Friday, October 29, 2010

Game Tip o’ the Day: Mad Skillz Edition

Napoleon Dynamite: Well, nobody's going to go out with *me*!

Pedro: Have you asked anybody yet?

Napoleon Dynamite: No, but who would? I don't even have any good skills.

Pedro: What do you mean?

Napoleon Dynamite: You know, like nunchuku skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills... Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.

Too true. But choosing a skill is tricky. You want something that girls find sexually attractive (so don't bother learning to play the oboe) and at which you might develop a competitive advantage with other males (i.e. not football).

Φ's recommendation: figure skating.

My daughters started practicing figure skating in earnest about three years ago, and eventually I started coming along for the ride. (We found it cost-effective to buy a "family pass" to the rink, and I'm the kind of person who is determined to get his money's worth. )  I never personally took any lessons, but I studied people who looked like they knew what they were doing, and I eventually became reasonably competent.  Not great, but good enough to have a stranger compliment me and invite me to the rink’s pickup hockey game.

But here’s the thing:  lots of people go ice skating occasionally, and it’s an activity that girls will often do by themselves or in groups of other girls.  So it’s an environment that allows someone who works at it to look really good by comparison in front of women who may not be attached.  And . . . these girls will notice you.  It’s a physical activity, and high-speed backwards crossovers look much harder than they actually are.  You will feel the attention to your status display.

Of course, this isn’t a substitute for game.  You will still need to make an approach and show yourself not to be a complete dork.  But you will do so already having made a favorable impression.


  • Buy your own skates.  Rental skates aren’t broken into the shape of your foot and will give you sloppy performance.  A quality pair can be had for under $200.
  • Learn in hockey skates.  Yes, hockey skates are designed for speed rather than agility, and without a toe pick most of the advanced figure skating moves like jumps and spins will be impossible.  But these limitations are more than compensated for by greater comfort.  Figure skates have pointed toes for better control, but it hurts to have your toes shoved into that point.  Hockey skates, in contrast, have big round toes.  I suffered figure skates for years before I tried hockey skates on whim.  I never went back.
  • Don’t actually play hockey.  First, the guys that already play hockey are bigger and meaner than you are.  Second, the only girls who watch hockey are already in a relationship with a hockey player or somebody who drags them to games.  So they’re not your intended audience.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Final Reflections on Season Four

Last Sunday’s episode ended with Don’s sudden engagement to Megan, his current secretary.  It wasn’t the strongest episode this season and had nowhere near the energy of the Season 3 finale.  But it was reasonably dramatic.

I’m puzzling over a contradiction.  On the one hand, Megan initiated a one-night-stand (if sex on his office couch even qualifies as “one night”) with Don at the end of Episode 11, making clear that she wasn’t expecting an actual romance to come of it.  Now, while I’ll take the writer’s word that some women do that kind of thing, I’m not sure they’re the same women that then ecstatically accept a marriage proposal on the morning after what for all intents and purposes was the second date.  The one girl I knew that cheerfully admitted (to me, at any rate) her fondness for recreational sex also said her standard for marriage was a lot higher.  Megan represents something of an alpha male’s fantasy figure:  one moment freely offering no-strings-attached sex, the next ready to settle down on his time-table.  The writers didn’t put much effort into developing her character.  She comes across a little like a Stepford girlfriend.

The writers didn’t really rise to the challenge of making Don’s falling in love very credible.  We’ve heard him sweet-talk women for four years now; how should it sound when he really means it?  In this case, pretty much the same.  When he actually pulled out the ring, I halfway thought I was watching some kind of dream sequence that wasn’t really happening.

But maybe that’s the point.  In context, Don’s sudden desire to marry Megan seems to be motivated by his positive assessment of her mothering skills on the one hand, and on the other his grief at the death of Anna, rather than a genuine connection to Megan herself.

Monday, October 25, 2010

"All your economy are belong to us . . ."

I happened to catch this on Fox News the other day. Pretty scary.

The video made me remember this song:

Saint Peter, don't ya call me 'cause I can't leave;
I owe my soul to the Red Chinese.

Alas, the song is out of date. Barack Obama has run up three trillion dollars of debt in the last 21 months.

Friday, October 22, 2010

An Education

I’ve forgotten how the 2009 movie An Education wound up in my Netflix queue (although Steve mentioned it briefly), but as I watched it I thought to myself, “Wow, this story is really familiar.”  As it turns out, I was right.

It’s interesting to contrast the movie with Lynn Barber’s memoir.  David/Simon Goldman, as played by Peter Sarsgaard, cleans up much better than I had pictured his real-life counterpart, and a lot (but not all) of the really creepy bits from the Guardian article are missing.  This allows the movie to begin as a standard-issue coming-of-age story.

Noteworthy is that the movie doesn’t attempt to hide the Jewish background of David and his confederates, but I’m not sure how significant this is.  Certainly in America, lots of different ethnic groups passed through an organized crime phase before evolving beyond it.  It’s hard to imagine many Jews today engaging in the kind of petty thievery and blockbusting that we see portrayed in 1960s England.

The movie brings the life the extent to which David was able to use class intimidation to persuade Lynn's reluctant parents to trust him with the care of their sixteen-year-old daughter.  Astute observers will pick up on subtle indicators that Lynn's family is lower-middle-class (back when such a thing existed), whereas David presents himself as Oxford educated, the very ambition that they have for Lynn.  But they don't seem to have much in the way of expectation that their daughter should remain chaste once they fall for David's act.  Lynn is clever and studious, but finds the endless study of Latin quite boring compared to the life of travel and nightclubs that David appears to offer her.  She has a couple of arguments with her teachers, who urge her to stay on the Oxford track, challenging them to make such a life compelling.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Does Family Background Matter?

While I was getting prepped for dental work the other day, the dental technician began to make what I thought would be the usual make-the-patient-comfortable pre-op chit-chat.  I wasn’t especially interested in this – something about the technician seemed a little . . . off – but I couldn’t exactly ignore her.

“Are you married?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Do you have any children?”


“How many?”


“How old are they?”

“Six and ten.”

“Wow, you’re just getting started!”

Really?  “They’re at their grandparents this week, and frankly I’m enjoying the break.”

“Yeah, sending my children to my parents house wasn’t really an option for me.”

I really, really wanted to let this go by; unfortunately, the dentist had arrived.

“What’s the problem?  They managed to raise you okay,” he piped up.

“Well, my father was a pedophile.  That’s why I left home as young as I did.”

Sweet!  Baby!  Gherkins!  In which ring of hell did you learn chairside patter?

Now, on the one hand, I inferred that the technician was married with children of her own, and of course I wish her every happiness.  But leaving aside the fact that I thought she was weird, this kind of claim, delivered in that way and in those circumstances, said nothing good about her even were we to take it at face value.  Goodness knows what kind of evil lurked in her genes, let alone the mental scars she bore personally.  I rather doubt that she enjoys even the average chance at domestic stability.

But I don’t recall giving much weight to that kind of thing back when I was single.  Given where I sought relationships, I had applied a filter for religion and probably education and class, but otherwise my criteria were:  (1) does she meet my attractiveness threshold and (2) does she give me the time of day.  I was mainly lucky (or rather, providentially blessed) to have fallen in with a girl from a quality family and with so many personal qualities I didn’t think to care about.

The dental technician, as it happened, was nowhere near my attractiveness threshold, but let’s consider Amy Adams’ character in the movie Sunshine Cleaning.  Now, at 34 (when the movie was made), Adams looks as cute as a button, but let’s also look at her character’s history:

  • Her mother committed suicide.  That’s a “family history of mental and emotional instability.”
  • Her father has a spotty employment record, characterized by small-time get-rich-quick schemes operating close to the line of legality.
  • While she probably doesn’t meet the technical definition of “slut”, she’s spent her adult romantic life having an adulterous affair with the ex-high-school-quarterback she dated in high school.  As Roissy would say, she chose “five minutes of alpha.”
  • In the mean time, she hasn’t done much with her life except having an illegitimate son by (presumably) the married ex-quarterback.  I don’t put much stock in women having careers, but to reach the age of 34 (or whatever her age is supposed to be in the movie) without college or a career or a husband is kind of loserish.

In a fit of self-awareness, she quits the adultery and resolves to turn her life around.  It’s easy to see her gracing her romantic attention on a “nice guy”/beta under these circumstances.  But does her resolution mean that she becomes a good LTR bet for the beta?

Frankly, I think not, at least not in real life.  On the other hand, a girl who looked and acted like Amy Adams would be impossible for a still-single version of me to turn down, regardless of her unfavorable background.

On a third hand, it was just a movie.  In real life, perhaps women with that kind of past don’t really have the disposition that Adams projects in movies.  Perhaps, to the extent it mattered, a bad history would assert itself in other incompatibilities of personality such that I wouldn’t really have to consciously take the history into account.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

“Gloves with fingertips cut out”

Passed without comment:

The use of electric space heaters and all other heat creating devices is discouraged on [military installation X].  These units and devices are a safety hazard and extremely expensive to run.  Approved space heaters may be used as a temporary measure with concurrence of the Chief of Civil Engineer Operations and Maintenance Division due to improper functioning of existing heating systems.  All government owned space heaters should be turned into the Civil Engineer Logistics Branch at XXX-XXXX.

The Occupational Medicine Service (OMS) has been asked to confirm the need for a space heater for individuals on many occasions.  Sometimes there is a valid need, other times there isn't.  The procedure for space heater and other heating devices approval shall be for the individual to bring a note from his or her doctor to the OMS clinic in Building XXX to request their opinion.  If a reasonable medical need is identified (e.g. a circulatory disorder like white finger syndrome, CREST, a cold agglutinin disorder etc.) they will endorse the use of a space heater or recommend another corrective action.  In some cases, warmer clothing, gloves with fingertips cut out, etc may be adequate.  When CE receives OMS clinic endorsement, the [installation] Maintenance Engineer will provide a certificate of approval for the individual that can be shown to the Fire Department in the event of an inspection.  At the time of certificate issuance, CE will also provide a recommendation as to the type of space heater or other heating device to use and any special instructions.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Limits of Noblesse Oblige

Chris Roach echoes Steve Sailer’s prescription:

[A] self-conscious development among Jews and other emerging elites of a sense of noblesse oblige, that is a sense of self-conscious responsibility for what is now their society coupled with public expressions of gratitude for this society’s opportunities.

I thought of Edward Parsons Smith, who attempted to prevent the lynching of accused rapist Willie Brown:

About 11 o'clock, when the frenzy was at its height, Mayor Edward Smith came out of the east door of the courthouse [where Willie Brown was in custody] into Seventeenth Street. He had been in the burning building for hours. As he emerged from the doorway, a shot rang out.

"He shot me. Mayor Smith shot me," a young man in the uniform of a United States soldier yelled. The crowd surged toward the mayor. He fought them. One man hit the mayor on the head with a baseball bat. Another slipped the noose of a rope around his neck. The crowd started to drag him away.

"If you must hang somebody, then let it be me," the mayor said.

The mob dragged the mayor into Harney Street. A woman reached out and tore the noose from his neck. Men in the mob replaced it. Spectators wrestled the mayor from his captors and placed him in a police automobile. The throng overturned the car and grabbed him again. Once more, the rope encircled the mayor's neck. He was carried to Sixteenth and Harney Streets. There he was hanged from the metal arm of a traffic signal tower.

Mayor Smith was suspended in the air when State Agent Ben Danbaum drove a high-powered automobile into the throng right to the base of the signal tower. In the car with Danbaum were City Detectives Al Anderson, Charles Van Deusen and Lloyd Toland. They grasped the mayor and Russell Norgard untied the noose. The detectives brought the mayor to Ford Hospital. There he lingered between life and death for several days, finally recovering. "They shall not get him. Mob rule will not prevail in Omaha," the mayor kept muttering during his delirium.

Unless this account is somehow incomplete, the proper interpretation of these events strikes me as straightforward:  a crime was committed; a suspect was arrested and charged.  The wheels of justice were in motion, and there is no hint here that due process would not secure a conviction and punishment.  Omaha’s chief executive had an obligation to see that due process was followed, and Edward Smith showed great courage in attempting to fulfill that obligation.


There is another interpretation.  The riot did not occur in a vacuum:

After keeping the mayorship for three terms in a row, Dahlman lost the 1918 election to Edward P. Smith, a reformist Republican who was supported by the powerful Omaha Church Federation and the Douglas County Dry League. Smith focused his slate on making Omaha a dry city, cleaning up the "vice" elements of the city, and securing a positive future for the city's businesses. Smith and the city commission that shared his reformist objectives were the bane of Tom Dennison.

From the riot article:

Three weeks before the riot, federal investigators had noted that "a clash was imminent owing to ill-feeling between white and black workers in the stockyards."[1] The number of blacks in Omaha doubled during the decade 1910-1920, as they were recruited to work in the meatpacking industry, and competing workers noticed. In 1910 Omaha had the third largest black population among the new western cities that had become destinations following Reconstruction. By 1920 the black population more than doubled to more than 10,000, second only to Los Angeles with nearly 16,000. It was ahead of San Francisco and Oakland, Topeka and Denver.[2] [3]

The major meatpacking plants hired blacks as strikebreakers in 1917. Hostility against them was high among working class whites in the city, who were mostly Catholic immigrants of southern and eastern Europe, or descendants of immigrants, and who lived chiefly in South Omaha.

This kind of background provides a very different light in which to view Smith’s actions.  Smith, a WASP, was an ally of Omaha’s business interests.  Those interests, with Smith’s support, had aggressively recruited non-white immigrants from the South to break strikes and depress the wages of working-class Catholics.  The number of those non-whites were as a result ballooning in Omaha.  And finally, when those non-whites committed crimes, Smith’s primary concern was to . . . protect them! 

Noah Millman summarizes Jewish attitudes:

Either (1) we Jews have suffered, so we should be acutely sensitive to others' suffering, and not accept the excuses of those who either perpetrate or ignore that suffering; or (2) as God liberated the Jews from captivity in Egypt, and as we are enjoined to imitate God in His striving for justice, we have a religious obligation as Jews to help the oppressed; or (3) Jews should be aware of our collective vulnerability, historical and continuing, and therefore for our own good always take the other side of the kinds of groups, movements and individuals who have victimized us in the past, and who could threaten us again in the future.

Early twentieth century WASPs didn’t carry around a sense of their own past victimization, but otherwise it’s fairly easy to see the commonalities between the Jews of today and such WASPs as Edward Smith.  When exercised about suffering and oppression, their instincts are to reach past the middle and working classes (i.e. the classes most likely to challenge their power and prestige) and make common cause with the lumpenproletariat.  Thus, it is very easy to imagine Jews saying their definition of noblesse oblige requires support for civil rights and the advancement and protection of racial and cultural minorities.

Noblesse oblige is no guarantee of patriotism, and is likely orthogonal to solidarity with middle-class whites.

Friday, October 15, 2010

RedLetterMedia's Prequel Review

I've known for a while about RedLetterMedia’s extended takedown of the Star Wars prequels, although I only just this weekend got around to watching them.  They are, first, laugh-out-loud funny, and second, very insightful about the elements of good storytelling, how the original trilogy excelled at them, and how the prequels fail.

The review of The Phantom Menace comes in seven parts, and the review of Attack of the Clones comes in nine parts.  To get you started (content warning: bad language):

My apologies to whoever linked to this originally.  RedLetterMedia has also reviewed most of the Star Trek movies and Avatar

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Don’t Be a Fag.

Via HitCoffee, the LDS statement on Salt Lake City’s impending decision to give protected status to homosexuals:

Like most of America, our community in Salt Lake City is comprised of citizens of different faiths and values, different races and cultures, different political views and divergent demographics.

Uh oh.

Across America and around the world, diverse communities such as ours are wrestling with complex social and moral questions. People often feel strongly about such issues. Sometimes they feel so strongly that the ways in which they relate to one another seem to strain the fabric of our society, especially where the interests of one group seem to collide with the interests of another.The issues before you tonight are the right of people to have a roof over their heads and the right to work without being discriminated against. But, importantly, the ordinances also attempt to balance vital issues of religious freedom.  In essence, the Church agrees with the approach which Mayor Becker is taking on this matter.

In drafting these ordinances, the city has granted common-sense rights that should be available to everyone, while safeguarding the crucial rights of religious organizations, for example, in their hiring of people whose lives are in harmony with their tenets, or when providing housing for their university students and others that preserve religious requirements.

Right.  After all, giving protected status to, say, blacks encouraged them to be on their best behavior.

Except . . . oops, it didn’t.  The ink was barely dry on the 1964 Civil Rights Act before the image of peaceful protestors in their Sunday best was shed in favor of  running amok.

This should have been expected.  Before the Civil Rights movement, minorities gained acceptance by assimilating to majority social norms, not by expecting the majority to provide them special accommodations.  I would argue that homosexuals have benefitted from this assimilation; indeed, from what I understand, gay men have an overall positive reputation, “gay pride” marches notwithstanding.  They are regarded as conscientious tenants, for instance, and have in fact secured an above-average economic status for themselves.

But no straight man wants to be around a fag.

Unfortunately, anti-discrimination laws clear out this middle ground.  Although I can’t find the exact text of the ordinance before the Salt Lake City governing body, I infer from the description that it prohibits discrimination against gays but has some kind of religious exemption.  I’m guessing that any lawyer would advise his clients that if they want to avail themselves of this exemption, they must at a minimum publish the policy in advance.  A lawyer would probably advise against saying to a potential employee or tenant, we’ll be happy to take you on irrespective of your sexual preference, but:  don’t be a fag, i.e. don’t make your dysfunctional sexuality an issue for those around you.

The homosexual lobby is very coy about defining what constitutes the essence of “gayness”.  Sometimes they speak of their condition as an orientation or predisposition; at other times they dismiss the argument that prohibitions on sodomy and same-sex marriage apply to everyone equally.  But operationally, it’s apparent to me that gayness is about behavior; ergo, the protection of gayness in the law makes attempts at regulating behavior at best suspect and at worst flatly forbidden.  The incentives with respect to assimilation are thus inverted:  the more you act like a fag, the greater the protection you enjoy.

Nothing good will come of this, and its disappointing that the LDS hasn’t the wit to see that, religious exemptions to contrary, such ordinances undermine the very ground from which they hope to defend Biblical moral standards on sex and family.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Up in the Air

I watched last year’s movie Up in the Air on DVD.  I don’t have much to say about it’s major themes other than it was a good movie and deserved an Oscar nomination a heck of a lot more Avatar did, not that that’s saying much.

I did want to mention two things:

  • I’ve been through a few airports this year.  Not, of course, as many as George Clooney’s character saw in a typical week.  But Clooney’s (or any other character’s) airport experience as portrayed in the movie was unrecognizable to me.  Every major airport through which I traveled – Dulles, Heathrow, Honolulu, Frankfurt – was a nightmare of chaos.  (Frankfurt was a standout in this regard.  It looks like dystopian sh!thole and was the only airport in which I felt physically unsafe.)  The only airports that offered anything like a positive experience was Keflavik and Φ’s middling city’s airport in flyover country.

    Yet we repeatedly see Clooney walking straight up to a automated kiosk, swiping a single card, pushing one button, and getting his boarding pass!  And the “non-preferred” line is only eight people deep?  What planet is this?

  • George Clooney (age 49) travels with Anna Kendrick (age 25), who has the voice and body language of a teenager.  This may not be an act considering she plays a teenager in this year’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  Their relative age difference is a sub-theme of the movie, as you might expect.  But Clooney embarks on an affair with Vera Farmiga, a woman presented in context as having maturity comparable to Clooney.  Yet Farmiga is only 37, and clearly younger than Clooney.  (We see Farmiga naked from behind.  We also see Clooney’s bare chest in the same scene.  Clooney is in very good shape for his age, but those dozen years make a difference.)

    I think we are so used to seeing actresses underplaying their ages so much that we forget how wet-behind-the-ears 25 actually is.

  • A couple of times, Clooney is shown swimming laps in hotel pools. I was struck by how seldom movies show people exercising. There are exceptions, of course. A movie about a competitive athlete will show the training regimen (think Rocky). A movie might show a fat person exercising for the comic incongruity. But generally, we don't see it. Consider, for a moment, the Lt. Daniels character in The Wire. Nobody looks as good as Lance Reddick does without spending a couple of hours a day working out, but while The Wire gave him a few shirtless shots for eye-candy, never once did it show him, say, lifting weights.

    My impression is that in reality most upper-middle-class men engage in some kind of exercise, but the only TV show I can think of that portrays exercise as a regular part of the characters' lives is Men of a Certain Age, where the three principal characters hike together almost every episode.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy Columbus Day

I recently found out I am a direct descendant of Penelope Thompson Van Princes Stout.  It’s amazing what our ancestors endured to build this country.

In 1634 Penelope Thompson was a pretty girl of twelve living in Amsterdam, Holland. She wore ribbons in her cap over yellow ringlets and her eyes sparkled --- everyday an adventure to her. Not far from her home lived a young portrait painter, Rembrandt van Ryn who was currently the rage of Amsterdam.  Penelope had a tutor who, besides teaching her French and English, told her how proud she should be of her small country's history of expansion... especially now that the Dutch West India Company was carrying on a thriving trade with the wild men -- the Indians -- of the northeastern parts of America... how these Indians could be  dealt with if one observed a strict policy of fair and open terms.  So, by the time she married Kent Van Princes, both of them age 20, she must have carried in her mind a pleasantly colored picture of the Dutch settlement in the new world.  When Kent proposed that they leave Holland and set: forth for New Netherland to see if they could make a home there, Penelope "went with willingness." There is little on record of Kent, but it comes down to us of that time that Penelope herself was a woman blossoming into beauty with a cheerful and loving disposition.

Kent was ill from the day the ship set sail; growing steadily worse; delirious with fever. On the 58th day in the murky gloom of a stormy afternoon, the ship made landfall of a sort --- it crashed into the rocky shoals off the coast of Sandy Hook. In fright and confusion, the settlers shinnied down hand-burning lengths of rope into life rafts, some of which capsized in the heaving surf. Penelope, aided by sailors, managed to get her unconscious husband off the ship and most of the passengers and crew managed to reach the shore. They found themselves on a barren expanse of beach, lined with dense woods. They held a short conference and decided to press on toward their destination, New Amsterdam, that very hour.  Fear of the wild men decreed that no one spend a night on the unprotected beach. They urged the young Mistress van Princes to come along and Penelope pleaded with them to help her carry Kent. Stern pitying faces denied her; carrying Kent would slow down the party on their  way to the safety of the town and surely she realized he was all but dead anyway.  She refused to leave him and they left, promising to return as soon as possible with help.

The night came on. Crouched beside Kent she slept fitfully. With the morning came events more terrible than this pretty, sheltered young bride from Holland could have possibly imagined. For, in the morning the wild men came.

She saw little ---- three or four men with feathers sticking up from shaved and coppery heads. Then their arms were swinging down upon her with knives and with something she was later to learn was a tomahawk. One blow and the dying young man was dispatched. Penelope was deftly scalped, a knife slashed into her shoulder and another stroke drove into and across her abdomen. They left her for dead.

She crawled to the edge of the woods; found dew in the hollow of leaves; ate fungous excrescence and the gum growing on the trees.  The emotion and physical pain can only be imagined.  On the 4th day she saw a deer run by with arrows sticking in its flanks. She hid in a hollow tree. But a dog came racing across the beach and stood barking at her --- baring its rotten teeth until the wild men came up.

This time there were only two of them -- one young; one older. The young one raised his tomahawk but the older one stepped in front of him, frowning at the girl. In an action that mercifully caused her to faint, the older man threw his coat over her body and carried her off.

When she awoke, her first realization was that the terrible pain had gone. Slabs of a sort of mud had been applied to her bloody head.  Her stomach was bound tightly with cloth. Her mouth felt fuzzy as if she had swallowed some drug; and for the moment she did not even feel panic.

Days passed with her waking, sleeping, having double vision, screaming, nausea; light as painful as splinters, blackness that terrified, now and then a rough hand on her forehead, chills, consuming heat ... and constant nightmares of being chased by yelling wild men waving knives chasing her down an endless stretch of sand.

When she was finally fully conscious, she sat up and could see across from her a few women sitting, eating with their fingers out of small bowls.  They brought her a bowl and to her surprise, the taste was delicious and she realized she was starved. She was cramming the food into her mouth so fast that it ran down her hands and arms, but she didn't care.  She was out of pain and didn't seem to be in any apparent danger.

Suddenly she looked up and all the fear returned. Standing before her was a wild man ... and she realized it was one of the wild men from the beach and she drew in her breath to scream. But before this could happen she realized the man was speaking to her and she was somehow able to understand him. " I save you. I Chief. You stay here." The memory of her tutoring came flooding back. He was speaking English! She wanted to thank him for saving her life --- but she fainted.

It was dark when she awakened again.  All of a sudden she remembered all that had happened to her and put her hands to her head.  She was completely bald! She was a widow, alone, far from home and family, afraid, just 20 years old ... and she cried herself silently to sleep.

As she recovered, she was taught to cook. She was taken through the woods to a stream where she was made to understand that this was where she would be coming to fetch water and pick clamshells.  She looked across the waters of what seemed to be a bay and saw on the other shore a cluster of houses ... homes of the white settlers! The thought of getting to them crossed her mind but almost as though one of the squaws read her thoughts the squaw "answered" by drawing her finger across her own throat. Penelope was to be kept there, but for how long and why she did not know.  But, in her mind and heart a plan for escape was born.

A few days after sighting the settler's homes, the chief sent for her. His name, she learned, was Tisquantum*. He made her understand that she was being kept because he wanted to practice his "Yngees".  He had mingled with the white skins on the shores and learned a little of their tongue, but he wanted to learn more because it would be helpful in barter; enabling him not to be cheated; and would also aid in defending himself and his tribe from lies and unfair acts which were already in practice. It must have been an odd conversation ... Tisquantum with his guttural grunts and Penelope with her heavily Dutch accented English.

Penelope was not treated unkindly .. but was nevertheless a captive. As days turned into weeks, she learned many of the Indian ways ... but the thought of escape was never out of her mind.  She knew the only way she could escape was to find a boat of some kind, but all her efforts to do so had failed. She was always watched ... never alone. In desperation she made friends with the old warrior who was the official boat maker hoping to follow when they took a boat to the beach ... and it almost worked... but at the last moment they turned and sent her back to the camp.

She was sent one day to gather clamshells.  With  her heart in her throat, she searched the bushes at the edge of the woods not knowing what would happen to her if she were caught. She found a canoe pushed up into the thicket. Escape by day was impossible as she was always watched ...she promised herself that on the next moonless night ...

The very day after the discovery of the canoe, the younger brave who had wanted to finish her off as she had huddled in the hollow tree appeared in the longroom she shared with the other unattached squaws. He grinned at her evilly, and deposited a large gray-white fish at her feet. At this the other squaws burst into shouts of laughter. Penelope, frightened, ran to the chief.  Tisquantum told her that this was the same man who had scalped and killed her husband; who had been with him when she was found alive; and since she had survived, he felt "possessive" toward her. He had brought her the fish, a type of salmon, for her to eat because it aroused sexual desire.  Penelope was horrified. Tisquantum told her calmly that she need not accept the first brave who made such overtures.  She might turn down two more. After that there was no more leeway choosing a mate. The fourth man would be her mate.

Penelope had been wearing a piece of fur around her shaven head. Now she went without it. This did not seem to make any difference. Soon after the incident of the gray fish, another young buck began following along wherever she went. Number two! Now she was sure she could not afford to wait for a moonless night... she had to escape.

Penelope learned that a three day religious festival was to be held. Each year in the dead of winter the tribe honored a great spirit Manibus in the hopes that Manibus would cause the spring to come again. Inspired, Penelope hoped this would give her the chance to escape.

On the first day of the celebration there was too much activity. No one slept. It continued through the second night and there was a full moon that turned night into day.  On the third night she was hopeful. Most of the participants were so exhausted from lack of sleep that no one seemed to be paying any attention to her.  The moon was obscured by clouds.  She began walking in the direction of her tent, trying to appear casual.  Suddenly rough hands seized her from behind and she was thrown to the ground. She screamed as a young buck leaped upon her. The squaws chased him away and led Penelope back to the longhouse. Her third suitor and her plan of escape in shambles.

Spring arrived early that year and with it came a different excitement. Scouts from her tribe reported sightings of the Mohawk tribe. Angry mutterings of war filled the air. A scouting party left the tribe and returned about noon the next day dragging Mohawk captives. These captives were tied to stakes and tortured. Everyone in the tribe, men, women and children, joined in this torture... which became more and more terrible. Never did a tortured warrior let out so much as a cry ... not even when he saw some of his own flesh, uncooked, being eaten. Penelope sprang  up in complete horror and fled. No one followed her as all were too caught up in the hideous fun. She ran pall mall through the woods, stumbling, falling, and scrambling to her feet again. She vowed that if she could not find a canoe, then she would just throw herself into the water and swim until she reached land or drowned.

She found the boat ... but couldn't budge it an though she strained until her hands  were bruised and bleeding. It was made from a heavy tree hollowed out ... not a light skin-covered canoe.  The tide was coming in with maddening slowness and after a lifetime it lifted the boat. She scrambled in and started for the little houses on the far shore.

She could see the houses, but it was a longer way than she had imagined. Hours seemed to have passed, dusk came and the houses had grown no larger. As she lifted the heavy paddle front side to side, her left shoulder, its muscles severed by the Indian's knife, gave her such agony that she lost consciousness briefly from time to time.

At last she looked up and could make out lamp-lighted windows drawing nearer!  With the wild energy that comes out of desperation, Penelope started paddling as hard as she could ... succeeding only in turning the canoe over. So weak was she that she sank under immediately. But instinct took over and she struggled to the surface, thrashing about and swallowing water. And the realization came over her ... her feet were touching ground!

She made her way to the houses and was taken into the home of Lady Deborah Moody at Gravesend, New Amsterdam or New York as we know it today.

Penelope was not yet 21 years of age. While this ends the year of her life I wanted to share with you tonight, it is not the end of Penelope's story. When she was 22 she married Richard Stout and they had ten children. She remained friends with Tisquantum and it is recorded how he would drop into her home, sit in her kitchen and talk with her. Once he even came to warn her of a planned massacre of her town which enabled Penelope to warn the others and save the town.

Penelope is well recorded in the New York and New Jersey history books and records. For those of you interested, the best and most thorough history of her life was published in 1970 in a book called Four Women in a Violent Time by Deborah Crawford, Crown Publishers, Inc., 1970

In spite of her early beginning, Penelope lived to be 110 years of age. She saw her offsping multiplied into 502 in about 88 years. She told her story over and over, to her children, her grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

* Not Squanto, obviously, but the chief of the Delaware (a.k.a. “Lenni Lenape”) tribe.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Dismissal of Enoch Powell

Occidental Observer links to a surprisingly even-handed BBC account of the late British MP Enoch Powell's "Rivers of Blood" (sic) speech. Below is part 1:

The depressing thing about this story is how easy it was for Britain's ruling class to completely subvert the mass public support for Powell in the wake of this speech. I'd like to think that we here in America may yet fare better: our political system is more open, and the media are now more decentralized. But at best it will be a close run thing.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Vast Media Conspiracy

Megan asks a really dumb question:

What I'd like to know is, why can't this vast media conspiracy I keep hearing about get it together on Phelps and his rotten little band of merry madmen?  Their shameful protests at funerals are condemned by, to a first approximation, every single other person in the United States of America.  So why do they keep doing it?  Presumably because it gets them on the teevee.

So why won't the Liberal MediaTM take away their fun?  Refuse to broadcast any footage that contains their message; refuse to write about them.  If we must put them on television or in the newspaper, confine the coverage strictly to the kind of embarrassing stuff you see about stars--who at Westboro Baptist has the worst cellulite?  Who's got acne and bad teeth?

A reader schools her three comments in:

The media conspiracy is to paint all churches and non-leftists as Phelpsian.

Exactly.  The media believes Phelps somehow is an embarrassment to conservative religious people, so they elevate him to national stardom.

Meanwhile, how many of you knew that ACORN was back on the federal gravy train?

Sex in Season Four

Okay, I get that with Don Draper single again, the Mad Men writers would likely amp up the sex content.  But I’m afraid they took their cues from, say, the post 1990s hookup culture rather than mid-sixties Manhattan.  I mean, come on:  upper-middle-class girls dispensing fellatio in the backseat of taxi cabs?  Today, sure, but in 1964?

My mother-in-law remembers being a nursing student in New York around this time.  (It was upstate, granted, but it wasn’t a religious school or anything that would make it unrepresentative.)  She remembers the one classmate known to be having sexual relations with her boyfriend mainly because of how scandalous it was.  I get there were segments of The City that were more, um, progressive, and the show has Peggy Olsen falling in with what I take to be the East Village Bohemian set.  But the show would have us believe that East Village sexual ethics were more widespread than they really were.

The rush to make the show more titillating has undermined character consistency.  I’ve already remarked on this regarding Don Draper, but consider Joan Holloway Harris.  Joanie has done a lot of bad things, but if I had to summarize her character in one word, I would say she is loyal:  a loyal secretary, a loyal mistress, a loyal wife.  So . . . crap, what’s this with her committing adultery with Roger Sterling on a frickin’ public street?

One of the themes of this season is the extent to which manners were coarsening among younger members of the new Sterling-Cooper.  I’m guessing the show gets this right, but they rob the development of context.  Since the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, we’ve been endlessly conditioned to believe that there is one set of rules for our social lives and another set for “work”, but that this should be so was not likely obvious to people in 1964.  (My point is not that these rules are unfair, only to state that the question of fairness is orthogonal to the process by which they were created.)

But the show takes a dive on why manners were coarsening.  I suspect that the career of Lenny Bruce had a lot to do with it.  Bruce advanced the ball quite a way as to what was considered acceptable conversation in public.  For this reason, progressives lionize him, but the other side of that coin is that a lot of people were now subjected to what feminists would come to call a “hostile work environment.”  Unfortunately, connecting these dots would undermine the writers’ premise that “liberal” = “good”.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Happy Geert Wilders Day!

Randall Parker (H.T.:  H.S.):

Geert Wilders is on trial this week in the Netherlands for using his basic right to free speech (said right not recognized in the Netherlands) to advocate against the Islamization of the Netherlands. It occurs to me we should choose a day when all bloggers who support a basic right to free speech ought to write posts protesting the prosecution for Geert Wilders.

Since Wilders is on trial this week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I propose Thursday October 7 as the day to write posts excoriating the Dutch government for this unjustified and unfair prosecution of Geert Wilders.

Isn't it great how we could defeat the purpose of having democratic elections by criminalizing the publication the other party’s platform? Your party's platform, I mean, not my party's platform.

Evil.  But I respect the skills.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Misandry, Sweden Style

Next time Justice Breyer praises European law in one of his anti-Constitutional opinions, remember this:

The backstory to this video is that it was submitted and accepted to an Amnesty International film competition, but was expelled in response to feminist protests.

H.T.:  Elusive Wapiti.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Military Professionalism

Chris Roach makes an outstanding point:

One unfortunate consequence of the increasing “professionalism” of the modern military is its leaders’ absolute financial dependence on the government and, by necessity, prevailing political winds.  The old aristocratic volunteer officer might have been more inclined to speak out, whether against a losing campaigning in Afghanistan or a meddlesome requirement to integrate women into his unit, not least because he could fall back on an inheritance and family wealth.  The modern major and lieutenant colonel is on the brink of a comfortable pension and is likely from a middle class background; to speak out to forcefully against the crazy directives coming from on high would result in penury, if not worse.  We sometimes wonder why Soviet engineers and soldiers and bureaucrats participated in their insane system year after year, in spite of the obvious lies, half-truths, destruction, and missed projections made by central planners.  There, as increasingly is the case in America, the state was everything.  In the Soviet Union, the withholding of a job, a pension, a license, a prescription, an apartment, or a degree was incalculably destructive of the individual.   And there, as increasingly is the case in America, there were almost no resources outside the state, including private wealth, to fall back upon if one had earned the disfavor of the state.

This reminds me of a quote originally attributed to Bush ‘41:  “I don’t want guys with ideas in my administration.  I want guys with mortgages.”

On a related note, I have it on good authority that the fitness centers (that a “gym” to you fellow old fogies) on military installations now have “VIP locker rooms” for senior officers where they get towel service and goodness knows what other perks.  I’m reminded of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain as portrayed in Gettysburg, refusing food for himself until he could get food for the men under his command.  I guess those days are now well behind us.

Monday, October 04, 2010

No Pressure

Making the rounds is an environmentalist propaganda video demonstrating the extent to which environmentalists are now resorting to outright threats of violence against people who have competing priorities.  (The environmentalists now realize the public relations disaster they have created for themselves and are now trying to squelch the video on YouTube, which is why I can’t embed it.)

I don’t remember the connection, but the PajamasMedia post linking this video also, for reasons I cannot fathom, linked to what I consider simply an awful article in a 1941 edition of Harpers:  “Who Goes Nazi?”  Now, keep in mind, this was before we had declared war or the future extent of the holocaust could have been known.  Yet Dorothy Thompson feels free to speculate about what kind of people, classes, professions, and personality types would by Nazis or Nazi sympathizers.  (Hint:  it’s people she already doesn’t like.)

Friday, October 01, 2010

Two Movies from 2007

A couple of really good movies:

Juno, of course, needs no introduction.  I saw it on DVD when it first came out, and again on television last week.  I didn’t review it at the time; this has been done better elsewhere, for both its positive and negative qualities.

Still, what a delightful film.  Happy and sad.  Funny and poignant.  Just a joy to watch, whatever you might think of the social commentary.

In contrast, you may not have heard of the movie August Rush.  I hadn’t until this summer, when a friend mentioned it as he played the soundtrack during a road trip.  It concerns an 11-year-old musical prodigy separated from his parents at birth and attempting to reconnect with them through music as they simultaneously try to reconnect with each other.

The first third or so of the movie contains any number of gaping implausibilities necessary to frame the story, but eventually you will stop caring about that in favor of simply wallowing in its unremitting tear-jerkiness.  Maybe I’m a sucker for this shit, but I recommend watching it with a fresh box of tissues, not in front of other guys.