Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Move over Joe Biden...

So I told my daughter that my new job comes with a Vice President title. And she said "everybody's a Vice President."

Thanks for your support!

But apparently it's true.

MSNBC has a news video called "Title Wave - Everyone's a Vice President." The video points to a 22-year-old Japanese female and recent college graduate, who is a vice-president of HR operations at a US software company (TopCoder). Donald Trump actually says in the video that he gives away vice-president titles in lieu of salary increases to retain top talent. 
When I first looked into the "facebook" of classmates of my MBA program, I was stunned to find that perhaps half or more of my classmates have VP titles or equivalent or better. I soon learned about the phenomena of title inflation, especially in the finance industry, where investment bankers two years out of college are commonly handed a VP title. The video above states that Goldman Sachs has 6,500 vice-presidents; in fairness, these junior VPs often have salaries exceeding those of genuine vice-presidents in other industries.

More at the link.

Now I have a confession - although I rarely like older men, I think Joe Biden is kind of cute.






Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat

I was so looking forward to Magic Mike but like every bad movie, it had a crappy script.

I'm not familiar with director Steven Soderbergh's work except "Sex, Lies and Videotape" which I saw when it first came out in the theater. I love this movie and have seen it several times since. This scene is a good example of why it works. The movie builds up to this moment of Graham, played by James Spader telling Ann, played by Andie McDowell he interviews women talking about sex on videotape. Which doesn't sound like a big deal except we can see it is a big deal to Ann - it's great how she keeps almost spilling her ice tea. We understand why she's upset - it's been established that Ann idealizes Graham as a sort of spiritual guru, which she finds a refreshing change from  her gonzo lawyer husband John (Peter Gallagher) - and we also know that John is having an affair with Ann's sister Cynthia played by Laura San Giacomo. Learning that Graham is interested in sex, and in such an unconventional way, is a huge disillusionment for Ann.



Magic Mike has elements of SL&V and Boogie Nights. In both Sex Lies and Videotape and Boogie Nights there is a tension between sleaze and authenticity; between sex and love. But unfortunately Magic Mike fails because unlike Boogie Nights we don't get to learn much about the cast of characters involved in the stripping trade; and yet even though Magic Mike is focused on only three characters, Magic Mike, "The Kid" and the Kid's sister we barely know anything about them. In Sex Lies and Videotape we learn so much about the four characters' personalities through clever dialog but mostly through their interactions.

It's sad that Soderbergh could get everything right with a small budget movie like Sex Lies and Videotape twenty years ago and yet get it so wrong, with all the experience he's had since that movie, with Magic Mike.

As always the problem is the script. Magic Mike's script goes nowhere. I enjoy looking at beautiful male bodies but at some point you need a story that works. And to be honest I enjoy looking at young James Spader's angelically beautiful face and hair more than Channing Tatum for all his amazing abs and pecs - with his crew cut he looks like a drill sergeant, not an object of romantic desire. And the sister is a nothing character - her entire role is to say no to Magic Mike until the very last two minutes of the movie when she says yes. Boring.

Channing Tatum does some good acting in spite of the nothing script, and Matthew McConaughey has some great moments early on - he's the Burt Reynolds character from Boogie Nights - but he's one-note - he wants to take his business to Miami -  and after a while it gets old. But damn that man is is great shape for 42. His torso is amazing. His first scene of this movie built up my hopes. But there is no magic here.




Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.



Melissa Harris-Perry demonstrates again what an amazing thinker/speaker she is



A few weeks ago I discovered Melissa Harris-Perry and was impressed by a lecture delivered in 2010 at a conference, and here she is again, with an incredibly powerful response to Representative "rape babies are a gift from God" Mourdock.

There is one phrase here that she says that I think is hugely important and gets at the very crux of the monstrousness of American slavery - something that is ignored and white-washed all the time and absolutely must be shouted and never forgotten: "I'm descended from American slaves and I have foremothers who found themselves pregnant with children whose birth increased the wealth of the very man who enslaved and raped them." This is the perfect encapsulation of the evil of slavery - the slaveholders raped women and then made their own children slaves. And as Harris-Perry pointed out in the previous video I posted on this blog, even Thomas Jefferson did it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mitt Romney's zombie apocalypse


Best line: "He's not afraid to face a ravening grasping horde of sub-humans, cause that's how he sees poor people already."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Gagnam Style

Here are some of the people at the Halloween party last night going all Gagnam style. Some of them are professional dancers so they were really good at it too. I took video also but it didn't come out very well - this is all I have.

I saw some interesting costumes at the party and during the trip to and from Brooklyn, including three matching Zorros; Where's Waldo accompanied by four women wearing long white button-down shirts and no pants - I don't know what the women were supposed to be; someone in a full Native American feather headdress; a guy who I assume was supposed to be a 1970s pimp, wearing a purple hat and matching pants and a gold chain with an enormous gold dollar sign; a priest; and Honey Boo Boo. I wore a no-fuss costume - a pair of devil horns and a Mitt Romney button - obviously I went as a Republican.

And now I must go shopping and stock up on cat food in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. Luckily I'm not in an evacuation zone.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wild hearse chase

Wow there are all kinds of Erik Satie resources online. I didn't realize that he appeared in a film called Entr'acte which was shown during the ballet "Relache" which was scored by Satie. You can see Satie at the beginning of the movie jumping up and down, wearing a bowler hat and holding an umbrella behind a cannon. Pretty frisky for a guy who died the next year.

You will want to watch this entire movie for its pure uncut loopiness, with the guy trying to shoot an egg balancing on a stream of water - it turns into a bird when he finally manages to hit it - the view from under the ballet dancer (did ballerinas really wear gartered stockings and granny panties in the 1920?) and the balloon-head family, but the essence of this movie is the wild hearse chase. I am going to go out on a limb and declare that this is the first wild hearse chase scene in the history of cinema. It begins with slow-motion running, which might be the best image in the history of the cinema. That part starts at 10:47.

Also cast in this movie: Jean Börlin, Inge Frïss, Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Darius Milhaud.

The music for the movie is not by Satie though, it's by Henri Sauget. And it is pretty perfect for the movie.




In every image of Satie he always looks quite jolly, like he's about to tell a great joke. You'd never know he lived most of his life in poverty without any significant others except Suzanne Valadon for six months. This mini-documentary captures some of the depressing aspects of Satie's life pretty well. I've embedded the first of two parts below.



Some of Entr'act is used in this documentary.

It's amusing that British people pronounce his name SAHT-ee rather than sah-TEE.

Since Satie knew everybody who was anybody in the French avant garde - his day job was playing piano in Le Chat Noir - his portrait was done by many other artists besides Valadon, including Cocteau and Picasso.

Satie by Jean Cocteau


Satie by Picasso

Satie by Santiago Rusinol

Satie by Ramon Casas

Satie by Santiago Rusinol

Satie even wrote no less than three articles for Vanity Fair Magazine:
And last but not least, a cartoon about Satie by Brunetti. You can read it if you click on it.



Friday, October 26, 2012

Bonjour Biqui, Bonjour

Portrait of Suzanne Valadon "The Hangover" by Toulouse-Lautrec
Suzanne Valadon ("The Hangover")
by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
I first heard of Erik Satie through Suzanne Valadon. Neither of them are household words, but these days Satie is much more famous - certainly more famous than the music teachers who told him he had no talent and no future in music. This upset Satie so much he joined the army - and if there was ever anybody unsuited for the army it would be Erik Satie, one of the most eccentric persons of all time. It was predictable that he would find a way out of it - although infecting himself with bronchitis was an original touch.

You have heard the work of Erik Satie because the first of his Trois Gymnopedie is used all the time. I first heard, and was enchanted by it, because it was played at the end of My Dinner with Andre. You can listen to it here:



But much of his work was idiosyncratic and experimental and only popular among the French bohemians - which is why he was usually so desperately poor. He ended up being a huge influence on John Cage and John Cale (of the Velvet Underground.)

Cale apparently performed Satie's Vexations and then went on I've Got a Secret to try to stump the panel - they figured it out pretty quickly though. You can watch that episode here:



They never actually mention Satie's name in this entire clip.

Allegedly Vexations was written in response to Satie's break-up with Suzanne Valadon, although it's speculation since nobody ever saw the piece until after Satie died and they guessed it was a response to the break-up based on the date of composition.

But I knew of Suzanne Valadon first because she was one of the rare famous female painters in art history - a subject of great interest for me, since I planned to be a visual artist since early childhood and was desperate for female role models.

I knew who Mary Cassatte was, but she was so conventional: upper-class and personally conservative. Quite possibly a life-long virgin. But Suzanne Valadon! As Wikipedia notes:
A free spirit, she wore a corsage of carrots, kept a goat at her studio to "eat up her bad drawings", and fed caviar (rather than fish) to her "good Catholic" cats on Fridays.
Erik Satie
by Suzanne Valadon
She wanted to be an acrobat but was injured in a fall. She became an artist's model and then an artist.

She married a stockbroker for a brief brush with respectability but then left him for her son's best friend who was half her age. Picasso and Degas were good friends of hers - and the word is she had an affair with Renoir.

Clearly this bohemian was as close to a perfect match as Erik Satie was ever likely to meet. But I should never have read about them in the middle of the business day:
Satie and Suzanne Valadon... began an affair early in 1893. After their first night together, he proposed marriage. The two did not marry, but Valadon moved to a room next to Satie's at the Rue Cortot. Satie became obsessed with her, calling her his Biqui, and writing impassioned notes about "her whole being, lovely eyes, gentle hands, and tiny feet". During their relationship, Satie composed the Danses gothiques as a kind of prayer to restore peace of mind, and Valadon painted a portrait of Satie, which she gave to him. After six months she moved away, leaving Satie broken-hearted. Afterwards, he said that he was left with "nothing but an icy loneliness that fills the head with emptiness and the heart with sadness"  It is believed this was the only intimate relationship Satie ever had.
Right in the middle of my office cubicle I cried for Erik Satie.

Satie died of cirrhosis of the liver due to alcoholism at the age of 59. I'm sure his diet didn't help either - he only ate white foods and avoided the sun. He probably had massive vitamin and iron deficiencies.

Here is the piece that Erik Satie wrote for Valadon during their affair, called Bonjour Biqui, Bonjour. It is only four bars long.




Here is the sheet music.

The entire score of "Bonjour Biqui, Bonjour"
As I mentioned four and a half years ago on this blog, I am a sucker for art inspired by love.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Watson in Slate

I'm very pleased to see that Rebecca Watson has written an article in Slate about what happened when she expressed an opinion about something that happened in her life that displeased Richard Dawkins. This means that the issue will finally get mainstream attention.

Watson explains what happened, including Dawkins' infamous "Muslima" letter:

In June of 2011, I was on a panel at an atheist conference in Dublin. The topic was “Communicating Atheism,” and I was excited to join Richard Dawkins, one of the most famous atheists in the world, with several documentaries and bestselling books to his name. Dawkins used his time to criticize Phil Plait, an astronomer who the year prior had given a talk in which he argued for skeptics to be kinder. I used my time to talk about what it’s like for me to communicate atheism online, and how being a woman might affect the response I receive, as in rape threats and other sexual comments. 
The audience was receptive, and afterward I spent many hours in the hotel bar discussing issues of gender, objectification, and misogyny with other thoughtful atheists. At around 4 a.m., I excused myself, announcing that I was exhausted and heading to bed in preparation for another day of talks.As I got to the elevator, a man who I had not yet spoken with directly broke away from the group and joined me. As the doors closed, he said to me, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting. Would you like to come back to my hotel room for coffee?” I politely declined and got off the elevator when it hit my floor. 
A few days later, I was making a video about the trip and I decided to use that as an example of how not to behave at conferences if you want to make women feel safe and comfortable. After all, it seemed rather obvious to me that if your goal is to get sex or even just companionship, the very worst way to go about attaining that goal is to attend a conference, listen to a woman speak for 12 hours about how uncomfortable she is being sexualized at conferences, wait for her to express a desire to go to sleep, follow her into an isolated space, and then suggest she go back to your hotel room for “coffee,” which, by the way, is available at the hotel bar you just left.What I said in my video, exactly, was, “Guys, don’t do that,” with a bit of a laugh and a shrug. What legions of angry atheists apparently heard was, “Guys, I won’t stop hating men until I get 2 million YouTube comments calling me a ‘cunt.’ ” The skeptics boldly rose to the imagined challenge.Even Dawkins weighed in. He hadn’t said anything while sitting next to me in Dublin as I described the treatment I got, but a month later he left this sarcastic comment on a friend’s blog: 
        Dear Muslima
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and … yawn … don't tell me yet again, I know you aren't allowed to drive a car, and you can't leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you'll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep"chick", and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn't lay a finger on her, but even so …And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin. 
         Richard 
Dawkins’ seal of approval only encouraged the haters. My YouTube page and many of my videos were flooded with rape “jokes,” threats, objectifying insults, and slurs. A few individuals sent me hundreds of messages, promising to never leave me alone. My Wikipedia page was vandalized. Graphic photos of dead bodies were posted to my Facebook page.

Dawkins has yet to acknowledge his role in this or his responsibility for the deranged reactions of his fanboys. I personally think he gets off on it - he's really a nasty little man and it's a power trip for him.

And Dawkins' letter also demonstrates his habit of conflating female genital mutilation (FGM) with Islam. Not because it's an Islamic practice - it's not; and not because only Islamic cultures do it - plenty of non-Islamic countries practice it. He keeps doing it because he's an anti-Muslim bigot.

In the comments under Watson's Slate article were all the standard idiotic anti-Watson responses. Two of the most noxious - and you see them every time this incident is discussed:

Idiocy #1 - if men can't unilaterally decide the time and place to approach a woman for sex, regardless of her comfort, the human race will die out. I'm not kidding - some guy in the Slate comments literally said the human race will die out. So the future of mankind hinges on women being silent and compliant. Insensitive oafs are heros not obnoxious jerks!

Idiocy #2 - Rebecca Watson is not a perfect person and so she has no right to express an opinion any time ever again. 

Now I have no idea what Rebecca Watson's faults are but like anybody else, I'm sure she has them. I do know that one of her alleged "faults" was that she put together a not-very-risque calendar of male and female atheists to raise money for a skeptic project. The fact that Watson appears in a vaguely sexual way has convinced these people, who like to think of themselves as free-thinkers and skeptical and not under the control of ancient beliefs that she no longer has "good girl" privileges and so therefore has no expectation of ever being treated reasonably again - and if she is not treated well, she has no right to complain. 

The intensely deep-rooted sexism of this belief should be obvious. 

There are many more stupid beliefs expressed in the comments but there's only so much you can stomach. 

And after reading all that stupidity I do have to think - would it really be so bad if humanity became extinct?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Colonial New England Gossip

I've begun a database of items and authors in the New England Courant. In addition to articles, advertisements, "foreign affairs" and lists of people who have lately "cleared out" are various tidbits of gossip:

April 2, 1722
This last Winter there was a Women dy'd at Narraganset of the smallpox, and since the was buried, there has appeared upon her Grave cheifly, and in various other Places, a bright Light, as the Appearance of Fire. This Appearance com- monly begins about 9 to 10 of Clock at Night, and sometimes as soon as it is dark. It appears variously as to Time, Place, Shape and Magnitude, but commonly on or about the Grave, and sometimes about and upon the harn and adjecement Trees; sometimes in several Parts, but commonly one entire Body. The first Appearance is commonly small, but increases to a great Higness and Brightness, so that in a Jark Night they can see the Grass and bark of the Trees very plainly; and When it at the Highth, they can see Sparks fly from the Appearance like Sparks of Fire, and the Likeness of a Person in the midst wrapt in a Sheer with its Arms folded. This Appearance moves with incredible Swiftness, Sometimes the Distance of half a Mile from one Place to another in the Twinkling of an Eye. It commonly appears every Night, and continues till Break of Day. A Women in That Neigh- bourhood says she has seen it every Night for there Six Weeks past.

May 14, 1722
We hear from the Eastward, that two Women have lately murder'd their Bastard Children, one at Salem, the other at Hampton. Tis said several Persons are ill of the Small Pox at Seaconk.

June 11, 1722
Boston, June 11. On Saturday last a Proclamation was read here, by beat of Drum, for the Encouragement of Voluntiers to engage in his Majesty's Service against the Pirates, and 'tis said above 100 Men are already inlisted, who will sail this Day. 
July 23, 1722
On Monday last a Girl was drown'd at Scarlet's Wharff, who fell in between the Ship and the Wharff. And some Day last Week a Man was very much hurt by the blowing up of a Roc, which they were oblig'd to do as they were digging a Well at Roxbury, and 'tis said his Life is dispaired of.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tulip Mania - lest we forget..

According to Wikipedia the illustration on the left is "the Viceroy displayed in a 1637 Dutch catalog. Its bulb cost between 3,000 and 4,200 guilders (florins) depending on size. A skilled craftsman at the time earned about 300 guilders a year"

Furthermore...
Tulip mania or tulipomania (Dutch names include: tulpenmanie, tulpomanie, tulpenwoede, tulpengekte and bollengekte) was a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which contract prices for bulbs of the recently introduced tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly collapsed.[2]
At the peak of tulip mania, in February 1637, some single tulip bulbs sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. It is generally considered the first recorded speculative bubble (or economic bubble),[3] although some researchers have noted that the Kipper- und Wipperzeit episode in 1619–22, a Europe-wide chain of debasement of the metal content of coins to fund warfare, featured mania-like similarities to a bubble.[4] The term "tulip mania" is now often used metaphorically to refer to any large economic bubble (when asset prices deviate from intrinsic values).[5]
The event was popularized in 1841 by the book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, written by British journalist Charles Mackay. According to Mackay, at one point 12 acres (5 ha) of land were offered for a Semper Augustus bulb.[6] Mackay claims that many such investors were ruined by the fall in prices, and Dutch commerce suffered a severe shock. Although Mackay's book is a classic that is widely reprinted today, his account is sometimes contested. Some modern scholars feel that the mania was not quite as extraordinary as Mackay described. Some even argue that not enough price data remain, historically, to represent an all out tulip bulb bubble.[7][8]

 Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds is an excellent early work of sociology which can be read at Project Gutenberg.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Barbie & Ken's Little Theatre

An evolutionary psychologist is a sexist asshole - is anybody really surprised?

If you had any familiarity with the work of Dario Maestripieri you would not be at all surprised that he is a sexist asshole - being a sexist asshole is how he makes a living. Except that in Academia being a sexist asshole is given a veneer of respectability by calling it "evolutionary psychology" - the pseudo-science designed to prove that the current socio-gender hierarchy is "natural" because women have "female brains." Here is Maestripieri's article about that in Psychology Today:

He's pushing the idea from Baron-Cohen that autism is a "male" brain and so eating disorders are from a "female" brain:
Bremser and Gallup also showed that the association between empathizing and anxiety about negative evaluations is higher in female than in male college students and that, in females, this association is also accompanied by the occurrence of eating disorders, which are notoriously more common in women than in men. These researchers argued that the intense fear of becoming fat, a defining feature of eating disorders, may not be the fear of fat itself, but a fear that arises from the potential to be evaluated disparagingly by others. Therefore, just like Autism Spectrum Disorders may be the product of the combination of the extremely high systemizing and low empathizing tendencies that characterize the extreme male brain, eating disorders may be a manifestation of high negative evaluation anxiety that originates from the combination of the extremely high empathizing and low systemizing characteristics of the extreme female brain. Individuals with such brains may be hypersensitive to social stimuli and worry a lot being judged by others, including judged about their physical appearance.
First off, has anybody ever believed that women have eating disorders because they have a fear of "fat itself"? Of course it's " a fear that arises from the potential to be evaluated disparagingly by others." Only evolutionary psychology freaks could consider this a brilliant insight.

And I wonder how women could have this idea that their appearance is hugely important in how they are valued? Could it be because there are assholes like Dario Maestripieri himself saying stupid shit like this?



 


Well of course it's not society's fault - as Maestripieri will tell you, being concerned about how others will see you isn't a human trait - it's this weird thing that only women with extreme "female brains" do. It's the fault of their own brain evolution - certainly not sexist assholes in high positions in Academia.

Maestripieri himself is a grizzled old baldy. I couldn't believe that his Wiki page says he was born in 1964 - based on his photos I thought he was around 60.

I haven't heard if he's responded to the negative responses yet but I predict it will be all the usual justifications based on the premise that men have evolved to be gigantic douchebags. So you can't be mad at Maestripieri - he's just so manly he can't help it.

To get a sense of how ridiculous Maestripieri's sense of entitlement is, imagine if a straight female academic said something like: "I don't see any male scientists here who looks like Abercrombi and Fitch models. Don't male models want to become scientists?"

Turns out Maestripieri is kind of obsessed with supermodels:
Have you ever sat next to a supermodel on a plane? If you always fly in Economy class, the answer is probably no. Some supermodels, of course, fly only on private jets, so you'll never see them on commercial airline flights. But the few times I recognized an attractive supermodel or actress on a plane, she invariably sat in First or Business (F/B) class (the same may be true for attractive male models or actors, but I pay less attention to them). Famous people, of course, live in a special world of their own and they may have all kinds of special reasons for traveling in F/B class. But where you sit on a plane is not just about how famous you are.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

binders-a-go-go

Who knew that Amazon reviews for binders could be so amusing?
For any of you who might be considering, like me, purchasing this binder based on the reviews, let me just point out one glaring omission: While this is a lovely, multi-purpose binder, IT DOES NOT COME WITH WOMEN. Presumably one is expected to find women on one's own, or contact women's groups who are supposedly eager to help stock your empty binder with women.
For a first time buyer like myself, I have to say I would rather have waited until I had accumulated a few women before investing in a binder. Just a little warning for prospective buyers.
***
I'm proud to say that I'm in this binder. I've spend 20 years working my way up from Walmart mom to soccer mom, and finally, I've hit the glass ceiling. I'm a binder mom! I highly recommend this binder I'm in, but be aware that if you purchase it, you must be flexible and let me put a ham in the oven by 5. Otherwise, my kids might resort to gun violence.
***
Maybe it's just my women, but they don't seem to want to fit into the space I've designated for them in this binder. They keep sticking out over the edges, even getting away in some cases. I thought using clear, glass-ceiling page protectors would help, but it doesn't seem to slow them down anymore.
I'm going to have to resort to more severe three-hole punching, to keep my women in line. And maybe switch to the Trap Her, Keep Her.
***

As a wife and mother, I LOVE this binder. It keeps me in my place, allows me to get dinner ready on time, AND only costs 72% of the more masculine version. Some people might think it's sexist, but sheesh, I'm not binding my feet, just my brain. Extra bonus, if you sit on it just right, it can act as an effective method of birth control! Full disclosure: I submitted this under my husband's account, with his full permission. He is the head of our household, and the owner of the binder.
***

This binder is great. I love being kept in it. As a single mother, it helps to keep me from being concerned about my children and their guns and being paid less than the men I work with. It even protects me from being forcibly raped. I can't wait until they add my kitchen to it, then like a turtle, I'll never have to leave it, unless they outsource it. Thanks Mitt Romney for putting me in my place.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Manly Workshop Theater Company update

As I noted in August, the Workshop Theater Company, in spite of one of its leaders in 2011 claiming that it produces work by women, is only doing full-length plays by men in 2012 - 2013.
When I wrote in August, they hadn't published their Cold Snaps line-up - I thought maybe they would make up for the lack of female authors elsewhere by including a majority in an evening of short plays.

Nope. They have two women out of seven represented. Not even half the writers of Cold Snaps are women. So to lay down the stats:

Total named playwrights currently listed in the schedule: 18
Total male playwrights: 16
Total female playwrights: 2
That's a female playwright representation of 11%. Just about ten male playwrights for every one female playwright.

This is why female playwrights need to produce their work themselves. We will never be fully accepted into the boys club - not in this generation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The pleasures of music theory

I really am enjoying this music theory course. After the initial post-modernism scare the instructor Brian has buckled down to some hard-core nuts and bolts of music theory. Today we did a little conducting work and analyzed various pieces of music to discern whether the time signature was simple, complex or additive; whether the rhythm was duple or triple; and if additive, what was the duple/triple pattern. By a strange coincidence one of the pieces he selected was the Grateful Dead's "Estimated Prophet" which I happened to be listening to today - and except for my live Dead kick a year and a half ago, I rarely listen to the Grateful Dead.

Although I couldn't work out the time signature for "Estimated Prophet" no-how - turns out it's duple additive in 7/4 time - more or less. Well Brian did warn us that music theory is an art, not a science.

But also - when you work with financial services blue shirts all day, every day it starts to seem like all men are a bunch of dreary, morose, guarded, closed-up boring drudges, or alternately slick happy-talking weasley political businessbots.

Thanks to Brian I am reminded that there are actually some men who are open, articulate, enthusiastic, funny, charming and communicative.* What a concept.




* and married, of course

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I become an historian

t is amazing that there has been almost no scholarly work focused on the newspaper published by James and Ben Franklin, the New-England Courant.

According to a Franklin biographer, there are reproductions of the Courant existing in the British Museum (now the British Library) that contain notes by Benjamin Franklin indicating who wrote which article(s) - the contributors almost all wrote under pen names. And I had it confirmed for me by a researcher at the British Library recently that nobody has ever yet cataloged these articles with authorial references. They only exist in the original raw form.

The biographer Tourtellot, mentions various of the authors and their articles, but there's no way to know if he provides all authors and articles - he mentions them randomly in a chapter of his Ben Franklin biography. Certainly nothing as clear as a table.

How is this possible? The New-England Courant is widely regarded as the first independent newspaper in what would become the United States. And yet nobody has understaken a scholarly review of its run. You'd think the fact that it was run by a brother of one of the most important of all the founding fathers would guarantee its being studied.

But it's possible that this is the reason it is not studied - the life and career of Benjamin Franklin overshadowing all other Franklin-related activities.

Well  if credentialed historians are not going to do it, it looks like I will have to do it myself. In between my day job and my various other projects of course. Maybe someone should nominate me for a MacArthur grant...
The illustration above was used for the drop-cap of the leading article of all issues (that I've seen so far)  of the New-England Courant.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ye Olde Tyme Fashions

I get a kick out of these mid-20th century fashion videos - I find them endearingly goofy.


Item 1:  Yeah I got a upside-down basket on my head - you still wish you could be as cool as me!





Item 2: The poor first model has a major wedgie





Item 3: - sweet - one of these women wears a hoodie





Item 4: a truly bizarre Punch & Judy bathing cap fashion show 




Item 5: look out fellas - pantaloons!





Item 6: what can I do to be glamorous? But dayam the Glamour Lady is rocking some severe shoulder pads.






Item 7: everybody in leather!





Item 8: fashions are so gay this summer! Congratulations on your big dippy blue hat!




I assume it's actually "dieppe blue" because dippy doesn't quite do it justice.

And all these lovely young models from the past are old now, so old -  old or DEAD!

This is why I can't have nice things.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Men Explain Things To Me

A good article on the Harvard Divinity School web site that I found via VIDA on Facebook. The author, Sarah Sentilles, is writing about how her book called "Breaking Up with God: A Love Story" was received and the pattern of condescension and dismissal she noticed and suspects is based on sexist assumptions.

She references another great article, by Rebecca Solnit called "Men Explain Things to Me" which is a treasure trove of outrage and insightful commentary. Solnit starts out with an anecdote:
...He cut me off soon after I mentioned Muybridge. "And have you heard about the very important Muybridge book that came out this year?" 
So caught up was I in my assigned role as ingénue that I was perfectly willing to entertain the possibility that another book on the same subject had come out simultaneously and I'd somehow missed it. He was already telling me about the very important book... (that) I should have known when Sallie interrupted him to say, "That's her book." Or tried to interrupt him anyway. 
But he just continued on his way. She had to say, "That's her book" three or four times before he finally took it in. And then, as if in a nineteenth-century novel, he went ashen. That I was indeed the author of the very important book it turned out he hadn't read, just read about in the New York Times Book Review a few months earlier, so confused the neat categories into which his world was sorted that he was stunned speechless -- for a moment, before he began holding forth again. Being women, we were politely out of earshot before we started laughing, and we've never really stopped.
I like incidents of that sort, when forces that are usually so sneaky and hard to point out slither out of the grass and are as obvious as, say, an anaconda that's eaten a cow or an elephant turd on the carpet.
Then she goes on to make an important point about men thinking that their opinions always trump women's and negate female experience:

Credibility is a basic survival tool. When I was very young and just beginning to get what feminism was about and why it was necessary, I had a boyfriend whose uncle was a nuclear physicist. One Christmas, he was telling -- as though it were a light and amusing subject -- how a neighbor's wife in his suburban bomb-making community had come running out of her house naked in the middle of the night screaming that her husband was trying to kill her. How, I asked, did you know that he wasn't trying to kill her? He explained, patiently, that they were respectable middle-class people. Therefore, her-husband-trying-to-kill-her was simply not a credible explanation for her fleeing the house yelling that her husband was trying to kill her. That she was crazy, on the other hand... 
...About three women a day are murdered by spouses or ex-spouses in this country. It's one of the main causes of death in pregnant women in the U.S. At the heart of the struggle of feminism to give rape, date rape, marital rape, domestic violence, and workplace sexual harassment legal standing as crimes has been the necessity of making women credible and audible.

But until recently it was considered more likely that a woman claiming her husband was trying to kill her had to be crazy. Because that's what men decided.

And this ties into the whole TALLEY'S FOLLY issue, where the actor I argued with, as well as author Landford Wilson, assumes that Matt was fully justified in silencing, physically restraining, and blocking the door of his so-called "love" interest - and then lecturing her on the proper way for people to behave - because she was too crazy to understand that her brothers were going to literally kill Matt for being Jewish.

But maybe instead, Matt should have been worried that they might do something to him because he was holding their sister hostage.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

How did I miss this?

I've blogged about the good work of Anita Sarkeesian in the past, so how did I miss the misogynist hordes attacking her this summer?

I only found out about it now because of this Gawker story about outing one of the biggest reddit creeps

They describe him as a "a cat-loving 49-year-old white guy with a bunch of creepy interests."

That pretty much sums up your standard Internet creep.

Friday, October 12, 2012

MUST! DESTROY! BOUNDARIES!

Oh I am so tired of the cliché about how vital it is to push the boundaries in theatre. And the best part is that people who call for pushing boundaries seem to have no idea how incredibly conventional they are for declaring a war on boundaries.

Here's the latest example in today's NYTimes from Tom Bradshaw:
When I lived in New York, I was at the theater seven nights a week, and 85 percent of the time I was bored. That should not be the case ever. Theater should always be immediate, in the moment and all-consuming. Playwrights like Miller and O’Neill were pushing the boundaries for their time. We should be pushing them for our time. Why be an artist otherwise?
He says eight-five percent of the time he was bored.

I would suggest that part of the problem was that he was at the theater seven nights a week. Anything you do seven nights a week is going to become boring - if you go to the amusement park and ride the scariest ride seven nights a week you'll get bored. You watch the goriest slasher movies seven nights a week - you'll get bored.
You know what really bores me? People who think that it's so new and bad-ass to push  boundaries in the theatre.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Watson vs. creeps


I've blogged about Rebecca Watson and "elevatorgate" before. Here is the woman herself delivering an amazing speech about the hardcore misogyny in the atheist/skeptics movement.

This conference was overwhelmingly attended by old people, many of whom were out of the elevatorgate loop, since it happened almost entirely online, and so Watson has to explain it to them in the Q&A portion at the end.

And immediately after she finishes her account of what happened, concluding with Dawkins' douchebag commentary on the Pharyngula site, some old guy has to start on the old "boys will be boys" routine. And to my immense gratification and admiration, Watson handles his comments directly but with skill and grace.

That part is at 00:50:40, and you can see from Watson's expression that she knows exactly what's coming as he gets started:

OLD GUY
There is a point of view there on the other side frankly... I personally think honest and truly I mean this sincerely that women are better than men... 
WATSON 
I actually disagree... 
OLD GUY 
There is a case where fella... men are sexual sons a bitches and they're always looking out for a little piece... and you just say 'no thank you'... you carry it too far and pretty soon there won't be any sex left in the world. 
WATSON  
How often do you get groped at a conference like this? 

And then she explains the situation.

Mind you, that's actually what she did do, tell the guy no thank you. And then she mentioned on a video that it had made her uncomfortable. That's all. That's what this guy thinks is going to put an end to sex. Oh the manity!

But this old guy has the exact same attitude as old man Richard Dawkins - how dare a woman presume to tell a man that his natural manly right to hit on a woman anywhere, any time, makes her uncomfortable? Doesn't she know that men are sexual sons a bitches?

Because in the mindset of male privilege it is a male birthright to be rude, obnoxious, intrusive and insensitive towards women in the quest of getting laid. How dare Watson express an opinion that it's uncomfortable to be propositioned in an enclosed space at 4AM? That goes against what I like to call "the splendiferousness of being a man" which is used to excuse all bad behavior on the basis that men just can't help themselves. And seriously, that's what made Richard Dawkins go ballistic - Watson said "guys don't do that." She, a mere woman! Questioning male privilege! No wonder Dawkins' hordes of fan-boys had to descend upon her with their threats of rape. Bitch had it coming.

Sadly I was not at all surprised when the shitstorm hit - based on my own harassment from a gang of allegedly liberal men and their female enablers - although in my case there was only one rape threat, and the harassment was mostly the work of a single grotesque middle-aged man-baby. But also based on my own encounter in the Pharyngula comments with Dawkins. Nobody could believe it was Dawkins then either, at first, because he comes off as so petty and nasty. Really, he's a horrible person. Watson mentions a few more of his douchey behaviors in this video.

It's absolutely a sign of male privilege to dismiss female concerns of rape, which is exactly what Dawkins did in his following to his initial "Muslima" email attacking Watson. Dawkins can't or won't imagine himself as anything other than a rich old upper-class white man, and so any woman who feels uncomfortable in a situation that he wouldn't feel uncomfortable in is just craaaaazy.

I remember in the early days of the TV show MASH, before it became a little more serious, when Margaret Houlihan was mocked as a racist fool for worrying about being raped by North Korean soldiers. As if the idea of soldiers raping women is just so far-fetched. As if the Japanese "comfort women" never existed.

But also the claim that men are sexual sons a bitches has a flip side - the idea women are not so sexual which is why women don't behave badly but men do - why men are allowed to behave badly. It's just their "nature."

Because if a woman behaves badly - which includes questioning male privilege - she gets called a "slut" as Watson was many times. And of course that's why this guy thinks that women are "better" than men - he believes they are naturally less sexual and that's why they don't understand why it's the right of every man to push himself at any woman, no matter how she feels about the situation. If men can't do that THERE WOULD BE NO MORE SEX!

I remember a conversation I had once with a male actor and I asked him if he got into acting because it was a good way to get laid. And his response was "hey, I'm a guy." As if no woman would do anything like that to get laid. And of course in his mind it would be shameful for a woman to admit to doing something to get laid. Women aren't sexual sons a bitches - unless of course they are "sluts."

And all these "new atheists" like to imagine they're so superior to religious guys when actually they are just as likely to be misogynists - a point that Watson makes in her speech.

Well done, Rebecca Watson.

New York City is the place for fine dining


I'm not sure if the name of this deli, up the street from my office, is the result of some serious wise-assery, or if it's a case of someone with little familiarity with English-language marketing copy. But "New Fancy Food" is not their motto - it's really their name. You can see part of it emblazoned over their door in this photo.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

crazier than kung fu porn

I had to laugh when I saw that someone came to this web site by googling the last two lines of one of my sonnets. My guess is that it's a teacher googling a student's work to see if they plagiarized anything.

I've seen this kind of thing before, but it's always been in reference to my cultural materialism web site. This is the first time one of my sonnets has possibly been plagiarized - hey, no more sincere form of flattery, right?

I wrote over a hundred sonnets over the course of three years in response to a personal trauma and the sonnets, while primarily about unrequited love, ran the gamut of emotions from bitterness to wildly romantic to self-loathing to a strange blend of mockery, affection and longing. Many of the sonnets were erotic, but I had to laugh at the one chosen for this apparent plagiarism - it's too clinical to be erotic. I must have been in a rare state of mind when I wrote it - granted I was in the middle of a long depression, but I can't imagine what possessed me to post this sonnet online in May 2009. It's embarrassing to read it now, since it's not very good, although it is pretty funny in a goofy way.

I put most of my sonnets on a separate page from the main page of my blog, so nobody could complain they were ambushed by them - you had to clearly want to read them if you clicked on the link. And there was one person with an AOL account who read every single one of my sonnets. I would love to have seen the expression on his face when he read this one. Although if he was shocked or appalled by it, it certainly didn't stop him from reading all the ones that followed.

How, you may ask, can I be so sure that the sonnet being googled is mine. Mainly because it is extremely unlikely that this collection of words has been strung together in this particular order anywhere else:

Let us get naked like when we were born -
Then we'll get crazier than kung fu porn.
Kung fu porn is a real thing - look it up on Youtube.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

A dialog

(At rise: on a dating web site) 
     JERKFACE 
So I like the tight top and strict teacher/librarian look- you should post more pics like that, they have an, ahem, immediate effect on me . I wouldn't mind getting in trouble with you... 
; ) 

     WOMAN WE WILL CALL "N"
     (ignores email) 
     (Four hours later) 

     JERKFACE
Too much too soon, perhaps? Just being honest!
     N
     (ignores email) 
     (Two days later) 

     JERKFACE 
We can talk on the phone if you like. Or in person. (i'm on the upper east side in the 80's.  
      N    
     (finally had enough) 
Why would I want to talk to you on the phone? So you can jerk off while imagining I'm some kind of librarian dominatrix? There are places all over town that will be happy to accomodate your fantasies. I have my own desires that don't match what you have to offer and since I'm NOT a prostitute, it's not happening. 
     JERKFACE
Your wish is my command. ;) 
      (attempts to establish sexting session) 
     N 
   [*BLOCK*]
Why don't I just quit this stupid thing? I've met exactly one attractive man here in five years and he moved to San Francisco.
            (The sound of teeth gnashing.)

          THE END 

Monday, October 08, 2012

Oh go have a cocktail, Mary Matalin



Krugman triumphant again - and he was majorly jet-lagged for this too.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Bitches is crazy part 2

We did a reading of my play DOWN BY THE BOATHOUSE, which is a response to TALLEY'S FOLLY and I resumed arguing about TF with the actor I mentioned in my original post "Bitches is Crazy" and he confirmed, unintentionally, that the basic premise of the play is exactly what I said it is: bitches is crazy.

The clincher was when we were discussing the moment in the play when Sally tells Matt to leave the boathouse. He refuses and then she screams for her brothers' help. He covers her mouth.

When I reminded the actor of this moment, he said that of course Matt had to do that because Jews in 1940s Missouri could be shot just for being Jews.

Putting aside whether or not that was true, that Jews were just being shot point-blank for being Jews in Missouri, I asked him if he thought that Sally wanted Matt to be killed. He said no. So I pointed out that Sally might have a better idea of what her brothers might do, seeing as how she actually knew them well and Matt did not, and she judged that they weren't going to simply execute Matt on the spot. And the actor said no, that doesn't matter, because she was too emotional at that time to make a good judgment, so Matt had to cover her mouth.

She was "emotional" because she asked Matt to leave the boathouse and he refused. And in the script she's no more emotional than he is.

But of course Matt had to take charge of the situation, because as I said in my original essay, while Sally may not be crazy, Sally is a woman, and bitches is crazy. And that's why you have to take control and show them what they're supposed to do.

And of course there's this in the script:

(Her last words are muffled by Matt's hand as he grabs her and holds her fast. She tries to speak over his lines.)
                     MATT

              (Grabbing her.)

Vilde chaya! you are a crazy woman! We could both be shot with that gun. People do not scream and yell and kick.
  (She stops struggling.)

People are blessed with the beautiful gift of reason and communication.

              (He starts to release her.)

                    SALLY
Cliffy!

                    MATT

               (Grabbing her again.)

How can such a thing happen? When they passed out logic everybody in the Ozarks went on a marshmallow roast. You are rational now?
(He releases her. She moves away. Matt stands where he can block her exit.)
Once you calm the bitch down and she becomes "rational" you block the door of the boathouse. To show how much you respect her, of course.

Naturally the actor refused to concede my point. He got mad when I pointed out that he believed that Matt understood the situation better than Sally herself did, even though it was Sally's property and Sally's brothers and Sally's neighborhood.

I'm sure to him it is such a natural inclination, to believe that the man is the rational one, even though he was the one who was behaving badly. That's what our culture says is the right way to think and this actor can't think himself out of that box. So really, it's pointless to argue - unlike Matt, you have to just walk away.

Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne and all the other "new atheists" need to start providing better evidence for their bigotry

I cited the Jackson Lears Nation essay on Sam Harris in my recent post about Harris in reference to his support for Bush administration activities. 

But I didn't read the entire piece carefully then and that was a mistake because it's a great article about what is wrong with Sam Harris. One thing I noticed is that Lears had a similar response to mine about Harris's blithe ignorance:
...But Harris is not interested in religious experience. He displays an astonishing lack of knowledge or even curiosity about the actual content of religious belief or practice, announcing that “most religions have merely canonized a few products of ancient ignorance and derangement and passed them down to us as though they were primordial truths.”  
Harris claims that Mormonism is less "objectively plausible" than "run-of-the-mill Christianity" because he can think of a few extra myths that the Mormons have related to the bodily resurrection of Jesus. My guess is that Harris is ignorant of the vast quantities of sheer implausibilities of even "run-of-the-mill" Christianity. According to Wikipedia his mother is Jewish and his father is a Quaker, which would explain it. But as Lears notes, Harris appears to have no interest in learning more. He knows one example and that's good enough.

I was raised Catholic by very devout parents and so have an extremely good sense of just how full of implausibilities Catholicism is - although I don't know if Harris considers the RC Church run of the mill or not. 

But not only that - I have done some abortion clinic defense work which means that I was toe-to-toe with both Catholics and Protestant fundamentalists and when I read Harris claiming that Mormonism was "objectively" less plausible I immediately thought of a likely source of Mormon-Christian disagreement: the myths surrounding Jesus' mother.

I confess I sometimes amused myself while doing clinic defense by discussing Mary's virginity with fundamentalists within earshot of Catholics or vice-versa. Christians are extremely concerned about the state of Mary's coochie. While they generally agree that Mary was a virgin when impregnated with Jesus, they vehemently disagree about her post-partum sexual practices. Catholics insist that Mary was a perpetual virgin, and one of her standard Catholic titles is "The Blessed Virgin Mary." And so if the fundamentalists heard the Catholics insisting on this perpetuity, or the Catholics heard the fundamentalists deny it - watch out! They'd be at each other for hours, sometimes, even forgetting why they were there, and as a result many young women that day went about their business free of crazy abuse. Good times.

I don't know a great deal about Mormonism but enough to be aware how excessively patriarchal it is, and I suspected that they were much less likely to consider Mary a goddess, as she virtually is in Catholicism. And so I looked it up and sure enough, it turns out that they have no myths concerning Mary's assumption into heaven.

If Harris actually thinks that he has a point to make in comparing religious implausibilities then he should do a thorough job of it, instead of just thinking of one example and declaring a winner.

But that's typical of Harris and his "New Atheist" crowd. Jerry Coyne, in a blog post denying that Sam Harris and the rest are anti-Islamist bigots stated
 Islam is a pernicious religion and its holy book, the Qur’an, is worse than any other sacred book I’ve read in terms of vilification of apostates or nonbelievers, threats of hell, and percentage of the text occupied by stuff that’s scary and threatening. 
He does not offer any justification for this statement. Just like Harris pushing the idea that Mormonism has more and/or more implausible beliefs than Christianity, Coyne can't be bothered to quantify this in any way.

Now in both cases, they might actually be right - but nobody, including them, can say so for sure. They merely have a hunch about something and can't be bothered to offer evidence, but they fully expect you to accept these claims on their say-so. 

I don't think there's a point to either of their arguments, whether they provide evidence or not. For Sam Harris to actually make some kind of accounting of all the beliefs of Mormons vs. Christians, weigh the relative "objective plausibility" of those beliefs and then tally the results is utterly pointless. Does it really matter that Christianity has a 30% "objective plausibility" rating while Mormonism has a 25% rating? Both faiths are exactly that - a reliance on the un-provable and un-testable - at the core. The rest is window-dressing. 

And what would be the point of Coyne counting up all the "scary and threatening" stuff in the Bible and the Qur'an and then determining a scary and threatening rating for each holy book?  Unless Coyne can prove that there is a direct connection between the "scary and threatening" rating of each book and the behavior of the books' adherents, what is the point? 

But if they argue that they aren't really bigots, just careful observers of evidence then let's have the evidence, not just vague assertions.

And it's not as if these assertions are merely an intellectual exercise - Harris proposed and Coyne defended the idea that there should be ethnicity-based profiling. Just as there is a implicit penalty for "driving while black" they want an explicit penalty for flying while swarthy.

I pointed out in my previous post that the New Atheists are all adherents of evolutionary psychology and so routinely discount the infrastructural basis for human behaviors. In other words, they believe that evolutionary psychology has rendered anthropology and sociology obsolete, thanks to the wonders of the "Darwinian algorithm." 

Well I was more right than I realized as the Lears article confirms:
He is especially offended by anthropology. Too often, he says, “the fire-lit scribblings of one or another dazzled ethnographer” have sanctioned some destructive practice (human sacrifice, female genital mutilation) by explaining its adaptive or social function. At their worst, ethnographers have created a cult of the noble savage that celebrates primitive cultures we should rightfully scorn. His scornfulness aside, Harris is not wrong about ethnographic sentimentality, but he thoroughly misunderstands cultural relativism. He seems to think it means cultivating a bland indifference to ethical questions rather than making a serious effort to understand ethical perspectives radically different from our own without abandoning our own... Nor is he aware of the pioneering work of Christine Walley on female genital mutilation in Africa. Walley illuminates the complex significance of the practice without ever expressing tolerance for it, and she uses cross-cultural understanding as a means of connecting with local African women seeking to put an end to it.
Anthropologist Marvin Harris counted evolutionary psychology, called sociobiology at the time, as an anthropological "research strategy" and proceeded to rip it to shreds in  his immortal Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture. And in an email from him, which I unfortunately lost since, in 1997, Harris referred to evolutionary psychology as "biologizing inequality."

But unfortunately thanks to the popularity of the "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" book industry, it is sociobiology which has superseded postmodernism as the leading explanation of human cultural behavior, not cultural materialism. 

But it should come as no surprise that Sam Harris doesn't understand other cultures (or doesn't want to) -  Richard Dawkins doesn't understand women in his own culture - or doesn't want to - which is why, when skeptic blogger Rebecca Watson dared to express an opinion about something that happened to her, his response was to have a flaming hissyfit and to mock her for expressing discomfort about a situation because a. he, Richard Dawkins would never have been uncomfortable in that situation and b.  MUSLIM WOMEN ARE BEING ABUSED!

The evolutionary psychologist/New Atheist crowd think that any problems that women in the West have are most likely their own biological fault, as when ev-psych fan Lawrence Summers, while president of Harvard suggested that the primary reason women in the math and science fields had worse careers than men was because of their inferior math/science abilities. 

But they are greatly concerned about Muslim women. Apparently we live in a perfectly egalitarian, abuse-free world and only Muslim women are still oppressed by patriarchy.

Lears sums Sam Harris up at the end of his article:
...His self-confidence is surpassed only by his ignorance, and his writings are the best argument against a scientific morality—or at least one based on his positivist version of science and ex cathedra pronouncements on politics, ethics and the future of humanity. In The Moral Landscape he observes that people (presumably including scientists) often acquire beliefs about the world for emotional and social rather than cognitive reasons: “It is also true that the less competent a person is in a given domain, the more he will tend to overestimate his abilities. This often produces an ugly marriage of confidence and ignorance that is very difficult to correct for.” The description fits Harris all too aptly, as he wanders from neuroscience into ethics and politics. He may well be a fine neuroscientist. He might consider spending more time in his lab.
If there's something that's truly scary and threatening it's Harris' and Coyne's easy slide into evidence-free paranoia and ethnic targeting, while fancying themselves heroes of free-thinking rationality. They have clear authoritarian tendencies, and if they ever do triumph over religion their victory will best be expressed by those 20th century British philosophers The Who: Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Teleprompter obsession: Inanity or inSanity?


At first I resisted the idea that Obama's opponents were motivated by racism, but after four years of observing them, I finally realized that quite a lot of it really is racism. One of the factors provoking this better-late-than-never insight is because I work next to a guy who loves Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and the book of racialist "science" The Bell Curve. I don't know this guy that well, but one of the first things I did learn about him was that The Bell Curve is like his Bible. And he hates hates hates Obama. He spends half the day in the office reading right-wing web sites.

All these sore-headed middle-aged white men just cannot believe that a black man could have done so well for himself when they themselves did not do nearly as well, in spite of all the advantages of being white. And so they believe that there MUST be a conspiracy afoot to make Barack Obama succeed. They think that his presidency is some kind of massive, unfair affirmative action conspiracy.

Understanding the fundamental racist basis for their hatred of Obama really helps to understand the weird things they obsess over, like Obama's use of a teleprompter. So many of us liberals thought that all you had to do to address the teleprompter issue is to point out that all politicians use a teleprompter, so it's no big deal that Obama does. And yet, this doesn't make them STFU about the teleprompter. For years I was baffled about the fact that they keep talking about it. I mean, didn't they hear the part where ALL politicians use it? Why doesn't that seem to make any difference to them?

Back in April Romney and Sean Hannity agreed that it was smart to use a teleprompter. (see link)

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57413198-503544/mitt-romney-i


And yet just a few days ago I got into a debate with a friend of a FB friend who was obsessed with Obama using a teleprompter.

Every president has used one since Eisenhower, and Mitt agrees it's a smart thing to do. And yet for some reason, the right-wing keeps going on and on about using a teleprompter. Back in March, R
obert Schesinger in USA Today calls their obsession "inane."

http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2012/03/20/obamas-teleprompter-the-gops-dumbest-attack

And it would be inane - silly and lacking any sense - unless you understood the real reason behind it.

And Rick Santorum provides the key in his criticism of Obama's use of the teleprompter:
See, I always believed that when you run for president of the United States, it should be illegal to read off a teleprompter," Santorum said at a Gulfport restaurant. "Because all you're doing is reading someone else's words to people.
http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/11/santorums-war-on-teleprompters/

"Reading someone else's words" - this is what they want to believe about Obama - not that he's using the teleprompter the way people use notes when they're making a speech, to help him remember his key points, etc. - they believe that a black person is incapable of writing good speeches - they believe a black person has to be told what to say. And liberals resist believing that this is what conservatives really believe because it seems insane. We don't want to believe racism this hard-core is still so prevalent.

But what other possible reason can they believe they are scoring points to mention Obama uses a teleprompter? Of course their "reasoning" is never stated aloud. They don't need to - those who already believe that about black people pick up on the dog whistle. The rest of us are baffled and call it "inane."

It's only inane if you can't hear the dog-whistle.  And that is what a goodly percentage of our opponents are really about. Any time they are saying some weird nonsense, and you can't understand why they think it matters, consider the dog-whistle.