Working in the coal mine, work, work

10 03 2013

I blog for free.

I like the sound of my own voice, and, as I once introduced myself, I have lunch and opinions; so when something pops up, I go, Hey, what do I think of this? And then I blog about it, to figure out my thoughts.

I also write (as in: write draft-edit-edit-rewerite-edit. . .) for free, as in This is something that I have to do, and so I do it. I’ll put it on Smashwords and Barnes & Noble and Amazon and hope someone pays for it, but, really, the cash isn’t going to flow.

I do these for free, in other words, because it pleases me.

If you want me to please you, however, then you have to pay me. I’ll be nice if you ask, and I’ll be nice when you pay, but if you want me to labor and you don’t want to compensate me for the fruits of that labor, then (cue Harlan Ellison): Fuck you. Pay me.

Nate Thayer and an Atlantic editor kicked off this latest iteration of Pay the Writer when the editor asked Thayer not simply for permission to repost something he’d already written, but to re-write it. When he asked how much he’d get paid, this was the response:

We unfortunately can’t pay you for it, but we do reach 13 million readers a month.

You, editor, who are getting paid to work for a for-profit company, approached someone to work for you knowing that you couldn’t pay him for that work? And then you waved the exposure flag?

Some have criticized Thayer for publishing the editor’s name and e-mail address (e.g., in these comments) , but even privacy-crazed me think that if you approach someone in a professional capacity using your work e-mail, then, no, it’s not unreasonable for said work e-mail to be published. I wouldn’t have published the address—there be dragons in cyberspace—but this matter ought not be the takeaway from the exchange.

No, the takeaway should be: Don’t fucking ask people to work for you if you can’t pay them cash-money. The website gets 13 million readers a month? As Thayer noted in an interview, I don’t need the exposure. What I need is to pay my fucking rent.

Miz Emily, er, Emily L. Hauser noted in her blog that she has written for The Atlantic for free, albeit at her own instigation. While she was glad  to appear on the site,  the fact of that byline has opened no doors, nor has it led to a single offer for paying work — when editors talk about the value of “exposure,” I can only hope that they’re ignorant of what a chimera that is.

Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic published a long piece on the economics of digital journalism, and he makes a number of reasonable points about its dismal fiscal prospects. Okay, it’s hard out there for an editor—but that doesn’t excuse your own attempts to off-load that difficulty on to freelance writers.

Madrigal is arguing, in other words, that the choices for a quality publication are all bad, but hey, whatchoo gonna do? I don’t like to ask people for work that we can’t pay for. But I’m not willing to take a hardline and prevent someone who I think is great from publishing with us without pay. My main point and (to be normative about it) the main point in these negotiations is this: What do you, the writer, get out of this?

And then he sighs again about the difficulties of his job. For which he is being paid.

I know that my posts get re-posted with some regularity—not because they’re so great, but because there are any number of auto-aggregator sites out there that scoop up anything and everything they see. I don’t really like it, but they do link back to my site, and they’re not asking me to do more work. For free.

Jessica Hische has this great graphic Should I Work For Free (which someone posted a link to in the comments on a like-minded John Scalzi post), and the upshot is pretty much: No.

And that’s pretty much my upshot, with the following caveat: If The Atlantic wanted to repost something which I had written for me own pleasure, then, sure, the exposure might be nice; I was, after all, thrilled when being Freshly Pressed led to an increase in my Absurd readership.

But if you want me to work to please you: pay me.





Not me baby I’m too precious—fuck off!

20 08 2012

As a registered Abortion Rights Militant, I can only sit out so many stupid comments and bad-policy debates involving the ninja body skills and the secrete secretions of women. Thus, I sigh and pick up the broadsword and head once more into the breach.

Current Missouri Representative and Senatorial candidate (and member of the House Science and Technology committee!) Todd Akin deserves every last bit of scorn, derision, and contempt heaped upon him. I see no reason to offer him the benefit of the “mispeak” doubt, not least because, as Garance Franke-Ruta pointed out, this particular kind of ignorance pie has been passed around at more than one pro-life party:

Arguments like his have cropped up again and again on the right over the past quarter century and the idea that trauma is a form of birth control continues to be promulgated by anti-abortion forces that seek to outlaw all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest. The push for a no-exceptions anti-abortion policy has for decades gone hand in hand with efforts to downplay the frequency with which rape- or incest-related pregnancies occur, and even to deny that they happen, at all. In other words, it’s not just Akin singing this tune.

This particular Abortion Rights Militant favors exactly the same number of laws for abortion as she does for any other surgery—which is to say, none—so it is unsurprising that I oppose any laws regulating abortion after rape. I understand why other pro-choice folk emphasize the need for options in case of rape—the idea that the state would take away a woman’s right to control her body after the right to control her own body was taken away by a criminal is horrifying—but it unfortunately it a)  plays into the argument that completely innocent victims deserve to choose whether to continue a pregnancy, but dirty dirty sluts who want sex deserve punishment in the form of a baby (aka, a “gift”); and b) that maybe those completely innocent victims are, in fact, not so innocent and thus also should be punished with the gift-baby.

You can see both parts in play in Akin’s comments as well as in Franke-Ruta’s round-up of reactionaries: If women were really legitimately forcibly raped, they wouldn’t get pregnant; if they get pregnant, well, then, maybe they wanted it just a lil’ bit.

Loudly unsaid, of course, is that any woman who wants and has sex deserve to get whatever’s coming to ‘em us—except, perhaps, orgasms.

Anyway, this vampire bit of “logic” is unlikely to collapse into dust no matter how many times it’s staked, so I’ll keep my weapons handy—all to defend, the Right, the True, and the Pleasurable.





Onward, Christian soldiers

27 06 2012

Done with Calvin and on to the Thirty Years War.

Yes, the project on modernity rumbles on, as I dart back and forth between the 16th and 20th centuries (with occasional forays into the 15th and 14th centuries), jumbling up the wars of religion and emperors and kings and popes and princes and reformers and Reformers and . . . everything everything everything.

May I pause just to note what pleasure, what pure pleasure it gives me to see shapes and movement arise from what had once been a white, blank field of the past?

Consider this line from CV Wedgewood: “Pursuing the shadow of a universal power the German rulers forfeited the chance of a national one.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates has remarked on the beauty of her Wedgewood—and yes, she has a way with words—but her facility with the language reveals a nimbleness of thought, and this one, elegantly expressed, conveys the tragic risk of greatness: Go big and you lose the small, and in losing the small, you lose it all.

Only Pursuing the shadow of a universal power the German rulers forfeited the chance of a national one in its specificity is far more breathtaking and heartbreaking than my pallid generalization.

And it is the specificity itself which provides that pleasure: there was nothing, and now there is something.

Now, before I repeat that last line to end the post, I do want to interject with one observation about Calvin’s Reformed thought, specifically, his doctrine of double predestination (God elects both who goes to heaven and who goes to hell): why would anyone believe this?

Calvin argued that only a few of the professing Christians would be saved and most lost, that there was absolutely nothing the individual (an utterly depraved being) could do to save herself—so why would anyone cleave to a belief system which gave you rotten odds and no way to change them?

One possibility is that most Reformers didn’t believe in predestination, double or otherwise; another is that Reformers did believe in double predestination, but also believed that they were the elect. So, yeah, sucks to be you, o depraved man, but I am so filled with the spirit that there is no way God hasn’t picked me for His team.

There is no rational reason* to believe this; since people believed nonetheless, then it is clear that something other than reason is required to explain the spread of the Reformed faith.

(*Reason in terms of: why pick this religion over that one, not: why pick any religion at all. Context, people, context.)

Anyway, Calvin was much more impressed with himself than I was with him—although it must be noted he had a few more followers than the 19 who follow me (in this blog, anyway).

Oh, man, it’s getting late and I’m getting frantic for sleep so yes, let’s return to pleasure and knowledge and movement where before there was stillness and lines where before there was blankness and etchings across the smooth surface  and something, something rather than nothing.





We can dance if we want to

10 05 2011

If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be a part of your revolution.

We want bread and roses, too!

Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.

Okay, so that last slogan may not have been associated with radical or revolutionary politics, but it should have. And while Free your mind and your ass will follow! could be read as a somber observation of the necessity of intellectual development in one’s liberation, set it to a beat with a thumpin’ bass and you get the right spirit.

Anyway, this is prompted by a New Yorker blog post by Sasha Frere-Jones on music and culture critic Ellen Willis. I’d heard of her—read encomiums to her upon her death—but hadn’t been much moved to read more about or by her.

I should read more of her.

Frere-Jones offers this excerpt of some emails by Willis’s friend Karen Durbin:

Ellen was that wondrous creature, an intellectual who deeply valued sensuality, which is why she wrote with such insight about rock and roll but also with such love. She respected the sensual; in a fundamentally puritanical culture, she honored it. She saw how it could be a path to transcendence and liberation, especially for women, who, when we came out into the world in the early to midsixties, were relentlessly sexualized and just as relentlessly shamed. Rock and roll broke that chain: it was the place where we could be sexual and ecstatic about it. Our lives were saved by that fine, fine music, and that’s a fact. [emph. added]

I’ve been lamenting the left’s  failures to offer any alternatives to our current deracinated culture—capitalism is flattening us into consumptive nothingness—without doing much beyond, well, lamenting.

But here’s a clue for us: remember the pleasure of liberation, remember that pleasure can itself liberate.

Here’s Richard Goldstein on Willis (also quoted by Frere-Jones):

Ellen was, more than anything, a liberationist. She taught me that gay liberation was an “epiphenomenon” of feminism, and that’s something I still believe. Finally, she believed that for any leftist agenda to succeed it has to be based on pleasure, on realizing desire. This is a lesson the left has largely forgotten; indeed, the right has appropriated it, though they use social sadism the way we used orgiastic ecstasy. Ellen would surely agree that we won’t see a revival of revolutionary sentiment until we learn to make it fun. In that respect, Ellen, Emma Goldman, and Abbie Hoffman are part of a lost tradition—radicals of desire. [emph. added]

I’m much better and winnowing down than opening up, much better with distance and critique and despair blah blah, and, for the most part, I’m okay with the distance and the critique and the despair and the blah blah.

But it’s not enough, not for me personally and certainly not for any truly radical politics. If we are to have a human politics, then we have to begin with us, as humans—in our mess and despair and failures and blah blah and in our pleasure and amusement and joy and ecstasy.

Okay, so I”m a little uncomfortable with the ecstasy, but I can certainly get behind humor and dancing and ever more laughter. And while I’m also uncomfortable with my own desires, I have to admit that I have not been improved by my suppression of them.

So let’s bring it back, the mess and the desire and everything else—not as a problem, but as a given.

~~~~~~

Books by Willis:




Women: You sly dogs, you!

26 01 2010

Came across this nifty quote in Uta-Ranke Heinemann’s Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven:

Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison with his. Therefore she is unsure in herself. What she herself cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. . . . Woman is strictly speaking not cleverer but slyer (more cunning) than man. Cleverness sounds like something good, slyness sounds like something evil. Thus, in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man. Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good.

Of course, this was written by some 13th century hack, right? Not St. Albert Magnus, a.k.a., Albert the Great, forerunner to St. Thomas Aquinas? Not someone who, ‘more than any one of the great scholastics preceding St. Thomas, gave to Christian philosophy and theology the form and method which, substantially, they retain to this day.’ (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Because I’d hate to pull quotes out of context—so unfair.

Especially in a ‘no comment’ post. Almost no comment.








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