Gender (and some other stuff) and “The Intern”

Kinda bad movie…but let’s see if we can get something out of it…

First of all, there is the fake notion that a woman can, and should, be able to “have it all.” Notice that Anne Hathaway’s husband gave up his high powered job to be the SAHD to their kid. But, somehow, the fact that he is the primary child care giving parent is never presented as meaning (even though it DOES, necessarily, mean), that Anne is NOT “the Mommy.” She is never seen as regretting that fact, nor even acknowledging it. Indeed, somehow, her and her young daughter are just as “close” as if she were not working 18 hours a day.

Secondly, when her husband has an affair, the hackneyed, clichéd notion that he must feel “inadequate” or unmanly because she is the bread winner and he the “Mr Mom” is trotted out. It can’t just be that, as a young man, he simply has a high (ie normal) sex drive, and his work-18-hours-a-day wife is basically doing nothing to meet that desire. Not to mention pretty much giving him zero emotional support either. No, of course not. Well, no man I ever knew would mind one bit having a rich, successful wife. Of course, they would like to see (and bed) her once in a while. Or, failing that, not have the inevitable affair seen as him being small minded and insecure.

Just switch it around. A husband, no matter what his career, no matter how noble it is (and we’ll get to that later), who works the way and the amount Anne works, would NEVER, EVER be presented in a good light. He would be seen as neglecting his wife (and kid), and not meeting her “needs.” Her extra marital affair would be seen as essentially his fault.

Of course, we get none of that here. Instead, the husband is a weak, sniveling cry baby, who begs her forgiveness, and never even mentions her total checking out on their sex and emotional life.

There IS one scene where Anne, getting drunk, hints at the plight of men in contemporary society. She calls her co workers “boys” but does have the decency to regret it. Still, her solutions are all terrible. For one thing, she thinks men should have to wear ties again! Women, of course, are to have complete freedom of dress…dress like a “lady,” if they like…wear jeans and t shirts, if they like…whatever. But men have to conform to some absurd dress code, and wear expensive and constricting garments that have no purpose, simply because some woman, as a whim, thinks that would be a good idea!

More broadly, men have to be X, Y and Z to really be men. An adult female human is a woman, per se, and regardless of what she does, doesn’t do, achieves, doesn’t achieve, her high moral standards, or the lack thereof, and so forth. But an adult male human is not a “man” unless he jumps through some series of hoops that are set for him by the Annes of the world.

De Niro gets in the act too, telling the “boys” to dress old school, to carry hankies for when the liberated, “you go girl,” women turn on the water works, and so on. And De Niro himself is kinda a mangina. Working for free, long hours, catering to this woman’s every whim, sucking up, acting the chauffer, committing crimes, even…for what? So that he won’t be bored in his comfortable retirement? I don’t think so.

Really, the writers seemed to have totally missed the boat viz the vis the the issue of whether Anne should allow a CEO to be appointed over her. Obviously, what the company (and Anne herself) needs, is for De Niro to be appointed her vice president, given a salary, and responsibility for some of the decision making, which would allow Anne to have a home life, while still keeping the company under her control. How this obvious solution to the problem of the potential CEO (not to mention Anne’s complete lack of free, let alone “me,” time), was missed is hard to fathom. De Niro is presented as being the model number two in command. He implements Anne’s desires and never oversteps his authority. He solves problems for her (like that of her assistant’s hurt feelings) that she doesn’t even know she has, as well as doing countless acts above and beyond the call of duty. And yet he is never, as far as I can tell, even given a paying job! At the beginning he is an intern and remains so at the end.

And thus, the issue of ageism, which is made pretty explicit at the start of the movie, is never actually addressed. Here we have a man, an excellent worker, beyond excellent, really, who, I guess, is supposed to feel lucky that, at his advanced age, he is allowed to work for free and be exploited in the modern, internet economy! Great!

Meanwhile, the problem of Anne having no time for anything but work is not resolved at all, with the whiny husband merely promising to do better presented as if it were some kind of resolution (which it is not).

Perhaps related to gender roles issues, but certainly problematic in any case from a progressive economic outlook, is the unthinking valorization of Anne’s company and her role in its creation and existence. Anne started and runs a retail, on-line, women’s clothing outfit. That’s it! That’s her big, god damn contribution to society! Leaving aside the fact that such firms are a dime a dozen, where is the benefit to the larger world in her heroic life’s work? One need not be a finite pie economist to believe that only X amount of women’s clothing is going to be sold, and so whatever amount of it is sold through Anne’s company is that much less sold by the rest of the companies. And the same goes for all the “jobs” that she supposedly “created” too. The concept that basically checking out on your marriage, and your kid, and all human relationships, is a good thing because you are doing the wonderful work of peddling schmatas over the internet is a strange one. Indeed, one can perhaps admire the priorities (even if one questions the accuracy of the claims made on their behalf) of allegedly visionary computer inventors (like Gates and Jobs and Zuckerman), but the founder of yet another on line retailer?

Notice too that Anne’s company doesn’t design or even make the dresses and so forth, but merely sells them. She’s a middleman (“middlewoman?” “middlewomyn?”), in other words. Big fucking deal.

And, of course, the cutesy poo work environment, complete with ping pong table and Anne riding around the joint on her bike, is utterly preposterous. Even more preposterous, not to mention deeply insulting and insensitive, is the scene involving the warehouse workers. Anne orders some of the crap from her website, to see how it is sent. When the garbage arrives at her home, she tunes out her husband (of course), and is engrossed in the details of how the packaging and tissue paper and such-like are arranged. Needless to say, it is not up to her high and mighty standards. So, the next day, she detours to the warehouse before going to the office, and there she explains to the gaping mouthed, enchanted (no doubt minimum wage), minority working women, just how the shit is supposed to be packed, wrapped and tissue papered. De Niro cites this act of patronization as indicia of her greatness! The fact that these hourly workers perhaps have good reason to not really give a damn (do they have shares in the company, one wonders!), is never mentioned.

All in all, while the movie is well acted and somewhat entertaining, at least at the beginning, the chance to explore work/family issues, gender roles, the realities of the new economy, and even ageism (the ostensible “main” theme, one would think, of a movie about a seventy year old intern called “The Intern”), is lost. Or, worse yet, papered over in an unthinking, entirely uncritical, so called “feminist” way. A woman, merely qua woman, should, according to the movie, no only “have it all,” but have it all entirely her own way. Or, if not merely qua woman, then because she is a female entrepreneur.

Anne Hathaway is beautiful, however!


Is not all one?

Rod Dreher and some guy at “First Things” have figured it all out. You see, some folks were once enthusiastically in favor of the Bush/Blair Iraq War, buuuuut, as it turns out, they were wrong. The Iraq War was a disaster. And, as that apercu knows no limits, and, as I say, all things really are one, as our Zen Buddhist friends would have it, it must be the same with SSM. You see, some folks are enthusiastically in favor it. Well then, just as with the Iraq War, it simply must be the case that SSM will prove out to be a disaster. QED.

Triggers and Survivors

Over at Balloon Juice, there is currently a food fight over the use of “trigger warnings.”

One commenter, who, apparently did not get the memo that the claim being made is that the overuse of “trigger warnings” has devalued their meanings, and while they might be appropriate in terms of folks who have suffered sexual assault and the like, they should not exfoliate into every single topic or term which might, somewhere and somehow, set somebody off, had this to say:

“As a partner to a rape survivor I have to tell you you are way fucking out of line.”

Well, frankly, I think trigger warnings are just stupid, and not merely because they are oh so PC and are designed more to call attention to the delicate sensibilities of the warner, and have much less to do with the warnee. But because I really don’t care all that much about the warnee, either. If you read material intended for adults on the internet, or anywhere else, then, in my view, you are implicitly agreeing that you are big boy or big girl, and that, while sticks and stones may break your bones, names will never hurt you. That big boy and girl topics MIGHT be discussed, and discussed without euphemisms, regardless of your personal experiences of trauma or your inclusion in various non “privileged” groups. If you don’t want to read about war and rape and violence and domestic abuse and racism and gender discrimination and anti gay bias and so on, well then, confine yourself to Sesame Street and Winnie the Pooh. Otherwise, put on your big boy or big girl underwear, and stop contributing, in Ed Rendell’s memorable phrase, to the “wussification of America.”

But I find the comment to be objectionable on a more basic level….There can be Holocaust “survivors,” Hiroshima and Nagasaki “survivors,” Hindenburg and Titanic “survivors,” and cancer and AIDS “survivors,” but not “rape survivors.” Why not? Because in every instance of proper usage the thing being survived is a killer. Most, or at least many, as a proportion, of those who experience the thing in question actually, ‘ya know, DIE! To “survive” something implies that usually, or pretty damn often, folks don’t survive it.

Well, rape, as bad as it is, rarely kills. It almost never kills directly, and the proportion of rapes that also involve murder is quite low. Even if we include subsequent suicides, which might be said to be deaths caused indirectly by rape, the number and, more importantly, the proportion, of deaths is very, very low. So, the notion of “survivorship” is misplaced. We don’t talk about armed robbery “survivors,” nor even, usually, assault “survivors.” We use the term survivor, if at all, when it comes to crimes, to things like assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder, which involve acts (gun shot woundings, stabbings, clubbings, etc) that often do kill.

The only other accepted use of the term is ironic. As in “I survived freshman calculus” or “The Schuylkill Expressway Construction Project Survival Guide.” And I’m pretty sure that is not intended here.

No, the problem is that there is no other word that will meet PC criteria. The correct word, of course, is “victim.” People against whom crimes have been committed are victims. Robbery victims, assault victims, victim of theft, etc. But that is not allowed here. Because women (and women, that is to say feminists, are driving this bus….male rape victims have nothing to do with the nomenclature, and are invisible in any case) cannot be mere “victims,” when it comes to rape. Somehow, that term, when applied here, and only here (ie in connection with a woman who has been raped), means that the woman who suffered the crime has no “agency,” is “defined” by the crime, etc. A man can be a victim of burglary, and so can a woman, but a woman CANNOT be a victim of rape. No, she must be a “rape survivor.”

And that is bullshit. So, I would say to the commenter, if I did not want to get involved in another food fight, that not only is he wrong on trigger warnings (both in the sense of missing the point about preserving them precisely for stuff like sexual assault and also because they are not only pretentious but ridiculous in any case) but is wrong to use the fake term “rape survivor” as well. His partner, assuming he is being truthful and accurate, was raped. His partner is a victim of rape, or a rape victim, or, if you just can’t stomach that term, is a person who was raped, or a person against whom a rape was committed. But not a rape “survivor.”

We can’t write about what we want to write about, even in what is clearly an adult setting, unless we warn people that they might find it to be a “trigger;” we can’t use the correct word for rape victims because that is just too honest, and we are required to dishonestly valorize these folks instead. I think a lot of what is wrong with the PC Left is exemplified by these two cases. Phony concerns about terminology and language take precedence over real issues, and the urge to censor is never far from the surface. Discourse is to be controlled by an absurd group of self appointed, fuss budget PC language police man and (mostly) women. And woe be to anyone who flouts their rules and thereby flaunts his or her “privilege!”

Cars on the Brain

Over at Atlantic Cities, they are running one of those “neuroscience-explains-it-all” articles. These have been quite the rage, ever since the mapping the human genome project did not quite locate the “God” gene, the “shopping” gene, and so on. With the brain ex machina approach, you do get the benefit of seeing the pretty colors light up the picture of the brain, and where and how and when and how much those little lights light up proves…..well, they prove…, well, OK, they don’t ACTUALLY prove anything, but, still: Look at the Pretty Lights! Ain’t they purty! Don’t get that with your invisible genes explains everything thesis, do ya’! The current offering supposedly explains why folks choose to use their cars, instead of walking, biking or using mass transit.


The lab coats guys think that folks are stressed in the morning, and don’t want to have to think, so they just go with what they know, which is taking the car to get to work, rather than really considering the other options.

First of all, even if true, the “macro” decision to own and use a car most certainly precedes the alleged “micro” decision made (or foregone) each morning. No one is born with a car attached to their person, and very, very few enter adulthood without actually having to decide whether to buy a car or keep the one they had as an adolescent. Person moves or gets a job or whatever, and he or she decides what to do about transit. Cars cost money. A lot of money, relative to the wealth and income of all but the very wealthy. A car costs money to buy or lease. It costs money to register and insure. It costs money to have a driver’s license too. As do license plates. Maintenance, repairs, tolls, mandatory inspections and gas all also cost money. And perhaps parking as well. So, while, sure, the decision to use the car is not re made every morning, it is made, and it is conscious.

Secondly, as many commenters point out, in big parts of the USA there simply is no other option. Housing is zoned apart from industry and even offices and schools. There are no or limited bike paths or sidewalks, and the distance is too far anyway, at least in bad weather. Mass transit either doesn’t exist, or is grossly inadequate. So, yeah, for some folks having and using the car is kinda the default setting, because of necessity.

And, thirdly, and this is my real point, and was only touched on briefly in the comments and not at all in the main article….the “experts” simply underestimate, grossly, the advantages, when viewed from the perspective of many, if not most, individuals, of the car over mass transit. To the mass transit advocates, all travel is more or less fungible. If the monetary costs and time spent are the same, well then, one should not prefer one’s car over mass transit. To them, it is all a matter of schedules, number of routes, number of busses or trains on each route, fares, etc, versus car commuting time, tolls, parking fees, etc. And that gets it TOTALLY wrong.

Let me be clear here…if one really can walk to work, most folks would do it. Same with a bike. A short trip, barring bad weather, and a little exercise is great, and it is nice not to have to drive and park or rely on a bus or train. Of course, some jobs require nice clothes and shoes, and a non sweaty body, and that complicates things. Also, your carrying capacity is limited on foot and even with a bike, so that limits shopping/errand running. Also, some folks can’t hack it physically. Also, some jobs are manual or otherwise strenuous in nature, and walking or biking to and fro on top of working may be too much. But, all in all, OK, biking or walking to work would be cool.

But, again, for most folks it is not an option. The distance is too far. The weather stinks. The facilities (bikepaths, sidewalks) are not there. Plus, if one works at odd hours, there might be safety issues relating to crime.

No, the real choice, and where the “experts” always blow it, is in the car experience versus the mass transit experience. Assuming that one has good parking options on both ends, and assuming non crazy traffic, driving, when viewed from the perspective of the commuter, is almost always better. The caveat about the perspective is important, because we all know that it would be better for the environment, for global warning, and pretty much everything else in the natural world too, if one forsook the car.

But that is not the question. The question is why do drivers, for their own sake, and leaving the environment out of it, insist on driving, despite all of the alleged advantages of mass transit, as posited by the advocates of mass transit, their “expert” allies, and now the brain scientists guys too. Why is driving better?

Let me count the ways…..In your car: you control the temperature; you control the decision to have fresh air, or not, and if so how much; you control, to a degree, anyway, the route, you can “call audibles,” either to deal with emergent traffic or other issues, or because you have changed your plans; you can decide when to stop, and where, and for how long, if you want to rest; you can find a place to go to the bathroom; you can stop to eat; you can eat and drink rather comfortably in today’s cars too; you control the decision to have music or not, and, if so, what kind, and how loud; you do not have to suffer the presence, never mind the physical or emotional or psychological contact, of any human being whom you do not choose, on the other hand, if you are with an intimate (friend, lover, spouse, family member), you can conduct intimate, personal conversations if you so choose, or just be silly together, or, sing along to the radio. You can also incorporate any intermediate stops along the way. You can have all kinds of stuff with you, including clothes and shoes and gear for any kind of weather. You don’t have to carefully consider what to bring and what to leave behind, because you are not constricted by what you can comfortably carry and attend to while on a bus or train. The car can be as neat and clean or as dirty as you want it to be. If your job or wherever else you are going doesn’t require close contact with people, you can shower as little as you choose, because your commute does not require you to be around others either. If your shoes or pants are too tight, you can loosen them. There is no timetable. You decide when to go. No waiting for a late or even on time train or bus. No “connections” to make. No having to change conveyances once you are settled in. No having to stand. No crowds of any kind.

All in all, you have almost total personal (physical, mental and emotional) comfort, anonymity, privacy and autonomy in a fairly large personal space that doubles as a carrier for far more stuff than you could possibly need in your workday. You have total flexibility too, in terms of every aspect of your trip. You are in charge, in every way. You are like, if not actual royalty or divinity, at least “the king of your castle” and a little tin God to boot!

Mass transit? Assume a reasonably good system, with a reasonable schedule and service. Still, it does not pick you up in your driveway or garage, does it? It does not let you off as close to your destination as you could get to with your car, does it? And then consider the other factors….you are NOT in charge of air temperature and there is no fresh air, period. You are bombarded with written advertisements, and repetitive and annoying public service and transit related announcements, “tips,” warnings, “reminders,” “thank you’s,” admonitions, apologies and so on. You can listen to music, but only with a headphone, and that is uncomfortable for many folks. You have no control of the route. You cannot call an audible. The bus or train stops when and where and if it chooses, not when, where and if you choose. Bathrooms are hard to come by. You can’t really eat or drink on the bus or train, not comfortably anyway, not at rush hour. You are severely limited in what you can carry and wear. Which means you have to figure the weather right. And do “triage” on your backpack, brief case, or whatever. You will have to wait for late and even on time busses and trains. You will have to deal with service issues. And connections. And, worst of all, you will have to deal with “the Other.” With Other People. People NOT of your choosing. They will be in your space. They may want to talk to you. They may smell badly. They may be annoying or even dangerous. If you ignore them, they might get hostile. If you try to humor them, they might think you are their new best friend, and hound you to no end from then on, everyday. They may touch you, either because of train or bus motion/crowdedness, or volitionally (on their part, anyway). And the whole environment might, at least sometimes, smell, be dirty, etc.

One possible advantage of mass transit is that you can, maybe, although not usually at rush hour, read a book or use your tablet or laptop or smartphone while you ride. Another is that if your commute is long and stressful, you are freed from the responsibility of driving, at least part of the way, and so if you are tired or drunk or stoned or upset or preoccupied or physically hampered or just don’t feel like it, you don’t have to. Maybe you can even sleep a little. Of course, you could still use a car generally on your commute, and take mass transit only on days those considerations apply. But, you can’t really do it the other way ’round…because if you truly rely on mass transit then you don’t have a car to fall back on. So, again, the car provides more overall flexibility.

And, even with those caveats, that is about it when it comes to factors favoring mass transit. The comparative advantages of driving, which usually doesn’t take as long as using mass transit either, are overwhelming. And most folks have to have a car anyway, even if they take mass transit to and from work. For grocery shopping, for weekends, to run errands, to take trips, to drive the kids around, to do anything and everything besides commuting to work. So, the car is a sunk cost anyway. Why buy a monthly bus/rail pass on top of all that? Why not utilize to its utmost maximum efficiency the car you already pay to own, insure, register, maintain, etc.?

But the real bottom line is that people just LOVE their personal space, their comfort, their autonomy, their apparent (even if not always real) freedom, their privacy, their feeling of being in control, and so on. And the car delivers all of those in spades. To make, or even tempt, a car user switch to mass transit, the “carrot” of the mass transit system (how good, safe, clean and efficient, and well run and extensive and so on that it is) and the “stick” of tolls, parking fees, HOV lanes, etc, have to be very, very strong. Much, much stronger than the mass transit advocates think.

Most mass transit advocates are themselves not only mass transit users, but aficionados of mass transit as well. They love trains and cable cars and trolleys, and don’t dread busses the way the rest of us do! And they live in one of the few urban or college town areas that are really well served by mass transit. Also, they tend to be “people persons.” They like to meet “new people,” and prefer hooking up with random strangers on their commute to doing it alone. Perhaps they also live in area in which housing and shopping and work are not so far apart, so there is no real other need to have a car once their commute is taken care of. Some kind of little “village,” perhaps, near a big university with a huge bus fleet, or a trendy neighborhood in or very near one of the coastal cities with good, multiple mass transit systems extending out to at least the near suburbs, like Boston, Philly, New York, DC, Seattle, Portland or San Francisco. And they probably have very flexible schedules too. (So what if they have to leave early to make sure they are at school to teach their 11 AM class….they can spend that time hanging around campus, smoozing with their colleagues or chilling in their offices.) They just don’t get how the rest of us (1) don’t feel the way they do about mass transit in the first place and actually like/love our car experiences, and (2) don’t have the option of not having a car even if we don’t need it to get to work.

The “experts?” Again, they are either mass transit fans themselves or they just don’t understand that it might be the same seat in your car as on the bus, you might be on the same highway in your car as on the bus, and the bus might even go a little quicker for part of the way because of an HOV lane, and even cost a little less, on balance, but, still, all in all, you prefer your car for any, some or all of the reasons I gave. How you can quantify the love of privacy and autonomy? How much, in money, or even time, is it worth to NOT be jostled? To not have to hear “Please exit from the rear door” a hundred times a week? To never have to hear “Thank you for riding the Such and Such transit authority!”? To be able to open a window? To not have it be too hot in the winter, because the heat is too high, or too cold in the summer, because the AC is too strong? To, excuse me for being gross, but to be able to fart or burp if you have to?

As for the neuroscientists, meh, I guess they have to find ways to spend all that grant money! You don’t need to wire folks up to some sort of Dr. Frankenstein brain machine to know why they prefer to drive. Just ask them. Ask them to explain the real cost/benefit analysis, in detail, considering ALL of the factors, including the ones the train fan boys and the overgrown boy professors overlook.

Why do God botherers insist on picking the scab?

Check this out:

OK, fine. As folks over at Dreher quickly pointed out,

the dare is easily met. Poster Aaron Gross:

“I think Damon Linker’s dare is just silly. He says that we’re moved by events like that because they instantiate some Platonic idea of divine love, which is supposedly the real object of our admiration. But why couldn’t we be moved just by the event itself? That’s certainly how it feels to us.

“As for why: A culture that doesn’t valorize self-sacrifice, in child-rearing just as in war, probably won’t survive very long. Therefore it’s not surprising that an existing culture would support these kinds of feelings. There might – repeat, might – be a Darwinian cause as well. I’m sure you’ll get comments about sociobiology and Hamilton’s Rule. But even a purely cultural explanation suffices to answer that silly dare.”

Poster TTT:

“We love our kids and feel pain / suffering visited upon them as being worse than pain inflicted upon ourselves. We will do anything to save their lives, including die for them. An atheist parent in the same circumstance would have been equally likely as a religious parent to do the same thing.

“’Dare’ met in ten seconds, though it read more to me like Linker was just trolling.”

Linker claims, the boy’s Down’s Syndrome makes an evolutionary biology answer inapplicable (“…as someone with Down syndrome, Vander Woude’s son is probably sterile and possesses defective genes that, judged from a purely evolutionary standpoint, deserve to die off anyway.”) But sociobiology doesn’t work that way. What is “selected for” is the desire to save your child’s life. And that desire operates at a deep, unconscious level. The “Darwinian” explanation is NOT that Dad sits back and contemplates the likelihood of his genes going forward in terms of the kid in jeopardy, or whether that kid is “defective” in the first place. No, the bio argument is that we are “programmed” to love our kids generally by genetics, and so we do so, in pretty much all instances, in a way that we would describe as “instinctive.” The “rule” works en masse, even if a particular example doesn’t vindicate the purpose of the rule. In general, Dads who value their kids lives will have their genes passed on more so than Dads who don’t. Whether a sacrifice in one case helps make that happen or not is irrelevant. Dad in this case was a product of thousands of generations that led to his sacrifice. If it so happens that his “line” ends in the near future (assuming he has no other kids and that the Down’s Syndrome boy does not reproduce), so what? That hardly disproves the bio rationale, either tout court or even in his case.

And, as the poster Gross mentions, the cultural explanation is sufficient anyway. Folks love their kids. Whether that has a bio basis or not, it is the “rule” of our and most cultures. And, again, it does not depend on the kid being a genius or even “normal.”

But all of that is actually prologue, to me. Of course Linker’s understanding of evo bio is idiotic, childish, simplistic, and grossly uninformed. As is his understanding of the cultural explanation.

My question is why bother? If you want to make his Romantic, fantastic argument about “glimpses” of heaven, and how acts of altruism, like art and music and so forth can provide for those visions, fine. Go for it. Frankly, I don’t much care. Not because it isn’t BS, if it is meant as a serious argument for the existence of any deity or a particular deity, because it is BS. But, meh, there is a lot of BS in the world, and God boys are hardly the only purveyors of it.

No, my beef is why, as TTT puts it, the trolling? Why put the recitation of this story, which could have stood on its own, or as a nice, Christian story (even though, again, it is not actually persuasive), in terms of a “dare” to atheists? Even assuming this Linker fellow is too stupid to understand that his claims about the evo argument are first order moronic, and that he is just too ignorant to not overlook the completely satisfactory cultural argument as well, why the impulse to get in atheists’ faces to begin with? OK, he admits that an atheist could just as easily have done the deed in question, but he “dares” atheists to explain it.

Is he just half smart? Is that the answer? Smart enough to frame the issue and try to use it against atheists, but too dumb to realize that the answer to his question is an easy one? Or is it some compulsion, some scab picking desire on the part of certain God botherers? They can’t leave it alone. No, it must always be the case that atheists are missing out on something, and are somehow less than human therefor. Or, even if they are not missing out, it is because they are piggy backing unfairly on the very religion they purport to deny. Which then leads, inevitably, to the contradictory assertion that atheism is a religion. So, on the one hand, atheists are less than fully human because they don’t acknowledge anything greater than themselves (goes the claim), but on the other hand they do actually believe in something greater than themselves, and that something is either traditional religion in disguise (the piggybacking claim) or some other “religion.”

Strange, or maybe not, that he should do so this time of year, too. Perhaps the dodge viz a viz the timing is the old Christian tactic of start the conversation by saying something nasty, or, at least, challenging, about atheists. Then, when atheists respond in defense, accuse them of being “angry,” and of wanting to persecute Christians, and attributing those evil desires to their not having “made peace with God” and so on. And, best of all, when they play this game during “Holy Week,” they get the added benefit of falling back on “Must you be this way this week, of all weeks? Can’t you atheists let us poor Christians have this one week without your meanness?”

“Relationship” with God

Dreher has a post up in which some guy claims that three factors tend to keep the kiddies tied to their faith.


The original article:

The upshot here is a sort of inside baseball argument…is it intermarriage or some other factor that is causing the decline of the Greek Orthodox Church in the USA? Frankly, I really don’t care, and, as one of Dreher’s commenters puts it:

“Is it just way too simplistic to say that there is only one reason why someone would leave their church?

“- They think doing something else would be a better use of their time.”

Yeah, but leave that aside, for now.

And there is a lot of blather among Dreher’s commenters about “genetics” and what not as well, that wouldn’t pass muster in a ninth grade Biology class, but leave that aside too.

Also leave aside the first two of the three factors the GO guy mentions, namely:

“…a person is most likely to retain Christian faith throughout adult life if he or she had three meaningful and healthy relationships in their early to mid teenage years: one with faithful Christian parents, one with a faithful Christian mentor outside of the family, and one with God Himself.”

I mean, the first two seem fairly axiomatic. Kids, at least in the first instance, do tend to mimic what their parents do, rather than what they say. So, if their parents are “religious” in an entirely conventional but thorough going way (ie not only “go to Church” when they “have to,” but at other times too, also pray and otherwise do religious stuff at home, belong to Church organizations beyond the mere basic congregation, etc), that will have an effect that can be measured statistically. The second factor, while perhaps rarer, is almost tautological. If a kid has a devout, non relative, Christian as a mentor, and really thinks of him as such, his or her self, well then, duh, that probably will have an effect too, on average.

Of course, as another of Dreher’s posters mentioned:

“Even if this is all true, how do you fix it?

“Aren’t the ones lamenting this problem the faithful Christian parents….

“If you are a faithful Christian parent worried about your kids ending up leaving the Church, you have already have supplied relationship #1. As for relationship #2, the mentor, you can try to hook your kids up with somebody who feels the same way you do, but there is no guarantee your kid will bond to that person in a meaningful way. And when it comes to #3, how do you make that happen? You can provide opportunities for religious experience for your child, but you can’t force a relationship between your child and God.”

And I agree. Of course religious parents already do thing number one, ie they are really religious, and not just going through the motions. As for number two, well, how can you possibly ensure that your kid finds a non family member Christian mentor to bond with and that, even if he does, they will actually bond? It seems to me that candidates for that role are probably rather thin on the ground. And the more they are responsible, parent-like Christians, the less likely, one might think, that a kid would see them as anything different than their parents, than the priests, the Sunday school teachers, etc. In other words, just another adult guy (or gal) who wants them to stay in the faith.

Number three, though, is what really got my attention, and why I’m posting. Not only is it impossible to “force a relationship between your child and God,” it is impossible for most of us to have such a “relationship.”

To me, the use of that term is almost comical, particularly coming from so called traditionalists. “Relationship” is sorta Sexual Revolution, but also sorta New Agey. Folks who are not married but who sleep together have a “relationship.” That’s what the word usually means. Friends don’t really talk about having a friend-to-friend “relationship.” Of course, when modified, when made more specific, the term can mean other things…eg the parent-child relationship, a sibling relationship, the doctor-patient relationship, the teacher-student relationship, etc. But to speak of a free floating “relationship” with God is, well, to me anyway, kinda weird.

It seems like a really “Born Again” Protestant notion too. A “personal relationship” with a “personal savior” and so on. At least back in the day, Catholics did not talk about “relationships” with Jesus; one did not speak of one’s “Walk with Christ.” You shut up and followed the rules, because God said so, according to your parents, the nuns, the priest, the bishop and so on up the ladder to the Pope. Your end of this non “relationship” was just that: to do as you were bidden. And God’s end of it was to tell you what to do (which the nuns, priests, etc took care of by mediating for Him, like a foreman on a job site). You had no “relationship” with Jesus and you were not “walking with” Him either. It would be almost blasphemingly presumptuous to claim otherwise.

But, beyond the Catholic and Protestant divide, the problem with the “relationship” thing is, as the poster hints at (but doesn’t come out and say), that there is really no such thing. A “relationship” takes two interacting beings, of some kind. I can have a relationship, I suppose, with a co worker, with a guy I see on the bus everyday, even with a dog or a cat, but I can’t have a “relationship” with a chair.

Much the same with God. The kids can’t be made to have a relationship with God because not only is it impossible to force such a thing, but the thing itself is impossible in the first place….

Look, I was young once. I tried to be “born again.” I tried to pray. I read the gospel. I went to church. And youth group. And youth singing group, and so on. And? And nothing. You pray, but there is no answer.

You read, and some of it is very good. Idealistic, perhaps, but inspiring. But other parts of it are absurd, some flat out wrong, and a lot of it incomprehensible. Its a book, nothing more, nothing less. It has some good ideas, and some bad ones. Of course, in the KJV, more than anywhere else (in English, anyway) it is kick ass as language and literature as well. Anything from the Bible that sounds cool or good in English is from the KJV. But, so what? Proust was cool too, that doesn’t make him God. And it doesn’t make Swann’s Way into the “Word of God.” You can study Proust’s full novel for the rest of your life, just as you can study the Bible, and you will then be learned (at least in that one field), and richer for the experience, but you won’t have any “relationship” with anyone thereby. You could stretch the meaning of the word and say you have a “relationship” with the author, but the author of the Bible is not God, at least not directly. So, OK, I can have a sorta “relationship” with Proust and with the various folks (scribes, priests, apostles, church fathers, etc) who wrote and edited the Bible, but that still is not the same as a relationship with God.

Singing group? Youth group? Church services? Beautiful. Its fun to sing with friends. Its fun to HAVE friends. Particularly given how harsh high school can be. Buuuuut, the “relationship” is with the friends, not with God. Same with Church services. At most, you have a relationship with your fellow congregants, not with God.

God just doesn’t do anything or say anything. You ask him questions, and he doesn’t answer. You pray for help, but it doesn’t come. Sure, sometimes things work out, but sometimes they don’t, and whether you pray or not has nothing to do with it. You simply can’t have a relationship with a rock. And, no, it doesn’t matter that they claim that this book is the “Word” of the rock, or that this institution is the “Church” of the rock, and so on. All you get is silence and nothingness. I can’t even say you get indifference, because indifference implies that there is someone there who COULD care, who COULD interact, but just chooses not to.

And that is why, I think, many people leave the Church (any church, not just the GOA, and not just the Christian church). As one of Dreher’s posters puts it:

“…18 years of going to…church failed to demonstrate to…their kids that there was anything to be had in church other than boredom and a sense of crushing obligation.”

And that is because, I think, of what would-be, wanna-be, believers call the “Silence of God.” God has nothing to say to most of us. Most of us do not receive even putative visions, answers, statements, etc. Not even in our dreams. To me, even “silence” is a questionable word. Because it too implies, to some degree, that speech could be forthcoming, but just isn’t, as a matter of choice. But a rock is not “silent,” rather, it can’t speak. Sure, lots of folks are put off by the supernatural claims, most of which have now been discredited by science and are in a state of semi abandonment (at least among the smarter believers). Others are more about the cultural relativism (ie why your Abrahamic “God” and not somebody else’s Zeus or Odin or Vishnu or whatever?). But what it really comes down to is that there ARE being better things to do with one’s time, and that is so because there is often nothing going on in church but boredom and guilt and obligation. And if there is anything else going on, “God” per se, has nothing to do with it. We like to have and be with friends. We like to celebrate stages in life. We like to make a big deal over the birth of our kids, and their growing up. We like to make a big deal out of getting married. We like to sing. We like pretty chapels and soaring cathedrals. We like Bach. We like poetry and chanting. Etc. And we like having relationships with other people.

But a “relationship” with God is pretty much a non starter. A one sided game of charades. You talk (internally and out loud) and God stays mum. You act, and God does zilch. You pray, but it makes no difference. And the lack of it does drive kids, and adults, away. Religion is simply “wrong.” Not wrong in the sense of evil, not necessarily (although it can be, in practice….it can be good in practice too, though, to be fair), but simply misguided. The study of God, theology, is the study of nothing. “Relationships” with God are nullities, because there is no there there to “relate” with. People, no matter how often they are told that the emperor has fine new clothes, eventually can’t deny his nakedness, and then they opt out, if they are able to. And, more and more in our Western society, they ARE able to. Folks no longer HAVE to have a religion. It is now OK, in many parts of the world, to not only be an atheist but to admit it too.

Windows 8 (ugh!)

I know, I know!

Yes, I know that I CAN download this, this, this, this, this and that, and get rid of this, this, this, this, and that, and change over this, this, this, and that, and then, pretty much, I can replicate the past Windows experience. The question is, why should I have to?

Change is neither good nor bad, in the abstract. It can be either. However, when you change the way people do things, you have to consider, in that analysis, whether the gains outweigh the costs of folks having to learn that new way. And, of course, before you even get there, you have to make sure that the changes are really improvements, not the opposite.

OK, with that in mind, Windows, from the beginning, was a “desktop” thing. You set the thing up and you put everything you wanted, a lot or a little, on the desktop. Including your internet entry button. Because the desktop icons were small, you could literally fit dozens of icons on a laptop and hundreds on a desktop computer. Now, with Windows 8, your computer wants to open to a horrific “Tiles” page. The “tiles” are huge, and even though there are really not that many of them, they take up more than one screen’s worth. Which means you have to slide the screen (we’ll get to that!) to see them all. And most of them are total crap! Who the hell wants pre loaded apps/ads for EBay, Amazon and so on!?! Do folks who want to use these for profit web sites find it hard to get to them, in the regular web surfing way? Can’t you just put them in Favorites, if you are such a big fan/customer? We don’t actually need “apps” when we are at home and on the web anyway. Moreover, why not have it as a voluntary feature, like the old desktop icons? Here are a list of apps that you CAN put on your “tile” page, if you so choose, rather than pre loading them.

The desktop, which used to be the initial page, is now just another option, another “tile.” Why? Did folks demand that Microsoft make it harder to get to their desktop, which is what 99 out of a hundred users want and are familiar with? W8 defenders say that the tiles are just like what you get on a smart phone or tablet. Maybe they are, I wouldn’t know. Because I don’t have a smartphone or tablet, and don’t want one. I want a laptop, which is what I bought. Why, per se, is what is considered good on a tablet or fancy phone considered to be good on my laptop (or desktop), that mostly sits on a desk and is used at home? With a mobile tablet or phone, you have to hold the damn thing with one hand, so maybe the “swipe” technology is better. Maybe (we’ll get to it, I promise!). And, maybe, because you use the thing as phone and text messager, the internet is not the main deal. Again, maybe. But not on my home computer!

And the IE that is loaded on the tile page? Oh My Friggin’ God in Heaven! The thing comes on and takes up the whole screen! No menus, no frame, no nothing. A “back” button that seems to come and go at its own caprice. Otherwise, nothing, no “forward” button, no controls at all. And a big, black bar at the bottom that has the web address in large, stupid letters…plus some pictures of web pages that I don’t know where they came from or where they go, or why. Who in the name of hell would want to use the internet this way? Some tiny group of “Techies,” perhaps? Fine, then why not make this an option, and leave the rest of us alone? Techies don’t mind, indeed they seem to like, messing around, adding things, making changes, etc. So, why not let the stuff designed for them be optional, not built in?

Somehow, I managed to get an IE onto the desktop. But I am still not sure how. Moreover, it is only “pinned” to the bottom left of the screen (not a real icon), and, if you unpin it by mistake, you are back to square one! And opening up more than one IE window is still a pain in the neck. Before, you could open as many as you liked. Now, the thing seems to want to redirect you to previous pages you looked at. If I wanted to go to those pages, I would have minimized them rather than killed them, TYVM! Why not just let me open us as many windows in the internet as I want, starting at my homepage (which I chose, after all) each time?

And, before the most recent versions, the Windows menu (File, Edit, View, Favorites, Tools, Help) always came pre loaded. And that’s how folks learned to compute. Most folks use their home computer to surf the web….that is its main function. And with just a little fiddling, ie changing the homepage from the dreadful MSN to Google, it was easy to get that going….plug in the computer, hook up the modem, and change the homepage, and you were done, more or less. And, when surfing the web, the Windows menu was not some kind of bell or whistle, it was, and is, an integral part of manipulating the web to one’s convenience (at least for non techies, for folks who don’t know a lot “F” this or that functions). To find a certain term or word on a website, to add a website to Favorites so as to make it easy to get back to it, to print, to clear history, etc, etc. Folks learned to use those Menu items and they make web use better. So, why in the name of God would Mr. Softy get rid of them? Were customers barraging Microsoft, begging them to dump the menu? Please. Yes, you can put it back now, by why take it out in the first place?

And the Adobe Acrobat Reader, the Gold Standard when it comes to dealing with PDFs, has now been replaced with a pre loaded, impossible to get rid of POS MS “house” brand “Reader.” Like the new IE (and the “new” Math, for those of you old enough to remember it!) it is definitely NOT an improvement over the old version. Also like the new IE, it has no frames, no tools, no nothing. It is like one big “picture” of the document, with the only way to manipulate it being to “swipe” up and down. Besides the problems with “swipe” generally (and, to repeat again, we will get to them, I promise!), why would I not want to have a search function? And clickable pagination? And be able to change the size, and so on? Yes, yes, you can load Adobe, both the latest general version and the new “touch” version built to get along with W8, but despite what some might tell you, you can’t really make it the default setting for PDFs on IE. Changing the default to Adobe only results in Adobe (both of them or either) being the default where it “can” be. And, apparently, it can’t be on IE. Again, supposedly, you could download a PDF to the desktop, and then open it with Adobe, but that doesn’t work either, as the Adobe says it can’t read the document as formatted. So, you are stuck with the garbage MS “Reader.” Strangely, though, I am now able to get SOME of the Adobe features on a PDF in IE, if I say yes to a question box asking me if I want them (ummm, yeah, stupid, I do want them, duh!). But it is still some kind of Adobe/MS “Reader” hybrid.

Now, you might say, “big deal,” but it actually is a big deal. I use PDFs a lot. So do many people. Most sophisticated documents and high data documents are in PDF. Government and international organizations and academic websites all use PDFs. Moreover, the point is why change? Why go away from Adobe, when Adobe has been the first, last and best word on using PDFs for well over a decade or more? Again, did someone call up MS, ask for Gates, and say, “Please, Bill, take away my Adobe reader, because, (1) it is so good and easy to use, and (2) I am familiar with it. Replace it with a POS Reader of your own making that is unintuitive, totally different, and just plain not as good. Oh, and make sure it is hard/impossible for me to switch back too.”?

And now for the famous “swipe” BS. Yes, as I mentioned, on a device primarily meant to be used on the road, swiping might make sense. You need one hand to hold the thing, so you can’t really type (not touch type anyway, which is the only efficient way to type). In that case, the more you can do with one hand, with one finger, really, the better. Buuuuuuuuut, my laptop is not really a “mobile” device. I use it almost exclusively at home, and almost always in a traditional desk type setting. And I am hardly unusual in that respect. Even folks who take their laptops with them on the go don’t hold it with one hand and manipulate it with the other.

I want to keep my machine clean. Especially the screen. I want a clean screen, clean machine. But my fingers have natural oils on them. Also, I have dry skin, so occasionally I use lotion. Then too, I have been known, as have most human beings, to ingest food now and again. In other words, and without being overly graphic, my hands are NOT always ninety nine and forty four hundredths per cent clean. Is that, um, OK, Mr. Gates? Or are we now back in 1986, when there was no eating or drinking allowed at the “computer station?” Should I have to wear gloves, like Sheldon looking at his comic books on The Big Bang Theory, when I use the computer? I don’t want to touch the computer screen with my fingers……EVER! At most, I want to use a “chammy” cloth to clean the screen, very occasionally.

Mouse or touchpad, plus a few function keys, are all that is necessary. Not swiping, not touching, or “tapping,” as they put it.

More beefs…as with most new Windows, everything seems unstable. A touch, one light touch, on the down arrow, sends the thing plummeting down to the bottom of a long web page. Try opening the internet and you find that you opened it AND closed it again. Try again, with same results. Or, you have opened fifteen internet windows, just by holding your finger down on the click button for one second. Or, you go to make a video full screen and it toggles back and forth for five minutes between full screen and regular size. One press of the “back” arrow and the thing goes right back, past half a dozen previous pages, to the homepage. One press on the “forward” arrow and it goes all the way back to where you started!

And this “toggling” crap! I don’t need the computer to go back to somewhere I left because I happened to do something (not even sure what!) that the MS genius boys have determined means I must want to! If I play a game of chess, and then leave it to go surf the net, I can go back to my game if I feel like it. I don’t need some little picture of the game to show up in the upper left corner, which takes me back to the game against my will when I am just trying to use the “back” button on the internet or the recycling bin on the desktop. And it seems to toggle under other circumstances too, which I can’t figure out.

OK, I will admit that the complaints about the games in general are overdone. There are plenty of games to choose from, many of which are free. And it is easy to download and uninstall them. Much easier than it used to be.

Buuuut, when I am done with playing chess for the time being, why, for the love of all that is holy, is there not a simple box in the upper right corner? Ya’ know, a red box with a white “X” in it, that kills the chess function, for now, and until opened again? Again, did folks call up MS and say, “Gee Mr. Gates, when I am done playing Chess Titans, it is just too damn easy, too intuitive, and too simple, for me to just click the ‘X’ button that I am already familiar with, so that I can get rid of it and move on to the next thing. No, please, I beseech, beg and implore you, make it more complicated, make it new for no reason at all but change for change for change’s sake, and make it obscure, difficult and unfamiliar!”

I have no idea how to get rid of it right away, but when I then go to the desktop, it (the chess thing, as I left it) appears in the upper left corner as a little picture, and I can right click on it and close it that way. Sometimes. Other times, I can only get the recycling bin to open, when in pure desktop, or the back button on the internet. Great location for the toggle and close thingy, MS genius boy!

Same with the “Start” button. Sometimes it comes up in the lower left corner of the desktop, sometimes not. It seems to decide on its own whether to appear or not! And other times I end up clicking whatever icon is in that corner instead. Another great job of locating an important function button, MS!

And, no way, I am not going to “upgrade” to Windows 8.1, because I am afraid that I will again be sent back to square one, with no IE but the dreadful “tiles” version, no Menu, no nothing.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

The only real improvement, besides, as I mentioned, that it is easier to add and dump stuff, is the quality of the sound and video. Not sure if that is a Windows thing or a manufacturer thing, though.

The cost of a laptop has now gone up a little bit, after going down, down, down for years. It seems that a lot of bells and whistles, like pre loaded “apps” for commercial sites, “swipe” technology and “tiles,” are responsible for this. I can’t help but feel as if I am being played. Make something better, if you want to charge more for it. Give me more “CPU,” so that my antivirus doesn’t use it all up. Give me MS “Office” included. Give me something. But don’t charge me more on the basis of a new Windows that sucks.

That is all, for now.