Broken Hearts Club
Bloggers are seizing on the latest trend in Valentine's Day: Anti-Valentine's Day! It's a growing market for everyone from greeting card companies to restaurants and bars. American Greetings has even launched a new line of cards for singles and those with a general disdain for the holiday.
Anti-Valentine's Day messages run rampant online, with blogs full of holiday loathing, and some sites even pushing products with messages that take a hit at Cupid.
Over at the message board, Antivday.com, many people write in with their favorite anti-Valentine's Day songs, statistics on women who send themselves flowers, and advice for those braving the holiday alone.
The anti-VDay folks are not alone. A blogger at Idle Advice calls Feb. 14 "one of the dreaded days of the year (for both sexes)." "Genuinely random acts/gifts/thoughtfulness are always much better than splurge spending on a superficial day," he adds, bitterly.
"At the risk of sounding like a bitter broad, I have to confess: I hate Valentine's Day," This Seed laments. "Can we be bought so easily with oversized cards and the promise of chocolates?"
"Think about it...if love is so important, shouldn't we be expressing it every day, not just on the date when prices on jewelry, flowers, candy and restaurants all jump a gazillion-and-four percent?," Patrick at Smiley Buzz blogs. "And why isn't there a day for single people, those without a significant other? A day when everything's half off, perhaps."
But surely, not everyone is full of cynicism. "So whether you celebrate Valentine's Day...or if you don't celebrate at all, at least let the ones you love and care for know how much you really do love them," Tami urges at Kineda.
Edwards Stumbles Into Blogosphere
Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards learned the hard way about the unforgiving blogosphere. After he hired two bloggers – Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon and Melissa McEwann of Shakespeare's Sister, Edwards' campaign was rocked by criticism for the sarcastic posts on the bloggers' personal sites.
The Catholic League said Edwards' campaign was tarnished by "two anti-Catholic vulgar trash-talking bigots."
The League cited references on McEwan's blog to President Bush's "wingnut Christofascist base" and her demand that religious conservatives stop meddling with women's rights. Marcotte was blasted for blogging that the church's opposition to contraception forced women "to bear more tithing Catholics."
Edwards decided to keep the bloggers, though conceding "the tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwan's posts personally offended me," but added that he believed in giving them a "fair shake." For her part, Marcotte explained that on her personal blog, the "issue of religion are generally satirical in nature and always intended strictly as a criticism of public policies and politics." McEwan added that "it's never been my intention to disparage people's individual faith."
But on Tuesday, Marcotte took matters into her own hands and resigned, according to The Washington Post. As the newspaper reports, Marcotte charged that The Catholic League had been running a "scorched earth campaign" against her and was creating a situation "where I felt that every time I coughed, I was risking the Edwards campaign." And McEwan later joined her, submitting her own resignation.
But the online vitriol from conservative bloggers against the Edwards camp continues. The debate has made "Amanda Marcotte" one of the most searched terms on Technorati this week.
"Of course, it's all the right wing's and Catholic activists' fault (a blame-avoidance strategy...," mocks Politics in Washington and Beyond adds.
Jeff Ellis questions why Edwards hired his bloggers in the first place. "That certainly is her right (to write her views) as it was her blog. However, one has to wonder what, in her vitriolic comments, Sen. Edwards or his campaign managers found to make them think that she was an appropriate spokesperson for his campaign," Ellis blogs.
Some bloggers say there's a different standard for liberal politicians than conservatives. "Of course (if) we were talking about Mitt Romney and some off his staffers popping off, we'd have a national outcry and the oh-so-tolerant left would demand he withdraw from the race, no matter how many apologies he and the staffers issued," J. Wookie blogs at Cake Or Death.
But some liberal bloggers defend forcefully Edwards' initial decision to keep his new bloggers, even though they have both resigned. "Edwards did the right thing. He kept Marcotte and McEwan - two talented, driven individuals - and didn't back down in the face of the first (and surely not the last) attempt by the right wing to interfere with a Democratic presidential campaign and the progressive movement," Joseph Hughes writes at As Ohio Goes.
What's most surprising, perhaps, is that someone on the Edwards campaign didn't anticipate from the start the scope of the criticism his choice of bloggers might generate.
Iraqi Struggles To Maintain Library
There's been much written about the difficulties reporters face in portraying the daily struggles of life in Iraq given the unrelenting violence. So Iraqi bloggers are making a big difference, filling a needed gap in helping paint a picture of life there during war.
Saad Eskander, the director of Iraq's National Library and Archive in Baghdad, has been writing a diary, published on the Web site of the British Library, the New York Times reports. In between preserving book archives and keeping the library open, Eskander also describes what it's like just staying alive, the newspaper notes. Conditions are so grim that Eskander told the Times that he was hesitant to partake in the online project because "I feared that people would not believe what I would say about our daily life and the state of total chaos and destruction prevailing in Baghdad."
Some of that state of chaos is described in a diary entry from the first week of January. Eskander writes:
"I spent the last two days of the holiday in Kurdistan. It was not a nice trip. There were around 100 checkpoints between Baghdad and Sulaimaniya. I met there some of my friends. The day before my return (Saturday 6 January), the National Guards attacked the Haifa Street, killing and capturing a number of armed men, who were terrorizing the neighboring areas."
During the second week of January, the director charts the impact of sectarian violence on the library's staff. He lists the number of kidnappings of staff, and assassinations, as well as death threats and incidents of plundering.
Eskander's diary resonated with many bloggers, especially those working in libraries in the United States. "We may have a bad day at work or way to many meetings, but most of us don't have to contend with bullets in the office," Jennie at Government Publications Library blogs. "I was particularly moved by Eskander's reckoning of the effects of sectarian violence on his library's staff (464 people including 39 guards)," a blogger at UW Libraries writes.
"The entries are an arresting and intimate glimpse into his professional and personal struggles to do his job," Peter at Deliberative-Democracy add.
Many bloggers admired Eskander's courage. "Encouarging director Saad Eskander to write about the situation is a powerful way to share what's going on there with the world," J's Scratchpad blogs.
"We talk about issues of access here in the US (i.e. barriers to information). How would you like to deal with mortars and death threats?," Bryan Loar blogs at Brave New World.
"Gal" Pigs Out On YouTube
One of the biggest sensations on YouTube these days is Natsuko Sone, who at just 95 pounds, can eat 20 pounds of food in one sitting. She is one of Japan's champion competitive eaters, and a celebrity online.
As Wired.com reports, clips from shows in Japan, like "The Gluttonous King Contest," are gaining popularity on YouTube, and Sone — known as "Gal" Sone — is one of the biggest stars. The trendy 21-year old from Tokyo is known for her cavalier attitude to gulping down food, even singing tunes between bites – or gulps, rather — of sushi. She received her nickname for dressing in the gyaru or "gal" style, popular in Tokyo.
Last summer, Sone ate 6kg of curry in 23 minutes and in another broadcast, ate 40,000 calories in several restaurants. Not surprisingly, her personal blog features a smiling Sone raising a giant spoon full of food. EatFeats, a blog about competitive eating, has reserved a section for news related to "Gal" Stone's achievements.
Many bloggers are simply amazed at how thin Sone is, especially considering she can out-eat so many of her larger competitors, including Sumo wrestlers, Wired notes. "So many 'food fighters' or 'competitive eaters' are very thin, which has made me consider that overeating may be the way to being thin," Laura Moncur writes at Starling Fitness. "Maybe regularly overeating once a month or so and eating healthy the rest of the month trains the body that there will be no famines in the future."
"All you skinny women who think you eat too much? Well, you don't. Not when compared to Natsuko," Mooiness! blogs.
Others think it's cool that championship eating is so popular in Japan. "Japan is basically busting open pop culture. What does Hollywood have in return? Britney Spears getting dumped and dull celebrities...," a blogger at 20/20 Filmsight laments.
"This is how you make yourself known. By eating giant slabs of pork. And consuming more ice cream than should be humanly possible. On TV. In Japan," Gavin Purcell adds.
By Melissa McNamara