October 31, 2013

Halloween round-up

I won't repeat what I've said before when covering the changing nature of Halloween over the last 20 years, and you can search this blog for "Halloween" to find what's already been said.

It sounds odd to write a "round-up" of Halloween even though as I write this it's only 2am the morning of. But a major shift in how we celebrate holidays these days is in stretching them out from a concentrated day into a diluted period or season. The day and night of will feel anti-climactic because we saw signs of its presence coming a mile away, weeks ahead of time.

And it feels like everything there is to do about Halloween has already been done -- and for awhile now. It's like spoiling your appetite for what's supposed to be a special meal, like munching on Hot Pockets and ramen noodles all throughout the morning and afternoon of Thanksgiving. Or putting up birthday decorations two weeks early and singing "Happy Birthday" every day for weeks ahead of time.

Put simply, we are a culture that has become awkward with feeling anticipation, release, and winding down. We have made the intensity level constant or flat over time, never reaching the intended peak level, and extending over a longer time. This allows us to still make a token display of participating in the holiday spirit, without actually going on the roller-coaster ride. Nobody wants to feel swept up in the holiday spirit, because that means loss of control, and a constantly self-monitoring person would die of fright if their internal security camera were shut off for just one day while they allowed themselves to get lost in the festivities.

It seems like a fait accompli that the parties now take place, not on Halloween night, but the Saturday before. Why? Well, what if like most years it falls on a work day or a school night? The consequences would be dire. Up-ending our routine for even one day is anathema to an OCD society. We're not saying you can't get dressed up and go party -- just make sure it doesn't interfere with your rat race routine. It neuters Halloween of its intended carnivalesque inversion of ordinary social structure.

How fun do you think it will be to celebrate with a bunch of people who are too timid to party on a week night? I didn't even bother this year, for the first time in awhile.

I did, however, carve two jack-o-lanterns, something I haven't done in years. There have been many changes in this tradition as well, reflecting the same themes as elsewhere in Halloween culture. Three examples:

- The pumpkin piles are out at retail stores way early, and they show up on porches way early. While strolling around the neighborhood last Saturday, I saw some that showed signs of decay suggesting they'd been out for a week -- and this was still roughly one week before Halloween. This deflates the spectacle on Halloween itself, by making us accustomed to their presence weeks ahead of time.

My vague memories were that in the '80s, we carved them the night before, not many days or weeks before. So I searched Google Images for Halloween pictures from the '80s, and the ones with jack-o-lanterns all show ones that are more or less freshly carved -- no puckering, no dulling of the yellowish color inside, and so on. Examples: here, here, here. The last one has a date stamped on it, 10/29, and they look newly carved. So maybe a few days before at the most.

- At least around here, maybe 1/3 of all pumpkins on display were uncarved, unpainted, unadorned in any way. It only takes less than 30 minutes to carve, and everyone has at least that much screw-off time in their day. It's part of the move away from supernatural and superstitious fun, and toward the mundane and naturalistic. More in the vein of "harvest spice granola latte" than mask-wearing and candle-lighting.

- A good fraction, under one-half, of carved pumpkins were made with a cookie-cutter stencil. OCD folks just can't handle anything other than the paint-by-numbers approach to arts and crafts, can they? Stencils also allow for more elaborate and often pretentious designs, tying into the individualistic status contests that now run rampant around the holiday. How long before they become like tattoos -- choosing the perfectly unique stencil to tell the world about your special snowflake lifestyle? Jack-o-lanterns by Banksy? These were in the minority, though.

Does the absence of parental supervision that we all remember show up in those old pictures? I couldn't put my finger on it at first, but do an image search for Halloween and some specific year. Notice how all the pictures are taken inside the house, on the front porch / driveway, or front yard. That's because the parents weren't following them around once they got to the sidewalk, hence no pictures of kids at someone else's house. Only before they left and when they got back home, where the parents stayed put. Examples: here, here, here.

Recent pictures do show trick-or-treaters at someone else's doorstep, typically shot from the height of a grown-up, providing photographic proof of how closely parents hover over their kids even on a holiday where they're supposed to be allowed temporary freedom. Examples: herehere, here, here.

It's not uncommon to see scenes where the grown-up to kid ratio is even, or perhaps where the grown-ups outnumber the kids. Like this one. Also, unlike pictures from the '80s, recent ones are more likely to be taken earlier in the day before it gets dark, spoiling their fun even more.

As the last picture shows, helicopter parents may not trust any of their own neighbors, but they are more comfortable trick-or-treating in an institutionally controlled setting -- a business district, a mall, a zoo, and so on. Some place where there's a management team planning, coordinating, and supervising everything (in addition to parental hand-holding).

Did you notice how unpretentious the costumes were in the '80s? There isn't much to "get" about them, and they aren't meticulously detailed. They're supposed to be nondescript so that you can easily melt into the crowd, losing your individuality and stepping into a different role. Costumes now are much more thought-out, fussed-over, and attention-grabbing -- like this poor kid whose parents made him into an iPhone. (He sure looks excited.) This produces the opposite result -- the kid is too aware of how on-display he is that he can't forget himself and join the mob. It's more of a fashion show.

The tradition of trick-or-treating must be nearing a low point when there are people like this woman who will be handing out a condescending lecture note to those children who she judges to be too overweight to deserve candy on Halloween. She bald-facedly tries to rationalize her slap-in-the-face behavior as good for the community. She's done with helicopter parenting her own kids, now it's time to ruin the fun of everyone else's too. No surprise that it's in North Dakota. Damn Scandinavians place nanny-ism over community cohesion. I hope there are some adults nearby with enough honor to find out where this rude bitch lives and go egg her house, smash pumpkins on her driveway, and TP her trees.

And the damn liberals reporting on this, or weighing in from her neck of the woods, can only frame the matter in terms of health, harm, self-esteem, etc. How about being a disrespectful host to her guests, threatening the sense of togetherness in the community? Like, what did she hand out as party favors for her kids' birthdays? -- notes that read, "Sorry, but in my judgement your child is nearing obesity, and did not need to share in the birthday cake which would only worsen his health condition. Step up your game as a parent, and next year he can share in the cake with the others." Someone please find this condescending crone and give her a good slap across the face.

My prediction for number of trick-or-treaters tonight -- no more than 5 children in no more than 2 separate groups, and perhaps one group of less than 5 adolescents.

Any other major changes I've overlooked?

October 30, 2013

Hidden Homos: Harry Potter?

The chickens of this whole "family values" revolution of the past 20 years are finally coming home to roost. Helicopter parents' perfect plan was to lock their children indoors all day long, and scrupulously filter their media / entertainment for Negative Outside Influences. "No daughter of mine is going to buy Lada Gaga's music -- it sets a bad example." So anything that goes over-the-top in its "fun for the whole family" appeal gets a pass as wholesome entertainment.

But what if the players in this squeaky clean package that you've naively swallowed whole, aren't all they appear to be? What if are even more fucked up than Lady Gaga, but their influence is less obvious than hers (it would hard to be more obvious), and they've slowly warped your kids' minds?

With Lady Gaga, she couldn't put out a more blatant signal of how unworthy she is for kids to emulate, so most normal kids will vomit her influence out of their system right upon ingesting it. It leaves such a bad taste in the mouth, you can't even gag it down. With more diluted poisons, though, all they need to corrode the kid's mind is to be administered more frequently. They don't start off thinking there's anything weird about him, steadily take cues from his as one of the cool crowd, then suddenly they're emulating a petty emo faggot.

Or as we saw with Tim Allen, the guy who wants a man's man to emulate winds up acting like a hyperactive Peter Pan who's been given access to power tools. But hey, it was board-certified family friendly entertainment -- and the image-makers at the top of the media monopoly would never just tell you want you wanted to hear, would they?

The more I look into it, the more this seems to be the way that the supporters of "alternative lifestyles" have soaked young brains in The Big Lie -- not sending Pink and Lady Gaga with a battering ram through the front, but sneaking the homo-enablers in through the back door, as it were. Glee, the Jonas Brothers, Disney... and the most triumphant success of all, Harry Potter.

I wonder how many of these naive helicopter parents have seen the publicly available pictures of Harry Potter getting all buddy-buddy with a gaggle of drag queens. And even if he did, just don't let the kids see them, let them continue to consume the wholesome image they know and love. It's not as though the actor would want to weave his preferences, albeit subtly, into the movies themselves, right? Wrong:

"I think part of me would love to play a drag queen, just because it would be an excuse to wear loads of eye make-up."

Yep, totally normal. "Well, hey, it's not as though some of the big stars of our day never dressed up in drag for comedic effect." Right, but it was a caricature for shock value, like that scene in Armed and Dangerous when John Candy dons full drag and Eugene Levy wears an S&M outfit. Not like how Harry Potter in drag actually turned out in the movie, enjoying the role way too much. He was letting part of himself come out, rather than stepping into a different role for shock value. But hey, it's family friendly entertainment -- board-certified -- so what is there to be suspicious about?

I've only seen the first movie during an in-flight showing, while half-asleep, and I don't follow celeb news. But if I had kids who were into these movies and followed the actor in the celeb-obsessed media, my gaydar would've gone off, I would've been sure to get in a jibe here or there about "What a bratty emo faggot..." (Although I don't think I'd embarrass my kids enough to say "No secret where he likes to wave his magic wand..." in a crowded theater.) But parents these days are too dumb to notice an obvious queer, a charge they would only believe if a gay sex tape came out.

Let's take a look at some of his distinctively gay expressions and mannerisms.

Awkward lower-teeth smile: here, here, here, here. Note the upper lip is never pulled back-and-up but pulled sideways or even bowed slightly downward, lower lip is pushed down-and-out, and his lower row of teeth is always showing. Only babies smile like that, and queers are defined by their Peter Pan-isms.

The other awkward gay smile: here, here, here. Lips pressed together, holding back a smile, eyes wide open, eyebrows raised. Actually, not holding back a smile -- about to burst out with a case of the giggles.

Surprised infant face: here. Eyebrows reaching for the hairline, mouth agape. He doesn't make this face often, though; he's sneakier than flaming gays.

Campy-vampy seduction stare: here, here, here. Eyebrows subtly raised, eyes narrowed, head sometimes bowed forward. He isn't shot like this too often either, I assume because they're not marketing him as a sex symbol like the obvious man-munching werewolf from Twilight.

Now, even if you couldn't use those traits to identify him as gay, wouldn't you as a parent still find it weird and unwholesome that the guy can't make any kind of normal face? Narrowed eyes and a nervous smile can't be good, or so my gut tells me. But the head has to over-ride the gut these days, and they stamped their approval on this family friendly entertainment.

It's not like your kid's idol would move on to filming a gay sex scene while playing NAMBLA supporter and Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. And then get worked up into a hissy fit when audiences looked a little cockeyed at his performance:

"I fucked a horse on stage when I was 17 but gay sex is more of a big deal!" ...

"It is just the fact that it's sex, and it's sex with a man, I guess. It's amazing how shockable the world still is." ...

"What's graphic is the emotion of the scene. It's a very vulnerable, slightly afraid moment. It's beautiful and tender as a consequence of that."

He's been active in supporting a variety of causes to normalize abnormality, under the banner of gay rights (see details here). Here's what your kids' role model has to tell them about such perversion: "I have always hated anybody who is not tolerant of gay men or lesbians or bisexuals." Huh, even a normal guy who supported fag lib wouldn't go so far as to "hate" such people -- let alone "always." Obviously he takes it personally. I wonder why?

But, we can't find anything wrong with our kids looking up to a vindictive gay crybaby, since his PR handlers told us he was an icon of family friendly entertainment. He passed their inspection, so why ask any questions?

October 29, 2013

Bygone left populism in music

Temple of the Dog, "Hunger Strike" (1991)

Neglected to include this in my list of '90s music worth saving from a fire. I was looking through Billboard Year-End charts for ideas, and this one slipped through the cracks.

Grunge was a short-lived fusion of populist heartland rock with intensity and ornament from heavy metal. Hence only possible once those two component styles had been developed well enough, and before sincerity and fellow-feeling (from heartland rock) and belting out your emotions (from metal) went out of fashion during the ironic, solipsistic, and minimalist Nineties.

At the time, fans of grunge arrogantly heralded it as the wave of the future, delivered from Rock Heaven to replace the overwrought hair metal Establishment. Those fans were in for a rude awakening: the new zeitgeist of meta-self-awareness would only snicker at anything that came from someplace genuine, and that did not interrupt its connection with the audience by constantly winking at itself.

Worse, in contrast to Live Aid, Farm Aid, Hear 'n Aid (the metal benefit concert), etc., populism and charity went nowhere in the '90s. How many new fans did Pearl Jam gain by taking on the fleecing monopoly of Ticketmaster? Music fans couldn't even get worked up by injustice in an industry that they cared a lot about -- obviously caring about anything further still from their own little world would only fail more pathetically.

I never understood all the hate that the grungers kept dumping on hard rock from the late '80s and earlier. At least among my friends, we were still listening to Guns N' Roses, AC/DC, and Aerosmith, while enjoying the Big New Thing of grunge. That didn't really include power ballad hair metal, but we didn't dump on it either. By striving to distance themselves from their near relatives of the '80s, grunge die-hards only hastened the demise of any style that sincerely delivered emotion.

As far as I know, grunge fans have never taken partial blame for the sudden suckiness of "rock" music from the mid-'90s onward. Like, "Y'know, we really exaggerated how bad music was in the '80s, and foolishly ignored the chance that new music would get real bad real fast. And we're sorry for setting fire to a house that was already becoming abandoned by audiences." It's never too late to atone for your sins, dudes.

Related: what the Left focused on in the 1980s.

October 28, 2013

Cohort effects in homelessness: Lifelong higher risk for those born near beginning of crime wave

Tonight I ran into an unfamiliar situation -- a panhandler under the age of 40. I hadn't thought about their age structure before, but meeting someone not too different from me was strange. Subtle speech patterns, mannerisms, slang, and so on made this guy stand out as someone from my group.

Most homeless folks these days do seem to be older than they used to be. I didn't live in an urban area as a kid, but whenever I did go into the city or visit other cities, I don't recall the homeless being that old back then. And sure enough, demographers have found that the homeless population has been aging since the start of their data in the late 1980s. See here for a short review article, or here for an NPR story with an accompanying info-graphic.

No matter when the data were collected, the peak of the age distribution consistently points to people born in the later '50s and earlier '60s, ground zero being around 1960. And it's not just a reflection of the general population's age curve shifting in the older direction. Even accounting for what chunk of the overall population is made up of late Boomers, they always show higher relative risk for being homeless. That's for the single male population, who are the majority.

Homeless families headed by single mothers (the other sub-population) show women aged 18-23 as having the greatest risk, no matter what year, hence no cohort effects. Their turn at homelessness is temporary and facultative, not part of some deeper set of traits that they have and will carry with them through life.

Before trying to figure out what about their upbringing and maturation was distinct, we should see if there's another time when the homeless were old. It keeps showing up, so you shouldn't be surprised to hear that it was the mid-century. The article above refers to studies done on the skid row phenomenon of the mid-century:

Researchers of skid row found that the population consisted almost exclusively of older, single white male households, with three-quarters of the men over the age of 45 (Blumberg et al., 1960).

So, the median age must have been higher than 45, perhaps around 55 or 60, which would place their births around the turn of the century. Just as the homicide rate was beginning to rise (peaking in 1933).

My vague impression of the tramp and hobo phenomenon during the 1920s was that it was younger and more footloose men in their 20s and 30s, not middle-aged and borderline elderly men living on skid row. This would have been similar to the situation of the 1980s, when the homeless population had grown much younger since the mid-century, and before the return back to the mid-century pattern during the past 20-25 years.

Here are a few pictures of hobos from the Jazz Age, and they look relatively young and fit, probably in their 30s, and here is a gallery of mostly mid-century skid row in San Francisco. Notice how they get older and older, with baldness or white hair becoming common by the '50s and '60s. Here is a gallery of homeless folks in San Francisco in the late '80s, and notice how younger they've gotten. Here is a representative shot of today's much older homeless, not too different in age from the man in this shot of Detroit's skid row in the '50s.

The main difference between Millennial and mid-century fates of the lowest of the economic ladder is that their standard of living was much better back then than today. Inequality was low and still falling back then. At least they were probably living in a flophouse rather than having nowhere to live, and being vulnerable to theft and violence from living out in open spaces all the time. Doesn't seem like they got harassed as much either -- "go get a job you bum!" -- and the winos were left to drink their misery away. I wouldn't want either fate, but drinking and falling asleep in a doorway sounds better than getting hostile looks in between having my stuff stolen by other bums out in the open.

What makes people born around the start of a crime wave the most likely to live a transient lifestyle, whether they were born circa 1900 or 1960? They're the first cohort not to be exposed even somewhat to the sheltering and smothering culture of a falling-crime period (Mom-ism was the norm in Victorian and mid-century times). Parents start to put away their Dr. Spock manuals and instead tell their kids that once they're 18, they're out of the house. Independence becomes valued over pampering.

And as everyone begins to emerge from their cocoons, those born around the time of the shift will assume that life is supposed to be lived out in public, not holed up indoors all day. Those born too much earlier will have experience with the cocooning norm pulling them the other way, and those born much later will have experience with the next wave of cocooning. But if you were born around 1960, your entire formative experiences -- up through age 30 -- were untouched by mid-century or Millennial cocooning. They'll feel the most at home outside the home.

Then there's the drug culture, whose trends nearly overlap the trends for crime and outgoing lifestyles. Homeless people, winos, bums, denizens of skid row usually have some degree of substance abuse problems, some very serious, making it hard to pick themselves up and lead a productive life again. Someone born around 1960 grew up unaffected by the mid-century and Millennial anti-drug zeitgeist. Drugs were just becoming popular when they were small children, and would only surge in popularity throughout their formative years. The drug culture seems to peak about 5-10 years after the homicide rate does, so that's well beyond age 30 for the 1960 cohort.

Both of these factors appear necessary -- you could always shoot up in a place where somebody you knew was letting you stay, particularly if you didn't like venturing outside. Homelessness requires not only some kind of drug habit or severe mental problems, but also the push from others and the desire from oneself to want to get out of the house and stay out there.

Nobody seems to care about homelessness as an issue anymore, as social isolation closes other people off from your view, and out of sight, out of mind. People dwell on their own troubles more, and a sense of existential malaise begins to set in. In outgoing times, people are too focused on others, including how they can help them through their troubles.

Woodstock fans who tuned out before pop culture reached its peak in the '80s might not even know about Live Aid and the other zillion national benefit concerts for famine relief in East Africa in the mid-'80s. And in fact, political content (including "social issues") in pop music lyrics reached a peak in the late '80s and early '90s. "Luka" by Suzanne Vega, "Man In the Mirror" by Michael Jackson, "Something to Believe In" by Poison, "Runaway Train" by Soul Asylum, and so on. All those touch on homelessness except "Luka," which is about child abuse.

Incidentally, Suzanne Vega was born in '59, Michael Jackson in '58, Bret Michaels from Poison in '63, and Dave Pirner from Soul Asylum in '64. It's easier to see a soaring problem when it's striking your generation-mates, and that also makes it easier to try to reach out to those who need it most. It's harder when you have to cross generation lines.

That effect is amplified by which generation is getting hit -- namely, the one that experiences rising social connectedness all throughout their formative years. If it were Millennials who had to help other Millennials, or Silents helping Silents, forget about it. But for the generation that were children in the '60s, teenagers in the '70s, and young adults in the '80s -- it's second nature to tune in to what other people's situation is, help if they need it, or ask if you need it from others.

I suppose that's another key difference across the generations too -- how comfortable are you asking others for help? Silents and Millennials are withdrawn and would see it as a sign of weakness, an embarrassment, and an awkward thing that would need to be repaid, making them feel in debt. You aren't going to get by very well as a wino, homeless, or whatever, unless you can reach out to strangers for assistance.

October 27, 2013

Hidden homos: Is Sandra Bullock a male-to-female transsexual?

UPDATE 5/24/15: A key piece of evidence is a video interview that Sandra Bullock gave in 1989, way before she was famous, in which she looks disturbingly like a man in drag, and where she uses flamingly gay theater kid mannerisms and facial expressions. The original webpage that I linked to, at ET Online, has been removed in its entirety, not just the video clip. Thankfully there is a copy of it at YouTube: watch it here.

Perhaps the original was just one of those webpages that the hosts decide to remove after awhile to free up space, or perhaps Sandra Bullock's publicists are doing their damnedest to erase all evidence of her man-in-drag identity from the internet. [End of update]

While investigating the gay rumors about Ryan Reynolds on Google Images, I stumbled across a number in which he's shown with Sandra Bullock. Not being much of a contempo movie fan, my image of her is somewhat hazy -- more from 1994, when my friends and I saw Speed about 40 times that summer. Something looked a bit off about her, so I did a separate image search for her...

Holy shit, dudes, those pictures demolished my gaydar, like there's no "11" high enough on the dial to register how flaaaaaming she comes off. And it's not just a picture here or there -- every one either reads as a nervous gay wreck struggling to keep his poise and not be found out, or outright flaming theater kid hysterical emotional ejaculation. Then I found pictures of her when she was a child and a teenager, and the impression is even stronger then. Hang with me if you want to see just how warped the modern movie industry icons are, or bail now and spare yourself the brain-bleaching you'd need to unremember what you're about to see.

Side note: normally I'd refer to male-to-female transsexuals as "he." It just sounds jarring to be told that a news item is about a male who believes he's female, and to keep hearing "she" "she" "she". In this case, though, it would be more jarring to hear "he" referring to Sandra Bullock. So I'm going to stick with calling S.B. "she".

Again, the point of this series is not to feed our lurid fascination with celebs. I could care less about any of them. The point is rather to uncover how pervasive the homosexual influence has been in the pop culture of the past 20 years, for better or worse (mostly worse). They don't just make movies; they use their vast cultural influence to try to mold the public's perceptions of what the world is like, and how it ought to be. And it would be hard to point to a more influential Hollywood actress nowadays than S.B.

Has anyone else thought the same thing I did? Most definitely, and it's such an unlikely thing to think about a major actress. If so many people are independently wondering the same way-out-in-left-field thing about her, can we all be wrong?

Google's auto-complete thing only gives four answers these days. But merely typing in "was sandr" gives a fourth answer of "was sandra bullock born a man" -- wow, good guess, Google! It's almost uncanny how you leapt to that conclusion from one and a half words. Try "is sandra bullock" -- no luck there, but try "is sandra bullock a" -- "man" is the first answer, ahead of "republican," "scientologist," etc. Even when you use "an," where the next word should begin with a vowel, the third answer shows that Google still thinks you actually meant to ask is she a "man." How about "is sandra bullock r" -- "really a man" is the second answer, behind "racist" and ahead of "rescued in gravity" and "related to seth bullock". And "sandra bullock ad" -- "adam's apple" on the third answer. Glad to know I'm not the only one here.

Now onto the pictures. Please, do an image search for her name and wade through the evidence yourself, it'll blow your mind if you have an even halfway functioning gaydar. Note her inability to form a normal adult smile, with the lip corners pulled back and up, with only the top row of teeth (or none) showing, with the outer corners of the eyes crinkled, and with raised cheeks pushing up the eyes into a squint. Every one of her expressions looks like an infantilized Peter Pan queer, including her attempt to look seductive -- which reads more like a small child aping a femme fatale movie star, coming off campy and vampy.

Nervous gay laugh: here and here. Note much space visible under top row of teeth, lips pulled sideways rather than back-and-up -- center of top lip is clearly above the height of the corners.

"I've been a bad widdle boy" smile: here and here. Note lips pressed together with more wide-open eyes than squinty-crinkled eyes.

Gay bedroom eyes: here, here, and especially these two here and here (oops, an earlier version had a third pic that was probably Natalie Portman). Forehead bent slightly forward, narrowed eyes, or at least drooping upper eyelid, plus subtly raised eyebrows, blatantly and obviously asking a question -- "So... you feel like... y'know?" Real women are never that direct and obvious. If they do wear those eyes, it's part of a kabuki face / hammed-up performance, whereas S.B. is making these eyes sincerely. That's how she truly feels a seductive glance would look coming from a real woman. Closeted gay male celebrities always make these eyes too.

Can't be gay without some kiddie surprised eyebrows raised straight up and/or mouth agape: herehere, and here.

Over-the-top eager intensity when holding her adopted kid: here. Note the lack of a nurturing instinct, as that's not the kind of face a new mommy ever makes. Compare to homo blogger Perez Hilton and infant son here.

These facial expressions are the most important to establish that she is gay, not merely mannish-looking for a woman. Specifically, a gay male. But she does also look mannish, unlike the boyish queers --

Angular jaw: here and every other picture. Thick/wide neck with Adam's apple: here, here, and here. Jutting brow ridge / recessed eyes: here and here. Man hands to end all man hands: here, here, and here. Man calves: here. A few man-woman gestalt pictures: here and here (is that Christian Slater driving the bus in Speed?).

Now for the before-she-was-big evidence, which would seem to leave little room for doubt. Here is a must-watch interview (dead link fixed) from 1989 about her role as the new Bionic Woman (if only they knew). Like I said, no deviance dial can go high enough to measure the full shock of all those 'mo mannerisms. Was the interviewer told not to ask "So, uh.... you're a dude, right? Why should you get to play a woman?"

Here she is sometime in the late '80s or early '90s (obvious neck, jaw, chin, and brow). Here are a few with her looking like a flaming theater kid on the cheerleading squad, and her prom date apparently oblivious of her obvious Adam's apple and man jaw. Here she is making that gay seduction face as early as high school. A high school yearbook picture showing a boy with Farrah Fawcett hair and a sweater covering his Adam's apple. Finally, here is a gallery to click through of her as a teenager, clearly showing a teenage boy's face and hands.

In fact, there are pictures of S.B. wearing frilly dresses and long hair cut like a girl's as early as her pre-pubescent childhood -- here and here -- meaning she must have felt this inclination from a very young age.

If she is a male-to-female transsexual, she would fall into the category discussed by J. Michael Bailey as very effeminate gay men who have been that way from childhood. She clearly had hormone treatments around the time of puberty, since she looks way more feminine than a normal teenage or 20-something boy would have. Still, it looks to have affected her body shape and fat deposition more than her skeletal structure, prompting lots of inquiring minds to ask if she was born with an X and a Y chromosome.

So judge for yourself -- is America's Sweetheart actually made of slugs and snails and puppy dog tails?

October 26, 2013

Celebrity super-couples: Pervasive vs. minimal presence over time

Browsing the archives at Blind Gossip has alerted me to how many fake celeb relationships and marriages there are today. The sham couple is cooked up by a PR office, and negotiated between publicists and agents, to Maximize Brand Value for each star. It'll be pure synergy, baby, you can't lose.

I knew of the most famous ones, but not caring about the celeb world, the majority I was unaware of. And even some of the ones I'd known about, I didn't suspect that the palpable lack of chemistry was due to the relationship being 100% phony, chalking it up instead to them being typical asexual Millennials, like that guy and girl from the Twilight movies.

The Wikipedia article on super-couples points out Will Smith and Jada Pinkett, who married in 1997, as the earliest of the current wave of cynical sham spouses. Who knows, there could've been a somewhat earlier lower-profile case, but let's say the wave began no earlier than the mid-'90s. Obviously it shows no signs of abating as of 2013.

When was the last high point? How else could it turn out -- the mid-century. E.g.:

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard
Tracy and Hepburn
Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball
Bogie and Bacall
Cronyn and Tandy
Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe
Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee
Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward

As with today's mania, several of those couples were not just any two stars in the movie industry, but were on-screen as well as off-screen couples.

There are some counter-examples from the rising-crime Jazz Age -- Burns and Allen, Fairbanks and Pickford -- and the rising-crime New Wave Age -- Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Cash and June Carter. But they appear to be the exception rather than the rule, and none of the listed couples were married in the '70s or '80s. (At the end of the post, I'll take a deeper look at icons of the '80s and show that there really was no obsession with super-couples back then.)

Why were super-couples the thing during the mid-century and Millennial eras? The view from today would point to greed, careerism, eagerness to exploit fans, etc. But that would seem to come from a rising-inequality attitude, and they had the opposite attitude during the mid-century -- you were supposed to play down your greedy careerist ambitions. Also, we should've seen a surge of super-couples during the '80s, yet we didn't.

It matches the cocooning / rising-crime trend instead, and it's not hard to explain the desire to see super-couples as part of a cocooning mood. You're too afraid to interact with others, develop relationships, and share exciting experiences in your own life, so you might as well try to live vicariously through a super-couple whose romance is in the public eye and whose details are available for cheap consumption through the ubiquitous celeb gossip magazines. That also explains why they have to be on-screen couples as well -- audiences could try to ignore their non-relationship off-screen, but it sure would be easier to keep the illusion going if they were involved on-screen too.

But while cocooning leads to voyeurism and make-believe rather than approaching and participating., socially connected and fun-loving people couldn't care less what's going on in the love life of the singer on the radio, or the star of the movie they're watching with their main squeeze. Their life already has meaning, belonging, and satisfaction.

That's on the audience's side, but let's not overlook the effects of the zeitgeist on the stars themselves. I think each industry gets more incestuous during cocooning times, and they're more hesitant or fearful to date and marry outside their industry -- including so far outside that the other person is not even a big-name celebrity at all. In the good old days, the lead singer of a rock band would be dating some model, not another pop music star. Lower trust these days means be wary of people outside the industry, hence John Mayer and Katy Perry getting together.

Now let's take a look back at who was married to who in the '80s, a period that gets nothing but vile slander poured on it for being one of materialism, greed, and superficial obsession with fashion. If that view were true, then PR offices could have pushed celeb super-couples on audiences, and they would have been only too happy to lap it up. Yet it's nearly impossible to find super-couples from the big names of the time.

I'm going to stick with 1984 so that I don't have to examine every single year in detail, and because that was such an iconic year for American culture. I'm also going to look only at women, since society is more anxious about whether they're married yet and to whom, and to cut down on my work load by half.

Start with the top-grossing movies of 1984. Ghostbusters star Sigourney Weaver is not dating Bill Murray, but gets married that year to an avant-garde theater director you've never heard of. Kate Capshaw, the love interest in Temple of Doom, only marries the director Steven Spielberg 7 years later, and is not part of a celeb couple. Phoebe Cates from Gremlins isn't involved with co-star Zach Galligan off-screen, but will marry actor Kevin Kline in '89 (by which time she isn't still in the limelight enough to qualify as a super-couple, and she retired from acting not long afterward). How about Ralph "The Karate Kid" Macchio and Elisabeth "Ali with an I" Shue? Nope, and she didn't marry until 10 years later, to director Davis Guggenheim. Kim Cattrall of Police Academy was married to a German architect who you haven't heard of.

None of the cast from Footloose were dating each other; Lori Singer was married to some guy who doesn't have a Wikipedia entry. Kathleen Turner was not dating Michael Douglas, her co-star in Romancing the Stone -- that year she married a real estate entrepreneur. Did Daryl Hannah run around with Tom Hanks to shamelessly promote Splash? No, and it doesn't look like she was dating anyone big in the industry at all. And so on and so forth.

It seems like actresses were allowed to have their own lives in the '80s. They felt trusting enough to date and marry far outside their industry, and audiences were too busy sharing experiences with their own somebody special to escape into movie-land for vicarious fulfillment.

Same thing with singers of the top songs of the year. Tina Turner had split with Ike. Deniece Williams wasn't being promoted by a producer who she was with. In general, one-hit wonders cannot be part of a super-couple, and the '80s was full of them. Multi-hit wonder Cyndi Lauper was not attached either, and wouldn't marry until '91 (to an actor you probably haven't heard of). None of the Pointer Sisters was part of a celeb couple. Laura Branigan was married to a lawyer, and didn't dump him for a pop singer when she hit it big. Sheila E. was a protege of Prince, so I assume he banged her, but they were not marketed as a visible super-couple. Annie Lennox of Eurythmics was married to a random Hare Krishna dude. Olivia Newton-John that year married an unknown backup dancer from Xanadu who she'd met during filming in 1980.

Pat Benatar was married to her guitar player, though he was not a rock celeb in his own right, so they were not a super-couple. The brunette babe from Bananarama would later date the other guy from Wham!, but not at this point in time. Belinda Carlisle was not married, though in 1986 she would marry the future producer of sex, lies, and videotape -- but who was not a big name in any field at the time. Christine McVie had divorced her bandmate in Fleetwood Mac, and would marry her keyboard player shortly -- again, he being an unknown, and so not forming a super-couple.

And what about the Queen of Pop herself? During her rise to fame in '84, Madonna had not even begun dating Sean Penn, who she wouldn't marry until '85. She did date the mostly unknown producer Jellybean Benitez, but was focusing her energies more on, well, inventing Madonna and taking the world by storm. Even when she began dating Penn, he was not an A-list star -- more or less known only for playing Spicoli in Fast Times back in '82. Penn wouldn't become a big name in Hollywood until the mid-'90s, after Carlito's Way and Dead Man Walking. He'd begun dating actress Robin Wright several years earlier, after breaking up with Madonna in '89. Penn and Wright would qualify more as a super-couple, and they weren't an item until the early '90s, marrying in '96.

As it happens, the entertainment world did take a stab at marketing Madonna and Sean Penn as a super-couple by making a movie, Shanghai Surprise (1986), starring them both. Can't say I've seen it -- in fact, I'd never heard of it until I researched this post. It flopped in theaters, was panned by critics, and won the Golden Raspberry for Worst Actress (Madonna). Audiences back then just didn't care about, "OMG, that real-life couple is hooking up on the big screen! My dream has come true, and my life finally has meaning!" The Eighties had its fair share of ditzes and airheads, but not so many dorks and losers.

(Related: this post pointed out the lack of celeb obsession surrounding Madonna in 1985, when she was interviewed for Seventeen magazine, yet only given a small blurb on the corner of the cover, squeezed out by a huge close-up of an anonymous teen model.)

It's wild to think how free everybody was to live their own lives back in the Reagan years. Only socially isolated folks desperately glom onto celebrities to vicariously feel a sense of direction and achievement, and celeb super-couples to fill the void in their romantic life left by profound distrust of the opposite sex (whether they're single or in an emotionally distant relationship).

October 25, 2013

Hidden homos: Tim Allen of Home Improvement and Toy Story?

This blind item claims that an actor with "several successful hit projects in different areas of the entertainment business" is "either bisexual or gay." (NB: so-called bisexual men are typically gay.) What's so shocking about that? Well, he's not the ordinary no-duh kind of queer entertainer like Ricky Martin. "He is probably considered a real 'man’s man' to most men; he reminds women of their own husbands; and even kids like him." Sadly, he's not keeping his thoughts to himself, but acting on his urges:

He bought a condo in a large city for himself and his boyfriend. The boyfriend is very cute and is quite a bit younger than the star. They were reportedly very sweet and affectionate with each other while shopping for their little love nest.

Looking through the consensus guesses at Blind Gossip, the only one that makes sense is Tim Allen of Home Improvement, the Toy Story franchise, the Santa Clause movies, and current TV show Last Man Standing. None of the other popular guesses are much of a hit with children, unless kindergarteners are secretly addicted to re-runs of Married With Children or Everybody Loves Raymond. Romano is a voice on the Ice Age movies for kids, but is not currently in a "starring role" on TV. The all-ages appeal points more clearly to Tim Allen rather than Ed O'Neill or Ray Romano.

Any of these guys batting for the other team, though, would make us re-evaluate a major supposedly masculine role model. So I checked up on all of them with Google Images. Ray Romano gives off only faint gay vibes, mostly nervousness every time he's smiling, yet nothing strong. Ed O'Neill doesn't give off gay vibes at all. Man, I was really worried about checking into that one -- don't let it be the anti-PC folk hero, Al "four touchdowns in a single game" Bundy! Nope, he's safe.

Then it came to the star of Home Improvement... and now I see why he chose the nickname Tim the Toolman. I was never a big fan of Home Improvement and didn't really see or get into anything else he did, so I didn't have a strong memory of what he looked like. Yet even back in the '90s, pictures show him having that characteristic Peter Pan homo expression -- eyebrows raised straight up in surprise, mouth agape, the stereotypical "surprised" face that small children make so often, given how novel everything is when you're that young.

Caricatured surprise face pictures here, here, here.

Come to think of it -- didn't his character always strike you as more of a man-child than a jaded mature man? That was the whole joke -- what would happen if you let a hyperactive child grab hold of turbo-charged power tools? Wacky, Looney Tunes stuff! He wasn't a man's man, but a child aping a grown-up. That's the issue of larger importance here: big deal if some random celeb is a closeted queer, this guy was supposed to represent masculinity and give the mass male audience someone to emulate during the height of '90s feminazi castration. Yet Jill totally wore the pants around the house, and was far wiser than her doofus dad husband who always caved in, sulking off to his man cave. Can it be an accident that this iconic character was conceived of and played by a homosexual?

His recent pictures make him look more-or-less out of the closet, as far as facial expressions and mannerisms go. If I saw him hanging out at a Starbucks and didn't know who he was, I'd swear he was there creepily scoping out the young dudes. First the pictures that ought to set off anyone's gaydar who lives in a place packed with fudgepackers, then some clarification about what features jump out as gay.

No single one is damning, but rather the overall pattern. See for example here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Initial hints include a 60 y.o. wearing fashionably spiky hair, tinted eyeglasses (in two colors, no less -- lavender and yellow), tight-fitting "edgy" leather jacket, and generally trying to look way too trendy for his age. The mostly black palette points to the boy toy he's trying to impress living on the East Coast, probably New York.

It's the facial expressions, though, that give him a very gay look. The defining trait of gays is their infantilization ("girls yucky"). Bowing the head while looking ahead creates the "surprised" eyebrows and shows submission rather than mature dominance (chin up). Guys, when was the last time you gave anyone that "looking over top of your glasses" look with your lips pursed, like "I'm such a little stinker!"? Never. Allen also has the distinctive pursing of the mouth like he's holding back a chuckle. It's what children do when they've played a trick on you but you haven't found out what it is yet.

His smile rarely shows lips that are raised-at-the-corners, but rather pulled sideways, the upper lip running straight across, with his lower lip pushed down and out somewhat, revealing some of his lower row of teeth (which never show in a true adult smile). It gives it a "tense agape mouth" look like when babies smile. Google Image search "baby smile" and you'll see their lips are pulled sideways at the corners, not back-and-up like grown-ups do, and reveal their lower teeth (or the place where they'll be if they're not in yet).

For comparison, here is a picture of a baby with the pursed lips and eyebrow-raised stare (another), and here is one of a baby smiling (another).

For someone who's supposed to be a real man's man, you never see him giving an authoritative glare. He looks like a giddy overgrown baby.

Infantilized facial expressions plus overly fashionable 60 y.o. who's not in the fashion industry himself -- well, judge for yourself.

October 24, 2013

How ubiquitous are crypto-homos among pop culture stars these days?

I've had a major change of view regarding how prevalent homosexuals have been in the pop culture of the past 20 years. Before, I thought, "Gee, there used to be quite a few gay singers in the '80s, yet you don't really see too many at the top of the charts these days." My interpretation was that after the Great Big Coming Out of the '90s, gays felt less motivation to earn the public's attention, now that they were getting it lavished on them for free (since being stingy with attention for faggots = bigotry).

But just to be sure, I figured it was finally worth checking up on any gay rumors. Before I was looking at lists of "out" gay singers, actors, etc. -- letting others do the work for me, since I don't really know who more than a handful of today's mopey singers and mumbling actors are.

So after some trial-and-error, I found "the #1 blind item site in the world" -- blindgossip.com. "Blind item" meaning a piece of gossip with the names removed. As far as I could tell, they had a good track record. Then, whoever their users agreed were gay, I'd investigate on Google Images. And holy shit, those "lists of LGBT actors," singers, etc., are way under-counting them. They only include the person on the list if they are confirmed "out."

It's bizarre how the Wikipedia nerds set such a high bar of evidence for claims about, say, Enrique Iglesias being gay. They don't hesitate to mention that he is male, that he is of part Andalusian ancestry, and so on, without sending a blood sample off to the lab to confirm that he actually has one X and one Y chromosome, that his genetic profile fits best with a Spanish origin, etc. But to mention that Enrique Iglesias is gay, there must be a public gay sex tape, or a self-issued declaration of his bent for getting boffed by boys -- something irrefutable.

Discussing his facial expressions, mannerisms, speech, and other behavior is considered beyond the pale -- dealing in stereotypes. Yet homosexuality is a full-blown syndrome with myriad symptoms, only one of which is wanting to commit unnatural acts with other men. Hence the gays' own open use of the concept "gaydar." It's only when normal people apply their experience-derived intuition toward detecting whether some dude is gay, straight, or in the closet, that the informed hunch becomes homophobic.

Even the gossip hounds seem to restrict their vision to sightings of X and Y caught kissing, with only a few venturing to explain what easily observable features ping their gaydar about the pair. But just as you don't have to see a person walk into a gynecologist's office to conclude she's female, you don't need to catch two men in bed to tell they're queers.

Perhaps sometime soon I'll go over some specific cases of how you can tell that some celebrity is gay just by using Google Images to check the consensus of a gay-related thread at Blind Gossip. Real quick, though, I was able to easily confirm the hunches about the gayness of Enrique Iglesias, Ryan Seacrest, Bradley Cooper, Chace Crawford, and Kevin Jonas (among many others); to strongly suspect George Clooney and Will Smith; and to reject claims about Hugh Jackman and Tom Cruise (as in, no way, no day).

But consider one final example that I would not have thought of before reading Blind Gossip -- Gavin Rossdale, current husband of Gwen Stefani and former MTV staple with Bush during the alterna heyday of the mid-1990s. Before stardom, in his late teens he was a cross-dresser and in a relationship with another high-profile cross-dresser: see pictures here, here, and here. You can tell by the sincere look on his face that he wasn't just doing it as a joke.

When that news broke, he waved it away as confused youthful experimentation. However, a blind item from June 2013 reads:

This music veteran is pregnant and ecstatic. On the other hand, her husband is wondering if he is the father. You see, lately he has preferred the company of other men to her.

There were many guesses that it was Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale, although she was not known to be pregnant at the time. Well, just this week she announced her pregnancy by showing a baby bump for cameras, and you can tell that it's been growing for some months. This implicates her in the blind item, and means that Rossdale hasn't given up on guys after all.

Why do any of these examples matter? Cumulatively, they show how widespread the crypto-homo influence has been in the pop culture of the past 20 years. No wonder it's been so damn lame, emo, campy, and spazzy. There were a handful of queers active in '80s pop culture, but nowhere near this many. The even more disturbing conclusion is that mainstream audiences have grown gayer and gayer in their tastes over that time. It's not as though preferences stayed the same, only now with more gays supplying the demand. Rather gays, whose defining trait is Peter Pan-ishness, have thrived as audience tastes have grown more and more infantilized.

October 21, 2013

The culture of honor as a deterrent to rape: Theory and data from across countries

[Updated in the comments with data on German and Indian states]

Emily Yoffe wrote a column in Slate about the urgent need to stop lying to young women, and to warn them of the danger of being raped after a night of binge drinking that could render them incapable of defending themselves against a sleazoid who wouldn't mind having sex with a girl who was passed out. The critical response was just as cogent, insightful, and charitable as you would predict for a debate of the 21st century. In a follow-up column she defended herself against the backlash.

She framed her argument in feminist terms -- educating women so that they can take fuller control over their lives, and thereby avoid one of the more unsettling harms that face college students (and by extension, any group of women who binge drink in the company of strange men, perhaps in unfamiliar places). This feminist approach seems like the only way for concerned people to get a respectable hearing -- but then I value my dignity over my respectability.

I think we have far more to learn from masculine cultures of honor about how to prevent rape, whether in the violent sense or the "taking advantage of a passed out drunk" sense. It wouldn't occur to respectable people to take such a cross-cultural look because everybody knows that those culture of honor societies are notoriously anti-feminist -- and therefore must be plagued by rape even more than us civilized culture of law societies. In the mainstream mind, whether liberal or conservative, us looking to Armenia for rape prevention strategies would be like a pudgy American turning to the Samoans for dietary advice.

And yet in 2006, the rape rate in Armenia was just 0.2 vs. 46 for Sweden (per 100,000 population) -- or 230 times higher in homeland of IKEA. In fact, feminazi Scandinavia, the Baltics, and northern Europe in general fares rather pathetically when compared to the Balkans, Near East, and broader Mediterranean area. Here is a table listing countries by rape rate across several recent years.

Before examining the table in detail, what is the basic link between a culture of honor and low rape rates? Quite simply, they are not afraid to fight fire with fire. If someone rapes an Armenian girl, all of her male kinsmen will come out of the woodwork to track down the offender, light his body on fire, and have it torn to pieces by wild horses. Sounds like a strong deterrent to me.

In such cultures, female sexuality is a commodity owned and controlled by her male blood relatives -- if you want her, you need to seek and obtain approval from those men first -- hence rape is a trespass upon those men's property (the woman's body). Because men in honor-driven cultures strive to avenge all trespasses, especially the more flagrant ones, killing the rapist of a female relative is just a special case of their obsession with driving away trespassers. And this basic mindset can be extended, by the notion of "fictive kin," to protect "our women" in the community, even if they happen to be unrelated to us.

Way too much attention gets devoted to how cultures of honor treat the female victim of rape, which include varying degrees of casting her out. They're not blaming her for the attack, but viewing her more as a car that's been vandalized and wrecked by a criminal. The criminal they've already executed -- now what to do with the car that may be damaged beyond repair? Can't exactly have it sitting out in the driveway where the neighbors could see it. It looks bad in itself, and gives us a reputation as the kind of men who can't defend their own car from getting busted up by vandals. Better then to sequester it from public view, perhaps having to get rid of it altogether if it's beyond repair.

You don't have to identify with that attitude, but this exercise in cross-cultural empathy lets us understand the logic of ostracizing the female victim in cultures of honor. Once you view female sexuality as a commodity owned and controlled by the male relatives, the entire paragraph above follows naturally.

Sure, even us part or full hillbillies who find a lot of value in honor over legalism will find it hard to go all the way toward viewing female sexuality in strictly kin-controlled-commodity terms. But we could certainly gain a lot by moving farther in that direction, reversing the course we're on toward telling people that everything will be OK because laws and law enforcement are there to prevent and rescue them from danger.

That optimism in statist social engineering is particularly naive when it comes to preventing and punishing rape. It is the most notoriously murky of the violent crimes to judge the facts of the case, unlike a murder which leaves a dead body with signs of trauma. Typically all that can be ascertained in a rape complaint is if intercourse took place, not necessarily whether force was involved. And as a source in Yoffe's column points out, "drunken sex" shades into "sex with a dazed or passed-out girl," and there's no bright line crossed. Hence a neutral third party like the courts will be justifiably reluctant to prosecute a complaint, compared to a murder. Policemen could patrol homicidal hot spots, but are they really going to stroll around every college party giving a nasty stare to would-be feeler-uppers? Get real.

All of that is to say that we need more personally motivated parties to prevent and punish rape, like the girl's male kinsmen -- or fictive kinsmen. Don't let women move too far away from their kin. And more cohesive communities would result in much the same protective behavior. Hence, rather than supporting the "do whatever you want" and "don't hold me to any communal norms," which lead to atomization and lack of concern for your fellow man (or woman), we need to tell folks that they can't do whatever they want, that they're being held to communal standards of appropriate behavior -- like, say, not downing 12 drinks in 2 hours and passing out near a group of strange males. Hard to believe, but somehow the world kept spinning just fine when that was the norm.

In cultures of honor, women rarely go around without an escort or chaperon -- especially around groups of strange men in unfamiliar places. We don't have to go all the way toward locking them up in the harem, of course. But an honor-based attitude would have us looking after unattended or isolated women in such circumstances, not out of a white knight sense of rescuing the unfortunate, but because those women are our women, and you have to go through us first if you want to try your luck with the ladies. Honor-driven policing of female behavior would severely cut down on the prevalence of unattended or isolated women in a dazed or passed-out state near strange men outside the home -- one of the least favorable circumstances for women wishing to avoid rape.

Getting back to the table, all sorts of control variables need to be taken into account when comparing countries. For one, which year or years do you choose? If you sort them within each year, the basic ranking doesn't seem to change that much. But they might change a bit more if there's a rising or falling trend in any of the countries -- 10 or 20 years out, the rising ones will, well, rise, and the falling ones will fall in the ranking. For the rest of the post, I'll refer to 2006 estimates.

Wealth or income won't matter since there are too many rich and poor countries at each level of rape rates. The murder rate, or some other measure of violent tendencies, would be necessary to control for how likely folks are to resort to violence to solve life's problems. I think the best catch-all variable to control for is rough geographic region. That will lessen the impact of race, testosterone level of local males, level of development, recent history, and so on.

Looking on a region-by-region basis, we see that cultures of honor have lower rape rates than more progressive cultures of law. Generally that maps onto pastoralism vs. intensive agriculture, though not perfectly. For example, England and Wales had a rape rate of 26, Scotland 18, and Ireland 9. Ask paparazzi-swatter Alec Baldwin if he has any ideas about how Irish culture keeps women better protected from the unwanted advances of strange males.

Belgium has a rate of 31, France 16 (only part of which is the weenie frog culture of law up in the north -- see the post below on French highlanders kicking out the Gypsies), Switzerland 9, and Italy 8. Moving to the southwest, Spain's is 5, and Portugal's 3.

Among Germanic nations, the rate descends from the highs of Scandinavia -- 46 for Sweden, 24 for Iceland (yes, you read that correctly), 18 for Norway, and a more respectable 10 for Denmark -- down through a rate of 10 in Germany (which is split between legalists in the northeast and more honor-driven southerners), reaching a low of 9 in both Switzerland and Austria.

By my hypothesis, the Balto-Slavic countries of the Great European Plain ought to have higher rates than the parts of Europe farther south and west. Yet they're about the same or slightly lower, depending on exactly which countries you compare. However, within Eastern Europe, there's a clear gradient from higher rates in the northern half than in the Balkans. There's 11 for Estonia, 7 for Lithuania and Moldova, 6 for Russia and Latvia, 5 for the Czech Republic, Poland, and Romania, 4 for Belarus, 3 for Slovakia, and 2 for Ukraine. In the honor-obsessed and blood-feuding Balkan mountain region, the maximum is only 5 for Macedonia, falling to 4 for Croatia and Bulgaria, 3 for Slovenia and Turkey, 2 for Montenegro and Greece, and 1 for Albania, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It's like they say -- an armed society is a polite society.

So, even on a smaller scale we see the relationship hold up, as Albanians and Montenegrins and Serbs are ground zero for the Balkan culture of honor (kanun, osveta), and not quite so much Bulgaria and Croatia. And sure enough, it is the former that have less than half the rape rates of the latter.

Semitic or Indo-European-speaking countries in the Near and Middle East with rates below 1 -- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and Tajikistan.

It looks like the Turkic and Mongolian speaking pastoralists have higher rates than that, from below 1 in Turkmenistan to a high of 12 in Mongolia. Although they're pastoralists, they do fall outside the standard realm of "cultures of honor," which is more circum-Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and (partly) South Asian. Francisco Gil-White studied nomadic pastoralists in western Mongolia and thought they had something approximating a culture of honor, but not a fully developed one like you saw in the American South. So, sticking with the degree of honor rather than of pastoralism, the place of the Central Asian cases between the Near East and Northern Europe supports the hypothesis.

What about all of the countries with primarily sub-Saharan black populations? They have pretty high rape rates, with South Africa far out in the lead at 138. These also support the hypothesis, as most of those places lack a culture of honor, living as tropical horticulturalists. Culture of law folks often confuse an emphasis on toughness with the culture of honor, and lord knows that black folks want it to be known that you don't mess around with them. However, honor's twin is hospitality -- all of the canonical cultures of honor are also cultures of hospitality. They are more precisely speaking "cultures of reciprocity."

Bantu speakers and their off-shoots outside of Africa don't have reputations as cultures of hospitality, where taking care of guests and strangers passing through is a sacred duty. It's more dog-eat-dog. And they aren't obsessed with making sure their womenfolk stay sexually pure. For one thing, black women are too willful, and for another, black men just don't care that much at the end of the day. In pastoralist groups, men are responsible for just about all of the food production (maintaining the herds), while horticulturalist women do more productive work than the men (tending the gardens). So how can the men threaten the women to obey their moral sexual code? If she wants to put herself in harm's way, her male kinsmen aren't going to surround her and tell her, "The hell you are." What can you do? -- she's an Independent Woman.

Unfortunately, according to the global data, countries with lots of Independent Women have far higher rape rates than those where they're more under-watch or even under lock and key.

The same applies to largely Amerindian countries in the New World that also tend to have high rape rates, such as Nicaragua at 28, Panama and Peru at 24, El Salvador at 19, and so on. Don't confuse toughness or thuggishness with honor -- if they aren't also obsessed with hospitality, and with clamping down on women who would flaunt their sexuality, they aren't cultures of honor.

I don't claim that the level of honor-focus in a culture is all that determines the rape rate, or that it would be simple to switch from a more law-oriented to a more honor-oriented set of norms. But we've been there before, and fairly recently, so we can get there again. It'll be easier where the population is of Mediterranean, Celtic, and Franco-German highlander stock, and harder elsewhere -- especially where they're more African and Amerindian.

And I don't envision the change as one of policy so much as a process of "consciousness-raising" across the grassroots level, as the activists would have said. For those of us from hilly/mountain roots, it's just awakening a drive that's already there deep down. As for the more legalistic Saxons and Scandinavians -- we'll just have to exert a little peer pressure to make them go along. Failing that, we can form our own regions and do as we see best. If the blonds are willing to trade off higher rape rates for a lower obsession with honor, then that's their prerogative, warped as we may find it.

October 19, 2013

Optimal adulteration: Subtle food poisoning by cheap Chinese suppliers

I should've known better, given the never-ending stream of news reports of how the Chinese subtly adulterate stuff that they sell to us, in order to keep their costs lower than other countries and fool us gullible Americans who are looking to save a little bit on price. Medicine, drywall, food, it doesn't matter.

Tonight I got a sub-clinical case of neurotoxic shellfish poisoning from eating smoked oysters and smoked mussels that both listed China as the country of origin. Well, at least I hope it's only sub-clinical -- if you don't see any new posts here for a week, it's been fun. And I want my blog to be buried, not cremated like some godless heathen.

I've bought smoked oysters several times in the past week, but I recall them coming from South Korea, and choosing those over the other brands specifically because I didn't want to eat anything that ever went near China. These ones tonight cost nearly half as much, and they were from name brands Napoleon and Crown Prince, so I figured why not try it out.

Famous last words, eh?

Within 10 minutes of digging in, my head felt different, although at first it was more of a buzzed feeling than anything unfamiliar. Then I got so fatigued I had to take an hour nap at like 9pm -- not normal. When I got up, I felt mildly nauseous, though luckily without any intestinal discomfort. I couldn't walk with a normal stride and could only step in shorter shuffles. Couldn't coordinate my arms like normal either. When I spoke, it seemed like every other sentence was marked by a Spoonerism -- like to describe how my head felt, "it's not a starp and shabbing pain..." A couple "p"s turned into "f"s, and "sh"s into "s"s. And speech was awkward and halting. The whole time I felt short of breath, and my eyes were sensitive to light.

I'm better now several hours later, though the headache is lingering.

Will this episode show up in official statistics? Nope, it wasn't bad enough that I needed to see a doctor. Will I write in to the company whose product I bought, or notify the supermarket retailer that had them on the shelves? Nope, not like they'd do anything without a note from the doctor, so to speak.

And so, the cheap Chinese suppliers who defraud and harm American consumers will get off the hook again. It's only when they really botch the job, like loading up their infant formula with junk to increase the protein content, or do likewise to the pet food they sell us, that a scandal erupts.

But as this case tonight shows, those are only the more-extreme events, with less-extreme ones striking us every time we consume cheap junk from China. By now they must be close to mastering the fine art of optimal adulteration of goods. Cram too much junk in it, or leave too much good stuff out, and the symptoms will be loud and clear, and the jig will be up.

But if you don't scam the consumer at all, why, that's perfectly good profit you're throwing away by using unnecessarily high-quality stuff, unnecessarily cleaning the product of potential pollutants. Adulterate the product just enough to save on costs and enjoy a higher profit than your competitors, and so that the harmful effects will be mild enough to go unreported by the suckers who buy the stuff.

If they no complain, they not really sick anyway! Only trying to get back money for acceptable product! Nothing perfect in this world -- so buyer beware! Not our fault if consumer is typical lazy American, and not check safety of the food we sell them!

Boycott all this flimflam bullshit coming out of amoral China. Not only do they deserve it, you'll be healthier for it too.

October 18, 2013

French highlanders expel Gypsy family back to other side of civilizational fault-line

Comment dit-on en français, "Don't let the door hitcha where the good Lord splitcha"?

Parisian students and human rights groups are protesting the expulsion of an immigrant student from France to Kosovo. Mainstream reports gloss over some details, save them till the end, or just don't report them at all. But good old Al Jazeera America tells it like it is in their article. Turns out she's not just any old immigrant, but a Gypsy whose family of a father and six children were in France illegally.

But what I really wanted to know was -- where did this take place? What happened to "where" in the list of the 5 W's? You hear about black immigrants burning cars in the banlieues of Paris fairly often, with none of the criminals getting shipped back to Africa. Something must be different about wherever this recent event took place.

Of the handful of articles I read, only the Al Jazeera one told me -- Levier, in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France. That part of the country is situated in the Jura mountains along the Swiss border. Even today the local economy reflects its pastoralist roots, with a majority of "agriculture" in the region being devoted to dairy (38%) and cattle farming (17%).

Other hot-spots of mass deportations of the Gypsies during the past several years are Lyon and Grenoble, which lie in the southeastern area dominated by the Alps. I don't think that's only a matter of where the Gypsies have set up camp, as the Northern Plain city of Lille shipped a bunch of them back as well. The lowlanders just don't seem as motivated or enthusiastic as the highlanders to purge the body of parasites.

(You see the same difference in America between lowland east Texas, around Houston, and highland Arizona -- both hit hard by massive Mexican immigration, but the former tolerating it and the latter pushing back.)

I touched on this theme in an earlier post about the (agro-)pastoralist peoples of Europe kicking out the Jews a long, long time ago, while the intensive agriculturalists put up with them for the most part, aside from a pogrom every 200 years or so. In Europe topography is a strong predictor of subsistence mode, with seed-scatterers squatting on the fertile lowland plains, and livestock herders grazing their animals on pastures in the hills and mountains. So Jews wound up as a middleman minority class primarily in the Great European Plain.

Could something similar be going on with Gypsies? You don't really find them on the hilly/mountain side of the civilizational fault-line in Europe (map here). It's true that you don't really find them in northern part of the Great Plain, like Poland or Lithuania, but that's probably because of the role of the Ottoman Empire. An earlier post tossed out the idea that the forced multiculturalism of the Ottoman Empire selected for cultural and genetic traits in Gypsies that adapted them to parasitism of the host society, whose rabble were not allowed to respond -- under threat from the Ottoman elite. Civil unrest would only disrupt tax flows, so don't any of you make waves.

Within the area formerly dominated or threatened by the Ottoman Empire, though, I think there is an effect of topography on how entrenched the Gypsies are. If you look at maps of Roma in Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary (their main countries of concentration), they do seem to prefer plains to mountains, though by how much is hard to say from eye-balling. It's not as obvious as the Jewish case, where they all poured into the plains, and hardly settled at all in the mountains. At least, Gypsies prefer those countries in Central/Southeastern Europe that have some amount of lowlands, and shy away from more strictly mountainous places like Bosnia, Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, and so on.

In fact, we can make the prediction that they will never thrive in the Balkan mountains as they would in the Polish and Lithuanian plains, assuming they ever migrate up there in large numbers to test it out. After they get enough doors slammed in their face in hilly/mountain Western Europe, I'm sure they'll settle for second-best and hit up Northeastern Europe. Or, shoot, if they can handle cold weather, watch them abuse the asylum system of socialist Scandinavia and take the Nords for a ride.

If there is some effect of highland living on resistance to Gypsy colonization, that would show that such people are robust in general against foreign invaders. It wouldn't matter whether it was an affluent bureaucratic class like the Jews or a criminal underclass like the Gypsies -- both groups would, in their own appropriate way, get the message of "You don't gotta go home, butcha can't stay here." We gave you a chance before we knew you very well, and you either betrayed our trust or wore out your welcome, so hospitality time is over.

Most people who complain about the backward, violent, vengeful side of the Culture of Honor, as contrasted with the progressive, peaceful, neutral-third-party side of the Culture of Law, overlook honor's twin -- hospitality. Honor means, you fuck me, I fuck you ten times harder back. But hospitality means, you host me, I'll host you ten times as lavishly next time around. The Culture of Honor is therefore really a Culture of Reciprocity, only one-half of which is "an eye for an eye." Guided by a framework of hospitality, pastoralist peoples can expel an immigrant group for having worn out its welcome.

But the Culture of Law says that, however the laws get made, we all have to respect them and can't take the law into our own hands. So if the official policy is to welcome the poor, tired, huddled masses -- even criminal underclass Gypsies -- welp, guess we just have to go along with it, whether we like it or not. It's not our place to deport a parasitic or predatory group, however much we might want to -- that's for the lawmakers and their neutral, distant enforcers to take care of.

The French solution has been to say, "Screw the law, get this scum outta here." Use whatever legalistic pretext you have to in order to appease the Culture of Law weenies, but make it clear to the Gypsy squatters that it's really a matter of them having worn out their welcome as guests, and don't come back unless you want trouble. Find some other place to parasitize where they won't push back. And Gypsies are no fools -- they know that their parasitism relies on tricking the host into thinking they're poor unfortunate guests in need of sanctuary. Once the jig is up, might as well move on -- not like they have an army to take the host society on.

France gets a lot of shit from the more rambunctious parts of the Anglo-Celtic world, but they're only partly a bureaucratic, legalistic culture. Good thing they have those highland regions to inject some honor-and-hospitality thinking back into their national discourse. Come to think of it, the Germanic migrations didn't leave much of a genetic footprint in the southern direction, so I wouldn't be surprised if the people from Levier or Lyon or Grenoble are old-school Celtic hillbillies. They're friendly if you're friendly first, but if they can tell you're a parasite, they'll run you out of town. Although I'm not sure if they have banjo-pickin' getaway music to play on the car stereo in Lyon...

October 17, 2013

Big kids in strollers

I stumbled on this gallery of pictures showing Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rosdale taking their kids for a little, er, stroll in the park:

Notice anything weird? Those kids are too damn old to be pushed around in strollers. The girl is 5, and the boy is 7 -- yes, 7 years old and still being chauffeured in a stroller by his mommy. Odds that he'll start producing testosterone at age 12? Zero. Amount of compensation the parents will pay when this coddled wuss gets dumped into society, spewing brat pollution? Zilch. Level of shame felt by the father? Nada.

I'd seen this off and on within the past several years, but not too often since I try to avoid places colonized by helicopter parents and their spoiled spawn. But apparently this has been a thing for awhile. There's a tumblr going back to 2009 called Toobigforstroller, which shames the most egregious cases where the kid looks closer to 10 years old.

Warning: do not read this while already angry, but it does provide valuable insight into the rationalizing powers of today's OCD, self-absorbed mom-zilla. ("Why you probably need a stroller for your 'big kid' at Disney World".) TL;DR -- psycho-mom insists that her 6 y.o. boy ride around in a stroller on family trip, castrated husband caves in, then foam-padded kids feel like taking naps while at Disney World instead of running around having fun.

She complains about the need for strollers because her son gets tired easily -- gee, do ya think that might be because his legs never get any practice hitting the ground? Of course your kid will walk like a cripple if you bind his feet from birth through kindergarten. What a dingbat. And the worst part of all is that the little dork himself actually craves the security of the stroller even at 6 years old, like he never grew beyond his "bankie" phase. Totally fucking shameless.

Is this just another status contest among decadent blue staters? Unfortunately not. A quick look at Walmart's stroller selection online shows that the best-selling ones are mostly over $100. And it's not elites shopping at Walmart online, but more the middle class. Click on the "quick view," and you'll see that the most common weight and height tolerance is for kids up to 40 pounds and 40" tall, although quite a few go up to 50 pounds, and not nearly as many are meant for 30 pounds.

Consulting this handy chart of ideal weight and height measurements for growing children, that means that strollers today are made at least for 5 year-olds, but can easily be found to accommodate 7 year-olds, with 3 year-olds being the minimum they'll go.

It's not the '80s anymore, when strollers were made only for infants and some toddlers. I would've kicked my dad in the nuts if he had tried to 3-point-harness me into some over-sized cocoon for babies, and so would anybody else my age. Thankfully our parents let us grow up according to schedule back then, and didn't rob us of our basic human self-respect. Why then does our generation insist on depriving its children of the growth-encouraging upbringing that we had when we were little?

Bubble-wrapping your kid's body weakens its bones and muscles, and mind-binding turns his brain into mush. Look upon the end result of the Dr. Spock revival of the last 20-odd years. When "family values" becomes a shameless code for infantilization and breaking the family off from the community, it's time for a counter-revolution.

Related: an earlier post on letting big kids wear diapers, popular in both the mid-century and Millennial eras.

October 16, 2013

Smug dismissal of "pseudoscience" -- what makes an attractive target, like handwriting analysis?

While looking through pictures of celebrity autographs over the years, I found this article about how people aren't willing to pay much for them these days because Millennial handwriting is so ugly. Miley Cyrus' looks on the masculine side of the female spectrum, and Justin Bieber's looks too feminine and immature. That does seem new, and a quick check of some sex symbols from about 20 years ago does indeed show livelier and girlier autographs. Here is Paula Abdul's, and here is Kelly Kapowski's.

Would there be some way to develop that hunch, looking at what the stylistic changes over the past generation reveal about the changing social-cultural mood? Not according to the editors of the Wikipedia article on handwriting analysis ("graphology"), who immediately dismiss the whole field as "the pseudoscientific [1][2] study and analysis of handwriting, especially in relation to human psychology." Welp, guess that settles that!

Unlike the incurious spergs at Wikipedia, I actually poked around the data in the literature that they cite, primarily the meta-analysis by Dean ("The Bottom Line: Effect Size") in an edited volume by Beyerstein & Beyerstein (1992), The Write Stuff: Evaluations of Graphology -- The Study of Handwriting Analysis. He finds correlations of between 0.1 and 0.2 when people try to predict job performance or personality from a person's handwriting. That may not be impressive, and is certainly well lower than what the graphologist gurus would have you believe, but it still contradicts the denialist claims in the article that the approach is "essentially worthless," has "zero validity," etc. Nothing to see here, folks, just move on...

If people couldn't discern anything about a person's personality and behavior from their handwriting, those correlations ought to be 0. In fact, it looks like the handwriting experts were poorer at guessing than psychologists with no training in handwriting analysis. That suggests that the field was like surgery and medicine before Harvey, Lister, et al -- that the self-designated experts were blinded by a bogus theory, while naive folks were better at detecting patterns. Not that the patterns weren't there to be seen.

As far as I can tell, the handwriting experts did not take an empirical approach to positing what links there were between handwriting and personality. Some influential gurus formulated what they found the most plausible links, and their disciples ran with it (a leftward slant means X, a rightward slant means Y). An empirical approach would simply give people a personality test, get a handwriting sample, and use their own brains or perhaps computers to try to notice what features distinguish the extraverts' handwriting styles from the introverts'. Then test that first guess with a brand new sample to see if the link holds up.

The goal of science is not to see who wins in a contest of foresight, but who is the best at noticing patterns and explaining them.

This case study is not terribly interesting in itself, but it shows the general contours of the broader War on Pseudoscience by non-practicing scientists. I don't care if you don't have a degree or credential -- if you've never collected, coded, analyzed, and attempted to explain a bunch of data (not even necessarily your own), and then passed your ideas along to others who gave feedback, then you have no clue what is and is not science, what does or does not follow the scientific method, etc. Notice how so many of the warmongers are writers, professional atheists, and magicians like The Amazing Randi and Penn & Teller.

Look over Wikipedia's list of topics characterized as pseudoscience, and see what they have in common. Not what their merits are as hypotheses, research programs, etc. I'm sure that like handwriting analysis, a good deal of these approaches are marked by over-inflated claims by their guru/disciple supporters. And that others have been more or less vindicated despite the spastic backlash by skeptics, such as phrenology, which can only be considered a pseudoscience if we're willing to dismiss all pre-heliocentric astronomy as pseudoscience. Modern psychology and neuroscience take it for granted that certain parts of the brain deal with different things, including both cognitive and emotional traits.

Likewise, I remain agnostic about the claims of palmistry until I look into the literature (given what I saw with graphology), but they were correct that certain seemingly arbitrary physical features of the hand can tell us much about someone's personality and behavior. Namely, the explosion of work on digit ratio, or how the length of your ring finger compares to your pointer finger. How could it possibly? I mean, that sounds, like, way more made-up than whether one crease crosses another on your palm. But thankfully, there have been enough curious people to look into it, rather than assume that their kneejerk doubt renders the relationship impossible. Or rather, INCONCEIVABLE!

Yet some topics clearly get the skeptics' panties twisted in a wad more than others. It looks to me like it's any idea that posits a link between an outward, physical substance and a hidden, inner quality. Such ideas fly in the face of the proverb "Never judge a book by its cover." Thus, handwriting reveals nothing about personality, and certain substances cannot improve (or even affect) overall health and well-being.

Physical is allowed to affect physical -- just look at how few targets there are in the field of physics and engineering, even though cranks and wackos put forth no shortage of ideas about non-mainstream physical science. The alternative medicine targets do not belong here, as those claims are not about how one substance affects another substance, say how crystals affect liver enzyme levels. Rather, they are about how a physical thing affects the hidden inner quality called "health," "well-being," or whatever.

Also, immaterial or informational stuff is allowed to influence other kinds of immaterial/informational stuff. Just look at the shameful absence of theories like stereotype threat, i.e. the theory that blacks (or whoever) under-perform because they feel the urge to confirm negative stereotypes about their group that are circulating in the surrounding dominant culture. Or that women feel like nurturing babies only because Society Told Them To. Nope, nothing pseudoscientific about that. (However, googling "sexist pseudoscience" brings up over 2 million results, whining about how, say, ovary function might affect voting preferences.)

Why not include the entire field of macroeconomics?

Then there are pop theories that ascribe all sorts of evil beliefs and attitudes to people with one or another political orientation or religious view. Sure, we all know that one set of beliefs could influence another set of beliefs, and one set of attitudes could influence another set of attitudes. But for skeptics, none of those theories could possibly be pseudoscientific, and others really-scientific. If it's informational affecting informational, it could still be an inaccurate theory -- but not pseuuuudoscientiiiific...

What is it about the autistic mind that gets irritated at the very suggestion that material and immaterial things might be related? Here's a representative answer from the entry on biorhythms in the list above: "No biophysical mechanism of action has been discovered..." This objection will sound painfully familiar to anyone who's ever hung around academics. If I can't articulate the mechanism underlying some link between A and B, then there can be no such link between A and B. Welp, guess that settles that!

Sufferers of Autism Spectrum Disorders tend to be obsessed with mechanisms, so an inability to point that out when describing a pattern will trigger their DOES NOT COMPUTE alarm. In their minds, a mechanism must be easier to understand or accept if it links two things of the same type of stuff -- physical and physical, or immaterial and immaterial. "That just makes better sense." I don't know, I don't find it hard to believe that people with certain personality differences have distinguishing facial features, that homosexuals speak with an impossible-to-miss "gay voice," and so on.

And the autistic mind is obsessed with compartmentalizing things, which would seem to be necessary in accounting for why only some kinds of mechanistic links annoy them. All material things are boxed off in the material realm, and all immaterial things are boxed off in their separate realm, and the rigid boundaries make it impossible for one to affect the other. Hence pseudoscience is the scientific study of how the corporeal affects or reveals the influence of the ethereal.

Autistic individuals also have quite limited social experiences, and their social perception is blunted even if they did interact with other people. Both deficits give them little in the way of observations ("data") to intuitively test any mind-body relationships they read about. I see this as a less important factor, though, since they don't have experience with physics experiments or stereotype threat either, yet they don't hold same-realm links up to such intense scrutiny as they do with physical-mental links.

You'll notice that "pseudoscience!" sperg-outs reinforce the politically correct hegemony of the times, although it would be a mistake to attribute much power to the incurious skeptics themselves. They're only given access to such a loud megaphone because those with real political and economic influence see them as useful foot soldiers in the propaganda war. The nerds at Wikipedia are more of a tip-of-the-iceberg group, whereas academics and journalists who publish in the War on Pseudoscience earn a living thanks to large corporations and government funding.

You're far more likely to get picked up by the New York Times if your article "debunks" the pseudoscience of craniometry than if it took on crystal therapy instead. You're being paid to create a hostile thought environment for anyone who notices that in many contexts you can judge a book by its cover.