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I read The Dialectic of Sex in high school.  I liked it, and then reread it a few years later and thought it was kind of silly – especially the chart at the end where she prophecied the end of oppression would lead to the end of death.  But it was formative for me and well-written – I think the first feminist book I read.

I don’t know what happened to my copy actually.  I may have to buy it again and give it a third read.

Here is a nice obituary which also describes a very tragic ending.  It’s where I got the photo.

Have we reached Fourth Wave feminism?  Is nothing ideologically sacred?

My kids have discovered the Brady Bunch and we’re ordering them up from Netflix.  Just hearing the theme song has triggered odd childhood memories.  I literally had not seen these episodes in 30 years.

So, regarding the intro with the tic tac toe squares with each character in the box – why is Florence Henderson in the top box above Ralph Reed?  At one point he looks up and she looks down almost as if he is worshiping and her glance is almost angelic in bestowing grace upon him.  Was this a early feminist inspired concession to signal a minor break from the traditional nuclear family (actually, there’s not much “traditional” about the nuclear family – it’s a fairly recent phenomenon in history) in undercutting the image of contextual male authority, or is the female image simply put upon the pedestal as a tribute to the anti-feminist notion that women are actually morally superior if intellectually weaker because they are too good for the world and it’s the man’s job to handle the drudgery of worldly concerns.  It was originally used against suffrage, that women should not be expected to demean themselves with political concerns.  This was the explanation I heard by a John Birch Society advocate explaining a bumper sticker they were selling calling for the repeal of the 19th Amendment on the basis that “you can’t fool Mother Nature.”

I’m told that the Brady Bunch represented a “liberal turn” from the 50s nuclear family-based television offerings such as Leave it to Beaver and The Donna Reed Show, but Ralph Reed’s character does seem to be the ultimate authority in the plot lines, so if they were trying to break from the mold they didn’t get very far.

On the other hand, there is a kind of liberal aura to the plot lines in this family’s dealings with the outside world – nobody is truly evil, and most conflict is the product of misunderstanding rather than malice, and even where there are hints of malice from outside characters, those characters are really just the products of their environment.  The show certainly did not paint a picture of a fallen sinful world.   It was always about the power of reason and compassion to govern human affairs ultimately.  Punishments were always correctional in nature, and there were no villains (not even the guy who played Howell on Gilligan’s Island who tried to push the evil pool table on the family).

Anyway, back to the tic tac toe square positioning – feminist progress, or putting women on a pedestal?

Addendum: Okay, for some reason people keep clicking on the picture above.  Are you expecting the video?  Here you go.

I’ll let the youtube-posted info speak for itself.

Jennifer Shahade’s submission for YouTube Play Biennial: Project with Guggenheim Museum. Hulachess explores themes of multitasking, the feminine, circular side of chess and the surprising parallels between chess and hooping. The chess moves are based on a game Duchamp lost against the Romanian master Davidescu. The video features a possible improvement by Duchamp, which would have led the game to perpetual check.

The video, created by chess champion and artist Jennifer Shahade and filmmaker Daniel Meirom, features Shahade playing red and choreographer & dancer Gabrielle Revlock playing White. Cinematography by Blake Eichenseer.

I initially found the video at Ms. Shahade’s blog.  She was twice the US Woman’s Champion.

I’m just glad that some of the Code Pink activists have the depth to listen to their sister organization in Afghanistan.  I don’t know where I fall in terms of policy in the country, but sometimes life just isn’t simple enough to accommodate an ideologically based absolutist position.  Do progressive activists really want to pull out of the country and leave girls vulnerable to the men throwing acid on their faces for showing up to school to learn how to read?  Do American feminists continue to  argue that the burka in Muslim culture context is actually a symbol of empowerment?  Bear in mind that a large number women in Kandahar, upon arrival of American troops, tossed their burkas into piles on the streets and torched them.  Afghan women, the feminists, are afraid.

Kudos to Medea Benjamin for thinking it over.  And it’s not an easy paradox – reminiscent of the progressive activists during the civil rights era who had mixed feelings about the use of National Guard to enforce integration.  Certainly her intelligence can respond to the cognitive dissonance, integrating the new data into a fresh ideological framework.  Of course, preferable would be the loosening up of dogma and the recognition of nuance and complexity.  Advocating independent thinking however carries a price.  Slogans are harder to write.  You can’t work speeches off a template of “isms” and villains.

Solidarity carries certain responsibilities.  Maybe the peace movement in general can learn to listen a little.  It’s out of practice.

Thank you Tom Hanson for insisting that I put The Lives of Others at the top of my Netflix queue.  As in the past Germany has lived in something of denial about life in East Germany until just under a couple of decades ago.  As with Nazism and the Holocaust they don’t like to talk about it too much, particularly as many of the people who were responsible for injustice against their fellow citizens have blended in well during the integration with the west and are now businesspeople, political leaders, and otherwise legal and apparently guilt impervious neighbors with people whom they spied on, informed on, and had arrested.  I guess the idea is that in such an extreme system it was difficult to survive without making serious compromises of humanity, and this movie is one of very few German pop-culture attempts thus far to deal with the issues in any meaningful manner.

The premise revolves around a quote the filmmaker attributes to Lenin about not being able to listen to Mozart lest he lose the resolve to fight the revolution.  The lead is a Stasi agent assigned to conduct audio surveillance on a prominent artistic couple.  He is a purist, a true state loyalist, and suspects the couple of something even before his superior orders him onto the case.  His confidence in the righteousness of his cause are almost immediately undermined when he learns of corrupt motivations behind the investigation, and further undermined as the music, art, and integrity of the people whom he is spying on begin to move him.  The film doesn’t try too hard to shore up the plot with plausibility, though it makes some reasonable efforts.

The officer is played by the late Ulrich Muhe (with an umlaut) who had in real life resided in East Germany where his ex-wife reportedly informed on him (she has vehemently denied this despite official records which seem to make it clear).  The story only makes the film itself more compelling.

Before he died, William F. Buckley saw the film and said it was the best he’d ever seen.  Ironically, criticism that the movie soft pedals the oppression in the GDR comes from a source on the left.  Slavoj Zizek (I don’t know how to do the little umlaut-like things above the letters) made the following points in a review for In These Times:

Like so many other films depicting the harshness of Communist regimes, The Lives of Others misses their true horror. How so? First, what sets the film’s plot in motion is the corrupt minister of culture, who wants to get rid of the top German Democratic Republic (GDR) playwright, Georg Dreyman, so he can pursue unimpeded an affair with Dreyman’s partner, the actress Christa-Maria. In this way, the horror that was inscribed into the very structure of the East German system is relegated to a mere personal whim. What’s lost is that the system would be no less terrifying without the minister’s personal corruption, even if it were run by only dedicated and “honest” bureaucrats.

It’s a point well made.  The lead character, before his conversion, is more scary to me than the corruption.  The true-believers are the most dangerous to basic liberty.  But this isn’t a docudrama.  It’s a story about the versatility of humanity even when we as a species construct situations which threaten to wipe it out.  And it doesn’t oversell the concept.  The conversion is not sudden, and it’s not dramatic.  The ending is perfect.


I just watched Religulous, and while I find Bill Maher’s take and approach hilarious, it’s really not informative.  He interviews an assortment of nutcases, morons, and con-men to make his points.  It would have been more informative, though perhaps not as entertaining, for him to have interviewed serious theologians with his questions.

On the DVD itself I strongly recommend the outtakes in the special features section.  There you’ll find fragments of an interview with David Icke, someone who has received some attention around here.


In 1997 my wife signed us up for cable.  I didn’t watch much of it, but one night I was “channel surfing” and came across some haunting urban cinematography with an equally haunting Celtic score.  It immediately grabbed my attention, and within moments I was drawn into the story.  I think I saw maybe three episodes, then life took me away from it, and I came back a couple of months later but it was gone.  It was entitled EZ Streets, and now a few of the episodes are available on a DVD entitled Brilliant but Canceled: EZ Streets (Brilliant but Canceled is a series of DVDs with, well, what it says it is).

This was a well written, excellently acted, and brilliantly filmed series which aired in 1996, but the pinheads on CBS underestimated the audience and messed things up much the same way Firefly was messed up (episodes shown sparsely, and out of order – in fact they aired just about the same number of episodes as Firefly). It takes place in a decaying fictional city across the river from Canada (think Detroit, where it was probably filmed) and takes a multi-layered noir approach to television crime drama, with very blurred distinctions between good and evil. You’ve got a brooding cop played by Ken Olin perpetually trying to solve the mystery of his partner’s death. Joe Pantoliano plays his likable criminal adversary who weaves a dance through dark comic relief, genuine brotherly loyalty, and creepy malevolence. Caught in the middle is a morally conflicted ex-felon trying to find some footing on some very slippery ground. Their stories are backed by a very strong supporting cast with numerous fascinating characters. Like Firefly, anytime the story seems to drift towards anything remotely cliche, you’re yanked onto new terrain with a backdrop of barren subject photography of neighborhoods in disrepair and a Celtic music score which includes artists like Loreena McKennitt to let you know that a streak of romance laces an atmosphere of despair. It was too far ahead of its time.


I commented before on what I had characterized as “improvements” to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  After rereading the story (to my children) and having viewed the newest film version from front to back, I’ve changed my mind.  I’d previously complimented the film for altering the White Queen character, but really, they didn’t have any business doing that.

Let me start from the beginning.  CS Lewis wrote the story.  He was a Christian with socially conservative politics.  As a young man he’d been an atheist and I think had some liberal if not socialist politics, and had been a feminist to a certain degree.  His conversion led him to rethink his feminism and he concluded that feminism is a rebellion against God and his order.  The Bible makes very clear that men have authority over women so he argued, and it’s in the nature of the “mystery” of the sexes that men should have decisional authority even if they are “equal” in intellectual and other respects.  If you have any doubt read his novel Perelandara where emissaries from God and Satan visit a planet which has not yet fallen, both appealing to Perelandara’s “Eve” to go their way.  A good portion of the arguments made the the Devil’s emissary were those made by feminists.  God’s emissary argued the virtues of female submissiveness.  When Eve gets confused, God’s emissary kills Satan’s emissary.  That’s the story.  Sorry if I’ve spoiled it.

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lewis depicted the Queen as cowardly and scheming in the very traditional female sense.  That was his vision.  You may not like it.  I didn’t like it even as a kid.  But that was his character.  It was his story.

It was also in his story where Father Christmas delivers the gifts to the children and instructs the girls to stay out of the fighting.  When one of the girls protests that she could be brave, F.C. responds, “that is not the point, war in which women fight is an ugly thing” or something like that.  In the more PC movie version he simply tells her that war isn’t pretty, missing Lewis’ point and altering the message.

So, to make the story more palatable to me (and if you read my old comments on the film, you’ll see that it is indeed more palatable to me) and others likely to watch it, they stipped CS Lewis of his intention to offend me and make me think about it.  He does so even more in Voyage of the Dawn Treader where cosmopolitan values are seen as more fashion than substance, and cultural simplicity (ie. what the average middle class white kids are into) are indicative of virtue and humility.  I imagine that will be whitewashed from the upcoming film as well.

My point is, I don’t think they had the right to do that.  I didn’t like it when feminism was stripped from Watchmen.  I certainly don’t like the fact that none of the several version of War of the Worlds have been stripped of HG Wells’ original point, which was to present a parable in opposition to colonialism.  I didn’t like it when the political allegories were removed from Wizard of Oz.  I have a much different view of the world than CS Lewis, but his stories were his expressions.  He has been deprived of his voice.  It’s plagiarism as far as I’m concerned.  They took something and appropriated it to their own uses without regard to its vitality.

The intro from an atheist blogger:

While perusing through Fundies Say The Darndest Things, a user-provided content site where people submit ridiculous and sometimes hilarious fundamentalist views and rants, I found a very interesting quote. The quote comes from David J. Stewart, from and addresses the question “Is it okay to divorce an abusive spouse?

And the passage he or she quotes:

Interestingly, and sadly, all we see on the internet and in society today is talk about domestic violence; but NEVER do we hear anything about statistics on wives who refuse to obey their husbands. It is evil. It is just as sinful for a wife to frustrate her husband through insubordination and disobedience as it is for a man to commit domestic violence. I am not lessening the sin of domestic violence, I am emphasizing the sin of wives who rebel against their husbands by not being obedient. I realize this is ancient mentality to feminists today; but it is 100% Biblical doctrine. A wife is expected by God to obey her husband. Feminists are eagerly willing to crucify abusive husbands; BUT they won’t even address the issue of wives who disobey, mistreat, and frustrate their husbands. It takes two to tango.

Please understand that I believe a wife who is being physically abused should leave if she feels threatened; but not divorce. Such a wife needs to sincerely ask herself “why” her husband is being abusive–there’s ALWAYS a reason. …”

David J. Stewart, [2007-Feb-17]

I’m not particularly religious, so I just don’t understand.  I’ll just leave it at that.

The chess thread below kind of spurred some net surfing on the topic (I may have to start playing again). Most of the material is of no interest to anyone not into the game, but I came across this video of Sophia Polgar beating Victor Korchnoi in a blitz game (speed chess). I think some of you may find the dynamics interesting as they’re classic to the occurrence of women moving into a traditionally male-exclusive milieu.

Korchnoi is the senior would-be world champion who challenged Anatoly Karpov for the world championship on two occasions. He was a defector from the U.S.S.R. playing against the Soviet golden boy and all the cold war intrigue that had surrounding the Fischer-Spaasky match made the story sell outside the chess world. That and Korchnoi’s antics. He’s never been known for his sportsmanship. The following description of the 1978 match comes from Wikipedia.

The World Championship match of 1978 was held in Baguio in the Philippines, and deserves its reputation as the most bizarre World Championship match ever played. Karpov’s team included a Dr. Zukhar (a well known hypnotist), while Korchnoi adopted two local renegades currently on bail for attempted murder (Source: Karpov — Korchnoi 1978, by Raymond Keene). There was more controversy off the board, with histrionics ranging from X-raying of chairs, protests about the flags used on the board, the inevitable hypnotism complaints and the mirror glasses used by Korchnoi. When Karpov’s team sent him a blueberry yogurt during a game without any request for one by Karpov, the Korchnoi team protested, claiming it could be some kind of code. They later said this was intended as a parody of earlier protests, but it was taken seriously at the time.[5]

Karpov’s team wasn’t particularly gracious either. The Soviets objected to Korchnoi playing under the Swiss flag and instead wanted his flag to be white and read “stateless.” Korchnoi’s support team showed a sense of humor and offered to switch his flag to the Jolly Roger.

Sophia is one of the famed Polgar sisters from Hungary. They were the first women to achieve authentic grandmaster status and Sophia’s older sister Judit is ranked among the top 10 players and competed in this last world championship tournament. The oldest sister Susan is living in the US and is into politics more than chess of late (she even has a blog).

Not all the male grandmasters are happy about the intrusion, which is bound to get bigger as made evident by the account in the first book on the history of women in chess entitled Chess Bitch and written by another rising female star Jennifer Shahade. In this game, which took place recently in San Francisco, Korchnoi loses and immediately he gets up to leave without offering the customary handshake. She attempts to strike up a conversation I think, based on her tone and body language, trying to say she was afraid she would lose his respect, though her English isn’t clear and it’s hard to know what she meant. He either hears it in the worst way or doesn’t care – he is clearly angry before she speaks. Either way he smugly tells her that she’s never going to win a game from him again in her life, which probably means he’ll have to refuse to play her as she is only going to improve.

The accents make it hard to make out the dialogue but with several listens and some transcripts to compare, this transcript offered by one of the Youtube commenters is probably pretty close to the exchange, with some modifications as I hear it.

SP: I was afraid to lose the…the res
VK: excuse me?

SP: I was afraid to lose the respect that now I have others/elders (?)…

VK: It was the very first and the very last you ever won(ed) a game against me
. I’m sorry.
SP: Could be but I won it anyway
VK: You won it…you won it, the very first and very last in your life. Yah.

SP: Really! One time does in you.

Don’t let him get to you Sophia.

Polgar’s photo comes from Steffen’s Chess Gallery. Korchnoi’s comes from his Wikipedia entry.

Addendum: Came across a simultaneous exhibition Judit Polgar performed at a chess club in Germany. She played against 30 and lost 1. I was trying to figure out which one she lost. I thought it might be to the kid, but then I went back and looked at the position when they first homed in on him and it’s not likely.

Judit was also interviewed about attitudes she’s run into in her professional life.

Yeah, it’s sexist and all that. But I’m envious of people with the time and energy to worry about stuff like this.

From Corriere Della Sera:

In 2017, only two doctors in ten will be male. Surgeons and urologists dwindling. Federation of medical associations warns that countermeasures must be taken.

ROME – Can you imagine a man letting himself be examined by a female urologist?

Okay, I’m imagining. I guess it could be awkward. But, yeah, I can imagine it.

In a couple of years’ time, this will be a situation that many men who are currently reluctant out of pride or embarrassment will have to accept. Italy’s medical profession is rapidly changing sex. Already, some 60% of the students at faculties of medicine and surgery are female and forecasts predict that in the next ten years, as many as eight white coats in ten will be worn by women. The topic will be on Friday’s agenda at a major conference organised at Caserta by the FNOMCEO, the federation of medical associations chaired by Amedeo Bianco.

Dr Bianco’s warning is based on figures collated by his deputy, Maurizio Bennato: “We have to address the future differently, otherwise some specialisations, especially the ones that today are single sex, will be facing a crisis. I am very much in favour of women doctors but I do admit to a certain concern. We have to design a system that will ensure quality and potential without reducing supply”. Hospital roles will be turned on their heads with beskirted doctors and nurses in trousers. For there is also a new trend in nursing. Once, nurses were female but nowadays the profession offers more promising prospects for men. Nursing is no longer just about care and has acquired a managerial, coordination-oriented focus. In other words, old-style ward sisters are on the way out.

See, I find the image of a “beskirted” doctor appealing. Why can’t a female doctor, or CEO for that matter, wear a dress? And not just any dress, but a decorative colorful one? If I was waiting in fear of test results or some sort of diagnosis, I can tell you that the image of a woman walking in with a big smile in a dress with lilacs printed all over it, it could help settle my nerves.

Okay, so let’s say I accepted that this anticipated disparity is a problem. I’m a young, intelligent, heterosexual Italian man thinking about med school. The women in med school are going to outnumber men 4 to 1? I mean, if that perk isn’t an incentive, I don’t know what is!

I tell you, I was born a couple of decades too early!

Photo comes from the Witch Doctor.  Youth is so wasted on the young!

A woman who had an affair will be stoned to death. Her male partner in crime will be whipped.

Tehran, 28 Sept.(AKI) – A court in the Iran’s second largest city, Mashad, has sentenced to death by stoning a mother-of-three for having an extra-marital affair, an Iranian newspaper reported Friday.

The daily Quds said the married woman’s lover had confessed to having had sex with her and that the court sentenced him to 100 lashes.

There are currently eight women in Iranian prisons waiting to be executed by stoning, a practice usually reserved for those found guilty of adultery according to the Islamic republic’s laws.

Earlier this year it was reported that a man had been put to death by stoning, the first person to be executed in this way for several years.

Capital punishment in Iran – after China, the country to carry out the highest number of executions – usually involves death by hanging.

But I shouldn’t point this out. It’s cultural imperialism to impose my values on them. And after all, these laws are really about the liberation of women, in their context. And Pat Robertson is bad too. And it’s all a plot of the environmentalist Zionists who control foreign policy, the media, and canned soup.

Did I leave anything out?


July 2020