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Monthly Archives: July 2013

WordPress is acting flaky on me again. This is the second time this week. I wrote quite a lot this morning and for some reason a large part of it disappeared in the edit window. When I went to the revisions screen and all of what I had written was there and the current version had more than was in the edit window. However, I couldn’t restore it because the restore button was grayed out. I went back to the edit window hoping that it was just some weird bug but it still had only the oddly truncated post. I went back to the revisions screen and just copied and pasted the text in a new post. Unfortunately, the two versions are mixed up now. I’m feeling grumpy and not in the mood to do the necessary tidying up of the text. However, I’ve posted every day since the first of the year and I have other things I need to do today, so I’m just going to post what I have. I don’t expect anyone to read it. When the headache goes away, I’ll clean it up, so come back later.

When writing down my memories, I try to travel back in time in my imagination and not only remember what occurred and how I perceived events at

the time. It is hard from the point of view of 2013 to convey the excitement generated in our town by the construction of the new Dee-Lux Park

only one town over. It’s hard to write about it without sarcasm today, but we were actually thrilled, and I mean thrilled, by the promise of a

brand, spanking new shopping mall. Luxury for the masses was what was on offer. Until then, we had two, very small shopping malls.

When writing down my memories, I try to travel back in time in my imagination and not only remember what occurred and how I perceived events at

the time. It is hard from the point of view of 2013 to convey the excitement generated in our town by the construction of the new Dee-Lux Park

only one town over. It’s hard to write about it without sarcasm today, but we were actually thrilled, and I mean thrilled, by the promise of a

brand, spanking new shopping mall. Luxury for the masses was what was on offer. Until then, we had two, very small shopping malls.
This was the late seventies, and shopping had already left the downtowns of large cities. Our town, a medium-sized town, certainly not a city, as

I’ve already described, had no real downtown. There were several shopping areas where a family could find stores catering to daily needs, a

grocery, a drugstore, gas station, and newsstand that sold candy and comics.         This was the late seventies, and shopping had already left

the downtowns of large cities. Our town, a medium-sized town, certainly not a city, as I’ve already described, had no real downtown. There were

several shopping areas where a family could find stores catering to daily needs, a grocery, a drugstore, gas station, and newsstand that sold

candy and comics.
The two existing shopping malls were located at either end of the economic spectrum. One, bare bones and unenclosed, was anchored by a large

discount store where we would go with our maternal grandmother. I remember in the beginning of the summer going there to pick up cheap flip-flops

that inevitably broke before school resumed in the fall. Like many of the items in the store, they were piled high in big bins.         The two

existing shopping malls were located at either end of the economic spectrum. One, bare bones and unenclosed, was anchored by a large discount

store where we would go with our maternal grandmother. I remember in the beginning of the summer going there to pick up cheap flip-flops that

inevitably broke before school resumed in the fall. Like many of the items in the store, they were piled high in big bins.
The other shopping mall, being enclosed, was warm in the winter and cool in the summer. At the center was a modernist fountain, geometric,

symmetric and hushed. Our paternal grandmother would take us to this one to buy us velvet party dresses for Christmas.         The other shopping

mall, being enclosed, was warm in the winter and cool in the summer. At the center was a modernist fountain, geometric, symmetric and hushed. Our

paternal grandmother would take us to this one to buy us velvet party dresses for Christmas.
Although it was an era that was soon to end, we were still in that period following the Second World War when economic gap between the rich and

the poor was at its nadir. Like many of the people born in that period, I thought that was just the way the world was. In any case, there was a

huge, unfulfilled market and Dee-Lux Park intended to fill it in a spectacular fashion. In the center of the mall there wasn’t simply a fountain,

there was a large atrium with a waterfall landscaped with plants, a glass elevator and a maze of winding, landscaped staircases leading up to a

food court, a new idea at the time. Leading outward from this center were two long, bent wings, each anchored by a major, mid-priced department

store. This was mid-century, middle class, middle American consumer heaven rendered in decorative cast concrete building units.         Although

it was an era that was soon to end, we were still in that period following the Second World War when economic gap between the rich and the poor

was at its nadir. Like many of the people born in that period, I thought that was just the way the world was. In any case, there was a huge,

unfulfilled market and Dee-Lux Park intended to fill it in a spectacular fashion. In the center of the mall there wasn’t simply a fountain, there

was a large atrium with a waterfall landscaped with plants, a glass elevator and a maze of winding, landscaped staircases leading up to a food

court, a new idea at the time. Leading outward from this center were two long, bent wings, each anchored by a major, mid-priced department store.

This was mid-century, middle class, middle American consumer heaven rendered in decorative cast concrete building units.
Dee-Lux mall had, from a teenager’s point of view, that all important item, a large music store. This was where my sister and I, pooling our

allowance, bought our first record album. On the far right of the store was a display where one could find all the Top 40 singles. Along the left

hand side of the store ran a long display of musical instruments. My mother’s uncle, a luthier, had dutifully given me violin lessons, but somehow

it never took. My sister an I both played the piano, the one instrument they did not carry. We did, sometimes, go through their racks of sheet

music and, to this day, stuffed in my sister’s piano bench, is an embarrassing amount of sheet music to Barry Manilow’s songs.         Dee-Lux

mall had, from a teenager’s point of view, that all important item, a large music store. This was where my sister and I, pooling our allowance,

bought our first record album. On the far right of the store was a display where one could find all the Top 40 singles. Along the left hand side

of the store ran a long display of musical instruments. My mother’s uncle, a luthier, had dutifully given me violin lessons, but somehow it never

took. My sister an I both played the piano, the one instrument they did not carry. We did, sometimes, go through their racks of sheet music and,

to this day, stuffed in my sister’s piano bench, is an embarrassing amount of sheet music to Barry Manilow’s songs.
There was a store that sold denim, Levis, Lees and Wranglers, piled up to the ceiling. Denim jackets painted with the cover art from favorite rock

albums were a popular item, but they weren’t for sale. A few times, I remember going to that store with a boy from school where he would buy a

jacket for me to paint. I would get twenty-five or thirty dollars for my trouble, which to a kid is a lot.         There was a store that

sold denim, Levis, Lees and Wranglers, piled up to the ceiling. Denim jackets painted with the cover art from favorite rock albums were a popular

item, but they weren’t for sale. A few times, I remember going to that store with a boy from school where he would buy a jacket for me to paint. I

would get twenty-five or thirty dollars for my trouble, which to a kid is a lot.
The was a store that rented formal wear in the garish colors popular at the time and would make a generation of young men hide the photos of

weddings and proms, and a store that sold cheap trendy clothes for teenage girls where we’d buy things like sequined tube tops to wear to the Soap

Factory disco.          The was a store that rented formal wear in the garish colors popular at the time and would make a generation of young men

hide the photos of weddings and proms, and a store that sold cheap trendy clothes for teenage girls where we’d buy things like sequined tube tops

to wear to the <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WIh1OWS0Qk&#8221; target=”_blank”>Soap Factory</a> disco.
Today, I think of shopping as a chore and one of the least fun activities in the world.
We would often go in a large group. Our parents thought there was safety in numbers, but once there we would often break up into

smaller groups and pairs. When I would get bored with the other teenage girls, I would head off alone to a shop that sold posters and novelty

items where the was a college age store clerk who seemed to like to talk to me. Sometimes, he would express regret about the age difference, but

it never went beyond talking.
Today, I think of shopping as a chore and one of the least fun activities in the world. I wish I could remember just what the

fascination was for us. We rarely actually bought things. We’d browse the clothes, and not buy. We’d browse the records, and not buy. Maybe we’d

get an ice cream.
Suzy Q, constantly bemoaning her lack of curves would tell me to remind her to eat more. Frequently, she’d get an ice cream and I

wouldn’t. I already had the curves and was trying to keep my waist. One day, she bought an ice cream up by the food court. It was afternoon, the

lunch crowd was gone, but most of the tables were dirty. We walked down the labyrinthine staircase that ran behind the waterfall, eating her ice

cream along the way. It must have been summer. She wore jeans and a blue and white striped knit shirt with short sleeves and the pendant with a

Taoist symbol that she always wore, not the one people are used to, but a Chinese character. SuzyQ wore a size zero, which fit her loosely, but

she didn’t want to shop in the children’s department any more. Although extremely tight jeans were popular at the time, I didn’t wear mine that

way either because I thought they were uncomfortable. I could have squeezed into a size two, but instead bought a four or even a six for comfort.

Skimpy shirts we called camisoles with narrow “spaghetti” straps were popular at the time and I was wearing one. SuzyQ’s mother would not allow

her to wear them. She constantly warned that white men sexualized Asian women in a way that was not good. SuzyQ would complain to me, rolling her

eyes and groaning, “My mother is soooooo paranoid. Like she’s just off the boat, or something.” To a girl who hasn’t yet begun to menstruate and

whose contact with white men was mainly limited to school teachers and terrified prepubescent boys, these fears seemed, at best, exaggerated.
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Once again I couldn’t figure out what to draw and it was getting late so I needed to do something quickly. A few days ago, watched The Secret Disco Revolution. The movie itself is dreadful. I would not only not recommend it, but advise against it. However, it did remind me of some of the music of the era.

The essential premise of the movie, that there was a hidden, subversive, political message in disco, is overstated. The scene of the discotheque did reflect changes that were going on in society on a social level, but it was only political in so far as all social changes can be said to have a political dimension. If there is a unique aspect to the disco era, it might be that the audience was at least as important as the performers. Certainly, there are interesting things to discuss from that era, but the movie doesn’t manage that.

A sketch of a man dancing in a disco.

Fortuitous timing, coupled with my inability to leave a bookstore empty-handed, caused me to pick up Charlie LeDuff’s new book, Detroit: An American Autopsy. The only thing fortuitous was my timing because, as everyone has heard by now, Detroit has filed for bankruptcy. Suddenly Detroit has taken on a symbolic importance. The bankruptcy itself, being too recent, doesn’t make it into LeDuff’s book, however the symbolism of Detroit does.

No one cared much about Detroit until the Dow collapsed in 2008…. Detroit became epic, historic, symbolic, hip even. I began to get calls from reporters around the world wondering what the city was like, what was happening here…. Was Detroit an outlier or an epicenter? Was Detroit a symbol of the greater decay?

A page later he answers the question:

Go ahead and laugh at Detroit. Because you are laughing at yourself.

LeDuff starts out by explaining how he once worked for the most prestigious newspaper in the country, New York Times. Throughout the book, he clearly enjoys writing about ordinary people and he tried to do so at the Times.

The editor called the farmers and hunters and drive-through attendants and factory workers I wrote about losers.

….

Losers. That was 80 percent of the country, and the new global economic structure was cranking out more.

He makes a bid for why we should have an interest in his losers, especially those in Detroit, like the one he starts the book with, a man dead, frozen in a block of ice at the bottom of an elevator shaft in an abandoned building:

At the end of the day, the Detroiter may be the most important American there is because no one knows better than he that we’re all standing at the edge of the shaft.

LeDuff’s got style. I confess I’ve always had a weakness for hard-boiled prose, terse sentences and vivid images. First, however, I wanted to know, is this hard-boiled stance, this attitude of having been around the block in some less than savory neighborhoods, legitimately earned or an affectation. Within the first couple of chapters I decided it was legitimate. Even if it wasn’t I might have forgiven it because it does make the book a lively read.

LeDuff grew up in a nearby suburb of Detroit and much of his family still lives there. He makes it clear throughout that he identifies with the place. He becomes a character in his own story. Sometimes, this can come across as a writer photobombing their own book. In Detroit, it works because, at times, it’s almost as much a memoir as a work of reportage.

There’s something just a bit peculiar about reading a book about Detroit while sitting in Baltimore. Mention of one seems to bring about thoughts of the other. Even The New York Times’ review feels a need to make a comparison. LeDuff’s “encompassing sense of civic outrage can remind one of David Simon. But whereas Simon earned liberal accolades for exposing Baltimore’s underbelly in ‘The Wire,’ in Detroit such a focus can seem, if not politically conservative, at least culturally retrograde….” LeDuff himself makes a few mentions of Baltimore as well, not that he appears to know much about it beyond its reputation as yet another washed up city that’s lost almost half its population. On the other hand, the people in Baltimore are most certainly not laughing at the people in Detroit. We’re holding our breath.

In the wake of the bankruptcy, the left and the right are battling it out to write the story of what happened to the city of Detroit and why. LeDuff tells a different story, a more specific one that puts a face on all those numbers, one that tells us why we’re even supposed to care.

I hope it comes out in a cheap paperback edition and gets a second chance to sit on the display table of the bookstore.

A ground squirrel in California was found infected with plaque, but it’s neither as rare or as serious as that sounds. Every year, about seven cases are found in the western United States, mostly in rodents.

Here’s an interview from last March with Susan Jacoby. She discusses her book about Robert Ingersoll with Bill Moyers.

This series of photos of the Jersey Shore circa 1980 brought on a heavy dose of nostalgia for me. They look like all the people in the memories I’ve been recounting.

If you’ve come across anything interesting during the course of the week, please feel free to share it in the comments.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted photos of the boy. The other day I saw him lying on his back in the sun and I grabbed my camera to take a picture. As I approached, he woke up.

Image

Cat rolling over.

Cat cuddling a toy.

When I was young, dating was fun. When other women would say things about how they couldn’t wait to get married just so they could stop dating I thought it was just about the stupidest thing I ever heard. Not quite the stupidest, though. After all, women can get pretty stupid when talking about male/female relationships. I grew up with two parents who were, in their own quiet suburban way, pretty unconventional. They never pressured me to get married or to give them grandchildren. As long as I didn’t do anything unethical, anything that hurt other people, they always said that they would support whatever kind of life I wanted to have. When I explained to my mother that I needed to show genitalia in my paintings because twisted poses to hide the obvious were starting to look affected and ridiculous to me, she said, “I’m fully behind whatever you feel you need to do artistically.” I suspect that, if I told her that I wanted a law degree to make a bundle of cash, she would have frowned. Those were the sort of values I was taught.

The dribble dribble dribble about how it was important to have a man, important to be married, still reached me, usually through the medium of friends’ mothers. They sounded to me like something out of the dark ages. It’s still out there in the ether, that a woman without a man is somehow a failure.

These days what people call feminism is all girl power girl power enabling bullshit. Maybe I’m too old. I can remember when feminists actually expected something of themselves. Now, we’re supposed to “support” other women for no better reason than the fact that we share similar genitalia, even if that “support” is nothing more than enabling self-destructive behavior. Worse, we’re supposed to support other women even if their behavior hurts women in general.

“What on earth are you driving at?” you may very well be wondering. Well, I sat down at my computer knowing that I hadn’t yet done my Thursday post. Before starting to write, I looked at a couple of tabs I had open in my browser. I thought I was going to write about Detroit. The browsing was nothing but light procrastination. The tabs are still open now, The New York Times, a couple of blogs I follow, and Salon. I don’t read Salon regularly, but I looked up something there a few days ago and somehow never closed the tab. What were the headlines on Salon? There was not one, but two, articles about Huma Abedin. One was entitled “Leave Huma Alone.” It was accompanied by a photo of Huma, gazing lovingly at and smiling at her husband, a one time congressmen best known for sending young women unwanted photos of his penis. When I saw her smiling face, an inexplicable level of anger rose up in me. I started asking myself why, why do I hate this woman? The emotion of hatred is so overwhelming that it cleared my head of what I originally meant to write.

If it was early in the morning, perhaps I’d take a jog, clear my head, and try to get myself on some sort of high road. In reality, it’s past midnight, so I’m just going to think out loud, engage in a little free association and try to figure out why I even give a shit about this woman.

Until the afternoon of the twenty-third, I barely knew who she was. A couple of years ago when Weiner was implausibly denying that the photos of the penis were his and making up an insane story about how his Facebook account had been hacked, I recall that he used his new bride as part of his alibi. I remember there was some comment about his wife having been a protegé of Hillary Clinton, the world’s most famous cuckoldess. When I heard about that, I just figured that Weiner had about zero real affection for her and probably married her for her connections. Beyond that, I was barely aware of her existence. Weiner resigned and nobody cared anymore.

So now, Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner are both running for public office in New York City. Fun time! I saw an article that said that women found Weiner more forgivable than Spitzer, which surprised me. Spitzer just visited a prostitute, a willing, well paid prostitute of legal age. Kinda boring if you ask me. Weiner is just creepy, in my opinion. It puts me in mind of a man who was lurking behind some clothing racks in a department store and took out his penis in front of me when I was about four or five years old and had temporarily wandered away from my mother.

I saw the video of Anthony Weiner’s press conference on the internet on Tuesday. I hit play and could only watch it for a few seconds. I turned it off feeling enraged, not at Weiner, but at Huma. Why? Because she smiled. She looked like a simpering idiot. Her husband it admitting to multiple affairs and she’s not just standing by his side, but she’s smiling like it’s all some wonderful joke.

When I was a young woman, I couldn’t stand seeing Hillary Clinton lying through her teeth saying that she wasn’t standing by her man “like Tammy Wynette” when she was pretty clearly doing just that. Later, when she ran for the Democratic nomination, I still felt waves of disgust every time I saw her, but I kept trying to stuff that feeling down telling myself that she came from a different, more benighted, generation. What is Huma’s excuse?

Women who have no self-esteem, who will do anything to hang onto a man disgust me for so many reasons. How many of us have friends and relatives who have been sexually abused by step-fathers and whose mothers side with the man they’re so afraid of losing? I can think of a few. What would Anthony Weiner have to do for Huma to leave him?

On the one hand, I feel it’s petty, that I shouldn’t care about their private life. On the other hand, I hate them. It’s not healthy. I hope they both go away so I never have to look at them again.Huma’s behavior hurts women because the message that women need to do anything to get and keep a man is not just given to women, it’s given to men as well. I’ve met many men who have expected me to take a shocking level of crap from them. When I tell them they’ve crossed the line and it’s over, they’re shocked. Why on earth would they be shocked? My requirements are fairly minimal and I usually make them clear. But some of them believe that all women are needy, that they need a man to give them a sense of self-esteem. They think we’re all like Hillary and Huma. We’re not.

Without a boyfriend, my social life quickly resumed the pattern it held before he had entered my life. Although we remained friends, I began spending less time with Cherry Bomb and more time with Suzie Q. Also, my attention turned to the boys in my own class. They were a couple of years younger than Sheepdog had been and simply engaging them in conversation could be difficult.

In art class, the individual desks were arranged in four long columns. The desks were not turned to face the teacher’s desk, but instead faced each other. They were all pushed right up against one another creating two long, narrow surfaces split by a long and narrow aisle. Suzy Q sat directly to my right and, across from me, sat a boy I found inexplicably intriguing. I’d been wanting to talk the supposed Boy Genius since I first overheard whispers about him shortly after my arrival in the junior high school. However, he kept to himself and proved to be entirely elusive. It wasn’t an obsession, or even a goal, just one of those desires that sits in the back of your mind and you don’t even know is there until a circumstance triggers it. Now, here I was, the front of my desk pushed right up against the front of his, face to face twice a week for a year. I would have plenty of time to size up the Boy Genius.

In appearance, he was about average, without much to recommend him but nothing against him either. He seemed, like Suzy Q, to be lingering on the other side of puberty; he showed no signs of body hair and his forearms still had that child-like lack of definition. He had dark, limp, straight hair, unusually pale skin with a smattering of freckles. A little bit awkward, he managed to make it just within the group a girl might call cute, as long as the girl had a preferences for the shy, sensitive types rather than the jocks. Since he’d be sitting across from me all year, there was no need to hurry. As it was, I still didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted from boys. I just wanted him to acknowledge me, which he didn’t.

On a daily basis, this didn’t matter much. Art class, after all, was my time to shine. Plus, I was sitting next to Suzy Q, a good friend and also a talented artist. If I was lacking confidence in most other areas of my life, art class was the one area in which I was in my element. Now that I’m older and I can view the situation with some perspective, I realize that I should have been a million times more forward, but it is only in hindsight that I can see how intimidating I must have been to boys my own age. I was still naive enough to think that getting good grades and otherwise standing out in a positive way would attract boys’ attention and get them to like me. After all, that is what attracted my attention to them.

One day, I asked the boy genius why I didn’t see him around the school often. He was in my gym class, but he wasn’t in my math class. Our math classes were divided into skill levels and I was in the highest. The Boy Genius should have been there too, or so I thought. He explained that he only spent half a day at the junior high school and, after lunch, he went to the high school where he took science and math classes that were more advanced than what was offered in our school. Years later, I would date a man who had had a similar experience when he was young and he would tell me about the intense loneliness of an adolescence with no friends. If I had known, I would have been both more persistent and gentler, but I was just a kid myself.

Flirting is a learned behavior. As a learned behavior, it has many variants and the norms can vary based on region, era or other factors. However, people who are isolated from their age peers during early adolescence frequently fail to learn it well. To a great extent, the behavior is internalized and we act out the roles while being only half conscious of them. A boy looks at you. You hold his gaze and don’t look away. He smiles. You smile back. In small incremental steps, the contact is escalated, yet frequently this is done without much thinking. The Boy Genius was being isolated from his peer group at the very age that he needed them most socially. I don’t know how the Boy Genius feels about this trade-off today, but I know that boyfriend I later dated has some regrets. My own parents took the opposite approach. Despite a high intelligence, they tried to hold me back and keep me at the same intellectual level as my peers. They put little emphasis on academic advancement beyond a basic requirement to get on the honor roll and, my mother in particular, were quite obsessed with my social development. If I was caught sitting alone reading in my room, I was punished and forced to go the the park and play with other kids. Today, I can’t help but think that there’s got to be a happy medium between the two approaches.

I realized that he was always the first one in the classroom and I started avoiding conversations with other girls in the hall and made a b-line for the classroom so I could be the second person in there. This would give me a few seconds to talk to the Boy Genius before anyone else could interrupt, though at first I said nothing. He almost always had his nose in a beat up paperback when I arrived. After a couple of months of this behavior he actually started to look up and smile when I walked in the room. Progress.  Finally I asked him what he was reading. He asked, with apparent sincerity, if I was nearsighted because the typeface of the title on the cover of the book was quite large and he had never seen me wear glasses. I informed him that this was an attempt at conversation. He smiled and seemed pleased with that answer.

“Do you like Isaac Asimov?” He asked with a bright, hopeful expression.

“I’ve never read anything by him.” I responded while making the sort of eye contact that says, “Please continue,” however the Boy Genius’ bright, hopeful expression faded.

It brightened again; obviously he’d thought of a new conversational opening. “Who is your favorite science fiction author?”

I said that I had never read any science fiction. He said nothing more and went back to his book.

I never did see him with any other friends either. He wasn’t bullied as far as I can recall, simply ignored. At the risk of sounding a bit full of myself, I think he made a mistake in deflecting what was an attempt at an offer of friendship. His parents had somehow convinced him that because of his intelligence he was different than all the other kids. However, intelligence is not a binary option, smart or not-smart. Ignoring for now the difficulty in defining and measuring intelligence, it is a gradation. What I’m pretty sure Boy Genius didn’t know is that I may very well have had the second highest IQ in the class. Without a doubt, if someone had ranked the students by IQs, the two of us would have been in the top five. As I mentioned earlier, Suzy Q herself would graduate from high school early and major in math. But I didn’t give out any of the other social cues that say, “This person is smart,” according to society. I was turning out to be pretty, maybe not movie star gorgeous, but too pretty to be smart. I was short. There was definitely a feeling in our town that Jews were smarter than non-Jews and I wasn’t Jewish. I had an interest in art. I wasn’t nerdy in the least. It was the first hint I would get that boys would assume that I wasn’t as smart as I was.

By now, everyone must have heard the big news coming out of the UK. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has announced a nation wide filter to block pornography. Internet service providers in the UK already offer optional pornography filters. For the new nation wide filter the default setting will be to have the filter on. Customers will have to choose to opt out. I’ve read about half a dozen general articles on the topic as well as another half a dozen narrower articles about specific aspects and, outside of the “default-on” requirement, I am confused about what it being proposed. Child pornography, which was already illegal in the UK, will continue to be illegal, however the police will be given new, unspecified, powers to pursue it. Images of simulated rape, which was previously illegal to create, will now also be illegal to possess. Furthermore, wi-fi in public places will be required to have a porn filter in use.

As an adult woman going on fifty, I don’t feel that I should spend my life relegated to the children’s section of the library because lax parents don’t know how to protect their children.

A sketch of a naked woman lying on her back.

One of the reasons I don’t call myself a “sex-positive feminist” is that many of the people who use that term appear to me to be less concerned than they should be about a person not being exposed to pornography at moments when they do not want to be. They deny any potential downside to pornography. Although I almost always actively oppose restrictions on pornographic content, denying that there can be any negative side to it strikes me as wishful thinking. If what we read and view didn’t shape our perspective on the world, many artists and writers would stop tomorrow.

However, government imposed filters will tend to support the status quo and anyone seeking to question it will run afoul of the censors. For this reason, I have always felt that feminists in particular should not support bans on pornography. In an article about the new content filter, The Telegraph mentioned that unnamed “children’s watchdogs” speculate that “boys’ attitudes to women and girls were in danger of being shaped by their easy access to pornography online.” I would like to humbly suggest that boys’ attitudes to  women and girls is being currently shaped by everything from advertizing, to movies, to novels, and perhaps nothing shapes their attitudes towards women as much as the interaction of their very own parents. Would the government like to censor the behavior of children’s parents at home? Furthermore, would difficult access to pornography tell them something significantly different from easy access.

Then we still haven’t answered the question of “what is pornography?” Will Courbet be filtered? (I was going to do my own sketch of that painting, but WordPress does not permit close-ups of genitalia.)

Maybe next, the government of the UK will work on the meaning of life and get back to us.

While poking around news from the UK, I couldn’t help noticing in a sidebar some woman was called “brilliant” for producing a boy. I hope the filter isn’t going to block some basic information about how babies are made because apparently Britons need a little more information about how that works.

As an American I’m a little bit concerned by the statement:

A joint British and American “task force” will be created to tackle obscene websites, while Google and other search engine providers will be required to draw up a “blacklist” of the most depraved and illegal search terms, the Prime Minister will announce.

It would be very nice to know exactly what our own government is doing in this regard.

(ht The Long Goodbye) Antonin Scalia was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by Ronald Regan. Although the appointment at the time drew little controversy, in the intervening years he has drawn plenty to make up for that. If the Supreme Court was once the most staid, dignified branch of government, Scalia, who comports himself like a Dan Brown villain, treats his colleagues rudely and has violated the ethics of the Court. So really, now that Scalia has gone Godwin, I can only wonder what took him so long.

According to The Aspen Times, Scalia delivered a speech to a gathering of the Utah State Bar Association entitled “Mullahs of the West: Judges as Moral Arbiters.” That the title was apparently not intended to be ironic, does make me wonder about the reputed intelligence of a man whose views as a justice are shaped by the Roman Catholic Church.

Scalia opened his talk with a reference to the Holocaust, which happened to occur in a society that was, at the time, “the most advanced country in the world.” One of the many mistakes that Germany made in the 1930s was that judges began to interpret the law in ways that reflected “the spirit of the age.” When judges accept this sort of moral authority, as Scalia claims they’re doing now in the U.S., they get themselves and society into trouble.

The Long Goodbye notes that interpreting “the law in ways that reflected ‘the spirit of the age’ ” is not one of the factors to which historians typical credit the rise of Nazism.

And of course there is the general conservative tendency to bend or rewrite history. The rise of Nazism in Germany has been well documented, its roots in the consequences and reaction to the Treaty of Versailles, a nationalism and nativism making antisemitism a large part of the appeal of Nazism.  Once Hitler became chancellor (prime minister) he and the Nazi party tried to destroy any possible rivals to his position, rearmed Germany, and launched a campaign of violence against the Jews. He became the dictator by burning the Reichstag building and blaming the communists. The general public, or enough of them anyway were worked up into a state of fear and hysteria allowing Hitler to suspend civil rights. No court rulings required.

I would suggest that interpreting the law according to the spirit of the intellectual milieu in which one resides is inevitable and Scalia’s interpretation of the law reflects closely the rise of conservatism in the United States of America in the late twentieth century. We might as well gouge out our eyes because I heard Hitler had two of them.