Published on 10 Jun 2012
This six-part, three-hour, BBC TV series aired in 1997. I presented and co-wrote the series; it was directed by James Muncie, with music by Brian Eno.
The series was based on my 1994 book, HOW BUILDINGS LEARN: What Happens After They’re Built. The book is still selling well and is used as a text in some college courses. Most of the 27 reviews on Amazon treat it as a book about system and software design, which tells me that architects are not as alert as computer people. But I knew that; that’s part of why I wrote the book.
Anybody is welcome to use anything from this series in any way they like. Please don’t bug me with requests for permission. Hack away. Do credit the BBC, who put considerable time and talent into the project.
Historic note: this was one of the first television productions made entirely in digital — shot digital, edited digital. The project wound up with not enough money, so digital was the workaround. The camera was so small that we seldom had to ask permission to shoot; everybody thought we were tourists. No film or sound crew. Everything technical on site was done by editors, writers, directors. That’s why the sound is a little sketchy, but there’s also some direct perception in the filming that is unusual.
July 29, 2015
In Slate, David Daley talks to Camille Paglia about the similarities between the former President and the former entertainer:
Right from the start, when the Bill Cosby scandal surfaced, I knew it was not going to bode well for Hillary’s campaign, because young women today have a much lower threshold for tolerance of these matters. The horrible truth is that the feminist establishment in the U.S., led by Gloria Steinem, did in fact apply a double standard to Bill Clinton’s behavior because he was a Democrat. The Democratic president and administration supported abortion rights, and therefore it didn’t matter what his personal behavior was.
But we’re living in a different time right now, and young women have absolutely no memory of Bill Clinton. It’s like ancient history for them; there’s no reservoir of accumulated good will. And the actual facts of the matter are that Bill Clinton was a serial abuser of working-class women – he had exploited that power differential even in Arkansas. And then in the case of Monica Lewinsky – I mean, the failure on the part of Gloria Steinem and company to protect her was an absolute disgrace in feminist history! What bigger power differential could there be than between the president of the United States and this poor innocent girl? Not only an intern but clearly a girl who had a kind of pleading, open look to her – somebody who was looking for a father figure.
I was enraged! My publicly stated opinion at the time was that I don’t care what public figures do in their private life. It’s a very sophisticated style among the French, and generally in Europe, where the heads of state tend to have mistresses on the side. So what? That doesn’t bother me at all! But the point is, they are sophisticated affairs that the European politicians have, while the Clinton episode was a disgrace.
So have the times and standards changed enough that Clinton would be seen as Cosby, if he was president today?
Oh, yes! There’s absolutely no doubt, especially in this age of instant social media. In most of these cases, like the Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby stories, there’s been a complete neglect of psychology. We’re in a period right now where nobody asks any questions about psychology. No one has any feeling for human motivation. No one talks about sexuality in terms of emotional needs and symbolism and the legacy of childhood. Sexuality has been politicized – “Don’t ask any questions!” “No discussion!” “Gay is exactly equivalent to straight!” And thus in this period of psychological blindness or inertness, our art has become dull. There’s nothing interesting being written – in fiction or plays or movies. Everything is boring because of our failure to ask psychological questions.
So I say there is a big parallel between Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton–aside from their initials! Young feminists need to understand that this abusive behavior by powerful men signifies their sense that female power is much bigger than they are! These two people, Clinton and Cosby, are emotionally infantile – they’re engaged in a war with female power. It has something to do with their early sense of being smothered by female power – and this pathetic, abusive and criminal behavior is the result of their sense of inadequacy.
Now, in order to understand that, people would have to read my first book, Sexual Personae – which of course is far too complex for the ordinary feminist or academic mind! It’s too complex because it requires a sense of the ambivalence of human life. Everything is not black and white, for heaven’s sake! We are formed by all kinds of strange or vague memories from childhood. That kind of understanding is needed to see that Cosby was involved in a symbiotic, push-pull thing with his wife, where he went out and did these awful things to assert his own independence. But for that, he required the women to be inert. He needed them to be dead! Cosby is actually a necrophiliac – a style that was popular in the late Victorian period in the nineteenth-century.
July 24, 2015
It was one of this Kaiser’s many peculiarities that he was completely unable to calibrate his behaviour to the contexts in which his high office obliged him to operate. Too often he spoke not like a monarch, but like an over-excited teenager giving free rein to his current preoccupations. He was an extreme exemplar of that Edwardian social category, the club bore who is forever explaining some pet project to the man in the next chair. Small wonder that the prospect of being buttonholed by the Kaiser over lunch or dinner, when escape was impossible, struck fear into the hearts of so many European royals.
Wilhelm’s interventions greatly exercised the men of the German foreign ministry, but they did little to shape the course of German policy. Indeed it may in part have been a deepening sense of impotence and disconnection from the real levers of power that fired up Wilhelm’s recurring fantasies about future world wars between Japan and the USA, invasions of Puerto Rico, global jihad against the British Empire, a German protectorate over China and so on. These were the blue-sky scenarios of an inveterate geopolitical fantasist, not policies as such. And whenever a real conflict seemed imminent, Wilhelm pulled in his horns and quickly found reasons why Germany could not possibly go to war. […] Wilhelm could talk tough, but when trouble loomed he tended to turn and run for cover. He would do exactly that during the July Crisis of 1914. “It is a curious thing,” Jules Cambon, French ambassador in Berlin, observed in a letter to a senior official at the French foreign ministry in May 1912, “to see how this man, so sudden, so reckless and impulsive in words, is full of caution and patience in action.”
Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went To War In 1914, 2012.
July 11, 2015
“They sought to be ‘hypersexual’ or ‘pansexual’ because they never quite understood what it meant to be ‘sexual'”
George Fields wonders why “progressives” have such an adversarial relationship with ordinary life:
Many months ago, as I was wandering about the state of Indiana, a certain woman from Wisconsin advised me that “if one had nothing nice to say, he ought say nothing at all.” Being an introspective type, I took this to heart and determined to never write another article again.
However, I have decided to write at least one more time, provoked by a conversation with my kid sister. Having recently entered a public high school, she has come to enjoy informing me about some of her more eccentric peers. Near the end of the school year, she told me fewer and fewer of her friends were merely normal boys who liked normal girls, or normal girls who liked normal boys. Rather, they identify as a slew of peculiarly novel “sexual orientations.”
Some were, of course, the usual “gay” or “lesbian,” but in addition to these were “demisexuals,” “androsexuals,” and “therians” (which, she explained, are people who are only attracted to individuals who commune with the same spirit animal). One identified as a “panromantic polyamorous asexual non-binary space god.” Upon hearing this, I knew I had something to say, although it is unlikely to be nice. Having heard, however, several episodes of “The Prairie Home Companion,” I am convinced women from Wisconsin are famously kind, so I am sure my friend will forgive me.
I suspect the “space god” is nothing of the sort, but likely the kind of child who did not want to go to the caverns because she was much too busy trying to beat her high score on “Candy Crush Legend.” Meaning, she is likely longing to be “the extraordinary” because she has entirely failed to appreciate the ordinary. This, to any ordinary person of sensible wit, is extraordinary.
To the sane individual, the world is a wonderful thing. At no point in my life have I ever felt compelled to invent novel sexualities, mainly because I am so enthralled with the traditional two. Their complexity and magic never ceases to engage my imagination and bring me pleasure. Indeed, I can not imagine why anyone would critique the symmetrical beauty of “the two sexes.” Yet wherever I look, adversaries are about, seeking to destroy my source of wonderment.
July 8, 2015
Heinlein had, over the years, developed his own version of Captain — Admiral — King’s “voice of command”:
The “voice of command” somehow carries with it to the hearer the subconscious knowledge that its owner is used to being obeyed, has the power to require obedience, expects to be obeyed, and does not encompass any possibility of not being obeyed.
With Heinlein it was something more inward, which George Scithers characterized as “quiet persistence and presence of command”. Scithers related an incident he saw at a lunch counter, possibly at this very convention. Heinlein sat down nearby, and there was a paper at the other end he wanted; the waitress didn’t seem inclined to put herself out to get it, but by the time Heinlein was finished with the contest of wills, she got the paper for him — and he tipped her accordingly. It was more attitude than technique, something that came from inside. There was something primal about Heinlein that the fans wanted from him — they came to warm themselves at his fire.
Robert A. Heinlein, letter to Theodore Cogswell 1959-12-04, quoted in William H. Patterson Jr., Robert A. Heinlein, In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better, 2014).
July 5, 2015
How much reality can you stand? John Derbyshire says it’s less than we used to be able to cope with:
T.S. Eliot’s observation that “human kind cannot bear very much reality” is surely up among the half-dozen wisest things ever said about our common nature.
There is, of course, individual variation in how much reality we can bear. I flatter myself by believing I am up toward the high end. I readily admit, however, that I have spent not insignificant portions of my life in a state of self-delusion driven by wishful thinking — a hugely underestimated force in human affairs. Some humility is in order, and not just for me.
There is group variation, too. Speaking generally, and again with much individual variation, the old can bear more reality than the young; men more than women; people in up-against-it professions like medicine or law enforcement more than those in comparatively sheltered occupations; people educated in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, math) more than humanities majors; and so on.
I am now going to propose a half-baked theory to you.
Theory: In advanced societies, the average amount of reality people can bear has declined across the past few decades.
This, I believe, has something to do with the ever-increasing availability of screen-based entertainment (movies, TV, the internet), something to do with the decline of religion, something to do with the revolution in manners that we call “political correctness,” and something to do with the falloff in violence, as chronicled by Steven Pinker.
There are surely connections there; but which is cause, which is effect, and which mere symptom, I don’t know. That’s why the theory is half-baked.
Illustrations: As we have seen these past few days, the whole zone of “identity” is shot through with barefaced, unblushing denial of reality.
All but a very tiny proportion of human beings are biologically male (an X and a Y chromosome in the genome) or female (two X chromosomes). A person who is biologically of one sex but believes himself to be of the other is in the grip of a delusion. That is what everybody would have said 50 years ago.
Some of those who said it would have followed up with an expression of disgust; some with unkind mockery; some with sympathy and suggestions for psychiatric counseling. Well-nigh nobody would have said: “Well, if he thinks he’s a gal, then he is a gal.” Yet that is the majority view nowadays. It is a flagrant denial of reality; but if you scoff at it, you place yourself out beyond the borders of acceptable opinion.
July 4, 2015
By way of American Digest, let’s all get behind the “some asshole” initiative:
June 29, 2015
This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture:
There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.
That last bit there, yeah, there’s a lot to that. It comes to my mind frequently these days, what with all the fake rape stories floating around and feminists dumbing down the definition of ‘rape’ and ratcheting up what constitutes ‘consent’ and universities attempting to regulate student sexual activity with silly rules about requiring explicit consent at each stage of foreplay. Really?
There’s something missing there. I mean, sure the university has to do this stupid stuff to avoid getting itself into a morass of Title IX lawsuits, but feminists have seized the opportunity to further their own agenda. They’ve brought in the whole toolkit of critical theory, and the oppressive patriarchy and complaints about gender bias and supposed female powerlessness to force the rest of us to accept their view that the only reasonable and moral basis for a sexual relationship is an a priori straight-up consent transaction, that the woman may unilaterally rescind at any time during the proceedings, and anything else is an assault on women (i.e rape).
However, how men and women interact with each other, the steps of the mating dance, is far more complicated. And the feminist square-peg-in-a-round-hole narrative totally ignores the popularity of the “bodice-ripping” romance novels, which are almost universally written by women for women, and hardly ever read by men. And the market is huge. Women are buying these books by the truckload. I found a list of supposedly the best bodice ripper novels and the intro is instructive:
This is a list for Bodice Ripper romance novels that you think are a 5 star read. The best of the best – with alpha heroes, un-politically correct action, forced seduction, rape, sold into slavery plot lines, mistresses and cheating – the no-holds bar world of Bodice Ripper!
Notice the selling points: (a) alpha heroes, (b) forced seduction, (c) rape, and (d) sold into slavery plotlines. But where’s the consent? It’s not even in the equation. Oh, I’m sure that after the female lead is raped/seduced, she eventually falls in love with the alpha male and willingly and joyfully surrenders to his alpha maleness (I haven’t actually read any of these, I’ve just heard that that’s the way most of them turn out), but that’s all ex post facto.
And then beyond the bodice-rippers, there’s the 50 Shades books, which takes the bodice ripper one step further, and again, huge seller. So I think there’s something about how the relationships are portrayed in these books that touches women’s psyche at some basic level. Women are attracted to strength. No woman likes being the partner of a weak man. I’m sure feminists would like to believe that this whole aspect of male/female relationships doesn’t exist, but E L James’ bank account says otherwise.
And of course, James’ success has resulted in other authors piling on: 8 Series to Start After You Finish the Fifty Shades Trilogy. Don’t get me wrong. I do not recommend the 50 Shades series and I’m certainly not recommending any of these wannabes, which look even sleazier, if that’s possible. My point is, if what feminists want to be true is indeed true, then why are these books so popular? (hint: it must be that damn patriarchy again!)
Feminism is trying to force us all to live in a world that simply doesn’t exist. Fake rape stories and real lawsuits, not to mention damaged and ruined lives, are the toxic sludge that results from mixing feminism with the sexual revolution and letting it simmer for five decades. We’ll be cleaning up these messes for a very long time.
I wonder if Mattress Girl has read the 50 Shades books?
June 16, 2015
Stanton Peele is not happy with the latest version of the standard psychological diagnosis document:
The American Psychiatric Association creates the gold standard for diagnoses of mental disorders in the United States — and worldwide — through its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. DSM-IV was published in 1994. In 2013, DSM-5 was released.
As I describe in the March, 2014 issue of Reason, there are several notable peculiarities about the manual. DSM-5
eliminates the distinction between dependence and abuse. Instead it classifies substance use disorders as mild, moderate, or severe. Thus the DSM-5 does not explicitly recognize such a thing as drug addiction or dependence. But under “Substance Use and Addictive Disorders” the manual includes a category called “Behavioral Addictions” that so far consists of a lone entry: “Gambling Disorder.”
These two major conceptual changes immediately aroused suspicion. Writing in the New York Times, investigative reporter Ian Urbina accused the psychiatric establishment and pharmaceutical industry of expanding the whole treatment enterprise by including “mild” substance use disorders, as well as recognizing things other than substances as being addictive. Keith Humphreys, a Stanford psychology professor, “predicted that as many as 20 million people who were previously not recognized as having a substance abuse problem would probably be included under the new definition.”
My argument is more fundamental. The ways of thinking about substance use and disorders embedded in DSM-5 and promoted by American psychiatry are actually causing an epidemic of these disorders.
June 15, 2015
I picked the wrong year to quit drinking.
If you’ve never been to an old-school AA meeting, imagine Vince Lombardi’s locker room if he’d been coaching Pilgrims with Tourette’s: a spartan, Quaker-meeting setup, all bootstrapping, no bullshit. A newcomer dumb enough to whine about their “feelings” gets ordered to scrub out the coffee urn by a gruff “old timer.”
That’s not what I slunk into in 1992, by which time then-faddish PBS fixture John “Finding Your Inner Child” Bradshaw had accidentally turned Alcoholics Anonymous into a New Age unicorn-and-rainbows therapeutic weep-fest that would’ve disgusted Greatest Generation founders Bill W. and Dr. Bob, who probably kept their fedoras on in the gutter.
Some meetings even served decaf.
Believe me: “Low self-esteem” is not your typical boozehound’s problem. Then again, about half the people I met in “the rooms” weren’t even alcoholics, just neurotics too cheap to get real therapy.
Remember, it was the 1990s, the era of The X-Files and Oprah at her tabloid low: at every 12-Step meeting, you’d meet “survivors of ritualistic Satanic abuse” and “recovered memory victims” and alien abductees and even “starseeds,” the self-proclaimed spawn of spacemen who’ve been sent to Earth to…do something or other. (Luckily the latter two never came to blows.)
There were so many “multiple personalities” at some meetings, we were probably breaking fire codes without knowing it.
And I lived in Boystown, so lots of the real drunks were gay, bi, trannies, lesbians of convenience, and even “two-spirited” (AKA gay Indians).
Despite all this, I never drank after my first meeting (ODAAT), worked the Steps, got a new job, and ten years later, I looked around at all the people who still hadn’t and thought, “I didn’t get sober so I could spend the rest of my life with these losers.”
It took me a decade to notice that none of the 12 Steps is “Go to meetings.” So I stopped. I couldn’t take the crazies. In retrospect, I was the crazy one for thinking I was rid of them.
Kathy Shaidle, “My Otherkin Headmate is a Two-Spirited Starseed!”, Taki’s Magazine, 2013-03-05.
June 11, 2015
Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable. Or, psychoanalytically, as a wish neurose. There is thus a flavor of the pathological in it; it goes beyond the normal intellectual process and passes into the murky domain of transcendental metaphysics. A man full of faith is simply one who has lost (or never had) the capacity for clear and realistic thought. He is not a mere ass: he is actually ill. Worse, he is incurable, for disappointment, being essentially an objective phenomenon, cannot permanently affect his subjective infirmity. His faith takes on the virulence of a chronic infection. What he usually says, in substance, is this: “Let us trust in God, who has always fooled us in the past.”
H.L. Mencken, “Types of Men 3: The Believer”, Prejudices, Third Series, 1922.
May 31, 2015
Steven Horwitz makes the case that the growing awareness of microaggressions — at least on campus and in the media — may actually prove that life in general is getting better:
A recurring theme of recent human history is that the less of something bad we see in the world around us, the more outrage we generate about the remaining bits.
For example, in the 19th century, outrage about child labor grew as the frequency of child labor was shrinking. Economic forces, not legislation, had raised adult wages to a level at which more and more families did not need additional income from children to survive, and children gradually withdrew from the labor force. As more families enjoyed having their children at home or in school longer, they became less tolerant of those families whose situations did not allow them that luxury, and the result was the various moral crusades, and then laws, against child labor.
We have seen the same process at work with cigarette smoking in the United States. As smoking has declined over the last generation or two, we have become ever less tolerant of those who continue to smoke. Today, that outrage continues in the form of new laws against vaping and e-cigarettes.
The ongoing debate over “rape culture” is another manifestation of this phenomenon. During the time that reasonably reliable statistics on rape in the United States have been collected, rape has never been less frequent than it is now, and it is certainly not as institutionalized as a practice in the Western world as it was in the past. Yet despite this decline — or in fact because of it — our outrage at the rape that remains has never been higher.
The talk of the problem of “microaggressions” seems to follow this same pattern. The term refers to the variety of verbal and nonverbal forms of communication that are said to constitute disrespect for particular groups, especially those who have been historically marginalized. So, for example, the use of exclusively masculine pronouns might be construed as a “microaggression” against women, or saying “ladies and gentlemen” might be seen as a microaggression against transsexuals. The way men take up more physical space on a train or bus, or the use of the phrase “walk-only zones” (which might offend the wheelchair-bound) to describe pedestrian crossways, are other examples.
May 30, 2015
Sarah Hoyt digs into the archive to find a particularly appropriate post from the distant past:
I know this goes completely against everything you’ve ever heard and learned. History — and SF — is full of dreamers who are convinced that if women ruled the world it would all be beauty flowers and non aggression. (To these dreamers I say spend a week as a girl in an all-girl school. It will be a rude awakening.)
Dreamers of the Dan Brown stripe posit a peaceful female worship, with yet more beauty and flowers and non-aggression. They ignore the fact that 99% of the goddess-worshipping religions were scary. And don’t tell me that’s patriarchal slander — it’s not. The baby-killing of Astoreth worship has been documented extensively. (Of course, the Phoenicians were equal-opportunity baby killers.) The castrations of Cybele worship were also well documented. Now, I can hardly imagine a female divinity without imagining hormonal episodes requiring appeasement — but that’s because I’m a woman of a certain age, and that’s fodder for another altogether different discussion. Suffice it to say that the maiden and mother usually also had a crone persona who was … er… “not a nice person.”
Anyway — all this to say since I joined the MOB (Mothers Of Boys) the scales about such things as the inherent equality of men and women as far as their brain structure and basic behavior have fallen from my eyes. (Well, the scales that remained. My experience in school notwithstanding, I’d been TAUGHT that females were getting the short end of the stick and that’s a hard thing to overcome. Learned wisdom is so much more coherent than lived wisdom, after all.)
Again — indulge me — I’m going to make a lot of statements I can too back up, but which would take very, very, very long to document — so it will seem like I’m ranting mid air. Stay with it. If I feel up to it later, I’ll post some references.
Yes, women have been horribly oppressed throughout history including the rather disgusting Victorian period that most Americans seem to believe is how ALL of history went. I contend, though, that women were not oppressed by some international conspiracy of males — yes, I know what Women’s Studies professors say. I would however remind you we’re talking of a group of people who a) have issues finding their own socks in the dresser they’ve used for ten years. b) Are so good at communicating as a group that they couldn’t coordinate their way out of a wet paper bag, or to quote my friend Kate, couldn’t organize a bonk in a brothel. (In most large organizations the “social/coordinating” function is performed by females at various levels.) c) That women being oppressed by a patriarchy so thorough it altered history and changed all records of peaceful female religion would require a conspiracy lasting thousands of years and involving almost every male on Earth. If you believe that, I have this bridge in NY that I would like to sell you. — Women were oppressed by their own bodies.
Throughout most of history women had no safe and effective means of stopping pregnancy. — please, spare me the “herbal” remedies. I grew up in a village that had little access to medicine. If there had been an effective means of preventing pregnancy we’d have known it. TRUST me. There are abortificients, but they endanger the mother as well. However, until the pill there was no safe contraceptive. The herbal contraceptive is a plot device dreamed up by fantasy writers. Also, btw, the People’s Republic of China TESTED all these methods (including swallowing live tadpoles at the full moon.) NONE of them worked. SERIOUSLY.*
What this meant in practical fact is that most women were pregnant from menarche to menopause, if they were lucky to live that long. I’ve been pregnant. If you haven’t, take it from me it’s not a condition conducive to brilliant discourse or reasoned logic. On top of that, of course, women would suffer the evils of repeated child bearing with no rest. In effect this DID make women frail and not the intellectual equals of men. And it encouraged any male around to “oppress” them. I.e., when the majority of females around you need a minder, you’re going to assume ALL females need a minder. It’s human nature. Note that beyond suffrage, the greatest advance in women’s equality came from the pill. Not a coincidence, that.
May 29, 2015
In The Observer, Amy Alkon suggests that following the “lean in” advice may lead to unanticipated problems for a lot of women:
Remember junior high? Well, the reality is, if you’re a woman, you never really get to leave.
This rather depressing truth about adult mean girls isn’t one you’ll read in Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s best-selling book, Lean In.
Unfortunately, according to a near mountain of research on sex differences, the “You go, career girl!” advice Ms. Sandberg does give is unrealistic and may even backfire on women who take it.
The problem starts with her book’s title, unreservedly advising women to “lean in” — to boldly assert themselves at the office — without detailing the science that lays out the problems inherent in that.
Ms. Sandberg goes clueless on science throughout her book; for example, never delving into what anthropological research suggests about why women are not more supportive of one another and why it may not be reasonable for a woman to expect other women in her workplace to be supportive of her in the way men are of other men and even women.
Joyce Benenson, a psychologist at Emmanuel College in Boston, doesn’t have Sandberg’s high profile, but she’s done the homework (and research) that’s missing from Sandberg’s book, laying it out in a fascinating science-based book on sex differences, Warriors and Worriers: The Survival of the Sexes.