Surviving the Blackout

While I commend everyone who took a stand against SOPA/PIPA, I really have to hand it to Wikipedia for shutting down their site on the 18th. I depend heavily on the site for research, and I’m glad that the deadline for article I was writing for my other job was the 19th. (Before you judge me, I will disclose that the article was concerning superheroes and it was for a deal of the day website. It’s not like I write for The New England Journal of Medicine.) I can’t imagine how many others were affected by the temporary loss of Wikipedia. Think of all the students, all the people trying to settle bets, and all the obsessive entry contributors who had their livelihood come to a screeching halt. Cutting off what’s possibly the Internet’s most popular reference source is a powerful statement to make.

I’m really dating myself now, but I remember in high school when librarians and teachers weren’t quite sure what to do with this newfangled Internet. We were told to avoid using it as a reference tool unless it was on sites ending in “.org” or “.edu”. Then in college, Wikipedia emerged. The Web address still ends in “.org” but we were told to avoid using that as well. The best way to get around that was to go to the sources listed at the end of the Wikipedia article and list them as your references. It’s not lying because you really did get your information that way. There just happened to be a middleman.

The 24-hour loss of Wikipedia had such an effect that #factswithoutwikipedia became a trending topic of Twitter, leading to such amusing misinformation as, “Ferrets are a legume” and “‘Lego’ is a Danish word meaning ‘lost in the vacuum cleaner'”. And yet these were the kinds of tidbits that Wikipedia itself was accused of presenting as fact not too long ago. It’s interesting how that works.

It’s a little like the old claims that no one would ever buy records when they could listen to the radio. Or that the VCR would destroy the movie industry. Or that Napster would destroy the music industry. Or that Kindle would desecrate the act of reading. It relates to SOPA and PIPA too. At this point, I seriously doubt that either of the two will pass, at least not without major revisions. And then one day we’ll all look back and laugh at how silly we were to think technological progress would obliterate society.

Of course, I could be very, very wrong. The robot overlords could be lying in wait right behind me, waiting to taser me for all the songs still on my iPod that I downloaded off of Morpheus between 2003 to 2007.

 Contributing writer Megan Robb is a writer, consultant and editor living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her articles can be found at divot.com, wordhusterink.com, and cracked.com, as well as her personal website, megan-robb-writer.webs.com

Crash and Burn

I’m clearly behind the times, because until I saw this infographic today, I didn’t know that American Airlines went bankrupt in November. It made me a tiny bit sad, and not because I’m so out of touch when it comes to transportation news . It’s not that I had any loyalty toward American Airlines. I don’t even fly that often. It’s just sad to see an old institution just die like that.

My grandfather worked for the airline industry at one point. I’m not exactly sure which airlines besides Lufthansa and possibly Pan Am. Whichever they were, it was back when people dressed up for flights and there were incredibly sexist standards for hiring what were then called stewardesses. In fact, my aunt once applied for a stewardess job only to be told that her waist was too big.

Eventually, women had to go get rights and stuff and stewardesses were replaced by women and men, both with imperfect measurements. Travelers got sloppier with their wardrobes because no one needed to impress the new “flight attendants”. Without the promise of hot chicks serving you drinks, fewer people chose to fly, so airlines had to lower their ticket prices in order to win back their customers. That worked for a while, but there’s only so low an airline can go. Feminism: it’s why you have to pay additional baggage fees.

Don’t let the liberal media tell you otherwise.

Obviously, I kid. There are many external reasons for the downfall of air travel, as shown in this handy . Yet I can’t help but wonder if the airlines themselves should share some of the blame. I’m probably just bitter about the fuel shortage and the maintenance issue and the subsequently missed connecting flight and being on standby for the next flight only to be bumped to a third flight which was then canceled with the next available flight being three days later which led to me calling a different airport an hour from my actual destination so I could get a flight that landed there instead and then being put on standby for that flight that luckily had room for me and the 12 hours I spent in the Philadelphia airport experiencing this mess.

On the other hand, if a company can’t function properly, maybe it’s not so bad if they just cut their losses. Look at Pan Am. They went under in 1991 but the Pan Am in the public consciousness isn’t some sad, dead company. It’s the glamorous playground of tiny-waisted stewardesses in scratchy-looking suits and famous men played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Maybe American Airlines had something interesting in its past that would make a good TV mini-series. I have no idea.

I do have a feeling that USAir is next. But I’m just biased.

 Contributing writer Megan Robb is a writer, consultant and editor living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her articles can be found at divot.com, wordhusterink.com, and cracked.com, as well as her personal website, megan-robb-writer.webs.com

 

Girl, Look at That Body

By Megan Robb

While I can’t exactly turn myself into bird/woman hybrid (much to the dismay of a good portion of our Internet traffic), the New Year does lend itself to a much easier physical transformation: going back to the gym. I stopped exercising after my sister’s wedding at the end of the summer. I’m pretty sure a lot of people at that wedding did the same. But as part of my ever-present quest to be more sociable, I bought a coupon for eight classes at a local women’s gym on Groupon. I have six classes left.

So far, not so good.

The first class was a disaster, but that’s my fault. I knew nothing about Zumba other than that stupid infomercial that said it was “a fun dance party”. Zumba is a fun dance party if your day job is a back-up dancer for Jennifer Lopez. You have to have the moves and the pace down pat. I looked like the ballet episode of I Love Lucy with “Sexy and I Know It” as the soundtrack.

I was a mess.

For my next class I decided to go with something less intense: yoga. I came early. I waited outside the classroom, thinking maybe I could make conversation before class. It wasn’t long before I noticed that there were quite a few pregnant women coming in. It to a point where I starting looking for women who didn’t appear to be in at least their third trimester.

Yeah, I had joined a yoga class for pregnant women. The letters “HM” that appeared on the gym’s calendar next to “Yoga” stood for “Healthy Moms”. Of course. The women in the class were nice enough, but pregnant women really like talking about their symptoms. I couldn’t even pretend I was only a few weeks along (the way I do when I park in the “expectant moms” spaces outside Babies R Us) because I didn’t know what I should be complaining about.

When the conversation turned to whether one woman was having early contractions or if it was just gas, I knew I didn’t fit in. Tomorrow I’m headed for a spin class. I don’t know what’s going to happen. For all I know it’s Spin for Diabetics or Spin for the Especially Advanced.

Somehow I’ll find a way to exercise and to make friends, even if I can’t do both at the same time.

 Contributing writer Megan Robb is a writer, consultant and editor living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her articles can be found at divot.com, wordhusterink.com, and cracked.com, as well as her personal website, megan-robb-writer.webs.com

 

 

Internet to Hennens: We Need (Bird) Women

By John Winn

When we update the blog, occasionally we stumble upon something odd or surprising that goes far beyond the usual 419 scams and spam coupons.  Bot sites, eccentric commenters, even bizarre search terms. Dead trees, sad trees, dirty Friday underwear–we’ve seen it all.

But nothing quite like the Bird Women.

No, we’re not being stalked by nymphomaniac orinthologists , and its not viral ad campaign for a Victoria’s Secret marketing campaign.  But we wouldn’t blame you if you got that idea.

The saga began last fall following Megan Robb’s excellent poem “The Siren’s Song”. It’s become one of our most popular posts since then, second only to our masthead and abouts page.  We don’t know what that says about us, but as soon as we clicked ‘publish’ we started to notice an odd trend in our stats page.

As we continued to crank out content, we noticed a significant spike in popularity in the blogosphere.  Not as much as, say, Michael Stipe’s tumblr page, but okay for a start-up literary social network/magazine/website.  Thirty seconds later, we shrugged and went back to writing.  Our obsessive tweeting was paying off somehow–we must be doing something right.

Right?

We were getting eyeballs, sure.  But as we took a closer look at our stats, it suddenly dawned on us that our popularity had nothing to do with our prose.  Over a three month period, we received the usual inquiries like ‘Alberto Arza the interview’ ‘Teresa Nash’ ‘Thundaaah!  Review’ and so on.  But also searches for ‘birdwoman’ ‘siren women’ and ‘woman dressed as bird’.  Sadly, Chai and Conversation did not do so well.

Not surprisingly, page hits for The Siren’s Song increased from August 2011 to the present.  But we have to wonder, what are people expecting when they click?  A pouty-lipped model in a bird costume writhing and moaning on a bed?  For Megan to leap out of the screen and whisper sweet nothings in their ear?  Strip to her undies while she recites the Illiad in Latin?

Come to think of it, that’s a good idea.  Then again, maybe not.  She does have standards, after all.

Maybe it’s a case of coincidence, or really good misdirection.  But it’s hard not to imagine what’s going through people’s minds when they click.  Maybe they like our poetry.  Maybe they’re lonely.  Or they really like naked chicks with wings.

Either way, we’re glad someone cares.  So in the spirit of the New Year, we offer an olive branch to our nymphomaniac orinthologist overlords:

 Social Media Coordinator (and managing editor) John Winn is Hennen’s Twitterer in Chief.  In addition to writing for Hennen’s, His work has been featured in A Twist of Noir, Lightning Flash, Racket Magazine, and plenty of other online magazines.  He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.