black holes and gray matter. in one thousand tangos.

             

The Death of Adulthood in American Culture | NYT

TV characters are among the allegorical figures of our age, giving individual human shape to our collective anxieties and aspirations. The meanings of “Mad Men” are not very mysterious: The title of the final half season, which airs next spring, will be “The End of an Era.” The most obvious thing about the series’s meticulous, revisionist, present-minded depiction of the past, and for many viewers the most pleasurable, is that it shows an old order collapsing under the weight of internal contradiction and external pressure. From the start, “Mad Men” has, in addition to cataloging bygone vices and fashion choices, traced the erosion, the gradual slide toward obsolescence, of a power structure built on and in service of the prerogatives of white men. The unthinking way Don, Pete, Roger and the rest of them enjoy their position, and the ease with which they abuse it, inspires what has become a familiar kind of ambivalence among cable viewers. Weren’t those guys awful, back then? But weren’t they also kind of cool? We are invited to have our outrage and eat our nostalgia too, to applaud the show’s right-thinking critique of what we love it for glamorizing. …

Something profound has been happening in our television over the past decade, some end-stage reckoning. It is the era not just of mad men, but also of sad men and, above all, bad men.

Don is at once the heir and precursor to Tony Soprano (fig. 2), that avatar of masculine entitlement who fended off threats to the alpha-dog status he had inherited and worked hard to maintain. Walter White, the protagonist of “Breaking Bad,” struggled, early on, with his own emasculation and then triumphantly (and sociopathically) reasserted the mastery that the world had contrived to deny him. The monstrousness of these men was inseparable from their charisma, and sometimes it was hard to tell if we were supposed to be rooting for them or recoiling in horror. We were invited to participate in their self-delusions and to see through them, to marvel at the mask of masculine competence even as we watched it slip or turn ugly. Their deaths were (and will be) a culmination and a conclusion: Tony, Walter and Don are the last of the patriarchs.

In suggesting that patriarchy is dead, I am not claiming that sexism is finished, that men are obsolete or that the triumph of feminism is at hand. I may be a middle-aged white man, but I’m not an idiot. In the world of politics, work and family, misogyny is a stubborn fact of life. But in the universe of thoughts and words, there is more conviction and intelligence in the critique of male privilege than in its defense, which tends to be panicky and halfhearted when it is not obtuse and obnoxious. The supremacy of men can no longer be taken as a reflection of natural order or settled custom. …

It seems that, in doing away with patriarchal authority, we have also, perhaps unwittingly, killed off all the grown-ups.”

In my main line of work as a film critic, I have watched over the past 15 years as the studios committed their vast financial and imaginative resources to the cultivation of franchises (some of them based on those same Y.A. novels) that advance an essentially juvenile vision of the world. Comic-book movies, family-friendly animated adventures, tales of adolescent heroism and comedies of arrested development do not only make up the commercial center of 21st-century Hollywood. They are its artistic heart.”

Maybe nobody grows up anymore, but everyone gets older. What happens to the boy rebels when the dream of perpetual childhood fades and the traditional prerogatives of manhood are unavailable? There are two options: They become irrelevant or they turn into Louis C. K. (fig. 5). Every white American male under the age of 50 is some version of the character he plays on “Louie,” a show almost entirely devoted to the absurdity of being a pale, doughy heterosexual man with children in a post-patriarchal age. Or, if you prefer, a loser.”

Y.A. fiction is the least of it. It is now possible to conceive of adulthood as the state of being forever young. Childhood, once a condition of limited autonomy and deferred pleasure (“wait until you’re older”), is now a zone of perpetual freedom and delight. Grown people feel no compulsion to put away childish things: We can live with our parents, go to summer camp, play dodge ball, collect dolls and action figures and watch cartoons to our hearts’ content. These symptoms of arrested development will also be signs that we are freer, more honest and happier than the uptight fools who let go of such pastimes.

I do feel the loss of something here, but bemoaning the general immaturity of contemporary culture would be as obtuse as declaring it the coolest thing ever. A crisis of authority is not for the faint of heart. It can be scary and weird and ambiguous. But it can be a lot of fun, too. The best and most authentic cultural products of our time manage to be all of those things. They imagine a world where no one is in charge and no one necessarily knows what’s going on, where identities are in perpetual flux. Mothers and fathers act like teenagers; little children are wise beyond their years. Girls light out for the territory and boys cloister themselves in secret gardens. We have more stories, pictures and arguments than we know what to do with, and each one of them presses on our attention with a claim of uniqueness, a demand to be recognized as special. The world is our playground, without a dad or a mom in sight.

I’m all for it. Now get off my lawn.”

Read on.

"Unlike other terrorist groups, ISIS has grown into a sophisticated military force and is estimated to have between 10,000 and 20,000 fighters. The group now firmly controls large swaths of territory in both Syria and Iraq.”

"The threat ISIS poses cannot be overstated. This is the most vicious, well-funded and militant terrorist organization we have ever seen, and it is very quickly consolidating its power. "

"In total, the U.N. reports at least 693 child casualties at the hands of ISIS this year. And at least 2,250 women and children are currently detained by the group.

ISIS has killedenslaved and captured thousands in its efforts at ethnic cleansing, including the Yazidis in Sinjar and the Turkmen in Amerli. Overall, more than a million Iraqis have been displaced.”

"There is an extremely high level of organization in ISIS operations and ISIS-controlled territory, almost reminiscent of a military dictatorship. ISIS controls extensive resources, military vehicles, heavy weapons and border crossings between Iraq and Syria. It has become a de facto terrorist state. Experts estimate that ISIS now has cash and assets worth $2 billion. ISIS adds as much as $1 million per day through extortion, crime, ransom and even the sale of oil on the black market from the several oil fields it controls. …

I understand that many Americans don’t want to become mired in another war. The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have claimed thousands of American lives and cost more than $1 trillion. But Americans need to understand ISIS’ degree of viciousness as well as what will happen in the absence of U.S. leadership and action.

If the United States fails to unite and lead the world against ISIS’ horrific goals, we could suffer the consequences for decades to come.”

Sen. Diane Feinstein: Confront ISIS Now

“In 2002, having spent more than three years in one residence for the first time in my life, I got called for jury duty. I show up on time, ready to serve. When we get to the voir dire, the lawyer says to me, “I see you’re an astrophysicist. What’s that?” I answer, “Astrophysics is the laws of physics, applied to the universe—the Big Bang, black holes, that sort of thing.” Then he asks, “What do you teach at Princeton?” and I say, “I teach a class on the evaluation of evidence and the relative unreliability of eyewitness testimony.” Five minutes later, I’m on the street.

A few years later, jury duty again. The judge states that the defendant is charged with possession of 1,700 milligrams of cocaine. It was found on his body, he was arrested, and he is now on trial. This time, after the Q&A is over, the judge asks us whether there are any questions we’d like to ask the court, and I say, “Yes, Your Honor. Why did you say he was in possession of 1,700 milligrams of cocaine? That equals 1.7 grams. The ‘thousand’ cancels with the ‘milli-’ and you get 1.7 grams, which is less than the weight of a dime.” Again I’m out on the street.”
“You know what this summer was? This summer was ISIS, beheadings, missing airplanes, airplanes shot down, religious minorities being persecuted, black Americans being persecuted, militarized police, Iggy Azalea having the “song of the summer,” Robin Williams hanging himself, and finding out Hello Kitty isn’t even a fucking cat.

2014 was the summer of existentialism, and it’s the kind of summer and cultural climate during which we should all discuss the matter of dying sad, scared, confused, and alone more often.”
©2011 Kateoplis