A couple of years ago I wrote out a little book about the status of women and power in the United States called American Catfight. It was modest in size but large in ambition. (Hence the subtitle “Political Wisdom for Women and Other Thoughts Towards Feminine Statecraft in the 21st Century.”)

I wanted to wake up the lead feminists in this country to get their act together and stop fighting old fights, stop infighting altogether, and start focusing on moving women towards firmer gains on the institutions of power. After all, by the time I finished the film I made before I wrote the book, I was thoroughly convinced of the absurdity of women’s acquiescence to be left like a lint ball under the fridge of government when it came to controlling the agenda of this country at the same time that women are the voting majority of the United States.   One of the main points of my book is that there is a lot of money in politics, not just the lobbyist/donor/PAC-to-elected-officials kind either.   There’s money in Planned Parenthood.  There’s money in Susan G. Komen for the Cure.   There’s money in the National Organization for Women.  There’s money in Women’s Studies programs, too.    The problem with all this money is that women hook their entire careers to it; they make professions of the problem.    As Clay Shirky of NYU wrote in a brilliant essay called the ‘Collapse of Complex Business Models’ which came out one month after I published my book, “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.”

I won’t go into restating the whole argument as that is what actually reading American Catfight is for but will note that one need only look at the new war on women’s rights to see that we’ve got a collapse of feminism’s complex system on our hands. Feminist systems have become so complex and bureaucratic in leadership that whatever systems we’ve put in place – NOW, Women’s Studies, Emily’s List, whatever – have failed to the point that the American public is debating access to birth control. Again. Forty-seven years after Griswold v. Connecticut.

That being said I have heard from a handful of very passionate women who have written me to say, “I find the word ‘catfight’ offensive.   I’m not going to read your book.  I’m a feminist!”    Quite often I want to write back, “I’m a feminist too!   And you’d know it if you actually read my damn book!”   Instead I usually write back something like this which is what I did today when I heard from a working poetess from a very large university in Boston:

I know the word “catfight” can be incendiary.   But I use it purposefully as a word to describe the feminist equivalent of women on women fighting akin to what goes on when people fight about what is “not black enough” in the African American community.    Both are groups that should be united in what they share but instead at times fall into envy and righteousness and fracture themselves over differences that no one outside their groups even sees.

But I get where you are coming from.  I have thought many times, “Why do they have to call it “Slutwalk?!””   As a writer, you understand better than most that we bend and stretch language to try to find new meanings in it or expand the ones we have.    Sometimes the new meaning takes off and sometimes it dies in the nest but we try.

So that’s what I mean by ‘catfight.’ Now I’ve got to get back to writing my new (feminist) science fantasy book because while I am a feminist, I must take my own advice and not tie my entire livelihood to it.

Oct 15

Blog to Death

A guy named Miles Lennon has done the science (not really) on the typical life cycle of the blog in “Why are 95% of blogs abandoned?” For me, maintaining a vigorous blog is impossible because of a dozen things every day that make my life thrive better than blogging. What many of the blog-inclined learn is that group blogs work best because constant updating is required. My uncle posts on Salon.com – when he wants. My friend, Valerie, is a publishing expert at about.com. Even a guy like Andrew Sullivan, who often ranks as one of the top individual bloggers, doesn’t do it alone. A while back he had to come clean that he and a staff write his blog. But as a former editor of the New Republic he had the access, means, and know-how to eventually adapt editorial techniques to his blog. (The staff is now credited on his main page and he is listed as “Editor” BTW.)

Due to so few of us being able to call upon staff, we individual bloggers fail. We fail a lot. We fail so much that most of us would be mathematically better off opening up new restaurants which only fail at a rate of 59% in the first year. But for those who cannot cook either, here is what Lennon wants you to know about blogging:

Blog Lifecycle

1) Euphoric moment of inspiration 2) Pseudo-maniacal and self-indulgent perusing of domains 3) Careful consideration of theme and design 4) The inaugural post – “Hello world!” 5) The 2-4 post honeymoon phase 6) Waning and changing interests 7) Feelings of desperation and apathy from low engagement 8) Inevitable abandonment 🙁

It turns out that this cycle may not be uncommon. Surveys have shown that 95% of blogs are abandoned within 120 days and 60-80% of them abandoned within the first month.

Writing 5am to 7am is not my habit but the former habit of Brit Raymond Tallis and he’s produced a new book about one of the subjects I love to follow in a pop-culture manner:  neuroscience.    He has a dim view of how publishing and pop culture demands have bent research to what he deems ridiculous conclusions.

Those trends, as Tallis sees them, are like “intellectual illnesses” metastasizing from academic labs into popular culture. He sees the symptoms in neuro-economic thinkers who explain our susceptibility to subprime mortgages by describing how our brains evolved to favor short-term rewards. He sees them in philosophers who claim that our primate minds admire paintings of landscapes that would have supported hunting and gathering. He sees it in neurotheologians who preach that “God is a tingle in the ‘God spot’ in the brain.”

Whatever the case, his book’s title is very pop-culture and most amusing for a guy who disparages pop culture: Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis, and the Misrepresentation of Humanity.

Who knew one could have inflammation of the Darwin?

A bit of a neuroscience debate regarding where evil resides in the brain ran across a couple of publications this weekend. A bit in Slate regarding fMRIs ability to find evil acts in the brain pronounced:

The new neuroscience represents the latest chapter in a millennia-old and still divisive cultural conflict over the problem of evil, the latest chapter in the attempt by science to reduce evil to malfunction or dysfunction rather than malevolence. 

Will Wilkinson at the Big Think responded with a big simplistic tch-tch:

About evil specifically, it seems obvious that people with perfectly normal brains do evil all the time.

It seems inevitable that neuroscientists will eventually discover a pattern of neural activity that coincides with what we deem evil acts or evil thoughts.    If science can identify and address the neural activity that coincides with “evil”, it could also identify and intervene with the neural activity of the perception of “evil”.  Theoretically, evil, as we know it today, could go on and science could negate human capacity to perceive it just as easily as it could be used for a  prevention scenario a la “Minority Report”.

The question once again is:  how will science in the hands of humans be used and who will be using it?

Simply because there is math in everything and the more you see it, the more beautiful everything is.

It puts a little glimmer of hope in my heart to hear that the Department of Energy is following up on a potentially very good development in solar power. From the Boston Herald:

A Massachusetts company has won a conditional $150 million federal loan guarantee to develop a dramatically cheaper way to produce the silicon wafers that are the key component of solar panels.

The U.S. has a small but growing 5 to 7 percent market share of the world’s solar energy industry, according to a report for the Solar Energy Industries Association. China and Germany are leading players in the market.

The price of solar energy is a major competitive disadvantage, even compared to other renewable sources of electricity.

A U.S. Energy Information Administration projection of the cost of electricity from new plants coming on line in 2016 puts the cost of solar at 21.1 cents per kilowatt hour. It’s cheaper than offshore wind (24.3 cents) but much more expensive than land wind (9.6 cents) and conventional coal (9.5 cents), for instance.

But 1366 Technologies says its manufacturing process can chop the price of solar electricity down to about 4 cents per kilowatt hour by 2020.

It has been so disheartening and depressing to watch the market forces that be keep solar and wind priced prohibitively expensive by subsidizing oil, coal and gas and depriving clean energy of investment. If Germany can commit to getting rid of nuclear energy and China can take the lead in developing renewable, non-polluting energy, so can the U.S. It’s just a decision.

It’s actually sort of sorry to have to admit that I’ve never spent a night in a place dark enough to see the Milky Way properly. Shoot. Does this mean I have to start a bucket list now?

The Mountain from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

From the Guardian:

Bolivia is set to pass the world’s first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country’s rich mineral deposits as “blessings” and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.

Why is Bolivia the first to do what is necessary? This video explains:

Or “Female Character Flowchart.”   You have to click on the image to see the whole picture.