In defense of Lena Dunham??

November 3, 2014

Lena Dunham wrote an autobiography which contained a few disgusting passages, which several people on the Right were disgusted by. Apparently one isn’t allowed to express disgust at a disgusting book (and by extension its disgusting author) or to give free publicity to such a book, because Ms. Dunham has lawyered up. 

Lena, dear, I belong to the generation that invented “letting it all hang out”. (Well, almost; I was old enough to identify with the hippies, but too young to actually be one.). We did creative writing in high school, as I’m sure you did. And being the rebellious and hormonal youth that I was, I pushed the envelope on topics. I had a pricky teacher who called me a pervert for it; I had a nice teacher who politely asked me not to write about those topics, because she didn’t want to read about it. Either way, I learned that one wrote for an audience, that one didn’t always have control over who that audience was, and that the audience would draw its own conclusions, so best to try to look through their eyes. You can draw your own conclusions about whether we masturbated or whether we had siblings in bed with us while we did so, or whether we touched their genitals. But that was nobody else’s business. There was a name for those who wrote about it, and a name for the writings:  pornographers and pornography, respectively.

Our teachers were editors, but they were editing us, not just our work.  That’s out of style; teaching morality, or even teaching how to deal with prevailing morality, is now considered to be too much like religion. But surely you had an editor for this book.  Did she pull you aside and say, “Lena, you’re going to have problems over this passage”? Or did she too see absolutely nothing wrong or even socially questionable with these acts? Or that your life was not “about” this; that it was a distracting side plot, that it was “TMI”? If so, this is not just your kinkery… pace Williamson, you ARE the voice of your generation… and that generation is totally depraved.

Now, if people are going around saying, “Lena Dunham is a child molester”, as opposed to saying, “Lena Dunham molested a child”, then you have a moral case at least.  I’m sure you aren’t molesting children now. (Not that that keeps us from haunting every 18-on-15 lover until death.) I’m a Christian; I worship the God of second chances. But that implies contrition and repentance. You don’t sound contrite at all in the book. And you aren’t contrite now; you’re pissed because people now think ill of you.  If these incidents were good enough for the book, why aren’t you proud of them? Why aren’t you doubling down on your right to examine your sister’s cooch?

You know, Williamson was in some ways harder on your parents than on you. You haven’t come to their defense; are they defendable? It probably never occurred to you to take personal responsibility for your words, or for much of anything else. You appear to have been morally crippled by your upbringing.  I’m sorry that my generation raised the generation that raised you in the way we did. But we can’t change that now. All you can do is fix yourself as best as you can. That’s going to require looking to the past through literature and seeing how others did it, and questioning all the assumptions you grew up with.  You won’t be “the voice of a generation” anymore; you’ll be a voice crying in the wilderness. But you’ll be your own person, which is after all what we most wanted in the ’60s.

Return to The Parish Formerly Known As St. Denis

August 3, 2014

This weekend I found myself back in Lexington MI for a class reunion, and had to make provisions for Mass. I reported on St. Denis back in 2011.  I found, sadly, that they had undergone a parish blending last year with the Port Sanilac parish (St. Mary) and Croswell parish (St. Patrick), and are now know as Ave Maria Parish. The big issue, for me, is that instead of walking to 8AM Mass, I’d have to drive 8 miles  to Port Sanilac. Working around the reunion and needing to take my dad grocery shopping, the so-called vigil mass seemed like the best idea.

It’s always a bad sign when they begin with “the Battle Hymn of the Church of Nice”, All are Welcome. Ordinary by Dan Schutte, Alstott Psalms. The upside of this was that all the notes were in the missalette. Hymns were traditional, and all verses were sung. They had a relatively competent cantrix, though she stumbled somewhat in the Psalm. And the Pax was cut short by the intro to the Agnus, a commendable procedure. All this could be worse, in a country church in the summer.

The homily was…disturbing. The priest (new old guy. maybe the former priest of one of the other churches, not Fr. Schikora) used the Gospel (feeding of the 5000) for a lauchpad for a talk on the Eucharist. OK, good idea, but he was stuck in Community Meal and never brought up the sacrificial aspect. Then he encouraged universal Eucharistic participation, saying that it’s never been easier since all you need to do is fast for an hour and be free of serious sin.  Well, what’s “serious” sin, and how do you get free of it?  Is blowing off Mass a serious sin? (The Church has always thought so). No mention of Confession and absolution. So, let’s say somebody is working on Spouse #2 or 3, or is contracepting, or is a Chreaster.  They didn’t KILL anyone; should they receive? I had to fight back and impulse to just walk out, and invoke The Peoples’ Canon 915.  Of course there was the usual bevy of Extra Ordinary Ministers being extra and ordinary.

It’s always a privilege to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Sometimes it’s more difficult than at other times, and this was one of those times. The liturgy is improving, but what if you improve liturgy and lose sound doctrine?



The chick thing

June 27, 2014

On Facebook, I keep encountering outrage about the fate of poor male baby chicks. The ladies really don’t like it that they’re ground alive, but when asked for alternatives, they never present one. The last time this happened, I got unfriended. So I thought I’d gather all my information in one place, so that I can just link to it. If I’m going to piss people off, I might as well be efficient about it.

First, a disclaimer: we keep chickens. When I was growing up, the Mennonites across from my grandparents had an egg factory. If we wanted to play with them, we had to help them do chores, mostly picking up eggs. And I was distressed by all those chickens in cages, A major reason I raise chickens is so that I can eat eggs without contributing to that. (Note that there are humane arguments to be made for cage culture too, involving sanitation and predation.) So obviously it’s not the case that I don’t give a shit. And we get chicks from the hatchery, and baby chicks are SO CUTE!!!! So I’m not obvious to the emotional impulse either.

So why are baby chicks being ground alive? Because they have to die. Why do they have to die? Because they’re an economic liability.What?? How can that be?

Commercial chicken farming is a bifurcated enterprise. There are two breeds of birds used, one for eggs, one for meat. The meat bird is the Cornish Cross. This is a hybrid of Cornish and Plymouth Rock chickens , with other genetics now introduced as well. (The “Cornish game hens” sold in supermarkets are simply immature Cornish Cross broilers.) These birds are very efficient, with a feed conversion ration of 1.91 pounds of feed per pound of live weight (it was 4.7 in 1925). This efficiency can itself be construed as a form of cruelty, because broiler birds grow faster than their bones can support. That’s a discussion for another day. What we need to know about these birds, for this discussion, is that males and females are both efficient (males more so), and both are raised to slaughter weight.

The egg bird is the White Leghorn.  These lay an average of 280 eggs per year. Since it takes an egg about 30 hours to complete its trip down the oviduct, this is pretty much full capacity, about as good as it gets. And this is the side of the chicken bifurcation that leads to problems. Cocks don’t lay eggs. Nor are they necessary for egg production, any more than you ladies need a man in your life in order to have a period.  So the excess cockerels are raised for meat, right?

Uh, no. Leghorns are a light breed. If males are raised for meat, it takes twice as long as a Cornish Cross, much more feed, and the product is a tough scrawny bird that nobody wants to buy.  So they get killed.

Do they have to be killed? It depends on the meaning of “have to”.  It’s possible to grow dual purpose breeds, with acceptable body weight and laying capacity. You’ll get tougher meat and fewer eggs, and both will cost more. But people do that. I do. Most back years growers do. It’s popular among organic producers. If your conscience is worth your money, you’ll buy from them.  But the poor can’t afford a conscience.

So in our efficient industrial poultry system, cockerels have to die. Even at dual-breed hatcheries, this is a problem, even though pullets (girls) cost more. You can often get cockerels cheap in bulk. But nobody wants Leghorn boys. So the question is: how are they to die? The industry standard currently is maceration, i.e., grinding alive.  Now, I want you to think the unthinkable: imagine yourself dropped into a group of close-together high-speed blades. You may feel something unpleasant on impact. After that, between the shredding of your brain and of all nerve pathways leading to it, there’s nowhere for pain to go. Yes, I know, that’s gross. Imagine the alternatives: suffocation , having your neck broken, electrocution. Can you really say that any of these is more humane than the Guillotine of Forty Blades?

Meat is suffering. If you don’t want to be part of that, I fully understand, as long as you give me the same respect.  I’ll disagree with you, because a carnivore’s short gut is the tradeoff evolution has made for our big brains.  But it’s your life and body.

Oh, and the thing that inspired this? This campaign, which implies that the eggs used in Hellman’s have a different cruelty profile than those used in other mayonnaise, or other eggs. I’d love to look at the stock buys of the people behind this.

Another quiet unfriending

June 12, 2014

I knew that was going to happen. When a flock of hens discusses poor lil’ chickies being tossed into a grinder, and some evil heartless man explains to them why that has to happen, and argues that the method under discussion might be the least bad option, the evil heartless man must be made to go away, lest the page owner lose face. Arguing is no use, as it just means accepting EHM’s premise that life has a value. And in my experience, even fewer women than men can carry on a clean intellectual argument; they’ll go to emotion, ad hominem, red herrings and the rest of the weasel games, in a heartbeat. My wife is at least honest about this: “If they don’t accept my argument, my next argument is ‘Fuck you!” So it had to be. And silently of course, because men and rape culture and confrontation.

The irony is that I’m the guy raising chickens because I hate the thought of caged hens. I saw that at a young age, and didn’t like it. I can make an anti-cruelty case for caged hens (I’ve seen what happens when dogs are part of the free range), but I’m a libertarian; I’d rather be free in a dangerous world than safely caged.

I rather wish I didn’t have such an addiction to the truth. When I see see people wringing their hands over something they know sod all about, I reflexively put them some knowledge, as politely as I can. And if there’s anything that we Americans are pig ignorant about, it’s agriculture. If there’s anything I’ve learned on Black Water Farm, it’s how little I know… and knowledge of my own ignorance puts me miles ahead of most. Truth exists. I always knew that. Back in my pagan days, I would insist that there were moral absolutes, and the response was generally, “How Christian of you!” It was not meant as a compliment.

There really needs to be a setting on Facebook where you can block yourself from responding to certain friends. You could still do it, if you changed that setting back, but it would be a pain.  Oh well, there are more mezzos on the mezzo tree.

This isn’t “smoking in the boy’s room”

June 6, 2014

Today’s text is this description of charming play on the school bus.

I‘m not going to dwell on the humorous aspects of this case, though the female under discussion will live in in(ternet)famy under the sobriquet “Teen LaQueefa”.  (Regrettably, her name has been redacted.). But I’m going to start by observing that she was written up for elbowing the young man in the testicles, not for public indecency. Now, in my younger days of bus riding, using my testicles as a punching bag was a near daily occurrence.  And in my later days, it would have been inconceivable that people would have sex on a school bus.  Not that people weren’t having sex elsewhere (so I’ve been told), but they weren’t having it in public. And had the inconceivable happened, the perps would have found themselves in Juvie (or worse) forthwith… which would have been a mercy given that the girl would have been addressed as “Teen LaQueefa” when she was 80 years old.

I think that most of us at least sense that Ultimate PDA is mala in se. The question is: why?  And this is the place at which rational explanations of morality break down. The agreed-upon societal standard for sexual activity is that if it’s mutually agreed upon and doesn’t involve hiding an HIV status or breaking promises to others, it’s fine. So there’s nothing WRONG with boinking on the bus. It might be RUDE,  in precisely the same senses that spitting on the floor or playing music loudly is. But everyone is rude; so what?

We aren’t animals, or appliances. Sex is sacred; it’s as close as we can come in a physical sense to being God.  But when the sacred doesn’t exist in your world, that doesn’t mean anything. You’re just a cat. And if the bus driver treated you like a cat and sprayed you down with a Super Soaker, he’s the one who’d lose his job for assault.

The liturgy according to Forrest Gump

January 24, 2014

“Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

I was thinking this morning (always a dangerous thing) and I realized that the Catholic Church was like a box of chocolates. Here are all these graces and teachings, something for everyone. And they are all covered in chocolate, which is the liturgy, and is tasty all by itself.

Now, some people don’t like certain chocolates. Creams seem to be the big culprit. That’s fine, leave the creams for me; I love them.  And there are people who might not choose creams, but find them OK because they’re covered in chocolate.  They won’t spit them out or anything; they’ll shrug and say, “Better luck next time”. But other people have to know. Some manufacturers have a little candy missal on the boxtop: the lemon creams are here, the caramels there. Catechesis is always good. Other folks want to crack the chocolates open, stick their finger in there and see. This degrades the experience for all concerned. But the chocolates still taste good, even if they’re ugly and germy. You can do that when it’s just your box; notsomuch when you’re sharing it with others.

Now, it seems to me that when you deliturgize the liturgy, when you remove all the elements of mystery, it’s like removing the chocolate from the box of chocolates. Yes, you can see exactly what the centers are.  You can take some, and leave the rest alone.  Maybe everyone will leave those alone. And you’ll never experience a really good cream, that would change your opinion of creams, because “creams are ucky” and you don’t take them  And in that depression over there are a group of loose nuts, who aren’t bound together by chocolate anymore. More importantly, it is by definition not a box of chocolates anymore, it’s a box of mixed candies. That could be a good thing, but it’s not the same thing. The chocolate, which unified all these disparate flavors and made palatable the ones we weren’t so fond of, is gone.

Music, rape, and Boujemaa Razgui

January 3, 2014

Just about every musician I know has posted on Facebook about the Boujemaa Razgui story.  Now Customs has issued a statement and doubled down on their disaster, instead of throwing the officers involved under the bus. The gifted expatriate sackbut player and maker (and unapologetic socialist) Nathaniel Wood asked, “Who do these people think they are? ::weeps::” I’d been productive and good all day, so I fell into the temptation of trollery and replied, “They think they are protecting the citizens of the United States from agricultural disasters. Do you understand now why I am a minarchist?” The problem with this was that several people took it as a challenge to their belief in the benevolent state (ok, maybe it was!) and started blaming RAZGUI for his misfortune because, you know, a guy who travels all over and has presumably checked his instruments with luggage before should have known that someday some Customs guys would get a hardon, and should have made them carry-ons…where he would have had to deal with Customs anyway, argue with them, and get turned away from his home (he’s a Canadian citizen, orsiginally from Morocco, currently living in NYC).

Well, all this seemed to be a bit much like blaming the victim, so I asked one fellow his opinion of the classic case of Blaming the Victim. “Does a woman also have a responsibility to protect her body from rape?”  Nate yelped foul, the guy I was addressing said “I have absolutely no idea how you can even think to draw that comparison …….” and we were off to the races. My reply:

How can I draw that comparison? I’m a musician. My instruments are part of my identity, an extension of my body. It’s as intimate as the connection with one’s genitals, and as such, the psychological violation is as bad. The physical violation is WORSE, because the body heals, but instruments don’t replace themselves (and when replaced, are never exact replacements). Now, if I were to tell a woman to be sensible about what she exposes to whom, I’d be accused of “blaming the victim”. Isn’t that what you’ve just done with Razgui? (That’s my explanation, Nate, and you’ll have to decide if it applies, or is an extension of tastelessness.)

All of my musician friends are wringing hands about this, and rightly so. It’s horrible beyond belief. Yet hundreds of people are violated by the State each day, and have their lives ruined. They aren’t One of Us, though, so they don’t matter, as long as the Greater Good is served. So I appreciate the honesty of the folks who say, “It’s his fault.” But then you don’t get to be all emotional about it. If a moral crime was committed (and I think there was), we have an obligation to decide why and how, and how to stop it from happening again. That may well involve doing less. If we give average people the power to destroy without the responsibility to restitute, we’re asking for incidents like this.

Now to be fair to Nate, he very clearly saw that, on physics, biology and the law, this was clearly a case of Customs overreach. He didn’t address my original point, but since I’d offended him, I didn’t feel like pursuing the point on his Facebook page. Here, however, I’m under no such limitations.

I’d like to fill in the rape analogy. The instruments were self-made, somewhat as a woman’s body is. And the act of playing music with others can be unbearably intimate. You’re trusting the others not to mess up, as they trust you. You are constantly adapting to others’ musical ideas, as they adapt to yours. The New Musicology doubtless has much to say about this. And I wonder what the Goddess of New Musicology, Susan McClary, would say… but I don’t necessarily wonder enough to ask her when the semester begins (I’m controversial on Facebook so I don’t have to be at work.)

Was this violation necessary?  Nobody argues that rape is necessary. I can only think of one context where one could argue that, and since humanity is in no danger of dying out, it’s not applicable to reality, so why bother? And not many argue that agricultural import controls are UNnecessary. One could make the case that, in this small world, it would be best to get it over with, let everything go everywhere and duke it out for their own ecological niche. I’m not making that case, because we really don’t know enough to foresee all the dangers. And we like to pick the winners. But certainly government has done almost as much harm as good with invasive species, introducing such problems as kudzu, and the bane of my existence, multiflora rose.

This is a place where the Big Government folks need to read the Founding Fathers, and apply their principles to their own policy positions. If you’re going to give some high school grads power to make or break somebody’s livelihood (as they do with the vote), you need to hedge that power about with fearsome restrictions. You need rules under which they can do no irreparable harm. Agricultural materials? Sure, quarantine them until we’re sure they’re fine, especially if they’re obviously made into something. The opinion of the bottom rung worker has to be appealable, all the way up, and if they act on their own to make appeal impossible, they get the boot. Because oboe reeds are agricultural. Stradivarius violins are agricultural.


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