On my Forbes blog, I did a fun roundup of the year in vice. For some reason, Memphis was a standout for me. Was it the fried chicken, the strip club money wars, the faded grandeur of Graceland? Looking back, it's hard to say, but sometimes you find joy in unlikely places, and in this case that was Bluff City.
Hello Susannah Breslin,
Thank you for considering [redacted] as a place for your work. Having read and discussed your piece "[redacted]," our readers regrettably do not feel this submission is right for [redacted] at this time.
I want to wish you the best of luck on placing this elsewhere. Please submit your work to us in the future, we'd like to see more from you. We never consider past submissions in our judgement.
I would also like to state the immense amount of submissions we receive. To get to the number of pieces we ultimately publish, we must read hundreds of submissions. Of these, we often find 100 or so are very, very well done. We would be proud to take any of these and publish them, yet even here, we must whittle this number to less than 40%. Please, never take rejection personally, at this level it becomes very subjective.
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It was a vintage store, and a stack of Playboys, and some shoes sitting on the top. It was only when I got home that I saw it could be interpreted as some sort of commentary. The boots on her face and body, almost obliterating her. Her eyes, a bit wide, peeping over the sole. In any case, I'm interested to see where Playboy Magazine goes in '18 with Cooper at the helm. I like what he's done already, and I think he has the ability to lead this brand into surviving--and thriving again.
Looking for a last-minute gift for you, that special someone, or those special someones?
My self-published short story, "The Tumor," is the hilarious, curious tale of what happens when bodies go wild.
Ordering this e-story online for you or yours is super easy. (For a short explainer on how to give a gift on Gumroad, click here.)
As for the price, it's Pay What You Want.
Questions? Email me.
Thanks for writing and thinking of us for your series idea. However, I don't think it's right for us, so we'll pass.
I subscribe to The California Sun, a new California-centric newsletter by Mike McPhate. It includes features like, recently, "When Russia Settled California." I thought I recognized the images. Isn't that where I went on a grade school field trip? I wondered. Indeed, it was Fort Ross, which comes to mind occasionally because that's where I first tried out being a journalist. I believe I was in the fifth grade, and we went on an overnight trip to Fort Ross, which has a program that allows groups to stay overnight at the Fort, and, in doing so, go back in time to experience life at the Fort as it used to be. When I went, various kids chose various roles to play. The person who made butter, I seem to recall, was one. Maybe another included feeding livestock. Instead of going back in time, I chose to be the reporter from the present time who would report back on the trip. I wore a sweater vest. I suppose that was my idea of what a journalist dressed like.
Over on my Forbes blog, I've got a couple new posts -- one on a line of bulletproof backpacks that, while not made exclusively for kids, can be worn by kids, and one on a day in the life of a newly-minted porn star.
"Her phone lights up with another male performer's name. An actress didn't show up for a scene they're shooting today. Does she want to fill in? It's a boy-girl scene. It'll pay $700.
"'The idea of a mass shooting has become more of a reality,' Sheikh says. With the ProShield backpack, 'In the event of a shooting, you're protected. Wearing it is definitely a sad reality, but we're kind of in that day and age.'"
Yesterday, a Twitter account called New Real Peer Review tweeted a thread about a research article entitled "On Sex in Fieldwork: Notes on the Methodology Involved in the Ethnographic Study of Anonymous Sex." The research had been conducted by Jose Antonio Langarita Adiego, who is a Doctor en Antropologia Social per la Universitat de Barcelona.
Simply put, Adiego had sex with his research subjects.
As the article's abstract states:
"This article addresses the use of sexual relations with research informants in fieldwork for the purpose of gathering information. The analysis is based on the research that the author himself carried out between 2009 and 2014 on anonymous sexual encounters between men in public places in Catalonia. The article aims to demonstrate that sexual interaction with informants – notwithstanding appeals to scientific objectivity and professional ethics – can be a useful tool for gaining a better understanding of social reality. This study on anonymous sex shows that participating in sexual activity can provide the researcher with a great deal of information which would not be accessible via other relationships with research informants. However, the article also addresses certain limitations – which cannot be ignored – in fieldwork of this sort and in the interpretation of the data obtained."
In other words, Adiego takes the concept of scientific objectivity and explodes it.
On Twitter, New Real Peer Review tweeted a series of screen grabs from the original article (which is available for purchase), highlighting sections and lampooning Adiego's argument.
Indeed Adiego's postulations regarding his having sex with those whom he was researching are as hyperbolic as most academese: "We could resolve the problem by accepting the Foucauldian proposal that sees sex as a social construct," "the practice of anonymous sex is simply one more form of culturally mediated sexual interaction," "Why do anthropologists not experience sex with the groups they are studying?"
Lacking for provocative positioning, Adiego's approach is not.
Shifting to a more intimate analysis, he investigates his own body politic. In the midst of his investigations, he notes: "I could see how the social meanings of cock were constructed in a way that was different with respect to ass." It is only by putting his cock, presumably his balls, and his ass on the front line of his immersive work that he can experience the ways in which this culture works.
His body is "a key factor in understanding"; physical and emotional distance is not only too far from the action but a position of utter blindness: "[being] a spectator was not enough, especially as it was often too dark to see anything." His "bodily experience [...] becomes a source of knowledge in itself which contributes to the ethnographic production." In his conclusion, he asserts: "Sex is a key contributor to the regulation of our culture fabric; we should therefore be able to incorporate sex into fieldwork -- as a technique that helps to maintain a particular mode of relationship between the researcher and the object of study -- without thereby sacrificing objectivity or professional ethics."
This is a true embed, in every sense of the word.
New Real Peer Review doesn't seem to think much of this new, eroticized form of ethnographic study. "Let's make cruising scientific now," one tweet sneers. "Seems legit, bro." Later: "Can't make this shit up."
But is Adeigo's suggestion so absurd, after all? Or is it symbolically and practically intuitively brilliant? If one simply considered this methodology as if it were a thought experiment, what can we learn? To tear out one's hair that this sexualized approach causes a cataclysmic breakdown between researcher and subject is to perpetuate the fantasy that objectivity exists at all between the scientist and that which he studies.
Surely, any scientist -- or any investigator, for that matter -- brings to bear a constellation of biases, presumptions, and agendas. How could he not? He is human. The idea that it is sex, of all things, that betrays the scientific code is possibly a pure fallacy, when, in fact, the reverse may well be true. How can we know something if we know it only in the mind, and not the body?
(Thanks to Lawyer Dog for pointing out the thread.)
"I applaud taking on the porn industry and sickos who exploit women at a level pretty much even with human sex trafficking. It's a nice tale of comeuppance. However, it is mostly just a graphic vignette that doesn't represent what our readers are expecting as they read over their lunch or coffee break. We aren't squeamish about profane content, but when the entire scene is essentially X-rated we don't feel that is a fir for our particular publication."
In January, I'll be on "TV Guidance Counselor," a very cool and beloved podcast from the mind of Ken Reid, in which Ken and "his guests explore the tough television watching decisions of our past." You can read more about the podcast here. I'll update on this blog when there's an air date so you can listen to it online.