April 10, 2006

My Dinner With Camille.

So, remember that old post of mine about Camille Paglia: "Try to survive a tornado with a post-structuralist"?

And then remember that great BlogAd for Paglia's book "Break, Blow, Burn"? You can see the ad on the BlogAds page showing the best BlogAds (scroll down to the third ad). See how it links to my post and uses my name? The ad ran in the premium slot on my blog for quite a while.

Anyway, Paglia is returning to Madison to give a big lecture tomorrow. At the request of the promoters of the lecture, I did a post on this blog to encourage people to come to it, and I linked back to the old "tornado" post, saying her recent appearance in Madison had been amusing. A couple days later, I received a phone call inviting me to the pre-speech dinner with Paglia. I accepted the invitation.

But what's this? Suddenly, I'm uninvited! Camille Paglia has actually read "Try to survive a tornado with a post-structuralist," and -- I'm told -- she's angry and hurt by what I said about her. The very material that was used to promote the book has become a reason to demand that my invitation to the dinner be withdrawn. Okaaaaayyyy....

For 15 years, I've thought of Camille Paglia as an unusually tough and feisty woman. Wasn't she the one who sneered at women who acted like fragile victims?

Ah, well, it's true: despite my light touch and detailed coverage, the post was rather damning. Go back and read it, and you'll see. Funny, though, then, that you used the post to advertise the book.

And I don't blame her for not wanting to be stressed out at a dinner before a big speech. I didn't know I was capable of stressing out such a big rockstar diva. But apparently, I am. With the very post that her people saw fit to promote her with. That's too funny!

UPDATE: Look how the BlogAds blog praised Camille Paglia's ad precisely because of the way it included me:
There's some post-modern intertextual polymorphic joy (not forgetting that Paglia hates post-modernism) in the fact that Paglia's publisher bought an ad on Anne Althouse's blog quoting an Althouse post that quoted Paglia saying: "Once you’re 'swept up in the blogosphere,' you become self-referential."

Hey, you can have fun with advertising! Let's get out of the stiff and starched print-it-once-a-month-and-pray-that-someone-reads-it mentality. This Paglia ad is a wonderful respite from book blogads with blurry images sporting mumbling unreadable text, the bain of my existence.
(It's Ann, without the e!)

So, you can have fun with advertising, but it's back to the stiff and starched when it's time to make out the dinner list...

60 comments:

joewxman said...

Up until now i had respect for Camille and have enjoyed many of her salon columns over the years..but she has dis-invited our Ann! An outrage! She is forever cast out into darkness...where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!

SippicanCottage said...
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Ann Althouse said...

Try to survive a tornado with a post-structuralist? Try to survive a dinner with a blogger.

Ricardo said...
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Ron said...

"When the last post-structuralist flees from a blogger, it will be from a post that she used to sell to us."

(with a nod to Lenin there)

Ricardo said...

Maybe more interesting is that you advertised the event, without telling us that you had been encouraged to advertise the event. And in exchange for (the now non-) dinner? Has blogging no moral code? (I'm not really serious about this.)

Ann Althouse said...

If someone emails me about a good event in Madison, and I agree it's good, I'll do a post. I don't really want to be invited to dinners, which often bore me.

paul a'barge said...

Ann said: "I don't really want to be invited to dinners, which often bore me".

Drats, and I was just going to invite you to dinner next time I'm in Madison. Well, actually I've never been there, but I have been to Milwaukee and I love the BoDeans.

bizejbej

Brendan said...

Paglia's a celeb, and most celebs are prima donnas. Like Andrew Sullivan, she's a contrarian who enjoys giving both sides in the culture wars fits.

I don't blame her for not wanting to be stressed out at a dinner before a big speech.

Screw the womanly, self-imposed guilt trip. You should be pissed off by her pettiness.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Brendan. I am kind of pissed off, but also amused. I think if she were what she purports to be and what I thought she was, she'd be interested in encountering me. She's entitled to be a diva, but she's revealed that she perceives me as a rival diva. I'm enjoying that.

Maxine Weiss said...

What Camille giveth, Camille taketh away!

Ann, don't fret! You act as though this is the biggest humiliation of your entire life.

She's no Frannie Lebowitz. She's not even Joan Didion, or Dorothy Parker.

These lesbians can be petty.

Save your embarrassment for when Kissenger refuses to take your calls, or when Gorbachev (He's single!) won't invite you to tea.

Until then, you've got bigger fish to fry.

Peace, Maxine

Brendan said...

From: Ann Althouse
Sent: Monday, April 10, 2006 10:26 PM
To: Camille Paglia
Subject: Girl fight

You. Me. The Quad. High noon. Be there.

Ricardo said...

The incident with the camera showed that Camille has "control issues". And this dinner may indicate more of the same. Still, I'd give her the benefit of the doubt, and say that she didn't want to risk any "upset" (for whatever reason) just before giving a speech. This seems, to me, a case where it's best to take the high moral ground, and just say that the dinner is something that "didn't work out".

Ann Althouse said...

Maxine: I don't feel humiliated. More exalted. If I felt humilited, I wouldn't have blogged about it!

Dave said...

If I were Camille, I would have insisted that you sit next to me at the dinner, so that I could see if you had the courage to say to my face what you wrote. But then I'm more confrontational than most.

Ann Althouse said...

Dave: Yeah, I totally know what you mean. That's why the uninvite was a very special triumph. Really, I escaped the stress and am free to sharpen by blog-knives. What, is she going to attack me somewhere? Please, spell my name right!

Dave said...

I guess we bloggers have thicker skins than most!

Ann Althouse said...

Yeah, before writing this post, I said, "What is this thick skin for?" Having developed it, I'm going to use it.

HaloJonesFan said...

A loofa can help with that thick-skin problem.

knoxgirl said...

Oh, Camille! I am disappointed... an un-invite is pretty low! Certainly beneath someone of her stature.

Are you sure she said she's joining Salon and not Pajamas Media? : P

knoxgirl said...

halo: LOL!!!! (gross!....)

Tonya said...

Ann, I think that you should go to her talk, sit in the first row so that she sees you, and spend lots of time furiously writing notes on a pad. That oughta spook her!

Ann Althouse said...

Tonya: LOL. (Only if you go with me.)

Ann Althouse said...

I like the Madame Dufarge image.

Johnny Nucleo said...

I thought Camille Paglia was supposed to be intellectually courageous? What a coward she is! The more I think about it, the more I am disgusted by her Hollywood bullshit.

Ruth Anne Adams said...
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Christopher Althouse said...

Ruth Anne Adams: Camille Paglia is afraid to get involved in a conversation with someone with whom she can't just use her stock lines. She has a rehearsed, very familiar routine that she uses with lefty feminists and she has fans who will cheer her on the entire way--including people who, like Andrew Sullivan, uncritically praise every word she speaks. Ann, obviously, doesn't fall into either of those categories and so Camille wouldn't be very well prepared for that debate. She'd be forced to talk endlessly about herself as a diversion, which would be nothing new.

SippicanCottage said...
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chuck b. said...

Now you have to go to the event, sit in the front row, and roll your eyes a lot with loud sighs.

Ruth Anne Adams said...
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Beto Ochoa said...

"She dreams of natural disasters: the sea rising and tornados."
This is a dream trait of the self conflicted person.
Just sayin'

Barry Dauphin said...

Well I wonder if now there will be people in the audience that will ask Camille why she uninvited a local blogger? That would be a lot more difficult to handle than sitting at dinner with a blgger that wrote a critical piece. Many people are still learning about how the internet works.

stavr0s said...

I used to read Paglia back before Salon went subscription. I actually made it to the end of most of her articles but in a word, she's glib. I guess she was cutting-edge in the late 80s. I doubt she'll ever be passé in Madison.

JodyTresidder said...

Johnny Nucleo wrote: "I thought Camille Paglia was supposed to be intellectually courageous?"

Something of a pose, I think. One of the best long, serious print interviews with Paglia was by the fiercely satirical British novelist Will Self a few years back. He had considerable fun with her.

Every time she flung out a grande dame dismissal of a contemporary writer or academic, Self would fib and say: "Really? That person has spoken very highly of you!" Paglia took the bait each time, collapsing into a froth of reciprocal flattery and backtracking her original brave rudeness.

It was an outrageous interview technique by Self, but brilliantly exposed Paglia's enormous appetite for approval.

(I searched for it online after Ann's lovely piece, but without success.)

SippicanCottage said...
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SippicanCottage said...
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Ann Althouse said...

Sippican: LOL. The Slutfest kids, however, are pissed at me, you know, for quoting their leader and then leaving open a comments thread where people -- like you -- could make fun of the quote. I'm now getting email attempting to deny me permission to quote this character and threatening to take the matter to the chancellor and beyond to stronger measures. Maybe the Slutfesters can team up with Camille against your local blogger. They do belong on the same team: ultra-tough women dissolving into wussitude.

Bruce Hayden said...

Ann,

To some extent, you are getting your revenge. I note that other blogs, including Instapundit, have picked this up and pointed at this blog entry of yours.

It is one thing to disinvite a mere law professor, but it is quite another to disninvite the (relatively) famous althouse.com blogger these days. Much, much, worse.

Obviously, in retrospect, it probably would have been better for her reputation to have trusted to your decorum, than to disinvite you at the last minute.

Jack Lifton said...

Going back to the important stuff in this comment stream: Ben Hur is NOT better than Casablanca, because Ben Hur is about moral dilemma's facing a white Christain America of a 150 years ago. Casablanca is about moral dilemmas (Nazi thugs versus good old reasonably and acceptably prejudiced Americans) faced by our fathers and grandfathers to preserve an American way of life different from that of our (intellectual for all, genetic for most) European ancestors on their (rapid) way to hell. Casablanca is, I hate to say it, relevant. Ben Hur is just entertaining, at this point in time.

Oh, and, by the way, if your description of Camille Paglia's behavior in this situation is accurate, then screw her.

SippicanCottage said...
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rhhardin said...

Postmodernism gets such a bad name from academics!

Derrida himself is enjoyable, if you're willing to read slowly and thoughtfully. But maybe you need also some actual reason to be actually interested.

Mine is the mystery of why artificial intelligence (always on the verge of promise since the late 1950s - perhaps the field showing promise for the longest time ever) doesn't get anywhere.

Computers can't do literary effects, nor, mostly, can any science at all.

What a coincidence. Exactly what Derrida is always uncovering.

So I've read most of his stuff.

I'd have thought Paglia would embrace the idea too, but she is more put off by the academic posturing that has surrounded it, or perhaps doesn't see the reach of the idea.

On the side of computers doing everything are the morality-from-principles people, who decry Derrida's destroying the morality that he is in fact saving.

Hint on reading Derrida : he makes enough poetically right points to make the reading worthwhile, even if the large point isn't apparent at once.

If you'd rather listen, try the first 20 minutes of http://rhhardin.home.mindspring.com/derrida2.ram on what a prayer is, and see if the description he develops isn't right on.

Joe Carter said...

Paglia’s reaction shouldn’t be too surprising. Even though she was, as she claims, the first blogger(!) she hates reading blogs:

Blog reading for me is like going down to the cellar amid shelves and shelves of musty books that you're condemned to turn the pages of. Bad prose, endless reams of bad prose! There's a lack of discipline, a feeling that anything that crosses one's mind is important or interesting to others. People say that the best part about writing a blog is that there's no editing -- it's free speech without institutional control. Well, sure, but writing isn't masturbation -- you've got to self-edit.

Now and then one sees the claim that Kausfiles was the first blog. I beg to differ: I happen to feel that my Salon column was the first true blog. My columns had punch and on-rushing velocity. They weren't this dreary meta-commentary, where there's a blizzard of fussy, detached sections nattering on obscurely about other bloggers or media moguls and Washington bureaucrats. I took hits at media excesses, but I directly commented on major issues and personalities in politics and pop culture.

If bloggers want to break out of their ghetto, they've got to acquire a sense of drama and theater as well as a flair for language. Why else should anyone read them? And the Web in my view is a medium -- I don't log on to be trapped on a muddy page crammed with indigestible prose.

(From her interview with Salon.com http://dir.salon.com/story/opinion/feature/2003/10/29/paglia/print.html?pn=6)

Rudersdorf said...

I've read much of Paglia's published work, and it it often insightful, clever, and all that. But I noticed that there came a phase when she didn't have much so say. Busy on more important things, I'm sure. Academic stuff, you know. This phase seemed to start about the second week of September, going on five years ago. Nothing much important to talk about since then, I guess, expcept poetry. Good stuff, poetry.

Mr. Snitch said...

Dissing Ann Althouse gives Paglia's lecture more exposure than anything else she could have done. It's all clever PR.

AJ Lynch said...

Did not read your post re Paglia but thought if anyone had thick skin it was Paglia.

I am truly shocked at the dis-invite.

Andrew Graff said...

rhhardin: I'm not an expert on Derrida, but from what I do know of him (and to the extent that I don't find his work mere sophistry which from what I hear is not an untenuable position) I'd say that my problem with Derrida is that he's too much of an absolutist. His own thinking is colored with the same sort of structuralism that he criticizes. In essense, he makes post-structuralism into just another structuralist narrative. The flaw is summed up in one of my favorite phrases, "There is no such thing as a simple truth."

But such a statement must include itself, which leads us to, "There is no such thing as a simple truth, including this statement." Which in turn becomes, "The truth is either complex or simple.", and finally, "The truth is always more complex than it first appears, except of course when it is not."

Derrida attempts to claim that we live in a textual universe. He admits the existance of non-textual reality, but ignores its importance and makes the astounding claim that we cannot experience it. This is taking some obvious or not so obvious observations about the universe way too far. All the post-structuralist constructs in the world never knock down the reality of the solidity of a brick wall, nor do they manage even to knock down the courious fact that I can talk about 'brick walls' and with the expectation that you'll know within an acceptable margin of error what exactly I mean.

I really think that structuralism relationship to artificial intelligence is very weak. The real problem here was not that people thought that intelligence was intrinsic to the nature of the universe and would arise spontaneously. The real problem here is that people thought intelligence was simple, or at least, even if they thought it was complex they underestimated its complexity by a half-dozen or more orders of magnitude.

The problem wasn't that we found out that intelligence was undefinable or something, or even that symbolic language was too vague for computers to use in a precise digital manner. The problem was that we found out that we did not know as much as we thought we did.

What we've discovered in the last 50 years is that what we think of as intelligence is not a single monolithic problem solving ability, but rather dozens of problem solving algorithms working in parallel to produce utilitarian behavior. And anyone of this algorithms relies on a fantastic ammount of computational ability that we even now can't emulate. For example, I've seen estimates that the computational power behind human vision is roughly equivalent to 100,000 or more modern desktop machines.

Nonetheless, we've made amazing strides in AI in the last few years. We've learned an amazing ammount about what intelligence is, and how intelligence is percieved by the observer. We have machines that can tell apples from oranges (or men from women). We have machines that can play chess at beyond grandmaster ability, something that a mere 10 years ago otherwise intelligent people were claiming was impossible. We have machines that drive cars. We have machines that can parse natural langauge and draw remarkable inferences. We have machines that can play 20 questions with apparant intelligence. These are all problems that were holy grails of AI a mere 20 years ago, and in the since that AI was always around the corner we are now around that corner.

In fact, from my perspective in the computer sciences, advances in AI constitute major challenges to Derrida's 'absolutely everything is relative' schtik. Reality and textualism are two way streets. Its not the case that the language doesn't influence how we percieve reality, but its also not the case that reality doesn't force language to conform to it. Humans may use language imprecisely - they use the same word to mean 30 or so slightly different concrete things - but that doesn't mean that langauge is inherently imprecise or even that imprecise incapable of describing reality. As we attempt to mimic our own intelligence, we are gaining increasingly concrete insight into how we work.

Or to be short, I don't think Derrida has much at all to do with the failure of early work in AI.

As an aside note, I went looking for the text of the comments about prayer that you mentioned, and I never found them. What I did discover is that you, and basically you alone, are the champion and crusader for the deep insights made by Derrida about prayer. Since almost noone else found Derrida's comments 'spot on', I find it highly unlikely that when and if I am actually exposed to his text, that I would find his comments 'spot on'. It would seem that the meaning is private to you.

SippicanCottage said...
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Eric said...

You people come off like someone insulted the queen bee in your high-school clique. This is the pettiness I've come to expect from bloggers left AND right.

Althouse is a columnist. Not your best friend. Slapping "blogger" in front of her name doesn't magically change that fact. Dis-inviting a critical COLUMNIST wouldn't bother you folk, would it?

Pogo said...

Paglia was simultaneously rude and weak.

A question, though: When one is disinvited in a postmodernist way, is one actually really being invited, but in an ironic and quirky way?

Me? I'd probably show up at the pre-speech dinner anyway, like I'd missed the other e-mail.

SippicanCottage said...
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playah grrl said...
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SippicanCottage said...
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Ann Althouse said...

playah grrl: You're being boring and you're misrepresenting an old issue that has already been discussed as if I'm going to clutter this thread setting you straight again. You are in bad faith and subject to deletion. Also, to push your own website at the same time? Pathetic!

Kurt said...

With respect to some of playah grrl's comments and complaints, I don't think any regular readers of this blog could ever imagine Ann Althouse pulling a quoxxo at a dinner with Camille Paglia.

No, what we'd like to imagine happening (or at least, what I'd like to imagine happening) would be an interesting discussion, where Camille might go off on some lengthy rant, and when Ann could manage to get a word in edgewise, she might ask a question or make a comment which would bring Camille back to earth for a while. In the process, the encounter might just complicate Camille's thinking enough to make it more interesting in the future.

But it's disappointing that that's not going to happen, and it's even more disappointing to think that it's because Camille Paglia isn't quite the bold, intellectual warrior that she presents herself as being. Brendan's comparsion of Paglia to Andrew Sullivan seems especially apt. There was a time when I used to really enjoy reading both of them, but these days I hardly ever make time for reading much of either one.

knoxgirl said...

"attempting to deny me permission to quote this character and threatening to take the matter to the chancellor and beyond to stronger measures"

ok, this is really lame. Talk about thin skinned! No wonder they tried to change the total ethos of punk to that of "Barney & Friends."

Brian said...

Maybe she doesn't like you; thus, she'd prefer not to spend time with you. How exectly is that "playing the victim?"

Your line is, however, useful for staving off painful feelings of rejection, so I might use it myself.

"Will you go out with me?"

"No. I don't like you."

"Well then, no biggie. You're just playing the victim."

Ann Althouse said...

Brian: My criticism is that she's not as into debate as she presents herself. And being hurt by that post is kind of victim-y. It's the same post her ad people saw fit to use in an ad! Come on! To demand that I be ousted from the dinner because she was hurt by that post was lame and fragile and debate-averse. It's not like I invited her to dinner and she said no. There was a dinner that already included me and she demanded that the people who invited me disinvite me -- as if she couldn't face being seated with someone who she couldn't count on to fawn.

Verification word: squkxvo. A mythical being, half-squirrel, half Althouse commenter.

SippicanCottage said...
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Johnny Nucleo said...

This incident is indeed a kerfuffle, Sippican. Camille Paglia ain't no Christopher Hitchens, but she's smart and edgy and I thought she liked to get it on. This is like discovering there's no Santa Claus. First the Judas Gospel, now this. Whither goes my faith!

msjones said...

On the Question of Who is Thicker Skinned

Dissed, disinvited;
Ann, you are the elephant
In the lit crit room.