One reader's rave

"Thanks for the newspaper with your book review. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with this terrific piece of writing. It is beautiful, complex, scholarly. Only sorry Mr. Freire cannot read it!" -- Ailene

Help the Honey Badgers in their fight for freedom of speech and thought!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Unfortunately, I don't have health insurance right now, so I can't see a therapist like I did last year. But I've found an alternative that may serve just as well.

I recently signed up to get free email newsletters from the guys behind, and it turns out these include a twelve-week "boot camp" for aspiring pickup artists. The first was not very challenging; aside from abstaining from a couple things asserted to be bad influences (porn and sappy love music), the only positive action required was something to get over a recent obsession that I'd actually already done. (I hadn't really had that much of a recent obsession.)

There was a bit more to the next message, which I read Friday. Both parts involved starting conversations with women, and the first one was pretty simple; I accomplished it yesterday with a new neighbor I encountered on the elevator of my building. The second is considerably more complex -- a sort of multi-tier "nested set" of instructions on what thing (or kind of thing) to say in response to each of several possible contingencies. I had to read it over several times before I felt prepared to attempt it.

Nonetheless I did attempt it late this afternoon, three times, in a food court. I haven't yet managed to get through the whole script (not always through my own fault), but given my past troubles with approach anxiety -- especially in that setting -- I decided to reward myself with a box of lemon herb tea on the way home. I'd been doing without an evening beverage for a while.

Even though I think I have a pretty accurate idea of the things I need to do to continue overcoming social anxiety disorder, I know from past experience that I can get frustrated easily without some external prod to keep me going. Where a therapist's "homework assignments" have sometimes played this role in the past, Jay Valens's "missions" should accomplish the same thing now.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hopefully, Tha Truth Is Not Out of Style

I just noticed some lovely lyrics on rapper Tha Truth's album Tha Miseducation of the Masses. On the track titled "Truth with a Side of Humor," he relates, "I almost had a psychic girlfriend but she left before we met." And: "My house burned down from a stress-relieving candle."

I find this reminiscent of that old gem by MC 900 Foot Jesus, "The Truth is Out of Style," which I heard was on his album Hell with the Lid Off. Anyone know where I could find a copy of that?

More on Nouveau Tech

I just noticed a comment I'd previously missed on something I'd posted a few years ago, and have made a reply. You can see it all here:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

R. I. P. $pread!

I am sorry to pass on this sad news from $pread, the magazine by and about sex workers:

Hello $pread fans. We regret to inform you that, while we expect to publish 5.4, the Crime and Punishment Issue and 6.1, the Race Issue (guest-edited by a fabulous collective of sex workers of color) by January, $pread will close its glittery doors soon after the dawn of the New Year. Once the remaining two issues have been posted, we will fulfill subscriptions for those of you who are owed them with the option of back issues, or, if you're feeling generous, a waiver to help us with closing costs. We apologize for those of you who have only recently come to know us, and to all our longtime supporters. After all these years, five all-volunteer years to be exact, we have come to the conclusion that an all-volunteer magazine is simply unsustainable in the current publishing climate. Short of a donation of $30,000, we will be unable to sustain the magazine past January.

For those of you with a hankering for $pread merchandise and back issues, make sure to go to the $pread Shop ( in the next few months. Once we print the next two issues, we will donate the materials to our outreach partners as well as lay the foundation for a physical archive, complete with all the $pread memories of yore, blemishes and all.

We hope that you will look forward to a $pread retrospective in book form, featuring highlights of our five years of publishing. We will also package a '$pread Scrapbook' for sex worker advocates looking for tips and tricks on publishing a magazine by and for people working in the sex industry. We are producing these materials in the hopes that our model will help motivate the continued movement for social justice among our many and varied communities, in the same way Danzine inspired our own publication. We also close our doors in the comfort of knowing that right now, around the world, sex worker-run and sex worker-supportive media such as ConStellation ( in Montreal, Flower in Beijing, and Red Light District Chicago ( are holding forth on the issues that matter to our communities.

$pread was motivated by the motto “Illuminating the Sex Industry.” We submit these five years of blood, sweat, and tears to you as a testament to this founding sentiment. May the struggle to end the stigma, discrimination, and violence perpetrated against our communities end in justice, and may the flashy strobe light of sex worker rights never go out, but illuminate the sex industry for the world to see.

I can proudly say that I've subscribed to $pread for the majority of its existence, and don't doubt that it's helped inspire other projects that are ongoing.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Differences in Cognitive Culture, and Doing Something About Them

I just read another post by my brother to his new blog, which you can read at

It served as a takeoff point for a number of related thoughts which I posted as a comment there. I reproduce them here:

One good habit to develop in life, is not too quickly forming conclusions about other people’s behavior or underestimating the extent to which their knowledge base may be different from one’s own. Doing so may be reinforced by a momentary gratification — because it allows one to feel superior — but can stand in the way of helping them become more a help to themselves and less a burden to others.

Where illiteracy is concerned, it’s important to remember that many people who didn’t learn to read when they were supposed to, are too embarrassed to admit this, and so have developed quite elaborate means of concealing it. They may, for instance, pretend to know the name of a place from reading the sign, when in reality it’s from someone’s having previously told them, or from acquaintance with the graphical aspects of its logo. Once several years ago, I was hit by a store clerk who, as I interpreted it afterwards, was simply too embarrassed to admit he didn’t know arithmetic well enough to see that the register had miscalculated my bill.

Where street signs are concerned, there are many conventions with which we are so familiar, we may forgot that they are not intuitively obvious, and we ourselves had to learn them at one point. A few months ago I was on the the 15th Street platform of the Market-Frankford Line, and someone asked me if this was the side that goes to West Philly. I said yes, but she felt uncertain because of a sign saying “To Frankford.” I explained to her that the arrow next to those words means that you would have to follow that arrow, up the stairs and across to the other side, to get to Frankford. She evidently had simply never been outside her own neighborhood before (some people never do) and so hadn’t made the acquaintance of this sort of sign.

Someone new to the city might 1) not know where to look for the street signs, 2) not be familiar with the convention that a street sign goes parallel to the street it names, so that even if they see the signs they still won’t know which street is 12th and which is Chestnut, or 3) even if they know which street is which, not notice (or be able to read, if their eyesight is poor) the signs’ smaller print about street addresses indicating which way the higher numbers are.

Another, extremely pleasing experience I had in the past year was on a subway ride. A woman whose dress and manner loudly said “middle class” was showing her young child the SEPTA map on the wall of the car, and explaining how it worked. What was remarkable about this heartwarming sight was simply how rare it is, at least on public transit. Not long ago I saw a flier for a book arguing that one of the major factors helping to perpetuate class inequality is the differences in the cognitive habits passed on from generation to generation. Because this is cultural rather than biological transmission, it’s possible to break the cycle (which is the idea behind the Harlem Children’s Zone, for instance).

Of course such differences in cognitive-cultural heritage don’t account for our sociey’s huge differences in income, which result from hereditary private ownership of productive wealth. But while we’re trying to do something about that, there’s no reason not to also address what is easier to tackle politically — not to mention that such newly improved cognitive skills can be applied to activism as well as personal advancement, and are more likely to be if those who taught them are also activists. And that the species as a whole generally benefits when some portion of it gets smarter.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I went to a reading today by the authors of The Great Typo Hunt and got a free bag from the Chicago Manual of Style.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Quote of the Week

"I hear Iran had an earthquake this weekend. Didn't they say a while back that all these earthquakes are due to scantily clad women?" -- Robert Bowles Jr., in the 2 August Metro (Philadelphia edition)

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Remembering Juliet Anderson

The day before yesterday, I learned that Juliet Anderson had died last January. This made me very sad as she was emotionally significant to me.

She was a Golden Age porn star best known for her take-charge "Aunt Peg" persona and for starting Nina Hartley's career with the film Educating Nina, but I actually didn't know these things when I became acquainted with her. I've copied below a correspondence I had with her last summer.

From: <
Subject: Happy Birthday!
To: "Juliet Anderson" < [This was an "extremely private" address which she told me not to share with anyone. I didn't while she lived.]
Date: Thursday, July 23, 2009, 9:09 AM

Yours always,

P.S. I have more insight than I used to about why getting to see and meet you 23 years ago was so emotionally significant for me. I should set a side time to explain that at some point.

From: juliet <
Subject: Re: Happy Birthday!To:
Date: Saturday, July 25, 2009, 1:51 PM

Hi Eric,

Please do tell me why. Can it be in person or do you live too far

I had a wonderful birthday.


From: <
Subject: Re: Happy Birthday!
To: "juliet" <
Date: Saturday, August 15, 2009, 4:46 PM

Dear Juliet,

I'm in Philadelphia so I'll have to tell you long-distance. Here's the story.

As I grew up I became pretty shy and introverted. I didn't seem to have many points of commonality with my peers, who were usually much less intellectual and very mundane in their interests. I eventually becamecurious about my parents' radical politics, and what I read of them made sense to me. Partway through high school I decided to get involved myself, in the youth group of the same party in which my parents had met and with which they still sympathized. In addition to a desire to make the world better, I was conscious of the hope that this would provide a circle of friends with whom I would feel something significant in common.

I was a member of the group for a year and a quarter or year and a half (1978-79). Partway through this period, the chapter organizer asked to have a meeting with me. He seemed concerned that I "lacked confidence in the leadership" and suggested I should leave the group. This apparently stemmed from an occasion on which, after the national leadership had come down in favor of the position I'd taken on a local political issue (in which I had been alone), someone had said to me jocularly, "Don't get a swelled head," and I had replied, very logically as it seemed to me, that of course I wouldn't get a swelled head, since the Political Committee's statement didn't mean that my position was right, but rather that their position was right. It would still be the right position whether they had taken it or not. This seemed to me to be practically a tautology, yet my interlocutor reacted as if I'd said something strange and disturbing, which mystified me at the time.

So the chapter organizer was pursuing this idea that I "lacked confidence in the leadership." I denied this, and in fact I hadn't volunteered any disagreements with them. Rather, the organizer was asking me if I had any. The only issues I could think of were a couple I had seen debated in the discussion bulletin of the adult organization, and even of these, I only was inclined to the minority position on one. I was inclined toward the leadership's position on the other, and just wasn't 100% certain about it. And these were really minor issues too, not core principles of the group. Yet, incomprehensibly, on this basis Bob repeated his contention that I "lacked confidence in the leadership" and should consider leaving the group. When I again denied this, he asked me if I would support their position in that case. I said of course not, because I didn't think it was correct. So Bob again claimed that I lacked confidence in the leadership and should perhaps leave the group. We seemed to be talking in circles. The meeting eventually ended with nothing resolved.

A couple months later, Bob asked to have another meeting with me. This time his expressed concern was that their was evidence of my having acted inappropriately on various occasions, which he described as a "pattern of sexist behavior." It was apparent that in some cases he simply had his facts wrong, and that what he was asking about was based on one half of a phone conversation, overheard, and not a complaint that someone had actually volunteered. In other cases the incidents had occurred, but were basically manifestations of social ineptitude rather than attitudes about gender. Since I knew that I did have significant problems relating socially, I ended up agreeing to leave the group, even though I didn't think the way the issue had been characterized was fair. I was very upset and rather depressed at this turn of events.

I had considered myself a Marxist for a few years before I'd joined the group or even made contact with it, however, so this experience didn't affect my convictions. It didn't even affect my opinion of this group in particular, since I had accepted the greater part of responsibility for having to leave it, and since, to the extent I felt misunderstood, I saw this as the problem of one or two individuals. So I continued to regard myself as a sympathizer, until later the group's own politics began clearly to change.

Before continuing with the chronological narrative, I want to fast-forward to a few years ago, when I finally acquired some insight into what had happened. This came while I was reading a paper by Dennis Tourish of the University of Belfast, titled "Ideological Intransigence, Democratic Centralism, and Cultism: A Case Study from the Political Left." I'd been developing an interest in the cult issue for the past several years, ostensibly from concern about a group a romantic interest was involved with; but for the first time I was reading about my own experience. Although it was a different group, I recognized the same mechanisms of milieu control and thought stopping that I had been subject to.

I suddenly had a whole new framework in which to understand what had happened. Things that had simply been mysterious fell into place when seen as part of a program of brainwashing, aimed at destroying my intellectual autonomy. I saw clearly, for instance, that Bob was "loading the language" (as cultic studies people say) so that "confidence" in someone -- which normally just means thinking they're basically good and honest -- instead meant surrendering one's independent judgment to them. In retrospect, one might wonder why I didn't point that out at the time; the reason is that Bob's whole manner was one designed to keep me off balance, so that I didn't even have the chance to form such thoughts, being kept too busy coping with his assault. (For that matter, it occurs to me that I might have asked, "If these disagreements mean I lack confidence, does that mean the members who raised them in the adult organization should leave the group too?" But, again, I was kept too off-balance to even think of something like that.)

Of course the attempt at brainwashing hadn't been successful, which was why they decided to get rid of me. But they had succeeded in masking the nature and motive of what they were doing, and as a result I'd taken blame that didn't belong on me, affecting my self-confidence. In particular, the issue they used to make me leave the group had played on my social and sexual insecurities, and consequently made them worse.

But what I couldn't yet handle emotionally, I intellectualized instead. From having been rather prudish through most of my adolescence, I became by mid-college years rather passionate about sexual freedom. I wasn't getting to practice it, mind you (except, briefly, with one girl who told me she'd been diagnosed as "hypersexual"), but I believed in it very strongly. Above all, I passionately opposed any treatment of sexual feelings or of honesty about them as illegitimate or "sexist." Yet the group's methods had been so sneaky that I failed to recognize where this attitude came from, or to ponder how it had changed so radically since junior high.

So, a couple years after graduating college, I see a local news segment about lesbian porn. I had not heard of such a thing before and was quite intrigued. I knew that I liked the idea of women's manifesting their autonomy by freely expressing their sexual interests. Of course, at the time I had no idea why I felt this so strongly; I only knew that I did.

The segment mentioned two publications, one of them based in the US: On Our Backs. So before long I visited the city's gay and lesbian bookstore to see if I could pick up a copy. I made no assumption about whether I would personally find it erotic; I just knew it would be very satisfying "politically" (or at bottom, as I now understand, emotionally) to see its existence for myself and to feel that I was supporting it. And in that first issue of OOB that I bought, I saw an ad by someone named Juliet Anderson, who was looking for people who could help her with a project to make lesbian erotic videos. Although I had no special skills to contribute and little money, I wanted to help if I could, so I called the number in the ad and talked to you.

You said you weren't ready to look for investors, but asked where I was, and when I said Philadelphia, told me you would be in Camden in a couple weeks for a live performance, and invited me to come. So I did. I got to talk to you for a moment and had my picture taken sitting in your lap with a big silly grin on my face, which you autographed. I had that picture for many years, although I seem to have lost it during a hasty move in 2000. Since then, however, you've sent me a postcard personally in reply to an earlier birthday greeting, as well as another autographed picture which I ordered from you.

But I appreciate now that the reason meeting you was so meaningful for me was that you negated, "in the flesh" so to speak, the feelings of guilt and anxiety about acknowledging my sexual feelings, with which my forced departure from the YSA (effectively an expulsion, since I'd been threatened with a "trial" if I didn't leave of my own accord) had left me. Basically, you helped show me that I wasn't crazy.

Thank you.


From: juliet <
Subject: letter
Date: Sunday, August 23, 2009, 11:14 PM

Hi Eric,

Thank you for the birthday greeting and your very interesting letter about how I had such a positive effect on you. Wow! Little did I know.

Keep living life to your fullest and with love and compassion.


Juliet's performance, which I saw in 1986 when I met her in person, was a sort of burlesque in which she started out dressed for various occupations -- carpenter, secretary, executive, nurse -- and then did a striptease, with the message that women in any line of work could be sexy. I wasn't in touch with her again till after discovering her website in 2004. I called her early in January 2005 and we talked about her career and its significance. I subsequently started sending greetings for her birthday (23 July), including a card I mailed her this past 22nd, before realizing she'd died.

For those who may be interested, she told me in 2005 that her favorite of the porn films she'd made was Talk Dirty to Me.