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August 24, 2005 - August 17, 2005

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Dowdifying Dowd

Back from her multi-month vacation hiatus.*

"I mean, I like to exercise... (I'm) psychopathic about it."
-- Maureen Dowd

PROFESSIONAL JOURNALIST. Like many people, I suppose, I used to read Maureen Dowd's columns and think, "What the hell is she talking about?" She makes references to current events, but the landscape is always rearranged in ways that make it oddly remote from reality, as if she were living in some alternate universe. At that point, I could have taken the wise course followed by thousands of other readers and simply shrugged, turned on my heel, and walked away. But there was something about her that gnawed at me, as if, contrary to superficial appearances, there really was a sentient human being lurking inside her delusionary world of mangled quotes and malicious mixed metaphors.

Then I read the following passage in one of her columns from January 2005:

In all those great Tracy/Hepburn movies more than a half-century ago, it was the snap and crackle of a romance between equals that was so exciting. Moviemakers these days seem far more interested in the soothing aura of romances between unequals.

In James Brooks's "Spanglish," Adam Sandler, as a Los Angeles chef, falls for his hot Mexican maid. The maid, who cleans up after Mr. Sandler without being able to speak English, is presented as the ideal woman. The wife, played by Téa Leoni, is repellent: a jangly, yakking, overachieving, overexercised, unfaithful, shallow she-monster who has just lost her job with a commercial design firm. Picture Faye Dunaway in "Network" if she'd had to stay home, or Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" without the charm.

The same attraction of unequals animated Richard Curtis's "Love Actually," a 2003 holiday hit. The witty and sophisticated British prime minister, played by Hugh Grant, falls for the chubby girl who wheels the tea and scones into his office. A businessman married to the substantial Emma Thompson falls for his sultry secretary. A writer falls for his maid, who speaks only Portuguese.

(I wonder if the trend in making maids who don't speak English heroines is related to the trend of guys who like to watch Kelly Ripa in the morning with the sound turned off?)

Art is imitating life, turning women who seek equality into selfish narcissists and objects of rejection, rather than affection.

I realized, of course, that the whole column was really about herself , and then in an instant I realized that all her columns are really about herself. The distorted politcal topology she delineates day after day is , in fact, an accurate rendition of the "Universe of One" inhabited by a very lonely, insecure, and needy lady named Maureen Dowd.

If you'll think about this notion for a moment, it makes such great sense that it seems to explain everything that is otherwise unexplainable in her whacked-out commentary. She doesn't much care about using leader dots (that's ellipses for the snobbish among you) to transform the meaning of quotes into terms that suit her because she is accurately quoting all that she really hears or listens to. She still does it even though her journalistic sins in this regard have been formally recognized:

Dowd's critics, especially James Taranto, have often accused her of editing quotes and adding ellipses so as to change the quotes' intended meanings; the word "dowdify" has been coined to describe this habit. The word has been used as parlance among conservative journalists and bloggers to describe any wilful misinterpretation of a quote.

But she cares no more than Mrs. Malaprop about the ignominy of having such a pattern of blunders named for her. Why? She regards herself as a wit, and she believes that wit exists not to illuminate the topic but the speaker. She is always performing in a drawing room peopled by those whose admiration she desires. Every word of her writing reflects this perspective. She affects a chatty, breezy style reminiscent of cocktail party gossip as her preferred voice for condemning outrageous global-scale crimes against humanity. She is deaf to the dissonance of a catty little girl voice issuing from the throne of the star chamber. She cannot hear herself because she is always merely seeing herself talking brilliantly. Amd that's what she wants from us. When she refers to Rumsfeld as "Rummy" she practically insists that we see her scowling and gesticulating in her couture dress while sipping a glass of chic white wine. The real purpose of calling him Rummy is to convey her superiority to him, and the reason for talking about national and international policy is the same. She is showing us exactly where she wishes to be placed in the scheme of things, which is always, invariably, at the center of attention.

It gets easy to understand Maureen Dowd's columns when you have internalized this model of her universe. Whatever she seems to be writing about, she is always talking about something that is obsessing or troubling her in her own life at the moment. If you doubt it, take a look at her recent columns about her favorite bete-noire George W. Bush. These are important because they mark her return after a mysterious "hiatus" from her job at the New York Times, which began at least as early as the first week of June:

Where's MoDo?...  Have you noticed any of President Bush's critics at the New York Times or Air America Radio being shipped off to a prison camp lately? Me, neither, although the official explanation for Maureen Dowd's current hiatus is still pending....

Yet in her very first column after returning to work, she wrote:

It's amazing that the White House does not have the elementary shrewdness to have Mr. Bush simply walk down the driveway and hear the woman out, or invite her in for a cup of tea. But W., who has spent nearly 20 percent of his presidency at his ranch, is burrowed into his five-week vacation and two-hour daily workouts. He may be in great shape, but Iraq sure isn't.

It's worth stressing the fact that her little razor slash about a five-week absence from the White House comes hard on the heels of her own (minimum) eight-week absence from her duties at the Times. When we dial in the "Universe of One" effect, we can see that Maureen is clearly troubled about some aspect of her own vacation hiatus. But what? We can obtain a clue here by examining the always fertile realm of Dowdian equivalencies. For example, she chooses to equate the President's physical "shape" with the plight, the nationwide "shape," of Iraq. She may regard this as wit, but for those who are truly concerned with the suffering of U.S. troops and Iraqis in wartime, the jest falls a bit flat. It's flippant, and because it calls more attention to a turn of phrase than to the elements it manipulates, it's more self-aggrandizing of the writer than demonstrative of anything like truth. The Iraq War is being pressed into service as a punchline, nothing else.

But Dowd has somehow equated them in her own mind. It must be that there is something cosmically important about the term "great shape." This is confirmed by another of her equivalencies, seen in the phrase "five week vacation and two-hour daily workouts." The thoughtful reader must conclude that Dowd has the subject of exercise on her mind.

Can we possibly prove such a theory? Yes. Turning to her latest column, (titled My Private Idaho, and note the possessive pronoun) we read [emphases mine]:

W. vacationed so hard in Texas he got bushed. He needed a vacation from his vacation.

The most rested president in American history headed West yesterday to get away from his Western getaway - and the mushrooming Crawford Woodstock - and spend a couple of days at the Tamarack Resort in the rural Idaho mountains.

"I'm kind of hangin' loose, as they say," he told reporters.

As The Financial Times noted, Mr. Bush is acting positively French in his love of le loafing, with 339 days at his ranch since he took office - nearly a year out of his five. Most Americans, on the other hand, take fewer vacations than anyone else in the developed world (even the Japanese), averaging only 13 to 16 days off a year.

W. didn't go alone, of course. Just as he took his beloved feather pillow on the road during his 2000 campaign, now he takes his beloved bike. An Air Force One steward tenderly unloaded W.'s $3,000 Trek Fuel mountain bike when they landed in Boise.

Gas is guzzling toward $3 a gallon. U.S. troop casualties in Iraq are at their highest levels since the invasion. As Donald Rumsfeld conceded yesterday, "The lethality, however, is up." Afghanistan's getting more dangerous, too. The defense secretary says he's raising troop levels in both places for coming elections.

So our overextended troops must prepare for more forced rotations, while the president hangs loose.

I mean, I like to exercise, but W. is psychopathic about it. He interviewed one potential Supreme Court nominee, Harvie Wilkinson III, by asking him how much he exercised. Last winter, Mr. Bush was obsessed with his love handles, telling people he was determined to get rid of seven pounds.

Shouldn't the president worry more about body armor than body fat?

I think we can now begin to put the pieces together. Beginning in January, Maureen decided she was fed up with not being able to find a boyfriend who was her social superior (or at least her equal). Returning to that column, we can now read it with the following emphases:

In all those great Tracy/Hepburn movies more than a half-century ago, it was the snap and crackle of a romance between equals that was so exciting. Moviemakers these days seem far more interested in the soothing aura of romances between unequals.

In James Brooks's "Spanglish," Adam Sandler, as a Los Angeles chef, falls for his hot Mexican maid. The maid, who cleans up after Mr. Sandler without being able to speak English, is presented as the ideal woman. The wife, played by Téa Leoni, is repellent: a jangly, yakking, overachieving, overexercised, unfaithful, shallow she-monster who has just lost her job with a commercial design firm. Picture Faye Dunaway in "Network" if she'd had to stay home, or Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" without the charm.

The same attraction of unequals animated Richard Curtis's "Love Actually," a 2003 holiday hit. The witty and sophisticated British prime minister, played by Hugh Grant, falls for the chubby girl who wheels the tea and scones into his office. A businessman married to the substantial Emma Thompson falls for his sultry secretary. A writer falls for his maid, who speaks only Portuguese.

(I wonder if the trend in making maids who don't speak English heroines is related to the trend of guys who like to watch Kelly Ripa in the morning with the sound turned off?)

Art is imitating life, turning women who seek equality into selfish narcissists and objects of rejection, rather than affection.

It would seem that her affair with a very powerful and well connected married man had just gone south. She thought he viewed her as an equal -- and definitely more acceptable than the "jangly.. overexercised" wife -- but he dumped her for a mere chick, probably a famous but callow Kelly Ripa type. Interestingly enough, the exercise motif attaches to both rivals, including Kelly:

Kelly Ripa gained an amazing 80 pounds in her recent pregnancy and was back to her svelte physique in weeks.

And so Maureen finally decided that the only way to get her lover back, or to find an equally powerful replacement, was to get her aging body into peak condition. She hired a personal trainer and even went to the extreme length of taking a leave of absence from the New York Times, the better to commit herself to getting into "great shape."

Sadly, though, where the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak. Either she lacked the discipline to stick to her regimen, or her pecs and glutes and abdominals were too far gone. At any rate, she "got bushed" and finally took "a vacation from (her) vacation." Nothing has improved. She feels guilty. All this time, she should have been caring "more for body armor than body fat." And she's wasted all those months on what turned out to be no more than  "le loafing." Worse, the old boyfriend, whose heart she thought might grow fonder in her absence, refused to meet with her; he didn't even have the common decency to "simply walk down the driveway and hear (her) out, or invite her in for a cup of tea."

That's what's so supremely galling about George W. Bush. All those supremely powerful men are the same. Everything comes easily to them, and the women they should be consorting with are simply used and -- as soon as they make any demands -- contemptuously discarded as "selfish narcissists and objects of rejection." Nothing works. If you make a name for yourself by being fabulously witty about torture and roadside bombs, they dismiss you as a bitch who talks too much and leave you for the first bimbo with a great ass "who speaks only Portuguese." Then, if you stoop to catering to their basest instincts by slaving in the gym to develop a body to die for, they completely forget about you while you're away. Life sucks. It's kind of like a long bloody war of attrition in the middle east where you just can't win and you can't seem to walk away, and all the time the men who are responsible for making you so miserable just lie and smile and play with their toys and get away with everything.

It's hard to know what to say. Maureen, we're sorry things aren't working out for you. Maybe Rummy really will leave his wife one day. You can never tell.

*To be perfectly honest, this photo isn't completely 100 percent accurate. But it's true in certain terms. Think of it as a photographic, uh, ellipsis.




Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Still Mad

Shidooby.

     Alice had been looking over his shoulder with some curiosity. `What a funny watch!' she remarked. `It tells the day of the month, and doesn't tell what o'clock it is!'
     `Why should it?' muttered the Hatter. `Does your watch tell you what year it is?'
     `Of course not,' Alice replied very readily: `but that's because it stays the same year for such a long time together.'
     `Which is just the case with mine,' said the Hatter.
  Alice felt dreadfully puzzled. The Hatter's remark seemed to have no sort of meaning in it, and yet it was certainly English. "I don't think I understand," she said politely.

TOURING AGAIN. The Rolling Stones are back, and some people seem to be upset that their new album contains a song (or two) that are sharply and expressly critical of the Bush administration. The offending cut is called "Sweet Neocon":

The song is part of “A Bigger Bang,“ to be released September 6, which the Stones say is their first studio disc with totally new material in eight years.
 
An excerpt from the song was published by Newsweek magazine this week, which described the Stones’ hard-hitting lyrics as “political“.

“You call yourself a Christian, I call you a hypocrite, You call yourself a patriot, well I think you’re full of s---,“ the lyric goes.

(M)any, including influential English review New Musical Express, have ventured the opinion that the song is specifically about US President George W. Bush.

The band denies it, but ambiguously so.

Frankly, it's hard to get too upset about this. What's really annoying about rock stars involving themselves in politics is their self-righteous seriousness -- Bruce Springsteen touring to raise money for John Kerry, Linda Ronstadt lecturing her concert audiences about foreign policy, the Dixie Chicks sounding off about Bush on foreign soil. "Sweet Neocon" might have been slightly irksome had Jagger recorded it on a solo album, but when it issues from the legendary Rolling Stones, it gets processed through the wry, mocking tone that infuses all their music. It doesn't matter what they say about it; the most sententious and serious lyric in the world becomes a satire of itself when Mick's voice snarls it and Keith's guitar spanks it on stage.

That's why I'll offer a sincere warning to the left -- don't make the mistake of thinking the Stones have joined your, or any, movement. They are first, last, and always the "greatest rock and roll band in the world," and the world they have lived in for the past forty-some years bears little relation to anyone else's. Just when you think you have their attention, they'll flash you an evil grin and disappear back into rock-star wonderland.

By the same token, I'll urge any offended Christians to remember that "Sweet Neocon's" charge of hypocrisy falls from the same wagging tongue that ended the radical era with these lyrics:

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul and faith
And I was ’round when jesus christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name.

If you've forgotten this, he hasn't. While he was singing it at Altamont, people were dying in the audience. It became more than just a lyric that day, and it's impossible to know just what he means by seeming to mount a pulpit at this point in time.  It's probably impossible for him to know what he means by it.  Is he half aware that some of that old persona still clings to him and that anything he says will be taken -- by those who have half a memory or half a brain -- with a grain of salt the size of a stone? Ask him. He'll probably flash that grin again, the one that has made him the world's oldest bad boy and the only surviving (make that thriving) dinosaur of an age that is long gone and yet still viciously present under the skin of a brand new century. Maybe there's "no sort of meaning in it," and maybe there's another sort of meaning than he or we suspect.


Mick at the infamous Altamont concert -- and as seen by guitarist Ron Wood

The one thing we can all count on is this: he knows what madness is, and he knows that he knows it from personal experience. Does he ever read his own lyrics the same way twice? I know I don't. You do what you want.




Saturday, August 20, 2005


Radio Alert!

Tune in -- Monday, August 22nd, 2005 at 9:35 a.m. EDT -- The Eric Hogue Show -- KTKZ AM 1380 in Sacramento, CA.

Mr. Hogue used InstaPunk's post regarding Cindy Sheehan quite extensively in the Friday show and wants to talk to the man himself -- on the air.

KTKZ provides audio streaming, so you can get the program over the net (Just click on the LISTEN tab at the top of the blog). Get ready Sacramento. We're pretty used to InstaPunk around here. You're going to get the truth -- straight up -- like we like our Single Barrel down here on the plantation.

 

UPDATE:  For those who heard the broadcast and would like to read the posts discussed -- here are the links:
  Stepping In It -- the original Cindy Sheehan post.
  Reforming The System -- a look at government without chickenhawks.
  The Boomer Bible -- see for yourself how R. F. Laird has
    dissected the modern mind.




Thursday, August 18, 2005


Reforming the System


Something called the Newman Anti-War Collage

THE BEST WE CAN HOPE FOR. Last night, the local Philadelphia news programs led their broadcasts with the jubilant report that vigils were underway in the city, led by mothers of U.S. troops in Iraq, demanding that the war be brought to an immediate end and that all the boys be brought back home. We saw mothers singing, mothers speaking in pulpits, candles burning... all very moving stuff in the liturgical trappings of a religion that seems to be despised except when it can serve as a useful prop. And that's all it was, because the nature of the moral authority that we were being urged to acknowledge was laid out clearly by Maureen Dowd in one of her recent columns:

(Bush's) humanitarianism will remain inhumane as long as he fails to understand that the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute.

This does seem to be the position of those who hold that it's impermissible to level criticism of any kind against a grieving mother who calls the President a terrorist and claims that America is not worth dying for.

Don't worry, my dear progressives. I'm not launching another attack on Cindy Sheehan. I'm just trying to reconcile a couple of contradictory elements that seem to be very much in play here, and I'm hoping to resolve them in a constructive manner.

Contradictions? Well, yeah. Anyone perusing the internet orgy surrounding the Sheehan Show can't avoid noticing that whenever a commentator does criticize maternal grief as a credential for making foreign policy, he is likely to be branded with the charge of being a "chickenhawk," a term that flew hither and yon at great velocity during the 2004 Presidential campaign, when progressives discovered they had a war veteran on their ticket while the Republicans didn't.

During that campaign, it seemed the only moral authority belonged to those who had served not just in the military, but in combat. Everyone else was disqualified from having or expressing any opinion whatsoever about the war.

So now I'm curious: what form of government would sort out the competing claims of moral authority and keep the childless non-veterans in their place? Could it still offer freedom and equality to any but a handful of its citizens?

It seemed an impossible task at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I began to see a way through the complexities. The first step is to figure out what it is progressives mean when they talk about freedom and the role of government in securing that freedom. They understand freedom in terms of what human beings should be free from rather than free to do, since doers are almost invariably oppressors. Therefore, the basic human rights they are concerned with are the right to be free from unequal treatment of any kind, ill health, pollution, sudden death of any kind, offensive rhetoric of the kind that might diminish self esteem, and any kind of restraint on rhetoric that might be construed as immoral in traditional (i.e., religious) terms.

It's also important to understand the meaning of equality in their context, which has to do with long-term social justice. For example, it's useful to think of the people who are alive now as mere representatives of all the foregoing generations of whatever groups they belong to by virtue of race and sex. Since women have been, reputedly, treated less than equally in the past, they can be treated more than equally now and in the foreseeable future in order to make up for the continuing agonies of their dead forebears. (And conservatives claim progressives don't believe in life after death...!)

Obviously, such definitions of freedom and equality make it clear that liberty in the American tradition is obsolete. To ensure true freedom and equality, certain discriminations do have to be effected. Howard Stern can expect to be free from Christian moralizing that might make him feel like a sinner, while Christians cannot expect to be free from Howard Stern's particular brand of life philosophy. White men cannot expect to be admitted to colleges until after many compensations have been made to women and people of color; any sense of liberty they feel to pursue their own archaic definition of equality is harmful to society as a whole and should be strenuously discouraged.

Note that once we have defined equality in historical rather than census terms, most of the problems associated with establishing a progressive and free democracy have been swept away. Ironically, there is even constitutional precedent for what must be done. The founders declared black Americans to be counted as three-fifths of a person for counting purposes and did not accord them a vote. The right of infinite compensation thus enables the progressive state to assign percentages of voting weight according to the degree of historical injustice that must be compensated for. For example, white men who have never served in combat could be assigned a voting weight of 0 percent, while mothers who have lost children in combat could be assigned a voting weight of 100 percent, and all other groups and constituencies would lie somewhere in between.

We're ready now to start envisioning the actual government(s) that could enforce the progressive concepts of freedom and equality. First, at the level of national government, the only citizens who could be authorized to hold office are combat veterans and parents who have lost children in combat (except possibly grieving white fathers, who are probably deadbeat dads anyway, if not the child abusers who brainwashed their sons into volunteering for death in battle.)

This may seem a fractious group to put into high office, but in fact, it works out rather neatly. Yes, many combat veterans tend to be hawks about foreign policy, but many veterans still fall into the category of converted pacifists. And yes, not all parents of those killed in combat are reliably pacifist either, but chances are that the hawkishness they display on occasion has more to do with not tarnishing the memory of their lost child by craven surrender than with being  gung ho to start a new conflict. The split between hawks and doves in this groups will, at any rate, form the basis for political parties, and it looks very much as if the result will be the Doves as majority party and Hawks as the permanent flag-waving minority. (Somebody still has to make speeches and touch off fireworks on the Fourth of July, after all).

There will be those who carp that this model gives us a pool of potential officeholders that numbers in the mere tens of thousands. But all these things are relative. The aggregate number of voters isn't going to very large either, since only those people who have actually served in the military or have children who (have) serve(d) in the military will be eligible to vote in national elections. This will ensure a fine and moral focus on foreign policy issues and will entirely prevent them from being decided by any tide of public sentiment in the event of destabilizing emotional events like terrorist attacks.

I also anticipate the criticism that a national government so completely oriented around foreign policy issues might result in neglect of domestic matters that greatly affect various freedoms, as defined above. This potential problem is resolved by two long established progressive strategies. First, most domestic legislation dealing with freedom can be written directly from the bench, by federal district courts and, obviously, the U.S. Supreme Court, which will have to rewrite the Constitution on the fly, as it were. But the courts will be well stocked with progressives who can be trusted implicitly to sort out the various freedoms at issue in a way that accommodates social justice in the historical sense -- without a lot of reactionary foot-dragging.

Even more importantly, many of the key freedoms -- health, economic, environmental -- are really best handled at the global level, by the many institutions already in place seeking international laws capable of enforcing social justice in worldwide terms. It also makes sense to transfer authority for taxation and regulation of commerce, trade, healthcare, religion, and the protection of the earth from mankind to such global institutions. Of course, Americans in this scenario will have to get used to seeing themselves in this larger perspective as the racist, sexist, rich white men of the world and expect to be treated accordingly, but they will learn to get used to it, because the kind of morality represented by the list of "freedoms from" and social justice in historical terms is pretty inescapable.

The various state, local and municipal governments can go on pretty much as they do now, and it's possible that as much as forty, no, say thirty, percent of the populace will be authorized to vote for candidates at this level. And to be perfectly clear about one bone of contention, make no mistake: all felons past and present WILL be allowed to vote in state, local, and municipal elections. The bad old days of tyranny will be done for in this new government model.

I leave it to others to work out the many huge positive impacts the progressive government model will have on our great nation. You know the one I mean. The one we all love so very very much.


UPDATE. Michelle Malkin is sick of the whole subject, and we don't blame her. Please email her and let her know that it's all going to be fixed soon, courtesy of what we've worked out here. The freedom and equality idealists will probably stop sending her unspeakably obscene messages when their moral purpose has been achieved.




Wednesday, August 17, 2005


The New Sex Appeal?

"Chubby, hairy, and poor."

MEN. A pair of items in Drudge today are supposed to give new hope to ordinary guys. First, there's this from the NY Daily News:

Playgirl's hunks? The hairy, chubby & poor!
by Rivka Bukowsky

Forget waxed chests and rock-hard abs. A new survey finds ladies like their men scruffy, a wee bit chubby - and definitely not a metrosexual.

Playgirl asked 2,000 of its readers what they find sexy in a man and the answers were surprising: 42% said they thought love handles were kind of sexy and 47% approved of chest hair.

The mag, which often features toned, hairless males in its beefcake photo spreads, is now searching for a man who meets readers' standards.

Average Joes everywhere can send photos to models@playgirlmag.com to compete for a shot at a pictorial in a future issue.

Rich playboys need not apply - only 4% of women said the size of a man's wallet mattered. Metrosexuals are also out: 73% want a guy who is "rough around the edges."

"This survey shows that the guy who's most attractive to our readers is not your average Hollywood hunk," said Playgirl editrix Jill Sieracki. "It's the average Joe who came up on top. Women are practical about their choices, and they're smart."

New York matchmaker Janis Spindel, a self-described specialist at setting up "highly successful, well-educated, attractive professionals," confirmed the survey's findings. "It's scary, but women don't care [about looks]," she said. "Men are very superficial and very shallow."

But Spindel disputed the claim that women don't care about finding a rich man: "Women want a man who makes more money than they do," she said. "They want to be able to live a comfortable lifestyle." [emphasis added]

Before moving on, though, I'll draw your attention to the highlighted text. Why is it "scary" to Ms. Spindel that women don't care about looks? Particularly in view of her statement that men are "very superfcial and very shallow" presumably because they do care about looks. Does this mean it would be less scary if women were as shallow as men? And are women really less shallow and superficial if they want "a man who makes more money than they do"? This makes it sound as if it's the men who want romance and the women who want a plush bank account. Which is not news.

So -- somewhat less hopeful -- we turn to the other Drudge item, another NY Daily News article:

Geek chic
By Jacob Osterhaut

Good news, losers: It's cool to be uncool. With the upcoming releases of two new movies, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "The Baxter," and the recent success of "Napoleon Dynamite," Hollywood has gleefully embraced dorkdom.

Hear that, matinee idols? This might be the time for you to trade in your Uzi and Aston Martin for a pocket protector and a sweater vest.

What's all the excitement about? A couple of new movies, including one called the "40 Year old Virgin." Here's what Mr. Osterhaut has to say:

Hope we don't give anything away, but the title character of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" has never had sex.

Excuse me, Mr. Osterhaut, but when the title of a movie is "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" I would be extremely surprised if it weren't about a person who has never had sex. Or does the word "virgin" have a different meaning in New York City than it does everywhere else?

Andy (Steve Carell) collects action figures, plays video games and, on weekends, blows his baritone horn. "This is a character who has missed out on some opportunities in his life," says Carell. "He was probably in the marching band when he was in high school."

But the affable guy finds love by the end of the film. "Andy is attractive because he is nice and sweet," points out Carell. "He's not a bad boy. He's not dangerous. He is not threatening. He is unique."

Unique? Because he's not bad, dangerous or threatening? Or because he's a virgin? I suspect the country is full of men who aren't bad, dangerous, or threatening; these have always been the nice guys who "finish last." If I had to guess, though, few of them remain virgins till the age of 40. Mostly, they find women who turn to them at last after getting burned one too many times by the bad boys.

Still no news here, it would seem. But wait -- buried in the article is this striking paragraph:

"Women find sex appeal in male geek movie characters," notes Gitesh Pandya, editor of www.boxofficeguru.com. "Geeks have charm in their awkwardness. The personality of a geek makes him sexy, partially because he can be pitied and partially because they [sic] are good-natured people."

The geek is sexy because he can be pitied? This is news. Women want men who are pitiable!? And this is supposed to be good news? That would pretty much wipe out the driving force behind the creation of advanced civilization -- the feats of leadership, heroism and genius men have forced themselves to accomplish for the purpose of making themselves attractive to women. Now we are to believe that it would be better to let it all go, put on a few more pounds, and practice acting awkward and helpless instead?

Oddly enough, Drudge also seems to have offered up some confirmation of this notion in yesterday's report. Consider this otherwise contextless item from the U.K.'s News Telegraph:

Michael Buerk, the veteran BBC newsreader, has launched a tirade against what he believes is the all-pervading influence of women in society, claiming that men have been reduced to little more than "sperm donors".

Buerk, the former presenter of The Nine O'Clock News whose report on Ethiopia inspired Live Aid, said that life was now lived "according to women's rules" and that traditional male traits had been marginalised.

In an interview with The Radio Times, he cited the decline of the manual workforce as an example of the trend as well as the number of women in top jobs at the BBC and other media outlets.

Buerk, who now presents BBC World and recently attacked some of his fellow news presenters for being overpaid "lame brains", complained that the "shift in the balance of power between the sexes" has gone too far and we needed to "admit the problem".

"Life is now being lived according to women's rules," he said. "The traits that have traditionally been associated with men - reticence, stoicism, single-mindedness - have been marginalised."

And now all that women need or want from the male sex is a shopworn teddy bear who makes a decent living as a nonthreatening drone? Interesting idea. But the next line of Michael Buerk's rant also seems relevant. He says:

"The result is that men are becoming more like women...."

This is certainly true. And it's intriguing that such a definite declaration comes from an employee of the BBC, a member in good standing of the ultra-liberal journalism establishment. Women may be in charge now at the BBC, but they're not in charge of all elite media. So why does the mass media coverage of the Bush Administration (for example) seem so stereotypically female in tone -- hysterical, histrionic, hyper-emotional, and irrational -- its argumentation entirely developed and arranged for the purpose of attacking one man -- at all costs -- rather than making any attempt to think through the situation without second-guessing every motive and digging up every old grievance.

The so-called progressive opposition to Bush is remarkably akin to that of a woman who has discovered her lover cheating on her. She's through with him. There's nothing he can say or do, ever again, to command her affection or respect. She will go to any length, no matter how self-destructive, to obtain her revenge. In furtherance of her purpose she will care about things she's never cared about, stand her own principles on their heads, and use every vicious trick she can think of to do more hurt to her target.

This extremely virulent side of the feminine mindset may be more firmly implanted in the mainstream media than it is elsewhere in the culture, but there is virtually no institution that does not increasingly manifest at least the milder versions of the female personality. Our corporate meeting rooms are geared to consensus and cooperation rather than breakthrough leadership (and its inevitable hurt feelings), our schools are drenched in feel good flummery rather than the demand for accomplishment, our politics are awash in policy-making by heart-tugging anecdote rather than sober cost-benefit analysis, and our tolerance for the very real human costs of defending the nation in a tough and violent world has disappeared into a swamp of tears and impotent tantrums.

What's more, I think there are a lot of women who detect that this is the case and suspect that it's not Utopia. Yes, they wanted to participate in the institutions and the decision-making, but in their heart of hearts, they didn't want men to become just like them. Now they see men who are as obsessed with appearance, clothes, and grooming as they are, famous athletes who whine and storm like teenage girls, leaders in a variety of fields who care more about what other people will say (and have said)  than how to get the mission accomplished, whatever it is, and they know that something's wrong.

But do they even remember men? What does a man look like to a woman who was born after the feminist revolution? Perhaps he looks like he doesn't care how he looks, perhaps he has a driving interest in something other than money and status, perhaps he lacks the degree of narcissism to plunge himself into the beauty pageant relations between the sexes have become. Maybe she sees a geek and thinks maybe she's looking at a man.

If so, love handles and pitifulness might not be the answer. It might be that what men need to do is relearn the difficult and complex skill of thinking and acting like a man.





Speaking of kittens...

This kitten would like some Obsidian Wings for breakfast.

COOL. Nobody loves cute things more than InstaPunk. Why, if we could recast all our political issues in terms of pictures of kittens and puppies, the world would be a better nicer smarter more nauseatingly bathetic cesspool of melodrama than it already is. But cute.

The best news is that the people at Snopes.com have coined a term for promulgating sentimentalized half-truths that can't pass the gag test. They call it glurge. The one thing that seems to cheer up those who suffer from a disgusting ailment is finding out that it has been given its own name by the experts. Hope this helps. And thanks for the link.




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