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Joshua Ferris: We Don’t Really Have Anybody Writing Boldly About Sex

January 26, 2010 Books, Culture, Interview No Comments

Vanity Fair‘s Claire Howorth talks with Joshua Ferris, lit darling and author of the acclaimed Then We Came to the End and the new The Unnamed.

VF: Do you think your generation of writers is conflicted about sex? Or feels awkward writing about it? The Unnamed contains two pretty notable sex scenes and they’re… relatively tame… I mean, they’re not Roth-ian…

JF: But they’re also not deciding to masturbate in two corners [laughs]. If I had gone on, it would’ve taken the wrong tone. I think if a book is going to take on sex, it should take on sex, and do so boldly.

I’m not sure that there’s a categorical mistake that’s being made somewhere by saying that this generation of writers is too tame compared to the earlier generation, or that somehow this generation doesn’t take it as seriously, or is even less preoccupied by it. A lot of those Roth and Updike books almost have sex as the only object.

I don’t know where a writer can be faulted… Michael Chabon, let’s say. Michael Chabon can’t be faulted for having a far more ambiguous ending spot or approach towards sex simply because he might be the heir to Bellow or Roth.

I think you could talk similarly about a departure of prose style, and wonder, well, why isn’t Jonathan Safran Foer writing as effervescently as Bellow? It seems slightly misguided.

At the same time, we don’t really have anybody writing boldly about sex. So maybe there is something in the water, I’m not sure. But I suspect that it’s not over. I don’t think the sex game is over.

Information from Vanity Fair.

The Fantasy Life–Served

January 25, 2010 Culture, Eyecandy, Interview, web, Women 1 Comment

It was a typical day on Twitter. That is, I was e-stalking my object of absolute desire, responding to my friends, and being a good little monkey and checking my new followers to report and block any spam accounts. Then I saw it: @celebfantasies.

Long gone are the days that I check everyone following me to see if they’re cool enough to follow back — now I just reserve follow-backs for people who engage me. The truth? I like to surf blogs and tweets and I know how much time I can end up spending if I give in to even a single person.

But I run a blog now and people depend on me to be a little more attentive, so what the hell, right? Someone’s gotta read Twitter so you don’t have to.

.

“A homage to the famous, beautiful and sexy women we love, not hiding the truth of masturbation.”

That was the bio. Hell yes. The blog linked immediately revealed a veritable dish of beauties — from the absolute fantasy girls to the girls next door — as well as articles and fantasies, written by the author and pulled up from the depths of the web.

I shot the author, Brad Hamilton, a direct message and a few hours later, had him before me over Gtalk. What follows is the interview:

AV: First off–what possessed you to do this?

BH: The primary reason is that the society we live in treats sex as a taboo, especially masturbation. A friend, actually a phone sex girl, suggested that I write a blog about my fantasies about all my celebrity girls. It’s something of a therapeutic way of talking about my fantasies in a safe way. This is, actually, the third incarnation of the blog. The first two I had on Blogger a few years ago. With some of the video and slide shows I had on there, it was slowing up the page and the load times. Tumblr has a cleaner interface that has good features for photos and video.

AV: What’s the response you’ve gotten?

BH: Most of the visitors to my blog are guys who also masturbate to celebrities. Only one woman who has been the subject of my writings (that I know of) has seen and read my blog and she actually contacted me a couple times via IM and we’ve chatted about it. The guys like the blog of course.

AV: In the blog do you offer a daily hottie for readers to check out or is that less frequent?

BH: Something like that. If I write a fantasy about a woman or post photos or videos of her, she’s the woman that I’m currently getting my rocks off to. For example, I was masturbating to Fox 11 reporters Maria Quiban, Lisa Breckinridge and Suzanne Marques last week so my morning writings were about them, along with my Twitter entries. Can I tell you something? You fall in the category of newsladies/reporters. You’re adorable.

AV: Oh, I’m flattered! Thank you.

So, there you have it. A daily dish of fantasies, sexy articles, pictures and video, complete with a Twitter stream to let you know what’s new.

Bosses — prepare yourselves for a complete drop in productivity.

Oh, and you’re welcome.

Image from Jamie Edmondson, via Celebrity Dish.

Your Gear, To Go

January 23, 2010 Interview No Comments

Pam Mandel, a freelance tech and travel journo, has a fantastic post at BlogHer about what she lugs around with her all day.

This reminds me of a seminar way back in the day by John Gray, the guy who wrote Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus (and I just totally dated myself didn’t I? I was, like, five when I attended this thing, mmmkay). Gray made the attendees look into their bags. Apparently: the more stuff you have, the more issues you have.

This is amusing because nowadays, we carry a ton of stuff with us. I don’t think we’re necessarily getting more neurotic, though the contents of a bag do say something about the person holding it. Like what they do or what they like.

Jessica Janson, who blogged for us this week has a huge bag. When I met with her for drinks in Las Vegas, I couldn’t help but wonder what she carried around in there. Her stripper shoes? A laptop? A condo?

How many of you have wondered what the editrix-in-command of Sex and the 405 carried in her bag?

I’m sure the first thing you notice is the lack of condoms. Do not take this to mean I don’t advocate safe sex. In general, I prefer unprotected sex with a partner who has been tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

Now–Details and Playboy, for fodder, though it’s usually Details and Wired, with Psychology Today, Cosmopolitan and Playboy making occasional appearances, but I already polished January’s Wired and haven’t gotten February’s yet, so there we go.

A Flip cam for video interviews; a Canon Powershot for stills; an iPhone for everything from Twitter to GoogleMaps because I am always lost; conspicuously missing is my digital recorder on loan to another journo, an iPhone charger (which is vital, given how much I use mine), and an extra phone for the more expose-ish stuff we naughty sex bloggers sometimes have to do; that wire thing is for recording phone interviews; extra AAA batteries, which reminds me I’m out of AAs; lipgloss; lipstick in pink; sunglasses, because you never know how late you’ll be out; a wallet with cash; a Poken because business cards are lame; and a pen and pad for love notes and lists.

Yes, I have a huge thing for zebra print.

(And no, none of these things were given to me by sponsors. Though Marlboro is totes welcome to send me cartons and cartons of Reds ANY DAY in payment for the mad promotion I inadvertently give them every time I leave my apartment–and even when I don’t. Ahem.)

What about you? What do you carry around with you all day?

Geeks Gone Gossip

December 21, 2009 Culture, Interview, web 2 Comments

lalawhat2

“I grew up in Palo Alto and when I discovered this L.A. tech world I couldn’t believe how different it was than the area where I grew up,” Julia Angwin, author of Stealing MySpace, told the LA Weekly at South by Southwest: Interactive in March of this year.

“In Palo Alto everyone is smart; they all went to Harvard and had some brilliant idea,” Angwin said. “In Hollywood, in L.A., these guys were totally scrappy–they would do anything to make money and they were marketing geniuses so it’s a totally different world filled with clubbing and hanging out in Santa Monica and pornstars.”

It’s true, L.A. tech has something of a reputation. After a few years of wrestling with it, trying to build our cred, I think it’s time we stopped apologizing. A lot of interesting tech offerings are coming out of Los Angeles, not to mention incredible content. So we like to look pretty and we like chic clubs and pornstars and rockstars and bubbly and fun as much as gossip about Google’s latest acquisition. So we’ll put a red carpet at a BBQ truck. Deal with it.

Nothing illustrates this attitude more clearly than @LaLaWhat, a Twitter user that reports on the unprofessional aspect of some of Los Angeles’ most active tech scenesters. Not to be confused with lalawag, Los Angeles’ favorite tech blog, @LaLaWhat is simply a Twitter account that reports in the refreshing and eternally juvenile style of Gossip Girl.

I fired off a set of questions to the anonymous tweeps last night for your reading pleasure.

How did you come up with the idea?

We were enjoying just enjoying ourselves when we noticed L.A. all a’twitter with some interesting news. We thought–what a shame it was to have that lovely gossip to broken up, hidden in subtext, and forgotten, and since the lovely Lalawag was taking a decidedly more journalistic approach, we decided to have a little fun!

How do you get your information?

It’s quite simple. We have our “agents” who can post directly and anonymously, and then we have all of you whom we follow who lovingly DM us about all the debauchery. We only post details from those we trust and from those we can verify.

Are there tips you get DMd that you just can’t share because they’re so scandalous?

We like to think there are unspoken rules among us. Let’s just say that the truly damaging secrets we keep to ourselves. We’re not here to hurt anyone, we just like to keep things interesting. After all, its the private things that bind us.

Who would ever want to be Valleywag? We don’t have any “clear cut rules” though, with the exception being not to tweet anything that is truly damaging. Like @TheMan [Editor's note: Francisco Dao, organizer of the Los Angeles tech conference Twiistup] once said, the scene can be “a whole lot like high school” but high school isn’t real life.

We know a few of you have gotten a bit upset about a certain tweet or two. Most of those times, it was because of a slight misinterpretation or assumption based on our tweets. Each time, we tweeted a clarification.

We want you to enjoy the gossip and continue to send us tips, and we know you won’t do that if you didn’t enjoy it. We are your guilty pleasure. We want to know all the little things you couldn’t tweet, but you know you really wanted to. We have our own ways of hearing about your thrilling little secrets. For example AV, we hear you’ve been having quite the passionate ride, and this time we don’t just mean in bed.

I have no idea what you’re talking about. Anyway… how do you classify who’s fodder-worthy to the community?

You should only gossip about those you know. No one is just fodder, we love each and every one of you we gossip about. After all it’s all in good fun. Choosing really depends on the juicy details, sometimes even the cute little quiet ones, lingering in the background, are the most interesting.

“So there AV, for your infinite perusal, are our answers to your intimate questions,” they wrote in closing. “So until the next time you sneak out for a cross-country midnight rendezvous…”

I still have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.

Deny, deny, deny.

But can you deny this kind of fun? Didn’t think so.

(Not involved but curious? Hit up lalawag’s event page to see what tech-related events are happening in Los Angeles this week. There’s always something going on somewhere. But be warned… no matter who you are, there will be tweeting.)

Image from @LaLaWhat’s Twitter page.

“It’s Complicated” Gets Simple

December 15, 2009 Interview, News, teh inetrwebz 4 Comments

bbr

We all know social media can be a double-sided sword. As more people get on Twitter and Facebook, including employers and family members, it becomes harder to overshare as freely as we did three or so years ago when it was just a handful of us on there.

Facebook can’t roll out security features fast enough–many people I know have cracked under the pressure of prying eyes, trading self-expression and fun digital socializing for peace and security. Well, not all is lost. A new network is on the scene and they’re committed to letting us overshare our shenanigans as publicly or privately as we deem fit.

Introducing: Blackbox Republic, a site where “It’s complicated” gets simple.

Lowdown

Blackbox Republic takes quality seriously. They’re more interested in fostering a sex-positive environment for people to be themselves and connect than in exploding in users within hours of launching. To fight against creeps and spam, they’ve put in several safeguards in place: for starters, it’s five bucks a month to be a member. Not only that, but you need to get vouched by at least one other member of the community (who gets a limited number of vouches).

The site has launched with privacy settings in place, so you won’t be rushing around after an embarrassing incident trying to make everything private (ahem, Facebook). There are also two types of connections on the site, which work a little like Twitter: followers and friends. Your friends get to see and do a whole lot more than your followers–and just following someone who follows you does not automatically make them a friend. The choice of how to categorize them is entirely up to you.

Also, the founders are aware that people and relationships change, so crushes (called “wishbones”) on other people expire after a certain period of time, completely eliminating the awkwardness of un-wishing someone.

Background

Last week, I sat down for a phone chat with founders Sam Lawrence (@SamLawrence) and April Donato (@aprilblackbox) to talk about how the idea for this ingenious new social network came about.

“It started with 17 hour ride home from Burning Man,” Lawrence told me, chuckling. “April and I were in RV filled with dust and dirt and garbage. Burning is about self-expression, creativity. On the drive back we talked about how the most kick ass thing was people didn’t talk about work or houses or kids. It was a much more intimate conversation. We started asking ourselves why there wasn’t a walled-off place like that, where people don’t judge you and you can really be you.”

So they went online to see if something like this existed.

“We found two things,” Lawrence explained. “There were dating sites, which have a short-term value proposition, and which are splintered by a lot of labels, race, sexual orientation, age–all these classifications. Relationships are messy, the social web is messy and people don’t want the labels. They want to self-organize without the labels.”

The other thing they found were the social networks with which we’re familiar, like Facebook and MySpace.

“Facebook and networks like that don’t guarantee you connect with like-minded people,” Lawrence added. “Everyday in the news we see people dropped from jobs because they were drinking a beer.”

The founders of Blackbox Republic understand that for many of us, life is cleaved in two. We have a public persona, which goes to work and is involved in the community, and a private self, which is vibrant and expressive and rarely fits the mold.

“The problem is this culture, which cannot accept investment in our personal lives,” Lawrence said.

Although not advertised right on the site, Blackbox knows a lot of this divide has to deal with sexuality.

“We tried to communicate the sex-positive part of the message,” Lawrence explained. “Blackbox Republic is about getting people together and once you’re in a safe environment is that things like sex and dates and relationships will happen.”

As far as these relationships go, Blackbox Republic is pretty lax. As any poly friend will tell you, it’s a pain that Facebook doesn’t allow for the listing of more than one partner. The language is pretty standard, too: In A Relationship, Married To, It’s Complicated, etc.

“We allow people to add their own language,” Lawrence told me. Not only can you input whatever label you want on your entanglements, but the other person can pick something totally different. Lawrence’s relationship with Donato is “in love.” Her relationship with him? “Cuddling.”

Also in the spirit of self-expression, instead of favorite movies and songs, users get virtual corkboards, which enables you to upload pictures of things they like. This is mine:

cork

“There are a lot of things that don’t have a home,” says Lawrence. “Stuff like YouTube videos that are funny but inappropriate, for example. This is what we’re working for. That’s why it’s five bucks a month.”

Blackbox Republic also features a well developed events section that allows non-members access, while keeping the more expressive content associated with these events members-only. Currently, they’re working on creating groups. An iPhone app is due out at the beginning of the year.

I’m already there. Are you?

Images from Blackbox Republic. For more information about this exciting new space, visit their FAQ Section.

Confessions of the Hipster Grifter

November 26, 2009 Culture, Interview No Comments

hipsterTwenty-two year-old Kari Ferrell, better known as the Hipster Grifter, seduced horny skinny jean-wearing hipsters in Brooklyn to steal their money. Later, she forged checks and tried to pull a fast one on Vice. Now serving time in Utah, she talked with the Daily Beast about what cell life is all about.

Some juicy tidbits for your fast and furious consumption:

The Daily Beast: What has been the most surprising part of prison?

Kari Ferrell: The most surprising part of jail (contrary to popular belief, I am in jail, not prison. Big difference) has to be the wide variety of people that come in. As with most of society, I assumed that the only people incarcerated were individuals who R Kelly’d little boys, and those who like freebasing crack cocaine out of human skulls. There have been girls in here for such things as unpaid parking tickets, driving without insurance, jay walking (seriously! And it was her only charge—spent four days in here) and giving a blowjob to her partner (by marriage) at a park. (Hello, who hasn’t done that?) Obviously there are those in here for more serious crimes, and that is unsurprising, but jay walking? Come on. Maybe it’s a Utah thing?

The Daily Beast: What is just like you imagined it to be? The food? The beds?

Ferrell: On the opposite side of the spectrum; the most unsurprising thing is that it’s exactly how I thought it would be: It’s the Orwellian nature of jail itself. We are housed in cells that resemble fish bowls, [with] large plexiglass windows, so that the guards are able to look in at any time; no privacy whatsoever. I also expected boredom to be exactly how it is: mind-numbingly unproductive. You can only work out, read, attempt to educate a cellmate on metaphysics, masturbate, and draw so much y’know?

The Daily Beast: Do you have a cellmate? Tell us about them.

Ferrell: My former cellmate, Jerzy Mitchell, was phenomenal. We had the same interests (I highly doubt any other female in this jail listens to Felt and Chris Garneau), similar tastes and an affinity for men with facial hair. She was with me for three months, and when she left I felt like I lost a significant body part. Jerzy Mitchell is my runaway spleen. Shut up. That’s significant enough. My new cellmate is, uh, different. It’s hard to relate to a heroin-addicted prostitute who is offended when you ask, “So how much did you charge to gum their meat?” (In case you’re curious, the answer is $40.) When you’re locked down for 24 hours a day with someone (the pod I am in is a minimum/medium custody pod. Even though I am minimum, we are only out for three hours a day—alternating mornings and evenings) you have to get along.

Good luck with that, girlfriend.

Image from Driven By Boredom. Information from The Daily Beast.

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Why You Should Vote No On Prop 35

Should people who benefit (parents, siblings, children, roommates!) from the earnings of “commercial sex acts” (any sexual conduct connected to the giving or receiving of something of value) be charged with human trafficking? Should someone who creates obscene material that is deemed “deviant” be charged as with human trafficking? Should someone who profits from obscene materials be charged with human trafficking? Should people transporting obscene materials be charged with human trafficking? Should a person who engages in sex with someone claiming to be above the age of consent or furnishing a fake ID to this effect be charged with human trafficking? What if I told you the sentences for that kind of conviction were eight, 14 or 20 years in prison, a fine not to exceed $500,000, and life as a registered sex offender?

Pretty and Calls Herself a Geek? Attention Whore!

If you are a woman, you might be given a chance to prove yourself in this community. Since there is no standard definition of what a “geek” is and it will vary from one judge to the next anyway, chances of failing are high (cake and grief counseling will be available after the conclusion of the test!). If you somehow manage to succeed, you’ll be tested again and again by anyone who encounters you until you manage to establish yourself like, say, Felicia Day. But even then, you’ll be questioned. As a woman, your whole existence within the geek community will be nothing but a series of tests — if you’re lucky. If you aren’t lucky, you’ll be harassed and threatened and those within the culture will tacitly agree that you deserve it.

Cuddle Chemical? Moral Molecule? Not So Fast

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How to Avoid Pissing off a Stripper

Let’s talk about the strippers. Whether they like to be half-naked or not, whether they enjoy turning you on or not, there’s one thing they all have in common: they’re working. Whether you think that taking one’s clothes off for money is a great choice of career is really beside the point (is it a possibility for you to make $500 per hour at your job without a law degree? Just asking). These women are providing fantasy, yes, but that is their job. And as a patron of the establishment where they work, you need to treat them like you would anyone else who provides a service to you.

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Sex and the 405 is what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.

Here you’ll find news about the latest research being conducted to figure out what drives desire, passion, and other sex habits; reviews of sex toys, porn and other sexy things; coverage of the latest sex-related news that have our mainstream media's panties up in a bunch; human interest pieces about sex and desire; interviews with people who love sex, or hate sex, or work in sex, or work to enable you to have better sex; opinion pieces that relate to sex and society; and the sex-related side of celebrity gossip. More...