‘I wasted my youth being self-righteous’

In Confessions of a Prep-School Feminist in the New Yorker, Curtis Sittenfeld (she’s female), recalls her days at Groton, where she served as “the self-appointed gender police.”

Ferreting out “examples of boys misbehaving and girls being mistreated” wasn’t difficult because she’d made herself a magnet for boys’ offensive jokes.

As a senior, she wrote a column in the school newspaper about Groton’s Group for Female Awareness. The Washington Post reprinted it, after editing out her positive comments about the school.

Twenty-one years later, Sittenfeld realizes she “cherry-picked examples to support my argument, and I made Groton look bad in ways that weren’t specific to Groton; similar stories could have been told about any other élite boarding school.”

“Looking back, I fear that I wasted my youth being self-righteous; I might be one of the few Americans who thinks she should have spent more of high school cutting class and drinking beer.”

I vaguely remember going to a “women’s lib” conference when I was in high school in the late ’60s and taking offense when construction workers whistled at me. (I had a red dress so short that I later wore it as a shirt.) In college, I belonged to a women’s discussion group. Did we call it a “solidarity group?” It was something like that.

The movement really was liberating for women like me, born in the early 1950s. We didn’t have to manufacture grievances back in the day.

Jazz for cows

An American jazz brass band touring in France pulled to the side of the road and started playing for the cows. It turns out that French cows really like jazz.

Vague words, progress, a fast train …

On McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Kendra Eash offers a Generic Brand Video that’s eerily familiar — and very funny.

‘I’m sick of purity tests’

Ricki is “sick of political purity tests for people.”

You know, if you hint that maybe, just, you know, maybe, it might be kind of okay if a photographer with strong beliefs to the contrary doesn’t want to take on the job of photographing a same-sex wedding, you suddenly become one to be shunned as a wrong-thinker.

Or, if you mention shopping at Hobby Lobby, because that’s literally the only craft store within 100 miles, you’re told “Oh, they oppress women (because, apparently, they won’t give their workers the Plan B pill for free). You shouldn’t shop there.”

Ricki has known people who’d pass the most progressive purity tests  –”and they were huge (forgive the word but it’s the only one that fits) douchebags. Just awful to other people, selfish, ungenerous, snarky.”

Mozilla forced out its new CEO, Brendan Eich, because he donated $1,000 to a California ballot measure opposing same-sex marriage in 2009.

Disgusting, writes Andrew Sullivan. “If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out.”

In 2009, Eich shared the view of gay marriage that Barack Obama held, instead of the view that Dick Cheney held, writes Instapundit.

Why people love to talk about themselves

“Talking about ourselves . . . triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

“Forty percent of everyday speech is devoted to telling others about what we feel or think, say researchers. That’s because it feels so great.

“Self-disclosure is extra rewarding,” said Harvard neuroscientist Diana Tamir.

In several tests, they offered the volunteers money if they chose to answer questions about other people, such as President Obama, rather than about themselves, paying out on a sliding scale of up to four cents. Questions involved casual matters such as whether someone enjoyed snowboarding or liked mushrooms on a pizza. Other queries involved personality traits, such as intelligence, curiosity or aggression.

Despite the financial incentive, people often preferred to talk about themselves and willingly gave up between 17% and 25% of their potential earnings so they could reveal personal information.

Via Roger Sweeny, who wonders “if this is one reason why teaching, even with all the crap, can be so pleasurable, even addictive. If you talk about what you know and care about, you are in a certain sense talking about yourself — and the more personal your teaching, the more true that is.”

National clown shortage feared

In this photo provided by the Metropolitan Opera shows Roberto Alagna, center, as Canio performing with soprano Nuccia Focile as Nedda in Mascagni's "Pagliacci" during the final dress rehearsal in New York Monday March 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Opera, Marty Sohl)

The tears of a clown may be because no one’s around to take the place of today’s performers. Here, Roberto Alagna (center) performing with Nuccia Focile in ‘Pagliacci’ during a dress rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera.

national clown shortage may be approaching, reports the New York Daily News. “Membership at the country’s largest trade organizations for the jokesters has plunged over the past decade as declining interest, old age and higher standards among employers align against Krusty, Bozo and their crimson-nosed colleagues.”

Zombies!

(Illustrations by Dale Stephanos)

2013 was the Year of the Zombies , writes Dave Barry in his annual review.

When Christmas trees attack

Kilgore (Texas) High’s media department filmed a holiday prank.

‘I thought turkeys could fly’

From WKRP in Cincinnati: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

‘Knaidel’ wins the Bee

New Yorker Arvind Mahankali won the 2013 National Spelling Bee with “knaidel,” a Yiddish word for matzoh ball. The 13-year-old Queens boy had finished third two years in a row and ninth in 2010. An admirer of Albert Einstein, he plans a career in physics.

Since 1999, 11 of the 15 winners of the bee have been Americans of Indian descent, reports NPR. “Indian-American spelling successes have also been fueled in recent years by the South Asian-only farm leagues that have popped up,” said Tovia Smith. “Those tournaments act as a kind of breeding ground, where many Indian versions of the “tiger mom” start their kids as young as 6 years old.”

The second and third place finishers also were Indo-American. Pranav Shivashankar, 13, of Olathe, Kan., was eliminated on “cyanophycean.” Sriram Hathwar, of Painted Post, N.Y., finished third after misspelling a Greek word, “ptyalagogue.’’ Amber Born, 14, of Marblehead, Mass., the crowd favorite, came in fourth.