Tuesday, 1/12/16

  1. Cultural Illiteracy
  2. Deeper Cultural Illiteracy
  3. Student becomes the studied
  4. Texan 1, Stilted, hectoring pedant 0
  5. Big Biz is watching you
  6. A Rolling Stone gathers no news
  7. Denial is a river in Philly


Just how many entertainment award shows are there?

The New York Times and Washington Post both were giving top billing Monday morning to the Golden Globe awards. There were slide shows with 90 pictures of the dresses worn. Wall Street Journal had it further down the page. Make that “Wall Street Journal mercifully had it further down the page” to capture my reaction.

I knew that something called the Golden Globe awards existed. If I’m not mistaken, the winners named are movies, not television shows. I don’t know why this thing exists alongside the Oscars. I honestly can’t name another kindred thing off the top of my head. I would not recognize the emcee if he was in a motorcade in his honor.

Tipsy to Mrs. Tipsy: “Do you know who that guy is and why they’re throwing a motorcade for him?”

Mrs. Tipsy to Tipsy: “No, but I think this is kind of like where they give every kid a certificate for participating.”

I probably wouldn’t recognize more than 5% of them in their non-Photoshopped state, 10% Photoshopped.

I’m not grousing. I’m sure there’s a case to be made the the NYT and WaPo gave high placement because people really get off on this stuff and want coverage to devour, and that WSJ gave some coverage because entertainment is part of our Ponzi-inspired economy.

Oh, yeah: I can’t name a single David Bowie song either. I guess he was actually talented (not just gender-bending in his early years) from what the papers say. Requiescat in pace. [It turns out I sorta knew one, the one where ground control calls Major Tom.]

I’m mostly marveling at how far outside the mainstream I am even in things I haven’t consciously arranged that way. Or am I kidding myself in this highly-engineered culture? Am I just part of some obscure niche market, as manipulated as everyone else?


I’d rather not know about the Golden Globe awards, though, than to not know what a conservatish pundit apparently doesn’t know:

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz continues his appeal to religious conservatives. “If we awaken and energize the body of Christ,” he recently said, “we will win and we will turn the country around.”

It’s a line he’s used before in various ways, but pundit Kathleen Parker told CNN she was astonished by it. “This seems to have slipped through the cracks a little bit,” she said. “I don’t know anyone who takes their religion seriously who would think that Jesus should rise from the grave and resurrect himself to serve Ted Cruz. I know so many people who are offended by that comment.”

(Joel Miller) Though this “slipped through the cracks a bit,” Parker knows “so many people who are offended.” If I was Ted Cruz, I’d be gloating “Is that all you got?”

Such is the state of Biblical literacy and basic awareness of Evangelical-speak. Miller has other examples, including from conservatish David Brooks (who ironically made his gaff in a lament over the decline of religion) and others at the New York Times. As he quotes: “Imagine … if they let slip ‘Columbus’s voyage on the Mayflower’ or ‘Malcolm X’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.'”

Nah! That’s decades away (if ever).


Can the subject of an outrage objectively study it if he’s a student of such things?

Nicholas Christakis … was waylaid on [the Yale] campus by angry students. They were livid about a letter written by his wife, Erika, also a Yale teacher, who had suggested that the university’s recent admonishments about Halloween costumes, cultural appropriation and racial insensitivity perhaps were unnecessary, since young adults are capable of deciding for themselves what to wear for Halloween and might even learn from being “a little bit obnoxious.” Mr. Christakis was caught in an ugly scene, with one student in particular roundly cursing him.

Overlooked was the fact that the target of the campus confrontation, Mr. Christakis, is one of America’s outstanding physician-scientists—and a person ideally suited to making sense of the events that gripped campuses in recent months. One can presume that eventually, when his feelings about this sorry episode become less intense, Mr. Christakis will dissect it …

In his research and in his 2009 book, written with James H. Fowler, “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives,” Mr. Christakis has demonstrated how thoughts and behaviors that we think are determined by our reasoning and sense of situation are actually shaped—not always to our benefit—by people with whom we’re socially engaged, even those at some remove from our immediate circle ….

(Paul McHugh – paywall)


In 2000, I was watching a debate between presidential candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore. Both candidates were spouting an inane combination of nonsense and platitudes, and I found myself wondering what the point of the exercise was.

Instead of turning it off, though, I was inspired to instead turn the volume down. Watching the debate without sound was very instructive. I could see how each candidates’ body language was designed to make him look strong, confident, defiant–in short, like a leader.

Undoubtedly influenced by a recent interest in evolutionary psychology, I realized that a significant purpose of the debate for each candidate to try to establish that he was the alpha male. In much the same way that two male gorillas might battle for the allegiance of their band, the candidates were doing the human equivalent of beating their chests and throwing poo at each other.

Trump’s campaign strikes me as unique in modern American presidential politics; while all candidates try to position themselves as the alpha male as part of their campaigns, Trump’s campaign seem almost exclusively to be about that positioning. Whether it’s insulting other candidates, expressing contempt for immigrants, talking about losers, promising to get tough with ISIS or China, or throwing protesters out of his rallies, his entire campaign, free as it is from almost any policy specifics, is almost entirely about electing a strong leader, i.e., an alpha male.

Trump, in essence, is the anti-constitutional candidate. He engages in the human equivalent of chest-pounding and poo throwing, an appeal to our lower natures rather than to the higher principles of our republic. Trump hasn’t expressed the slightest interest in the Constitution, nor is there any reason to believe he has any. He surely has no interest in constitutional limitations on executive power. What use has the pure alpha male candidate for limiting his own authority as president?

Republican voters ultimately have a choice: poo-throwing simian alpha male, or at least some semblance of fidelity to American constitutional principles. I’m not the least bit confident in the outcome.

(David Bernstein) Brilliant! I’ll bet that with the sound off, The Donald truly does look even more simian and aggressive.

By the way: I, too, watched those 2000 debates. My favorite part was where Al Gore moved from his podium to get in Dubya’s face. Dubya, who I then still liked, just absolutely withered him with one look. That was an alpha male moment for sure, and Bush won, making Gore look like the stilted, hectoring pedant that he was and is.


Car Insurers Find Tracking Devices Are a Tough Sell. Progressive and other insurers look for ways to get devices inside vehicles, but customers are wary; ‘It just creeps me out’

Headline of a Monday Wall Street Journal Story. This sort of thing, which I’m sure has exactly the economic goal the insurers claim, is why I consider it “true conservatism” to oppose corporate power as well as governmental. True, the corporations don’t officially share the government monopoly on violence, but they have often enlisted it in the past.


Rolling Stone wrote a largely fictitious and substantially false and defamatory story about fraternity rape at the University of Virginia. New it sends Sean Penn to interview the world’s biggest drug dealer in hiding.

Can we stop pretending that Rolling Stone is engaged in “journalism”?


Dorothy Rabinowitz:

Clear security video images showed the assailant in his flowing white dishdasha—a robe favored by Muslim men—running toward the patrol car, shooting, sticking his hand in the window, and racing speedily away …

The wounded shooter, Commissioner Ross revealed, told police after his capture that he had mounted the attack in the name of Islam, that he believes that “the police defend laws that are contrary to Islam.” The man apparently wanted to talk only about his devotion to Islam.

Undaunted by anything he’d heard so far, Mayor Kenny then came to the microphone and declared: “In no way, shape or form does anybody in this room believe that Islam or the teaching of Islam” had anything to do with the attack. “This was a criminal with a stolen gun.”

Mr. Kenny’s tone was fervent. Out of this event—involving a murderous assault on a police officer, and a heroic response by that officer—the mayor, awash in excitation, had divined what was, for him, the most important concern of this day. Namely, persuading citizens that this attack had nothing to do with allegiance to Islam.

It added to the surreal wonders of this scene that, immediately after the mayor’s pronouncement, the commander of the police department’s homicide unit calmly took the microphone. Capt.James Clark reported that the shooter (later identified as 30-year-old Edward Archer) had said, repeatedly, that he followed Allah, that he pledged allegiance to Islamic State and “That is the reason I did what I did.”

The mayor’s comments, so bizarre in their determined denial of the deluge of facts delivered by top police officials standing next to him, were, nonetheless, familiar enough. Americans have learned to expect, after every Islamist terror attack, lectures instructing them that such assaults should in no way be connected to Islamic faith of any kind.

To hear the mayor of Philadelphia was to grasp, more clearly than ever, the fury that has led to Donald Trump’s success in attracting voters—the fury of citizens who know official lies when they hear them, whether about border security, immigration, or the ever-expanding requirements of multiculturalist dogma.

(Emphasis added) If you can get through the pay wall, this is powerful stuff, as I’ve come to expect from Rabinowitz.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.