nov 07

CYBER SHAME

Right now in my queue are yet unfinished posts on Ian Curtis and Iris Chang, which is why I’ve held off on writing anything on Megan Meier. But Kim Zetter’s Wired News article is pretty much the best thing I’ve read on the subject. It was, after all, a housewife/blogger that uncovered Lori Drew’s name in the first place, and while most of us would agree there’s something, for lack of a better word, majorly fucked up about a grown woman who cyberbullies a girl to death and takes a grieving father to court over a trashed foosball table, there’s something equally fucked about the web reaction, an unhealthy blend of aggression and sanctimony:

Experts say the firestorm that followed illustrates what happens when the social imperative to punish those in a community who violate social norms plays out over the internet. The impulse is human nature, say experts, and few can imagine an offense more egregious than a trusted adult preying on the emotions of a vulnerable child. Shunning wrongdoers, especially in the absence of legal redress, helps maintain order and preserve a community’s moral sense of right – think church excommunications and the Amish tradition of Meidung.

But the drive for social shaming – to right a wrong and restore social balance – can run amok and create paradoxical consequences, especially on the internet where people instigate mobs in ways they wouldn’t do offline.

Posted by site admin at 2:22 pm |

11/7/2007

RAINBOW STORIES IN THE TENDERLOIN

(This week I’m going to post a bunch of things that have been sitting in the queue waiting for several edits. here’s something from May🙂

On the flight to Paris, I read William T. Vollmann’s Rainbow Stories cover-to-cover. He sets up the interlinked story collection – each inspired by, in the least pretentious and gimmick-driven way possible – the colors of the rainbow. “The Visible Spectrum,” the introduction, is one of the weirdest, most glorious stories I’ve ever read. It details a downtown hospital waiting room with junkies and homeless persons following multiple colored lines on the floor to their various destinies: methadone, surgeries, or inevitable death.

The radiology man said that sometimes people came in with ruined faces. black mush or green mush or blue mush where their eyes used to be. He said that sometimes people paid no attention to instructions and followed the green line instead of the orange lines, the blue lines instead of the red line. Then the hospital could no longer be responsible. When this occurred, terrible mistakes were committed. People had their kidneys cut out when all they needed was an ankle-cast. People lost their arms and legs beneath the bone-saws for no reason. – He was joking, of course. In my opinion, he was an extremely funny fellow. Mistakes were no usually so serious.

Vollmann’s style is pastiche of pure fantasy and journalism. I’m really anxious to read his nonfiction now. Parts about neo-Nazis were the most surprising to me. It’s difficult to believe that only twenty-five years ago white supremacists were integrated with the subculture of punk rockers and artists. It’s just unimaginable today, (but that might be a footnote to Sasha Frere-Jones’ recent article.)

An Amazon reviewer writes:

“American fiction?” Not quite, I was there. In 1984 my girlfriend and I set of from VA to San Francisco CA looking for adventure. What we found was a world of decadence, violence, deviation, drugs and death that I feel lucky to have escaped alive from. William interviewed several of my roommates from my Tenderloin apt on Ellis Ave. Dickie Disgusting (AKA Frank Hutton) was an “Open High” school fiend of mine from “back east” that we hooked up with. He had gone out there to help start the notorious “SF Skins” that terrorized Height street. They were immortalized by “Camper Van Beethoven” when they were spotted bowling in the Height Street Bowling Alley. Boot Woman was also staying there with us. I knew Mark Dagger and a whole bunch of the characters in the book (and YES the sheep killing story is real, I have friends that did time over it). As crazy as the book is, the SF punk life was even more twisted than one can imagine but Vollman did a great job getting into the seedy world that was ours back then and capturing it in ink. I only hope that there are other survivors like myself back from then, until (or if) I see my old friends again, I can always pick up this book and remember them in their 2os with all their craziness and dysfunction. I will only five it 4 stars maily because it brought back some really painful memories too and I got a little bummed out after reading about the fate of one of the characters. These feelings caused me to have to put the book down for a while. Thank you William, it was a both a pleasure and a gift.. 

(Now, several months later, after visiting San Francisco for the first time, I have this to add🙂

It’s remarkable how the Tenderloin has never gentrified, especially given the Bay Area’s notorious real estate market. It’s a patch of no more than several blocks, but when I found myself lost in it I was as tense as I might be in some parts of the Southwest quadrant of DC. While I can imagine today’s Tenderloin is nothing like what Vollmann wrote about, the crime and poverty continues.

Posted by site admin at 10:04 am |

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