Thursday, July 13, 2006

Post rating: CP-SW-AC-VC-Hetero-SD-NO49-NA-FOS-WWBT-UUs-RE-VTA**

Someone, quite respectfully I might add, posted a question on a discussion group about whether or not a rating system on books was in the future.

I have to say, I damn well hope to hell not.

The person didn’t seem to advocate for or against – truly, the post was worded well and more from the position of curiosity. These are the reasons why some might think this is a good idea. I have no issue with how the poster raised the question.

I thought about responding, but my inclination to be flippant on this topic went against my better judgment of what was appropriate on that discussion group. And I thought it would be much more fun to be flippant.

But in all seriousness, I think this is a horrid idea, the thought of which concerns me. Certainly, because this question was posed to mystery/crime writers, I think of our books. They aren’t pop-up books where all of a sudden a character jumps out at you with a knife through their chest, their face contorted in agony, blood spilling out everywhere.

First off, having a television and movie rating system costs money. I’m not opposed, in those cases, for very different reasons. Okay, the cost is incorporated in ads/taxes/ticket prices. Which sort of sucks. But the guidelines are there to help parents determine what is and is not appropriate for their children to watch. Visual entertainment is much different from written entertainment – in a movie or tv show someone really can just jump up naked or all of a sudden be hacked to bits with an ax, and there’s no warning time to avert your eyes – the image is seared into your brain. I mean, a good movie doesn’t spring that on you, all the same, but in that form of media it is possible.

Since you have to read word to word, something horrid can start and if it’s too much for you, you can put it down and never see what actually happened, for one thing. For another, we have a system to determine content suitability – children’s picture books, children’s early readers, chapter books and young adult books. In bookstores here, there are age guidelines on the shelves.

So, there is a system. One that’s not currently costing us any more money. And if we had an arbitrary system, where publishers set their own codes, it would be like the idiotic brands that create their own clothing sizes. You have no clue what size you are from one brand, or store, to the next. As someone who isn’t fond of shopping and has done a lot of it this week, I hate that. Or they mix their sizing. I might have a large chest with this shirt, but I have a medium waist (or maybe I should us XXXL and XXL or maybe I should say small waist, XXL chest… I haven’t used a bad word and it conjures up some images, doesn’t it?).

It is my opinion that a rating system that isn’t regulated by an established agency is completely pointless, and therefore, costly to do properly. Further to that, if adults can’t determine suitable content without a code on the book, then I have to wonder how they cope with much of anything in life. I’ve seen TV commercials that were… um, inappropriate for some audiences, in my opinion.

If I can handle that – and indeed, we’re bombarded with visual and auditory images all the time, from radio commercials to songs to ads on billboards and in magazines to commercials on TV – then I think I can look at a cover, read the back of a book, and make a decision for myself.

The only thing then I might complain about is if the cover was misleading. For example, a soft pink cover with a pretty kitty on it might make me think, although it was in the mystery section, that it’s a gentle read.

In which case, I might be quite disturbed to find on page 1 someone stabs kitty through the eye with a pair of pruning shears.

And, in case you didn’t get the sarcasm of at least one of my coding symbols, the orientation of the author, who they like and whether or not they should have invested in braces…

Well, being realistic, I’ll leave you to figure out what I think of the relevance of those things, because sometimes what we read doesn’t have all the answers or wrap it all up in pretty paper with a bow on top.

Avert Your Eyes!

Yeah, yeah. I hate having my picture taken. Even more than that, I hate curly hair. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that it’s hard to defeat nature. And so, on that note, I’ve given up on trying to make my hair silky, smooth and nice-looking. Especially when I’m traveling. I’m a wash-and-go kind of girl – NO MAINTENANCE!

That said, I did go to the hairdresser yesterday, and got some highlights put in my hair.

Last year, I died my hair dark dark brown before I went to Harrogate. However, in the one photo of me someone took, my hair looked red.


Really is no point trying to fight nature some days.

** colour photo – swear words – adult content – violent content- heterosexual – someone dies - North of 49 – North American – friend of Stuart - writer with buck teeth-sses Us - realistic ending – violence to animals


anne frasier said...

awww, very nice photo, sandra!!!!

i would tell you i love your hair, but that would be really weird because it looks almost exactly like mine other than the highlights!

i hate my curly hair. people who don't have curly hair don't know how awful it is.

very nice photo, sandra. lovely face; lovely hair. cool highlights!

Erik Ivan James said...

I really, really like this picture. It has just showed me the "other" reason to visit Calgary.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Erik, you figured it out!

Anne, yes, you have to have hair like ours to understand... I was surprised my hairdresser suggested almost blonde highlights, but I like it.

Bill Cameron said...

My my fucking God! You said "fuck!" If only I'd known what SW meant beforehand! And I thought AC meant you came with air conditioning.

I generally don't like generalizations, but one generalization I think generally holds is that most people don't like their own hair. Straight? You want it curly. Curly? You want it straight. Brown? You want it blond. Blond? You want it more blond. Or whatever. Perhaps I am off on this, but doesn't it kinda sorta seem true? On those rare occasions when someone says, "I love my hair," doesn't the whole room gasp and stare?

Clearly you are lovely, Sandra, and you have hair I know many would kill for. (There's a thriller plot!) Unfortunately, our glasses aren't exactly the same. Mine are rimless along the bottom. But otherwise...[cue Twilight Zone music].

James Goodman said...

Oh, I like the picture. Very nice, Sandra.

patti abbott said...

The bad thing is when suddenly hair goes from one to the other, which can happen apparently. And you have no idea how to deal with it.
A lovely picture. How can such an angelic looking woman want to kill people?

Sandra Ruttan said...

Okay, Patti - I've heard of that. It is strange. I think I'd be startled if my hair suddenly went straight.

But angelic? Tee hee! I edited the tarnished, lopsided halo from the photo!

James, thanks.

Now Bill, I'm still trying to figure out what you thought SW meant! Sexy Woman? That's the only thing that comes to mind...

Flood said...

Great pic of you. I am also of the curly-haired variety, and most days I love it, until I run out of conditioner and have to detangle.

Ever find stuff in your hair? Is it that thick? I lose pencils, bobby-pins and often find twigs after a walk in the forest.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh, yeah Flood, all the time! That's the thing - your hair can look great, go out and it's windy and poof! Rat's nest. And near impossible to get the tangles out. Drives me mad!

JamesO said...

That's a great photo, Sandra. Now at least I have a slim chance of being able to hide at Harrogate;}#

When it comes to censorship or certification, I can quite easily get a rant worked up. A few years ago my boss was driving back from a meeting, stuck behind a lorry that was transporting a JCB digger. On a bend in a town, the bucket arm of the digger swung out and took a pedestrian's face off. She died. My boss saw it all. He had to go to court as a witness and describe it all several months later.

There's no censorship in real life. No signpost saying 'you may want to look away now'.'

However hard people try, it's impossible to protect everyone from everything all the time. I happen to think that we shouldn't even start; that the protection of children is the responsibility of their parents, and the protection of adults is their own responsibility.

Sure, it's useful to have some idea of what might be in a book, or a movie or TV show - generally speaking you can get that from the advertising. But as soon as you start having official bodies set up by the state to decide what falls into what category, you distance individuals from their own responsibilities just a little bit, and before long you end up in a nanny state.

Nothing is ever quite as simple as that, obviously, but I don't want to take over your blog when I could be ranting about this over at my own place.

JT Ellison said...

Bee-utiful! Love the curls. The red always suprises me, but it shouldn't. You're a fiery soul, it's fitting!
Great post today. We don't need any more censorship... we've had enough today already:)

Brett Battles said...

I would have never recognized you...that's not true, but fun to say. Good pic.

Love the smile, too.

Sandra Ruttan said...

James, I absolutely love it when you rant on my blog. And you're damn right!

JT, this post was not inspired by any events occurring this morning. Seriously! And what, you think I'm blonde? (Ducking.)

Brett, thanks. I'm so afraid I'll walk past someone I should know and not recognize them!!!

Bill Cameron said...

Sand Wich.
Share Wear. (But not ware).
Soft Whistle.
Soylent gWeen.

I'm very distracted today.

Forty_Two said...

I select books from Yahoo's banned books list and give those to my 11 and 12 year old boys. I love people who want to ban books. They help me narrow my focus onto books with all the good stuff in them.

Thank you devout Christians.

Gabriele C. said...

You have lovely hair, both the curls and the colour. Shall we swap?

I'm glad my parents never checked or censored my reading. But they were always open for questions, even the tricky ones after I found Goethe's erotic poems way too early. :)

ivan said...

Nice pic.
I think I would have liked Joni Mitchell, but then you are younger.

Daniel Hatadi said...

I'm not so sure that a rating system would be a bad thing. Yes, it would cost money, but I have no idea how much, so I can't comment on that.

But American Psycho was banned and I'm sure Bret Easton Ellis has done pretty well out of it.

As far as I can tell, having an 'adult' rating on a book might actually increase sales. It's not like there's a lot of under-18s reading anyway.

Nice pic. Nothing wrong with curly hair: I have it all over. :)

S. W. Vaughn said...

Sandra, you're beautiful! No, I'm not being sarcastic. And you're not showing your buck teeth-sses anyway. :-)

I don't think a rating system would work out too well for books; however, I often include a verbal warning for anyone reading mine. They never listen to me, either.

The conversation goes something like this:

Sweet female relative: Oh, I'd love to read your book!
Me: I really don't think you'd enjoy it. It's violent.
SFR: Oh, it's can't be too bad!
Me: Yes it can. Please don't read it. You really won't like it.
SFR: But you're such a sweet person! I'll enjoy it. I really will.
Me: No, you won't. It's really, really violent. I mean it. Cruel and violent. Did I mention there is a lot of violence?
SFR: Don't worry, dear, I'm sure it's just lovely.
[SFR reads book; sees me at family gathering]
SFR: Well. Your book. Was. Er. Interesting. It was so...
Me: Violent?
SFR: YES. I didn't know you were such a FREAK. I couldn't even get past chapter 25. Ugh!
Me: {sigh)

Andrea at Lochthyme said...

Sandra, love your hair! :) Mine is stick staight and we won't even talk about the grey. I gave up hair dye for henna but now I usually wait months to color it and it fades so I'm grey a lot of the time. Someday I'm just gonna walk into an expensive hair salon and say give me color and a real cut. :) Well maybe when I win the lottery. I once had red hair in college when I used peroxide on it. :)

As for rating books...pulease! No way. People don't need to be carded to buy a book. Next they will be rating clothing.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Bill, ha ha!

Fourty_Two, very interesting way of looking at it! Some of the books on the banning lists are startling, actually.

Gabriele, don't you have curly hair too? Why do I think that?

Uh, yeah Ivan, I'm a wee bit younger!

Daniel, interesting perspective. Well, if it would help sales...

SW, that's hilarious! I keep waiting for someone to really be shocked by me. The closest I've come is when my sister read one short story, the one that's in the next issue of Crimespree, and she found it a bit distasteful. I said it was only meant as a big mindfuck...

Oh, Andrea, I think I could get behind rating clothing! How about XU - extremely uncomfortable. And RU - rides up. Huh, Sandra could maybe blog on fashion after all!

Lisa Hunter said...

Hmm. I once paid $100 to get curls like that...

As for ratings systems, what's the point in a world where community watchdogs already want to ban Catcher in the Rye and Huckleberry Finn? Anything that isn't a cat book or a how-to crochet guide is going to be banned if we start down that road.

Gabriele C. said...

my curls are the result of some hairdresser tricks. :) But I have the luck that my hair takes perms easily, keeps them long, and looks natural.

Gabriele C. said...

and the next thing is someone's going to burn books. I think one of the reasons Germany has very little censorship (except Nazi propaganda and child porn, everything goes) lies in our history that saw too many books go up in flames.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Lisa, I once paid to have my hair straightened! LOL!

Gabriele, you are fortunate your hair takes the curls, if you wan them. I have a friend whose hair is so straight, no perm will hold.

And your points on book burnings are interesting. I doubt we'll see a rating system on books here, but I think you make a good point that people who've experienced strong censorship in the past are more protective of their freedoms.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

That is a really great picture! I love the way your hair looks. That is definitely YOU, girlfriend!

I hope you choose to keep this one as your profile pix!

E. Ann Bardawill said...

The Patented Bard-O-Matic Book rating System:

SPPOC - Self published piece of crap

PPPOC - Professionally published piece of crap

GB - Good Book

RGB - Really Good Book

SBR - Smutty but readable

NBBS - Not bad, buy secondhand

RRGBH - Really really good, buy hardcover

NSFA - Not suitable for anyone

DS - Doorstop

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