Archive for the 'art, culture' Category

One thing leads to another, sometimes in strange ways — Fibonacci???

Friday, December 12th, 2014

From an E&P CEO:

the Saudis want to chill investment in new oil supply to help protect OPEC’s future. In round numbers we have had about 5 MBOPD increase in world oil demand over the last 5 or 6 years. Over the same time period US oil production has grown from nearly 4 MBOPD (from 5 to 9 MBOPD) — 80% of the increase in WORLD demand!

This is NOT good for OPEC. I suspect that we will have ugly oil prices ($60 – $75) for around a year as that is long enough to stop many current oil supply investments and, more importantly, serve to chill the appetite for future large investments in oil supply growth (deep water, arctic, marginal shale, marginal tar sands, etc) which is the Saudi goal in my opinion. I do not believe that the current price ($65) is a sustainable price going forward. It would not encourage enough new supply

This seems plausible enough, and if true, might have seemed even elegant in the planning, since it kills or wounds three birds with one stone (Iran needs $136 oil to balance its budget, Russia $100). But that was then and this is now, and things seem to have spun out of control. All of which led us to Cramer’s discussion of what the charts are telling us about the future price of oil.

Suddenly a word appeared that we had not heard in a long time — Cramer said that trading often forms Fibonacci sequences. Fibonacci? Huh? Suddenly it’s everywhere. We couldn’t find our copy of Vincent Scully’s book, but sure enough, the Golden ratio is right there at the Parthenon. Jeepers. (Ancient Greeks? — watch out AS!)

Their trajectory and ours

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

On our flight to Hong Kong today, there was no internet, so what’s today’s American going to do? Read? Pshaw! We watched TV. One show was called Shades of Life, the Winter’s Fairy-tale episode. It’s a Horatio Alger story of a guy with a very tough childhood becoming a successful entrepreneur. He sure knows how to clean a toilet and polish an office; fortunately his wife (whose family seems to hate this guy at first) knows ppt and accounting and through pluck and luck and a number of bad rejections and false starts he creates a big building maintenance company. We also watched the film Two States. It’s about an MBA guy from Delhi and an MBA girl from Chennai who want to get married, but his Punjabi family can’t stand her Tamil Brahmin family and vice versa. They’re both intractable, and most of the film is about how to create enough peace so that there can be a wedding. At the end, enough problems are resolved so that an extraordinarily elaborate wedding takes place, and the flash forward at the end is about playing with the beautiful babies. (There were other entertainments that covered similar ground to these two productions.)

What struck us is that the TV show and the movie were, among other things, sermons; that’s a little strong but you catch the drift. The point of the Hong Kong story is that: life’s tough, and if you want to succeed, suck it up and keep trying. Indeed, at one point, the young wife, after yet another setback for hubby, actually says in English “Tomorrow is Another Day.” Hard to miss the point of that! The happy ending involves riches and a fabulous home and grounds. As for the Indian movie, well forget Murphy Brown — these guys refuse to even elope. The family issues absolutely have to be ironed out and there will be no wedding until that happens, and the notion that there might be kids on the side simply does not exist.

In contemporary America, would we be likely to often see a Horatio Alger story without a Hollywood sneer at an ending such as this one has? And as for the Indian movie, first click the Murphy Brown link above and let’s talk. 40-80% illegitimacy rates are insane because they lead to gangs, youth crime and violence for the boys and different but comparable disasters for the girls. But if you’ve watched CNN lately, it’s unlikely you’ve seen these important issues discussed. Much safer for one and all to wallow in the fetid swamps of victimhood than deal with the profound problem which is driving a stake into the heart of both personal and political self-governance.

It’s easy to imagine plentiful American versions of the Hong Kong and Indian shows in US theaters as well as prime time radio and TV 50-75 years ago. Are they still around much today? There’s more than one reason for that of course, and they doesn’t bode well for the future.

Perfection!

Saturday, December 6th, 2014

Just the other day we noted Wretchard’s comment that American politics has become radically divided in two, in part due to an almost psychotic media-reality split, and voilà, we’ve found a glittering gemstone. Consider this magnificent tune. We’d wager that most of its apparent target audience would find it either irrelevant or offensive, while we can easily imagine a conference room of media consultants recommending it with straight faces. Media-reality split. But wait, there’s more!

It’s hard to know whether this Rolling Stone piece on the song is meant as a positive description or subversion. Subversion would be our guess. It’s easy to imagine the high-paid media consultants chortling as they thought: wait til Elizabeth Warren’s people get a load of this. But then again, it’s just as easy to see the consultants thinking that the rubes will really go for this — or maybe both thoughts at the same time. Whatever. We just hope everyone got a good payday out of this masterwork, particularly the graphics guy who helpfully inserted the word ‘cuz at three minutes into the song.

This and that

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

NYP:

Working on a piece that raised questions about the American Red Cross disaster response, she says a boss told her, “We must do nothing to upset our corporate partners…until the stock splits.” (Parent company Viacom and CBS split in 2006). Meanwhile, she notes, “CBS This Morning” is airing blatant advertorials such as a three-minute segment pushing TGI Fridays’ all-you-can-eat appetizer promotion or four minutes plugging a Doritos taco shell sold at Taco Bell.

Reporters on the ground aren’t necessarily ideological, Attkisson says, but the major network news decisions get made by a handful of New York execs who read the same papers and think the same thoughts. Often they dream up stories beforehand and turn the reporters into “casting agents,” told “we need to find someone who will say…” that a given policy is good or bad. “We’re asked to create a reality that fits their New York image of what they believe,” she writes.

Reporting on the many green-energy firms such as Solyndra that went belly-up after burning through hundreds of millions in Washington handouts, Attkisson ran into increasing difficulty getting her stories on the air. A colleague told her about the following exchange: “They are pretty significant,” said a news exec. “Maybe we should be airing some of them on the ‘Evening News?’ ” Replied the program’s chief Pat Shevlin, “What’s the matter, don’t you support green energy?”

We’re reminded of getting a little worked up years ago when Sumner Redstone sold a trivial amount of stock as Rathergate was falling apart. Not a big deal to him, but it’s interesting to see how closely the news is monitored and controlled by the business types.

In other matters, Hamlet runs four hours, movies two hours (give or take), TV dramas one hour, sit-coms half an hour, and tweets 140 characters. See any pattern on where our culture is heading?

The torch has passed to a new generation

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

En route to MIA the film Blended was shown. The remarkable things were two: (a) in order to make rather obvious observations about humans in their male and female incarnations, the movie had to torture itself to remain PC enough; (b) what’s up with all the vulgarity and potty mouths on very young children? This film was followed by a bunch of NBC TV shows that we’ve never watched nor heard of. Once again, non-stop vulgarity. (We recently saw a couple of episodes of season one of the Beverly Hillbillies, which were filled with witty and arcane references — e.g., Jane is impressed because Jethro’s education included him being an eatin’ man.) Tempus fugit.

Wars and rumors of wars

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

Today’s reads are Clarice Feldman and Andy McCarthy. It ought to be pretty hard to keep believing the fantasies, but the fantasists persist. Spengler explains some reasons that make fantasy attractive.

Why didn’t the Barbary Pirates get regular jobs?

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

Wretchard answers the question. Certain things follow if your nation subscribes to the belief that a 1400 year old book and related documents are all you’ll ever need to get through life. Do we exaggerate? Look at the issue of patents and make up your own mind. Still not persuaded? How’s this for a Top Ten List?

Churchill and Jefferson here.

From “spare the rod and spoil the child” to ???

Friday, September 12th, 2014

At Portsmouth Priory, the punishment for serious infractions, at least among the Day Grubs, was to be paddled vigorously on the derrière with a wet sneaker in Mr. Acheson’s office. Times change. We have no idea of the seriousness of the Peterson matter, but there was a grand jury involved, not that that is conclusive in any way these days. We also don’t make light of Ray Rice, though we understand that in a scheduled remake of The Shining, Red Rum is set to be replaced by Ray Rice. We understand that social media make the Visible! into the Imperative!, given that humans are overwhelmingly responsive to visual stimuli. But there also seems to be some cognitive dissonance or denial or some such at work when the relatively unimportant is routinely elevated over the truly serious. Maybe it’s time to make mandatory the availability of video records of executions, so that people can better evaluate the moral compasses of those who believe that, for example, changing religious affiliation merits losing your head. Is that appropriate, or should the punishment itself be elevated to the status of a crime?

In case you hadn’t noticed

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

The average person is both ill-informed and not too bright, at least if you poll the right campuses and industries where they prattle on about micro-aggressions and so forth. Add that to the college professor class, and oops! the high school history curriculum, and you have a formula for continued degeneration into a fantasy world until things get up close and personal. It’s all so obvious. Appeasement does not work. Unbelievably sad and pathetic and to no avail.

Update: if figures like this are true, this conflict could be a kind of an internecine hundred years’ war, except that with the armaments available today, there seems a pretty high probability that someone will choose to go out with a bang.

Compare and contrast

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

From WaPo:

My own eyes show rising ocean levels. They show the Arctic ice cap shrinking. They show massive beach erosion, homes toppling into the sea and meteorological records indicating steadily increasing temperatures. The Earth, our dear little planet, just had the hottest May on record. My eyes read projections that are even direr — drought, stifling heat, massive and more frequent storms, parts of coastal cities underwater and, in the American Southeast, an additional 11,000 to 36,000 people dying per year from the extreme heat.

From elsewhere:

Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes. The dead rising from the grave. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria.

Possibly related: “We call Bill the Crust Master, because his pies, I don’t know what he does, whether he puts crack in them”

Unacceptable language in these times

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

It’s finally been established! The term Washington DC has been determined to be an offensive and insulting slight. Plenty of good reason for that. Oh wait, Oops!

Ad fontes

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Terry Teachout on TCM’s 20th anniversary in the WSJ:

On Monday it will be showing, among other things, “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane,” “Gaslight,” “Gone With the Wind,” “It Happened One Night,” “The Maltese Falcon” and “Singin’ in the Rain.” You couldn’t ask for a more representative sampling of the best of studio-era Hollywood…Ever since its launch, the audience for TCM has consisted primarily of people who want to watch studio-era movies. While the channel has diversified its offerings over the years, it remains committed to accommodating the conservative tastes of its regular viewers, which is why it steers clear of the franker films that Hollywood started to release around 1970. Look at the schedule for the month of April and you’ll find just 20 films made after 1970, most of them forgettable mediocrities.

If you believe, as I do, that American film entered a new period of artistic maturity in the 1970s, you’ll find little to confirm that belief. Where are “Apocalypse Now,” “Cabaret,” “Chinatown,” “The Deer Hunter,” “The Godfather,” “The Last Picture Show,” “Network,” “Patton” and “Taxi Driver”? Not on TCM. Nor do its potential problems stop there. With under-30 moviegoers reflexively tuning out black-and-white films because they look old fashioned, how can a channel that specializes in the oeuvre of Gary Cooper, Katharine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart hope to eventually replace its aging viewers

The Renaissance was marked by a return ad fontes, to the texts of Greek and Roman classics, and indeed the Reformation featured a return to an ancient text. Things can get lost for hundreds of years, like perspective in art, and then get rediscovered, to the great benefit of civilization.

TCM is not just entertainment; it is a course in American history. Unique in that it is the first time in history we have the voices and pictures of human beings of yesteryear speaking to us directly. In important cultural ways, the America shown on TCM is superior to that of the 70′s and thereafter — the 40-80% illegitimacy trend of the last four decades is a cultural disaster of the first order.

TCM should stick to its knitting, and not worry that kids might currently prefer 3D to B&W. Niche marketing is fine. More importantly, kids can grow up and perhaps discover that BS and malarkey aren’t a viable path to rewarding lives. In that sense, TCM isn’t just a view of the past frozen in amber, but a reminder that a better future culture is possible.

(Incidentally, both Scott Johnson and Mark Steyn would be excellent fill-ins for Robert Osborne, but TCM’s chairman emeritus might object.)

Worth reading today

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Kevin Williamson has a very amusing piece on the life in the Beltway. Many of Mark Steyn’s readers are also pretty good writers. Some anniversaries arriving: it’s ten years since Kill Bill (Sheriff Earl Parks and Esteban Vihaio are the same guy), and coming up on ten years in August since the forging of the Rathergate memos. Finally, we can report that from seeing college age kids talk that George Will’s statement on TV today is true, as political correctness morphs into absurdity (not that it was such a long trip).

Brite collage years

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

LLS:

In a move designed to foster diversity and to create a university that “thinks like America,” Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, the President of Harvard University announced yesterday that the school will embrace egalitarian admissions. The school will no longer give priority to students with good grades, high SAT scores, and impressive extra-curricular activities. Such policies have, Dr. Faust acknowledged, created an “elitist” and “inegalitarian” atmosphere at the college. “It is unacceptable in 2014 to be favoring the intelligent over the unlearned, and the energetic over the slothful,” she proclaimed. Starting next year Harvard’s incoming class will have SAT scores ranging from six to sixteen hundred to produce, for the first time, a truly diverse freshman class…

A press release declares that “Harvard is now dedicated to serving the ‘differently intellectual’ and ‘differently learned’ or DIDL students.” The idea that some are “smarter” than others is a prejudice that we need to overcome. The twenty-first century, the era of Hope and Change, is an age of equality. Gone are the days when knowing the difference between “their” and “there,” or references to dead White European males like Goethe or Marlowe were used to perpetuate privilege. There is no reason to favor an applicant who has been reading Shakespeare since he was ten over one who has watched every episode of “Sponge Bob” fifty times.

This summer, the entire Harvard faculty will be trained in sensitivity to needs of DIDL students. There is talk of an, as yet undetermined, plan for affirmative action for “Low IQ Americans.” The Puritans who founded Harvard held that “there is no sin but ignorance.” But they also burned witches, Harvard noted.

Get with the program, Harvard; you’re behind the times. Recall that professor who assaulted the protester at UCSB? The university effectively sided with the DIDL prof. She’s the 21st century, after all. Harvard: sometimes you’re just so 1636.

Unusual development in the SP

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

If you don’t have a narrative of your own, you’re using the other guy’s narrative. Roger Simon says why that’s a bad idea, both stylistically and substantively. One fellow who is breaking the mold is Rand Paul. Whatever you think of his other merits, he’s doing something very unusual for the Stupid Party: going on Smiley and West (where he got a lot of respect from the call-in audience BTW), going to Detroit and then following up substantively on that trip, and to Berkeley, where he apparently got a standing ovation for torching the NSA. In each case he sought pretty successfully to use areas of common ground with his audience. As we said, unusual for the Stupid Party, but then again not as stupid as focusing over and over on 2 or 3 counties in places like Florida and Ohio to try to eke out 334,000 votes to just squeak by in an election.

Then and now

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Spengler quotes Bottum on the Catholic world pre-1965, in a fascinating discussion of the secular religion of today:

The embroidered arcanery of copes and stoles and albs and chasubles, the rituals of Holy Water blessings, the grottos with their precarious rows of fire-hazard candles flickering away in little red cups, the colored seams and peculiar buttons that identified monsignors, the wimpled school sisters, the tiny Spanish grandmothers muttering prayers in their black mantillas, the First Communion girls wrapped up in white like prepubescent brides, the mumbled Irish prejudices, the loud Italian festivals, the Holy Door indulgences, the pocket guides to scholastic philosophy, the Knights of Columbus with their cocked hats and comic-opera swords, the tinny mission bells, the melismatic chapel choirs— none of this was the Church, some of it actually obscured the Church, and the decision to clear out the mess was not unintelligent or uninformed or unintended.

It was merely insane. An entire culture nested in the crossbeams and crannies, the nooks and corners, of the Catholic Church. And it wasn’t until the swallows had been chased away that anyone seemed to realize how much the Church itself needed them, darting around the chapels and flitting through the cathedrals.

That’s the Catholic Church that’s been lost, but most of Bottum’s book is about the today’s post Christian Puritans in America: “We live in a spiritual age when the political has been transformed into the soteriological. When how we vote is how our souls are saved.”

Indeed. A major dividing line is how we think about the past. We have high government officials who believe the past is outdated and, it follows, irrelevant. We think they’ve been beguiled by the metaphor of technological progress, as well as their own good fortune in life. Is there a way back from this fantasy world? Of course, but it is highly unlikely to be pleasant.

(On the lighter side, we offer examples of outlandish but fashionable idiocy, here, here, and here, which suggest that maybe, just maybe, things might right themselves without cataclysm.)

Low, going lower

Monday, March 24th, 2014

In a world where this is considered normal, this is what you get. They sow not; neither do they reap. But they sure can complain and lecture.

Lighter side: Moonglow and a scene from Picnic.

Wheels within wheels

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Henry Kissinger:

For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one…

Ukraine has been independent for only 23 years; it had previously been under some kind of foreign rule since the 14th century…Ukraine has been part of Russia for centuries, and their histories were intertwined before then. Some of the most important battles for Russian freedom, starting with the Battle of Poltava in 1709 , were fought on Ukrainian soil. The Black Sea Fleet — Russia’s means of projecting power in the Mediterranean — is based by long-term lease in Sevastopol, in Crimea. Even such famed dissidents as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Joseph Brodsky insisted that Ukraine was an integral part of Russian history and, indeed, of Russia…

Ukrainians…live in a country with a complex history and a polyglot composition. The Western part was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1939, when Stalin and Hitler divided up the spoils. Crimea, 60 percent of whose population is Russian, became part of Ukraine only in 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian by birth, awarded it as part of the 300th-year celebration of a Russian agreement with the Cossacks. The west is largely Catholic; the east largely Russian Orthodox. The west speaks Ukrainian; the east speaks mostly Russian. Any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other — as has been the pattern — would lead eventually to civil war or break up.

Roger Kimball has lots more. This is certainly more complex than the US simpletons on either side of the issue make out.

(For today’s light reading, Clarice’s pieces are simultaneously funny and depressing.)

Once in a Blue Moon — not

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Roger Kimball explains why today’s problems are only the beginning for the prankster and the rest of us. Steyn rates Blue Moon. And it’s been almost fifty years, and we never knew that that’s what Eric Clapton was playing in 1967.

The university, the media, and the rest of us

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Gallup has a poll showing what people from L to R and in-between care about. It’s a little surprising in that there’s so much agreement on important things. OTOH, here’s a typical college voting 26-3 in favor of nonsense. The media, of course, are just like the college kids: they’ve mostly never worked a day in their lives in the real world, i.e., the private sector. Too bad politics is downstream of culture.