Saturday, October 26, 2013

Saturday morning varia, Autumn 2013

When my ex came over for dinner last night, he started a discussion about why men are supposed to let women and children go first in disasters. Unless these women and children were ones he knew and loved, he could not see the point of dying for strangers.

It did raise the issue of male/female roles and relations, both in evolution and in culture. As he asked, not entirely disingenuously, if women and men are now supposed to be equal, why should a man feel bad if he saved himself and let a strange women perish?

Although in many ways a very gentlemanly fellow, he has deep streak of alienation in him. Last week, for instance, he inaugurated our Friday evening meal by informing me that he really thought that all White people should be done away with. He'd experienced White people moving away from him on the street that day, something about which he has often complained in the last 20+ years I've known him. Given the justified reputation of his race and age group (though he is 50 now, he could easily pass for much younger), it's no surprise. But as a man, he does not deserve it.


There are two kinds of porn that I like to watch: food shows and home improvement shows. As with sexual porn, you have the spectacle of something desirable that is usually beyond reach. And although it might seem off base to mention my parents in a paragraph about porn, it strikes me that these two realms --cooking and tinkering--match great interests of my mom and my dad, respectively.


Listening to Stephen Fry, with his posh Brit accent, read the Harry Potter novels, I find that he pronounces "ate" as "ett." So does upper-middle class Two Fat Ladies host Clarissa. Funny how in the US, "ett" sounds quaint, rural and un-educated.


Historical judgments are clearly in the realm of doxa. Take the three men at the center of the Yalta Conference that shaped the post WWII world: Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. The more I read about them and about what people think of them, the murkier the whole thing becomes. Few Americans suspect that Roosevelt held the British Empire is almost as much contempt as he did the Nazis. Much of his strategy in helping England had the secondary aim of destroying their imperial system.

As with all historical events, it gave rise to unpredictable and unintended outcomes. As the unification of Italy and Germany in the late 19th century paved the way, remotely, for the two Great Wars of the 20th century, so the dissolution of the British Empire has paved the way for the barbarian Third World backwash which is now corroding Europe.

Thanks, Franklin.


Did you know that for our breakfast cereals and for peanut butter, we have a kooky 19th century Seventh Day Adventist to thank? An amusing perspective here. And if that intrigues you, here.


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