September 30, 2008

Because you never know...

When people are still growing slowly into adulthood, it seems like their social circle is more diverse for personality traits, attractiveness, IQ, and other traits, compared to the social circles of over-25 people. For one thing, adolescence is such a tumultuous time that you band together with whoever will get your back in the social jungle. Once you've secured your spot in the world, you can be more choosey about your friends, and seek out only those who are highly similar to you. Has anyone else looked back at who they were friends with in high school and wondered how the hell it worked? You would never be friends with most of them now because you're too different.

Also, high school doesn't have as powerful of a segregating effect as do college, the career world, and grown-up leisure spots like nightclubs or country clubs. As one example of many, consider sorting into groups by similar level of smarts. Even at a fairly homogenous high school, where everyone has an IQ of at least 115, those at the bottom will surely go to college but separated from their brainy high school friends, who will go to elite colleges, as well as from their friends just above them who will get sorted into second-tier colleges. These separations are amplified after college graduation when the brainy ones work in a world apart from the "merely" above-average ones, despite perhaps working in the same building.

This is a roundabout way to introduce a reminder to those readers who enjoy younger girls: it often pays off to befriend one who isn't so attractive or so girly in demeanor. If she's 25 or older, most of her friends are probably also like her. But if she's 18, you can bet she has at least a handful of cute girly friends, since the social machinery hasn't completely sifted them into separate bins just yet.

Obviously you don't want to make these your primary targets, but on a down-night, or when prospects don't seem well during a day game situation, you might as well befriend them and organize a meet-up with her friends. If it goes nowhere, then casually drift apart -- nothing wasted, really. Or have her accompany you somewhere as age-proof.

Back in mid-May, I had a slow night at an 18+ club and decided to chat up a goth-looking teenager who I saw looking over at me frequently. I'd rank her face as a 6, but overall probably a 7 -- it's just very, very difficult to have an ugly body at that age. Not normally who I'd approach, but she appeared pleasant enough. With stunning 25 year-olds, you neg them hard right off the bat, but with a teenager who knows she's not one of the pretty girls in school, you have to treat them more kindly. I simply said over my shoulder, "Hey, y'know you look kind of like a Tim Burton character" -- guaranteed to work on any goth-ish girl, plus it establishes your cred with them.

So we yakked for awhile, and then she abruptly asked me how old I was. Since I was not thinking about winning her over, and because I was somewhat buzzed from alcohol, I responded honestly that I was 27. It didn't make her uneasy, and we resumed chatting. About five minutes later, she asked for my cell phone and put her number in -- knowing that I was 9 years older than she was. (And yes, she has a delightfully youthful name that began rising in popularity around 1990.) Don't read her as an insecure girl looking for validation -- she's highly assertive and dominant, and of course she has a masculine digit ratio.

I said she should join me sometime for '80s night, but she couldn't because the next day "I have school" -- three of the greatest words to hear, especially when they call it "school" rather than "class," although that surely beats "work."

At any rate, we've hung out several times at the club, although she moved away for most of the summer. We met for the first time in awhile on Saturday, and she brought a friend of hers this time. What a treat: also probably 18, about 5'3 and petite, lightly tan skin, auburn hair, brown eyes, girly face, indie rock teenybopper clothes, and an uncontrollable urge to stand closer to me. (She, however, has a name that peaked around 1970, and not even a mellifluous one at that -- every cute girl has her one big flaw.) Unfortunately she got sick and had to leave pretty early, but not before blurting out a completely non sequitur reference to her ex-boyfriend and how glad she is that it's over.

Being introduced to a nice young girl on the rebound by her friend, instantly overcoming any doubts she may have about whether I could work in her social circle -- priceless. Plus our mutual friend is still pretty fun to hang out with, and works as a crucial age-proof when I'd like to talk to other young girls in the club. Sometimes it's worth befriending girls who you normally wouldn't -- at her age, it's expected that the group of friends will be a fairly motley bunch anyway.

September 28, 2008

The decline of print journalism?

I hear about this a lot, and I'm sure there are circulation and revenue data that show this (or maybe not, and it's just an urban legend among the chattering class). However, what about just how many articles a newspaper puts out each year? That's surely worth looking at: more articles would seem to suggest better, more productive times. I searched the NYT online for "the" -- the most frequent word in any corpus of English text, guaranteed to show up -- to see how many articles came out in each year. Here is the graph for 1981 to 2007:

There is a downward linear trend, but it is minuscule, accounting for only 4% of the year-to-year variation (other ways of modeling the trend capture a similarly tiny amount of variation). There's a pretty clear cyclical pattern, though, with an apparent period of 16 years (8 years from the peak in 1986 to the trough in 1994, and another 8 years from 1994 to the next peak in 2002). The difference between maximum and minimum values is about 16% of the maximum value, so we're not talking about small changes up and down.

Obviously the internet has nothing to do with the rise and fall of articles that we see. Maybe it tracks some more abstract "economic prosperity" or "booming business" index, but I don't know enough about recent economic history to say. The number of articles declines in the latter half of the '80s and first half of the '90s, when the economy went into the shitter, and recovers during the booming part of the '90s, but it has been declining steadily since 2002 -- have things really been so bad in general starting in 2003? I'll let someone who knows a lot about the economy take that one.

At any rate, the key point here is that you have to look over longer time-scales to say that something is declining -- maybe it's just cyclical, and we're currently in one of the downward-sloping stages. If I get really bored sometime, I'll do a more sophisticated search so that I can get data from before 1981, but even with these data, it's clear that the story of a steady erosion of print journalism is misleading. If my hunch above is correct, the newspapers will hit bottom around 2010 but pick up afterward.

September 25, 2008

Is it OK now to resume exotifying The Other?

Most of the girls I crushed on in college were Brown babes, and all Brown girls back then -- whether it came up in conversation, or whether I heard them say such things at the annual interracial dating forum -- were gripped by the fear of being exotified. "I don't want to be valued just because of my ethnicity," they shuddered, as though any white guy who came on to them wanted only an inanimate Princess Jasmine doll. At least in my case, I never wanted a Princess Jasmine -- more like a Saracen slave girl.

But no guy with a taste for the exotic ever found South Asian ethnicity sufficient (there are ugly ones), nor even necessary (since he'd be fine with his own group too). It's just nice to enjoy a sweet that has a different shell, even if they're all pink where it matters.

In a previous post on this topic, I found a perfect example of the risible extremes that upper-middle class white men had to go to, in order to convince the Brown girl they wanted to have sex with that they weren't Princess Jasmine-collectors. It's like those tiny male spiders who have to perform intricate five-hour mating dances in just the right way, lest the big angry female gobble him up.

Well, have things changed since then? I think so. I searched JSTOR, an archive for academic journals, for all instances of words beginning with exotif* (like "exotify," "exotifying," etc.) or exoticiz*, looking through the full text of articles and reviews. I then divided the number of articles in a year by an estimate of the total number of articles that JSTOR has for that year, based on a similar search for highly frequent words (which should capture just about all articles for that year). This gives an estimated fraction of all articles in a year that touched on the silly notion of exotification. Here's the graph:

Although present since 1957, it's not until 1988 that the paranoia begins to skyrocket. Still, by 1997 its growth rate had tapered off, and in 2002 it entered a decline. I crudely extrapolated for 2003 and got the same value as for 2002, so this downswing wasn't a temporary fluke. Five or six years later, it is probably lower still, though by how much is hard to say.

Let's say it takes five years after the peak for the trend to be decaying enough that the average 18 y.o. college freshman won't take the idea very seriously. That means any ethnic girl born in 1988 or later is pretty safe to exotify. Hell, Persians have always been safe -- you can say to her face that you "like Persian girls," and her eyes and clitoris will light up from being intrigued. But I'll bet you could even say something similar, if not quite as bold, to Brown girls under the age of 21 and not freak them out like you would their 25+ counterparts.

I wish I had some anecdotes, but there are damn few South Asians out here in the Mountain Time Zone, except for a handful of very unattractive engineering and computer science students from India (not like the stunning foreigners "of good breeding" I saw in college). I only worked close with one South Asian student when I was a tutor, and she was born in 1990 or '91. She took a bit of a liking to me, but she had olive skin, green eyes, and auburn hair -- not the darker type who would be afraid of exotification anyway. If anyone is more in touch with young Brown America -- and not just the ethnic activist ones -- feel free to leave a comment.

September 24, 2008

Don't leave your young wife unattended for a moment

As someone who plans to marry a very young girl, when the time is right, I've been caught off-guard by a recent series of events.

About three months ago, a cute girl pulled me in by my tie at '80s night and we started dancing close, she staring me in the eyes the whole time. She introduced me to her sisters, most of whom were even younger and even cuter than she was -- I'd guess she was 23 or 24, and that they were 18 to 21. She wanted me to pose for pictures with all of them, and when it was her turn, we were standing, and she threw her leg over my stomach, and I held her thigh while they fumbled with the camera. She had really, really tight skin... maybe she was 22.

Anyway, we danced some more, and then she made a move to kiss me, and based on everything else, I assumed she was going for tongue, so I opened my mouth a bit. She wasn't offended or grossed out, just thinking it gutsy. So there was some ambiguity in "who made the first move," I guess.

Last week at '80s night, one of her sisters was back and reached out to grab me: "Omigod!!! It's you!!!! Do you remember me????" I honestly did not. "You kissed my sister!!!! You were wearing a suit!!!!" she said, fondling my shirt to emphasize her point. Ah, yeah I remember you guys. "Omigod you kissed my sister!" I explained that her sister made the first move. "No, no! You did! Omigod, you know, SHE'S MARRIED!!!!" And she flitted back to her group of friends. I hadn't seen the girl before or since, so she's not the type who regularly goes out clubbing even though she's married -- she was probably at her peak fertility for the month and just felt the urge to go out and find a handsome stranger.

That's worth remembering: girls who appear promiscuous in a bar or club may be perfectly well-behaved girls, but who are just in that phase of their cycle and can't help but go out to flirt and touch other guys. You can't let your young wife go out without you for even a single night -- that's all it takes.

Last Saturday at the teen danceclub, there was a group of three cuties who I was about to approach. Suddenly, the tall, tan, slightly masculine-faced one drops on her back, thrusts her lower body into the air, and does a spread eagle, revealing her skimpy black underwear and inner thighs to anyone watching, and her friend -- in a "bad schoolgirl" skirt -- hunches over her and they fake-scissor for a bit, obviously to get attention. (By the way, I've seen this at least three other times since I've been going there.)

I figured they would be a good warm-up group, so I when they finish, I go to the on-top friend and put my hands on her hips to start dancing -- I mean, if she's going to do that in front of everyone, she'll be fine with it, right? She spins around and gasps, "Wait! I'm ENGAGED!!!!" and holds up her engagement ring. "Sorry!!!" she said while grasping my arm apologetically. I don't care if she was 16 to 18 -- if she were my fiancee and did that in front of a group of strange men, it would be game over. Again, you'd be surprised at who does this -- they didn't give off slutty signals at any other time, and I've never seen them before. I'm sure they look like good girls when they're sitting at their little desks in math class or staring at the Dairy Queen menu at the mall.

Also at '80s night last week, a group of three girls came up on a mini-stage to dance with me. I started with the less attractive ones, to make the cute one build up some tension; I noticed her looking over nervously while I was with her friends. She looked like a 19 year-old South American Mariska Hargitay -- pretty nice. So I'm done with her friends and turn to her, as she opens her eyes really wide and says "Heeeeyyyy!!!" with her mouth agape. When I go up to her, a friend warns, "Be careful -- her boyfriend is over there." After dancing with her friends some more, I saw her looking back again with a smile, so I went back and she started riding my thigh through her thin, short dress.

I saw the boyfriend later on: he turned out to be a 6'4 Black or Samoan-looking guy. Whatever -- he either didn't have any balls to confront me, despite his size, or the relationship was going south already and he didn't care.

Young girls are great, but their high levels of testosterone -- aside from giving them a little acne -- make them quite horny, and when they're at the most fertile phase of their cycle, you had better keep your eye on them. So make sure you know her cycle well. In the high-risk phase, she'll be a lot more talkative and obsessed with prettying herself up. If she normally doesn't write a lot on Facebook, and then suddenly writes comments all over the place, that's a good sign too. Hell, I know which two weeks of the month are the peak in my best friend's cycle, since that's when she'll be of greatest value to me as a pivot -- she'll be very animated and flirty. Likewise, I don't contact her when she's PMS-ing because it would be pointless and she'll be irritable in general.

You could date an older woman and not have to worry about this stuff so much, but the best things in life are worth working for.

September 23, 2008

The effect of aggregating by decade

Compare the effect of pooling data by year vs. averaging across the decade (year beginning in 0 to year ending in 9), using feminism as an example. Without the data from 2000 - 2002, the yearly graph still shows a clear downward turn, while the graph by decade would suggest purely exponential increase.

September 22, 2008

September 21, 2008

Graphs addressing criticisms

Revised graphs

I'm temporarily placing these graphs here, and will later put them up on I've moved the date back here so it doesn't clutter up the top of my page.

September 16, 2008

The two minute hate against sexual harassment

Returning to the topic of rational and irrational hysteria about rape, what happens if we look at a milder charge like sexual harassment? Here's how much attention the NYT paid over time (I ignored news summaries and counted only the real article referred to):

The phrase first shows up a bit after the start of women's lib, in 1975, makes a jump into the tens from 1979 to 1989, spikes in the early '90s and again in the late '90s, and plummets and remains stable by 2000 (though still at an order of magnitude higher than before 1990). As with "date rape," the panic is mostly phony, as sex crimes steadily declined after 1992. Also like date rape, sexual harassment is vague enough that believing is seeing, especially when it has the force of a spreading rumor behind it.

By the way, these moral panics are not caused by a high-profile event -- why was such an event so high-profile in the first place? It's a circular argument, requiring that we already be whipped up into a panic before the event in order to be so attentive to it. The dynamic of the hysteria plays out, and some events are given lots of attention if they touch on themes of the hysteria, since the audience will be hungry for information about it.

Really, were there no Anita Hills, Paula Joneses, and Monica Lewinskys before 1990? Given that we've become more civilized over the past 250 years, it must be that previous presidents made unwanted passes -- or worse -- to strange women, held mistresses, and so on, but that opinion-makers didn't think it was interesting enough to make a big stink about.

The more I look into these things, the more it seems like there's a coherent period beginning in the late '80s, peaking in the early-mid '90s, and abruptly ending just after 2000. Political correctness, postmodernism, the culture wars, Third Wave feminism, etc. -- they're all pieces of it, and everyone's noticed them before. The point in making these graphs is to flesh out their trajectories more finely, to do away with lazy periodizations like The Eighties *, and most importantly to see if they have in fact died -- fortunately, they have!

So here's yet another reason to make friends with, flirt with, and date girls who were born in 1987 or later ('85 to '86 is a gray area) -- the oldest ones in this cohort started puberty in 2000, when the sexual harassment hysteria had already wound down, so they weren't brainwashed during their formative years like those born between 1965 and 1978 (particularly those born around 1972). While all females view unwanted romantic advances as annoying, young girls today don't see healthy male sexuality as a threat to society, so you can be yourself around them.

* Usually the period isn't contained entirely within such a decade, and that lack of precision keeps us from seeing the big picture. Like, what if something cycles with a period of 13 or 26 years -- one-half or a full human generation? We wouldn't see that. Also, "the '80s" are not homogenous enough to deserve a name -- for example, if you go to a good '80s night at a dance club, about 90% of the songs will be from 1982 to 1984, before arena rock and whiny college radio music took over. The same goes for "the '90s" -- grunge died by 1994, and the late '90s were plagued by boy bands, girl bands, and techno.

September 11, 2008

Older women lying to younger girls about the best hair length

Since youth is the single most important factor for a female's physical attractiveness, it's no surprise that the over-30s try to cripple the invincible 15 to 24 year-olds, well intentioned as they claim their motives are. * Indeed, any free and unsolicited advice from them to youngsters about beauty matters should be assumed to be a Trojan Horse until proven otherwise. Lamentably, these more subtle methods are the only way to get the job done now -- not like back in the good ol' days when that jealous old crone lopped off Rapunzel's hair. Case-in-point: some propaganda on hair length from an beauty expert.

Notice how the middle-aged writer's advice to 30-somethings through 50-somethings says that longer hair is sexier, and to at least aim for a medium length, short hair being the style that you're only forced into when you can no longer hope to look sexy. It seems rather clear-cut, then: longer hair is more attractive. (Ask any guy, and he'll agree.)

But when counseling the 20-somethings, in every one of the four paragraphs she tries to bully them into cutting off their hair:

- "This is the best time of your life to try out all types of haircuts and styles. Short hairstyles, done right, can make you look more mature (or like a kid)..."

Note the appeal to the desire to experiment -- and so much for the clear-cut conclusion, no experimentation needed, that longer hair is sexier.

- "Trying to make your way in a man's world? Chop off that long hair and try a shorter cut. Check out this photo gallery of super-short looks."

Notice how no career path calls for longer hair -- perhaps "professional" or "funky" hair. And why not give the same advice to 30+ women trying to make it in a man's world, unless they're already a CEO or senior partner at a law firm I suppose?

- "Experiment with length and color. Now is the time to see how you look with super long hair, then cut it off and see if you take to short hair. At your age, your hair will grow faster and thicker than at any time in your life. So enjoy it while you have it."

Hey, while you're at it, why not try being slim one season, and then pig the fuck out for a year and see if you take to being a lardass. At your age, your metabolism is faster than at any time in your life. So enjoy it while you have it, you bitch.

- "Beware the wrong short cut. What you don't want to look like is a stock 'Mom' character. Choose a short look that fits your age and the latest trends. For some ideas, check out these photo galleries of short cuts."

This entire tip just assumes that she's getting her hair cut short -- because you are chopping off your hair, aren't you? By the way, here is the gallery of short cuts. Most of them are tragic. Only the super-feminine can wear boyish hairstyles and not be confused with men -- jesus christ, look at Pink with short sleek hair. She looks like a man in prison. Here's a good example of a short cut on babyfaced Selena Gomez:

She still looks better with long hair, though, as does Audrey Hepburn and any other woman who could look good with short hair. Unfortunately, women are too gullible and conformist to beat back the unrelenting mob of hair-cutters, but like that aging advice columnist said, at least it'll grow back pretty fast. Let's just hope they don't screw it up a second time.

* It's the same reason that a girl sabotages her female friends' looks when they huddle together to plan what they're going to wear. The shrewd girl will persuade her friends to dress like borderline sluts -- not so bad that she couldn't be seen with them, but enough to make sure that she looks the most respectable. It's not to prevent guys from advancing on her friends -- it will probably invite that -- but to set the poor saps up for gossip, rumors, and dirty looks from their female peers, whose esteem they value more than that of their male peers:

"Omigod, why were all those girls back there looking at me so weird???" I don't know... I mean, you don't think it could be what you're wearing, could it? Like, could they be that shallow? "Omigod, what's wrong with what I'm wearing???!!!" Nothing, nothing, you look fine. I'm just saying, maybe they think it looks, like, just a little slutty -- I mean, it totally doesn't, but maybe that's what they were thinking. "Omigod, now they're gonna freakin' tell everyone I'm a slut!!!"

September 9, 2008

When were the best songs written?

Rolling Stone came up with a list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. We can ignore the ranking of songs for the most part, although appearing at all on the list is an OK way to measure how good a song is. I checked the year each song was released in to figure out how many songs on the list came out in a given year. Here is the result, where 3-year moving averages are used to smooth out the data:

According to Rolling Stone, the two best periods -- when the trend is upward toward a local maximum -- are 1953 - 1957 and 1963 - 1965.

Obviously, this graph reflects the tastes of the people who wrote the list. Since it was drawn up in 2004, it doesn't reflect the surge of, er, what did they call it at the time -- post-punk revival? They've probably stopped calling it that anyway, like how the term "hipster" has gone out of fashion for referring to hipsters. At any rate, from about 2003 to 2006, a lot of cool "back to basics" stuff came out, but things have seemed dead for the past two years. Also, the list gives little weight to the late '70s and early '80s, when a bunch of great punk and disco music came out.

It's no surprise that a list composed by nerds shows such a disdain for music that you can dance to -- we're supposed to pretend that pop musicians are serious artists, and therefore that the audience should face and worship the band while standing still. Dance music stars weren't taken seriously, as is correct for pop musicians -- they were only to play music that would allow listeners to cut loose and mingle amongst themselves. And anything preferred by extraverts, especially the extreme ones like gay males, is universally tarred as uncool by snobs, who were largely friendless in high school.

September 3, 2008

Myths and hysteria about rapists and sexual predators

Over at GNXP, I've put up two posts on recent irrational hysterias, one about "campus rape" and "date rape", and another about "sexual predators". Full of data and free PDF references.

Comments closed here; yak there.

September 1, 2008

Obama is a Martian

That's what lots of people are saying, anyway. I mean, it could go either way -- maybe he is. There's got to be some simple test that will put the rumors to rest. Like, is it so much to ask for him to flay the skin from one of his arms, y'know, just so we can see that he's really human? Just show us and we'll believe you.