me to play)

He taught me how to use power tools. Now, both my parents are extremely good at DIY. Before there were cable channels dedicated to it, I grew up watching Bob Vila, This Old House and New Yankee Workshop. My dad loves woodworking, even though he doesn’t get as much time to work on things as he’d want to. He and my mom collaborated to build a gorgeous cradle dinghy for the boys that they still use today (to play in, not as a cradle). But yes, I learned how to use power tools, and even built bird feeders by myself (with his supervision) for my 8th grade science fair project.

My dad is a geek (he has to be, he’s a mechanical engineer), and made sure that we had some pretty good computers as we grew up. I remember sitting in the “other room” with him, helping upgrade sound cards and adding memory. He showed me that I didn’t have to be afraid to open up my computer and fix it myself. He also encouraged me to learn DOS and BASIC- telling me early on that computers weren’t just “boy things,” and that I should always be proud of how much I know about computers. (Before anyone asks: I haven’t spent that much time keeping up with computers. I can’t fix them for you. I can still upgrade stuff, but seriously, so you can you. You just need to watch a few videos on the internet and read the instructions that come with everything)

He also introduced me to a lot of great things. Big Band music, for one. My dad has a great collection of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman records, including Benny Goodman’s Carnegie Hall concert. I remember when my sister and I were first old enough to be left home alone while the parents were out running errands. Our idea of being rebellious was putting on a few records, especially the Carnegie Hall record so that we could listen to the 12 minute version of Sing, Sing, Sing with all those amazing solos. But listening to it is still pure magic. And he’s the one who really introduced me to all the band leaders and their different sounds. Which is why I danced with him to Moonlight Serenade at my wedding.

He’s also the one who got me into James Bond movies. One night my sister and I were home alone (my parents were at the neighbors), we were flipping through channels and caught part of The Spy Who Loved Me. I mentioned it to my dad, who made sure that I started at the “best” Bond movies… starting with Sean Connery from the start. When Pierce Brosnan was named the next James Bond, we eagerly awaited GoldenEye and saw it together. A little awkward during the Xenia scenes, but it was our new ritual. We saw every Brosnan Bond movie together after that. Well, almost. I cheated and saw The World is Not Enough with TheBoy, but it truly felt like cheating. So I made sure to hold off and wait to see Die Another Day (appropriately abbreviated DAD) with him. And even though it’s the worst of the Brosnan Bond movies, we were able to laugh about how bad it was, and how badly cast Halle Berry was.

He was there when I left for college (he worked less than a mile from my school) and was there to cheer me up when I had ridiculous teachers who felt like I should fit into a label that I didn’t. He’d pick me up at my dorm with a roll of butter rum lifesavers (or the bag of individually wrapped ones) and take me to lunch. By the end of lunch, I’d feel better and able to face the world.

I remember the first big fight I had with TheBoy. We’d been together for two years and living together for about a year and a half, and it seems in relationships that you usually have a fight around that time. I honestly wasn’t sure if it was the end of our relationship. Panicked, I called my dad, catching him as he left work. He turned around, and took me out to dinner. He bought me some comfort food, and talked to me candidly about relationships. While my mom had told me that relationships hit bumpy patches, he admitted that every relationship seems to hit really big ones now and then. That it’s when you hit those moments that you have to take stock and decide whether or not you really love this person, and whether or not you think you can get past the fight. I calmed down, and he dropped me back at the apartment. And I knew (obviously) that I wasn’t ready to bail on our relationship, that I was ready to work past the bumps and be with TheBoy.

While my mom was usually the one to punish us (mostly because as kids, my dad traveled a lot for work), my dad usually was the one to help talk us down from being mad at my mom (as she was always right, and we were wrong). Except for a couple notable moments, when he proved he was just as capable of scaring us straight. One day, I was being a surly 10-12 year old (I was surly at that age, less so as a teenager, go fig) and kept slamming my door. He came barging into my room with a tool box and dared me to do it one more time, saying that he’d take the door off the hinges. And I knew that he could, and would take it off. I didn’t slam the door anymore. In that same time frame, I remember being a snot about not wanting to take a shower. Why, I have no idea, but I suppose I thought I was making some sort of stand. My dad picked me up and threw me into a cold running shower… while I was fully dressed. In jeans. Parents, if you want a lesson to really stick, make the punishment involve cold wet jeans. To this day, I still won’t go anywhere near water if I’m wearing jeans- I remember how heavy they were, and how hard they were to get off…

I could keep naming moments where my dad came through for me, conversations we had in the car when we car pooled, or tell you the number of Fatburgers we consumed over lunch breaks. But I figured I’ll just leave you with the picture I have of my dad that sums up the perfect moment with him.

There we were, getting ready to walk down the aisle. I was nervous as could be- not about getting married, but because every person kept telling me to be careful walking on the aisle runner (fabric on a wood floor). I was terrified that I was going to fall in front of everyone. He let me squeeze the heck out of his hand, and told me that it wasn’t going to happen.

So thanks, Daddy-o. Happy belated birthday.

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Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore have become involved in the fight to end child slavery. They released a series of “Real Men” PSAs that end with the phrase Real Men Don’t Buy Girls. I’ll discuss the ads later on since I used to work in advertising.

The Village Voice ran a piece criticizing some of the statistics that Kutcher’s thrown out while promoting his charity work. Namely that 100,000 to 300,000 children are involved in prostitution each year. Which came from a study that says that number of children are at risk, not involved.

Kutcher then declared a Twitter war on them, pointing out that their Backpage ads site has been accused of allowing underaged girls to be sold for sex. And it went back and forth, and now Kutcher’s focused on their advertisers.

Obviously, I applaud Kutcher for bringing this subject to light. A lot of people are unaware that here in the US, child prostitution does occur. However, I implore him to get his statistics right. If what the Village Voice says is true, then he and Moore (and others involved) have been overstating the number of girls taken into sex slavery annually.

I honestly don’t want to take sides. I really don’t. Yes, child slavery is horrible. But giving faulty statistics doesn’t help anyone. Before anyone thinks I’m heartless, consider this example. Charity A has blanketed TV/internet with statistics of how horrible something is. Someone points out, citing studies, that Charity A’s statistics are overblown. The majority of people will wonder what else Charity A has exaggerated and stop listening. However, I do agree that the Village Voice should be making sure that they crack down on their Backpage ads to make sure that sex trafficking isn’t occurring. So really, I think everyone’s a little right and a little wrong. (I will point out that while the VV points out that arrests for child prositution are low, those figures can’t be used to determine how many children are being trafficked annually)

Now, the ads. I’m sure you’ve seen them. They feature a male celebrity doing something stupid. Kutcher’s ad shows him peeling off dirty socks and throwing them away, then opening a package of socks and putting on a brand new pair. “Real Men Do Their Own Laundry.” Sean Penn makes a grilled cheese sandwich with an iron. In other words, they’re completely useless unless you already know what they’re referring to. Not only that, it makes all men out to be completely useless schmucks who happen to not resort to child slavery to do their laundry or make a sandwich. I’m sure they think they’re clever and will make people want to learn more- but frankly, every time I see those ads anywhere… I just want to change the channel because they’re insulting to any enlightened man out there who is trying to fight against child slavery. Or really, any man who is capable of taking care of himself.

So yes, folks, real men don’t buy girls. However, real men know how to do their own laundry. They know how to fix themselves a sandwich, and can shave with a razor. They also know that Twitter isn’t always the place to wage battles. Kutcher was trying to mock the Village Voice for not being on Twitter 24/7, which just made him look silly. Honestly, had Kutcher done as other celebrities have done, and written a piece for the Huffington Post to publish – it might have gone a long way. He could have articulated his point in more than 140 characters.

Instead, we have a petty war over a very serious issue. A war that’s had little to do with pushing people towards organizations that help children that are sold into slavery, or children that are being trafficked- but mostly to do with trying to smear the other person/paper involved. In which ultimately one will be the victor, but children will ultimately be the losers.

(TL:DR summary: Guys, stop fighting. Figure out the right statistics, push some charities and make sure that this is about the children affected… not your egos. And honestly, making fun of a serious subject isn’t the way to get people to take it seriously.)

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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Most people who know me, know that I’m not big on swearing. At least not anymore. Since kids I’ve found that I can be just as cutting without resorting to the usual swear words.

That said, I think that “Go the F*** to Sleep” is one of the funniest books I’ve read in awhile. Mixing typical bedtime story with a bit of profane language, it’s what nearly every parent has thought on nights when the little ones just won’t go to sleep. I have the audiobook narrated by Samuel L Jackson. After a rough night, I put it on, laugh and I myself, go the f*** to sleep.

So why am I sharing this? Because CNN has a post by Karen Spears Zacharias that deems the book as not funny, because it’s “violent language” sends a bad message and demeans children. Her point isn’t that humor can’t be found in the book- but that we live in world where language like that is far too common with parents and children, and too many kids don’t have parents who read them books.

While I admit it’s true that there are children who have parents that don’t read them bedtime stories, and children with parents who swear at them and treat them even more shamefully- it doesn’t mean that this book is harmful.

Do you know of a reasonable person that would see this book and think that because it’s in the book it suddenly makes it okay to treat your children like that? I didn’t think so. Reasonable people don’t. Reasonable people see the book for what it is, a reminder that no parent is alone- that at some point in time, all parents deal with a child who won’t go to sleep.

If anything, this book is a release- a way for parents to vent their frustration without having to say it themselves. Which is a good thing.

There are technical reasons I feel like her story fails- not her point, or the arguments, but how she wrote the piece. She uses the phrase “violent language” and speaks to what I think she meant it to mean- without actually linking the two. I think she was making the point that phrases like “go the f***” are violent because they’re emotionally harmful to children. But she simply used the term and said that children are being hurt by being yelled at, without actually explaining herself. It’s sort of the missing link that makes it coherent.

But really, her story fails because she’s trying to suggest that books like this will cause parents to act this way. Just like the stories about activists who feel like shows with sexual content will cause all teenagers to become promiscuous or violent video games make for a violent society. While there are studies that show it influences some people- the majority of teenagers and gamers know that these things aren’t real, and don’t live by the same moral boundaries our society exists.

Eliminating a book doesn’t change the fact that children are treated poorly. It doesn’t change that parents have stopped reading bedtimes stories to kids, instead, letting them fall asleep in front of televisions or with video games in their hands. As a society, I think we damaged ourselves the moment we let “it takes a village” to become a regularly accepted phrase. Yes, it takes a village to run a child- but parents should be the village leaders. There are a lot of lazy parents out there who assume that teachers and other mentors will simply materialize, and that their kids will someone be fine.

But that’s just not how it is. Kids need attention, guidance and boundaries… things that only parents can set. Complaining about something and trying to make it sound dangerous isn’t going to help those children. All it’s going to do is take airtime away from groups that might be able to.

Update: Eeep. I missed closing a tag. Sorry!

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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I am a connoisseur of all things piratey, and have been since I was a kid. Nothing new to readers of this blog. Of course, pirates weren’t trendy, so I had to work extra hard to get my hands on books about pirates. Nowawdays, pirates are everywhere- even in kid’s television.

The boys love Disney Junior’s Jake and the Neverland Pirates, which is a fun kid’s show building on the world from Peter Pan. Captain Hook’s the bad guy (but a bit more of a buffoon than in the movie). There’s a girl pirate, and I haven’t had a single problem with how they portray her. She and the boys search for treasures while doing the right thing, and more often than not, she’s the one who comes up with the plan. It’s a good message for everyone.

Enter the Pirate Princess, who had been put under a spell by an evil sea witch. Izzy (the girl pirate) saves her, and her ship is magically restored. It’s gold, with a rainbow wave around it, and she has a heart shaped anchor. Oh and it has pink sails. In the second episode, she has her own island with a castle on it, that is (you guessed it) pink. She also has a magic wand that lets her make rainbows, instead of a sword. It actually has a guard over the grip, making it look just like a sword. Oh – I found a picture.

I probably wouldn’t have cared about the rainbow wand if she didn’t live in a pink palace and have the girliest ship that ever sailed the Never Seas. (Her palace looks like it was designed by Mermaid Barbie)

Of course, I’m not surprised by this one bit. Since the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Disney has sold a “Pirate Princess” line of merchandise at their theme parks. Crossed scepters with hearts at the end! Pink skulls! I’d hoped that they would have gone with the accepted term for a successful female pirate, pirate queen, but with their world build around princesses it did make sense. I do have a pair of earrings from one of their lines, which featured a couple of cartoon female pirates – a redhead and a brunette with a bob (wonder why I liked her so much). But at the end of the day, I can forgive all that pink and whatnot at Disneyland. It’s just silly little merchandise.

Jake’s Pirate Princess on the other hand? She has a ridiculous ship. When trouble arrives, it’s the kids who save the day- she does absolutely nothing but stand there. What sort of a message does that send to little girls? Disney’s actual princesses might be pretty darn plucky and capable these days, but this Pirate Princess needs to lose her crown. She might say she’s smart, strong and brave- but in both parts of the episode, she did nothing to show that she was.

I grew up knowing that real women took to the seas, that some sailed openly as merchant sailors, but that some women from the Elizabethan era onward were notable pirates. Women who carved out their own futures, and did most of the saving themselves. Mary Read and Anne Bonney? When Jack Rackham’s ship was being attacked by a privateer ship, it was Bonney and Read (and another man) who did most of the defending- the rest of the ship, including the captain were too drunk to do much. Bonney’s last words to Jack Rackham were said to have been that she was “sorry to see him there, but if he had fought like a Man, he need not have been hang’d like a Dog.”

Grace O’ Malley was a chieftain of an Irish clan, led raids against the English in an attempt to secure Irish independence. While she wasn’t successful in securing that, her raids were successful enough that she secured a meeting with Queen Elizabeth in which they discussed terms. Some were met, at least temporarily- and when things went back to the way they’d been returned, O’Malley returned to piracy.

If you start to look up known pirates, you’ll find a lot more female names, too. They weren’t extremely well known, but they were there. Women who found life at sea much more liberating. Who were referred to as Pirate Queens, because they ruled the seas.

Obviously I’m not suggesting that a kids show have a pirate do anything in the way of what a real pirate would do- but it would have been nice to see that the Pirate Princess could actually do something. Especially since my kids love the show, and I’ve already seen this episode four times. (Besides, who wants to be a princess? They have no power. Queen is definitely the title to have)

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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Last night, Gail Simone (the comic book writer/creator) tweeted the following statements. “DC, we need more female creators, stat. Really. Let’s make this happen.” (In the reboot era, there will be two. Gail and… trying to find the other name. Sorry!) “We all still want comics to be a meritocracy. But there are more than two female creators who are qualified and talented.”

Not surprisingly, this became a hot button issue as male creators and just casual fans added in their two cents. Some people who worked accepting submissions at DC and Image commented that only about 5-10% of the submissions were from women.

Which led me to tweet a bit, wondering about statistics. Usually with a pool of individuals, if you start weeding out the less talented, the percentage of the demographics should feasibly be the same. So it does seem a little odd that in all the books released by DC for the reboot, that only two women are involved creatively.

Bradley Timm (@DoctorFlux) and I started to talk. He wondered if it wasn’t a conspiracy, or if there just isn’t a general interest by women to write superhero books- if they’d rather write indies, pointing out that of the comic reading women he knew, that’s what they preferred to read.

So I looked back on my own pull list over the years. And admittedly, it’s a bit lacking in the capes department. I’ve tended to buy books that reflect what I write- supernatural books, indies, and the most mainstream books I own runs from are NextWAVE, Tales of the Unexpected and JSA. Considering that the Tales of the Unexpected run involves pirates and a Nazi Gorilla, I think that’s still not very mainstream.

Yet, I’m a huge fan of the DC trinity. I have seen every single episode of every Batman animated series (as well as the Superman adventures). I keep up with what’s going on – I just haven’t bought the issues. Why? There’s a lot going on. Both in the books and in my life- at the time I was buying Tales of the Unexpected, I was well, expecting my first son. Which meant I had to cut back a lot once he was born. Having bought the odd collection from webcomics in the time between, I’m easing back into it with the DC reboot.

Would I want to write comic books? Um, yeah. But I admit that my voice isn’t geared towards capes. Well, not unless I’d get to write something either like Tales of the Unexpected/Doctor 13, NextWAVE or Runaways. Okay, Runaways is a bit more mainstream, isn’t it?

I know a lot of women who write. And a lot who read comic books. For some, those categories overlap- and it’s true. I haven’t heard aspirations of writing books. Usually they just buy whatever Gail Simone or Amanda Conners’ are currently writing and talk about how great they are. Which they are. Now, I know there are more women who have created for DC and who write for comics currently still- they just aren’t on the books for the reboot.

So why? Is it a lack of passion? Is it weeded out of us as kids when we’re told to watch Disney movies instead? I bring that up because I know that I’d mentioned wanting to write James Bond novels when I was 14 and was told that nobody would buy a spy book written by a woman. So I wrote a spy novella my junior year and proved – that I wrote like a 16 year old girl who didn’t quite understand what she needed to to write something better. I wasn’t deterred and when I revisited the story years later, realized that it wasn’t that I was a bad writer. I just wasn’t ready for that genre. Now

Digression aside, though, I can see that in the 90s there probably weren’t a lot of people suggesting that girls think about writing mainstream comics. Which would mean that the women who might be sending in submissions for stories might not have been mentored the way that some of the male creators have been. It’s true- you find a lot of female artists in the indie category, and most of them have distinctive voices that don’t fit a typical superhero story. Nearly all the female artists and writers I follow list Disney and anime as the thing that inspired them.

Is it just a perfect storm of circumstances that are keeping women out of mainstream comics? It seems like it’s all part of the larger cycle of issues with Girls and Comics. Publishers complain that women just aren’t buying comics, but they don’t try to nurture all ages books or girl-centric books that would lure in all ages of female readers. And of the girls who read comics, if they’re mostly reading indy books- that’s probably what they’re going to want to write. So unless something changes, it doesn’t seem like the number of women who want to write superheroes are going to increase.

I really would like to hear your thoughts on this. Obviously, this isn’t something that I have the answer for- but something that I really think we should consider more. The more and more I think about it, the more I see the problem as two sides of the same coin. You won’t get more female creators in mainstream comics without having more female readers.

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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SoCal restaurant Gjelina in Venice has a no substitutions policy, which they state on their menu. There are a number of small places that do this, but for the most part nobody talks about them. Except that they refused to make a change to a dish for Victoria Beckham who was dining with Gordon Ramsey.

As Ramsey tells it, the very pregnant Beckham asked for the dressing on the side. The restaurant refused. (You can read more about the account here, as well as Gjelina’s response to the LA Times when asked about it)

In reading the comments, there were a couple of things that genuinely bothered me and made me wonder about how the kitchen at Gjelina is run. There were a couple of commenters who had asked for dressings to be included on the side, or items removed due to food allergies. In each of their cases, Gjelina refused to accommodate them, citing their policy.

I’m not sure if this is an instance where the food is essentially pre-prepared, so that alterations to dishes are impossible (though it seems odd to pre-dress salad), or if it’s an instance where the executive chef is of the breed that believe that food allergies are rubbish and they won’t compromise the taste of their dish for anything and anyone.

If it’s the latter, that is frustrating. While I can understand that substitutions take up time in the kitchen – it’s often difficult for people with varied diets (from vegetarians to those with allergies) to find meals that are satisfying. Time and time again, I’ve gone to lunch with my mom where we discovered that all the salads a restaurant offered had bacon or chicken in them. She even once ordered a vegetable minestrone soup to discover that it was made with a beef broth!

For me, it all comes down to customer service. Yes, it might be a pain to accommodate some requests, but it’s just good business to at least understand that there’s a difference between food allergies and a picky eater. And for chefs to understand that yes, pregnant women do interpret flavors separately. I feel for Victoria Beckham- when I was pregnant with the Little Kidlet, I was extremely sensitive to vinegar. What used to be dressed perfectly, salad-wise, often seemed overwhelming flavor-wise.

So for me, I think that the restaurant is being ridiculous. What do you say? Is their policy over-kill or is it ridiculous for people to think they should be accommodated? And let’s ignore the fact that this story involves celebrities… imagine it was a story told to you about friends. Would that change your opinion?

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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The following contains MASSIVE spoilers for “A Good Man Goes To War”, the mid-season finale for Doctor Who.

Here is your River Song warning, sweeties. Spoilers!

Read the rest of this entry » )

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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For any of these pictures, click on them and you can see them full-sized.

I’ve tweeted about the DC Reboot, which for those non-comic types was the recent announcement that DC will be restarting all of its major series numerically and content-wise. Origin stories, and chances for fresh starts for characters.

I will say this here, I think this is a great idea. The problem with having extremely long continuities is that it makes it hard for new fans to step in- which is what the comics industry is in dire need of. Also, I do like the idea that you can get it digitally on release day. The only way for the comics industry to stay relevant is to keep adapting with new technology.

I was unsure of a couple things when they announced the reboot and the first few titles. And yesterday, I saw something that made me down right furious.

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Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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As everyone’s heard, Anthony Weiner was caught sending lewd images to women that he’d flirted with online. When the first image went up, he made some comment about being hacked, then said something about how it was his picture but his phone had sent it accidentally (which as anyone who has purse dialed, emailed, or tweeted knows… could be possible). But as soon as he changed his story once, it was clear that he really had meant to send the image to the woman.

Do I care? Not really. By all accounts, he’s involved in his constituency and seems to be one of those politicians who is trying to make a difference. Let’s face it- sending pics via the internet isn’t nearly as creepy as paying escorts and meeting them at hotels. As a matter of fact, in this day and age, it’s pretty tame.

I feel bad for the woman who was outed by all this and had to delete her Facebook and Twitter accounts for privacy. But really, this whole thing seems like a waste of our media time. There are plenty of legitimate problems, and there are a lot of people who are glad that the man with the unfortunate last name got wrapped up in a sort of sex scandal. Obviously, I don’t think he should resign.

But the real issue – why do people feel the need to lie about something like this? Whether it’s a celeb who was hacked, or accidentally posted a picture instead of DMing it, or a politician like Weiner… haven’t we learned that it’s futile to lie about it? We live in a day and age where the internet can do amazing things. It can raise funds for art projects like Kickstarter in no time at all, or raise money to help a girl pay her legal fees. But mostly, it’s filled with people who will devote lots of time to getting to the bottom of something.

Blake Lively was hacked, and naked pictures of her were posted. She could have simply said she was hacked, that it was embarrassing and she hopes for some privacy, and have her people get them taken down. Instead, she denied it was her, which caused people to keep searching and find a picture that definitively proved it was her- which made a lot of people doubt she was hacked in the first place (well, except for the fact that these pictures were a couple years old).

Honestly, if Weiner had simply come out and admitted that he’d had a lapse in judgement and had been flirting with women online- yes, it would have been embarrassing, but it wouldn’t have given the media a whole week to keep digging and giving everyone involved 15 minutes of fame.

So publicists and people of notoriety… can we just agree that it’d save everyone a lot of effort and time if people would skip the lying when it comes to matters like this? Citizens of the internet will get to the bottom of it, and sooner rather than later. So let’s spare us all the drama and start having people be honest for once.

Ultimately, this is why I don’t understand sending naked pictures at all. Once you hit send, you don’t know who will wind up with it. Yes, it could just get to your recipient and they’ll do nothing – but they could easily send it on to a bunch of people. It’s also why I try not to put anything on the internet that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have seen by others.

Your thoughts?

ETA: Okay, given more recent accounts from the women who he contacted – the first unsolicited! – Weiner is a pretty skeezy guy. However, he still didn’t break the law. If skeeze was outlawed, most of our politicians and supreme court justices would probably be in jail.

ETA2: I am intentionally keeping the “politicians being bad” element out of this. Mostly because it isn’t just politicians who cheat on their wives and act like creeps. It’s more of a men in power sort of thing. (I’m sure in fairness, that there are women in power who are just as creepy) But not the point of this blog. Though really, you should never send pictures of your junk to a person if previously you’ve only talked politics. That’s just in bad taste.

Have something to say? Feel free to comment! Want to keep up with all my posts? You can use my RSS feed up at the top right of the page to keep up to date with all my entries, or follow me on Twitter.

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

Man Down

Jun. 4th, 2011 06:47 am
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With the internet abuzz over Rihanna’s music video for “Man Down” I thought that I’d check it out and see if it really is suggesting that rape victims kill their attackers. As I expected, it wasn’t. I’ll say right away that in order to come to that conclusion, critics had to have read a summary of the video/song without actually watching it or listening to the song.

The video begins with Rihanna shooting a man in a train station before the song begins. As the song plays, it cuts between the day before and after the shooting. Rihanna’s happy and carefree. Playing with kids, enjoying some coconut water (both VitaCoco and from an actual coconut). She rides her bike! She goes to a party, where she meets a man who she says no to, who later tracks her down and rapes her. Cut through this, post-shooting Rihanna broods, mopes… and basically sings about how she rushed into action and now realizes how wrong she was.

Right. That’s telling every victim to go out and shoot the person responsible.

It’s clear that she wrote this song while working through the aftermath of her relationship with Chris Brown. Artists using music for catharsis is hardly new. Frankly, I applaud her for exploring the desire for revenge, and admitting that murdering someone out of revenge would have a cost. Because as much as we try as a society to stop domestic violence and sexual assault, we still don’t know how to treat someone who is a victim.

After the Chris Brown / Rihanna story came out, it wasn’t uncommon to see reader comments on news stories break into two camps. Those who refused to believe that Brown did it (or who made sure to say that Rihanna must have provoked him) and those who said that no matter what happened, violence is never the answer. The number of women who stood behind Brown and tried to blame Rihanna was sadly much higher than I had expected. And it was about the same ratio on any news story about it- no matter how many pictures or witness accounts were included.

I bring up the Brown/Rihanna incident because as much as people would like to say it wasn’t representative of our views… it is. While the law is set up to try to protect victims, it’s all too common to see rape victims blamed for what happened because of their manner of dress or where they happened to be (google SlutWalk if you don’t believe me). Or accused rapists claiming that the victims aren’t really victims, just vindictive women who are trying to get revenge for something. And sadly, people believe these outrageous notions.

So kudos to you Rihanna for getting people talking about sexual assault/sexual violence. Thank you for not being afraid to share your pain or the thoughts you had to have explored. And to the people who want to judge the content of TV shows, music and videos? It helps if you actually watch or listen to what you’re condemning.

In case you haven’t seen the video yourself, check it out:

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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I don’t write a lot about my faith, simply because it isn’t something that is easy to define using labels.

Today is the day that Family Radio has chosen as the date of the Rapture- the date that the son of God is supposed to return to whisk away his true believers to be spared the horrors of the End of the World. They claim that the natural disasters are proof of the end times… and have spent a lot of money trying to convince people that this is it.

Yes, I believe in God. I still sort of identify myself as Catholic because that’s what I came from, but I certainly don’t believe a lot of the things they say I should. I believe that all people are equal, regardless of sexuality and should be treated the same in the church. That loving someone of the same gender shouldn’t label a good person a sinner. That’s just wrong. (I also believe that if someone doesn’t believe that you should respect their decision, and not hound them into believing. Using fear to make people believe in God is wrong. Faith should be about love, compassion and acceptance, not fear. And this would be why Jerad, who was an athiest, and I got along infamously- we respected that the other was entitled to their choice, even if we didn’t completely understand.)

Anyhow, I don’t want to get into a discussion of why I believe- I just do. I have my reasons, and it isn’t simply “because that’s what I was taught.” This is about Family Radio. This isn’t the first time they’ve said it was going to be the End of the World. Which makes it interesting that anyone is even treating this as fact- it’s a fringe group that’s been wrong before. In the Bible it says that no one will know when the end times begin, except for God. So…. anyone predicting a date is wrong. Especially someone who’s been wrong before (I believe that they fall under false prophets).

I am a positive person. I want to plan for the future, live my life as I see fit. I don’t see the point of living with dread or regret that the End of the World may be coming. After all, if you believe in God – you’re fine. And isn’t that the point? That you’re supposed to have faith and that faith will be what protects you in the end? I don’t see how worrying and regretting about things you haven’t done will help you all.

Just live your life. What happens, happens. You can’t change that, nor can you really prepare for it. All you can do is have faith, and live your life. Besides, when you buy into garbage like this, it just makes everyone who identifies themselves as Christian look stupid (and thanks to people who are hell bent on converting anyone who isn’t Christian, denouncing all Muslims, persecuting gays…. we already look pretty stupid. And yes, I did deliberately choose hell bent).

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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This Crew is Full. A couple months back, we decided we aren’t going to have any more kids. I’d wanted to wait to write about it until after certain things were past, but now it feels like talking about the reasons why are the blogging equivalent of the LeBron Decision special. (However, I did want to touch on the subject – so I thought I’d pull out a pirate metaphor and see where that went)

I’ll say this. When I was a kid, I always said I’d have two kids. After I had the Little Kidlet, I thought about a third, mostly because I wanted to try for a girl. But honestly, these two keep my hands full. Not to mention they’ve given me plenty of gray hair. If I had a third, I’d wind up looking like Storm. Which actually, might be awesome.

TheBoy and I had both secretly been thinking about whether or not we should stop at two, so at least there were no disagreements there. He had a vasectomy. I was there for it, and I’m proud of him for not being knocked out – I know that he’s had issues with blood and such in the past. (No, he didn’t watch it, but I did. It was cool, but keep in mind, I used to want to be a coroner… so don’t go looking up videos based on my word alone) He did his research, and followed the doctor’s directions to the letter, as well as took the advice posted from men who’d already had the procedure. Which were essentially, ice often, wear an athletic supporter and don’t exercise. He followed that advice, and there were no complications.

The strangest part was him having to wait to go give a specimen for them to test so that they could certify that he was indeed sterile (I honestly think this is the first time I’ve written the word). Mostly because it’s not like that’s anything he’s done before, so it was odd. And the doctor’s office forgot to check the box that said it was a post-vasectomy testing, so he had to check that box himself. Then we waited a week, and he got the call from the doctor… and here we are. (He made a certificate saying he was sterile that I wish I could have shown here, but it wasn’t letting him save it as an image – it also certified that the procedure gave TheBoy ninja powers. Go him)

I salute everyone who can handle more than two kids. I just know TheBoy and I just aren’t in that group. So, sorry to all those who’ve commented that I need to have more kids (and there have been plenty in the last year). You’ll just have to be satisfied with these two quirky kidlets.

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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As a writer, I’ve discovered something upsetting. I rewrite television shows as I watch them.

Well, not every television show. If it’s a well-written show like Law & Order Criminal Intent or Mad Men, I don’t bother. But if it’s a good show that’s suffering from inconsistent characterization… well, that’s another matter entirely.

Like Glee. I love Glee. It’s a fun show, punctuated with music and just as over the top as high school seems to you when you’re in it. Really, think back on it – you might not have walked down the hall singing, but I’m pretty sure that having a date to the dance was the biggest thing in the world. And every test failed, every breakup, ever snub seemed like the worst thing that ever happened to you.

And while Glee knocks out a few great episodes a season, the rest waver between good to meh. And usually not because of the overall plot of the episode- it’s the character reactions that make no sense.

Take last night’s Prom episode, “Prom Queen”. (spoilers, if you keep reading)

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Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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Dear Mom,

You’ve given me so much over the years, and especially since I left home, I’ve come to appreciate just how much of my being I can attribute to the way you’ve raised me. This is just a small token of appreciation for one of the many gifts you’ve given me.


The lemon tart to the right was made by my mom for Christmas (obviously). I’m sharing my horrible picture of it because it was a great example of how brilliant she is in the kitchen- she combined a few recipes on the spot to make this, and you’d never know. It was so good!

I love food. If you didn’t know that, you’ve probably just stumbled across this blog. I pick vacations not just for the experience, but where to eat. I go to Vegas yearly, and it isn’t for the gambling. I stopped going to concerts, and started splurging on nice restaurants.

This is something I got from my parents, who also both love to eat. But mostly, this is something I learned from my mom. The more I look at my current view of food, the more I realize that I got here because of her.

I suppose you could have called me a foodie even as a child, looking back . I was passionate about the foods I ate. The only way to make a good tuna salad was with whole albacore that was packed in water (never in oil), Best Foods Mayo, dill pickle chips (preferably Arnold’s from Arizona) and seasoned with a touch of salt, lots of garlic powder and white pepper. I believed, and still do, that it’s the white pepper and the quality of the pickle that sets my tuna apart from everyone else’s. And I learned this recipe from my mom. (I also learned that you never use Miracle Whip or sweet pickles. That’s tuna sacrilege.) I could also spend an hour explaining why certain potato chips were better than others- and I’m pretty sure I did.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As a kid, I would come home from school and start working on my homework in the dining room. Up until I was in middle school, I did my homework at the dining room table, so that my mom could help me if I needed it. (After that, it wasn’t so much that I didn’t need my mom’s help, but I could work on my own) It meant that more often than not, I had a front row seat for watching my mom make meals.

The layout of our kitchen was a half moon shape (as is her current kitchen, now that I think about it) – with one long countertop interrupted by a stove in the middle. The pantry and fridge were to one side, the sink was on the other.

She’s a graceful woman. She took ballet as a girl, and you can see it still in the way she carries herself. There she’d be, moving back and forth through the kitchen, preparing dinner. She’d chop and shift, go to the pantry to get ingredients. It was always fun to watch.

We were heavily involved in the menus. She asked us what we wanted to eat when we all went to the grocery store together. If it was something we wanted in our lunches, it was something that we had to tell her to get. She had strict rules about what we could and couldn’t eat. Candy wasn’t something that we regularly ate, but it wasn’t uncommon for us to have ice cream in our freezer- for those special occasions. During long power outages, it was the first thing she broke from our fridge. We knew it wouldn’t really melt before the power came back, but it was always that soothing touch needed to take away the fear of not knowing how long we’d be without power.

She showed me that there was no shame in making food from scratch. She explained that when my friends thought they were cool by bringing Lunchables, that the only thing cool about it was the divided tray – they were paying a lot of money for a piece of plastic that was just being thrown away. We talked a lot about nutrition and making sure you had enough vegetables and proteins. I learned a lot. She also showed me helpful shortcuts. A well stocked pantry and freezer meant that you could always find something to eat. We weren’t the sort to make our own stocks, but our freezer always had vegetable mixes that could easily be thrown in with some stock to make soup. Even with those canned stocks (which at the time weren’t that great), it still tasted better than anything else that Campbell’s could make. Or the vegetables made a quick stir fry, or where steamed for a quick side.

She taught me that with a few easy recipes, you always have something to fall back on when you aren’t sure what you want to eat. Lunch was always as easy as shredding cheese, putting it on a flour tortilla and letting it crisp up in the oven (we weren’t quesadilla people). If it was dinner, and we were all exhausted from a long day, she’d heat up a couple cans of refried beans and we’d have bean burros. Or toss some corn tortillas in the oven to crisp and have some tostadas.

My mom was the person who showed me that you should know where your food comes from. When I was 13, she had seen a video about how most meat is produced, and it sickened her. We became pescetarians. Eventually, I began to add meat back in during college. Mostly because it seemed like being a pescetarian was expensive, and I was suddenly falling in love with fast food (and falling in love with TheBoy, who would have fast food with me after our shifts). In came beef. Eventually, I came to my senses and found a balance- I simply found people who produced meat in a way that I was comfortable with. And fast food chains that I felt comfortable eating at.

If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t try to shop for vegetables and fruits in season. I wouldn’t care as much as I do about supporting restaurants that source local foods and sustainable seafood.

My mom is an excellent cook (heck, my dad is too, even if he denies it), and I’ve often written about her brilliance with combining flavors. But more important than either is her love of food. I’ve known from an early age that food can be something special and that if you make a dish with care and love, that it’ll be evident to the people who enjoy it. She taught me that recipes are wonderful things, not just a path to a specific dish, but the springboard to find any number of new and unexpected dishes.

But most importantly, she showed me that there’s no shame in being a woman that loves to cook. That you can be an activist, a feminist and cook for your family- that there’s nothing contradictory about it. It isn’t about happening to fit into what’s expected- it’s about surpassing those expectations, and being true to yourself.

She taught me that it’s perfectly fine to serve a fancy meal to family, and eat it in your pajamas. That Christmas dinner can be a bunch of side dishes if that’s what you want, or even a bunch of delicious appetizers. That it’s okay to have your dessert first just so you won’t fill up. That any reason is a good reason to break out the good china- and that you should never drink water before or during your meal. (You’ll only fill up faster, and take away room from a delicious meal.) And that one of the things you don’t skimp on at your wedding is the wedding cake.

I could go on and on and on, but ultimately it comes back to one thing. Food and love go hand in hand, for her and for me.

Love you Mom.

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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Earlier in the week, I blogged about the names that Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon gave their twins. When I posted the link to that blogpost to Facebook… my sister and I went on such a grammar tangent of made-up names that I had to record it here for all posterity.

Seester: Monroe isn’t actually so bad, but Moroccan has to be the worst name ever. Even Morocco would have been better. But I’m going with Modern Joe for my imaginary boy and Makhalina for the girl. And frankly, as far as adjectival first names go, Modern isn’t half as bad as Moroccan.
Me: No, I’m pretty sure that Moroccan is the worst adjectival name possible. At least he has a decent middle name.
Seester: Now I just know someone’s going to give some poor child a verb for a name.
Me: Or an adverb.

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Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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Mariah Carey announced the names of her children. Moroccan Scott (for the boy) and Monroe (for the girl).

Their logic? Moroccan Scott was named after the Moroccan Room in her NY apartment, which is where Nick Cannon proposed. Monroe is after Marilyn Monroe- an icon who inspired Mariah. (Apparently Marilyn was just too obvious)

Please tell me that people will stop making fun of Coco and Apple now. Because these are infinitely worse.

Before I knew that Moroccan was after the name of the room (and the decor style), I thought she was simply going with using the term to describe someone from Morocco. Which led to the following conversation with my mother.

MyMom: Would you name someone The Virginian?
Me: Now I want to. (That would be the most rugged baby ever, I imagine)

Then after we realized it was after the decor style, I named my super-imaginary next child French Colonial (My mom suggested Hollywood Regency). But because Moroccan Scott just seemed like it’s describing someone, I am now partial to Jamaican Bob. Welsh Rhys is also in the running.

But ultimately, Mariah Carey has created the ultimate baby naming meme. If it’s a boy, you name it after the location your proposal took place. If it’s a girl, you use the last name of someone you admired – bonus points if it’s used as a male first name.

So if I were having a boy and girl, they would be… Autopia Y-Position and Peron. Oh super-ultra-imaginary children, I do apologize. But Autopia Y-Position, it could be worse. It’s currently the Offroading/Backbridge area of the ride… which would make you Autopia Backbridge or Autopia Offroading. It’s also the Fantasyland Smoking Area, which just doesn’t help matters much does it? And Peron, I couldn’t resist picking the most bizarre role-model of all my childhood role models. Because ultimately, Hepburn actually is a kinda cool name. (But for a boy)

Sorry Mariah. I’m sure you think these are wonderful names. But you’ve definitely raised the bar when it comes to crazy names. Because there’s no way that anyone can use Moroccan for a first name.

Share your imaginary babies’ names, or if you aren’t engaged or married… just come up with the most ridiculous thing possible. Because after awhile, it’s just sort of fun. Sorry Mariah. I don’t normally like mocking people’s name choices… but these are just bad.

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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This week’s Glee was “Born this Way.” In the 90 minute episode, the Gleeks were having some self-confidence issues, so their assignment was to sing Lady GaGa’s “Born this Way” and think about just what label they were worried about.

So people, what would your shirt say? What is it about you that you’re insecure about?

I admit, I’m a pretty confident person. I know who I am, and I’m pretty happy with Whitney – but there’s one thing that I’ve worried about my entire life. My weight. Not necessarily because I’m not happy with it, but because the outside world isn’t.

Toothpick. It’s who I am.

I come from a long line of people who are pretty slim. There’s a wicked metabolism gene that I’m told I’m blessed to have. And yes, it’s meant that I stay slim without a ton of effort. But there’s a downside. I have to eat constantly. (Before you say that it’s a problem you’d like to have, please keep reading.)

From high school onward, I’ve been plagued with rumors of eating disorders. Well meaning people who barely knew me, watched me down a cheeseburger, fries and milkshake, and have told me that I should see someone about my bulimia. In college, I actually had someone ask me who my dealer was – because they assumed that I must be using some sort of drug to stay skinny. When it was a combination of genetics and the exercise I was getting from working at Disneyland.

Being sick is a drag. I’ve learned that I can’t ever mention that I vomited to anyone outside my family, because usually that person will assume that I’m lying about being sick to cover up an eating disorder. If I drop weight from being sick, I know better than to mention it to anyone- I will get no sympathy about being underweight. Instead, I’ll face months of judging looks while I eat some extra calories to try to help build up a healthy layer of fat again.

I’m sure you think it’s mostly in my head. But that’s the point, isn’t it? People say cruel things and it gets to the point where it becomes what you worry about. I’ve steered away from buying slim cut dresses, worried about what people would say if I wore skinny jeans, and agonized over whether every outfit I’ve worn for the last 16 years has made me look too skinny.

So to everyone who loves to play the which-celeb-has-an-eating-disorder-game? Knock it off. It’s easy to mock celebs, but then it becomes easier to start judging everyone you see. While yes, there are people who have eating disorders who do need help and support – there are plenty of people who are labeled as being sick when they aren’t. As a society, we do plenty to encourage people to be more understanding of people with curves – from those who are simply curvy to those who are heavy and obese. Maybe we should simply accept people of all shapes, regardless of what they are.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t worry about whether or not someone has an eating disorder. Eating disorders are serious things, and I’ve known plenty of girls who were affected by them (oddly enough, some who weren’t noticed by the same people accusing me of having them). But accusing strangers of having them does a lot of damage, too.

I’m skinny. I can’t help it. Deal with it, America. But don’t make me change who I am because you don’t understand me.

Have something to add? Please comment! Want to keep up with all my posts? You can subscribe to my RSS feed, which is up at the top right of the blog.

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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Sony’s PlayStation Network has been down for days now. Days and days with Sony essentially saying that they were looking into the problem and it’d be up soon.

Now it’s come out that the PlayStation Network has been down because they were hacked – they had mentioned an intrusion, but never the scope of it. Personal information was accessed from accounts, which ranged from addresses to credit card numbers. I admit, I don’t have an account (my PS3 is pretty much only used for my BluRay and for folding). My brother in law does, but all they could have stolen was his address – he uses prepaid cards to buy anything.

While I’m glad that my in-laws are probably going to be fine (since if he’d used a card, it would have been theirs)… there’s a bigger problem to this. Sony knew that personal information had been accessed and waited nearly a week before admitting that consumer data was stolen. A week in which the stolen data could have been sold and used for who knows what.

I have been the victim of identity theft. I had a woman get my bank account and try to pass bad checks through it. I’ve had my credit card stolen and someone ring up fraudulent charges (thank you Chase for realizing that I probably wasn’t going to be buying jeans from Europe). In the first case, it took me a couple weeks to feel relatively normal. Days on the phone with the branch I’d opened up my account, and them on the phone with the local branches to make sure that nobody could cash a check that wasn’t me. Closing all my accounts, my credit card numbers, putting a fraud flag on my credit reports – and having to wait for new checks, new credit cards and updating any saved card information on the internet.

In this day and age – where identity theft is rampant and considerable damage can be done to someone’s life within 24 hours… it’s unconscionable for Sony to wait so long to disclose the full extent of the hacking. Sony spokesman Patrick Seybold said that because of the scope of the problem they didn’t realize that the theft had occurred until Monday (the 25th), and that they had informed customers. I’m still not sure how in this day and age, it took them several days to discover that personal data was stolen.

I am disappointed in Sony. For any company with e-commerce, the first thing you should check after being hacked isn’t the structural integrity, it’s whether or not personal information was stolen. Ultimately though, it’s a good reminder that you get what you pay for. Sony offered access to their PlayStation Network for free (even if the games on it weren’t). Microsoft charges for XBox Live, but I’m fairly certain that they would have responded differently.

So what can you do to protect yourself? Like my brother-in-law, you can purchase points cards for online currency purchases (whether it’s for gaming networks or Facebook games). Most credit cards also offer temporary credit card numbers. Which might not be useful for a gaming network, but for most regular purchases can be helpful to protect your actual credit card information.

But most importantly, what you can do is order your annual credit reports from the three credit agencies, and make sure that accounts haven’t been opened that you’re unaware of. (If you’re going to go to FreeCreditReport.Com, be careful. In order for it to be free, you have to sign up for their credit monitoring service – which has a monthly fee. You can cancel it after the initial purchase… but just make sure you do so you don’t keep getting charged. However, if you do a lot of online purchases, it might not be a bad investment – since you’ll be able to see your credit score change on a regular basis) As silly as it seems, do regular checks of your bank accounts online- and credit cards, too. Don’t wait until you get your monthly statements, make sure you check on a weekly basis – since the earlier you notice an irregularity, the earlier you’ll be able to put a stop to it if someone has stolen your identity. (I should note, that you probably should wait a bit to order your credit reports – just to make sure that any opened accounts are reflected)

While most banks and credit cards will reverse fraudulent charges, it can take days to get the money back into bank accounts, or for charges to be reduced on cards.

It should go without saying, but if you have an account on the PlayStation Network – you should change the password for any login that you have associated with the email address you used.

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.


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July 2011

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