Monday, January 31, 2011

The Gay Science (Fiction)

•I met the lovely Allison Mack of Smallville yesterday (and enjoyed the play Apple Cove), and in other comics-type news, I notice that the final issue of DC Comics' latest time-warping miniseries, Time Masters: Vanishing Point comes out this week, on Groundhog Day.  Coincidence?  Maybe due to changes in the time line in their next such series, Flashpoint, they won't yet have failed to go back to not having never not had no alternate timelines now. 

•Speaking of repeating things, Darren Aronofsky, I kid you not, had been scheduled to direct a remake of RoboCop before he ended up doing Black Swan (though the latter also sounds pretty Verhoevenian, actually).  I hope all the ballet buffs who enjoyed Black Swan will flock to his next film, also animal-themed, namely next year's X-Men sequel The Wolverine.  From orthodox Jews to addicts to immortals to wrestlers to ballerinas to ninjas -- is there anything Aronofsky can't do?  He also has a Batman comic book coming out.

•Yet I, too, am a Renaissance man (or "dabbleur," if you will): I noted yesterday my impending theatrical/art performance (in Don't Tread on Me, this coming Sunday at 3pm at Momenta Art in Williamsburg), and I am not without past theatre experience. 

In addition to acting a bit in high school and college, I took a playwriting course at Brown from Adam Bock, a man who I see has gone on to some success and who makes no bones about his authorial orientation, being quoted as saying: "I’m a gay playwright.  I like being called a gay playwright.  It’s who I am. It’s how I write.  I have a very specific take on the world because I’m gay."  Reading between the lines here, I suspect Bock is gay. 

Back at Brown, it occurred to me that Bock looked a lot like a character who was on TV at the time (and held somewhat similar views): namely, Dieter from Saturday Night Live.  (Universal apparently sued Mike Myers for $3.8 million for abandoning his plan to do a Dieter movie because he was unhappy with his own script, which I do not doubt was bad.  However, suffering that financial loss for the sake of his art shows Myers has transcended the cash nexus of late capitalism, fraulein.  Interesting that David Hasselhoff and Jack Black were supposed to be in it.  Maybe one day Dieter could do a cameo in a Bruno sequel.)

For Bock's class, I wrote an absurdist play about Nietzsche (the original Superman writer), as I recall, and I cannot pretend my sensibilities have changed much since.

Adam Bock, though Canadian, was not, I should note, the Brown instructor of mine who had the class watch a graphic video created by the (presumably small) political group Gay Asians of Toronto (note: which is not a Broken Social Scene spin-off band), a video which was supposed to teach me tolerance of gays, Asians, or Canadians, I think, but mainly taught me that men on the receiving end of anal sex do not necessarily look happy.  I draw no moral conclusions from this, though, and have nothing against gays or Asians -- and to celebrate the final day of this blog's "Month of Haters," I will even stop picking on Canadians.  (As always, I really just want budget cuts and deregulation.)

It never hurts to be reminded that philosopher professor Martha Nussbaum (then of Brown, now of Chicago) looked like Robert Plant, either

And on that odd note: on to the intensely heterosexual "Month of Lovers" tomorrow.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Todd Seavey Dances in Williamsburg: One Week from Today!

•Why are my arms outstretched like Superman's in the photo nearby?  Is it to celebrate the fact that Allison Mack, who plays Clark Kent's best friend Chloe Sullivan on Smallville, debuts this week in the play Apple Cove written by my friend Lynn Rosen?  Hell, no (though you should go see that).

•Rather, that is a production still of me engaged in modern dance suggestive of Randian supermen, you philistine.  Why?  Because one week from today, on Sunday, February 6 (at 3pm), I will be one of the performers in the multimedia performance art piece called Don't Tread on Me directed by Chelsea Knight, featuring real-life libertarians and right-wingers presenting aspects of their views as speeches and other modes of art, put on at Momenta Art in Williamsburg (359 Bedford Ave.).  Come see the rational dancer.  Come hear me quote from the best speech ever, Reagan's 1964 speech on behalf of Goldwater.

Chelsea has shown marvelous tolerance throughout, trying to capture the essence of Atlas Shrugged, Reagan, and the Tea Party movement even while herself being a leftist raised on some godforsaken commune in Vermont or something. 

•If you need still more Rand, she and several other capitalistic authors will feature in my next monthly Book Selections entry, coming up that same day, Sunday one week hence.  Think of it as an unofficial online extension of the day's multimedia experience. 

•You can enhance the world's libertarian multimedia options yourself by e-mailing the contact info of movie theatres who you think might be persuaded to show the upcoming (April 15) indie-film version of Atlas Shrugged: Part One to this e-address: .  It might not suck.

•Speaking of libertarian film celebrations, Reason posted a video clip about their party at the burlesque club the Box last month, honoring the major First Amendment courtroom victory for John "the Buttman" Stagliano against anti-porn laws, in part over his film Milk Nymphos, and Scott Nybakken points out that you can see me in the lower part of that overhead still tracking shot that occurs right after the opening soundbite (of the Reason clip, I mean, not Milk Nymphos), talking to bespectacled and bipedal conservative commentator S.E. Cupp as well as bald and bearded National Review staffer Kevin Williamson.

•On another multimedia note, here's a pop culture history question I could probably figure out online but will have more fun trying to solve using my friends' and readers' memories (which is sort of apt): Seinfeld aired from 1990-1999, but did the show ever mention the Internet? 

Oh, how times have changed if not.  The unofficial ten-years-later reunion episode that occurred "within" an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm in 2009 doesn't count, although it featured a subplot about George inventing a toilet-locating app and then losing the vast royalties due to having invested all his money with Bernard Madoff -- "Madoff!!"  I think I will buy an iPhone myself this week, in part due to my Mac ownership, which leads me to think that unforeseen compatibility synergies may well arise that wouldn't if I got a Droid, much as I love the name and understand some people's fear of the iPhone touchscreen taking the place of a keyboard.  I am open to counter-arguments.

•Finally, in the realm of installation art, critic Chuck Blake notes these fine pieces by Terry Border of BentObjects (and says, "I like the marshmallow pirates").

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Todd Seavey at Republican Liberty Caucus (RLC): Two Weeks from Today!

•If you're in the DC area on Sat., Feb. 12 (9:45-10:25am), please come hear me talk about the Tea Party movement and what comes next.  I'll be on a stellar panel featuring Murray Sabrin (not to be confused with the recently deceased Joe Sobran), Joe Seehusen (Ron Paul campaign vet), and Chip Tarburton (Tea Party leader) -- moderated by Corie Whalen (not to be confused with Elizabeth Whelan) -- all of it part of the Republican Liberty Caucus convention at the Hilton Arlington (Ballston), 950 N. Stafford (or, y'know, let me know if you wanna have brunch the next day). 

The RLC convention, the biggest-ever gathering of avowedly-libertarian Republicans will also feature Randy Barnett, David Boaz, Rep. Justin Amash, NYC's own Thor-worshipping councilman Dan Halloran, petition-happy Paul Jacob, and an array of exciting guest stars (though not legendary funnyman Alan King, who passed away several years ago, striking a decisive blow to monarchy in the U.S.).  Sign up now.  I will attempt to make a bigger splash than I did with my last panel discussion.

•I'll tell ya this much right now, though: It's too late in the day for any more "stealthy" approaches.  Libertarians, including me, spent the past few decades learning how, at various points, to talk like liberals, ally with conservatives, show people we're in some sense moderates, debate with left-anarchists, reassure environmentalists -- even keep the peace with various nutty subsets of libertarians.  No more time for that.  Cut spending and deregulate radically right now or the whole civilization comes crashing down.  That is the one mission that most matters.  Anyone claiming to be engaged in something called "politics" without having that as priority #1 is an obstacle. 

This mission is too urgent to need any stealthy or proxy labels -- right, left, even "libertarian" if that's too vague a catch-all for some people (including some libertarians) to keep straight.  Shrinking government is simply the immediate program for survival, by any name.  Like medicine or food production, it need not be "framed," historicized, rendered as part of the dialectic, placed on a "spectrum," contrasted with the Enlightenment, put in a cultural context, or translated into electoral rhetoric.  It is just what must be done.  All else is armchair nonsense and pageantry.  

I'm speaking to Republicans in one week, yes, but at this point I'd say the same thing to Marxists -- and dare hope even they might leave the room convinced on the spot.  Sane people of any nominal political tribe must now stand up for economic sense or drag us down to ruin, and even decades of calling oneself a "communitarian" or something are now irrelevant as this yawning economic abyss rushes up to consume all and render abstract, intuited notions of rights and responsibilities moot.

Fascinating careers can be built around indirect approaches to the big issue -- talking about whether religion correlates with success, or how ethnicity affects things, or gender, urbanization, optimism, even punk, what have you.  But I think the time for the sophisticated, asymptotic, we'll-get-there-in-a-decade approach has run out.  Time to yell "Stop spending!" and "Deregulate!" loudly and often.

•But mentioning rock n' roll dismissively in that paragraph doesn't mean I can't see the potential for making traditionalism hip when a band like Iron & Wine (with Edie Brickell opening) plays Radio City Music Hall, so I'll still go to that tonight.

•In another test of priorities, I will do my part to hold the free-market coalition together by

Friday, January 28, 2011

Now Entering 2003 or So

Some of you know how truly lo-fi Todd HQ here on the Upper East Side has been for the past decade, but the next several days should yield a lurch into the twenty-first century, after which a more natural and steady rhythm of the blogging, blog-glitch-fixing, tweeting, following, Facing, meeting-up, podcasting, cell-phoning, and cable-viewing should occur -- all without imperiling the overdue apartment-cleaning and the ongoing actual bigtime work-assignments-doing.  Bear with me just a bit longer.

In my defense, I successfully waited out Friendster without ever joining, so trying the same with Facebook and a few other things (cell phones, oxygen) seemed worth a try.  I can't claim to have conservative leanings and just leap on every passing trend, can I?  (I once asked John Derbyshire if he had a cell phone, to which he replied: Of course not, I'm a conservative.)  As a man of science, I never stopped believing in the power of media-assisted social networks or the eventual takeover of the planet by robots throughout it all, though. 

On the other hand, I see that Web-co-founding Rasta man Jaron Lanier, the Harry Knowles of cyberspace, now thinks that the key to rescuing the culture and restoring individual creativity is destroying the hivemind/packdog effect created by the Net, according to an interview with him in the leftist book Death of the Liberal Class (but more on that in my March Book Selections entry -- see, those of us with less of the instant-gratification tech are more accustomed to advance planning).  The Net may not be the problem, though.

Might the simple answer to this month's implicit question on, "Why all the hatin'?" be just this: because now the smelly mob, which (if history is any guide) would normally be setting things on fire and attacking witches, mostly convenes in comment threads?  Maybe humanity was and is always this awful and we just didn't have to hear from them so much before.  And I know what you're thinking: "What becomes of the social-democratic dream of Habermas and his ilk if the masses are really just a bunch of jerks you'd rather not have to talk to?"  February is this blog's "Month of Lovers," so we'll have to fix the jerks problem in March or so.  Until then, at least the Web gives them a place to get it out of their systems. 

And the sci-fi fan in me can't help but think with a shudder: "Imagine if they all had telekinesis -- not telepathy, mind you, but telekinesis!"  Oh, wait.  That was the climax of the awesome 60s sci-fi movie Quatermass and the Pit, come to think of it.  No wonder both Greil Marcus and I love it.  If you haven't seen that movie, I hereby viciously denounce you online.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Literature Preview

Last night I saw a so-called Literary Death Match (just before NYC became Hoth), and starting in the middle of next week, it's a month of my poetry, right here on  That's right, each day (aside from a few necessary announcements and the like) will be dedicated to a different (unnamed) woman from my past, in chronological order, as the "Month of Lovers" reminds us all what art and love truly are -- teaching us more than a little about ourselves in the process -- and maybe reminding those PUA simpletons once more how it's done.  Naturally, I intend to write "eighty-eight lines" in all, in keeping with alternative rock tradition.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Shazam! A Comics n' Literature Update

(This entry will mention which member of the Fantastic Four died this week, so if you're one of the few readers who care and don't want to know, best not to click on the "Read more" button below.) 

After a total of about three months of not blogging on my old usual topics (for various simultaneous yet mostly unrelated reasons), I had ten pent-up thoughts about rock and politics to disgorge yesterday, so you won't be surprised to see ten items about comics and sci-fi today:

1.  In combo superheroic/rock news, I notice Michael Rosenbaum from Smallville created a SyFy comedy series about has-been sci-fi actors, called Saved by Zeroes -- making it a quasi-sci-fi show with a presumably Fixx-inspired title.  That's good nerdery. 

(Side note: singer Cy Curnin was reportedly unhappy about the Fixx song "Saved by Zero" being used in a Toyota ad, which is not surprising given that he's a Luddite socialist who believes we should all simplify our lives -- get back to zero -- and eliminate unnecessary material trappings such as cars, though presumably not electric guitars and synthesizers.)

2.  Bane is reportedly one of the villains in next year's The Dark Knight Rises.  Bane is the villain who, in the comics, broke Batman's back in a storyline called "Knightfall."  Thus -- you heard it here first -- I predict a publicity-stunt title switch at the eleventh hour from The Dark Knight Rises to The Dark Knight Falls, a la the last-minute switch from Revenge of the Jedi to Return of the Jedi back in 1983 (to which the Episode III title Revenge of the Sith was an homage).  I also predict that Anne Hathaway as Catwoman will appear quite genuinely insane. 

3.  And that logically brings us back to the subject of my day in a women's prison, which Gerard Perry asked about.  I actually found the thick cell doors and constant-lockdown feel of a maximum security facility rather reassuring and would probably feel safer there -- or in solitary confinement -- than more readily mixed in with the general prison population.  If I lived in Gotham, I certainly would not plead insanity for fear of ending up in Arkham Asylum, though the odds of breaking out of that place would certainly be pretty good, if past trends hold. 

And I share Gerard's alarm at all the kids who now go to They Might Be Giants shows, of whom I was largely unaware until the band members whipped out some talking broom puppet from their recent TV appearances.  Then again, I always said they'd work well with Muppets, and that's to be admired. 

As for whether Firefly is good art, which Gerard also asked about: of course, and we nerds have taken over the commanding heights of respectable popular culture generally, from the indie rock to the high-concept sci-fi films.  It is good to be alive.  Some of us foresaw this day back when there were just occasional cyberpunk references in Chris Claremont's X-Men comics and a few bands obsessed with synthesizers. 

Indeed, tonight, the brainy and nerdy and yet hip Literary Death Match event at Le Poisson Rouge, which I plan to attend, will feature none other than cartoonist Roz Chast among the participants.  Roz Chast is art. 

4. Before seeing that, I must buy one -- just one -- comic book today.  Yeah, I know, but I've been clean for like a year and a half and don't plan to start up again.  It's just that the Shazam! one-shot out today might fix some of the weird cliffhangers that the Marvel Family has been left with over the past several years, various members being turned into statues, insane, powerless, what have you. 

One weird aspect of those characters -- who generally speaking transform by saying "Shazam!" or some variant -- is that at least a couple are kids who transform into adults, and one of them, Mary Marvel, has by my count been rendered comatose or corrupted (and even turned into a sex-starved killer wearing black leather) by something like six different characters now, by my count: Spectre, Black Adam, Eclipso, Darkseid, Desaad (ahem), Black Adam again, and in the one-shot probably the demoness named Blaze.  Has Mary no integrity?  Or is she not really the twisted one in all this? 

5.  Speaking of corrupting the youth, it seems only yesterday that it was still a novelty to

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Decemberists, Robert Novak, and Ending Government (with ALF cameo)

Last night, in advance of tonight's State of the Union address, I saw with my own eyes a piece of evidence that President Obama is a communist. 

1.  Or at least, I saw the Decemberists in concert again, and one unusually rabid right-wing site I glanced at once listed the Decemberists' performance at an Obama campaign event on the West Coast as evidence of his communism, since they're named after a (politically ambiguous) Russian revolt that the band themselves describe as proto-communist.  (And so an army of unemployed millennials lean back toward thinking Obama may be cool after all, which is the kind of aesthetics-based knee-jerk politics I'm trying to combat.)

2.  Of course, I'm not denying Obama and virtually all your indie rockers and your hipsters are leftists.  In fact, last night, wearing a bit more flannel and sounding a bit more country and jangly, the Decemberists seemed more R.E.M. than usual, which is fine with us Gen Xers (even ones who weren't happy about R.E.M. performing at Bill Clinton's inaugural gala back in the day, since that was evidence he was a Southerner and a closeted "third way" socialist with power pop influences -- well, it was). 

3.  And articles like this one pointed out to me by Gerard Perry (who has asked a couple comments thread questions I should address in tomorrow's entry) show that "science" is not exactly apolitical either (but note: John Horgan is the same idiot who declared the "end of science" in a book by that title a few years ago, so take his declarations of the end of gun ownership and capitalism with comparable grains of salt). 

4.  I also cannot deny that the Decemberists are likely trying to take Valerie Plame's side in their clever song by that title -- which probably makes me one of the few people to go to two Decemberists concerts yet also to be persuaded, in person not too long before he passed away, by the late Robert Novak's account of the whole affair, which is that it was a non-Bush-camp State Department official, Richard Armitage, who revealed Plame as a CIA staffer; the CIA itself who implicitly told Novak it'd be no big deal to report it when he cautiously asked them; and the special investigator who sat on that rather boring account of things, ordering Novak to keep silent about a non-Bush-loyalist being the initial leaker, while going on a meandering hunt for Bush-embarrassing post-leak leaks (and glory). 

Armitage was not even mentioned in the Sean Penn movie about the affair, apparently, and I assume Scooter Libby was made to appear the moral equal of Darth Maul. 

5.  I am not biased in my view of all this, I think, by the fact that I am now not just a Phillips Fellow (for having years ago gotten grant money from the Phillips Foundation) but, due to a posthumous renaming in Novak's honor, technically a Robert Novak Fellow (would that they simply redubbed us Princes of Darkness).  I'll speak to such of my fellow Fellows as choose to rally in NYC on Feb. 18 -- and to listen to the break-out session I lead -- about tips for appearing on TV.  (Note that I am drawing primarily on my experience as a producer.) 

6.  With this blog's "Month of Haters" yielding to its "Month of Lovers" next month, though, I will endeavor to leave partisan rancor -- and even much of the "right/left" talk -- behind in favor of educating one and all about economics, which is the most important thing (catch me trying to do that, in very different ways, in Williamsburg on Feb. 6 and in Arlington on Feb. 12, as noted in the right margin of this blog's front page). 

With Congress once more divided, split largely over the spending issue at a time when welfare-statists are not nearly as confident about what to do next as they pretend to be, it may be time to teach the fundamentals again -- once more treating talk of war or, say, obscene art as distractions.  (And emphasizing econ is by no means to de-emphasize humanity and morals, as this NYTimes blog entry pointed out to me by Ali Kokmen eloquently explains.)

7.  Sounding a bit R.E.M.-ish is a significant chronological leap forward since the Decemberists' previous album, which sounded more medieval, placing it in the prog rock era that began in the twelfth century and ended around 1974.  That prior album, The Hazards of Love, seemed

Monday, January 24, 2011

Shock and Audience

Wasn't I just talking about mass-murdering political figures in yesterday's entry?  As this blog's "Month of Haters" nears its end, I receive some hilarious tyrant news: a film adaptation of a novel by Saddam Hussein.  May 11, 2012 will see the release of The Dictator, with Sacha "Borat" Baron "Bruno" Cohen as a heroic autocrat fending off the evil forces of democracy threatening to unravel his rule. 

I think that is one of the best ideas for a movie I have ever heard.  If it's a hit, it might even start a comedy trend of adaptations of novels by dictators.  Gaddafi has some fantasy novels, I understand.  And there were rumors al Qaeda was named after Isaac Asimov's Foundation, so maybe Roland Emmerich could incorporate that into his planned adaptation somehow (he can work on multiple levels of meaning).  Couldn't be any worse than adapting the Asimov novel faithfully.

If all goes according to schedule, The Dictator will be in theatres one week after Joss Whedon's The Avengers.  The world may be coming to an end that year -- but not heroic entertainment!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Helen Rittelmeyer

[This entry was about that ex of mine from the CSPAN2 appearance, but it’s been a few years, I think she’s not only moved to Australia, gotten married, and matured but grown a bit more libertarian in the process to boot, so don’t waste any more time reading my comments about that old conflict. Read her more recent work if you like, and, our differences notwithstanding, I’m sure it’ll be smart and witty.]

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tracing One Kind of "Christianity" Back to Eve

By noting yesterday how Helen Rittelmeyer's attitudes may (ironically) have been influenced by an unwitting Dawn Eden, I do not mean to gloss over my own culpability in aiding and abetting a monster.  I was the one who spent two years telling the world -- including editors at National Review and HarperCollins -- that Helen is brilliant, and in some ways she is.  She's just evil, by pretty much any conventional moral standard, religious or secular. 

She does not stand, say, with Catholics against atheists or with rural populists against urban elites in her unique philosophical loyalties, despite her frequent attempts to triangulate in that way and appear loyal to some "team."  She stands alone -- or should -- against all remotely compassionate or ethical, non-sadistic members of the human race, longing for an unending, vicious war of all against all and making do with small personal harms in the meantime. 

Now, you'd think I might have noticed that sooner, what with dating her for nearly two years -- and her praising boxing, rioting, and constant verbal abuse as hallmarks of civilization and all -- but, in my defense, she knows full well that the layers of irony and double-meaning in both her written and spoken words create just enough plausible deniability that (A) good people will give her the benefit of the doubt (so she gains the strength in numbers and comfort that come from appearing to stand with them) and (B) bad people will be delighted at the hints that she's "in on the joke" (allowing her to stand with them when what she considers the real fun starts). 

That's her shtick, and it's not a bad means of getting away with a great deal, both philosophically and personally. 


Another, also presumably unwitting, influence on this dangerous, nasty, William Blake-like combo of the sacred and profane was Eve Tushnet from Yale's Party of the Right (mentioned, as it happens, in a piece by Jonah Goldberg back when he visited the POR in 2000 and noted its odd penchant for ritualism).  I will assume Eve, perhaps best known for being the celibate Catholic lesbian blogger (and a columnist for Pat Buchanan's magazine American Conservative), is a fine person, and I share her enthusiasm for comics and alternative rock, but I can no longer

Friday, January 21, 2011

Beast of Eden (plus: Nick Drake)

The Christian blog Patum Peperium suggested that Helen Rittelmeyer, the ex with whom I sparred on C-SPAN2, should have read my earlier ex Dawn Eden's book on Christian dating, Thrill of the Chaste.  Dawn's subtle and indirect influence on the C-SPAN2 fracas is ambiguous, though (aside from the more concrete post-panel facts, such as her giving me -- not Helen -- a consoling hug when I got down from the podium and later trying to convince me, for good or ill, to take PR cues from Opus Dei on how to handle the subsequent controversy -- advice which I worry might simply have led to people thinking I was trying to kill Tom Hanks or that there was some element of cultish sadomasochism involved). 

True, if Helen had taken Dawn's warning in Chapter 18 not to date atheists like me literally, we would have avoided some conflict.  On the other hand, Helen doesn't like to take anything literally, despises truth-telling and rationality (bad signs, in retrospect, I admit, as was her contempt for kindness), was already quite familiar with Dawn's views and my relationship with Dawn before dating me (and had met Dawn), and has repeatedly dated either atheists or libertarians, always preferring to have something to fight about.  Always. 

Furthermore, atheism was not the problem.  (The problem, in a nutshell, was that I am good whereas Helen is evil.  I know that might sound to some like a slight oversimplification -- the sort that would make it hard to keep credentialed relationship counselors in business -- but I'm not even sure Helen would disagree with it, which is the scary part.  We'll render final judgment upon her in Sunday's entry, though.)

For now, let me just say that Dawn -- who I think is one of the most well-meaning people I've known even if I don't always agree with her methods -- made admirable efforts to avoid hypocritically glamorizing her pre-conversion rock groupie years in Thrill of the Chaste, despite me arguing back when she was writing it that the best marketing approach might be to split the book down the middle, devoting as much time to her years reporting on and sometimes dating 60s and 60s-influenced rock musicians as to her later conversion to Christianity, and call it From Mod to God.  (Since I dated her during a transitional period in which she'd recently turned Christian but not yet Catholic and not yet opposed to premarital sex, she might also have considered From Mod to Todd to God, though the order is a bit ambiguous.)

Despite Dawn's best efforts, though, there were bound to be some younger women out there who saw in

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Religion Round-Up

If last year taught us nothing else, it's that religion, despite all the hype, really seems to do nothing at all to make people more moral, which is no big surprise.  Or rather, in some cases it does, in some it doesn't, and in the end it's not clear what it's accomplishing, on balance, given all its downsides.  "Yes, it's irrational, but on other hand it may make people behave even worse!" 

(Some of you reading this may actually recall my ex from last year saying at Lolita Bar that she believes religion improves people by making them less nice.  In retrospect, that was a crucial warning sign of just how inhumane her own take on her adopted Catholicism is, with moral and behavioral consequences I only wish I'd been wary enough to predict, especially before introducing her to my parents, who never before in two decades of my adult life had to deal with the spectacle, however slowly brought into focus, of me dating a bad woman.  They'd seen crazy maybe, but never before bad, never before proud-of-doing-harm, like a sad, juvenile sadist pulling wings off a fly, all the while calling it wit and scrappiness and even excellence, pretending to improve the world by flailing at it destructively and thereby testing it -- and by this pretense delaying the day, which I suspect she fears is inevitable, when tolerant, patient people finally realize just how dangerous she is and turn on her.)

Religion isn't just the destroyed skyscrapers and the censorship and the imprisoned gays and all that, annoying as all those things are, there's also the more nearly universal way in which religion sets at the very center of moral thinking -- where we should be most honest and careful -- a love of self-deception, flattering the sensibilities of precisely those people whose mental habits ought not to be encouraged: liars, self-haters, the delusional, the alcoholic, the question-dodgers, the blame-passers. 

I know religion can inspire people to endow hospitals, but I've met atheists who have done such things as well, no tortuous reasoning required, whereas I've never met an atheist who said, "Immorality is inevitable given the fallen nature of Man, so I can't be expected to behave well, but a magical entity will simply erase my horrible moral record when I'm done with my crimes, as long as the magical entity is the one being for whom I show some love and respect!  It's like a Get Out of Jail Free card, even if I haven't done a thing to compensate my real-world victims!  Yay, redemption for the wicked!  Party on!!"

And in the final three themed entries of this "Month of Haters," over the next three days, I must note the roles played in this month's story (or perhaps I should say last year's story) by a trinity of vexing women, all converts to Catholicism, none of them haters themselves as far as I know (even the climactic one, the aforementioned ex from my C-SPAN2 appearance, claims not to be one and sent a Christmas gift -- whether for altruistic or purely-strategic reasons the historians and psychologists can debate). 

But for now, a round-up designed merely to remind us of the unending variety of religion's effects, not to build any particular argument:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Greg Gutfeld, My New Blog Epigram, and Life's End

My second entry yesterday, the alphabetical new "personal ad," probably owes some subconscious inspiration to the brilliant book The Alphabet of Manliness (written by a friend of a friend of mine, as it turns out, though I didn't know that when first amused by its glorious man-vs.-gorilla fistfight cover painting).  And it is largely of men, smelly and uncouth though they are, that I must blog today. 

1.  First of all, while the commentary proles -- all those anonymous, near-mindless comment thread participants -- often weighed in against me after the C-SPAN2 confrontation with my evil ex, whereas those close to the situation (non-famous wonk types in many cases) tended to weigh in in my favor (forming a solidly moral "commentary bourgeoisie," as it were), the commentary elite (bigtime media such as Washington Post and the like) seemed more divided, less knowledgeable about the details than the commentary bourgeoisie but generally more willing to admit their confusion and ignorance than the commentary proles. 

One of my favorite balancing acts in this department (and I don't think I'm biased by the fact I was working for the same network at the time) was the reaction of the funny and too-rarely-seen 3am Fox News political humor show Red Eye, which on October 19 had a panel of anti-Todd talking heads, including two women I didn't recognize and that recurring Red Eye participant who looks like a bald lesbian but is in fact a man, whose name I forget.  Sort of like a Frank Black gone bad. 

They reacted to a very brief, edited version of the already-brief C-SPAN2 clip -- their even-briefer version leaving out the crucial detail that my nominally-traditionalist ex actually acted upon her sociopathically sinister plan to bring together and then break up a couple for kicks -- and they did not react to the clip wisely.  That guy who looks like a bald lesbian -- and who I'm told has gone on about his penchant for hiring prostitutes on previous shows -- even took the time to call me chinless and unattractive and to say that he has the hots for Helen.  He also hypothesized (quite erroneously, I must say) that I must have a small penis.  Again: the bald lesbian-looking man who has to hire prostitutes hypothesizes that I have a small penis. 

And this went on for about five minutes, apparently to the horror of some internal Fox forces who didn't

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Todd Seavey Personal Ad #2

It was mistakenly claimed by NPR and others that my old joke Personal Ad from this site was written in response to events in 2010.  In fact, it was written back in 2006, as the site was first being assembled (well before I had the misfortune to meet the woman NPR claimed inspired the ad). 

In any case, one's needs change over time, so the following bare-bones ad, like the old one, notes broad, manifestly-awful female psychological types I'd like to avoid.  This joke ad is a better representation of what I'm looking for in a woman now than the old joke ad.  I'm really not setting the bar all that high with this list, either, so anyone who thinks it sounds too demanding or narrow-minded is likely insane.

Herewith a simple "alphabet" of deal-breakers:

More PUA B.S. plus BSS and Crazy Chicks in NYC

Tonight, I'll see the band Broken Social Scene, of whom about twelve other bands from Montreal are subsets. 

Larger even than the total population of Montreal, though, is the number of women slept with every week by each practitioner of Pick-Up Artistry (PUA), or so they claim when they aren't criticizing me for denouncing one of my own exes on C-SPAN2 a few months ago.  There's less than a month until Valentine's Day, though, fellas, and my real concern is whether you'll find true love

(Next month here at, to balance out the current "Month of Haters," will be my "Month of Lovers," each day bringing a poem about a different ex of mine.  No names.  And in a few minutes, I'll post Todd Seavey joke Personal Ad #2, for those wearied by the length or duration, so to speak, of my old one, which yet lives in the Archives of this site.)

One reason to be wary of the wide-net approach taken by the PUA types is, of course, the ever-present danger of sleeping with a crazy chick.  And there are crazy chicks out there.  Take, for example, this description of last week's reading at the swell and lit-friendly bar the Half King, which I have taken the trouble of filling with ellipses, since we've all heard this tiresome story in 6,000 different forms from 6,000 different crazy chicks (I suggest saying "Yadda yadda yadda" aloud at each ellipsis).  All together now:

In...Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl[, Stacy] Pershall chronicles her lifelong struggle with mental illness.  Like Susanna Kaysen's Girl Interrupted and Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation...unique, heartbreaking, but ultimately redemptive...woman who is "different"...grew up in Prairie Grove, Arkansas...(population: 1,000)...prevailing wisdom was that Jesus healed all.  Deeply sensitive and intelligent...Bullying by her peers and a bad boyfriend...rapid downward spiral...In her mind, there was one person at fault for her suffering, one person who deserved to be punished again and again: herself. From starving herself for days to forcing herself to sleep in her closet because she wasn't "worthy" of the comfort of a bed...self-loathing...anorexia...Alternately diagnosed with bulimia, major depression, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, anorexia, and borderline personality disorder...studied theater, fell in love...moved to new cities...mental illness that followed her wherever she went or whatever she achieved.

Pretty good bet she likes Oscar Wilde, astrology, and/or Breakfast at Tiffany's, I'm guessing (I recall a woman I knew back in 1992 whose dad had been an abusive rural cult leader but who managed to make it to an Ivy League school and then end up thinner, pale, bi, impatient, chain-smoking, Wilde-citing, lying, and music-savvy -- that sort of combo apparently being an aspiration of crazy chicks).  And I worry that more than a few of these banal stories involve New York City -- a.k.a. Crazytown, USA -- in the aforementioned role of "new cities." 

NYC offers crazy people the anonymity of crowds and generous social services, making it ideal for both your functional and your dysfunctional loon, or for people still mulling which option to pick.  I saw a color-coded map once of rates of mental illness in the U.S., and

Monday, January 17, 2011

Langan's Tonight, If the World Survives

The Manhattans Project -- with brief remarks by inaugural "Guest of Honor" Mitch Golden about the perils of global warming -- meets Monday, Jan. 17 (7-10pm) in the back of Langan's bar-restaurant on 47th, just east of 7th.  It's not easy being green at one of our gatherings, as MLK would have understood.

(Meanwhile, I notice this past weekend and this coming weekend, Hofstra University a few LIRR stops away on Long Island is doing performances of Ayn Rand's Night of January Sixteenth -- which is NOT the night of the Langan's gathering, just a play title, I wish to stress -- and then having real lawyers discuss its legal implications.  And that has me mulling MP topics for April, the month Atlas Shrugged finally hits theatres...)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

NPR and the Recurring Blindspot

I mentioned NPR being one of the media venues to report on my C-SPAN2 appearance (about eighteen minutes into the podcast of the show).  They were also one of the few to flagrantly misreport part of the story, saying my old joke personals ad (a thinly-veiled essay about the importance of avoiding crazy women) was written in response to the ex with whom I sparred on C-SPAN2.  Nope.  Written almost two years before I met her (for all the good it did). 

NPR might well argue that I have only myself to blame for their erroneous reporting -- and for the really nasty, whiny tone of the comedian-reader who read a partial transcript of my C-SPAN2 comments -- since they called to invite me to be on and I didn't respond (swamped as I was with inquiries and a real job at the same time, one that was more time-consuming and restrictive yet less remunerative than my current activities, not that I'm complaining for one moment; it's all good).  Too, it was their weekly comedy show Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me, which has roughly the same journalistic standards as The Daily Show (which I don't mean in an entirely negative way). 

Further, that NPR show (as far as I know) is the only venue, aside from the Daily Caller (which started the viral replication of the C-SPAN2 clip), to whom my ex did talk about the incident (her voice being heard briefly at the end of the piece revealing that our C-SPAN2 spat was Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me's real news story of the week, from their traditional multiple-choice quiz of stories that might be true).  She presumably wisely decided that giving a ten-second comedy soundbite was far safer than having to reveal all the ugly details of her behavior in a serious interview, though I'm frankly surprised she dared talk to anyone about it. 

Once she proved willing to talk to them, NPR may well have followed the unwritten (and to some degree subconscious) rule that you treat willing sources more kindly than people who won't talk, even though my silence was partly mercy-driven, as is the extremely gentle tone of this month's blog entries.  If the ex says, as she did to the Daily Caller, that she now has a "policy" against discussing her personal life, I'll avoiding divulging any more than I already have (I decided as the inquiries started coming in that I wouldn't dredge up more details if she didn't). 

But as for the info I already have divulged: I can't help wondering whether the NPR comedy folks just happily chuckled their way through some questions to the ex about whether she really did things like play matchmaker for a couple even while explicitly planning months in advance to break them up later and seduce the man just for kicks.  "Now that's comedy!  OK, so we'll make your ex-boyfriend sound like a little whiner who must just have been grousing about nothing during your appearance together -- certainly nothing that raises questions about the nature of your conservative moral philosophy -- because he's pining to get a great gal like yourself back!" 

I worry a bit that most people's capacity to block out disturbing information is so great that you could basically tell them that, say, your quirky neighbor has several odd objects in his backyard, and if one of the objects you listed was a severed human hand, they'd just sort of "let that one slide" so that they could think about more comforting items from the list -- bent rakes, gaudy lawn furniture, etc. -- and could thus avoid having to wonder about unpleasant criminal implications (possibly even faulting you for gross talk about human hands).  Ah, well.  I report, you decide, America -- sociopathic, short-attention-span-possessing, indifferent, laff-lovin' America. 

But Tuesday: back to the PUA guys, then a few more C-SPAN2-inspired entries and on to new topics.

P.S. By the way, if NPR really wants simultaneously to promote progressive values, create comedy, and avoid judging bad behavior, perhaps Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me should consider hiring that homeless sportscaster.  Gotta say there were some subtle warning signs in this article, among others.  But, again, I'm rooting for everyone to pull themselves together, I really am.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Seeing Like a Stud

What has the PUA community been saying about my C-SPAN2 appearance a few months ago, you ask?  Wait, first you ask: What the hell is the PUA community? 

Apparently, there are men (or, if you will, half-men) so desperate for women that they must resort to the use of "game"-like techniques to lure them in.  They refer to themselves as "pick-up artists" (PUA) and often sport oddly-gay online pseudonyms such as Chateau and Magic (not to be confused with George Costanza's imaginary horses, Snoopy and Prickly Pete, nor the imaginary ponies two of my female co-workers had years ago, Misty and Shasta).  The PUA techniques involve things like surprising and confusing women, subtly undermining their self-esteem (or at least confounding their expectations) with "negs" (little negative comments and joke insults), acting aloof yet entertaining, etc., and likely having other women in reserve instead of investing emotionally in just one. 

Borrowing a bit from evolutionary psychology, the PUA guys often refer to males who are not attractive to women as betas and males who are as alphas.  Since they spend so much time studying the behavior of alphas and dreading any taint of beta behavior, I can only assume that PUA guys think of themselves as gammas, deltas, or some other dreaded Greek letter, possibly even omega, but the point is that they are putting a great deal of time and effort into seeming like alphas.  A small army of them have leapt to the erroneous conclusion that I am some sort of "beta loser" with "no game" due to my artful takedown of an ex on TV -- too much emotional investment and too blatant an admission of discontent by the almost religiously-strict PUA standards, apparently. 

Gentlemen, or perhaps I should say boys: BEHOLD ALPHA-PRIME.

Now, normally, despite some people falsely accusing me of being prone to oversharing after the rather unique C-SPAN2 appearance, I would consider it unchivalrous even to confirm that I'd had sex with any woman (and careful observers will note I am still avoiding naming names, strictly speaking), but since I am beset by doubters -- PUA doubters in particular, who struggle like inept scientists to understand the data before them -- allow me to allude at least briefly to the real Todd Seavey situation. 

First of all, as I mentioned in a recent entry, I have never really been lonely enough long enough even to resort to a real personals ad (despite the joke one noted by various media outlets after the C-SPAN2 appearance, which was really more of a lengthy veiled essay about things to avoid in female psychology -- I am a writer, after all).  Similarly, I cannot imagine spending time learning PUA rules and techniques -- let alone sniping at other males online about failure to follow these rules -- when there are, to put it mildly, women all over the place all the time to be met and, with regularity, dated.

If anything, I have placed numerous constraints upon myself in an effort to avoid being distracted from my higher callings -- writing, political endeavors, seeking to understand the cosmos -- by too many, or too many not-quite-right, females.  And still I cannot wholly prevent them having sex with me, it seems.

•I have very publicly vowed never to have children, whereas most women want

Friday, January 14, 2011


I go on C-SPAN2 and point out a rising, disturbing form of sadistic nihilism on the right, disguised as Catholic traditionalism, and what is the esteemed Newsweek's thoughtful reaction (in their hardcopy edition of Nov. 1, 2010)?  "Entertaining, yes -- but, dude, not the forum." 

Given that some site also joked that I was obviously confused and rambling about irrelevancies when I mentioned G.K. Chesterton (and what are all these "footnote" things cluttering up the bottom of the page?), I have to wonder whether anything, personal or political, would have sounded worth mentioning to some listeners (ones in the media who pretend to understand things, mind you).  You disappoint me, culture, and it may be time I started punishing you for it more frequently. 

At least when a friend of mine (as excerpted yesterday) used "dude" in a reaction, he was dashing off a personal e-mail.  Newsweek probably had thoughtful editors weigh in on whether "dude, not the forum" was an apt summary of the ethical and philosophical charges being brought to bear. 

But tomorrow, the real "dude" issue: how those pathetic dumbasses in the so-called "pick-up artist" (PUA) community misread the whole incident.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

C-SPAN2 Personal Reactions

I would be fascinated to hear some of the people who reacted in an anti-Todd way to my C-SPAN2 appearance attempt to explain themselves, except I don't think most of them can (also, I was lying -- I don't want to hear from them anymore, despite this being a final look back I've dubbed a "Month of Haters" on this blog). 

Again, I would contend that if you watch a good man cautiously -- and quite circumspectly -- criticize an evil woman who presents as an old-fashioned moralist but isn't, and your reaction is to become so enraged at the male that you come to nigh-hallucinatory erroneous conclusions about the man's popularity on the dating scene or even feel compelled to e-mail him -- calling him rude even while heaping on the obscenities yourself -- there is something profoundly wrong with you, morally and rationally.

I recall one nice commenter, during an earlier online dust-up of which I was a part (also involving Jonah Goldberg, come to think of it, and a really bottom-of-the-barrel lefty-vitriol site called SadlyNo), saying that he occasionally tries asking savage online commenters to talk about their upbringings -- and thereby frequently elicits incredible tales of abuse and neglect from many commenters in a single thread, so (project for psychology grad students!) maybe angry online commenters are disproportionately psychologically-damaged youth (and adult survivors of youthful abuse), finally possessed of a safe space in which to strike back at whichever target of the day happens to pass in front of them.  I don't know. 

I do know I got one or two e-mails like one from a Tony Edwards who seems fairly articulate -- enough to call me "churlish" rather than, say, "a dickwad," for example -- yet who felt so incensed about the issue that he had to close with "Todd, please know that I mean this in the nicest possible way, but you're an asshole.  Go fuck yourself." 

And most of his e-mail was complaining about the fact that my blog was down, so he couldn't post comments.  No big deal from my perspective, you might think, and yet -- why would someone care so much about posting comments on the site of someone he thinks is an asshole -- and over an incident about which the person likely knows so little?  Am I going to have to lower my opinion of the whole human race yet again and conclude that many of them are just pointlessly combative sadists with far too much time on their hands?  Good news for Helen if so, as such people are fertile recruiting material from which to cull her supporters, if past trends hold.

Luckily, though, I got far more supportive e-mail, especially from people familiar with the two principals in the conflict, and they were more prone to use phrases such as the following (each from a different individual, none of them, I trust, identifiable here):

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

C-SPAN2 Links Round-Up

In a world torn by war, plagued by famine and disease, how popular was the six-minute-or-so clip from C-SPAN2 in which, with admirable frankness and the evenhanded sense of justice for which I am known, I alluded to my ex's penchant for -- and philosophy encouraging -- infidelity and petty cruelty? 

Well, one YouTube posting of the clip got about a half-million views -- more popular than some cable networks out there -- and I posted an entry on October 19, 2010 that linked to many articles, some in prestigious venues, eagerly recounting the seemingly-mundane but apparently unC-SPANly incident (after which my blog was down for a couple months while I sorted out whether my clients/employers would mind me attracting attention or not and some related matters, then plotted my new-fangled 2011 media strategy). 

One viewer comment under that now-deleted copy of the YouTube clip even contained a very poorly-spelled rhyming rap about the C-SPAN2 panel, concluding that I would not be having sex again and am too stupid to be a conservative, so that fellow may be evidence of the bourgeoning trad/PUA alliance my ex once told me about.  With footsoldiers like him, etc.

That earlier blog entry barely scratched the surface of the coverage, though, so, for posterity (or until the links die), here's another round-up of pieces about it:

Ace of Spades

The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC apparently took an anti-Todd tack (raising serious moral questions about all involved on that show, but then again, it's NBC).  And just imagine the rude things someone might say about the Klan -- possibly even a female Klan member! -- on C-SPAN2 one of these days.  MSNBC should cover that, too. 

•No one has yet Autotuned the C-SPAN2 bit, so as compensation, I offer this link (pointed out to me by Austin Petersen) to swell -- occasionally even moving -- Autotuned Carl Sagan (with cool Stephen Hawking duet in one) narration from Cosmos, the PBS series that so beautifully captured the wonders of science back in the 80s and no doubt helped me avoid turning into some morally-stunted religious believer, thus helping to make me the kind and tolerant person I am.

A Boston classic rock station

Creative Loafing

Frum Forum

Café Mom

Talking Points Memo

•The chronically vicious and insane DC City Paper, as noted in an earlier entry


Crushable -- this being one of only two or three cases in which someone I sort of know, Meghan Keane, seems to lean anti-Todd -- and given Meghan's blank affect and seeming inability

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dear Mrs. Robert Stacy McCain,

Do you find it odd how viciously your husband's blog went after me in not one but two entries on his blog after my (apt) criticisms of my C-SPAN2 co-panelist ex-girlfriend in October? 

(And, look, my addressing these questions to you is a literary device, Mrs. Robert Stacy McCain, so please don't get bent out of shape if in fact you're already divorced from him, institutionalized, suffering from cancer, or deceased due to committing suicide from years of having to deal with him.)

I mean, fine, your husband thinks of my co-panelist, not me, as his friend -- so he gets points for loyalty, maybe, which is about all his friend cares about, not ethics in the conventional sense, when she cares about either.  But doesn't it strike you as a bit odd that your husband -- ostensibly a homeschooling Christian type -- is so gung-ho about defending a young woman whose only relevant attribute for purposes of the current discussion is calculated trampling on monogamy and kindness?  Might it be the case that you should be more nervous about photos I've seen of my ex hanging out with at least one of your children than about me being at odds with your husband in cyberspace? 

Come to think of it, isn't it a little weird that your husband has a reputation for showing up at every conservative event in DC and flirting with young females?  What time does he normally get home to plan the next day's Bible-friendly homeschooling lessons for your half-dozen kids anyway? 


But hey, if he thinks discretion is the paramount virtue, I can understand him thinking I'm an unchivalrous jerk for criticizing my ex.  Oh, but wait -- one of your husband's biggest claims to fame, if I can call it that, is writing a whole book about inappropriate sexual behavior by Democrats.  So he's not exactly a model of circumspection himself, is he?  Might he be projecting a bit with all of his anger at truth-telling Todd?  (And speaking of writing projects, wasn't he part of that cabal of somewhat inept Washington Times editors who let a reporter take the fall for an errant line inserted by the editors themselves?)

Of course, your husband has said he's "a poor excuse for a Christian," which at first glance sounds humble but which I'm beginning to think is a sort of code for a pattern (more disturbingly common than I'd been aware of before recent events) of Christians priding themselves on bad

Monday, January 10, 2011

Comics to the Left of Me, Joker to the Right

I was a bit disappointed to see Jonah Goldberg quoted in the Washington Post, after my somewhat tense exchange with one of his co-workers on a C-SPAN2 panel in October, as saying that he wasn't expecting the exchange, hadn't seen it as a way to increase publicity, and thought I'd behaved badly and self-servingly.

I'd sent him an e-mail beforehand telling him that I wouldn't lay into his co-worker if he felt that by doing so I'd be sandbagging him but that I thought it might even increase book sales if I did (buy Proud to Be Right, edited by Jonah and containing my "Conservatism for Punks" essay -- as made notorious by my C-SPAN2 appearance -- now!).  He replied to the e-mail by encouraging me to self-promote but also by saying he had no problem with what he called "[h]uge Jerry Springer style 'who's my baby daddy' type fights." 

If I wanted to be maximally negative about it, I could say that over the years NR editors have now at least slightly misrepresented my actions (Jonah), sadistically romantically manipulated people (Rittelmeyer), and even plagiarized me (Buckley himself, no joke), but I still owe them a great deal -- and even being on net harmed by America's most prominent conservative magazine would be something of an honor -- so I still hope NR will long endure, and I will not harbor resentments (even these "Month of Haters" blog entries effectively end on the 23rd, absent another week's worth of hatin' arising).  I will be playing up my purely-libertarian side more in the months ahead, though.

I suppose Jonah has to be expected to keep the peace with his co-worker, not an easy task.  And admittedly he did not know that, for instance, I'd casually consulted with a military psychologist about how best to confront the sort of psyche I was likely up against on the C-SPAN2 panel, so things may have been a bit colder and more strategic than he'd anticipated.  But hey, using psy ops is kind of neocon, so I think I should get some credit for that (I'm no neocon-basher, but these do tend to be the kinds of people who defend barbarities such as dodgeball as somehow conservative). 

One evolutionary psychology expert I know has been a bit harsher in judging Jonah's response to events, calling him "a wanker," and when an evolutionary psychologist levels that charge, it has to be taken more seriously than usual -- but no hard feelings, and I will hardly deny it was a weird situation in which Jonah, who I admire, had to play peacekeeper and ringmaster at the same time -- and then go back to working regularly with our co-panelist. 

There is no such excuse for the execrable Robert Stacy McCain (a.k.a. "The Other McCain"), about whom, more tomorrow.


•Lest I sound too negative about my own extended political family here, let me

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Book Selection of the Month: "Passing Strange" by Joseph A. Citro Book Selection of the Month: Passing Strange: True Tales of New England Hauntings and Horrors by Joseph A. Citro

You might say this irrational, dopey, trashy volume about New England -- which I read while traveling there last month -- is an antidote to literally half of my Book Selections for last year (links to which I promise to fix soon, along with twenty other things), about half of them having been about or by the British and inclined toward rationality.

The two things that most define me are of course regional pride and belief in the supernatural -- no, wait.  I don't care about either of those things.  Nonetheless, I thought it would be interesting to read a collection from my native New England of tales of the supernatural, a reminder it's not all just minutemen and rationalists up there.  (We're also uptight Puritans, liberal Ivy Leaguers, Red Sox fans, and scrimshaw aficionados.)

Besides, I've long thought (in a no doubt culturally biased way) that New England is the perfect setting for supernatural tales, since it's the region where the New World was most clearly still rooted in strange, extreme forms of Old World religious belief.  Freedom may in some sense have been born in New England, but a century and a half earlier, they'd cut your ears off there if you blasphemed on Sunday.  Really.  The Taliban would have been fairly comfortable in New England four centuries ago, though conservatives don't tend to like thinking about it that way. 

Too, the sparseness of the environment -- so little history compared to Europe, except for those bitter Native Americans lurking in the woods -- and the dour image of the Puritans both lend themselves well to notions of late-night chain-rattling as punishment for unwholesome thoughts, etc. 

I remember being young and not yet skeptical and thinking that the Connecticut woods seemed all too plausible a location for a ghost sighting (or perhaps Bigfoot attack) compared to, say, downtown Chicago or Paris.  The Blair Witch Project may have taken place in Maryland but would have worked perfectly if set in rural Massachusetts.  And for those in distant lands unsure about the definition of "New England": it's precisely the six states of Maine, New Hampshire (where my dad grew up), Vermont, Massachusetts (where I visited friends and philosophers last month), Rhode Island (where I went to college), and Connecticut (where both my mom and I grew up) -- but not, for instance, New York (where I now reside).


In any case, this dopey book of New England ghost stories and creature sightings, which

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Game Itself Is the Point (plus: "Black Swan" revelation)

Since there's some tech-nerdery in this entry, now's a good opportunity to assure everyone that I will resume my thus far minimal and experimental Twitter use very soon and will then "follow" the intrepid people who've been kind enough to follow me already.  I'm putting a few pieces (professional and unprofessional) of the post-Fox Todd media empire in place, and then it will all come together with synergistic smoothness before my February dance performance and RLC talk, I'm sure.

The meaning of "nerd" is ambiguous and complex, and I think it was during a Star Wars convention back in the 90s that I realized some nerds are more interested in aggression and one-upmanship than my kind of nerd is.  Indeed, it was right around the moment that some larger-than-average nerd angrily said of me within earshot of two of my friends (themselves employees of sci-fi book operations): "That writer guy was talkin' ta my girl!!" 

I had always thought of myself as more of a Wars guy than a Trek guy before that moment, but you just don't hear that kind of turf-protecting machismo at the Trek events, save perhaps among the Klingons, who perceive tolerance and kindness as weakness.  (I say all this as a guy who, I swear, has been to only about three sci-fi or comics conventions in the past fifteen years.)  More broadly: we standard non-aggressive nerds dream of talking to Arthur C. Clarke on the Moon about telecommunications.  Your aggressive-type nerd pulls the wings off flies (perhaps does taxidermy as a hobby) and loves to keep track of who has been "Pwned" in massive multiplayer online games.

And some of the latter-type nerd surely weighed in on my C-SPAN2 appearance in October, sometimes with very intense opinions on whether I had "Pwned" my co-panelist (much as I appreciate being seen as the victor), whether I was in some strange sense now "over" (as if I'd used up my life points or something), and whether both my co-panelist and I look heinous. 

On that last question, let me just note: we do not, but then, most people -- including ostensibly tech-savvy gamers and media obsessives -- are unaware just how much make-up people are normally wearing under the glare of TV studio lights, whereas in this case, we not only had no make-up, we weren't even really under C-SPAN2 lighting -- let alone normal-network lighting -- but simply under the same unflattering (Georgetown) classroom lighting under which some of my detractors probably took their most recent history exam.  In person, you would surely deem me a demigod.  Yet, people with nothing to say still manage to say things that are insulting, I find.  (I, by contrast, often do self-effacing humor, even when using phrases like "demigod," but you earn no points for being self-effacing when dealing with aggressive-type nerds or garden-variety jerks, so it's all pearls before swine, with no clear solution.)

But here are some other nerd-combat notes of interest:

Friday, January 7, 2011

Interesting Things About Gender

Some of my online detractors last year were feminists.  I sparred with feminists online even before that, perhaps due to my likening feminism to white supremacism -- by which I mean not that feminism has done as much damage to the world as Naziism, obviously, but rather that I reject any philosophy that insists (as it seems to me virtually all forms of feminism in the real world do) that I hold certain seemingly-empirical claims about the relative merit of one subset of the population to be true a priori (and I would reject being told to do this on principle, for obvious reasons, even if empirically it turned out to be the case that whites had the highest IQs and women were precisely as capable as or more capable than men). 

Your average Nazi would insist white people are inherently awesome (though I recognize that for many of them this claim was perceived as an empirical one backed by various pseudo-scientific measures, not ostensibly an a priori claim), and, in practice, you know darn well feminism just boils down to being told in advance to root for the female.  It's all just dumb tribalism and will likely be recognized as such by future generations who've ceased to care about these particular pseudo-philosophies. 

But rather than have another online fight with feminists, I here present ten interesting items related in some way to gender issues, or to the mixture of sex and politics:

•A two-timing North Carolinian is in the headlines again.  Sounds like the Hunter is a lonely heart.

•Penelope Trunk tells us "What It's Like to Have Sex with Someone with Asperger's," in an article pointed out to me by a methodically neat friend with fairly muted facial expressions who likes to keep things alphabetized, not that I'm one to point fingers.

•Unless he just has a very unusual method of drumming up advance interest in a project, accused rapist Julian Assange's quote in paragraph 4 of this article is so honest that it may be more evidence of Asperger's.

•In a strange coincidence, pointed out in a comment by Gerard Perry on this blog, Moe Tkacik, whose insulting piece about me I complained about in yesterday's entry, sounds like she may have been demoted a couple weeks ago after (but ostensibly not over) a piece she wrote about Julian Assange, who I've repeatedly joked is my doppelganger.  So, some kinda cosmic justice there, maybe.

•Gender-bendy demigod David Bowie turns sixty-three tomorrow (whereas Julien Temple, who has directed Bowie more than once, is a mere fifty-seven, I notice, so he -- like the British generally -- still has years ahead of him in which to figure out how to make the sound seem less muffled).

•I have bet Dan Raspler that he will enjoy Kick-Ass, largely due to the character Hit Girl.  By contrast, I do not want to see Zack Snyder's upcoming

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Moe Hatin'

To reiterate: during this blog's "Month of Haters" throughout January, I'm looking at the various categories of people who, strangely, denounced me for confronting a fellow C-SPAN2 panelist last year about her chronically deceitful, manipulative, and petty-sadistic ways -- and the disturbingly dark, artfully obscured philosophy that she believes justifies those ways.  (I do not thereby mean to disregard or slight the dozens of people, friends and strangers alike, who e-mailed or called to hail me as a hero.  I am grateful to you all, and rest assured your generally better-informed take on things is what I'll remember when all this recedes into the past.)

But might an even bigger jerk than my co-panelist have emerged from the conflict?  Hard as that is to imagine, I think Maureen "Moe" Tkacik may qualify (she writes for the City Paper in Washington, DC, where sexual assaults were up in 2010 by almost half again what they were in 2009, which somehow does not surprise me, given some of the lousy people who live in that town). 

After a friendly-seeming e-mail exchange and, I believe, after having attended one or more of the debates I used to host in Manhattan, Moe was moved to write an entire column -- two of them, actually, one addressed to me and the other to my co-panelist -- that read like a pair of the nastiest tossed-off comments thread outbursts stretched into venomous rants hundreds of words long, complete with enraged-sounding hyperbole about me being the kind of "dumbshit" testosterone-fueled male running and ruining the country.  Why?  Does the City Paper actually pay her for this, or is it all unpaid contributors recruited from a psychiatric outpatient clinic?  (Ah, an online check suggests she was in fact recruited from places like Jezebel and Radar.  I see.)

The simplest, saddest explanation may be that Tkacik, like a substantial subset of the population, does not really understand what the rest of the population means by humor but has noticed it often involves an element of aggression or cruelty and has thus concluded that these things alone qualify something as funny.  And in that, perhaps Tkacik, after all, isn't so unlike my co-panelist, who at some point early in life seems to have concluded -- without too openly warning the public about it -- that cruelty equals not only wit but intelligence, sexiness, cultural excellence, and even virtue (one good thing about the Tkacik column is that the eighth comment down, a Nov. 17 one from reader D.Caf, at least hits the proper tone of Todd-regard, in my humble opinion, regardless of whether his precise psychological analysis is accurate, and he even understands my humanitarian motivations).

Lest we dismiss Moe Tkacik as a mere ranter, though, I think it's worth noting she has a lengthy piece in the recently-unveiled Vol. 2, Issue 1 of the newly revived Baffler, in which she attempts to sum up and explain the entire financial crisis in a straight, analytical tone.  I mention this not to redeem Tkacik but, on the contrary, to make you think twice about the kinds of people who write sober-sounding, ostensibly objective analyses of complex financial or political phenomena.  Is the columnist who confidently tells you how Goldman Sachs works today the same one who'll be shrieking and throwing garbage at you tomorrow after her stand-up comedy show goes over poorly?  Tkacik has never, as far as I know, literally thrown garbage at people, I should note, but then, she put quotes around something in her piece about me that I never actually said, so I think I'm allowed a bit of metaphor. 

Tomorrow: feminism.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Heroism Gone Wrong

People are suckers for rules fashioned to fit neatly into the mental grooves created by instinct.  Those rules feel, as it were, instantly corroborated.  It doesn't take much effort, for instance, to create war poems that convince people to slaughter their foes, if instinct already whispers that all war is total war

(And they may never discern or analyze the underlying reasons for their instinct-fueled intuitions, leading them to believe they have simply directly-intuited virtue or aesthetic greatness, as UNC Chapel Hill philosopher Susan Wolf seems to think we do without any deeper utilitarian implications, judging by her speech at last week's APA convention, in a slot traditionally devoid, alas, of a question and answer period -- unless they just claimed that after spotting a utilitarian in the second row.) 

It's not surprising, then, that a fair number of the misguided Todd-mocking online commenters after my C-SPAN2 appearance in October seemed to act out of a hasty and poorly thought-out sense of chivalry (undermined and rendered inadvertently ironic by their uncivilized nastiness).  Long story short: sperm is cheap and plentiful, eggs rare, men strong, women small, so: protect the precious female and attack the expendable male no matter who's right, says opportunistic instinct, chivalric tradition, and nowadays, with barely-discernible tweaks, feminism -- and I'll discuss the last of those three on Friday, after tomorrow's intermediary look at the bizarre he said/she said approach of Washington's City Paper to the whole affair. 

Heroism, like courage in general, is a very valuable impulse all too easily yoked to bad causes.  Or just dumb ones.  And that leads us inevitably to superhero comics, which is the important thing.


Ali Kokmen alerts me to the fact that J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5 and writer of the acclaimed (and, bizarrely enough, true) film The Changeling, has earned the site ComicsAlliance's award for worst comic book of 2010, with his Superman story arc in which Superman, after a year or so of fighting a spectacular war in space that involved most of his major friends and foes, takes a long walk (refusing to fly) across the U.S. and meets some ordinary people with ordinary problems along the way. 

That sounded boring enough to begin with (not that I read comics anymore, you understand), but this came at the same time that JMS was writing a Wonder Woman story arc in which some sort of time-shenanigans completely rewrote WW's history, with the major discernible side effect being that she now wears pants instead of the little star-spangled panties. 

(I can't help wondering whether this was all a convenient excuse to cover up some of WW's flesh in time to have her appear in a crossover miniseries with the Islamic