Friday, January 1, 2016

How I Spent 2015

I wrote fewer posts here last year than I have since I started the blog in 2007  I don't know why; partly it was the feeling that I was repeating myself and had nothing new to say, which made me disinclined to push against the writer's reluctance to face the keyboard and the blank space.  Other than that, who knows?

But it wasn't all that unproductive, and enough people seemed interested in what I did write to make it worthwhile to continue.  Here are the posts that got more than 200 views this year, in ascending order of views:

11. Fake Barry Quotes (206).   If you're the good guy, you can just make stuff up!

10. An Inordinate Fondness for Flesh-Eating Bacteria (208).  Some of his fans decided that Pope Francis said something that, properly interpreted, meant that their pets would go to Heaven.  (From where, I presume, they would get to watch the torment of their owners in Hell.)  But what about the bacteria?  All are precious in His sight.

9. Pride and Prejudice (210).  I don't see as many people calling for Straight Pride as I used to, but maybe I'm looking in the wrong places.  Here I call for gay people to organize in support of our straight friends, relatives, and enemies.  I want to be parade marshall in the next Straight Pride March!

8. When Death Threats Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Make Death Threats (251).  On freedom of speech and rational debate, as defined by Victim Masculists.  I followed up with another post as the discussion at another blog continued.

7. An Area Which We Call the Comfort Zone (254).  Two subjects here.  First, the Culture of Therapy and its vacillation between demanding that no one be uncomfortable on one hand, and that everybody be uncomfortable on the other.  Second, the relation of comfort zones to the books one chooses to read, starting from K. T. Bradford's controversial but confused challenge to everybody else to read outside their comfort zones, after she'd decided to read only within her own.

6. Only I Get to Decide Which Criticisms of Me Are Valid  (256).  In which I grapple with one of the axioms of Diversity Management and the various movements (including my own) fighting bigotry.  It followed on my discussion of the perils of medicalizing bigotry, with a focus on the confused concept of "homophobia."

5. Your Mama Was a Bulldagger (272).  As a longtime fan of Alison Bechdel's work, I'm amazed and delighted that her memoir Fun Home has been so successful.  The book became a best-seller and won a lot of prestigious awards, and the musical (!) based on it went to Broadway and won several Tony Awards.  It's all the more gratifying because Bechdel has always been thoughtful and analytical about the stories she tells.  She's also ambivalent about her work's present success, because she has always resisted being mainstreamed.  But what if critical, analytical, yet human-hearted thinking about stereotypes, desire, and eroticism became mainstreamed?  I don't think it will happen either, but in this post I discussed Fun Home and stereotypes of sex/gender and eroticism.

Onward, Christian Soldiers (281).  I decided not to count this one, because its numbers got a boost from being listed in Batocchio's Jon Swift Memorial Roundup.  On the other hand, I was writing about something I consider important here (that's why I submitted it), so I'm including here as an unnumbered entry.  Related to it, with much less traffic, is Be Here Now, Then Be Somewhere Else Later, about the historical connection of Buddhism and state violence in the twentieth century, and that implications of that connection for Westerners who think that Christianity (or the Abrahamic religions generally) are uniquely and inherently imbricated with violence and the state.

4. #NotJustRichCollege Kids (322).  Here I discussed the problem of what do about offensive things people say.  I didn't get around to the deeper discussion I intended on this subject; maybe this year.  But apparently what I wrote here interested some people a little.

3. Meeting Cute (329),  I'm surprised this post got so much attention.  It's about Joshua Speed, Abraham Lincoln's former bedfellow and lifelong friend.  I didn't go deeply into the question of whether they were boyfriends, because I was more interested in Speed's transformation from a slaveowner to a supporter of the Union and a vocal critic of American racism.

2. Constitutionally Incapable (373).  Everybody talks about the Constitution but nobody reads it.  Except me.

1. Triumph of the Trump (414).  I'm worried about Donald Trump's continuing popularity among American fascists, but one reason I'm worried is that his opponents don't seem to have any idea how to oppose him except by running around in circles and yelling about how awful he is.  The latest embarrassment, to put it gently, is a new attack meme made from sexy pictures of his skinny young wife -- when you get tired of making fun of his hair, try slut-shaming his wife!  I've tried to avoid writing much about the man, but the generally inadequate responses to him by people who are nominally on the same side as I am worry me.  I'd like to think that Trump can't win the nomination, let alone the election, but I am increasingly pessimistic about everything.

Before wrapping up post I want to draw your attention to some other posts from last year that I'm proud of, but didn't get as much attention from readers.

Spock Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It was written soon after the death of Leonard Nimoy, when memes featuring Nimoy-as-Spock were proliferating on the Internet like a radioactive virus, under the mistaken impression that they constituted some kind of tribute to him.  I've always been disappointed by the way Star Trek depicted Spock as a logical person, and I talked about that here.

Some of My Best Friends Are Putzes deals with some stupid remarks by the sex advice maven Dr. Ruth, but takes off from there to investigate her claim that the Talmud backed her up.  It doesn't seem to, but the rabbis who indignantly rebutted the Doctor turned out to be as wrong as she is.

The notorious new atheist Sam Harris tried to bring Light to the notorious old atheist Noam Chomsky in a debate/not a debate conducted in e-mail and then posted by Harris to the web.  Because My Heart Is Pure was my take on the event.

I wrote a couple of posts on the hit movie Ex Machina, its take on Artificial Intelligence and its recommendation that we should welcome our coming Robot Overlords and Overladies:  Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Robot? and Sometimes I Feel Like a Fatherless Child.   Related to this was a post on an overheard conversation about how the "evolution" of computers would inevitably lead to their becoming smarter than humans, which inspired a small epiphany for me that I hope will also be useful to the reader.

Also related was my displeasure with The Imitation Game, the biopic based on the life of the gay mathematician Alan Turing, one of the fathers of the digital computer.  I wrote two posts explaining why I thought the film was not only historically inaccurate but antigay in a way that is depressingly familiar to observers of Hollywood's treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender characters. The more it changes, the more it stays the same.

Speaking of LGBT matters, there was a brief fuss over a new study purporting to show that homosexuality is "genetic" and detectable with a saliva test.  It inspired some discussion about the ethics of such research, which of course was way off target until I took my turn.

I also did some posts on the question of human nature, inspired or incited by a rereading of Mary Midgley's book Heart and Mind.  Writing these clarified a lot about that issue for me; I hope they'll also be useful to others.

But the year had its upside: I discovered a few writers new to me, though they worked in the middle of the twentieth century: the Irish Catholic Kate O'Brien and the Maine regionalist Ruth Moore.  Both were evidently lesbian, but that's not what made their work stimulating to me.  I also started reading the work of April Sinclair, an African-American writer of impressive autobiographical fiction.