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Friday, November 21, 2014

THE PRINCIPLE OF REVERSAL

"A spanking! A spanking!"
-The Nuns of Castle Anthrax

In the early 1970s, there was an effective principle that feminists would use to try to get people to rethink their presumptions and behavior.  They said that people should reverse the genders in their stories and treatment.  For example this ad:
Now, feminists said, reverse them.  Have the woman in the bed smug and arrogant, and have the man kneeling servile and cringing before the man, showing her its a woman's world.  How's that seem to you now?  Or take this scene from Goldfinger:
James, say hello to Felicity. (Hello!) Felicity, say hello to James. (Hello James) James say goodbye to Felicity.  Woman talk (smacks James on the hind end).
Its a pretty effective tool and  its something I try use in general life: how would I feel if it were reversed?  How would I react, is it just or reasonable still?  This did actually get men to stop and reconsider their behavior and attitudes, because they hadn't ever thought it through before.  They were just behaving how everyone did and didn't consider it at all.
These days, the reversal is nearly complete.  Feminists are the ones that are doing the mindless ill-considered hammering and they would benefit significantly from using this little tool.  There has been some truly ridiculous stuff in the news lately, but one I want to draw attention to first is a bit obscure.  It has to do with a college urinal.  Cathy Young writes at Minding the Campus:
[Michael] he waxes enthusiastic about “rape awareness” measures that treat all men as potential rapists–such as “splash guards” on a college’s public urinals with the slogan, “You hold the power to stop rape in your hand.”
This is a real thing.  As Mrs Young notes:
imagine proposing that 'You are looking at someone who can stop terrorism' be inscribed on bathroom mirrors at a campus Islamic center
This is one of those ideas that seems great in the planning room while surrounded by like-thinking folks but in practice is at best really tacky and insulting.  The presumption that all men are rapists is standard among the really angry feminist crowd, but extending that to official college campus equipment is nearly criminal.
And of course, there's the whole shirt fiasco.  A scientist is lead on a team of engineers and designers that managed to land a craft on top of a comet to test it out - a truly astonishing feat of engineering - and what happens?  His Hawaiian shirt is attacked by the bitter, humorless left.
Now, apply the principle above to this.  How would the women react if a woman did something this amazing and world-class in science, and the guys in the audience... fixated on her clothing?  This is such an obvious, no-brainer its hard to imagine how someone could possibly not think through more carefully but again, sometimes you can get locked so much into a culture you don't even have the beginning tools to consider what you're doing.  So isolated, so surrounded by like-thinking people who reinforce your worldview that it never occurs to you to question what you say or do.
This graphic does a good job of illustrating the basic problem of approach here:

These are the same sort of women that hounded Chancellor Summers from Harvard for daring to suggest that maybe there are fewer women in sciences and math because... brace yourselves... maybe fewer women are interested in these fields?  Inconceivable!
Everyone that works in an office knows that women can hang shirtless hunky men in their cubical but men cannot put anything remotely resembling a beautiful woman up without being attacked for objectifying women, creating a hostile workplace, and facing potential dismissal and at best going through sensitivity training designed to crush individuality and enforce a certain leftist ideology.
The truth is, the feminists involved in this fiasco that crushed the engineer's spirit so badly he was weeping openly on camera apologizing for wearing a celebratory shirt a woman made for him are not very popular these days.  Feminism in general has waned in power and influence largely because they accomplished their goals.  When your movement wins, people tend to pat you on the back and move on.
And this group of unpleasant sorts represents a very unattractive side of the left these days; the kind of people who want to restrict your drink sizes, change your child's lunches, take candy out of their hands, prevent you from doing anything fun at all because its potentially harmful/sexist/bigoted/bad for the environment etc.
People use words such as "puritanical" and there's some historical validity to this claim, but the truth is, these sorts of people have always been with us, and shift from political or religious group to another without regard to the group.  They aren't about the religion, they are about control and power.  They are about making everyone else do what they wish and stop doing what they don't like.
These are the book burners, the witch dunkers, the people who ban trans fats in restaurants, the kind of people who ban smoking in bars and demand first base coaches wear helmets in baseball like a retarded kid who you're afraid will bash his head.
And almost all of them these days are on the left, because that's where the power is.  That's where they have the greatest ability to enforce their will on others.  They know best, you are inferior and stupid and wrong.
And these kind of people should never, ever be given the power to implement their will, because in the end it always leads down the road to Katyn Forest, The Killing Fields, The Disappeared, and Auschwitz.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

BLEG TWICE

I have a couple of requests today I want to offer.  I know this is a tough time of year, and despite the news reports, most people are doing badly in the economy but if you can possibly help, please do.
The first person who could use some help is my cousin Kevin. He was clearing tree branches away from the house and fell off the ladder, breaking his neck.  He lived, but was almost paralyzed and has to spend three months at least immobilized in bed.  Always an active, energetic guy, this is driving him nuts, but he has a bigger problem.
He didn't have much in the way of health insurance, and is self employed as a concert promoter - he's done some pretty big shows and has been successful but he's far from wealthy and is making much less money now that he's not out there with his contacts and personality.  So he could use some help with the bills, if possible.

The second is Gerard Vanderleun, who runs American Digest.  His blog is a great one with plenty of interesting and thoughtful posts, analysis, poetry, and some profoundly deep thinking, as well as a sidebar that is packed with fun and thought-provoking bits.  He's in a bit of a jam and could use some help as well:
My recent move seems to have drained my never-too-overwhelming reserves. Hence, after eleven years, I thought I might pass the hat among my readers for the first time. I'm new to this "Donate" business but I am informed that Paypal's Donation button here should work. Let me know if it doesn't and I'll work to fix it. To paraphrase Chicago politicians, "If you feel the need to donate, donate early and donate often."
Just wanted to pass along some needs, if you can at all help.

Friday, November 14, 2014

UNDER - RATED (clap clap clapclapclap)

"Your time will be gauged along with a rating of one to ten on your style, which will be judged solely by me and my vast expertise of skiing technique."

I got into a discussion last night with some people online about the movie To Live and Die in LA with William Peterson (now better known for his run on CSI).  Directed by William Friedkin, it has a heavy Michael Mann feel to it, and while this film is not very well know it is a very, very good crime drama.
TLADILA is one of those stories that doesn't go anywhere you expect but has a very satisfying and reasonable story arc, and was very well acted and shot.  It has some of the most shocking and amazing sequences and events I've ever seen in a movie, and introduced me (and millions of others) to bunji jumping before it was really known anywhere.
Evidently, the film makers brought in a convicted counterfeiter as a consultant and actually made counterfeit money, some of which evidently got into circulation and the treasury department picked it up.
But it got me thinking about other underrated films, classics that people missed and really ought to see.  Like The Hidden, a 1987 sci fi gem featuring a young Claudia Christian (from Babylon 5) as a stripper turned alien death machine.  This is a film that was very low budget but worked very well probably in part because it didn't have a large budget. Kyle MacLachlan starred in it, a very early role for the block of wood.
Better Off Dead is such a favorite I forget a lot of people have never even heard of this film. Its one of the best teen comedies of all times, and while its pretty 80s dated it still holds up for raw humor.  John Cusack was at his best in this kind of role, and the whole film is just a bundle of surreal events and absolute hilarity.  Trivia in this movie: Lane's mom is played by Kim Darby, the girl from True Grit!
The Long Kiss Goodnight was a very solid, interesting action movie (and used the "my spouse is a spy??" bit before True Lies)  but never got much attention largely because the previous Geena Davis attempt was the godawful pirate movie Cutthroat Island.  When that terrible, budget busting disaster bombed, people just figured this movie would be more of the same, which is too bad.
Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood is certainly in the running for the longest title contest in film history, but its also one of the funniest movies I've ever seen.  Done before the Wayans brothers totally lost their way, this spoofs every "hard hitting inner city" gang movie ever made, and in the process actually has better and more effective social commentary than the serious films ever did.  Often crude and foul, but always hilarious, this film was a great time.
Ang Lee's Hulk gets a lot of grief for the CGI dogs, which I agree were pretty weak.  But the overall film was very powerful, and the slow reveal of Bruce Banner's pain was incredibly well crafted storytelling.  Nick Nolte steals the film as the amoral, demented scientist father who ends up a cross between the Absorbing Man and Zaxx and the Hulk does some amazing Hulky stuff.  Its a lot better than people say, but the problem is they got a thoughtful story rather than Hulk smashing, so they were disappointed by expectations.
Last Action Hero is starting to get some second looks, because after all this time people can finally detatch from what they expected from Arnold and what they got.  Its a hilarious send up of Arnie's earlier over-the-top action films with touching and thoughtful themes that are actually quite well handled.  Its just a ton of fun and I could never figure out the hate it received.
The Batman Adventures animated series surprised everyone with how well done, interesting, and well-crafted it was.  This style of animation has spawned a whole industry of comics, games, TV shows and more.  And one thing that came out of it was a series of films that didn't get nearly the attention they deserved Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was one such film, a terrific moody and emotional piece that explored an unknown part of Bruce Wayne and Gotham City's past (lets just say Batman wasn't Gotham City's first masked vigilante).
Blood Simple was the Coen Brothers' first film together and its an independent classic but little known to non film buffs.  Its a great noire film with terrific performances from some major but lesser known talents.  A dark, bloody film of crime gone wrong and the efforts to break out of it, this is classic Coen Brothers writing done on a shoestring budget.
There was a horror film put out in the late 80s with the usual brat pack suspects called Flatliners that got a lot of attention but had a pretty weak story.  It was a decent film but not nearly as good as a film that came out about the same taime called Jacob's Ladder which scared the crap out of me.  The overall film is as confusing as it needs to be with shockingly dark and frightening imagery as someone tries to figure out what the hell is going on, almost literally.  I won't give away what is actually happening because in part that's never 100% clear but its a great, spooky film.  Of course, I haven't seen this since Tim Robbins lost his mind during the Bush administration and became so indelibly obnoxious, so perhaps it might not be as enjoyable now.
The Tailor of Panama is a spy movie Pierce Brosnan made while making Bond movies which is a pretty amazing boldness on his part.  Its also a little-known film that was very well done and was largely ignored by the public.  A much more realistic and well-crafted story about spying than the Bond films, and a great example of how good an actor Brosnan really is, but gets little credit for.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a film everyone should see.  Just about the first movie Robert Downey jr made after he turned his life around, and the last movie Val Kilmer did before he put on the weight and stopped caring about being a matinee idol, its a hilarious but gripping detective movie.  It doesn't go the way you expect it to, and Downey plays very much against type but does an amazing job of it in the process.
Another lost gem was the movie Drive with Ryan Gosling in one of the most underplayed, understated performances ever.  Its such a quiet, almost soothing movie with real excitement in it that it kind of defies category or explanation.  You just have to watch it to see.  I think again this film confused viewers by being thoughtful and emotionally compelling rather than exciting violence and Fast & Furious driving.
And finally Alien3 which was a much better film than people came away thinking, but it was simply hated by critics and a lot of viewers.  I think the problem is that they went into it expecting Aliens part two and got an atmospheric tragedy instead. Again a victim of mistaken expectations, this was a really enjoyable film and it showed how the basic concept of the predatory alien could be done in so many different ways, like a film school experiment.
I looked at some lists of underrated movies in the past and kept running into films that I remember being very well received and praised, such as Open Range, Miller's Crossing, and Copland, so its tough to decide what really belongs on a list like this or not.  I'm sure commenters have a few thoughts on the matter as well.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

LEGAL WEED

"Universities must have policies in line with the federal Drug Free Schools law or risk losing federal financial aid for its students"

Voters in Oregon have passed a legalized marijuana law.  It really was just a matter of time, given that pot is one of the state's largest cash crops (off the books) and the general trend of society.  The actual legalization doesn't take place until next year, but people are already celebrating by smoking since the state's attorney general has announced they won't be busting anyone for weed that's legal under the upcoming law.
The biggest reason for the shift is that Colorado made huge tax dollars off of pot sales (although I strongly suspect that will taper off dramatically over time), but years of weed being popularized and used publicly without any consequence played their part as well.
When I was in school, drugs were looked down on as being used by losers.  Weed was the stuff your annoying trashy older brother and sister used, the old hippies you wish would just go away.  It was in the 90s that rappers brought it back into the public eye as being "cool" again, and after a while it seemed police just didn't care if you had a few joints on you, unless they really needed a reason to pick you up.
I'm conflicted on this one.  On one hand, doing stupid stuff to yourself has to be permitted in a free society and the federal drug laws are unconstitutional (the constitution gives no power to the federal government to regulate drugs within state borders).  On the other hand, smoking pot is bad not just to the person involved but to others around them.
Cops are very opposed to legalizing any drugs because they have a hard enough time handling drunk drivers without making more stoned drivers hit the road.  As I wrote about a while back, pot actually can make you a bad driver, but unlike alcohol, there is no useable, reliable field sobriety test for weed.  Stinking of bale isn't enough of an indication.  And it really does stink.
And there's a deleterious effect on productivity for most users.  As the ZMan writes:
I’m OK with the repairman sucking on a cancer stick while he repairs the lift. Nicotine helps concentration. The same repairman doing bong hits before working on the lift is probably about to kill a bunch of people. Of course, he probably called out of work so he can play video games and eat chips all day, but that’s another story.
The thing is, it varies.  Chemicals never affect two different people the exact same way.  In fact, they can vary from day to day on the same person.  Both marijuana and alcohol are depressants, but we all know at least one person that gets more violent and aggressive while drunk.  Certainly reducing inhibitions in some people is a very bad idea.  We've seen example after example of mass shooters and serial killers being pot users and that's no coincidence.
So pot won't necessarily result in someone doing poor, sloppy, inattentive, or sluggish work.  It probably will, because that's its typical effect on human beings, and almost certainly will with the great majority of people, but it won't always.
Smoking pot is a stupid, stupid thing to do.  Its a very nasty carcinogen and its bad for your brain, as studies have shown conclusively.  It tends to make you more lazy and less productive, effectively removing you from being a useful member of society, particularly as while every pot smoker claims they can control it and only use it once in a while, its rare that is true.
But at the same time, being no benefit to society is not a punishable negative.  its not something society should take action against.  Certainly its not something that society should take an effort to assist in or compensate for: if you are too worthless and stoned to get a job, I don't think anyone else should be compelled to pay for your rent or even food. 
But liberty has to include the freedom to do stupid self destructive stuff.  If you want to eat lousy food, or too much, or smoke, or skydive, or jam metal spikes through your skin or distort and stain your skin by being stabbed thousands of times with dyed needles, that's your problem.
What the long-term effects of legal pot will be is anybody's guess.  I can see it being overall a negative, but how much of one is unclear.  Its likely that the more states that make weed legal, the less tourism countries like the Netherlands will get - and not propping up their ridiculous economic system will only benefit the world by showing how untenable it is.
One of the great myths of legal drugs is that it will reduce drug-related crime.  But drug-related crimes are generally caused by people who need their drug and will break the law to feed that need.  And the more someone is under the control of a drug, the less under control of themselves they are - and the less productive and likely they are to have money to pay for drugs.  So more people using drugs means a greater likelihood of drug related crime, not less.  Especially as government shops overcharge grossly, encouraging smuggling and illegal sales that legalization was supposed to end.
The problem is that legal pot changes a lot of things that aren't immediately obvious.  Businesses need to add pot to their rules and guides just like alcohol.  You can't come to work drunk and expect to keep your job - you can't come to work stoned, either.  Even a little buzz will annoy employers.
And its not just businesses.  Seattle University recently suspended students for selling pot brownies on campus.  Now I always understood that marijuana tasted awful, but apparently there are ways to cook it that reduce that nasty flavor.  But the problem is, these "medical" brownies were being sold all over campus, and its not permissible in the college to sell drugs of any kind.
Plus, colleges and universities rely on significant amounts of federal funding and eligibility for grants and other student financing.  By violating federal drug laws, they risk losing that all and money is truly the bottom line for these organizations.
And this is what it comes down to right now: just because its legal, doesn't mean you ought to be doing it.  You can legally strip naked but that doesn't mean you can do so in the line at McDonald's.  Its a matter of when and where, of learning limits and boundaries.
But in the modern era, the concept of "appropriate" is considered a horrible tyranny and some brutal oppression.  And societal limits are seen not as a structure to maintain a polite coherent culture, but targets to rip down and mock.  So a change like this, which might have found out its reasonable limits in time decades past now is likely to be very a real problem.
We'll see how it turns out over time.  But I'm not sanguine.