Turn and face the strange

26 08 2014

I knew that birthday call to my sister would last awhile—it always lasts awhile—but I didn’t think it would go on that long.

This, by the way, is my excuse for not posting last night

~~~

Classes begin on Thursday. I am, as ever, looking forward to it.

I recycle a lot of material from semester to semester—if it works well, why change it?—but I periodically amend or even overhaul courses: maybe it works well, but I’m bored, or maybe it doesn’t work so well.

The politics & culture course got revamped (due to boredom) last year, and while it worked okay, it just never came together the way I wanted it to. So for this semester I fiddled a bit with the first third, left the last third alone, and redid the middle third.

I’d been using Charles Taylor’s edited volume Multiculturalism to get at, well, issues of multiculturalism, but the argument of he and his interlocutors was pitched a bit, ehhh, not high, but not in the direction that was most fruitful. So I tossed Chuck and added some online readings, readings which come to the pointy-point much more quickly than Chas and his gang.

(If you’ve ever read Taylor you know exactly what I’m talking about. He’s smart and his stuff is worth reading, but good lord the man won’t use 10 words when a hundred will do.)

Anyway, I think it’s a good bet that the students will be more engaged by Ta-Nehisi Coates (among others) than academics speaking academically.

As for the bioethics, that’s pretty damned well set. I did add some short bits on gene therapy and epigenetics, but otherwise it’s the same. I did dig out for my lectures some more recent stuff on genetics and stem cells and, later in the semester, will on ART issues, mostly to make sure I’m not giving my students out-of-date or, even worse, wrong information.

The lectures on the science are, as I repeatedly warn the students, ur-basic and no substitute for the real thing; still, while I’m willing to simplify, I don’t want to mislead.

The good news is that it doesn’t look as if anything I have been teaching has been wrong.

~~~

I’m watching Criminal Minds on Netflix and it is, of course, terrible.

Yes, I have new shows in my queue and I do watch them (The Fall, Bletchley Circle), but I’ve gotten so televisionally-lazy that more often than not I prefer comfort and predictability over innovation , or even just the mostly-unwatched.

This is a failing, as I often do like something new, (Leverage! Yay, Leverage!), but if I’m in any kind of mood at all, I’ma gonna click on a link that takes me to a place I’ve been before.

As with Criminal Minds. I watched the first season or two on t.v., when I had a t.v., and this past year I’ve been watching the current season on CBS.

Well, okay, not wholly watching: I am over watching psychos torture their vics, so I zip through those portions. And the show has gotten more savage over the years, stretching out the screen-time given to crimes; in the early seasons, these are more glimpses than extended scenes.

And it’s not as if I particularly like any of the characters on the show. I don’t hate them, but, as with NCIS, they range from boring to annoying to eye-roll-inducing.

So why watch? Goddess help me, it’s a fucking procedural and fucking procedurals are my televised comfort food. This fall I’ll probably end up watching both that NCIS New Orleans show and CSI Cyber or whatever the hell it’ll be called.

Jesus.

Yes, I should change my diet, but I’ll probably only go as far as occasionally adding something more intellectually nutritious, and will keep mowing down the junk in the meantime.





Shmatta, shmatta, shmatta

13 04 2014

1. Sometimes free  cost too much.

Exhibit A: Under My Skin preview. Boy o boy o boy. The actors were. . . fine, given the script, but that script? Holy hell.

2. I’d stopped bitching about Bones because I’d given up expecting anything better than it had become. I still watched it, though, out of some, lingering, interest.

No more. It’s sliding down, losing whatever bits of charm it had retained. When Fox decides to lay those tired bones down I’ll probably watch the finale, but between now and that day in 2025, I’m out.

3. Oh thou fookin’ Zeus! DO NOT CUT YOUR NAILS ON THE TRAIN! In which of the multiverses is it OKAY TO CUT YOUR NAILS ON THE TRAIN?

None of them! That’s how many: NONE OF THEM!

4. To end on a good note: I finally got out my bike to ride to the gym yesterday.

Last year, I rode all winter, but this year the snow gave me the excuse I needed not to bundle up against the cold.

I’d been biking at the gym—(ma-)lingering health issues have kept me off the treadmill—but I’d much rather peddle my way somewhere than nowhere.

And look, I even refrained from using the requisite Talking Heads lyric. . . .





Hold on loosely

9 12 2013

I’d have a lot more respect for this petition if the signers weren’t themselves sucking so hard on the juicy fruits of information on the internet that their cheeks are caved in.

Oh, and the fact they waited until this all became public knowledge—that is, when their customers found out—makes me think this is less a righteous stand for an open and free society than profit-saving CYA.

Still, message/messenger and all that: they ain’t wrong.

~~~

And I think Brendan Kiley (riffing off David Schmader) pretty much nails it: It is funny—the people who hold the power in any given situation tend to be the ones who behave the most fearfully.

See: Wall Street & its critics; Christians in the US & non-Christians (swap out Islam/Judaism/Hinduism as befits the particular society); MRAs and feminists; ad infinitum.

My only amendment to his statement would be that the people who believe only they should hold the power in any given situation. . . : in a decent political situation, it would be understood that one’s hold on power is of necessity temporary, and thus must be held lightly and confidently, not fearfully.

~~~

Ever since Bones killed off Pelant and Booth & Brennan got married, every fucking episode includes some sort of paean to their love/relationship/perfection for each other.

Tskghk.

Bones has become McMillan & Wife.





Eating fresh fruit when it’s in season

8 09 2013

Ahhh, cortland apples are now popping up at the Greenmarkets.

My most favoritest fruit.

Last year it seemed as if it wasn’t available until late September, and then the apples were small and given to softness. They were still around in the markets into November, I think, but by late season they were all soft.

Which is too bad, because while the taste is pleasing, it is the sweet-tart in combination with the dense crispness that makes the cortland so delicious. That first bite explodes the apple, as if its juice were under pressure beneath the taut skin, snapping you to the fact that this is not a meal to be eaten mindlessly: attention must be paid.

I expect to pay attention daily for the next six weeks or so.

~~~

“Brand loyalty is for suckers”—that’s my thing.

However. I should also point out when something is well done, well, that matters.

Years ago, when I had more than two dimes to rub together, I bought some really nice pots, pans, and knives through various open source sales at Dayton’s. I was in the midst of trying to convince myself that I would enjoy cooking and thought that good stuff would aid in that endeavor.

It didn’t: I don’t really like cooking. Still, the good stuff is good, and to the extent that I do cook, it helps.

Anyway, one of the pots I bought was a Calphalon, and it was that lid which shattered a few weeks ago. Given that Calphalon is a fairly high-end product, I thought I’d check if the lid were covered by warranty. It was an old lid—over ten years old—and there was something on the site that mentioned certain old pots & pans weren’t covered.

But nothin’ about lids, so I thought I’d send an e-mail, inquiring. And I heard back, and after a few back-and-forths (requests for further information, a jpeg of the lid in question), the very nice customer service rep, Tony, said he’d said me a new lid.

Which completely surprised me: I really thought he’d send an apologetic “it’s too old. . .” email and include a link for where to purchase a new lid.

So I got it, and while it’s not as good as the old lid—the brim is wider (I think because it’s meant to fit on multiple pots/pans) and the glass isn’t as rounded—it’s still a mighty fine lid, and I am very glad to have it.

For free.

I stand by Brand loyalty is for suckers, but just because I think it’s silly to decide a purchase solely on brand, it’s also silly to ignore the good experience one has had with a product. It’s not that from here on out, I’ll only buy Calphalon (assuming need and finances, of course), but they’ll at least get first look.

~~~

Oh, and that whole don’t-like-cooking thing? This pretty much extends to everything food-preparation.

I mean, I kinda—kinda—like baking, and I’ll happily help someone else in the kitchen, but if you were to ask me, Absurdbeats, how do you like to relax/entertain/enjoy yourself? cooking ain’t appearing anywhere in my response.

Actually, I find this whole DIY-trend to basic living mildly alarming. I have no desire to grow my own cotton, weave my own cloth, sew my own clothes, make my own pasta, or churn my own ice cream. Yes, I’ll occasionally whip up a batch of cookies, and I do make the best caramel corn in the world, but I do these things because I like to eat them, not because I like to make them.

Okay, yes, I wouldn’t mind a garage in which I could put some basic woodworking tools—table, miter, and band saws, drill press, sander (and I’d take a class on how truly to work this stuff, rather than half-assing it as I currently do)—and I did kind of dig throwing pottery. And yes, if I had a yard, I’d probably give a garden a go—tho’ if I didn’t enjoy it, I’d plow that sucker under and put in some berry bushes.

But on the food-and-clothing front, I am more than happy to have someone else do the work. I do some sewing repairs because I’m a cheap bastard who hates waste, and I cook some stuff because I’m a cheap bastard who finds it easier to make the basic shit myself rather than overpay for it.

It’s just not that hard to make a plate of pasta.

Anyway, on the not-overpaying front, I did make 3-ish batches of pesto today. My basil was still growing, but the plants were getting so little light that it was past time to pull ’em up. I’d have had more basil had I not clipped a bunch recently, but I think I got enough to get me into next summer.

I could have supplemented with some Greenmarket basil, but I thought I’d see how far my own stuff would take me. If it’s not enough, I’ll adjust next year.

One point in my favor this year: I figured out ahead of time how to assemble the mixer such that I don’t spill the contents when I remove the container from the motor. It’s really not that complicated, I know, but last year I put some part outside of the jar  that should have gone inside of it, and when I lifted that sucker up. . . pesto everywhere.

And you wonder why I don’t enjoy kitchen life.





The matches and the Buds and the clean and dirty cars

23 07 2013

More inanities:

1. Trickster loves ice cubes. If she sees me grab one out of the freezer she jumps over to wherever I am to bogart the cube.

It works.

She doesn’t get the popsicles, however.

2. Anthony Weiner stated months ago that there likely were more pics of him floating around in cyberspace, so. . . there you go.

I take it I’m supposed to be upset that these pics apparently date from the same time in which he was trying to get his life back together, that they were from a year rather than two years ago, but POLITICIAN LIES ABOUT SEX is not exactly news.

Anyway, I can’t be arsed to care much since I don’t support him in the mayor’s race. If he wins I’ll be upset because I think he’s too conservative and I’m not at all convinced that he would actually be a good mayor, not because he turns into a thirteen-year-old boy in the presence of a smart phone.

I thought he showed terrible judgment when this first came out, but I also thought it wasn’t worth resigning his seat over. If his constituents decided to vote against him because he flashed his dick, so be it, but as what he did was just kinda-creepy, but not illegal, it didn’t debar him from the House.

And I was sad to see him go, not because he was a great legislator—he was a terrible legislator—but because he played a particular role in the House and for the Democrats that I think is crucial: as the self-appointed pain the ass, the rat-terrier barking at and occasionally biting his and his party’s opponents.

It would be terrible if everyone in the House behaved in this manner, but in a chamber with 435 members each party needs its pains-in-the-ass. The GOP has rather too many of these at this point, and the Dems, too few. Weiner’s resignation was a loss for the Dems.

And if he wins the mayoral primary, that, too, will be a loss for the Dems.

3. Yes, I bought a new fan. Not as quiet as the old one, but still, pretty good.

Doubt it will last almost 30 years, however.

4. I’ve been following this story, mainly at The Slog, about the hunger strike among California prisoners, and am glad to see this bit by Rob Fischer at the New Yorker.

Am not at all glad to see that prison officials are considering force-feeding the protesters.

Jesus fucking christ. I am not a progressive but this is the twenty-first century: can we not figure out a better way to deal with criminals than this?

I get that some people really cannot live in society, that by their deeds they should be keep apart, but is this really the best solution we can come up with?

5. I’m listening to Q with Jian Ghomeshi and the guest host is talking about flip-flops with Dana Stevens.

Dana Stevens is against them anywhere outside of the shower or the beach. I am with Dana Stevens on this crusade.

On the other hand, that people insist upon wearing them oot-and-aboot gives me a chance to be smug: Whenever I see a rat on a subway platform, I get to say “and this is why you shouldn’t wear flip-flops in the city.”

6. I am also, for the record, against people clipping their nails on the train.

Gotta have some standards, doncha know.





Whoo-oop, just a little bit

1 07 2013

dmf is right: I gotta lay off the blogs that are leading me to screw myself into the ground.

Y’know, Sullivan with his Baldwin-proves-liberals-suck rampage (and before that, Clinton, and Palin, . . .). I don’t disagree with him (that Baldwin’s an asshole, and his Tweet, hateful), but jeez, make the point, and move on.

I mean, Alec Baldwin is an actor. An actor. That’s it. So you don’t like the people who like him, which gives you a chance to get all tribal and everything. Fine. We all get tribal some times. Just. . . own the tribalism, man, and stifle the it’s-the-principle! nonsense.

And Dreher, oy, reading him of late (Paula Deen, Trayvon Martin, liberals always and everywhere) is plucking my last nerves. The meanness, the double-treble-quadruple standards, the pissiness at pushback. . . .

Oy doesn’t begin to cover it.

~~~

Oh, and then there’s this.

Makes me so proud I work for CUNY.

~~~

There’s a difference between motive and intention, isn’t there? It seems that there’s a difference.

Motive is where something starts, and intention is where it leads, right?

Yeah, I think that’s right.

~~~

So I’ve been turning over this thought in my head about the whiteness of the GOP and arguments (click here for a Crooked Timber post that has the various relevant links) that Republicans don’t have to worry about being the party of the pasty.

I think they do.

I don’t have this all worked out, but it seems that in order for the GOP to be the White Party they’re going to have to entice voters based on their whiteness, and I don’t know how many folks think of themselves primarily as white.

This is the crumbling underside of the default standard of white: regular [i.e., non-academic, non-race-politicized] white folks haven’t had to think about their whiteness. To bring them to you, you first have to bring them to their whiteness, convince them that their whiteness ought to be their primary concern, then further convince them that their candidates will do the most to preserve their white privilege.

Yes, whitey-first appeals have worked and will continue to work in a number of districts, but I don’t see how this appeal can be expanded, largely because I don’t know how much white folks who aren’t already racialists really want to be racialists. I think white-first appeals would turn them off, maybe make them less likely to vote Republican.

Most Americans don’t want to think of themselves as racists—even the racists don’t want to be seen as racists—and aren’t in a hurry to separate themselves (in their imaginations, at least, if not always in practice) from their fellow Americans. We’re not always large, but an awful lot of us aspire to be.

I don’t know, I’m probably talking out of my nose. It just seems like  focus-on-the-whites is a losing proposition with many of those very same whites.

~~~

Okay, back to Dreher—but to one of those posts that make me go Hmm rather than AAAAAAARGHHH! Namely,  on the problem with ‘the right side of history’ arguments.

Someone as non-whiggish as me casts a similarly skeptical eye on those claims, but skeptic that I am, I go even further: If there is no right side to history (which there isn’t), why the fealty to moralities anchored deep within that history, i.e., traditions?

I mean, isn’t the advocacy of tradition based on a notion of the judgment of history (properly threshed, of course)?

More talking out of my nose, I suppose, and maybe these are really two separate things.

But I kinda think not.





Hit me with your best shot

24 06 2013

Quick hit:

I think the reason most Americans don’t seem to care about the massive secret agency info-suck is the same reason most Americans don’t seem to care about the massive numbers of us imprisoned for long periods of time in inhumane conditions.

Actually, two, related reasons. One, we don’t think “we” are at any risk of having info used against us/imprisonment and thus don’t feel any sympathy for or solidarity with “them”, who are justly targeted.

Two, we punish legislators who are “soft on crime/terrorism”, not those who are harsh—again, because those legislators are protecting “us” against “them”.

At its worst, this kind of thinking means that any questions of responses to crime/terrorism opens the question-er to intimations that she might not be one of “us”, not to be trusted, and, perhaps, should come under the same type of treatment as “them”.

Damned effective at keeping “us” in line.





And so on and so on and scooby dooby dooby

21 06 2013

Un-able/-willing to think long thoughts, but still wanna say some things; thus:

*Sully’s been running a series on bisexuality (including a rather disingenuous vid of Dan Savage on how he loves the bis), to which I find myself mildly irritated.

Only mildly. I’m a mid-life bi who can’t be arsed to date anyone (or be arsed enough to do whateverthehell I’d have to do to entice someone to date me), male or female, and it’s just so obvious to me that this is a Real Thing that discussions of its existence are, well, irritating.

Most of what’s been said is about men, with the requisite oo-women-are-bendy disclaimers, and gay men who once said they were bi seem to be holding court in these posts, but, I dunno, more bi-straight men and bi-women ruminating on this might be nice.

Don’t know how much control Sullivan has on who writes in, however. (And no, I won’t be writing in, and not just because I don’t want to be another bendy-broad: I just don’t have much to say about my own experiences.)

*Another bit from Sullivan: He posted what what seemed to me two contradictory pieces In the same post) on drone warfare.

The first concerns the tedium of drone surveillance, as well as the clarity of the videos (“A nine-camera sensor nicknamed Gorgon Stare is capable of streaming full video with enough resolution to discern facial expressions.”). Through repeated viewings, drone operators become familiar with their subjects:

“It might be little things like a group of kids throwing rocks at goats, or at each other, or an old man startled by a barking dog,” says Mike. “You get a sense of daily life. I’ve been on the same shift for a month and you learn the patterns. Like, I’ll know at 5 a.m. this guy is gonna go outside and take a shit. I’ve seen a lot of dudes take shits.”

The second bit comes from Sascha-Dominik Bachmann

Keith Shurtleff, the US Army Chaplain and military ethics teacher, aptly summarized this concern “that as war becomes safer and easier, as soldiers are removed from the horrors of war and see the enemy not as humans but as blips on a screen, there is very real danger of losing the deterrent that such horrors provide.”

So my question is this: if the drone operator can see the people with whom he’s become so familiar, how removed is he, really, from the horrors of war? Is he not more aware of the humanity of possible targets than, say, pilots, for whom targets really are “blips on a screen”?

*No, Jordan Bloom, just because “The libertarian says the draft is slavery” doesn’t make it so.

I hold to my civic republican beliefs and consider shared civic obligation of particular importance to a pluralist (pluralistic?) society.

Yes, national service can be a problem, but, done right, it doesn’t have to be. I would favor a mandatory 2-yr paid stint in either military or civilian service beginning within some months of leaving/graduating from high school for all citizens and those who want to become citizens.

Yes, there’s an argument for/behind this, but did I mention the un-able-willing thing?

*George Packer has put together some great posts at the New Yorker on the financialization and Siliconization of our economy, and what it means for all of those folks who just don’t fit on Wall Street or in the Valley.

I borrowed a number of quotes from his “Change the World” piece on Silicon Valley for my summer pol sci class, highlighting the certainty of the tech-heads of their ability to lead [some of] us out of the swamp of politics and into the clean, well-lit techno-utopia beyond.

Can you guess my response to that certainty?

*This fucking guy:

Never, ever, ever, wait for a SIGN before you escalate! You will miss out on the vast majority of chances if you sit around waiting for SIGNS. Men are notoriously bad at reading women’s minds and body language. Don’t think that you’re any different. From now on you must ASSUME that she is attracted to you and wants to be ravished. It’s a difference in mindset that makes champs champs and chumps chumps.

. . .

Decide that you’re going to sit in a position where you can rub her leg and back. Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don’t ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances.

Should I note for fairness’s sake that if a woman really really really makes super-crystal clear that she’s just not that into you then This Fucking Guy does allow that perhaps you should back off, if only to try again later, er, for safety’s sake?

Didn’t think so.

*Think vaginas are icky?

Fine, whatever. Just don’t be shocked that not everyone shares your belief  that vaginas are “objectively gross.”

(And not that you’ve asked, but I won’t be sleeping with you, either.)

*It’s a bad idea to arm the Syrian rebels. Bad bad bad.

I’m generally opposed to slippery slope analogies, but this is one case where it seems that if the US gives a guy a gun, we see little reason not to give him a cannon, then an RPG, and on and on until we get sucked in or distracted and everything goes to hell.

More to the point, as bad a butcher as Assad is—and he’s bad—the US has shown little-to-no-ability to make these situations better rather than worse.

I was agnostic-on-to-mildly supportive-of the Libyan intervention, but I can’t really tell you why I think this is such a bad idea.

But it is.

*Shall we end on a happy note?

My window-basil is growing like gangbusters. It apparently likes the rain as much as I do.





They was a rapping the flat scat

11 02 2013

Since I only have small thoughts in my head right now, just a few quick hits:

On the pope’s smell-you-later:

Too bad he’s not stepping down as an atonement for the abuse scandals in the US. And Canada. And Mexico. And Ireland. And Australia. And Belgium. And. . . .

As for who comes next, pfft, more of the same.

On Chris Christie’s weight and Hillary Clinton’s age and (god help me), the 2016 race:

I won’t be voting for Christie for policy reasons, but, yeah, if he could be my candidate, I’d be concerned about his weight—just as I’ll be concerned about Clinton’s age if she decides to toss her bra into the ring.

While I think extra weight or extra years are not and should not be barriers to most jobs, the presidency is an impossible position, one which presses down on whoever holds it with tremendous force. All other things being equal, I think younger and fitter is better than older and unfitter.

Of course, all other things are rarely equal, and I’ll take a 69-year-old Hillary over a young ‘un like Marco Rubio—just as I’m sure Republicans would have voted for a fat Christie over a trim Obama.

Either way, I’ll have no influence on who the parties pick in 2016, so this is just so much spitballin’.

What the fuck is going on with Lindsay Graham and Benghazi?

Is it really all just about staving off a primary challenge from the right? Does he really think that THIS will protect him if some mouth-foamer decides to come after him?

Jeez. Get a better issue already.

Winter storms should not be named.

Call me a traditionalist.

Okay, back to weight:

I gained this fall and winter, and am now stepping up my workouts to try to wrestle myself back to trim.

The problem began when I hurt my back in October: While I was only out of the gym (biking, weights) for 3 weeks, I pretty much stopped my out-of-gym workouts. Yeah, I still managed to put in a few laps around Prospect Park on my bike, but I completely stopped running.

And then, y’know, holidays, and I was working at an office, and my mom sent me cookies and bars, and blorp: there it is.

So now I’ve added some at-home free-weight lifting, and I’ve started running again (which I prefer to biking), and I’m paying more attention to my diet—more veggies, fewer carbs—and not eating past full.

The problem, of course, is the usual one with any kind of change: I want to see results RIGHTNOW, and when I don’t,  I haz a sad.

Yeah, yeah, suck it up.

On changing my default from “stay” to “go”:

This has been good, and I’d like to do more. I’ve seen three (cheap) Broadway shows with friends, and I’ve drunk a lot of Guinness—good for the soul!

The downside? I’ve drunk a lot of  Guinness—not so good for the bod.

Yeah, whatever: no need to be a fanatic.





Talkin’ at the Texaco

9 12 2012

Quick (and not-so) hits:

I keep a list of books to find in the empty back pages of a 2009 pocket planner. The books aren’t listed in any particular order: I see a reference to (or given, perhaps by dmf) a possibility, and I scrawl it down. Since I do so much poking around The Strand, I look them up, find out where they’re located (Med Hist, Hist Gen, Amer, Pol, etc), and pen that in, boxing the location in different colors, to make it easier to see.

The fiction, however, I keep on separate pages. I go back and forth on fiction: sometime scooping up bunches, other times neglecting these books entirely.

I’m not quite sure why, but in the last few days it became very important to me to track down and list fiction.

There was, in particular, one book I wanted. I must have written it down, hadn’t I? No. In my 2012 Moleskine pocket planner? I found a number of others (The Age of Miracles, Brookland, Zone One, Forever) scrawled opposite a week in October, but not the one tickling me behind my ear.

It came out this past year, I thought. A story in which Saudi Arabia is the superpower, the US a backwater, Osama sulking in the background—something like that. The Stranger had written about it in the Slog awhile ago and, I thought, in the past few weeks, so I went to their Books section and clicked back into their archives. December, November, October. . . nothing.

Dammit.

What was the author’s name? Salim Ahmed? Salem Ahmad? Something like that. A search on Amazon brings me a number of nonfiction books, nothing close. To the Strand’s site, thinking it might be listed. . . somewhere. Found one that seemed interesting (Alif the Unseen), but not the tickler. Barnes & Noble—nothing.

Fuckit.

Back to the Stranger, back to Books, and a scroll back and back and back through the archives. I thought it might have been reviewed January, February, so set myself in, Trickster in my lap, for a slog, clicking on squinched entries to see if the book hid there, moving on, moving back.

K. Silem Mohammed! Was that it? It’s not that far (is it?) from Salim Ahmad?

No, Mohammed is a poet, not a novelist.

Back, back. Fran Lebowitz; Jan Berenstein, “Really Good Books About Lesbians”; Reverend America; David Foster Wallace; Katherine Boo; and. . . page 9, February 9, “The Reverse Jihad”: the book review of Mark Ruff’s The Mirage.

Mark Ruff?! Mark, not Salim? Ruff, not Ahmed?

Damn.

But I got it.

~~~~~

While scrolling back, I found this entry by Paul Constant, dated August 3, 2012, in which he writes

I know a lot of authors who get outraged over the consumer’s belief that they can decide what they pay for the piece of art that the author spent months—probably years—creating. They call it entitlement. (It’s not like the work is completely unavailable; Pogue could have bought a paperback for less than he spent for a pirated copy.) Many consumers believe that they should be able to access the work in whatever format they choose, and they believe that when they buy the work, they should be able to do whatever they want with it. (They accuse author’s estates and publishers of being greedy and out-of-touch.) I know the law says that there’s a right and a wrong here, but I also believe the law is hopelessly outdated when it comes to issues like this. I honestly don’t know what side I’m on, here.

I tend toward sympathy toward the authors (duh), but Constant pretty well sums up my own ambivalence.

~~~~~

I must have the only cat in the world who is afraid of cat beds.

*Jasper*

~~~~~

I’ve bitched about Rod Dreher before, will bitch about him again, and am bitching about him today.

Long ago (and far away) I read First Things, Christianity Today, and National Review Online with some regularity, partly to keep my secular-leftist self honest, partly to keep tabs. I fell out with both FT and NRO as they became less and less thoughtful, although I do read CT at least weekly, and have since added Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrock at Marginal Revolution to my teeth-grinding reading.

Still, I felt the need to keep up with some kind of thoughtful social conservative, and since I’d been reading Dreher from back in his BeliefNet days, I re-upped with him once he returned to blogging, this time at The American Conservative.

Dreher is thoughtful about a third of the time, and mildly-to-quite interesting about another third; that final third, however, is enough to make me reconsider reading him.

He writes well about himself and his own struggles, his family, and what he’s drawn to, but when writing “from the outside” of a phenomenon, he’s terrible: small-minded, close-minded, and mean. When he’s called out on his cruelty his defensiveness rises into bile, or when corrected on a crucial point or reminded of a double-standard, he’ll either double-down or ignore the commenter. When all else fails, he’ll bring out the sneering “you’re-making-too-much-of-this/can’t-you-people-take-a-joke” response.

All are on display in this post, ‘Buckwild’ and Self-Exploitation. The post for the most part is fine, but when he gets to the end, he pulls a classic Dreher move:

Nevertheless, to what extent does the framing of films like this, and the informed consent of its participants, ameliorate one’s moral squeamishness? Jersey Shore was about the sexy trashiness of working-class Italian-Americans from New Jersey. Buckwild is about the sexy trashiness of working-class Scots-Irish Americans from Appalachia. How would you feel if the next installment were about the sexy trashiness of working-class African-Americans from the south side of Chicago, or the sexy trashiness of working-class Hispanic-Americans from El Paso?

That last question is in and of itself is worth asking, but it’s a problem coming from Dreher because he loses his mind when he talks about race.

I don’t think Dreher hates black or brown people, and I have no reason to believe that he would be anything other than gracious to any black or brown person introduced to him. In short, I wouldn’t call him a racist.

And yet. And yet he has a hard time seeing that black people are a plural, not a singular, and he cannot seem to extend any sort of sympathy to those who would argue that racism is still a problem in this country, especially not to those who write from their own experiences.

Unless, of course, you’d count Steve Sailer. Sigh.

Anyway, read the comments, especially his response to those who bring up The Dukes of Hazzard and their car, the stars-and-bars sportin’, Dixie-horn-blarin’, General Lee, and the, um, particular cultural politics of that show.

Dreher’s not having it, not one bit of it.

Now, as I was re-reading the entry and the comments while writing this, I thought, this is hardly the worst of what he’s written—see George Zimmerman’s Bloody Nose, for example, in which his last line is Remind me, why, exactly, is George Zimmerman on trial?—but perhaps this is one of those cases where the more I read Rod on race, the less credit I’m willing to give him.

He used to go on rampages about those horrid gay activists with some regularity, but now, for the most part, he manages to confine himself to saving religion from queer marriage. He’s terrible when it comes to liberal Catholics, especially liberal nuns, and is a damned bully when it comes to trans folk (one faithful trans reader, also from his BeliefNet days, finally had enough and bowed out).

I guess this is all so enraging precisely because he has shown himself to be capable of reflection and reconsideration of what matters to him; that he is is not when it comes to that which matters to others betrays a deliberate meanness.

Perhaps that’s too harsh, perhaps there are simply limits to his reflectiveness, limits which he himself cannot recognize.

Given that I almost certainly have those same limits, albeit in different places, perhaps I have a third reason for reading him that I can add to the two above: as a reminder of the existence of my own blind spots, and that I need to look for what I cannot see.

~~~~~

End of the semester—naught but grading ahead.

Blogging will be more erratic than usual.