Monthly Archives: April 2011

We all remember that James Frey is an asshole, right?

Apparently, James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces, the “memoir” famous for being a steaming pile of bullshit, is going back on Oprah to promote his new book.
If I sound a little bristly, it’s because I think this guy is a fucking scam artist. But I’m apparently in the minority. If you go to CNN’s entertainment blog, The Marquee Blog, you’ll find a story about Jame’s Frey’s return to the Oprah show and lots of comments from readers who feel that it was Oprah, and not James Frey, in the wrong during his first appearance on the show. I feel it is my job, nay, my divine duty, to call it like I sees it and tackle one of these comments, a statement that hits every single one of my “Oh, you have got to be fucking kidding me!” buttons.
Jan writes: whether the book was completely true or not, it was a compelling read. very intense. and it told a good story and demonstrated a good lesson. i bought several of them for addicts and they truly appreciated the books even if they were not 100% true. i don’t know about his new book but i always felt that oprah went overboard in taking him to task on her show the way she did. it was pretty tough to watch. he did what he did, with the help and advice of very knowledgeable people in the business. i think he was more of a dupe that she was
What this comment tells me, Jan, is that you don’t give a shit about truth or integrity, just as long as you’re entertained. It doesn’t matter if the book was appreciated by people struggling with addiction. It was a lie. And it was no one’s fault but his own.
This is a sentiment that got thrown around a lot when the controversy first hit the news. a call-in on Larry King’s show, Oprah herself blamed his publisher for the book being, well, full of lies and half-truths, saying it was the publisher’s job to verify the facts. Of course, she changed her tune later, but it apparently stuck in the minds of a lot of readers, like Jan there, who feel that Frey was simply the sweet, unwitting pawn of an evil publisher.
I’ve got some experience in the publishing industry. Not in memoirs, mind you, but I do have eight fiction novels in print and five novellas in e-book format, and I’m currently working as an editor for a publishing house that will go unnamed for professional reasons. Whenever I have signed a contract, there’s been this little section in it that says something to the effect of, “this is all my work, and if I’m lying it’s totally on me.” I would bet that James Frey signed a contract with a similar clause in it, something like, “If I’m lying and exploiting dead people for my own gain, it’s nobody’s fault but my own.” And when I’m editing a book, I don’t feel like the onus is on me to make sure that every historical fact the author includes is accurate. I assume they know what they’re talking about, and I don’t get paid enough or have the time to research how people cleaned their teeth in Victorian Britain. If the facts turn out to be inaccurate and readers complain, they’re holding the author responsible. Blaming the publisher for James Frey’s lies is like a five-year-old blaming his mom for his lies. “Yes, I lied, but you listened to me lying. Really, you’re the one at fault.”
Let’s go back to that that “exploiting dead people for my own gain” thing. James Frey writes in A Million Little Pieces about a tragic car accident that caused the death of his only friend in high school. Of course, this turned out to be all lies, except for the part about the car/train accident that actually happened, and the girl’s surviving family objected strongly to her portrayal and the inclusion of her death in the book, saying that she and Frey didn’t know each other, were not friends, and that Frey was not involved in the accident or the aftermath in any way.
Now let’s hop back to the statement that a lot of readers make: “It doesn’t matter if it was fake, it helped my friend/my husband/my dad/my whoever, because they’re an addict.”
Drug addiction is a difficult dragon to slay. I’ve had my own problems with addiction in the past. You know what would have definitely not helped me during those times? Finding out that the thing that had inspired me to seek recovery was actually a gigantic, steaming pile of horseshit and failure. But setting that aside, whenever anyone says that James Frey’s lies are admissible because they “helped people,” what they’re saying is, “I don’t care about the emotional pain and stress this douchebag money grabber caused this dead teenager’s family. Yes, they’re real people, who have a real vested interest in this farce, but I choose to ignore that in order to still feel good about this wannabe hardass who goes on national tv with his big, sad eyes and cries about how life was so hard being a white suburban teen in the midwest.”
Leaving aside his lies, which included turning a five-hour stay in jail into the life of a hardened criminal (a word he capitalized throughout the book, to really drive home what a hard-ass he is), there’s the fact that he’s created a sweatshop for people who want to write but don’t want to make a living from it. You can read about that here .
So what we have here is a guy who lies, won’t admit he’s lying in the face of overwhelming evidence, exploits dead teenagers and living writers, and there are still people out there defending this curly haired fuck?
What kind of a world do we live in, that this guy is able to continue making a living and go out in public without everyone throwing rotten garbage at him? Is he not the definition of a super villain? James Frey is like Lex Luthor with half the brain, and we’re funding his career by buying his books? Fantastic, this is exactly the world I want to be living in. Fuck integrity and honesty, as long as we’re entertained.
“Are you not entertained?”

And now people are wondering if Oprah will apologize for her behavior during his last appearance on her show. Why should she? She read this guy’s book, she believed it and trusted that he was telling the truth. Of course she believed him, he ran all over hell and high-water, telling everyone who would listen that his book was 100% fact and he is now and forever shall be the hardest motherfucker with the biggest balls ever, an ex-con so tough he survived a root canal with no anesthesia at the hands of a Nazi dentist and also he’s Superman and he kicked his addiction to every drug ever while simultaneously rescuing babies and kittens from a burning meth house, and then he drove a bulldozer into a police car and stood in the middle of the street with his arms wide open, receiving their hate like Ed Norton in American History X only not a white supremacist. Only after he was caught did he start to offer up excuses for his lies, like he was Obi-wan telling Luke that the entire “hit a police car and faced an eight year prison sentence for felony mayhem” thing he told him about was true “from a certain point of view.”

Stop defending this asshole, everybody. Seriously. Stop defending him, stop proselytizing about the power of A Million Little Pieces to heal even the most hardened of drug users. Stop insisting that James Frey was the victim while he continues to victimize others. And stop demanding that Oprah apologize. The person who needs to apologize is James Frey, but that’s too much to hope for, so long as we continually reward whoever steals the title of “Most Audacious Liar”.

What it’s like living in Michigan

Today I was going to blog two new xtranormal videos of my husband and I having normal husband/wife conversation, just to prove that we’re both probably mentally ill. However, when I went to bed yesterday, it looked like this outside:

And when I got up this morning, it looked like this:

So I felt this was something I couldn’t let slip idly past without comment.

Here’s my comment: “What the shit is this? Wasn’t it 83 degrees last Sunday? And we complained that the house was too hot and we all slept nekkid on top of our covers because it was unbearably warm? And now there’s snow on the ground and in the trees like a goddamned Christmas wonderland? What the balls?”
There are a lot of clever jokes about Michigan and what it’s like to live here, but I think for the people who don’t live in the midwestern United States, well, they can’t possibly know that those jokes are basically all true. There was an email forward going around for a while called “You know you’re a Michigander if…” and there was a part where it says, “If you’ve ever had sunburn and frostbite in the same week.”
That’s this week, folks. That’s this week.

We have lost our damned minds.

You’ve probably heard by now about the video burning up the internet of a six-year-old being patted down by a TSA officer. If you haven’t, I’ll provide the video here, so you can get an idea of what people are so furious about. I will warn you that it’s disturbing; I was surprised at how uncomfortable I was when watching it.

Before I say what I want to say, I have to make it very clear that I do not blame the TSA agent in the video. She was doing her job, and she did it with respect for the parents and the child and made sure to reassure the girl. At no point does the girl appear distressed or uncomfortable, and I give credit to the agent doing the pat down. In fact, I give a lot of credit to TSA agents as a whole. I’ve only very rarely encountered a TSA agent who seemed gruff or unprofessional. When I flew out of Newark, NJ last September, the TSA agent who patiently went through my bag and explained to me what could and couldn’t go through the checkpoint was very friendly and smiled the whole time, and never once tried to intimidate or threaten me.

But this is absurd. There is a widely quoted statement attributed to Benjamin Franklin that is often cited when speaking about the current state of airport security: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Apparently, there are people in my country who feel they are smarter than Benjamin Franklin and more important than the Constitution.

I’m a fan of the fourth amendment, which reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” When you read this, and you think about our current airport security policies, you have to kind of wonder at what point “wants to use an airplane to reach a destination” began to fall under “probable cause”. This six-year-old, if we’re to assume that TSA is not violating the Constitution of The United States, somehow gave the agents at the security checkpoint probable cause to assume that she had contraband of some kind hidden on her person.

At this point, I think it’s fair to say that we as a people are not looking to TSA to stop drug runners and mules the way we expected airport security to do pre-9/11. We’re looking to TSA to stop hijackings and bombings, and that does seem to be their sole focus. We’re also expecting them to do this, and it is a rightful expectation, without profiling passengers. So, in keeping with their mission, this search of a six-year-old girl was completely reasonable. The question should not be “Why are we searching six-year-old girls,” but “Why are we allowing these searches in the first place.”

Many people will attest to the need for heightened security in airports based on the fact that 9/11 occurred at all. But 9/11 was an inevitability. The World Trade Center was a complex of seven buildings housing some of the most financially powerful companies in the United States, as well as offices that worked in close conjunction with the infrastructure of the United States. The towers themselves had been targeted for terrorist attack before, as had the other buildings the 9/11 terrorists had chosen for destruction in the attack. Airport security was not responsible for these attacks, nor could increased security in airports have stopped the events from occurring if the terrorists had chosen some other method of attack.

Somehow, though, we continue to see “averting another 9/11″ as a perfectly logical reason to subject travelers to unlawful search in airports. “It hasn’t happened again!” proponents of these measures will state with pride, which is absurd. If we were to base the fact that 9/11 hasn’t happened again in the ten years since the attack and attribute this victory to our security measures, then our security measures lose purely on the basis that before 9/11, 9/11 hadn’t happened at all. The first commercial flight in the United States flew in 1914, and 9/11 happened in 2001. That’s a pretty impressive track record, in my opinion, for our old security measures. The problem with this method of accounting is that you can’t prove a negative. We can’t prove that our current measures have diverted terrorist plots.

At this point, someone reading might be saying, “Fine, Jen, if you don’t like it, don’t fly. There’s no right to fly in this country!” Absolutely, there is no “right to fly”. But pre-9/11, it was an accepted risk, albeit a very, very small one, that someone might hijack or blow up your plane. The scale of 9/11 seems to have thrown us all out of whack, to the point that we are willing to give up our freedom for safety. Not real safety, but the illusion of safety. The comfortable feeling when we get on that plane that no one will be planning to blow it up or drive it into a building, because there are security measures in place to prevent it. But no one on those planes that were destroyed in 9/11 thought, as they got on that plane, that someone would be killing them on that flight, because all the passengers had been through security. When the planes actually were hijacked, no one fought back, because there was a certain expectation of how hijackings are conducted. None of those passengers or pilots or security check point workers could predict the future, any more than TSA is able to predict the future now. It’s not a fault on anyone’s part, it’s just how the world is.

So, if you don’t like it, don’t fly? How about we do this, instead: rather than subject everyone in the country to degrading public search without just cause, rather than ask passengers to show strangers images of their naked bodies, rather than have our children groped by strangers in public, rather than hand over our rights to our own bodies to our government, we accept that airline travel has inherent risk. We accept that our country has enemies, and that those enemies may attack us. We accept that for all the freedom we have, there comes a cost, and at times that cost is very, very high.

I’m not advocating a return to the days of getting on an airplane with a sword as carryon, which, no kidding at all, I did in 1996 on a flight from Malaga to New York. I’m advocating a return to our senses. Right now, we’re trying to outthink the terrorists, to the point that our suspicion will begin to hamper us. “A guy put a bomb in his shoe! Check everybody’s shoes!” only works until the terrorists know that we’re checking shoes, and then they move on to the next plan, or the next venue. Terrorist plots that the United States have thwarted since 9/11 have been predominately focused on fuel lines and public utilities, not airlines. That’s not to say, “They’re done, let’s completely drop our guard,” but “Perhaps we need to shift our focus slightly.” There has to be a happy medium on the spectrum that is, on the low end, “Get on a plane with a sword,” and on the high end, “Stick our fingers in a six-year-old’s underpants.”

I love my country. I love being an American. But I also love sanity. “If you don’t like it, don’t fly,” to me, smacks of misplaced faith that our government can protect us from every inevitability, and that is not what our government was intended to do. So, I say to to everyone with a “don’t like it, don’t fly,” attitude, if you don’t like the reality that air travel carries an incredibly slight risk, don’t fly, and allow the rest of us to travel with our rights in tact. And as for protecting the people on the ground, let’s all accept that as long as our country has enemies, we are all potential targets with, again, a very, very slight risk of our lives being ended by terrorism, just like every other citizen of every other country in the world.

Our founding fathers were very cognizant of the fact that should their revolution fail, they would be put to death for their cause. We owe it to them to preserve the ideals they stood for, even if it means feeling slightly less safe when seated across the aisle from an obviously deranged and death hungry kindergartener on an airplane.