Category Archives: Media

On being X-ish

Now that I have described how I graduated into Generation X, I have a secret to confess: I’m starting to think that that might not be entirely wrong.

Let’s stick to cohort effects here, since it’s supposed to be a cohort term. And I should add that this is all very trivial stuff, I’m focussing on media, pop culture and technology experiences.

One of the major temptations of identifying as Generation Y had to do with pop culture. My teenage years were just past the wave of slackers and grunge and Seattle. I probably heard Nirvana’s music during Kurt Cobain’s lifetime, but I didn’t know of them as a thing until about a year after he died. I’ve never even seen Reality Bites, but Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder are both 10 years older than I am, and their movies weren’t about my cohort.

I am, frankly, Spice Girls age: not the pre-teen thrilled girls waving things to be signed, but the teenagers who actually paid for the albums with their own money. (I didn’t, for reference. We were a Garbage family.) Britney Spears was born in the same year as me, and her biggest year career-wise was my first year of university. And obviously, when the term “Generation Y” was coined, the stereotypes of late university/early career certainly fit my friends better than the Generation X tags with managerial aspirations. The return of cool people listening to cheesy pop: Y-ish. So that was where I felt I fell. (In case anyone I knew at high school drops by: I realise I wasn’t cool. But you may have been, and don’t think I didn’t notice you danced to the Spice Girls.)

But then, there’s certainly a few small societal boundaries between me and people who were born in 1986. (I have a sister born in 1986, and thinking about the five years between us is often telling.) Starting at a global level, I was reading Tony Judt’s Postwar recently (recommended, I’ll come back to it here at some point), and I was struck because I remember 1989.

To be fair, that’s more important if one lives in Europe, which I never have, but most of my first detailed memories of newsworthy events have to do with the revolutions of 1989 and the 1990 Gulf War. I remember the USSR, again, from the perspective of a young child who was growing up in Australia, but still. I can read the science fiction people smirk about now, the fiction with the USA and USSR facing off in 2150, and remember, a little bit, what that was actually about. This is, well, frankly, more than a little X-ish.

While we’re talking about defining events, I recall that quite a lot of people talked about the children who won’t remember 9/11. (And by children, I now mean 15 year olds, of course.) Obviously this is more important in the USA, perhaps a little like the European children (by which I mean 25 year olds) who don’t remember 1989 in Europe. I obviously remember 2001, and moreover remember the geopolitical situation in the years before it quite vividly too, and that latter is again, more than a touch X-ish.

Turning to technology, which is fairly defining for me, we’ll start with Douglas Adams:

Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Leaving aside the age effect where shortly everything cool will be against the natural order of things, it’s noticeable to me that the Web and email and so on fall in the “can probably get a career in it” bracket for me. Well, obviously not truly (the first version of the SMTP specification, which still more or less describes how email works today, was published in 1982), but my late teenage years were exactly the years when suddenly a lot of Australian consumers were on the ‘net. Hotmail was founded when I was 15 and I got an address there the following year. (icekween@, the address has been gone since 1999 and I’ve never used that handle since, partly because even in 98/99 it was always taken. But, actually, for a 16 year old’s user name I still think that was fairly OK considering some of the alternatives.)

In short, it was all happening in prime “get a career in it” time for me, and not coincidentally I am at the tail end of the huge boom in computer science enrolments and graduates that came to a giant sudden stop about two years after I finished. Frankly, X-ish. My youngest sister and her friends didn’t get excited about how they were going to become IT managers and have luxury yachts as a matter of course. (Well, partly age and partly not being jerks, there.) It’s a lot harder to get the “just a natural part of the way the world works” people excited about it.

Diagnosis: tailing X.

Computational linguists

xkcd suddenly exploded in my circles in 2006, thanks to the comic Randall Munroe calls Computational Linguists and most people refer to as “Fuck Computational Linguistics” getting around at the annual conference of the Association for Computational Linguistics.

There’s been requests for the xkcd store to sell it before, but it’s never been done.

I just ordered a batch through Sticker Mule, both of the full comic and of a smaller badge version I did. (They will do proofs of them, I’ll be interested to see if the “Fuck” bugs them.) In order to do so I did a vector version of the comic (via Inkscape’s “trace bitmap”), and because the original comic, and these variants, are under Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial, I can share them with you here. If you want them, order copies from the sticker vendor of your choice!

Full comic:
Indicative PNG | Compressed Inkscape SVG | PDF (fonts as paths)

Smaller badge-like variant:

Fuck Computational Linguistics
Compressed Inkscape SVG | PDF (fonts as paths)

The vector versions aren’t very clean, but neither is the original comic, so I’m hoping these look like the spirit of the original, rather than a nasty hack.

Reminder: these are licensed for free noncommercial use (the precise condition is noncommercial use with attribution to the original author, modifications OK). So don’t sell them!

Sunday Spam: hot banana bread

These are, largely, in reverse order of reading, that is, most recent first. Interesting that that tends to be a thematic ordering too.

Right-wing memes ahoy – “pregnancy is not a disease”

Right wing argument: pregnancy isn’t a disease. Therefore contraception shouldn’t be among funded medical services.
Response: pregnancy is [affiliated with/causes] illness for some women. Therefore contraception should be among funded medical services!

Uh, don’t buy the framing, responders! Says Tiger Beatdown. The end.

7-Year Old Transgender Child Refused Proper Bathroom Visits in School

Child identifies as boy. Parents, doctors and peers recognising child’s gender identity. School superintendent knows better. Unhilarity ensues.

This is what I said a feminist mother looks like:

  • Part One: the questionnaire, demographics, key themes and becoming feminists
  • Part Two: the impact of motherhood on their feminism
  • Part Three: being surprised by motherhood
  • Part Four: defining their feminist parenting
  • Part Five: the difficulties with being a feminist parent
  • This is a summary of a conference presentation Blue Milk gave on her long running 10 questions about your feminist motherhood series. I know that I keep going on about Instapaper, but these were handily divided up into bite-sized blog entries and I was still too lazy to read them before.

    Pink Scare

    A roundup of a series of incidents in which a huge comment storm has been created around a boy dressing as a girl or in girl-marked clothes. Not really novel if you read about this stuff a lot, a good summary either way, particularly the historical context about when and where young children have been expected to be strongly gender-marked.

    What revolution? Why haven’t women pushed harder for caring work to be valued?

    Blue Milk again, on the not-always-perfect marriage of patriarchy and capitalism, summarising Nancy Folbre. Of particular note Higher paid women benefit from their ability to hire low-wage women to provide child care and elder care in the market.

    Film review: “The Help,” a feel-good movie for white people

    The Help has become such a by-word for race fail in my circles that I hadn’t even heard what the basic plot was. Consider this a useful primer: what the plot is, what the problems are. Now you don’t have to see the movie.

    Gaddafi Should Be Tried At The Hague

    Not a surprising opinion for Geoffrey Robertson, but perhaps not everyone has read Crimes Against Humanity. Actually I haven’t read it all the way through either, because I have it in the cheap Penguin edition with teeny tiny writing and a stiff spine, and it’s still too heavy to hold in one hand. Must look into Kindling.

    Anyway, back in to Gaddafi: British Prime Minister David Cameron made a serious mistake this week by insisting that the fate of the Gaddafis should be a matter for the Libyan people. That was the line George Bush took after the capture of Saddam Hussein, as a rhetorical cover so that the death penalty could be imposed on the Iraqi despot by politically manipulated local judges.

    Australians don’t fully understand what is being done in their name

    While we’re in the thematic section marked unsurprising opinions from lawyers active in human rights, Julian Burnside. Why do we do this? What is it about our national character that explains such cruel, illogical behaviour? Simple: the politicians do it for political gain, and most Australians do not fully understand what is being done in their name.

    I’m worried he’s wrong.

    Why Political Coverage is Broken

    Jay Rosen’s keynote address at New News 2011, focussing on the marketing of news to politically interested readers. We’re all insiders, considering how this will play to the voters, as if they aren’t us.

    How the World Failed Haiti

    Well, partly it’s a Wicked Problem (high stakes, one chance to solve it, no good model, no correct solution, no or little ability to fix things after the fact, etc), but one focus of this particular article is that while Bill Clinton himself is potentially a good advocate and ally for Haiti, the people the Clintons tend to hire aren’t so much, perhaps. They tend to be experienced political operatives, not experienced disaster relief workers. (Also, even people specialising in development aren’t the same people who are good at disaster relief.)

    Learning to love my baby

    Jessica Valenti’s daughter was born extremely premature after a traumatic emergency Caesearean following pre-eclampsia and HELLP. She doesn’t think it’s a problem that her feelings towards her daughter were complex and that loving her was scary. She condemns though, factors that made her feel that this made her a terrible person.

    Review: The Red Market by Scott Carney

    The Red Market is the market in bodies, body parts and blood. This is a book review, not the book itself (The Red Market: On the Trail of the World’s Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers), which goes on the to-read list.