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The other day, my husband the Swede (like My Mother the Car, but paler and more smug)told me that there was now a genre of literature in translation rather in the school of Steig Larsson - Scandinavian mystery, basically, involving pale people who drink way too much coffee but have excellent medical plans - that was being called Nordic detective.

So I said, "Noirdic?"

And he said "...."

"... yeah, that actually sounds a lot better, doesn't it.  Actually, you say it like that, and it sounds more like it could come from a Scandinavian language, too."

Noirdic(k), people!  Who's with me?

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On my retro class-based British soap-opera kick, I've started watching "Upstairs, Downstairs."   It's enjoyable candy-floss, but one of the episode descriptions made me raise a brow sky-high: something about how one of the character's right-wing politics cause her trouble.

She's a fascist/Nazi sympathizer.

I ... yeah.  I can't help but feel that that's not quite the chronological equivalent of, say, today's Tea Party: it's more like the chronological equivalent of the Klan.  Yikes, people. 
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So I mentioned the whole lead-poisoning, moving-into-hotels thing, but I don't think I mentioned the moving home bit yet.

It is really disconcerting to move back into your own house.  Why did we?  Well, largely because I fell madly in love with it when I found it, against all reason and all comers: the Gnu hates the noise, and I'm not a big fan of (translation: violently hate) my landlord these days, but between the high ceilings and the view of the Ansonia, the thought of leaving made me very sad.  And, well, at least this way, once we made our way through the bloody abatement process, we'd know the place was lead-free, 100%. 

That said - aside from my landlord behaving dreadfully when it comes to things like paying our movers for having to schlep our things out and back again - it is really weird to move back into a space I once inhabited.  Like, you can't go home again weird, only, it turns out, you can.  And then you can persistently hang your coat on the ghost of the hook that used to hang there.  Or, not, as the case may be.

It's good to be home, but, man ... weird.

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The Right Way: "The Wings of the Dove," 1997.

The Wrong Way: "The Golden Bowl," 2000.

I've been on a period movie kick - blame the Splenda-like "Downton Abbey" (no nutritional value, but weirdly, it makes you crave similar, more highly caloric things).  Thanks to the plethora of Henry James adaptations available via Netflix, hours of viewing pleasure are mine for the asking!

Of course, the concept of "viewing pleasure," ranges from the sumptuous visual feast that is "The Wings of the Dove" - Helena Bonham Carter! the turquoise tiles of a place that looks like Leighton House's long-lost architectural cousin! indigo velvet embroidered with peacocks!  VENICE! - to the laff-riot that is "The Golden Bowl."

I genuinely believe that "The Wings of the Dove" was a present the universe gave me for my high school graduation.  It contains just about everything I adore.  On the other hand, "The Golden Bowl" can only be a posthumous slap in the face to Henry James.  From the costuming to the performances, it is perhaps the worst period piece I have ever seen.  Uma Thurman wear what appears to be a sleeveless blouse at one point.  I ASK YOU.

Wait, I lie.  There was that one incredibly trippy thing I caught on late-night television in Sweden, featuring Ed Harris (of all people) as the leader of a biker gang who thought they were the Knights of the Round Table (while doing porn: seriously, I think the writers on Season 2 of "Sons of Anarchy" had this on in the background one night when they fell asleep and when they woke up they thought "...trippy ...." and happily lifted the least most plausible bits).  That might have been worse.  Though, that crossed the line into being so bad it was good, whereas "The Golden Bowl" is just a terrible mockery of all that is good and right in literary realism.

Next up: "The Portrait of a Lady," back from when Nicole Kidman had facial expressions.  Could go either way.

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Last night I attended Jim Freund's wonderful NYRSF reading series to hear Terry McGarry and Veronica Schanoes present their recent work.  I'm biased since the latter is my best friend, but her story, "Burning Girls," is one of the best damned things I've ever heard read out loud.

I don't think that people necessarily understand that reading is an art.  For a lot of people, it seems to be a basic process of getting the words off the page and into the ears of the audience.  I don't think it's common to think of it as performance - which, to be frank, is exactly what it is.  Given the skiffy subject matter, you might be thinking some variation along the lines that, damnit, Jim, you're a writer, not an actor, but ... hooey.  The performance is actually as if not more important than the material.  This goes for academic papers as much as it does fiction, something I wish someone had told me early on: I remember presenting far-too-long papers at conferences, thinking that as long as I got all the info out, of course everyone would follow!  Look, there it was, making sense on the page!

Yeah.

So now I cringe in sympathy whenever I'm on a panel with somebody presenting for the first or second time, who doesn't pause for breath or eye contact - bad enough! - but, worse yet, doesn't make the intonation work for them.

Example: "Burning Girls" is a "Rumplestiltskin" retelling set in the Jewish community in the early part of the 20th c., narrated in the first person by Deborah, a witch with a salty tongue and a foolish younger sister.  The former shapes the problems of the latter eloquently.  And in a perfect echo, when the Rumplestiltskin character is defeated, its name used against it, it cries out, "The Devil told you!  The Devil told you that!"  And it sounded exactly like an aggrieved child who's furious with a sibling who just made trouble for it, which both works in the context of the retelling, and which makes me think about the original story in a whole new light.  Because whenever I've read the original "Rumplestiltskin," I've gotten to the part where the Queen guesses his name correctly and he cries out that the Devil must have told her that, and stomps his foot so hard he goes straight down to Hell, and I think ... dude, talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.  But the air of redirected fury?  The implication that the Devil is about to get an earful?  And, further, that there's a whole backstory for the demon and its motivation and intentions?  Genius.

Long story short: writers of all sorts, attend readings, take notes on good technique, and then practice.

On a less pro-tip note - or at least a pro-tip in a different vein - last night might have been the first time I attended an SF event since the kiddo came along, and oh, what a comedy of errors it was to get out the door.  I had my clockwork routine to get ready ticking along nicely, and in the last five minutes Bear spat medicine on my skirt, I broke a nail, and my MetroCard fell down the little crack betwixt the elevator door and the floor, never to be seen again.

I will now be taking notes on the techniques of the mothers I know who manage to pull of social lives.  We all have our little trade secrets, right?  

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I set up a Dreamwidth account ages ago and then ... drumroll, please, never used it.  Of course, this is partially/largely because I stopped using social media altogether because of the strange feedback cycle that since nobody seemed to be using the types I was using, I wouldn't use it, either - why put all that effort into a post nobody would read? Which in all likelihood reinforced other people's similar thought processes.  Silly.

As far as I can tell, the last time I bothered with Dreamwidth, it was August 14th, 2010.  A lot has happened since then.  (This is me tossing my hat into the ring for Understatement of the Year - a late entry, to be sure, but nevertheless a strong contender.)  Of course, since more-or-less the last time I posted to LJ was when the baby was born in November 2011 (with a few sad attempts to reassert my journal around Christmas and the last big surge of sexism in fandom), it's not like that was a severe disjuncture.  I'll try to synch the two - fear my mighty tech skills! - and probably fail, but from here on out, tabula rasa, because if I try to cover everything that's happened in between, I will never manage to post.

Last year, I had all of one resolution: be nice and patient.  For the first year of parenthood, it worked out pretty well.  I'm renewing it this year, I think.  But I'm also going to add some new ones - more shallow, maybe, but not necessarily less important.

One of them is to eliminate denim from my wardrobe.

Another is to resurrect some semblance of an online community. 

Here's to starting early ....

P.S. - If you have a DreamWidth account, possibly under another handle, and would like to friend me there, I will be very happy to rediscover you!

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When did fandom decide to combine traditional misogyny with the least appealing aspects of 2nd-wave feminism?  Yeesh. 

Hat-tip, fellas: if a woman shows skin, she is neither responsible for your complicated pants-feelings, nor complicit in her own degradation.

She's capable of doing things for her own enjoyment.

On the cusp of 2013, I ASK YOU
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Last night [livejournal.com profile] vschanoes took me out to Brooklyn to see "And Then She Fell," an interactive theatrical performance based on Alice in Wonderland.

Single best theatrical experience of my life.  Actually, it might account for the top five.  It's currently being staged in the basement of an old Gothic building, subdivided into vignettes - last night I painted white roses red with the Rabbit, got fitted for a top-hat by the Mad Hatter, a gorgeous redhead in a waistcoat and smoking jacket, as she sang torch songs and dictated a forlorn letter of unrequited loved to Mr. Carroll, ran through a half-drowned room with the author himself in his bare feet, and ate an orange with Alice in a mirror.  It was magical.

It made me wonder why more theater doesn't take this form ... until I looked around at the rest of the audience.  Of necessity, these things are limited in scope: "And Then She Fell" caps its performances at 15 people a pop.  There are apparently three alternate "paths" to take through the set and the scenes (which, more than anything, makes me admire the orderly mind of these people who can plan surreal dreamlike experiences with the precision of military generals - I imagine it's like playing chess on E).  In the two that V and I took, we were apparently the only people to play with the performers - to banter, to explore the beautiful, careful arranged scenes, to make inside Alice-jokes. 

Makes me think of a line from Rosemary Edgehill's Speak Daggers to Her, where she remarks on people in the Pagan community who just want to be told what to do by an authority figure - "if I'd wanted to sit in the chorus, I would have stayed in the monotheistic hierarchy from which I came," or something along those lines.  If you just want to watch actors act, go to a traditional theater!  If you partake of something like this, though ... dudes, play.  Why don't people know how to play anymore, she asked plaintively?

On a snarkier note, they certainly don't know how to dress: of the fifteen people there, we were the only ones to dress up.  And I am living out of a suitcase, for god's sake.  If I can pull together a shining blue dress and a corset printed with dragons, by god, I expect better than Uggs from the rest of y'all.  Good lord.


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Reposted from [livejournal.com profile] coffeeem's blog, because I think it is just that good and that important: The Truth About Violence.  Though the author lists Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear in place of honor on his Recommended Reading list, I'd actually say that this 1000-ish word blog post is considerably more useful than de Becker's book (which basically comes down to, "You are legally and practically screwed if you have a stalker, unless you hire me.").  Go, read it, learn it, love it, live it. 
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This is a bit of a random gripe/observation, but it's something that I've been noticing in sufficient disparate contexts - feminism, OWS, general social justice issues - that I feel moved to comment on it.

Frequently, when I read criticisms or objections to the dominant paradigm, some member of the dominant paradigm (usually pretty well-intentioned, for a member of the ruling class)  will inquire as to what it is that the protester would like done about things ... and as often as not, the protester will say that providing a solution is not hyr job.

Dudes.

IS SO.  If not providing one whole and entire, at least indicating the general shape of the thing as you best see it.

I say this purely out of the logical observation that, for the members of the dominant paradigm?  There's no motivation to fix the original problem, whatever it may be: the furthest they need to go is fixing the problem posed by the protesters.  Sometimes they do it by throwing us a meaningless bone, and quietly letting things go back to business as usual: sometimes they do it by tear-gassing the fuck out of us and hoping the cold weather drives us underground.  But, either way, if we want actual change, we sort of need to have some concrete suggestions for the forms it will take, or it'll just take on another form that benefits the dominant paradigm, because, hey, we let them have the challenge of providing a solution ... and the responsibility of providing a solution ... and, ultimately, the authority of providing a solution.  Which, you know, might change the layout of the board, but doesn't fundamentally change the game.  Or, alternately, we can have another full-fledged revolution, which, at the end of the day, gotta tell ya, hurts the people on the bottom a lot more than it does the people at the top. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is, it is your job.  Think of the philosophy of "lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way" as a variant on "rock, paper, scissors."  These are your choices, and there are no sidelines. 
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I swear to god, I feel like that scene from "The Craft" where Fairuza Balk and her mom move from the trailer park into the high-rise. 

I mean ... my current apartment is by no means a hardship, but you know what?  I looked around the apartment today, and not a single drawer is made from a filing cabinet!  And I don't have to walk up three flights of stairs!  Closet doors?  They open and close smoothly.  And the bathroom is, well, big!  With a window, even!

So now we just have to get through the packing (Thursday) and actual moving (Friday).  May the move be as smooth as the action on my closets ....

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Back during winter, I gave in and bought an e-reader.  Given the amount of traveling we do, it seemed almost practical - no longer would I have to schlep 42 paperbacks in my carry-on luggage to make it through a long flight!  No longer would I have to waste time abroad searching for English (or Russian) language bookstores to get me through my drought!

I settled on the Nook Color, because the Nook and the Kindle are currently fighting it out VHS vs. Betamax style, and, sadly, I think I bought the Betamax.  But that's not to say I think the Kindle is going to win, VHS-style.

Fundamentally, I think the Nook is a better device.  The much vaunted e-Ink technology upon which Amazon so prides itself?  Yeah, that irritates the pulp out of me, as a speed-reader.  I read roughly as fast as I can flick the pages, and the Kindle has a split-second flicker while the page loads that interrupts the reading experience and gives me an instant headache.  The Nook?  Doesn't.

Of course, there are other things the Nook doesn't have: for example, the ability to actually buy books when you're abroad.  I realize I should have read the small print on this, but judging by the sheer volume of internet bitchery from new buyers, it's really small print.  I don't know what number of their market share buys primarily for international travel, but it's a pain in the ass to have to decide before your trip which 42 e-books will suit (first world problems! look, just because I'm aware it's privileged doesn't make it less of a problem - not for me, but for B&N when they lose sales over it, as they will with each and every dissatisfied customer who spreads the word).  Basically, I wind up buying hard-copy books anyway (which, admittedly, as an addict-reader, I might have done anyway, although presumably they would have been books I loved and wanted to keep forever in foreign edition, or antiques, or somesuch, and not yet-another-airport-novel to get me through my flight), and that makes me a l'il less likely to bother getting a Nook again in the future, should mine suffer a terrible accident or should there be a miraculous technological advance.

Then there's the portable shopping issue.   This has been a good year for me, technology-wise: usually, I hold out on buying the new gadget until it is, in point of fact, the very old gadget (I'd be the person who finally got a Tin Lizzie in the days of the shark-fin Cadillac).  Not only did I get the Nook, but when my cell phone contract ended, I succumbed to the temptation to get an iPhone.  The iPhone?  Is totally worth it.  And, in point of fact, it's actually much better as as portable reading device, for two reasons: one, while I might dither on whether or not to toss the Nook into my purse for a long wait, there's never any debate on whether or not my phone is coming with me; two, the iPhone supports multiple platforms, and while I might hate the Kindle, I love being able to buy another book from wherever I am (and not having to download it over and over and over again to keep it in my library).  So while I still like the Nook, if I'm not actually on a trip, I use it primarily to read e-texts at home, and to conserve space by buying more e-texts in the future (btw: book-give-away party?  enormous success).  It's still useful, but not nearly as useful as I'd hoped, and not useful enough to inspire brand loyalty in me.  

In short: Nook, great device, terrible platform; Kindle, terrible device, great platform; iPhone, and, by extension, iPad, all-around-excellent.  If B&N had bothered negotiating better deals with Apple, they'd be my bet for winning the field because of their affordability.  As it stands?  If you're in the market, do yourself a favor, and go Apple. 
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Though I think Mr. Watson looks like a lovely fellow, far be it from me to quibble, but ....

Allow me to draw your attention to this line: "The former nurse now has 6,925 [piercings] including more than 1,500 that are 'internal' that are said to weigh almost seven pounds."

What I want to know is, what the hell is an internal piercing?  

Ahem.  You may now carry on. 
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So, I haven't posted since, like, March, and you might be wondering why I'm breaking radio silence ....

Mira Grant's Deadline, sequel to Feed, which was one of the two best books I read last year (the other one was Liz Hand's Generation Loss, to which, sadly, there will probably not be a sequel).

Go forth.  Read it.  And then come and dissect it with me ....

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I was waiting for the last bad-travel thing to fall into place, and, lo!

For my birthday, my husband very nicely bought me tickets to see one of my favorite bands, Devotchka.  They're playing Highline Ballroom.

Tonight.

I'm flying out of Newark at 7.  And my husband?  He's in glorious Pittsburgh.

So.

Anybody want some concert tickets?  If so, comment on this post with your e-mail address and I'll forward the tickets - no use in them going to waste, after all!
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Can I have "What is travel?" for $1,000 Alex?

I love going to conferences, I really, really do.  It's just that I hate getting to them, and for that matter, getting back from them.  

ICFA was actually fairly painless, as these things go.  I mean, sure, I tried a new medicine the night before I left without realizing that one of its rare side effects (I am the queen of rare side effects) is wakefullness, which meant that I went to bed at midnight, stared at the ceiling for a few hours, got up for my flight, and was a little punchy the first day ... but what's a non sequitur or three between friends, right?  But aside from that and the con-crud, that trip went swimmingly.

(An aside: Dear Company Whose Products I Saw in the Orlando Airport: You are so twee.  There is no excuse for luggage tags that say things like "Don't Board Without the Lord" and "Bless this Baggage."  If God has enough time to watch over your checked luggage while tsunamis are happening?  Either he's got a bad case of tunnel-vision, or, more likely, your customers are smug, self-satisfied, self-obsessed asshats.)  

On the other hand, York?  York is sort of shaping up to be a clusterfuck. 

Point the first: they did warn me to book my accommodations early, but I thought "inside of a week from getting the e-mail" was early.  Nope.  The 4-night stays were booked solid by the time I got around to it, which means I'm spending the first night in one place, and the next three in another.  It will be so much fun schlepping my suitcase across a busy campus in the middle of an eventful conference.  

Point the second: V and I intelligently booked an 11:30 AM flight home from Manchester to Newark, thinking it was the best balance between not getting up too early and still having a semi-usable workday upon getting home.  Nope.  Continental fucked us by moving the flight back two hours.  Do you know how early you have to get to the train station in York in order to catch a 9:30 plane out of Manchester?  3:40.  Military time, y'all.

Happily, my husband has, like, a black-belt in airline-fu, so we're transferred to a later flight with a London layover ... it'll mean getting home late Sunday night, but, hey, at least I'll be alive upon disembarking, which could not be guaranteed if I'd gotten up at 3 in the damned morning.

You know how the Lady of Shallot is weary, weary?  Me, I'm wary, wary.  Travel sucks.  
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I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!  I:

1) Sat by the pool bar with the cool kids and talked about everything under the sun for hours and hours

2) Presented side-by-side with Jeana Jorgensen and Jessica Jernigan, which was a pleasure and a delight

3) Heard a number of lovely papers - for one, Christina Phillips of Harvard gave an excellent reading of James and the Giant Peach, among other texts - and one that was both excellent and interdisciplinary enough that I think it would make an excellent addition to Interfictions 0  No, I'm not telling you who gave it until I manage to correspond with the author: the only thing worse than getting scooped as a scholar, I think, is getting scooped as an editor

4) Wore a gorgeous long gown of raw red silk to the banquet to general acclaim and the internal satisfaction of having acquired said gown at a vintage shop for twenty whole dollars

5) and, last but certainly not least, came home with the crud.

Every con, there's an outbreak of con-crud.  It's the natural result of cramming a couple of hundred people into an enclosed space for vociferous socialization and up-close vocalization.  The symptoms may differ, but the souvenir that keeps on giving is inevitable.  This year, I started feeling a little apprehensive when the third presenter in a row mentioned that they were a little hoarse "from all the shouting."  Go, paranoia: now I sound rather like a teenage boy whose balls have finally dropped.  Hopefully this will pass by Wednesday: I'm going to another conference, and I would, a) hate to give them the wrong impression, or, b) continue the cycle.  
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Hey, y'all!  I'm at ICFA, for the first time in two years, and, man, is it good to be home.

Not literally, of course: given that I was only here for one year after The Great Migration, the arrival felt weirdly off - there's no shuttle to ground transport!  this isn't the road we take!  where's the cul-de-sac?  where's the raccoon-like cat who steals fries? - but, nevertheless, finding the Smokers Posse (even if I'm quitting again) and sitting there making inappropriate SFnal jokes feels like nostalgia, fulfilled.

I'm ready half an hour early for the reception, given that I automatically got ready for the Newcomer's section before remembering I, you know, wasn't one: methinks this will be an excellent time to explore the grounds (and hopefully, maybe bump into a few of you people who intersect my acronyms, LJ and ICFA and SF, oh my!).  Give a shout if you dare ....
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I just came closer to using my pepper spray than I have in over 15 years of carrying it.  Including, btw, the time I decided to walk home at four in the morning, realized that I'd been hearing the same footsteps behind me for the last three blocks, and decided to jog the last half-block ... only to hear the footsteps speed up to a flat-out run behind me.  Happily, I hit the door before they caught up. 

So, what happened tonight?

As I was walking home from the subway, I saw a man and a woman arguing on the corner outside a bar.  Okay, cool, business as usual for the UWS on a Saturday night.  And then I heard footsteps on the other side of the street ... a woman's, in the rapid staccato of a gal in heels trying to get somewhere fast.  The heels were accompanied by shouts: "No!" and "Get away from me!" and "I'm not ready for you to do that!" and "I'll call the cops."  All delivered in a loud, powerful, serious tone, to a guy who was keeping two to five steps behind her, stumbling once in a while but not badly, and periodically trying to grab or hug her while speaking in a tone I couldn't catch.

Overly importunate random acquaintance?  Bad blind date?  Boyfriend discovered cheating?  I honestly couldn't tell, and past a certain point, I sort of didn't care: if you're making somebody shout like that, you're doing something wrong.  

So I crossed the street and asked her if she needed help.  Phone in one hand, pepper spray in the other (in my pocket, 'cause, hey, escalation).  She said no ... a little hesitantly, so I asked again.  Hey, I'll call the cops, I'll pepper spray him if there's an immediate risk, whatever.  At which point, dude is outraged.  He would love me to call the cops.  Do I know how often they've had cause for domestic violence complaints because of her?  

Do I believe him?  Not necessarily, because I think he was a douche ... not because of his Preppie-Killer-chic popped collar, but because he didn't think it was a big deal to get his female companion shouting in public.  Even if she's the most histrionic person in the world, we're all responsible for our own actions, and if you follow someone who's upset and telling you to go away, you're throwing fuel on the fire, and more so by repeatedly touching them when they tell you not to.  And, oh, yeah, you're doing an awesome impersonation of an abusive partner in the process.

After a couple of queries, I walked away, because she genuinely seemed to know him and to not want cops, mace, or a stranger involved.  I hope that was the right choice, and that she's okay.  But PSA to all y'all: if it feels like a bad scene, it probably looks like a bad scene, and I think (hope?) that post Kitty Genoese, you're going to get some attention.  

Knowing when to walk away is apparently a lost art.  The lady did: the dude didn't, so, in my head, he's the bad guy.  He's that bad guy.  Don't be That Guy, folks: to quote Tomato Nation, nobody likes that guy.

P.S. - In retrospect, I do feel guilty about interfering.  But I would have felt guiltier if I didn't, y'know?

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Honest question for those of you on Dreamwidth - is it that much more active than LJ?  Or is this simply a form of social media that's quietly dying off in favor of the brevity of FB and Twitter?  
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