I was reminded of my Facebook post, above, while watching Late Night, tonight, the drama about broadcast television’s least funny time slot, late night.

Though Seth Meyer, the no-longer-funny-at-all comedian of post-primetime network TV, actually makes an appearance (as himself) in this sorry contrivance, do not let that fool you: the melodrama is not without a few laughs.

But it is not a comedy, and I do not think it was trying to be.

It is the adult SJW equivalent of an “After School Special” — an earnest attempt to provide a smart secular morality play. I watched it because it got rather high marks on Rotten Tomatoes, and because I suspected these numbers were inflated by ideologues and “low-IQ individuals” (thanks, Trump).

The show stars Emma Thompson as a typically unfunny but otherwise untypical (for the networks) NPR-lite/midcult “entertainer.” You know, the kind of snob who thinks California Senator Diane Feinstein is a smart bet for a chat in front of a live New York (and national TV) audience. In other words, in a world where unintentional comedy is the kiss of death, this film specializes in unintentional realism. And the realism is about how unfunny late night comedy now is.

Just read the official synopsis — does this sound like a comedy to you?

So, why, when watching the flick, did I think of my Facebook post regarding the two stories of ideological Gray Lady nonsense?

Not because of the word “crone” — Emma Thompson is not there yet. Not quite.

The reason is the story arc: an allegedly misogynistic woman professional is redeemed by becoming yet another woke-scold pseudo-comedian, telling jokes about how male Republican Congressmen want to legislate women’s bodies because they cannot get laid, or some such nonsense.* This joke, of which much is made in service to the main plot — rescuing the career of “Katherine Newbury” — is astoundingly stale. That the authors of this lame commonplace think it (a) funny and (b) daring shows how out of touch they are.

The 80 percent Tomatometer rating is inexplicable, except as an indicator of how ideological and stupid critics have become.

But what stuck out, to me, was how conservative it all is. The whole saccharine moralism that imbues the show with its “heart” is essentially conservative. Oh, sure, because of the core bit of intersectionalism featuring writer and co-star actress Mindy Kaling — a young, earnest Indian-American — one might mistake it all as “progressive.” But progressivism is, as I have argued before, nowadays almost wholly a conservative movement, moralistically shoring up the power of a paternalistic elite. And in this movie the allegedly “progressive” #metoo hashtaggery is cautiously merged with an anti-adultery message, and we are really not very far from 1950s cultural conservatism.

Emma Thompson is a fine actress, and does her best with the limited material. She manages to almost convince the forgiving viewer that her character is a comic of the first water. When she takes to the stage in the third act, and proceeds to bomb, it is her acting alone that convinces us that her “spontaneous” routine is worth a laugh.

Mindy Kaling, who wrote as well co-stars, is thus the one to blame.

But really, for once we should spread the responsibility around: society is to blame for this inanity. For just as late-night TV has been ruined by social justice and political partisanship, so that nothing is funny any more, Late Night shows us a fantasy world where young, talentless women of color can save a show (and, by synechdoche, an industry) just by earnest moralism and blunt confidence and shepherding more talented people to being more social justice-y — a sort of doubling down of a failed strategy. Late-night and comedy in general has been ruined by the moralism of the Millennials. This movie, which asserts that this moralism and these Millennials can save late-night comedy, is not the more laughable, alas, for being preposterous.

====

* The link is with the first Times story I mention, about the young leftist who is “brainwashed” by the “alt right” to wind up exactly where Late Night winds up: in the arms of the SJWs.

. . . and that is just a small truth compared to the whole truth.

Much has been made of the Davis/Wilson leak. By Richard Dolan, for instance:

Keith Basterfield has a succinct discussion of the matter, titled “On the provenance of the purported Davis/Wilson document,” which is worth reading. Dolan puts this in perspective, despite admitting that “we are still in a hall of mirrors”:

The documents themselves are worth checking out. Here are the ones I grabbed from Imgur:

I do not know much, of course. This is not an area of my expertise. I just find it weird that smart people with a sense of history seem uninterested in the story. Could it be fear? Intellectual cowardice? Lack of curiosity? Pathetic programmed response? Centrist cultism?

A reasonable and studied skepticism?

It will be interesting to see where this all goes. My suspicion is that the big picture will turn out to be big and important. If this is a psy-op — if the leak is itself an attempt to deceive the public — it is even a bigger story than extra- or xeno-terrestrials, suggesting the lengths intelligence agencies will go to manipulate people . . . for reasons unknown.

twv

In America today the argument about immigration . . . borders on the idiotic.

Everyone seems to pretend that the debate has two sides, and that they are

Limited Controlled Immigration
versus
Open Immigration.

This is obviously not the case, for while The Wall side of the debate does want to crack down on illegal immigration, the other side actually supports (and even insists upon) Subsidized Immigration.

I lean towards open immigration, but that is not an option at present. Libertarians who pretend that open borders and free immigration are actually on the table strike me as naive at the very least. And what they are at most, well, I will not say, for it isn’t nice to say such things about your friends.

More amusing are the supporters of open borders, for though they are enthusiastic supporters of a welfare state, and even seek to extend that welfare state’s benefits to all people who can manage to get within U.S. borders, they almost never address the question of sustainability of their beloved transfer state programs.

Further, they evince a de facto policy preference in all things: what is legal shall be taxed or subsidized; what is illegal must not overburden “traditionally marginalized” groups.

And it is obvious that folks on the limited immigration side lack the courage or intelligence to attack the subsidies — which in California are set to go even to illegal immigrants* (because, I surmise, they are as addicted to subsidy as a way of life as anyone) — though, generally, they appear to understand that the practice is wrong, is indeed disastrous in the long run.

The sane compromise between the two positions? Well, that is not viable: free(ish) unsubsidized immigration. Why is it not politically possible? That should be investigated. As a matter of no small concern.


*   There have been Republican attempts to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining taxpayer subsidized benefits, but these are adamantly opposed by Democrats and courts have stricken them down. I am not sure they could be obtained without a constitutional amendment at this point. And remember, front-running Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has come out for full medical support for illegal immigrants:

It is possible to interpret a single concept, as instantiated in a bit of jargon, in a way completely at variance from how others use it.

When I encounter this — as I often do — I sometimes believe that I am in the right, and others in the wrong, while on other occasions I am not at all sure who is right.

Recently, Meryl Streep, an actress in a popular Amazon Prime show about women behaving badly, shocked the readers of ‘Everyone Thinks We’re Insanos’ Home Journal with a seemingly commonsense statement that, in times past, would not have raised an eyebrow. She is not fond of the term “toxic masculinity”:

We hurt our boys by calling something toxic masculinity. . . . And I don’t find [that] putting those two words together . . . because women can be pretty f—ing toxic. It’s toxic people. We have our good angles and we have our bad ones. I think the labels are less helpful than what we’re trying to get to, which is a communication, direct, between human beings. We’re all on the boat together. We’ve got to make it work.

“Meryl Streep’s ‘toxic masculinity’ critique a ‘step out of’ Hollywood ‘echo chamber of conformity,’ Concha says,” by Charles Creitz | Fox News

At first blush, this seems preciously close to wisdom, though immediately a note of uncertainty creeps in: does use of the phrase “toxic masculinity” ineluctably hurt “our boys”? Despite my doubt, the statement is not nuts. But it was not a universal hit:

Janet Fiamengo, Paul Elam, and Tom Golden shared some time onscreen talking about this brouhaha. And the general consensus seemed to be that the concept of “toxic feminism” was an inherently indecent concept:

The folks at InStyle warned against their interpretation: “The specific kind of toxicity Streep is talking about involves a kind of hyper-gendered behavior. It’s not saying outright that men are evil or inherently violent.”

Emily Alford went full Jezebel, asserting that “Meryl Streep has no idea what she’s fucking talking about” on the subject, while admitting, “Yes, there are toxic people, some of them women, many of them girls I went to church camp with in 1996, but that has nothing to do with toxic masculinity.” Ms. Alford helps us with her own definition:

“Toxic masculinity is what can come of teaching boys that they can’t express emotion openly; that they have to be “tough all the time”; that anything other than that makes them “feminine” or weak. (No, it doesn’t mean that all men are inherently toxic.)

It’s these cultural lessons, according to the A.P.A., that have been linked to “aggression and violence,” leaving boys and men at “disproportionate risk for school discipline, academic challenges and health disparities,” including cardiovascular problems and substance abuse.”

Emily Alford, “Meryl Streep Does Not Know What ‘Toxic Masculinity’ Means,” Jezebel, May 30, 2019.

What Alford offers us is an environmental, “nurture”/“social construct” view of the issue. And while I do not doubt that there is a strong cultural component to the education of male humans about their (contested) roles in society as boys and men — how could I? — males are also and indisputably driven by biology, too, especially the hormone testosterone. It used to be fun to joke about “testosterone poisoning,” and I have no problem with that joke. Toxic masculinity is associated with the male hormone for good evolutionary reasons, and trying to impute masculine toxicity entirely or even mainly to cultural influences is not plausible, no matter what the A.P.A. may or may not assert.

Alford offers a definition and a theory. I reject her theory but accept her definition. Prof. Fiamengo et al. seem to object to the very term, and agree with Streep that talking about it is bad for boys. Alford demurs: “You see, Meryl, there are some damaging facets of culturally-imposed masculinity that are toxic to men (and the rest of us). It is not the men who are toxic simply by accident of being men.”

Alford seems as level-headed as a person can be under the sway of the ludicrous Blank Slate hypothesis, where human behavior is “culturally” driven. Men are not toxic for being men. Sounds plausible. Good. But, that being admitted (at least arguendo), the toxicity of masculinity is indeed a male-related propensity driven in no small part by biology. More importantly, we call the problems heavily associated with masculinity (which includes violent crime, first and foremost) toxic because they destabilize and vex and sometimes even destroy the affected individual as well as those around him.

And, once again, I do not doubt the cultural component. Indeed, one group of people who have traditionally — and even unto this very day — promoted masculinity to the point of toxicity has been . . . women. Not all women, of course: #notall! And not just because of factors associated with Briffault’s Law — that is, not just because women tend to control male access to the Delta of Venus between their legs.

Indeed, I am pretty sure one could show toxic masculinity as developing in a sort of Grand tarantella with toxic femininity — each leading on the other.

And what might toxic femininity be? Well, traditionally it is associated with a number of behaviors, known to us personally and in literature — the Vamp (pictured above) being just one classic example. And it is also connected to the deep life history of our species, broadly speaking, and to the hormone estrogen, narrowly speaking. “Estrogen poisoning” is also relevant to the discussion.

And I will go further: it may also be the case that feminism has cultivated not only some classic forms of toxic femininity, but also applied toxic masculinity in women against women, perverting their lives to the extremities of misery.

Which brings us back to our trio of anti-feminists. For reasons I do not wholly understand, Fiamengo et al. seem to think that Streep is right, and that toxic masculinity sends boys the wrong signal. Dispirits them or something. (I confess, I turned them off before they had finished. Perhaps others with more patience than I can inform me if they started making more sense halfway through.)

The problem I see here? A common problem in our culture, where the old Aristotelian notions of virtue and vice are no longer part of our moral vocabulary. The idea that virtue is found in balance, and vice at the extremes, helps explain how we should recognize two poles in our natures, yin and yang, and recognize that they need balancing — by the cultivation of good habits, according to reason.

And this question of “toxicity”: it is a metaphor. And a good one. Poison is in the dose. Estrogen and testosterone are good things in our make-ups. They provide us with our basic drives. But we must not let them drive us into perversity or oblivion. Balance; moderation in all things.

And, when it comes to toxicity, it is all a question of dosage. Too much of any single hormone is, well, too much: poison. Too little is bad, too, for it is at optimum dose that poison is medicine.

Similarly, each person must find his or her balance. The first requisite of being a good human is to be a good animal, Herbert Spencer said, and speaking in frankly biological as well as cultural terms is important. But add in other medicines (which, again, are also poisonous at high dosage, by the principle of hormesis) as well, like rights and obligations and justice: we have a lot of balancing to do.

Little boys need to understand that some typically boyish behaviors — like rough-and-tumble assertiveness — can be quite bad in some circumstances and at some extremes. Same goes for little girls. They should be aware that certain typically girlish behaviors — coquettish cuteness played up, say — are also dangerous in many contexts and especially when laid on thick.

Nowadays, of course, we are supposed to immediately discuss various ambiguities of sex roles and behavior ranges, using the term “gender,” which I dislike for reasons I have often discussed. So I will skip all that. Of course, of course: #notall, blah blah blah.

I will, instead, merely summarize: Streep and Fiamengo et al. are wrong to suspect that little boys cannot handle the knowledge that some of their typically boyish behaviors can be taken to an excess of vice. But little girls need similar remonstrances, mutatis mutandis, and perhaps were this stressed more, and seriously, boys would be able to handle maturation better than they seem to be doing these days. They will realize that they are not singled out as “problematic,” and that every person, of both sexes, have a tough road ahead of them, perhaps right up to the moment of death.

And the feminists need to let go of their relentless and indefensible social constructivism, for reasons I have given elsewhere. I am quite glad that Ms. Alford does not mean to say that toxic masculinity should be understood as akin to Original Sin. But hey: blaming society for social mores that double down on our basic sexual/biological patterns we see in mammalian and avian species the world over is a nonstarter. Further, not only do I readily admit that culture and social controls and norms matter, I suggest to the Alfords of our society that their feminism has worsened, not alleviated, the basic lot of humanity.

Well, to some extent, at least.

twv


I’m thinking of getting in touch with the seven-day week, again, by plotting out my listening as if I were an FM radio station:

  • Fantasia Friday
  • Sonata Saturday
  • Symphony Sunday
  • Madrigal Monday
  • Terpsichorean Tuesday
  • Handel & Haydns & Hummel & Hindemith & Honegger & Harris & Holmboe & Harrison & Hovhaness & Harbison Hump Day
  • Theorbo Thursday

But I couldn’t wait for Thursday:

One big-ass lute.
And here we have a Fantasia with the theorbo, perfect for Fantasia Friday.

What do you do when you discover a hole in the ground and you have a rabbit problem? Do you go down the rabbit hole, armed?

The hole in question, this time, is an ostensible hoax story from 1890s America: the airship mystery, as reported (?) in multiple newspapers over the course of one year. I first read about the airship stories in The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, by Thomas M. Disch, who called them straight-out lies.

But he offered no evidence that they were lies. Disch just assumed they were.

And, based purely upon their obviously stefnal, pre-steam-punk character, Disch’s prejudice sure appears sound.

Trouble is, however, these news stories did not come out of nowhere, did not appear in the realm of American journalism as utterly new and anomalous. There were precedents, including a strange 1863 newspaper story involving President Abraham Lincoln and numerous witnesses in the press to an airshow, an aerial demonstration. During the Civil War. The story is told, in part, here:

I have not done my own investigation yet, nor have I even read the books on the subject by Michael Busby and Walter Bosley (the latter speaking in the video directly above). And I have not even given the Dellschau mss. a look. Not really.

So why not just dismiss the tall tales as such, reflexively relegating them to hoax status, as in the case of Edgar Allen Poe’s hypnosis story?

Well, that sort of bigotry seems less and less honorable or even likely to prove correct, what with the number of contemporary “scientific consensus” paradigms dissolving in front of us, in real time.

Besides, the ongoing UFO disclosure provides us with an impetus to go looking for other-than-extraterrestrial explanations.

And stories that our betters insist are mere hoaxes, like the 19th century giants’ skeletons reportage and this airship mystery, may provide clues as to the nature of reality that was previously and persistently denied.

So I try to keep an open mind.

Whether that means I must plunge into the depths, Pellucidar-wise, or merely stay above ground with an eye to subterranean access points, I am not yet sure.

twv

The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” Hermann Wögel (1884)

A number of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories were first published without the honest frame of fiction, and therefore count as hoax literature. This element of American journalism deserves serious study, especially now that journalism has returned to its roots.

Edgar Allan Poe

Very pertinently it was demanded of Plato, why a picked chicken, which was clearly a ‘biped without feathers,’ was not, according to his definition, a man? But I am not to be bothered by any similar query. Man is an animal that diddles, and there is no animal that diddles but man.”

Edgar Allan Poe, “Raising the Wind; or, Diddling Considered as One of the Exact
Sciences
” (1843)

N. B. The reader is entreated not to search for “diddling” using Google’s image search engine.

It may be that Hillary Clinton losing the last election influenced the form of the UFO disclosure we are seeing now. It is a fun and under-appreciated fact that Hillary, her husband Bill and their assistant John Podesta were all enthusiastic and longstanding proponents of UFO disclosure, and that Hillary had made public pronouncements in favor of disclosure.

Indeed, disclosure is one of the more interesting topics in the generally tedious Wikileaked Clinton emails.

The fact that her pronouncements were ungainly and seemingly ludicrous may or may not have been significant.

One of my theories about her loss, as I have mentioned before, is that, no matter how thoroughly the shallow end of the Deep State favored her, the deep end may have been dubious at best about disclosure, and therefore rigged the election in Trump’s favor. I am not saying this is likely, but it is also not something I rule out of hand.

It is worth noting that the current disclosure does not appear to have been orchestrated by said deep Deep State, but by Congress, the Navy, and former investigators at AATIP. The Navy breaking ranks with the Air Force and NASA and the CIA about how to handle UFOs may be hugely significant.

Of course, we have little knowledge and mainly mere hunch.

twv

The idea that truth-value is proven by use-value seems to rest upon a meta-meme, the notion that ideas firmly fit together in a tight system, that there is no looseness to the world.

It is my experience that there is a fair amount of looseness.

Nevertheless, I understand why we seek to make our beliefs fit together; avoiding cognitive dissonance is a good thing. But avoiding such dissonance should not be hastily accomplished, using short cuts that scuttle truth. Seeking cognitive consonance mainly by hunting to confirm previously held beliefs? That can lead us to error and prevent correction. Worse yet may be constructing theories that succeed not by mapping reality but by skipping cognitive steps. (My late boss R. W. Bradford called these “logical synapses.’ Though it may indeed be the case that bad ideas tend to lead to bad results, cooking up theories just to lead to good consequences can be perilous. The notion that something must be wrong because it leads to “bad consequences” is not only wrong, it can lead to bad consequences.

Too droll, that.

Examples abound. The belief in your own superiority may not be true, not in your career’s beginning — but it can lead to actual superiority, as in the case of “thinking like a winner” itself wins friends and followers, enabling you to become a winner in the end. Alas, the opposite can also be the case, as when an untrue belief in your inferiority can lead to demonstrable inferiority of status — thinking like a loser and appearing as a loser, despite many advantages, can derail an otherwise likely successful course of action, causing you to lose.

Sometimes having an incorrect belief can yield good outcomes; sometimes it can yield disastrous ones. What’s more, the same incorrect belief held by one person that serves to damage can prove helpful to another. Some people who believe they are spectacularly inferior to others take that hunch or prejudice as a spur to work harder, think harder, and place themselves in positions to take advantage of improvement. Just so, but mirror-opposite, are those many cases of people with high esteem who becomes criminals and thereby ruin their lives.

This variety of looseness turns out to be important in evolutionary theory.

Exaptation, for instance. This is a type of adaptation that Herbert Spencer relied upon in his discussion of the evolution of political institutions (see the first chapter of Political Institutions). The idea is this: a trait that was selected for — or arose because it was not selected against — can turn out to have much more significant advantages in some remote domain. The classic case seems to be in religion, where it appears that holding any “religious” or even merely metaphysical idea (such as the idea of truth not being logically and ineluctably linked to pragmatics) gives the person who holds to the belief a marker that encourages others to regard that religious person as more trustworthy than irreligious others. One person may hold to the belief in Zeus Pater and another in YHWH and another of Ishtar, but all three beliefs signal to co-religionists that the acolyte is cooperative and thus not anti-social.

The fact that piety to these three very different deities “works” — lead to good social results — does not prove that any of these deities exist.

What gets weird is the late-stage recognition that piety alone matters, that belief in some god is important, but which particular one does not. This ecumenical theory leads to a general tolerance, with only atheism to be despised, since only it would serve as a signal of a lack of trustworthiness. But things tend not to stand pat: general toleration eventually leads to tolerance of atheism.

And, contra The Jolly Heretic (anthropologist Edward Dutton on YouTube), it is obvious that a serious atheistic stance can also work as a signal of cooperativeness. Indeed, in America, atheists sport longer marriages than theists, on average — thus atheism proves a key indicator of what religion itself is supposed to indicate.

Perhaps what matters is that self-transcendence notion. Merely demonstrating recognition of one’s self as a being with a non-trivial consciousness of the cosmos (with or without supernatural elements) signals not only to others, but also to self, that selfishness and criminality and similar traits are dead ends. Furthermore, atheism in a theistic society may indicate a greater commitment to self-transcendence than does theism. (Here we see self-transcendence competing directly with conformism — conformity signaling one kind of cooperativeness, commitment to transcendent ideas signaling another, perhaps more valuable variety.)

Of course, there are atheists who hold to their atheism in a way that signals to me STAY AWAY. Just so, however, there are theists whose manners of belief signal obvious dangers. I think of Islam as a memeplex with disastrous social consequences except in one dimension: the Islamic memes tend to replicate, often in a predatory way. The modern world succeeded because Europe found a workaround for the bottleneck of Islam: America, really. So we have several different dimensions upon which to judge social utility, and then contrast it with truth.

My resistance to Islam — my confident resistance — is not exactly popular these days. Against it is the poisonous notion that “all cultures” are equal, an absurdity related to the idea that all races are equal, which is itself . . . problematic, in part because, whatever it means, it is irrelevant to the basic individualistic foundations of Western civilization.

What we now witness is our civilization in a decadent phase, with Christianity having metastasized into progressivism, a political cult that holds an abundance of absurd beliefs and destructive practices. One of them is to try to shame people for objecting to the Islamic memeplex, just as progressives shamed folks when I was young for ‘red-baiting,’ that is, for resisting the memeplex of communism. Progressivism is an unhinged meta-belief that opens up a society to many dangers (which itself helps define decadence), including being taken over by those it defends as “just as good as the rest of us,” meaning criminals, jihadists, communists, etc. It’s a childish way of looking at the world, thinking that “good” depends upon equality, and objecting to even thinking in terms of inferiority and superiority. It’s a hopeless muddle.

But it is a familiar muddle.

That muddle relates to the adoption of ideas not for their truth-value, but for their social effects.

Racists hold bundles of notions, some of them not incorrect, but with crucial and quite significant errors. Of course, racism itself can lead to horrifying injustices. But to fight racism, some folks go so far as to spout nonsense, like the currently popular pieties “race is a not a scientific concept” and “races do not exist,” and such malarky.

These are over-compensations. Rather than strike at the root of what is wrong in racism, anti-racists often prove too hysterical to bother with careful thought. Invidious racism being quite bad, its foundations in a kind of collectivism (individuals are less important than groups) and in folk statistics (imputing to individuals in a group traits that are commonly found in the group but not defining of it) leading to some dangerous results and infecting minds away from truth and towards social discord — sure. But anti-racists find it more convenient, especially when engaging with not very bright people, to attack the foundational notions of the distinctions upon which racism rests — especially the idea of “race” itself — rather than the precise errors that lead to bad results.

You often see this in philosophy, too, where the method becomes mere debunking, where debaters aim to show not merely that their opponents are wrong in one regrettable detail, or in a specific synapse in an argument, but totally.

Racists are bad because they (horrors!) believe in races!

How simple. How satisfying to say. How foolish.

And all this rests upon an expectation that ideas are best seen as fitting together in the tightest way possible. Progressives, having learned to argue incorrectly against racism, then apply the same sort of gambit to religion, and criticism of same. One mustn’t criticize a world religion! So I have been told, and this we often hear.

Funny thing is, most of the folks who marshal such an absurd prohibition themselves ridicule, mock and censure Christians relentlessly.

It is hard to consistently hold a goofy idea.

But it can be done, by gum.

The world of our experience is amazingly complicated, and navigating it is difficult. It takes a fairly high IQ to do so without cultic thoughts. It may be that the requirements for thinking well about the social world are too hard for current levels of IQ in our society.

If true, it would just be another form of looseness of the very systems that make up our complex reality.

twv