Saturday, January 21, 2006

Google Porn Killed My Computer. Does This Mean The Terrorists Win?

I would first like to say that as a 40-something liberal-somewhat-feminist woman, it pains me to know the definition of “M.I.L.F.” I believe I shouldn’t know that little tidbit of pop culture. Yet I do.

And Big Woop. I looked.

In 2004, I had to write a paper for my sociology class that involved the search and research of various “Internet Databases” that covered the material needed for said paper. Google got a wide variety of hits from my address over the course of a week that covered French newspaper articles on a disturbing gang rape phenomenon occurring among Muslim teens in the projects of Paris called “tournante,” meaning “Take your turn.” Because the scope of my paper involved reported theories linking the phenomenon to the accessibility to minors of porn on the internet, I decided to do a little surfing. My textbook did state that one could find anything if one looked. I used Google as my search engine, and brought up sites on bestiality (the textbook referenced bestiality, so I HAD do try that one), rape, incest, hillbilly sex (since a Google search on “incest” brought up a bunch of sites depicting “first rights” pictorials of father-daughter, brother-sister violent acts) and for my own non-paper related curiosity, since I’d heard the term but didn’t know what it meant, sites devoted to the fabulous “M.I.L.F.” Who knew the average suburban soccer mom could be so limber? All the sites came with little MPEGs showing little film shorts of the various acts and practices. None of the MPEGs required a credit card – they were up and running when I hit on the site. Eezy-peezy – a child could do it.

I was reminded of that painting of Kramer on “Seinfeld” that goes something like: “It’s like a train wreck. One is horrified, yet cannot look away.” I felt a little - okay not just a little - sick to my stomach – yet I kept surfing. It also occurred to me that perhaps I should contact the SPCA to ask what the hell they were doing to protect defenseless horses and dogs from what I was seeing. I told Manpants that I had been surfing these sites, and in that distracted Manpants-is-doing-other-things kind of way, he said, “Mmmm. That’s nice dear.” One little film after another – and of course the MPEGs somehow saved on my computer history, despite my going through what I thought was everything and deleting cookies, history, etc. . . so that the very same week when Manpants went to review something on Real Player, he got an eyeful. I remember coming home and him sitting at the computer looking a little green. He looked at me, and I knew in an instant. HE HAD SEEN.

“You saw them, didn’t you.”

“Yup. They stayed in the computer.”

“I feel so dirty.”

“Me too.”

“I may never want to have sex again.”

Well, I turned in my paper, (got an A) and about a week or so later, the computer seized up, crashed and died. No amount of technical savvy on the part of anyone could get the thing up and running again. Data was lost that hadn’t been saved elsewhere and we were greatly inconvenienced – not to mention having to shell out a few grand for a new computer. We were informed by my fabulous (and thankfully non-judgmental-porn-surfing) computer wiz friend that my various landings of various sites was the culprit. I haven’t touched The Porn since. At least not on the internet.

Imagine my relief to know that all my searches were on Google and not on Yahoo or MSN. Can you imagine the flags going up over my searches back and forth from Porn to Muslim teenagers? What WOULD they think; those mental giants who are running our country? The mind boggles.

I believe in free speech. I am capable of being in favor of our constitutional rights, while simultaneously finding some of that free speech disgusting, depraved, hateful and loathsome on more levels than words can express. It’s my own damn responsibility for seeking it out and looking at it. Should such sites be readily accessible and available to children? No – but they are out there and parents have a responsibility to supervise their children and speak to them frankly about all things that can effect them today – not to use the computer and television as a means of getting the child out of their hair – then blame everyone else if their child is exposed to something under their watch that they could have prevented by being, oh, a PARENT. Between internet predators that troll children’s chat rooms and a plethora of disturbing images that could seriously jar a child’s first impressions about sexuality – the parent has a tough job staying on top of that – but guess what? It’s their job. The government demanding the web addresses of those who might surf this stuff is NOT going to protect children, anymore than the idea that listening to our boring-ass phone conversations is going to actually protect us from a terrorist attack.

I applaud Google for refusing to release the web addresses of internet surfers to the government. I am also, personally, mighty relieved.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Got Patriotic?

As the beginning of 2006 unfolds along with the characteristic January rains that occur in California; rains that are not really rains, but more like gallons of water in giant barrels that are dumped suddenly upon one’s head; rains that kill anyone unfortunate enough to be homeless and seeking shelter in the concrete architectural mystery that calls itself the Los Angeles River; rains that cause people’s homes to go careening down hillsides into other people’s yards, only to be rebuilt by the insurance companies so that they may slide another year – I am brought to think about and consider the word of the day that was delivered to my email by the Oxford English Dictionary.

refuse, a. and n.2

Now according to Oxford, who are experts in these matters of words and their meanings – let’s first take a look at the definition that falls under the adjective:

A. adj: Rejected or thrown aside as worthless or of little value; discarded, useless:

Now let’s take a look at the second definition that pops up under the noun:

B. n.
1. That which is cast aside as worthless; rubbish or worthless matter of any kind; the rejected or rubbishy part of anything.

2. The worthless or outcast portion of some class of persons; the scum, offscourings, dregs, etc.

Huh. So the term refuse also refers to actual human beings. Well, our country got a fine example of the treatment of people fitting that definition during various disasters of 2005 – and there’s a lot going on around our great nation that still drives the point home. People in our country who are considered worthless by others will be treated as the “rejected or rubbishy part of anything;” i.e. old tires, coffee grounds, poor children, etc. One way to let people know that they are not of worth to society is exemplified by grocery store chains that refrain from opening stores in poor and depressed neighborhoods. For example, if one drives to South Central Los Angeles, one will find one solitary Ralph’s on Slauson Avenue that services the entire region populated by hundreds of thousands of people – whereas there are three within a one mile radius in the West Hollywood/Hollywood area alone to service the greater buying power of the predominantly white area.

Poor areas have small privately owned liquor and food marts that are more expensive due to the store owners’ inability to purchase supplies at the discounts given to large chains that do their purchasing in bulk. Since the L.A. Riots, there are even fewer of these stores, which were largely owned by Korean merchants who have since left the area.

In St. Louis, Missouri – where I have spent a fair amount of time recently, the supermarket chain “Schnuck’s” has simply closed what few stores they had in the poor neighborhoods – leaving those neighborhoods with only a few small, poorly stocked, privately owned markets to service the entire area.

I guess “Refuse” like the people poor enough to live in these areas don’t spend enough money to make it a profitable venture.

Upon driving through these areas, I am further touched by the condition of the buildings and residences that were, at one time, beautiful examples of creative architecture and craftsmanship. If one looks beyond the broken, boarded up, rat and refuse infested facades, one can actually imagine a once beautiful and thriving area surrounded by beauty. I know for myself that depression makes it hard to do anything to improve one’s surroundings – let alone summon up the energy to take out the trash – so when witnessing depression on a grand scale, it is an overwhelming experience and not one that should be ignored as it is presently. Take a look.

This area I’ve pictured has no grocery store, very few eating establishments and even fewer businesses. It does however, have this billboard:

Here’s an idea that I’d like to run with, and perhaps anyone reading this might jump on board. Let’s drive to our local “bad neighborhood” and take some photos. Since emails to our government officials do not get opened if they contain attachments, this little project would involve printing out said photos and paying for postage. I propose sending a little Shame On Us letter to our state governor, with the accompanying photos, with a proposal that our state implement a secondary form of voluntary service that is non-military. A service that, like the military, will enable those who volunteer to get money for a college education, medical benefits and special loans to purchase homes. There is nothing wrong with volunteering for the military – but there needs to be another choice – and since it is predominantly the people from these neighborhoods that volunteer, they should have another choice of voluntary service that does not necessarily mean they might be killed. These volunteers, for a two-to-four year stint, would be responsible for rebuilding our nation’s neighborhoods – restoring and rebuilding the original architecture to preserve and honor the artistry and craftsmanship that once existed in this country – and, literally, rebuild America. This means that the newly restored neighborhoods don’t get to drive out the existing population to make way for “gentrification” and luxury prices – but they remain affordable to those people who live there so they can remain, open businesses, galleries for local artists, clubs for local musicians, offices, restaurants, etc. . .

Habitat for Humanity does great work – but they are a not for profit organization that can only do so much, and there is a rebuilding effort that goes far beyond the capabilities of one not for profit organization. The Peace Corp doesn’t really do this kind of work - at least not in this country, and bottom line – U.S. businesses and government organizations do not presently see this as a priority, which is shortsighted to say the least. We the People, include those People that are still considered by much of society, to be Refuse.

I consider THAT to be unpatriotic.