I've been following John Robb's blog Global Guerrillas for a few years, and while I was able to absorb some of his prescient thinking online, I just r...moreI've been following John Robb's blog Global Guerrillas for a few years, and while I was able to absorb some of his prescient thinking online, I just recently finished Brave New War. It's written the way all books concerned with big ideas should be written. Straightforward, unpretentious, no-nonsense. Brave New War is as fast, loose and effective as the open-source networks of insurgents and transnational gangs Robb describes. It's a tight notebook and a quick read. While many of Robb's examples are drawn from his analyses of US adventures in Iraq and the book was published in 2007, his observations will be cutting edge for most readers even in 2012. So many of us are still thinking about war the old-fashioned way--the way that is so over it almost seems quaint.(less)
A real page-turner until the unfortunate death of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the playboy fascist whose colorful and violent rhetoric was balanced b...moreA real page-turner until the unfortunate death of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the playboy fascist whose colorful and violent rhetoric was balanced by good sense, style and charm. Payne's account of fascism in Spain before Franco is matter-of-fact and free of moralizing. The later chapters deal with the Franco regime through WWII, who the historian portrays as more of a capable, moderate opportunist than a dynamic fascist Jefe. Recommended as an introduction to the 20th century Spanish incarnation of fascism. (less)
A surprisingly good read -- a page-turner, even -- with inventive details and incisive commentary on multiculturalism and systems of human organizatio...moreA surprisingly good read -- a page-turner, even -- with inventive details and incisive commentary on multiculturalism and systems of human organization. (less)
Kay Hymowitz’s piece for the Wall Street Journal, titled “Where Have The Good Men Gone?” drew a lot of...more(Review Originally Posted to The-Spearhead.com)
Kay Hymowitz’s piece for the Wall Street Journal, titled “Where Have The Good Men Gone?” drew a lot of criticism from men and women alike. It’s old news now, but I just got around to reading her book Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys.
With either help or direction from her publishers, Hymowitz baited readers with a yellow op-ed, insulting cover art and a goading thesis. At least Micheal Kimmel deigned to call his frat-boy scapegoats “guys.” Hymowitz refers to those guys as “child-men” and the book cover shows a baby dressed as a man. It was a sensationalistic and trashy move, but we live in a sensationalistic, trashy culture.
The real problem is that this belittling detracted from the more measured — and often sympathetic — tone of the book itself.
Hymowitz knows that the 20-something, Gen-Y guys she is talking about aren’t children. Her argument is that they are stuck in an extended adolescence — what she calls “preadulthood” — that was a necessary byproduct of the knowledge economy.
My paternal grandfather never graduated from high school. He went straight to work. After spending WWII in the Navy, he ended up working for the Pennsylvania Railroad, and stayed on there until he retired.
Jobs like that are few and far between these days. Kids raised in the 80s, 90s and aughts were raised to go to college and “find themselves” in some fulfilling career, working with their heads instead of their backs. The stable lunch pail jobs were often outsourced, and replaced with job growth in more creative, exciting jobs. These jobs require education and many offer no linear career path, so if young people want to be “fulfilled” by their careers, they often have to put off having getting married and having children. This is true of males and females alike, and while Hymowitz makes much of the “New Girl Order,” she acknowledges that those successful girls are also stuck in a kind of pre-adulthood, too. However, they hear their biological clocks ticking, and they are up against a pressure to get things underway that simply isn’t as pressing for males.
Hymowitz overplays the size and importance of the creative class — while those jobs abound in major metropolitan areas (like New York — Hymowitz lives in Brooklyn), there are too many graphic designers, web designers, script writers and photographers everywhere else. She also seems to inhabit a mental world where everyone went to Brown or Wesleyan or some posh east coast school, and one wonders if she is writing about the sexes in America, or just Sex in the City. She is correct, though, that the knowledge and service economies demanded skills which matched female tendencies. Hymowitz acknowledges that whether nature or nurture is to blame — she’s not sure herself — “manufacturing’s loss has been women’s gain” She also notes that while males aged 13-34 have eluded marketers, young females buy a lot of stuff, and it made sense for employers to look for women to help them create designs and promotions that appealed to their target demographics. This is easy enough to verify. I’ve noted for years that design seems to be getting “cuter” and virtually all of the new businesses in a neighborhood near to me were created by and for women. My favorite is “branch and birdie : retail catering to the modern home, woman and child.” (Notice who is missing…) She writes of the “Bridget Jones economy”:
“the uncomfortable truth is that youthful female careerism is closely intertwined with the growth of consumption for two reasons. First, working women make and spend a lot of money. Second, women can find satisfying (passion-filled?) careers centered around the sorts of products on which women like to spend money.”
Refreshingly, the author doesn’t blame the ad agencies or the media for pandering to women or to her child-men; she understands that most successful marketing trends exploit an existing demand.
When it comes to feminist heroes and doctrine, Hymowitz is not afraid to criticize Betty Friedan, who she portrays as being a bit spoiled and delusional, or Micheal Kimmel. She dismisses Kimmel’s tired 1970s neo-Marxist race and gender “entitlement” narrative tidily:
“The college-educated inhabitants of Kimmel’s Guyland never knew a world where women weren’t lawyers and managers or where slayers named Buffy didn’t take care of the vampires.”
Indeed, Hymowitz is a lot more sympathetic to the plight of young men than Kimmel. She acknowledges that there are demographic, economic, technological, cultural and hormonal reasons why young men haven’t “evolved” into “postfeminist mensches.” Despite the fact that she hysterically called Roissy an “evil” misogynist, she recognizes that the guys who she calls “Darwinians” have “the preponderance of evidence in their corner.” Males and females, according to Hymowitz, have biological clocks running at different speeds, and due to feminism, technology and changes in the economy, males and females alike have little motivation to marry early or produce a population-sustaining brood.
Hymowitz matches Kimmel’s bitterness, sublimated envy and ideological blindness with a schoolmarmish, obsessive horror of crude boyish humor — which is I imagine how she justifies the “child-man” moniker. But when she’s not wagging her finger or harrumphing about Maxim or Adam Sandler movies, she seems to understand that our society has made it clear that men are expendable as fathers and even in the workplace — so they sometimes act accordingly. Hymowitz believes that most men want families, albeit after the age when women want them, and she says that men will have to “man up” if they want to have those families. This feels like an afterthought, because while she spends the entire book outlining the problems young men and women face she offers no solutions whatsoever. She admits that the modern young man is “free as men have never been free before,” but gives no suggestions as to changes that could be made to encourage men to invest in families and careers before they’ve had their fill of beer and sluts.
Perhaps she realizes the kind of changes that would be necessary, and doesn’t dare.
So many “scientific” books about people written for a general audience turn out to be ideological propaganda with a sprinkle of “science.” This book s...moreSo many “scientific” books about people written for a general audience turn out to be ideological propaganda with a sprinkle of “science.” This book seems to have written by a vegetarian, feminist and pacifist male who nevertheless manages to fill a good 200 pages with a no-nonsense discussion of the more brutal aspects of human nature and chimpanzee nature. You really get the sense that Richard and/or Dale would rather humans (and chimps) were more naturally peaceful, but were forced by the evidence at hand to admit that humans aren’t noble savages, that they’ve probably always been male-bonded and violent, and that they have more in common with murdering, raiding chimpanzees than is palatable to peace-minded moderns. For anyone interested in men, masculinity, violence or human nature, this is very well written and well-worth the read for the evidence presented. It is, rarely enough, science with a sprinkle of ideology at the end.
The authors put women and bonobos on a pedestal, and wrap up with some grasping at straws (ranging from breeding out violent men – eugenics by another name – and some kind of New World Order one world government) and wishful thinking (albeit pessimistic wishful thinking). Their ideas could be referred to as “The Bonobo Theory” or “The Bonobo Project,” because the theme seems to be that if bonobos could evolve into a more matriarchal, peaceful society – then so could humans. The main problem with this is that for males, being a Bonobo sounds like a pretty crappy hen-pecked lifestyle, and the isolated Bonobos would in all likelihood be picked off easily by a group of raiding chimpanzees. Humans are not isolated. There are almost 7 billion of them. SWPLs are eventually going to figure out that the end result of their moralizing and environmental asceticism is that they will simply be bred out or conquered. The world is still full of people with the will to live who will gladly take the pie from those who are not eating it, and who will see the advantage in NOT becoming bonobos. (less)
In The Decline of Men, Guy Garcia begins and ends his discussion of the American male's loss of power at the Bu...moreAll We Have To Do Is Stay Male and Fail
In The Decline of Men, Guy Garcia begins and ends his discussion of the American male's loss of power at the Burning Man festival. In front of a sign that says "TRUTH" he sees an effigy of a man who is half-built, headless. The image of a man is being reconstructed after having been burned to the ground by surprise, ahead of schedule. Garcia sees the first man as traditional Western patriarchal man, and the burning symbolizes his loss of economic and political primacy in the United States and around the World. At the book's end, he muses that "through this failure and destruction [men] just might gain the freedom to re-create themselves as the men they know they can be."
His choice of exemplar here is telling. Gerald Levin, former architect of the disastrous AOL/Time Warner merger, was approached by a woman who wanted to start a New Age treatment escape in Santa Monica (Moonview Sanctuary). He left his job as a NYC executive and now spends his time managing a center that specializes in healing the rich and famous with New Age therapies ranging from drum circles to "brain painting" and "holotropic breathwork." (New York magazine, 2007) A convert to his new wife's "more feminine" ideology, Levin states in Garcia's book that his ultimate mission is now to "break down male culture."
The Decline of Men is a fairy standard, mostly one-sided catalog of men's issues with a particular emphasis on pop culture. His perspective feels tony and coastal, and his understanding of blue collar men outside of New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles seems to be confined to observations in the "I once had a friend who had a friend who dated a blue collar guy once, and this is what she said about him after they broke up" insight bracket.
Garcia offers a 12-Step program for men, which feels like an afterthought, and insults men with suggestions that they "Admit [we] have a problem," "Apologize," "Admit mistakes" but to "Never Blame Women." He refuses to look honestly or thoughtfully about the way women wield their new power, and shames men who do by calling them "unmanly." In doing so, Guy Garcia reveals himself a media-saavy opportunist, trying to make a buck off The Decline of Men by expanding his claim to expertise as a speaker and media consultant who helps corporate clients interpret the new marketplace, without offending or challenging women (likely his potential clients) in any way. The Decline of Men flatters the egos of women, and offers no real direction for men beyond some sort of New Age awakening to grateful goddess worship and uncritical subservience. Garcia's 12 Steps might as well be condensed to three: Stay Male, Fail and Obey.
(Edited from a longer review first published at The-Spearhead.com) (less)
People often assume for various reasons that I'm a big Boyd Rice fan, but the truth is that I'm a latecomer who has been infl...moreDiverse and entertaining.
People often assume for various reasons that I'm a big Boyd Rice fan, but the truth is that I'm a latecomer who has been influenced by others who Mr. Rice has inspired. And for the latecomer, "Standing in Two Circles: The Collected Works of Boyd Rice" is an outstanding introduction to this seminal artist whose inestimable influence on musicians, misanthropes and even boozehounds is driven home by Brian M. Clark's detailed biography.
I enjoyed reading "I'll Call You Abraxas," Rice's engaging recounting of his visits with Charles Manson, as well as "Hitler in Zimbabwe" and "Dystopia" while celebrating diversity at the San Diego Department of Motor Vehicles. There is a wry character to Rice's prose, and if you've listened to any of his spoken word recordings you can almost imagine his voice and intonations as you read through his essays.
Of particular interest are excerpts from a previously abandoned project called, "Physiosophy," a series of never-before-released essays written to clarify some of this enigmatic creator's worldview in the 1990s.(less)
This review is from: Muscletown USA: Bob Hoffman and the Manly Culture of York Barbell (Paperback) An excellent source for anyone interested in learnin...moreThis review is from: Muscletown USA: Bob Hoffman and the Manly Culture of York Barbell (Paperback) An excellent source for anyone interested in learning about the history of weightlifting or bodybuilding (or manliness) in the United States. I grew up in York, PA, but I never really understood the extent of York Barbell's influence on weightlifting until I read this book. It reads like a biography of Bob Hoffman, and probably could have been trimmed down a bit, but you can't really fault the author for giving you *more* detail than you really need.
I did find the "Bob was always trying to prove his manhood" theme a bit heavy handed, because many of the behaviors attributed to Bob's "need to prove his manhood" would be explained differently if the subject were just another competitive businessman of the time, instead of a muscle culture entrepreneur. I love the title, because York's culture was undoubtedly about proving and appreciating manliness, but I just felt like the theme was re-stated too often and unnecessarily, and that gave the book a distasteful hint of gender studies pop-psych. Sometimes men are actively and consciously trying to prove their manhood, and sometimes men are just men competing and doing things.
All in all I thought the author's treatment of the subject was appreciative, but even handed, fair and thorough. It gives a real sense of the times and the impact that Hoffman and York ultimately had in shaping American manhood.(less)
In Guyland, Kimmel describes and analyzes young American males with all the civilized horror of an eighteenth century missionary reporting on the cust...moreIn Guyland, Kimmel describes and analyzes young American males with all the civilized horror of an eighteenth century missionary reporting on the customs and activities of naked heathen cannibals. These savages, born innocent and full of childish wonder, learn early to fear the scorn of their male peers and become so desperate for male approval that they will engage in bizarre and often criminal behavior. Enter “Guyland,” a human terrain inhabited by young men that Kimmel maps only by the most extreme and sensational accounts of fraternity hazing, excessive gambling, sports obsession, drunkenness, video game addiction and gang rapes. Kimmel is at his most even handed and truthful when, as an avid sports fan, he writes about sports talk with his son and the influence that sports have on men’s lives. But for most of Guyland, he’s a critical outsider looking in – Kimmel, a Jew, offers that he was unable to join a fraternity in college because of the ethnic restrictions of the era, and Kimmel’s C.V. shows that he’s spent the majority of his adult life seeking the approval of feminist women. (He was one of the first males to attend and graduate from Vassar.)
Like many women and bookish solipsists, Kimmel looks at the male world and sees fear of social disapproval as a primary motivator for typical male behaviors, but this is spin and half-truth. For instance, if you only read Kimmel and had little firsthand experience dealing with “guys” in real life as peers, you’d think that young men only drank heavily because of peer pressure, campus rituals and outmoded masculine ideals. I read I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max alongside Guyland. Max’s stories about drinking and “hooking up” filled out Kimmel’s caricature and reminded me that men often drink together to create conflict and excitement out of the sense of boredom with polite, modern society that Kimmel acknowledges but fails to truly understand. Men drink to relax, and sometimes to wallow in self-pity, but men drink in packs for the story. Lionel Tiger was correct when he observed that men bond during aggression, and heavy drinking puts average guys in “safe crisis.” They fight their own bodies, concoct strategies to pick up girls, narrowly avoid or get into fights with other men. They do and say things they normally wouldn’t. Crazy things happen. Young men drink together because they’re looking for a good bad time, a story to tell, proof that something happened. While Tucker Max’s tales often involve boasting, they are just as often self-deprecating and have an honest humanity to them that doesn’t come across in Kimmel’s ethnography. For Kimmel, the only “guys” with any humanity are the ones who resist or reject the culture of “guyland.” Coming from the leading feminist scholar of “men’s studies” in America, this thesis feels more than a little self-congratulatory.
Guyland isn’t really an attempt to understand “guys.” It’s ultimately more of an exercise in telling women, feminists and frightened parents the horror stories they want to hear about the “privileged” white American male. (less)
If say, the Iliad or the Lord of the Rings were 5-Star books, this would be a one and a half star book. But rated for what it is -- a collection of fu...moreIf say, the Iliad or the Lord of the Rings were 5-Star books, this would be a one and a half star book. But rated for what it is -- a collection of funny stories, with occasional moments of honesty and sparks of wit -- it got the job done and I enjoyed it. (less)
The first hundred pages of Sam Sheridan’s A Fighter’s Heart made me want to pack it in and take up needlepoint. After graduating from high school, She...moreThe first hundred pages of Sam Sheridan’s A Fighter’s Heart made me want to pack it in and take up needlepoint. After graduating from high school, Sheridan joined the Merchant Marines, went to Harvard to study art, sailed around the world as a crew member on a yacht, studied Muay Thai in Thailand, won a fight in Thailand, got his EMT certification, fought fires in Washington and Arizona, worked in Antarctica, studied MMA with Pat Miletich and received a good clobbering in an amateur MMA match. In short, he’s done everything awesome.
Sheridan describes the adventures he has during his quest to understand fighting and the men who choose to fight with a balanced mix of articulate insight and thoroughly readable “guy-speak.” He’s genuine and likable. In fact, he’s so likable that when he writes at length about other fighters the chapters start to drag — especially the informative but 20 pages too long chapter on boxing. Sam is the main character of A Fighter’s Heart. And when Sam starts training for a fight, his dedication is so inspiring it made this writer want to put down the book and hit the gym. His efforts were heroic, even when they didn’t translate into wins.
Because he was a man immersed in male-dominated circles, A Fighter’s Heart is often as much about men as it is about fighting. When he followed Brazilian Rodrigo Nogueira to a PRIDE match with Fedor Emelienko, the chapter wound up being about the intensity of the experience, about camaraderie and in Sheridan’s own words, about “love” between men who fight. In contrast, his exploration of the world of boxing with Andre Ward and Virgil Hunter revealed a look into the tight, symbiotic "two against the world" relationship shared between coach and the athlete.
Sheridan’s brief examination of the idea of “gameness,” a concept that comes from the world of dog fighting, and its application to men was itself worth the price of the book. He describes gameness as “the eagerness to get into the fight, the berserker rage, and then the absolute commitment to the fight in the face of pain, and disfigurement, until death.”
(Originally published on The Spearhead, Nov. 2009)(less)
Keen's insights on the way that women wield power over men -- and his advice about how men need to put women into perspective and see them as human be...moreKeen's insights on the way that women wield power over men -- and his advice about how men need to put women into perspective and see them as human beings -- are worthwhile, though a bit overblown to the point where I was reminded of Camille Paglia. Keen is an engaging writer, but ultimately he argues from the false premise that humans were once peaceful goddess worshipers. Because that isn't true (a noble savage myth perpetuated by feminist anthropologists) Keen's observations on human nature and the need to alter masculinity to return to this peaceful state of nature and harmony don't work. (less)