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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Brazilian standards of beauty

An article on Yahoo News yesterday described how Brazilian Andressa Urach was suffering from septic shock and had been placed on life support after having gotten extensive plastic surgery. She has had silicone breast implants, butt implants, leg implants,  a nose job, and gel and botox injections, all in the pursuit of "perfection."

Here is Andressa before she got sick:

I know, I know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One man's meat is another man's poison. Blah blah blah.

I can look at certain women and think they're quite good-looking, even when they're not my type. But I look at Urach and all I see is grotesqueness. The pity is, she was probably fairly attractive before.

I know Brazilian guys are into big butts and pneumatic-looking women, but the fact that one of the things Urach did to herself was take anabolic steroids strongly implies that actual femininity was not high on her list of desired attributes.

She now reminds me a bit of one of those prehistoric fertility dolls:

(The Venus of Willendorf, above, dates from circa 24,000 to 22,000 BC.)

Urach's new proportions also make her look a little like one of those dwarf strippers with seemingly exaggerated curves.

She makes Kim Kardashian look like Grace Kelly.

Which reminds me of something that happened while we were playing Jeopardy the other night and I got an answer right about some current tween idol (I can't remember who). My son said, in a tone of utter contempt, "Dad, for Crissakes, you're sixty years old. You're not supposed to know that."

In any case, those of us who like to keep up with the Kardashians can take some comfort in knowing that our gals are exemplars of ethereal beauty compared to Urach.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Fall

This past week I Netflix-binged on both seasons of The Fall, a recent BBC production about a serial killer operating in Belfast. It's well written, well acted, and gripping. Whoever wrote it has a good feel for sociopathic serial killers.

If Criminal Minds has an IQ of 115, then The Fall has an IQ of 145.

Apart from star Gillian Anderson, the cast was almost entirely from Northern Ireland. So there were no fake accents.

The series also happens to feature more beautiful actresses -- mostly as the serial killer's victims -- than any other movie or television show I can think of beside the original (1967 version) of Casino Royale. The point was made in the series that the killer -- much like Ted Bundy -- had a specific physical type that he went for: pretty brunettes in their late twenties or early thirties.

Here are a few of the actresses:

Karen Hassan, born in Belfast in 1981:

Laura Donnelly, born in 1982, also from Northern Ireland.

And Valene Kane, born in Northern Ireland in 1985:

That killer may not have had the highest morals, but he did have exquisite taste in women.

It's amazing that actresses like Jennifer Aniston, Sandra Bullock, and Julia Roberts become movie stars and actresses who look like those pictured above languish in relative obscurity.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Blacks far better at compliments

One consistent pattern I've noticed is that black people give far more effusive -- and effective -- compliments.

A young white guy once told me that he had been in a bar in New Orleans with some friends when a 6'6" 300 pound black man had come up to him, clapped his hand on the young man's shoulder, and said, "Man, you sexy as fuck! We gonna get us some pussy tonight!" It turned out that the huge guy was a football player in town for a game; he happened to be coked up. The young guy was initially a little shocked, and wasn't even sure at first that the football player wasn't somehow hitting on him (he wasn't). But he remembered the compliment, and felt good about it later.

This same young guy once wandered, semi-drunk, into a nightclub in New York City by himself. He chatted briefly with the bouncer, a huge black man, then made his way in. When he emerged an hour or two later with a girl, the bouncer said to him, "I knew you wouldn't be leaving alone." The young guy later said it was one of the highest compliments he'd ever been paid.

The same young man, a connoisseur of strip clubs, once told me that white strippers will all give the same few rote compliments in hopes of a better tip. They'll either say, you're cute, or, you're not like the rest of the guys who come in here, or something to that effect. But he had been to a club recently where he'd chatted with a black stripper, and she had told him, "You have the eyes of a killer." The young man, who prides himself on his toughness, was extremely flattered by this.

These are all compliments that simply mean more to a guy.

Whites will give you some lame compliment like, gee, that's a nice shirt. Or, you did really well on that test -- congratulations! (In one ear, out the other.) But black people will give you a compliment you'll remember.

Seriously, what would you rather be told: that you worked hard on a project, and your team spirit is really appreciated -- or that you're sexy as fuck?

Black guys simply don't seem to worry about being mistaken for gay, the way most white guys do. So they'll compliment another guy on his looks, or his build, or his voice. There's something very appealing about both the self-confidence and the straightforwardness that entails.

My own experience has been similar. Blacks have simply been more uninhibited when giving me compliments. A white guy might say, "Hmm, you're a good butterflier," or, worse, "Did you swim competitively?" I can recall three different black guys who've told me something to the effect of, "I love watching you swim butterfly. It's so beautiful!"

(If you're getting a compliment, uninhibitedly is definitely the way you want it delivered.)

One other point. Half the time when a white gives you a compliment, there's an agenda behind it: they want something from you. But with all of the compliments listed above (with the probable exception of the stripper's), there was no agenda. There was simply a certain generosity of spirit.

I'm the first to point out racial differences in IQ, and racial double standards. So let me be the first to point this difference out as well.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Bill Belichick's post-Super Bowl press conference

It's been hard to escape Deflate-gate the past few days.

And given Patriots coach Bill Belichick's previous record of shenanigans, one can only wonder what statements he will be making after his team's victory next weekend:

"I have no idea how that Ex-Lax got into the Seahawks pre-game meal. Honestly, I was as surprised to hear about that as you all were."

"Put vaseline on the outside of my tackles' jerseys? We'd never even consider doing such a thing."

"Are you seriously suggesting that three of the refs were bribed just because my assistant coach was allegedly seen handing them envelopes? I'm not even going to dignify that with a response."

"We did not hire people to sit in the stands and throw things at the Seahawk players. That's utterly preposterous."

"A gigantic wind blower near our end zone to prevent their field goals from going through the posts? I would never, ever do that."

"I have no idea how that Taser got on our sidelines, or how Russell Wilson got Tased. I wouldn't be surprised if Pete Carroll put it there himself just to make us look bad. C'mon, you guys know me better than that."

Monday, January 19, 2015

Bradley Cooper clean

The NY Post just ran an article, How Bradley Cooper put on 30 pounds for 'American Sniper.' My first reaction was, oh boy, another actor goes on steroids.

Sure enough, the article talked about how Cooper ingested 8000 calories a day for his role, and trained up to four hours a day with his personal trainer, and "didn't want to use any steroids or hormones or anything" -- the usual garbage actors spout after going on the juice.

I then Google-imaged "Bradley Cooper American Sniper" to confirm my suspicions and saw these pictures:

Cooper actually does look as if he remained clean (i.e., he doesn't look all that great). He looks as if he put on maybe 10 pounds of muscle and 20 pounds of fat. But at least it's a natural look.

This is the only instance I've ever heard of when an actor, or his rep, talked about how hard he worked to gain muscle naturally -- and he actually did it naturally.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but my son, who's generally a harsh critic, said it was excellent.

"Hollywood: beyond the pale"

The NY Post ran an excellent editorial a couple days ago about the brouhaha over the exclusively white Oscar nominees for best actor, best actress, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, and best director.

Mostly, they pointed out Hollywood's hypocrisy in criticizing everyone else for their "racism," but then allowing this instance of "racism" to slip through.

My first thought when I heard about this was that Hollywood will make up for its slip by nominating at least two or three black actors next year, whether or not they are deserving.

Almost just as surely, there will still be zero Hispanic or Asian nominees for any of the acting awards. (And by "Hispanic," I mean, of Amerindian or Mestizo descent, like the vast majority of Hispanics, not someone with a Spanish surname who looks like Antonio Banderas.)

Hollywood is extremely uncomfortable not including blacks. Just as they are extremely comfortable ignoring Hispanics and Asians.

"After 36 Years, a New York Town Sifts Through Suspicions on a Fatal Fire"

The NY Times ran the above article this morning. Evidently the only suspect in a fire that killed ten people at a Holiday Inn in Greece, New York, is now the fire chief there.

The man in question, Harold J. Phillips, of course says that he is innocent.

Here is the relevant excerpt from the article:

In interviews over the years, Chief Phillips, who is known as Bud, has said he was driving by the Holiday Inn after finishing a moonlighting shift as a security guard when he saw the flames.

His call, just after 2:30 a.m., set off a swell of sirens; 125 firefighters were soon battling a full-on inferno as motel guests leapt from the windows in their pajamas. Dozens were injured. More than 150 people escaped, but 10 did not. Seven of the dead were Canadians, including three women from one family.

“In my world, I was in the right place at the right time,” Chief Phillips told the Democrat and Chronicle in 2013. “My actions saved lives.”

To many in town, though, Chief Phillips, now 66, was no hero.

A local investigator initially called the fire an accident. But an expert fire investigator from New York City, John Stickevers, was quickly brought in. He concluded that the blaze had been deliberately set. The police in Greece had 10 homicides on their hands.

Mr. Stickevers, who retired years later as New York City’s chief fire marshal, recalled in an interview that he first saw Chief Phillips while watching coverage of the fire on television when it happened. He sensed something was off, he said, but could not say exactly what.

His suspicions were heightened, he said, when he arrived in Greece to conduct his inquiry: He asserts that it would have been impossible to see the flames from the street, as Chief Phillips had described.

Other information fleshed out Mr. Stickevers’s picture of what had happened, he said: At the time of the fire, Chief Phillips had been under pressure from his wife’s family to take a better-paying job, at Kodak. Becoming the hero whose quick response had saved lives during the Holiday Inn fire had bolstered his case to remain a firefighter, Mr. Stickevers said.

“Based on the information I was given, he is a viable suspect,” Mr. Stickevers said.

The police questioned Chief Phillips in 1978, but investigators never accumulated enough evidence to bring charges against anyone.

This kind of thing is far more common than most people realize. There are many documented cases of firefighters -- sociopaths all -- who've set fires so that they can pose as heroes. This appears to be another such. 

There have also been numerous cases of sociopathic nurses who became serial killers, though they fall into two distinct categories. The first category are nurses who simply kill because they enjoy the sense of power killing gives them. The recent case in Italy is a good example of this. The second category are nurses who deliberately put their patients into mortal danger, usually through an overdose of potentially lethal drugs, so that they can then rush in and "save" the patients, thus appearing heroic. 

It is this second category of nurses who are closely related to the firemen who set fires in order to give themselves the opportunity to be heroic. The sociopaths who do this kind of thing don't intend to kill people; but if people do die as a result of their actions, they're not bothered by it, either. (Otherwise, they would never have put others at risk to begin with.) 

That Phillips rose through the ranks to become fire chief is not surprising. Sociopaths are particularly adept at ass-kissing and backstabbing, two crucial skills in furthering one's career, whether that be in business or politics or "public service."

I didn't write this post as a sociopath alert because there's not quite enough information about Phillips to be sure, and I don't like to call people sociopaths unless there's a lot of evidence. (And there is some remote chance that Phillips is innocent.)

But, based on what I've seen of sociopaths, I'd bet that Phillips is one, and a mass murderer to boot. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The worst part about dying is….

……you don't get to see what happens next.

Whenever I feel sad thinking about the people I've been close to who've died, my mind will often turn to a thought like, she never got to see the development of the internet.

Or, she would really have enjoyed her niece if she'd had the chance to get to know her.

Or, she would really have liked this movie; too bad she never got to see it.

And, those thoughts make me even sadder.

So, take care of yourself and stay alive.

Personally, I'm always curious about what's going on in the world. When I lose that curiosity, that's when I'll be ready to go.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dumbing oneself down

I was talking with a friend the other day about how brave the black conservatives Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams and Clarence Thomas are. I said I admired them because they spoke the truth even though it meant ostracism from their brethren. I also said that I thought Sowell and Williams were quite intelligent.

My friend agreed, but said that of the three, Sowell is the brightest. He mentioned that he had heard that Sowell is something of a recluse and doesn't like to be recognized by fans. He added that he'd met Walter Williams, who didn't strike him as being all that smart in conversation.

I reminded my friend that he had once said the same thing about someone else, whose intelligence is beyond question.

I think a lot of really smart people simply get into the habit of dumbing themselves down for every day discourse because they're so much smarter than most of the people they meet.

I suppose the reason they dumb themselves down is mostly because of the universal human desire to blend in, and not be the tall poppy that gets cut down.

The other problem is, if these smart guys are just going to be themselves, they'll often end up being resented as condescending showoffs. And correcting others all the time is pretty much a guarantee of becoming unpopular. Who wants that?

Some of these people also get used to not having people understand them, so they get into the habit of explaining things that may not need explaining to their current audience.

As a result of these habits, they end up not coming across as being nearly as smart as they are, even when they're with other smart people.

I've known a fair number of people I'd classify as super-smart. Most didn't bother to dumb themselves down, but a few did. Most of the ones who didn't dumb themselves down managed not to be off-putting, but some didn't. It often boiled down to how argumentative they were.

There are also, of course, people who absolutely have to show off their intelligence to everyone they meet; in my experience, they tend to be less smart than those less needy.

As far as Sowell not wanting to be recognized, I can understand that. Since much of what he writes consists of pointing out black dysfunction and racial double standards, many of his fans would probably be whites who are reflexively anti-black, which would make meeting them a somewhat uncomfortable experience for him.

In any case, next time you meet someone who talks about the weather with the best of them, don't assume he's necessarily dumb.

Meeting Rowdy

Six weeks ago I went to a masters swim meet in Long Island. About halfway through the meet I noticed that the Olympic champion and NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines was there. A lot of people were approaching him to have their pictures taken with him. He graciously posed with all of them, his arms around their shoulders.

I would have felt foolish approaching him like that, but about half an hour later, I was talking to a young woman who evidently knew him, and she called him over so I could meet him.

I quickly thought about what I should say to him, and decided on, "I'm 60, so I remember your glory days quite clearly. I remember how absolutely astounded I was when you went that 42.3 for the 100 yard free, and that 1:34.5 for the 200 free, and also your long course records of 49.1 and 1:48.9. I just couldn't believe that anybody could swim that fast."

I figured he didn't meet many people who could just recite his times, so he might get a kick out of it.

After we shook hands, I said, "I'm 60 years old --" and he quickly interjected, "No way! You're 60?!" He pointed at his own forehead and said, "Hey -- what happened? You forgot to get wrinkles!" 

He said all this in the kind of ultra-sincere tone that seems second nature to a certain type of Southerner. He then added, sotto voce, "You have got to give me the name of your dermatologist."

By this point I had totally forgotten about the little speech I had prepared, though I did manage to say, to the young lady who introduced us, "Listen to this guy -- he's just as charming in person as on TV."

(He's actually more charming.)

At that point some other people approached Rowdy, asking for pictures, so I made my exit. After I had walked away, I remembered what I had meant to say, and it occurred to me that he must have thought that I had told him that I was 60 simply to fish for a compliment -- which he then obligingly delivered.

He probably hardly gave the matter any thought, but that really didn't make me feel like any less of an asswipe.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Three nominees for Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is where most of England's greatest are memorialized, if not buried. There is an area in the Abbey known as Poet's Corner because of the number of writers and poets who are honored there.

But three writers seem conspicuous by their absence: Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Ian Fleming.

None of them are another Shakespeare, or Charles Dickens, or Rudyard Kipling. But I'd put them at least on a par with C.S. Lewis, or the overrated Oscar Wilde, both of whom made the cut.

None of the three was known as a prose stylist, or produced epic sagas which captured the grandeur of the English empire. But all three created characters who have become immortal.

Dame Agatha Christie actually produced two: Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. (I just happened to watch the 1987 BBC production of At Bertram's Hotel again last night, and it struck me that Christie really deserves a spot in the Abbey.) Christie also happens to be the best-selling novelist of all time, with over two billion copies of her books sold; that ought to count for something.

Arthur Conan Doyle was knighted for having created Sherlock Holmes, the ultimate master of deductive reasoning. But Doyle also deserves a place at Westminster. He may not have coined as many popular expressions as Shakespeare, but many of us are familiar with "Come Watson, the game is afoot!" Or, "When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth."

For that matter, how many of us have never been chided with, "No shit, Sherlock!"

(True story: I wanted to name my daughter Irene Adler Craig, in honor of the heroine of A Scandal in Bohemia, but my wife would not have it.)

Ian Fleming, of course, created a character who is not only a household name, but the template for pretty much every male fantasy. In case you've only seen the movies based on his books, Fleming is a far better writer than you might expect.

These suggestions are hardly an issue of topical import. But that's actually the wonderful thing about Westminster Abbey: its timelessness. When you're in the presence of true greatness, what's happening at the moment in the world outside somehow seems particularly pedestrian.

Anyway, none of these three nominees would be out of place inside those hallowed walls.

Friday, January 9, 2015

"Stop giving modern Islam a free pass"

A thoughtful article by Amir Taheri about whether Islam is a religion or ethnicity or class or political movement.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Recruiting for the National Front

There's nothing like a cold-blooded assassination to change sentiment, and quickly. Look at how sentiment around New York shifted so abruptly after the killing of the two policemen.

It's hard to remember now, but for a brief period after 9/11, the US was the darling of the world. That goodwill dissipated two years later when we invaded Iraq. But, for a while, it was real.

The killing of the 12 French journalists should certainly help all of the anti-immmigration parties around the Continent, and in particular Marie le Pen's National Front in France.

Native Europeans will now feel more positively about the nationalist parties, who will be seen less as aggressors and more as defenders of their countries' sovereignty.

Stephane Charbonnier, the chief editor of Charlie Hebdo, is an unlikely-looking hero:

But, a hero he is. According to the NY Post article linked above:

Charbonnier was famously quoted in 2012 after an earlier controversy saying, “I am not afraid of retaliation. I have no kids, no wife, no car, no credit. I prefer to die standing than living on my knees.”

Now, he'll have more influence than ever. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Kissinger story

Back in 1972 or so, Henry Kissinger, President Nixon's chief foreign policy advisor, had just flown into Logan Airport. I think he was scheduled to give a speech to the Harvard faculty, something like that.

He was accosted at the gate by some kind of radio reporter, who started hysterically screeching at him about the poor Vietnamese who had lost their lives in the US bombings, and a few other accusations of that sort. After about a minute of nonstop ranting, the young reporter finally paused and gave Kissinger a chance to reply.

Kissinger's only response was to say, in that heavily German-accented, deep voice of his, "You are a very charming boy."

I was 18 or so at the time I heard this exchange, and it didn't alter my opinion of the Viet Nam War. But it did add to my growing sense of the difference between the personalities on each side.

Monday, January 5, 2015

"Son allegedly killed hedge funder dad after $200 allowance cut"

The NY Post just ran this article about 30-year old Thomas Gilbert Jr, who was evidently having his $3000 a month allowance cut to $2800.

Here is the Post's description of Junior:

The handsome Gilbert Jr. — a graduate of the Buckley School on the Upper East Side, Deerfield Academy in western Massachusetts and Princeton — was a fixture on Manhattan’s black-tie society circuit and was often photographed with a beautiful woman on his arm.

(What is the point of a Princeton degree if at age 30 you still need an allowance from Daddy?)

This guy's gonna do real well in the sort of maximum security pen they send murderers to. 

Especially when the other inmates find out what he's in for. 

My exciting life

Had dinner with a couple of friends Friday night. One had recently been in a nightclub in Moscow, and without any prompting from me, he confirmed my observation about the Russians: "They are tough people." He shook his head, and said again. "Tough...Tough and nasty."

There are three of us who get together (this is the other guy) once every six to nine months, whenever the jet setter is in town. He leaves in two weeks for Dubai, and possibly Africa, then India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia (to visit a girlfriend), and finally Hong Kong (to party).

While he's going to all those places, I'll also be taking trips… my local Y, and to Stop & Shop.

I always tell this guy that I live vicariously through him.

I'm not so sure, though, that my feeling is actually vicarious enjoyment. A more honest characterization might be just plain old envy.

I usually leave these dinners thinking about how acutely circumscribed my own life is these days.

However, you should think of it this way: if I led a more exciting, fulfilling life, I wouldn't have time to keep you informed about the latest fashions.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Arguing like a liberal, Part II

I got the following comment last night on the Arguing like a liberal post:

Is there any liberal politician you do not consider a "sociopath", mr. Craig?

You seem to be obsessed with handing out these diagnoses, despite your obvious lack of qualifications. Yet no prominent GOP politician ever gets characterized as such. Why is that?

I replied:

Mr. Anonymous Liberal --
You haven't been reading the blog for very long. I've characterized James Traficant, Joe Arpaio, and Newt Gingrich as sociopaths. Type those names into the subject line and you'll find the posts.

And of course there are plenty of liberal politicians who aren't sociopaths. When did I ever say there were not?

Why is is that there are so many liberals like you, however, who need to put words into other peoples' mouths in order to "win" an argument?

This fellow touches on several liberal memes in his comment. First, he makes a false accusation, saying that I've never characterized a conservative politician as such. As I pointed out, I've written about Newt Gingrich, Joe Arpaio, and James Traficant (who although nominally a Democrat, often voted Republican and is probably most famous for having defended a supposed Nazi).

Secondly, he suggests that I consider all liberal politicians to be sociopaths, which is equally ridiculous: I've never suggested any such thing. I've named a total of five prominent liberals as sociopaths: Bill Clinton, Wendy Davis, Richard Blumenthal, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson. (And characterizing Sharpton and Jackson as politicians is actually a bit of a stretch, as neither has ever held elective office.)

I've also written paeans to a pair of liberal politicians, George McGovern and Jimmy Carter. But the liberal assumes that I think like a typical liberal, whose judgment of personality is determined solely by political outlook.

Third, he says that I am "obsessed" with handing out such diagnoses; this is also a common liberal meme, trying to suggest that anybody who disagrees with them must be mentally unbalanced. (I suspect there is some projection there.) 

And fourth, he says I have an "obvious lack of qualifications." Liberals tend to subscribe heavily to credentialism. I could point out that I have a degree in psychology from Harvard (though in fact I graduated not knowing a thing about sociopathy). My interest in sociopathy stems from my personal experiences with sociopaths, starting with this one; it has turned into a lifelong interest. I've read most of the books on the subject, and am far more familiar with them -- on both a personal and academic level -- than most professional psychologists, many of whom are remarkably unversed on the subject.

Conversely, I could point out that I do have an MBA - unlike Carlos Slim. But I would never claim that I know even a fraction of what he does about business. (However, in liberal credential-land, I do.)

I suspect that the commenter knows -- or at least senses -- that I am right about Sharpton, Clinton, et al, so he doesn't want to argue about them. But he doesn't like the fact that I point out their sociopathy, so he attacks me

Anyway, this is the way liberals argue -- and how ironic that this fellow would do so in on a post entitled, "Arguing like a liberal."

(I've been told by several people that I should not respond to trolls, but it's just too much fun to point out their dishonesty and hypocrisy.)