Thursday, January 23, 2003

DEPT. OF BAD ENGLISH

Believe it or not, the following sentence -- from Critiquing the Sitcom: A Reader -- was written by the associate director of the school of journalism and communication studies at a prestigious university:

All situation comedy, inasmuch as it is concerned with discursive hierarchies, is also concerned with sexuality, the latter being one of the dominant modes of manifestation of class difference. Sexuality is usually presented in its most highly domesticated form: the leading characters are married, have been married, or envisage marriage as a likely outcome in their lives. The discourse of sexuality in situation comedy constitutes it as necessarily heterosexual and necessarily unconsumable outside matrimony. This is a discourse of sexuality as it is spoken in many of the dominant institutions of the present social formation.

Ugh. A communications professor wrote it, and it scarcely communicates at all. Never mind the smarmy politically correct nonsense beneath all this dreck -- it is just unreadable.

When did bad English become mandatory in academic writing? Oh, the words are spelled correctly and the sentences scan, but no one would ever read such a thing for pleasure, nor derive any accidental pleasure from reading it, if it were assigned. Unless one is habituated to the postmodern lingo used here, it becomes a Herculean task merely to extract the meaning from such stuff. No wonder the liberal arts are in decay, when the supposed sages are incapable of writing anything more exciting or understandable than this?

1. Frankly, I don't know what "discursive hierarchies" means, but will guess it describes how rank is expressed through speech or dialogue. I suppose "discursive" has a particular connotation with the pomo crowd, and is sort of a specialist jargon, but to any general reader, this fancy word is opaque, a "stopper."

2. "Inasmuch" -- boy, there's your showoff word! Why not "so far" or "to the extent," either of which has the same meaning without being so pompous and ungainly?

3. Why "sexuality"? Whatever happened to plain old "sex"? Here we have a Latinate big word, all puffed up, when the good old Anglo-Saxon would do just fine.

4. Reckon "the dominant modes of manisfestation of class difference" is grad student for "the most important ways that class differences are shown." Again, the Latinate is substituted for the Anglo-Saxon: "modes" for "ways," "manifest" for "show." While the politically charged "dominant" is subbed for "important" or "prevalent."

5. Why "envisage," when "view" or "consider" or some other plain English word would work better and be more readily understood? This is purposeful obfuscation.

6. Why "matrimony" and not "marriage"?

7. And "the present social formation"? Who cannot imagine a dozen more concise and understandable ways of saying this?

OK, so let's re-write this garbage in good English:

To the extent that situation comedy is concerned with social rank, it is also concerned with sex, especially as a way of expressing class difference. Sex is usually presented in the most domestic form; the leading characters are married, have been married or consider marriage a likely outcome for themselves. In situation comedies, the portrayal and discussion of sex is based on the assumption that sex is always heterosexual and never occurs outside marriage. Such a discussion of sex reflects the status quo.

Now, that is not a transliteration, but it is saying essentially the same thing, and saying it in a way that it can be easily understood. It's absolutely wrong, of course, but because it is clearly written, now the reader can understand how wrong it is. Hey, wait a minute ....

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Marie Gryphon and Gene Healy go 'round on the extent to which wealth and status influence women's romantic choices. Allow me to muddy the waters ....

1. Consider that, from the time they are young girls, females tend to idolize wealthy and famous males. A girl of 11 or 12 will nearly wallpaper her room with photos of N'Sync or Nick Carter or whatever guy is the flavor-of-the-month with the teen magazines. Yes, the guys are cute, but they are not merely cute. They are singers or actors -- or, in the case of Prince William -- British royalty, and thus presumably wealthy. At any rate, these "teen idols" are successful and/or accomplished. They are not just the guy-next-door. By comparison, guys drool over the Playboy Playmate without any regard as to whether she has any accomplishments, any career, or any wealth.

Dorothy Stratten went from being counter girl at Dairy Queen to being Miss August 1979 in about a year. The millions of Playboy readers who admired Miss August cared nothing at all about Dorothy Stratten except for her physical beauty. They would have admired her no less had she been a high-school girl behind the counter of Dairy Queen.

Wealth and fame add substantially to a man's attractiveness, but add little or nothing to a woman's attractiveness. Some guys may be fans of Pamela Anderson or Marilyn Monroe, but merely because they are beautiful women -- talent, wealth or success have nothing to do with it. Whereas females will sometimes go wild for a guy who is not particularly good-looking, given that he is famous or successful. A classic case is Ringo Starr. The Beatles drummer was the shortest and homeliest of the Fab Four, yet at the zenith of Beatlemania (1964-65) perhaps the most popular, especially among American girls. There were perhaps millions upon millions of American guys at the time more handsome than Ringo, but it was the weallhy, famous guy who made girls scream.

Yes, there are females who fetishize "hunks," who put Chippendales calendars in their office cubicles, who still carry a torch for David Soul or John Schneider or some other has-been pretty boy. But such women are exceptions proving the rule. Beauty is beauty, and all admire it -- but men who are not beautiful can gain admiration in ways that women cannot.

Consider Bill Clinton and Henry Kissinger. If either one had been a shoe salesmen, his romantic options would have been quite limited; but because they were powerful men, Henry became a major-league babe magnet and 50-something Bubba had a 23-year-old intern flashing her panties at him. But you never heard of guys throwing themselves at Donna Shalala or Jeane Kirkpatrick, did you?

In fact, success may actually reduce a woman's romantic options. Many successful women, including quite attractive ones, complain that men are "intimidated" by them. Right-wing pundette Ann Coulter, for example, has complained of a lack of suitable romantic companions. In New York City, home to many of the world's most accomplished women, the "man shortage" is a constant source of woe for upscale 30-something single ladies.

2. Marie's allowance that "some college-educated, middle-class American women still choose men primarily on the basis of money" hinges on the word "primarily." Women exhibit a tendency to "marry up," that is to have a husband (or other romantic partner) of superior socioeconomic status. This preference has long been recognized, and has been demonstrated by social research.

Women, I believe, tend to establish some baseline of status for mates; this baseline is unconscious but very real. A college-educated woman may, without actually thinking about it, restrict her pool of potential mates to college-educated males. Women may "marry down," but they usually don't marry too far down: A woman with Ph.Ds may marry a fellow with only a bachelor's degree, but she is unlikely to marry a high-school dropout. But education is but one measure of status. A woman might limit her mating preferences to men with certain job statuses, or she may refuse dates from guys who drive ratty cars, or live at home with their mothers. At any rate, there is some threshold of status beneath which she will not consider a romantic involvement.

So it may seem to be true that women are not choosing men "men primarily on the basis of money," even though a college-educated middle class woman may automatically (but unconsciously) eliminate from consideration as potential partners about 40 percent of available men. The female accountant would not consider dating the cab driver, the janitor, the short-order cook -- the very suggestion seems absurd to her. Once she is allowed to draw that baseline, however, it may be true that men who meet that minimum socioeconomic standard are not judged "primarily" on money; but she is choosing from a restricted field -- and the basis of that restriction is largely economic.

3. It is to be remembered that attraction and actual romantic involvement occupy distinct, if overlapping, spaces. A guy may be attracted to blue-eyed blondes, but marry a brunette. A man might be handsome, but if he is arrogant and selfish, a woman might refuse to date him. So what we actually do in terms of dating and marriage may be at odds with what our underlying attractions are.

Most of all, let us remember that few people are entirely rational in their romantic endeavors. Battered wives stay with their abusers, and a woman may be always willing to forgive her philandering husband, no matter how many times he strays. Not many years ago, the "family values" governor of Mississippi bumped into his old junior high sweetheart, began an affair, eventually divorced his wife of 44 years and took up with his long-ago girlfriend. This entirely destroyed the governor's political career, and ruined the prospects of his party. Was this rational? Would any objective person think that the governor acted in his own best interests by this course of action? And while each of us criticizes the irrational romantic actions of others, we all cherish our own craziness.

Men may complain about women preferring rich men, but women know that those same men will go gaga for any chick with bleach-blonde hair and silicone implants. It is worth noting that among these complaining parties, none of the men are Bill Gates and none of the women are Pamela Anderson.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

IRRELEVANT FRANCE

To hell with the French, who live under the grand delusion that they are important enough that anyone cares what they think. France hasn't won a real war since Napoleon (come to think of it, Napoleon was ultimately a loser, too). To call France a third-rate country would be an insult ... to third-rate countries.

One good thing about the French: There aren't many of them. In a world of more than 6 billion people, France's 59 million are less than 1 percent of the global population. So 99 percent of the world's people are not French. (Tres bien!) There are more than twice as many Nigerians, Japanese and Bangladeshis as there are French, and the U.S. has more than four times as many people as France (not to mention, our women shave their legs and bathe regularly).

In fact, France doesn't even rank in the Top 20 most populous countries:

World's Most Populous Countries: 2002

Rank.....Country..................Population

1............China...................1,284,303,705
2. ...........India...................1,045,845,226
3.............United States........280,562,489
4.............Indonesia..............232,073,071
5. ...........Brazil...................176,029,560
6. ...........Pakistan..............147,663,429
7. ...........Russia.................144,978,573
8. ...........Bangladesh..........133,376,684
9. ...........Nigeria................129,934,911
10. ........Japan...................126,974,628
11. .........Mexico.................103,400,165
12. .........Philippines.............84,525,639
13. .........Germany................83,251,851
14. .........Vietnam..................81,098,416
15. .........Egypt.....................70,712,345
16. .........Ethiopia.................67,673,031
17. .........Turkey....................67,308,928
18. ..........Iran.......................66,622,704
19...........Thailand..................62,354,402
20...........United Kingdom......59,778,002
21...........France....................59,765,983
BLOG DYSFUNCTION
Blogger is down! Drats!
WEEVIL WANNABE
I have been told I might qualify for the Axis of Weevil, based on my ’Bama bloodline and gradimafication from JSU (Go Big Cocks!). Will the Membership Committee consider me as a pledge? I know, I know: My blog is crap. I haven’t updated in forever. And I think Monica Lewinsky is cute. But even with those strikes against me -- and despite the fact I haven’t been to Alabama in two years -- maybe y’all will see fit to admit me on double-secret probation, OK?