Category Archives: Culture

Culture for the cultured and uncultured alike.

Animal’s Daily Friend Zone News

Suffering from a shortage of good friends?  Turns out folks may like you more than you think.

Or do they?  Excerpt:

Erica Boothby of Cornell University, and her colleagues Gus Cooney, Gilliam Sandstrom, and Margaret Clark, of Harvard University, University if Essex, and Yale University, conducted a series of studies to find out what our conversation partners really think of us. In doing so, they discovered a new cognitive illusion they call “the liking gap:” our failure to realize how much strangers appreciate our company after a bit of conversation.

The researchers observed the disconnect in a variety of situations: strangers getting acquainted in the research laboratory, first-year college students getting to know their dorm mates over the course of many months, and community members meeting fellow participants in personal development workshops. In each scenario, people consistently underestimated how much others liked them.

The discrepancy in perspectives happened for conversations that spanned from 2 minutes to 45 minutes, and was long-lasting. For much of the academic year, as dorm mates got to know each other and even started to develop enduring friendships, the liking gap persisted. 

The data also revealed some of the potential reasons for the divide: we are often harsher with ourselves than with others, and our inner critic prevents us from appreciating how positively other people evaluate us. Not knowing what our conversation partners really think of us, we use our own thoughts as a proxy—a mistake, because our thoughts tend to be more negative than reality.

We’re social animals, that’s for sure and for certain.  And reading this was interesting for me, a peripatetic consultant, a guy who has been happily self-employed for over fifteen years and who has been pretty good at it.  In the course of this I’ve learned a few things, not least of which was how to talk with folks.  Why is this important?

Because people like to do business with people they like.

Social discourse is important to almost everyone, and for a variety of reasons.  But for those of us who make their livings as independent contractors, it’s essential.  I’m apparently lucky to have been outfitted since my youth with what Mrs. Animal describes as “farm-boy charm” but the main thing in such matters is to be open, honest and forthright.

People like to do business with people they like.  And, as we are social animals – and political animals – people who engage are usually seen as more likable.

If these Ivy League researchers had’a asked me, I could’a told ’em.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Since the city of Los Angeles has apparently solved every other problem a major city could have, they are now taking steps to ban fur.  Yes, really.  Excerpt:

A proposal to ban the sale of fur products advanced in the City Council on Tuesday. The council voted unanimously to direct the city attorney to draft an ordinance that will prohibit the manufacture and sale of new fur products. The ordinance must be presented to the council at a future date for final approval.

“This is something that is not just a good legislative win, it’s a moral win,” Councilman Bob Blumenfield said. “We feel like we’re evolving as a city as people to stop this kind of unnecessary cruelty.”

The vote also directed the city attorney to report back to the council on several issues, including how fur apparel is utilized by religious organizations, and possible exemptions, as well as potential conflicts with federal and state laws relating to sale of fur products derived from legally trapped animals.

A ban would take effect two years after final approval of the ordinance.

The ban would cover apparel made in whole or in part of fur, including clothing, handbags, shoes, hats, earmuffs, jewelry and keychains. Only used fur products could be sold.

Councilmen Bob Blumenfield and Paul Koretz submitted the motion.

Blumenfield said there’s no reason to wear fur in 2018. “Certainly not in sunny Los Angeles,” he said.

I have a reason for you, Mr. Blumenfield:  Because fuck you, that’s why.

There’s nothing like the real thing, baby.

This is what happens, True Believers, when a paternalistic, statist government runs amok and has to control every aspect of people’s lives – including, now, what clothing they choose to buy with their own money.

What’s it going to be next?  Outlawing anything not certified “organic” or “free trade?”  How about outlawing the products of Asian sweatshops, which will eliminate, oh, maybe 50 to 75% of the clothing sold in the United States?

Or how about just telling idiot, intrusive local pols that they should get a long running start and go fuck themselves?

Rule Five WTF Vermont Friday

The Democratic Primaries for Governor in Vermont is, apparently, a real shit-show.  But the nuttiest thing about it is that there is a fourteen-year old kid on the ballot, and, predictably, he’s a statist lefty.  Excerpt:

Ethan Sonneborn, 14, of Bristol, met the requirements to be on the primary ballot and is taking his place with the state’s more age-appropriate candidates on the Tuesday primary ballot, to say nothing of numerous candidate forums and debates.

“I think Vermonters should take me seriously because I have practical progressive ideas, and I happen to be 14, not the other way around,” Sonneborn said in a recent televised gubernatorial forum. “I think that my message and my platform transcend age.”

The Vermont Constitution doesn’t have an age requirement for people seeking the state’s highest office beyond having lived in the state for four years before the election. Sonneborn qualifies.

That apparent oversight by the state’s founders more than 225 years ago was enough to encourage the politically precocious teen to collect the signatures needed to place him on the primary ballot.

He said he’s always been fascinated with the concept of building coalitions. Robert F. Kennedy was the politician who most embodies that for him.

Note:  There’s no such thing as a “practical progressive idea.”  Here’s the best bit, though; his competition:

It might be a stretch, though, to call the other candidates traditional politicians.

Former utility executive Christine Hallquist says her experience and ideas make her the best choice as Vermont’s next governor, but outside Vermont she’s pitching herself as someone who would, if elected, become the nation’s first transgender political candidate. There is also James Ehlers, an environmentalist, Brenda Siegel, a dance festival organizer.

So Vermont Democrats have a choice between a utility executive – someone who has actually done something, but seems to be banking on transgender status as a campaign point, when in fact it’s irrelevant; an “environmentalist,” which isn’t exactly a career field, and a (ha!) dance festival organizer.

Come on, Vermont.  You can do better than this.

Sonneborn, on the other hand, appears to be representative of the old political saw attributed to Winston Churchill:  “If a man at twenty is not a liberal, then he has no heart.  If a man at forty is not a conservative, then he has no brain.”  Well, I’m way past forty and remain, as I was at twenty, not really a conservative but rather a minarchist libertarian; but it’s true that most folks’ views moderate with age.  Let’s hope this kid gets his shit together as he gets older – and smarter.

Animal’s Daily Scamming The Rubes News

Lacking any religion of my own makes me impartial on the subject, but I’ll be the first to admit that all religions are not created equal; and Scientology strikes me as the purest of corral litter, suitable only for enriching cornfields.  Now we can take a look inside one of Scientology’s E-Meters, and we find that it – like most of Scientology as a whole – is the purest of bullshit.  Excerpt:

E-Meters are essentially ways of measuring electrodermal activity, or the ebb-and-flow of electrical activity on the surface of the skin. For scientologists, this measurement is interpreted as a way to “see a thought,” similar to a lie detector, although there is no scientific evidence to back up the Church’s claims. Over the years there have been several versions of the E-Meter produced by the Church of Scientology, which sells E-Meters to members for thousands of dollars apiece.

Although the Church attempts to stop former Scientologists from selling E-Meters on eBay, there are dozens of listings for E-Meters selling for a few hundred dollars each. Recently, the Swiss maker behind the Play With Junk YouTube channel decided to pick up a used version of the E-Meter that the Church used until around 2006.

Here’s the conclusion:

It’s a lot of hardware for a device whose only use is measuring the electrical resistance of human skin. Although Play With Junk is impressed with the quality of the hardware components, he said the device is “certainly not worth thousands of dollars—maybe two hundred dollars or something like that.”

In other words, the “Church” of Scientology is ripping people off, and calling it religion.

This isn’t anything new.  The “televangelist” craze of the 1970s and 1980s had their bad actors, a few of whom actually served jail time for fraud and tax evasion.  But the Elmer Gantry set seems like a minority in mainstream Christianity, although some of them amass some pretty substantial fortunes at the expense of their mostly working-class parishioners.

But the horseshit Church of Scientology seems especially egregious, with their bizarre ramblings of extraterrestrial beings and “thetans,” and the gobs of pseudo-scientific woo they use to extract money from the rubes.

It’s amazing, really, that anyone in this modern era is silly enough to believe this kind of bullshit.  But there are still Flat-Earthers out there.  It seems there is no idea so bizarre that some horse’s ass won’t believe in it.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

I’ve discussed the likelihood of a possible breakup of the United States before in these virtual pages before, but here’s a pretty interesting take on the topic.  Excerpt:

The problem? In short, there are no red states; there are no blue states. There are instead, counties and neighborhoods and streets and the couch versus the bedroom after an argument with a spouse or significant other over political matters.

“And so what?” asks the Pollyanna-ish reader. He (or the rarer idiot she) observes, “We split up and then there’s no more reason to fight?”

That’s wrong for several reasons. One is that it is the moderate and right-wing tendency in the red areas that politically constrains the left-wing tendency of the blue. Remove the red from the blue and the real reds of the bluest blue states run amok, with moderates and moderation suppressed.

Think here: Stalin in Birkenstocks, the spirit of Ho Chi Minh coming down from his gas tank in Boston,4 or a Pol Pot cognate with a degree in journalism from Harvard or Yale, rather than École Française d’Électronique et d’Informatique. Remember, too, that Bill Ayers’ Weatherman expected and, I daresay, wanted to kill twenty-five million Americans, one in eight of the population, one in five adults, to create their preferred society.

It should not need to be said, in a world of bright people, but, sadly, we don’t live in that world: I am pretty sure that the same happens in the red states, where the removal of the political Left leaves all kinds of wingnuts, to include of the white-sheeted, pointy-hatted variety, to create or recreate their own particular fantasies, and run roughshod over moderates there.

Yes, it’s true; a major societal collapse, and a civil war sure as hell would be one of those, would be a shitshow beyond imagining; and yes, it’s very likely that in plenty of areas the nuts would rise to the top.  Plenty of areas would be run, not by elected leaders, but by warlords who managed to accumulate enough guns and followers to cow the rest of the population.

It’s just too bad that some folks have some weird idea that a civil war would be some glorious reclamation of the United States’ founding principles.  It wouldn’t be the beginning of a renewed U.S., it would be the end of the U.S. in any recognizable form.  I’m not saying it will never happen; I am saying I hope I don’t live to see it.

Rule Five Utter Horseshit Friday

It seems some “panel of experts” has rated the top ten most dangerous nations on the planet for women, and guess what?  The U.S. made the list.  To which I can only say, what a huge steaming pile of crap.  Excerpt:

The United States has been ranked for the first time among the 10 nations deemed to be the most dangerous for women by experts in the field. A survey by the Thomson Reuters Foundation of about 550 experts in women’s issues around the globe labeled the U.S. the 10th most dangerous nation in terms of the risk of sexual violence, harassment and being coerced into sex.

The foundation said the U.S. placement on the dubious list was down largely to the #MeToo and Time’s Up campaigns increasing awareness of sexual violence and intimidation of women in the U.S. in the wake of the criminal allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Here’s the list:

  1. India
  2. Afghanistan
  3. Syria
  4. Somalia
  5. Saudi Arabia
  6. Pakistan
  7. Democratic Republic of Congo
  8. Yemen
  9. Nigeria
  10. United States

Honestly, I can see most of those belonging on the list, but who in the hell can keep a straight face while claiming the U.S. is a more dangerous place for women than, say, South Sudan, about which shithole Wikipedia has this to say:

The United Nations rights office has described the situation in the country as “one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world.” It accused the army and allied militias of allowing fighters to rape women as form of payment for fighting, as well as raid cattle in an agreement of “do what you can, take what you can.” 

How about Iran?  Here’s some info:

Unequal value for women’s testimony compared to that of a man, and traditional attitudes towards women’s behavior and clothing as a way of explaining rape have made conviction for rape of women difficult if not impossible in Iran. One widely criticized case was that of Atefah Sahaaleh, who was executed by the state for ‘inappropriate sexual relations’, despite evidence she was most probably a rape victim.

Differences in blood money for men and women include victims and offenders. In 2003, the parents of Leila Fathi, an 11-year-old village girl from Sarghez who was raped and murdered, were asked to come up with the equivalent of thousands of US dollars to pay the blood money (diyya) for the execution of their daughter’s killers because a woman’s life is worth half that of a man’s life.

Iran elected not to become a member of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2003, since the convention contradicted the Islamic Sharia law in Clause A of its single article. “Discriminatory provisions” against women in criminal and civil laws in Iran were declared “in urgent need of reform,” and gender-based violence “widespread” by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a report released 20 Oct 2008.

Where is any of this happening in the United States?

This panel of experts assholes should damn well be ashamed of themselves.

Animal’s Daily Pretentious Gasbag News

Here’s a pretentious little prat if I’ve ever seen one, and I’ve seen a few.  Excerpts and my comments follow:

I had an unfortunately rare pleasure over the Memorial Day holiday: I visited a real bookstore.

Who the hell made you the arbiter of what a real bookstore is?  Here’s a hint:  A bookstore is a brick-and-mortar establishment that sells books.  You don’t get to make up your own definition.

We do have a Barnes & Noble, though. It’s better than nothing, but spending time in the Lake Forest Book Store reminded me of the distance between most Barnes & Noble stores and a genuine bookstore.

See above.

It’s a strange paradox. In theory, Barnes & Noble with its significantly larger inventory should be more likely to have something I want, but the sheer volume of product makes it harder to find. Granted, I am one of those readers who normally goes to the store not on a specific mission, hoping for an unexpected or unanticipated match, but I suspect many core bookstore patrons are similar. We go to commune with the books.

Commune with the books?  What the hell?  What does that even mean?

I’m a big reader and one of my own distinct pleasures on my various travels is finding little local bookstores.  I wandered into one a couple of years ago in Gloucester, Massachusetts, spent an hour mooching around in the stacks, shot the breeze with the owner for a while and left with a locally-published book on historical New England glassware as a gift for my Mom.  But I’m also economically literate, and understand how business models change.  The rise of big bookstores like B&N hurt small local bookstores, yes, just like the rise of Walmart hurt little local hardware stores.  But it’s not little local “real” bookstores that are hurting B&N now – it’s online retailers like Amazon.

Business models change.  Publishing and book-selling are two business models that are undergoing a catharsis right now, and that’s not going backwards.  That makes it more annoying, not less, to see pretentious windbags wheezing on about “real” bookstores.

Rule Five Fleecing The Rubes Friday

Hucksters of every sort have almost certainly been around since the beginning of spoken language, but it takes a special sort of asshole to claim he needs a $54 million dollar jet to spread God’s word.  Excerpt:

The most frightening thing about Jesse Duplantis is that I think he truly believes what he’s saying.

I mean, at some deep, deep level, even a guy who wears a yellow plaid shirt under a navy blue blazer is woke enough to realize that having a conversation with God—and, by the way, God needs to improve His syntax—having a conversation with God about how Jesse needs a $54 million jet to spread the Gospel is, among other things, insane.

(Quick digression: As recently as the ’50s, anyone claiming to get messages from God was immediately booked into the Rusk State Hospital for the Feeble-Minded. Today these guys get international TV shows.)

By this time you’ve probably heard about Jesse’s appeal for help in granting God’s wish that he start using a Falcon 7X corporate jet for church business. His three previous multimillion-dollar jets have proved inadequate for the spreading of the Prosperity Gospel because their range requires Jesse to stop and refuel, thereby wasting God’s valuable time. Jesse’s video went viral and attracted all kinds of attention from the secular press.

What an asshole.

There’s more:

But why do these guys need jets? They all have them. In fact, it’s not uncommon for their churches to be built next door to a private airstrip.

They need jets for the same reason they need isolated locations for their churches, which are really elaborate television studios. Jesse Duplantis’ “church” is in Destrehan, an upscale suburb of New Orleans, where he lives in a church-funded mansion. Kenneth Copeland’s “church” is in Newark, Texas, a lakeside exurb of Fort Worth.

They need out-of-the-way locations for their church services, and they need private jets for their travel, because they can’t stand to be close to the starving, desperate people they take money from.

Of course not; sooner or later they might run into someone who got wise to the scam, and that someone might just administer a well-deserved black eye or cracked jaw.

But this particular asshole isn’t alone.  There are dozens of these sorts of hucksters on television and radio, fleecing the rubes who mostly can’t afford to be fleeced, and living high on the hog.  Occasionally one of them is busted and goes to jail, but not nearly often enough.

Back in the early 1980s, when I was married to my first wife, her grandfather – as kind and thoughtful a man as ever lived – used to send money to the detestable Jim Bakker.  I used to try to talk him out of it.  “But he needs the money,” Grandpa would reply.  “He does good work.”

“What good work?” I asked him.  My ex’s Grandpa was usually unable to name specifics.

He didn’t live to see Bakker thrown in the pokey, where he richly deserved to be.  I was glad of that much; Grandpa M. would have been hurt and disappointed, and he was at least spared that.

But there is something especially detestable about liars ripping people off in the name of religion – and bear in mind, I’m an atheist saying this.  This fucking conman Duplantis belongs in a jail cell, not in a private jet.

Animal’s Daily New Confederates News

This just in from national treasure Dr. Victor Davis Hanson:  The Confederate Mind.  Excerpt:

Progressives, in fact, seem to like the protocols of the old Confederacy in lots of ways. Southern antebellum chauvinists once claimed that the culture south of the Mason-Dixon line was innately superior to the grubby, industrial wasteland of the north. A two-class system of masters and slaves allowed an elite the leisure and capital to pursue culture without the rat-race competition of a striving middle class. So blinkered was southern arrogance that its pre-war youth insisted that southern manhood, with its innate moral superiority, could defeat a much larger, richer, and more industrial North — a myth dispelled early on at Shiloh.

Now the new cultural divide is not North vs. South, but the blue-state coasts versus the red-state interior. The map has changed, but the new mindset of the chauvinist, mutatis mutandis, is eerily the same. In blue-state doctrine, a sinking middle class in the interior deserves to fail. But an upscale hip and cool professional elite is properly thriving on the East and West Coasts as never before — itself often supported by legions of poorly paid and mostly minority gardeners, housekeepers, and nannies who free up their supposed betters to pursue higher things without tending to the drudgery of diapers, cooking, and mowing.

Pyramidal California has some of the wealthiest people in the world living within the coastal corridor of Hollywood, Malibu, Stanford, Silicon Valley, and San Francisco — even as one-fifth of the population lives below the poverty line, along with a third of the nation’s welfare recipients and half its homeless population.

It’s important to note that Dr. Hanson is part of a multi-generation Central Valley farm family.  He loves California and has written regularly and often about the decline of the once-Golden State at the hands of Left Coast urban progressives.

But his point here is well taken.  The American political Left has become weirdly race-obsessed.  For quite a few years now, many on the leftward side of our political system has held the belief that one should think, speak and vote a certain way solely because of minor, secondary regional characteristics such as melanin content – characteristics that have no real phenotypic significance, and which comprise an utterly insignificant portion of our DNA.

Humans have less genetic variability than chimps.  And folks like those running California seem willing to drag the country into another 1861 over the issue.  Have we learned nothing?