Friday, October 20, 2017

What and when was the sexual revolution?

Harvey, the man who launched a thousand philosophical contemplations:
First, here is Harvey himself, who early on in this on-going debacle said this:
“I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.”
Stop the presses. Harvey has in fact put his finger on one serious cultural truth.
That's from an interesting piece in the American Spectator. The claim there is that the "sexual revolution" , by throwing away all the old rules, left a generation lost and confused. The next step, not explicitly made in the piece, is that poor Harv was one of these.

There are (at least) two ways we might think about the sexual revolution. One way, the American Spectator way, is to speak of a system of sexual morality that was working and then along came chaos and now we all reap disaster. We can nuanced in this view. We don't have to pretend that the sexual morality of the early twentieth century was perfect. We can admit lots of problems but argue that throwing all the rules out was crazy. And it was crazy. All that said, I still think there is another way of looking at things. This other way says that the sexual morality of the first half of the twentieth century was doomed no matter what happened; that if a twelve-year-old Hugh Hefner had ridden his bicycle into traffic without looking and had been killed by a passing truck the history of the 1960s and 1970s would not have been substantially different.

What happened in the 1970s was crazy. That said, Harvey Weinstein is a monster and the only person to blame for that is Harvey Weinstein. Even without rules, some people managed pretty well. We can't keep going that way so we won't. That said, if feminists and/or social conservatives get their way, we'll be plunged into a new puritanism that will make the 19th century look like a glorious age of freedom.

Monday, October 16, 2017

This is about them

It seems to me that what ultimately makes Weinstein significant is nothing about the man himself but the society that welcomed him. He could have peddled porn like Hef, he might have become a rock music promoter or he might have made action films. He probably would have made much more money had he done any of those things than he did selling art films. In choosing that option, Weinstein was satisfying a need for something other than money.
What he wanted was no great mystery. He wanted power and influence and he wasn't going to get it selling himself. He needed to make connections with the sort of people that can get connections with those who have power and influence. So he went to the people who make art house films. 

They needed him because their relevance was on the decline. Their movies didn't make money and Harv knew how to fix that. He probably didn't seem like a complete monster at first. He was a bully in a business that desperately needed a bully to make things happen. Feelings were hurt but money was made. And Harv was off to the races.

And then it started to become clear just how bad he was. Now Hollywood was facing a serious moral test. And they failed and failed miserably and they kept on failing for decades. Meanwhile, they lectured the rest of us about morality and politics.

And the same applies to the Democratic party and the press.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Elitism?

Note: None of the photos used in this post belong to me. I think they constitute fair use and I'm not making any money out of them but if you do own them and disagree, I will cheerfully take them down.

There is a piece on the Powerline blog entitled "Peak Elitism at the NY Times". It makes one of those points that are hard to argue with: that the New York Times is deeply elitist while pretending to be egalitarian. Indeed, "deeply elitist while pretending to be egalitarian" is a pretty good definition for the word "liberal".

While agreeing with what Steven Hayward of Powerline had to say on the subject I found the conclusion of the piece odd. He goes through a whole lot of stuff from a wedding announcement that is unquestionably sign that we are dealing with an elite couple but then picks on a charming little story at the end of the piece as "peak elitism".

Here's the little story.
The couple dated at Princeton, but had met a few years earlier, in 2007, in North Haven, Me., when Ms. du Pont offered a ride to Mr. Sutherland and a friend, whom Ms. du Pont knew. The two men had just moored their sailboat and were preparing for a long row back to the dock, whereas she was piloting her family’s motorized tender. They took the ride.
There is nothing elite in that tale. I never went to Princeton and my wedding announcement never appeared in the New York Times but I can relate to that. I've owned several sailboats in my lifetime and I'm not rich.

Let me tell you what all the details in that story mean. A mooring is a sort of permanent anchor. It's a very heavy weight to which a chain and line are attached. The weight is dropped into the water and buoy is attached to the top of the line. A mooring is permanent but less solid or protected than tying up to the dock. When you arrive at the club or marina, you get in a small dinghy to row out to your boat. This dinghy is called a tender. Most tenders run between 7 and 10 feet in length.  Here's what a typical tender looks like:






As you can see, it's the sort of boat you wouldn't want to go far from shore in. If you look a little closer, you will see that it carries an impressive amount of people or cargo for it's size. They are mostly practical craft, ideal for ferrying people and stuff from the dock to a moored boat. (They are also a lot of fun to play in when you are a little boy—I learned how to sail and row in a small tender.) They are not terribly efficient rowboats, especially when you have more than just one person in them. Going a couple of hundred yards is a chore.

Okay, take a closer look at the transom of that tender and you can see a little piece of plywood. That is a motor mount that is there so a small outboard. Motorized tender usually means a tender with an outboard. Now, if you have an outboard, you don't care about the rowing qualities of the boat. Most motorized tenders are inflatable boats, which are a pig to row. Here's an example of what that looks like:




Okay, now you can imagine the scene. The two guys have been sailing, probably in some sort of small keelboat as dinghies usually get stored on shore. The story says this happened in North Haven, Maine, so there is a good chance they were sailing a small racing class called an Ensign. They look like this:

 
They've tied up and derigged their boat (that means taking the sails down and folding them, putting away stuff, cleaning up so your parents don't tear into you about the mess you left and locking the hatch). Maybe they're tired after a day's sailing. In any case, they have a long row back to the dock in their tender and along comes a girl one of them knows in a tender with an outboard and offers them a ride. They accept and get in. Everything is pretty cramped, everybody, knee-to-knee and one of them is probably holding the painter (that's the line coming off the bow) of their tender so it gets towed back to the dock.

Yes, you have to be a part of a certain culture to understand all of this. Just as you need to be part of a certain culture to understand about guns. It isn't about wealth or privilege. Yes, there are yacht clubs that cost a lot to join and, even if you have the money, you need to have connections to join. And, yes, the people in the NYT wedding announcement sound like they are part of that world but there is nothing about the experience described in the paragraph selected as "peak elitism" that belongs to that peak-elitist world. For there are thousands of other yacht clubs where ordinary, middle-class people belong where you could meet your future spouse in exactly the same way. (And there are gun clubs that only billionaires can afford to belong to.)

Yes, let's condemn elitism, or at least let's condemn people who lecture the rest of us about inequality while living very comfortably. But let's try to understand each other too. This is a charming story that puts a very human face on our couple so that we can relate to them instead of hating them.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Partial defence of Hef

Hugh Hefner lived to 91. Sinatra made it to 82. Dino was 78 when he died. To me, this  suggests that 1950s swinger lifestyle was healthier than the rock and roll generation that followed.

When my family moved back to Quebec in the 1970s, we moved into a much more tolerant and more permissive culture than what we left behind in New Brunswick and Ontario, the two places we had lived previously. The TV stations in Quebec already featured nudity, there were strip bars and porn theatres  on the strip right beside the DQ and McDonalds. Playboy and Penthouse magazine were everywhere. As a young teenager, I was suddenly plunged into a very different world where access to porn was, by the standards of everywhere else I'd live up to that point, was ridiculously easy. And that is not to count the "erotic art photography" books that were found on coffee tables in the nice, middle-class neighbourhood we lived in. If it had any adverse effects on me, I don't know what they are.

Others I've read this week have been much more eager to chalk up really negative effects to Hugh Hefner's influence. There's too many to quote but Hugh Hefner's Legacy oF Despair:
 
This is also one of those stories where cultural conservatives and feminists line up, which is something that ought to give both those groups pause.

It's all dreadful nonsense of course. I'm perfectly willing to believe there were some pretty weird scenes inside the gold mine and that women were exploited. I'm also willing to believe that some aspects of our culture started to go bad around the time Playboy was first published and have only gotten worse since but I hoped that the editors at National Review were still able to understand the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy and wouldn't let their writers get away with that sort of sloppy reasoning. (They've published at least four variations on the story I cite above now although I am happy to report there was one sane voice at NR.)

But even beyond that it's just insane to think that one man and one magazine could have had the sort of culture influence to caused all the negative effects Hefner is supposedly guilty of. We were going that way anyway and would have done so if Hugh Hefner had been run over by a bus the morning he got the idea for Playboy. (And Marilyn Monroe's sad pathetic life would have been every bit as sad and pathetic.)

What Hugh Hefner did manage to do was to get very rich by catching a wave and riding it. This had the effect of disconnecting him from reality enough that he went some pretty weird places. That said, I doubt they are any weirder than what we will eventually learn of current media stars when their stories begin to leak out. Before all that happened, though, the man did something absolutely brilliant.

He came very close to being a failure. As is well known, the original name for the magazine was to be "Stag Party". If it had gone out under that banner, it would be just another forgotten men's magazine today. Choosing Playboy with the suggestions of connoisseurship was a masterstroke. An entire generation of men were seeing a level of wealth that had never been possible in history until that point. Playboy  offered them a how-to guide to this new world.

But why pictures of naked women? If you really have to ask that, you're operating on a very poor understanding of men. In addition to which, most of us assumed that access to such things was one of the perks that many of the elite we set out to emulate took as their right. And we were right!
 
The sexual revolution came and it's still steamrolling along some seven decades later. Last weekend we had the annual Panda Classic College football game here in Ottawa and you should have seen how the college girls here dressed for it. Life changed and it's not going back to what it was anytime soon. Don't blame Hugh Hefner; he just caught the wave.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Temporary change in comments policy

The blog has been bombarded by spam the last few days, all from the same source. I've turned comment moderation back on for a little while until these clowns give up and go away. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

What is this image selling?


I saw this at the curb for garbage collection day this week.

I can imagine the planning meeting.

Project manager: "We need a cover for a new book for children called Looking at Insects by David Suzuki."

Graphic artist: "How about a photograph of David Suzuki and a couple of children looking at insects?"

That's a 1986 edition. By 1992, the cover looked like this:



That's meant to be more inclusive but it strikes me as a little creepy that Suzuki appearing to look at the little girl that way rather than the butterflies. The decision-making process here is interesting. They decided to stay with a white girl but update her fashion choices while going with a black boy. Is Suzuki looking towards the girl meant to encourage girls to study sciences? I would think it more likely to encourage girls to seek adult approval by doing whatever adults want them to do. The more independent little boy is the sort of role model you should use to if you actually want children to study science. This is a study in sexism disguised as anti-sexism.

I don't know how the little girl gets her hand on Suzuki's shoulder here without having a longer right arm than left. My guess it's not her hand—that they took an outtake from the session used in the first cover and edited the new butterflies, the  girl and the boy into the shot and changed the colouring a bit to get this. You can just imagine the angst-ridden decision not to have the little boy touching Suzuki: what messages are we most scared of appearing to send?

Not related to the design: this is a book on a subject that Suzuki is actually an expert in. Most of what Suzuki writes about he is not an expert in. There is nothing wrong with that. I think anyone should be able to write a book about anything. The problem is that when someone such as Suzuki or Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson writes about matters they are not experts in we get something I call expertise creep. None of those men, for example, is an expert in climate science so we shouldn't attribute any more authority on the subject to them than we do to any interested amateur. Unfortunately, it doesn't work out that way.

The pattern that we actually see played out works like this. A scientist with an actual area of expertise branches out into science education after their career doing real science (or, in Nye's case, engineering) has passed its prime. They prove to be very good at science education but they aren't content to stop there and get a taste for telling other people how they ought to be living. Thereafter they produce a series of preachy books and TV shows that are mostly political activism mixed with a very little science in fields they have no expertise in. Despite this, we're all supposed to rollover like good little puppies because SCIENCE!!!

I suspect the implied argument goes like this: "Okay, these guys aren't experts in climate but they are experts in science." And it pretty much has to be implicit. Make it explicit and the stupidity at work becomes obvious.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The men are revolting

I listen to two podcasts hosted by rabid, hate filled men. I do this because the subjects of their podcasts is not politics so their rabid, hate-filled side rarely comes to the surface. One, Creek of the Week, is about Dawson's Creek  and the the other, Beyond Yacht Rock, is about music I hated when it was new but have come to love. There are two things about these shows I find a little off-putting but can easily overlook. One is the regular tirades against politics and people the hosts hate and fear. The other, and this is a bit odd, is the constant stream of really vulgar commentary. In fact, I occasionally find myself laughing along with the vulgar jokes. As I listen to my podcasts in bed as I fall asleep at night, I have to laugh quietly and I manage this but sometimes I laugh so hard the bed shakes.

Last week, I played the Beyond Yacht Rock podcast for my wife as we were on vacation. When it got really vulgar I said to her, in case you've eve wondered what locker-room talk is actually like, it's like this. I said that because women tend to have an erroneous notion of what locker-room talk is like, a subject for another day.

Anyway, it hit me this morning that this attitude, which seems more and more common on the left and the right, is part of a growing man rebellion. I know, I know, I'm late to the party. Others have been writing about men being on strike and so forth for years. Most notably, Dr, Helen, whom I quoted yesterday, has written a book about it. Her argument, however, is about men being own strike and a strike is something that happens when you mean to return to work. I think something far more basic has happened—men have told women to take this job and shove it. They quit.

Our society has lost the power to manipulate men. This will have huge ramifications. I think women are already feeling the impact of this.

Case in point. I was listening to a feminist podcast I like called Stuff Mom Never Told You. A recent episode (August 11) dealt with a fairly extreme male movement called Men Going Their Own Way. These are men who refuse to enter into committed relationships, refuse to earn any more than they need to survive and refuse to engage with society. I suspect it's a pretty small, fringe movement. So how are feminist podcasters going to deal with this? I was expecting mockery and fear, fully expecting to hear the expression "white supremacist" applied to them. Instead there was a mixture of alarm and sympathy. The two women hosting the podcast ended up showing a lot of sympathy for these men, allowing that they did have grievances. Their only real counter argument was that the men were taking the wrong approach by dealing themselves out. They argued, I'm not making tis up, that men should embrace feminism instead because that is where they will find real freedom.

I suspect that what had the two hosts, Emilie Aries and Bridget Todd, sense that the Men Going Their Own Way movement, while small and a little silly, represents something much larger. Men are less interested in entering into committed relationships with women and, as a consequence, much less committed to the larger society around them. That spells TROUBLE. And they don't have the foggiest notion what to do about it.