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Thursday, June 27, 2013

At my dumbest

Looking back over my life, I find that I've always been at my stupidest when I accept others' opinions at face value.

When I was young, I just accepted what others said; it's a form of mental laziness I'm still prone to on occasion. I just assume that someone knows what he's talking about without bothering to think critically. A sober little voice in back of my head says, hey, wait a sec, that's not right. But I don't bother to listen to it, I just go along. (I sometimes wonder if this has something to do with ADD: while someone is talking, I'm thinking about something else I find more interesting, and so don't focus.)

As a teen-ager, I just assumed that there was something to modern art I couldn't quite grasp. Jasper Johns was a genius? Okay, whatever you say. I didn't really get those random splotches, but figured that must be my fault.

While I was in high school, I heard frequently that Citizen Kane was a great movie. I never questioned that statement, even though I had actually been forced to sit through it once. (Two hours of pure boredom.)

Consciously removing yourself from other peoples' reality distortion fields can aid in this process. ("I call bs" is one of the better expressions to emerge recently.) If you need your job, then keep your mouth shut at work. But that doesn't mean you have to internalize the bull that your boss spouts.

Received wisdom is not wisdom at all. It's only wisdom when you come by it yourself.

If I were young, I might believe today that our diversity is our strength. (Does anybody actually believe that? If it were the case, it would make us unique among all civilizations in recorded history. The strongest, most cohesive societies have always been ethno-states.)

There was an expression which got a lot of play a few years ago: that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Friedrich Nietzsche, who originated the phrase -- in German -- was not dumb; but those who endlessly repeated it in mindless fashion were. Personally, I don't plan to have my arm hacked off in an effort to strengthen myself. And even from just a psychological standpoint, I generally find that positive feedback at least makes me feel stronger than negative feedback does.

There's another common expression, "The truth shall set you free." (This expression is actually from Verse 8:32 of the Gospel of John -- the real John, not the pretender who writes this blog.) The truth can certainly liberate you from propaganda like "Our diversity is our strength" and hackneyed cliches like the one in the paragraph above.

I can't begin to count the number of times I've initially taken someone's word about a third person: how so-and-so is a really good person, or some such. Too often it turned out that so-and-so was someone who merely advertised his goodness. (Those who do this are inevitably the worst people.)

How often have I been told that so-and-so is really smart? I'd think, wow, then get to know him and find out that he's just a ninny who got good grades but has no common sense. Or he's someone who affects the mannerisms of smart people but really doesn't have a clue.

How many times did I hear, after some sort of mini-disaster, "Well, it's for the best," or, "Every cloud has a silver lining." And I would just accept it without thinking. But in fact it was usually for the worst, with no offsetting benefit. Example: you're driving along the highway and you run into a tree. That's definitely a cloud. But where's the silver lining? The stainless steel carburetor that comes into view after the hood crumples?

(Two other occasions, not really germane to the point of this post, when I'm also at my stupidest. First, whenever I'm feeling egotistical about something. For some reason, when in that frame of mind -- as pleasant as it is -- I'm far more prone to dumb mistakes. Maybe because there's something about pride that makes one careless. Second, if I take a nap in the middle of the day; after I wake up, if I'm around people, I inevitably make some sort of social mistake; I can't explain this, but it always seems to happen. Of course, I'm also error-prone when I'm tired; I guess what I'm saying is I'm dumb when tired, but also when rested.)

But the main point here is: don't let 'em brainwash you.

Except, I mean, for this blog. Whatever it tells you, believe.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Jim Carrey's "morality"

A recent article in The Guardian described how Jim Carrey now condemns the violence in his own movie Kick-Ass 2:

Jim Carrey has shocked producers of forthcoming comic-book sequel Kick-Ass 2, in which he stars as a baseball-bat-wielding masked crimefighter, after denouncing the "level of violence" that permeates the film in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings.

Scottish comic-book writer and Kick-Ass 2 executive producer Mark Millar, whose original work forms the basis of the sequel, today responded on his own blog, pointing out that Carrey, who plays a character named Colonel Stars and Stripes, knew exactly what he was letting himself in for. Carrey, who has been an outspoken proponent of increased gun control in the wake of the shootings by gunman Adam Lanza in December, tweeted on Sunday that he could no longer support the film. He wrote: "I did Kick-Ass 2 a month b4 Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence. My apologies to others involve[d] with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart."

"[I'm] baffled by this sudden announcement as nothing seen in this picture wasn't in the screenplay 18 months ago," he wrote. "Yes, the body count is very high, but a movie called Kick-Ass 2 really has to do what it says on the tin. A sequel to the picture that gave us Hit Girl was always going to have some blood on the floor and this should have been no shock to a guy who enjoyed the first movie so much …

Carrey had made a recent video in which he mocked Charlton Heston and his "cold dead hands" speech. What seems to have happened is that Carrey realized after filming the movie that his hypocrisy would be pointed out, so he figured he'd cover his rear end by denouncing his own movie before it appeared in theaters. 

But his actions bring up several questions. First, is he not violating the terms of his contract with the producers of the film by criticizing the film right before its release? Is his behavior not, at the very least, disloyal? 

Second, Carrey's anti-gun stance is one which he's held for a while. He is, after all, 51. What was he thinking when he made the movie? Here he is in a still from Kick-Ass 2:

Third, why is Carrey using Sandy Hook as an excuse? Adam Lanza's massacre at the Newtown CT elementary school took place this past December, a month after the filming of Kick-Ass 2. The timing seems awfully convenient given how many mass shootings, including those where children were killed, had occurred before the filming.

Was Carrey not at all influenced by Aurora, or Binghamton, or Columbine, or any of the other mass shootings of the past couple decades?

Or was Newtown simply a more conveniently timely excuse given that it occurred after he had pocketed his paycheck from Kick-Ass 2?

Carrey's stance does not reflect any sort of traditional morality. Instead, it reflects moral vanity -- a desire to be seen as having politically correct sensibilities.

Let's hope producers take into account his willingness to throw a movie he's worked on under the bus when making future casting decisions. 

Charlton Heston, you can rest in peace. Jim Carrey has outed himself as the silly hypocrite that he is.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

This is the End

This is the End has an 84% positive rating among both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, so I saw it last night.

This is how Sony bills the film:

The comedy This Is The End follows six friends trapped in a house after a series of strange and catastrophic events devastate Los Angeles. As the world unravels outside, dwindling supplies and cabin fever threaten to tear apart the friendships inside. Eventually, they are forced to leave the house, facing their fate and the true meaning of friendship and redemption.

It's a clever concept. And I had heard somewhere that the actors, who play themselves, are supposed to be self-deprecating in their roles, which made it sound promising as well. 

It didn't live up to the promise. It's basically a teen comedy about a bunch of dumb, self-indulgent actors who run around acting like hysterical ninnies. And the actors weren't truly self-deprecating: any of the foolishness could have been portrayed by any of the actors, and the indiscriminate insults could have fit any of them. 

I read once that in a well-written screenplay, none of the lines could be uttered by any of the characters except the one who said it. This movie was the opposite: Apart from the references to their previous movies, virtually all of the lines were completely interchangeable. Which made this a very poorly written film.

By the end of This is the End, it was apparent that the only way in which the actors had really made fun of themselves was by demonstrating how lousy a movie they could make.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sociopath alert: Alfred Mead

The NY Post just ran an article describing how a 72-year-old Minnesota man was sentenced to a week in jail for having cheated at a fishing tournament:

A Minnesota fisherman long suspected of cheating at tournaments has reportedly hooked an unwanted catch — a week in jail.

The Park Rapids Enterprise reports that Alfred Mead, 72, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of theft by swindle on May 20 for bringing two previously captured fish into the Park Rapid American Legion Community Fishing Derby on Feb. 2.

“Your conduct had a major impact on these [fishing tournaments],” Judge Robert Tiffany told Mead. “I hope you realize the seriousness of your conduct.”

Cheating, Tiffany said, “takes the enjoyment and joy out of it for those who bring their kids” and honest participants.

Mead, who has two prior gaming convictions and a decade-long trail of suspicious tournament winnings, is to report to the Hubbard County jail in one week, the newspaper reports.

And that's really all you need to know about Alfred Mead.

This one incident may seem like pretty scanty evidence to base a conclusion of sociopathy on, but this is simply something that a nonsociopath would not do. A nonsociopath would consider cheating on his taxes, or cheating in a competition if the stakes are high enough. But to go to that trouble to win a tournament where children are competing, and where the prize is undoubtedly relatively minor?

The lesson here is that sociopaths will cheat wherever they can, no matter how low the stakes. I've seen this with the ones I've known personally, and also with ones I've read about.

I knew a partner at Goldman Sachs who would chisel at every opportunity. Whenever he went out to a business dinner with subordinates, he would order two entrees, the second to bring home, so he could eat twice at company expense. That might seem minor, but that attitude showed through in everything he did. (I always thought there was a correlation between intelligence and making partner at that firm, but that there was a much stronger correlation between sociopathy and making partner.)

I heard that after he was fired from Goldman (for having purposely misevaluated his positions), this guy cheated at his golf club's annual tournament. He would turn in artificially poor scores throughout the year so he could then win the handicap-adjusted tournament. It got to the point where so many people complained about him year after year that the club's executive committee had to convene a special meeting just to disqualify him. Bear in mind that this was a guy who used to make millions at Goldman, and that whatever prize was awarded for winning the tournament was undoubtedly relatively minor; but for people who want to win at any cost, that philosophy will extend to all aspects of their lives.

I've also seen the phenomenon described by insightful novelists. You may remember that Ian Fleming introduced his archvillain Auric Goldfinger by showing him cheating at cards poolside at a Miami Beach hotel. Goldfinger, of course, had plans for larger mayhem; but we found out everything we really needed to know about him in that first scene.

Look at Mead's face, above. He has what are sometimes referred to as the "cold, dead" eyes of a sociopath, along with the slit of a mouth that I personally associate with white sociopaths. (It's possible that this one photograph is misleading, but I'm guessing it's not.)

Who knows, maybe Alfred Mead's life was such that this particular fishing tournament was a big deal to him. But I'm quite sure that if you took a close look at his life, you'd find that he cheated at everything he could. And that he has led a life amply illustrating all the other facets of sociopathy as well.

It's always the little things that betray character.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The latest from the 2013 fashion shows

Okay, back to the primary mission of this blog: to bring you the latest fashions from London, Milan, and Paris.

At first, some of these styles might look a little bit ridiculous. But with just a little imagination, it's easy to see when and where they could be useful -- or not.

How often do you get invited to a costume party and think, oh no, I have nothing to wear but my dull, drab, everyday clothes (and I really don't want to use that lame line about having come as myself)? Here's the perfect solution. ("I came as a zebra!")

Neither this outfit nor mode of makeup seem to have caught on in my hometown yet. But I'm sure it's only a matter of time. (If you do like this look, bear in mind that to pull it off you must wear it with a certain piratical swagger, and not show the slightest trace of sheepishness.)

How to dress up as your favorite character from a children's book.

These Thom Browne outfits will bring you back to your Narnia days. (Hello Mr. Tumnus!) It does seem that some of these designers ought to worry less about staying in touch with their inner child and more about developing an outer grownup.

Had the St. Valentine's Day Massacre taken place on an extra hot day, Al Capone's men could have sashayed into that garage in this shirtless Canali outfit.

A group of local dads are getting together for a few beers before they head over to watch their sons' high school football game. How much would you have to be paid before you wore this Versace outfit for the occasion? (And how much would your son pay you not to?)

What would the proper occasion be to wear this sheer-lacy-pouchy-undergarment-with-gold-belt-and-formal-tuxedo-jacket-with-pushed-up-sleeves Versace number? Is it more appropriate for a formal, or informal occasion? My suggestion: be bold, try it at both.

The latest from Acne menswear. Yes, there actually is a clothing company with that name. Which brings up the inevitable question: which would you rather wear, this hat -- or zits all over your face?

It is often said that a group of young black men hanging out on the street can appear threatening. These three seemed to have discovered a sartorial (and tonsorial) solution to that dilemma.

Imagine wearing this outfit to a meeting of the local chapter of the Bloods. How do you think your colleagues would react? With restraint and good manners? Or might they manage to somehow overcome their reticence about implying that this is not precisely the image they want to convey?

From Burberry, an updated trench coat for the spy who wants only to remain incognito.

This Salvatore Ferragamo sheer v-neck Day-Glo aqua sweater with prison jumpsuit orange pants is the perfect ensemble for a flower shop, hair salon, or even an internet startup. (It may be a tad less appropriate if you work at a bank, law office, engineering firm, or oil company.)

Had that E! show been called The Boys Next Door rather than The Girls Next Door, this is how Hef and his companions might have dressed.

For those who predict the end of civilization, the perfect post-Apocalyptic camouflage outfit.

For Salvador Dali fans who like to dress in drag and are in mourning.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

"Michelangelo Hid Anatomy Lesson in the Sistine Chapel: Human Brainstem is Depicted in the Image of God"

In May of 2010, medical illustrator Ian Suk and neurosurgeon Rafael Tamargo came out with an astonishing revelation in Neurosurgery: that the painting of God creating Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel --

-- in fact contains a detailed, anatomically correct representation of the human brain:

Michelangelo frequently dug up corpses from local cemeteries and dissected them, starting at age 17, so had an intimate familiarity with the human body.

There are two schools of thought about Michelangelo's message here. One is that he was celebrating God's greatest gift to Adam, the human brain. The other interpretation is that he was saying that God is merely a creation of the human brain, not the other way around.

Most people seem to have assumed that Michelangelo, often described as a deeply religious man, was sending the former message: that God had endowed Adam with a special brain because He favored humans.

I lean toward the latter interpretation. If Michelangelo had felt that God's greatest gift to Adam was a human brain, why would he not have said so more straightforwardly, rather than putting it in "code," so to speak. Plus, it is God, not Adam, who is contained within the brain, suggesting that it is He, and not he, who is a figment of the imagination.

Michelangelo lived from 1475 to 1564. The Vatican had been established in Rome in 1377, the Spanish Inquisition had its heyday in the late 1400's, and Italy had its own version starting in 1542. In Michelangelo's time, the church had far more power than it does today, and a public declaration of atheism would not have been wise for an ambitious artist.

Michelangelo, as a homosexual, undoubtedly felt himself outside the mainstream, which probably predisposed him towards a different way of viewing many things. (A grandnephew, who published Michelangelo's sonnets in 1623, felt obliged to change the gender of the pronouns in the homoerotic poetry.)

And desecrating the bodies of the dead would certainly not seem to be the act of an instinctively pious man.

Michelangelo must have been confident that people of his time would not recognize the shape for what it was, and that his message -- whatever that was -- would be discovered after his lifetime. And if anybody did happen to recognize the shape, he had plausible deniability: he could just say any perceived resemblance was unintended.

Of course, there is a third interpretation: that Michelangelo had not intended any message, and that the brain shape was merely a lark, a flight of fancy. But this seems unlikely in an era when religion so saturated public life and thinking.

Whatever Michelangelo's intent, it's awe-inspiring that the huge brain -- in effect, the artist's brain -- sat there for half a millennium, gazed at by millions but not truly seen until 2010.

(Would Michelangelo have been surprised at how long it took?)

I find myself shivering in an almost religious rapture at the thought of his overwhelming genius.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Portrait, Part II

I realized soon after putting up yesterday's post that Bill Clinton's repertoire of poses was far broader than I had given him credit for. So, for your edification and enlightenment, here are a few more:

"I admit it, I may be a little naughty -- but I'm certainly not bad."

"Look what a nice guy I am -- I'm so affectionate I even let my cat climb on my shoulders." [This pose reminds me of nothing so much as those Death Row inmates who pose with pets in order to seem "nice."]

"I wouldn't be using both fingers to point if I didn't really, really mean this very serious point. And the fact that I'm making it, by the way, shows what a very serious person I am."

"Even though I'm God's gift to this country, I still retain my humility -- isn't that amazing?"

"I love being the center of attention, especially with a bunch of fawning sycophants like yourselves."

"I think I evoke JFK, don't you? Look, we have the same haircut."

"Hey, you, what was your name again? Monica? Monica honey, come over here a sec, I got a favor to ask."

"Okay, so we happen to be on stage. Believe me, we're every bit this affectionate in private, too."

"I'm humbled to be in the presence of own, that is. Nelson should feel similarly honored."

Clinton is far more stage actor than movie actor: he is like a ham who is always emoting for the cheap seats. He looks good from a distance; up close, it's a bit much.

It's always the people who seem most sincere, especially those who can summon up such 'sincerity" at a moment's notice, for any occasion, who are the least so.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Portrait of a phony

Yesterday I stumbled across a photographic essay called "Bill and Hillary through the years." I can't seem to locate the article today, but I was struck by how phony Bill Clinton looked in all of the shots. He always seemed to be posing, putting on whatever expression he thought most appropriate for the situation. But he always seemed to give himself away by overdoing it.

No matter how slick you are, if you're a sociopath who lives in a goldfish bowl, as Clinton did for eight years in the White House, you can't hide your sociopathy. The sociopaths themselves, of course, always think they're fooling us, but their overconfidence often does them in. Clinton has in fact fooled a lot of people, but he hasn't fooled as many as he thinks he has. For those of us schooled in the ways of sociopaths, he is a textbook case.

Here is a Youtube video of Clinton at the funeral of Ron Brown, his Commerce Secretary: Clinton is laughing and joking, but as soon as he sees the camera pointing at him, he looks down and wipes a nonexistent tear from his eye.

This is the same Bill Clinton who said, during an economic downturn, "I feel your pain." Translation: "I am an empathetic and sympathetic human being." The only problem is, no one who actually feels empathy and sympathy would ever feel the need to point that out.

Take a look at some of these pictures. If you look closely, you'll see each of his poses is almost too good to be true, i.e., he captures the expression he's trying to achieve almost perfectly, which "real" people almost never do.

Here's Bill's humble yet patriotic look:

Here are two photos of Bill shedding his famous crocodile tears (which involve no actual production of water):

Here's his "You can count on me to fight for you" look:

Here's his "Together, we're gonna win this thing" look:

Here's his "It's just so great to be here with all you wonderful folks -- and look who's here!" look:

Here's his justifiably angry, "I did not have sex with that woman" look:

Here's his "After all these years, I'm still just head over heels for Hillary" look:

Here is what is undoubtedly one of Clinton's favorite photographs of himself, from a rare lean phase. Note the faroff look in his eyes, as if he is contemplating weighty matters, combined with the determined set of his jaw, and the judicious stroking of his chin. What a statesman!

Please bear in mind, this is not just a lesson in Bill Clinton-ism; it is a lesson in sociopathy. Sociopaths often betray their own essentially dishonest natures by overdoing things, demonstrating the falseness of their emotions.

Now, if you didn't take a look at the Youtube video linked above, please do so; it's extremely illuminating.

(Here's my more detailed explanation of Bill Clinton's sociopathy.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sophisticates vs. unsophisticates

Every now and then it occurs to me, that the associations sparked by certain words determine the listener's level of sophistication:

When you hear the name Hannibal, do you first think of the Carthaginian general who crossed the Alps with his elephants, or of Mr. Lecter?

When you hear "SEC," do you expect to hear about the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the Southeastern Conference -- home to the Crimson Tide and the 'Dawgs?

Do the letters WWF evoke the World Wildlife Fund, or the World Wrestling Federation?

Does "superman" bring to mind Friedrich Nietzsche, or Clark Kent?

When you hear "The Talented Mr. Ripley," do you think of the book by Patricia Highsmith, or the movie starring Matt Damon?

Does the word "movement" make you think of the symphonic, or the bowel, kind?

After the words "the rise and fall of," do you expect to hear "The Roman Empire" or "her heaving breasts"?

Do the words "the theater" make you think of David Mamet, or the local movie chain?

Beyond words, there are other associations which give us away:

When you see a bottle of wine, do you wonder about the vintage and variety of grape, or do you think, time to get shit-faced!

When you see a man with a muscular, well-defined body, do you think what an idiot he must be to waste all that time at the gym, or, wow, that guy is jacked!

When you see someone driving a Ferrari, are you dismayed at his vulgarity, or envious of his hot shit car?

Personally, I count myself squarely in the unsophisticated category. On every single one of the examples above (with the possible exception of the SEC), I would have the lower brow reaction.

It's not that I'm really lowbrow: I don't like comic books, and have never been a professional wrestling fan. I'm just middlebrow, and there doesn't seem to be anything I can do about it.

I know that I should have some appreciation for opera, the ballet, fine art, antiquities, and the theater. And honestly, I would.....but they're just so boring.

To me, museums are places I would only go to see specimens of fearsome animals, not Art. Shakespeare was just someone I was forced to read in high school, not a joy to read.

I prefer Kurt Vonnegut, Frederick Forsyth, and Ken Kesey. The middlebrow pantheon.

I know the Russian writers are supposed to be great, but I'm just not interested. Or, at least, am no longer willing to make the effort to wade through those interminable chunks of pavement. (War and Peace was recently recommended to me, but I think I'll just wait for the movie.)

The only good thing I can say about myself is that I'm not pretentious. (Well, at least not about this stuff.) To me, there's nothing more sickening than people who affect an affection for something they think they're supposed to like, not because they actually enjoy it, but because they think it reflects well on them.

You can always tell because they advertise their love. They fall all over themselves letting you know how sophisticated they are. (The converse is also true: if anyone is ever sheepish about a hobby, at least you know he has a real passion for it.)

With the phony sophisticates, it's always their pride that gives them away.

Then again, looking over this post, it sure seems like I'm pretty proud of my lack of sophistication.

(Which is worse? I honestly don't know.)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

FEMEN now protesting themselves

Those doughty women of FEMEN have been at it again, this time protesting Heidi Klum's live TV show, Germany's Next Top Model.

Two topless protesters crashed the proceedings. One had "Heidi's Horror Picture Show" written across her torso.

The next day, the group released the following statement on Facebook to explain their actions. Read it carefully:

FEMEN disrupted the live broadcast of Germany's most popular casting-show Germany's Next Top Model. The program format is pimp-show where world-famous supermodel Heidi Klum plays the role of "mom" and forms a bevy of underage girls to fashion-fools. The unauthorized appearance of FEMEN sekstremists at the epicenter of the show broadcasted live made the organizers and participants in the state of torpor. FEMEN sekstremists managed to make their accusations in the face of fashion-fascist ideologist of the show Heidi Klum in front of 15000th stadium and the millions of TV viewers audience. FEMEN regards the fashion industry as an element of pimp business and has consistently opposed the commercialization of the female body. Every year the fashion business millstones grind hundreds of thousands of girls, promoting the brilliance and richness of modeling career, forcing women to false ideals, provoking a real disease. Fooled by fashion propoganda, failed by fashion models, women regularly join the ranks of sex workers, and psychiatric patients. Stop the fashion business! Stop Prostitution! The true mission of a woman is a revolution!

"Forms a bevy of underage girls to fashion-fools"?

"The unauthorized appearance of FEMEN sekstremists....made the organizers and participants in the state of torpor"?

This show took place in 15,000 stadiums? (It's much bigger than I thought!)

Failed models automatically become prostitutes? 

If you ever want an immediate clue as to the worthiness of a group's cause, take a close look at their missives. Too often they'll betray their level of intelligence with misspellings, inappropriately used words, incorrect grammar, and garbled syntax. The Facebook message above almost reads like one of those Google translations of a foreign language: you just have to guess at the original meaning from the jumble of seemingly disconnected words. 

Perhaps I'm being unfair; perhaps the writer of the above manifesto only spoke English as her second, or third language. Even so, she seems guilty of confused thinking. 

But while confused thinking may be symptomatic of FEMEN's intelligence level, their hypocrisy is symptomatic of the group's character. 

It turns out, as pointed out after this blog's last FEMEN post (by Pete and "W O D"), that FEMEN themselves hold auditions for the role of topless protester. Women who want the job have to be photographed topless in order to be hired (at a salary of $1000 a month) as a protester. 

By holding such tryouts, aren't the group doing the exact same thing that they are protesting German's Next Top Model for? In fact, aren't they taking it a step further by insisting that their models pose topless?

On top of which, FEMEN obviously chooses its protesters on the basis of beauty, every bit as much as Heidi Klum's TV show does. If you don't believe that, then you must believe that these FEMEN protesters look like a typical cross section of feminists:

(I'll use any excuse to put pictures of half-naked women in my blog.)

Seriously, FEMEN's behavior is every bit as hypocritical as that of Norman Lear's (described in the post below).

Sunday, June 2, 2013

What am I?

I am not asking the above question in the philosophical sense of, who am I? (Though that troubles me at times too.) Nor am I inviting reader comments along the lines of, "A self-satisfied, obnoxious asswipe." 

Rather, I am referring to my ancestry.

My father says that he is half-Welsh, and an eighth (each) Scottish, Irish, English, and German. I've always wondered, how could he know so exactly? 

My mother is Japanese, so that theoretically makes me half Japanese, a quarter Welsh, and a sixteenth Scottish, Irish, English, and German.

But my father once told me that when he went to Wales he saw absolutely no one who looked like him. 

And my mother has a pronounced bridge to her nose, which is vaguely non-Japanese-looking. And none of the three kids in our family were particularly Asian-looking, though that may have been primarily a function of our father's craggy features. 

A couple days ago I stumbled across this account of how Vanessa Williams found out exactly where her ancestors had come from. I wondered if I might have any similar surprises, so sent away for a DNA kit from for $109. 

They seem to be able to break down your European ancestry (to "British Isles," if not Scottish or Irish, and "southern European," if not necessarily Greek or Italian). It will be interesting if I don't come back exactly as advertised. 

It may turn out that we have some Korean or Ainu blood, which might not please my mother, who grew up in Japan, and can't help but harbor a few typically Japanese attitudes.

My father's side of the family has been in this country for over 200 years; I'm sort of hoping we turn out to have a dash of African blood. If so, I'll be able to speak honestly about racial differences without anyone accusing me of racism. (Or, if they do, at least I can patiently explain to them that it's okay for me to say these things -- even if it's not okay for them.) 

I'll even be able to use the n-word with impunity. (Well, maybe not.)

I love the idea of DNA testing. Apart from its usefulness in determining criminal culpability and paternity, it could be a useful tool in other ways, too. For instance, in determining who has the right to open up a casino: personally, I don't think anyone who has less than half Native American blood should be allowed to. (Actually, I don't think the government should be awarding such licenses on the basis of ancestry at all, but that's another matter.)

I've seen pictures of some of the people who claim Native American ancestry in order to obtain such a license. About three quarters of them could never, ever get cast in a Hollywood movie about Indians. I look far more like an Indian than most of them, even though I have no Indian blood. 

Or maybe I do. As I said, my father's side has been in this country a long time, and stranger things have happened. If we are part Cherokee, that could be a nice windfall: step right up folks, we have the finest slot machines in the entire state! The roulette wheel is right over there; put your money on either the red or the black.

I'm not putting my money on either red or black ancestry; but I will consider it a pleasant surprise if I have either. 

An interesting surprise, anyway.

I'll report back in a few weeks.