Mike Kueber's Blog

October 30, 2014

Forever young?

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 12:50 am
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Renee Zellweger was in the news last week because, after a lengthy absence from public view, she suddenly reappeared and didn’t look anything like the cute girl from the Jerry McGuire movie. Although she looks her age of 45, she has morphed into a traditional beauty instead of the off-beat, quirky one that made her a star. So the issue du jour is whether plastic surgery, even successful ones like this one, reflects a growing female psychological problem with aging.

But this isn’t a just a female issue. I have a male 65-year-old friend who just had a $6,000 facelift because he wanted to look younger.

The New York Times fleshed-out/broke-down the issue by doing a Room for Debate discussion with six opinionated guests. My favorite was by novelist Jennifer Weiner, who humorously suggested the following to women:

  1. Your body is an object, available for public consumption. To paraphrase one of the gentlemen of 4Chan who hunted down and released private nude shots of famous actresses, “You’d never let an ugly guy like me see you naked. Well, ha ha, not your choice!” You don’t get to decide who sees you naked; some random angry stranger does.
  2. Your body must meet certain standards. You have to be young, fit, free of sag, flab, flop, chub, droop, stretch marks, tan lines, grey hairs and wrinkles. Your body must be, essentially, an anatomical impossibility. Think Anna Nicole Smith’s front, Nicki Minaj’s back and Gisele Bundchen in between. Any variation and you’re either fat or anorexic. This is true for every moment of your life, except during the final two weeks of pregnancy, when you’re allowed to look as if you ate a slightly larger-than-normal lunch, or the three days after giving birth, during which you are permitted a tiny paunch, but only if you promise to lose every ounce of weight within the following two weeks.
  3. None of this can look like work. You must appear young, you must be fit, you must maintain a silhouette best emblemized by cartoon character Jessica Rabbit, but you cannot betray that this came at a cost, that it took work, or that – God forbid – you had work done. Show up visibly altered and you’re a punchline. Show up looking older and you’re pathetic. Maybe you should consider just not showing up anywhere at all!

A female surgeon thought that a strong fight against aging makes sense:

  • I am 39 years old, and since the age of 32, I have been using Botox and fillers. I have had cosmetic surgery myself, and having had two children, I will have more cosmetic surgery to keep myself fit, attractive and youthful. To age gracefully does not mean that one should do nothing. The products available on the market today, if utilized appropriately, truly help to keep us looking younger, healthier and, most important, more confident.

An old married guy thought all anti-aging efforts were stupid:

  • But too many people are not accepting this normal aging process. This fuels the rampant, exploitative marketing of plastic surgery, Botox and over-the-counter “cosmeceuticals,” the latter combining the terms cosmetic and pharmaceutical, advertised as though they were drugs curing a disease…. As for us, we would rather chalk up these exterior changes to experience and work to retain our joyful inner life, without plastic surgery or other anti-aging products.

And finally, an old model argued for women of the world to unite:

  • Women are judged on their looks and then told their “looks” fade over time, which leads them to believe they will be less valued as they age. No wonder women spend billions of dollars every year on Botox, wrinkle creams and cosmetic surgery to stave off the signs of life as time moves on. The truth is that there is a unique beauty to a woman at every stage of her life, from new-born to adolescent, through pubescence, adulthood and beyond. When women stop committing ageism against each other and themselves, others will follow suit and our great granddaughters can grow up in a pro-age society.

Where do I stand? Currently, I am against plastic surgery for me. Why? I have settled into retirement, and so my life has become mostly uncompetitive. I don’t need to look better so that I can better compete with others. But I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to stay in the fast lane.

Go Public – marketing government services

Filed under: Education,Medical — Mike Kueber @ 12:33 am
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Last month, there was an article in the Express-News describing a multi-district program – Go Public – to better market the public schools in San Antonio.  My initial reaction was that our financially strapped schools should be spending money on teaching students, not on marketing. Indeed, the article even reported that a school board trustee was similarly minded:

  • Until last month, Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD was one of the few traditional districts with students in Bexar County that hadn’t joined Go Public. Its board voted 4-3 to participate after a lengthy debate that included Trustee George Ricks asking how the district was going to benefit from its $15,000 contribution and questioning its appropriateness as a public expenditure. “Are we trying to steal students away from private schools?” he asked.

But another board member had a different opinion:

  • The district should promote itself, board member Gary Inmon argued. “If you don’t get the positive word out, the negative word sticks, which really does hurt the entire system,” he said.

Although marketing seems wasteful to us Pollyannaish idealists, the practical person must accept that marketing is needed for government programs to compete successfully against private options. E.g., the post office, military employment.

I think there is a difference, though, when I see marketing of welfare programs, like food stamps. Yes, the SNAP program should be readily accessible and the use of food stamps should not be demeaning, but I don’t think government should be spending money encouraging people to avail themselves of welfare benefits they are entitled to. As JFK said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

How does this apply to the marketing of Healthcare.gov?  ObamaCare seems to be a hybrid.  Much of it is designed to improve the health-insurance industry for everyone, but as a practical matter, most of the coverage for those previously uninsured is merely an expansion of welfare – Medicaid.  I don’t think the voters want to see a lot of ObamaCare marketing.

October 29, 2014

The I-Man and casual banter

Filed under: Culture,Media — Mike Kueber @ 9:51 pm
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I have previously blogged about Don Imus’s tendency to engage in casual banter with his guests and then not remembering the contents of the casual banter several weeks later when he re-interviews the same guests. I titled the post, Really Listening.

Well, the same thing happened this morning with an interview of Judge Andrew Napolitano. The I-Man started the interview by asking Napolitano is he was married, and Napolitano responded that Imus had asked the same question the last time the judge was on. Imus explained that he wouldn’t remember that information if the interview had been yesterday. In fact, before today’s interview, Imus said he had to ask his sidekick Bernie who the judge was.

The judge was taken aback by this unfamiliarity and complained that he had known Imus for more than 20 years. But Don pressed on:

  • Don – Have you ever been married?
  • Judge – No.
  • Don – Are you gay?
  • Judge – No comment.
  • Don – (after a long pause) Getting back to when you were fat….

Imus is one of the original shock jocks, so this exchange seemed natural. (His attitude – blunt and nonjudgmental – reminds me of Hank Moody in TV show Californication.) But the exchange is ironic because, although Imus is very open about supporting gay marriage, his old-fashioned, politically-incorrect mindset obviously is that most men who have never married are gay. Now that gay marriage has been legalized in so many states, it won’t be long before unmarried people will not be automatically suspected of being closet homosexuals.

Regarding Judge Napolitano, I googled a question about him and homosexuality, and there was nothing except a single bulletin-board posting noting that he is “widely known to be gay.”

October 28, 2014

Sunday Book Review #149 – The Notebook

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 11:53 pm
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A few weeks ago, I blogged about a fascinating movie, Pride & Prejudice. One of my best friends commented on the post by noting that his daughter had recommended the movie to him and he had enjoyed it so much that he also watched an earlier TV version produced by the BBC and he also read Jane Austen’s book. And that was all done while having a thriving law practice and working on his PhD in History at UT-Austin.

Despite my retired status, or because of it, there is no way that I am up to anything near that, but after thoroughly enjoying the movie, The Notebook, I decided to dig a little deeper by reading Nicholas Sparks’s book. While the book Pride & Prejudice is a literary classic converted into an enjoyable movie, the movie The Notebook is a film classic based on an enjoyable book based on a true story (Sparks’s wife’s grandparents). I was easily able to consume the 214 pages of light reading in a single day.

The storyline in the book is very similar to the movie, except that our heroes – Allie and Noah – are more artsy in the book (Allie the painter and Noah the poet) and lusty, and Allie’s dad is essentially absent from the book. Also, the movie’s opening Ferris Wheel scene, which is on a list of the 50 Most Romantic Movie Moments Of All Time, is missing from the book.

Although the writing was a bit sappy, I enjoyed spending some more time with this magical, lifelong love affair.

Saturday Night at the Movies #130 – The Notebook

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 12:15 pm
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I watched The Notebook (2004) several years ago and enjoyed it. But I recently saw it listed as one of the most romantic movies of all time, and that didn’t match my recollection, so I decided to watch it again. The list was right and I was wrong.

What a movie! It is told in a series of flashbacks from the perspective of an old guy, James Garner, and his lifelong love, Gena Rowlands, who does not seem very lovable because of her losing struggle with dementia. Their younger versions are played by the movie’s stars, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.

It took a few minutes into the movie for Gosling to grow on me, but McAdams is fabulous from the get-go. And their relationship is magical. He is poor and humble and she has a status-conscious rich family. The essence of the movie is encapsulated in this line from old-guy Garner:

  • “I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough.”

Although the storyline might seem predictable, it is actually nuanced with excellent performances and characters played by McAdams’s mother, Joan Allen, and dad, David Thornton, plus McAdam’s competing beau, James Marsden. By contrast, Sam Shepard as Gosling’s dad, and Kevin Connolly as Gosling’s best friend, are mere fillers.

I’ve blogged recently about a four-pronged approach to life (head, heart, body, and soul), and Garner’s sole focus on the love of his life is not consistent with that. But in this classic romance movie, it works. The Rotten Tomato critics score the movie at only 52%, but the audience score is 85%. I like it even better than the audience and give it four stars.

October 27, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies #129 – Robin Williams

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 11:48 pm
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After the death of Robin Williams, I was prompted to watch some of his more popular movies that I didn’t make time for when he was alive. (That’s a perfect example of why a singer’s record sales go through the roof immediately after the singer’s death.) Because other people were thinking just like me, Netflix had a long waiting list on the movies that finally arrived in the past couple of weeks:

  1. Moscow on the Hudson (1984)
  2. Awakenings (1990)
  3. Patch Adams (1998)

I didn’t enjoy Moscow on the Hudson because Robin Williams is not realistic as a romantic lead. But his co-star Maria Conchita Alonzo was superb. As suggested in the movie, She’s Out of My League, a nine like Maria doesn’t hook up with a six like Robin. One star.

Awakenings, which is based on a true story, was enjoyable because Robin Williams plays the sincere, sensitive guy trying to soften a heartless world. Kind of like the guy he plays in Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society. Three stars.

Patch Adams was a bit better than Moscow on the Hudson, but not as good as Awakenings because, although Williams is that sincere, sensitive guy, he is also too much of an irresponsible iconoclast, like Good Morning Vietnam and Mrs. Doubtfire. I don’t like guys like that. Two stars.

Sunday Book Review #148 – Killing Patton by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 11:26 pm
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Killing Patton is by far the most disappointing of O’Reilly’s “Killing” books. Although the writing style is similar to the other books, the subject has almost nothing to do with the killing. The book almost seems like a novelization of the Oscar-winning 1970 movie starring George C. Scott. While I somewhat enjoyed revisiting the story of the movie (in fact, I was prompted to re-watch some of the movie on Netflix), I was expecting to read more about Patton’s suspicion death. Instead, that information, all four pages of it, was contained in the Afterword, which can be summarized as follows:

  • If you have read Killing Kennedy, you know that Martin Dugard and I are not conspiracy theorists. But the death of General George S. Patton presents a disturbing picture if one fully accepts history’s contention that his demise was simply the result of an accident…. The strange death of George S. Patton should be reexamined by American military investigators. Although the trail is ice cold, technological advances could solve some of the puzzles.

Oh really, Bill. Which technological advances could solve which puzzles? Perhaps you should have written a screenplay for the TV show, Cold Cases. Thanks for nothing. But I can’t wait for the next three Killing books that are already sketched out. Not.

Reproductive rights – what are those?

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice,Media — Mike Kueber @ 11:11 pm
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Local Express-News columnist Elaine Ayala wrote a column today extolling the virtues of fading feminist Gloria Steinem. Her column started as follows:

  • Gloria Steinem came to San Antonio last week and spoke for what was at best 30 minutes at the Women in the World Texas summit. In that short window, she talked about the status of women; the women’s, civil rights and anti-war movements, and the backlash they’ve experienced; the struggle for reproductive rights and the changing demography of the United States and the world. “Most women in the world,” she said to an audience hanging on every word, “are of color.” You don’t get to be an American icon without having the capacity to put the globe in perspective in one sentence.

Talk about drinking the Kool-Aid! Does Ayala really believe that the people of San Antonio go around thinking that the world is filled with white people? I know when I return to ND in the summer, I am struck by the abnormality of being surrounded by mostly white people.

Ayala’s column, as suggested by the passage above, was focused on securing women’s “reproductive rights.” As part of her argument, she described the death in 1977 of Rosie Jimenez, who had to travel to Mexico for an unsafe abortion because Medicaid wouldn’t pay for a safe abortion here in America:

  • Many websites pay tribute to her, and Rosie Jiménez Day is marked in several cities. In the mid-’90s, October was declared Abortion Access Action Month in her memory.

I was struck by the phrasing, “Abortion Access Action Month.” It seemed to me that that is exactly what feminists mean when they say “reproductive rights.  Why not call a spade a spade?

But I decided to do some research to see if the term might mean something more than abortion access. According to Wikipedia:

  • Reproductive rights are legal rights and freedomsrelating to reproduction and reproductive health. The World Health Organization defines reproductive rights as follows:
    • Reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.

Amazing! Not only does the term include things other than abortion, but it does not even appear related to abortion. This reads like Newspeak from the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. George Orwell was off by 30 years.

October 23, 2014

“Yes Means Yes” – social engineering in its purest form

Filed under: Culture,Education,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 2:36 am
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The state of California last month enacted a controversial law, SB 967,  called “Yes Means Yes.” The law attempts to deal with the growing problem of sexual assault on the state’s college campuses. According to a survey, one in five college women will be sexually assaulted during their time as students. Of course, sexual assault is already illegal, but the lawmakers apparently concluded that (a) often sexual assault results from a misunderstanding between the sexes regarding whether there is mutual consent to have sex and (b) this misunderstanding needs to be clarified. Which is social engineering in its purest form.

Several years ago, I blogged about social engineering and relied on the following Wikipedia description:

  • An attempt to influence popular attitudes and social behaviors on a large scale. Usually the term refers to government action, but it can apply as well to private groups. Social engineering is not inherently negative, but because of its usage in the political arena, it has come to have a negative connotation. Technically, all government laws – such as prohibitions against murder, DUI, theft, and littering – are social engineering. Governments also engage routinely in social engineering through incentives and disincentives built into economic policy and tax policy. Conservatives and libertarians often claim that their opponents (the liberals) are engaged in social engineering, and that makes sense because liberals prefer a muscular government while conservatives and libertarians prefer a muscular private society. But even liberals complain of social engineering when it comes to prayer in school, abstinence-only sex education, and the English-only movement.

The social behavior the “Yes Means Yes” law is attempting to influence is that most men believe they are permitted to pursue a female sexually until she says, “no.” “No means no” fits that standard. By contrast, some females believe that a man should not initiate sex with a woman unless she gives “affirmative consent.” Yes means yes.

The key language in the new law reads as follows:

  • (1) An affirmative consent standard in the determination of whether consent was given by both parties to sexual activity. “Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.
  • (2) A policy that,in the evaluation of complaints in any disciplinary process, it shall not be a valid excuse to alleged lack of affirmative consent that the accused believed that the complainant consented to the sexual activity under either of the following circumstances:
    • (A) The accused’s belief in affirmative consent arose from the intoxication or recklessness of the accused.
    • (B) The accused did not take reasonable steps, in the circumstances known to the accused at the time, to ascertain whether the complainant affirmatively consented.
  • (3) A policy that the standard used in determining whether the elements of the complaint against the accused have been demonstrated is the preponderance of the evidence.
  • (4) A policy that,in the evaluation of complaints in the disciplinary process, it shall not be a valid excuse that the accused believed that the complainant affirmatively consented to the sexual activity if the accused knew or reasonably should have known that the complainant was unable to consent to the sexual activity under any of the following circumstances:
    • (A) The complainant was asleep or unconscious.
    • (B) The complainant was incapacitated due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication, so that the complainant could not understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual activity.
    • (C) The complainant was unable to communicate due to a mental or physical condition.

According to an article in the NY Times, there are major concerns about potential ambiguity in the affirmative consent – “But most male students expressed some nervousness about accidentally running afoul of consent rules, especially because drinking usually precedes a casual hookup…. Affirmative-consent policies try to address this by recognizing body language as a form of consent.”  But I was unable to find any discussion of the sort of body language that would be recognized as consent.

A fascinating column by Jonathan Chait in New York magazine titled, “California’s Radical College-Sex-Law Experiment,” points out additional concerns about the law:

  • It surely is possible to imagine that sex that comports with these new guidelines is sexy, or even more sexy than the kind most people have now. Yet one might find these ideas about reimagining sex attractive, as I do, while still having deep reservations about codifying them into law. The fact that we need to change cultural attitudes about sex itself underscores the fact that cultural attitudes about sex lie well outside the contours established by the state of California. What percentage of the last decade worth of Hollywood sex scenes, if acted out between college students in California, would technically constitute rape? A majority? Ninety percent?
  • Deprogramming and reorienting societal ideas about sex is an evolutionary process. California isn’t merely attempting to set out to nudge the culture in this direction. It is reclassifying all sex that falls outside those still-novel ideas as rape. A law premised on this sort of sweeping, wholesale change is likely to fail.

I agree with Chait’s criticism of the law, but I am not confident that the law will fail. Because the law is limited to college students, and because its penalties are limited to administrative sanctions by the college (up to expulsion), most people are insulated from its effects. Sort of like preventing adults under the age of 21 from drinking. Divide and conquer.

But I would be shocked “Yes Means Yes” becomes the law of the land for non-students.

October 21, 2014

Columbus Day

Filed under: History — Mike Kueber @ 9:30 pm
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Columbus Day came and went last week without much fanfare. Except on Facebook. Several of my friends posted posters attacking the guy. Apparently, he was a racist, a bigot, and a rapist who treated the indigenous people as sub-human. But I’m not sure how many white people back in those days showed adequate respect to blacks, homosexuals, women, or indigenous people. Further, America is not honoring Columbus for his political or social values; rather, we are honoring him for being a courageous explorer who went were no man had gone before (except for the Vikings or the indigenous people).

I commented to one Facebook friend that after these critics get done crucifying Columbus, I suppose they will want to scrutinize our Alamo heroes, too. She warned me not to get her started on the racist, bigoted rapists at the Alamo.

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