Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday round up

1. Two weeks missing

Two weeks ago, my internet went down. We somehow managed to zap the DSL modem and the Router at the same time. Anyway, I was down on Friday so no round up. The next week, I just couldn't bring myself to care enough.

2. Just stop it!

This is the just pathetic:
A study just published in the Journal of Bisexuality provides at least a partial answer about interest in specific types of threesome. Researchers Heather Armstrong and Elke Reissing of the University of Ottawa were interested in heterosexual adults' attitudes toward dating and hooking up with bisexual partners of the opposite sex. They asked 720 participants (a mix of Canadian undergraduates and non-students, ranging from 18 to 60 years old with a mean age of 21) about their interest in a threesome with two partners of the opposite sex across three different relationship scenarios—casual sex; dating; and committed relationship.
You know that you aren't dealing with a controlled sample when you see that they talked to 720 people between the ages of 18 to 60 years but with a mean age of 21!?!?!?! Seriously, what are the odds of your getting that sort of breakdown in anything even vaguely resembling a random sample?

Here is wild guess at what happened. The University of Ottawa is a downtown university. Now, if you sent someone out to do street interviews on campus, you'd get a mixture of mostly undergraduates with the odd person cutting across campus (there is a bus transit station on campus). That highly artificial environment could explain how they managed to get such skewed numbers.

No matter how they got the sample, it's useless and so is the study. If this was just incompetence, it might be excusable, but it wouldn't be unreasonable to suspect that the researchers and the people who published it at the Journal of Bisexuality just might have an interest in seeing certain kinds of results.

3. For what it's worth

A thousand people in the street,
Singing songs and carrying signs,
Mostly say, “Hooray for our side.” 
Buffalo Springfield                                                                                      

Apparently, it's worth little or nothing. Moisés Naím of The Atlantic has just noticed that street protests don't make a lot of difference.
Aerial photos of the anti-government marches routinely show an intimidating sea of people furiously demanding change. And yet, it is surprising how little these crowds achieve. The fervent political energy on the ground is hugely disproportionate to the practical results of these demonstrations.
Naím thinks the problem is that the protests aren't connected to any sort of larger organization capable of getting changes enacted. That is certainly true but there is another, more basic question, he ought to have asked and that is whether the the protests are actually indicative of anything in the first place. If thousands of people show up in the street to protest something, that merely tells you that thousands of people who probably don't have jobs but do have lots of leisure time came out. That tells you very little indeed. 

You cannot, in fact, even be certain that a protest indicates anything about even the views of the people taking part. Who knows how serious or informed they are. Naim cites one study that suggests that the answer is, "not very!" for a researcher who used social media to get 27,000 Danes to show up in downtown Copenhagen to protest for a non-existent cause.

It seems to me that is indicative of something about the liberalism of our time: it's a mile wide and a quarter-inch deep. Less than a quarter of Americans identify as liberal. That's a shocking number given that back in the 1950s most people did. The difference is not in the people but liberalism. The liberalism of our day is a shallow, empty thing.

4. Speaking of the 1960s

Leee Black Childers — yes, Leee with 3 e's — told Andy Warhol that he wanted to be a photographer. 
And Andy said:

"Say you’re a photographer, and you’re a photographer,’... And he pointed across the Factory to Candy Darling, who was one of the great drag queens, and he said: ‘Look at her. She says she’s a woman. She is.’ So from that moment on, I was a photographer.”"
The standard line on Don Draper is that he "stole" another man's identity. When white people take up the music, dress and other cultural practices of different ethnic groups they are accused of appropriation, which is to say theft. A while ago Ann Althouse, from whom I got the above, asked why it is that transsexuals are not accused of appropriating the identity of women. Are these distinctions between what counts as theft and not theft based on a consistent set of principles? And if there are rules are they good principles or stupid principles? "I will kick all short people in the teeth," is a principle of sorts after all.

5. Speaking of Don Draper

He didn't steal anyone's identity, not even in the sense that we mean when we speak of the financial fraud called "identity theft". He appropriates neither the original Don Draper's identity nor does he cash in on him. Don is looking to escape from, not appropriate. 

The Don Draper he becomes is nothing like the Don Draper whose name he assumes.

I think the show is really about family. It's about how your parents, your siblings and your spouse can trap you, without meaning to. (There are persistent rumours, by the way, that Matt Weiner's own family are not pleased with the show at all. Could it be that they think it is about them? They should!)

(Apropos of nothing at all, I have a feeling that either Rachel will return in the final season or someone like her.)

6. No I'm not looking forward to the final season

As I've said before, creators of TV series like Mad Men use the final season to return to their first vision. They start with their best but don't know there will be a second season so while they have a beginning and an end in mind, they have to stretch the middle. That complicates things.

If we look at Breaking Bad we can see the problem. The more that series stretched out, the less plausible Walter's belief in himself as a wronged man became. It became increasingly obvious that he didn't break bad but that he had always been bad. The accusation people make of Don Draper—that he is a sham and a fraud, through and through—was actually true of Walter.

Now that is interesting because it obviously was not the way his creators saw him. They saw him as a fundamentally good man who went bad and needed some for of redemption and they gave him that in the final episode. What they inadvertently proved was that there is something real about character and that a man becomes what he does. By the final season the original premise was no longer sustainable.

The case of Don Draper proves the opposite: that if you try to elevate yourself by adopting the traits and behaviours of people you admire, you will succeed. The longer the series has stretched out, the clearer that has become. But it is also painfully obvious that Matt Weiner doesn't want to believe that; his belief is that people can't change. So now he has to go back to the premise of the first season and ignore the evidence to the contrary that he himself assembled over the past six seasons.

Character counts and you could do a lot worse than following Don Draper's example.

7. In the beginning

If Jesus had never been declared God, we wouldn’t have Christianity. And we wouldn’t have the history of Western Civilization as we know it.
That's Bart Ehrman in a piece called "Why I am obsessed with Jesus". That's a dishonest title. He should have called it, "Why I am obsessed with Jesus even though I don't believe in him".

Now, here is the distinction you need to see. The above quote is what Ehrman does believe now. Here is what he used to believe:
For years — until about eight months ago — I thought the answer was simply that Jesus is the most important figure in the history of Western Civilization. So who wouldn’t be interested in him? And in who he really was?
Notice, the shift. The thing that matters is not who Jesus really was but what he was declared to be. 
Ever since my graduate school days in the 1980’s, I have thought that the historical Jesus is best understood (very) roughly as Albert Schweitzer had recognized: an apocalyptic preacher of doom who firmly believed that God’s utopian kingdom would arrive on earth within his disciples’ lifetime. I have spent a good portion of my last twenty years writing about this view, teaching it to undergraduates, and lecturing on it to public audiences. Part of my drive has been to “set the record straight.” Very few people outside the world of the academy seem aware that the majority of scholars think of Jesus as an apocalypticist. And that is important historical knowledge. So I have wanted to proclaim it from the mountain tops. 
I continue to think that this is the right understanding of Jesus. But now I see that this, in itself, is not the major reason I continue to be obsessed with him. The real reason was probably in the back of my mind all along. But it did not come front and center until I began writing my new book How Jesus Became God. Now it seems blindingly obvious.
Had Jesus not been proclaimed God, nothing like the Christian faith would have emerged. And we would not have our form of civilization.
And the obvious question is: Declared by whom? And there it gets rather tricky. Because to believe what Ehrman believes, you have to believe that this declaration happened very quickly. Otherwise, as he notes in the article at the link, the movement would have died out very quickly. That is actually understating the case. Their leader had been crucified and they ran away in terror. There were lots of other Messiahs crucified and otherwise dispatched by the Romans and all their movements died out. Something significant has to have happened right after the death of Jesus that turned things around.

And not only that, because of this thing, apparently a misunderstanding, all of history was changed. For the better!

No comments:

Post a Comment