redefinition

What Bugs a Sith Lord (When Nature Strikes Back)

When history looks back on this period of American thought and communication, we might from our present vantage in that past to be wonder how prominently will stand out the question not of re-definition, but, rather, de-definition. Once upon a time it was enough to simply mutter and growl that transition is a noun. Detail of Bug Martini by Adam Huber, 8 March 2017. Meanwhile, pretty much any noun in the language can now be converted to a verb; simply apply the gerund form to mean, approximately, “using the [noun] as the [noun] is to be used”.

This makes sense in some cases; ’tis true enough that some words simply were as such when they arrived in our knowledge. There is a Fulghum joke in that, but it’s a regional thing, or it would be except nobody really cares. But it is, in fact true. We saw with a saw, for instance, and that is simply how the word arrived in our lifetimes.

Robert Newton Peck once explained it is always a lasso and never a lariat; you lasso with a lasso, but do not lariat with a lariat. And maybe he was wrong, but the lesson stuck. American pedantry is a thoroughly internalized empiricism.

So it goes. For the moment it suffices to blame Adam.

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Image note: Detail of Bug Martini by Adam Huber, 8 March 2017.

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What They Voted For: That Most Special of Interests

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Donald Trump speaks to South Carolina voters in North Charleston, 19 February 2016. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Who: Darren Samuelsohn (Politico)
What: “Trump’s kids to run businesses via ‘blind trust,’ Trump attorney says”
When: 10 November 2016

Politico offers the necessary context:

Donald Trump’s vast business holdings will be placed into a blind trust with his oldest three children in charge, according to the president-elect’s attorney.

Trump during his campaign faced questions about how he’d handle his business dealings and potential conflicts if he were to become president, saying repeatedly he’d separate himself from the company. And while his lawyer Thursday used the term “blind trust” when discussing the family’s upcoming financial arrangement, putting Trump’s children in charge of a set of assets that their father is aware of does not constitute a blind trust. Under the legal definition of a blind trust, a public official places his finances under the management of an independent party. The official would have no knowledge of what is in the trust or how it is managed. On CNN, Cohen conceded Trump would have a difficult time satisfying critics who continue to raise doubts about their plans.

(Samuelsohn; boldface accent added)

This is how Trump voters and supporters will work around the cognitive dissonance of cronyism and nepotism in their ostensibly anti-corruption, anti-cronyist, anti-Establishment, anti-institutional figurehead: Ego defense. Redefining terms like nepotism and cronyism in order to exclude what one desperately wishes to protect requires some manner of neurotic complex; there is no precise classification for cravenly making it up as you go, so denial and suppression cannot in themselves suffice, as it is not so straightforward. There is some pretense of intellectualization and rationalization, but scrambling to justify post hoc projection and displacement―while flailing into concomitant secondary denial about whatever prior sentiments and processes one is replacingα―is neither intellectual nor rational.

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Overdue

Detail of frame from Serial Experiments Lain, Layer 02, 'Girls'.

One note about the passing of time is that the ravages of age compel me to recall―

It’s one thing to have swallowed “the red pill” in a small town in which your pick-up artist (PUA) exploits are likely to become general knowledge, but it’s another thing entirely to be an “alpha” on the prowl who also writes a blog and does a podcast about his conquests — especially after they become general knowledge.

Protesters gather outside Waking Life Espresso in Asheville, North Carolina, in September 2015, denouncing misogyny and the sexually harassing, predatory assertion of the pickup artist after the coffee shop's owners, Jared Rutledge and Jacob Owens, were revealed by a local blogger as PUAs who advocate and blog their ideas and behavior.  (Uncredited photo via Salon.com)That is precisely the situation that two PUAs — Jared Rutledge and Jacob Owens — find themselves in after Ashevilleblog published an article (based on information gleaned from an anonymous blog) about the owners of Waking Life Espresso and the online accounts of their exploits at Holistic Game and a Twitter account by the same name.

It’s not surprising that the West Asheville community is protesting and boycotting the coffee shop — especially the female members of it, who learned on Twitter that they’re not human beings so much as “an endless supply of hot young pussy,” or that “there are no ‘special’ girls,” merely “cool ones and lame ones.” The lames ones, according to the Holistic Game blog, “could help themselves immensely by reading a few classic novels and working out a little [but] they get attention regardless, so the motivation to better themselves isn’t present.”

(Kaufman)

―that not so long ago the idea of a pickup artist was regarded somewhere between being hapless, charming, and forgivable to the one, and admirable to the other.

This is, in its turn, worth mentioning because in the twenty-first century American society seems especially prone to forgetfulness about matters historical. It is one thing to point out the obvious but esoteric Schwarzkopf cycleα, for instance; but quite another to see a decade like the eighties so forgotten―fashion is one thing, but it’s not just Republicans who forget Ronald Reagan’s presidency, or the fights over abortion or condoms or even marital rape.

The idea of the pickup artist is particularly reviled right now, and for reasons we might consider exceptionally obvious. But it seems strange, in the age of #NotAllMen and #JustNotMe, how many of my peers seem a bit cloudy on the issue of how important it was for guys to get laid―by a girl!―when we were younger. And it’s one thing to invoke ego defense, but, really, what drives such suppression? Can self-indictment really be so powerful? Because, I swear, they’re not all running from memories of evils committed. And just how many self-inflicted wounds, such as it is, could they possibly visit upon themselves? Deutsch-20141009-detailOr is it possible that we really have been wandering so catastrophically astray for so long without even knowing it? The proposition seems unrealistic for both magnitude and necessary complexity. Yet one point at least remains occulted: How can we possibly forget?

Still, though, the question of the pickup artist has to do with refinement and ritualization of so much masculine privilege and subordinate expectation breathing life into one of the darkest and most persistent corrosions of our human clay. And as purity cult roars its disdainful lament, we ought not wonder why this most superficial art of charlatanry also finds itself bearing the sort of scrutiny it simply cannot withstand. The pickup artist is a distillation of what hashtags of wounded masculine pride would hope to ward off.

This is an unfortunate truth: The days of the pickup artist will never be over. But this is a time in which the mythopoeic station of this lonely, notorious art can be uprooted and redefined according to what it actually is and does.

And, you know, it really is about time.

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Image notes: Top ― Detail of frame from Serial Experiments Lain, Layer 02, “Girls”. Middle ― Protesters gather outside Waking Life Espresso in Asheville, North Carolina, in September 2015, denouncing misogyny and the sexually harassing, predatory assertion of the pickup artist after the coffee shop’s owners, Jared Rutledge and Jacob Owens, were revealed by a local blogger as PUAs who advocate and promote their ideas and behavior via social media. (Photo via Salon.com) Bottom ― Detail of cartoon by Barry Deutsch, 9 October 2014.

α The Schwarzkopf cycle is a superficial frame for viewing history, starting with the period between 1953-91. At the front end is Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Sr., who helped overthrow Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq; the latter is when his son, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., led American forces in Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein, whose influence and respectability depended in large part on the American response to the Iranian reaction to Shah Reza Palavi. Explicitly: From father to son, it was still the same mission. And we are, of course, still working to clean up that mess, today.

Kaufman, Scott Eric. “North Carolina coffee shop on the rocks after misogynistic owners outed as podcasting, blogging red-pill enthusiasts”. Salon. 22 September 2015.

The John Kasich Show (What Counts)

Gov. John Kasich (R-OH; second from right), celebrates after signing a budget, 1 July 2013.  The controversial budget contained several anti-abortion measures intended to bureaucratically outlaw the practice.  (Detail of frame from video by Ohio Capitol Blog, via The Rachel Maddow Show.)

“I’m willing to fight all day long, but you’ve got to have a good prospect of being able to be successful. Because if you’re not successful, you shut the government down, you open it up and you haven’t achieved anything. You’re just going to have people shake their head and wonder what your thinking was.”

Gov. John Kasich (R-OH)

Remember, though, this is John Kasich we’re talking about, here. The takeaway from Jennifer Bendery’s report for Huffington Post is that Mr. Kasich is giving his colleagues sound strategic advice. That is to say, we should not let this or his recent sound bite about Kim Davis suggest he is any sort of moderate.

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Seething, Useless, Petty Rage

Okay, in the first place, yes, there is obviously something amiss.

The Salon article itself is by Kendall Anderson, and bears a familiar, queasy sentence for a headline: “I wish I’d never reported my rape”. It is, of course, as depressing as you might expect; and it is also another one of those pieces that ought to be some sort of required reading.

I sit in the windowless interrogation room, fingers brushing against the cool metal of handcuffs attached to the chair, and try to comprehend what the detective sitting across from me is asking.

Salon.com“Were you a virgin?” he says, his lips curling slightly as he repeats the question. “Explain to me, how could you have been bleeding if you weren’t on your period? Have you had sex before?”

I feel my face flush with embarrassment as I think about how to respond. Before I can say anything, there’s a knock at the door and another officer walks in.

“The suspect’s attorney is here.”

Suspect? My stomach drops. Did he really just refer to me as a suspect?

The detective turns to his colleague.

“She agreed not to have the lawyer come in for this.”

I open my mouth to object. Our “agreement” consisted of the detective asking me why I needed a lawyer if I was innocent. Before I can speak, the other officer leaves, the door closes and it’s just me and the detective again, alone in the windowless room.

There are so many things to say at this point.

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Innovation in the Twenty-First Century

Facebook vocabularyBecause, you know, nobody likes a pedant. But it is one of those things that catches my attention, like the inexplicable popularity of the word transition used as a verb. And so it goes. Facebook has taught me a new one: “decisions” is now a verb.