Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday round up

1. It's called "acting out".

This is an old comment but I thought about it related to something that someone who is not Lena Dunham did last week:
You could say a lot about a college girl who posts a YouTube video of herself in a bikini taking a bath in a public fountain: that she’s dumb, cute, narcissistic, asking for it, amateurish, a confused product of our pornified age. But you would also need to call her ballsy. Dunham—who created said video while at Oberlin College—has developed a signature career move that involves trying out many things in public, at the expense of her own dignity, to see how people react.
I remember one of the first interviews I read with Dunham she talked about having done this fountain video for YouTube and all the comments about how fat she was. In the interview she said that a lot of the comments were about whether she had "any right to do this". That is what Dunham represents for her fans. The right of every woman to do nude scenes and be thought sexy for doing so.

I'm of two minds on this. Dunham has a boyfriend. Did you ever notice that no one mocks him for being sexually attracted to her? That's because the women who attack Dunham know that they aren't any sexier than she is and the men who attack her know their dates aren't. We have a real problem in North America in that we don't let women be publicly sexual unless they have really beautiful bodies and faces. ("We" here meaning that both women and men.) If there is one good thing the millennial generations have done, it is to stand up for the right of all women to do this.

On the other hand, I'm not sure why Dunham keeps doing nude scenes. What is the point this is making? Does she even know? Does she grasp that she has to make an effort? That even Betty Page wouldn't have looked sexy if she, as Dunham does, had an expression that suggested that she was preparing for a root canal? That the tatoos were a bad idea? The problem, it seems to me that what Dunham is doing is neither ballsy nor original. We have an expression for it and the expression is "acting out".

And it's going to end badly for her.

2. Liberal Catholicism

Liberal Catholicism has no future—like liberal Protestantism, it is fated to become liberalism simpliciter within a generation. The children of liberal Catholics will either want their liberalism unvarnished by incense and holy water, or they will rebel and ask if there’s something more challenging, disobeying their parents by “reverting” to Catholicism. While “liberal” Catholicism will appear to be a force because it will continue to have political representation, as a “project” and a theology, like liberal Protestantism it is doomed to oblivion.
That's right. Liberals are not putting bums on pews and they are not producing vocations. That is worth keeping in mind when you read about the, "Francis Effect". I suspect that the people who use the expression hope/imagine that there are millions of liberal Catholics who have been waiting for the pope who would make the church safe for them to come back. I doubt very much that will happen. Then what will liberal Catholics do?

(I suspect the answer is that they will go out for brunch on Sunday morning.)

3. The revolution that wasn't

Obama's 2008 campaign scarcely deserves to be called a "cause." It was more a cult of personality. "His entire political persona is an ingeniously crafted human cipher, a man without race, ideology, geographic allegiances, or, indeed, sharp edges of any kind," observed Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi in 2007. "As far as political positioning goes, his strategy seems to be to appear as a sort of ideological Universalist, one who spends a great deal of rhetorical energy showing that he recognizes the validity of all points of view."
His slogans were vapid even by the standards of political sloganeering: "Yes, we can." "Hope and change." "We are the ones we've been waiting for." He was often called a "rock star"--a celeb, not a cause. It's as if the Beatles came to America in 1964 to run for president rather than to sell records, and got elected on slogans like "Let it be," "Please please me" and "I want to hold your hand." Half a century later, the Beatles' tunes have an enduring appeal to their once-youthful, now-elderly fans. Had they been forced to face the exigencies of governing, it's unlikely a Lennon-McCartney administration would be remembered much more fondly than Johnson-Humphrey is.

I can't improve on that but want to add that Taranto is going too lightly on the Beatles. Yes, they were  trying to sell records, but  they weren't just trying to sell records. It shouldn't surprise us that the culture that thought youth and music could change the world would produce an empty suit like Obama.

4. How many raisins are there in two scoops?

That's a reference to an old ad for Raisin Bran that bragged that there were two scoops of raisins in every box. The problem is that a "scoop" is not a standard measure. They might be big scoops or very little ones. Really, all you can safely conclude on the basis if the claim is that there will be at least two raisins in every box as a scoop has to hold at least one raisin.

"Generation" is a term just like "scoop". It's not a standard measure of anything. Consider the term "Millennials". Any time you see it, you can be pretty sure what you're reading is just wheel-spinning.

5. Businesslike

By supporting the political uprising that toppled Ukraine’s president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, the United States and Europe crossed “a red line,” Mr. Putin said, forcing him to act to protect Crimea’s population from what he called “Russophobes and neo-Nazis” that had seized control in an illegal coup abetted by foreigners.
Wittgenstein once shocked his friends by saying that Hitler was businesslike while his critics were not. This was before the start of World War Two. The expression you should notice in the above is "red line". Notice that when Putin says it he means it. When Obama said, he didn't. Any bully can figure out the practical implications.

6. Criminals hate you. No, they really do hate you.

Theodore Dalrymple writes about a well-meaning French liberal who wants the boy who punched her in the face while wearing brass knuckles to be reformed. 
I was alarmed but not altogether surprised to read that Marie, referring to the culprits’ current trial, did not want them to be locked up but rather that they should receive a punishment “so that they understand.”

Understand what, precisely? That hitting a defenseless woman in the face ten times with a knuckleduster isn’t a nice thing to do? But they understood this already, only too well: It was precisely their understanding that impelled them to do it. What they lacked was not understanding of their inaction’s consequences for others but something much, much deeper, something that is unlikely to be taught, or at least learned, except by the passage of a very long time (and even then is not certain).
He's right. Criminals are people who want to hurt you. That's why they do it. They don't fail to see that their crimes cause others pain; that is precisely the thing that makes crime attractive to them.

I know I've said this many times before, but that is precisely why anti-rape campaigns fail. Rapists feel justified in forcing women to have sex. They don't miss the point that this other human being is saying, "No". They are fully aware of it and do it for that reason. The people who create educational campaigns to explain a word that every two year understands are just narcissists.


7. Shouldn't women be allowed to decide for themselves how they should "own" their sexuality?

When are men asked to justify their sexual exploits? Rarely do we see single men onscreen bemoaning their sexual freedom and describing their conquests as shameful or sinful (Shame is very much the exception). No amount of high-minded metaphors will erase the fact that the burden of sexual shame almost always falls on women in our society. If anything, these metaphors only reinforce the fact that women are continuously denied the right to own their sexuality in the way men own theirs.
Leaving aside all the gesturing, the above makes a factual claim that women tend to be ashamed of their sexual acts and men tend not to be. And that is all you can reasonably conclude.

This doesn't just happen on the silver screen. I don't know a single man who regrets the sex he had in his youth. I know lots of men who regret missed opportunities for doing so. On the other hand, I know lots of women who will express regret at things they did. 

The article I cite above, not incidentally, was written by a man. I keep seeing men arguing that women should have more sex with more partners and not be ashamed of it. (And here I needlessly point out that that is a very self-serving thing for a man to say.) Meanwhile, I also keep seeing women resolutely determined to shame themselves and, this is important, other women for past sexual behaviour. They are doing this for reasons of their own and if we really want women to own their sexuality we must allow them their reasons.


  1. On liberal Christianity: I was recently at an event with Ross Douthat and Jody Bottum (for the occasion of Bottum's new book), and their comment on the dilemma of Liberal Protestantism and its decline was, "what if this is what success looks like?"

    1. :-)

      I have often thought while listening to people talk about things that make them unhappy in their jobs or relationships that what is really want is out but that they are in denial because they are terrified of being unemployed or alone. I think something like that drove liberal Protestantism. The people pushing it believed they were reformers but had suppressed desires to get out. What they really wanted to do was social and political.

      In that sense, yes, it is what success looks like. :-(