What the Wise Wife Knows

unhappy husband

Otis Redding’s “Call Me Mister Pitiful” describes the poor slob in the conjugal bed making sperm by the billions, lying next to a wife who has no interest, no empathy and no tolerance for intimacy. The wise wife knows better. She brings relief faster than Alka-Seltzer and in less than a commercial break he becomes one happy camper. Who cares if it’s fake? It’s genuine enough and well worth the effort for any woman to get her way.

On September 19th 2011, CNN reported that the women in a village in Mindanao, Philippines got their men to do their bidding with a sex strike. It worked because men will do anything for sex.

We are created equal but different. And the difference in our sexual appetites leaves little basis for an even-steven argument. The disparity in libidos may very well be a kind of reverse oogamy to balance things out. In any event, women in dereliction of their wifely duty often use the excuse that conjugal lust is nothing more than a male perversion that objectifies women. But the wise wife knows better. She knows that when the embers wane, it’s time to fan the flame and no amount of talking can suffice for blowing. So pucker up ladies, time’s a wasting.

Men might be promiscuous by nature but they are notoriously lazy in love and will not expend one iota of energy chasing women if they are happy in the conjugal bed. The wife that keeps up her end of the bargain clearly appreciates the beauty in the elegant simplicity of the solution as illustrated by the story: a wife, agonizing over the remoteness of her husband, out of desperation, initiates sex and finds that he is as passionate as ever, but afterward is distant again. The next day she looked in his diary “Boat won’t start, can’t figure it out, but at least I got laid.”


AIRLINE ATROCITIES: AA and the Disappearing Middle Class

overcrowded airplane cartoon

The group between the upper and lower classes, what used to be known as the middle class consisting of professionals, educators and managers, are no more – they have been merged with the lower class to form “economy class”. Accept the euphemism and they would have you believe that business class is the new middle. Truth be told, business class is rich, and first class is even richer. What we have here are two classes and the middle is as blank as the stare of a flight attendant in a time of need.

The cruel irony is the crabs-in-a-barrel metaphor in economy class. Instead of minimizing the agony by sitting upright, most cling to the pretense of flying in style, albeit slave ship style. They recline for the entire flight oblivious to the absurdity of bargain posh. And then there are the chronic leg crossers, knee spreaders, armrest takers, nervous jimmy-leggers and boom-boom earphoners who violate personal space at will to make the flight a living hell.

If only there were straight back slide-forward-only seats with side panels to protect us from those selfish boors, and if only the airlines were not so lazy, we would not have to dread air travel. Until then, those in the middle can only hope to get rich quick.

Airline seating plans reflect the same phenomenon as the crew of the US Navy ship I served on back in the day when every able-bodied male had to enlist. It was a cross section of American society and revealed a vibrant middle class secure in the belief that the rungs on the ladder of success were markers as to the extent of one’s ambition. The measure of progress, of course, depended on where one started.

America was far from being perfect but nonetheless it was proof positive that the key to prosperity was “In medias res” (In the middle of things). Omitting the middle in the name of free enterprise is by all standards the ultimate of ironies. Even the fictional Gordon Gekko (“greed is good”) will admit that removing the rungs in the middle is bad for business. But the brilliant boffos at American Airlines have done just that.

By definition, economy class is the removal of all non-essential features to keep fares as low as possible and that also happens to be an apt description of steerage, where passengers packed into the hold of luxury liners are thankful just to arrive alive and in one piece. It is no way to treat people and certainly no way to treat those that are responsible for most of our good fortune and intellectual accomplishments.

Not long ago, an experimental airline dedicated exclusively to first class passengers fell flat without an economy class to keep it aloft. When the trail of indulgences that lead up to the first class lounge is explored we find that the rich are often flying for free or paying less for the actual flight than the working stiff in back. The insult is especially galling considering the substantial amount of taxpayer money that goes into the airline industry.

American Airlines Boeing 777 carries approximately 245 passengers, 51 occupy the best half of the cabin and 194 are seated behind the engines. That’s an obscene ratio of 6-1 that dehumanizes 95% of the population. It is an atrocity that is totally unnecessary because there is more than enough space to provide first, second, and third class options.

airplane seating diagram

I say business class is luxury enough. Getting rid of the bombastic extravaganza of 16 first class seats that take up 30% of the cabin would make room for 56 business class seats. The rear economy compartment would remain at 127 and the space in the middle would house the remaining 96 willing to buy a little more legroom. There would be room enough to provide two standing room lounges, two extra bathrooms and bigger quarters for the crew.

All of this without any loss of profit to the airline but maximum profit is not truly the objective, maximum laziness is. The airlines, armed with 911 powers to do as they please, don’t bother with the extra effort that competition inspires. And things are about to get worse. The NY Times reported that the merger of US Airways and American Airlines will lead to more of the same but with even fewer options, higher fees, and tacit collusion. Bon voyage.

INTUITION FREE: The End of Free Tuition at Cooper Union

Three points toward a solution:

  1. Create a tuition-free associate degree for NYC residents by lottery.
  2. The undergraduate school must charge a full value tuition to support this new two year program.
  3. The graduate program is inappropriate for Cooper Union’s community mandate.

Peter Cooper was a man of great intuition on a mission to educate the people who made him rich. He believed that power came from the administering of money, not from hoarding it. The public schools were a dismal failure and he knew that an enlightened community is in everyone’s best interest so he built his school as a prototype for the country to follow, with the hope that it would not be the exception but the rule. A rule that would be as free as air and water.

The public schools balked at the idea but the free education model was copied by the robber barons. They wanted to redeem their reputation and leave behind a monument more lasting than sculptures of marble. To survive they turned to tuition. Cooper Union outlasted them all and now it too will be charging tuition. The one thing that made us unique is gone, but we pretend.  A statue of Ayn Rand might replace Peter Cooper’s just as that mundane cube replaced his likeness on our masthead when no one was looking.

It’s not bad for colleges to be in the red for reasons of study and research but genteel college presidents have all been replaced by corporate CEOs who maximizing profits and know thar’s gold in them thar mills. Diploma Mills bring in huge amounts of money selling narrow specializations known as “domain expertise”. It promises the good life in a digital future and downplays the importance of the fine arts in enriching that life.  The University of Phoenix took it to extremes but the Ivy League is not far behind.

Cooper Union’s Board of Trustees decided to follow fashion and spent our treasure on a razzle-dazzle ‘icon’ to attract the silicon set.  But the problem with that strategy is that Cooper’s tuition free education was already the best value on the planet, accepting only 6% of applicants. Going mainstream is the death knell of the school but these status-quo die-hards appear to be “objectivists” opposed to the idea of anything free.  Their slogan is, “You pay, you stay” and by getting us deeply in debt they have made sure we have no choice. The Trustees show no remorse or accountability and we have only ourselves to blame.

It is a significant irony that the New Academic White Elephant was erected on the spot where Sarah Hewitt’s White Elephant Column once stood.  The trustees knew it was an unpopular idea but they did it anyway.  We did not have to go broke to find an excuse to charge tuition for an excellent education in the center of New York City. Maybe the time has come for the undergraduate degree to support a new associate degree program that would be free to NYC residents (who take up the slack for our tax free status). Expanding into post-graduate programs aimed at foreign students won’t bring financial solvency and might even hasten our demise.

Furthermore, an attitude of entitlement among students has increased with each passing year and it’s getting hard to justify a free education for those who would otherwise go Ivy.  We know that students of privilege can’t be expected to fight when the going gets tough and that, some believe, is why they closed down the working class evening school.  As well, the large contingent of foreign students (most of which already have a degree) that take the gift and never look back is a burden we can no longer bear.  Free education is standard in their countries and naturally they feel they owe us nothing.

Meetings called to discuss a way out of this dilemma are futile because they are dominated by those who created the problem in the first place. There are representatives on committees selected from outside the alumni to speak on our behalf.  Our history is in spin, we are told to shut up, that Cooper was never meant to be free, ‘tuition free’ has been changed to ‘full scholarship’ and the alumni blamed for not donating enough money to the school.

Truth be told, the alumni are guilty of that charge but how can alumni be asked to give more to a leadership that failed us and refused to be totally transparent? Students are graded, faculty are evaluated, so why are policy makers immune from review? Where are the checks and balances that Peter Cooper mandated? He expected the alumni to keep the dream alive and when they see no need to do so, then his mission has been accomplished.

IKLAND the worst people in the world


Ikland movie still frameIkland is a movie about man’s inhumanity to man but more than that, it is about the value of verification in the scientific method. For over fifty years, the world accepted the flawed 1965-67 research of Colin Turnbull simply because he had the trappings of a scientist.  His report of the Ik, a remote tribe on the border of Uganda and Kenya, concluded that they were so depraved the world would be better off without them.

Margaret Mead, who has been known to fabricate a few facts of her own, repeated the lie without any hesitation whatsoever. There were doubters along the way (Bernard Heine in ‘83) but the lie persisted until Cevin Soling put it to rest once and for with this riveting documentary.  We can all be grateful that Soling’s dogged quest for the truth was not deterred by Turnbull’s British accent, which Americans tend to associate with facts and intelligence.

Turnbull died in 1994 and was so haunted by his undiscovered lies that he split his estate  between the United Negro Fund and the College of Charleston which is dedicated to British culture. That he included the latter shows his remorse to be only partial. Fact is, he is not truly dead; there are Turnbulls at every turn…and the world would be better off without them.

Ikland opened my eyes to a world I knew nothing about. It was brutal but edifying to learn of a people shot for sport especially when contrasted with my Chelsea neighborhood where dogs wear rain boots. I was equally struck by the absurdity of the emaciated Ik performing “A Christmas Carol” at the pleasure of the fecund Rubenesque drama teacher Soling brought along. I would have traded that segment to ask, what if the Ik were a tribe of blondes, would they be left to their own devices?

To any student of history or anyone who has ever been a victim of lies, this film as a must see.


Pruitt Igoe Myth Movie Poster

In 1977 Charles Jencks, architectural historian cites the demolition of Pruitt-Igoe as the death of modernism. Jencks blamed architecture for the failure instead of the real culprit: the St. Louis Housing Authority. Architectural schools accepted it as fact, but in reality the housing development worked when it was white. Jenks wouldn’t say that, so he deftly spun it into a denouncement of the housing type. Critical thinking in architecture died that day.

There were good egalitarian ideas in Pruitt-Igoe, ideas that an industry of maximum profits found threatening. Slumlords had to nip it in the bud. Innovations such as skip-stop elevators, generous stairs, wide corridors with laundry, trash chutes and other community spaces and amenities that would inspire a pride of place in spite of the low maintenance charged. The list goes on; it was a prototype with all the ingredients for success.

Corbusier and modernism took the fall for a housing administration bent on revenge and sabotage. Smarting from a 1954 civil rights mandate to integrate, they had reason to be vindictive and to show the world, even at tremendous costs to themselves, that equality for blacks was no better than casting pearls to swine. Keep in mind that Missouri was the site of the dreadful Dred Scott Decision, and the northernmost state adhering to the deep-south segregation laws outlawed by Brown v. Board of Education on May 7th, 1954.

The movie featured the nostalgic recall of former residents who saw their dreams dashed, reminiscing about what could have been.  It was sad.  We all know it as Pruitt-Igoe but they call it Pruitt and Igoe. Wendell Pruitt (1920-45) was a Tuskegee Airman and William Igoe (1879-1953) was a white local politician. It struck me that the black residents could not bring themselves to integrate the names.  It was even sadder that the prophetic promise of the names failed to materialize.

I would’ve liked to also hear the recall of the whites that abandoned the project in the flight to the whites-only suburban alternative provided by the same housing agency. The vignette of a white woman strenuously objecting to living with blacks revealed to me that she too was a victim.  I know I cringed when one of the Pruitt-Igoe resident’s happiest memories entailed blasting music in the corridor to express appreciation of moving into the project. For me that kind of culture shock is much more troubling than skin color.

Despite all the questions of racism, corruption, and lack of maintenance that the movie raises, one is left to wonder why a community of 12,000 residents could not muster the votes to affect improvements?  Pruitt-Igoe was ahead of its time and in the final analysis, architects must not be deterred by those with other fish to fry.  My advice is to stay focused on the commitment to the social contract for it is the inhabitant that decides whether the architecture lives or dies.  Jencks was dead wrong. Modernism lives.  Truth is beauty and form follows philosophy.