The zeitgeist is white and male, I guess

It’s rather discouraging to wake up every morning to the news that old white men are pieces of shit, since that’s my demographic. I’ve been trying desperately to convince the universe that I belong to an entirely different clade, the spider kind, but so far medical science has failed to provide a mechanism to make my transformation at all convincing.

So, Jann Wenner. That piggy-eyed asshole is looking at me this morning.

He has a new book out, The Masters, a collection of interviews with famous musicians who are all “masters,” however that is defined, and who, coincidentally, are all white men. An interviewer noticed that peculiar distribution and asked about it.

Asked by The Times how he chose the musicians to feature, Wenner replied: When I was referring to the zeitgeist, I was referring to Black performers, not to the female performers, OK? Just to get that accurate. The selection was not a deliberate selection. It was kind of intuitive over the years; it just fell together that way. The people had to meet a couple criteria, but it was just kind of my personal interest and love of them. Insofar as the women, just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level, he said.

The Times reporter David Marchese, a onetime online editor at Rolling Stone, pushed back on that claim by citing Joni Mitchell.

It’s not that they’re not creative geniuses,” Wenner replied. It’s not that they’re inarticulate, although, go have a deep conversation with Grace Slick or Janis Joplin. Please, be my guest. You know, Joni was not a philosopher of rock ’n’ roll. She didn’t, in my mind, meet that test. Not by her work, not by other interviews she did. The people I interviewed were the kind of philosophers of rock. Of Black artists — you know, Stevie Wonder, genius, right? I suppose when you use a word as broad as ‘masters,’ the fault is using that word. Maybe Marvin Gaye, or Curtis Mayfield? I mean, they just didn’t articulate at that level.

I appreciate that it was kind of intuitive, not based on reason or evidence, he’s just a racist sexist ass deeply at a gut level. I mean, how can you write about the inspiration and founding figures of rock ‘n’ roll and forget to include black people and women?

I think back to my early years, and who got me excited about music, and it was Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin — who I had a crush on in 8th grade, and would love to meet and talk to, but hey, Jann, she died of a heroin overdose in 1970. I’m pretty sure she’s deeply inarticulate now.

Isn’t the whole thing about rock is the passion? If you’re looking for articulate philosophers you’re going to miss the majority of the people who made the genre work. He disregarded Joplin and Joni Mitchell and Nina Simone and Bob Marley and James Brown and Aretha Franklin and Prince because he thought only people like Mick Jagger were smart and philosophical enough to meet his standards. You know, the guy who said this:

You start out playing rock ‘n’ roll so you can have sex and do drugs, but you end up doing drugs so you can still play rock ‘n’ roll and have sex.

Profound, man. A true intellectual.

This is no way to run a movie theater

I was alone. Totally alone in the dark. Well, sure, there was the ticket-taker and the refreshment bar person, but they sent me off into the darkness by myself; the ticket-taker looked mildly surprised, and said, “I didn’t expect you here. Are you here for the science?” He shook his head as he pointed to the doors to my screen.

I went in. I had my choice of seats. The theater was completely empty. I got the best seat in the house, and sat and wondered where everyone was. Both screens were totally abandoned, the theater was dead silent, even the popcorn machine was turned off. I waited, and the movie started.

“The Cretaceous,” a title card announced. We see a scene of a beach, with some kind of shredded dinosaur carcass rotting, while a swarm of weird-looking reptiles with long needle-like fangs and long sinuous bodies squabble over it. Suddenly, a T. rex appears! It charges, eats a few fang-beasts, and the rest leap into the ocean and swim expertly away. I guess these are amphibious fang-beasts. The T. rex wades out into the ocean in pursuit, when…suddenly, a giant shark appears! It jumps onto the shore and chomps on the T. rex. I guess Megalodon’s ecological niche was cruising shallow seas near shore and occasionally leaping on to the land to ambush a dinosaur.

Title card: Meg2. Title card: The Trench.

Oh, yeah. I guess there’s no mystery why the theater was so empty.

Cut to action scene: Jason Statham has snuck onto a freighter dumping toxic waste into the ocean. He runs around taking photos, documenting the crimes — he’s an eco-warrior. Along the way, he beats up the entire crew, then leaps into the ocean and is scooped up, literally, by an airplane. This interlude has no bearing on the rest of the movie.

Cut to futuristic research station somewhere near the Philippines. They are studying the Trench, an abyssal canyon isolated from the rest of the ocean by a thermocline. It’s full of Megs. They also have a captured Megalodon swimming around in a blocked off lagoon. Don’t worry about it. This Meg will do nothing throughout the film. It’s going to escape to the open ocean shortly, but no one will care, and they’ll do nothing about it, and don’t even pay much attention to it. It’s purpose is solely for Statham to utter a throw away line, “maybe it’s pregnant,” near the end. It’s only there to justify Meg3: The Quest for More Chinese Investment Money.

The rest of the movie is a denial of physics, time, and space to set up a show about rampaging monsters on a resort island. Our main characters zoom down to the trench in some amazingly spacious submarines with gigantic picture windows everywhere. Don’t worry about them, they’re going to get wrecked in short order. There are bad guys down there, looting the sea bed for rare earth metals worth billions of dollars. The head bad guy immediately sets off explosive charges to kill Jason Statham, but incidentally kills all of his underlings, trapping all the good guys under boulders, and likewise trapping his own submarine. Don’t worry, they’re 25,000 feet under the sea, their ships are immobilized, but hull integrity is fine. They just get out through hatches and walk in their futuristic suits to the processing station the bad guys had set up.

The script writers apparently hadn’t paid any attention to the news about the Titan submersible that was crushed at a depth of 12,000 feet. They were too busy churning out schlock.

Their walk to the station is harrowing. They are pursued by the amphibious fang-beasts. They’ve been deep under the ocean all this time, holding their breaths for 65 million years! Some of the crew get eaten; we don’t care. It’s not as if they have personalities or something. We do get one brief nod to the idea of deep ocean pressure, though. One of the crew’s faceplates develops a crack that expands slowly, and then suddenly fractures as they are standing in the airlock, waiting for the water to be evacuated. Her head abruptly implodes as everyone watches.

Then air fills the chamber, and everyone removes their helmets. Everyone is fine.

The next part of the movie is Jason Statham running around the station, pushing buttons and pulling levers, like it was some kind of video game, occasionally stopping to punch the bad guy, who also made it back to the station. Statham eventually gets the right combination, freeing the station’s submarine, so all the good guys can escape. The bad guy survives, grabs some kind of steel balloon, and rides it all the way to the surface.

At the surface, they return to the good guys’ futuristic research station, only it’s been taken over by more bad guys. Cue more punching and kicking. Statham leads the survivors to a Zodiac, and they zoom away. Their destination: Fun Island, 30km away.

Oh, yeah, the Megs. We’d kind of forgotten them for most of the movie. They had also risen to the surface, without rupturing due to the extreme pressure differential, and they too are headed for Fun Island, along with a troop of fang-beasts and a giant ockapus. The end is approaching. The final part of this movie is miscellaneous monsters romping about on a resort island full of attractive young Asian women and their attractive young Asian children, and one homely middle-aged white man who is crass and rude and cowardly, who is inevitably snatched up and killed by the ockapus. Everyone is getting eaten by giant sharks and fang-beasts.

There are explosions and guns, the bad guys are eaten or blown up, the good guys kill all the monsters, Statham makes some improvised exploding harpoons and rides a jet ski out to kill Megs. When he runs out of harpoons, he picks up a rotor blade from a crashed helicopter and stabs the last Meg to death with it.

Oh wait, not the last Meg: the original captive Meg shows up, everyone says “hi,” and then swims nonchalantly off to the open ocean. The good guys camp out on the beach, drinking whisky, surrounded by the few surviving attractive Asian women. Everyone laughs.

The End.

I left the theater as the credits started to roll. Apparently, the workers there had been waiting for me to leave, because the instant I walked out the door, all the lights in the building blinked out. I guess the 9:00 showing was canceled. Sorry, guys. I’m pretty sure the $7 I spent on a ticket didn’t cover your wages for two hours of waiting for the old guy to get out.

This movie is not recommended at all, unless you feel like you missed the theatrical run of The Core and you really want to be able to brag that you witnessed one of the worst science movies of all time on the big screen.

You’ll have to tell me what you consider the worst science abuse in a movie. Meg2 is right at the top of my list.

Surprise lecture!

It’s always fun to volunteer for an extra lecture — this time it’s for an honors series here at UMM. The theme is built around the essays of the late Renaissance humanist Montaigne, on the subject of “Of Family.” It’s also prompted by a visiting professor.

Monday September 18, 7pm in Imholte 109

Mark your calendars for the other three lectures in the series, all held in the same place at the same time: Dr. Stephen Gross on 9/25; Dr. Paul Z. Myers on 10/2; Dr. Sarah Buchanan on 10/9

Michelle Janning is a writer, social science researcher, speaker, and sociology professor and endowed chair of social sciences at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She teaches and consults on human-centered design, roles and relationships in families and workplaces, technology and social life, education, and inclusive data-driven assessment and strategic planning in organizations and architecture projects. Janning employs qualitative and quantitative methods in her academic and applied research, and has published numerous books, articles, and essays, including The Stuff of Family Life: How our Homes Reflect our Lives (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), Love Letters: Saving Romance in the Digital Age (Routledge, 2018), and A Guide to Socially-Informed Research for Architects and Designers (Routledge, 2023). She has been interviewed about homes and family life, along with other social issues, in numerous media outlets, including Real Simple, Vox, The New York Times, BBC, The Atlantic, NBC News, and

There I am, on 2 October, speaking on the cryptic subject “Of Boundaries.” I’m a biologist, so they’re going to have to expect something a little different from those other speakers in the humanities/social sciences. Would you believe I’m squeezing in some material on spiders, in a lecture series on families? Yes, you would. It’s not all spiders, though. You’ll have to come on out to Western Minnesota to find out.

For now, you can try guessing what “Of Boundaries” is about.

Can anyone be truly redeemed?

We have another podish-sortacast tomorrow, and the theme is redemption arcs.

Know anyone, famous or otherwise, who thoroughly screwed up, and then somehow got back in good graces (I think it has to start with a sincere apology, and it’s amazing how few people get that)? Any characters from literature who worked their way of a pit? Tell us in the comments or show up and shout it out in the chat.

A 2600-year-old burn from the grave

I got an interesting comment over on Mastodon, in response to the Tommy Tuberville story. There’s a classical scholar always ready to sic some ancient poetry on philistines.

Sappho, “To One Who Loved Not Poetry,” ca mid-600BCE:

κατθάνοισα δὲ κείσῃ οὐδέ ποτα
μναμοσύνα σέθεν
ἔσσετ’ οὐδὲ †ποκ’†ὔστερον· οὐ
γὰρ πεδέχῃς βρόδων
τῶν ἐκ Πιερίας· ἀλλ’ ἀφάνης
κἠν Ἀίδα δόμῳ
φοιτάσεις πεδ’ ἀμαύρων νεκύων

But thou shalt ever lie dead,
nor shall there be any remembrance of thee then or thereafter,
for thou hast not of the roses of Pieria;
but thou shalt wander obscure even in the house of Hades,
flitting among the shadowy dead.

That’s a fitting end for a stupid old football coach — eternal obscurity, lost and forgotten, with only mockery left to remember him by. Respect poets, or suffer that fate yourself!

Myers U-Stor-It in lovely downtown Morris, MN

It’s Homecoming Weekend at the University of Minnesota! The cool alumni are coming back to town, and that includes my daughter, Skatje. And she’s bringing our granddaughter.

She has an ulterior motive, though. She’s moving from Eau Claire (to a place farther away, unfortunately), and all of my kids use our house for storage when they leave. Our upstairs bedrooms are all more like a cluttered personal museum, so she’s going to add to it, and is also bringing stuff from our granddaughter Iliana. The tradition continues!

We don’t mind, it’s an excuse to see the kids now and then. We’ll also get our revenge in a few years when we die and they inherit a hoarder house in a remote part of the country.


I startled my wife into wakefulness by shouting “BAT!” in the middle of the night.

Alas, I am no Laszlo Cravensworth, and I was not announcing my transformation into a bat — I was merely noting that there was a winged mammal doing circles above the marriage bed. We leapt up, throwing on robes, and started leaping and waving our arms to convince it to move elsewhere. It did. It flapped into the hallway, and we closed the bedroom door and resumed our dance there. Then it moved into the living room where it could whirl about at a greater radius, and we added broom waving and towel flapping to our repertoire. It flew into our kitchen, and at that point we had it.

Our strategy was to chase it into increasingly confined spaces, closing doors behind us and opening them in the direction we wanted it to go. From the kitchen, there was one way out, to the outside world, and while it fluttered frantically about us, it was defeated. Like a Turk at Lepanto, it at last realized it was either going to be crushed between the two terrifying flailing wings of our wedded partnership, or flee up the center. It chose wisely.

These intrusions have been occurring rather too frequently of late. We are debating what to do next: I suggested acquiring a large cannon and loading it with grapeshot to teach them a lesson, but Mary’s proposal to purchase a good-sized butterfly net has won out. At least for the next round in our no doubt continuing battle.