Sunday, September 30, 2007

Reading Middlemarch With the Plague

Been sick as a dog the last few days -- nothing serious, some sort of body-aches/upper respiratory gizmo that had me bunked and moaning for about 40 hours, miserable and grumpy.

This has left me unable to do anything but read all weekend -- that's when I felt well enough to read -- I couldn't even write, which you know I'm sick if I can't make it to the computer for my daily three or four hours at the screen; all I did was read Middlemarch and sleep.

Yes! It's Middlemarch season again. This is such a fine book. Even when you're running a fever of 103 and hallucinating a bit (i kept hearing people singing and alarm bells going off yesterday) or maybe especially when you're hallucinating a bit, how do I know, but this time, my sixth or seventh time through the book, I'm seeing things I never did before -- well, for instance, I knew that "the web" was a huge metaphor Eliot was working with, but not until this time did I see how thoroughly it works. Everything anyone does in that book connects to and effects the actions of a dozen other characters, usually in ways those other characters *never* see or understand, and often with immense (and sometimes tragic) effects.

Way back when Bulstrode does not tell his "rich widow" that he's found Sarah Dunkirk, for instance, her long-lost daughter -- look what far-ranging effects that one action has, on not just Sarah, but on Will Ladislaw, her son, obviously; and on Casaubon and Dorothea's marriage, which, if Casaubon had not been supporting Will, as he was, would not have taken the turn it did; and on Lydgate, the trouble he gets into, which he would not have, had Bulstrode not been trying to hide his wicked ways; and on Dorothea, since if Will had not been around, why, she would not have fallen for his pretty eyes and impetous temper; and on Rosamund, since the destruction of Lydgate is her destruction as well, though she never knows or recognizes that.

None of them, except Will and Bulstrode, know anything about what happened with Sarah Dunkirk, and WIll knows very little; but it shapes all their lives. This, as we can tell from that last paragraph, is Eliot's point. We're an interactive web. You think your actions effect you alone? Well, they don't. And they don't stop effecting the world, maybe forever, and in ways you may never understand.

This is such a brilliant book. Why did they make me read The Scarlet Letter in high school, will someone tell me, when this was available?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Also? EW.

The kid has been hanging out in my office Tuesday afternoons before she goes to her drama class -- Tuesdays are a nightmare now, since she goes from school to drama class to aikido, so that she's in school to some class from seven-forty in the morning until seven at night -- anyway, she's in my office from 3.10-3.40, her only break, looking at my computer, and she says, scanning my favorites button, "What's this mean? Lunatic Right Wing Blogs?"

"Just what it says," I say. "Those are the lunatic right wing blogs I read every day, just to keep up on what the Right Wing is thinking about."

"Why do you think they're lunatics?"

"Well, let's have a look, will we?"

So we did. And this is what came up.

Also others like it.

My poor child. She might never be the same.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


That White Bear! She blogs again!

And she just sort of slipped it past us!

That AWB!

Living in America

Over here on Angry Bear, the economics blog I like best, Cactus shows us what Democrats V. Republicans do to the income levels here in America.

It's a fine post, with nice graphs. Here's the bit I found interesting:

...JFK/LBJ came out tops, followed by Clinton, then Reagan, and in fourth, Ike, with a big gap between each one. The rest of the Presidents all had negative growth… GW was the least offensive of these, followed by Nixon/Ford, then GHW, and Carter brought up the rear. Despite Carter's dismal performance, on average, the Democratic Presidents did better than the Republican Presidents.

But while that shows how much income for the representative American earner has changed over time, it’s not an end-all be all measure. It would be nice to know how much this person takes home after taxes. And because some Presidents drove up the debt (cough cough, Reagan, cough, GW), a smart person knows that they have to pay more in taxes some time in the future in order to pay for that debt.

There's more. Go see.

Not Even U.S.A. Police

But still disturbing.

More Victory in Iraq

We're dealing with some terrorists now!

And if you didn't see this study that came out a few weeks ago, which, no shock, the right side of the blogosphere spit all over, it's worth at least thinking about.

I'm not actually interested in whether it's 100,000 dead or 300,000 dead or a million dead.

What interests me in this deal is we've now spent a pile of years killing a pile of people, many, perhaps even most of them, civilians, and to this day no one, including Mr. Bush, can say why we are doing it.

How about we stop?

Monday, September 24, 2007

American Blood

Over at Crooked Timber, a lengthy thread has emerged over Fred Thompason's remark about Americans having shed more blood in defense of liberty than "any other combination of nations in the history of the world," which isn't just silly, it's appalling -- and calculated, of course, since it was part of a stump speech.

He's appealing to his far-Right base, those ill-educated home schooled crowd who have only been taught that America! Is! Great!, not any actual facts, or about anything anyone else in the world might have done. Those folks are quite ready to believe egregious nonsense like that, and like this, which was at World Views lately:

The American idea itself as well as great social changes -- the abolition of slavery and segregation, for example -- proceeded from a Christian worldview.

Which again -- no. But because these folk have been home-schooled and raised on Right-Wing lies, they swallow it. And when other posters point out that they're wrong -- no, those who founded America and wrote the Constitution were, in fact, deists and Enlightenment thinkers; no, in fact, they wanted America not to be a religious but a secular state; no, really, read Fredrick Douglas, it was slave holders who were Christians, well, that just can't be true, it was Christians who preached segregation, no, that's not the case.

Paperback Swap

This is cool.

It's a site one of my students hooked me up with -- you send people books you don't want, and get credits for doing so, and then you can get people to send you books you do want, for free, basically. (You do have to pay the postage to send books out.)

When you sign on and post nine books, you get three free credits up front.

I've been messing with it for a few weeks now, and it works just like it says it does. The kid has gotten two free books by Allan Ahlberg that we've always wanted and never been able to find, I got a mythology text I wanted to look at for my summer I class (which I probably could have gotten free from the publisher, but didn't have the patience to try that), also a mystery novel I've been wanting to read for awhile, I'm waiting on another book I wanted to read -- it's all good!

If you're as book-starved as we always are, or a poor student, you might have a look.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Yom Kippur

It's Yom Kippur today.

You know me, I'm a total atheist, so while I'm all for keeping holidays, for cultural reasons and (mainly) because some of them are fun, I'm also totally opposed to keeping any holiday or cultural tradition that makes my child cry.

Which this one, at least the way mr. delagar was insisting on keeping it, was doing.

It's a day of reflection, a day when we're supposed to look back on the past year and forward on new year, considering what we got wrong and how we might get things right, so okay, that sounds fine, except for how she's nine, and she can't really be expected to do that, and nothing else, all day long.

"I can't read books tomorrow?" she asked woefully. "I can't draw? I can't go to the library? I can't play with my pop beads?"

"Tomorrow is not a day for playing!" mr. delagar thundered.

She burst into tears.

At which point I had to bite my tongue hard to keep from intervening. Because, you know, if I had wanted a fundmentalist for a husband, I would have fucking married one.

Where did this guy come from?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Good Question

Pam Spaulding, over at Pandagon, asks it here:

Why haven't you heard of the Jena 6?

I was talking about them a few days ago and mr. delagar says who?

"The Jena 6," I said. "Down in Jena, Lousiana. You've heard about them? Kids who wanted to sit under the white-only shade tree....?"

"Oh, yeah," he said. "I think I might have read something about that in the New York Times..."

But he didn't remember anything at all about the story, which, you know, what?

Today the Day of Action for the Jena 6, for what good it seems to be doing.

Grading Students

My Victorian Literature students are doing their presentations this week -- this week and last week -- which is a useful part of the semester, as it allows the class, most of whom know very little about Victorian culture (and what little they think they know is usually wrong). This being so, it's rough for them to read George Eliot, or even Dickens: what's a Whig? Is it anything like a wig? Why do these people get upset about rick-burning? Going in for Chartism -- that's a health-craze, right?

So I assign topics, as I call them, and one student looks into who Charles Lyell was, and what he has to do with anything; and another looks into what Higher Criticism of the Bible is, and why it matters; and another investigates Malthus; and another Chartism; and so on; and each day five or six present to the class what they have learned, and I tell them if they can show how it effects literature of the period they will make me a very happy professor.

Which they do -- some of these presentations are really excellent. I have told them not to get hysterical, because this is only worth five percent of their grade, but we have got some fine students right now, and all they know how to do is run top speed. So I'm getting these Power Point presentations that explain things I never knew about how Darwin is connected to Lyell is connected to this guy over here and how the Royal Society started it all, complete with links and photographs and bits of poetry and music, and the writers all this influenced, and I'm meant to grade this.

Because they all want grades.

That's the bit that bothers me.

Grading students.

Here's my confession: I never have liked grading students.

I like teaching them. I like working with them. I like sitting down with them and saying, right then, look here, you see why this part of your paper really isn't working? See how if you do this, it will? I don't even mind marking things wrong on their exams, because, you know, if things are wrong, then they are wrong, and students need to know what they've gotten wrong, obviously, so they can go and find out what the right thing is.

But why grades? Grades, unless they're all A's, feel like punishment. And punishing people, well, how does that ever help anyone?

In my comp classes, that's how I do it, at least for as long as I can. I won't grade the essay until it's an A essay -- that's what I tell the students. I say they have to write it and rewrite it and keep rewriting it until it's an A. (Or, I tell them, they are welcome to give up. I tell them if they ever want to quit, they can put it in their grading folder and give it to me and I'll grade it at the level where they quit. Oddly, none of them take that option.) I say they can keep writing it until it's an A or until they run out of semester. About half the class reaches A papers this way -- the others, I'll admit, just stop revising and turn in the unrevised or barely revised work at the end of the semester. But they, at least, meant to try for the A, obviously.

Grades strike me as such a bad idea. They put me in an adversarial position with the students, for one thing. I'm not there to help the student; I'm there to judge the student. And the student is there to get past me -- to sneak, to con me, to try to wrangle an A out of me against my will. Instead of this, obviously, the student and I should be working together: we should be here to learn. Instead of the student trying to hide her ignorance from me, we should be working together to find the best way to mend that ignorance. Instead of me trying to punish the student for the high crime of not-knowing, I should be trying to help the student know.

Also, it pits the students against one another. They vie for the best grades, to win in the classroom; they worry about being caugh cheating; they want to be the smartest. It becomes about the grade, not about the knowledge.

(Here's a story: when I was in graduate school, studying Greek, there would always be some male graduate student in the class who, when I turned out to be the smartest one in the class, would be first astonished, and then furious: because that could not be right. (a) He had always been the smartest and (b) I did not have a penis. How could a non-tool bearing student be smartest? Not possible! I remember one fella, after I finished first on the first exam, coming up to me in the hallway when we got the exams back. "How did you do?" he asked, ever so casually. I showed him the exam. I don't remember what I got, but it would have been a 98 or a 99 -- Dr. Levine, whose class this would have been, never gave 100s. He said there was no such thing as a perfect exam. I remember his grade, though also an A, was lower. He scowled at me, and then attempted a smile. "This won't do," he said, and he tried to pretend he was kidding. But he wasn't. He spend the next five or six weeks trying to out-study me -- studying as hard as he could, so that he could finish faster than me on the quizzes, score higher than me on the tests -- and? When he couldn't? -- he dropped the class.)

My point, and I do have one, is why must we grade students at all? What does it help? Feedback, yes. Advice, yes. Helpful criticism, by all means. But grades? I can think of only one grade that did me any good, the C- that was given me by Raeburn Miller when I was 19 years old, and really, the note he wrote on the bottom of the paper did much more good: he told me that no matter how well I wrote, if I did not learn to spell and proofread, no one would ever care what I said. All the rest of all the dreadful grades all my teachers gave me all the years of my life just made me angry and resentful, just like all the smacks in the head I got growing up did. None of them taught me anything.

My point, well, what is my point.

(1) I am not convinced grading does much good.

(2) I am half-convinced it can do active harm.

(3) It takes up inordinate scads of time.

(4) Who thought it up, anyway. (Cough patriarchy cough)

(5) Can't we do something else? What's up with this?

So that's my rant for today.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Yes, once again! It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Roll out the rum!

Roll out the eye-patches!

Roll out the pirate jokes!

(What's a pirate's favorite subject?


Also, essential tool: Lubber to Pirate translator!

And this: Pirate jokes!

See also Zeldman!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Women In Charge

It's hard to know where to stand on this one.

A former professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has sued the institution and its president, L. Paige Patterson, contending she was fired because of her gender. She is seeking damages for breach of contract, fraud, and defamation.

Ms. Klouda was appointed an assistant professor of Old Testament languages at Southwestern's School of Theology in the spring of 2002. At that time, the suit says, she was the only female member of the School of Theology's 40-member faculty. When Mr. Patterson took over as the seminary's president in the summer of 2003, the complaint adds, he "personally assured her that the administration change -- his appointment -- would not jeopardize her appointment."

But in April 2006, according to the lawsuit, she learned that her contract would not be renewed. "Dr. Klouda was told that she was 'a mistake that the trustees needed to fix,'" the lawsuit asserts. She is now an assistant professor of Old Testament studies at Taylor University, in Upland, Ind.

Not that I am without sympathy for Ms. Klouda...well, okay. I have a little trouble finding sympathy for Ms. Klouda, who is not just an innocent beleagured academic, after all, but a determined and dedicated hardshelled Baptist who lay down with this pack with her eyes open. She knew who these dogs were before she decided to run with them, is my point. Now they have bit her on the ass, I'm a bit lacking in tears for her. Did she not ever notice previous to this occasion that she was surrounded by misogynist tools? Was this her first hint that her culture was a poisonous, filthy, hate-ridden one?

I mean, d'oh!

Okay, okay. As Twisty tells us, we cannot blame the oppressed for their oppression. Truly, Ms. Klouda has been oppressed. It can't be her fault that she suffers from that oppression, and is warped by it, and can utter such things as this:

Ms. Klouda said she "firmly believed that excellent work both in the classroom and the academy would define me, and that I would be evaluated fairly in light of my scholarly accomplishments and congeniality."

And, apparently, believe them -- in a culture where this is, apparently, the commonly held worldview:

In his post, Mr. Burleson discussed the debate over a passage of Scripture, I Timothy 2:12, that some interpreters have taken to mean that women should not minister to men. He raised the question of whether such an interpretation might have been a motivation for Ms. Klouda's dismissal, even though she was not teaching theology, but Old Testament languages.

"What bothers me is the extraordinarily restrictive views of certain leaders in our convention regarding women," Mr. Burleson commented. "This is not about 'being a pastor' of a church. ... This is all about the belief among some that women should not have authority over men, whether it be in the home, the church, a business, or society in general."

Which, as I have found, from hanging out at Worldview and WordNutDaily, that absolutely is the worldview.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Kid Update

So: the clinic did not ever actually get back to me -- I had to get back to them -- but the lab for celiac disease came back negative; the kid does not have celiac disease. (Yay!)

Since we took her off corn syrup, she's been doing like 100% better. I'm thinking maybe corn syrup allergy might be it. A good thing, since the appointment with the pediatric GI doc, the "next step," according to our PCP, isn't until December 31, 2007.

(Yes! New Year's Eve in Little Rock! Lucky us!)

Which is actually fairly soon for an appointment with a specialist, from what I understand. Yep, nothing wrong with *our* health care system.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bad Women! Bad!

Here's another of those articles from the New York Magazine where the writers pretend that because a few of their high-strung girlfriends from the top edge of society decide something is so, it must be so.

It opens like one of those magazine ads from the 50s:

After dropping off their children at their East Side private school one morning, Betsy and another mother shared a secret.

And what is this horrible secret?

Why (gasp!): Betsy makes the money in her family!

Betsy earns the living and her husband stays home with the kids!

No! Say it isn't so!

But! This is a BAD thing! Because! Women (the one Ralph Gardner Jr., writer of this article, knows, anyway) don't actually respect or want to fuck men who make less money than they do.

They might think they would respect men whom they out-earned, but no! No! This is a feminist lie! In actual fact, as Ralph's incisive journalistic skills have led him to deduce, secretly, women want the traditional patriarchal guy, the big tough daddy that will take charge -- but, rats, feminism has ruined this for us!

When Emily comes home, she doesn’t always want to be the boss. But she says her husband no longer has the authority to take over. “I want somebody to take that power role away from me,” she explains. “Ultimately, it gets down to pretty basic stuff. It’s hard to be the power broker every day and then be the femme fatale. I’m not going to pay the bills—I feel like his mother—and then come home and suck his dick.”

Well! Obviously then, if we want happy marriages and lives, we should quit all this school and career silliness and get back in the kitchen where we belong! Um. Back on our knees where we belong!

That's certainly worked for my students in Arkansas.

Can I just mention, by the way, how none of this matches my own experience? I know two marriages up close (mine and The Other Liberal Professor's) where the women outearn the men, and the men are the primary caregivers for the children -- the SAHDs. The women do not feel contempt for the men; the marriages work not just fine but quite well; nor do either of us harbor secret* fantasies for someone like Fred Thompson to sweep in and take charge.

What I am suggesting, in fact, is that this bit of nonsense, like the previous efforts to come from this same general direction (I'm thinking of that article insisting portentously that huge floods of young highly educated women were "opting out" of their five-figure jobs to stay home with their young children, abandoning feminism, in other words, because they prefered the traditional patriarchal-approved role of mommy-hood), is nonsense, and based on a very small sample-size -- if Ralph had looked beyond the borders of his East Side Private school, maybe he might have found some women and men and marriages and relationships for whom this arrangment works.

Also, maybe he could have looked for people who weren't self-centered tools?

I'm just suggesting. You put fuckwits into a marriage, don't expect to get anything but a fuckwit marriage out at the other end.

(Via Ezra Klein)

*Well, I don't. Maybe TOLP does? And keeps them secret from me?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Defending the War

This is...


It's from the NY Review of Books, that review of Podhoretz's scrawl, World War IV: Mein Long Struggle (no, wait...), and the things Podhoretz has said and actually expected people to believe, apparently, ai.

From the review:

....what is the strategy that makes the current war different from previous ones? Here the neoconservative analysis is on slightly firmer ground. Podhoretz points out that religious terrorism is less the result of poverty than of political oppression. As long as millions of Muslims are ruled by dictators, terrorism will grow apace. The neocon strategy, adopted by the US administration, is to "drain the swamps," to get rid of terrorism by democratizing the Middle East. That dictatorship breeds terrorism is certainly plausible. But "draining the swamps" doesn't work as well in practice as it might in theory. First of all, some of these swamps are US allies, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who have just been promised arms sales and military aid by the US government worth billions of dollars. And democracy is not always the best antidote against Islamism, since Islamist parties, such as Hamas, have a way of winning elections, partly because they are opposed to the US.

Some of the dictatorships, such as the Iranian regime, are themselves active sponsors of Islamist terrorism. But as the US has attempted to drain the swamp in Iraq, Iran has been greatly strengthened, while the Iraqi swamp is far from drained. Not only has the war unleashed a state of anarchy and civil war, but it has turned Iraq into a breeding place of revolutionary violence, and reduced much of the country to such a state of destitution that one third of the population needs emergency aid just to survive and over two million Iraqis have fled the country.[6]

And this:

...criticism of the Bush administration has indeed become more common as the war in Iraq has degenerated into bloody chaos. Much of Podhoretz's book reads like the heartfelt cry of a lonely man who feels increasingly abandoned by pretty much everyone. For not only are the hard left anti-Americans and the hard right isolationists undermining Bush's noble mission, but as Podhoretz describes it, the cause is opposed by conservative "realists," because they are coldhearted anti-idealists, by Democrats, because they are antiwar, and by "liberal internationalists," because they trust international institutions more than American power. Only George Bush and those unconditionally loyal to him are still on board. What's more, for Podhoretz they are the only source of truth.

It would be absurd to claim that those who doubt the efficacy of the Bush Doctrine fail to recognize the horrors of Saddam Hussein's regime, or the desire among Arabs and Muslims, no less than other people, to live prosperous lives free of tyranny. Equally nonsensical is the notion that only the supporters of Bush's war are serious about fighting Islamist terrorism. Or that anyone who sees merit in attempts by some European Muslims to rec-oncile their religious orthodoxy with Western democracy is a dupe who defends extremism, or a coward who has been intimidated by acts of terror. Yet these claims are being made in World War IV, as well as other places.

Here is how Podhoretz describes Bush's critics:

"...They seem to take it for granted that Arabs and/or Muslims are so different from most of their fellow human beings that they actually like being pushed around and repressed and beaten and killed by thugs, whether dressed in military uniforms or wearing clerical garb. For our part, we wonder whether Muslims really do prefer being poor and hungry and ill housed to enjoying the comforts and conven-iences that we in the West take so totally for granted...."

There is more -- all of it, I regret to say, familiar to me, as a reader* of such blogs as

World Views

Kim du Toit

Sistah Toldjah

Miss Ann


All of whom say whack shit like this all the time, with utter, utter seriousness. I think they just wear crazy hats, so, well, what can we expect?

*That's me! Reading the crazy right so you ain't have to!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sad Me

The kid has started wearing my clothes.

She is nine. She weighs sixty pounds. SURELY it is too soon for this behavior?

Also, I thought not being a (real) girl, I would not have to endure this?

(mr. delagar, whose clothing *I* have been thieving for years, says, ha, now I know what it feels like.)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Men Made The World

Over here, Roy F. Baumeister tells us, with what he no doubt considers gracious, wry humor, that despite what the feminists would have you believe it wasn't any evil conspiracy (strawfeminist much?), really, that resulted in millenia of women being oppressed by the menfolk -- why, it wasn't even any oppression! Still isn't! Women was just doing their thing! Having those babies! Cooking those dinners! Weaving those social webs! Like god, er, evolutionary psychology meant them to!

And men? Why, all this time, little did we notice, it was the men being exploited!

This is what Baumeister claims his careful studies have shown him. Men are the ones being oppressed, see.

The mistake in that way of thinking is to look only at the top. If one were to look downward to the bottom of society instead, one finds mostly men there too. Who’s in prison, all over the world, as criminals or political prisoners? The population on Death Row has never approached 51% female. Who’s homeless? Again, mostly men. Whom does society use for bad or dangerous jobs? US Department of Labor statistics report that 93% of the people killed on the job are men. Likewise, who gets killed in battle? Even in today’s American army, which has made much of integrating the sexes and putting women into combat, the risks aren’t equal. This year we passed the milestone of 3,000 deaths in Iraq, and of those, 2,938 were men, 62 were women.

One can imagine an ancient battle in which the enemy was driven off and the city saved, and the returning soldiers are showered with gold coins. An early feminist might protest that hey, all those men are getting gold coins, half of those coins should go to women. In principle, I agree. But remember, while the men you see are getting gold coins, there are other men you don’t see, who are still bleeding to death on the battlefield from spear wounds.

OO! OOO! OOO! I know this one, Mr. Baumeister!

What about the women in the city the men sacked? What happened to them?

What about the -- um, how many Jewish women and children was it that were killed in the Holocaust? Three million?

What about the women who have been slaughtered in Iraq, how many is that so far?

What about the suffering and the death of the women whose children die in those stinking wars? I give you Medea, who says in Euripides, "I would rather stand three times in the front line of battle than bear one child, Baumeister, you fucking tool," (my translation).

Baumeister goes on to say --

Well, he goes on to say many lame things. Let's just take this one: he claims men created culture. Men created culture, he claims, because they evolved to take chances (otherwise they could not breed -- women get to breed no matter what, obviously, we just to get hang about and some guy will come along and fuck us, and voila! Babies!): this inclines guys to want to get out there and create! To think up new things to do! To be pirates! To be individuals! To write opera! And So on!

Whereas women, well, we want to mop floors and clean toilets and gossip. And make babies. And be raped.

Baumeister knows this because his extensive studies of musical history have shown him that, all through the 19th century, white middle class women studied piano, but never wrote any music, whereas black men, who unlike those white women were actually oppressed, created amazing works of musical genius.

We know from the classical music scene that women can play instruments beautifully, superbly, proficiently — essentially just as well as men. They can and many do. Yet in jazz, where the performer has to be creative while playing, there is a stunning imbalance: hardly any women improvise. Why? The ability is there but perhaps the motivation is less. They don’t feel driven to do it.

I suppose the stock explanation for any such difference is that women were not encouraged, or were not appreciated, or were discouraged from being creative. But I don’t think this stock explanation fits the facts very well. In the 19th century in America, middle-class girls and women played piano far more than men. Yet all that piano playing failed to result in any creative output. There were no great women composers, no new directions in style of music or how to play, or anything like that. All those female pianists entertained their families and their dinner guests but did not seem motivated to create anything new.

Meanwhile, at about the same time, black men in America created blues and then jazz, both of which changed the way the world experiences music. By any measure, those black men, mostly just emerging from slavery, were far more disadvantaged than the middle-class white women. Even getting their hands on a musical instrument must have been considerably harder. And remember, I’m saying that the creative abilities are probably about equal. But somehow the men were driven to create something new, more than the women.

So put that in your pipe and smoke it, you sulky feminists with your conspiracy theories. (I leave the problem with this here example as an exercise for the blogosphere.)

Baumeister goes on to claim that, because women are, apparently, unable to innovate or create, men must have been responsible for all of culture. Women sat about nurturing children and dealing with "intimate care." Men created "religion, literature, art, science, technology, military action, trade and economic marketplaces, political organization, medicine." The woman's sphere, he claims, did not produce these things. (What evidence does he have to support this claim? The evidence he pulls from his ass, apparently.)

Baumeister adds:

Note that all those things I listed — literature, art, science, etc — are optional. Women were doing what was vital for the survival of the species. Without intimate care and nurturance, children won’t survive, and the group will die out. Women contributed the necessities of life. Men’s contributions were more optional, luxuries perhaps. But culture is a powerful engine of making life better. Across many generations, culture can create large amounts of wealth, knowledge, and power. Culture did this — but mainly in the men’s sphere.

So -- women, you're necessary, as servants to the race. Pat, pat. Nice women. But men, clearly, are doing all the really important work.

And? In case we missed it?

Thus, the reason for the emergence of gender inequality may have little to do with men pushing women down in some dubious patriarchal conspiracy. Rather, it came from the fact that wealth, knowledge, and power were created in the men’s sphere. This is what pushed the men’s sphere ahead. Not oppression.

Giving birth is a revealing example. What could be more feminine than giving birth? Throughout most of history and prehistory, giving birth was at the center of the women’s sphere, and men were totally excluded. Men were rarely or never present at childbirth, nor was the knowledge about birthing even shared with them. But not very long ago, men were finally allowed to get involved, and the men were able to figure out ways to make childbirth safer for both mother and baby. Think of it: the most quintessentially female activity, and yet the men were able to improve on it in ways the women had not discovered for thousands and thousands of years.

And this example is so stupid I can't leave it as an exercise to the blogosphere.

Yes, indeed, "not very long ago" men finally got involved! And fucked it up! You tool! What history of medicine is this idiot reading? Men got involved and the survival rates went down! Men got involved and did not wash their hands! Men took over and kicked the midwives out, under the belief that their superior male skills had to be better than any women's knowledge, and not until women got involved again did things really change much for the better.
Here's one source on that process; here's another, with Baumeister's early male medical OB's detailed; Finally, here's this:

Obstetricians like [Joseph] DeLee and others who followed him helped reduce use of midwives by arguing that midwives were untrained and incompetent, that pregnancy is a dangerous condition requiring care available only from highly trained medical specialists, and that midwives’ clients—mainly poor women—were needed to provide the clinical experience for training doctors in obstetrics. Midwives attended approximately half of all births in 1900, but less than 15 percent by 1935. By the early 1930s most practicing midwives were black or poor-white granny midwives working in the rural south. Where midwifery declined, the incidence of mother and infant deaths from childbearing or birth injuries generally increased. A scholar who conducted an intensive study concluded that the 41 percent increase in infant mortality due to birth injuries between 1915 and 1929 was due to obstetrical interference in birth. (Emphasis mine)

The rest of Baumeister's essay is equally ill-considered and ill-researched. I urge you to have a read only so that you can see what passes for thought among the intellectuals on the other side of the ditch, and among those who think evolutionary psychology is kool.

What I would like to know, though, seriously, is how tripe like this sees print.

Update: Another take on this pile of steaming nonsense.

And see this, just because real science/evidence always cheers me up, after I have been forced to deal with right wing crap.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Thing We Wrote

Here's the story the kid and I wrote -- finally posted.

I'm going to see if I can figure out how to link it over there at Shady Grove...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Well, I haven't blogged on Craig. I was at the clinic with the kid when the story broke, trying to coax her into drinking about a quart of barium shake, and I confess I did giggle with wicked glee, because I did my time in Idaho under Mr. Craig's smug rule, his family values stick, um, schtick, I mean, and you know, isn't it droll how all these tools who give us Others their sermons about the holiness of the hearth and the sacredness of the Family and how Women Must Stay Home with the Kiddies so that the Family Can Be Kept Safe, how Essential that is, turn out to be hunting the boys (or, you know, Whatever) on the side?

But this is not what I want to get into today.

What I wanted to get into today is how really odd it is that we as a culture go after guys like Craig so violently.

I mean, what is his crime? He wanted some sex with another adult male. Blow me down (pardon the pun) but so what?

True, in a bathroom is not where I would seek that sort of sex, but to each his own.

On other blogs, I've heard the arrest justified b/c "I don't want my eleven year old propositioned when he goes into pee!" except Craig did not approach an eleven year old, obviously. This was an adult, and clearly an adult, and apparently Craig made certain it was an adult. Whatever else he might be (cough hypocrite cough) he's no pedophile.

Nor did he sexually harass this dude. He approached him with such trepidation that it's barely an approach at all, folks. Good heavens.

As other (feminist) blogs have pointed out, try being a woman for a time, deal with how we get approached, all the time, for sex from men, from random strangers. A waggle under a bathroom stall? Jeez Louise. That's nothing.

Starting when I was eleven, I'd say, guys at school regularly began calling me "bitch" and "slut" and asking me if I gave blow jobs for money, asking if I was a virgin. I wasn't sure what a blow job was at eleven, mind you. This continued until high school, when our schools stopped being co-ed.

Starting when I was about eleven, and continuing all the rest of my life, whenever I walked or jogged or rode my bike on any public street, any guy or group of guys that passed me felt free to shout sexual comments at me, proposition me, pull his or their vehicle over and offer to "give me a ride, baby" anywhere I wanted to go. I literally cannot count the number of times this happened. I can think of twice, specifically, when men offered me money to get in their cars with them -- both times I was under sixteen.

I've had guys grab my breasts in crowds. (Yes, guys I do not know. Guys I had never seen in my life.)

I've had a guy yell, "Hey, c*nt, want to f*ck?" at me out of a car window. (This was while I was walking down a street at three in the afternoon, wearing not especially tight jeans and a regular teeshirt. My crime? Existing While Female.)

I've had a guy grab my crotch from behind -- again, this is not in a Girls Gone Wild setting, but in a regular party, among guys I thought I knew, guys I thought were my friends. And then they laughed like this was cute.

I had another guy slip me a drink spiked with too much tequila, back before I knew how to handle liquor, so that I got so drunk I nearly passed out. When I asked him, later, why he had done it, he told me, as though this were absolutely a fine thing to say, "I wanted to get some pussy."

I've had a guy I had been dating for nearly a year trying to force me into sex in his car -- well, that's a story we can all tell, isn't it? He stopped when I said no. Lucky me. Lots of times they don't.

So, you know, tapping some guy's foot? Waggling fingers? They're arresting fellas for this?

The fuck?

Update: See also this, over at Pandagon.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Whining III

So has anyone heard of a corn syrup allery?