Thursday, February 24, 2011

Stuff I Read: “Imaginary Encounters” by Mysh

I despise most poetry.

Spending much of my time as a kid and a teen with books, I embraced novels and comic books, works which spread a broad tableau of clear imagery and abundant words, not just telling a story but building a world.  Poetry, on the other hand, comes off as tight, small, and absorbed, twisting on individual words and phrases to depict a single idea or evoke an emotion.  When you’re used to lots of words building a story, consumed at a fast pace, having to mull over each word and syllable, backtracking over and over to get at the true “meaning” of the poem… it’s slooooooooow.

(Those who “get” poetry are hopefully saying to themselves “Yeah, that’s the point.”  Those who don’t get poetry are probably saying “Yeah, I know what you mean.”)

That said, some specific forms of structured poetry, I have great respect and even love for.  Taking an idea or emotion and capturing it in a limited number of lines, or forcing it into a rhyming couplet (or a limerick!), that awes me.  (So I guess it’s really unstructured, longer form poetry that I can’t stand.  How does that phrase go, “I don’t know what it is, I guess it’s poetry”?)  I’m especially fond of haiku (when done right, at least in the modern Western sense; some people think just three short lines of whatever is all it takes, sigh).

I recently got an e-mail from Israeli artist and filmmaker Mysh, pointing me to his site of queer haiku comics, “Imaginary Encounters”.  Wow!  Could stuff get any better than that?  Combining the elegance of haiku with shortform cartooning, usually illuminating rather than illustrating.

Highly recommended.  Not safe for work, though; some of the cartoons contain sexual imagery.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Grindr Censors User Text, Blames Apple

A week ago, I signed into Grindr and got an alert saying that my photo or profile text had been forcibly deleted because it didn’t conform to their Terms of Service.  According to the page they linked to, my crime was apparently in having (sexually) suggestive text.

This e-mail was sent to
I recently had my Grindr profile’s text zapped.  So far as I can tell, this was because something in the text was deemed “suggestive”.  Not explicit or offensive or in violation of copyright.  (Of course, since I don’t have a copy of the text that was there before, I can only go by my memory of how “suggestive” it may have been.)

We’ve become used to restrictions on imagery with social networking sites (gay and otherwise) — many won’t allow any naughty images in the publicly available pics (and especially not pics which depict actual sex), and some even require an identifiable face — so the similar restrictions you have had in place there do not bother me.

But now you’re limiting text?  Really?  And not even explicit text, but “suggestive” text?  Double really?

I never like to tie things to malice or stupidity where there may be a rational reason.  Is this something that was dictated by Apple or RIM in order to get in/stay in their app stores?  Did you get purchased by Disney?  Are you trying to back away from the market that made you popular for some reason?  (Because let’s be honest: Grindr’s #1 use is chatting up prior to hooking up.  Please don’t try to deny it.)

Limiting what people can say (or write) edges into the realm of censorship.  And even though it may technically be your right to limit what we can do through your system, if this over-the-top limitation of content is your own choice and not something forced on you (er, “insisted upon”) by external partners, I can’t help but think it’s going to bite you.  (Actually, it’s apt to bite you even if this is capitulation to external requirements.)

Here’s hoping you’ll be willing to reply to this in some understandable form, whether that’s a personal reply or a press release or a web page which addresses the issue in a generalized manner (and hopefully has guidelines for what is and is not “suggestive”).

(A URL to your existing Terms of Service isn’t going to do it, especially since it doesn’t have the same text as the app put out notifying me of the zapped text.)

Looking forward to hearing from you.

— Jim
Seattle, WA

I was finally able to dig around in their website Terms and Forums to find this:
Apple places limits on what can be displayed in a public profile.  This includes not only your picture, but also text.  Even masked text is not allowed.  This means all public profiles have to be G rated.  (link)
“Masked text” would refer to things like “f*ck” and “po**ers”.

So they are trying to pass the buck to Apple.  But when Apple did their booting of boobie apps a year ago, here what they said:
We have decided to remove any overtly sexual content from the App Store (link)
Here are the full Grindr profile guidelines, which specify:
• No sexually explicit or overly suggestive text.
In others words, no, Apple doesn’t say it has to be G rated, just that it cannot be “overtly sexual”.  Notice what has happened in part: they dropped the “T”, turning “overtly” (openly) into “overly” (excessively); by definition, suggestive text cannot be “overtly” sexual.

More to the point, though, they don’t (presumably won’t) define how much becomes “excessive”.  But by use of the term “G rated” (which Apple apparently does not require), potentially anything (sexually) suggestive becomes “overly” suggestive.

We shall see, though.  I’ve entered new profile text, referencing hanky colors instead of any spelled-out activity (previously, I said something about “put me on my knees”), so the suggestiveness should be more vague; you need specialized external knowledge to decipher things.

Wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants, if gay social networking apps running scared caused a resurgence of the hanky code, only in textual form rather than actual cloth-in-a-pocket?

(Hmm, “kick in the pants”.  That would be dark blue with white boot print pattern, right?  Teal blue with boot print for “kick in the balls”?)

(And yes, I know there are Apple haters out there who are going to try to lay the blame right back at Apple’s feet.  Your belief is already noted; only comments with some substance beyond that tired tirade will be retained.)