Archive for the 'art, culture' Category

Glory Days

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

The army is going down to pre-WWII levels and the navy to pre-WWI levels. The FCC was about to monitor both TV and newspapers (page 7) to ensure their political correctness (here’s the group that designed the study). The utopians (see VDH) from the faculty lounge and the media are firmly in charge of the narrative and the current cultural rot. This can’t end well, but as Wretchard said the other day, end it will.

That’s Entertainment

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Mark Steyn has a piece on Shirley Temple that ranges far and wide, which brings us to the topic of entertainment. While watching A Place in the Sun for the first time on TCM yesterday, we noticed an instrumental version of Mona Lisa in the background. Turns out it had been written for another Paramount picture released a year earlier. That led us to the fellows who wrote the song. Jay Livingston not only composed Que Sera Sera, the Bonanza theme and many other memorable songs, he also sang the Mr. Ed theme. How about that? His brother is equally remarkable: Bonanza, the Capitol Records building, Bozo the clown, and the Beatles, among other accomplishments. Amazing, the things you can do with a phone today while watching a movie.

Breaking news from a century ago

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

From 1919:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Good news! Almost 3/4ths of Americans know that the earth revolves around the sun. Cowabunga dude. In related news, top government officials are warning that we are reaching a tipping point of no return on AGW. Gosh that’s scary. Steyn has some comments. Meanwhile, Thomas Sowell has an excellent but depressing piece as we slouch toward Gomorrah. Finally, a US president said: “I so much despise a man who blows his own horn, that I go to the other extreme.” Any guesses?

Then and now

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

The now: Peter Beinart has a rather dreary piece cataloguing decline. The education system has done a fine job for the last generation or two, hasn’t it? But it’s not all dreary; apparently Romney is going to be impeached. He appointed those awful bundlers to be diplomats to countries they know nothing about. Even the then is corrupted by the now. A local radio station says it plays 60’s-80’s biggest hits, but 10% of the playlist are covers or simply unknown to us, and the song selection seems quite peculiar compared to the Billboard Top 100 lists. What’s up with that? We did see one the other day (#81) by someone we never heard of. Well, that’s been corrected.

Things to read

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Dr. Strangelove was true? Doubt it. Jerry Lee Lewis killed one of his many young wives. Seems likely. Hinderaker will get a knock on his door. Definitely. The US has 50% of the world’s lawyers. Ouch! In the academy, all literature is political. Yuck! The ME is a mess. Who knew? The GOP is the stupid party. Duh….

Questions for high school seniors

Friday, January 24th, 2014

How many feet in a mile? How many yards in a mile? What is the circumference of the earth? What is the Pythagorean theorem? How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? What’s a woodchuck? How many men have served as president? What’s the official language of the UN and how come they can’t spell? What is the phrase “will a jolly man make a jolly visitor” a mnemonic for? What about “how terribly poor the frail paper boy looks”? What does “negative b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus 4ac over 2a” mean? What does the phrase “remember the alamo” refer to? Who is William Bradford? What’s the first line of Moby Dick? Recite three lines of any Shakespeare sililoquy. When is a door not a door? (When it’s ajar.) What’s the shortest verse in the King James bible? What’s your opinion on the Psalm 46 kerfuffle? What’s wrong with the phrase “agricola amat puellam“? What are NaCl and entropy?

Well, we could have performed well enough on most of those in high school, except for the bits about Psalm 46 and the woodchuck. We suspect that fewer high school seniors would fare as well today. Question: how would the writers of this speech do?

The key word is survival on the New Frontier

Monday, January 20th, 2014

VDH: “our way of life is changing not with a bang, but with a whimper, insidiously and self-inflicted, rather than abruptly and from foreign stimuli. Most of the problem is cultural. Unfortunately it was predicted by a host of pessimistic anti-democratic philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Hegel and Spengler. I’ve always hoped that these gloom-and-doomers were wrong about the Western paradigm, but some days it becomes harder.” Maybe so. Here are some scenes from a better world, and it wasn’t that long ago.


Thursday, January 16th, 2014


There is often a simplistic, black-or-white, conservative vs. progressive discussion around the dissolution of the traditional family and high single-parent birthrates in America and what these trends may portend for us as a country. I don’t see the argument as completely binary or the problem as intractable. But, I do believe that we must focus more on complex areas of causation. We can’t look longingly at the halcyon ideals of yore, where marriage held more primacy

Why not? HT: CM and BOTW

(What you see is often what you want to see, often what you want to see….)

A long time ago, in a culture far far away

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Heather Mac Donald:

Until 2011, students majoring in English at UCLA had to take one course in Chaucer, two in Shakespeare, and one in Milton — the cornerstones of English literature. Following a revolt of the junior faculty, however, during which it was announced that Shakespeare was part of the “Empire,” UCLA junked these individual author requirements. It replaced them with a mandate that all English majors take a total of three courses in the following four areas: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Disability and Sexuality Studies; Imperial, Transnational, and Postcolonial Studies; genre studies, interdisciplinary studies, and critical theory; or creative writing. In other words, the UCLA faculty was now officially indifferent to whether an English major had ever read a word of Chaucer, Milton or Shakespeare, but the department was determined to expose students, according to the course catalog, to “alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class.” Such defenestrations have happened elsewhere, and long before 2011. But the UCLA coup was particularly significant because the school’s English department was one of the last champions of the historically informed study of great literature, uncorrupted by an ideological overlay. Precisely for that reason, it was the most popular English major in the country, enrolling a whopping 1,400 undergraduates. The UCLA coup represents the characteristic academic traits of our time: narcissism, an obsession with victimhood, and a relentless determination to reduce the stunning complexity of the past to the shallow categories of identity and class politics. Sitting atop an entire civilization of aesthetic wonders, the contemporary academic wants only to study oppression, preferably his or her own, defined reductively according to gonads and melanin. Course catalogs today babble monotonously of group identity. UCLA’s undergraduates can take courses in Women of Color in the U.S.; Women and Gender in the Caribbean; Chicana Feminism; Studies in Queer Literatures and Cultures; and Feminist and Queer Theory. Not so long ago, colleges still reflected the humanist tradition, which was founded not on narcissism but on the all-consuming desire to engage with the genius and radical difference of the past.

Peter Wood has a piece worth reading on Mac Donald. The only good news is that technology is going to effectively put many of these folks out of business.

It’s all so very odd. There’s so much to learn, both the practical and the cultural (someone is always going to be offended BTW — see here and here for example). Life was tougher in the days when everyone knew farmers and soldiers, but there was less reason to make up hobgoblins that for the most part don’t exist.

How screwed up are things today?

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

This screwed up and this screwed up. Help!!!

Bottom of the barrel

Monday, January 13th, 2014

We watched the bizarre awards show the other night, despite having seen none of the movies or the TV shows (except for part of the last episode of Breaking Bad). The only really interesting thing about it is that no one seems to care enough in these times to conceal their vulgarity or drunkenness.


Saturday, January 11th, 2014

It was almost 44 years ago that Carolyn Widgery and your host hitchhiked from New Haven to New York in nasty January weather. The driver of the semi let us off at around Jerome Avenue. We wandered around a bit, looking for the subway. A nice young man came up to us, offered directions, and said that we had better get off the streets pretty fast or we would be killed. We got to the east village in plenty of time for the show at the Fillmore East. It was Santana (the Doors were at the Felt Forum that evening). We had never heard of the warm-up act, but It’s a Beautiful Day was excellent (we just learned that they lost out to Santana at performing at Woodstock as a result of a coin flip). We sat in the 4th row, and can report that it’s as though we were living in contemporary Colorado or Washington. After the show, we had the good sense to repair to the benches of Grand Central Station and wait quietly for a pleasant early morning train ride back to school.

How countries die

Thursday, January 9th, 2014


intentional discrimination occurs when a school has a discipline policy that is neutral on its face (meaning the language of the policy does not explicitly differentiate between students based on their race), but the school administers the policy in a discriminatory manner or when a school permits the ad hoc and discriminatory discipline of students in areas that its policy does not fully address. Such intentional discrimination in the administration of student discipline can take many forms. The typical example is when similarly situated students of different races are disciplined differently for the same offense. Students are similarly situated when they are comparable, even if not identical, in relevant respects. For example, assume a group of Asian-American and Native-American students, none of whom had ever engaged in or previously been disciplined for misconduct, got into a fight, and the school conducted an investigation. If the school could not determine how the fight began and had no information demonstrating that students behaved differently during the fight, e.g., one group used weapons, then the school’s decision to discipline the Asian-American students more harshly than the Native-American students would raise an inference of intentional discrimination. Selective enforcement of a facially neutral policy against students of one race is also prohibited intentional discrimination. This can occur, for example, when a school official elects to overlook a violation of a policy committed by a student who is a member of one racial group, while strictly enforcing the policy against a student who is a member of another racial group. It can occur at the classroom level as well. The Departments often receive complaints from parents that a teacher only refers students of a particular race outside of the classroom for discipline, even though students of other races in that classroom commit the same infractions. Where this is true, there has been selective enforcement, even if an administrator issues the same consequence for all students referred for discipline. Intentional discrimination also occurs when a school adopts a facially neutral policy with the intent to target students of a particular race for invidious reasons. This is so even if the school punishes students of other races under the policy. For example, if school officials believed that students of a particular race were likely to wear a particular style of clothing, and then, as a means of penalizing students of that race (as opposed to as a means of advancing a legitimate school objective), adopted a policy that made wearing that style of clothing a violation of the dress code, the policy would constitute unlawful intentional discrimination.

Yes, we heard from Amy Chua that the fight above was about getting extra adderall so some could study a full 26 hours a day. Seriously, common sense is all but illegal in this country; Larry elder explains. HT: PL

Which do you prefer?

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014


Roquefort, The King Of All Cheese Towns…If you appreciate cheese that tastes like cheese, that punches you in the mouth like cheese, and demands a full-bodied red wine to cut its mind-altering strength in half…then a visit to the town for which the world-famous sheep’s milk cheese is named is a must. Not for nothing is it the second-most consumed cheese in France after Gruyère. Also known as “the king of cheeses”…it’s produced under a strict set of conditions and within the geographically-unique caves of the Combalou mountain in France’s midi-Pyrénées. Thanks to the collapse of the Combalou approximately a million years ago during the Quaternary Period, the area is thoroughly perforated with fleurines, a series of tunnels that run from the cheese caves through to the side of the mountain. These ubiquitous crevices allow for a steady replenishment of fresh air, which along with the efforts of the town’s master cheese-makers, keeps the caves at an almost-steady 50 degrees Fahrenheit – a temperature ideal for the maturation of this unique sheep’s-milk cheese…the very fungus that gives Roquefort its power is a product of this geographic magic – the cold and the humidity (an estimated 90 percent) allow for the growth of Penicillium roqueforti, which is injected into the milk during the mixing process. Over the course of three to twelve months, the mold produces the telltale veins that give Roquefort its characteristic bite and flavor. Back in the day, locals harvested the fungus from loaves of bread left in the caves…We took the road from Toulouse to the small town of Roquefort, perched on the mountainside, and the trip became part of the experience. Tight winding roads snake their way up the midi-Pyrénées, through hidden villages via two-way roads…The only thing better is the free cheese offered at the end of the tour of Société’s 11-story-high caves.

Which do you prefer, this cheese or this potato?

Couch potato

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014


he is drawn in his spare time to shows like HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and “Boardwalk Empire,” the kind of heavy, darkly rendered television that echoes the sadness and strife that make up so much of his workday…he is also keenly awaiting the new season of the Netflix show “House of Cards,” which starkly depicts a dysfunctional Washington — a theme that must seem all too familiar. At a meeting of technology executives last week, he jokingly lamented his own inability to maneuver in the way of Kevin Spacey’s character, Frank Underwood…“I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient,” he was overheard saying…he joked of the sleazy, congressman-murderer Mr. Underwood, “This guy’s getting a lot of stuff done”…he is working his way through the DVD box set of AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” the award-winning TV drama about a drug-dealing high school teacher. The show just ended after five seasons, but he is way behind and frequently reminds those around him not to give anything away…Breaking Bad” and “House of Cards” are hardly the exceptions to what has become a clear pattern. he is also a devotee of Showtime’s “Homeland,” which offers an eerily familiar mirror to foreign policy adventures: terrorism, Iranian nuclear negotiations, drone strikes, and an intelligence agency struggling for legitimacy…he is a big fan of “Game of Thrones,” a brutal imagining of the wars in medieval Europe. He has raved about “Boardwalk Empire” and ITV’s “Downton Abbey,” two period dramas that document the angst and difficulties that people faced during those times. And he has worked his way through the DVDs of AMC’s smoldering “Mad Men” series, telling friends that the character of Peggy Olson has given him insight…Then there is HBO’s “The Wire,” which he has repeatedly called one of the “greatest shows of all time.” The drama depicted the poverty-stricken projects in Baltimore and documented the drug war between worn-out cops and the city’s African-American residents. His favorite character: Omar Little, the stickup man who robs the drug dealers…He is a rabid sports fan, and friends and colleagues say he enjoys ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” He also once told TV Guide that he and his family watch ABC’s “Modern Family” and NBC’s “Parks and Recreation”

We liked the first season of Mad Men, but haven’t seen any of the others. We haven’t got the time. HT: Powerline

Curious Numbers

Saturday, December 28th, 2013


only 26 percent with divorced parents move up, compared with 42 percent born to unmarried mothers…and 50 percent who grow up with two married parents…Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then–assistant labor secretary, won fame — and vicious criticism — for his report lamenting that 24 percent of black births were to unmarried mothers. By 2009, that rate had risen to 72 percent — and the rate of unmarried births to all American mothers was 41 percent…Go back…to the years around 1900, and Americans were marrying later, and larger percentages than today never married at all.

We find the 42% number above to be curious. However, at a recent family gathering, we learned that, despite years of trying and locating volumes of documents, no one has been able to find any proof that grandma and grandpa were married. We figure it was a shotgun wedding without the wedding, with grandma moving from MA to RI just ahead of the stork. If they never actually married, it was a well kept secret.

In this way the 42% makes sense, if a substantial number of the children of unmarried mothers are growing up with 2 parents. We agree with Charles Murray that the numbers look awful, but it would be very interesting to know how many unmarried 2 parent households there are today.

Reality TV

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013


A&E has suspended him from the reality show about his own family. That right there should give you a sense of how real this reality show is. If it’s about the family, some producer in New York can’t decide who’s in or out of the family.

But of course the political/cultural meta-drama is itself contemporary US reality TV. It’s the clash of the two Americas. The country has been riven and culturally gutted in just a few generations. JFK versus ACA. 5% illegitimacy versus 40-70%. Manners versus vulgarity. Churchgoing versus anything goes. Shop class versus fantasyland.

We’re in the final stages of America’s radical egalitarian wonder-world fantasy. It was built on the country’s economic dominance post-WWII, the amazing technological miracles of the last 60 or more years, and government largesse given the luxury of having the world’s reserve currency. All propagandized by a media machine in love with power, utopia, itself, and its role in heralding the new age.

But some resist the new age, and prefer much of the traditional American culture. So now we have the amusing episode of reality TV versus reality. Maybe we’ll tune in to the History Channel to find out what happened.

Who is having the better Advent?

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Well, it’s not these guys, judging by their rather disturbing Christmas card. If we remembered enough about taking art history and architecture, we’d know how to assess the cold, bloodless, impersonal picture we’ve linked to, where the only living beings are silhouettes of dogs. Maybe things are not as bad as the National Enquirer says, but the relevant staff at the White House seems pretty bummed out, if that picture is any indication. By contrast, the mood seems pretty chipper on the other side. Chipper indeed! It is not coincidental that the 26 year old do-nothing observer-as-the-world-goes-by Pajama Boy has become so ubiquitous as a symbol of the administration. He might have quite a future if he can promise to lower the oceans…

Sidebar regarding architecture. We had the good fortune to have our first post-college job in a great company in a mediocre building at 399 Park Avenue. From our first desk, we could look out on many marvels, including the other three corners of 53rd and Park. They were the McKim, Mead and White Racquet Club, Gordon Bunshaft’s Lever House and Mies van der Rohe’s (and Philip Johnson’s) Seagram Building. We lived in a furnished $169 a month fifth floor walk-up, with the tub in the kitchen and the lav in the common hallway, but hey, we had some spectacular views during the day.

Creativity and hard work

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Who knew that Keith Richards was this articulate? WSJ:

The music came first — before Mick wrote the lyrics. I had written most of the melody to “Street Fighting Man” sometime in late 1966 or early ’67 — before “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” — but I couldn’t figure out how to get the sound I wanted. It’s hard to explain. If you think of a melody as a song’s shape, then the sound is its texture. The two were inseparable in my mind. I tried recording the melody in the studio in ’67 but nothing happened. So I took the concept home to my Redlands farmhouse in Sussex, England, to work on it.

Around this time, I became fascinated by one of the early cassette tape recorders made by Philips. The machine was compact, so it was portable, and it had this little stick microphone, which would allow me to capture song ideas on the fly. So I bought one, but as I watched the small tape-cartridge reels turn, I began to think of the machine not as a dictation device but as a mini recording studio. The problem is I couldn’t use an electric guitar to record on it. The sound just overwhelmed the mike and speaker. I tried an acoustic guitar instead and got this dry, crisp guitar sound on the tape — the exact sound I had been looking for on the song.

At the time, I was experimenting with open tunings on the guitar—you know, tuning the strings to form specific chords so I could bang out the broadest possible sound. That’s how I came up with “Street Fighting Man’s” opening riff — even before I bought the Philips. I based the rest of the song’s melody on the tone pattern of those odd sirens French police cars use.

Sometime in early ’68, I took the Philips recorder into London’s Olympic Sound Studios and had Charlie meet me there. Charlie had this snap drum kit that was made in the 1930s. Jazz drummers used to carry around the small kit to practice when they were on the bus or train. It had this little spring-up high-hat and a tambourine for a snare. It was perfect because, like the acoustic guitar, it wouldn’t overpower the recorder’s mike. I had Charlie sit right next to the mike with his little kit and I kneeled on the floor next to him with my acoustic Gibson Hummingbird. There we were in front of this little box hammering away. After we listened to the playback, the sound was perfect.

On that opening riff, I used enormous force on the strings. I always did that and still do. I’m looking at my hands now and they look like Mike Tyson’s. They’re pretty beat up. I’m not a hard hitter on the strings — more of a striker. It’s not the force as much as it is a whip action. I’m almost releasing the power before my fingers actually meet the strings. I’m a big string-breaker, since I like to whip them pretty hard.

Once Charlie and I had the basic track down, we played back what we had recorded through an extension speaker with a recording mike in front of it. We put that track onto an eight-track recorder, which gave us seven additional tracks for overdubbing. That damn little Philips recorder: I realize now I was using it as a pickup for the acoustic guitar—only it wasn’t attached to the instrument.

Then Charlie added a bigger bass drum on one track, and I added another acoustic guitar to widen the sound. In fact, the only electric instrument on the entire recording is the bass. Bill wasn’t around and things were moving fast, so I just recorded the bass line I had in my head. Everything happened so quickly. Dave Mason came in later to add a bass drum and a shehnai at the end of the song. Brian played sitar and tamboura and Nicky Hopkins added the piano part.

Mick had his moments too. BTW, their combined age is almost 300 years old.

Finally, we recall Bob Dylan commenting on his creative process. And the WSJ has Merle Haggard doing the same. Unusual people.

Life of Julia / Julio and a few other things

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

It turns out that there’s a sort of male counterpart to the Life of Julia. Yuck. Speaking of males, Putin is on the rise, and Saudi Arabia has just about called it quits with the US. Does anyone think that things can possibly get better in the next few years with the clown carnival running the country?

Can’t think about that for too long. Hey kids! Lets’ put on a show! It will be about some people taking a trip and getting lost and all the adventures they have when stranded far away. Oops! It’s about time didn’t do so well, but the creator’s other series about castaways did pretty well. Given contemporary sensibilities, can the movie be anything other than awful?