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I recently read an article that made me feel like a bratty, treasonous, ignoble woman, so naturally, I'd like to talk about it.

I'm referring to "Too ugly for TV? No, I'm too brainy for men who fear clever women", written by classicist and television host Mary Beard in response to some poisonous, unfunny comments from a British television reviewer named AA Gill. 

He wrote the following charming, make-you-want-to-date-him things about her after watching her show Meet the Romans:

"Mary Beard really should be kept away from cameras altogether."

"For someone who looks this closely at the past, it is strange she hasn't had a closer look at herself before stepping in front of a camera."

"...because she's this far from being the subject of a Channel 4 dating documentary" (referring, apparently, to The Undateables, a show about disabled people looking for love).

All those comments are repugnant and shallow and reveal him to be the kind of person who probably inspired the coining of the phrase "total prick". But I have managed to be bothered also by her response to these repugnant and shallow comments.

She writes: "Throughout Western history [just an aside: invariably the manner in which the very worst undergraduate essays begin] there have always been men like Gill who are frightened of smart women who speak their minds, and I guess, as a professor of Classics at Cambridge University, I'm one of them."

It is entirely possible that Gill is a disgusting misogynist. Certainly when he watches a show about the Romans, he should be more concerned about its accuracy than the hair-style and tooth-size of the presenter. But just because he doesn't think television presenters should be frowsy and unpolished (and I haven't heard that he thinks male presenters are allowed to be either of things) doesn't mean he hates women; and even if he does maintain a double-standard about the extent to which men and women on the small screen are required to look like realtors or meteorologists, that just means  he has issues with women and attractiveness, not necessarily with bright women and attractiveness. 

When I was in high school and a boy (contrary to the demands of good sense) insisted on not wanting to date me, invariably someone would say, "It's obvious - he's just intimidated by you." I don't deny that my staggering intelligence and gorgeousness were impressive and fearsome, but that explanation always bothered me. Some people just won't like me. Some people will not like me, and will make fun of me, and will not want to date me, and not because I am brilliant and gorgeous and they just can't take it. 

Gill, in an article about The Undateables, described it as a "mocking freak show of grotesques and embarrassments".  As far as I know, not all those featured were women, and not all of them were Classics professors at Cambridge. He seems to be an asshole who has an issue with all those who aren't conventionally attractive and conventionally presentable. It's entirely possible he made cutting and unfunny comments about Mary Beard just because he thinks she's funny-looking, not because he's secretly shamed by her intellect. I'm not saying that's any better; it's just a different crappy kind of motivation.

Beard also commented: "...maybe it's precisely because he did not go to university that he never quite learned the rigour of intellectual argument and thinks that he can pass off insults as wit" and with that she managed to bother me even more powerfully. I attended university for approximately eighty-five years, and so I can authoritatively state that anyone who thinks that everyone who goes to university has learned how to argue in an intellectually rigourous fashion and that everyone who has not attended university has not, is a) deluded, and b) almost certainly a graduate of graduate school. 

Beard closes by suggesting various ways in which Gill could be punished: he should have to watch her shows - all of them - , he should have to discuss them with her...etc...etc... But as I'm not convinced he hates smart women in particular (although he might), and I am convinced he is for whatever reason extremely bothered by people who aren't conventionally attractive (or don't put the appropriate effort into trying to appear that way) I think the only truly fitting punishment for his crime would be for him to have to appear on television unshaven, unwashed, wearing unfashionable trousers and a hopelessly out-of-style sweater, and sporting a startlingly dowdy bowl cut. I'm sure that would hurt him more than watching Beard's shows or being reminded he doesn't teach at Cambridge.



POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

 
 
I have some positive qualities: I'm loyal, I'm attentive, I'm generally clean. But I also have some considerable deficiencies. For example, I almost completely lack ambition. Or maybe it's simply that I can't follow through on things, which would mean I lack determination and focus. Or maybe I just haven't come up with any things that are worthy of following through on.

I was recently reading about the fact that that website about thousands of fantastic things is finally shutting down, presumably because there is a limit to the number of fantastic things in the world and now Neil Pasricha plans to spend his time feeling forlorn and deflated. Or maybe he just wanted more time to devote to working in HR at Walmart, which is actually what he does. Given that, the fact that he was capable of identifying even ten awesome things indicates either that he is a) himself an incredibly awesome thing, or b) totally deranged. 

Deranged or not, he took a catchy idea and built a modest empire, from which he proceeded to not profit one bit, because he wanted that catchy idea to remain unsullied by greed, or some such thing (just like Walmart).

I read that article about him, and decided that I would like to create a website called "1000loathsomethings" which, because I believe in straightforward and honest website names, would proceed to describe 1000 loathsome things. I'm sure it's probably already been done. How it could not already have been done? I'm not in a position to tell you whether it's already been done, because I didn't bother looking into it. I didn't bother looking into it because a) I didn't want to have to confront the fact that any idea I've ever had has already been had by someone smarter, more ambitious, and more familiar with Adobe Flash, and b) if I did discover it hadn't yet been done, I probably wouldn't do anything about it anyway.

I can't figure out whether I don't pursue such ideas (I had another one just the other day that involved asking telemarketers when they called if they minded being recorded and then trying to tell them about my personal problems) because a) they're stupid ideas and I wouldn't get much satisfaction from trying to realize them anyway, or b) I lack the discipline to realize most ideas. 

I suppose all I can do is wait to have an idea I'm particularly passionate about and then see whether I try to put some work into it or become distracted by an NCIS rerun. One of those 1000 loathsome things I'll probably never write about would surely be the process of figuring out whether I'm uncreative or lazy. 

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

 
 
Under the weather this week. Until next week, please spend your time looking at this mixture of adorableness and reproachfulness (created not in the least by me).
 
 
I have always found it incredibly easy to imagine failing at things. I imagine failing at small things, like managing section breaks in Word or developing an effective skin-care regimen, and large things, like various kinds of surgery.

For this reason (and probably also because of my lack of talent and inclination), I never became a lawyer or medical doctor. I could so vividly envision losing a vital case and ruining someone's life, or making a mistake during an operation and ending someone's life. Because it was easy to see myself being given responsibility and messing things up, it was easier simply not to accept many responsibilities. 

Then I read the following in a New York Times article about the CIA, Iraq, and Iran: 

"After the misjudgments on Iraq, the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies imposed new checks and balances, including a requirement that analytical work be subjected to 'red teaming.' That means a group of analysts would challenge the conclusions of their colleagues, looking for weaknesses or errors. The intelligence community also now requires that analysts be told much more about the sources of the information they receive from the United States’ human and technological spies. Analysts were left in the dark on such basic issues in the past, which helps explain why bogus information from fabricators was included in some prewar intelligence reports on Iraq. And, when they write their reports, they must include better attribution and sourcing for each major assertion." (I include the bold type because you might be lazy and I am most definitely emphatic.)

Now I might not have become a medical doctor, but I did receive a Ph.D. in English (which is basically the same thing in terms of pay and prestige and the likelihood of being asked to attend to an in-flight emergency). I thought that was a good way of avoiding most real-world responsibilities (the fact that I did not view teaching undergraduates all about books as a serious and precious responsibility was one of the reasons I stopped teaching undergraduates all about books). Pretty much all I taught young people was that a) you shouldn't write an essay without first questioning your own conclusions, and b) you should always cite your sources. I thought these were basic, unglamorous, possibly redundant things to teach people. Now I realize that, while I was perhaps right not to trust myself to open up someone else's body with a scalpel, I did myself an injustice: I, and sessionals the world over, might turn out to be pretty good at running the CIA.


POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.