To publish, or not to publish, a negative review about a female-centric film project

In recent days, I was asked by editors at Motherboard to review a science documentary. The PR pitch for the film seemed interesting enough, however, upon watching the whole documentary, I found myself caught up in a moral dilemma of the feminist type. Why? Because the documentary, female-centric in story and production, was terrible.

The email, more or less, that I sent my editor about the documentary:

The documentary didn’t focus enough on the science which was by itself quite interesting (this genetic disorder disproportionately affects Puerto Ricans, for ex) with the film opting instead for a human interest angle that was barely relatable. There were few emotional moments that connected with the viewer. The interview subjects themselves were a bit derp (overweight, unattractive, elderly, lacking eloquence or all of the above), and the awkward hokey music that played over their camera time didn’t help at all. They said their life sucked, but I as a viewer was never shown any substantial example of how their life sucked. I was bored and disinterested throughout. The animated story in the very beginning of the doc was the best part.

In addition, the documentary did a poor job of explaining the science. I was confused over whether or not the drug on clinical trial was approved by the FDA, and then later, why it was not approved. The film mentions at the end the same drug was approved in India, Europe and Japan but never explains the politics or why this is the case. I realize this was because they were trying to focus on the people, but the people were not as interesting as the science or the politics behind the science.

I generally rate Motherboard documentaries as a 8 or higher (out of 10)….I would put ______ at a 4.

I opted to not complete the assignment. I could have written something positive about the film despite not enjoying it or finding it sharable, but I found this option just as morally wrong as publishing the negative review. True, the negative review would have led to more publicity for the film, and this team of film-makers, but I don’t believe all press is good press when you are dealing with sexist environments like those found in filmmaking in general as well as documentary-filmmaking.

The documentary filmmaker, a lady scientist, had received awards for her work on PBS and such a decade-plus ago, so I was surprised by how not enjoyable her latest project was. It’s almost like she can’t compete now, in this age of everyone-is-a-filmmaker-on-YouTube.  It might have been good enough for PBS in the 1990’s, but not now.

This whole personal dilemma of mine reminds me of Buzzfeed getting press last fall for their decision to not write negative reviews. The rebuttal to their “no negative reviews” position came from Gawker, of course, who argued news outlets are not supposed to be extension of publicists and PR firms, (a laughable position when you look at sites like TechCrunch and PandoDaily).  This argument is fundamentally true, news outlets are not supposed to be beholden to publicists by any means, but I don’t see the merit in smacking down an older woman in a tough field for delivering a shitty product.

Is my thinking wrong here?

 


The Urban Soundscape (and why we should care about poor people’s shit)

Bernie Krause’s New York Times Op-ed “The Sound of a Damaged Habitat” gave me chills it was so good a (short!) read. Somehow, Krause gets away with describing the sounds of birds and bugs as an “orchestra,” and it doesn’t come off as cheesy. Damn! As a writer I am impressed.

What freaked me the fuck out, however, was how important sound – noise, din, the daily racket, whatever you want to call it-  is, to things that are living.

Rereading that sentence makes me want to go “duh:” it should be a no-brainer that animals don’t like loud noises and we can tell a lot about a habitat by the sounds we hear in it. As Krause pointed out, however, “too little research has been done in the field of biophonics” so running around saying “duh” to the research that has been done wouldn’t be encouraging to any scientist, I suppose.     Read the rest of this entry »


New Yorkers (and the world) need to chill out over the Great Bronx Zoo Cobra Escape

Lilith (1892) by John Collier in Southport Atk...

There's this rumor going around saying Lilith slept with snakes...

So, I am not a “snake expert”, and the post below is based off my limited experiences with snakes at friends houses and from my observations at the zoo. Oh, and, the fact that snakes are cold-blooded, meaning snakes are the temperature of their surroundings.

Psst, New Yorkers! The cobra is a cold-blooded reptile, and it’s 40 degrees outside! Why would the escaped cobra even leave the Reptile building?

Because there is obviously nothing to fear, I have to assume this is all because New York,  New York was feeling jealous over all the national (and international) media attention Chicago’s been getting because of our newly elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel. As proof of how awesome our new mayor is, his fake twitter account is being made into a book.  Does Mayor Bloomberg even have a fake twitter (a good one)? And are the tweets of the fake Bronx Zoo Cobra  going to be made into a book? I scoff at myself for even posing the question. Well, maybe if the cobra actually kills someone.

You can probably tell, I don’t find the fake Bronx Zoo Cobra twitter account funny mainly because I refuse to forget that snakes are cold-blooded… (just like how squirrels can’t pickpocket people because they don’t have hands – I’m looking at you, Justin Kaufmann-)

As to why journalists (and their readers/viewers) have eaten this silly story up, my  guess is the escaped  Bronx Zoo cobra story lightens an otherwise somber international community worried about Japan, Libya, and budget deficits.

UPDATE: Before I hit the Publish button I  google-newsed “bronx zoo cobra”, and do you know what was at the top of my search? The Egyptian cobra was found inside the Reptile building. I am soooo good.

Like me, the director of the Bronx Zoo Jim Breheny also doesn’t understand all the hub-bub over the snake, as evident by his behavior in the above press conference video.


Japanese Earthquake, Tsunami reveal American Stupidity, Insensitivity

Avenge Pearl Harbor. Our bullets will do it, c...

Image by The U.S. National Archives via Flickr

EDIT: The internet is telling me all these anti-Japanese sentiments began with  a Family Guy staff writer’s joke tweet. He deleted the tweet and apologized, though other Americans might actually mean it as evident by their Facebook vitriol?

The last 48 hours for Japan have been rough: two earthquakes, a tsunami, and fears of nuclear meltdown.

A logical, possible explanation? A solar flare.

Some  cesspoolian Americans, however, viewed these natural phenomena as the work of a spiritual deity. These Americans believe the universe was angry at Japan for Pearl Harbor, and decided to wait more than 50 years to dish out karmic justice.  Except these Americans  didn’t say it like that.  More like:   “Fuck Japan! Remember Pearl Harbor? Karma’s a bitch!” Yeah.

When I think of all the Americans that never learned of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings,  my forehead wrinkles with worry. No Child Left Behind is doing a worse job than we imagined!

If I had to pick a country, between the United States and Japan, that would get karmic retribution for actions in World War II, I’d pick the United States (body count, occupation).   If I were to follow the Facebooking-karmic-justice-Americans logic, where  nature takes it upon herself to punish man for the things he does to his fellow man, I’d have to assume that Katrina, the tornadoes tearing up the midwest,  the BP Oil Spill (why not?) and every other natural catastrophe to hit the states EVER,  is retribution for things America did in prior wars. Or am I being silly here, because America don’t have to worry about karmic retribution? I don’t know the rules to this karma-blame-game… maybe America is exempt.

But what about New Zealand? Following the logic stated above, one could argue the Christchurch earthquake happened because of the Anglo-Maori wars centuries ago.   And the flooding in Australia? Oh, the universe is always punishing that country – they’re a country of criminals, you see?

But really, why Pearl Harbor?

My hypothesis:  the film  “Pearl Harbor” played recently (ahem, on repeat for a week) on some cable channel, making the battle of Pearl Harbor  fresh in commonplace American  minds.  These Americans heard the world “Japan” on the news, and were like, “I just watched a movie with Ben Affleck, and that tsunami country bombed us in the movie!   Serves them right, durrr, derr.”

(I don’t know if “Pearl Harbor” aired recently, but this makes me think my idea has merit…)

CLOSING EDIT: That joke flew over my head and now I feel silly. Perhaps all those Facebook people were really imitating Alec Sulkin. Reddit does not know this yet, nor does Viceland.com, linked above. (3:30pm CST)


Does the apocalypse begin with a food shortage brought on by bees?

Thought Catalog has a brief post about bees dying all over the world, and how this effects the global food supply.  Specifically:

citrus fruits, apples, onions, broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, courgettes, peppers, aubergines, avocados, cucumbers, coconuts, tomatoes and broad beans, as well as coffee and cocoa

That is a pretty diverse list of yummy foods – and I don’t want to imagine a world without those foods.

Because I hate being all doom and gloom, I am hoping the esteemed scientists will figure out how to genetically modify those foods like they did the banana.

As for why bees are disappearing, my guess is either messed up electromagnetic fields, pollution, or the Black Eyed Peas.


Hot

A new decree! All men with nice bodies should wear bathing suits like the ones below:

(this image was found on Palm Beach State College Humanities blogspot)


Bisexuals get no LGBT love, apparently

The bisexual pride flag.

wtf, bisexuals have a flag too? Where is the straight flag!?!?! Image via Wikipedia

So I was browsing reddit, like I do, and I happened upon a mother telling her daughter she is a slut if she is bi. This shared text exchange caused me to revisit a bar conversation I had recently with sex journalist Rabbit White. Our conversation started out with the discussion of the  “queer” label’s rising popularity, but quickly moved over to the black sheep of the LGBT community: the bisexuals. The general feeling is either bisexuals are whores at heart or don’t know they’re gay yet.

This was news to me, but you’ll have to forgive me on this one – I never got into the whole LGBT community because a) I am not one for “groups”, b) I don’t really go around announcing my sexual orientation and c) I exhibit no visual markers or cues through my clothing or hair so my bisexuality rarely comes up. My sexual orientation is my own personal business, so in my silence I guess people  assume I am straight?  I never felt the need to “out” myself as a bisexual, but I think this is the problem the community has with me. I am either “confused”, an artsy chick trying to be edgy, or worse, one of those curious girls kissing each other at a frat party for “top dog” status.  Read the rest of this entry »


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