The best feminist for men to read

I read Tyler Cowen religiously. And he, among others, has turned me on to Elena Ferrante, and so I am reading the Neapolitan Saga. See below for the Tyler Cowen link to some review.

The author has shunned fame, and publishes under a pseudonym. The vanity fair interview with her is actually one of the most interesting things I have read in a while. Particularly the parts about feminism. So that’s what I’m here to talk about.

Go read the vanity fair bit about how she talks about being accused of being a man, it’s absurd, and she simply transcends the criticism…a theme in the interview, actually. She has an amazing mind, I found myself absorbed. Where do people like her come from? Naples…duh. Ok. But, I mean, she has presence, you feel wisdom, and not overreaching wisdom. She has comfort in her words, she knows her origination, her own story, in a depth that, perhaps, only a writer can accomplish, and a writer that has just finished a (likely–at least partially) autobiographical masterpiece. So when she is handed labels of feminism or masculinity, she can play with them and set them aside, they don’t distract her, they don’t cause anxiety. I wish I could say the same, I lack the depth or the confidence.

I have loved and I love feminism because in America, in Italy, and in many other parts of the world, it managed to provoke complex thinking.

On her feminism, I can’t thank her enough for her lack of anger, militarism, and her celebration of the complex. This is a topic you can’t enter without getting it wrong. What are feminists? You have to master a history slammed by wave after wave, and a guilt for being on the wrong side or whatever (as a man), and then you have to deal with the strife within the ranks of feminists.

There isn’t any credible authority in gender, but I always feel that, as a man, there is a subtle guilt-ridden assignment of power to women on this topic. How could it be any other way? But it isn’t an honest dialect if there is a community of only feminine and opponent camps. And I’m just woefully ignorant to start defining where I belong in the mix. I just hope to convey some sensitivity to the lack of being la femme, but still have a working appreciation for the feminist movement, or the topic, or whatever the hell feminism actually is.

I can say that the Vanity Fair caricaturization of the masculine critics (we don’t know who they are, could be women) trying to suggest Ferrante is a man is handled in a humorous/absurdist way, the way Jon Stewart would render certain political positions ridiculous, but it probably isn’t an honest, or not a completely honest, account of the people asserting the masculinity of Ferrante. But the reaction is what is worth pause. Ferrante sees the ridiculous, and the masculine critics are completely clueless.

Are they clueless? Do Ferrante and the Vanity Fair reporter get that right? Not likely. But the point is taken, nonetheless, certain speculation is offensive and revealing all on its own. Why do the critics need to explore narratives beyond the one presented? Is there any credible reason to question the gender of the author?

I didn’t even think to question it, but I am taking the work in as an audiobook with a female voice reading it to me, it was natural to just assume she was a woman. And I wont pretend to think I understand any significant differences between men and women when it comes to perception. Largely I find the topic a quagmire. So I am content to just watch the show, and have my laughs when someone points out a silly line of thought. But I can’t help feel deeply insecure knowing that there is a huge debate that a bunch of really smart people seem to be savvy to while I maintain ignorance. But I just really distrust the feminists and their opponents.

Ferrante is, here, like I said, making it absurd. Which is in line with how I feel about the topic. But if people are accusing her of being masculine, I run into the whole paradoxical line of question: Is my comfort in her approach a product of her masculine appeal? Shit. Are women actually so alien that we need some sort of brilliant translator? I don’t believe that, but maybe it isn’t totally crazy to think so.

Anyway, the greater point of comment here is that Ferrante is worth following, she isn’t a polarizing figure, she is a diplomat. She offers enlightenment and perspective, and everyone would benefit from reading her works. It took to the end of the first book for me to start being amazed. The topics wouldn’t normally interest men, I don’t think, they centre around female friendship. I think it’s still a distraction to focus on that aspect, though, this is a story of people, and your a person, and you can take all sorts of perspective away from it.

What I found also interesting in the interview were Ferrante’s beliefs that male friendships, and the rules they adhere to, were somehow better defined, and that since there is much more masculine literature, she can be somehow more confident in that assertion than any man could be about female relationships. All I could do was smirk, what does she know anyway? Men are just as neurotic and self-hating as women. They foil themselves on others, all the same. These are human stories. I don’t know if gender should get all that much attention.

Gas Prices in Calgary

I had the usual office chat about gas prices going up and oil prices going down. I wanted to make sense of it, and so I looked it up. Since I did that work, here you go, take a look.

First, there is a Financial Post article tries to explain how oil prices are linked to gasoline. I just used the formula they have at the end to see if our prices added up (see below).

This is a handy website that forecast prices at the pump, and gives some current conditions to explain price movements (e.g. right now high prices are attributed to U.S. refineries facing outages).

Bummer, it’s going up.

On my quick addition (see below table), it looks like we’re being hosed by .22 cents on either the retail margin or at the refineries or both. Now, they sell off stock at whatever price they paid for it at the time…so today’s RBOB isn’t the actual feeder price of gasoline today. I’m not really satisfied by that explanation, so I think we are being hosed.

Here is a chart showing WTI and Calgary Gas prices

Looks like Van and Toronto have prices coming down until the most recent tick, and actually Calgary prices are higher than Toronto prices at the moment…The other thing to note is that WTI and Calgary gasoline prices sorta move together, but there is a seasonal element in the gasoline prices. I wanted to download the data, but they wanted money…so I couldn’t do the adjustment. But looking at it, it looks to be seasonally driven to some degree.

Anyway, enjoy.


Market Price RBOB  $        1.72
Convert From Gallons in Litres  $         0.45
Exchange Rate CAD/USA  $         1.31
in CAD/L  $         0.59
Assumption Canadian Refiners add  $         0.05
Federal tax on gasoline  $         0.10
Was .09, thanks NDP. Provincial Fuel Tax  $         0.13
Assumption Retail Margin  $         0.08
Double Tax! GST  $         0.05
Gas Prices that would make sense Total  $         1.00

Allain de Botton on … status, happiness, and the ‘murican dream

I finished the above Allain de Botton YouTube on status/inequality/happiness it asked the basic question: Given all of the material advances in the west, and the fact that people are wealthier than ever before, why are people more unhappy now?

For starters, are they less happy? I don’t know if I buy this, it might be us looking back with rose tinted glasses.

Second, there were lots of points in this film thtat were well articulated. On the whole, while it is not as useful as reading a book, I feel that the topic of the film and the treatment were: at worst, not a waste of time…stimulating; and, at best, thought provoking.

Allian de Botton is, to be blunt, a little funny looking, he is not particularly sharp or savvy (there is some irony, because he talks about sharpness and cleaness and vanity in the film), and he appears to approach the question with some unrevealed revelation, I suspect he has strong convictions on the topic, which is at odds with his documentary prose. It’s a curious point of the documentary, he takes an impartial voice, out of what(?) some pedagocical concern, I suppose.

But what to infer? The thesis of the film asks the question of status, and explores status symbols, it devotes some time to people who opt out (the bohemians), and it makes claims about the relative unhappiness or poor state of the modern condition. The film treats the bullish-on-success, A-types as if they are worthy of a lot more skepticism, but I got the sense that the bohemians were much more sympathetic characters. This, I believe, reveals my bias, but I am positive de Botton is of the persuasion that materialism and status are things to be conquered from within. I am unable to recal the quote, but it was de Botton recalling the conclusion of a french enlightenment thinker. I think the idea that came from that quote has to do with the idea that wealth and power could be measured in subjective terms, depending on what the individual chooses to define. The powerful idea is that the individual is subject only to his/her own narrative. If you have the power to realize that your inner- narrative controls your life, and in addition, if you are able to scrutinize your own inner-narrative, you may stand a chance at discovering mistakes, from which you can alter your commitments/how you spend your resources to better realize what is good, or best, in life.

Also, factoid I leared in the film is that ideology is a term coined by Marx. … go fugure.

Time Travel

This is a short story I wrote a while ago…and I was working today on powerpoint, and I couldn’t help but think someone went back in time and fucked it up.

——————————- Ketchup Packages ————————————————-

“I’m thinking of getting one of those time machines…You know those time machines they’re selling now? I’ve heard things about them. I can’t tell if they work.”

“Don’t get a time machine.”

“Why? I hear they work. It would be pretty cool to go back in time. I don’t know. How could they work? It just seems like a gimmick. It’s a lot of money for something that might not work.”

“They work. Just don’t bother with it. Don’t fuckin’ get one. It’s a waste of money.”

“They work? What about all those people saying it’s a scam? How do you know?”

The man sighed and shrugged, he had wanted to avoid the story.

“I had one. It takes you back alright. Just, it’s not what you think.”

“What do you mean?”

“All these people that say it doesn’t work are idiots. They thought you could like walk around and talk to people.”

“You can’t?”

“No, fuck, you can’t do shit unless you spend a lot of time there, in the past or whatever.”

“Well what’s it like? Why do you say it isn’t worth the money? I mean, holy shit, you’re in the past!”

“Listen, it’s not like that exactly. Who knows what the fuck is going on when you go in that thing. The science isn’t there yet. But I can say that you go into the past or something like it, because when you come out, things are different.”

“Like what? What is different?”

“Okay, look at this.”

He held up a packet of ketchup. They are at a diner, eating hamburgers.

“What about it?”

“See, you think this is the way it has always been.”

The other man chuckles.

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

A sigh.

“This is exactly what I’m talking about.”

“What? You’re not making any sense.”

“This!” he shakes the ketchup in the air.

“What about it? It’s a fucking ketchup packet. So what?”

“Exactly, look how shitty it is.”

“It does the trick.”

“It’s shit. It’s shit, and I hate it.”

“Calm down man, it’s just ketchup. Who cares?”

“Look, they used to be better. They were always shitty, but this…This is fucking awful.”

“What, so you went back in time and made ketchup packages worse? Are you kidding me? Fuck,  you’re so full of shit.”

The man was serious, and drew a long breath ending in another sigh.

“I’m going to tell you what I did. I got one of those machines, and poked around. I tried to change something, but it doesn’t really make sense at first.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Look, just listen. You get into that machine, and it takes you to the past. You don’t physically go, I don’t think. But you can move a…a like game screen, like playing a video game, it’s weird. I don’t know. That’s why everyone thinks they are fake. But listen. I played around with it for a while, and I figured out how to use it.”

“So you don’t go to the past?”

“No, well I think you can look at it, and you can change things once you figure it out. I bet they set it up like that on purpose, to keep people from fucking things up. But look, nobody would know, because the changes happen, and everybody thinks it’s just the way it has been, because it is, in a way, after you change something.”

“They set it up so that you can look but not touch, sort of thing?”

“Yeah…but I figured out that touching bit.”

“I bet you did.”

“Shut up. I’m serious. You don’t touch things, you fuck around with some code and you change the scope of influence on the machine. So like, just by observing, you change things.”

A pause. The other man is confused and thinks it is all bullshit.

“Look, I went in that machine, and looked. Usually that’s all you can do, but the picture is shit, so I played around with it to get a better picture. But when you do that, and you watch people, they act differently.”

“Wait, why do they need a machine then? Why not just a screen?”

“I don’t know, I don’t think it would work, I mean, you sense things too when you’re in the machine.  It’s like the matrix. Uh, but not really. I guess. That’s probably, too, why people don’t think it works. You don’t get to walk around and shit, you don’t use your body. It’s like you can’t go back with much, just some shit that already exists in the past. Like, that’s also why people can’t go back to the dinosaur times.”

“I don’t follow. What is it?”

“The machine connects to things that are man made, that have some sort of property that allows a connection. So, the more recent the history, the more places and stuff you can connect to, just because we know how to hook up to stuff that is man made, there is a signature or something. Also, there isn’t much of a database for you to look at different places and times and such that you can go to. You have to sort of figure out from the manual what works.”


“Yeah, anyway, I tried to change it a bit. I found out where ketchup packages were made. Something about the first couple of factories made them pretty good places to connect with.”

“So what did you do exactly?”

“I just kind of tried to see better, and then…I like came back and all the ketchup packages were this shit.”

“So what did you actually do?”

“I don’t fucking know, but these piss me off so much that I stopped.”

The other man laughed.

“What the fuck? You’re full of shit.”

“I’m not lying to you. I just quit. I don’t think you can do much with that machine, and probably you can just make things worse. So fuck it.”

“So that’s it?”

“Yeah, fuck it.”