Stuff That Sucks
Edmund Burke, Observations on Late Publication on the Present State of the Nation. Vol. i. p. 273, 1784
DANGER: Opinionated content. The following is my catalog of personal pet peeves -- things which, in my humble opinion, really suck. I have other pages dedicated to entire topics alone, such as bullies and idiots on the job, "Make Money Fast" spammers, and Bill Clinton. So, this page is is a grab bag of other items which suck but don't merit an entire page.
I'll freely admit that I'm pretty square in some respects. If you're judgmental about people who are judgmental, you won't like this. And, some of the language veers toward PG-13. But if (like most people) your skin is not as thin as tissue paper, you may get a few chuckles out of it. Although I'm overstating for the effect of humorous sarcasm, there's no need for anyone to take any of this personally, even if I'm goring your ox. I'm sure that even Canadians who have purple hair and nine body piercings, are into Star Trek porno stories, got a couple of college degrees in foo-foo majors, and are now trying to get a master's degree with a thesis about lesbian porno fan-fiction (yes, I know of an example) might indeed have many good qualities which outweigh their, ummm, idiosyncrasies. These are just my opinions, after all, and of course you may feel free to agree or not. If you're tempted to flame me, go right ahead, but be warned that I'm an accomplished satirist. (However, respectful disagreement will very likely get respect in return, even if we don't see eye to eye.)
Lastly, this certainly should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway. I may think certain trends are absurd and certain people suck, but that doesn't mean I want harm to come to anyone because of this. A stupid sense of fashion (or whatever) isn't grounds for anything worse than social censure, and even that isn't always necessary. So be civilized, OK?
Stupid Trends That Suck:
Stupid People Who Suck:
Stupid Movies, TV Shows, and Books That Suck:
Things That Are Disappointing, But Don't Actually Suck:
Body Piercings -- Until the 1960s, the only people who even had ear rings were circus people, hookers, sailors, and Gypsies. In modern times, the fashion of piercing body parts other than ears began in the California gay leather S&M scene back in the '70s. (Whatever one thinks of all that, it's a fact that they sure were trend-setters.) During the '80s, some celebrities got perforated. Madonna Ciccone got a navel piercing, and soon girls everywhere had to have one, apparently in the name of "being different" just like all their friends. If Madonna Ciccone got a frontal lobotomy -- assuming she hasn't done so already -- would thousands of youths follow suit? It used to be pretty rare to see a chick with a nose ring -- it still makes me want to moo -- but now it's everywhere. I just don't understand. Why is it that some people think that having extra rings, rivets, and what-not inserted into them will make them look better? It adds nothing and usually detracts from beauty. A friend of mine informed me that she was thinking of getting her navel pierced. I begged her not to do so, and fortunately, she didn't. She has such a beautiful navel that to mutilate it like that would be sacrilege. It's impossible to "improve" on perfection. And once I talked a pretty seventeen year old girl out of getting a rivet through the bridge of her nose. I suspect that if her mother knew that I persuaded her not to ruin her face like that, she would be quite grateful.
By the way, I don't hate people who have more holes in them than Nature put there, and don't even think of sending me snotty e-mail telling me that I do. In fact, there are some folks I admire who have piercings. I just don't understand why.
I can reconcile myself somewhat to ear rings, even though they are as useless as bosoms on a boar hog, but I have no use for further permutations of the body modification fad which infected the youth in the '90s and shows no signs of fading into obscurity as did pet rocks and disco. What's the attraction? Could it possibly outweigh the costs? It's none too appetizing to think of folks having to use antiseptic to clean the crust off of new piercings twice a day for several weeks to reduce the likelihood of infection. I just wonder: all the people who got piercings in their tongue, nose, eyebrows, nipples, navels, and nether regions -- what are they going to think about their fashion choices when they're forty? That kewl tattoo of a skull with snakes crawling out of the eye holes will be starting to resemble an amorphous blob by then. Yeah, I know, my own aesthetic isn't necessarily the same as anybody else's, but let's just say that employment recruiters tend to see things the way I do. Rebellion on the cheap may end up costing more than one would imagine. For those who want to "make a statement", why don't they just paint their faces like Gene Simmons did or dye their hair blue? That looks pretty weird, and Mom will freak (which, let's face it, is the whole point), but at least it's reversible and doesn't leave a scar.
Piercings seem to be like potato chips, in that it's hard to stop at just one, and so there are lots of hard-core "body modification" enthusiasts who end up looking like Martians. And of course, to be really, really different, it's necessary to push the envelope further and further. When one sees pictures of primitive tribesmen on PBS or in the pages of National Geographic, they might have bones through their nose, lip plates, or holes in their ears stretched to enormous sizes. It's rather odd, then, that ennui-stricken youths in the modern age, posing as rebels, have now come full circle back to this. There's even something hideous called the "guiche", which is a piercing through the perineum. (In case you're wondering what the perineum is, consult a dictionary, if you dare.) What would ever possess somebody to do a thing like that? Scarification is getting chic now; unlike rings that can be taken out, keloid scars are forever and hence show more dedication to the Cause of Body Modification. (Yes, some people do think that way.) There are some avant-garde folks who have spikes implanted in their scalps, others who have their tongues bifurcated -- yes, cut down the middle -- and some guys get their jollies by having a similar procedure done further south which I'll euphemistically describe as "the banana split". How appetizing! And, as hard as this may be to believe, castration is even becoming popular with some folks. However, I can't really say that I disapprove; people so stupid as to voluntarily cut off their testicles are really doing humanity a favor because they won't be able to breed.
Come on, folks. Whether you believe the human body was formed in the image of God, or you believe that it is the end result of millions of years of evolution, it necessarily follows that we should respect our bodies and take care of them. Frivolously damaging them like this doesn't make any sense.
For any young people who are considering getting metal stuck through their bodies, let me say just one thing. There are two kinds of rebels. One will get an outrageous haircut, wear three rings in each nostril, put five safety pins through each ear, blow lots of money on CDs from no-talent bands because they're the nastiest thing on eMpTV, smoke dope, and do anything else -- no matter how pointless or self-defeating -- that will look cool to his or her peer group and shock Mom, Dad, and society in general. The other kind of rebel knows that being original isn't about outlandish fashion statements and acting goofy just for the hell of it; rather, it's about self-sufficiency, independent research, challenging contradictions and outmoded catch-phrases, delving fearlessly into important but controversial issues -- generally speaking, thinking for yourelf. The columnist Jonah Goldberg put it a little more bluntly: "Would-be rebels pierce their faces because they are too lazy or too dumb to read a book."
For Further Reading
Amputee Fetish -- Truly, it's a strange world out there. For every possible weird turn on that one can think of, there are people who like that, even though normal people (yes, I unapologetically said normal people) can't imagine what's so much fun about it. Some people fetishize balloons. I really don't get it, but this is harmless. As it happens, amputation fetishes seem to be more common than one might think, as people make porn for this particular neurosis. But people who like that need psychiatric help, not stroke books. Now it's not a problem at all to love someone who happens to be an amputee, but to get turned on specifically because of that strikes me as more than a little weird. The words "Get your hands off me, you damn dirty pervert!" come to mind. I'm reminded of what Ayn Rand wrote, that a beautiful woman who has a cold sore is still beautiful, but it would be a sin against aesthetics to include the cold sore in a painting in the name of realism. And I'm sure Freud would have had something to say about all this, and in this case I'll bet he'd be right on.
But what's even weirder are those who get off on the idea of having amputations done to themselves, with no real medical reason needless to say. For instance, here's a guy who keeps chopping parts off of his body, including his genitals (and I'm quite happy that he won't be able to contaminate the rest of the world with his genes). Getting a tongue piercing is basically a waste of money, potentially risky to one's health, and just kind of dumb. But getting a hand cut off for no real reason is way, way beyond this, and is just plain twisted. Paging Dr. Freud, stat!
This is even more bizarre than those guys who get their rocks off on watching "crush" videos of chicks stepping on bugs. And how many of them, do you suppose, collect disability checks from the government because of their self-mutilation? And he's not alone; there's an electronic mailing list for people who want to have some of their limbs lopped -- as of 2003, there were over 3600 subscribers. So this may be the beginning of a brand-new neurosis. So, in the words of those weirdos, the idea of getting limbs chopped off would make them "feel whole"? What-ever, dude. People who lose limbs in wars or terrible accidents tend not to feel that way. I can only imagine what a soldier injured in Iraq by some religious nutball would say to people like that.
All I have to ask is, why? If somebody can explain to me what the attraction is, please do so, and perhaps I'll come away better informed. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that humans don't deserve to be at the top of the food chain, so we should decimate ourselves in a gigantic war and let the world be ruled by gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans.
For Further Reading
Transsexualism -- And speaking of extreme body modification... Yet more proof that ours is a society infected with terminal ennui is the curious spectacle of men who want to become women and (rarer) women who want to become men by way of surgery and hormone treatments. Just so we get the record straight from the beginning, I'm not talking about hermaphrodism. That is a true medical condition which doesn't merit any particular commentary on this page.
That being said, I guess this phenomenon isn't quite as baffling as the above-mentioned guy who keeps chopping parts off of his body. But still, I just don't understand why transsexuals can't get used to the lot that Nature dealt them. People often tend to want whatever they don't have, so the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and maybe that's what all this is about, but still... I happen to have been born male, and this suits me fine. Because of this, I can open jars and parallel park a car. But had the roulette wheel of birth made me female, that wouldn't be any big tragedy, so long as I didn't also end up in a place like Iran. I don't doubt that I would have gotten used to it had I been born that way, just as I accustomed myself to being male. Womanhood has its various advantages, such as the ability to create life and ask directions when lost.
Anyway, this whole business is just further proof that the medical establishment doesn't take the Hippocratic Oath too seriously any more. Unnecessary surgery used to be considered a breach of ethics. And let's face it, this is way beyond anything like a nose job or breast enlargement. This not only isn't in the same ball park, it isn't even the same ball game. In fact, there aren't any balls at all.
I've met a few guys who got sex changes. I didn't notice about the first one until "she" mentioned it. In generic business casual shirt and slacks rather than a dress, that might have been more obvious. (For some reason, these people usually dress up like they're bridesmaids or extras for Gone With The Wind. I guess they never quite got the feminist idea that it's okay to wear things like jeans and button-down shirts. And why hasn't anyone clued them into the fact that women don't have to shave?) With a closer look, I could easily visualize what this person must have looked like as a man. But as an artificial woman, "she" looked rather frumpy, a bit like Janet Reno. As for the second one, it didn't take me too long to figure out that I was looking at someone who had a sex change. Once you've met one, they're easy to spot. I wonder why they bothered. I did get to know a "pre-op" transsexual fairly well. He never struck me as being any other than a confused man. He's also a first-class flake, but that's beside the point. (Or is it?) And the gown and the bra filled out by way of artificial hormones didn't fool me for a bit; he looks like an aging rock star in a dress, and strikes me as someone who probably got teased too much in elemetary school and internalized it. With results like that, they would have done better to limit living out their feminine inclinations to cross-dressing. This is how this sort of thing usually starts, and that's as far as it should go. Granted, having a cross dressing fetish may be weird, though far less so than taking things to an extreme by claiming to be a "woman trapped in a man's body", and it doesn't involve irreversible surgery. But, these days people just aren't happy unless they overdo things to the maximum.
Yes, I'm sure that having gender confusion issues is a drag. But what I don't get is this. There are people who go forward and live their lives stoically in the face of severe medical problems such as blindness, deafness, and paralysis. So it's a little difficult for me to take seriously someone who claims to be a woman trapped in a man's body and makes such a big deal of it that he gets his testicles cut off and his penis re-molded and starts taking female hormones, for no real medical reason. And if "gender is only a social construct", as the liberal dogma insists, why would getting a sex change even be important anyway? I rather agree with this: men and women have different types of bodies, and to an extent have a different outlook on life, but men and women really do have a lot more in common than we have differences. People are people, so what's the big deal?
After a little journalistic research, I found that the price for a male-to-female sex change is typically $10-15K, and quite possibly more. However, there are doctors in Thailand (one of them in the city of Phuket, of all places) who will do it for less. For women who become artificial men, it may cost $50K or more. I could think of quite a few more constructive ways to spend all that moola, and I'll bet you could too. (How about a donation to Unicef? C'mon, think of the children.) And there is, of course, the pain of surgery to consider. For all that expense and trouble, can't they just get a psychiatrist to help them accept who they are and get on with their lives? Why operate on what's between the legs, if the problem really originates between the ears? Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins University said it best:
It is not obvious how this patient's feeling that he is a woman trapped in a man's body differs from the feeling of a patient with anorexia nervosa that she is obese despite her emaciated, cachectic state. We don't do liposuction on anorexics. Why amputate the genitals of these poor men? Surely, the fault is in the mind not the member.
Unfortunately, Paul McHugh is going against the prevailing trend in his profession. Large parts of the mental health establishment establishment are caught up in political correctness and faddishness. All too many psychiatrists don't try to help "transsexual" patients straighten themselves out, but rather encourage and enable them in their confusion. But getting a sex change might very well not solve whatever underlying neuroses these unfortunate folks have. Let's get real here -- a "sex change" doesn't actually turn a man into a woman. What happens is that a confused man gets extensive surgery and hormones and becomes a confused man who looks kind of like a woman. In the interests of truth in advertising, to be more accurate, he looks like Robert Plant in a frilly dress. It's really just cosmetic surgery, though on a drastically larger scale. But everyone knows that getting a face lift might make someone look ten years younger, yet that person is really the same age as before and won't have years added to his or her lifespan or anything like that. (And after the fourth facelift, one looks like a space alien and can't say the letter "O" any more.) Likewise, a confused man is still a confused man no matter what gets added or chopped off.
Some sex change patients regret their decision, but then it's too late. It's not possible to go back to the way they were before the surgery. And they can't have biological children. (This may change one day; there is talk about uterine/ovary transplants... Not only is this an ethical can of worms, it sounds like something out of Bride of Frankenstein.) I can easily imagine that ten to twenty years from now there will be a wave of malpractice suits.
Getting a sex change isn't likely to help someone's social life. Most straight guys aren't going to be comfortable with even so much as kissing a man who got a sex change. But if this fact isn't disclosed right from the beginning, there will probably be an angry scene. A straight guy who (most likely with the help of beer goggles) thinks he took home a genuine woman but finds out otherwise will probably feel revolted and that he has been deceived. And someone who looks like a woman just won't turn on a gay guy. Straight women are also out of the question, especially since the sex change patient will now lack essential equipment that "she" used to have. And I read about a guy who got a sex change and, when finally rendered a "female", identified as a lesbian. I later found out that this isn't all that uncommon. But WTF?!? If he preferred females in the first place -- which is presumably what defines being a lesbian -- then why, for Pete's sake, did he go get his parts cut on? Since the great majority of women are straight, he drastically reduced his chances for getting a date. What's even worse for this poor sap is that not all the lesbians wanted to accept him as a fellow lesbian, or even as a woman. So a guy who gets a sex change will probably only get lucky with bisexuals. Is this really worth it?
Apparently, the city of San Francisco thinks so. They're now footing the bill for city employees who want to get a sex change. Whenever I think that the metropolis -- so close to my heart despite her faults (and I don't mean the geological ones) -- can't get any weirder, she surprises me once again. Now tax money goes to pay for THIS?!? They should let people pay for elective surgery themselves. If the government of San Francisco has so much extra dough to throw around, I'd feel a lot better about it if they'd spend it on medical treatment for the thousands of homeless and the indigent, many of whom have real medical problems, or help for drug addicts who want to turn their lives around. And worse yet, there's the case of Robert Kosilek (who wants to be called "Michelle") who is doing life without parole in prison for murdering his wife. He sued the government because they wouldn't pay for a sex change operation to cure what he calls "biological claustrophobia". The judge, in his Solomonic wisdom of jurisprudence, apparently took a middle ground and ruled that he doesn't have a right to a sex change operation, though he does have the right to psychotherapy and, if that doesn't cure his ennui, maybe female hormones. What the judge should have said was, "Dude! You're a dude! Get over it! Now stop wasting my time, and go back to doing your time!"
Now here's the ultimate proof of why the medical community shouldn't have let this particular camel get his (or her!) nose under the tent. When I was eleven years old, I was in the sixth grade, I was into cartoons and comic books, and if I had told my parents that I wanted a sex change, they would have patiently told me I was going through a phase. But now there's an eleven year old girl who says she wants to be a boy instead, and is seeking medical intervention. Why did her mom even think about letting it go this far? This says it all: "'I was really freaked out by this information,' says Angelina, who started doing extensive research on transgender issues. She took Kayla to a social worker and gender disorder specialist, who agreed Kayla should grow up to be a male." The first mistake was in doing the extensive research on "transgender issues" rather than putting her foot down and nipping it in the bud, like any parent should do whenever a kid goes through a phase and it gets out of hand. The second mistake was seeking "expert" help. Now, when you take a confused kid to a "gender disorder specialist", what do you think will happen? Will the esteemed expert A) try to help the child learn to be comfortable with the type of body that the child was born into, or B) encourage getting a sex change? That's right. The "gender disorder specialist" concluded, "He knows exactly who he is", quite possibly after the first meeting with the girl. By and large, the "mental health professionals" specializing in this sort of thing just enable these neuroses, and this one was no exception. And now they found a doctor who somewhat reluctantly went along with it, and the eleven year old is going to get hormones to keep her from blossoming into a young woman! If you ask me, a few years down the road I'll bet a lawyer is going to make a fortune out of this one.
And this last case isn't unique -- while channel surfing a little while back, I saw a talk show featuring transsexual children, hosted by (who else) Oprah.
All this transsexual business is supposedly about gender identification problems, but I have to wonder if a substantial part of it is really about victimology, feeling righteous indignation, desperate craving of attention, and shouting one's neuroses from the rooftops. This sounds remarkably like the mental game called "Kick Me", as described by the Transactional Analysis pioneer Eric Berne:
This is played by men whose social manner is equivalent to wearing a sign that reads "Please Don't Kick Me." The temptation is almost irresistible, and when the natural result follows, [the player] cries piteously, "But the sign says 'don't kick me.'" Then he adds incredulously, "Why does this always happen to me?" [another mental game] ... If the people in his environment are restrained from striking at him by kindheartedness, [the game] "I'm Only Trying to Help You," social convention or organizational rules, his behavior becomes more and more provocative until he transgresses the limits and forces them to oblige.
For Further Reading
Fat Acceptance -- There's a movement out there known as "fat acceptance". In the words of one notable organization,
Millions of fat Americans constitute a group which exists in a society geared toward slimness as an ideal. They therefore constitute a minority group with many attributes of minority groups: poor self-image, guilt feelings, discrimination in getting employment, exploitation by commercial interests, and being the butt of countless jokes. In addition, there are conditions not common in other minority groups: extreme treatment by some members of the medical profession, inability to purchase most health and life insurance, difficulty in buying clothes, and often lack of understanding by ones own family. It is the aim of this organization to help people all sizes of large deal more effectively with these and other problems, and to promote a more tolerant and understanding attitude from society.Now that's all well and good. But, it all seems a little quixotic to me. I'll agree (along with Plato) that character and mind are more important than beauty and health. But that's not to say that beauty and health are unimportant. Looks do matter for some things -- maybe they shouldn't, and wouldn't in a perfect world, but they do. (For the record, some chubby women are quite cute, and I'll agree that prevailing standards have gone too far to the bony end of the spectrum. Myself, I am of the opinion that there are many ways to be beautiful, even though the Barbie doll image is the current prevailing standard.) That being said, no matter how you slice it, being overweight predisposes a person to certain health problems. I should know -- now that my weight has gone from "fat" down to "chunky", I'm a lot healthier, and when I reach my final goal, I expect to be even healthier yet. Now really, is it such a good idea to encourage acceptance of something that leads to health problems?
One might ask, why are some people, particularly Americans, so darn porky these days? There are several reasons why. First, let's start with gluttony. Now the fat-acceptance folks will vociferously deny this one, blaming genetics for their out-of-control waistlines. Now genes may well play a part in certain factors such as insulin resistance, but one can still get around this by eating a more suitable diet. If proof is needed that gluttony is a factor, go to any all-you-can-eat buffet, and you're going to see lots of people weighing three or four hundred pounds, desperately stuffing down plate after plate of food. Knowing when to push the fork away from your face is a good first step.
Secondly, life has become way too easy for us. Most Americans go everywhere by car, since in most cities, public transportation sucks or is nonexistent. In 100 years, we've shifted from a society where most people are laborers or farmers to one where most people have jobs that aren't physically demanding. Exercise is pretty essential to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Getting your big butt off the sofa and picking up some weights is as important as pushing the fork away from your face. It's difficult for some people to get motivated to work out -- it certainly was for me at first -- but the results are worth it. I noticed very quickly that I had a lot more energy, whereas before I was tired all the time.
Third, there's too much junk food out there. Lots of things are loaded with hydrogenated sludge -- margarine, vegetable shortening, most frying oil used to make fast food and junk food -- and relatively few people know just how bad it is. Now that the government is requiring manufacturers to disclose how much of it is in their products, many of them are phasing it out -- too late for millions of people with Type II diabetes, and in some cases awful complications resulting from that, but better late then never, right? Also, there's just too much refined sugar and refined flour in the average American's diet. I've seen a plasma sample from a healthy person compared to one from someone with a bad case of high triglycerides. The former was pale yellow, like white wine. The latter was this greenish, grayish, brownish sludge. Who do you think is in better shape?
Fourth, there's a lot of misinformation floating around. Part of this is because many companies are selling weight loss gimmicks of dubious value. Also, many "authorities" are repeating bad information, disproven long ago but not forgotten. With the right motivation and the right knowledge, the Battle of the Bulge can be won. We don't have to accept a growing waistline as inevitable, or pretend that it's no different from being a healthy (and, let's be honest, often better-looking) size. [back to top]
Most of the contributors to the sites are neurotic teenage girls, so the level of nutritional knowledge is pretty appalling. Here's what they won't tell you. If people don't get their necessary daily quantity of protein, muscle tissue is catabolized, which leads to metabolic slowdown, weakness, and looking like a Third World famine victim. People also need a daily minimum of vitamins and essential fatty acids -- without them, dietary deficiency diseases like scurvy and beriberi can happen. Having your hair and teeth fall out isn't going to help make you look like Britney Spears.
Now listen carefully, young ladies -- sleek looks pretty nice. (And if you ask me, buff looks even better.) But, ideal weight is on an Aristotelian mean -- that is, too much weight isn't the ideal, but too little isn't the point either. Thin may be good, but too much of a good thing can be very bad. I -- and most other guys -- would much rather have a girlfriend who weighs over 200 pounds than one who looks like she just escaped from a POW camp. It's less common for guys to have eating disorders, but if you're one, then this applies to you too. Who do you think has a better chance of getting a date -- someone who looks like Dolph Lundgren, or like Gandhi?
And by the way, puking up your food all the time will make your teeth rot before long, which -- let's face it -- just ain't cute. [back to top]
Not surprisingly, this movement is very closely related to postmodernism, which basically amounts to the idea that nothing is real. (Yes, Virginia, there are lots of professors out there being paid handsomely to teach and write about what amounts to solipsism.) Its basic idea was taught by the lawyerly Gorgias, an obscure Greek philosopher -- and not a very brilliant one -- who lived about 2400 years ago, so calling it "postmodern" is oxymoronic. The postmodernists think that reality is constructed by whoever is in power -- there's no such thing as facts, just competing propaganda -- which explains why they have the gall to flagrantly distort academics and fraudulently misrepresent history now that they've burrowed into the universities like termites. So long as it fits their little world view, they'll believe anything. To show what a futile waste of time it all is, a physics professor named Alan Sokal wrote an article which said that the laws of physics are social constructs -- and actually got it published! Lastly, deconstructionism is what happens when professors steeped in that mindset start re-interpreting the classics of literature. All this feeds into political "correctness", an even more popular fetish for aging hippies on campus.
Since postmodernism's dirty little secret is that it got started by a Communist faction known as the "Frankfurt School", with strong influences from a notable Italian Marxist named Antonio Gramsci, it's not surprising that deconstructionists produce incredibly pretentious, politicized verbal swill in an opaque jargon reminiscent of Orwellian Newspeak. The Frankfurt School's goal was to make a fusion of Freudianism and Marxism, and apparently the economic doctrines got dropped some time during the '60s. Not surprisingly, garden-variety European Communists are far more practical than the strain infecting American campuses. And the results are plain for all to see; if you take the Socialism out of Communism, what's left over is really disgusting.
Could it be true that words and language really are meaningless? That's ridiculous; people start learning how to talk before they are out of diapers, and continue to study language and literature throughout school. Yes, even toddlers are smart enough to realize that it's pretty useful to be able to say things like "I'm hungry". Imagine that -- two year olds figure out that language is important and go to quite a bit of effort to learn how to speak, and yet there are professors out there who write these incrediby tedious essays about how words don't mean anything. This is what happens when people get educated far beyond their capacity to understand. If words really mean nothing, then surely people wouldn't bother with pointless, elaborate games such as reading, writing, or speech. And, you wouldn't be reading this web page, and for that matter, there wouldn't be computers or technology at all. If deconstructionism had been dominant in the Stone Age, society would consist of cavemen arguing about whether or not rocks can be made edible if you call them "mammoth burgers" and get enough people to believe it. Unfortunately, the oh-so-clever academics involved in deconstructionism haven't figured out that the use of language is one of the things that differentiates humans from the other animals, and makes society possible. How deconstructionism ever became a trendy fad in academia is hard to comprehend. One might speculate that farces like this are what happens when people are educated beyond their intellectual capacity. This might explain any number of dumb notions espoused by Western pseudo-intellectuals, not the least being Marxism itself.
Believing that nothing is real and that words don't mean anything never stopped those who've drunk the postmodernist Kool-Aid from noisily expressing their opinions. Those who can stand to read their hideously turgid writings will find them to be dripping with undying hatred for Western culture. It has hardly anything to do with the shortcomings of Western civilization, which is envied the world around; rather, it is the result of self-hatred, a misplaced guilt complex, and wanting to fit in with all the rest of the leftist trendies plaguing the halls of Academe. It's practically psychological warfare, especially since this propaganda gets crammed down the throats of millions of college students. Most of this garbage -- the intellectual equivalent of meningitis -- is the product of tenured University faculty who, in the case of state schools, are a horrid waste of taxpayer money. Compared to postmodernist professors feeding in the public trough, all those $800 Air Force toilet seats sure were a bargain. As for deconstructionists and postmodernists employed at private schools, I pity all the parents out there who think that they are spending tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of dollars to give Buffy or Skip an education which will broaden their minds, when they are really funding a gaggle of pointy-headed intellectuals who don't know how to park their bicycles, much less have anything even remotely valuable to teach. I wish that the claque of deconstructionists and postmodernists would just find motivation to learn how to do a real job, like driving a truck, construction work, building automobiles... [back to top]
Perhaps it's some inscrutable psychological thing. A Freudian might well speculate that corporal punishment by parents causes a later confusion of love with getting swatted on the tush. The best I can figure is that S&M, B&D, BDSM, or whatever the heck you want to call it is a fixation for people who have issues with self-esteem (the masochists) or with control (the sadists). Perhaps sadists are just people with a power trip who haven't found a conventional outlet for their mental complex; after all, there are only so many job openings as junior high principals, parking lot rent-a-cops, and fast food restaurant managers. Or maybe it amounts to a "sexy" twist on domestic violence. In my book, any man who beats a woman is lower than a garden slug at the bottom of a ditch. Even if a female masochist agrees to getting hit, I just can't bring myself to believe that it's something positive. As for a guy who wants to get hit -- oh, brother... what a weeny...
Of course, S&M afficionados say that it's just harmless role-playing; everyone's having fun; nobody takes it too seriously; it doesn't get out of hand; yada yada yada. (But haven't we heard this before? The proponents of drug legalization would have us believe that the drug scene is all about blissed-out hippies puffing on joints. Somehow, they never get around to mentioning violent crack heads, rave-bunnies who fried their brains on Ecstasy ("E-tards"), overdosed junkies, berserk PCP users, addled glue sniffers, and all the rest of the sheer wasted human potential.) It happens that there's another side to the S&M scene as well. It's not just about yuppies having naughty fun by spanking each other. The John Edward Robinson serial killer case in Kansas comes to mind, as does the Ray and Hendy case in New Mexico. Also Albert Fish, Charles Ng -- and quite a few other folks you wouldn't want living in your neighborhood, come to think of it -- were into sadism and/or masochism. The Marquis de Sade, after whom "sadism" was named, wasn't quite so bad; he was merely guilty of rape and kidnapping. Let's face it -- the dude was more than a few French fries short of a Happy Meal, and so are many of his followers. Granted, everyone with a libido is going to have a few kinks, and sometimes more than a few, but that doesn't mean it's always a good idea to pursue them. I certainly wouldn't say that everyone into S&M is going to be another Hannibal Lecter, of course. But, considering how many unhealthy types do gravitate to this kind of thing, maybe it's a kink best left unexplored, and that personal ad is better left unanswered. Maybe it isn't so healthy after all. Now who'da thunk it?
If this weren't bad enough, there are some people who -- of all things -- think that slavery is cool, and get their jollies from being either a "master" or a "slave". What kind of an inner vacuum are these people trying to fill? Or to borrow an expression from Joseph Sobran, whose idea of love is that? Abraham Lincoln must be rolling in his grave. To call this trend pathetic would be an enormous understatement. At best, people into slavery just can't get laid any other way, and at worst, they've got more than a few screws loose. Or am I wrong, and bourgeois life is just too bland and boring or something? I can't help but speculate whether Invasion of the Body Snatchers somehow became non-fiction. Y'know, I wonder where they're hiding all those pods. [back to top]
Well, folks, Urinating Bart is just another icon of our cultural decline. One could demonstrate brand loyalty just as easily with a sticker saying (for instance) "Proud GMC Owner" or "Ford: When Only the Best Will Do". Crude isn't better, folks. Whatever novelty Urinating Bart had, he isn't cute any more. He's just a symptom of rampant junior high mentality. [back to top]
I won't deny that there's a place for Ritalin and perhaps even SSRI drugs such as Prozac in treating pathological conditions. But, it's starting to look like medications are overused to a very large degree. My friend really was hyperactive, and the pills did chill him out during school. But a good number of kids today don't really have such a problem, and are getting the stuff because they're acting like kids, and the pharmaceutical industrial behemoth is quite glad to supply parents with their overpriced pills. Even pre-schoolers are starting to get doped up now. It's likely that a good number of them would be just fine if their parents spent more time with them and didn't use TV as a babysitter. Let's face it -- children, by their very nature, are irrational, impulsive, and foolish. (So are some adults, but that's because they don't grow out of it.) In the process of growing up, people learn to be more rational, self-controlled, and wise. This generally involves doing stupid things, dealing with the embarrassment and other consequences, and figuring out that it's not a good idea to do things like that. I know this; I speak from personal experience, and so does any other adult worthy of the title. At some point, kids need to learn to manage their behavior and emotions without chemical assistance.
There may be consequences other than leaving young people unable to cope with the world on its own terms without resorting to pills. I don't think there's enough data on what the long-term effects are on the brain chemistry of children whose brains develop under years of medication. In a few years, society might find out the hard way. And if marijuana is a stepping-stone to harder drugs, because it gets young people used to using chemicals to modulate their feelings, can't Ritalin and Prozac do the same thing for similar reasons?
I can't help but wonder if many diagnoses of attention deficit disorder really amout to "discipline deficit disorder". Because of various sociological trends, children are getting less contact with their parents, most of them are glued to the television all the time, and many of them effectively end up raising themselves. Is there any wonder that so many of these underparented kids don't know how to act? Over the last several decades -- arguably all the way back to the 1950s -- there have been lots of ill-considered ideas about education and child development floating around which have resulted in a great loss of respect for authority, tradition, and cultural customs. It's little wonder that the standards for what is acceptable behavior have eroded so much since then. To fix these problems, parents must be willing to spend enough time with their children, they must be firm but fair and proportionate, and they need to turn off the damn TV. Of course, there are some kids who really can benefit from medication, but in a vast number of cases, a handful of pills isn't what we need for ordinary discipline issues. [back to top]
I do have direct experience of this, beginning back in my early 20s, my younger-and-stupider days. (Yes, I've read a little Heinlein, but this wasn't why. Long story.) So I'll admit to being conflicted on it. The results were enough to scare me away from it for a good while. If I electrocute myself once, I'll think twice next time. I've also seen others get their fingers burnt, time and again. Please don't get the idea that I have some personal grudge against people who do this. I merely question the social utility of it all. Granted, it would help some people achieve every straight guy's fantasy (yes, mine too) involving two women at once. And polyamory does make it easier to pick up a hot babe at a science fiction convention. The bad news, though, is that she probably already has three boyfriends. Imagine feeling a hearty slap on the back and turning to find a burly Klingon impersonator who says, "Hi. I'm one of Mindy's secondaries. Welcome to the club. She can sure suck the chrome off of a trailer hitch, can't she?" But, profound social awkwardness isn't all that's wrong with it.
In the western world, we value individualism to the point that "being different" is almost a religion. One might ask, what's so bad about all that? How dare I even whisper in public that this might not be the neatest thing since sliced bread? These are just people having fun, right? To put it a little more elegantly, a certain large organization devoted to "swinging" (a variant of polyamory, the distinction being basically sex only and no messy, inconvenient emotional attachments) writes in a guide to the activity,
"If we are really supposed to restrict our good feelings, then we should restrict how many roses we smell, how many sunsets we see, how many barbecued chickens we smell, how many warm baths we take, how many chocolate cakes we eat, how many pine forests we walk through, how many symphonies we listen to, and how many friends we have. For these stimulate us too. They turn us on. They arouse us and make us want to live life to the fullest."Not so fast. What's wrong with this picture? The underlying (and unstated) assumption, of course, is that all "good feelings" are equivalent. Notice that none of the simple pleasures of life enumerated above have adverse consequences (except perhaps that too much chocolate cake will put on the pounds). The conclusion one is supposed to draw -- provided one has missed the rhetorical trickery -- is that all "good feelings" have no bad consequences, most particularly sex. The writer would have you believe that sex is no different from smelling roses, looking at sunsets, etc. And note well, in this case, it's promiscuous sex being advocated.
But whatever two dozen consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom is okay, isn't it? To answer that question, one must ask, does sex have "other-regarding" consequences? One would have to be in deep denial to overlook the obvious. You'll understand this if you've ever spent years trying to make a deadbeat dad support the kid he brought into the world; or ended up paying through the nose for child support after a one night stand. You'll understand this if you've ever spent days in utter dread before the results of your blood test arrived; or had a doctor use a laser to remove warts from some of the tenderest flesh on your body, hoping fervently that they don't come back and (if you're female) cause cervical cancer later on down the road. And then there is the very real pain of heartbreak, and for any children unlucky enough to find themselves in that picture, growing up in a broken home.
What many people involved in this "poly" business discover is that, no matter how much they try to avoid it, jealousy often gets in the way. This is likely something hard-wired by evolution. It doesn't further a man's genetic lineage to raise and support another man's children, or for a woman to let her man go find someone else and no longer support her and any children of theirs. Whatever the cause, it often surfaces, which is a reason why relationships like that are less stable. Sex can be a very beautiful thing -- which it should be -- but context is everything, and it's a bad idea to cheapen it or use it recklessly.
That's what morality seeks to prevent. There are many people who have the sophomoric idea that morality is anti-fun, neurotic, repressed, and all the rest of it. They fail to see that moral standards develop and are sustained over the generations, because they work. They exist to keep people from having to discover the hard way that sticking your finger into a light socket isn't a good idea, especially when the consequences are so far-reaching. More importantly, they seek to prevent society from suffering the negative effects of what invariably happens when "anything goes" becomes the guiding cultural principle. And for that matter, the purpose of life is not to experience maximum pleasure. (What it is, of course, is a philosophical matter. In summary, my view is that the purpose of life is to be the best person that you can be.) Hedonism is bankrupt. Ordinary "Ozzie and Harriet" relationships sometimes have their problems, but I've seen enough to convince me that relationships that go outside of the traditional morality are inherently less stable, and quite commonly emotionally destructive. One great party, one hell of a hangover.
When considering the effects of "personal" behavior, one should ask onesself honestly, "What would happen if everybody did that?" One could even think about what things would be like if only one out of every five people were to do such a thing. In the case of this "poly" business, we do have some examples to guide us.
There are the Mormon "fundamentalists" who haven't given up the principle of plural marriage which was officially renounced by the LDS Church over a century ago. So even today there are men with half a dozen or so wives, and dozens of children. They tend not to be millionaires, so many of them end up supporting their kids by way of welfare fraud. In other words, we as taxpayers end up picking up the tab for their irresponsible, unsupportable behavior. Incest is rampant among this subculture. It's hardly unusual for teenage brides to get married off to an uncle, sometimes against their will.
Then there are Muslim countries where, according to religious law, a man can have up to four wives, provided that he can support them and treat them equally. The Qur'an does recommend, however, that it's better to marry only one -- a recommendation ignored by many. But the presence of polygamy doesn't mean (as its proponents in the Western world predict) that there is sexual equality or lack of repression. According to someone I know who worked in Saudi Arabia for a long time, many men pursue homosexuality furtively, not because they prefer it but because that's all they can find.
The reason for these problems is that where polygamy is widespread, it creates an unbalance of single women to single men. (It's far less common to encounter two or more men who will agree to share the same woman, which is probably because of basic human nature.) And it's no accident that countries where there is a good deal of polygamy also tend to have many eunuchs. Also, such societies tend not to be very peaceful, although it's open to debate as to whether that's a cause, an effect, or something unrelated. "Free love" has been tried every so often in the Western world, but it's an experiment that just doesn't work. The only cultures that have made polygamy stand the test of time are the ones where the men get to tell the women to shut up, quit arguing, and obey. Often, the women put up with it because they're poor, uneducated, and don't know any better. Maybe being "poly" isn't such a bed of roses after all. As for liberated Western women, keeping one happy is difficult enough; two at once is nearly impossible. In the words of one Mormon plural wife of old:
The house was a perfect hell, and every polygamous household is. No matter what the advocates of polygamy may say to the contrary, I affirm here, and I wish it could be circulated all over the United States, that I have never known a, polygamist family, and I have been intimate with many from the highest in authority down, where hatred and discord did not exist. I have known families who were extolled as models of respectability and exemplary conduct, where the most disgraceful quarrels were of daily occurrence, and I have also known instances where the wives have scarcely risen from their knees after family devotions, before they would begin to quarrel, and call each other by the lowest kind of epithets. And what is more I defy any man or woman in this Territory, to cite one instance of a polygamous household where there is anything approaching harmony,-where there is not bickering, constant jealousy and heart-aches, even where the semblance of good relations is most rigidly observed.
As for ancient cultures which practiced polygamy, sometimes it worked because frequent wars depleted the male population. But often it was something permitted only to the rulers. Since monarchs and chieftans commonly forged alliances by arranged marriages, this made many alliances possible. (And no, not everyone got to be Pharaoh.) It should be remembered that these ancient societies, too, were not exactly feminist paradises.
I predict that if polyamory were to become accepted in the Western world, what would happen is that all the rich guys would get lots of wives and concubines as status symbols and sex objects. There would be far more lonely men of modest means. I really wouldn't wish any of that on all those poor Heinlein fans, who are some of the biggest proponents of polyamory. The stereotypical sci-fi fan is young, broke, shy, and a little nerdy -- he's going to be the first to lose out if the forty-year-olds with Armani suits, gold jewelry, and Mercedes Benzes can get as many concubines as they want without legal or social consequences. If they knew what the probable results of their actions are, then they might well reconsider their libertine ways. For every guy who gets to go to bed with two women every night, there's going to be another guy out there who has to settle for his right hand or perhaps the carnal affection of another male.
One more consequence is that where immorality is tolerated in the interests of the commandment "Do thy own thing", this encourages others to get into the act since the traditional rules are no longer taken seriously any more. This then erodes the overall moral standards of society, and the results -- absent fathers, epidemic STDs, a soaring divorce rate, emotional upheaval -- are soon to follow. This is precisely what began in the late '60s and still hasn't ended because even after all this time we haven't figured out that we can't have our cake and eat it. Society stuck its finger into a light socket and still hasn't pulled it out yet.
Ours is certainly not the first to have to address these matters. The Greeks considered transgressing society's moral standards to be a form of hubris. The play Medea speaks of the disastrous results of when Jason decides to take another wife. Plato touched on the issue of morality in the Laws. To paraphrase Plato, people are endowed with self-control, and we can avoid cheating on our spouses. But if you just have to have an affair -- not that this is something to be encouraged -- then just have a damn affair and don't tell anybody. I've got to agree. We don't need a fancy name for fooling around, and we shouldn't demand social sanction, shout it from the rooftops, or curse the customs that make society work. This may seem a little like hypocrisy. But it's a bad thing only if hypocrisy becomes the cynical rule, not the rare exception. Maintaining the standards of conduct that make society work is more important than validating everybody's all-important feelings. And if you get electrocuted, don't say I never warned you.
So it's like this. It would indeed be fun to have four gorgeous babes to make me happy. But in the unlikely event that this ever happens (purely for journalistic research, I swear) I'm not going to brag about it here, and it isn't going to be a permanent arrangement. A harem wouldn't be practical, nor would that sort of thing work well in modern society. So, I'd really prefer to settle down with one very special woman. That's enough for me. [back to top]
Stupid Restaurant Crews -- Once, I ordered a pitcher of strawberry margarita at a restaurant, which was dispensed from a machine that obviously had a capacity of several gallons. It tasted quite salty, and my girlfriend described it as "brine". She took it back and explained the situation. Surprisingly, the guy at the counter understood perfectly, and gave us a pitcher of lime-flavored margarita, which proved to be drinkable. He said that it had happened the day before as well: someone couldn't find the sugar, and decided to use the salt instead. Is this country getting dumber, or is it my imagination? The gene pool definitely needs some chlorine. And there's another restaurant, close to my house, in which they've screwed up my order so many times that it makes me wonder where William Shockley is when we need him. [back to top]
Madonna Ciccone -- I have to admit, I really admired her at one time. I've got a thing for Italian bad girls, after all. But, my heart really sank when I found out about her and Dennis Rodman. There's a difference between a bad girl and a skank. I have to agree with a former co-worker of mine, who said that he used to like her until she metamorphosed into Robo-Slut.
And what about the fact that she deliberately got herself pregnant without being married? If a man gets his girlfriend pregnant, perhaps despite contraceptive measures, and leaves -- which happens quite frequently -- that doesn't reflect all that badly on the mother these days. Birth control isn't 100% effective, after all, and some men just aren't man enough to do the right thing and support the children they brought into the world. Even so, growing up without a father makes it harder on the child and is therefore something rather misfortunate, no matter how you look at the situation. But, if someone deliberately plans to bring a child into the world outside of wedlock and with the biological father basically just a sperm donor, it's a different kettle of fish. It's not fair for the kid not to have a full-time daddy, especially if that can be avoided. The fact is, it's a good deal harder to raise a child in a single parent household. Furthermore, even if a mother has the resources to go it alone, it's still not ideal for a child to be raised by nannies, day care, and television.
But this isn't all of it. In Madonna's case, she is seen as a role model by perhaps millions of girls. She knows this, but apparently self-indulgence is more important than setting a good example. For most celebrities, it's all about me-me-me-me-me-me-me. And all those teenage fans got the message that having kids with no daddy around is something that glamorous people do. The only problem is, unmarried teenage girls do not tend to have the resources to raise kids all by themselves. They don't have the money to hire nannies like Madonna does. (She bragged that she's never changed a diaper in her life. Let's give the Material Girl a medal for that one.) Often, single teen mothers drop out of school and end up either on welfare or stuck in dead-end jobs. It's a fast track to poverty. A teenage girl who follows Madonna's example will probably become a welfare mother and maybe catch a few STDs along the way.
When she told Rush Limbaugh that she wanted another kid, he replied, "Well, Madonna, if this is what you want to do, just do what you did. Take a walk in the park. Stake out some gang-member type guy who looks like a hunk to you. Pay the guy some money. Bring him into the apartment on Central Park West, bed him and it can happen all over again just like it did the first time."
And speaking of being a bad role model, how about that pornographic photo album of herself (along with several others performing various acts) she published? So now all the kiddies are going to think that posing for porno is fun and glamorous? The name Madonna is a title by which the Blessed Virgin Mary is known, Qeotokos, the mother of Jesus Christ. I'm not Christian, but even so, I find it rather revolting that someone with that name would do a thing like that.
Lastly, I heard an apocryphal story that Madonna was on a plane and the stewardess asked her if she wanted something to drink. She didn't respond. Her bodyguard replied, "Madonna doesn't talk to stewardesses." I'm not sure if this is true or not. But if it is, I have to wonder if all those millions of dollars made her a better person.
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This being said, the thing I despise about the bad sort of Canadians the most is their smug, sanctimonious attitude. The Canadians, aside from the Québecois, are hardly different from Americans, except for their colorful speech patterns and the fact that they play more ice hockey. If the border were erased overnight, they simply would fit in as another region of the USA, and the casual observer might never guess that they ever had been a separate country. Since they are overshadowed by their neighbor to the south, some of them have a collective inferiority complex. Not that I blame them in the slightest; America has produced the first commercially viable light bulb, the phonograph, the telephone, the steam ship, the airplane, the polio vaccine, a great deal of computer technology from ENIAC on up to the modern PC, the Apollo program (etc., etc., etc.,) and the most the Canadians have produced is Labatt's and Molson Golden.
So they exaggerate the few differences between Canada and the USA and try to spin it to make them look better. They don't like what they consider to be "Yankee imperialism". However, the fact that they're trying to coerce Québec into not seceding doesn't exactly speak volumes for their government's alleged moral superiority. Independence has come up for vote twice, and in the last time, the measure was defeated by the slimmest of margins: 0.6% of the vote. This was accomplished by threatening the Québecois with dire economic crisis should they be so presumptuous as to secede. Do the Canadians have a problem with the right to self-determination or something? After nearly 250 years, the Québecois still aren't assimilated and want to secede. Pharaoh, let those people go.
During the Cold War, the Canadian government held the ridiculous position that the USA and the Soviet Union were morally equivalent. Their immoderate sense of pride led them into that ludicrous notion, because -- heaven forbid -- they don't want to be seen as subservient.
Oh, and they make a big deal out of the fact that they turned their medical system into an enormous state-run HMO. That's another reason why they're supposedly better than the USA. But HMOs have serious problems in providing quality medical care while trying to keep costs low at the same time. (I belong to one, and I doubt that half of their employees would make it as McDonald's fry cooks.) These problems can only get worse if an HMO is a monopoly over a country's entire medical system, and making the HMO part of government bureaucracy isn't likely to brighten the picture. Things can get pretty grim for those unlucky enough to get sick during an economic slump. The result is that hordes of Canadians are venturing south to seek medical care. And I've had two doctors from Canada -- gee, I wonder why they moved. (If Queen Hillary gets Her way, though, I suppose they'll end up moving to Mexico.)
Worst of all, the bad kind of Canadians try to make up for their deservedly deficient sense of national pride by being prissily "politically correct" to an extreme fault, as if this really makes them superior. It's quite the opposite, in fact, and it just makes me want to buy a plane ticket north and wring a few of their sanctimonious little necks. Like the benighted liberals they are, they've decided that the right to freedom of speech is trumped by the supposed "right" of people not to feel bad, be criticized, or get their feelings hurt. It's a fact that in a free society, there is no legal remedy for hurt feelings. (But who ever said that Canada is a free society?)
As a prime example, the Canadian Standards Broadcast Council took aim at Dr. Laura Schlesinger, because of her less-than-enthusiastic views about homosexuality. They once were content to make the two stations which carry her show broadcast a denunciation before every one of her programs. But then they censored her completely. What a pack of prissy, pusillanimous, panty-waisted prigs. These blue-nosed bureaucrats bleat thusly:
The CBSC has also previously stated its position that, in Canada, we respect freedom of speech but do not worship it. It will be one of the societal values to be weighed against others. It is significant but not absolute; material, to be sure, but not free of that compromise essential to ensure a balanced and free democracy for all who dwell there. It would be no consolation for those in pain that the inflictors induced that agony in the presumed legitimate exercise of their freedom.
Now, isn't that special? There you have it, straight from the horse's mouth. I could hardly do better than to quote Orwell's rebuttal to the censor's mentality: "Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose." But in Canada, the government just doesn't get it. They claim to believe in freedom of speech, but not if it hurts anybody's feelings. It is, of course, the well-known "politically correct" stratagem of using the power of the state, with the full force of the law behind it, to delegitimize and ban opposition under the pretext of preventing some sort of alleged harm. Note the emotion-saturated words, "those in pain" and "induced that agony". With such a demagogic exaggeration as that, you'd think that Dr. Laura goes around beating people over the head with a steel pipe or something. Only a real wuss with arrested emotional development thinks that getting criticized is "pain" and "agony". Maybe it wounds the inner child or something. "Mommy! Laura hurt my feewings! Make that bitch shut up! Boo hoo hoo!" Of course, all this is met with a curious silence from the self-anointed champions of civil liberties who defend sleazy pornographers as if they were Joan of Arc.
Now, I don't agree with everything Dr. Laura has to say. But you won't ever see me trying to have her censored. Back when liberalism actually meant something, Voltaire said, "Monsieur l'Abbe, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write." Hey, whatever happened to that? Unfortunately, the principle all but completely went by the wayside some time during the '90s. It's not just the Canucks; they're only a few steps further than the USA down the primrose path. Campus speech codes abound, promulgated by the aging hippies who once zealously defended burning flags and draft cards in the name of free expression. Craven political "correctness" is also creeping into government, corporate boardrooms, and the terms of service of ISPs and web hosts (including this one, unfortunately). PC doesn't care about four lettered words, and it's not concerned with inflammatory speech because it's inflammatory; rather, it's about banning ideas that disagree with liberal dogma. PC brings to mind another phrase by George Orwell: "smelly little orthodoxies which are contending for our souls". Freedom of speech is a bedrock of liberty, right up there with the right to defend onesself. If people have the right to hold their own opinions, it is a corollary that they have the right to express them as well -- even if that means disapproving of various behaviors or goring sacred cows. Freedom of speech is a miserable sham if it's only permitted for ideas that those in power happen to like. If anyone doubts that being able to express onesself freely is a good thing, then I would highly advise reading the second chapter of On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. Maybe I need to e-mail a copy to the Canadian ministry of censorship. [back to top]
What's good about Holland? Their land reclamation projects were clever and ambitious. Their art and architecture from the Renaissance is quite impressive. Tulips are pretty cool, and windmills are picturesque as well as a sensible use of renewable energy. And all those cookies they baked for the Waffen-SS were mighty tasty.
What's wrong with that country? Basically, Holland is an example of liberalism run amok. First of all, they're almost as "politically correct" as the Canadians. You can get thrown in jail for espousing the "wrong" views about history and politics. (BTW, you can get in legal trouble for this in Canada, too.) Of course, like most other liberal utopias, the crime rate has gone through the roof. Even with gun control, Amsterdam's murder rate is the highest in the EU -- even a little higher than that of Belfast. Amsterdam is famous for its vice, but that has become a magnet not only for tourists but for bums, con men, dope dealers, and thieves all the world over. One might well wonder if the main occupation of their keystone kops is cracking down on views anathema to their regime.
Moreover, Holland is the most decadent country in Europe. They come in a close second to Thailand in the world competition, only because Thailand has more child prostitution. (This is beside the point, but 2% of Thailand's population is infected with HIV, the highest rate in Asia, because the "oldest profession" is widely tolerated.) Naturally, a disproportionate number of the world's porno sites are operating from the ".nl" domain. And Holland is the kiddie porn capital of Europe, or at the very least it's as bad as Denmark. Russia and Hungary are competing to unseat Holland in the pedo-porno hall of shame, but they're probably not there yet. And Holland's age of consent is 12 -- what a great country for pedophiles. And they have red light districts where the hookers sit on display in the storefront like meat in a butcher shop cooler. How romantic. Even in Nevada -- the moral nadir of the USA -- the legalized brothels aren't nearly as tacky as that. The Red Light District of Amsterdam is pretty much a theme park devoted to maximum bad taste. What a crappy culture. It's quite a shame -- in happier times, these guys were known for great art and architecture, but now, their red-light districts are what makes them famous.
There's more. Drugs are so widely available that they're traded openly, even right in front of police stations. Holland is the only country in the world that has effectively legalized marijuana. But that's by far not the extent of their drug problem, any more than it is in the USA where the authorities at least make an effort (though imperfect) to control this great waste of human productivity and life. In downtown Amsterdam, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a dope pusher grunting "Coca! Coca!" The police tolerate cocaine possession up to a certain limit, and these peddlers of chemical slavery know exactly how far they can push. Of course, those who get addicted to heroin will be rewarded by the government giving it to them for free. I've seen a survey that says that the majority of Duch citizens don't like all this mess. But if they're going to do something about it, they're going to have to learn how to get in-your-face with their elected officials.
Also, euthanasia is legal there. If you're sick and life isn't fun any more, forget about swallowing a bunch of pills -- just call Dr. Death, and he'll bring you oblivion in a needle. But despite what the advocates of this ghoulish procedure might tell you, often patients do get "euthanized" without their consent. It does keep down the costs of health care, after all. Is it a coincidence that they've got socialized medicine? (American HMOs would love that, too.) There's another word for this: murder.
Last, but not least, they recently became the first country to institute gay "marriage". This doesn't encourage me to buy more Heineken. (Besides, Jever is far better.) I plan on doing a separate essay on this subject later, but for now, suffice it to say that nothing good can come from deconstructing the family, an institution that has been the bedrock of society since time immemorial, just to appease the whims of a small but noisy fraction of the population who are impossible to please in the first place and want these concessions mainly so that they won't feel left out.
All these degenerate things, plus the other usual liberal blights such as runaway Third World immigration and a wasteful welfare state, add up to a serious cultural malaise. It's a real shame what happened to this once-promising country. All this "freedom" (or license, to be more precise) doesn't add up to greater happiness. Rather, that's what makes Amsterdam one of the scuzziest cities on the continent. I'd rather live in Arkansas.
The Dutch are so liberal that it hurts. This seems to be ingrained in the national character. They pride themselves for being so tolerant. Now, doesn't that just warm your heart? As G.K. Chesterton pointed out, tolerance is the virtue of people who can't make up their minds. To put it a little more bluntly, those who are too dull to have opinions, or too timid to express them or stand up for them, at least can feel good about themselves because they're so "tolerant". Respecting differences of opinion and cutting people slack in the interests of civility is all well and good; but it's just stupid to go way beyond this and put up with things that are inimical to onesself or are just destructive. Acting like a doormat and treating whims as rights should never be a country's guiding principles. And the Dutch also have this business about being non-confrontational. I'm not sure whether that's because they're naturally easy-going or because they're chicken. Whichever the case may be, their trait of being non-confrontational is the reason why obscure little Lithuania at its greatest was far more mighty than Holland at its greatest. Much like Paris, Amsterdam has many tree-lined streets, so that the German soldiers can march in the shade. Cookies, anyone? [back to top]
Oh, and how about those hubcaps with the nearly frictionless inner spinning thingy. No SUV / pimpmobile / rolling display of conspicuous consumption is complete without one. Sure, they look neat and everything. But I hear they cost a thousand bucks a pop. Imagine that! For a freaking hubcap that was probably assembled by Chinese eight year olds and sold for a wholesale price of twenty bucks!
For Further Reading
Litterbugs -- If one idiot drives down a road and throws an empty can of Coors, or a McDonald's wrapper, or an empty bag of Fritos out the window, it's not going to damage the scenery too much, and it'll be hardly noticeable. But, when hundreds or even thousands of idiots do this, then what we're left with is a disgusting mess. For crying out loud, PLEASE don't do this!
And what's this business with people using the road for an ashtray? I live in a big city, and as I commute, I almost always see this happen once, and usually twice -- or more. Somebody rolls down the window, puts out a hand holding a cigarette, flick flick, and then in once more to inhale. I know what's going to happen next. When all that healthy tobacco is consumed, the smoker casually tosses it onto the road with a flick of the wrist. It could be a dumb kid in a klunker, or a suit driving a Lexus. A dedicated butt-slinger might say, it's just a little piece of trash, this is only a peccadillo, so what's the matter? Well, let me count the ways.
Idiots in the Gym -- I belong to an overpriced health club. I've been making slow but steady progress. But, there are some less than groovy aspects, to-wit:
Inconsiderate Bathroom Behavior -- Why is it that the toilet seats in so many men's bathrooms are besplattered with urine? That's just wrong. I am told that the situation in women's bathrooms is pretty much the same. One person "hovers" and ends up sprinkling the seat, forcing everyone else to "hover" thereafter. Moreover, some people are too lazy to flush, often causing the stalls to smell as putrid as old-fashioned outhouses. And that's not the worst of it. Some guys use bathrooms as a place to have sex. Why can't they just get hotel rooms, like everyone else does? Sheesh once more! [back to top]
Trekkies -- I used to be a trek fan. But then I grew up. Unfortunately, some people don't, and in fact get pretty obsessive about it. The shows had many things going for them, in spite of the cheesy sets in TOS and the plot crowbars in STNG, but all the sneaky political messages are really annoying. STNG was about as bad in this respect as TOS, but updated for the times: for instance, one STNG episode was obviously made to express the screenwriter's displeasure about the Iran-Contra affair. Whether or not what Ollie North did was right, political propaganda disguised as TV entertainment is wrong. If a screenwriter wants to make a political point, why not just be honest and straightforward about it and write a guest editorial for a newspaper or a magazine?
And what's with this "infinite diversity in infinite combinations" crapola? (This sophomoric trek bullcorn is often called "IDIC" for short.) Supposedly, it's a nugget of wisdom from "Vulcan philosophers" or some such rubbish, though it sounds more like something that Al Gore would think up if a Starbuck's employee slipped half a dozen LSD-laced sugar cubes in his mocha latté. Of course, anyone who wasn't born yesterday will realize that "IDIC" is really from some screenwriter who wants all the sheeple who gaze into the boob tube to salivate on command whenever they hear the word "diversity". I sure don't; in fact, it makes me retch. These days, "diversity" is a buzzword used by the liberal crusade to dispossess people like me. Be that as it may, "IDIC" taken literally is pretty much the very definition of chaos, something only nihilists would love. As a motto -- or worse yet, some sort of Chicken Soup for the Trekkie Soul kind of principle -- it's both lame and stupid, but that doesn't stop hordes of misty-eyed fans from spouting this slogan or having lengthy, vapid discussions about what it means. (That Vulcan site also features Vulcan dictionaries, info on how to meditate like a Vulcan -- gosh, how useful! -- and dippy poems that would make even Alan Ginsberg cringe.)
Being an eager fan of some TV show or other usually isn't a big deal. But when these trekkies blow all of their allowance on memorabilia and spend entire weekends pretending to be characters from the show along with hundreds of other weenies with the same fixation, then it starts to get a bit odd. If you try to form a personal philosophy from a TV show (and a rather shlocky one at that), then something's wrong. Why can't they just turn off the damn idiot box and discover the richness that the real world has to offer? I'm very disappointed to say that some trek zombies actually have gone so far as to cobble together "religions" out of the shows that form the basis of their monomania -- along with elements ripped off from real faiths. (Yeah, they have the right to profess whatever make-believe mummery they want -- but I'm under no obligation to think it's the neatest thing since sliced bread. Religion is not a @#$%ing game!) The weirdo who shot President Reagan is an example of what happens when fan obsession reaches the ultimate extreme.
Yes, Virginia, some trekkies really do need to get a life. (...And ditch the damn Spock ears too.) For instance, there are sites on the Internet with erotic stories featuring trek characters, and not as a joke. In fact, in researching this I discovered two whole webrings for this, "trek smut" and "Vulcan and Romulan Adult Fanfiction", along with a bunch of listservs and fanzines. (There's also plenty of stuff with Xena and friends, but somehow I just can't bring myself to laugh at that. Maybe that's because Lucy Lawless doesn't need a toupee, have pointy ears, or sport a lumpy plastic thing on her head.) And there's this "K/S" subgenre of zug trek stories and artwork which portrays Kirk and Spock as gay lovers. O-o-otay, Thpanky. Isn't that what the "Seduction of the Innocents" report said about Batman and Robin during the comic book scare of the 1950s? Oddly enough, much of the K/S fiction is by women. I don't get it -- what's the attraction? In any case, if these speculations are true, then Kirk is AC/DC at most, since he's always sucking face with some blue-skinned alien babe in TOS. And Spock must swing both ways too: at one SF convention, I saw this magazine sort of thing, apparently written with a female audience in mind, which sexually fetishizes Spock, complete with illustrations of him in passionate embraces with women. For crying out loud, the character is as cold as a meatlocker and only gets hot once every seven years. It's kinda like that joke, only more so, about why Santa Claus doesn't have any kids. (Santa only comes once a year, and that's down a chimney.) If all this illustrates anything, it's how much some women get turned on by guys who need them like a kitty cat needs an alarm clock. I guess people want whatever they "can't have".
And did you know that there's such a thing as the Klingon Language Institute? That is further proof (as if we needed any) that some people have way too much time on their hands. There's even an effort to translate the Bible and several Shakespeare plays into Klingon, or "tlhIngan Hol" as they call it. For the time it takes these silly trekkies to become conversant in Klingon, they could learn something that would allow them to rake in the dough like there's no tomorrow, such as programming, WinNT/200x, UNIX, or Cisco router configuration. Or, they could learn a real foreign language and go see exotic locales around the world without having to get by on gesturing and dumb looks. It's long overdue for some of these zombified trek moonies to consider for the first time moving out of Mom and Dad's basement, getting a job, and finding a girlfriend. And while we're on the topic, I liked the Klingons in TOS much better than the ones in the movies, STNG, etc. They weren't pretentious, and they sure didn't look like their heads got run over by a tractor. [back to top]
Teletubbies -- I've seen a couple of minutes of the show, and that was enough for me. Prolonged exposure to it would induce projectile vomiting. If someone wants to torture me, forget the whips and cattle prods -- tie me to a chair and expose me to a few hours of the Teletubbies, and I'll confess to anything or tell any secret. A program geared to two-year-olds is just wrong: parents should be raising their children, not letting TV be a babysitter.
There are those who say that Tinky Winky is light in his loafers. Whether or not that's true, he's definitely way too dopey to deserve oxygen. Come to think of it, maybe one of those trek zug writers could come up with an encounter between Worf and Tinky Winky. I've got a good idea of who would be on top. WHO'S YOUR DADDY, YOU LITTLE PURPLE MONSTROSITY? [back to top]
Here's a capsule summary. In case you actually are motivated to read this awful thing, consider this a spoiler warning. There's this disaffected youth named Rat Korga. In a fit of ennui, he got a lobotomy-like procedure done so that he could become a slave. He's nine feet tall, gay, uncircumcized, has a bad case of acne, and bites his nails frequently. (I can't help but wonder...) He gets bought by a dominatrix with a taste for literature.
There's this war going on between two political factions called the Sygn and the Family: one side (I forget which, and I don't feel like looking it up) wants network adapters implanted in people's brains so that everyone can be hooked up to the far-future version of the Internet, and the other side does not. Rat Korga's planet gets burnt to a crisp by a hostile spacecraft, but a couple of men in a flying saucer rescue him from a mine shaft. (As Sigmund Freud might say, "Zometimes a mine shaft ist chust a mine shaft.") One of them, Marq Dyeth (who's half alien or something) happens to have the hots for tall guys with badly-chewed nails. They nurse him back to health in some kind of a tank with healing properties, oddly reminiscent of a scene in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (audience: "Red shit, purple shit...")
They all fly to Marq Dyeth's home planet, populated by human colonists and an intelligent native reptilian species. Various things happen, such as a quest to reverse Rat Korga's lobotomy with some magic rings -- well, okay, technology that might as well be magic. (The rings once belonged to Vondramach Okk, an ancient tyrant with a predilection for S&M and extreme body modification. She got lobotomized for the hell of it, didn't like it, and had the rings made to restore her to her normal -- or rather, usual self.) In any case, Rat Korga quickly becomes a celebrity. In fact, our studly protagonist becomes such an object of fascination that some calamity called "cultural fugue" (whatever the hell that's supposed to be) becomes likely. Because of this, he has to go into exile in some other star system, tragically separated from his boyfriend.
What Delany did is string together a bunch of neat-o-mosquito ideas, add some annoying linguistic innovations, and call it a book. By themselves, some of the shticks are rather imaginative, but how he uses them makes SIMPLGOS something like meatloaf made with wa-a-a-ay too much Hamburger Helper and left in the oven far too long. Needless to say, to call its style crappy would be way too kind. A style so obscure that it's hard to figure out what the hell is going on doesn't make a novel great and avant-garde; it's just pretentious and sophomoric. If he had given the whole book some more thought, and not tried to cram every nifty idea he could into its pages, it would have been much more readable, and only sucked half as much. But to make it any better than utterly mediocre, one would have to blue-pencil it into a short story. The hunting expedition scene was OK, if not for a few low spots (such as when they made hot monkey love and cleaned up by washing their hands with urine), but the rest of the book might as well have gone straight into the copy editor's recycle bin. Since Delany put in a good word for the North American Man-Boy "Love" Association, and by his own admission reads their Bulletin frequently, I guess we ought to be thankful that it didn't get any worse than that.
The fact that it's impossible to identify with any of the characters also doesn't help its literary quality. I mean, how many of us are nine feet tall, lobotomized, and have an SMC 8416 EtherEZ card stuck in our heads? Or are half-alien interstellar jet-setters with a ragged fingernail fetish, and similarly equipped with a network adapter in the brain?
SIMPLGOS is a favorite of postmodernists, and it's been inflicted on plenty of victims in their college courses. They like it because of all the gender-bending stuff, the constipated text, and of course the business with the lizard-like aliens presented with the usual "multicultural" drivel. If a gaggle of Communist professors are so enamored of the thing, then that's a sure sign that you can pass it up next time you go into your local half-price bookstore. What's amazing is that there are some folks who don't have any apparent connection with the postmodernist fad who think that SIMPLGOS is the most amazing thing they've read. I suspect that these people are the same sort who ooh and aah effusively over the kind of modern art that could have been produced by a three-year-old with a canvas and several tubes of oil paint, meanwhile dismissing Giotto, Titian, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, and the other three turtles as third-rate hacks.
I hear he's thinking about doing a sequel. Please, Mr. Delany, just spare those trees, OK?
For Further Reading
Judy Blume'sForever really sucked. It's this love story where a teenage girl meets a teenage boy, they fall in love, and eventually they form the two-backed eight-limbed beast. For her, that would be the very first time. As for literature, don't expect anything like Shakespeare, though Judy Blume is a poet laureate compared to Samuel Delany. At the time, it was a bit too risqué for the target market, though these days it's probably no big deal after three decades of envelope-pushing by the entertainment industry. But what really leaves a sour taste in my mouth is when Katherine goes off to camp and then she starts digging this other guy. There's nothing really wrong with Michael, her boyfriend, but Theo's a hunk and therefore all that hoopla about love forever turned out to be just empty words. What a fickle little tramp! Arrrgh! What a great message for the kiddos. [back to top]
Beauty and the Beast -- I don't usually watch Disney. Kiddie animation just isn't my kind of thing to begin with, and ever since Michael Eisner took over, my opinion is that the mouse is just evil. The only way it could be made to suck more is if Judy Blume starts writing the screenplays. Anyway, in 1991, my girlfriend of the time dragged me into the movie theater to see Beauty and the Beast. The animation was above average, and the final sequence was properly suspenseful -- though, of course, we knew the good guys would win in the end; it is a movie, after all. However, that's about all I can say in favor of the film.
Something has been bothering me about it ever since. What stinks about it is its portrayal of a completely unbelievable situation. I don't mean the magic curse or the talking chinaware and so forth, nor do I mean the spotless medieval French commoners living in nice houses or the Gaston dude (the story's "wrong suitor") conspicuously portrayed as uncompliant with modern feminist principles. What's wrong is the fact that Belle and Beast start out in a dysfunctional relationship, but he warms up and becomes a loving, cuddly, sensitive guy -- all because she loves him.
In the story, Gaston was obviously a control freak, and the screenwriters were right to have Belle reject him. But it is quite unrealistic to have her melt the Beast's stony heart in a relatively short space of time, and it's foolish for her to dig him in the first place. Yes, I'm fully aware that it's only a movie. But consider that the primary target audience of this film are pre-adolescent girls. And these kiddies are getting the implicit message that love can change an incredibly grouchy -- even menacing -- man into a sweetheart. If they internalize that message, it certainly won't serve them well when they grow older. "Love conquers all" is a pretty sentiment, taken in the abstract, but in the real world, it's not quite as simple as that. There must be millions of women out there who tell themselves something like, "My fiancé is a possessive, womanizing, beer-guzzling jerk who expects me to pick up after him like his mother. But... but... if I love him enough, he'll change." One need not be Dr. Laura Schlesinger to see that it's a formula for disaster. Worse yet, not everyone learns after the first such relationship.
It's not just one movie which perpetuates this unfounded optimism. I mention Beauty and the Beast because it is such a striking example, and because the kiddies who view it don't have the critical thinking skills to detect and rationally evaluate the implicit messages. Of course, one also may find similar unrealistic notions (and sometimes worse) in many pulp romance novels, and even in well-regarded literary fiction. Wuthering Heights is at least twice as bad as Beauty and the Beast, and let's just say that I wouldn't have finished the loathsome thing if it hadn't been required reading for a college English class. The relationship portrayed therein is so dysfunctional that it's a wonder that the text isn't included as "Appendix A" in the DSM-IV (a reference manual of mental disorders).
I'm not sure how many females get unrealistic expectations because of this sort of thing, but the fact is, quite a few women pass up nice guys who will treat them decently in favor of dysfunctional dweebs who really need a therapist rather than a doting partner, overlooking obvious faults out of misguided compassion or a case of messed-up priorities. ("Ooh, he's so exciting! He gets loaded at the bar and starts a fight every Friday!" "Yes, Daddy, he does have a job. He's a professional surfer!" "He never lets me leave the house unescorted, and I'm not allowed to have friends. That's because he cares about me so much." "No, Mom, he doesn't have two dozen facial piercings. He's only got twenty two of them, so far. He's so... original!") Of course, there are guys who let their partners walk all over them because they idealize them to an extreme, but I suspect guys tend to be more realistic than that. Perhaps it helps that there aren't male role models in books and movies who wait hand and foot on ungrateful women. Characters like that are portrayed as foolish and "whipped".
If your kid really wants to watch Beauty and the Beast, then I suppose that there are far worse things in the world for a kid to see. (For instance, there's Blue Velvet -- it made me want to hurl!) But afterwards, be sure to explain that it doesn't work that way in real life. If your kid happens to be four years old, then of course you'll have to wait for a while before these issues can be understood. But be sure to bring it up some time, preferably before she becomes a teenager and starts listening to her friends rather than you. Young people need to know that real relationships, if they're going to last, need mutual respect and good communication. (Tell this to your sons, too!) The partners need to have a good deal in common. They should get to know each other very well before jumping into a relationship. Lastly, one should choose a partner who one will be able to count on in the future; this is far more important than good looks. [back to top]
For starters, the implied assumption is that money is a man's most important attribute; being a multimillionaire makes a guy the most desirable thing there is, short of being a billionaire I suppose. (Plato said that people should rank wealth in third place, behind mental gifts such as intelligence and virtue, and physical gifts such as strength and beauty.) And to turn it around a little bit, what assumptions does the show's premise make about women? There are certain terms for women who want only money out of a man -- "gold digger" is the only one not too unkind to print. (Hint: think of a gardening implement.)
It happens that my work has acquainted me with quite a few millionaires. Don't get me wrong: I'm not bragging like a name-dropping little second-hander weasel or anything like that; I just happen to know what these folks are like. And it ain't pretty. Most of them are real jerks. When people have lots of money to throw around, they become used to getting their way all the time and having sycophants suck up to them. So after a while, they expect always to get whatever they want, and to be treated like they're Roman emperors. Your typical millionaire will fly into a rage, and quite possibly resort to backstabbing, if someone dares not to kiss his butt with sufficient enthusiasm. (Sound familiar? Ever work for a boss like that?) There are some rich people who don't end up with a swelled head, but they're in the minority. Some millionaires earn their wealth because they're smart, talented, hard-working, and all the rest of it. I have some respect for these ones -- just as I respect farmers, truck drivers, factory workers, and any others who bust their butts to support their families. But there are others who just got extraordinarily lucky (if that's the word for such a mixed blessing), often by way of inheritance or nepotism. If those in this category hadn't gotten their lucky breaks and had only their raw talent and ambition to start out with, most of them would be regularly asking "Paper or plastic?", "Do you want fries with that?", or maybe even "Got any spare change?" And some millionaires get their filthy lucre by being dishonest, unscrupulous, or exploitative. All told, a more realistic title for the show would be "Who wants to marry an arrogant, overbearing creep?"
Anyway, as I understand it, the show's shtick is for some multimillionaire to select a lucky bride out of fifty female contestants. Then he marries her on the set. There's just one little problem -- the groom hasn't met any of the prospective brides until the show begins. Yep, perfect strangers. It basically runs like a beauty contest, and the women get about five entire seconds each at the microphone to introduce themselves. As for the groom, the contestants know nothing about him, nor do they get a clear look at him until the finalist is selected. For all they know, he could be a Mafia boss with paranoid schizophrenia and drug-resistant advanced syphillis who looks like Jabba the Hut.
So how did it turn out? She split up with him two days after their honeymoon. The marriage was annuled on grounds of non-consummation. (In other words, he didn't get any nooky.) Later on, she posed for Playboy for $500K. (Gold digger? Naaah, couldn't be.) He plans to write a book -- my palms sweat at the very thought of buying a copy. It turns out that the groom's former fiancee had gotten a restraining order placed on him for hitting and threatening her. If any of that is true, then he's the kind of guy who makes all other men look bad. I have zero tolerance for abusive slugs -- they all should be gassed for the greater good. Those smart media moguls at Fox sure did a thorough job making sure they checked his background, didn't they? Thank the Lord and the Lady that this ill-considered show died an early death.
A setup like that may be an okay way to do a blind date -- as per the various matchmaking shows -- but a marriage? Something's wrong with this picture, and the problem is not with your set. This is reality TV gone way too far. Granted, the happy couple could make it to their first anniversary under those circumstances, if by some slim chance they just so happen to be compatible with each other. After all, the arranged marriages made by royal dynasties long ago usually worked. But back in those days, the prince probably had the chance to get to know his bride-to-be for longer than an hour before they got hitched; their average lifespan was shorter; sex roles were more clearly defined; and most importantly, people in those days thought of marriage as a holy sacrament, not an agreement that could be terminated as soon as someone gets bored. Anyone can see that getting married after an acquaintance of just a few minutes is probably not the wisest thing. In light of that, the idea for the show was pretty irresponsible, and sends the wrong message. Marriage is not some frivolous thing you do on a lark. [back to top]
Hannibal -- This is the third book in the series that includes Red Dragon and its more famous sequel Silence of the Lambs. If you haven't read it yet, and want to do so (or watch the movie), then perhaps you might want to skip my mini-review, since I discuss plot details here.
That being said, after a slow start (which seems to be a bit typical), the book turns out to be a real page-turner. Toward the end, it's pretty much impossible to put it down. What happens to Verger Mason and Paul Krendler was sick, twisted, and way cool... So, then, why was the book disappointing? It's because Clarice Starling falls for Hannibal Lecter at the end. (Fortunately, the movie takes care of that defect.) Gimme a break! Okay, so he had her all doped up for the first few days. But why didn't she bolt when she came down from it? Starling seems to be rather non-judgmental (how I hate that term!), but still, not even bleeding-hearted "society-made-him-turn-to-crime" liberals have their heads stuck so far up their -- um, heads stuck so deep in the sand that they'd want to hook up with a serial killer. Now there might be an exception or two, like those weirdos who keep sending Charles Manson love letters and sometimes money, but those types have a lot more wrong with them than blinkered cluelessness about the darker side of human nature, and I don't think you'll find any FBI agents among them. Nowhere in the foregoing part or the book that came before it do we get any idea that she's that ditzy. I mean, how can anybody trust someone who snacks on people who annoy him?
Harris seems to rehabilitate Lecter's character in the third book. As a credit to him, he was always downright decent in his dealings with Margot Verger, a contrast to his usual utter callousness. From the second book, I gathered that Lecter is a sort of Nietzschean superman who eats people because his sense of superiority and feeling of being above the laws and standards of ordinary people -- that is to say, hubris -- motivates him to break one of the biggest taboos there is. But in the latest book, it was revealed that he got his cannibalism fixation from a traumatic childhood experience. At the end, he and Starling sort of do mutual psychiatry to work out each other's complexes. He's really a decent guy at heart, and a little therapy is all it takes to make everything OK, right? Yeah, sure.
Let's not forget that he advised the Red Dragon to murder the investigator pursuing him, and told him where to find his home. There are only two explanations for this: 1) he still had a grudge against Graham for finding him out, even after disemboweling and nearly killing him, or 2) he wanted to help the Red Dragon -- he may have been a tragic figure, that doesn't change the fact that he was a really sick puppy who killed a bunch of people for no reason other than envy and living out a psychotic fantasy. And Lecter offed a census taker for being annoying (and ate his liver with fava beans and a glass of Chianti), which he brags about in Silence of the Lambs. And in Hannibal, he stabs a pickpocket to death, without batting an eyelash -- deadly force in defense of property is justifiable, but a punch in the nose would be more proportionate, especially if he was trying to turn over a new leaf. He also kills a hunter for being a redneck or a gun nut or something, and it's likely that he offed the guy whose job he wanted in Florence. In other words, he's not just killing for self-defense.
And for that matter, why does Lecter fall for Starling in the first place? Was he just so hard up when he was stuck in the loony bin that he developed a fixation on her? You'd think he'd go for someone who is a cultured, half-crazy genius like himself. Other than that, though, it was a hell of a book. [back to top]
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