Books

A Note from History (Sexual Distribution)

#TheWomeAreSpeaking | #PayAttention

Detail of frame from FLCL episode 5, 'Brittle Bullet'.

This is a flashback, circa 2014, and for precisely not quite no reason under the sun:

This sort of rhetoric is fairly common on some of the more embittered PUA forums, and the “men’s rights” forums that have quite a bit of overlap with them. (Jaclyn Friedman wrote about the “men’s rights” (MRA) movement for the Prospect . . . .) The argument that it’s not women who are oppressed, but men who are kept down by women’s “unfair” systems of distributing sexual favors (for PUAs and MRAs, sex is a commodity, not really an activity) is the central organizing principle of both pick-up artistry and “men’s rights” organizing, so much so that the main text of “men’s rights”—Warren Farrell’s The Myth of Male Power—features a woman’s naked butt on the cover, to drive home how men are supposedly helpless pawns of women’s game of sexual distribution.

(Marcotte)

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Marcotte, Amanda. “How ‘Pick-Up Artist’ Philosophy and Its More Misogynist Backlash Shaped Mind of Alleged Killer Elliot Rodger”. The American Prospect. 25 May 2014.

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Trashy Schizophrenic Drudgery (Bannon Booty Mix)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite: Donald Trumps, père and fils, photo by Sam Hodgson/New York Times; Vladimir Putin protest image, artist unknown.

“The book does seem to be a collection of stuff Wolff heard. How much of that stuff is actually true is a different question—one that’s much tougher to answer.”

―Andrew Prokop

The idea that Andrew Prokop should be explaining anything about the “gossipy new Trump book” he has not read might seem somehow inappropriate, but everything we might survey about the tome is a matter of reputation, and in that the Vox writer gives reasonable enough consideration:

Stephen Bannon, CEO of Republican nominee Donald Trump's presidential campaign, meets with the Trump Hispanic Advisory Council at Trump Tower in Manhattan, 20 August 2016. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)The excerpts from it out so far tell a mostly familiar big-picture story of chaos during the presidential transition and in Trump’s early months in the White House. Wolff spruces things up, though, with new quotes, anecdotes, and purported personal details—many of which are eye-popping and unflattering.

Indeed, some of the things Wolff describes in the excerpts sound so outlandish—and also happen to be so hazily sourced—that there’s already a vigorous discussion in the political world about how, exactly, this book should be interpreted. As fact? As “trashy tabloid fiction,” as the White House argues? Or as something in between?

And while there is plenty about the reputation of author Michael Wolff, we might consider the idea of Matt Drudge calling Steve Bannon “schizophrenic”, and for better reasons than two assholes fighting for headlines, or noting this or that about once upon a time, the competition, and who counts as the establishment journalist. Remember that Steve Bannon told Michael Wolff precisely what news consumers want to hear from their favorite talking heads.

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Image notes: Top — Composite featuring Donalds père and fils, protest image of Vladimir Putin. (Credits: Sam Hodgson/New York Times; anonymous.)  Right — Steve Bannon (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters).

Edison Hayden, Michael. “Matt Drudge criticized ‘schizophrenic’ Steve Bannon”. Raw Story. 3 January 2018.

Prokop, Andrew. “The controversy around Michael Wolff’s gossipy new Trump book, explained”. Vox. 4 January 2018.

A Note on Why the Internet Goes to Hell When It Dies

[#nevermind]

Did you Know? In 2009, Eminem tweeted proof that he scored 465,800 in Donkey Kong, making him one of the highest scorers in the world. [via Salon.com, 11 November 2017]The Internet—(no, I do not like Capitalizing the Word)—sees fit to inform me that—

In 2009, Eminem tweeted proof that he scored 465,800 in Donkey Kong, making him one of the highest scorers in the world.

(via Salon.com; #nevermind)

—and no, it is true I did not know this before; nor is it clear how I should feel about this information. No, seriously, other than the fact that some editor somewhere saw fit to include a trivial widget to tell me stuff like this, I had precisely no reason to care.

Meanwhile, something, something, and now for something completely different.   

Hey, how about this: If I blame Tom Clancy, how fucking smart are you?

An Adversary, Passing

Phyllis Schalfly of the Eagle Forum speaks in this uncredited photo from December, 2011.

Associated Press reports:

Phyllis Schlafly, the outspoken conservative activist who helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and founded the Eagle Forum political group, has died. She was 92.

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Image note: Phyllis Schlafly, circa 2011, in uncredited photo.

Salter, Jim. “Far-right activist, author Phyllis Schlafly dies at 92”. The Big Story. 5 September 2016.

A Moment with David Brooks (Yes, Really … Well, You Know, Not in Person, or Anything, But … er … ah … Never Mind)

Huang reflects on a mission barely accomplished. (Darker Than Black, ep. 14)

This is nearly astounding. That is, here are three of the most consequential paragraphs David Brooks has ever written:

We’ll probably need a new national story. Up until now, America’s story has been some version of the rags-to-riches story, the lone individual who rises from the bottom through pluck and work. But that story isn’t working for people anymore, especially for people who think the system is rigged.David Brooks of The New York Times

I don’t know what the new national story will be, but maybe it will be less individualistic and more redemptive. Maybe it will be a story about communities that heal those who suffer from addiction, broken homes, trauma, prison and loss, a story of those who triumph over the isolation, social instability and dislocation so common today.

We’ll probably need a new definition of masculinity, too. There are many groups in society who have lost an empire but not yet found a role. Men are the largest of those groups. The traditional masculine ideal isn’t working anymore. It leads to high dropout rates, high incarceration rates, low labor force participation rates. This is an economy that rewards emotional connection and verbal expressiveness. Everywhere you see men imprisoned by the old reticent, stoical ideal.

The New York Times columnist has achieved some infamy in recent months for meandering conservative apologetics and generally incomprehensible reflections of his uneasy soul; his latest exhibit is predictably disastrous, but remains significant for a couple of reasons.

What most seem to have noticed is his suggestion that Republican leaders “seem blithely unaware that this is a Joe McCarthy moment”, and his declaration that, “People will be judged by where they stood at this time”. But there is also this reflection on the American narrative in general and masculinity in particular, which might well get lost between the discussion of declinism, Donald Trump’s pain, societal obligation, and, you know, by the time one reaches the sentence, “Maybe the task is to build a ladder of hope”―yes, he really wrote that―the whole thing is simply agonizing, and only goes downhill from there, but along the way there are these three nearly magical paragraphs.

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Way Too Much Effort for a Cheap Joke

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 30 November 2015.“That the words uttered by the brave Tazendra are not as grandiose and full of pomp as Kieron the Conqueror’s, ‘The sea has brought our salvation’, or Undauntra the First’s, ‘Let him who doubts the victory wrest the banner from my hand’, or Sethra Lavode’s, ‘I speak for the Mountain and the Mountain speaks for the Orb’, or Lord Kuinu’s, ‘By all the Lords of Judgment, it is proved at last’, or expressive of the elegant understatement of Tigarre’s famous, ‘Turn around, my lord; I am behind you’, or Deo’s, ‘Welcome, my lady, to my home’; still, they are what was said, and so our duty as historian places before us the necessity of laying them before the reader.”

―Paarfi of Roundwood

See what I did there?

Never mind. Paarfi does.

Adam doesn’t, but that’s not important. In fact, Adam is only important on this occasion because it’s his fault I thought of Tigarre at all; and maybe I should be at least somewhat distressed about the proposition that I have yet to figure if Tigarre is the historical figure or historian.

And, yes, I would feel really stupid if someone has done that bit before, but I would still blame Adam because it was either the Tigarre joke or Facebooking my sister-in-law.

Oh, and we can safely ignore Steven; he’s just a set piece and occasional washing-machine leveler.

You know. Ironic counterpoint. Subtext. Dark side of the moon flashing like a drive indicator.

A tangent to the contextual orbit ’round my head.

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Image note: Tigarre the Turtle? ― Detail of Bug Martini by Adam Huber, 30 November 2015.

Brust, Steven. “Official Biography”. The Dream Café. 5 November 2015.

Paarfi of Roundwood. “The Lord of Castle Black: Describing Certain Events Which Occurred Between the 247th Year of the Interregnum and the 1st Year of the Reign of Empress Zerika the Fourth”. The Viscount of Adrilankha, vol. 2. Adrilankha: Glorious Mountain, 179 NOR2.

The Carcharodon, Leapt

Credit: Reuters/Junko Kimura-Matsumoto/HBO/Salon

Oh, for ....

In the first three books of “A Song of Ice and Fire” (and four seasons of the show),

Tyrion has a trajectory that might sound awfully familiar to Obama: He’s a bright and charming man who is nonetheless looked down upon by people who are a lot stupider than he is because they are prejudiced against people who look like him. Despite these obstacles, Tyrion rises high in government, taking on the highest executive office in Westeros, with the title of the Hand of the King. His job as the executive is to rein in an economic crisis as well as deal with an unnecessary war, all while trying to manage a bratty king named Joffrey.

Tyrion does an excellent, if imperfect job, despite these overwhelming circumstances, helping stave off an invasion and deal with other political crises. Despite his hard work and many successes, many in the kingdom continue to hate Tyrion irrationally, calling him a “demon monkey” and blaming him for catastrophes brought on by the king, catastrophes that Tyrion has actually gone out of his way to fix. In the end, this public’s desire to scapegoat him leads to Tyrion’s downfall, as he is blamed for the king’s murder, which he didn’t commit, and has to escape unjust execution under the cover of darkness.

If you substitute “the president” for “Hand of the King,” “the Republicans” for “King Joffrey,” and “secretly born in Kenya” for “demon monkey,” the parallels between Tyrion and Obama are downright startling. Like Tyrion, Obama walked into office with a military crisis and an economic disaster on his hands. Like Tyrion, his efforts to fix things get stymied at every turn by forces that oppose him for political reasons. Like Tyrion, he had a major military victory (killing Osama bin Laden) and domestic victories that prevented suffering, but many refuse to give him credit. Like Tyrion, Obama gets blamed by huge numbers of people who have preexisting prejudices about him, who would rather blame someone they irrationally hate than the truly guilty parties.

It is not so much a question of whether Amanda Marcotte is right or wrong; rather, it is simply a matter of, “Oh, come on!”

And it is true that societies witness and take part in transformations of myth, occasionally retiring one here or there while scrabbling perpetually to create new ones. As Barkerα reminds, nothing ever begins. History, meanwhile, will eventually show this particular mythopoeic play more a question of waterskiing in a leather jacket.

Well, you know, if history bothers noticing this one at all.

This is an important question: If life imitates art so much that we shape our decisions in order to create and align mythopoeia that, circularly, it reflects and reinforces itself, at what point have leapt the carcharodon?

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The Ben Carson Show (Reality Curve)

Dr. Ben Carson spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference, 8 March 2014, in National Harbor, Maryland.  (Photo: Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

This is why it matters:

During the aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, for example, Carson―then, a junior at Detroit’s Southwestern High―claims to have heroically protected a few white students from anger-fueled attacks by hiding them in the biology lab, where he worked part time. But The Wall Street Journal could not confirm the account through interviews with a half-dozen of Carson’s classmates and his high school physics teacher. All of the students remembered the riot, but none could recall white students hiding in the biology lab.

It’s one of several biographical claims upon which Carson has relied in an effort to appeal to evangelical voters, who value the retired neurosurgeon’s personal journey from troubled youth to pious doctor. As Carson has shot to the front of the Republican presidential pack, however, parts of that narrative have been called into question.

(Margolin; boldface accent added)

It just seems that in this time of religious identification and public displays of piety in order to be seen by others, the degree to which false witness has helped Dr. Carson’s fame becomes significant. Launching his campaign, Ben Carson would have had us believe that he is “not a politician”. Watching his campaign try to fashion a response to the cracking and crumbling of the superficial Ben Carson myth, one might be tempted to suspect otherwise.

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The Ben Carson Show (False Witness)

Dr. Ben Carson: Neurosurgeon, Christian, bearer of false witness.

The joke would be to say that Dr. Ben Carson is the gift that keeps on giving, but what if it’s, you know, giving people cancer?

The lede, from Kyle Cheney of Politico:

Ben Carson’s campaign on Friday admitted, in a response to an inquiry from POLITICO, that a central point in his inspirational personal story was fabricated: his application and acceptance into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

So it would seem the good doctor, who has spent the years between his fame as a neurosurgeon and his infamy as a presidential candidate hawking books to Seventh-Day Adventist and other churches, lied.

Dr. Carson, calling himself a Christian, went before Christian congregations and bore false witness.

For profit.

At this point, it’s true, we’re not surprised.

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Relief

Detail of 'Mary Death' by Matt Tarpley, 12 September 2015.

Sweet … relief.

Mary’s back.

Beyond that, I got nothin’. I mean, sure, I should probably bust out The Cure or something, just because, you know? Except it violates the Geneva Conventions, and damn well ought to. Won’t someone please think of the children?

Never mind. Cure jokes never work with nerds.

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Tarpley, Matt. “Mary Monday”. Mary Death. 12 September 2015.