Archive for Almost Yogurt

The carpet might be red

The film is based on a 2014 novel by Jenny Han. I’d bet almost anything RB has read it.

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We learned this in sedimentary school

No argument here:

Geology rocks but geography is where it's at

(From reddit via Miss Cellania.)

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Downward dumbening

Not being a writer myself, I can observe this phenomenon only at a distance, but I suspect I’d be a bit upset if my readership were unable to, well, read:

Editors at conventional publishers have adopted a conformant attitude: “Write for an eighth-grader!” the smart ones will tell you. (The less smart ones will tell you to write for a fifth-grader.) And as you can probably imagine, it drives me absolutely nuts.

Dislike of the “vocabulary show-off,” I understand. I don’t care for the species of retromingent onager who festoons his books with a rebarbative congeries of obfuscations and anfractuosities any more than I like “literary” pretentiousness and those who luxuriate in it instead of telling actual stories. But I maintain that there have been changes as regards readers’ (and editors’) attitudes that aren’t for the better.

If you’ve read B. R. Myers’s A Reader’s Manifesto, you might recall him lamenting the disappearance of “good Mandarin writing” in the fashion of Woolf and Joyce. I feel similarly — but in this connection, I lament even more wistfully the decline in educational standards and the acceptance of that decline by just about everyone. The most important aspect of that decline, as usual, goes all but unremarked. It’s the difference between two attitudes: “I don’t know that word, so I’ll improve my vocabulary by looking it up” versus “What right does he have to use a word I don’t know?”

It’s just a matter of time before some nitwit in academia declares that failure to write for fifth-graders is a deliberate slur, intended to show one’s superiority over high-school graduates (or college underclassmen) who read at a fifth-grade level because [insert buzzword].

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This bologna has a first name

And apparently its own planning department as well:

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided to add a new category for the 2019 awards show: Best Popular Film.

I am sure the Academy hopes that this will get more people to watch the show, since over the last 10 to 15 years they have been handing out statues to movies that not very many people watch at all, with a couple of exceptions now and then. It turns out that not many people are interested in whether or not a movie they’ve never heard of wins an award.

It sounds like something ABC, which carries the show, would dream up.

But there’s this one lingering thought:

If nothing else, this modifies the common complaint that “Hollywood is out of ideas”; it’s just that Hollywood is out of good ideas.

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Time out of whack

Rob O’Hara binges on ABC-TV’s The Goldbergs, and spots a few choice anachronisms:

Despite the fact that each show is introduced as taking place in “1980-something,” in regards to its historical accuracy, the show is awful. For example, in one episode, Adam both goes to the movie theater to watch Police Academy 5 (released in 1988) and gets excited about the release of E.T. for the Atari 2600 (released in 1982). Occasionally toys or movies are referenced before they would have been released, but more commonly, things appear way later than they should. I have read that it would have been too difficult for the show’s writers to keep track of a firm timeline of events and pop-culture references, so they chose to go with a “throw everything in every episode” approach and blur the timeline. And while generally speaking that approach works, seeing kids with brand new Tron shorts and valley girls in episodes that take place in 1989 will seem out of place for anyone who grew up during that time.

Then again, these are relatively minor issues:

To be fair, to focus on the show’s anachronisms is to miss the point. When Barry and his pals put together their own dance crew, all I could think about were the breakdancing videos my friends and I made in my living room using my parents’ video camera. And, while watching the episode titled “The Kara-te Kid,” I was less worried about the accuracy of the timeline, and more focused on my own memories of the karate demonstration I participated in right before The Karate Kid premiered in our local mall’s theater. As we used to say back in the 80s, “been there, done that, got the (wrinkled) t-shirt to prove it.”

Now to me, The Goldbergs has its chronology out of sorts for a wholly different reason: the first The Goldbergs series, which debuted on NBC on 20 November 1929. NBC radio, you may be sure. A television version first appeared on CBS in 1949. Show creator Gertrude Berg went on to win an Emmy and a Tony (for Leonard Spiegelgass’ play A Majority of One in 1960, with Berg as lead actress). Adam F. Goldberg, creator of the 21st-century series, used none of Berg’s material, but he has his own right to the Goldberg name.

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Over and over again

You can’t cross a chasm in two steps, they say, and surely it’s true; but throw enough smaller steps into the routine, and eventually, even though you had to crawl along the bottom for what seemed like a very long time, you end up where you wanted to go:

We have come so far in large part because of our ability to devise solutions to large problems by finding small operations, easily repeated, that when endless repeated solve the problem. Hand woven Turkish carpets come to mind, as does dropping seeds in a furrow, one by one. Building the pyramids was essentially two operations: cutting blocks of stone, and hauling them up a ramp, and doing it over and over again. The modern assembly line consists of a zillion trivial operations performed in sequence. Each operation consists on doing one thing and then handing the part to the next operator. The printing press and broadcast radio and television repeat the same simple messages over and over. Much of computer programming consists of devising ways to do some simple thing over and over again.

Sometimes it’s all just one big DO WHILE loop, or so it seems.

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Saving the children

Jack Baruth on protecting the little ones:

The journey from childhood to adulthood is all about learning the iron bond between action and consequence. Children are naturally innocent of consequences, and the adults around them work to preserve that innocence as long as possible. When two kids get into a fistfight, we don’t send one of them to jail for ninety days. When a child crashes a bicycle, we don’t write him a ticket then force him to pay a higher insurance rate. If your fourteen-year-old sleeps through the start of his summer job a few times, you don’t kick him out of the house and force him to work casual labor jobs while he lives under a bridge abutment with the other homeless fourteen-year-olds.

Still, there’s a cut-off age for this sort of treatment:

The so-called “child refugee crisis” in Europe is a statistical fabrication designed to take advantage of human attitudes towards children. The NGOs sell an image of a drowned toddler then it turns out that ninety-two percent of “child refugees” are represented as being over fourteen, ninety-one percent of them are male, and the vast majority of them are actually in their twenties. It’s smart marketing, even if it’s dishonest at its core. Most people have zero sympathy for twenty-two-year-old men with beards and would prefer that those men fix their own problems in their own home countries.

This is not quite the case with the hordes pouring over our border, but it’s the identical advertising campaign just the same. And it works pretty well, given the gnat-like attention span of the American electorate and the persistence of its propagandists.

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I don’t understand this at all

Then again, it’s not like she did this for me or anything:

Let’s hope hashtag abuse doesn’t become a misdemeanor — or worse.


Even the small things

“Donate Goods,” says the sign on the Salvation Army collection box. But it says more than that: six of those eleven letters are painted red, so you can read it as “Do Good”: yes, it helps to toss some material things in the box, but you should also look for opportunities to do the occasional kindness.

In other words, something like this:

I was also thinking of something I used to ardently believe, but have kind of … lost faith in recently. It could be summed up by the phrase “Every loving act adds to the balance of love in the world.” The idea, I used to have, was that even if I did small loving things, it somehow helped to counterbalance the greed or selfishness or whatever other bad things … not that it would wipe those things out, but somehow, it would act kind of like putting a penny on the scales … something small, but something that said “This isn’t the only thing that has weight.”

This was why, in the past, when I’d hear of some bad event in the world (e.g., a shooter attack), I’d grab some yarn and needles and start making a hat or mittens to donate somewhere.

Of course, you can’t counterbalance the wickedness of the world all by yourself; but you still put the penny on the scale, and trust that friends and neighbors have spare change of their own.

And sometime around 2015 or 2016, I don’t know. It’s like there were too many shootings, there was too much bad, it felt too much like the cruel people, the bullies, the people who “othered” other people were winning …and it began to feel like:

1. What good I can do is pointless in the face of that;
2. There’s nothing I can do that’s big enough or good enough to help anything.

And … a little part of me lost hope. It’s a bad feeling, the sense that nothing you can do will make a difference and even though you may know that it is right to be unselfish in various ways, you’re ultimately going to lose.

In some ways, you are going to lose: Physics 101, by way of the laws of thermodynamics, tells us that entropy ultimately wins out. But that’s a purely earthly measure; if there’s more to life than just the obvious stuff, an unsatisfactory outcome is not foreordained.

And yet, I kept going, kept pushing. Continued to try to be helpful and be a compassionate person, because that’s how I was raised, even if some days I felt that doing so was utterly useless in the world at large (because of how little I can actually do) or that I was a “chump” because people who were selfish were “winning” and I sometimes wound up being taken advantage of for my good nature.

They aren’t “winning.” They’re just trying to gain some temporary advantage, because that’s how they were raised; karma may deal with them, or may not, but it’s not your responsibility to monitor the results.

So you keep going, keep pushing. And ultimately, knowing you’ve done the right thing is more rewarding than you might think; it may seem like just a penny on the scale, but many pennies make dollars, while the dross on the other side will never add up to anything.


Questionable dudes

This clip from John Ford’s 3 Bad Men (1926) is circulating mostly for a brief appearance of Olive Borden taking a bath. As pre-Production Code footage of nude women goes, it’s pretty modest. But it’s what happens away from the bath that’s interesting:

Poor George O’Brien, embarrassed by having peeked into the tent where Borden is bathing, goes all wistful on us, singing a song about being out on the prairie. He even blows a few presumably hot licks — it is, after all, a silent film — on the old blues harp. And the young lady who comes and sits behind him, he assumes to be the very girl he’d just seen in the tub. She’s not.

But this is John Ford for you. And after 3 Bad Men, he never made another silent Western; he would not return to the genre until Stagecoach in 1939.

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Pluck her gently

The mind wanders, as it will, and for some reason it went back and dug up a song we sang in French class fifty-odd years ago. It’s been modernized only slightly since then:

Monsieur Wiki has this to say:

Ethnomusicologist Conrad LaForte points out that, in song, the lark (l’alouette) is the bird of the morning, and that it is the first bird to sing in the morning, hence waking up lovers and causing them to part, and waking up others as well, something that is not always appreciated. In French songs, the lark also has the reputation of being a gossip, a know-it-all, and cannot be relied on to carry a message, as she will tell everyone; she also carries bad news. However the nightingale, being the first bird of spring, in Europe, sings happily all the time, during the lovely seasons of spring and summer. The nightingale (i.e., rossignol) also carries messages faithfully and dispenses advice, in Latin, no less, a language that lovers understand. LaForte explains that this alludes to the Middle Ages, when only a select few still understood Latin. And so, as the lark makes lovers part or wakes up the sleepyhead, this would explain why the singer of “Alouette” wants to pluck it in so many ways… if he can catch it, for, as Laporte notes, this bird is flighty as well.

Mark Twain had some thoughts on this morning-bird business:

Go to bed early, get up early — this is wise. Some authorities say get up with the sun; some say get up with one thing, others with another. But a lark is really the best thing to get up with. It gives you a splendid reputation with everybody to know that you get up with the lark; and if you get the right kind of lark, and work at him right, you can easily train him to get up at half past nine, every time — it’s no trick at all.

Uptown funkster Mark Ronson gets the last word.

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Damn you, Kong

Is it wise to let bulldogs watch scary movies?

I must concede, her instincts seem at least reasonably sound.


Quote of the week

Warren Meyer suspects there may be nothing that will actually improve public schools:

From some experience with private schools, I would say the biggest difference is that private schools set higher expectations. Even starting in kindergarten, my kids were doing WAY more advanced work than in public schools. I understand that public schools are public and thus tasked with teaching everyone, so there is pressure to pace the work to the slowest student. But the slow pace of public school starts even in the early grades before the school reasonably knows who the slowest kids are. Public schools that have low expectations for student performance are not going to be suddenly improved by better teachers. Putting Gordon Ramsey behind the counter at a Long John Silver fast food restaurant is not going to make the food suck any less.

MAPS for Kids spent somewhere on the far side of $700 million on local schools. Got some nice-looking buildings out of it, but not a hell of a lot else.

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We have all been here before

Blogdom’s Curmudgeon Emeritus contributes this complaint about one genre, or maybe one and a half genres, of contemporary fiction:

The covers of too many fantasy and science fiction novels feature a shapely babe, often wielding a weapon. It suggests deeds of daring in a realm of high adventure. Then you open the book and discover that it’s basically one long sex scene. Most such books are written by women. I can’t imagine why.

One thing is for sure: no one wants me to write one long sex scene.

The dearth of originality remains a serious problem. Space wars, galactic empires, time travel, and so forth are old hat. So are vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches, and quests that involve some magical artifact. Surely there are other adventures, other wonders and terrors with which a writer can thrill his readers. Yet you would hardly know it from the books being hawked to me at Amazon.

It’s an old hat, but a familiar one; your standard purveyor of hackwork perhaps calculates that he can save some work on exposition.

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Just one of the guys

Jack Baruth has busted somewhere around six hundred bones in 46 years, and he’s sort of philosophical about it:

What is the difference between the man who cripples himself riding or racing or fighting or climbing mountains — and the guy who is not crippled because they quit riding skateparks at twenty or thirty or forty or fifty? Only this: the former knows that he’s not a pussy, and the latter will never really know for sure. Of course, we live in an enlightened era now. one in which “men” is a three-letter word. We don’t have “men” now. We have “guys.” Guys smile with their mouth open and guys never engage in acts of toxic masculinity and guys are exactly the kind of smooth rancid butter our society needs to make sure that we precisely duplicate the navel-gazing implosion of the Roman Empire.

Some guy out there will read this and point out that I’m not the manliest man who ever lived. I’m a bookish intellectual who reads philosophy and who cried during the movie August Rush. I’ve never boxed professionally or climbed Everest. It’s okay. I’m not the message. I’m the messenger. Like Homer. We don’t know how much Homer could bench. We only know that he brought us the stories of Ajax and Achilles and that smooth-talking Mr. Steal-Your-Girl known as Paris and his resentful brother, Hector. In so doing, he inspired two thousand years’ worth of heroic exploits. We are all better off because of Homer.

And really, why wouldn’t you cry during August Rush?

You don’t even have to know the backstory to be moved by that scene.

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I know this guy

There are, in fact, those who might argue that I am that guy:

I was up late watching this film, and some of it doesn’t sound like me at all.

And some of it sounds exactly like me.

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Sure, blame the Culture Wars

Miss America as we knew her is gone, and whose fault is that? Roberta X examines the situation:

The swimsuit portion of the old Miss America is gone, just like Bert Parks (1914 – 1992) and the recording of him singing “There She Is…” (1955-2012, 2015). Don’t like it? You’re not obliged to — nor is there anything keeping the grousers from setting up their own old-fashioned, Atlantic-City-style swimsuits-and-heels pageant and calling it the Miss National, in much the manner of sports leagues. But no, the classic libertarian “let the market decide” wisdom is old-hat and it’s much better to accuse some “they” — women or liberals or possibly government fluoridators — of ruining everything.

I’m tired of it. Looky here, it’s a pre-ruined world and the only good stuff you can be even a little sure of are the things you build yourself. They’ve changed the formula of Vienna Fingers cookies, 7UP is getting more and more difficult to find on store shelves and Levis dropped the rise of women’s 512s to well below the natural waistline long before they offshored manufacturing and started getting snippy about politics. Change is the only constant and you can either surf it or let it tumble you around like driftwood. There are better ways to go through life than smooth, gray and abandoned on the beach.

If you ask me, Vienna Fingers haven’t been anything more than an oblong Golden Oreo since Keebler bought out Sunshine Biscuit around the turn of the century. Still, that’s a single transaction, Keebler’s absorption by Kellogg’s notwithstanding. Look what’s happened to 7 Up:

Westinghouse bought 7 Up in 1969 and sold it in 1978 to Philip Morris, who then in 1986 sold it to a group led by the investment firm Hicks & Haas. 7 Up merged with Dr Pepper in 1988; Cadbury Schweppes bought the combined company in 1995. The Dr Pepper Snapple Group was spun off from Cadbury Schweppes in 2008.

And DPSG is being merged into Keurig Green Mountain, even as we speak.

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The opposite of retail

A strange, and therefore believable, tale from Jack Baruth:

About a decade ago I decided to go back to school in the evenings and get my doctorate in literature. “As a 35-year-old white man,” the dean told me, “you wouldn’t be eligible for any of our assistantships.”

“Not a problem,” I replied, “I’ll pay cash. How much does the degree cost?”

“Well…” he huffed. “There’s no actual cash price per se because everybody is on assistance, which is only fair given today’s bigoted climate.”

“So I can’t pay to go to school, because nobody pays and you don’t know how much I would have to pay, because there’s no cash price for presumed bigots who are not on assistance because they’re ineligible for assistance.”

“I’m not sure that’s a fair way to phrase it.” Each and every day I have a better idea of what motivated the character of “D-FENS” in Falling Down. He, too, was an average fellow.

Well, except for the fact that he’s trying to walk across Los Angeles, which would drive anyone nuts.

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Quote of the week

The Friar remembers Tom Wolfe, painter of words:

His novels rested on a journalist’s reporting and his journalism had fiction’s flair, perhaps because he did not simply write words the way we do when we’re just communicating information. Wolfe used language — every facet of it on which he could lay his hands. Funky punctuation? All of those literary devices we were supposed to memorize in English class like alliteration or onomatopoeia? Multiple voices in narration and dialogue? All of those and more. If Winston Churchill was supposed to have mobilized the English language and sent it into battle, Wolfe mobilized it and sent it out to help people understand an increasingly weird and troubling world. It may sound like a much lower goal, but all Churchill had to do was defeat the Nazis. Wolfe had to explain why people paid money for a Jackson Pollock painting.

A difficult task indeed.

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Graduation exercises

Yeah, this sounds about right:

[T]hey played Pomp and Circumstance #1 as the processional; I have almost a Pavlovian response to that now (“Start walking, not too fast, not to slow, try to exude dignity and gravitas, but don’t get too far behind the guy with doubtless-longer-legs-than-you who is in front of you, then match your pace to the person who winds up next to you when the two streams combine”).

It seems funny to me that an Elgar celebrating-the-Empire song is now SO wedded to commencement ceremonies in Americans’ minds; I’ve even seen ones where they didn’t have a symphonic band so they played it from a record player (or later, a CD player).

(I also just realized: Isn’t the Elgar also known as “Land of Hope and Glory,” a patriotic British song? Again, doubly weird we Yanks use it at graduations. I suppose it’s the right length and the right speed and it sort of telegraphs a mild seriousness. I’m now thinking — and giggling over — the sheer inappropriateness of something like a disco number being used.)

That is indeed the same Elgar; Arthur C. Benson came up with the words, which were intended for the coronation of Edward VII, postponed due to His Majesty’s illness.

As for “sheer inappropriateness”:

Yeah, no argument there.

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Desperate for attention

No other explanation seems to grasp the sheer stupidity being displayed here: I saw a liberal buying a nice car. Since my taxes give him all of his money, doesn’t that car belong to me, hence I can take it?

First guy in the queue takes a stab at it:

I doubt very much whether you pay any taxes.

Somewhere in that warped brain of yours don’t you think other people, regardless of political leanings, also pay taxes?

You’ve bigger things to worry about. Like how are you going to pay your medical bills when they come to do the brain transplant.

All of which he deserves, but it’s beside the point. This next guy is a lot more serious, but he exhibits a mindset even more reprehensible:

How come in certain societies, people are more disposed to kill the child once they find out is mentally disabled and others are not?

What I mean by mental retardation is not anything like narcissistic or histrionic personality disorder.

Look at these poor families paying around $400 to $600 a month to the caretaker who takes care of the individual.

They throw tantrums, they scream, why do we keep them? They are not even fit to do the most menial jobs. Born into the world, they do nothing for themselves and live off of others.

But why is this? Is it a practice influenced by the church? Is it an element of ‘human rights’?

Many societies are very supportive of what is ‘useful’ and yet retarded people are not, so why does our society support keeping them alive other than out of pity?

“It’s those damn ‘human-rights’ people. If it wasn’t for them, we could wipe out retardation in no time.”

If the criterion for being allowed to live — or, more precisely, for not being killed by the All-Wise State — is “usefulness,” I submit that this fellow should have been snuffed a week ago, and how the hell did he slip through the net?

This is a slope of maximum slipperiness: eventually everyone will be existing at the whim of “society.” I have little faith in the wisdom of my peers, and none in the wisdom of his.

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The summer school of your dreams

Or at least, the dreams of Number One granddaughter, who’s been accepted for the 2018 session:

Last I looked, she was a violinist, but her mom reports she’s going in for Creative Writing. And she’s got to be better at it than I was at her age.

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Vertical rabbit warrens

Grenfell Tower, twenty-four floors of flats for West London’s proletariat, caught fire in June 2017, killing seventy-one and injuring as many more others. This prompted Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP from North East Somerset, to question whether anybody really wants to live in updated tenements of this sort:

Rees-Mogg, forty-eight, is viewed as one of the Toriest of Tories in the Commons; he’s the sort of chap who would sign up for Twitter and then tweet in Latin. Which, incidentally, he did:

This got the reaction you probably think it did.

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Past lives come at you fast

One day when I was feeling particularly gloomy and unloved — one common name for this phenomenon is “Monday” — I gathered a basketful of genealogical links and started tracing my old high-school girlfriend. A couple of hours later, I’d gotten as far as Richard Plantagenet, 3d Duke of York. You may remember two of his children: Edward IV and Richard III.

I knew I wasn’t good enough for her, I mused, but this is ridiculous. Not that she behaved as though she had been to the manner born; she did, after all, look fondly upon me for some brief period. (“She seems rather taken with you,” said her mother.) Still, I am not worthy.

This young lady, recently wed, reminds me much of that long-ago lady, whom I still have on speed dial:

And who knows? There may be a descendant of exiled royalty working at Jersey Mike’s Subs.

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Obvious troll is obvious

Someone who claims to be one of Her Majesty’s subjects asks: Since when was America multicultural?

The explanation is thoroughly whacked-out:

I went there on holiday (from the UK) recently, as I’m hoping to be emigrating there. My country is full of Pakis, *******, and eastern European filth thanks to our autistic government. I was under the impression that America was all white and homogeneous. Well I flew into Atlanta, Oklahoma City, and Chicago. All those places I felt like I got on the wrong flight and touched down in Kenya, due to all the bloody black people. I took a bus to Indianapolis, I thought I took a wrong turn and ended up in Cape Town. Parts of Boston and NYC I felt like I was in Rome or Jerusalem.

I have no intention of spending the rest of my life in the overcrowded, cultureless and Islamic UK. I thought you guys were racist and monocultural in the US of A.

What happened to the America of blonde blue eyed girls and boys, surfers, cowboys, trailer trash and Anglo Saxon businessmen?

No actual Brit would randomly toss around the phrase “Anglo-Saxon,” or leave the hyphen out of it.

If I ever make it to Nairobi, which I think would be a legitimate bucket-list aspiration, I’ll be sure to note the similarities to my home town.

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Buncha damn heightists

Steve Sailer missed a privilege:

As a person of tallness, I’m struck by how little approbation there is at present toward height prejudice in favor of the tall.

Nobody these days gets additional Intersectional Pokemon Points for being short.

He offers an example from history, as is required in all such cases:

In Barbara Tuchman’s The Proud Tower, she notes that Tory prime minister Lord Salisbury’s cabinet of 1895 averaged 6 feet in height.

Lord Salisbury himself was 6’4″, although he slouched. Queen Victoria’s subjects, however, averaged much less.

Then again, we’re talking 1895 here. Things are different today:

In 1895, to be tall suggested that you enjoyed a privileged upbringing, which is a good thing in a mate, because it suggests you also are in better health and have richer relatives.

On the other hand, these days, height is mostly heritable. And it’s not clear that being genetically taller is all that much better. For example, it modestly boosts one’s chances of cancer, presumably because you have more cells than can go wrong. I had cancer in my 30s and it really wasn’t a good thing.

For what it’s worth, at a hair over six feet, I was the shortest of three boys, only one of whom is actually still alive, at least in the medical sense of the word.

It is said that the taller candidate wins the American presidency, which isn’t always true. In 1885, the first year Salisbury served as PM, the President of the United States was Grover Cleveland, no taller (5’11”) than the man he defeated in the 1884 election, James G. Blaine. In 1888, Cleveland was beaten by relative dwarf Benjamin Harrison, a mere 5’6″. Cleveland recaptured the White House in 1892. By the time Salisbury left office for the final time in 1902, William McKinley (5’7″) had defeated William Jennings Bryan (5’11”) twice.

Barack Obama went 1-for-2; at 6’1″ he was four inches taller than John McCain, half an inch shorter than Mitt Romney. And George W. Bush towered under, so to speak, both John Kerry and Al Gore. If you give me my choice of political philosophies from any of these guys, though, I go back to Lord Salisbury, a conservative in the conservative sense: “Whatever happens will be for the worse, and therefore it is in our interest that as little should happen as possible.”

And my deepest (within reason) apologies to the late Verne (“Mini-Me”) Troyer, who passed away the day after Steve Sailer started all this ruckus.

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But is there Danger?

McG finds fault with that Lost in Space reboot:

[T]he idea of a cast of regulars numbering in the dozens is also a consequence of 21st-century sensibilities, in that a plot line without a large (and of course diverse) variety of social entanglements seems too far outside the range of experience for the half-mythical millennial viewers who inhabit Hollywood’s stereotype factory. How can you relate to characters who aren’t constantly sidetracked from grubby issues like survival by trivial interpersonal drama? Who could live like that??? At my age, I’m more inclined to sympathize with the robot.

There is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a market for trivial interpersonal drama, albeit not a particularly discerning one.

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It was inevitable, of course

It’s a theological and philosophical dilemma you’ve surely encountered before:

Guys like Luther and especially John Calvin had a problem: God’s omniscience implies predestination — if God knows everything that will happen (which is the definition of “omniscience”), then obviously He knows everything you’re going to do, which means He knows, and has always known, whether you’re going to Heaven or Hell. But if that’s true, then what did Christ die for? Dying for our sins is pointless — the slate is wiped clean for that second, and only that second, because we’re just going to go on sinning, as God Himself knows full well. For Christ’s death to have done what it did, we must have free will … which means God doesn’t know what we’re going to do minute-to-minute, any more than we ourselves, His poor creatures, do.

There’s an answer for this, of course* (read it later), but it only applies to God. For everyone else selling a Determinist philosophy — Marx, the Stoics, even my beloved Hobbes — the problem is insurmountable. If the Revolution must happen, comrade, then what’s the point of all this “activism”? Y’all are, as the man said, like a group of astronomers who know with mathematical certainty an eclipse is coming… but who immediately form a Party and start murdering people, to make sure it comes. The very foundation of your philosophy has a crack, and all the ugly neologisms in the world can’t fill it.

Still, as they gaze into the abyss, what they’re seeing is not the abyss staring back at them, but a receptacle for more ugly neologisms: imagining a demand, they hasten to provide a supply. And they have no concept of Christ dying for their sins; their priority is making sure that you die for yours, and their idea of generosity is making sure that you know what those sins are, by telling you at every available opportunity.

And now to solve the aforementioned predestination issue:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Get yourself some awe

Of course, the definition has shifted since we were young:

“In my day” generally indicates a Get Off My Lawn sort of person, and Dr Tyson is fairly close to my age, so I really wouldn’t hold it against him. Someone younger, though, might take umbrage:

Okay. I feel about NdGT’s linguistic arbitration about like how I feel about Richard Dawkins holding forth on anything BUT Evolutionary Biology: “Who died and made you King?”

I mean, just because the guy is famous and has some clout (possibly unmerited, I don’t know. I may be biased because I am suspicious of people who have an advanced degree — like Dawkins — but get famous mainly for their pronouncements, or their outrageousness (that’s Dawkins again), or for being generally smooth and good looking (Not Dawkins).

But yeah. Why should I consider his opinion on how I should speak any more heavily than that of any other non-specialist in elocution or whatever.

A person may be an expert on topics A through Y and yet not know squat about topic Z. I know my mouth occasionally writes checks no brain I know can cash, but I try to avoid sounding like an expert.

And there are always occasions to ask “Who died and made you King of anything?”

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It helps to be available

This would seem indisputable:

Oh, I reviewed that very book myself. And I still recommend it to anyone who wants to know what it was like back in the days when adults first discovered they had to ask their kids for tech support.

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