Nasal Seduction Theory

Another of Fliess’s ideas was the theory of ‘nasal reflex neurosis’. This became widely known following the publication of his controversial book “Neue Beitrage und Therapie der nasaelen Reflexneurose” in Vienna in 1892. The theory postulated a connection between the nose and the genitals and related this to a variety of neurological and psychological symptoms; Fliess devised a surgical operation intended to sever that link. Freud referred occasional patients to Fliess for treatment of their neurosis through nasal surgery and also via anaesthetization of the nasal mucosa with cocaine. Wikipedia

Wilhelm Fliess was a colleague and intimate friend of Sigmund Freud, until 1904, when Fliess became convinced that Freud had shared some of his theories with another researcher who then took credit for it. Fliess and Freud were developing the framework of modern psychoanalytic theory.

And nose jobs.

Freud referred a young woman named Emma Eckstein to Fliess for a nose job (not a cosmetic one– to sever the “link to her genitals”, I guess). Fliess botched the surgery so badly that the woman was left permanently disfigured. Freud appears to have manipulated Eckstein on behalf of Fliess and the young woman didn’t bear a grudge about the matter. So far as we know.

No one should underestimate the importance of ambition and ego in the careers of famous theoreticians and scientists and, yes, even psychoanalysts. Please don’t use the word “science” in reference to a field that still, 100 years after it’s inception, cannot provide a reliable theoretical framework for what happens inside the human mind.

Which doesn’t prevent people from developing studies and research projects to show that people will behave in certain ways, mostly, or sometimes, in some situations, if not others, and, therefore, can be be reliably said to have been exposed for all the world to see. We know what you’re thinking. When we say we do.

Freud suspected, in addition to hysteria, a “nasal reflex neurosis”, a condition popularized by his friend and collaborator Wilhelm Fliess, an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Fliess had been treating “nasal reflex neurosis” by cauterizing the inside of the nose under local anesthesia with cocaine used as the anesthetic. Fliess found that the treatment yielded positive results, in that his patients became less depressed. Wikipedia

And Then

Hey, just how whacky is the Fliess guy?  Here’s an article about a nascent theory that some peoples’ noses are linked to their sexual organs: when they think about sex, they sneeze.

We Shall not Speak of the Badly Managed Disaster

12 years ago people in the North Tower were repeatedly told to stay at their desks and wait for rescue. Some people didn’t listen. They left the building and lived.

You don’t hear much discussion about how badly managed the disaster really was. The firemen and police could not communicate with each other. The sprinkler system failed. There was no plan in place to rescue people in the upper floors in case there was a large fire on any of the lower floors, let alone a plane crash. The firemen were sent into the building carrying 30 kilograms of equipment and asked to climb up to the 80th floor (or higher) by the stairs. This was courageous and selfless of them, but it was also an idiotic plan, given the gravity of the situation. They were heroes who probably died needlessly and in vain.

Did no one involved in building the World Trade Center ever sit down at a meeting and lead a discussion of what would happen if a massive fire broke out on one of the lower floors? How would people be rescued? I can only assume they believed that the fire suppression equipment would work flawlessly. Why was the World Trade Center exempted from some city fire regulations?

There was a door to the roof: it was locked by an electronic device and no one was able to open it. It probably would not have helped: the top of the tower is covered with guy wires and antennae making it impossible to land a helicopter.

An employee tried to put out some of the fires with an extinguisher: the extinguisher failed to operate.

Some people descended stairways only to find a dead-end and locked doors. In some cases, another stairway was clear and passable: they had no way of finding out, or in locating it. No one knows how many people died because they didn’t know where the exits were.

World Trade Center security staff repeatedly advised people to stay their desks. They even advised some people who had left the building to go back to their desks.

Were they not receiving instructions from anyone sane?

Giuliani and Mayor Michael Bloomberg initially refused to release more than 12,000 pages of “oral history” of the fire fighters activities on 9/11.  The reason is obvious: the management of the disaster was a disaster.  Radios failed, leadership was deficient, planning was inadequate, lives were wasted.

Watching the towers collapse, and people jumping from the 100th floor to their deaths, I often thought that if I ever ended up working in a tower like that I would buy myself a hang-glider and keep it near my desk.

It probably wouldn’t work. There may be reasons why– air currents, smoke, sealed windows– but, hell, most of the people who died in the upper floors obviously had no hope of any other escape. Whatever the odds of safely landing a hang-glider in an urban area, they would have been infinitely better the odds of surviving jumping off the building. They probably would also have been better than the odds of being rescued by a fireman climbing the stairs up 100 floors carrying 30-45 kilograms of firefighting equipment on his back.

Does that sound unbelievable?  It does to me so I checked:

By then, the north tower firefighters had been on the move for more than an hour. Each carrying about 100 pounds of gear, only a few had climbed much higher than the 30th floor. Some recalled hearing radio messages from individual firefighters who had made it as far as the 40’s.  NY Times

So why not have a parachute or glider or something of the sort available for every employee in the tower? Because it’s all mad and unthinkable, of course. Because it would seem preposterous.

But it would have been very cool, in the midst of that apocalyptic scene, to see someone jump from a broken window and hang-glide down, in slow, concentric loops, to the street.

Having it Both Ways with J.D. Salinger

Some will argue that you can’t have it both ways: how can a woman say she is fully in charge of her body and her destiny, and then call herself a victim when, having given a man her heart of her own volition, he crushes it? How can a consensual relationship, as Salinger’s unquestionably were, constitute a form of abuse?

But we are talking about what happens when people in positions of power — mentors, priests, employers or simply those assigned an elevated status — use their power to lure much younger people into sexual and (in the case of Salinger) emotional relationships. Most typically, those who do this are men. And when they are done with the person they’ve drawn toward them, it can take that person years or decades to recover.

Joyce Maynard, J. D. Salinger’s former girlfriend, in the New York Times, September 15, 2013.

Exactly. How do you get to slime someone for not finding you lovable anymore? How do you get to label as an abuser the man you were attracted to because of his influence and fame and importance, as if you had no expectation of anything except his loyalty?

How do you get to destroy someone for taking advantage of your credulousness? I am woman. Hear me roar. See me standing toe-to-toe with men and holding my own, for I am smart and independent and capable of making my own decisions and taking responsibilities for my own actions, except when I want you to think of me as a victim, something I am so ashamed of I will appear on talk shows to discuss it.

Except when you don’t love me any more. Suddenly, you are a bully, and I am the schoolyard wimp. And you weren’t very nice to me. And your rudeness and meanness shall have a label and it shall be called “abuse” and you must be held responsible.

Let us not speak about a young writer flattered and intoxicated with the idea that a relationship with a famous author would advance her own career– that’s not part of the narrative we need to construct here.

And let’s not consider a woman who develops such a relationship with a man and then leaves him devastated, so that “it can take decades to recover”. In Maynard’s universe, it’s only the woman who has anything to recover when a relationship goes sour.

Because I am loveable. I am adorable. I worshipped you and brought you meals and you saw me naked and I indulged some of your dark fantasies and I pretended to be willing because you really loved me but you didn’t. I tried to interest you in my ideas, my talent– I really am a very, very talented person!– and you were bored and annoyed and now I can tell you that I knew, in my deepest heart, that you were jealous, oh yes you were, you felt threatened by my gifts because they were really as good or even greater than yours, and that’s why you rejected me and told me to leave.

Look at me now, on the talk shows, on the booklists, being interviewed, and sometimes they even ask me about my own work and not just about you, or what you are really like, or what you really think.

And more on Maynard and Salinger

There is ambivalence at the heart of this issue. You will sometimes hear feminists defend a young woman who strikes up a relationship with a powerful or wealthy older man. She is empowered. She is asserting her individuality and independence in making unpopular choices. She is in control of her sexuality and able to make intelligent choices based on the options available to her.

So if she inherits all the property, we hear nothing about abuse or exploitive relationships. At least, not from her side.

The Complete Essay in the New York Times

The Afflicted Audience: the Man-Boy in American Film

What is the mysterious appeal to American writers and directors of the infantile man-child who behaves despicably while drunk and then drinks to forget the consequences of his own behavior and then behaves even more despicably? His nemesis is the man with self-control, who owns things, who keeps an ordered life, and is emasculated by plot developments contrived to reveal his impotence. His redemption is the beautiful ingénue– usually much younger than the hero– who thinks nothing of her own needs and desires and everything of how she must be with this glob of raging emotions.

Paul Schrader, are you there? Robert Zemeckis? David Russell? Did you see “Lawless”? Did you think “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was terrific? It even shows up in a milder, less annoying form in “The Wire”, in the character of McNulty.

We are supposed to believe the hero– say, Wade, in the movie “Affliction”– is somehow more authentic and real and honest, and thus heroic, than the callow, effete self-restrained men around him. His rage is the product of disgust with a corrupt, unjust world. McNulty commits outrageous acts because, we are given to believe, he is passionate about getting drug dealers off the streets and punishing murderers. “The Wire” has the courage to reveal that McNulty is a flawed, narcissistic character– and his girlfriend sees him for what he is.

Most depictions of this type of character would have you believe that these characters are ruggedly handsome and virile and have life to them. The iconic model for this character is Ethan in “The Searchers”. And “The Searchers”, like “The Wire”, had the guts to give an honest picture of the man: he walks off alone at the end, a lingering shot that has become a cliché, and perversely iconic, when it’s really a profoundly tragic moment. This is an irresolvable condition. He can’t experience true love because, almost by definition, anything that appears to be love in this universe tries to possess and emasculate the hero.

Walter White in “Breaking Bad”.

The secret of the appeal of these characters is in the audience. How often don’t you see a movie in which a cop or soldier or spy– the hero of the story– brutally kills someone– and you don’t mind. You are given “permission” to enjoy the sadism and the violence because the writers and directors always carefully lay some groundwork. We will see the victim kick a dog, spit on a child, rob an old lady, rape a virgin– anything repulsive will do. So when our hero sadistically beats, stabs, and kills the villain, we can enjoy it: he deserved it. Our character is not a psychopath: he is a hero.

In the same way, we are supposed to enjoy the bad behaviour, the outrages, the infidelity, the cruelty of the drunk because he is so damn authentic. He drinks because he has soul, because he feels things intensely, because he has passion– not because he is weak. It’s a reflection on us, the audience. It’s a statement to ourselves: I may look weak, because I’m fat, and lazy, and inactive, and insensitive, but I am actually a raging cauldron of virtue and passion. If some child rapist, drug-dealer, terrorist ever showed up in my neighborhood…. just watch!

The Undergraduates Embrace of the Transgressive

For all the brow-beating and wailing and self-righteous pieties about the horrible scandal of the St. Mary’s University in Halifax Frosh Week ditty, I have yet to read or hear a single rumination on the essential nature of the evil song: it’s transgressiveness.

I suspect that the reason for that is that to acknowledge the essential thrill of the song experienced by the student representatives would be to acknowledge that they didn’t mean it. It was a joke. It was a joke in very bad taste, but it was, nevertheless, a joke.

That would emasculate the thrill of the self-righteous: how dare they! We are good, decent people who don’t approve of rape and non-consensual sex, therefore we ring out our condemnations. Let us issue a collective gasp of astonishment: our young people are perverted.

It was one of those things that I watched with contempt and then, just as I was ready to form a categorical opinion of the incident, I encountered the chorus of disapproval and denunciation. Both the CBC and CTV, for a time, made it their top story. The CBC, as usual, tried to make you feel like your friends were reporting the story: “so Tara Goodtan is in Halifax; Tara, how are students reacting to the sudden onslaught of vindictive hysteria? And how do you feel about it? What are your thoughts? Where are you now? Are you concerned? How can parents make sure their children never attend St. Mary’s University? Is there some way we protect our noses from the smell? Let me stroll over to another desk in our studio here so it looks like I am actually involved and absorbed by this feat of journalism.”

The students responsible are now to be administered a corrective session of sensitivity training, as if sensitivity was something you could train into a person, and as if we could somehow make the transgressive less appealing to young people on their own for the first time in their lives. While we’re at it, could we teach them not to drink and drive, and to do their homework?

Does anyone seriously believe that any sexual assaults that actually take place on campus will have anything do with the notorious frosh week chant? We think some macho male student is going to say, well, we chanted about doing it during Frosh Week, so I thought it would be okay. Do we think he wouldn’t know that it wasn’t okay, that it was not allowed, that it was abhorrent behavior?

This is acute scandal management. A few years ago, in 2010, the entire football program at the University of Waterloo was cancelled because a few players were caught using steroids. There. Are you convinced that the management of the university is in the hands of righteous people? They are so righteous, and so incompetent, and so incapable of making reasoned, intelligent judgments, that they had to swat the entire athletic division– 65 players– into temporary oblivion because three of them were caught using steroids, to be sure that you got their point: we do not countenance cheating!

Do they countenance unfairness and arbitrariness and loud, incoherent, pointless gestures? You bet. Most of the 2010 team transferred to other universities and continued to play.

The CBC on the Delinquency

The Red Line

Is it too much to ask that the U.S. point to a single success story before embarking on a new adventure in disruptive interventions in the Middle East? What is Obama’s model for this enterprise? Has anybody in this administration asked about five years from now, ten years from now, twenty years from now? Does Obama live in an echo chamber wherein his advisors seek advice from their adviser’s advisers? Does he ever hear from anyone with a genuinely dissenting view?

There is raging hypocrisy in all the blather right now coming from Obama and Hagel and Kerry on Syria: after doing nothing while 100,000 people have been killed and thousands more tortured and millions made refugees, now— now! — we cannot stand by anymore, because Assad has used chemical weapons. Now, our integrity is at stake. Now, the world wonders if we have any principles. Now, our hearts are wrung with compassion for the victims of violent, repressive governments.

I would love to ask Obama if he feels the allies fire-bombing of Dresden and Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, and other Japanese cities, using M47 oil gel bombs, during World War II crossed any kind of red line?

Now we support democracy in Egypt. Now we don’t.

Now would be a good time, in fact, for the United Nations to vigorously assert that no government has the right to slaughter or repress or abuse their own peoples, whether it be Zimbabwe, North Korea, China, or Iran. But that would be a dramatic change from the prevailing doctrine, which is, what happens in your country stays in your country. Ever since the world community decided, when it formed the United Nations (from the ashes of the failed “League of Nations”), that it was more important that all states be represented and have some investment in the world order than it was to insist that all of them be democracies, we have lived with this devil’s bargain: we will not interfere when you commit atrocities within your own borders. We will only interfere if you cross the border to commit atrocities.

In fairness, one could make a cogent argument for the idea that the UN has actually been effective in reducing the number of wars on the planet.  That’s no joke.  We are all appalled at Egypt and North Korea and Syria, but at least they are not at war with Israel or each other.  That is nothing to sneeze at.  In the 1960’s, there were numerous wars at any given time, with an appalling cost in human lives and material destruction.

What is needed at the moment in Syria is not more U.S. intervention, but a cease-fire.

Thirsty Lips

Should I travel to America, and become flimsy, and ordinary, like those who are satisfied with idle talk and sleep. Or should I distinguish myself with values and spirit. Is there other than Islam that I should be steadfast to in its character and hold on to its instructions, in this life amidst deviant chaos, and the endless means of satisfying animalistic desires, pleasures, and awful sins? I wanted to be the latter man. Sayyid Qutb

You have probably never heard of Sayyid Qutb, the godfather of radical Islam. In a way, this fact is enough to understand why the U.S. repeatedly screws up in the Middle East.

Is there a single success story? Is there a single example of a U.S. policy in the Middle East that has led to peace, prosperity, economic development, and stability, among any of the Arab states, or Iran, or Africa? Is there a single American who knows who Sayyid Qutb is?

You don’t know and you don’t care? Then stay the hell out of Middle Eastern politics. You can only make things worse.

The point is not that understanding Qutb will help you understand what the solutions are to the problems in Egypt or Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria. The point is that if you don’t even know who Qutb is, you have no business even trying to understand the rest of the dynamics at play.

Sayyid Qutb is a seminal Islamic writer and theorist who briefly visited the U.S. in the 1940’s and was absolutely appalled at what he saw. Essentially, he was revolted by people enjoying prosperity and society and culture and their bodies. He found America vulgar and violent and “animalistic”. He ravishingly describes American girls as being experts in seduction.

Qutb decided that the Arab Islamic world must be spared this horrible descent into pleasure and so he returned to Egypt where he joined the Muslim Brotherhood and wrote books and edited journals and befriended a military officer named Gamal Abdel Nasser. When Nasser overthrew King Farouk in July 1952 and installed a loyalist, Muhammad Naguib, as president, Qutb thought the Islamic Republic was at hand. He and Nasser would talk and talk and talk, sometimes, up to 12 hours without interruption.

As part of an agreement with the U.S. and Britain, King Farouk was politely exiled and the monarchy abolished.

Nasser begged Qutb to join the new government, in any capacity he wished, but Qutb sensed that Nasser was not a good Islamicist and wasn’t serious about imposing an Islamic state on Egypt making sure that Arabic women lived their lives peering through slitted hoods.

In October, 1954, Qutb, bitterly disappointed that Nasser appeared to be heading towards a secular, socialist state, joined at least six other Moslem Brotherhood members in an attempted coup, which included the attempted assassination of Nasser on the 26th, while he was giving a speech in Alexandria. Mohammed Abdel Latif fired eight shots at Nasser, from less than 8 meters away, and missed with all of them. Nasser remained calm and continued speaking, and had an Evita moment: Egypt c’est moi. Then he cracked down on the opposition. Qutb was eventually hanged. But he was right about Nasser: in 1957, he extended suffrage to women, prohibited discrimination based on gender, and implemented special protections for women in the workplace.

The American girl is well acquainted with her body’s seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, and in expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs—and she shows all this and does not hide it. Sayyid Qutb

Qutb sounds like he is mentally ravishing those American girls.

There it is, in extreme abstraction: Egypt, coups, Islam, army, protests, the whole ball of wax, Middle Eastern history to 2013. Nasser, by the way, was “incorruptible”. That explains why the Western powers and their allies wanted to assassinate him too! Seriously, think about it– why the hell were the Western powers, all through the 60’s, 70’s, and ’80’s, so eager to overthrow leftist governments and install corrupt assholes like the Shah of Iran, Somoza in Nicaragua, Pinochet in Chile? How has all that worked out?

Think about the fact that America joined the Islamic Brotherhood in wanting to assassinate Nasser!  Is the enemy of my enemy, in this case, my friend?

What nobody ever admits, of course, is that the first purpose of power everywhere, every time, is to take wealth away from people who earned it and hand it over to people who have acquired power and privilege, always– always– at the barrel of a gun. If not the titular leader, then the party that keeps him in power: the military officers, the cabinet officials, the corporate executives, the weapons makers, the killers, the oil companies, the phosphate companies, the rubber companies, the coffee companies, and so on and so on and so on.

Some notes about Nasser, Egypt, Syria, and the Whole Mess

The U.S. should study July 1956: Nasser announced that he was “nationalizing” the Suez Canal. The canal, built with Egyptian labour and British money, and owned and run by the British on Egyptian soil, was central to Egypt’s perception of it’s role in the world and it’s standing among the great powers. Nothing Nasser ever did, before or after, generated such broad, passionate support as this single act. It was so decisively supported by everyone in Egypt that even Britain could not resist.

Could not… but they did. In October 1956, together with France and Israel, they plotted to seize the canal back and occupy Egyptian territory adjacent to it. And they agreed to overthrow Nasser. This became known as the “Suez Crisis”. France, Britain and Israel quickly brushed aside the weak Egyptian army and occupied the canal zone, while Nasser ordered ships sunk in the canal to block it’s use. Some of Nasser’s own advisors were urging him to surrender to the British.

And here something remarkable happened. The United States, under President Eisenhower, and supported by the U.N., demanded that the British, French and Israelis withdraw.

And they did. By April, 1957 the canal was re-opened under Egyptian control.

After their wedding, the couple moved into a house in Manshiyat al-Bakri, a suburb of Cairo, where they would live for the rest of their lives. Nasser’s entry into the officer corps in 1937 secured him relatively well-paid employment in a society where most people lived in poverty. His social status was still well below the wealthy Egyptian elite, and his resentment of those born into wealth and power continued to grow. Wikipedia

In 1957, Egypt’s only ally was– wait for it– Syria! Syria had a leftist government which Eisenhower and other Western powers were eager to topple. King Saud of Saudi Arabia tried to have Nasser assassinated. You couldn’t make this shit up.

The first, most pertinent fact about Egypt today is that the army controls the means of production, the corporations, the infrastructure that generates wealth. All the speeches about democracy and freedom and stability and so on is just so much bullshit. The longer one is in power, the more elaborate, sophisticated, and oblique the relationship seems– Kings are crowned, monuments are erected, spectacles organized– but the fundamental is always the same: he who has the gold makes the rules and he who rules gets the gold.

Qutb did not, as some assert, lay down the groundwork for an Islamic war upon America and the West. He laid the groundwork for the real dynamic in the Middle East today: the war between Sunni and Shia, Alawite, fundamentalist, warlords, Kurds, and secularists. The war between what he saw as true Islam and the heretics. The war in Syria is not between a dictator and the democratic will of the people: it is between two, maybe three sects of Islam, and they will never, in our lifetime, learn to share power or to live in a pluralistic state.

If the U.S. arms the rebels, they will murder the Alawites and then they will turn on each other.


The Get Lost Button

Recently, I added a group of photos to my Facebook Page.  Facebook popped up with a little window that hid part of my screen and urged me to make my album “shareable” so my friends could post pictures to it as well.  And Facebook, of course, gets to collect more information about my friends.  Your options are “yes” or leave this ugly window open on my screen.

Facebook should add another option: GET LOST.

Come to think of it, most software and websites should have that as a standard option.

Put all your music into my library so you have to use my app to find it? GET LOST.

Update Firefox so you have to wait five minutes before you can google whatever it is you’ve forgotten you want to google? GET LOST.

Install a new layer on your browser so I can intercept all your search requests? GET LOST.

Update your Flash Player with the newest, most secure, sexiest and fastest new Updater?  GET LOST.

Sign in to Google?  GET LOST.

Let us update you when new features are available?  GET LOST.

Sign in to watch videos your friends liked on Facebook?  GET LOST.

It is now 2013: I still use Word 2003.  Why?  Because, for one thing, I want to write.  I don’t want to create a Christmas Card every time I develop some actual content.

Below, the Word 2003 and Word 2010 screens, respectively.



Going back to Office 2003.

Office 2007 and 2010 must be the worst design updates in software history.

Would Mighty Microsoft really make a mistake like that? Wouldn’t they carefully test the new interface to make sure users liked it and found it more efficient and user-friendly? Oh, they probably do, to some extent. But that’s not the driving force behind most upgrades.

Every four or five years, Microsoft must persuade you to upgrade or they lose a massive income stream. To persuade you to upgrade, they must make it difficult to run older versions of the software on the new operating systems that come with all new computers. Then they must persuade you that there is something new and better about the upgrade.

In every design aspect of any product there will be a point where an optimum design has been reached beyond which only minor tweaks and enhancements will actually provide anything of value. Office seemed to me to have reached that plateau at version 2003. The tool bar on the new version is a mess.

But then, Microsoft never cared at all for the power user. The very last thing they, or Adobe, or Sony, want to give the user is the power to control his computer environment. They don’t want you to know where your files are actually located, or where your templates are, or how to turn useless automated features off. They want you to enter the womb, attach the umbilical cord, and keep funneling those dollars into their coffers while you are desperately dependent on them to maintain the web of fonts and links and chains and networks that let you find your file.

There is no such thing as a desktop. It does not exist. There is a hard drive and a motherboard and software. The desktop itself is a fictional creation of Microsoft’s to convince you to let them manage your files, which it then hides from you in folders you can’t locate and can’t efficiently back up.

And if the computer is “My Computer” why is Microsoft trying to shove it’s bizarre file organization ideas down my throat? Why does it allow applications to store configuration files not only in the Program Files\application\whatever folder but also in the users\username\app data or app data\roaming folders? So if you fix a bad dll you might not know it: a duplicate dll might very well be sitting in another folder somewhere. This happened to me recently: I spent hours trying to solve a problem only to realize that there were two copies of the same file in two different sub-sub-sub-folders, and I was fixing the wrong one.

After all this time, and more than 15 years after the atrocious Windows 3.1 debuted, Microsoft still sucks.