December 2014

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She's still checking everything out...

She’s still checking everything out…

I’ll report in full later. This is her first night. So far so good.

Let's stick it up Tom Jeff's Alpha-Sigma-Sigma.

Let’s stick it up Tom Jeff’s Alpha-Sigma-Sigma.

So why did a rape culture activist target a particular fraternity at the University of Virginia? Even the Washington Post sees something Phishy about it:

The story and Erdely’s comments about it, moreover, suggest an effort to produce impact journalism. While media critics on the right and the left cry about media bias in just about every news cycle, the complaints generally amount to nothing but ideological posturing. There are few things like a good media-bias claim to distract from a substantive conversation.

In the case, of Erdely’s piece, however, there’s ample evidence of poisonous biases that landed Rolling Stone in what should be an existential crisis. It starts with this business about choosing just the “right” school for the story. What is that all about? In his first, important piece on this story, the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi described the author’s thought process:

So, for six weeks starting in June, Erdely interviewed students from across the country. She talked to people at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. None of those schools felt quite right. But one did: the University of Virginia, a public school, Southern and genteel, brimming with what Erdely calls “super-smart kids” and steeped in the legacy of its founder, Thomas Jefferson.

A perfect place, in other words, to set a story about a gang rape.

Observe how Erdely responded to a question about the accused parties in Jackie’s alleged gang rape. In that Slate podcast, when asked who these people were, she responded, “I don’t want to say much about them as individuals but I’ll just say that this particular fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi — it’s really emblematic in a lot of ways of sort of like elitist fraternity culture. It’s considered to be a kind of top-tier fraternity at University of Virginia…It’s considered to be a really high-ranking fraternity, in part because they’re just so incredibly wealthy. Their alumni are very influential, you know, they’re on Wall Street, they’re in politics.”

The next time Erdely writes a big story, she’ll have to do a better job of camouflaging her proclivity to stereotype. Here, she refuses to evaluate the alleged gang rapists as individuals, instead opting to fold them into the caricature of the “elitist fraternity culture,” and all its delicious implications. Of course, one of the reasons she didn’t describe the accused is that she never reached out to them.

There’s a simpler answer to the question of how she chose her target. The author of the original “story” went to Penn. She may not know Greek, but she probably knows Greek letters. So she knows how to identify Phuckups from a mile away.

Call me a sap. I still want to trust the legacy of Thomas Jefferson. Unless I'm just another wannabe slaveholder.

Call me a sap. I still want to trust the legacy of Thomas Jefferson.
Unless I’m just another wannabe slaveholder.

Haven’t read the details. But the obviously idiotic story of a secret gang rape at the University of Virginia is now imploding. Don’t need to provide a link. Links are now as plentiful as the shards of broken glass the alleged victim was raped on.

Lovely campus, isn’t it? That Jefferson dude knew how to create a Roman atmosphere. Caligula would have felt right at home.

Oops. Did I say something wrong? Like my wife always says, there’s no crime in the south I couldn’t believe happened. Although I’ve been south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Surprise. There really is such a thing as a southern gentleman. I’ve met them, known them, and appreciate their quantity. There are bad guys too, but not enough to keep a crime like this secret.

The story could never have been true and not immediately reported, probably with accompanying violence against the offenders. If you think otherwise, you’re a delusional narcissist lefty feminist. No kidding.

Tim?

The entrance to the now infamous Phoenix Club.

The entrance to the now infamous Phoenix Club.

I assumed from all the promotion that Mark Zuckerberg was actually a member of the Phoenix SK Club at Harvard. Then I stumbled across this bit of misinformation.

Vulture has an interview with an anonymous former-Final Club member/Harvard grad which clears up many of the questions you may have. But the basic gist is that they are like a frat but are “not affiliated with a larger national organization, and nobody lives in them.” The name Final Club is “a relic of a different era” because “back in the day, you would join the freshman club, then I forget what the middle stage was, and then you join the final club your senior year. So the name is. As for what is real and what is created for the movie, this is what he said:

They get the overall feel right. Obviously it’s a little sensationalized. The biggest final club scene is at what they claim is the Phoenix. The exterior shot is the Spee, not the Phoenix, and the interior shots are neither the Spee nor the Phoenix. But of course, who cares — they’re buildings. They have the bouncer at the front who’s got an ear piece waving in all those girls … obviously that doesn’t really happen. There aren’t really buses of BU girls that come in. And they certainly don’t look like the girls in that movie. And then the parties themselves are less debauched than in that kind montage. There are generally fewer naked girls. Everything’s a little tamer.

This is all ridiculous. I haven’t been at Harvard in a long time, but the history of Final Clubs is nothing like this. They were never fraternities, and I can’t think they have drifted all that far away from their origins. They never had many members. They never went through elaborate hazing rituals. One night of initiation that involved too much drinking and that was it. In black tie, of course. After that you were one of them. Lunch was served every day, and there was a chit-bar, and sometimes you went to dinner at the Hasty Pudding. In many ways it was quite innocent. The big deal at the Phoenix was lobster luncheons in our fairly small brick garden on Fridays. Members only. No chance to impress a girl. We talked about things. The Wiki entry of notable PSK members is a joke. (The ones without links are the ones who deserve thanks.)

When I was there we had Arthur Waldron, class valedictorian and now a conservative luminary at Commentary magazine, and Philip Core, the late author and artist who did more than most to make being gay respectable and sometimes glamorous. We had a Rhode Island rogue who tried, and frequently succeeded, in bedding every woman he met (before going on to a brilliant career in marine biology) and a genuine lothario related to Jim Thorpe who is now in power at some major prep school. Also at least a pair who had gotten perfect 1600 board scores that nobody listened to except when they lowered the boom on us. We were an eclectic bunch.

That’s scratching the surface. Who knows how many members belong on the notable list? Somebody’s determined to keep a low profile.

Overall, the final clubs were actually kind of priggish. Consider their common rules. Here’s a picture of the real Phoenix SK Club.

The attached building is the old Iroquois Club, no longer in existence even in my day.

The attached building is the old Iroquois Club, no longer in existence even in my day.

At left, there’s the main entrance shown up top, accessible only by key, and on the lower right the Guest Room entrance. Non-members, including women, were only permitted in the Guest Room. Which means no one but members were allowed into the upper chambers, which were tremendously sybaritic. Like the Main Lounge, and the intensely dark and beautiful bar just two steps away.

Was there Champagne? Yes. Was there abuse and exploitation of young women? No.

Was there Champagne? Yes. Was there abuse and exploitation of young women? No.

That was the way all Final Clubs operated. Beautiful within, but only for members.

I don’t know what’s changed. I’m still amazed that my prep school and my Harvard club have become so unfairly famous. Was Mark Zuckerberg really a member of the Phoenix? I doubt it.

Facebook is the rottenest piece of software I have ever seen. The people I knew at the Phoenix would have done it better. And they weren’t really snobs or elitists. In my day they were simply hiding from sixties nonsense. Most of our best conversations occurred in the basement, which was about as simple and plebeian as you can get. Our pool table looked like this, but more shabby:

Most of us knew there was more to life than lobster. I once played pool with a Korean who told me he had dripped freezing water onto the faces of North Koreans and told me the single scariest thing Americans was how they would coming keeping for ONE of their own.

Most of us knew there was more to life than lobster. I once played pool with a Korean journalist in the employ of the Boston Herald American who told me he had dripped freezing water onto the faces of North Koreans to extract information and told me the single scariest thing about Americans was how they would keep coming for ONE of their own. I kicked his ass at pool. And I hated him. Still do.

We watched TV too. A guy would flop down with a pizza and we’d watch old movies.

Yeah. Antenna. Guy showed up with pizza. No to anchovies? Shit. So we watched all the old old movies late into the night. Is there a synonym for Arita Hayworth?

Yeah. Antenna. Guy showed up with pizza. No to anchovies? Shit. So we watched all the old old old movies late into the night. Is there a synonym for Rita Hayworth?

No. But like all Ivy League drunks, we had a bar. Only it wasn’t so fancy.

Domestic beer and memories of life the way people really live it.

Domestic beer and memories of life the way people really live it.

Yeah. We had one foot in the Ivy world and the other in the real world. The way I remember it. And if you’ve taken the Bubble Quiz, you’ll find I’m in, and have always been, in the real world. Cause the Phoenix was the Mercersburg of clubs. We were all just who we were. Unlike almost all the rest of them. Why we had the biggest brain and the biggest queer. We did not care. Isn’t that the best definition of liberty?

Or is this what’s happening? The Spee was always worse than the Phoenix. Jack and Robert were frequently there in tuxes on their top half and nothing on their bottom half, gasping for air.

Hell. Who knows? The new upper class may have finally triumphed over my old Mercersburg and my old Harvard. We were such naifs in those days, weren’t we? I once danced for an hour with a Smith girl who thanked me and left. I spent close to a weekend with a Mount Holyoke girl of another race without making a move. I was right in line with the new affirmative sex legislation. Come right out and tell me you want me out loud to have sex with you. I’d have been there in a second.

Actually, that’s how it finally happened. One girl said, “Stop teasing me. Just do it.” So I did. Beautiful Jewish girl. She told me she was a 5. Of course, Jewish girls have a scale that goes all the way up to 12. She was actually a 10. Screw the numbers. I was in love with her, which is how it should always be.

The only 12 I ever met is still just a dream. No longer beautiful. Because beauty comes from the soul. And the soul can sour. Doubt if Zuckerberg has learned this. Things billionaires don’t know yet.

They just wish they ever had this view when they were young.

Easy to get dumb.

Easy to get dumb.

I am the three elven kings under the sky.

I am the three elven kings. One ring killed but two left.

How does it go?

Three rings for the elven kings under the sky. Seven for the dwarf lords in their halls of stone. Nine for mortal men doomed to die. One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them. One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

It’s not easy to be an elf, immortal and beautiful and such. I mean, who doesn’t know the poem that begins, “Ah Elbereth, Gilthoniel, silivren penna miriel.” Which means, roughly, “Ah Elbereth, star kindler, slanting down sparkling like a jewel.”

It goes on from there. The full text if you need it.

image

What my wife and I face on a regular basis, being from the ancient undying breed Tolkien was writing about. It’s not always easy sparkling like a jewel. Especially if you’re living with one of the nine. Who may be malevolent phantoms of lords long dead but retain a healthy appetite for rings of all kinds.

My wife, for example, never possessed one of the 20 most famous rings, but she had a perfectly decent Elf Queen one, which our own pet Nazgul devoured:

She didn't kill him. But she waxed wroth.

She didn’t kill him. But she waxed wroth.

Today, he devoured one of my own rings — the one I wore on my wedding day. He crushed it like a junkyard car compacter.

What I didn’t know was that my elven queen had stockpiled three rings (shown above) to offset any such eventuality. One was too large, one was right for some number of years until the day before yesterday, and one fits perfectly now.

What our resident Nazgul does not know is that I also possess the One Ring, because I am by legacy a Freemason and therefore rule all conspiracies about Mankind for all time. He can’t get to this one. It’s in a secret Scottish place.

One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them. One ring to bring them all and in our laughter kilt them.

One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them. One ring to bring them all and in our laughter kilt them.

We’re almost complete in ring compilation. The other eight of the dead are in boxes on our shelves, no matter how freely they still ride in our minds. The final dwarf lord will be arriving in a week or two, reminder of six dwarves past. Then we’ll get hold of this whole Sauron problem.

Bridgend

This is not statistically significant in any global sense. It’s just a slice of life that might be an instructive microcosm. There’s a town in Wales where 99 young people committed suicide by hanging in the space of five years. Apparently, the phenomenon continues, although the press and the police have stopped reporting on it for fear that publicity encourages it. The movie is a documentary exploring the extraordinary proliferation of one kind of suicide in one specific demographic.

There’s very little offered in the way of answers. Mostly lots of reactions by parents, friends of the dead, and locals speculating about why this became a distinct trend in an area of modest population.

Lots of mothers, some fathers, numerous young folk, all offering theories and attempts at explanation. Too much alcohol and drugs, too little hope about the prospects of life, too little too late support from the U.K.’s National Health Service. (Suicidal? Come back Monday.) Hardly any serious outreach by the police, a depressing and fairly violent environment in a town of 40,000 dominated by what The Great Society would have called “projects.” Almost no references to the quality of education, religious belief, and economic opportunity.

But lots of tearful parents wondering what went so drastically wrong. Plenty of broken hearts. And multiple shocking challenges to one’s ability to read character and intention.

I was telling my wife about it on the phone midway through and, flippantly, I suggested the answer was tattoos. It seemed that almost all the suicides had them, and I was minded of the way characters were rendered in the Iliad. Always by external physical traits and bits of costumery — armor and helms and symbols — as if there was no real conscious mentality inside. The person was the body and its decorations, no more, no less.

Imagine my surprise when the final thoughtful interviews were not with parents or youngsters but the proprietors of a tattoo parlor. Their depressing experience was of youngsters coming in to get tattoos of remembrance and killing themselves a few days or weeks later. They weren’t youngsters themselves and were plainly terrified of the ramifications of their next encounters with their own sons and daughters. What’s a provocative intent to have serious conversation? What’s overlooking too much in a clearly dangerous environment. Who are our kids, really?

I don’t know the answers any better than the film makers did. But I do wonder just how far today’s kids will go to experience the sense of being alive, even if it’s their last moment alive. Because my sense is that they don’t feel alive, don’t know much feeling at all.

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This was posted at Breitbart today:

by MARTIN GREENFIELD 29 Nov 2014 83

The following article is by Martin Greenfield, author of the new memoir Measure of a Man: From Auschwitz Survivor to Presidents’ Tailor (Regnery).

Experiencing and expressing gratitude should never feel clichéd.
I’m thankful.
I’m thankful that seventy years ago at Auschwitz, despite my mother, grandparents, two sisters, and 5-year-old baby brother being sent to Hitler’s ovens, I was spared.
I’m thankful for the nameless older Jewish inmate inside the Nazi laundry who taught me how to sew, a skill I’ve used now for decades as a master tailor to Hollywood stars and U.S. presidents.
I’m thankful for the last conversation I had with my father inside the concentration camp before we were separated and he was later murdered. “You are young and strong, and I know you will survive,” he told me in a quiet moment our first night at Auschwitz. “If you survive by yourself, you must honor us by living, by not feeling sorry for us. That is what you must do.”
I’m grateful for those words. They echo in my heart even still. It was a gift only a father’s wisdom could give. It gave me a reason to go forward, a reason to be. It does still. And I’m grateful.
I’m thankful that in the winter of 1945, the stupid-looking wooden clogs the Nazis made me wear did not give out in the unrelenting snows we encountered over many miles during the Death March from Buna to Gleiwitz. Even as the German soldiers turned our column into a moving shooting gallery, for some unknown reason, God kept their guns off me, sparing me the fate of the scores of frozen frames that lay littered across the land, embalmed in glacial graves.
I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the hundreds of thousands of American boys led by Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower—whom I later made suits for—and their willingness to fight and die to destroy Hitler’s death machine.
I’m thankful.
I’m thankful that when I arrived in America, penniless and unable to speak and read English, I encountered a kind and patient American English teacher who taught night classes at Erasmus High School in New York. When she learned of my fascination with baseball, she agreed to attend a Brooklyn Dodgers game. Ebbets Field proved to be the ultimate American classroom. There, she turned the baseball diamond into a chalkboard. She made me pronounce every position and read every billboard.
Around the eighth inning, I looked out across the lush green field and up into the clear blue sky. I was struck by the improbability of the moment. My life was a miracle. The crack of a baseball bat had replaced the smack and sting of a flogging stick. I had friends. I had newly discovered family members in America. I had a green card. I had a job and a chance. I had Jackie Robinson.
A rush of gratitude overcame me—a feeling that my life had a meaning and purpose that I couldn’t fathom, that by some astonishing act of divine benevolence I’d been one of the fortunate few who were spared the flames.
I was grateful then, I am grateful now.
I’m thankful for my wife, Arlene, who loves and supports me, and did through all those years when my night terrors awoke her from her sleep.
I’m thankful for my two sons, Tod and Jay, who run our “only in America” hand-tailored suit business in Brooklyn.
I’m thankful for grandchildren who will never know how much every hug, every fleeting smile means to a man who became an orphan when he was 15.
I’m grateful.
I’m grateful that for some grace-filled reason, against all logic and probability, God led Americans to fight for me, to save me, to claim me as one of their own, to nurture me with opportunities, and to help me build a home where I could love and raise my family in my beloved America.
I’m left with nothing but gratitude and joy for my life.

Grief is not a competitive sport. Everyone experiences it multiple times. Comparisons are odious. There is no Maslow’s hierarchy of loss. The enshrinement of women who have lost children as the ultimately grief-stricken is odious because it accomplishes nothing but the diminishment of every other kind of loss. It also expressly diminishes men. A father’s grief can’t compare to a mother’s. Because you know.

Which is worse? Losing a child to cancer? Or losing a child to murder? Quick. Do your calculations and post the answer on Facebook.

Any such process is despicable. There are many losses people don’t get over. Closure is a media phantasm. But like Mr. Greenfield, whose losses are literally incalculable, not getting over it is no excuse for not getting on with it.

Sympathy, and empathy, are likewise incalculable. The amount owed is not contingent on how high the loss rates in the mathematics of grief. Part of my dudgeon on this topic.

Our hearts can and do go out to all kinds of people in pain. There’s no such thing as this much is enough because, say, you didn’t lose a biological child of your loins. Yes, that’s bad, very very extremely bad. But so is a dead Yorkie in the arms of a 90 year old woman who had no one else in her life.

Finally, the calculus of grief is a damaging notion for those who have experienced terrible loss. The temptation to declare, “my loss is greater than yours” is corrupting and, well, venal. God did not single you out and grant you either a crown of thorns or a halo. He gave you life. And pain, even enormous pain, is part of life. It’s one way, not the only way but one way, of learning how deeply we can feel. It’s not fair? The notion of fairness is irrelevant. Life is. Death is. Loss is. Grief is.

Gratitude is.

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