Random Observations

I was going to keep this one till last but I’m so excited about it, I can’t do it. I stumbled upon this today. It had a profound effect on me, possibly because of the situation we’re in right now. Whatever the reason, I wonder if you won’t get a little catch in your breath as you watch this. Amazing technology. When the long dead seemingly come to life.

As we desperately look forward to the year 2021 – well, I am, anyway – I thought it might be fun to take a look back a few years. Ok; 70 but so what? It’s hard not to laugh and maybe that’s why I’m sharing it; gosh, we could use a good laugh, couldn’t we? When I was 18 and graduated high school, of course, I thought I’d go into office work of some kind. In the 60s (don’t you do that math! our, for our cousins across the Pond, maths), women weren’t allowed to wear sleeveless blouses to work. Today women wear their clothes as tight as is humanly possible, sleeveless, low cut in front, 6″ high heels, and sparkle fingernail polish. Eye roll! I wonder what would happen if one of today’s business office candidates walked into the Personnel Department (isn’t that sweet? quaint? today you’re considered a ‘human resource’. Not all change is good) of 1950 dressed as 2020. Even the men would be scandalized. At first. (laughing) But enjoy this little walk down memory lane.

This was great fun; I guess you could call it variations on a theme. I don’t know any of the people, of course, but they look like a good bunch to hang out with.

NEO is fortunate enough to have an international readership and we never forget them. I decided, after watching this video, that I ought to be able to buy the same thing today. I want to buy the same thing today. I wonder if the United Kingdom is still in the cigarette business?

There’s a certain woman in America who feels that she has been victimized by the ‘system’; that she has no voice. Au contraire, mon ami. I’ll give ya some system – try this!

Finally, I’ll show you the pictures and you gents out there can tell us ladies about the ‘rules’ you were brought up with, in regard to appearance and clothing.

But let me run get popcorn and a beverage first – this should be entertaining!

My prayer for us is to go into the new year with laughter and hope.

Camille Paglia: Provocations

“I loved the idea of the armed woman,” Paglia said of Diana the Huntress, whose image entranced her as a child. Caption from the linked article

Camille Paglia, a book, what’s not to like. I like many of you, often disagree with her, from her lifestyle to her writings, but I also admire her immoderately. There aren’t many people about who think and write more clearly and honestly. From Emily Esfahani Smith writing in City Journal.

The word “person” captures a concept so fundamental to Westerners that it can be jarring to discover that it once had a different meaning. Etymologically, “person”comes from the Latin word persona, which means “mask.” To be a person is to wear a mask, act out a role—what people today might call being fake.

But to Camille Paglia, the dissident social critic, a mask does not conceal a person’s true nature; it helps reveal it. This is why Halloween was her favorite holiday as a child. It was “a fantastic opportunity,” she told an interviewer recently, “to enact one’s repressed and forbidden self—which in my case was male.” When she was five, she dressed up as Robin Hood; at seven, she was a Roman soldier; at eight, Napoleon; at nine, Hamlet. “These masks,” Paglia told me in Philadelphia recently, “are parts of myself.”

There’s a lot of truth in that, isn’t there? Halloween is the one time of the year when we can identify with our fantasies publically if we dare.

[…] Her project in Provocations, and in much of her later work, is not to provoke simply for the sake of it, in the manner of, say, Milo Yiannopoulos. Her project is cultural populism. “I feel I should use my name recognition for service, for art,” she told the blog Bookslut in 2015. “I’m just a teacher in the classroom from beginning to end,” she added. Paglia sees culture, from the stories of the Bible to the paintings of Picasso to the ballads of Joni Mitchell, as a vast patchwork of meaning that inspires awe and delivers wisdom. She wants to bring the riches of art, literature, and religion to everyday people. […]

Endicott was in many ways like a rural Italian village—which meant that Paglia saw how gender dynamics worked in the premodern world. Her grandmothers were matriarchal, goddess-like figures, who ruled home and hearth. They dictated the affairs of Paglia’s daily life. “Eat!” they’d command her in Italian. “Sleep!” Even more severe were the petite elderly Italian ladies who would visit their homes. “You had to watch out for them,” she said, “because when they kissed you, they’d bite your earlobe.” When Paglia and her parents moved from Endicott to the top floor of a dairy farm in Oxford, New York, where her father taught high school Spanish and her mother worked as a teller at the local bank, she encountered more tough women—farmers working the animals and land. Paglia dedicated Sexual Personae to her grandmothers and a paternal aunt.

Looking back, Paglia saw that her grandmothers had their own sphere of power at home, separate from the male sphere—where older women ruled. “Young women were nothing” in that world, Paglia said. Today, it’s the opposite: women try to gain power in the male sphere of work and lose status culturally as they age. “You’re unhappy,” Paglia said of today’s professional women, “because you’re spending all day long in this mechanical professional world. But we willingly put up with that because we want the financial autonomy and freedom.”

Her childhood also instilled in her an appreciation of men, especially working-class men—the plumbers, factory workers, and policemen who keep the world going. Paglia’s paternal grandfather was a barber, and her maternal grandfather operated a leather-stretching device at the Endicott-Johnson shoe factory. Four of her uncles served in the military during World War II, and her father was an army paratrooper. “One of the reasons I’m not anti-male,” Paglia told me, “is because I saw the sacrifices made by my father’s generation in those men.”

We forget at our peril just how tough our forebearers had it, especially our foremothers, and how powerful they were in our lives. I often think of my grandmothers, one with her husband dead with 7 kids still at home, and my other one blind from glaucoma for the last 20 years of her life. I never knew them, but from what my families said, they ran a tight ship.

At 14, after seeing an item about Amelia Earhart in the newspaper, she began obsessively researching the feminist aviator, with the goal of writing a book about her. Earhart became a symbol to Paglia of “female freedom, thought, and movement.” As she researched Earhart, she also encountered figures such as politician Clare Boothe Luce, journalist Dorothy Thompson, and aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh. “These women of the twenties and thirties were amazing pioneers without all this male bashing that goes on now,” Paglia said.

Amelia, especially, fascinated me, as a kid, and yes, even now. An excellent role model for any of us.

Sterling Library was a gothic temple to scholarship—and Paglia worked with the reverence of a medieval monk. “To be a scholar,” Paglia has written, “is the greatest of vocations: to compose a devout commentary, a talmud, on the created world.” Her mother, she likes to point out, was born near the sixth-century monastery where Thomas Aquinas was educated. Her two mentors, Milton Kessler and Harold Bloom, were “visionary rabbis.” “Universities descend from medieval institutions,” she told me, “that were [intended] to train clergy, and there’s always been a model of withdrawal from the world and contemplation and honor and ethics in the academic tradition.”

Her devotion to this noble vision explains why Paglia was appalled by what happened next in academia. In the early 1970s, as she was finishing her doctoral course work, a new school of literary studies gained its first U.S. foothold at Yale and would eventually overthrow New Criticism as the main way academics would interpret texts in English departments across the country. It was known by many names: post-structuralism, continental theory, and deconstruction. Its leaders were the French theorists Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault.

Paglia was repelled by the pretensions of these French thinkers. Though she had her problems with the “old-guard professors at the Yale Graduate School,” she recognized them as “genuine scholars, passionately devoted to study and learning. They believed they had a moral obligation to seek the truth and to express it as accurately as they could,” she writes in Provocations. But the French theorists and their converts in American universities were “like high priests murmuring to each other.” Rather than revealing and clarifying the meaning of literature, they obscured it.

Wish I could have said that even a third as well. This is getting too long so we’ll leave it with: read the linked article, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be ordering Paglia’s new book, Provocations (the link goes to Amazon, but that is up to you, as well.

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