Friday, October 28, 2005

That Pressing Engagement? Just Do It

You may remember my post about mammograms last month. Now a report has been released which shows a consensus of opinion from seven different studies about the effectiveness of mammography in detecting breast cancer in its early stages.

HOUSTON - An unprecedented statistical assault indicates that mammography
screening has made a significant contribution to the decline in breast cancer
mortality in recent years -- an issue of contentious running debate.
teams of statisticians -- using the same data sets but different statistical
models -- reached substantial agreement that mammography screening has played a
role in the 24% decline in the death rate between 1990 and 2000.

So, long story short: Just do the thing. Make the appointment and get the mammogram. It's not a traumatic event, despite all the jokes and limericks and "humorous" crap you'll find online. It's a little bit of brief discomfort; not even enough to be categorized as "pain".

If you need a jolt of inspiration, pick one of these aphorisms and be jolted:

Forewarned is forearmed.

Knowledge is power.

And the truth shall set you free.

Heck, pick all three aphorisms. Write them on your forearm with a black finepoint Sharpie. Have them tattooed on your forehead. Whatever it takes to help you move off the dime and get the thing done. It's your life.

This post also appears here.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Fitzmas Madness

Like so many of you, I'm anxiously awaiting indictments from Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury and hoping for a very merry Fitzmas. So naturally, I've written a poem, which begins:

Fitzmas Madness
By Madeleine Begun Kane

I keep scanning the Net
For some news from Pat Fitz.
If he don't indict soon,
I may go on the fritz.

I can't bear the suspense.
I can't stand the delay...

You can find the entire Fitzmas Madness poem here. And you can find my audio / podcast version here.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A-Changin' Times

A recent USA Today article on teens and sex no doubt has parents all a-titter. And for good reason: "Teens define sex in new ways" cites a number of recent studies that say many American kids consider oral sex to be no big deal. In fact, some teenagers who have experienced oral sex still consider themselves virgins. (Thanks loads, Bill and Monica.)

An excerpt:

A study published in the journal Pediatrics in April supports the view that adolescents believe oral sex is safer than intercourse, with less risk to their physical and emotional health.

The study of ethnically diverse high school freshmen from California found that almost 20 percent had tried oral sex, compared with 13.5 percent who said they had intercourse.

More of these teens believed oral sex was more acceptable for their age group than intercourse, even if the partners are not dating. ...

The federal study [by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], based on data collected in 2002 and released last month, found that 55 percent of 15- to 19-year-old boys and 54 percent of girls reported getting or giving oral sex, compared with 49 percent of boys and 53 percent of girls the same ages who reported having had intercourse. ...

The $16 million study, which took six years to develop, complete and analyze, surveyed almost 13,000 teens, men and women ages 15-44 on a variety of sexual behaviors.

As experts interviewed by USA Today note, becoming sexually active at too early an age is potentially dangerous. "When teenagers fool around before they're ready or have a very casual attitude toward sex, they proceed toward adulthood with a lack of understanding about intimacy," warned Sabrina Weill, author of The Real Truth About Teens & Sex. "What it means to be intimate is not clearly spelled out for young people by their parents and people they trust."

Though I find this news deeply troubling, it does not surprise me. When my daughter, now 17, was in middle school, she told me about her classmates' experimentations with oral sex. Yes, in middle school. And the kids were engaging in the behavior just for kicks -- love and caring and commitment had nothing to do with it. I was horrified and surprised then, but now, when many teens relish getting "benefits" from friends as a matter of course, I find the news not shocking, but depressing.

There was something in the USA Today piece, however, that floored me. Peruse these stats from a 2002 CDCP survey:

percentage of teens who have had intercourse and their ages:

15 - 25.1%
16 - 37.5%
17 - 46.9%
18 - 62.4%
19 - 68.9%

15 - 26.0%
16 - 39.6%
17 - 49.0%
18 - 70.3%
19 - 77.4%

percentage of teens who have had oral sex and their ages:

15 - 35.1%
16 - 42.0%
17 - 55.7%
18 - 65.4%
19 - 74.2%

15 - 26.0%
16 - 42.4%
17 - 55.5%
18 - 70.2%
19 - 74.4%

Do you see what I see? If these findings are to be believed, more girls than boys are having sexual intercourse -- and at ages 16, 18, and 19, more girls than boys are participating in oral sex. Compare these results to those of two 1995 federal studies that tracked the percentages of teens having intercourse:

Sources: 1995 National Survey of Family Growth and 1995 National Survey of Adolescent Males

How times have changed.

Is this sexual equality? Is the traditional double standard -- sexually active guys are studs; girls who "do it" are sluts -- a thing of the past? Somehow, I doubt it.

This much I believe: Whether male or female, it is healthier and more intelligent for teens to wait until they are truly ready to handle relationships and responsibility before having sex, oral or otherwise. And it's time to put my 9-year-old son under lock and key.

from all facts and opinions

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Judy Miller Quartet (of Limericks)

I've finished reading the two Judy Miller epics: Miller's incomplete and implausible My Four Hours Testifying in the Federal Grand Jury Room and the New York Times' only slightly more satisfying The Miller Case: A Notebook, a Cause, a Jail Cell and a Deal. And after wading through both, my opinion of Judy Miller and the New York Times has sunk even lower. So naturally, I've written Miller some limericks. Here's one of them:

Ms. Miller Has Written Her Tale
By Madeleine Begun Kane

Ms. Miller has written her tale,
And as tales go, it's rather a whale.
Her memory's convenient,
On Libby she's lenient.
What a shame that she got out of jail!

You'll find all four of my Judy Miller limericks here.
And the audio version is here.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Mired In Harriet Miers & Harriet's Song

The odd relationship between George Bush and Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, specifically the schoolgirlish notes she's sent to Bush over the years, inspired me to write a new song parody:
Harriet's Song: Bush Is the Sunshine Of Her Life.
And my podcast version of Harriet's Song is here.

Also, Harriet Miers has inspired/provoked me to write three poems in honor of her nomination. Here's one of them:

Bush Named The Unqualified Miers
By Madeleine Begun Kane

Bush named the unqualified Miers
To the Court when O'Connor retires.
Her only credential?
She's Dub reverential.
And that should raise Democrats' ires.

All three of my Harriet Miers poems are here.
And my audio / podcast version is here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

We Media: "Talk Amongst Yourselves..."

Wednesday. Around 6:15 a.m.--after a troublesome train ride, a massive case of the fidgets, and four hours' sleep--I found myself standing outside the Associated Press building at 450 W. 33rd Street, with a cup of catering wagon coffee and a very fresh donut. I was there as a volunteer for the We Media Conference put together by the Media Center at the American Press Institute. I couldn't really afford to go otherwise...and I really, *really* wanted to be there. (must thank Gloria Pan for passing my name along to Beth Laing so I could get this great op.)

For the most part, thru my eyes, We Media was a bit of a surreal experience. As I re-arranged attendee nametags, I recognized some of the names, but not others. I did, though, make note that most of the people attending were pretty high up on the Media Food Chain, even if some don't like to admit it. I greeted them with a nice smile and a "Good Morning" and gave them their tags. Some even called me by my name.

It was, though, rather obvious that these were The Media. And I'm just a Citizen. My challenge, then, was to find points of equilibrium between Myself and This Media. (Another mission was to chat with Jay Rosen, who got me a bit peeved after his BlogHer comments...)

Another clue that this was going to be a case of the little orange in a group of shiny apples was when Dale Peskin, Co-Director of the Media Center, commented in his opening remarks that it was surprising how many people blogged.

Surprising? Did Dale's Father ever yell at Walter Kronkite like lots of our Dads did?? Did Dale ever spend an hour on the telephone recounting a life-changing event to a friend--like a lot of us do daily? Blogging, and other forms of collaborative/social media have become the ways in which We the People are attempting to get into the conversation all the Media Folks keep having every day. We don't think the pundits are any better than us and think our voices are valid. We relieve our existentialist angst, that sense of being buried alive under Information, thru blogging, wikis, messageboards, email and all sorts of media--as
Chris Willis succinctly pointed out when he mentioned "collaborative media"(perhaps Dale was just setting up Chris to comment--you never know.)

The first panel was We The News--News moguls, from NPR, BBC, CBS and AP--discussing what "the people" are doing with news. Lots of talk how "the people" are shaping things, how "the people" (considered to be the 18-34 age cohort) are changing the way Big Media writes and disseminates news...yadda, yadda, yadda. The only one on the panel who has a clue was Farai Chideya, who mentioned how "the people in the caboose" of media culture need to be brought to the fore. But, even Chideya missed a key point--to get from the caboose one has to go thru the Club Car. And there are loads of us--average middle-class, bach degree'd, working-stiff non-tech, non-journalism citizens in the 35-59 age cohort who are sitting in that Club Car.

We blog. Often. Just check my personal blog to see some of us. Don't count us out before you've even looked at us.

There was lots and lots of talk about "citizens" but there weren't any citizens in the room! So that was the BIG PROBLEM. (I cannot fault the conference organizers on this...most blogging conferences are akin to "closed shops" or Churches of True Believers--some moreso, like the Blog Business Summit, than others.)

So, when the Speed Dating break between the We The News session and Al Gore's keynote address came along, I stood there, wondering who the heck in this room of august media types I could talk with. And then Jay Rosen came by. What an op! So I said "Jay! Hi! I'm Tish G." He laughed and warmly shook my hand...

Jay and I got to talking about what was going on, and I told him how I was shaking my head at most of it, how people like Larry Kramer just weren't getting it, that the answer to Watts Wacker's question of "Is this the right audience?" was an absolute "NO!" and that the group on the stage was preaching to the converted, Jay said something to the effect of "Well, they're vertical communicators trying to understand those on the horizontal..."

completely right. Jay Rosen and I, apparently, see eye to eye on this matter. Folks like Larry Kramer, Farai Chideya, Tom Curley, and Richard Sambrook--a bunch of vertical, top-down communicators, however well-intentioned--were trying to get a grip on what the Folks, the peer-to-peer, or horizontal communicators do with blogs. Jay and I agreed that they really weren't getting it at all, that there was too much emphasis on this or that particular group at the expense of the whole; that there was far too much emphasis on monetizing and business models; and that this sort of thinking just does not apply to what goes on in peer-to-peer communications.

Sure, lots of us would love to make money off our blog-hobby, but the only ones who stand to make large money off our blog hobby seem to be Big Media. I'm kind of offended by the idea of Big Media making money off something they don't understand.

Al Gore took the podium, and I was struck by the timbre of his voice--smooth, mellow and southern. I could listen to Al recite the phone book. He had, though,great things to say. This, particularly, got me thinking:
Radio, the internet, movies, telephones, and other media all now vie for our attention - but it is television that still completely dominates the flow of information in modern America. In fact, according to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch television an average of four hours and 28 minutes every day -- 90 minutes more than the world average.

When you assume eight hours of work a day, six to eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours to bathe, dress, eat and commute, that is almost three-quarters of all the discretionary time that the average American has. And for younger Americans, the average is even higher.

The internet is a formidable new medium of communication, but it is important to note that it still doesn't hold a candle to television. Indeed, studies show that the majority of Internet users are actually simultaneously watching television while they are online. There is an important reason why television maintains such a hold on its viewers in a way that the internet does not, but I'll get to that in a few minutes.

All I could think about was how we have all this media of all kinds blabbering around us all the time, and we have absolutely no time for our own thoughts.

Al continued:
But some extremely important elements of American Democracy have been pushed to the sidelines . And the most prominent casualty has been the "marketplace of ideas" that was so beloved and so carefully protected by our Founders. It effectively no longer exists.

It is not that we no longer share ideas with one another about public matters; of course we do. But the "Public Forum" in which our Founders searched for general agreement and applied the Rule of Reason has been grossly distorted and "restructured" beyond all recognition.

And here is my point: it is the destruction of that marketplace of ideas that accounts for the "strangeness" that now continually haunts our efforts to reason together about the choices we must make as a nation.

And I got to thinking: There is no "marketplace of ideas" because we are constantly fed the ideas of others. We are constantly acquiring information and knowledge, but we do not process it. We have 24 hour media--if we are not seeking entertainment we are seeking information. We do not stop for fear we will be uncool or left out of the loop. We can't think on our own. We can't apply the Rule of Reason because we have no time for Contemplation.

But that's just me. What do I know?

I skipped the We Inc. panel. It was extremely hot and I was feeling a bit lightheadded. Jason Calacanis chaired that panel and I found out later (courtesy of Ron Mwangaguhunga
) that Jason sold Weblogs, Inc. to AOL for $25 mil.

Had I known that tid bit, I would have introduced myself when we smiled at each other sometime during lunch. ;-)

Had a great little chat with Susan Mernit, about blogging (she mentioned Tristan Louis, that he is a very good writer/blogger) and how I link this blog with my personal it is bold of me. I'd never thought that much about it. Looking around at all the Media Types, I thought that maybe it's about time for me to give it a bit of consideration...

At lunchtime, I was a bit too fried to do any socializing...just bided my time watching the suits and Those Better at Networking do what they do.

After lunch, I chose to assign myself to the
Media Gawking and Citizen Journalism discussions. Glad I did.

Media Gawking consisted of Jay Rosen, Jessica Cohen and Patrick Phillips. I didn't expect much from Jessica, but got more from Jay. Jessica did voice an opinion that many of "the people" have about Public Eye (CBS's blogging venture): that it's a "sad, sad little website." Nobody faults Vaughn Ververs though. I think a lot of us feel sorry for Ververs--and know that Larry Kramer's inability to understand the blogosphere is part of what censors Ververs (but we figured that out on Buzzmachine some time ago.)

What struck me most in the Citizen Journalism discussion was something Lex Alexander said about the necessity of mentoring of "citizen journalists." Lex gets that it's not about changing citizens into journalists (unless they actually want to be real journalists--then they can go to journalism school), but mentoring them certain principles of journalism, helping with the writing, etc...but not censoring nor changing anything. (I'd talk to Lex about this later. He's a fun guy!) Although here again, in this session, somebody didn't get a very subtle point about their subject: Susan Defife of argued that citizen journalists should write about anything they want. I understand Susan's POV--when you're in a big market area, where the papers never report on the local high school soccer game, it's important for blogs to do so. But if one lives in a middle market, like Springfield, Mass, is it necessary to have blogs to discuss high school soccer when we can watch high school soccer on the 11 o'clock news? Perhpas there's a point where there's media saturation even with blogs--possibly to the detriment of real journalism on harder subjects like government corruption.

By the time we got to the whole In Us We Trust discussion (highly philosophical) I was very, very fried and half paying attention. For the most part, I got that this was a lot of academic philosophizing, that it was intentionally meant to be over the heads of everybody, but I had a bit of trouble with what seemed to be a celebration of cultural relativism and the corporation. I'd have to read the transcripts again to see if I'm right on that one...but,personally, I'm not a big fan of cultural relativism nor of corporations. I don't like the idea that corporations might manipulate blogs and bloggers so that we trust them more. Why should we trust corporations any more than we trust the government? All I could think of was Rollerball (the James Cann/Norman Jewison version).

It is very strange to be sitting in a roomful of people who could easily be deciding the fate of the media you and millions of others use daily for personal expression, yet how many of them have what Jay Rosen calls "peer-to-peer" communication? How much do they understand of this thing that they see as a tool for corporations? How well do they understand our existentialist angst if they do not experience it for themselves? I'm not sure Karen Stephenson, Watts Wacker, Craig Newmark, nor Richard Edelman fully nor totally comprehend any of it.

Then again, there are few of us in the trenches who understand them either. Maybe that's the way the world works.

When we broke for cocktail hour, I got to talk a bit with Watts Wacker (read about it in this entry)...Lex Alexander and Jenny D (who was there blogging for the Media Center--she couldn't afford to go either) about citizen journalism....Introduced myself to Rebecca MacKinnon who I might run into one of these days at the Berkman Center...and caught the train on time.

I was exhausted and my sprained ankle was swollen to elephantine proportions. Had a 20-something kid flirt with me on the train. Got home to Mass sometime close to midnight. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

(oh, if you want to find good articles on We Media, do a search on'll get the best results.)

(originally posted on Snarkaholic 10/7/05)

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

D4D Ts!

Got an email from Brooke announcing the availability of new T's from Downtown for Democracy. My personal favorite - Mad Cowboy Disease -- is a sure hit at your next conservative family get together! Here's Brooke's email:
Downtown for Democracy just launched our new T-Shirt Line. For details see -- ….. with sizes 2T and onesies! (it’s never too early to raise them progressive)

This year’s designers include United Bamboo, Zaldy, Nanette Lepore, Project Alabama, Peter Som, Habitual, Rogues Gallery, Band of Outsiders, Thakoon, Richard Kidd, Patricia Field, Andrew Harmon, Donald Hearn (WLVZ), Paul Kopkau, Francisco Costa (Calvin Klein), Seize sur Vingt, JK5 and Daryl K.

Also, we'd like to invite you to the Downtown for Democracy T-shirt Launch party on Monday October 17th at Groupe, 267 Elizabeth St., NYC. Jessica Craig Martin will be photographing the event.

Samples, line sheets and an animation that we will project with all the designs will be completed for that date.

Downtown For Democracy (D4D) proudly presents a selection of designer D4D T-shirts, limited edition posters and many other items.

What to do with teenagers when roller skating gets old? SkyZone!

As the mother of a teenage daughter, figuring out activities that give ME a break, are nearby, don't involve computers and cell phones...