Categories
General

Your Right to be Forgotten

There is a right discussed and implemented– to a modest extent in Europe– that I adore: the right to be forgotten.

It’s almost poetic, and profound– everyone should have the right to be forgotten. If you choose to no longer participate in a certain group or club or service, you should have the right to have all of your personal information and records expunged.

You might even consider not participating in society anymore.  Look around.  It’s been a very bad year for humanity.  If you came to the conclusion that most people are idiots and you would like to avoid as much contact with them as you can, you should be able to withdraw and be “forgotten”.

This is by no means a new right.  It was first considered seriously by future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in 1890.

Of course, it’s probably impossible.  Even if, say, Facebook cooperated, your information could easily have been copied or stored somewhere else.  In fact, we know that it has been copied and stored elsewhere, without your knowledge or consent.  The discussions in Europe swirl around the issue.  Why shouldn’t you have the right to delete all the information collected about you while browsing or shopping on-line or traveling?

Why do so-called “conservatives” in the U.S. absolutely relish the opportunity they now have to take away as many of those rights as possible and hand all of your information over to corporations to use as they please?  Because they are not really conservative at all: they are hot-headed radicals who want to transform society into one massive technological feeding trough for the corporate jackals that fund their election campaigns.

That should be illegal.

Do you want to buy anything, ever?  You could try to shop only in person, using cash.  It would reduce your choices.

On the other hand, if you could delete all traces of you from your Facebook account, it would not be as easy for someone to casually look you up, and judge you based on what might have been casual comments or impulsively posted photos, or friends you no longer communicate with, other than through Facebook.

Most people don’t want to be forgotten.  They want to live forever, like Flashdance.

 

[whohit]The Right to be Forgotten[/whohit]

Categories
General

Blessed Shirley Jones

I recently watched two movies starring Shirley Jones: “The Music Man”, a musical– a genre I generally despise– and “Silent Night, Lonely Night”.

I grew up the 1960’s and didn’t find Hollywood movies very satisfying until the later ’60’s and 1970’s.  (Today’s Hollywood is much worse, even, than it was in the 1950’s, but there are more good films around, in general, than ever before.)  One of the biggest reasons was the Hollywood star system that built up actors and actresses like products to be foisted upon a grateful, credulous public.  They were personalities, celebrities, more than actors or artists.  They are objects in which the studios have invested.   They were primped and polished and surgically altered and air-brushed and vacuumed clean until they were antiseptic.  As a young male, of course, I would be expected to experience lustful thoughts about the female stars.  Here’s some of them: Doris Day, Raquel Welch, Audrey Hepburn, Jean Simmons, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, Jane Russell, Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley MacLaine, Sophia Loren, Joan Collins, Susan Hayward– you get the idea.  Movies were vehicles for their glistening stardom.  Stories were for  saps.  Themes were for milquetoasts.  Meaning was a joke.  They even dubbed the voices of actors who couldn’t sing in musicals!  Who cares if that’s really her voice?  It’s the illusion they were selling, as pernicious as Hefner’s Playboy images.

Grace Kelly was physically transcendent, of course, but we know that her personal character was less than charming.  She married a rich prince and was a bit of an ogre to her own children.  From a purely physical point of view, she was probably the most singularly attractive of the bunch, but she was a gold-digger.  Marilyn Monroe always seemed to be watching to see if you were impressed or not.  I could never believe a single scene in which her character experienced physical desire.   It was always “look at how sexy I am!  Do you think I’m sexy?  What if I do this?”  Shirley MacLaine was interesting in “The Apartment”, but that was almost exclusively because of Billy Wilder’s direction.  She was also in “Sweet Charity”, which is unforgivable.  And I can’t not think about her wacky ideas about reincarnation when thinking about her.

Natalie Wood did star in some interesting movies, “Rebel Without a Cause”, “Splendor in the Grass”, and, later, “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice”.  I even liked her in “The Great Race”, trotting around in her bustier.  She was the advance guard for a new generation of actors, like Katherine Ross, Ali McGraw, Candace Bergen, Faye Dunaway,  that would bring a deeper level of authenticity to their roles and their personal lives.  In a bustier?  Okay– perhaps not.

The others? Meh.

But Shirley Jones was different.  There was a moment in “The Music Man” when her character, a librarian named Marian Paroo, had the goods on a bunko artist, “Professor” Harold Hill, who had come to her small town to sell musical instruments, lessons, and band uniforms.  She had the goods and,  mysteriously, failed to act.  She even agreed to meet Hill at the local romantic spot, a walking bridge over a creek.  But instead of virtuously and righteously nailing him for his lies, she thanks him, for bringing some life to her life, for exciting her, for shaking her out of the doldrums and the antiseptic small town morality she was suffocating in.  She even acknowledges that she can’t expect a traveling salesman to settle down to a life, presumably, of commitment and fidelity, but she doesn’t care.  It was enough to feel intensely, even if only for a short time.  She sings “Then There was You”: he rang her bell.

For Hollywood at the time, there’s a lot of code there: it is subtly implied that they consummated their relationship.  The scene doesn’t make any sense unless you understand that.  But this being a musical, there are no concerns about inconvenient or unexpected consequences.

She wasn’t looking at him to assess his reaction– are you blown away by this blonde-haired voluptuous beauty? — like Marilyn Monroe does to Tony Curtis in “Some Like it Hot”.  Nor, be it noted, was she shocked and a little repelled as Candice Bergen was in “Carnal Knowledge”.  No, she was knowing, and accepting, and interested, and even– dare I say it– kind.

In the later movie, “Silent Night, Lonely Night”, she adds a dimension: she takes responsibility for it.  That’s a bit old school.  She takes responsibility— Candace Bergen, later, accepts fault– but Shirley Jones’ character owns it.

Much later, Ione Skye, in “Say Anything”, takes the initiative: she joyfully jumps John Cusack.   And then tells her dad about it.

When I say she “added a dimension”, I mean to that hazy area between an actor’s performance and her real personality.  If you check Jones’ biography, you will find that it plays out largely in harmony with that screen presence: apparently, her first husband, Jack Cassidy, told her on the day they married that, after 7 or 8 or 10 years, he would inevitably cheat on her with some other young beautiful actress.  She says she didn’t mind.   That almost weirdly echoes her performance in “The Music Man” and in “Silent Night, Lonely Night”.

The world has changed.

Like I said, there’s a lot of code here.  Remember– this is the early 1960’s.  You could not imply directly that the two had a sexual relationship of any kind, except in very subtle ways.  Is it implied when Marian makes the comment about knowing that he isn’t going to stay?  After what we had together?  And that quiet complicity with the male gaze– Shirley Jones– Mitzi Gaynor was another actress like this: someone who knew she was attractive to men and felt good about letting it play out.

Just because we connected doesn’t mean I have the right to chain you down.

Today’s actresses are far more talented, almost without exception, than the stars of the 1950’s and 60’s.  Alicia Vikander, Lea Seydoux, Jennifer Lawrence, Carey Mulligan, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Chastain,  Saoirse Ronan, Amy Adams: all of them are better actors than Shirley Jones, or Marilyn Monroe, or Ali McGraw, or Faye Dunaway, or Doris Day, or Katherine Ross.

Most of them are wasted on inane Hollywood productions– so perhaps things have not changed as much as I wish.  Because I was a bit unjust to the early Hollywood films.  The one thing they did back then that is rarely done today: hire a real writer to create the story.  Some of those older movies are strikingly well-written.

[whohit]Shirley Jones[/whohit]

Categories
Film General Politics

John Kasich Hated Fargo

In his book “Stand for Something: The Battle for America’s Soul.” John Kasich spends three pages stating his hatred for the film.  IMDB Trivia

Next morning, I got on the phone to Blockbuster and demanded that they take the movie off their shelves.”  John Kasich

I actually like John Kasich.  He’s a rare thing: a compassionate, consistent, reasonable conservative.  When his Republican caucus in Ohio demanded that he reject the Obama Medicaid expansion for his state, he refused because, he said, as a Christian, he felt an obligation to reach out and help the less privileged.  This made him an apostate to many Republicans who passionately believe that Christ commanded us to arm ourselves, big massively expensive weapons, neglect the poor and reduce taxes on the rich.

But Kasich hated Fargo, a very good movie.  He hated it because it just didn’t seem to display those sunny virtues all Americans should share, like “The Sound of Music” and “Meet Me in St. Louis” did.  He hated it because he didn’t get it.  And he didn’t get the portrait of middle America in that film.  He was disgusted by the explicit violence, particularly the wood-chipper scene near the end.

I don’t think he was able or willing to articulate what was really so offensive about the film– and it was offensive, in a positive sense.  The “normal” mid-western characters of the film, and that includes the two prostitutes, are vividly characterized as honest, well-meaning, law-abiding, and reasonable– given their own assumptions about life and culture and social behavior.  Yes, the prostitutes themselves are very nonchalant about what they do and the most distinctive aspect of their relationship with the protagonists is their observation that one of them was “kind of funny-looking”.  “In what way?” asks Marge.  “You know, just kind of funny-looking”.  And they both nod.  The assumption is that being paid for sex with a couple of strangers is just part of the social scene here, the contract everyone has with each other to maintain a semblance of normality even when indulging in behaviors that might seem outside the norm.  But being “funny-looking” jumps out at them.  This is a consistent thread in “Fargo” and it implies a slight sense of ridicule of these people, especially when they are confronted with genuinely criminal behavior.  They are perturbed and confused.  And it’s by conscious design: that’s why Marge makes ridiculous observations about the weather being so nice and yet there goes Gaear Grimsrun putting a body through a wood-chipper!

I think it is that subtle ridicule that sets off John Kasich, who is himself very much like Marge Gunderson: a decent, lawful, person– not stupid– who expects everyone to behave decently, after all.  In fact, play the movie out in your own mind with John Kasich in that role: it works doesn’t it?

He tells the story in “Stand for Something: the Battle for America’s Soul”– the title tells it all.  This is the classic Republican attitude towards the progressive movements of the 1960’s, from “free love” to women’s liberation to the peace movement, and so: the Republicans really want to fight those battles over again.  They want your soul.

That’s all well and good, but then he crosses a line.  He tries to persuade Blockbuster not to carry the film.  The Oscar-winning film.

[whohit]John Kasich Hated Fargo[/whohit]

Categories
General

The Failure of Social Research

One of the seminal social-psychology studies, at the turn of the 20th century, asked a question that at the time was a novel one: How does the presence of other people change an individual’s behavior?   NY Times, 2017-10-18

You have to read the whole article to get the gist of just how mind-blowing this discovery was:  people behave differently if there are other people in the room.  I know– I was shocked too.

This stunning revelation was made by Norman Triplett– may his name endure forever.  The reverberations continue still.  People behave… differently… if there are other people in the room.

This is the psychology, which has revolutionized the art of discovering things that are already known, repackaging them as “research”, and impersonating science.

It was a revelation to the psychological establishment which had, before then, believed that people behave exactly the same way if there are people in the room or if there are not.

You know where the writer of the article in the New York Times is going when you see:

In 2000, Malcolm Gladwell, the author of the best-selling “Tipping Point,” applied irresistible storytelling to the science, sending countless journalists to investigate similar terrain and inspiring social psychologists to write books of their own.

Gladwell tried to argue that the Beatles were successful because they had practiced for 10,000 hours, over-looking the obvious fact that thousands upon thousands of artists “practice” for 10,000 hours and don’t go anywhere because they don’t have any talent.  Gladwell did have one aspect of genius: when he wasn’t making an outright error, he made people feel smart by packaging obvious truths with smug observation.

Let’s not forget this chessnut:

that once people have made a decision, they curiously give more weight to information in its favor.

I guess most psychology students have never read Shakespeare, the brilliant 17th Century psychologist who discovered this truth in his study of neurological disconnects, “Hamlet”.

The article is about a researcher named Amy Cuddy who claimed to prove that your body language not only expresses your attitudes and your confidence, but actually can change your attitude and confidence.  She urged people to adopt strong poses, to display confidence and assertiveness.  She did a study that, she claimed, proved that adopting the body language of a confident, aggressive person would give you confidence and aggression.

She proved it thusly: she recruited subjects by telling them that she was studying the use of an electrocardiagraph, to see if it worked just as well above the heart as below.  Then she arranged all the students in body poses, half confident and assertive, half shy, diminutive.   Then she studied their responses.  She even tested them to see if they were willing to bet on the outcome of a literal roll of the dice.

And she was just stunned by the outcome!  A bunch of smart students from affluent families who could afford college were recruited for a specious “study” reported that they gained confidence after adopting confident poses!  Quick, publish the results:

“That a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful, has real-world, actionable implications.”

Sensational.  People will now pay this researcher thousands of dollars to deliver this breakthrough in person at conventions and conferences!  Give her a TED talk!  Get her on Oprah!  Calling Dr. Phil!

 Across disciplines, a basic scientific principle is that multiple teams should independently verify a result before it is accepted as true. But for the majority of social-psychology results, even the most influential ones, this hadn’t happened.

No, it didn’t.  It is a miracle of sorts that anyone actually bothered to try to verify the results– you get more headlines if you don’t.  What went wrong?

 Simmons believes that self-reports of power generally reflect what is called a demand effect — a result that occurs when subjects intuit the point of the study. Cuddy believes that studies can be constructed to minimize that risk and that demand effects are often nuanced.

Yes.  Shocking insight here: a study like this creates an artificial environment that can’t reliably be extrapolated to real life.

[whohit]The Failures of Social Research[/whohit]

Categories
General Politics

Do You Feel the Lash?

Dr. Marrus was seated with three Junior Fellows, graduate or professional students who live in residence at Massey. Hugh Segal, the head of the college, who has – until recently – carried the formal title “Master,” came to join them. As Mr. Segal sat down, Dr. Marrus said to a black student:

“You know this is your master, eh? Do you feel the lash?”

The students have filed a written complaint with the college. They have not spoken about the incident to The Globe and Mail. Mr. Segal could also not be reached.

The petition, which was made public on Thursday, demanded extensive changes and asked Massey to sever its ties with Dr. Marrus.

From the Globe and Mail, 2017-10-02

And Professor Marrus was summarily dismissed.  Well, he resigned, clearly under pressure.

When I was in college back in 1975, I had a part-time job in the kitchen, doing the dishes, which consisted of stacking them onto trays and sliding them into a long, automated dish-washing machine.  I was from Ontario and had never really known many black people, but at college, I regularly interacted with them.  One of them, a girl named Brenda, was working with me in the kitchen one day.  It was our custom to circulate among the tables in the cafeteria at a certain point in time to remind everyone to bring their dishes and trays to the kitchen as it was near the end of the dinner hour.

One day, Brenda and I went out to do the reminder.  I put my arm around her and as we approached a table, Brenda said, “time to bring your dishes in”, and I said “we’re spelling it out for you in black and white”.  Brenda was black.

Some of the students looked stunned.  I refused to believe there was anything really offensive about what I said.  There truly was not.  Not a thing.  But sensitivities about race in Chicago were at dangerously high levels.

It passed.  Nothing happened.

If that had happened today, I probably would have been suspended from school.

If you start a debate on whether or not Professor Marrus’ comments was racist and offensive you will end up with people thinking it was racist and offensive.  If people had any sense at all, they would regard the comment as mildly amusing and perhaps a tiny bit insensitive– which is, after all- what most jokes are: insensitivity as wit– and continue to judge Professor Marrus on his actual behavior and his character.  To elevate an off-the-cuff comment to the status of an indictment of man’s entire character and position and attitude is obscene and offensive and repugnant and the students that led the charge should themselves be sanctioned for monstrous behavior unbecoming a human being.

Look at the damn joke?  Can you seriously think he meant something like, “you should be a slave” or “slavery was good” or “slavery was funny”?  No.  It obviously indicates that we are so far removed from slavery and from a slavery mentality that one could refer to it without thinking one was doing harm.  And if the black student really thought he was harmed by the joke, he needs to grow up.  And that comment of mine would undoubtedly be taken as cause for dismissal right now if I were a professor at Massey.

The petition was signed by 200 students.  Every one of them should be suspended for three days for being jack-asses and for bringing disrepute and insult upon the otherwise noble objective of eliminating racism in our society.  For every ounce of cure this petition provided, it has cost the ideology ten pounds or more in credibility.  You are setting the cause back by years with this kind of idiotic pandering.

This is stupid and vile and should be stopped now.

In a similar vein, I recently read a comment in Reddit about “Blade Runner”.  The writer could not “enjoy” the movie at all because there is a scene in it (the original) in which Deckard “pressures” Rachel (a replicant) to have sex with him.  He was so concerned about the morality of this scene that he didn’t think he could ever enjoy the movie again.

This is a movie in which Deckard kills replicants.  It is a movie in which replicants kill many humans– they want to extend their own lives.  This is a movie.  It’s a story.  It’s not an elementary school lesson in deportment.

The writer has probably seen hundreds of movies and tv shows in which characters bomb, knife, shoot, burn, and beat all manner of victims.  But he can’t enjoy “Blade Runner” any more because one of the characters pressures another into having sex.

In the same online venue, Reddit, check out some of the forums of sexuality.  You will find there multiple submissions by women who are repelled by male aggression, and multiple submissions by women who welcome it, when it is from someone they are attracted to.  Is Rachel attracted to Deckard?  Would you like to discuss that, endlessly?

What planet does the writer live on?  Does he understand what a movie is?  Does he realize that he is not Deckard?

Does anyone have any sense any more?

 

[whohit]Do You Feel the Lash?[/whohit]