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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mid-life crisis

You don't hear that expression as much these days. It used to refer to a man hitting his 40's and then doing something silly to prove to himself that he was still young, like buying a sports car or getting a young girlfriend. And it wasn't every man who succumbed to this condition, only the particularly foolish ones.

Even if "mid-life crisis" never quite made it into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it was still considered an identifiable, distinct malady, not too dissimilar in nature to a "nervous breakdown" (whatever that meant).

This dread disease would almost always have its onset in a man's 40's (there was none of that foolish talk about how "50 is the new 35" back then). And it was assumed that the man would recover as soon as his sanity was restored, sort of like a patient being woken from hypnosis.

These days, you hear the phrase "mid life crisis" much less frequently, as people seem to have caught onto its real definition: being a guy -- of any age.

Most guys act in ways which would formerly have invoked the diagnosis "mid-life crisis" as soon as they can -- perhaps in their twenties. And even at the other end, age is less an impediment than it used to be. You might say that Viagra has encouraged "old age crises."

Exhibit A: Hugh Hefner.

Exhibit B: Silvio Berlusconi.

Do these guys look silly? Of course. Nonetheless, they look less so than their counterparts on the shuffleboard court at the retirement home.

The real crisis --no matter what your age is -- is not being able to act like Hefner and Berlusconi.

Our knowledge of psychology is dynamic and ever-changing. And we are far wiser than we were thirty years ago. We now know that to say that a male is having a mid-life crisis is somewhat redundant.

Friday, December 30, 2011


Was chatting with a couple guys yesterday about how we still participate in sports at an age when our fathers were more sedentary, when one of them said, "Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional."

It's a great line; when I Googled it later, it was attributed to both Chili Davis and Bob Monkhouse. I also stumbled across a Wikiquotes site which featured observations on aging. A few of the more clever ones:

"On being old -- it's not nice but take comfort that you won't stay that way for ever." -- J.P. Donleavy

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."  -- Joseph Lee

"Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened." -- Jennifer Yane

"Wisdom doesn't necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up all by itself." -- Tom Wilson

"It's never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot

"First you forget names; then you forget faces; then you forget to zip up your fly; and then you forget to unzip your fly." -- Branch Rickey

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Confessions of a beta male XIII: Fighting

There used to be an expression that men would use upon being insulted: "Them's fighting words." Speaking as a beta male, there have been very few such words in my lexicon. As a matter of fact, I can't think of any.

Push an alpha and he'll push back. Push me and I'll fall back. 

Alphas start a fight if you look at their girlfriend the wrong way. When I was young, I would just hope you wouldn't take her away.

Alphas are ready to fight if you insult their masculinity. My masculinity is, well, much more even-keeled.

To an alpha, the pleasure of delivering a punch to your face is worth the pain of receiving one to his. To me, a ten to one ratio wouldn't make it worthwhile.

You'll occasionally hear someone say of an alpha, "He's the kind of guy you want on your side in a bar fight." Ever since I first heard that fights occasionally break out in bars, I've avoided them. 

If an alpha takes martial arts lessons, and begins to feel proficient, he looks for an opportunity to use his new skills. To me, "self defense" means exactly that. In the twenty years since I got my black belt in karate, the only thing I've kicked are doors which are stuck. (And yes, the UFC did prove how useless karate by itself is; I might as well have gotten my black belt from the Arthur Murray School of Dance.)

I just don't seem to get that angry. I just can't think of anything other than going after my children that would rouse me to action. You can feel free to say what you want about me, my school, my hobbies, my hometown, or my country, completely secure in the knowledge that there will be absolutely no physical repercussions.

It's too easy for me to imagine what it would be like to have to put in false teeth every day for the rest of my life. Or lose an eye. Or even get a bloody nose. And I value my brain, so don't want it jarred.

Yeah -- that's why I'm a coward: I'm just way too intelligent!

In fact, I'll use any of the lame excuses that betas use to avoid a fight: Why would I want to fight him? That guy is crazy.... He's not worth arguing with. A guy like that isn't going to listen to reason....I'm the better man for having walked away.

I'm not too proud to resurrect that old standby from first grade: sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.

A beta's life is nothing more than a series of justifications.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rest in Peace

It's sometimes surprising to find out that movie stars you might have assumed were dead are in fact still alive. For instance, did you know that Ernest Borgnine, who played the cruel sergeant in From Here to Eternity, was still alive at age 94? Or Joan Fontaine, 94, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Rebecca in 1940? Or Celeste  Holm, nominated for an Oscar for All About Eve in 1950? Or Eli Wallach, 96, the ugly one in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly?

I had no idea that Cheetah, who achieved fame in the Tarzan films of the 1930's, was still alive, until this morning, when I read the following AP article stating that he had just died at the age of 80:

Cheetah never got any more acting jobs after Tarzan. He was essentially a child star who, once he lost his youthful cuteness, never got any more roles.  

One has to wonder if Cheetah was aware of his fame. If he was, was he resentful that he was typecast? He never even got a single speaking part. But perhaps becoming a crossover star wasn't really his ambition.

What would he have thought if he had seen the Planet of the Apes series? Would he have exulted in the ape's triumph over humans? Or would he have objected to the way they were portrayed: every bit as venal, selfish, prideful, and vicious as humans.

Wild chimpanzees evidently have an average lifespan of 45 years, so it's not entirely certain that this was actually the original Cheetah, and not just an impostor.

If it was him, even if he never really escaped the chimpanzee ghetto, at least he had the satisfaction of outliving costars Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sulllivan.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Saw the remake last night. I had raved about the original movie nine months ago.

From the previews of the new version, it had looked as if Hollywood just wanted an English language version featuring actors with better cheekbones. Here are the stars of the two versions:

I found it hard to judge the new version, having just seen the other movie (and read the book). Whatever dramatic tension existed, I was somewhat numb to, since I already knew what was going to happen. And every time there was a departure from the original, instead of thinking, wow, that's ingenious, I'd think, wait a sec, that's not how it's supposed to happen.

It was a little as if I was reading two books side by side, and constantly going back and forth: it made it hard to lose myself in the fantasy.

Daniel Craig deglamorized himself well enough to be believable as a journalist. He laid off the steroids, usually had a couple days growth of white beard, and wore glasses. For half the movie he looked as if he had just gotten out of bed, the mark of an actor who can shed his vanity -- and act.

Not even heavy Goth make up and piercings could disguise Rooney Mara's good looks. She didn't give quite as hard-edged or feral a performance as Noomi Rapace, the half-Gypsy Swedish actress. But you couldn't really expect that from the granddaughter of Wellington Mara, owner of the NY Giants.

So, the new version has my recommendation. I think. But maybe not so much if you've already seen the Swedish version.

Friday, December 23, 2011

MIssion Accomplished

Yesterday 16 bombs exploded in Baghdad in a coordinated attack led by al Qaeda-connected Sunnis. At last count, 67 people were dead and 169 injured.

What happened in Iraq yesterday was a foretaste of what will happen in Afghanistan when we leave there. It will explode into sectarian violence, and the wrong side will triumph.

In Iraq it's going to be either the al Qaeda-aided Sunnis or the majority Shiites. Or maybe they carve the country up. And whatever leadership emerges will almost certainly eventually establish a theocracy which can't be voted out.

Obama's pronouncement three days ago that Iraq was now "sovereign, stable, and self-reliant" was, well, pure Obama. (True, Obama didn't get us into the war; he just put a false ending on it.)

After Saddam was overthrown we wasted a lot of time there ensuring.....what, exactly? In the end, what will we have accomplished? Did we actually build a stable and self-reliant government? We stood as good a chance of converting the Iraqis to Christianity.

The same will happen in Afghanistan. We got our man (and Osama wasn't even in that country). So what are we fighting for now? The Taliban may wait a week, rather than just a day, but their ultimate triumph is just as inevitable. The best we can do while we're there is merely repress them.

What are we waiting for?

Oh, that's right, the Presidential election.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


A friend recently got to chat for an hour with the leader of the mission which went in to get Osama bin Laden. I'm not allowed to describe the circumstances, but this is a true story.

Of all the elite branches of the military, the Navy Seals are generally considered to have the toughest physical requirements; less than one in five of those who try out make it. A select few Seals are selected to try out for Seal Team Six. And it's probably a safe assumption that the thirty best members of that group went after Osama.

So the guy who was chosen to head that mission was the elite of the elite of the elite.

I asked my friend, so what was this guy like? What was he built like, how smart did he seem?

My friend said that he was polite, and came across soft spoken but confident. He was in his thirties, good-looking, six feet tall, and weighed maybe 210, none of which seemed to be fat. He added, "He wasn't, you know, New York smart, like some of these guys who just have to prove to you how smart they are within the first five minutes of meeting you. But everything he said made sense and fit together, and after a while it just sort of gradually dawned on you that you were talking to a very smart guy."

My friend said that one of the more interesting things that came out of the conversation was that the military brass aren't necessarily fond of Special Operations personnel. Admirals and the like are used to having lower-ranking personnel toadying up to them, and Navy Seals, who are elite in a different kind of way, usually aren't quite as effusive in their obsequiousness. So there's sometimes a little tension.

This Seal had been on 85 combat missions before the Osama raid. That is a mind-boggling number. Let's say the odds of surviving any given mission are 98%. (I have no idea what they actually are, but that seems a reasonable estimate, and it's quite possible the odds on some missions are less.) But using that 98% estimate means that the odds of surviving all 85 missions are .98 to the 85th power, or .17956.

In other words, a less than one in five chance.

People who value their own lives less, or are at least willing to risk them in a good cause, actually lead lives more valuable than those of us who value our lives more highly.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

If only all crime were like this....

The following AP article appeared this morning:

Evidently 12 members of a renegade Amish sect were charged with federal hate crimes for cutting off the beards and hair of another group of Amish:

"The five attacks between September and November involved cutting women's hair and men's beards and hair. That's considered deeply offensive in Amish culture."

(The ringleader of the breakaway group was named Mullet, appropriately enough.)

There's something almost nostalgia-inducing about such a crime. Yes, it's disrespectful. And it did involve physical restraint. But in the end, it still seems more mischevious than truly destructive. What harm was done? Hair does grow back.

If only crime in the inner city were as harmless. Imagine the news reports:

"Darnell Pinckney, 19, of Detroit, was arrested on Thursday and charged with a federal hate crime for short sheeting the bed of Jermaine Watkins, 20. Pinckney was reportedly angered that Watkins had disrespected him by making a snowman and placing Pinckney's hat on top of it."

"The LAPD has reported that for the past week the Crips and the Bloods have been engaged in an all out turf war in Compton. To date 47 gang members have been arrested for crimes ranging from squirting each other with plastic ketchup bottles to drive-by water balloonings. In one particularly brutal attack, Bloods member Javon Jackson, 18, was reportedly accosted by three Crips and given a wedgie."

"Demetrius Williams, 22, was arrested in East St. Louis on Wednesday for having placed Defario Smith's hand into a bowl of warm water while Smith was sleeping, causing Smith to urinate in his pants. Williams is being held held without bond and will be arraigned in U.S. district court on Monday. Witnesses claimed that Williams was motivated by a desire for revenge after Smith allegedly put shaving cream on the earpiece of his home phone."

"Adante Brown was arrested at the Marcy Houses in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn yesterday on a charge of sexual assault. 'It was absolutely horrifying,' said victim Sheniece Jones. 'We were standing on the rooftop having a perfectly pleasant conversation when all of a sudden he tried to kiss me. If I hadn't pulled away in time he would have planted a big one right on my lips.' The FBI is looking into whether Ms. Jones' civil rights were violated."

If only...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Duel in the Pool

An article about a recent swim meet, for swim fans only:

Martha Nicholas, Part II

A commenter linked this video clip about Martha Nicholas, the sociopath who scammed people into believing that she had cancer, in response to my recent post:

Observe the way Martha's voice almost breaks as she says she may not see her son again. Look at her sincere expression as she speaks about her terminal diagnosis. Admire Martha's bravery as she announces that she is a three time cancer survivor and a current cancer fighter.

These whoppers are delivered with none of the hesitation that a normal person would have when lying.

If you were unfamiliar with sociopaths you'd have had absolutely no reason to doubt her.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The fourth Kardashian sister

When I saw this picture of Jersey Shore's Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi in the New York Post this morning, it hit me who she really is.

If she actually were part of that family, her sisters would  probably look down on her for being shorter, less intelligent, and so on. But really, the similarities -- especially of character and talent -- are far greater than the differences.

Don't worry, I won't make any portentous comments about how their television shows herald the end of civilization or some such. I actually think it's a positive comment on our society that it can provide such worthless people such a splendid living.

And yes, I am completely ashamed of myself for even knowing who any of them they are.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Presidential campaign

Six weeks ago I announced that I was running for President, and outlined my platform. I listed additional planks here and here.

I must now admit that I am the first candidate in history to announce his candidacy and then just sort of forget about it.

(Ross Perot came close in '92, but, unlike me, he never entirely forgot.)

It's not senility that caused me to forget. It's simply that I've had more important topics to discuss -- like who the prettiest actresses are.

In any case, I am proud to announce that my candidacy has thus far has been untarnished by scandal.

Well, not that proud. It's mainly because my life is so incredibly boring. (If anybody wants to help me get into trouble, I'm open to suggestions.)

I am proud to announce that unlike Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain, my support hasn't gone down one whit from my peak. I have as many people planning to vote for me as I did a month ago.

But, alas, my support has not been growing. So the next step will probably be to decide whom to throw my support to.

I'd be tempted to say Ron Paul because he seems the purest of the bunch; he certainly has the right attitude about downsizing government. But I saw him on Leno Friday night and he was a complete turkey. He kept making lame comments and then smiling goofily as if he thought he was being witty. Leno's audience had been salted with Paul supporters, so they roared with approval no matter what he said. But it was painful to watch.

At one point Leno asked him what he thought about gay marriage, and Paul answered, "Well, I think the government should stop arguing about it." An evasion worthy of Hillary Clinton.

It's hard to get behind Gingrich given his character issues. If Herman Cain seemed to be using his campaign as a way to get laid more, Newt seems to be using his as a way to make more money. Gingrich reportedly tried to turn a recent top level meeting of Republicans in New York City into a book signing.

I've heard any number of people say that it's very important to Newt that he always be the smartest guy in the room; if any of those people liked him, they'd simply have complimented his intelligence. And when the people who dislike you most are the ones who know you best, that's never an encouraging sign. 

Jon Hunstman is a little like the class valedictorian -- oops, make that salutorian (sorry, Newt) -- whom nobody notices. He may be the most decent, most diplomatic, most experienced, and most well-versed in foreign affairs. But nobody seems to care; there's just nothing dramatic about him. If he were 6' 3", more masculine-looking, a little less polite, and a little funnier, his candidacy would probably be doing a lot better.

Michelle Bachmann's husband evidently runs a Christian counseling clinic which tries to convert homosexuals into heterosexuals. Perhaps while he's at it he can perform another miracle and raise his wife's IQ.

Rick Perry is no better. At the last debate he was said to have done well just because he didn't stumble again, but the kudos he got sounded a little like the kind of approval that accrues to a Downs Syndrome child who has just learned to tie his shoelaces.

Mitt Romney seems like one of those guys from the rich boys' fraternity in Revenge of the Nerds who was always picking on the nerds. His father was a governor, so Mitt deserves the best -- the Presidency!

Still, he's competent, and he'll probably be the last pol standing come spring; in fact, I'd be willing to bet ten thousand dollars on that.

Any of these candidates -- as dumb or sociopathic as they might be -- would make a better President than the current one.

I'll let you know which one I'm backing after he wins the nomination.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, RIP

Christopher Hitchens died last night at age 62. He was ferociously intelligent, and a real free thinker. The NY Post obituary, above, gives a sense of him.

You can't possibly be any more iconoclastic than to write an expose on Mother Teresa and call it The Missionary Position.

Addendum, next day: Just read Steve Sailer's dissenting obituary;  he does make some telling points about Hitchens' conversion to neocon.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Should I apologize?

Got this comment yesterday on the post about Jennifer Aniston vs. other actresses I consider more attractive:

"Nothing but white women. Not a single Asian, Latina, or African-American female on your list. Interesting."

The commenter brings up an interesting point: should people apologize for who they are attracted to? I had stated clearly in the post that judging looks was subjective as well as silly. Then I showed pictures of eight women I found extremely attractive.

If this commenter asked a gay friend of his to list his eight all-time-most-attractive list, and there were no women, would he tut-tut, "Hmm, not a single woman. Interesting." Or if he asked Robert DeNiro for his list, and DeNiro answered honestly and named eight black women, what would the commenter's response be then?

Isn't the essence of gay liberation that you can't blame someone for something they can't help, i.e., whom they're attracted to? Should that consideration not be extended to others?

When I was in my twenties I managed to date every race and ethnicity. (I wasn't liberal, just adventurous.) At one point I considered Asian women more attractive. These days I tend to find white women more attractive. Should I apologize for that?

The eight women I chose were all slender. Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and Katherine Heigl just aren't my type. Should I be sorry for that as well?

There is a huge amount of dishonesty when it comes to attraction these days. You constantly see similar lists put out by publications like People and Maxim and GQ which always very carefully include representatives of all races. But is that an honest reflection of their editors' tastes, or are they just trying to be pc?

When Vanessa Williams was selected as the first black Miss America back in 1983, and Suzette Charles was selected as runner up, was it because all the judges that year happened to find them the most attractive and accomplished of all the contestants? Or was it because management had decided ahead of time that it was starting to get embarrassing that in the entire history of the pageant dating from 1921 they had never once selected a black woman?

Every guy has a type he finds most attractive, whether he's honest about it or not. I shouldn't have to apologize for mine any more than a gay man should apologize for being homosexual.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Famous People with Aspergers Syndrome"

This is a list of people who are thought to have (or had) Aspergers, a mild form of autism:

You have to keep in mind that lists like this are usually compiled by people who themselves have Aspergers, or parents of people with Aspergers, so they want to claim as many accomplished people as possible, in order to provide inspirational "role models." (It's a little like listening to homosexuals talk about celebrities: they want to claim all the good-looking ones.)

The list linked above includes Thomas Jefferson, Michelangelo, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Isaac Newton, Beethoven, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, and Mozart, among others.

I looked up a few other similar lists, and many of the same names are included.

Some of the people obviously deserve inclusion on the lists. Nikola Tesla, for instance, was obsessive-compulsive, which people with Aspergers often are, and extremely rigid in his personal life.

But is there really enough known about Michelangelo and his personal life to make that diagnosis? And there was nothing about Benjamin Franklin, a famous ladies' man, to indicate that he was mildly autistic. He was a successful diplomat, a role it would be hard for someone with Aspergers to fill, and he had a sense of humor, which those with Aspergers notoriously lack. It was almost as if they wanted to include him merely because he was so accomplished.

Ditto for Mark Twain: he was known for his sly sense of humor and his insight into others; yet the defining characteristic of Aspergers is an inability to read other people. (I'm guessing Twain was diagnosed as such because he became increasingly reclusive in his old age, but this seemed to be a misanthropy borne of disenchantment and world-weariness rather than an organically asocial nature.)

On the other hand, the list of contemporary people mostly rings true. It has been widely speculated that Bill Gates may have Aspergers; he evidently rocks back and forth in meetings, an autistic trait, and he certainly fulfills the nerdiness quotient. Al Gore was widely described as a "wooden Indian" when he ran for President, his pronouncements certainly seems tone deaf enough, and he is awfully rigid in his world view, most notably when it comes to global warming.

Seeing Keith Olbermann's name on the list was a real "aha" moment. Suddenly his personality made sense to me. Olbermann was despised by his coworkers at ESPN, and his colleagues at MSNBC ended up feeling the same way. He is annoying, and extremely rigid in his thinking. And he is widely described, even by those on his side of the political fence, as "crazy," the most common word used by those who don't understand Aspergers to describe those who have it. I had always assumed he was just a garden variety narcissist, but there are aspects of Aspergers which overlaps with narcissism, most notably in the unwillingness to admit one is wrong. And most intelligent narcissists do a better job of hiding their narcissism than Olbermann does.

Take a look at the list; you may have some aha moments as well.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sociopath alert: Martha Nicholas

(Martha Nicholas, center)

An article appeared on AOL News today about a woman who pretended to have Stage 4 ovarian cancer, and obtained money from people for her treatment, thereby pulling off a neat sociopathic double play.

Scamming people for money is the province of con men, and con men are usually sociopaths. But getting money under false pretenses by itself does not necessarily mean sociopathy.

Most con men take advantage of others' greed. That doesn't justify what they do, and only makes it slightly more palatable. But if you're ripping off people who are trying to help you, who feel sorry for you, you can't possibly have any shame. 

And not feeling any shame is the defining characteristic of a sociopath.

Martha Nicholas almost undoubtedly has Munchausen's Syndrome, which causes people to feign illnesses in order to gain sympathy and attention. Munchausen's is never exhibited by nonsociopaths. Nicholas's "illness" probably started off merely as a ploy for sympathy, since affect-hungry (meaning, hungry for affection) sociopaths have a bottomless need for positive feelings from others, and will do anything to get them.

Imagine that people are holding a large fundraiser in your honor, to help you fight your "illness." You smile bravely and try to fight back the tears as you say that you don't know whether each day will be your last. You're not really sick, you're just a malingerer. Yet you bask in the sympathy and attention you are receiving. Wouldn't you feel just a little bit embarrassed?

Martha Nicholas didn't.

Nicholas’ attorney, Sam Simpson, said, “This was not a scam to rip people off. There is an illness. It’s a mental illness, and I can’t say more about this.”

The mental illness he is referring to is Munchausen's Syndrome. He will undoubtedly evoke it in her defense at her trial, and hope that people don't realize it's just a form of sociopathy.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why you can't trust polls

Men's Health magazine just released the results of their poll on the sexiest woman of all time. Jennifer Aniston won.

Opinions about looks are of course purely subjective, and such polls are by their very nature silly. And merely by commenting on it I am betraying my own innate silliness.

Nonetheless, I have to say it: Jennifer Aniston??

There were women in my class at Harvard, and in each of the three classes behind me, who were better-looking than her. And Harvard, unlike Hollywood, is not known as a place which draws beautiful women. (In fact, it has the opposite reputation.)

I can just hear the argument on the other side: "Oh, but she's got that girl-next-door appeal."

True, she does look like the girl next door. And the girl in the house after that. And the one after that as well.

I have to wonder if Aniston's agent had some sort of arrangement with Men's Health.

Open up any Sunday New York Times magazine, look at the fashion advertisements, and you'll see better-looking women than Aniston. Go to virtually any high school and you'll see prettier girls.

Here are a few examples of actresses I consider more attractive, for comparison's sake.

Grace Kelly is on everybody's top ten list. She may have been a touch on the bland side, but she made up for it by being perfect:

Tippi Hedren was another of Hitchcock's blonde ice queens. She exuded elegance and femininity:

Donna Reed may be best known for her wholesome performance in It's a Wonderful Life, that perennial Christmas favorite, but she won her Best Supporting Oscar for playing a prostitute in From Here to Eternity.

Heather Graham never quite made it from starlet to star, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have one of the sweetest faces of all time:

Mischa Barton never made it past starlet either, and at age 25 it now seems she never will. But she is proof that you don't have to be sane to be beautiful:

Michelle Pfeiffer is supposed to be a marvel of plastic surgery. If so, she ought to give Jennifer the name of her doctor.

Most will disagree with the choice of Karen Allen as one of the all time sexiest, but for me, she was:

Jaime Pressly exudes white trashiness, but I'm guessing most guys -- at least the ones who didn't vote in that poll -- would rather spend time in Pressly's trailer than Aniston's mansion:

Previous posts have gone on about Elizabeth Hartman, Deborah Kerr, and various Bond girls, so their charms won't be rehashed here.

Jennifer Aniston is a nice-looking woman. For all I know she's a perfectly nice person as well. But to call her the sexiest woman of all time is almost to mock her.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Keepin' it real

Was just skimming the NY Post when I ran across this picture of fashion designer Valentino:

He is living proof that if you have enough plastic surgery, by a certain age you will look like a Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum replica of yourself.

You occasionally see pictures of celebrities posing next to their likenesses in the museum. As good as some of the reproductions are, you can always tell which one is real.

Well, almost always.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Jon Corzine, Part II

Jon Corzine issued a statement today saying that he had no idea what happened to the missing customer funds at MF Global:

"Even when I was at MF Global, my involvement in the firm's clearing, settlement and payment mechanisms and accounting was limited."

A lot of people will assume, naturally enough, that he is lying, and just laying the groundwork for an innocent plea in an upcoming trial.

I actually think it's possible he's telling the truth. This doesn't absolve him of responsibility, of course, as he was in charge of the firm. But he clearly saw himself as the big picture guy - which most CEOs are. And big picture guys tend not to pay much attention to what goes on in the back office.

The fact that Corzine had been both a United States Senator and the Governor of New Jersey since his days as CEO of Goldman Sachs probably put his head even further up in the clouds. It's just not that hard to imagine that a 63-year-old who's friends with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and saw himself as next in line for the Treasury job would not dig in and acquaint himself with the nuts and bolts of clearance and delivery.

When I worked on Wall Street as a bond trader, my responsibilities were limited to buying and selling bonds. But I would have had no clue had someone decided to embezzle the actual physical bonds which I had bought for the firm (back in those days, some bonds were still in actual paper form). I had no knowledge about how the firm's clearing and settlement operations actually worked.

Think of it this way: when you buy or sell a stock in your brokerage account, do you follow up and find out exactly whom you bought it from and make sure that the money which is reported to be in your account is actually there? Or do you just believe your brokerage statement?

Obviously, someone was responsible for transferring the customer funds. And that person should go to jail. Maybe Corzine should too, given that he was theoretically in charge. And it's certainly possible that he knows more than he's saying.

It's also possible he doesn't.

Nice guys, average guys, and sociopaths (XII)

SITUATION: A young man asks his date up to his apartment after a movie. She coyly asks if she can trust him. How does he respond?

Nice guy: Says, “I don’t know” with his heart pounding and a weak attempt at a devilish smile, wondering if he will be able to work up the nerve to make a pass.

Average guy: Says, “I don’t know,” encouraged by her flirtatious response and hopeful she will go to bed with him.

Sociopath: Says, “I don’t know,” with exaggerated innocence, knowing she will have a hard time evading his date rape-like tactics.

SITUATION: A neighbor’s dog wanders into a 10-year-old’s backyard. What does the child do?

Nice boy: Says, "Good dog," scratches it behind its ears, and tries to get it to play with him. Looks into its eyes and feels that they are "soulful." Feels slightly bereft when it wanders off.

Average boy: Says “Shoo,” not wanting the dog to defecate on his lawn.

Sociopath-in-the-making: Says, “Here boy,” then squirts it with the garden hose. Or he flicks lit matches at it. Finds this highly amusing. Thinks, it serves the stupid dog right for coming into his yard.

SITUATION: A new bodyguard has just been hired by a celebrity. How does he go about his work?

Nice guy: Does his job responsibly and unobtrusively.

Average guy: Does his job responsibly; off the job, drops the celebrity’s name frequently. Enjoys thinking about what a badass he is, although he hopes that he will never be called on to actually put himself on the line with any genuine bad guys who want to hurt the celebrity.

Sociopath: Ignores real threats, but constantly throws his weight around, pushing aside young fans to clear a path for the celebrity. When a paparazzi appears, roughs him up in order to ingratiate himself with the celebrity. Hopes he'll get a chance to use his gun.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How many women have you slept with?

A review of Casanova's memoirs appeared in the New York Times a week ago. The first paragraph:

"PARIS — Giacomo Girolamo Casanova was a gambler, swindler, diplomat, lawyer, soldier, alchemist, violinist, traveler, pleasure seeker and serial seducer."

So far Casanova sounds like an energetic, high-IQ scamp, and possibly even a sociopath. Certainly anyone who worked as a swindler and alchemist had to be dishonest. Gamblers often have low self-control, and soldiering occasionally attracts those who exult in destruction.

But then, halfway through the review, came the following surprise:

"Despite his many adventures, Casanova was best known as a libertine. His first sexual encounter, he wrote, was at 11, when he was groped by the sister of his guardian. During his lifetime he claimed to have seduced 122 women, including a nun."

You'd think that the man whose name is synonymous with seduction would have claimed more than 122 women. Perhaps Casanova was not a sociopath after all, but a (relatively) honest man who enjoyed the company of women.

There are certainly many guys who claim to have slept with far more.

Wilt Chamberlain once famously claimed to have slept with 20,000 women. He is also known for his quote that nobody roots for Goliath, but the two statements are somewhat contradictory: if his first claim was true, he had at least 20,000 fans. But the first claim is of course a lie. In order for that to have occurred he would have had to  have slept with 1.37 women a day from the age of 15 up until his autobiography was published in 1991 -- with absolutely no repeats. People who knew him said he was often awkward around women, and spent many of his evenings home alone. The scoring he was best at was on the basketball court, where he once single-handedly racked up 100 points in an NBA game. 

A bombastic fellow once told me -- when he was 40 -- that he had slept with 10,000 women. When I did the math for him, he somewhat sheepishly said, "Well, hundreds, anyway."

(I'm not even sure that's true.)

Basically, any guy who throws out a huge round number at you either hasn't kept count or is full of, well, hyperbole.

I once read that the average man sleeps with six women in his lifetime. That number may be dated now that we live in the age of the internet, which allows like-minded people to hook up much more efficiently. (There's also the question of what you consider sleeping with a woman: do oral sex and mutual masturbation count? Some say yes, some no.)

Every now and then it occurs to me that men who stick with the same women in fact are the ones with higher sex drives, since they never get bored. And that men who constantly need new sources of sexual stimulation in order to get excited -- the hard core womanizers, who tend to get bored quickly -- are the wimps. It takes a real stud to be excited by the same woman for decades.

On the other hand, supposedly one in every sixteen men in central Asia is a direct descendant of Genghis Khan. He, and his sons and grandsons, all enjoyed absolute power, and enjoyed their absolute power as well. And no one ever accused Genghis of being a wimp. (It's generally considered hard to conquer all of Asia, the entire Middle East, and a third of Europe without a higher than average testosterone level.)

The fact is that most men who can, will sleep with as many women as possible. Think of recent dictators who have done as they pleased in every other regard. (Fidel Castro, or Kim Jong Il, or the Sultan of Brunei.) Their numbers put Casanova to shame. Of course, they're not really competing in the same game. Casanova seduced, they order.

Or consider how guys will take advantage of their fame. (Think Muhammad Ali, or Pablo Picasso, or Warren Beatty, or Mick Jagger.)

Or their money. Billionaires are not generally known for their chastity. 

If you're extremely rich and famous and powerful and you have a position which requires a certain amount of decorum, you're almost certain to embarrass yourself. (Sylvio Berlusconi, Dominique Strauss Kahn.)

Men generally behave as evolution has selected them to, to spread their seed as widely as they can.

I have a friend who took a year off from college to work as a steward for a major airline, back in the 1970's. The home base for the stewards and stewardesses was in San Juan, Puerto Rico. My friend had two roommates there. The three of them were just about the only heterosexual guys in a place which was 90% young, single women. So they referred to their base as "Candyland." By my friend's count, one of his roommates slept with 52 women that year, and the other with 70. (My friend slept with 12.)

I know my friend well enough to know he's honest about these things. He's also good-looking and charming. Although he's long since been put out to pasture (i.e., married), in his day he was an unstoppable force. I was talking to him the other day, and the subject turned to women, and his final score, which was roughly 80. He grumbled that it should have been higher, then growled, "And I'm a damn handsome guy, too."

But he shouldn't grumble too much. At 80 women, he is way above the national average. Another 42 and he would have been right up there with Casanova himself.

And those two guys were honest about their numbers.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fat skeletons

There was an item in the NY Post this morning about a "dating site for big-boned women called 'The Big and the Beautiful'."

There's nothing wrong with either "big" or "plus-sized" as substitutes for "fat." A gentle little euphemism never hurt anyone. And we shouldn't blame people for things they have little control over. 

But "big-boned" is just transparently dishonest.

It's as if they're saying, "It's not me that's fat, it's just my bones. You see, they're all about four inches thick, which makes me look fat. But that's just an optical illusion. It's not that I sit around eating bon-bons all day and I'm too lazy to get up off my fat ass and exercise -- it's that my bones are big."

Okay, we get it: you have no responsibility in the matter. And since it's completely out of your hands, there's no judgment called for. And you're not a tub of lard -- you're a tub of bones! Hey, maybe we should just call you bony rather than fat.

Come to think of it, it does seem as if you have a rather thick skull.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Vasily Alekseyev, RIP

Vasily Alekseyev, the Olympic superheavyweight weightlifting champion in 1972 and 1976, died last week in Russia. Starting in 1970, he set a total of 80 world records, and was widely considered to be the world's strongest man during that decade. He was the first man to clear 600 kilograms in the Olympic lifts, and ended up with a best of 645 kilograms.

Alekseyev embodied the principle that real, usable strength, and pretty Hollywood muscles are not the same thing. At about the same time Alexeyev was winning his second gold medal, Arnold Schwarzenegger was winning the first of his titles as Mr. Olympia. But Schwarzenegger would have been as out of place in an Olympic weight-lifting competition as Alekseyev would have been at a Mr. Olympia pose-off.

At his prime, Alekseyev stood 6'1" and weighed 350. Schwarzenegger was 6'2" and weighed 220. 

Schwarzenegger's workout routine was geared towards isolating individual muscles, and growing and sculpting them. Alekseyev's was geared toward being able to lift massive amounts of weight. My guess is that Schwarzenegger would have been lucky to lift half of what Alekseyev did in the Olympic lifts, which require utilizing all of your muscles at once, and having great tendon strength and grip strength. Olympic lifting also requires great coordination and balance, as well as a little bit of speed. Alekseyev almost seemed to use the momentum generated from his huge torso to jerk the weights upward.

Alekseyev's type of strength would have been far more useful, say, on a farm. After Schwarzenegger had driven the small tractor into a ditch because he was admiring his biceps rather than paying attention to where he was going, Alekseyev could have pushed it out.

Of course, Alekseyev would also have been laughed off the stage at Mr. Olympia.

Just maybe not to his face.

Alekseyev reigned at a time when steroids were already extant, especially in the eastern bloc. It would beggar common sense to suggest that one of the Soviet Union's premier athletes was never doped up; but Alekseyev didn't look as if he was. He always looked seven months pregnant, and didn't have the type of bulging, defined muscles, especially the trapezius (between the neck and shoulder) which characterize steroid users. While wearing street clothes he could easily have been mistaken for just another big fatty.

With his huge body, vaguely ethnic look, perpetually unshaven face, and usually disgruntled expression, Alekseyev looked like one of the bad guys in a Schwarzenegger film -- you know, the type who might have given Arnold a decent fight before Arnold sent him flying with one of his trademark haymakers. But had the two ever met, and had the director ever suggested they go at it for real, Vasily Alekseyev would not have been the one to be picked up and sent flying.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Man's best friend

An article on Yahoo News two days ago described how a Utah man who was out duck hunting  recently was shot by his own dog when he got out of his canoe to set up some decoys.

The relevant paragraph:

"Apparently excited to join his owner in the marsh, the dog jumped up on the boat's bow and stepped on the gun. The gun was fired, hitting the man in the buttocks with 27 pellets of birdshot."

The man was not seriously injured, thanks to the rubber waders he was wearing.

As shaggy dog stories go, this one certainly beats "The dog ate my homework."

But the article leaves out the most interesting part of the story: how has this changed the man's relationship with his dog? Is he still as affectionate to the hound as he once was? Or is his pet now permanently in the doghouse?

And you have to wonder, the next time the man is out hunting with that dog, will he perhaps feel a vague urge to repay the favor?

What we're fighting for

When I hear the complaints of feminists in this country I am generally unsympathetic. They want to criminalize ogling a woman (which, in their opinion, constitutes harassment). They want to lower the standards for the fireman's test so that more women can pass. They want to make off-color jokes in the workplace punishable by firing.

Can't say I've ever met a feminist whom I've found persuasive, or charming, or even humorous.

In our country, most of the feminists who use words like "exploited" and "abused" to describe their own condition are in fact abusing those words, rendering them almost devoid of meaning.

But there are women in other parts of the world who really are exploited, abused, and oppressed.

A Reuters article on Yahoo News this morning discussed the case of an Afghan woman who had been jailed for adultery after being raped. The big news was actually that she had been pardoned, although there was some question as to whether the pardon had been predicated on her agreeing to marry her rapist.

Question: What kind of backward society throws a woman in jail for the crime of having been raped -- and then insists she marry her rapist?

Answer: The kind the United States fights for. We are waging a war to support the Karzai regime, which has jurisdiction over the courts which threw the woman in jail.

So our troops are effectively fighting and dying in Afghanistan for the right to.....throw women in jail for being raped.

That's what the feminists -- and everybody else -- ought to be complaining about.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jon Corzine

Jon Corzine was many levels above me in the corporate structure at Goldman, but since I worked in the same division, I had some contact with him. He struck me as a decent guy in a place which was full of sociopaths.

At the same time, I thought his reputation for brilliance was overblown. On Wall Street, you can get a reputation for being brilliant by merely making a series of yes/no (buy or sell) decisions which happen to go your way.

Corzine was a big, confident, calm, masculine, charismatic guy who had a knack for making people feel appreciated. He was also obviously very smart. But it was his personality, rather than any creative brilliance, that accounted for his success.

There was certainly no questioning his ambition. He reportedly tired of being a U.S. Senator because he was merely one of a hundred, so before his first term in Washington was up he ran for Governor of New Jersey, a position where he would have much more executive power. More recently he reportedly had his eye on the Secretary of the Treasury position, a post he thought he would get if Obama were reelected.

To that end he seemed to want to make a big splash at MF Global, in order to demonstrate that he still had the magic touch. So he made big bets on European sovereign debt, bets which ultimately bankrupted the overleveraged firm. The big question, of course, is whether he was personally responsible for the missing customer funds.

I'd be surprised if he was, since, as I said, he never gave off the smell of dishonesty while at Goldman. But whether he personally made the decision to take money from those accounts or not is somewhat irrelevant, since as the firm's chief he was ultimately responsible for all decisions made there.

Corzine will probably be sentenced to jail, since politically it would be impossible not to do so. If the customer money is recovered -- and maybe even if it's not -- Obama will probably pardon him, perhaps as soon as January of 2013. Corzine was always a big Obama supporter, and while Obama can no longer offer him Treasury, he still owes him, and Obama is all about paying off old supporters.

But even if Corzine gets off with a short stint in jail, his career is over.

A friend, Dave Moriarty, pointed out yesterday that "you are tempting the trading gods when you name your firm 'MF'."

Corzine didn't name the firm, but he definitely had more than his share of hubris. And as the Greeks told us so long ago, that is the best way to anger the gods.

"You'll just feel a little pinch"

Every single doctor or nurse or dentist who's ever jabbed a needle into me has always said those exact same words beforehand. They must all learn from the same playbook.

I understand why "pinch" is their word of choice. It certainly sounds less dire than, "Brace yourself, I'm about to plunge this big needle through your skin and into your flesh." A "pinch" is something a girl might do to you if she doesn't know how to fight and inflict any real damage. A "pinch" of vodka is a trace amount that you theoretically won't even feel. (Of  course, I've never heard anyone ask for a pinch of liquor who didn't really want a big dollop.)

But the fact is, "pinch" is not an accurate description of how a needle feels. A "small stabbing" would convey the actual feeling more accurately. I have to admit, though, that once my expectations have been managed so adroitly, I am more relaxed.

None of this is to suggest that all of these doctors and nurses are not perfectly pleasant. The nurse who administered my shingles vaccine yesterday even added, "This one doesn't even go into the muscle, it's just a sub-cute." Which I guess is the cute way of saying sub-cutaneous.

In fact, this particular nurse was not only pleasant, she was insightful as well: she evidently has the ability to recognize a coward when she sees one.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A telling ratio

A front page article in this morning's NY Times detailed how Urban Meyer, the new football coach at Ohio State, is getting a base salary of $4 million, plus yearly incentives that could total another $700,000. The Times pointed out that Meyer is making more than three times what OSU President, E. Gordon Gee, made in 2010.

I've long thought that the quality of the education you receive at a college is roughly in inverse proportion to the ratio of the head football coach's salary to the university president's salary. There are certainly exceptions: Cal, the University of Texas, and the University of Michigan are all fine schools, yet all pay top dollar to their football coaches (in all three cases, much more than the university president gets).

There is an argument to be made in favor of paying a handsome salary to a coach: a big time football program can receive a lot of money from television networks and actually turn a profit that way.

There is also an argument to be made that most university presidents themselves are empty suits, whose jobs consist primarily of meeting, greeting, and fund-raising. From what I've seen, the main qualifications for being a university president are a fine head of white hair, nice elocution, and gracious manners. Presidents are the equivalent of show captains, those fellows who have nothing to do with actually running an ocean liner but who don captains' uniforms and go around greeting the passengers. (The dean of the faculty might be considered the equivalent of the fellow who actually steers the boat.)

So perhaps the better ratio would be the football coach's salary to the average associate professor's salary.

But either ratio is a fair inverse approximation of how much emphasis is placed upon academics at any given college.

"Breaking the silence"

An interesting editorial in Sunday's NY Post discussed how the Brooklyn DA has now arrested 89 Orthodox men on charges of child sex abuse.

The most interesting paragraph:

"When rabbis who hate and fear the non-Jewish world can dictate to the parents of Jewish child victims whether or not to talk to (mostly non-Jewish) police, a prosecutor’s job is not an easy one. In 2000, after a Hasidic family went to police over alleged abuse of their young son by another Orthodox Jew, some 50 rabbis signed a public announcement in a Yiddish-language Brooklyn newspaper literally authorizing the murder of anyone who “informs” on a fellow Jew to secular authorities."

Isn't this in effect the equivalent of Sharia law?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hilarious skit

A friend sent the following link a couple days ago:

It's from the comedy show, Life's Too Short, which originally appeared on the BBC. It's perfectly cast, and perfectly acted.

Ironically, I'd thought before that Liam Neeson, a former Ulster amateur heavyweight boxing champion, would have made a good James Bond except for the fact that he'd never demonstrated any discernible sense of humor in any of his movies.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nice guys, average guys, and sociopaths (XI)

SITUATION: A buddy owes you $500, is several days overdue, and cannot pay in the next five days. What does he tell you?

Nice guy (feeling horrible): “I’m really sorry, but I don’t have the money, and can’t pay you until next week. I'll pay you interest. I understand if you don’t trust me, so here, take my new laptop as collateral. I'll use my old one.”

Average guy (feeling badly): “I’m sorry, something’s come up, I’ll get the money back to you as soon as I can.”

Sociopath: (feeling nothing, and with no intention of ever paying you back): “I’ll have the money by tomorrow. I swear -- you have my word on it. And you know I never go back on my word.”

SITUATION: A lawyer walks by a Mercedes dealership on his way home from work and sees an SL500 convertible in the showroom window. What does he think?

Nice guy: What a flashy car. I wonder if the people who drive it are ever embarrassed by it. It'd sure be nice to be able to afford one though. 

Average guy: Let’s see. If I saved a thousand bucks a month for the next year and a half, I could put down a deposit…..nah, that’s silly.

Sociopath: Hmm, that thing’d look damn good on me, I’m a Mercedes sport coupe kind of guy. I wonder if my credit card would be good enough for a down payment? By the time the next payment comes due, I’ll have figured out some way to get the money.

SITUATION: A man has a strong opinion about an upcoming football game. What does he do?

Nice guy: Bets his best friend ten dollars on the outcome and watches the game if his wife hasn’t made other plans.

Average guy: Makes a $20 with each of three buddies, and watches the game, telling his wife he'll rake the lawn the next day.

Sociopath: Phones his bookie, and bets $1000 on the game even though he doesn’t have the money. Figures he can always get it from his father-in-law, that tight-fisted old bastard has so much money he doesn’t know what to do with it anyway. But why even worry about it? This game is a lock.

SITUATION: The host of a large party has left ten $20 bills on his bedroom dresser upstairs. On his way to the bathroom, a guest sees it. What does he do?

Nice guy: Puts the money in a dresser drawer, and tells his host where he put it.

Average guy: It occurs to him how easy it would be to steal, but he quickly banishes the thought and walks on by.

Sociopath: Quickly calculates how many other people have been up here during the course of the party, then pockets the money, knowing they will never be able to pin it on him. Thinks, that guy ought to pay me for coming to his lousy party anyway. I’m easily the most charming guy here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

In case you want to feel good about your own parenting abilities.....

The following AP story appeared on Yahoo News today:

Nazi-naming parents seek to regain custody of baby

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey couple who gave their three children Nazi-inspired names is due in court Monday to try to regain custody of their newborn.

Heath and Deborah Campbell's lawyer says state child welfare officials took custody of the child named Hons after he was born Thursday at Hunterdon Medical Center.

The state took custody of the couple's other children nearly two years ago, saying there were in danger because of previous violence in the Campbell home.

Their parents made headlines in 2009 when a supermarket refused to decorate a birthday cake for their son, Adolf Hitler. His siblings are named JoyceLynn Aryan Nation and Honszlynn Hinler.

One has to wonder exactly what is going through the mind of a parent who bestows this name  upon his child. Exactly what kind of chance does a boy named Adolf Hitler Campbell have in life? How much teasing will he undergo? How much outright hostility will he face? How old will he be when he legally changes his name? What sort of relationship will he have with his parents in the future?

Forty years ago Johnny Cash composed A Boy Named Sue, about a boy who was given that name by a soon-to-be absentee father so that he would grow up to be tough because of all the ribbing he would take.

Sue had it easy by comparison. 

What sort of political and racial attitudes will Adolf have when he grows up? There are basically two possibilities here: either he will absorb his parents' (evidently) Nazi values, or he will be a flaming liberal. It's one or the other.

A name like that just doesn't seem to leave much room for a moderate, centrist position on those issues later in life.

I was curious as to what they looked like, so I Google imaged Heath and Deborah Campbell and found this picture of them with their young son Adolf:

I was a little surprised to see that they look a little like hippies. 

Adolf himself looks adorable. But I'm not betting that he stays that way, especially personality-wise, as he grows older.


While pondering the question of whether J. Edgar Hoover was part black (see previous post), it occurred to me that the one person Hoover resembles most, ironically enough, is Jesse Jackson. Both men have their eyes spaced far apart, often a sign of fetal alcohol syndrome, and both have a somewhat bug-eyed appearance as well:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

J. Edgar

Saw Clint Eastwood's latest directorial effort, J. Edgar, last night. Not bad, but not great either.

The movie came across more as documentary than as drama. Eastwood tried to hit all the highlights (and lowlights) of the FBI director's career. The movie briefly touches on Hoover's role in centralizing a fingerprint database, on his role in apprehending the most famous criminals of his era, and on his relationships with various Presidents, without delving too deeply into any of them. 

The movie tries too hard to be even-handed about the question of Hoover's sexuality, in the end leaving it unresolved. Clyde Tolson, Hoover's longtime companion, is portrayed as unquestionably homosexual. But Hoover is portrayed as someone who on the one hand proposes marriage early on to a woman, and who claims to have gotten "physical" with actress Dorothy Lamour, yet on the other as a man who dressed up in his mother's clothes on the occasion of her death and constantly dined with and vacationed with his companion Tolson, to whom he eventually left his entire estate. Eastwood's refusal to extrapolate from the documented facts of Hoover's life comes across less as scrupulousness than as an abdication of a moviemaker's responsibility to take a stance. C'mon, Clint: was he or wasn't he?

The third possibility is that both Hoover and Tolson were simply repressed homosexuals who had a homoerotic relationship but who never consummated their relationship that way. If that was the case, then the movie was an accurate portrayal. But the young Tolson was portrayed as a tall, good-looking, well-dressed, self-confident young man. The idea that such a man would be satisfied for his entire life with this one never-consummated relationship just doesn't ring true.

DiCaprio did a workmanlike job in evoking Hoover. DiCaprio may be a great actor, but playing a stiff like Hoover takes less chops than other roles.

Armie Hammer, great grandson of billionaire Bolshevik Armand Hammer, demonstrated his familial loyalty by playing Clyde Tolson, Hoover's longtime companion. (What better way to strike back at the ferociously anti-Communist, wannabe he-man Hoover than to play his closest friend as a flamer? Armand would have been pleased.)

Judi Dench plays J. Edgar's mother, who tells him at one point that she would rather have a dead son than one who was a daffodil (read: gay). Her forbidding performance is not too far in spirit from the one she gives as M, James Bond's boss.

Naomi Watts, one of the few actresses who has managed to be both siren and serious actress, plays Helen Gandy, Hoover's longtime secretary. Watts gamely lets herself be gradually aged for her role. Her performance is so good -- and unobtrusive -- it never occurs to you you're looking at the same woman King Kong fell so hard for.

Jeffrey Donovan, star of television's Burn Notice, takes a turn as Robert F. Kennedy. He seems to have been cast more on the basis of buck teeth than acting ability. His Boston accent is too broad, and even his bushy wig lacks subtlety.

Steve Sailer's review of the movie mentions that J. Edgar may have been a from a light-skinned black family which passed as white. (Look closely at the picture above.) If that was the case, then Hoover, as both a gay man pretending to be straight and a black man pretending to be white, was certainly well suited for his job of catching criminals who essentially led secret lives.

Surprisingly, given all its other faults, the movie was actually sort of touching as a love story. Any long relationship where there is still visible affection at the end is moving, and the odds against such a relationship make it even more so.

Eastwood is arguably our second best film director, after Martin Scorcese. He's brought us Unforgiven, A Perfect World, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of Our Father, Letters from Iwo Jima, Gran Torino, and Hereafter, among others. But this latest effort will not further his case for overtaking Scorcese.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why not be truly daring?

The NY Post ran an editorial this morning detailing how the Brooklyn Museum is up to its old tricks. They are running a video entitled, "Fire in My Belly," which features a figure of a crucified Christ with blood on it, and ants crawling all over it.

This is obviously some artists's way of demonstrating his rebellious, independent, epater le bougeois spirit. In fact, such works of "art" are getting a little tiresome after all the similar things we've seen in years previous. The Brooklyn Museum, in case you forgot, is the place which -- run by the same Arnold Lehman who runs it now -- exhibited Andre Serrano's infamous "Piss Christ," a work which showed a figure of Christ in an aquarium filled with urine. It also exhibited a painting of the Virgin Mary made out of elephant dung, juxtaposed with pornographic pictures.

Being "controversial" is one way for a young artist to gain attention. But if a young artist really wanted to get attention, why not create a "Piss Menorah" or "Shit Koran"? Those would get far, far more attention, and generate far more outrage, than yet another piece meant to demean Christianity.

Evidently there are no artists courageous enough to produce such works. And even if there were, my guess is that Arnold Lehman would not exhibit them. Because Lehman, like the artists themselves, displays only politically correct "courage."

Which is to say, none at all.

Nice guys, average guys, and sociopaths (X)

Situation: A group of young male students attend a college mixer. How do they behave?

Nice guy: Has a beer just so his friends won't think he is a square. Chats politely with whoever talks to him, male or female. One particularly pretty girl catches his eye but he is too shy to try to talk to her.

Average guy: Makes a desultory attempt to chat up various coeds; doesn't know any better, so stares at their breasts rather than looking them in the eye while talking to them. Awkwardly tries to get a couple of phone numbers, but is rebuffed. Takes advantage of the free beer by having several. Ends up hanging out with his buddies; they agree that most girls just go to mixers for the opportunity to turn down guys in order to feel more desirable.

Sociopath: Doesn't bother with the beer, since he knows he doesn't need one to loosen up. (Inhibitions are for losers.) He mingles successfully, knows how to make each girl he talks to feel as if she is special, and gets a few phone numbers. He makes an unsuccessful attempt to bed one of the girls in a nearby dorm room. Later tells his buddies the attempt was successful. They admire his nerve and slickness.

Situation: A man is walking down the street in a hurry, late for an appointment, when someone in a car stops to ask for directions to a local restaurant.

Nice guy: Stops to answer, gives detailed directions. Repeats directions when asked.

Average guy: Gives a rushed answer indicating the general direction of the restaurant. Starts to edge away even before he is finished giving directions, so as to forestall further questions.

Sociopath: Stops to answer and gives detailed directions to a seedy section of town. Afterward cackles with delight at his cleverness and wishes he could see their faces when they find themselves in the ghetto.

Situation: One of a group of buddies is diagnosed with terminal leukemia. How do his friends react?

Nice guy: Is stunned, and saddened, but doesn't say much because he knows that mere words cannot do justice to the gravity of the situation. At the funeral, is afraid he might cry in front of the deceased's relatives on the receiving line, so avoids it.

Average guy: Is saddened. Visits the guy, and says the right things. Also can't get over how bad he looks; is a little grossed out by him. While at the funeral, reflects a little on the nature of life and death, and feels bad for the grieving relatives, but also can't wait for it to be over so he can go home.

Sociopath: He makes a big show of grief, raises money for a group gift for the sick person; makes sure to take credit for the gift. He comments disparagingly about how the nice guy hasn't demonstrated sufficient sympathy for the sick person. He may let his mask slip by asking inappropriate, probing questions about the physical effects of the disease. He instinctively knows that this is a good time to ingratiate himself with the ill man's relatives, and pretends that he and the sick guy were closer than they were. At the funeral, summons up a few crocodile tears for them on the receiving line. Uses his "grief" as an excuse to misbehave. Forever after lambastes the nice guy for the fact that "he didn't even bother" to offer his condolences to the relatives.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Yesterday I was complimenting someone for being logical when I was interrupted by someone else. She said, "Uh, what do you mean by logical?"

I was taken aback by the question, so could only come up with "The word is pretty self-explanatory, don't you think?"

If you look it up in the dictionary, most of the definitions of logic use the word "reason." For instance, Merriam-Webster's definition:

a: a science that deals with the principles and criteria of validity of inference and demonstration : the science of the formal principles of reasoning 

b: a particular mode of reasoning viewed as valid or faulty 

Upon further reflection, I've come up with a more usable, illustrative definition: a logical person is one who looks at the facts, then comes up with a theory based on those. An illogical person is one who comes up with a theory, then looks for facts to support it while studiously ignoring those which don't.

The two people mentioned above happen to be particularly good examples of each type.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Just saw an article about how Charles "Tex" Watson, one of Charlie Manson's followers -- and one responsible for several slayings -- is up for parole today. The article goes on at length to quote his lawyer, who feels he is reformed, and the relatives of his victims, who feel he shouldn't be freed. No big surprises there. While Watson seems a good candidate for lifetime imprisonment, I can't get all that worked up about whether a 65-year-old who's been in jail for 42 years stays there.

But what caught my eye was the following sentence:

"Watson married and divorced in prison and has four children from conjugal visits..."

That, of course, is the real outrage. Watson should never have been allowed the pleasure of conjugal visits, let alone the satisfaction of knowing that he has had more reproductive success than most Americans who've led law-abiding lives. (And far more reproductive success than Sharon Tate and some of the others he killed.)

Must be why he's half-smiling in that mug shot.

That's going to be another plank of my Presidential platform: no more conjugal visits for felons. If a guy like Tex wants children, let him try to have some with his cellmate.

Addendum, same day: Watson was denied parole for the sixteenth time, and also told that he cannot seek parole again for at least five years. (His kids, however, are doing fine.)

Confessions of a beta male XII: pessimism

One of the key differences between alphas and betas is their outlook on life. An alpha's glass is always half full. I find the second half of my glass rarely worth finishing.

An alpha's motto is, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Mine is, nothing ventured, nothing lost.

To an alpha, many ideas, even some of the cockamamie ones, sound good. As a result, he is often disappointed, but occasionally succeeds. To me, they all sound bad. I am never disappointed, but also never succeed.

Had I been a venture capitalist back in the 1970's, and had a young Bill Gates approached me with an idea for "software" for computers (what a stupid concept!), I would have told him that computers are just overweight calculators, and as far as storing other data goes, encyclopedias are far more convenient. Had Steve Jobs approached me with the iPod, I would have told him he was too late: the Sony Walkman already had that market locked up. Had a young Henry Ford beseeched me, I would have informed him that my horse was plenty reliable.

If things don't go an alpha's way, he becomes furious, and will often pass blame around in a very generous manner. I never expect anything good to begin with, so rarely get mad.

To an alpha, every party sounds like a good idea because he just knows this is the one that's going to be stocked with beautiful and willing females. I figure, I didn't get laid at the last ten, this will be no different.

An alpha is always up for a new adventure. I know the movie will suck, the concert will be off key, the comedian will be lame, the traffic will be bad, and the seats inconveniently located as well as uncomfortable. So why bother? I am the stuff hermits are made of.

An alpha's enthusiasm will often be described as "contagious." I like to think that my wet blanket attitude functions as an occasional reality check. (Mostly it checks peoples' enthusiasm for me.)

Mention Hawaii to an alpha and he thinks of sunny beaches, lovely girls dancing the hula, tropical drinks, and great surfing. I think of the long waits at the airport, turbulence on the airplane, jet lag, locals regarding me with disdain, sunburn, and the high cost of it all.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dirty tricks

There has been concern expressed in some quarters that I have entered this Presidential race in a somewhat unprepared and naive fashion.

Don't worry, I'm not naive: I watched The Ides of March. I know all about the dirty tricks which are a vital part of every well-run campaign.

That was me, not Rick Perry's staff, who got those women to come forward and accuse Herman Cain of sexual harassment.

I had a few former foster children of Michelle Bachmann all set to testify as to what kind of a "mother" she actually was, but her poll numbers are telling me those won't be necessary.

Coming soon: revelations about the inner workings of the Mormon Church where Mitt Romney was a bishop. Yes, Bishop Romney. It has a nice ring, doesn't it? I promise, these will be almost as revealing as the revelations Joseph Smith himself experienced in the desert of Utah. Didn't know about Mitt's four other wives, did you? Stay tuned.

I also have a push-pull phone poll all planned out for the general election. Some of the questions we will ask include:

"Do you feel there is any truth to the rumors that Bill Ayers was in fact the real writer of Obama's two "autobiographical" books just because their writing styles were so eerily similar?"

"Do you sometimes feel that Brother Obama might as well have written his black nationalist preacher Jeremiah Wright's speeches?"

"Do you feel that Obama's gift to Queen Elizabeth of an iPod containing his own speeches displayed a deft diplomatic touch? How about his gift of a pair of White House cufflinks to the Dalai Lama, who never wears Western-style clothing?"

"Was obsequiously bowing to the Saudi king the right way for Obama to demonstrate Presidential protocol?"

"Did you feel good about the way Obama threw his own grandmother under the bus in the last election?"

"When Obama said, in the last election, that he had been to fifty-seven states with one more to go, did you worry that there were eight states that you didn't know about?"

"Do you feel that a weekly five hour golf expedition is a necessary part of a Commander in Chief's duties?"

"Do you feel that Michelle Obama has made a good First Lady? Do you feel that Marie Antoinette would have made a good First Lady?"

"Do you feel there is any truth to the rumors that Barack Obama hates white people?"

Even more planks

A few more positions:

Anything which gets this country further away from a pure democracy is a negative. The Founding Fathers didn't want any one area of the country to get too much power over another, and so instituted the Electoral College. Thanks to modern communications, we are all now just one big unhappy family. Every member of that family deserves to have his vote count, so get rid of the electoral college.

Congress ought to get the same medical insurance and pensions the rest of us get, not the lavish benefits they keep for themselves. They also should not be able to exempt themselves from the laws they pass for us -- which they do on a regular basis, even though the public is mostly unaware of this. They'll think twice about passing restrictive laws if they themselves are subject to them as well.

If a judge or jury deems a lawsuit frivolous, the plaintiff and his lawyers must pay the court costs of the trial.

Although I believe in the death penalty, I also believe that if someone given the death penalty is later found to have been innocent, the prosecuting DA should serve a year in jail. This will not prevent obvious serial killers, killers convicted on the basis of DNA evidence, or killers whose crime was viewed by multiple reliable witnesses from being given the death penalty. But it will prevent the penalty from being sought when there the evidence is shaky. And it should save the taxpayers from endless appeals.

Unions for public employees wield far too much power, which is why they have far better pensions on average than the taxpayers who pay their salaries. There should be no more collective bargaining for government workers. And with campaign contributions outlawed (see original platform), public unions will no longer be able to muscle in their candidates of choice.

Part of the reason unemployment is so high is because we have been exporting jobs. Companies which outsource labor will have to pay a tax equal to the difference between what they are paying their foreign employees and what an American worker would be get for that job. Every time I want my computer fixed, I have to talk to someone with an Indian accent so thick I can only understand half of what he is saying. I'm tired of it. (Those Indians who don't want to lose their jobs needn't vote for me.)

Abolish rubber stamp boards of directors. If a company does something illegal, the board should be liable. Otherwise, why have them?

Let shareholders vote on executive compensation, for at least the ten highest-paid employees of a corporation. Why should the owners of a company have no say in how they pay their employees?

The highest paid employee of a company ought not to be paid more than forty times what lowest paid employee is -- which is the way it was forty years ago. And stock options and bonuses will be counted as part of their pay. This would not prevent an Edwin Land or a Bill Gates of a Steve Jobs or a Bill Hewlett or a David Packard or a Henry Ford from becoming fabulously wealthy, as they all deserved to be. They got rich by founding companies which they then grew. But it would prevent corporate climbers from taking advantage of a company's shareholders. These types tend to rise by virtue of their skill at corporate politicking, then tell us that their presence is invaluable to the company, and reward themselves outrageously. I have a hard time lying back and enjoying it when I get raped this way.