Review of “The Incredibles 2”

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incredibles-2The second Incredibles movie, though released more than a decade after the first film, takes up on the heels of the first film. The Incredibles are living in a motel, and they’re facing a bleak future, when super rich Winston Deaver (Bob Odenkirk) enlists Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) in a plan to make super heroism legal again. Meanwhile, Mister Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) is left minding the mischievous Jack-Jack.

The film is fun, funny, and has a good–if slightly predictable–plot. Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), Edna Mode (Brad Bird), Violet (Sarah Vowell), and Dash (Huck Milner) return as well. The new film is very similar in tone to the first, but manages to seem fresh, possibly due to the 14 year gap since the first one. All in all, this is an excellent sequel to an excellent film.

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Man of Steel is Told to Shut Up

cavillHenry Cavill, the man behind the Man of Steel, is facing backlash over comments he made about dating in the post #MeToo era. Is mild mannered Cavill a misogynist?

“There’s something wonderful about a man chasing a woman,” he said. “There’s a traditional approach to that, which is nice. I think a woman should be wooed and chased, but maybe I’m old-fashioned for thinking that.”

I would think a lot of women would like to be wooed by Cavill.

“It’s very difficult to do that if there are certain rules in place. Because then it’s like: ‘Well, I don’t want to go up and talk to her, because I’m going to be called a rapist or something,” he said. “So you’re like, ‘Forget it, I’m going to call an ex-girlfriend instead, and then just go back to a relationship, which never really worked’. But it’s way safer than casting myself into the fires of hell, because I’m someone in the public eye, and if I go and flirt with someone, then who knows what’s going to happen?”

Seems pretty reasonable. I’m sure he’s rich, and there are plenty of gold diggers.

“Now? Now you really can’t pursue someone further than, ‘No’. It’s like, ‘OK, cool’. But then there’s the, ‘Oh why’d you give up?’ And it’s like, ‘Well, because I didn’t want to go to jail?'” he told the magazine.

Again, makes sense. You can’t tell men no means no, then expect them not to take no for an answer.

When asked if his past behavior ever crossed the line, Cavill offered this response: “I like to think that I’ve never been like that. I think any human being alive today, if someone casts too harsh a light on anything, you could be like, ‘Well, OK, yeah, when you say it like that, maybe.'”

In other words, things are so crazy right now, he’s afraid that, even though he has been good, others will claim otherwise. He probably read about what happened to Aziz Ansari.

He continued: “But it’s such a delicate and careful thing to say because there’s flirting which, for example, in a social environment is in context – and is acceptable. And that has been done to me as well, in return.”

Ansari’s advances were in a social context, and yet he was attacked by someone who had voluntarily come back to his place. So maybe it’s not acceptable any more.

People online feel that Cavill’s comments are tone deaf — and they’re sounding off on Twitter.

People online are idiots. Let’s see if any of the twits have anything useful to say in response to Cavill’s reasonable comments.

Hello [boring and false men are afraid to ask women out since #MeToo rhetoric] my old friend, I’ve come talk with you again — Grace Petrie

Women find handsome, rich actors boring? Not buying it.

This is absurd. If Henry Cavill doesn’t want to be called a rapist then all he has to do is… not rape anyone — Helen Price

Aziz Ansari didn’t rape anyone, yet he was called a rapist. Next.

If you can’t tell the difference between welcome flirting and harassment/assault, you have a big problem — Rachel Molnar

If you want to be flirted with and men can’t tell the difference between women who welcome flirting or will report it as harassment, you have a big problem.

Statement by Henry Cavill: Having seen the reaction to an article in particular about my feelings on dating and the #metoo movement, I just wanted to apologize for any confusion and misunderstanding that this may have created. Insensitivity was absolutely not my intention.

Good statement. Note that he didn’t walk back anything that he said.

This isn’t the first time that the actor has come under fire for comments about relationships. In a 2016 interview with The Sunday Times, Cavill made a joke about “double standards” for catcalling that many people felt was in poor taste.

“I do think there’s a bit of a double standard, you know,” he said. “I mean, if a girl shouts something like ‘Oi, love, fancy a shag?’ to me as I walk past I do sometimes wonder how she’d feel if a builder said that to her. Although, of course, I wouldn’t feel physically threatened, as she might.”

And how is this in poor taste? Seems pretty legit to me.

Keep telling men who point out the consequences of the #metoo movement to shut up and they will stop pointing them out. Don’t expect them to flirt with you as much, or to pursue you when you say no. I have no skin in the game, but if I were young and single, I’d think long and hard about joining the MGTOW movement.

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MacClean’s Thinks Free Speech is a Right Wing Conspiracy

free-speech-anonymousMacClean’s hit piece on Jordan Peterson (see MacLean’s is the Stupid Man’s Stupid Magazine) references another article, The death of free speech? Come on. In it, the author claims that free speech is being used by the evil right wing to bully the left.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a democracy in 2017 and have access to a phone and the Internet, you have unprecedented and an almost unfettered ability to express yourself. You can self-publish a book, create a blog or Tumblr, post on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, shoot a video for YouTube, record a podcast, create a newsletter, email a politician or a journalist, or go online and order a baseball hat with your political beliefs emblazoned on it. You are pretty much free to say whatever you want, no matter how smart or idiotic, temperate or heated, honest, false, or completely bonkers.

Except that conservative (and centrist) voices are being censored by Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others. Milo Yianopolous and Carl Benjamin have both been banned by twitter, I can’t count how many YouTubers have been blocked, and Facebook recently flagged an excerpt from the US constitution as hate speech.

And yet, never have so many people despaired over the presumed death of free speech. A couple recent examples: Last fall, Jordan Peterson, a professor at the University of Toronto released a series of videos in which he declared war on “political correctness.” Peterson doesn’t believe transgender people have the right to ask him to use “she” and “her” if Peterson has decided the person is male (and vice versa). “I don’t recognize another person’s right to determine what pronouns I use to address them,” he’s said. To respect someone else’s self-definition, he argues, would infringe on his right to free speech.

Sigh. Peterson doesn’t believe that the government or the university (his employer) have the right to tell him how to address people. The constant mischaracterizations by the media are tiresome.

Meanwhile, Motion 103 has Conservative leadership candidates equally agitated that they, too, are in imminent danger of being gagged. Kellie Leitch, never one for subtlety, has gone all in on the metaphor, with a petition featuring a picture of woman with a sticker over her mouth that reads “Stop Motion 103.”

Motion 103 is a regressive motion to stifle debate on real problems like Islamic terrorism. The implication that those who oppose it are racists is intentional, and is part of the same movement to stifle open debate on such issues.

The motion, which was introduced by Liberal backbencher Iqra Khalid, carries no legal weight, has no legislative authority and changes not a single one of our laws. It simply asks the House of Commons to acknowledge “the increasing public climate of hate and fear” and to condemn “Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” Somehow this has been interpreted by Pierre Lemieux as “an attack on free speech,” by Maxime Bernier as “the first step” to restricting the right to criticize religions, and by Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose as a motion that will “intimidate rather than inform.”

And despite the fact I voted for the socialist NDP in our last federal election, I find myself in agreement with the Conservatives on this issue.

Then there’s Milo Yiannopoulos. Up until this week, when his flippant comments about pedophilia jettisoned his career, the former Breitbart News editor acted as the millennial majorette for the alt-right, lobbing malicious attacks at Jews, immigrants, African-Americans, Muslims, women, transgender people and anyone he found unattractive. Last year, he incited a vile racist and sexist crusade against Saturday Night Live comedian Leslie Jones. When he was banned from Twitter for it, he cried free speech. He also proclaimed himself a martyr to the cause of free expression when rowdy protests shut down his recent speaking engagement at Berkeley College in San Francisco.

Interesting that Yiannopoulos is criticized for attacking Jews and African-Americans, as he is himself a Jew and is married to a black man. His Twitter spat with Leslie Jones was hardly a crusade, and the fact that he was banned from Twitter is an indication that the major technology platforms are biased against the right wing.

For many conservatives, especially on the far right of the spectrum, free speech has become a kind of fetish. They invoke it like a magic defence against allegations of bias and bigotry.

When what one party calls bias and bigotry are being expressed non-violently, free speech is to be used as a defense against the government’s suppression of them. Free speech is not only a right in America. The Canadian charter enshrines both freedom of expression and freedom of media of communication as fundamental, and the UN’s universal declaration of human rights does as well. To argue against freedom of expression of one’s opinions, even if you disagree with them, is to advocate that the state violate our rights.

And yet, some of the staunchest free speech advocates see no conflict in using that right to call for limits on the liberty of others, like those who want to marry someone of the same sex, to use the washroom that reflects their gender as they define it, to cover their hair as religious observance, or to determine what goes on in their own uterus. At issue is not an open, civil and respectful exchange of ideas. Rather, what the conservative free speech posse wishes to protect is the power to gin up hysteria and insult others, particularly people in minority groups, without consequence or criticism.

I believe that adults have the right to freely associate with each other and dress as they wish–I consider that part of freedom of expression. Free speech does give us the right to insult others, though we are all protected by the law from slander. When the state steps in to punish someone for professing their beliefs, no matter how distasteful we may find them, we have started down the path to totalitarianism.

But, of course, that’s not what free speech laws were created to do. Protections of free expression ensure that citizens aren’t punished by the state, thrown in jail or sent into exile for championing dissident views. That doesn’t mean everyone with an axe to grind is entitled to an audience. That doesn’t mean that a comedian won’t be criticized for a rape joke, or a homophobic business won’t be boycotted. That doesn’t mean a crowd is allowed to hurl slurs at a woman in a hijab.

I agree with this. Yet, while I’m not entitled to an audience, in Canada, I do have a right to access to communication media, meaning that if I’m banned from using the telephone or the internet, I can file a claim under the charter. I would like to see this tested in court against Twitter and YouTube.

And, as a matter of etiquette, cultural norms or old-fashioned common sense, we routinely accept limits to self expression. Corporate employees abide by office dress codes and don’t show up to work in cut-off shorts and Crocs. TV and radio broadcast regulations forbid the airing of adult content during certain hours. Many of us don’t use curse words in front of our kids or our grandparents. Few of us feel silenced by these concessions.

Other than the regulation of the airwaves by the CRTC, these are aesthetic preferences rather than moral imperatives.

But the free speech doomsayers believe we are living in the end days of democracy, and they are the ones who are suffering. Think I’m exaggerating? A week after a white nationalist gunned down six men peacefully praying in Quebec City mosque, when the traumatized congregants had barely finished washing away the blood, conservative columnist Barbara Kay tweeted, “How long until my honest criticism of Islamism constitutes a speech crime in Canada?” It says a great deal about Kay’s self-regard and her priorities that she painted herself as a victim of the tragedy.

Well, she may not have made the most sensitive comment, but Motion 103 does seem to be an attempt to move in that direction.

In Peterson’s case, he fancies himself a hero for refusing to do what most of us would do as a simple matter of politeness: that is, call someone what they’d like be called. By Peterson’s logic, I have the right to address him as “Dame Judi Dench” or “Chuckles the Clown.” But would that make me a fearless warrior for free speech? Or just self-aggrandizing and sort of pathetic?

Again, the author is lying about Peterson’s position. The government has no right to force me to call her Ms. Giese. If I refuse to and I’m thrown in jail, my rights have been violated. That is all Peterson is saying.

But why be courteous and decent, when you can be famous and rich? Peterson’s free speech rants have helped him rack up over 80,000 Twitter followers, 8,000 Facebook likes and 3,000,000 views on YouTube. That’s a sizeable audience for who someone who claims he’s being censored. He’s also got a blog, a new book and an online self-help course. He’s even launched a Patreon account where his fans give him US$12,000 per month — a very nice top up on his $160,000 annual prof’s salary — to support his lectures on political correctness.

U jelly?

And that’s what’s actually at stake — profile and profit, not free expression. Until the pedophilia comments came out, Yiannopoulos’s free-speech-victim routine landed him a US$250,000 advance from Simon & Schuster for a book, which was at the top of the pre-order list on Amazon (the offer has since been withdrawn). Turns out there’s some speech his fans won’t support after all, the courage of their convictions be damned.

People support free speech but not pedophilia? Maybe there’s hope for the world.

For Conservative leadership contenders, harping on about the dangers of Islam isn’t about a willingness to take an unpopular stand. It’s about rallying the base. Kellie Leitch may be an accomplished doctor with anywhere between 18 and 22 letters after her name, but as an MP her performance has been at best mediocre. As a leadership candidate, the only thing that’s distinguished her has been her willingness to target immigrants. And so, she’s leaning in.

There is some truth to this.

As for the evidence of widespread censorship, where exactly is it? Conservative viewpoints abound on Fox News, Rebel Media, Breitbart News Network and the Sun newspaper chain. You can get your fill and then some of misogyny, racism and gay bashing on Reddit, 4chan and Twitter. The anonymous citizens who deluged Iqra Khalid with rape and death threats didn’t seem the slightest bit inhibited in their attacks.

Yet as you point out in this very article, Yianoppoulos was censored by Twitter. Lindsay Sheperd, a TA at Wilfred Laurier, was brought before an inquisition because she dared show her students a clip of Jordan Peterson.

No doubt all of us would benefit from better, smarter and more open debates, and from listening more to those we don’t agree with. But it’s hard to swallow the argument that free speech is under attack when it’s coming from the loudest voices in the room and from the protected perches of a tenured academic post, a column in a national newspaper, and the bully pulpit of a seat in the House of Commons. If those people have been silenced, why are they still shouting?

Shepherd was hardly a loud voice. The only reason she was even heard of was that she had the foresight to record her abuse at the hands of Wilfred Laurier staff. Pretending that there aren’t a sea of others who have been bullied into submission by the universities and the press is hypocritical. Those who are in positions of power have a duty to speak out because they represent the silent majority who don’t have protected positions and are therefore unable to fight back when they are told to shut up.

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MacLean’s is the Stupid Man’s Stupid Magazine

MacLean’s magazine asks the rhetorical question Is Jordan Peterson the stupid man’s smart person? The title of this hit piece smears anyone who enjoys Peterson as ‘stupid’. Is author Tabatha Southey a smart person?

University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson was in the news this week—and one imagines this makes the university sad. Peterson first made the news and became a belle of the alt-right when, in September 2016, he announced that he would not use a student’s preferred pronoun if he were asked to, except that he might if he felt the request was “genuine,” and no one had asked him that anyway.

What he actually said was that he wouldn’t let the government or the university administration compel him to use these ‘special’ pronouns. Equating this position with the position of white ethno-nationalist is purely dishonest. Not a good start for Southey.

What that poor man has been through.

Well, he was put through hell. Check your progressive female privilege, Tabatha.

Needless to say, in an economy as desperately short of leadership and ideas as the alt-right’s is, Peterson’s stock went through the roof. He currently has legions of fans hanging on his every YouTubed word; he’s now hauling in around USD $50,000 a month through crowdfunding.

And all this through the tiny minority who are ‘alt-right’? What a load of bullshit. This smears everyone who enjoys Peterson’s commentaries on the bible as racist. Hillary Clinton lost the election in part because she called half the population deplorable. MacLean’s will hopefully lose readers after calling them white supremacists.

“Postmodern neo-Marxism” is Peterson’s nemesis, and the best way to explain what postmodern neo-Marxism is, is to explain what it is not—that is, it is entirely distinct from the concept of “cultural Marxism.”

Bullshit. Fredric Jameson, who set forth one of the first expansive theoretical treatments of Postmodernism, introduced Americans to the Frankfurt School, a European Neo-Marxist movement. Cultural Marxism is the claim that followers of the Frankfurt School have infiltrated the social sciences in academia. Ergo, the concepts are not entirely distinct.

“Cultural Marxism” is a conspiracy theory holding that an international cabal of Marxist academics, realizing that traditional Marxism is unlikely to triumph any time soon, is out to destroy Western civilization by undermining its cultural values. “Postmodern neo-Marxism,” on the other hand, is a conspiracy theory holding that an international cabal of Marxist academics, realizing that traditional Marxism is unlikely to triumph any time soon, is out to destroy Western civilization by undermining its cultural values with “cultural” taken out of the name so it doesn’t sound quite so similar to the literal Nazi conspiracy theory of “cultural Bolshevism.”

Claiming Cultural Marxism is a conspiracy theory doesn’t change the fact that there is ample evidence for the influence of the neo-Marxist Frankfurt School on western academia. Postmodern neo-Marxism is not a conspiracy theory. The Frankfurt School is a fact. Smearing those who believe in cultural Marxism as Nazis is not an argument.

To be clear, Jordan Peterson is not a neo-Nazi, but there’s a reason he’s as popular as he is on the alt-right. You’ll never hear him use the phrase “We must secure a future for our white children”; what you will hear him say is that, while there does appear to be a causal relationship between empowering women and economic growth, we have to consider whether this is good for society, “‘’cause the birth rate is plummeting.”

How is this a problem? The birth rate is indeed plummeting, and the fact that women are participating in the workforce is one of the causes. Considering the impact of the falling birthrate on society is good.

He doesn’t call for a “white ethnostate,” but he does retweet Daily Caller articles with opening lines like: “Yet again an American city is being torn apart by black rioters.” He has dedicated two-and-a-half-hour-long YouTube videos to “identity politics and the Marxist lie of white privilege.”

Decrying violence and the feminist white privilege conspiracy theory is a far cry from calling for a white ethnostate. Implying that the two are the same is dishonest.

Now, as I’ve said, I failed to get in on the ground floor of the “not using a person’s chosen address” industry which, in a simpler time, was known as “calling people names” and was considered bad manners. But since calling a certain University of Toronto professor “Jordan Pea-Headerson” is apparently the only thing standing between us and non-stop collectivist potato farming, I’ll do my part for the resistance.

Not using a person’s chosen address is not the same as calling them names. Maybe make some real arguments, rather than devolving into childishness? [See the original article for more brainless rhetoric if you feel so inclined, which I’ve removed because I care about my readers.]

As far as I can tell, [Dr. Peterson] rewards the devotion of his Patreon patsies with regular rants against “political correctness,” and relationship advice I can only call “Angry Oprah Says.” For USD $29.99, Petersonites can get access to the Self Authoring Suite (a USD $119.92 value!). Those looking for further opportunities to give him money can pay USD $9.99 for “100 question phrases” which “can be found, along with similar question sets, elsewhere on the web” so that they might learn how your personality compares to 10,000 others.

And people are free to do this if they want to. Calling them patsies isn’t going to persuade them. Not an argument.

Pro tip: just take a personality test from the back of an issue of Glamour; you’ll only be out about five bucks, and you might find a free perfume sample.

Pro tip: A personality profile developed by a clinical psychologist, not a hack magazine writer, may actually be worth $10, whereas an entire issue of Glamour likely isn’t worth $5.

He also gives book recommendations apparently drawn from a high-school English-class reading list. If somehow you missed them, Mistress Peterson is the portal to such obscure works as Animal FarmOf Mice and Men, and that cornerstone of the Western canon, Flowers for Algernon.

And people who haven’t read these books should. Animal Farm is an allegory for communism, written by George Orwell the author of 1984. Of Mice and Men is a novel about ordinary people surviving the wake of the great depression, written by Grapes of Wrath author John Stienbeck. Flowers for Algernon is a science fiction novel about a mentally disabled man who is given high intelligence via a surgical procedure.

There is no polite way to put this, but since Peterson claims that “If you worry about hurting people’s feelings and disturbing the social structure, you’re not going to put your ideas forward,” I’m just going to say it: Spend half an hour on his website, sit through a few of his interminable videos, and you realize that what he has going for him, the niche he has found—he never seems to say “know” where he could instead say “cognizant of”—is that Jordan Peterson is the stupid man’s smart person.

Wow, what a criticism. Jordan Peterson’s videos are long and he uses big words. Wah!

Peterson’s videos go on and on. It’s like opening up a tab for one of those bird’s nest webcams at the height of its popularity: Lots of people are watching, you feel like you should too, but nothing is happening. You keep checking back, the viewer numbers have risen, but the scene is just so grey and drab. You can make out a white object on your screen that may or may not be cracking up, but as time goes on you start to think, “This thing was not incubated properly.”

Nothing is happening in your head.

Watching his videos, it’s easy to conclude that Dr. Jordan Eggman exhibits the first documented case of the male-cry voice. Maybe he wouldn’t need to repeat himself quite so much, maybe he’d be more convincing when explaining things like men are helpless before “crazy women” and “harpies” because it’s not socially acceptable for men to hit women and that this is “undermining the masculine power of the culture” in a way that will prove “fatal” if he didn’t sound quite so much like Gwyneth Paltrow accepting her Oscar for Shakespeare in Love.

Jordan Peterson sounds funny. Hard hitting critique!

It was a video that brought J-man back into the news this week. In July, he posted a video on his YouTube page laying out a plan to launch a website on which students and parents could have courses rated for them by artificial intelligence that could detect a “postmodern cult course.” His aim, he explained, was to cut off “the supply to the people that are running the indoctrination cults.” Ultimately, the champion of free speech said, he hoped the project would shut down whole departments that upset him.

I liked this idea, but he ended up nixing it.

One has to wonder why Dr. Pettyson felt the need to resort to artificial intelligence. He’s already concluded that the entire fields of “women’s studies, and all the ethnic studies and racial studies groups” “have to go,”and that sociology, anthropology, English literature, and education are all “corrupt.”

Ah, so you recommend throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

Understandably, this plan to unleash grumpy-old-man Skynet on the academic world caused concern amongst his peers. The University of Toronto Faculty Association released a statement on Friday condemning Peterson’s website plan, without naming him directly; the group said it was “alarmed to learn that a web site may be under construction that is designed to place under surveillance certain kinds of academic content.”

We should be looking carefully at academic content, and resources that help students make intelligent decisions are a good thing. Students will after all have to pay for the courses they take. The expectation that no one can review your service says that it can’t stand up to scrutiny.

No one can objectively look at the level of hyperbole used by Jordan Buttercup Peterson and his fanbase and not acknowledge that the Faculty Association’s concern is justified. I wouldn’t want to be a department at the end of those more than 500,000 Youtube subscribers and more than 250,000 Twitter followers.

The service was not intended to be used to target universities. This may well be why Peterson changed his mind on the idea.

But woe betide those fields that have abandoned serious inquiry and empirical evidence and have become cult-like: Guru Jordan will vanquish you—just as soon as he’s done prepping his course, Psychology 434: Maps of Meaning. In this rigorously academic course, students learn how “every experience that you have had contains information. If you have fully processed the information in that experience, (1) its recollection will no longer produce negative emotion and (2) you have learned everything you need to know from it.”

Psychology is not a hard science, but claiming it is less rigorous than “women’s studies,  ethnic studies, and racial studies” is ludicrous.

It’s easy to assume Peterson is deserving of respect. A lot of what he says sounds, on the surface, like serious thought. It’s easy to laugh at him: after all, most of what he says is, after fifteen seconds’ consideration, completely inane. But in between his long rambling pseudo-academic takes on common self-help advice and his weird fixation on Disney movies, is a dreadfully serious message.

Dismissing the arguments of a practicing clinical psychologist after thinking about them for fifteen seconds leads me to think you have a journalism degree. Are you going to make an argument?

What he’s telling you is that certain people—most of them women and minorities—are trying to destroy not only our freedom to spite nonbinary university students for kicks, but all of Western civilization and the idea of objective truth itself. He’s telling you that when someone tells you racism is still a problem and that something should be done about it, they are, at best, a dupe and, at worst, part of a Marxist conspiracy to destroy your way of life.

Certain people are trying to remove our right to free speech, which is indeed one of the foundations of western civilization. I have never heard Peterson deny that racism is a problem. Not being able to criticize individuals actions because of their race is a problem.

Peterson says he only thinks of it as a “non-violent war.” But when you insist the stakes are that high, the opposition that pernicious, who’s to say where the chips will fall?

Yes. There are radical communists out there who go around hitting people in the head with bike locks. In response, crazies on the alt-right come out and kill demonstrators with their cars. So why add to the problem by shitting all over Peterson and the vast majority of people who merely see him as a right leaning centrist and find some value in what he has to say? You will only push them further to the right, and closer to the alt-right.

This entire article contains no arguments against Peterson’s positions that withstand more than the briefest scrutiny. Peterson has made a few arguments–namely calling men going their own way “pathetic weasels” and advocating forced monogamy as a solution to the incel problem–that I’ve argued against. See Jordan Peterson is Wrong on Forced Monogamy. Smearing Peterson and his fans is not going to make him less popular; quite the opposite. If you want to attack Peterson, you’ll need to go after his ideas with serious arguments, not slurs.

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Review of “Tomb Raider (2018)”

* * * B

The 2018 remake of Tomb Raider, starring Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft, is surprisingly good. There are some excellent supporting actors, including Dominic West as Lara’s father Richard and Daniel “Gul’dan” Wu as sidekick Lu Ren. Walton Goggins is solid as villain Mathias Vogel.

Since Lara Croft is an established character in her own right, the film bucks the trend of gender bending existing franchises, making her an organic female action hero. Clearly Vikander put a lot of work in to her conditioning and performing the action sequences, allowing one to suspend their disbelief of the crazy stunts she performs.

The story is full of interesting puzzles, crazy action sequences, and an overarching plot that requires Lara to save the world from evil. The romantic subplot, while subtle, works well, and the relationship between Lara and her father is excellent. It’s fair to say that Tomb Raider makes a better sequel to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade than Crystal Skull was.

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Did Mark Use Psalm 22 as a Source?

psalm-22The original psalm 22 (verses 2-23) is thought to date from 587 BC. Verses 24-27 were likely added between 538 BC and 1 AD. The most recent portion of the composition, verses 28-32, is considered to date from between 350 and 400 AD.

These dates are important because the psalm includes much imagery that is reused in the Christian gospels of the new testament, which were written long after it. Here is the first line:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, and from the words I am roaring?

The first sentence contains the exact words spoke by Jesus on the cross in the two earliest gospels, Mark (15:34) and Matthew (27:46). It seems likely that the author of Mark took the words from psalm 22 and put them in the mouth of the dying Jesus. Later, the authors of Luke and John, finding these words incongruent with their more evolved Christologies, changes Jesus’s dying words to better suit their narratives.

The psalm continues:

Oh my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not hear, nor in the night, though I am not silent. But you are holy, you who inhabit the praise of Israel.  Our fathers trusted in you. They trusted, and you delivered them. They cried to you, and were delivered. They trusted in you, and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man, reproached by men and despised by the people. All who see me laugh at and scorn me. They shoot out their lips and shake the heads.

“He trusted that the Lord would deliver him. Let Him deliver him, seeing He delighted in him,” they say.

Compare this to the statement in Mark: “The chief priests mockingly said among themselves and the scribes, ‘He saved others, yet he cannot save himself? Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.'” — Mark 15:31-32

You are the one that took me out of the womb. You gave me hope when I was at my mother’s breast. I was cast upon you from the womb. You were my God from my mother’s belly.

Do be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is no one to help. Many bulls have surrounded me. The strong bulls of Samaria have beset me. They gape at me with their mouths, like ravening, roaring lions.

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax; it lies melted amidst my bowels. My strength has dried up like a clay potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my mouth. You have brought me into the dust of death.

What comes next is an amazing passage, written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus:

Dogs have surrounded me. The assembly of the wicked have enclosed me. They pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones. They stare at me. They share my garments among themselves, and cast lots for my robe.

Again, Mark seems to have taken imagery from the psalm: “And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots for them, what every man should take” — Mark 15:24

Don’t be far from me, oh Lord. Oh my strength, hasten to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword, my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth, and from the horns of the bulls.

I will declare your name to my kindred. In the midst of the congregation will I praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him. All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him. Fear Him, all you children of Israel.

The next section was added shortly before the birth of Jesus:

Yahweh does not despised nor abhor the affliction of the afflicted; neither has he hidden his face from them. When they cried to him, he heard. I shall praise Him in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before those that fear Him.

The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. To the ends of the earth, all shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Him.

This final part, scholars believe was added after Jesus died:

For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and he is the governor of the nations. All those who prosper upon earth shall eat and worship. All those that go down to dust shall bow before him. None can keep alive his own soul.

A future generation shall serve the Lord. They shall come, and shall declare His righteousness to the people yet to be born, and that He has done this.

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Who’s More Valuable, Einstein or a Staff Instructor?

geniusThe CBC is promoting the opinion that Jordan Peterson exemplifies the harm in our love for male genius. The author makes the insane claim that all ‘academic labor’ is of equal value.

Like it or not, University of Toronto Prof. Jordan Peterson is a cultural sensation. Over the past year and a half, Peterson has gained notoriety through his open hostility toward trans rights and feminism as well as his characterization of universities as tools for indoctrinating students into what he terms “neo-Marxism.”

Peterson has never expressed hostility towards trans-rights, only to the state’s desire to compel us to alter our speech based on ideology.

He has throngs of online followers. A column in the New York Times noted he’s been called the “most influential public intellectual in the Western world,” and academics regularly write columns seeking to discredit him. I am an academic, but this is not one of those columns. Instead, I think we need to question our incessant need to talk about Peterson in the first place.

Criticizes those who talk about Peterson. Writes hit piece on Peterson.

Our obsession with Peterson reveals a larger cultural problem that threatens to cripple our universities: our adoration of the individual masculine genius. This cult of genius comes at the expense of a vibrant intellectual life and thriving democracies in North America.

How does masculinity come into this? And how does valuing genius damage intellectuals and democracies? This seems irrational.

Peterson’s success is built on the fact that he was deemed to be a part of that special and highly nebulous category of genius — a term (much like “expert”) that is almost exclusively reserved for men.

There are more male geniuses the female geniuses for the same reason that there are more male idiots than female idiots: Men’s intelligence varies more than women. The average intelligence of men and women is very similar, but women cluster more tightly about the mean than men do.

In a recent column, Peterson’s former colleague Bernard Schiff explains that Peterson was hired and promoted precisely on these grounds: he “sometimes appeared to be in the thrall of his ideas and would not, or could not, constrain himself and self-monitor what he was saying. That was OK. He was eccentric.”

For my commentary on Schiff’s hit piece, see Marxist Apologist Attacks Jordan Peterson.

In universities, we often take “eccentric” along with bad behaviour as a mark of genius: we ignore complaints about intolerance or sexual harassment because geniuses are above the rules.

Why do you do this?

We really like geniuses. We hire and promote them and students want to study under them.

Makes sense. If you could hire Einstein to teach physics, why wouldn’t you?

One problem with genius is that it is something one is rather than something one does. The concept implies that academic work is not, in fact, a form of work. When we only care if a university has its fair share of geniuses, we devalue and label as more feminine other forms of academic labour — from teaching to administration to less trendy research.

What a load of bullshit. Geniuses do the real work of science. Look how much modern physics is based on the work of Einstein. We should value teaching and administration less than true advancements in science. Who is calling these ‘feminine’?

In fact, the majority of undergraduate teaching in North American universities is now done by contract faculty (the majority of whom tend to be women): PhD-holding subject experts who are paid per course. If they are lucky enough to be teaching a full course load every semester, they might earn around $28,000 for working in excess of 40 hours a week.

Yes, because teaching undergrads the basics of well understood science is less valuable than mentoring PhD students who will become the next generation of scientists. Associate professors make a lot more because they do a lot more.

Permanent faculty, on the other hand, are often overloaded with administrative work, such as curriculum planning and advising students. A recent study has shown that this work, too, falls largely to female faculty members — keeping them from engaging in innovative teaching and groundbreaking research.

For those who want to move into administration, it makes sense to take on such activities. Those who love their areas of research should avoid these tasks. Are women being forced to take them on?

This emphasis on genius also threatens to destroy entire fields of study, particularly the “softer” disciplines in the humanities (art, English, history, etc.) since “genius” is typically reserved primarily for the more male-dominated STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Since the arts are subjective, their study is very different from their advancement. Genius artists typically don’t work in universities. In the sciences, those who study them also advance them. Genius scientists often do work in universities.

Politicians, administrators, many members of the public and Jordan Peterson himself regularly deride the humanities as frivolous. (Ever heard a joke about an English major being a barista-in-training?)

And often, the humanities are frivolous.

On the contrary, the humanities are vitally important in an increasingly polarized society because they help us to understand, analyze and critique differences in human communication and culture.

Bullshit. The humanities are the source of much of the polarization in society. There are few in academia who understand humanity, and their voices are drowned out by the political message of those who don’t.

And (for the practical-minded) humanities majors do get satisfying jobs. Their skills are in demand in the corporate world and they may actually have more career success than business majors.

The degradation of the humanities is making this less true. For example, I have recently seen jobs in the technology industry that now require a STEM degree.

We need to reject this cult of the masculine genius. If we want a thriving intellectual culture, we need to start valuing all academic labour and forms of inquiry.

Not all forms of inquiry are equally valuable, and much academic labor (for example, administration) is pure overhead. Managers don’t add value, they merely enable its generation.

It’s not just better for universities themselves; it’s better for building a more tolerant and democratic society.

Academics in the humanities are some of the most intolerant and antidemocratic people in our society.

In order to shift this culture, we need to demand that politicians and administrators value and economically support a diversity of voices inside universities.

Yes, because having the state throw more money at it is always the solution.

If we want a strong democracy and intellectual culture, let’s forget “genius.” Instead, let’s build stronger universities.

If you ‘forget genius’, you certainly aren’t going to build stronger universities.

This is why it is so dangerous when the state directly funds higher education. Allowing diversity politics to override academic merit weakens universities. When universities have to survive on their merits, they need to show value to attract faculty (who bring research funding) and students (who pay tuition). This keeps them honest.

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