Links: Paglia and feminists, screenshots from developers, it’s not the length but how you use it, and more

* “Donald Trump Really Doesn’t Want Me to Tell You This, But …“, the last piece I hope to post about this odious man.

* “Today’s feminists are so out of touch with how most women live, they might as well be on another planet,” by Julia Hartley-Brewer.

* Screenshots from developers: 2002 vs. 2015.

* “Books are becoming longer.” I wonder if this is true of self-published, ebook-first writers.

* The homeownership rate has plunged more than people realize.

* Camille Paglia Takes on Taylor Swift, Hollywood’s #GirlSquad Culture.

* A distressingly plausible account of why contemporary humanities academia is so bad.

* “ Urban jungle: wooden high-rises change city skylines as builders ditch concrete: Mass timber projects in Portland and New York City offer eco-friendly dwellings, but can ‘plywood on steroids’ actually catch on in the industry?”

* Afghanistan: ‘A Shocking Indictment’. It’s worse than you think.

* Still more Camille Paglia: “I am continually shocked and dismayed by the nearly Victorian notions promulgated by today’s feminists about the fragility of women and their naïve helplessness in asserting control over their own dating lives.” Among other many interesting things.

* “Why 18th century books looked like smartphone screens;” I’d like to see physically smaller, better-made books. My novels are specifically sized the way they are to make for easier reading.

* Why are there so many mattress stores?

* On Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo.

Links: Political ideas, evolved preferences, rejection of the modern world, we are what we eat, and more!

* “The melting of Antarctica was already really bad. It just got worse.” Or, important news that no one wants to hear or act on.

* “The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas: How it is that we once again find ourselves rooting out sin, shunning heretics, and heralding the end times:”

Our social and political life is awash in unconsciously held Christian ideas broken from the theology that gave them meaning, and it’s hungry for the identification of sinners—the better to prove the virtue of the accusers and, perhaps especially, to demonstrate the sociopolitical power of the accusers. Moreover, in our curious transformation from an honor culture into a full-fledged fame culture over the past century, we have only recently discovered that fame proves just as fragile as honor ever was, a discovery hurried along by the lightning speed of the Internet.

I’ve long said in private that the religious influence on American culture remains much stronger than is often supposed. That strain is particularly strong, though rarely acknowledged, in modern feminism.

* “8,000 Years Ago, 17 Women Reproduced for Every One Man: An analysis of modern DNA uncovers a rough dating scene after the advent of agriculture.”

* Why is the world so troubled right now? Rejection of modernity and technology may be to blame.

* “An Interview With the NYU Professor Banned From the United Arab Emirates,” which tells you a lot in particular about NYU.

* On government, voting, and costs.

* “The Myth of High-Protein Diets.” Maybe. Nonetheless, everyone approves of vegetables.

* “Hospitals Are Robbing Us Blind: Forget Obamacare. The real villains in the American health care system are greedy hospitals and the politicians who protect them.”

* “The spectacular rise and surprising exit of a Hollywood executive: Richard Nanula had big jobs at Disney, Amgen and Miramax. Now he is alleged to have filmed sex scenes with porn actresses” is not that interesting, except for one thing: “Saint told AVN that she had her attorney make sure that the scene was posted to St. Clair’s website to legitimize the shoot.” So it’s illegal to buy or sell sex… unless it’s being taped. I think Richard Pryor observed that it’s odd that it’s legal to have sex and legal to buy things but not legal to buy sex.

Links: The Amis obsession, Roosh’s hate mail, quiet, feminism and Ke$ha, and Alan Jacobs on taste

* The Amis Obsession.

* Roosh: “This is the fourth time where I’ve woken up and had an entire country mad at me. It does make the day a little more interesting…”

* “The Quiet Ones.” This describes me, and wanting quiet sometimes makes me feel increasingly out of place, or out of time. The Hacker News discussion is also good, and Paul Graham said this:

I think the fundamental problem with noisy people is not that they’re inconsiderate, but that they don’t have any train of thought to interrupt, and they thus don’t realize the havoc they’re wreaking.

When I was living in Providence, working on On Lisp, I told my loud but well-meaning neighbors that I was writing a hard computer book, and that made them be quiet. Ordinary people can understand that you need quiet if you’re working on some specific, hard task, like doing math homework. What they don’t grasp is that someone would want their mind to work that way all the time, as a matter of course.

* “The attention paid to terrorism in the U.S. is considerably out of proportion to the relative threat it presents. That’s especially true when it comes to Islamic-extremist terror. Of the 150,000 murders in the U.S. between 9/11 and the end of 2010, Islamic extremism accounted for fewer than three dozen.” My favorite annoying question when I hear people discussing the contemporary impact of terrorism is this: About how many Americans die in car accidents every year? If they don’t know the answer, they probably aren’t all that serious about evaluating real dangers and priorities. Sometimes it takes re-framing an issue to make sense of it.

* A highly dubious yet interesting observation:

If prominent feminist thinkers of the last century or so were to get together and design their composite “woman of tomorrow,” what would she be like?

Weirdly enough, she might look and act kind of like… um, Ke$ha.

* Alan Jacobs: “Ranking the Writers,” on how literary tastes change over time.

The frustrations of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape

I started Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape in the hope that it would cover sexuality and sexual dynamics thoroughly. It didn’t, mostly because few of its writers know anything about evolutionary biology / psychology, game theory, incentives, or economics. Instead, they offer unmoored political polemics about how people should act, or how culture operates. Few of the writers discuss how incentives shape behavior or how the choices made by individuals do, in the aggregate, form culture itself.

Yes Means Yes feels like descriptions of the physical world before Newton formulated his laws. The major exception is Julia Serano’s “Why Nice Guys Finish Last,” because she has a sense of how we’ve gotten to an equilibrium that explains why a lot of women are unhappy because many of the guys they sleep with treat them like dirt afterwards (and, often, before), while a lot of men are unhappy because they find sexual success linked to domineering behavior. She says:

Any attempts to critique men for being sexually aggressive, or to critique women to fulfilling the role of sexual object, will have a very limited effect. These tactics, after all, fail to address the crucial issue of demand. So long as heterosexual women are attracted to men who act like aggressors, and heterosexual men are attracted to women who act like objects, people will continue to fulfill those roles.

Serano at least understands the problem and the forces at work. Most of the rest of the writers don’t, rendering the book not worth reading. One could understand a book like this in, say, the 1960s, before a lot of contemporary research in numerous venues on subjects relating to sexuality. But Yes Means Yes was published in 2008.

Is There Anything Good About Men?: How Cultures Flourish by Exploiting Men — Roy Baumeister

I would emphasize this, from Arnold Kling, about Is There Anything Good About Men?: How Cultures Flourish by Exploiting Men:

1. If you are a zero-tolerance reader (“I stopped reading on page 9, because he said X, which is obviously wrong, so I figured there was no point in going any further”), then don’t pick up this book. If you are going to finish it, you have to follow almost the complete opposite approach. “Even if a lot of this is wrong, what insights can I take away?”

And there are a lot of ideas per word and little wasted space, especially because Baumeister goes out of his way to avoid dogmatic thinking, which he says overtly:

This book is not about the “battle of the sexes.” I’m not trying to score points for men against women, or vice versa. I don’t think the “battle” approach is healthy. In fact, I think the idea that men and women are natural enemies who conspire deviously to exploit and oppress each other is one of the most misguided and harmful myths that is distorting our current views about men and women.

That being said, Is There Anything Good About Men? has an unfortunate title but many of those deep “insights” worth exploring—and perhaps an equally large amount of unsupported bullshit. It’s frustrating, for example, to see issues like one on page 54 of the hardcover edition, where Baumeister’s claims about sex drive differences between men and women have no citations to actual underlying research. Nonetheless, it’s hard to conclude that men don’t have, on average, a higher desire for sex more often and with more partners than women do; the very structure of dating markets points to this idea. He does cite work later in the book, but why not cite it when the issue is first raised?

But most of the ideas are implications are better; it’s hard to choose among his many observations to discuss in a short blog post, but here’s one I find intriguing; apologies for the length of the quote:

Mostly, men had recognized that dangerous jobs fall to them and, more important, that to be a man they have to accept them. Whether this will continue is not entirely clear. Today’s men are brought up on a rhetoric of equality, and at some point they may balk at letting women be exempted from certain unpleasant tasks.

Even more important, the psychological processes that enable men to do the dangerous jobs may be weakened. Men of past eras were famously out of touch with their feelings. Today’s men are brought up to be more like women, and that includes becoming more conversant with their own emotions. But might that undermine the ability to make themselves do what needs to be done?

To do the dirty or dangerous jobs, you have to put your feelings aside. Being a man in that sense meant that you focused on the task at hand. It meant others could count on you not to let your emotions interfere with getting the job done. One reason traditional societies put those jobs on men was that women might be too fearful or squeamish or tentative to do them. Traditional men weren’t supposed to admit to having such feelings. Yet nowadays we encourage young men to revel in their feelings. Having uncorked the emotional bottle, can we count on the men to stuff the feelings back inside and cork them away when we need them to do so?

The traditional male role has had definite privileges, but it also had duties and obligations. Our culture has come far along in doing away with those privileges. It has been slower about equalizing the duties and obligations. (to quote [Warren] Farrell once more, ‘Women have rights. Men have responsibilities.’) As we make men more like women and remove their traditional privileges, they may begin to object more strenuously to the duties and responsibilities. The obligations of fatherhood weigh far less on today’s man than on earlier generations, as indicated not least by the increasing numbers of men who abandon pregnant girlfriends or small children.

In other words, whatever the rhetoric that gender writers may espouse, when men and women face real problems and dangerous situations, men still tend to get the dirty and dangerous jobs. Equality is fine when it only means the good stuff, but when there’s a strange noise downstairs or coal mines to be stripped, guys still end up there. On the flipside, however, it may also be that society is evolving away from a space where men need not have feelings and toward one where men having feelings is more beneficial than it was in the past.

We may be seeing cultural evolution, live, even as people fight over whether it’s happening and, if it is, what it might mean. The “traditional male role” might be changing or evolving, and its supposed “privileges” or lack thereof too. See, for example, “Sex Is Cheap: Why young men have the upper hand in bed, even when they’re failing in life from Slate.com. Given the choice between coal mining and war or video games and babes in skirts, I suspect most men would rather get in touch with whatever their feelings might be and assume the latter.

You can see other examples of cultural evolution: I’ve been watching The Sopranos lately, and the tension between the “do what needs to be done” aspect and Tony’s supposed feelings and nostalgia for the maybe good-old-days, when men were men, makes The Sopranos intriguing: Tony continuously hearkens back to his father’s time, when men didn’t have (or at least show) feelings; by contrast, he’s being treated by a female therapist, who helps him explore repressed feelings that manifest themselves in dreams and panic attacks.

For whatever this passage might be worth, however, I don’t love the writing itself: vague mentions about “corking” and “uncorking” feelings among “the men” is too abstract for my taste: if this were a freshman’s paper, I’d write as much in the margins and encourage the writer to think about what, precisely, this means for individuals. Even if I know what it means, I can see reasons why it might help for men to uncork their feelings. Consider the experience of World War I, which shows the problems of men not being willing to express fear or tentativeness and willingly walking to their own deaths for no cause at all: that stupid, destructive, largely pointless war occurred in part because men were willing to let themselves be mass-brainwashed into walking into their own deaths for no reason, directed by ignoramuses who’d failed to realize that the nature of warfare had changed and that 19th Century infantry tactics will not merely fail, but fail spectacularly against 20th Century weaponry. So before we romanticize a lost era of male stoicism, let’s remember some of its costs, too, and the fact that turning off feelings and empathy may also allow men to do the many barbaric and cruel things men do.

There are other social changes, too: notice that the state is far more willing to pick up the slack for “pregnant girlfriends and small children,” which changes incentives for men and women; in addition, women appear to be much more willing to dump men who don’t suit their needs than they once might’ve. They write long articles that get turned into books like Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough that are all about female unwilligness to compromise. It’s also become much more obvious that women do not always tell the truth about fatherhood, and it’s hard to read articles like “How DNA Testing is Changing Fatherhood” and not realize what’s at stake:

Over the last decade, the number of paternity tests taken every year jumped 64 percent, to more than 400,000. That figure counts only a subset of tests — those that are admissible in court and thus require an unbiased tester and a documented chain of possession from test site to lab. Other tests are conducted by men who, like Mike, buy kits from the Internet or at the corner Rite Aid, swab the inside of their cheeks and that of their putative child’s and mail the samples to a lab. Of course, the men who take the tests already question their paternity, and for about 30 percent of them, their hunch is right.”

It’s possible in many states for a man who signs a child’s birth certificate to be responsible for paying that child’s mother for eighteen years even if that child isn’t his. That’s not an optimal way to encourage male responsibility or eagerness to support Baumeister’s pregnant girlfriends. But Baumeister doesn’t quite this far.

Nonetheless, his central insights about the sexes facing potential trade-offs that guide median preferences is fascinating and possibly true. Notice the language in the previous sentence: “trade-offs” and “median preferences,” rather than saying all people are this way or that way. From that one can extrapolate to current cultural conditions.

I would guess that Baumeister, like me, wants equal opportunities in all parts of life, but he would also point out that equal opportunities doesn’t mean people will want the same things. Men, in his viewing, are optimized towards risk taking; DNA analyses indicate that we’re descended from 40% of the men who ever lived but 80% of the women. Which means the median man died without reproducing and the median woman did. Which means the median man has an evolutionary incentive to take risks, given that his outcome if he lost the gamble was zero but so was his outcome if he didn’t take the gamble at all. Hence the hierarchies in all parts of life that men love to set up; Baumeister eventually says: “The pyramid of success is steep and cruel. Nature dooms most of the males to fail but impels each of them to try to be the one.”

I do not think most women appreciate that. Which isn’t to say most men appreciate what it’s like to experience female incentives, costs, and desires. One of the more unusual nonfiction books I’ve read attempts to do exactly that: Norah Vincent’s Self-Made Man, in which she (a lesbian in “real life,” for lack of a better term) dresses and goes about life as a man for about a year. Baumeister says:

One of the most interesting books about gender in recent years was by Norah Vincent. She was a lesbian feminist who with some expert help could pass for a man, and so she went undercover, living as a man in several different social spheres for the better part of a year. The book, Self-Made Man, is her memoir. She is quite frank that she started out thinking she was going to find out how great men have it and write a shocking feminist expose of the fine life that the enemy (men) was enjoying.

Instead, she experienced a rude awakening of how hard it is to be a man. Her readings and classes in Women’s Studies had not prepared her to realize that the ostensible advantages of the male role come at high cost. She was glad when it was over, and in fact she cut the episode short in order to go back to what she concluded was the greatly preferable life as a woman. The book she wrote was far different from the one she planned, and any woman who thinks life is better for men will find it a sobering read.

He goes on to say that men and women don’t have it “better” than each other per se; they have it different, and his book is, among other things, an attempt to explain why.

Baumeister also said something that, incidentally, reminded me of a potential weakness of the novel as a genre, and that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately: “If you consider the problems facing the world today (e.g., global warming, terrorism, pandemics), you can see that they are not likely to be handled by single persons—more likely by large and complex networks of organizations.” One problem for novels is that they focus on individuals and small groups; it’s very hard for a novel to address very large-scale issues save in the context of an individual or small group. Think of how Ian McEwan’s Solar uses Michael Beard and his foibles to discuss some of the technical challenges around global warming.

This may explain why many men prefer nonfiction to fiction: nonfiction is more easily dedicated to large, abstract ideas and organizations potentially involving thousands or millions of people. Fiction is intimate, self has more than a half dozen major characters, and often focuses on a single or small number of very intimate relationships. The fiction that men prefer on average—Elmore Leonard, murder mysteries, and so forth—often involve a single protagonist who is matching wits and brawn with a single antagonist or series of antagonists, which he must confront using an array of shallow connections to many people.

September 2011 links: Jobs, leads, feminism, the new pants revue, shoulds and wants, demand for software engineers, plagarism, and more

* This is how you catch someone’s attention with the lead: “I became a feminist the day my sixth-grade math teacher dismembered and spit on a white rose, telling us, ‘This is you after you have sex.’

* The shoulds and the wants, highly recommended and possibly related to the link immediately above. See also the penultimate link.

* One Path to Better Jobs: More Density in Cities.

* My job is to watch dreams die.

* The New Pants Revue, by Bruce Sterling: “Since I’m a blogger and therefore a modern thought-leader type, my favorite maker of pants sent me some new-model pants in the mail.”:

I should explain now why I have been wearing “5.11 Tactical” trousers for a decade. It’s pretty simple: before that time, I wore commonplace black jeans, for two decades. Jeans and tactical pants are the same school of garment. They’re both repurposed American Western gear. I’m an American and it’s common for us to re-adapt our frontier inventions.”

If I didn’t live in Arizona, where pants are appropriate maybe three weeks of the year, I would’ve already ordered a pair. I, too, have too much gear.

(Hat tip Charlie Stross.)

* Demand for software developers is still high.

* Turnitin: Arming both sides in the Plagiarism War. The term “plagiarism war” is part of the problem: it’s not a “war,” and students and instructors shouldn’t be adversaries. I don’t spend a huge amount of time hunting for plagiarism, mostly under the theory that the primary person hurt is in fact the plagiarist, who isn’t developing the writing skills he or she will one day need. The market punishes people without skills harshly enough, as so many of the unemployed have discovered the hard way in the last three years. If I find plagiarism in students papers, I deal with it, but I wonder if schools would be better off adopting honor codes and expecting students to abide by them, rather than militarizing the issue, even metaphorically, and hunting for violators.

* Someone found this blog by searching for “french sex games.” I suspect they were disappointed, although I also wonder what else they found.

* More on that ever-popular topic, “Why does the female orgasm exist? A popular theory has been criticized as male-centric, but it might have unexpected feminist results.”

* Two thousand years in one chart, or, “we make a lot of stuff these days.”

Tax day links: Gender stereotypes, sexual mores, universities, and more

* Why men don’t listen. Except they do, as this post into the pseudo science of gender brain differences shows.

* “Generation Scold: Why millennials are so judgmental about promiscuity.” Of course, what people say and what they do are still separate, as we know from descriptions of the Puritan practice called “bundling.”

* Why are novels the length they are? And, implicitly, how will technology change that length over time?

* Where professors get their politics.

* Why humanity loves and needs cities.

* A Defense of Abortion is a fascinating thought experiment in moral philosophy.

* On healthcare nationally and in Massachusetts:

When Massachusetts rolled out its coverage program in 2007, many more people signed up for the new heavily subsidized insurance than was originally predicted by budget officials. Almost immediately, costs far exceeded what had been budgeted, forcing state officials to scramble to find cuts elsewhere in government and other sources of revenue.

After three years, no real progress has been made on rising costs. The program remains well over budget, with no end in sight. Further, state residents who now must buy state-sanctioned coverage are bristling at their rising premiums and the inability to find coverage which covers less and thus costs less.

* Along the same lines as above: For every doctor, there are five people performing health care administrative support. This may be part of our national problem, like the growth of administrators relative to professors in academia. (Hat tip Tyler Cowen.)

* Universities set their prices based on what people will pay. Consequently, they raise their sticker price and then offer discounts to woo top students.

* D.G. Myers’ suggestions for the Library of America, (apropos of the kerfuffle discussed here):

Novelists with large untapped bodies of work, and who are likely candidates, are fewer and farther between, although I would make a case for Stanley Elkin and (less passionately) for Wright Morris. But a two-volume set of New York Jewish novels, including The Rise of David Levinsky (1917), Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers (1925), Call It Sleep, and Daniel Fuchs’s Summer in Williamsburg (1934), would be a terrific addition.

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