Sunday, January 31, 2016

political spectrums and quadrants

If you haven't taken the Political Compass Test, it's not a bad five minutes of your life that you'll never get back.

cartesian plane with horizontal left-right axis and vertical authoritarian-libertarian axis

It's a decent test, a bit more realistic than that pinheaded left-right spectrum. However, I've noticed that a lot of people's answers to these fairly general questions put them in the libertarian left, when their social media postings on specific issues would put them more in the authoritarian left quadrant. A more rigorously designed test would catch this better. This test -intentionally or not- allows people to flatter themselves that they are less authoritarian than they really are. More questions about things like guns, sin taxes, free speech/speech codes, interventionism, homeschooling, etc would be more honest. The omission of free speech and press questions is glaring, but hardly surprising, considering that some Brits designed this. I can think of few places that have retreated from historic free speech ideas in the last few decades more than they. 

The lack of discussion of power distribution between central and local government is also, well, pretty European, as federalism is much more central to American political discussions (and other federal systems like Mexico and Nigeria)..  In Europe, a strong centralized state is pretty much accepted as a given across most political ideologies.  
It's also a general trend among Western societies to not think much about the nature of power and force in general- unless it's "the pigs are bad" variety.  We've gotten so used to externalizing violence to the state, that unless you live in the inner city or are stockpiling arms, the paradox of paying taxes for mercenaries in uniform so you can remain peaceful doesn't cross many people's minds.  I think it has a lot to do with the narrowing/decline of words like "authority", "power", and "sovereignty".  In the political tradition I subscribe to, individuals can have all three.  Most people would only use "power" to describe something assigned to the individual.   People have become more uncomfortable with these words in general.  Just look at the European Constitution.  They use the word "competencies" now to describe what formally sovereign nations get to still do under the central EU.  I guess "power" just sounds too rough. 

I've seen quite a few of these tests in the last decade. They pretty much are modeled on the original Nolan Chart, which was designed by a libertarian decades ago to break the intellectual tyranny of left-right binary thinking.  

Here's Mr. Nolan with the chart as it had evolved by the mid 1990's. 

 If you check out the many variations, here's a clearinghouse for them.  

Since this model started among libertarians, why not take "The World's Shortest Political Quiz", as pure, fundamental, and as naively libertarian as it gets?  Imagine a world where everything from food down to sex is a barter exchange and all social relationships are temporary contracts- a libertarian, Rothbardian, weed smoking, second-wave feminist paradise. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

LA Invasion: Two Rock and Roll Biopics

I've been checking out some movies and music on dad schedule, that is, years after they've appeared. There's been a couple of films about the L.A. music scene of the 1970's that I found to be pretty good:  What We Do Is Secret and The Runaways.  LA was a different animal than the Manchester of Control and 24 Hour Party People-  it's of course richer, sunnier, and more surface.

I dug LA bands when I was a kid-  there was a lot more creativity there than people give credit for, a pretty diverse scene all around.  Black Flag, 45 Grave, the Paisley Underground, the Gun Club, and many more, LA from 1977-1985 had a lot going on. And you could read about it in early 'zine culture- I always preferred LA's Flipside to San Francisco's Maximum Rock and Roll. Thus, I took the time to check these two films out.

I liked WWDIS, but not for the reasons that a lot of people will. What I enjoy about WWDIS is how it's shot like an ABC Afterschool Special- real talky, paced in 5-6 minute increments, rather dopey emotionalism,  and a kind of innocence even in the dirt. The style fits well for a movie that is fundamentally about high-school lockerroom-level tribalism. If there's a theme to the film, it's about scenensterism, or more appropriately, scene queening.  The sheer amount of in-group status jockeying throughout Darby Crash's project of "Five Years" to become what drummer Don Bolles called the "new Jesus-Hitler-L.Ron Hubbard Leper Messiah" is  unrelenting.  Literally up to moments before Darby's death, his crowd is constantly resetting in-group boundaries and keeping the not-hip-enough at bay.  Throughout the film, his Circle One bluffs their way into being the hippest scene in LA because they say they are, to the point where the owner of the legendary Masque club gets cowed into letting his club get destroyed by the Circle crew who utter the magic words "you don't get it".  Back in the day, you had to get a Germs Burn to roll with this crew.

In particular, much of the drama, tragedy, and sympathy for Crash keeps getting undercut by him and his crew flashing what Camille Paglia calls the Elvis-Lord Byron Aristocratic Sneer.In scene after scene, the insiders delight in keeping others who thought they were cool but aren't out of bounds. Darby's self-satisfied lip curl is Peak Scenester.  Rather being a wink to his crowd-or the audience- it's a wink to himself, as if it's all a cosmic joke.  By the time he offs himself-after taking time to blow off Boles so he doesn't interfere with his frame  for his pre-planned grand finale, I didn't feel sorry for him at all.

The supposed source of whatever insecurity that Crash has in the movie is supposed to be his closet gayness, but really it's his constant need to stay on top of his scene.  The last third of the film shows his hip Hollywood crowd getting usurped by the more prole-Hermosa Beach's  Black Flag. 
Black Flag with singer #3

You get the impression that he's got to get a big finale in before his loss of status sets in, so, leave a beautiful corpse.  Unfortunately, John Lennon had to also die that week, undercutting media attention. 

I don't have as much to say about The Runaways, though it's a better film.  I have to agree with a lot of folks that the sicko manager Kim Fowley running the band through Rock and Roll Basic Training to be the strongest element of the film, a kind of Karate Kid motivational moment.  The main connection between WWDIS and The Runaways is of course Joan Jett, who was the nominal producer of the Germ's sole album.  While there's never a doubt that you're in LA - after all, the movie starts with pimp Fowley cruising Rodney Binginheimer's English Disco- giving the audience the glam-to-protopunk context- the band is almost without a scene to move in.  Indeed, in a show of more real depth than is found in anything to be seen in WWDIS, the film points to Fowley deliberately keeping them isolated from the scene.  It probably helped stovepipe them to being almost famous quicker than if they had moved in the hip circles, but the isolation left them undeveloped socially and spiritually- remember, these are teenage girls.  His predatory nature clearly senses this in the film and he exploits it.   

The end of the film is in a way a bit off-kilter, as it shows Jett going through a rebirth/reboot/new scheme after the band fizzles out, becoming Joan Jett the Rock and Roll Bad Girl.  It's somewhat hurried, but probably inevitable-considering that Jett herself has her name all over this biopic, sanitizing a lot of stuff that's only recently come to surface.   Jett's reinvention paid off in the end, launching a career that was not exactly inspiring, has paid the bills. For those who are interested in more on Miss Jett, read bassist Jackie Fox's essay on how Jett is very similar to another invented persona, Fox's Harvard Law School classmate Barrack Obama.

As far as LA biopics go, I'd love to see Black Flag's story told.  Unfortunately, a story about a group that had four singers and over a dozen bassists and drummers probably would not translate into a two hour movie particularly well.  

And, unlike the Germs, everyone's still alive and kicking.

                                                       Reunion Gig.  Please tour. 

Regardless of the quality of the bands back then, you have to give 'em credit.  They had real personalities, whether the spooky weirdness of Christian Death or the upbeat fun of the GoGo's.
Imagine my disappointment when I came out of the woods in 1993 after going on a three-year nature quest from snivelization to find that all of that had disappeared, replaced with bands that seemed to feature singers who sounded like a drunk uncle imitating Al Jolson.

                                                  STP cover of a Pearl Jam song

Other than the yabba dabba surfer nazi stuff from Orange County Hardcore, LA music was pretty cool.  I still listen to it pretty often. What the two LA biopics offer is a glimpse into band obsessively defining themselves, one in the context of a virtual tribe, the other isolated in pure spectacle.  Kids now aren't probably so hooked into such things in the way they were then- they're more political and mediated by the constant feedback loops of instant media- spectacles now being crowdsourced rather than svengali'd.  However, as I hope to cover later, this isn't necessarily an improvement.

The Germ's scene was a fairly grassroots thing, though its  status signalling, in typical LA fashion, was as oppressive as the pure Hollywood production that the Runaways were thrust into.  The latter we don't go for much anymore, while the former has an influence that runs even into the hipster/SJW culture of today.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sheeeheeiit, man!

Looks like academia is "recommending" a further cleansing of the language.  Donna Braquet, the University of Tennessee's Pride Center Director,   requested that teachers, rather than calling roll, will instead ask each student to provide the name and pronoun he or she -- or ze -- wishes to be referred by. She says it relieves a burden for people expressing different genders or identities.

"Braquet said if students and faculty cannot use pronouns such as ze, hir, hirs, xe, xem or xyr, they can also politely ask."

Thanks, Donna.  We're glad that the umpteenth Center for Whatever is earning its keep.  

What the culture barons of academia haven't noticed is that amongst the unwashed, a gender neutral pronoun has already evolved: "they". Nobody wanted to keep flogging the unwieldy "he or she" qualifier, so in conversation, most folks use "they", somewhat in the way that the French have a gender/number-free pronoun: "on". Unfortunately, our Jacobin betters prefer to prescribe rather than describe. But that's the point, they like to make regal pronouncements.

This is no different than the Montagnards who wanted to start the world all over with a new calender, "Thermidor", "Fructidor", and all that. 

Dr. Johnson found such prescriptive attempts to be in vain

"When we see men grow old and die at a certain time one after another, from century to century, we laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay, that it is in his power to change sublunary nature, and clear the world at once from folly, vanity, and affectation.
With this hope, however, academies have been instituted, to guard the avenues of their languages, to retain fugitives, and repulse intruders; but their vigilance and activity have hitherto been vain; sounds are too volatile and subtile for legal restraints; to enchain syllables, and to lash the wind, are equally the undertakings of pride, unwilling to measure its desires by its strength. The French language has visibly changed under the inspection of the academy; the stile of Amelot's translation of Father Paul is observed, by Le Courayer to be un peu passé; and no Italian will maintain that the diction of any modern writer is not perceptibly different from that of Boccace, Machiavel, or Caro."
-Preface to A Dictionary of the English Language"

Johnson scoffs at the idea that it is in the power of the academy to render the language in its image, whether to freeze it in time or render the tongue of the commoners to its tastes and preoccupations. Whatever changes happen to American English will not be due to some nanny busybody.

Suggestion to Donna: We could try another gender-inclusive word: "OK, class, repeat after me.  'SheeHeeIt'!"

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

transgender triumphs over feminism

With all the press surrounding Ronda Rousey, it’s a good time to bring up a persistent would-be challenger whom Jezebel says Rousey is dodging. 
Say hi to Fallon Fox, the transgender MMA starlet:

Fallon responds to Ronda’s claim that such a fight would be unfair:

Fallon Fox is a women’s featherweight MMA fighter with a 5-1 record. The first openly transgender athlete in MMA history, she has been the target of vitriol from many prominent MMA figures, including the UFC’s president Dana White and women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. Both White and Rousey have publicly insisted that Fox will never fight in the UFC women’s division. White has said, “I’ll leave it up to the athletic commissions, and the doctors and scientists,” to decide which gender divisions transgender athletes should compete in, but also declared, “I don’t think that somebody who used to be a man and became a woman should be able to fight another woman.” Rousey has said of Fox, “She can try hormones, chop her pecker off, but it’s still the same bone structure a man has. It’s an advantage. I don’t think it’s fair.”

Dana White and Rousey seem to have a problem with someone who had the first thirty years of his life to build up a man’s body, including a stint in special ops in the Navy, before spending that One Night in Bangkok under the scalpel, and identifying himself as a woman.  

What’s really going on here is hardly a fight for “equality”, but a kind of culture ranger spirit (rather than culture warrior) that has as much to do with cyberpunk and transhumanist ideas as anything else.  As Steve Sailer has pointed out, there’s definitely something sci-fi in all this, as  millionaires with previously macho backgrounds colonize femininity.   

Though a lot of people are signing off on the “T” part of the LBGT acronym without really thinking of its implications, there’s plenty who have thought this through, and in the interests of intellectual honesty, they need to own it. 

As many are starting to notice, a lot of “feminism” of the last few years is really about the triumph of masculinity in the feminine world.  Thirty years ago, a lot of feminists would have called this an  “invasion of womyns’ space”.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Voting Rights and Responsibilities

The question as to why our society should take the sale of a six pack more seriously than the franchise is one of those questions I can't get anyone to answer.  Show your ID to the beer barn, but in the name of some nebulous "disparate impact", one doesn't.  It's quite telling that a plastic display of maturity to get loaded is demanded, but the cool sobriety that democracy supposedly demands its "citizens" is some kind of tyranny.

Remember this inspiring image?
Billions of US tax dollars went to ensuring the integrity of elections in Iraq three years ago.  Such integrity is under attack here.
You need an ID to get beer, to qualify for EBT, for welfare, for WIC, to drive, for a plethora of cradle to grave social functions.  Why is voting supposed to be an exception to this?

When you vote, you do so because you are presumend to have skin in the game with your polity.  Your polity, in case the voting chaos advocates havent gotten the memo, is a series of concentric circles, not just a presidential election-the largest circle.  Your state and its many offices, your congressional district, you county, your town, and your city or county  districts.

Have these voting chaos advocates ever considered how many of the offices one casts a ballot for hinge on a few hundred, or even few dozen votes?  Do people really want to turn an election into a series of competing rent-a-blocs in corrupt districts?

Yeah, there's that word, corruption.  Does anyone think that an abandonment of standards will not invite the kinds of voting abuse that happens in countries that we police to ensure "fair and peaceful elections"?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Laugh at Them

Laugh.  Laugh at their absurd rhetorical conundrums.  Laugh at their navel gazing.  Laugh at their inability to enjoy themselves in the moment. Laugh at how the have made themselves ridiculous by doing anything  possible to preserve their sense of smug sanctimoniousness.

Laugh at the bedwetter Salonistas who tie themselves in knots explaining the logical conclusions of their beliefs. Laugh as these two-dollar pundits discover what happens when everything is a "social construct", and try to explain away the silliness of Rachel Dolezal.

Laugh at the Harvard law professor so divorced from the experience of regular people that he writes think pieces about how bowling leagues can lead to fascism.
Laugh at how they spill endless ink yougogirling a multimillionaire LA endocrine experiment.

Laugh at how the most privileged people in human history status jockey by calibrating the privilege of others and searching for microagressions that mess with their bubble. Laugh at how they hold hashtag signs to appear persecuted while they will never do anything more than express virtual "solidarity" with the truly persecuted who live thousands of miles away.

Laugh at how they turn college campuses into intellectual gulags.

You have no other outlet than laughing, since they won't debate, but turn into the very prim, humorless Church Lady caricature that they imagine they've overcome.

The Atlantic asks why there are no comedians beyond their circle, and that is because the absurd parade that is the news is its own comedy show. You're just not supposed to provide the laugh track.

If you want to laugh, but are afraid to do so because  you consider yourself part of their place on the "ideological spectrum" (one of the foundational rubrics of the Spectacle), console yourself by knowing that you are providing them much needed critique, as they won't critique themselves.  You will surely make them more honest, and their ideas better.  Perhaps they will begin to drift a bit away from identity politics, bedroom issues, congratulating their favorite hip millionaires, and start noticing the Davos world that has replaced the Daddy Warbucks capitalists of old.  Perhaps they'll reclaim the good sense of their forebearers, and notice a hollowed out economy, a continued warfare/welfare state, the same military bases in the usual countries, and the continued destruction of the earth.

And deconstruct, since humor is the oldest deconstruction.  They imagine that they own the techniques of deconstruction, but they got most of theirs from Nietzsche anyway- it is a device that belongs to no one.  They have spent decades tearing down idols, and merely replaced them with their own.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Neocons Set Bait for the Right-Thinking

It’s mind-boggling how in 2014, these people are not only still around, but suckering people into their agenda with the coarsest of bait.   It’s well known that neocons have had it in for Russia since they emerged in the 1970s.
The bait was LGBT, the one cause celebre  that would neutralize prog/NYT opposition to our Project for a New American Century, the one thing that could get them to do a TwoMinutesHate on Vladimir Putin.  Thus, the Olympics turned into a ceaseless finger wag against Russia.   Dissidents of all sorts were interviewed, lionized, and name checked, since Russia had obviously regressed to a gulag beyond Saddam’s torture chambers.
It was no less manufactured than the color-code revolutions of a few years ago.   Pussy Riot, like their cheerleader/promoter Masha Gessen  , have been on the State Department payroll for some time.  

Just wondering, would it be OK if Pussy Riot were to burst into a synagogue or mosque and do the same thing?  No, it wouldn’t because we’re out of the gates of prog social dichotomies.  Russians are “white” or “Western” or semi-western, thus all institutions and mores are up for deconstruction.   Prog cultural anthropology can be confusing at times, but neo-cons understand it quite well and scaffold their ideology accordingly.  What is striking is how progressives and neo-cons are in such agreement on which societies are up for deconstruction, and which aren’t.  I don't foresee this kind of choreographed culture critique being done in Burkina Faso, Malaysia, or Oman- all countries with much worse of treatment of gays- any time soon.  Thus, the sort of gatekeeping of who gets critiqued and who doesn't makes it OK for truly anti woman, antigay societies like Saudi Arabia to be left unmolested by policymakers.  Then there’s the fact that if Pussy Riot tried acting up over in Yemen, they would be dead before the authorities could get there to arrest them.