But I tend to agree with the editor/reporter for Salon, Katie McDonough, who calls the recent gains "infinitesimally small," and that most women in Ireland will continue to have a very rough go of it indeed in future unwanted pregnancies. (Although, if I were a PAID editor at Salon I would hope to avoid pleonasms such as "infinitesimally small," but alas, I'm just some dipshit hack, so whaddyagonna do? But aye: the gap in status between Katie and me, as writers? Katie might say it was gargantuanly huge. And indeed, Katie would be right. Again.)
Gotta admire the brass ones on Taoiseach (President, basically) Enda Kenny, telling the Church's main man in Ireland that "my book is the Constitution." And, basically, threaten me with excommunication all you want, you bullying medievalists.
May wonders never cease, faith! (<-----please read that with your best Irish accent, even if you're Irish.)
Maybe the wild card here is New Pope Francis, who recently performed a quick miraculous exorcism, despite The Church's moving away from "demon possession" stuff in the last few decades. And then, in the same week (or so?), he pronounced that atheists can be good people and make it to heaven too. I am squarely for unorganized religion and consider the Catholic Church a major nuisance as an official entity, but if you're gonna be a highfalutin' carny huckster claiming a hotline to Gee Oh Dee, wearing a dress and traveling in a Popemobile, at least give us a good show. Pour it on.
And with his recent win, he's now infallible, so why not have fun with it? Gosh! Thanks, Francis! I bet the atheists are sleeping better and the faithful are a tad pissed, or at least flummoxed. Some of us look forward to your next Surprise, pontiff. (I will eat Werner Herzog's shoe if he says abortion is now okay, because women should be able to control their own reproduction...and hey: if you clicked on the "atheists" link from the Catholic website, did you get an automatic loud video of a violent Schwarzenegger film too? What's up with all that?)
B. Names: A full moon or two ago I spewed blog on Montaigne and names, and commented on Montaigne's assertion that it's up to a dad to give his children fine names. Then I went into the Zappa kids' names and etcetera. Now New Zealand - no doubt having read my blog - has outlawed 71 names that non-Zappa parents tried to give their kids.
If you take a gander at the list you may agree 100%. Or not. The overweening libertarian in me says the State has no right to say what the parents can or can't name their kids, but I admit you have to wonder about the seriousness and human decency of mom and/or dad (probably dad?) who sought to tag the kid with "Anal" or "Mafia No Fear" or a sole asterisk* and a simple period..
"Apple"seems fine to me, but not in an age in which it's the name of one of the most powerful corporations in the world. 40 years ago, a little girl whose hippie parents named her Apple B. Watson: it's sorta cute. Not anymore. Why not "Exxon Jones"? If you're a slack-jawed yokel, maybe. But "Facebook" seems heinous to me.
History and the pace of change accelerating as it seems to, logarithmically, things could look quite different by the time the kid reaches school age. "Hey, what's a Facebook?," one kid asks Facebook Smith. "Some thing people used to waste their time on back in, like, 2013," Facebook responds.
I see that Sweden has taken similar steps, but I don't know about you: I want to party with a person (or what the hell: the parents) named "Brfxxccxxmnpccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb111116." I'm guessing the parents got wasted one night on something mind-manifesting, but then I think things maybe went sorta off when one said, "If we have this baby, I think the Ouija Board should pick the name, 'cuz it's a medium between us and the spirit world."
Besides, let the kid have that name on his birth certificate; it'll be good for endless laffs. And the kid would end up being called "Beearsix" for the first two letters and the last number. Then "Beer." Then "Bear." Then, for awhile, "Six." By the time he's 18? Bjorn, a fine Swedish name. On with it...
C. Hoarding: I really allowed my musings to flow back when I tried to write about hoarding and related ideas HERE. And not long ago I happened upon this article, which extended the ideas I'd crammed for just before I set to typing.
There were a few things new to me here. Psychology professor Randy Frost of Smith College, who has studied hoarding since at least 1993, put forth the intriguing idea that "giftedness in aesthetic appreciation of the physical world, rather than a pure illness" was one way we could look at this. And Andy Warhol was a famous hoarder, so that sorta bolsters Frost's claim.
Did you know about the Collyer Mansion?
Another thing that made me wonder: that 10% of Unistatians pay for storage units, and that 70% can't park their cars in the garage 'cuz there's too much stuff in there. Hoarding seems to have a genetic component, and maybe up to 5% - or 15 million - of Unistatians hoard, to some extent. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy seems to help this OCD-ish behavior, which sounds promising to me. I also thought the ideas of Monika Eckfield of UCSF are interesting: there may be two broad types of hoarders: 1.) impulsive acquirers, which tend to be men, and 2.) worried keepers, which tend to be women.
Every time I read about hoarding I can't help it, I'm obsessively compulsed to think about Prof. George Carlin's ideas about our houses as being places for "our stuff." Boxes with lids on them. When you fly you look down and see all these little boxes with lids on them...places other people keep their shit. And did you ever notice that their stuff is "shit" and your shit is "stuff"? I'll link to the bit as I find it on YT today, but if you're looking at this and the video is not there, please contact me, okay? Here 'tis:
D. Deceit Ubiquitous. Danny Schechter wrote not long ago about "The News That Isn't: How We Are Fed False Stories Driven By Missing Information." He even linked "the news" to (fake) wrestling, which I also did when discussing the kayfabe and other ideas about deception and deceit that seem to be built into our biological beings. It's just so damned pervasive. "News" seems increasingly heat without light, ever-thinner narratives, and missing vital information amidst the scandalous and prurient morality plays. I think maybe we must work very hard in order to live up to the ballyhoo about, I dunno, how we're "the beauty of the world/the paragon of animals," as a melancholy Dane's poet once wrote.
I derived perverse delight from writing that particular piece on biology and deceit, but it didn't seem to impress anyone. Then, a few weeks later, I noticed that piece was getting tons of hits every day, suddenly. I traced the surprising interest back via the rather primitive statistical info that Blogger gives us: some investor's website had linked to it. They saw it as a piece about markets, I'm guessing, after reading their website for awhile. Anyway, it's nice to be appreciated by somebody, even if you get the feeling some of those somebodies would kick their own grandmother down a flight of stairs if it would improve their returns for just that one Wednesday.
"Check this Overweening Generalist dude out: He says it's all fixed...how do we get in on the ground floor?"
And Danny Schechter? He's on my team. That weirdo is on my wavelength.
E. Can Rape Jokes Be Funny? Molly Knefel of Salon thinks not. <yawn goshwhattasurprise> My spill on the topic was HERE. If you're new to this, please read the links in my post and realize I'm not saying rape is funny; I'm merely saying that we ought to be able to laugh at anything. In this territory, I yield all gravitas and hilaritas to Paul Krassner, who has written and ruminated and agonized and rationalized and vacillated and...he's really the go-to person on this thorny topic. But since I wrote on it, the conversation seems to have opened up. And no joking: I consider this a coincidence. We need to talk about this, hopefully with civility. HERE's a podcast link to Slate folk talking about Salon folk's take on a "double standard" regarding rape jokes, and then Sady Doyle on Sam Morrill's "unfunny rape jokes." Just skip ahead to the good stuff, but I implore you to read my blogpost on this topic, especially the end, where, if you are 100% sure that it's impossible for a rape joke to be funny, give the Carlin bit a read and then tell me in the comments that I'm still wrong.
F. Generalists: A topic of intellectual flavor that has recurred throughout the lifespan of Overweening Generalist, not long ago I tried to elucidate...something about "generalists." NB that in the first paragraph I write about "generalists" in the field of insurance, or information technologies, and a couple other areas. I failed to mention the field of crime, and had a good time trying to tease out the meanings in this overly technical study. The writers here noted "a large group of suspects who can be described as generalists." Also, I didn't know how influential Gottfredson and Hirschi's General Theory of Crime was, but I'll check it out, literally.
Skip down to the "Conclusions" for the meat of it, and here is my favorite passage:
In parallel, we observe a non-trivial pattern of specialization across time and gender. In general, women are implicated in types of crimes classified in fewer clusters, and tend to be more specialized than men. We also find that older persons are the most specialized suspects. This can be due to three different or combined factors: (i) suspects tend to specialize over time; (ii) there is a group of specialized individuals who remain in crime, while the generalists distance themselves from criminal activity; and (iii) there is a cohort effect such that the younger generation tends to consist of generalists while the older generation consists of specialists.
And while there are nuances, the social scientists considered violent crimes, drug-related crimes, thefts, burglaries, fraud, financial crime, environmental violations and sex crimes, traffic violations, and organized robbery. Can you imagine the "generalist" who had committed at least one of each of those types of crimes? A true generalist. We might not "approve" of his actions, but let us at least give a grudging tip 'o the hat to his dedication to seeing the Big Picture in crime. A life-long, in-depth study of crime is what these older generalist-criminals have accomplished - the ones who never stopped generalist studies and never started to specialize - and they're almost like cultural anthropologists, with lots of knowledge about Urban Studies too. But sociopathic. Sort of. (Hey, no: we don't want people like this within miles of where we live, but they are interesting from a distance, eh?)
Think of the bragging he (and if you read the study, it's probably a "he") can get away with in prison! You wanna improve on organized robbery? You come to me. I done that stuff. You think you know your violent crimes and financial shenanigans? I bet you don't know as much as I do. Pull up a chair and sit at the right hand of the master of fraud and armed robbery with intent to commit aggravated mayhem with a side of meth dealing. Traffic violations? Sex crimes? Identity theft? Dealing guns illegally? Bank robbery? Fencing stolen cars parts? Being a hit man for hire? Friends: I'm here for ya. I've done it all, man!
I like to think other criminals look up to this guy and refer to his generalism as "Goin' Around The World."
I like to think the guys in The Big House call my idealized generalist "The Professor." Or hell, perhaps best yet: The Generalist. But then I have a very active imagination, if warped. Next!
G. Rushkoff: I wrote about his most recent book on the the shock of The Present, HERE. And I found out I'd missed his short stint as guest on Colbert.
Interestingly coincidental?: As I started to do this blog-update thing, I made a short list of some topics to update, and I ended up leaving six updates out, lest this go on far too long. But then I picked up William Gibson's Distrust That Particular Flavor, a collection of essays and speeches by a writer I admire tremendously. And in May of 2010, he gave a talk in New York that sounds like a paraphrase of Rushkoff's recent claims:
"People my age are products of the culture of capital-F Future. The younger you are, the less you are a product of that. If you're fifteen or so, today, I suspect that you inhabit a sort of endless digital Now, a state of atemporality enabled by our increasingly efficient communal prosthetic memory. I also suspect that you don't know it, because, as anthropologists tell us, one cannot know one's own culture." (p.44)
DAY-um! I went on ad nauseum yet again. But then when don't I? Lo siento, mi amigos...
a very young William Gibson