Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"Rosie* was never expecting to wind up single at 30" or why more women should read Jordan Peterson

Rosie, not her real name, and her husband decided to separate and then all her friends started getting divorced too. You can read all about it at the NY Post.
Is it a coincidence that most of our friends find their soulmates and then start having babies all within the same few years of each other? Of course not.

There is a big social component to the times at which we each decide to make major life decisions like marriage — including, research suggests, when and if those marriages end.

According to a study conducted across three US universities, you’re 75 percent more likely to get divorced if at least one member of your close friendship circle ends their marriage.

Yep, 75 percent.
I can testify to that. I have watched women I've known ruin their own and their children's lives by deciding to get divorced shortly after a female friend did. There is a whole lot of evidence that all sorts of correlations hold. If someone you know commits suicide, the odds of your doing so go way up to.

"If Johnny jumped off a cliff, would you jump off too?" Well, actually ...

But notice something about that lead I quote in the header: "Rosie was never expecting to wind up single at 30." As we read on in the article it is either stated explicitly or implied that these women either left their husbands or mutually agreed with their husbands to end their marriages. And yet the article speaks of these events in passive terms, as if this was something that happened to these women instead of, what it was, something they decided to do. How does something you've chosen to do become something that happened to you?

The answer to that is: When you have failed to become a morally responsible adult. That's the way children think.

Jordan Peterson's advice isn't the only way a woman-child like the women in the article could fix themselves but it's good advice. Especially rules two and three:
Rule 2 Treat yourself like you would someone you are responsible for helping

Rule 3 Make friends with people who want the best for you
The  expert quoted in the NY Post piece is directly confronted with the second issue only to counter it an empty platitude.
So what is the lesson in all this? Should we be choosing our friends based on the strength of their marriages in order to innoculate our own against failure?

Dan reckons early intervention and open communication is a better option.
 Yeah. Here's an example of an early intervention: Lisa decided to leave Joe early in their marriage. And here's an open communication: I hate you! You can see how those might not help.

Here's what I think. We all make friends we later need to get rid of. It can be fun and even liberation to hang around with some irresponsible jerks at college and immediately thereafter. Then it gets to be time to move on. You keep hanging around with jerks and that's going to mess up your life.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Selfishness disguised as virtue

There was an article the other day that responded to some criticism of the fundraising associated with the Humboldt tragedy. Some people have noticed that the amount of money collected for the hockey team is huge and that it is unlikely the hockey team will use the money effectively. Not surprisingly, the comments section filled up with abuse. One commenter started by saying, "Canadians just wanted to show they care." That is exactly what's wrong.

"When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing." Anything else is narcissism. You can see it right in the wording, Canadians just to show they care. Yeah, it feels really good to be part of this.

Again, look at this headline from Macleans: "Humboldt GoFundMe account expresses a nation’s grief in dollars and cents". I know, everyone feels good about this but there is nothing to celebrate here.

By the way, have you seen anything that looks like an explanation of why the crash happened? I don't mean speculation about trees blocking the view and so forth. I'm not sure why the truck driver would need a view. He had a stop sign with a flashing red light. Did he not see that?

Okay, maybe it's too early to answer those questions. But there will be answers sometime right?

Saturday, April 14, 2018

"Don Draper sure has a lot of power for a fictional character"

Yes, I'm still on the subject six years later.

The quote in the header is from Ann Powers and the article that follows it doesn't actually give any evidence of Don having any actual power. Other, that is, than the power to really mess with Ann Powers mind.

Powers, as rapidly becomes obvious from her bio, is a geek. The sort of geek who doesn't actually live life but experiences it by proxy through the lives of the superheroes she obsesses about. Her superheroes are not X-men and their not fantasy fiction figures. No, like geeks of my generation, she's five years younger than me, her superheroes are musicians. So when cool-daddy Don didn't get the Beatles, she was thrown into turmoil and had to write about it and prove that he would indeed have gotten the Beatles. Her entire mythology was on the line.

Now it's worth reminding ourselves of the chronology. I was 11 years old when the Beatles broke up and Ann Powers was 6. Like most boomers, neither of us experienced this stuff. It was a  story we were told, not the life we lived. And it was a highly mythologized story right from the beginning. The Beatles were big during the 1960s but they got much bigger in retrospect than they actually were at the time. Think of Donald Trump by way of analogy. He's a big figure in the news right now but what will history think of him? The honest answer is, I don't know. Likewise the Beatles in 1966.

What Ann Powers wants, needs even, is to have her 1960s mythology validated by Don Draper and he won't do it.

I'll return to that, but, for now, let me leave you with a possibly disturbing thought. Here's the concluding paragraph to the Powers piece.
As an inventive, highly competitive trend-chaser, Don Draper would have loved the Beatles from the minute they hit Ed Sullivan. Besides, we already know he's scored tickets to the band's 1965 Shea Stadium concert for his daughter Sally. A more likely response: he would have pulled Revolver out of Megan's manicured grip and said, "Honey, you stick with the crazy stuff, I'm a big fan of 'Paperback Writer!'" Heck, he probably would have used Lane to get a lunch with Brian Epstein. The "meh" he tossed "Tomorrow Never Knows" was just not believable. Now, if Megan had left him with a copy of the Sylvia Plath poem that gave the episode its name — that might have actually shocked him into silence.
That is her mythology on full display. Notice the sudden shift at the very end where Sylvia Plath comes up. Now that is interesting. The poem is indeed disturbing. It's the work of a genius but a very troubled genius. To be blunt, "troubled" here means manipulative, self-destructive and a high-maintenance nightmare. Like the Beatles, Plath is a cultural icon whom many people have idolized. Read the poem, though, and ask yourself what it must have been like to have been married to a woman like that.

Don Draper is a flawed character but he is the hero of this story. At this moment he is in his second bad marriage. One way you might describe his quandary is that he keeps trying to live according to a script. Here, his script has been upset by another script, Megan's script that life should be lived according to the demands of art. She isn't so crazy as Plath was but there is a parallel.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Molly Ringwald has a point

I think Molly Ringwald is right. There is something disturbing about the scene where Bender, crawling under the desk, looks up her skirt and then gropes her.
At one point in the film, the bad-boy character, John Bender, ducks under the table where my character, Claire, is sitting, to hide from a teacher. While there, he takes the opportunity to peek under Claire’s skirt and, though the audience doesn’t see, it is implied that he touches her inappropriately.
Note the passive voice, "... it is implied that he touches her inappropriately." Any time we see passive voice we should look for hints the writer is being dishonest with themselves. I emphasize the "with themselves"—as I've said many times before, they're not lying to us. There is nothing implied about what happens. You don't actually see the grope, only Ringwald's facial reaction.—but her facial reaction is a sexual reaction. You know where he touches her.

Amazingly, conservatives of a certain stripe are defending the film. National Review's Kyle Smith writes, "It’s the sort of thing directors have randy teens do in larkish high-school comedies because kids watching know they can’t actually get away with it in school. Yet Ringwald is determined to make a thing of it." Well, that's a relief.

Bender and Claire, if you remember the plot,  become a couple by the end of the movie. That's not implausible and it may even be that his "touching her inappropriately" contributes to that. As much as we might wish otherwise, inappropriate behaviour sometimes pays off. The underlying message the movie sends is that this happens and that it's okay when it pays off because sexually inactive girls like Claire need bad boys like Bender to save them from being stuck up. It's essentially the plot of every Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello movie inverted. At the time, most of us approved of that but I'm not sure why a conservative would laugh it off the way Kyle Smith does.

For decades now, social conservatives have argued that it's the tacit approval that movies such as The Breakfast Club give to sexual transgression that has created the current mess. (Liberals and conservatives may hate one another but they at least seem to agree that there is a current mess.) I'm not sure I buy that. I'd be more inclined to believe that the sexual mess that was the 1980s (it was the decade of peek promiscuity) is what created movies such as The Breakfast Club. Something went wrong and Ringwald is perfectly correct to point it out.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Don Draper, the Beatles and the accidental genius of Mad Men

Today is Martin Denny's birthday. He would have been 107. Don Draper liked Martin Denny but not the Beatles. The moment at the end of the episode "Lady Lazarus" when Don listens to the Beatles rather pretentious song "Tomorrow Never Knows" and rejects it is one of the greatest moment in all of Mad Men. The best part is that he doesn't dislike the song, he's clearly bored by it.

I suspect the moment was inspired by this:

Matt Weiner is my age. He, like me, was way too young to have experienced that movie in the theatre. He, like everyone else under the age of 70, saw it on a TV screen, either on late-night television or VHS, DVD or streaming. And when he did, it created a crisis. It was a crisis because it created a clash of authorities. When he made Mad Men, a series that is haunted by James Bond, he recreated that crisis.

The problem is that James Bond/Don Draper is cool, competent Daddy. Or perhaps cool, competent Grandad or even cool, competent Great-Grandad, depending on your age. No matter how desperately you insist that they are past it, neanderthal or whatever, they continue to have influence and authority. And the success of Mad Men makes it impossible to argue the point. Without Don Draper, the show would have been like the Beatles without Paul McCartney. You may like John, George or Ringo more but you never would have heard of them without him.

The trick with Don Draper is different because Don doesn't exist. He conquers not because of who and what he is as McCartney did, he isn't anyone or anything, but because of what we project on to him. He is that competent father figure we all either had or wished we had. That gives him authority. And when that authority rejects the Greatest. Musical. Geniuses. Of. All. Time™ it creates a crisis.

The worst/best part is that he doesn't rant against them like some out of touch fuddy duddy. And he doesn't desperately try and "get them" like some embarrassing Leonard Bernstein type. No, he's just not interested. That hurts.

Or, if we got over our need for authority, it could be liberating. His reaction wouldn't have caused any crisis in 1966. At that time there were respectable opinions both pro- and anti-Beatles. A couple of years later there were people who claimed that Bob Dylan and the nascent California scene had made the Beatles irrelevant, a view that's not crazy. It's only now that the Beatles's greatness has become a sort of gospel truth. Far more copies of their music have sold in the ensuing decades than in the 1960s.

That's the challenge that Don presents ... more to come.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Do you believe in miracles?

If you don't, you can start now. Yuri Alexeyevich Dmitriev has been acquitted. No reasonable person ever thought he was guilty but very few thought he'd get a fair trial.