About the mutton flap

Mostly hair.

Clutching my pearls and thinking out loud

I’m seeing a lot of this lately; pile-ons from young women in Twitter, claiming that men who call one another ‘soft cock’ or ‘pussy’ aren’t just crass, they’re evil or mentally unhinged, with masculinity so toxic it melts your vegan nailpolish at 100 metres (and smells like Lynx and packet macaroni – be on guard, womyn).

In other circumstances, this ‘pile on’ – where the hysteria reaches epic proportions and otherwise sensible people find themselves making frankly ridiculous claims about the mental health/motivations and/or personal hygiene of someone else – would be called out for being over the top.

The fact that it isn’t demonstrates a complete schism between the classes. I’ve heard many, many men refer to one another as soft-cocks and pussies. Generally speaking it is a gentle form of giving one another curry. It is not, as the hysteria would suggest, an incitement to commit war crimes (generally war crimes language is more subtle. It often includes terms like, ‘operational’ ‘sustainable’ ‘negative’ ‘maximise’ and ‘neutralise’. This masculinity smells less like Lynx and more like Polo for Men).

I have worked in male environments before, with men who might be called working class *gasp*. I am familiar with their strange and exotic ways, a familiarity that I can only assume does not extend to the woke twitteratto, above.

I know language matters. I am not undermining the sexism that this kind of language reflects – a social order that is rapidly changing. Yet I struggle though to connect this kind of sexist language with severe violence against women – which is the basis for this extreme, clutch-my-pearls hysteria against it. Calling someone a pussy does not make you a murderer.

It’s something I’ve thought about a lot lately. My personal is my political. And I think my personal is different to these twittering women above. Unlike them, I suspect ‘personal’ includes experience with ‘the working class’. Many encounters have shaped my view, including this one;

I once worked in a place (all men) where one employee (I’ll call him ‘Neil’) regularly used the services of a prostitute. Neil was married with teenaged kids. His wife was aware of the arrangement. Although he held a relatively senior position in our little hierarchy (he got to choose the workshop radio station four days out of five and had access to the welder for personal use, both privileges bordering on minor royalty) he was always on the outer. Several years previously Neil had made one or two derogatory comments about his wife’s sexual organs. These comments were eventually relayed to me when I started. Although he was treated with some decency, he was not respected. I wouldn’t say shunned, but definitely regarded very differently. Worse.

The language in this workplace would feed the Twitter outrage machine for a year. Terms of endearment included; Cunt, fuckhead, soft cock, pussy. Men routinely derided one another’s sexual abilities and capacities. Except Neil. Neil was left out of it.

Terms that alluded to one’s sexual prowess (or lack thereof) were acceptable. Interestingly, terms that derided one’s cognitive abilities were not OK. No-one was ever called a moron. That’s a key difference between classes – slagging off one’s mental health or abilities is completely OK for the twittering middle classes (I guess it doesn’t matter how thick you are if your parents are rich, Queenwood will get you over the line and you can pretend you got there on merit). It’s not OK for everyone else.

Men who are sexually violent have a peculiar attitude to women. It is not denoted by calling one another’s masculinity into question by calling them softcocks. You know it when you see it. Looking back on it, I was never, ever left alone in the workshop with Neil. Everyone else – no dramas, just not Neil.

Men who are violent towards women belittle them, often in subtle ways, and often in front of other people. Thinking that masculine violence is underpinned and heralded by smutty talk just demonstrates a class division between middle class young women and working class men (I’m not even comfortable with the term working class because it’s so problematic in both economic and cultural terms. It’s also universalising and therefore feels derogatory).

The whole point of this navel gazing is of course so we all stop talking about this;

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And the next thing….

FACEBOOK TV

Yes, it’s a thing. A thing where Facebook makes videos about science and posts them on Facebook. Yay! Science! By Facebook! It’ll be great!

Today’s vid told me that memories are inherited in your DNA because your parents DNA changes in response to different environmental stimuli. There was even a mouse experiment that proved it! OMG this totally explains why I get, like, really panicky in the presence of, like, books. Because my Mum was once given a series of electric shocks every time she opened a book!

I don’t even need to do any research at all to spot the first problem; – epigenetic transmission of behaviours is about methylation. It does not change the DNA. If it did I’d be a fucking legend cricket player who could successfully load a dishwasher.

Actually, the mouse experiment is kind of interesting. There have been many experiments and much research into methylation and epigenetics, but that mouse experiment stands out because of one thing; the results were completely unlikely. This article pulls the experiments apart in a reasonably straightforward way that I’d probably understand in its entirety if I wasn’t such a fabulous cricketer;

An article reporting statistical evidence for epigenetic transfer of learned behavior has important implications, if true. With random sampling, real effects do not always result in rejection of the null hypothesis, but the reported experiments were uniformly successful. Such an outcome is expected to occur with a probability of 0.004.

0.004. That’s pretty small odds. The article basically takes a series of guesses as to how the reported results were so amazingly coincidentally completely in line with the researchers’ hypothesis, but what it makes clear is how research design is often quite shonky. Obviously drug companies edit out their failures but I was a bit surprised to read this article detailing all the ways in which people bugger it up in other fields too,

How could the findings of Dias and Ressler (2014) have been so positive with such low odds of success? Perhaps there were unreported experiments that did not agree with the theoretical claims; perhaps the experiments were run in a way that improperly inflated the success and type I error rates, which would render the statistical inferences invalid. Researchers can unintentionally introduce these problems with seemingly minor choices in data collection, data analysis, and result interpretation. Regardless of the reasons, too much success undermines reader confidence that the experimental results represent reality. Even if some of the effects prove to be real, the findings reported in Dias and Ressler (2014) likely overestimate the effect magnitudes because unreported unsuccessful outcomes usually indicate a smaller effect than reported successful outcomes.

Next stop; chaos theory, closed loop control systems and my fucking car.

 

Here we go….

I’ve spent the better part of a couple of weeks developing a rudimentary knowledge of turbo diesels into a fine grained, forensic understanding of every fucking system that could ever shit itself. Don’t get me started….

Aside from turbo diesels, a few other ridiculous ideas have caught my way; one of which is the furore over old Pakehas receiving an small payment to help them with their winter power bill.

 See where the bulges sit above? European New Zealanders are older and thus far more likely to own their own homes (and, increasingly, the homes of others as property investors). Europeans far outpace all other ethnic groups when it comes to home ownership, being around twice as likely to own their home as Māori, and more again than Pasifika.

It’s fine to suggest that rich people shouldn’t really receive more money. This isn’t what the article is saying. It says; Pakeha New Zealanders are asset rich and live on pensions (which I think is about 20 grand per annum). Apparently these baby boomers should take out reverse mortgages in order to supplement their pensions. This seems wrong to me somehow. Yes, these people are cash-poor. Yes, they struggle to pay the power bill. Yes, they own their own homes. All that would happen is that their children would have less capital passed on to them when they die. Or, not mentioned in the article, that money might get spent on medical treatment and retirement homes….Unless and until someone addresses the complete fucking rort that is the retirement industry in NZ it will remain hard to make an argument that kids are going to inherit much at all. But let’s leave that aside for a moment.

Say those kids DO inherit something. What will they spend this largesse upon? Paying their enormous fucking student loans and outrageous mortgages. They might go to the dentist.

It’s all very well to portray Baby Boomers as living high on the hog but you have to look at a broader range of implications when you talk about making pensioners get reverse mortgages. It’s not just a simple case of taking one thing (reverse mortgages for asset rich/cash poor) and discussing it in terms of one implication (inheritance and intergenerational wealth). There are simply too many other factors in play. This is called ‘modelling’. It’s the kind of thing that dog whistling journos don’t do much of.

They prefer to make arguments on the basis of simpler concepts. Concepts everyone can understand. Like racism. Apparently Pakeha people are all home owners and that’s not fair. No-one else is a home owner! There’s even a nice piccy in the article to show you how baby boomers are all pakeha

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Of course, the more observant amongst you will notice that it is age, rather than ethnicity, that is the variable of interest here. Young people don’t buy houses. And young New Zealanders aren’t Pakeha. Is the cure for racist housing inequality to be older?

So that’s one thing……

 

Gen X The First Generation to Have Worse Fountain Pens Than Their Parents.

Children born between 1976 and the mailbox are three times more likely to suffer from badly malfunctioning ink pens than the generation that came before them. Not only will GenX have a disproportionately high rate of stained handbags, they also have up to 18% more chance of experiencing at least one disappointing Club meal before retirement age.

Can we please stop comparing the economic prospects of Gens X and Y to the Baby Boomers’ fortunes? This is not a linear progression.

Baby boomers experienced one of the greatest increases in ‘life everythings’ the world has ever known. John and Sue were born at the thundering apex of the late industrial revolution. Their greatly enhanced wellbeing galloped in on ten thousand flaming jets of fossil fuel. Of course their lives were going to be better than their parents.

On masse, baby boomers have mostly avoided being blown to bits in war, filleted by heavy machinery or turned inside out by some hideous biological liquifaction. Certainly, when viewed alongside the long and dramatic list of their undoings presented in the media – from mesothelioma and heart disease to adult men in velcro sandals, it’s easy to lose sight of their clear run. However, the fact remains, baby boomers experienced an extraordinary growth in human comfort and material wellbeing.

The grumbling statistician deep within my soul would prefer a more fruitful question – how can we explain the revenge effects of the Boomer’s economic flourishing? Given the cornucopia of food, medicine and elasticated waistbands, shouldn’t the Boomers be a bit better off than they are, stumbling towards their 80s with fistfuls of Lipitor?

I would suggest that Gen X and Y might be economically poorer than their parents and grandparents, but will realise wealth in other ways. For starters, they will recognise the shortcomings of the Boomers’ exceptional wealth and prepare for them. Information is a resource.

Why I only buy books written by men.

Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 9.43.48 AM.pngYes, it came as something of a shock to me too. But I think I know how it happens.

I buy books from op shops. This is for two reasons. First: I am poor. Second: There is nothing I enjoy more than tipping an entire cup of coffee and/or brake fluid into a good book. The three-for-a-dollar shelf at the Salvos is the clumsy reader’s natural habitat.

Op-shopping hones my reading choices in a rather hokey way, unmediated by popular media or breathy reviews on National Radio. It introduces a deliciously wobbly stochastic process oriented by little more than, ‘For fuckssake, just tell me which one of these boxes isn’t going to the tip, Russell’.

What it doesn’t do, however, is weight for gender.

Last Thursday’s three-for-a-dollar selection is typical;

  1. a peculiar work of ‘experimental literature’ (Habitus, by James Flint)
  2. a well known but tragically dated work of cleverness (Paul Theroux, The Old Patagonian Express)
  3. a classic that I should have read as a teenager but chose to modify a set of header pipes instead (Huxley, Brave New World).

You’ll note these books are all written by men. Female authors are under-represented in the publishing industry, and therefore, ultimately, on the op-shop shelves. But this doesn’t entirely explain why I end up taking home only male authors (so to speak).

Last year, Booker prize winner, Marlon James firmly planted himself in a towering pile of shit for claiming the publishing industry deliberately appeals to white, middle class women (WMCW). According to him, writers of colour are tacitly encouraged to write WMCW’s stories. This, according to James, is the key to getting published.

James characterised these books as;

“…pander[ing[ to that archetype of the white woman, that long-suffering, astringent prose set in suburbia. You know, ‘older mother or wife sits down and thinks about her horrible life’.”

He’s right, of course, writers of colour are tacitly encouraged to write stories for White Middle Class Women. Mostly however, WMCW write these books for themselves. In other words, most self-involved, white women’s narrative fiction is narrated by self-involved white women.

We’re all familiar with this genre. I like to call it suburban-ennui, it is characterised by suffocating interpersonal relationships, pop-sociologies of motherhood or overly considered evocations of minute moral dilemmas. Frequently, these books do little more than reconcile the small generational differences between the author’s mother’s life (as remembered by the author), and the author’s own. They are unutterably dull and redolent with the scent of score settling. Men are one-dimensional or absent altogether. The storyline is often animated by some kind of contrived family secret *gasp*, a banal horror like alcoholism or sexual abuse of which the white, middle class author knows sweet fuck-all. They are portraits of seething proximity and emotional tourism, a claustrophobic, technicolour yawn.

It’s worth mentioning the type of middle class white women’s literature — something I like to call Gyno Grunge. The apotheosis of the exhausting suburban tomes above, Gyno-grunge is equally formulaic. Unlike their motherly suburban counterparts, these stories typically revolve around a single, hideous alter-femme, women who are overtly, grotesquely physical — comprised of cheesy creases and coarse, unbidden hairs. Venal and lazily violent they are part circus-freak, part modern morality play — women in extremis. Invariably they succumb to the purple excesses of loneliness, masturbation and poor dental hygiene. Their class status and motivations are unpredictable and unknowable. They are foreign and base, a clunky ‘other’. Like its suburban-ennui counterpart, above, Gyno-grunge also makes for dispiriting reading.

‘Suburban Ennui’ and ‘Gyno-Grunge’ comprise an inward-looking women’s lit, as tedious and insulting as it is dominant. And the fear of encountering it amongst the jaunty stacks of paperbacks at the Salvos has me clutching for the Wilbur Smith.

And this is how I end up buying the work of male writers. It’s not that I think all women writers produce the kind of work as described above, but many do, the industry rewards it and I fear I might accidentally read some of it.

I’ve decided, though, that in 2018 I will right the balance. I will only select works by female authors upon which to drop honey and brake fluid. Let’s see how this goes.

Phew

I have a passing interest in economics and policy. At times, this has led me to examine some of the key theories about history and economics, including Marxism. Today we’ll be talking about Cultural Marxism  *cue hysteria*

Cultural Marxism is the idea that economic Marxism failed (where’s my revolution, it was here a minute ago etc.,.) and so now lefties are attempting to dismantle the current social fabric with a different type of Marxism – the Marxism of culture. Or so the critics would have it. You’ll be familiar with this idea; Cultural Marxists are promoting the death of the family and western social structures through the devious propagation of silly ideas like gender theory and identity politics. Thirty years ago, the same thing was said about feminists, that was until right wing pundits realised that the only thing that served capitalism better than one person working outside the home was two people working outside the home.

Undaunted, these shrill lunatics continued to maintain that cultural Marxism is a threat to humanity. Feminism has been replaced by issues such as ‘gender dysphoria’ or ‘trans-visibility’. Yep, it’s scary stuff, this cultural Marxism. Apparently we’re teetering on the edge of a society-wide apocalypse because a bunch of bored, screen-sallow shut-ins think that everyone cares very deeply about the cut of their trousers.

The corporatist oligarchy is shitting itself.

And that’s my point. Because if anything, the wobbly juggernaut of Western capitalism loves cultural Marxism. After all, if young adults are keeping themselves entertained competing to see whose dignity and humanity has been, like, super-impugned the most, they’re hardly likely to organise to take collective action against the forces who stand to fleece them the most.

Cultural Marxism is Gen Y’s Marxism – tangling itself up in narcissistic irrelevances, while the real machinery of global capitalism marches on. Cultural Marxism is the Marxism you have when the real thing is too dangerous. Cultural Marxism’s key sponsors are likely to be The Capitalists themselves. After all, this form of Marxism doesn’t bite. What’s not to love?

There’s another reading of course – that capitalism has won. After all, nothing screams, ‘conspicuous consumption’ like the idea that you might fetishise (and monetise) your very gender.

It’s all deeply silly.

Reading

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A funny graph for your Friday morning….

I know that I’m supposed to be talking about my readily impugned dignity and/or vagina, but actually at the moment I spent most of my days reading about the relationship between wages, price signals, inflation rates and the RBA and housing. Specifically, Australia has been experiencing wage decline for quite some time. This has implications.

I’m realising there’s a lot of wobbly data out there, but I found one frequently repeated stat;

– Australians owning at least one investment property;

22% of GenY (age 18-34)

20% of GenX (age 35-49)

19% of Baby Boomers (age 50- ~ 170)

Thought that was interesting.

Investment property comprises about 16% of the residential property market.

More to come I suspect……