How important are gender presentation and gender pronouns to you as a cis person?

By: | Post date: August 15, 2017 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Culture

I gather the question is about how I receive them rather than how I give them, given that this question is related to How important are gender presentation and different pronouns to you as a transgender person?

I’m a bloke. I don’t want to be told I’m not a bloke, and I’ll be rather surprised if someone thinks I’m not a bloke.

I present as a bloke. I’m quite happy to present as a bloke, and despite the occasional “no, I’m secure in my sexuality” joke, I haven’t particularly delved into gender ambiguity.

I have identities that are more pressing and conscious to me than masculinity; then again, masculinity is the kind of identity that fades into the all-encompassing background readily.

Like Kimberly Alexander’s answer says, cis people don’t particularly reflect on gender the way trans people are forced to. Ditto any privileged identity group: the privilege is in not being Othered.

(That’s why I call you Westerners beef-eaters on Quora all the time.)

Is klezmer music a dying tradition?

By: | Post date: August 14, 2017 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Music

One of its prominent proponents is on record as saying so:…

Andy Statman, one of the foremost Klezmer musicians in the world, knows that the time of Klezmer has passed.

“Each music has its point,” He explained over the phone while working at a Mandolin camp in California. “[Klezmer] is still alive, but in many ways it doesn’t really represent a living community. While it’s still alive and it’s great music and people enjoy it… It’s not a reflection of the time.”


About the future of Klezmer, Statman said it wasn’t bittersweet.

“Like bluegrass [music], it’s from a time and place,” he said. “It changed and the music was moving on to become something else. That’s the way it is. Styles come and go. They reflect the lives and the people who are involved in them… Each day is new.”

Klezmer is dead, or alive, in the same way I guess that Rebetiko is dead, or alive. The social circumstances that gave rise to it aren’t there any more. Any performance of it is a revival, a repurposing of the genre to current concerns—all tangled up with anxiety about authenticity, which guarantees that it won’t respond fully to current concerns. At its worse, it’s an artificial museum-like exercise. At its best, it gets the crowds dancing in the aisles one last time.

Rebetiko was revived in the 70s in Greece, because something in it spoke to Greeks, as they were at the threshold of becoming Europeans. Klezmer was revived in the 80s in America, because something in it spoke to Jews, as they were at the threshold of becoming either fully assimilated, or (as was the case with Statman) rediscovering Orthodox Judaism.

Rebetiko and Klezmer had, in fact, already died:

Klezmer is the Eastern European musical tradition passed down from one generation to the next. (“It’s basically Chasidic music,” Statman said.) The exact history of the music was unknown to him, save for the fact that when Statman began playing Klezmer, it had almost been gone.

“A lot of where the music was played didn’t make it out,” he said. “Russia, Galicia, a lot of Chasidim. I think not only the Holocaust but there was more of an interest in preserving Judaism and the community. Music was not such a pressing concern.”

Vamvakaris at least kept playing in the 50s and 60s, but he was no longer the main show.

A revival is never as vibrant as the original; it’s always qualified and unspontaneous. There’s always something artificial about it.

Still. It’s better than utter oblivion. And damn, but there’s some good toe-tapping to be had in that museum…

I have a 10 minute meeting with the Australian Prime Minister. What should I ask him?

By: | Post date: August 14, 2017 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Australia

Question details indicate that the original OP is “in my final year of high school in rural Western Australia.”

This humbled me out of the smart-aleck answer I was going to give; Ben Kelley’s answer is excellent for this serious aim.

Without that context?

“Mal. Mal, Mal, Mal. Come on, mate. Just between you and me. What’ll it take for you to form a centrist party with Nick Xenophon? You know you want to.”

… Am I throwing away my chance to get a serious answer to a pressing question? Yes, I am. Mal is not the master of his own party, any more than the Australian PM is the master of his own country. Geopolitics doesn’t work like that any more.

I hate The West Wing. I hate The West Wing for many reasons, most of them involving Josh. I liked Season #5 most, the season everyone else hated, because it was the season that bitch-slapped the cast, and especially Josh. (That’s also why I liked Ryan the intern, the character everyone else hated.)

Remember those IT workers in #519 Talking Points who did a sit-in in Josh’s office, because they’d been shafted out of Bartlett’s election pledge that their jobs in IT were safe? And Josh went pleading to Bartlett to no effect? That’s Bartlett, who embraced Creative destruction—the notion that, in real life, made Trump possible. Josh, campaigning two years later for that pointless cipher Santos, was making the same undertakings on the campaign trail. You weren’t meant to notice that, but I did. God, did I want Josh fricking Lyman eviscerated on the spot.

Anyway, what did Bartlett say when Josh said “we promised these guys jobs?”

There was a man named Canute, one of the great Viking kings of the 11th Century. Wanted his people to be aware of his limitations, so he led them down to the sea and he commanded that the tide roll out. It didn’t. Who gave us the notion that Presidents can move the economy like a play-toy?

The candidates for the presidency did while campaigning, actually. And for economy, read also geopolitics, and climate change, and whatever other great challenges facing humanity that we’re going to flub.

And that’s why I wouldn’t ask a serious question of Turnbull. Or whoever else is residing in The Lodge this month.

And I hope my cynicism doesn’t rub off on OP…

What is the difference between drawing a limit to what can be said, and simply disallowing certain kinds of talk?

By: | Post date: August 13, 2017 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Culture

I’m in more sympathy with Yonatan Gershon’s answer and its free speech absolutism than with Ted Wrigley’s answer which relies on intent. Intent is a very hard thing to diagnose, and I’m not sure I trust a judiciary allied to power to judge it fairly; and of course, any dissidence can be regarded as disruptive and to be quashed.

But I’m going to expand on Jacob Holcomb’s answer, which I think makes a more useful distinction (though I draw the dividing line elsewhere):

We can talk about the effects of depression, but I’d prefer not to delve into discussing suicide.

Ruling a whole topic out of bounds is lunacy, and it’s inviting protest and circumvention. It was lunacy when Melbourne University banned books about jihad from being borrowed, to much media hoopla, just as it is lunacy to ban ownership of Al-Qaeda literature: if you can’t study your enemy, how on earth do you intend to combat them?

If speech is to be policed for noxious intent, as hate speech or advocacy of criminal behaviour, you have to draw a very careful boundary. Unlike Jacob, I don’t think discussing suicide should be banned; as long as there are some proactive disclaimers and steps around mitigating the effects of that discussion. Whenever anyone’s suicide is mentioned in the press here in Australia, the phone number of the suicide hotline is given as a footer or as a fadeout announcement. That, it seems to me, is reasonable. And though I would want a high bar on it, outright advocacy of suicide, or of terrorism, should be curtailed in the mass media. The high bar means that discussion of Islamic grievances, or of the nature of jihadi thought, should not be blocked—although, again, there should be mitigation and disclaimers accompanying the discussion.

I also think banning Mein Kampf is counterproductive, btw, or The Protocols of Zion. And good luck blocking their dissemination through the Internet anyway.

Should I just stop trying to be more likable, and be myself if I have found a way to do it with out hurting or offending others?

By: | Post date: August 13, 2017 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Culture

Abigail, I go all Michaelis Maus whenever I see unanimity. I go all the more Michaelis Maus now that Michaelis has been banned.

It’s hard for me to, because the OP (who has since deleted their account) put in the proviso: “without hurting or offending others”.

But pay attention to that: they had to. Being yourself is not a paramount goal. You still have to be part of society. You still have to be not-yourself enough, in order not to make your life a constant battle. You need discretion in life, too, and discretion is about holding back on being yourself.

If you’ve found a way to do that, that’s great: that means you’ve worked out discretion. But it’s not a one-off deal. You need to recalibrate how much of yourself you need to suppress, to be more likeable, in given social circumstances; and those circumstances are going to change, and expand, as you move around. They’ll certainly get more constrained in the workplace, for example. It’s a balancing act, and you’re going to keep balancing. Middle age is about grubby compromises. We do what we can get away with.

No good saying this to OP, they’re not here. Good luck to the rest of you.

Why has there been so much political resistance to legalizing gay marriage in Australia?

By: | Post date: August 11, 2017 | Comments: 1 Comment
Posted in categories: Australia, Culture

Ah, recentism.

As Ben Kelley’s answer reflects, but not enough answers have acknowledged, dragging one’s feet about gay marriage has become a bipartisan thing.

Gay marriage has become a flashpoint for the current culture war in Australia; the ex-PM and leader of the conservative faction of the Liberals, Tony Abbott, announced that if you’re sick of political correctness, you should vote against.

The inaction is partly because culture war issues are much more prominent in Australian politics than it was a decade ago. It’s something that conservative commentators, such as Andrew Bolt and Abbot’s former chief of staff Peta Credlin, use as a cudgel against current PM Malcolm Turnbull, who is known to be personally pro gay marriage. “Aussie families don’t care about gay marriage! They care about their power bills!” (Because, presumably, gay couples aren’t real Aussie families to them.)

But more importantly, it is because both parties have been much more riven by internal conflict and factionalism than they were (as witnessed by the revolving door of PMs in the past several years); and progressives in the parties can’t afford to antagonise the conservatives in the parties. The issue is certainly a proxy war between moderates and conservatives among the Liberals; contrast Abbott’s stance with Christopher Pyne’s leaked gloating that the moderates were on the ascendancy within the party, and marriage equality was a matter of time.

Labor has no right to be smug about this now, because Labor was just as captive to its own conservatives when it had the chance to legalise gay marriage. Because of how Labor works, the most prominent opponent was not a member of parliament: it was union head Joe de Bruyn, whose opposition is founded on Catholicism.

The late Gough Whitlam, sainted progressive PM of Labor, was always ready with a quip. Here’s Joe de Bruyn – Wikipedia on de Bruyn on gay marriage:

The SDA [de Bruyn’s union] is associated with the Labor Right, Labor Unity or Centre-Unity grouping or faction of the trade union movement and the Australian Labor Party. It also has a long-established reputation as a supporter of conservative Catholic parliamentarians. De Bruyn, himself a Catholic, is a leading figure in the right wing faction of the trade union movement and the Australian Labor Party. De Bruyn has come under scrutiny for voicing his socially conservative views while being secretary of a trade union and holding a position on the National Executive of Labor, a centre-left political party. He has repeatedly voiced opposition to abortion, and to legalising same sex marriage.

In response to a 2014 poll with 72 percent support for same-sex marriage, de Bruyn dismissed the figures but refused to poll his members on the issue. He says he “knows they agree with him absolutely. When we talk to our members about out these things they agree with us”.

At a quarterly SDA members meeting in February 2011, de Bruyn moved a resolution against gay marriage, without giving any members a chance to speak or vote on the issue. This led to the first instance of members of the SDA speaking out and challenging de Bruyn on his stance on gay marriage. Speaking at an AWU event in 2003, former Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam quipped that “Joe de Bruyn is a Dutchman who hates dykes.”

Labor is pro gay marriage now. But that’s easier in opposition than government.

Why is “cunt” considered very offensive in the US but not in Australia?

By: | Post date: August 9, 2017 | Comments: 2 Comments
Posted in categories: Culture, Language

Originally Answered:

Why is the word ‘cunt’ so offensive in America?

Because in America, as distinct from the Commonwealth, cunt is a reductive description of women, when used as an epithet. In the Commonwealth, the epithet mainly refers to men. It is certainly strong, but it can and is used jocularly, and even as a coarse affectionate term (if qualified with an adjective: e.g. clever cunt).

So in the Commonwealth, the word violates one taboo, and a minor one at that nowadays: sex. In the US, it also violates the much more salient contemporary taboo of misogyny.

What day of the week are sad songs associated with in your culture, and why?

By: | Post date: August 3, 2017 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Culture

I’m OP, and this question comes from a discussion I had with Evangelos Lolos at…

For Greek, it seems to be Sunday. Cloudy Sunday (Συννεφιασμένη Κυριακή), the #1 sad song for the postwar generation. I want it to be a Sunday (on the day I die) (Θέλω να είναι Κυριακή). Hammer and Anvil (Σφυρί κι αμόνι) compares the singer’s life to Good Friday Mass; but it also asks for a nightingale to console his Sunday.

As to why: I offered in that comment thread:

My guess it, the end of the weekend is when you have more free time contemplate things.

Evangelos replied:

As for Sundays and why they’re good songwriting material, I think you’re right, free time is certainly an element. I’d also add the fact that the next day is a working day (== sad) and that certain things in Greece mostly take place on a Sunday (football matches, weddings, elections etc.)

What were you doing on September 11th, 2001?

By: | Post date: August 1, 2017 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Personal

I was living in Orange County, and I’d already decided to quit my job; I was leaving to come back to Australia in two months. It was a hermetic, unpleasant work environment, and I was already not on speaking terms with my colleagues—over some inconceivably unreal pique.

I tended to sleep in; I still do. I was roused at 7 am, rather earlier than usual, by a phone call from my mother.

—Nick! Turn on the TV! Some planes hit a building in New York!

—… Wha? What are you bothering me with that for? Go away.

I hung up, and blearily turned on the TV.

I stayed pinned to the TV for the next six hours. And while the fourth plane’s whereabouts were unknown, I was convinced that it was heading straight for my head.

I tried calling a friend in upstate New York; I didn’t even bother trying to call my friend in Manhattan. I didn’t get through to upstate New York. (I did get through to my friend in Manhattan some days later. He knew what was coming next, and he sang me peace songs on the phone, in a hushed voice.)

I ended up at work in the afternoon, but not a lot of work got done that day. Or the next. And of course, noone bothered with not being on speaking terms any more.

People walked around in shock that day, and the next few weeks. People were walking on egg shells. People were extra polite and solicitous. There was an upsurge of American flags on cars, but it did not feel tubthumping and jingoist at the time.

If you had to pray to any saint right now, to which would you pray?

By: | Post date: August 1, 2017 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Culture

Normally I wouldn’t wade in to such a question, but there are eight answers here, and none of them are by people who accept the premiss of the question, the Intercession of saints. Thank you for volunteering the opinion that all Catholic and Orthodox Christians are idolaters, Protestant and Muslim respondents, but clearly that’s not much of a answer.

And OK, I don’t personally accept the premiss of the question either, because I am an atheist. But being culturally Orthodox: I could do worse than appeal to my namesake, Saint Nicholas of Myra. Your namesake saint is supposed to have a special stake in your wellbeing. I’m not necessarily down with the fact that he supposedly slapped Arius in the face in the First Council of Nicaea; but at least he showed up to Nicaea. And at least we can be sure he existed, unlike some Orthodox saints (I’m looking at you, St Phanourios.)

And he’s not Santa Claus to me. That’s a Western, beef-eater notion. The gift guy to the Greeks is St Basil; Nicholas is the mariner guy:

Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers and students in various cities and countries around Europe.

This is the statue the Russian Government paid for to be put up at his church in Demre (ancient Myra):

Μεγάλη η χάρη του “Great be his grace”. You can see this guy slapping a theological opponent.

This is the Noel Baba sculpture that the local mayor replaced St Nicholas’ statue with:

OK, no pot belly, no Coke ads, and definitely no Ho Ho Ho; but that still ain’t my St Nicholas (Great be his grace).

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