January 30, 2015

2014 in film: No change from existing trends

Not exactly the most attention-grabbing news ever reported, but it is worth keeping our eyes peeled for signs of change back toward the film-making culture that we all love from the '70s and '80s. The current trends have been going on for over two decades now, and will run out of steam sometime in the next 5 to 10 years. But so far, there are no observable signs of change away from the dullification of movies.

A quick check of the traits that characterize the top box office draws in 2014 shows a mindless continuation of four major existing trends:

1. Unoriginal storytelling (earlier post here with data since 1936). Whether the stories are adaptations of existing stories, or sequels to existing movies, none of the top 10 movies in America were original.

You might try to excuse The LEGO Movie, since it was not a sequel and did not adapt a clearly defined existing story. But you weren't going to see that for the narrative or character arcs. You went to see the Lego-style visual animation. Its visual style was entirely familiar to the audience and adapted from the toys, video games, and cartoons done in the Lego style, so I count that movie as an adaptation. Also the pandering title shows that audiences would only be drawn by instant brand recognition -- it doesn't hint at what the movie is about, or offer a mysterious title to pique our curiosity. It's just: "You think Legos look cool? Well here they are, in a movie!"

Broadening the view to include the top 20 movies doesn't help. There are only 2 original stories in the 11-20 spots -- Interstellar and Neighbors. Only 2 in the top 20, or 1 in 10 original stories. Pretty sad.

2. Disappearance of separate movie cultures for children, adolescents, and adults (earlier post here on the MPAA ratings of top movies since 1969). Almost everything is PG-13 or PG.

There were no G-rated movies in the top 20, in contrast to the late '70s when The Muppet Movie was the #10 movie and rated G. Last year's LEGO Movie, however, was rated PG because they had to cram in adult-ish stuff to entertain the parents as well as the kids, rather than let kids have their own autonomous culture.

At the other extreme, there was only 1 movie rated R in the top 10 for 2014, although there were 4 in the top 20, or a rate of 2 in 10. A far cry from the '70s and '80s when mature themes could be treated without parents throwing a fit because they didn't plan on bringing their kids to those R-rated movies. Today, just as children are not allowed to have their own culture, neither are adults.

Helicopter parenting demands popular culture that is "fun for the whole family" (AKA bore the whole family), because parents won't see movies on their own anymore. That would involve leaving the kids under someone else's watch for a few hours, and y'know how that's bound to end up -- finding them bound, raped, and murdered in a ditch on the drive back home.

3. Comedies are still rare (earlier post here on the popularity of the comedy genre since 1915). None of the top 10 movies were comedies, although 2 of the top 20 were, for a rate of 1 in 10. I don't count kiddie movies because that isn't comedy, but rather cutesy and clowny humor with the occasional yuk-yuk gags. Even counting 22 Jump Street and Neighbors is being generous, since those are just juvenile yuk-yuk movies, not where there's some comedic dynamic that runs throughout the movie.

Since comedies are most popular in rising-crime times, they seem to fulfill the need for catharsis and resilience during such topsy-turvy times. In a world that is becoming safer and safer, folks aren't as likely to be in a state of physiological arousal, and don't have as much need for comedic relief in their lives.

Also worth noting that the two comedies for 2014 did not pair a light comedic tone with darker themes, as used to be the norm in the '80s. Back then, a comedy was always an action comedy, war comedy, horror comedy, or drama comedy. That pairing of light and dark themes emphasized the role of comedy as a relief from situations in life that would otherwise be depressing, frightening, or overwhelming.

4. Running times are still very long, especially considering how juvenile the subject matter is (earlier post here on running times since 1921). Using the top 10 or top 20 didn't matter. Average running time was 2 hrs 6 min, median was 2 hrs 7 min, minimum was about 1 hr 37 min, and max was about 2 hrs 45-50 min.

As with Midcentury cocooners, today's cocooners require something spectacular to get them out of their domestic fortresses, for it to really be "worth it". In cocooning times, people also seem to prefer drawn-out experiences rather than ones that pack a cathartic punch. In the Midcentury, serial dramas on the radio were more important than movies, just as serial dramas on TV these days are more important than movies. One mode is for folks who are generally bored during the day, the other for ones who already have other exciting stories to participate in in-real-life.

So there you have it: if you sensed that movies in 2014 have been continuing the trend toward tediousness, you were right. I confess that I only saw two new movies last year, Interstellar and Transcendence, and it doesn't look like I missed much. I began tuning out of new releases during the second half of the '90s, and have rarely felt regret when I've caught up later on. There's simply too many from the good old days to feel deprived by choosing to see "new" movies from the past than from the present.

January 28, 2015

To restore humanizing architecture, end the transplant phenomenon

A comment that I left at this post on "How to Create a Beautiful City" over at Uncouth Reflections:

- - - - -

The main source of awful public spaces is sociological and demographic rather than technological or artistic — the transplant phenomenon.

When you are born in a place, live there your whole life, will raise any children you have in that place, and your ancestors stretch back into the past in that place, you feel a level of respect for its natural and built environment. They are not completely inviolable, but altering them willy-nilly is taboo.

It is part of you and you are part of it. You would no more alter its substance and appearance than you would your own — some cosmetic things here and there, maybe a knee replacement if your original one gets too banged up, but never anything major and frivolous like a sex change operation.

When a place draws most of its population from transplants, or people whose roots go back no further than a single generation, its features are not treated as sacred. They’re just neat things that earlier waves of transplants found it fit to build in their day, but which we might not find so neat in our day, and may very well have to erase and replace to suit the living rather than the dead (those two being alien to each other when transplant-ism is the norm).

That’s the basic weakness — not feeling that the natural and built environment are sacred. It lets you treat the whole city like one great big Lego bucket or dollhouse for playing around with, to dress it up in one artificial identity or another.

If you’re lucky, the prevailing fashions will give the city Art Deco rather than the International Style or the International Style: The Sequel. But trying to analyze the differences at the technical level, and propose policies that could steer architecture back toward good ol’ Art Deco, is missing the big picture — that the constant demographic churning makes it impossible to hold something in place. You are reduced to trying to argue for why Art Deco should make a comeback in the fashion cycle, why the neo-Mies look is like so tired by 2015.

That’s why rural towns tend not to be so afflicted by all the things that trad architecture folks decry. They are not being constantly swamped by wave after wave of transplants bringing their own outside ideas and inclinations about what would make for a totally awesome city, as though it were wet clay rather than a living organism.

And that’s why some cities show greater levels of affliction than other cities. As much as New York transplants may always be complaining about “there goes the neighborhood,” the city and its population is deeper rooted than a place like Houston or Phoenix.

How do you keep the transplant invasion at bay? The trick is to not host the institutions that draw status-strivers — globally competitive industries (Wall Street, Hollywood), globally competitive cultural institutions (Harvard, Sundance Film Festival), and so on and so forth.

Trad architecture misses these larger points because most of the critics are striving transplants themselves. They want to have their competitive career and the wealth and creature comforts it affords, while preserving their adopted city’s traditional character. But the two are incompatible. You can choose one end of the trade-off spectrum or the other.

It would be best for the return of traditional, human-scale places to discourage the transplant phenomenon, to remind people that they’ll feel more connected to their place if they grew up there and haven’t seen it change radically. That creates a deeper and more enduring sense of belonging than shopping around for a city and tweaking its skin, as though you were purchasing a customized costume for a masquerade ball.

January 27, 2015

Mormon church officially endorses the gay agenda, with anti-retroviral proviso

In a desperate attempt to score moralistic status points against the not-so-Scandinavian parts of the country, the Mormon church has come out of the closet about their support for sweeping pro-homo legislation up to the national level. In typically naive Mormon fashion, they are holding to a "just the tip" strategy that stops short of fully inserting gay marriage into the body politic. But pretty much the whole rest of the diseased load is all cleared for "go".

Reporting from the Salt Lake Tribune here.
"We call on local, state and the federal government," Oaks said in a news release, "to serve all of their people by passing legislation that protects vital religious freedoms for individuals, families, churches and other faith groups while also protecting the rights of our LGBT citizens in such areas as housing, employment and public accommodation in hotels, restaurants and transportation — protections which are not available in many parts of the country."
The sleight-of-hand language about "protecting religious freedoms" is meant to suggest that religiously motivated bigots will somehow be magically protected against the BOO BIGOTS spirit of the laws. As if. Brigham Young University may be granted permission to keep gay orgies from taking place in their student dorms, but if your hotel isn't owned by the Church, then good luck keeping the drug-fueled poz parties off your property.

If your non-Mormon restaurant doesn't want to host and cater a gay civil union ceremony, TS. If you're a cabbie who doesn't feel like picking up a couple of coked up queers who are going to leave who knows what kinds of germs in your taxi, TS.
The push for gay rights was prompted by "centuries of ridicule, persecution and even violence against homosexuals," [Marriott] said. "Ultimately, most of society recognized that such treatment was simply wrong [my emphasis], and that such basic human rights as securing a place to live should not depend on a person's sexual orientation."
Got that, meanies? Ridicule leads to persecution leads to violence. Back on planet Earth, the gays dropped the AIDS bomb on themselves. Normal society played no role in the Swallow-caust.
As a matter of doctrine, the LDS Church does not support same-sex marriage, Marriott said. "But God is loving and merciful. His heart reaches out to all of his children equally, and he expects us to treat each other with love and fairness."
God doesn't want any of his wayward children to ever find The Way again, because judging them to be straying from The Way would be mean, which would contradict his unconditionally permissive love and mercy. This is just spineless "God as a helicopter parent" theology. Sadly in this case, beliefs have consequences, and religious folks will soon no longer be allowed to steer their destabilized communities back toward normality. Because God wants us all to love and not-judge each other, even as His straying flock tumbles over the cliffside.
Above all, the LDS leaders said, the debate about balancing religious and gay rights — often a polarizing predicament — should be civil and respectful.

"Nothing is achieved," Holland said, "if either side resorts to bullying, political point scoring or accusations of bigotry."
I wonder which "either side" will resort more to "accusations of bigotry" and "bullying" (i.e mean language)? The other either-side is just supposed to keep its mouth shut, while getting shouted down for being "simply wrong".

So there you have it. Mormon morality amounts to little more than secular liberalism, stereotypically blinkered to any concerns other than harm and fairness. Notions of purity, sanctity, and taboo are not invoked, nor is the threat to communal cohesion when deviance is promoted.

"Harm" now includes anything that makes someone feel upset, not only physical harm. And "fairness" now applies in contexts where discrimination is necessary, e.g. when one group is fundamentally abnormal and the other group normal, not only where two normal groups are in a relationship of majority/minority, center/periphery, and so on (as in the black/white focus of the Civil Rights era).

You might try to find a silver lining in their not assuming a raging, antagonistic tone, but the passive-aggressive behavior of this Minnesota in the Mountains will only allow the gay enablers to steamroll right over their culture. Fire-breathing liberals at least serve to alert and galvanize normal people who may not have been paying much attention. Meek liberals aren't going to trip off the alarm system so easily.

You might also try to play down Mormon liberalism by pointing to the generally Progressive nature of mainline Protestant denominations. But unlike those liberal churches, there is no conservative counter-balancing Mormon church, let alone one that swamps the liberal one in numbers and influence. It is more like the Catholic church, only from a dystopian world where it has become terminally corrupted by the homosexual contagion.

Recall that Salt Lake City is the gayest city per capita in the nation, whether or not the patrons of its elaborate gay culture would be officially "out" on a demographic survey. Recall that Mormon fat chicks feel no shame in sham-marrying Mormon faggots and bearing their children, as well as bald-facedly declaring that their gay husband is not gay. And recall that unlike Mormon country, where the ban on gay civil unions was struck down by a federal judge in Utah, such a ban was upheld by a federal judge in Ohio.

We should not expect much more from the Church of the Frontier, or the Church of the West, which historically attracts transient status-strivers. Where else could be the natural Zion for a Gilded Age cult that transplanted its way from New England all the way to the rootless Rockies, after getting driven out of one cohesive town after another in the East, the Midwest, and the Plains?

As degenerate as East Coast Catholics may think their church is becoming, at least its population is still hot-blooded enough, owing to the Irish and Italians, to not just lay down and wait their turn for AIDS-raping by the gay enabling movement. They need only look to the Episcopalians and the Mormons to see how much worse things could be, if their stock were drawn from spineless Saxons and dickless Scandinavians.

January 26, 2015

Bratty toddler anthem tops the adult contemporary charts, signaling generational change

If any of the places that you frequent plays an adult contemporary radio station over the PA, you are still hearing that annoying Taylor Swift song "Shake It Off," currently #1 on the AC charts. Like an earlier AC #1, "Roar" by Katy Perry, it's basically an anthem for bratty Millennials who don't want to ever change themselves in the slightest to fit in better with their social environment -- to have to adapt.

Anyone who doesn't like you 100% the way you are, and tries to re-shape you so that your behavior will be more pleasing to others, is just a hater. Glib dismissal is the Millennials' ideal response to haters, so that they never take any criticism to heart, however small and however accurate. No adaptation, no growth. Perpetual toddlers.

Childish emoting can also be heard in the AC #1's "Roar," "Stay with Me," "Home," etc etc etc.

When did the adult charts become so kiddie?

Going back 10 years, most of the year saw two songs at #1. "Breakaway" by Kelly Clarkson and "Lonely No More" by Rob Thomas are nothing to write home about musically, although in tone they're merely adolescent or young-adult rather than twee or bratty.

Another 10 years back, and the songs are adult for the most part, again whether you dig the music or not (probably not). "Take a Bow" by Madonna assumes an audience familiar with the give-and-take in adult relationships, beyond bratty tantrums or adolescent infatuation. "Kiss from a Rose" by Seal is a little more adolescent, based on the theme of love as a drug. "I'll Be There for You" by the Rembrandts is more young-adult than fully mature. It assumes a social network, but the challenges that the speaker faces are just bad days, nothing really deep.

Then we arrive safely back in good ol' 1985, where none of adult contemporary #1's sound kiddie or even adolescent. "Careless Whisper," "Smooth Operator," "Everytime You Go Away," and "Saving All My Love for You" all come from a mature stage of social development, with all its trials and complications. Even the upbeat dance hits are made for grown-ups -- "Rhythm of the Night" and "Axel F". There's also the soft rock ballad "Inspiration" by Chicago, which however super-cheesey and grating it is, nevertheless is made by and for adults.

What does this change reveal about generational differences? The target audience for adult contemporary is 25 to 44 years old.

So it was the Boomers and late Silents who drove the success of truly adult hits on the chart back in the '80s. The late Boomers and early X-ers, as suggested by their AC tastes in '95, were mostly OK with growing up, though still preferring periodic indulgence in the adolescent or young-adult mindset. Early X-er preferences show up again in the 2005 hits, although the introduction of late X-ers into the target audience has made the hits more adolescent in focus. By 2015, bringing Millennials into the core audience has made them downright infantile.

The main factor here seems to be the level of cocooning or connection that the generations enjoyed while growing up. Social connection causes personal change, in a pro-social direction, i.e. growth or maturity. Folks who grew up entirely within the outgoing / rising-crime period of roughly 1960 to 1990 are the most comfortable with adult life. That would be the late Boomers and the earliest X-ers.

Once the cocooning climate began to set in circa 1990, growth after that point would not be as strong as if it had taken place during the '60s, '70s, or '80s. Someone born around 1970 would have the tail end of their formative years stunted by cocooning, but the end result was not too severe -- it was only the tail end of the developmental window, and the degree of cocooning wasn't so high at the very beginning of the shift.

The generation born around 1980 would be affected more during their young-adult years than adolescence. These people seem more inclined toward a teenage mindset. By the time you get to those born around 1990, they only grew up during the cocooning / helicopter parenting period, and have hardly matured at all, not even to the adolescent stage of wanting social connections, being willing to engage in the give-and-take, and honing their people-reading abilities. Again, you can hardly expect a different outcome from people who were socially deprived for their entire formative years.

You can go further back and see the cheesier, schmaltzier AC hits of the '60s, when they were catering to the Silent Gen, who like the Millennials grew up socially cut-off during the previous peak of "smothering mothers" and Dr. Spock-inspired shielding from threats to the ego. Competitiveness was at a minimum back then, though, so their kiddie sounding AC hits were not bratty, but twee and saccharine. Case in point: the mawkish "Can't Help Falling in Love with You" by Elvis way back in '62, which sounded much more emotionally adjusted and pulled-together when covered by UB40 in '93.

January 25, 2015

Prepping for doom: The civic Midcentury vs. the anarchic Millennial era

If you drop by an army/navy surplus store looking for, y'know, surplus stuff from the military, you'll be out of luck. In less than 20 years, they have changed from being the go-to place for getting an olive drab field jacket to Apocalypse Outfitters. They may even have some kind of zombie / prepper window display just to clue you in to the theme of the merchandise.

This shift in the nature of the surplus store is important because it shows how broadly the survivalist phenomenon is affecting our society. It's not just wackos on internet comment boxes, or colorfully paranoid subjects cherry-picked for reality TV shows. There's enough demand for this stuff in your own neck of the woods that they have managed to convert the surplus store into a preppers' emporium.

It also underscores one of the key differences about our age's doomsday survival movement, compared to the nuclear fallout shelter builders of the duck-and-cover era half a century ago. Today's preppers are going about their plans in such an individual-focused way that there aren't any well known suppliers, either public or private, whose central visibility would serve to warn the not-so-prepared and perhaps convince them to make themselves better prepared. You have to already be prepping-inclined to be in the know about surplus stores actually serving as intro survivalist stores.

Today's preppers are only trying to cover their own ass, and at most their nuclear family. (My impression is these folks are less likely to have children than normal folks are, but it's not as though they're mostly lone wolf Rambo wannabes.)

The preppers of the '50s through the mid-'60s had an entirely opposite plan -- to save the whole community, and hopefully the whole society, through establishing a social network of prep centers, which individuals and families could plug into.

Although they valued having a fallout shelter for their own private dwelling for the benefit of their nuclear family, they also made sure that there were communal protection spaces that could house hundreds or even thousands of citizens. These were mostly housed in public buildings -- churches, schools, libraries, and the like -- although a handful of private buildings, like local banks, signed on too. Such communal spaces carried distinctive signs on the outside to inform those who didn't already know.

Municipal governments allocated funds to supply the shelters with food, water, first aid kits, and so on. They also coordinated a wide communication network that would get the word out in case of emergency. Ordinary citizens volunteered to staff these local emergency communication networks.

In general, the Midcentury spirit was one of civic engagement to preserve the entire community, in contrast to the contemporary spirit of civic withdrawal to preserve Number One.

The main factor seems to be the status-striving and laissez-faire norms of our age, and the accommodating and regulatory norms of the Midcentury. If the goal of life is to climb as high as possible on whatever status mountain you've chosen, then everybody else's survival is their own concern. You may not specifically wish them ill, but hey, let them save themselves if they're not as awesomely advanced in survival tactics as you are.

The preppers give off such a strong air of trying to win a status contest amongst themselves, that it's hard not to link the trend to the status-striving trend. I can survive three weeks, not just two. Yeah, well I can recycle my compost into two different kinds of gluten-free muffins. Psh, you guys can't tie as many kinds of knots as I can. Yeah huh, and we've fired more guns than you have. You wish -- have you guys even raised chickens, or are you all just vegetable gardeners? And so on and so forth.

Browsing through old pictures and stories about the Midcentury fallout shelters reveals no trace of an atmosphere of one-upsmanship among their builders and owners.

You could also explain the timing by pointing to the strength vs. weakness of civic institutions, which parallels the accommodating vs. status-striving phases of the cycle. Maybe folks back then were more communal in their doomsday prepping because they had all kinds of thriving civic institutions to plug into and hit the ground running, while today's preppers look around and see an ever-decaying public system and figure why bother serving on the crew of a sinking ship?

That would confuse cause and effect. Civic institutions come from people, not the other way around (except on a long-term evolutionary time scale). Civic life was thriving back in the Midcentury because the people followed a norm of reining-it-in and making room for others, and civic life is so dilapidated today because people are too busy striving to boost their own status that things which benefit others will just have to wait until later (i.e. never, since status is a constant treadmill pursuit).

We also see the self-focused and striving nature of the prepper movement by looking at how it varies over geography. Looking through Wikipedia's summary of episodes for Doomsday Preppers, a reality show, you find very few subjects from the Deep South or Appalachia. They are far more likely to hail from the historically rootless areas farther west, beginning around Kansas and Texas, continuing on into the Mountain states, and extending all the way out to Alaska and Hawaii. It's striking how many preppers are from the West Coast.

Those places also tend to direct their status contests toward lifestyle pursuits rather than sheer wealth accumulation, which makes them more susceptible to a lifestyle contest like prepping.

Communities are more tightly knit in the Deep South and Appalachia, so they don't worry quite so much about a major disturbance. Not that it wouldn't send shockwaves through their communities, but the support networks are already woven tightly enough that they don't have to worry about being carried away by the flood. Some isolated transplant in California or Colorado, however, could see his entire line go extinct from the softest shift under the ground. He is a much more natural convert to the survivalist self-help movement.

You know who doesn't need to join the survival movement? The Amish. Not because they're already used to a lower-tech, off-the-grid way of life. But because they're all part of an interconnected and humble community, whose complexity can support a fairly decent standard of living by global standards. You can't get that complex of a group when everyone is looking out for themselves, or at most their nuclear family.

Who were the best prepared nation during the nuclear fallout shelter craze? The Swiss, whose Sonnenberg Tunnel (built in the '70s) could have protected over 10,000 citizens not only from the radioactive fallout but the initial bomb blast as well. Public shelters like that were an extra backup layer in addition to the household shelters that were required of new homes at the time.

The Amish are just a splinter group from the Swiss and broader Alpine German population, so this is no coincidence. If we want to survive like the Swiss, we ought to interact like the Swiss, not by turning every activity into a self-promoting status contest.

January 23, 2015

Culture war over gay marriage is most pronounced among recent generations

Most culture war battles are fought by middle-aged and old folks, except for those occasional outbursts when young people collectively presume to know jack squat about anything momentous. We saw it in the late '60s and early '70s, when youngsters came in polar opposite flavors -- Weathermen and SDS protesters, and those who felt like beating up the protesters. Middle-aged people were more mellow and less polarized.

That fell toward a minimum in the '80s, when young people weren't so ideologically polarized and didn't presume to have easy answers to big political questions. It was mostly fully grown adults arguing over Voodoo Economics, the Cold War, prayer in public school, and the like. This continued into the mid-'90s during the Gingrich revolution.

Over roughly the last 20 years, though, youngsters have started to get more uppity and more in each other's faces over big political issues, while the middle-aged and old folks are watching from the sidelines and aren't too polarized amongst themselves. Only now instead of the capitalist imperialist war machine, the big issue among today's loudmouths is sanctioning homosexual deviance by granting them access to the institution of marriage.

Just as during the Counter-cultural era, the popular mind only sees the shrill young people who are in the know-it-all / right-side-of-history camp. All the other young people who showed up to the protests only to harass the protesters, well, that isn't very exciting. And it spoils the picture of young people acting under a single common will.

Today, and perhaps as it will be recorded by history, only the shrill SJWs make it into popular recognition about "how young people feel about gay marriage." Most of the pushback against the SJWs is in fact coming from their peers, not grumpy old men. Older people are less divided, though less in favor overall of gay marriage, and so don't feel motivated to enter the fray. For Boomers and Silents, there's not much at stake for the purposes of signaling which broad ideological camp you belong to, since both camps don't disagree so much on this issue. Liberals and atheists from those older generations are not so gung-ho about gay marriage.

Since this may come as news, let's look into it using data from the General Social Survey. As always, only whites are studied in order to remove race as a confounding variable.

How does support for gay marriage differ by religious or political affiliation, across the generations?

Conservatives in almost all generations are only about 1-10% likely to say they "strongly agree" with gay marriage.

Yet there are dramatic differences in liberal responses across the generations. Among liberals born from 1945-1954, only 30% strongly agree. It's a little higher, at 38%, among liberals in the '55-'64 cohort, and about that high as well among libs in the '65-'74 cohort.

What about those who spent at least some of their formative years in the pro-homo '90s? Hold onto your butts. Libs in the '75-'84 cohort strongly agree at 54%, and those in the '85-'94 cohort at 59% -- a quantum leap from libs in the preceding generations. Normally the late X-ers line up with the early X-ers, and away from the Millennials, but here is one shameful example where we fit the Millennial pattern instead. Isn't being lumped with them instead of the early X-ers reason enough to reconsider your views, if you're a late X liberal?

Conservative Millennials are also more in support of gay marriage than conservatives from earlier generations, who again only strongly agree at around 5%, give or take. Strong agreement with gay marriage rises to just over 20% among Millennial conservatives. (Some conservatives.)

The point remains, though, that strong support for gay marriage varies much more widely by political affiliation among the late X and Millennial cohorts, primarily due to the skyrocketing support among liberals. Earlier cohorts show far less polarization on this topic by political ideology.

Without going through all the numbers, the same conclusion emerges when we look at support among varying degrees of religious fundamentalism. Comparing strong support for gay marriage between those who think the Bible is the literal word of God vs. those who think it's a book of fables, there isn't so wide of a gap within the Boomers or early X-ers.

However, within the late X and Millennial cohorts, strong support soars among the seculars, while remaining about as low among fundamentalists as it is among fundies in earlier generations, around 5% give or take. Here too, Millennials who ought to know better are too in-favor -- even the fundies among them strongly agree with gay marriage at 16%. Hope they don't mind burning in Hell.

Why is this culture war most polarizing and shrill among those who went through adolescence during the '90s and after? Well, that's when the whole gay issue became an issue. It was wholly absent from the battles over civil rights, youth liberation, sex liberation, feminism, and so on, circa 1970. I don't care if a couple of queers in some New York bar got into a tiff with the vice squad, I'm talking about widespread propaganda on behalf of homosexual deviance, making it seem as though the warped, perverted, and diseased are "just like us."

If your mind was impressionable during the '90s and after, and you had a liberal disposition, you took that crap and ran with it. If your disposition was conservative, it failed to resonate with you. This polarizes the generation coming of age during the period.

If your mind was no longer impressionable, it didn't matter if you were a raging liberal -- your pet topics hardened into shape back in the '60s and '70s when nobody questioned to categorization of homosexuality as a mental disease, let alone try to equate the abnormal with the normal. Blacks, women, students / young people -- these are not tiny groups of abnormal deviants, but large minorities of mentally normal people who had some legitimate grievances (and some other wacko grievances) with their treatment by the majority. Gay marriage just doesn't resonate with the big liberal causes of that earlier era, so the earlier generations are not so polarized by the issue.

The fact that it's liberals who have driven the polarization highlights how liberalism is a destabilizing force -- a feature, not a bug, in order to move society away from the always backward status quo and toward the always superior voyage toward unknown lands. (Hope it doesn't end up like it did in Alien).

And the fact that this culture war is primarily playing out among the children of the '70s, '80s, and '90s means that we shouldn't look too much to the older generations for support. It's not that older conservatives wouldn't agree with us, but that they just can't get that angry and militant about it because they don't see what all the hubbub is about. Their liberal peers aren't a bunch of gay butt-lickers, and don't hate their conservative guts for not supporting gay marriage. Older libs may try to score status points or signal good taste by siding with the queers, but they don't show the seething visceral hatred that the younger libs do for opponents of gay marriage.

Millennial conservatives ought to be the sidekicks, since too many of their so-called conservatives actually support the sanction of gay deviance. They are also less likely than other conservatives to judge homosexual sex as "always wrong" -- 55% among Millennial conservatives, but around 65% among Gen X conservatives, and nearly 75% among Boomer conservatives. (Though again, the older ones can't be counted on to mobilize on this topic, even if they're entirely in agreement.)

Only five years left until we see some serious shit in 2020 (more or less), if Peter Turchin's analysis of the rhythm of political instability is on the mark (with peaks every 50 years, the last being around 1970). It seems obvious what the main issues will be, but what has been less talked about is how concentrated the battles will be among the younger third of the population, for whom polarization is greatest.

The youth bias of the conflict will only exacerbate how destructive things can get. The actions won't be confined to gray-haired politicians zinging or shouting at each other in Congress, despite the media trying to hype up Obama's "sick burn" during his State of the Union speech. We're in for some real Molotov-cocktail-throwing times, I'm afraid.

GSS variables: marhomo, homosex, polviews, bible, cohort, race

January 21, 2015

Entertainment as mood stabilizer vs. experimentation

This video by the gang at Red Letter Media pokes fun at how many of this year's upcoming movies will be sequels, prequels, remakes, reboots, adaptations from other media, etc. The unstoppable nature of this trend really makes you wonder what's behind it. To understand it, we need to see its full scope.

See my earlier post that crunches the numbers on how common this unoriginal approach to storytelling in film has been, using the top movies at the box office from 1936 to 2011. In short, it tracks the outgoing vs. cocooning social cycle: cocooning audiences prefer familiar material more than outgoing audiences, who want to experience a story they haven't already heard about. Another post hinted at the same trend in pop music, where the same song stays on the year-end charts for more than a single year nowadays, although that was not an exhaustive study over time.

I haven't crunched any numbers on it, but there's also a clear trend in TV shows toward creating multiple adaptations of a single brand (CSI, CSI: Los Angeles, CSI: Sheboygan...). American Idol featured entirely familiar songs, only sung by people you've never heard of. And Dancing with the Stars not only has familiar songs, but familiar personalities dancing along to them. The judges on these competitions are also familiar stars.

As long as it's instantly recognizable, audiences will cling to it for dear life. That seems to be the proper way to interpret this broad trend — not as "against change" or "against novelty," and by implication "for what is traditional" or "for what has been proven to work."

These lame rehashings are no more than a generation old, so they are not part of an enduring tradition whose preservation the audience feels bound to maintain. They are merely a security blanket for a population afflicted by anxiety and depression, in contrast to the delightfully off-beat material that the fun-loving audiences sought in more outgoing times, with a peak in the 1980s.

This view of entertainment as self-medication as opposed to experimentation suggests a link to the forms of drug use that prevail in cocooning vs. outgoing times. This post reviewed the distinction between stabilizing and destabilizing drugs, and showed that the stabilizers soar in cocooning periods, while destabilizers become popular in outgoing periods.

Stabilizers give a little pep to the depressed and mellow out those with shaky nerves — the popular amphetamines and barbiturates that were consumed on a massive scale during the Midcentury. The turning point came during the '70s when the public reacted against the attempt to mainstream the use of Valium. But as cocooning returned in the '90s, the mainstream returned to drugs like Prozac for the on-edge and Ritalin for the restless. These stabilizing drugs are an attempt to correct the emotional dysfunction that comes from being socially cut-off.

Destabilizers are about opening up the mind to strange, new moods and experiences, not to return the mind to normal. Marijuana, cocaine, alcohol, and the like. They flourish when the mainstream already has a satisfying social life and normal emotional functioning, and seeks out something beyond the ordinary. They are "party drugs" or "social drugs," unlike Miltown or Prozac, which are meant for the isolated housewife or Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. Because they are more destabilizing, people use them with greater wariness about their dangers than they do when consuming antidepressants and focus-enhancers, which are taken complacently.

Entertainment, then, is just another form of self-medication in cocooning times, or off-the-beaten-path experimenting in outgoing times. This psychiatric view may go farther toward explaining the tendency of cocooning periods to be more culturally bland, stale, and monotonous, than other views which tend to dehumanize the self-medicating cocooners as inherently dull and uncreative.

They may in fact have similar creative capacities and ability to appreciate novelty, but they are being suppressed in order to meet the more fundamental psychological need for everyday emotional regulation. Folks in outgoing times have Maslow's basic social and emotional needs met, so they are freed up for higher pursuits in creativity and self-actualization.

January 20, 2015

The decline of supermodels: Why no Millennials?

The supermodel phenomenon tracks the outgoing, rising-crime phase of the cocooning-and-crime cycle. It took off during the '60s and culminated in the early '90s, then falling steadily into oblivion by the mid-2010s. It was also dormant during the cocooning, falling-crime era of the Midcentury.

I don't think it has to do with the outgoing phase being more sexually charged. The Midcentury and Millennial eras have their sex and style symbols, they're just from an existing celebrity "brand" with instant recognition. Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy, Katy Perry, Victoria Beckham, Kate Middleton.

The model comes to us as a more mysterious figure, without a pre-established credibility as a celebrity or someone worth paying attention to. She seems to exist purely within the realm of persona-creation, not even having an identifiable role for us to link her with (such-and-such character from a hit movie, a performer of such-and-such hit song, etc.). And she arrives connected to no apparent social circle, from which we could learn something about her -- what other actors she tends to work with, what other singers she performs with, who her family is, and so on.

The model is fundamentally a pop cultural stranger. This suggests that the rise in popularity of models from the '60s through the early '90s was more about the greater social risk-taking of the time, searching out the mysterious, and trusting that unfamiliar people weren't always going to be your undoing. Once the cocooning mood began to set in, folks became more socially risk-averse, came to view the mysterious as "sketchy" or "shady," and only trusted what was instantly familiar. The shadowy model had to get lost from the magazine cover to make room for the hit singer, the hit actress, and the reality TV star.

This rise and fall of the model has been noted over the past 5 to 10 years, although not so much what the causes of the rise and fall were. But there's an interesting layer underneath this change over periods, which is the differences across generations.

During the first wave, supermodels were Boomers, with a handful of late Silents who were probably chosen because the bulk of the Boomers were too young to be modeling during the '60s. Like all Boomers, they were libertines -- carefree, do what feels good, lacking in self-awareness. See Christie Brinkley playing a mysterious carefree supermodel who tempts Clark Griswold in Vacation.

By the mid-'80s and toward the peak of the phenomenon in the early '90s, the supermodels were drawn from Gen X. Naturally the "model look" became more aware of the viewer, and a bit more guarded of their true personality, playing up more of whatever their persona was. Christy Turlington embodied the generation's balance between guarded and revealing, withdrawn and interactive, introspective and curious about the spectator.

That was over two decades ago -- who are the supermodels today? According to former supermodels Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell, the only one around by the late 2000s was Gisele Bundchen. She and Alessandra Ambrosio are about the only supermodel types I see in the news anymore. There may be models du jour among the fashion cognoscenti, but I'm talking about those who you'd recognize because their career and everyday lives are covered in the mass media.

Bundchen and Ambrosio were both born at the very end of the Gen X cohort, in the early '80s, and by now are 34 and 33 years old, having worked in the modeling world for well over a decade. Today's supermodels were born only 10 years later than their predecessors of over 20 years ago, evidently not having been displaced by younger rivals. It's not as though all birth years are going to eventually get represented as time moves forward. That assumes that they're equally capable of the job of supermodel.

But what if there's no there there? Millennials are a generation without personality, suited to constantly staring down at a glowing screen to block out their social awkwardness. They can speak lines of dialog and approximate the right body language, so they can find work as actors. But in a way, becoming a star model is more difficult because there is no dialog, plot, or character traits provided in a script to guide their performance. They have to tantalize and mesmerize the audience with only a shadowy yet distinct persona. That subtlety of intuition is way beyond the abilities of Millennials.

Apart from subtlety and intuition, you also need a basic curiosity about the viewer and willingness to interact with them, a little give and a little take. This hardly requires you to be a born salesman, but it's still too extraverted for the socially awkward Millennials.

I do see constant references in the news and at Blind Gossip to a 1992-born model named Cara Delevingne, but she's no supermodel (or anti-supermodel). She hasn't created a persona, instead falling back on the default Millennial mood of a bratty toddler on the verge of throwing a temper tantrum. A quick check shows that her family is very well connected in the publishing industry, so her 15 minutes of fame owe to nothing more than nepotism. She doesn't look very cute either -- more like a pre-pubescent Kurt Cobain who grew his hair long.

An earlier post looked at who the subjects of reality TV shows have been, and for better or worse it has consistently been X-ers (and a minority of late Boomers), ever since the beginning of the genre in the early '90s. With their mixture of introspective and extraverted tendencies, they have been a natural focus from their college days on the original Real World up through their married, middle-age years on the Real Housewives series.

Millennials, on the other hand, don't have much personality to reveal, don't have many experiences to share, and are in any case too creeped out by other people to connect with an audience even if they did have something to offer.

In a way, models and reality TV stars are alike -- they do not come from an established brand (aside from the "celebreality" subjects), and they offer a stylized view of their true personalities. The difference is that the model is mysterious and reserved, while the reality star is obvious and TMI. Still, it's no surprise why both domains show such a profound generational split, to the point that audiences find the middle-aged more interesting than the young.

January 17, 2015

Was it a male prostitute that got Greg Anthony suspended from CBS Sports?

I have no idea who this guy is, only that the incident is making the rounds on the news sites I check in on. The picture is what caught my eye: he has an extremely toddler-like over-smile (oval-shaped rather than a sideways "D," baring the bottom row of teeth) that is usually a dead giveaway of homo Peter Pan-ism. It's even more extreme in black homos, who tend to add a nervous nose wrinkle to their gay-face (Puff Daddy, Fresh Prince). His eyes point in different directions, another not uncommon sign of the mental disease. Limp wrist, too.


The police and media are not saying anything about the nature of the prostitute he solicited during a sting operation in DC. FWIW, three years ago the DC police set up an online sting to capture gays cruising websites for sex with minors.

Not knowing anything else about him other than his flaming gay-face, I'd put the chances of it being a male prostitute at over 50%. If it does turn out to be a male, I'd put the chances of him being underage or teenage at over 80%. Not sure about the chances of it being a tranny, but wouldn't be out of the question.

Quick googling turned up no major gay rumors about him, whereas his face alone should have generated some speculation. Sports fans may be right that sports are less likely to be infected by queers, but they tend to carry that too far and dismiss any concerns altogether. "This isn't the high school drama club we're talkin' about here..."

Just because the sports world is less under attack doesn't mean it can totally let its guard down, though. Once enough homos and homo enablers get in, they'll push their agenda like they have everywhere else.

January 15, 2015

Back to the '90s dramedy, Hindsight, shows difficulty of recreating even the recent past

Millennials who keep hyping up the awesomeness of growing up as a "90s kid" may find it odd that the teenagers of that decade, the tail end of Gen X, have very little fondness for that period. This failure to resonate across neighboring generations is not found among the kids and the teenagers of the '80s, both of whom feel pride rather than shame when thinking back on the era.

So it is purely for sociological reasons that I've watched the first two episodes of a new scripted dramedy on VH1, Hindsight, in which an early 40-something woman who is about to get married for the second time miraculously travels back to the year 1995, when she was about to get married to husband #1, and now has the chance to improve on the choices she'd made the first time around. It's basically Hot Tub Time Machine, only for chicks, and set in the '90s rather than the '80s.

I could care less about the plot or character arcs, which seem to be the usual self-absorbed stuff found in the female-oriented medium of television. I'm more interested in seeing what the show's creators have chosen to make the world feel like the Nineties, and how the actors are choosing to interpret the personalities of the time.

First impression: it doesn't really feel like the '90s. It's not for lack of accurate references — shorter skirts on girls, longer hair on guys — or even for lack of placing those differences in their proper context (everyday relations are shown to be more sexually charged and promiscuous than in the middle of the 2010s).

It's more the delivery of these period markers that is off-key to those who lived through the time. The emotional range is what you'd find in mumblecore dialog of the present day, and the attempts at humor are also distinctly 2010s — reading wacky or self-aware lines in a totally deadpan manner. It feels more like Parks and Recreation, only without the annoying shaky cam, and with the cast and sets dressed up in a LARPing '90s style.

(Hot Tub Time Machine also suffered from a jarring mismatch in tone. It was basically The Hangover with cosplay '80s wardrobe and set dressings.)

Where's the extra-thick layer of sarcasm and cynicism? Or showing some kind of emotion on your face? The '90s did see the beginning of the trend toward today's emotional numbness, robotic speech, and attitude of glib dismissal. But it wasn't that pronounced in '95, when there was still a little soul and defiance in the personalities of young people, albeit less so than during the '80s.

See the cult TV show My So-Called Life for the definitive portrayal of coming-of-age in the mid-'90s, where the characters aren't mumbling through most of their dialog, and where something is actually at stake in the lives of the characters, rather than a kiddie romp through a bubble-world free from consequences, in which nothing you do ultimately matters.

Leaving out that side of the '90s will only confuse the Millennials about the decade being one of a pendulum grinding to a halt (after moving in the outgoing direction since the '60s) and starting to swing in the opposite cocooning direction.

A major part of youth angst back then was feeling pulled in opposite directions by larger social forces — the open and outgoing spirit that had been familiar during the '80s, and now this new closed-off and withdrawn impulse. It wasn't clear at the time whether the cocooning thing would win out — maybe it was just a blip of lameness? — but then again maybe that's the way the wind is beginning to blow. You couldn't tell, so you had to hedge your bets by expressing fondness, but then immediately dismissing it or slathering it with sarcasm. That way you had an "out" if either the sincerity police or the irony police got word of what you'd said.

This emotional schizophrenia, and the general feeling of gear-shifting, makes the zeitgeist of the '90s hard to distill and convey, just like the previous decade of switching from an outgoing to a cocooning atmosphere, the 1930s. Nobody can come up with a good picture of the social-cultural zeitgeist of the '30s, caught between the end of the Jazz Age and the beginning of the World-of-Tomorrow Midcentury. "The Depression" refers to the economic and political setting, not everyday social and cultural life.

In fact, the only time that Hindsight feels '90s-y is when the soundtrack plays. Contemporary actors are attempting the impossible — uprooting your mindset from your immediate surroundings and re-growing its tendrils in a distant time. However, the singing and playing from pop music have been preserved in their original form. Not that '90s music was very good, but it is shocking to see how far it has devolved in the last 20 years. Although becoming more withdrawn, you can still hear the soulfulness and melody carrying over from the '80s in the songs by the Gin Blossoms, the Cranberries, and Soul Asylum. That's a way more authentic '90s feel.

Hot Tub Time Machine had the same jarring breaks from its artificial feel, whenever an '80s song played in the background. For a moment, it actually felt like the '80s for real.

The VH1 show has an even tougher time getting the mood right because the actors are mostly born from '82 to '87, making them a bit too young to directly recall the atmosphere of adolescent and young adult world circa '95. Children in the unsupervised '80s were more in touch with what the older kids were up to, but as helicopter parents locked their kids up starting in the '90s, they lost touch with the generation just above them.

(It is striking how the average Millennial's recall of '90s music is entirely restricted to the boy bands and girl groups that were aimed at their own pre-pubescent audience, while suffering from a huge blind spot for the vast majority of pop music aimed at teenagers and young adults. Again, a severe change from children of the '80s, who remember the full spectrum of girl groups, rock bands, and adult contemporary hits from their early years.)

Then again, Hot Tub Time Machine had unconvincing performances, and those guys were all of the right generation to portray those characters. The main stumbling block is removing yourself from your surroundings. Still, when the past is not merely distant but foreign, it becomes nearly impossible to pass yourself off as one of the natives.

January 13, 2015

How faithfully is godlessness transmitted from parents to offspring?

It disturbs me that my nephew is being raised utterly godless. Respect for tradition ought to at least make the parents raise their kid in the religion they were raised in, or something similar enough to it. If the child wants to lapse or drop out as an adult, that's ultimately their choice. But parents give their children no choice at all by raising them in a religious vacuum.

Moreover, by severing the ties to the past, even if the child does take up religion as an adult, they are less likely to wind up in the same or similar religion or denomination as their ancestors, than if they had had that status passed onto them directly from their parents. Connections to the past can become fractured incredibly quickly.

But will godlessness actually continue to grow and grow as a result of children being raised that way to begin with? Or is there some kind of affinity for religion wired into human nature? That could take the form of the child seeking out religion even if they had been deprived of it during development, or a parent who was raised godless deciding to give their child a religious upbringing.

The General Social Survey asks questions about the religion that the respondent belongs to, that their children belong to, and that their parents belonged to. We can thus investigate how stable the transmission of "no religion" is through your descendants. Only whites will be looked at, to sift out race as a confounding variable.

Let's start at the nuclear level. If your current religious affiliation is "none," you are only about 70% likely to raise your child with no religion. That may still be more likely than not, but it's quite a bit lower than the success of passing on your Protestant or Catholic status (around 80% likely).

Now zoom out to follow the transmission from grandparents to grandchildren. If your father or your mother was raised with no religion, there's only about a 50% chance that your child — their grandchild — will be raised with no religion. That is just what we'd expect from two independent transmissions that each have a success rate of 70% (square it, and you get 50%). As before, the similarity is higher for the presence of religion: Protestant status shows about a 70% chance of the grandparents and grandchildren being the same, while Catholic status shows about a 60% chance of being the same.*

Aside from similarity between parents and offspring, what about the change within the life of a single individual who was raised with no religion? There's only about a 50% chance that they will remain without religion into adulthood. By contrast, someone raised Catholic is over 75% likely to stay Catholic as an adult, and Protestants even more so, at over 85%.

What fills in for the absence of religion, then? In all these cases, a majority turn to Protestantism and a minority toward Catholicism. That is likely due to Protestantism being the dominant form of religion in America during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, rather than any special appeal of Protestantism.

To resolve that question, we could look into the same phenomenon in a majority Catholic country like Italy, or even better Spain, where godlessness is more common and would provide a larger sample to study. I expect Spaniards who are raised with no religion to turn more to Catholicism than to Protestantism, if they seek out religion in adulthood.

But what pulls the seekers toward one form of religion or another is a separate topic. For now we just need to emphasize how less stable it is for parents to transmit the absence of religion through their descendants.

Of course we should also mention that there is a heavy secular trend toward godlessness, which the GSS data confirm. If you look at whites who were raised with no religion, and see whether they remain so in adulthood, it becomes more and more likely with successive generations, especially with the Boomers and later generations. It doesn't matter whether you look at the generations during the same stages of life or not.

To give an idea of the trend, though, if you were raised with no religion, how likely are you to have no religion during your 30s? Only about 20% if you were born from 1935 to 1944, but 35% if you were born from '45 to '54, and nearly 60% if you were born from '55 to '64. At least it doesn't get worse after that — it stays around 60% for the '65-'74 and the '75-'84 cohorts. The snowball appears to have stopped rolling in that direction.

The secular trend shows up among those raised Protestant and Catholic as well. Late X-ers and Millennials who were raised Protestant are between 20-30% likely to abandon religion in adulthood. Among Catholics, just under 20% are likely to abandon the religion they were brought up in. Both of those figures are nearly an order of magnitude higher than they were under the Greatest Generation.

The point of contrasting these two forces is to underline how impotent parents are to affect the course of religious evolution through parenting per se. Religious-minded folks might view that as a downer, but it's worse news for the godless. Religion of one kind or another is easier to pass on to your children, while godlessness will be more stubbornly resisted.

Still, religious folks should not delude themselves about how effective their efforts will be to bring up their children in a religious manner, when the whole rest of social and cultural forces are clearly pushing in the opposite direction. It is those forces that are driving up the retention rates of godlessness from childhood into adulthood among the Boomer-and-after generations — not a greater failure on the part of religious parents, or a greater success on the part of godless parents.

If parents want future generations to grow up in a world that's more welcoming of religion, they need to change those broader societal trends, not to merely adopt a conservative brand of helicopter parenting. Otherwise their best efforts to personally transmit religion to their children, and their children's children, could get swamped by hostile outside forces.

* Those figures are slightly higher and slightly lower, respectively, of what you'd get from independent transmissions each with an 80% chance of success, but I don't think there's too much to read into that.

GSS variables: kd1relig, relig, parelkid, marelkid, relig16, race, cohort, age

January 6, 2015

"My Husband's Not Gay" - Mormon wives of openly gay men, now on reality TV

"These Mormon women married men who like men — and they’re all OK with it"

So reads the clickbait headline for an NY Post article on the subjects of a new reality show ("My Husband's Not Gay") about Mormon women who were duped into marriage and children by queers, who were only selfishly concerned with finding the ultimate beard defense against social ostracism.

"Who lookth tho fabulouthly not-gay? Thith guyyy!"


Just imagine the poor children whose family portraits will be disfigured by their Peter Pan daddy flashing his flaming drama queen gayface in every picture. And imagine when your friends come over, having to explain why your dad looks like a creepy pedophile.

Or whose minds will be forever scarred by being told at age 6 that, "Daddy has these feelings, but he chose to be with Mommy." No joke, one of the couples actually revealed daddy's buttsex yearnings to a SIX YEAR-OLD CHILD. The poor kid isn't old enough to understand anything about sex, romance, marriage, etc. It would be awkward enough for a normal couple to talk about their sexual urges with a child that young. It's a downright abomination of the parental role to do so when daddy digs dicks.

Imagine growing up knowing that mommy and daddy do not, and cannot love each other as husband and wife, but that daddy was looking for a baby-maker to satisfy his ego, and thus had to settle for marriage to a woman.

Another couple is also telling their kids what's up at early ages:

And, depending on their ages, our kids [ages 9 through 16] know about the SSA [obscuring euphemism for homosexuality, i.e. "same sex attraction" - ed.] to varying degrees. They love and support their dad, and realize that people don’t have to be perfect to be loved by God.

Imagine growing up having to cope with the burden of your dad being mentally crippled and warped — and not in a garden variety way where he just wails on the kids every now and then, but is subject to all the myriad symptoms of gay Peter Pan syndrome. Children should not have to grow up supporting their stunted father, the father is supposed to be the support for the fledgling children.

The rationalization about being loved by God is a shameful red herring. It's not their gay yearnings per se that will get them tossed into the fiery pits of Hell, but their duping of naive women who could have had a halfway normal marriage and family life, and assuming a parental role when they are still stuck in the immature "yucky, girls have cooties" stage of development themselves.

Not to mention the endless adulteration of the marriage because gay men can't actually control their urges nowadays, despite all the propaganda we hear from both secular and religious ideologues on the matter. One of the couples has been married for 20 years, and for the first 15 years the husband had been whoring himself around with other men. Yup, no big deal to overcome, just being told that your husband of 15 years has been licking the shit out of other dudes' buttholes.

Anyone who thinks these women haven't already contracted something from their gay husbands is dangerously naive. AIDS is only the tip of iceberg, and there are surely hundreds or thousands of pathogens that are primarily passed around among gays that we don't even know about (forbidden science because think of the homophobic implications). That's why AIDS is much higher among black women than white women: black men who sleep with (black) women are way more likely to be "on the down-low," i.e. not sharing that part of their identity that prefers getting blasted up the ass with viral loads.

In fact, one of the couples had a child that died shortly after birth. I wonder how much daddy's toxic sperm contributed to that ending. Women are already engaged in an evolutionary arm's race against men regarding intercourse and pregnancy (sperm evolving to out-maneuver the female reproductive tract, which in turn evolves greater defenses and rejection strategies in case it becomes compromised). It's no stretch to imagine their reproductive system becoming corrupted by all the germs that the gay husband has been carrying around, both inside and outside.

Who would even consider staying in such a relationship once they found out about being duped, adulterated, and still in for a lifetime of shame? Women with no self-esteem, AKA fat chicks (look at the pictures). Who else would sit through a dinner date where their husband is constantly ogling the waiter, with whom he also makes childish handjob jokes?

Episodes like that reveal the phoniness of their philosophy of "It's OK to look but not touch." It's disrespectful and trust-destroying for the husband to have such a roving eye and flirtatious speech, especially when his wife is right there the whole time.

It's obvious that the two are not equals or compatible, and that the wife is serving as a babysitter for the broken kiddie husband. Although not sexually attracted to each other, they at least claim an emotional fondness. But that makes the relationship more like that of an impulsive kid brother and his protective big sister. This quasi-incestuous nature of their marriage and family formation adds a whole 'nother layer of freakishness onto their abomination of a relationship.

But they're not just any old bunch of broken fat chicks — they're Mormon fat chicks, whose religion emphasizes marriage and large nuclear families as a step toward salvation.

Here we see a critical weakness in natalist approaches to preserve tradition and enhance cohesion. If it's all about family size, then O come all ye Mexicans living 20 people to a house. Blessed are the fag-wedders: for theirs is the future of America.

American traditions won't survive in a world where natives are being out-bred by immigrants. And if natalists don't care about preserving the sanctity of marriage and of the parent-child relationship, then their influence is toward greater corruption — more and more marriages of the broken kind. There may be a logical independence between natalism and purity-mindedness, so that you could be both natalist and against all of the corrupting trends under way.

But psychologically, natalism trumps purity-mindedness. Or at least here and now it does. It's the same mindset that views all growth as good, no matter in what direction growth is headed toward or how fast and uncontrollably it's moving. It's a mindset that worships an abstraction and treats real physical beings and things as homogeneous fungible units.

Even more disturbingly, it's not a mindset that recognizes a trade-off between quantity and quality, while choosing more quantity of lower quality. They are simply blind, deaf, and numb to matters of quality, and see only in quantities. People who accumulate stuff, and economists who rejoice at how much stuff is consumed nowadays, don't mention that most of it is cheap Chinese crud, but hey at least we've got a lot of it. It's just, "Wow, look at all this stuff!"

In the same way, "Wow, look at all these new Utahns!" Salt Lake City is now around 65% white and 25% Mexican.

Reminder: Salt Lake City is also the gayest city in the country, by objective measures of gay lifestyle signals per capita. And those statistics were compiled before a Salt Lake City judge ruled in favor of gay marriage.

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by the permissive attitudes toward cultural stewardship in a population that traces its roots back to a polygamous cult founded in the 19th century, that was driven out of every town east of the Mississippi that they tried to settle into. But hey, economic growth and big nuclear families, so no big deal I guess.

Add on top of that the pussy behavior of the largely Saxon-Scandinavian make-up of the white population in Utah, and it's no wonder to find such weak effective policing of gay deviance in the Minnesota of the West.

January 2, 2015

Rap and disco

A recent comment about the song "Christmas Wrapping" by the Waitresses got me thinking about the time when rap still had enough novelty value that white bands tried it out in order to sound cool. That all went downhill with the growth of bombastic rap from the '90s through today — what could be cool about trying to ape a chest-pounding gorilla?

Back when rap was chill and didn't try to hog the national or global spotlight, it could mix well with mainstream white dance music, which during the disco era and into the '80s could not have been any more easy-going and any less self-serious.

Rather than compile an exhaustive list of songs where white people are rapping non-ironically on top of a disco beat, I thought I'd just share one that you might not have heard before. If you like "West End Girls" by Pet Shop Boys or "Rapture" by Blondie, you'll be groovin' along to this Euro synth-pop hit too, with its mix of Spanish, French, and English (sans any kind of lame multi-culti implications):

"Paris Latino" by Bandolero (1983)

I don't know why there hasn't been much in the other direction — black rappers bringing in synth-poppy sounds to their songs. You'd think rappers wouldn't have an aversion to disco, since rap is the gayest genre out there. Rev Run, the Fresh Prince, Puff Daddy, Kanye West — all on the downlow.

But disco isn't fashionable anymore, so I guess that rules it out of sight to the homosexual mind (it'th tho thirty-theven yearth agoooo!). How strange is it that the disco scene was memorialized by modest, hetero WASP Whit Stillman, who's also a fan of new wave and synth-pop from the '80s?

The modest, easy-going mood of the Seventies carried over into the early '80s, although the trend toward status-striving of the Me Generation would really take off during that decade and herald the arrival of more grandiose styles. But as late as '83 and '84, the mood was still easy-breezy and down-to-earth. Hard as it may be to believe, that meant that there was a time when rapping was fun and lively to listen to, especially when laid on top of a disco tune.

January 1, 2015

The year in stale pop culture

We're all familiar with the endless sequels and reboots that Hollywood dollar-chasers keep pumping out, mainly because it sells really well with today's audiences, who are afraid of any brand they don't instantly recognize.

But let's not re-hash the topic of unoriginal material in movies. This earlier post already covered it quantitatively from the 1930s through the early 2010s. And let's not look into TV shows, because TV is boring, and because it's not very different from movies. Every hit show is part of an established franchise and/or in its 20th season.

What is the counterpart to sequels in pop music? You could argue it's a song by someone who's already had a hit before, but often those songs can sound quite different owing to changes in mindset. The Rolling Stones were still on the Billboard Year-End charts in the '80s (even if not at the top), but "Emotional Rescue" and "Waiting on a Friend" don't sound much like "Satisfaction" from over 15 years earlier.

Luckily there's an airtight way to look at the creeping staleness of pop music — look for an identical song that appears on the Year-End charts for multiple years. Being popular from one week to the next is one thing, but from one year to the next? Was nothing better released in the meantime?

You might think that these are just songs that were released late in the year, and carry over into the next. Well, that would happen for every pair of consecutive years, whereas this is a recent development. Often the song was released in the middle of the first year, not the very end. I've noticed some isolated examples of this trend from the Year-End charts of the mid-late '90s (none from the '80s of course), and then more and more during the 2000s.

Now it has gotten so bad that you don't have to have a very good memory to notice it, if you read through the charts of back-to-back years.

Out of the Hot 100 on the Year-End chart in 2014, 10 of them were on the chart for 2013 too. You heard it right: fully one-tenth of 2014's hit songs were the exact same warmed-over hits from the previous year.

Here is the list, with its spot on the 2013 chart, then its spot on the 2014 chart.

02 - 83 "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke
03 - 57 "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons
10 - 46 "Roar" by Katy Perry
15 - 20 "Royals" by Lorde
18 - 44 "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus
19 - 22 "Wake Me Up" by Avicii
62 - 23 "Demons" by Imagine Dragons
63 - 05 "Counting Stars" by OneRepublic
96 - 74 "Brave" by Sara Bareilles
97 - 19 "Let Her Go" by Passenger

Like I said, there's no real trend toward very-late releases showing up. Nearly half are ones that started big and have fallen, while nearly half are ones that began small and rose higher, with two of them staying more or less where they were. No trend toward rising or falling fame across years, then.

Stylistically it's mostly dance-pop and indie performers, not rap or R&B. Demographically it's by whites for whites, not black-for-black or black-for-white. My take is that the average white teenager is so bored or put off by literally almost everything, that when there's a halfway decent tune they'll keep playing it out one year after another. It's a desperate choice in a world where so much sucks. (Happy New Year.)

That could be at work as well in the movie and TV domains. Movies over the past 20 years really have been terrible, even if they were fresh and new. Audiences came to realize that Hollywood stopped being able to make satisfying original movies, so they cling to something that they know from past experience is at least not irritating or offensive, however bland the tentpole franchises may be.

December 31, 2014

Religious schisms as ethnic segregation

Since Christmas, I've been thinking about the religious version of the transplant phenomenon — conversion from one church to another. I've got some posts coming up on that topic in the American context using data from the General Social Survey.

But first it's worth looking at the bigger picture of church identities being part of regional ethnic identities. This will highlight the off-base nature of trying to hop from one church to another, especially across large distances of belief and practice. That is akin to trying to switch your ethnic identity from Irish to Lebanese.

At the same time, it also clarifies how church identity provides a grounding throughout time for an ethnic group's identity, and guards against a disorienting feeling of flux and chaos: what they believe and practice, regarding the sacred, is one of those core components that has existed since the old times, that exists today, and that will continue to exist into the future. And what they believe and practice distinguishes them from other ethnic groups, whose religious identities may be similar if they are ethnically similar, or religiously quite different if they are ethnically quite different.

The best way to study this is to look at a world religion that spans diverse ethnic groups and has existed for a long time.

Universal religions ought to push for similarity in beliefs and practices, no matter the ethnic group that adopts them. To the extent that the apparent cohesion at the highest level actually fractures along ethnic lines, we see just how powerful of a force ethnic solidarity can be. It is not necessarily hostile chauvinism, but at least the felt need to carve out a comfortably familiar niche within the vast universal religion, in which to gather with folks who are ethnically similar enough that much of the character of belief and practice can go unspoken and implicitly assumed, with only fine distinctive details to be explicitly discussed and worn outwardly as membership badges.

The more ethnically dissimilar the folks are, the more difficulty they will have with sharing a background foundation — what language to speak, what cultural allusions can be made, what set of moral norms and methods of norm enforcement are already in effect, what the expectations for ordinary behavior are (emotive vs. restrained, intuitive vs. rational, etc.), and so on and so forth. Although diverse groups may agree on some aspects of doctrine, they will not be able to easily coordinate on the ways in which they ought to manifest them through practice.

As it turns out, though, the superficial causes of the schisms that allow ethnic groups to self-segregate are primarily over doctrine rather than practice. I think this boils down to the difficulty of having to justify why your group does things the way it does — given all the cultural foundations and frameworks of your group, how could the practice of religion turn out in a radically different way? Yet the background or foundation is too unspoken for members of the in-group to even articulate it to an out-group, let alone try to justify it.

By contrast, the reasons that your group believes the doctrine it does can be easily stated. Whether or not those reasons are convincing to the out-group, rational arguments are easy to construct and give the appearance of approaching the matter objectively, rather than appealing to subjective impulses that "given our cultural background, this is simply the way we feel that things ought to be."

That naturally invites the response of "What do you mean, 'our cultural background' and 'the way we feel'?" and all the difficulty of having to articulate the unspoken. Just say that it's over some conceptual matter, state your reasons, and either the out-group agrees with you or it doesn't. At least you've stated your case and appeared respectable, rather than closing off debate by appealing to subjective and implicit matters.

In the next post I'll review the history of schisms within Christianity and show how they proceeded more or less along ethnic lines, although I won't speculate so much on how religious character has been adapted to ethnic character across all the different groups that have adopted Christianity over the past 2000 years.

The main point will be to note the correlation between religious and ethnic identity, and not so much to explain the mechanism underlying this link, in order to caution against the assumption that people can just shift from one religious group to another willy-nilly. Where you fit in will be constrained by your ethnic and cultural background, and not so much by superficial yet easy-to-articulate matters of doctrine.

December 23, 2014

Christmas songs by Jews: annoying, schmaltzy, and mundane

In what is becoming an annual Christmas tradition, popular web media outlets are crowing about how many of America's "beloved" Christmas songs were in fact composed by Jews. See here for a recent example from HuffPo.

I don't know about you, but I can't stand those campy Midcentury novelty tunes. "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" must be one of the most annoying songs ever recorded.

None mention Jesus or Christianity, nor do they pay tribute to pre-Christian sacred traditions either, like the old carol "Deck the Halls," which is about the pagan holiday of Yule. Some do celebrate kiddie mythology — Santa, Rudolf, Frosty — but what is there for grown-ups? The rest are only wintertime songs — snowfall, fireplaces, huddling together inside to keep warm.

It is not enough to invoke the good cheer, sentimental feelings, and family togetherness without providing the context for it all. It's not just another family get-together, like the Fourth of July, another one of those times when people feel good, like Spring Break, or another time when they feel sentimental, like school graduations.

There are only two halfway moving new Christmas songs that came out back then — "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Do You Hear What I Hear?" And to be fair, a Jew did compose the music (though not the lyrics) to the latter. But being half of a songwriting team that made one good Christmas song is hardly proof of Jewish skill in the area.

All the great Christmas songs are either hymns or carols that go back to the 19th century or earlier, before Jews left the ghetto and began appearing in elite and pop cultural fields. And sure enough, the two good new songs could easily be sung in a caroling setting.

We learn something from the fact that a choral setting would allow so few of the Jewish songs from the Midcentury — or their Gentile counterparts, for that matter ("Jingle Bell Rock" — another cringer). They aren't the kind of music that bonds a group together through song. Trying to sing them in chorus would be as absurd as a group of folks coming together to sing advertising jingles.

They're the worst example of commercial tune-peddlers trying to cash in on a sacred group ritual, and you can't ignore their irritatingly pandering style. They sound just like what you'd expect a holiday song to sound like based on the producer-consumer relationship, rather than the relationship of in-group members bonding.*

The only group that does perform them in chorus is small children, again emphasizing how kiddie and campy their appeal is. It might be charming to hear third-graders singing about Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer, but it would be even more moving to hear them sing "Silent Night" instead.

We learn more still from the fact that these annoying Midcentury songs are still played endlessly in the months leading up to Christmas, year after year, despite the melting away of all sorts of genuine, sacred Christmas traditions, and the general profaning of the holiday. Carols and hymns have joined all the other myriad traditions that are hard to find anymore, whereas the mundane novelty songs are more ubiquitous now than they ever were. Somehow the "Boo, Christmas" phenomenon of the past couple decades doesn't seem to mind those as much as the carols and hymns.

* In a lapse of awareness, the author of the HuffPo article plainly states that Jewish songwriters didn't bother composing Hannukah songs because there was so little money to be made from catering to just 2% of consumers.

December 22, 2014

What matters in life to transplants vs. natives

Is moving away from the region of your upbringing driven more by career chasing or by starting a new identity, unfettered by the ties of the past?

The General Social Survey asks a series of questions about how important various aspects of life are to you. Let's compare people who have remained in the Census region they grew up in with those who live in an entirely different region (not just moving to the nearest city). Only white respondents have been counted, to remove race as a factor. Education levels differ between natives and upwardly mobile transplants, but they didn't affect the big picture here, so I left it out as a control variable.

Across all seven aspects of life that were asked about, natives were more likely to rate them "very important," although some showed a larger gap than others. The native-transplant gap is shown in percentage points in the list below, where the aspects of life are ranked from those with the narrowest gap to those with the largest gap.

Gap, Aspect of life

1, Politics and public life

2, Family and children (nuclear family)

2, Career and work

5, Free time and relaxation

7, Relatives (extended family)

8, Religion and church

12, Friends and acquaintances

I don't know how an ordinary person would interpret "politics and public life," but it doesn't differ much in importance to the two groups.

Neither does the importance of the nuclear family. However, the importance of the extended family shows a much larger gap.

Work doesn't show a huge gap, when you might have expected the transplants to be much more gung-ho about their career. They do seem to value long hours and getting lost in their job, though, as the gap widens for the importance of free time for having a life.

The largest gaps in importance are found for communal ties to genetic strangers -- church, and friends and acquaintances.

The main difference in what drives transplants appears to be a desire to cut themselves free from a dense, rich social network -- i.e. the one that they were integrated into wherever they grew up. They look the closest to natives when it comes to how much they value their marriage and children, but that's as far as it goes. They're less worried about their extended family playing a role in their lives, and they're even less concerned with links outside the family.

So, the transplant phenomenon is not so much about chasing an ever more high-status career, but simply about liberating yourself (as they would see it) from your family and community. Being part of at most an isolated nuclear unit, and nothing further, is a feature not a bug of transplant living.

Ultimately this boils down to the desire to not be held accountable to anyone else, to be free to indulge in whatever you want to. And not only in the sense of having a far dimmer spotlight of judgment being cast on your behavior, and therefore not feeling as much shame. But in the broader sense of not having any duties and responsibilities to fulfill toward others. Sure frees up more time to focus on yourself. Just think of how tied-down you'd be with duties if you still lived near your relatives and folks-you-know.

Of course, a transplant is only too willing to enjoy the benefits of the communal ties that, over the generations of natives who stayed put there, have built up the cultural integrity of whatever region he's moved to. He just doesn't want to contribute back to his adoptive culture. He may not even be a transient -- perhaps he plans to stay there for the rest of his life. He is more properly described as a social-cultural parasite.

Naturally there are degrees of variation among transplants, some being relatively benign and others being flagrant bloodsuckers and bite-the-hand-that-feed-ers. But it's important to emphasize the common desire to leave behind their rich social ties, in order to understand how the churn of inter-regional migration fragments communal bonds, both in the left-behind and the moved-into regions.

GSS variables: imppol, impfam, impwork, imprelax, impkin, impchurh, impfrend, regtrans, race

December 21, 2014

A glimpse into the de-romanticizing of the Sixties among Gen X teenagers

In a recent comment thread about the lack of iconic coming-of-age movies in the '90s, I pointed to the sole exception -- the cult TV show My So-Called Life.

It only ran during the '94-'95 season, and was not aired much (if at all) in re-runs. So, unlike the John Hughes movies of the '80s, they were not available to rent on video long after the first run, and even the initial showing was just another prime-time TV broadcast rather than a big-time theatrical release. This kept the show from catching on with a wider range of birth cohorts -- mostly those born in the late '70s and early '80s. But at least among them, the show was iconic, one that always comes up when they think of examples that define the zeitgeist of the '90s (for better or worse).

After posting that comment, I felt a tiny wave of nostalgia and got curious about whether My So-Called Life is still being offered on a streaming service. And sure enough, all 19 episodes are free to watch on Hulu (click here). Worth checking out if you've never seen it, although nothing you need to be in a rush to see. Hearing a musical score modulate the tone from one scene to the next was a breath of fresh air, compared to how devoid of music today's movies and TV shows are.

The episode I watched, "The Substitute," starts off like The Dead Poets Society, with the high school students introduced to a new English teacher, whose iconoclastic style shakes up the stodgy status quo, and whose passion captures the attention of the previously bored-to-death teenagers. As the teacher and the students prepare for the publication of the school's literary magazine, a battle over censorship ignites between them and the principal. (One of the poems is clumsily erotic but not obscene, written by one of the girl students.) By the end of the episode, the substitute is gone, and the bow-tie-wearing principal has taken his place.

Unlike the Very Special Episodes of the '80s, the tone throughout is naturalistic and low-key, rather than histrionic shouting between the teacher / students and the principal.

But even more distinctive of its time, by the end the protagonist Angela has a bitter taste left in her mouth over the whole ordeal, rather than the satisfaction of "fighting the good fight" and holding out hope for greater success next time. After the literary magazine is pulled from circulation, only one other character joins Angela in re-distributing it. Evidently no one else is willing to stick their neck out for The Cause. Her Boomer parents instinctively take the principal's side, and she more or less calls them hypocrites who have endlessly told her stories about how they marched for ideals in the Sixties.

These are relatively minor reasons, though, for losing your youthful Romanticism. The main disillusionment comes near the end, when Angela learns the truth about why the substitute will no longer be teaching there, which leaves her feeling cynical and betrayed by him, rather than righteously hopeful after her side's defeat.*

The Boomers, who would have felt a heartwarming bridging of generations in The Dead Poets Society, would have interpreted this episode as a sign of a defeatist and apathetic mindset among the teenagers of the Nineties. The teenagers themselves, however, took it more as a cautionary tale about allowing yourself to be easily seduced by charismatic strangers who urge you to question everything and follow your passion, as they are more likely to be some kind of con man than a genuine role model.

If the take-away message had only been about choosing your battles, tempering idealism with pragmatism, and rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's, I think the Boomers could have felt that their Sixties legacy had still been passed along relatively intact to the younger generation. After all, by the mid-'90s even the Boomers themselves were no longer tie-dyed hippies.

But given the sordid and banal unraveling of the substitute's stature by the end, the Gen X viewer took away the message that being a passionate idealist was wrong-headed to begin with. Not simply that they should aim in the same direction as the Sixties generation, only walking in baby steps and not pushing as hard. But that the Sixties path pointed in an entirely off-base direction altogether.

What direction did the show preach that teenagers travel along instead? It didn't give an answer, other than "not in the Sixties direction". It was not a lame episode that would play out today about the relative merits of competing ideologies. It was a simple coming-of-age story about lost innocence, and learning from it a lesson of humility -- that your impulsiveness can lead you into acting like a naive idiot who can be easily taken advantage of.

Despite the wishes of helicopter parents, that lesson is not one that can be taught by instruction beforehand, like the alphabet or the list of American presidents. It's one of those experiences, like skinned knees, that the kid has to go through themselves in order to come away from it stronger and more mature. It's not a dangerous experience, just one that is unpleasant and uncomfortable for a little while. The relatively non-interventionist approach of Angela's parents strikes me as realistic for the time. Millennials were being over-protected during this period, but the late X-ers were still allowed to experience skinned knees in the course of growing up out of childhood.

I don't want to suggest that this episode in itself changed the minds of an entire generation. It was not one of those "Who shot Mr. Burns?" episodes that all the kids were talking about. But it was the kind of thing that strongly resonated with teenagers of the time, and marked the shift away from passionate idealism and toward even-headed pragmatism among Gen X.

Also worth noting, by way of contrasting X-ers with Millennials, that Angela doesn't throw a hissy fit at the end. The ordeal was just another one of those disillusioning experiences of adolescence -- better get over it and move on, no point wallowing in pity. She also humbly realizes that she'd allowed herself to be had, rather than putting all the blame on one or another of the grown-ups. You definitely would not see that if they tried to re-make the series today.

* Spoiler, highlight to read: [He had not been fired by the principal, as though it were the final injustice in the battle over ideals. Instead, the principal had received a notice that the substitute was wanted for deserting his family in another part of the country, and failing to pay child support all along. The substitute quit upon seeing the notice. When Angela tracks him down to confront him about leaving his family, he gives a series of evasive and empty answers, further disappointing her for having been taken under his spell.]