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March 26, 2008


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Maybe it'd be a good idea to take the TV out of the kids' bedrooms.

* Lester Hunt adds some shrewd thinking to Thomas Sowell's fab "A Conflict of Visions."

* $179 will buy you a neoclassical dildo. And speaking of dildos ...

* One the most common architecture-and-design mistakes these days is opening things up too damn much, and bringing in too much damn light. Katie Hutchison shows off a small house with large -- but not oversized -- windows.

* WhiskyPrajer flips for "The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard." I love that collection too.

* Is Globalization the best way to a prosperous future for all? (Link thanks to ALD.) Or the latest example of totalitarian-utopian insanity?

* DesignObserver's Stephen Heller takes a look at the graphics that the Ron Paul campaign inspired.

* Are the Dems once again throwing away the Presidential election?

* Michael Bierut points out the online pocket-protector musuem.

* Asian people apparently love nagging.

* When David and Moira saw the Soweto Gospel Choir, the white people in the crowd managed to stay in their seats. Come on, white people. Even if you can't dance, you gotta do better than that.

* So maybe there is a way that more money can increase your happiness ....

* Home prices in California are dropping by $3000 per week.

* Hyper-dynamic, self-empowered, alt-porn feminist / BDSM performer / gallery-owner Madison Young inks a deal with Girlfriends Distribution. (NSFW)

* Youthquake in Chile. (Link thanks to Marginal Revolution.)

* Slow Food, Slow Cities ... and now, Slow Parenting. (Link thanks to Alice Bachini.)

* When a euphemism isn't euphemistic enough...

* MBlowhard Rewind: I wanna be like this guy.



posted by Michael at March 26, 2008


Assuming the story about Chilean ponceo is true -- rather than yet another Margaret Mead in Samoa hoax -- at the rate they engage in multiple-partner oral sex, before long their faces will be too disfigured by disease to allow them to participate further.

Of course, it'll all be blamed on the puritanical lack of sex education rather than teenagers acting like wild animals.

Posted by: agnostic on March 26, 2008 6:55 PM

I have to agree with agnostic...........that Chilean story is quite sad. Heartbreakingly so. Those kids are damaging themselves but they dont even realize it, and making it harder for them to be faithful to a mate and to be a good mate later in life. I expect we will see Chilean birhtrates plummet in the near future. MTV was a social atomic bomb, dropped on societies, and before it kids did not behave this way.

Posted by: g on March 26, 2008 7:37 PM

Although I think people who screw around a lot without taking adequate precautions to prevent infections are a social menace, I have zero against promiscuity per se. While some people can't handle it, some can (and some get a lot out of it). And I tend to think that a little something in the way of adventure and experimenting can often confer benefits, in terms of exploring the world and finding out a bit about yourself too. (Smokey Robinson: "My mama told me, You better shop around.") But where conducting a sex-and-romantic life goes, there seems to be no one recipe that will suit everyone. I think a squaresville, sensible-job-and-fidelity-and-kids life is probably the right choice for most people. But "most" isn't "all," by any means. So I wouldn't want anyone to take that as a one-size-fits-all endorsement.

But maybe I misunderstand -- do you guys disapprove of the Chilean kids because of the promiscuity? The lack of hygiene-protection? Something else?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 27, 2008 10:50 AM

Early compulsive promiscuity isn't good for anyone, Michael, and that's what this sounds like. I would question whether it's good for anyone under any circumstances at all - but leaving that out for the moment, the trouble with starting so young is that it greatly increases possible exposure to disease (and the very young are notable for not taking risks seriously); it takes away time that they ought to put into other kinds of learning and experience, including school, socializing, and even courtship (no courtship is required in encounters like the ones described here); and it is more psychologically dangerous at an age when few people have developed a strong sense of personal identity. I bet that depression and teen suicide are rising in Chile too, if this kind of thing is widespread.

Posted by: alias clio on March 27, 2008 11:30 AM

Trying to run other peoples' sex lives is the most hopeless of all undertakings. My first response to the kids carrying on is: "God, that's really ugly!"

Indeed, almost all sexual morality boils down to this. Kinky stuff that seems beautiful and pleasing to me seems to be rat behavior to others. And vice versa. Of all the perversions, carrying on one's sex life for the sake of some sort of cause seems like the dumbest variation. For some people, screwing in the currently fashionable manner is all that's important.

Michael, I think it would astound you how little "squaresville" is going on. Here's a story I just heard from suburban Jersey. Married man of 30 years standing, exemplary community service guy, disappears. His wife tracks him down months later in California. He found his high school sweetheart on one of the schoolmate sites, took all the couple's money and ran away.

I prefer completely non-ideological, non-trendy girls. The performance art, novelty girls that you feature so often... well, they strike me as mean spirited spoiled brats with too much time on their hands. Who can say?

Everybody's struggling to find out who they are in this arena. Personally, I think a return to the old days of some agreed upon social conventions would be a hell of a lot better. In this world of the free-for-all, most people don't have a clue.

Incidently, I've been watching a series about a Stone Age tribe, the Mek, on the Travel Channel. Absolutely fascinating. They live stark naked. The tribe next door got Christianity and started wearing clothing. The result, for me, was an odd slant on why nakedness is supposedly shameful.

After they converted, the Christian tribe became industrious and began to grow a surplus of crops for trade. The non-converted tribe remained naked, and continued to endure periods of starvation because they didn't grow a surplus. The shame of nakedness is, thus, the shame of being lazy and failing to be future oriented. It's a sign of backwardness and stupidity.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on March 27, 2008 11:33 AM

But maybe I misunderstand -- do you guys disapprove of the Chilean kids because of the promiscuity? The lack of hygiene-protection? Something else?

I am not sure if approval or disapproval is even important. But, rather, what were the causes and likely implications.

Let's say we are talking about your 14 year old daughter. And she has now blown dozens of guys. Has she seriously hurt her chances of having the Married with Children life?

Maybe she won't want that, maybe she will. Who knows. She certainly doesn't know.

Assuming that she will care very much about having a long-term devoted and monogomous relationship at some point, well, has she affected that future?

Experimental sex can be fun and daring for a certian crowd, but for most (expecially girls) it can have real effects on not just their lives, but society.

I think that those are the real questions.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on March 27, 2008 11:54 AM

A.Clio -- You're a lot more comfy decreeing hard and fast rules about these things than I am!

S.T. -- You write, "Of all the perversions, carrying on one's sex life for the sake of some sort of cause seems like the dumbest variation." That's a great sentence. As for the performance-art brats -- yeah, I think that's probably a fair characterization of a lot of them. I link to 'em for two main reasons: 1) I'm amused -- it's part of today's spectacle. 2) Given that some of these kids are going to be filmmakers, stars, and writers tomorrow, this might well be one of the ways "culture" generally is going to go. A lot of these kids, at least the ones I run into, are uninhibited beyond anyone's imaginings, even those of otherwise-loose Boomers. Oh, and 3) Given the fetish that's been made out of "getting rid of inhibitions" and such since the Boomer years, hey, now we're seeing the results of that. Is this what was expected? Or hoped-for? All that grumpiness expressed, I also find at least some of the acting-out crowd sweet, fizzy, talented, funny ... Oh, wait: 4) Fun to link to this stuff out of pure mischief. Americans can be awfully rigid and uptight about things, don't you find? Fun to tweak 'em from time to time. And 5) If I were running a culture magazine, I'd include a whole lot more about sex and sexiness than most culture publications do. I mean, sex is one of the really big reasons people get interested in the arts, as fans and as participants. That's a simple and basic fact of life. Why not be a little more open and honest about this than the "culture" crowd typically is?

Ian -- Writing, as you do, "I am not sure if approval or disapproval is even important" seems to me to demonstrate a high level of maturity!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 27, 2008 12:16 PM

I like to demonstrate maturity because I have so little of it.

Oh, and from what I have been reading, the story is mostly bullsh*t. At least from the comments on the MarginalRevolution site by it's Chilean commenters. Interesting none the less.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on March 27, 2008 2:34 PM

Squaresville is rapidly disappearing from the map. I know how disappointing this is to hipsters, but it's true. Squaresville is a temporary address that people inhabit for 10 to 15 years while the kids are young and impressionable.

I agree, Michael, that the attraction of the arts is largely sex. Back to the rape hysteria. The rape hysteria ignited primarily because a couple of writers, Susan Brownmiller and Andrea Dworkin, wrote a couple of books that were theatrical and full of wretched sex.

The rape hysteria was a form of entertainment for the artsy-fartsy crowd, an opportunity to get all excited and outraged. And, even better, it was a way for bored middle class white girls to dramatize themselves and get all that attention that had been going for years to poor, boring black people.

Brownmiller and Dworkin were, in many ways, living out the fantasy of every writer... launching a great hubbub over some purported societal problem. Brownmiller was a little off the wall. Dworkin was a complete nutjob. Their books were just about complete nonsense.

I was drawn into this syndrome many times when I was younger. If I want to get all excited and cheer on the home team, I now watch my Fighting Illini play basketball.

There is something really phony about dividing up the world into sexual hipsters and squares and placing yourself on one or the other team. I've been involved with traditional religious girls who happily ripped me apart in bed. I've been involved with hip radical girls who were absolutely worthless in bed.

There is something more than a little destructive about whipping yourself up into a frenzy of outrage because you want to be noticed, and you want a career in the arts. Granted, it works.

Frankly, I'd like to see this syndrome disappear.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on March 27, 2008 2:59 PM

I would like the Chilean picture to look different because:

1) Sluttiness is something that primarily desperate females resort to, and teenagers with their lives ahead of them are not desperate, so they're sending the wrong signal to others. That's why we don't get huffy-puffy when a 35 y.o. walks out in a skimpy outfit -- "meh, she can do what she wants since her reproductive peak is long over" -- but we have a heart attack when a 15 y.o. walks out like that. Her sexual reputation still matters a lot.

2) Speaking of which, your social reputation matters a lot more when you're still finding a place for yourself in the world, and less so when you're well established in your niche. Teenagers are not aware of this time difference, but can be made aware of it by pointing out how their parents pay less attention to fashion, "must-see" movies or TV shows, and how many friends they have, how often they "go out," etc.

3) In a no-rules sexual arena, girls become jaded very quickly about guys. Take dance clubs: young horny guys just walk up from behind, park their crotch in the girl's ass, and grind her. No introduction, no flirting, no nothing. The girls quickly moves away or says "I have a boyfriend." Think of how girls view the male sex after this happens 40 times per night, across all nights she goes out. Some rules or conventions of interaction mitigate against female jadedness.

4) The health thing too. Why screw yourself up so young? And again, you'll get a reputation as "someone who has herpes," which cuts your chances of finding someone.

Posted by: agnostic on March 27, 2008 4:30 PM

"A.Clio -- You're a lot more comfy decreeing hard and fast rules about these things than I am!"

And you, Michael 2B, are a die-hard optimist!

I'm not making moral judgments or rules here, or at least not at the moment. I base my conclusions on what I see and hear as I go through life. The people I've known who could live like this were relatively few, and mostly though not exclusively men. Most women lose that soft sweet radiant femininity that men treasure in us if they try to pull off this kind of thing from an early age.

Your perspective is no doubt rather affected by working in the arty-media world, and living in Manhattan as well. I mean in the sense that you're far more likely than most of us to run into the exceptional people who can flourish, sort of, in that kind of sexual maelstrom. I don't mean that Middle America, or Canada, contain no pockets of debauchery; I mean that in those pockets, people are more likely to suffer serious consequences as a result.

I wonder what kind of impact that this loucheness really has on artistic achievement, too. Many of the greater artists in history lived rather straight and narrow lives, either semi-celibate or married early and more or less faithfully. I'm thinking Michelangelo, Bach, Mozart, perhaps Leonardo, Emily Dickinson, the Brontes, and so forth. Even Tolstoy, who was a womanizer in youth but whose greatest productive period happened after his (rather miserable) marriage. Debauchery can ruin you for serious work: you may become more caught up in managing your "sex life" than in improving your talents.

Posted by: alias clio on March 27, 2008 4:36 PM

Ian -- Funny line.

ST -- I remember the Brownmiller/Dworkin years well, sigh. How on earth did they get away with it? I mean the question seriously too -- what was happening in society that enabled such craziness to be taken seriously? Any sensible society would have raised an eyebrow, rolled an eye, and moved on.

Agnostic -- Some rules and conventions help keep men from becoming jaded too. But I'm not sure what you're arguing otherwise. "Young girls need to protect their reps," or something like that? If so I'd say, yeah, young girls who plan to carve out conventional lives probably should. But that certainly isn't every young girl.

A. Clio -- I'm not sure that the types that can enjoy some sleeping-around are quite as uncommon as you think they are. Theater kids ... rock and roll kids ... Arty kids ... Adventurers generally ... There's more than a handful of these kids in every high school class. Happy to agree that many people seem temperamentally unsuited to it, though. At the same time, I think a certain amount of this is cultural. People in the U.S. generally seem ill-suited to having affairs, for instance. They can't play at it; it must, it simply must, mean something. Hence that great Diane Lane/ Adrian Lyne movie "Unfaithful," whose subtext I take to be, "Sheesh, Americans really can't handle affairs, can they?"

Heavens, you'd almost think I was a swinger from the way I sometimes talk around here ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 27, 2008 6:37 PM

My dear Michael, I'm not an American. I'm not even particularly Canadian in many ways. Which isn't to say I'm European, either, although many Europeans, even libertine ones, have told me that they find me more, well, "sympathique", than most North Americans. In spite of my sexual conservatism, please note, which they always find irrelevant to friendship. My closest friend for years was a Dutchman who came to Canada to study. Europeans in general are less likely to make the equation "lifestyle + politics = how you choose your friends" than people here.

But in any case, I don't think that the arty high school young people you describe fare all that well with libertinism either. I usually found that those who were most serious about their art (and I did go to art school for a while, so I knew many arty types at one point) were the least likely to indulge in the wilder forms of experimenting with sex or drugs. As for the others, well, they often appeared to be acting under compulsion, not having fun.

Anyway, I find your last comment a little exasperating because it completely excludes the possible existence of people like me, who are neither libertine nor especially conventional. There are too many people who make the mistake of thinking that the best way to express one's unconventionality is through sexual experimentation...and these are the ones who often turn out to be rather ordinary people, as well.

Posted by: alias clio on March 27, 2008 7:24 PM

A. Clio -- Not sure what you're getting at. I'm allowing for conventional people and unconventional people. You seem to be saying both that 1) conventional life rocks, and unconventional people are unhappy, and 2) that despite 1) you're somehow allowing for more possibilities than I am. Beats me how that works. As far as I can tell, I'm saying "many pathways, in addition to the superhighway." You're saying "the superhighway or unhappiness." But maybe I'm not following your argument?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 27, 2008 8:16 PM

Well, part of what I was trying to say, at least in the last paragraph of my most recent comment, is that conventionality or lack of it has little to do with sexual behaviour. You can be a "free spirit" sexually and yet be extremely conventional in every other way. I'm a little concerned about the young - who are easily swayed by this kind of thing - thinking that wild sexual behaviour is a good way to indicate to their friends and to the world that they are not mere, ordinary bourgeois types.

Other than that, I'm not sure how to answer you. Lack of sexual inhibition has become the norm in North America, not the exception. That's what worries me: that it is the standard, the norm, the expected default, and I don't think it's been very good for society as a whole. If it were confined to a few Bohemian circles, well, it might injure the inhabitants of Bohemia, perhaps (though not invariably), but it wouldn't affect everyone else, nor worry me so much.

Posted by: alias clio on March 27, 2008 9:04 PM

Andrea that was a woman completely obsessed with bone. It was all she wrote about, thought about, felt about, yelled about. Big hard bone. Right up inside her.

She wrote pretty well about it, too. She had the mind and soul of a pornographer, and a real way with dirty words. She could have been a great writer of erotica. Mind you, it would have been very male-dominant, very rapey, lots of forceful boning and weeping vulvas, but it would have been HOT.

Deep Inside Andrea Dworkin. The porn classic that only existed (Thank God!) in that wretched, tormented woman's mind. Playing on endless loop. No escape.

Poor thing.

Posted by: PatrickH on March 27, 2008 9:13 PM

A.Clio -- Yeah, I don't completely disagree. It's weird when boho attitudes get taken up by middle class people. My own preferred overall mix for society is for a sensibly, humanely conservative mainstream accompanied by a modest but fun-lovin' bohemia that knows it exists at the mainstream's margins. Mutual appreciation is nice, not that I should have anything to say about it. Still, despite the general porno-lewdness that's everywhere in pop culture, how adventurous are most people. Here's what I spot: "Women report a median of three sex partners; men, a median of eight." Those aren't big numbers. Not that I'm arguing for them to be bigger, of course.

PatrickH - That's the best thing I've ever read about Andrea D. She did have a crazy kind of brains and talent, didn't she? I interviewed her once and it was a weird experience. For a few minutes she was a drowsy, smart, likable mess. I was thinking, Hmm, maybe there's more there than I thought. Then the craziness took over and she started ranting and making no sense at all. It was bizarre, like strolling along and then finding you'd stepped off a cliff. All of a sudden all connection to reality just ... vanished.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 27, 2008 9:35 PM

It's hard to tell what such numbers signify unless they are broken down by age. I'm concerned that among people under 30, they could be much higher. If I'm mistaken, that's all to the good. In general, though, it's hard to get accurate information from surveys about people's sexual habits. I've seen wildly varying statistics on the incidence of adultery in the US, for example.

Posted by: alias clio on March 28, 2008 10:20 AM

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