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Since people are talking about David Brooks

Posted by Ben
on 05.09.15

and his obsession with "values" and "meaning" and whatnot, let's all pause to recall that he's a shameless liar and fantasist who doesn't even have the grace to acknowledge it when he's caught. (I mean, in addition to the fact that he has the intelligence of a sea slug and the moral sophistication of a stoat.)

I called Brooks to see if I was misreading his work. I told him about my trip to Franklin County, and the ease with which I was able to spend $20 on a meal. He laughed. "I didn't see it when I was there, but it's true, you can get a nice meal at the Mercersburg Inn," he said. I said it was just as easy at Red Lobster. "That was partially to make a point that if Red Lobster is your upper end ... " he replied, his voice trailing away. "That was partially tongue-in-cheek, but I did have several mini-dinners there, and I never topped $20."

I went through some of the other instances where he made declarations that appeared insupportable. He accused me of being "too pedantic," of "taking all of this too literally," of "taking a joke and distorting it." "That's totally unethical," he said.

Satire has its purpose, but assuming it's on the mark, Brooks should be able to adduce real-world examples that are true. I asked him how I was supposed to tell what was comedy and what was sociology. "Generally, I rely on intelligent readers to know -- and I think that at the Atlantic Monthly, every intelligent reader can tell what the difference is," he replied. "I tried to describe the mainstream of Montgomery County and the mainstream of Franklin County. They're both diverse places, and any generalization is going to have exceptions. But I was trying to capture the difference between the two places," he said. "You've obviously come at this from a perspective. I don't think if you went to the two places you wouldn't detect a cultural difference."

I asked him about Blue America as a bastion of illegal immigrants. "This is dishonest research. You're not approaching the piece in the spirit of an honest reporter," he said. "Is this how you're going to start your career? I mean, really, doing this sort of piece? I used to do 'em, I know 'em, how one starts, but it's just something you'll mature beyond."

This came out in 2006, and somehow did not lead to Brooks' firing.

More recently I thought this was a better piece on his recent terribleness (as distinct from his earlier terriblenesses) than the one in Deadspin making fun of his penis.


 

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Local Election Day

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.09.15

Observations about local politics:
1. Fox News conservatives do not have a guiding light for navigating local waters. They've got the fear and paranoia on a national level, and then become an absolute incoherent mishmash of thoughts on the local level. There is the tea party, which is a local guiding beacon, but there are a whole lot of conservatives in this region who distance themselves from the tea party and put together an absolute mess of an internally contradictory ideology instead, on local issues.

There were three competitive people for two at-large seats in the local school board election. My friend, A, and I'll call the others B and C.

2. B is conservative and pretty religious, but not conservative enough for the Tea Party backers. "First time I've ever been called 'not conservative enough'!" he quipped to me, while I was poll-sitting this morning. But during the debates and on his blog, he says incredibly good, supportive things about his plans if elected. As far as the public schools go, his head is screwed on straight. How does he square this apparent contradiction? "It's almost an accident that the public schools are part of government!" he told me. Sure, buddy, whatever lies you need to tell yourself so you can sleep at night. Go ahead. Anyway, I hope B wins the other at-large spot.

3. C is liberal. He also stopped by while we were poll-sitting and chatted for a long time. We talked about single-payer health care, how poverty is the underlying problem in the district, and so on. In the debates, he sounded like a motivational speaker - a lot of buzzwords, spouting completely content-free mush.

He waved at all the passing cars. A flashy car drove by - not extremely flashy, but a bit decked out, driven by a couple Latino young adults. C waved at them, and muttered to us, "Not that they're going to bother to vote..."

I said, "You don't know that!" thinking he was basically a good person.
He said, "Well, maybe they know someone who'll go vote. Those guys, probably felons." My jaw just...dropped. First, that he's secretly so fucking racist. Second, that he considered my friend and I to be a safe audience for that kind of thing.

After C left, my friend said that she knows his family to be that kind of white-savior-liberal.

B might also be racist - who knows. But gawd, did C come off as a shithead.


 

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Epcot is a lot like school, except the only thing we teach you how to do is smile.

Posted by Ben
on 05.08.15

The Epcot Centre twitter account is very well done.


 

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Texas Truancy

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.08.15

A quick rundown of the pathological insanity that is Texas truancy laws. And longer story. Basically, the teenager gets charged for missing school, and then gets thrown in jail if they can't/don't pay, and they miss more school, and it is monstrously counterproductive.

From the Heebieville school district site:

A student absent from school without an excuse for ten (10) or more days or parts of days within a six-month period in the same school year or on three (3) or more days or parts of days within a four-week period is considered truant and in violation of compulsory attendance laws.

Even at the white, middle-class, elementary school level, schools here are wildly aggressive about making sure your kid is there every damn day, and do come after parents with truancy tickets if elementary school students have too many unexcused absences.


 

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Two thoughts on race

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.08.15

1. How film was optimized for white skin. Fascinating read, and also depressing. I love old photos of my family; it would be incredibly sad to me to not be able to make out my grandmother's or whoever's features in most of the photos.

(Via you all there)

2. In the White thread the other day, I half-heartedly joked, "it is racist to assume black people are athletic...but it was hard not to draw that conclusion over years of PE in public schools. #notallPEstars"

and urple (correctly) called me out on it:

It would indeed be hard not to draw the conclusion that the black children in American culture are on average more skilled athletes than white children. It would also be hard not to draw the conclusion that children from many Asian cultures are not on average better math students. It would also be hard not to draw the conclusion that Hispanic children are not on average better at speaking Spanish. The only racist things would be thinking that any of these things (1) is a priori true for every child or for any particular child, or (2) are somehow biologically determined and not just manifestations of cultural/social influences.

But I've been turning this over in my mind and now realizing that even in this day and age, I have still thought there is a biological component to why black Americans are overrepresented in sports.

Are we saying that there isn't? If there isn't, what are common practices and habits in black families that create better athletes than in white families or in other families? Does the effect disappear with economic class, ie sports are stressed as a way to get out of poverty, but middle and upperclass black children are about average, athletically?


 

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Putter

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.07.15

I have a confessional observation, which I've known for nearly my whole life, but keeps cropping up in ever more contexts: I am a slow mover. I'm capable of moving fast if my mind is on it, but if I'm on autopilot, my default speed seems to be much slower than everyone else. For example: Jammies can do the grocery shopping twice as fast as I can. At xfit, everyone finishes their burpees while I'm about halfway through. I'm notorious about taking forever to put on my shoes. I chop vegetables slowly. Just everything, unless I'm concentrating on moving it, seems to drag. What gives?


 

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Thursday puzzler

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.07.15

If there are five houses with five patterns, and five inhabitants who drink five kinds of coffee while getting around in five different ways with their five different pets, who lives in a tartan house in the middle drinking lattes on their bike with their komodo dragon? GO!

In theory I like these things, but in practice I just like the easy ones.


 

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Knifecrime Island Meets Chocolate City

Posted by Ogged
on 05.07.15

ttaM writes,

I'll be in DC next week.
Sunday 3rd to Saturday 9th.
I'm pretty sure I'm free on the Sunday evening, the Friday evening, and possibly one or more or other evenings if anyone wants to meet up.

Bumpity bump


 

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Immigration

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.07.15

LB has periodically asserted that its unknown what would happen if the US completely opened its borders, and that it may just be xenophobia that makes everyone convinced that we'd be overrun with Those Kinds of People. (That's my memory of her claim, at least.) This expert says something similar, in a very understated "these things are hard to study, but here's some reasonable evidence" kind of way.

(Via one of you, over there)


 

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Kevin Drum's Recovering Nicely

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.06.15

See?

Anyway, people should donate to Mother Jones on his behalf. He's been doing useful blogging for a very long time now.


 

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Guest Post - Sex Drive

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.06.15

Sifu Tweety writes: some researchers did a version of that classic psychology experiment where students working for the experimenter approached random strangers and asked about sex (way more men than women said yes; it was replicated in a reality show-ish way recently and discussed on-blog; it gets used to buttress arguments about the innateness of greater male sex drive) where they tried very hard to reassure the women that (1) the dude wasn't a violent creep and (2) it would really be anonymous. Result? Men and women agreed to anonymous sex at essentially identical rates.

Heebie's take: While I agree with the conclusion because teh wimminzism, the study seems flawed.

Participants were invited into a lab under the ruse that they would be helping a dating company evaluate their compatibility rating algorithm. They were presented with ten pictures of members of the opposite sex and led to believe that all ten had already agreed to meet up with them (either for a date, or for sex). With these, and a few other convincing details, the experimenters hoped that participants would reveal their true attitudes to dating, or hooking up for sex with, total strangers, unimpeded by fear of what might happen to them if they said yes.

How could you possibly account for that selection bias? Even if you had identical rates of people agreeing to participate, it still seems like your sample population would not necessarily be representative for reasons that could differ by gender.


 

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Guest Post - Tarot Photography

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.06.15

Nick S writes:

"Check out these Haitian Tarot cards, a collaborative photo project between Haitian art collective Atis Rezistans and acclaimed documentary photographer Alice Smeets. Each image - shot in underprivileged communities in Haiti - transforms a tarot card into a real life scene. "

Impressive: beautiful and moving photographs.

Heebie's take: Worth clicking through.


 

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I'm White

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.06.15

Marriage material! This guy's experiences track pretty closely those of mine own Jammies.


 

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"Poems", we read, "should be a little bit funny and a little bit rhymey".

Posted by Ben
on 05.05.15

The sage who promulgated that dictum might enjoy “On Reading John Hollander's Poem ‘Breadth. Circle. Desert. Monarch. Month. Wisdom. (For Which There Are No Rhymes)’”, parts one, two, and three, and so might some of you—some select few of you, I mean.


 

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80 hour weeks

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.05.15

Tweety writes: a long article in HBR about the apparently novel finding that men with families don't like working sixty to eighty hour weeks any more than women with families do, but instead of going through channels and getting marginalized -- the route available to women -- are able to work less through, essentially, subterfuge and dudely collusion, while keeping their reps as hard-charging workaholics.

Heebie's take: One of my first semesters at Heebie U, I felt absolutely crushed by work. I had a terrible schedule, tons of committee work, four new preps, and I forget the rest but I felt terribly sorry for myself. I decided to document my hours spent working, so that I could figure out if I was being reasonable or pathetic.

Pretty much every week clocked in under 45 hours. Now, this was 40-45 hours of actual work, but nevertheless nowhere close to the 60-80 hours that people call "long hours". So that's my take.


 

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Ouch

Posted by Ogged
on 05.05.15

I'd never heard of Josh Ozersky, the food writer who died yesterday at 47, but if this piece about his dad is typical of his work, damn, what a bummer. Be sure to click through the gallery on that, too.


 

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Things To Buy

Posted by Ogged
on 05.05.15

--So as to know whether I should text or email, I'd like an app that tells me when friends are awake, which would really be an app that tells me if they've used their phone in the last five or ten minutes.

--Anyone have experience with battery-powered lawn mowers? I know it might not finish the lawn, and I know the battery will need to be replaced after something like 3-5 years, but I really don't want the fumes and extra noise of a gas mower. So I guess I'm asking if any battery-powered mowers have turned on and dismembered their owners.

--What's the best way for an unbelievably boring early-middle-aged suburbanite to squeeze the life out of himself in an industrial press?


 

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Princeton Irony Lady strikes again

Posted by Ben
on 05.04.15

Not only did she just publish a thing on The Stone in which she complains preciously about, of all things, conferences and conferencegoing (did you know that sometimes people ask questions not in all earnestness? Why, sometimes they aren't even properly questions at all!), she also has a book of essays coming out:

An original collection of incandescent cultural criticism, both whimsical and personal, full of practical insights and paradigm-shifting advice for how to live a considered, joyful existence in our era of fiber optics and hipster irony, by a Gen-X Princeton professor and contributor to the New York Times.

The essays in The Other Serious examine the signature phenomena of our moment: the way our lives contradict themselves, how exaggeration and excess seep into our collective subconscious, why gender is becoming more rather than less complicated, and how we interact with the material things that surround us. It is a book about the delicacy and bluntness of American life, about how pop culture sticks its finger deeply into the ethical dilemmas of our time, and how to negotiate between the old and new, the high and low, the global and local, the sacred and the profane. At the heart of these reflections lies a central question: What should you do when you don't know what to do?

Now that you've cleaned up the vomit from your desk, laptop and lap, mobile device, or what have you, perhaps you can, with me, wonder how in the world anyone whose day job is the study of literature from the 60s on*, and who must surely have read works from even earlier during coursework or even on her own time (for what do they know of our moment, who only our moment and late 20th century French and Italian essayistic fiction know?) could possibly think that these are "the signature phenomena of our moment".—Did she for instance read, I wonder, Perec's Things: A Story of the Sixties? Does not the whole description resemble Van der Graaf Generator in the following respect, that each prophesies disaster? Isn't "what should you do when you don't know what to do" the central question not of "our moment" but of, like, modernity, man? (Yes: see my much-referenced but never yet made public thing on Kotsko's Awkwardness.) Is there anything substantive one can possibly say in attempting to answer this question generally other than, say, "O my son, be, on the one hand, good, and do not, on the other hand, be bad; for that is much the safest plan", or perhaps "goddamnit, you've got to be kind", or something similarly well-meaning and even accurate but, let's face it, pretty abstract? (No.) Is it beyond hilarious that Wampole is helpfully identified as a "Gen-X Princeton professor"? (Yes.)

A few years ago while passing through O'Hare on the way to the east I ran into a fellow I knew from grad school at Stanford, who was heading, I think, west, and who had known Wampole; he said that while her irony column (which was then still somewhat recent) was admittedly terrible, he felt somewhat sorry for her because the editor who accepted it was clearly offering her up to the masses for ridicule and abuse. It seems unlikely that whichever HarperCollins person accepted this book had a similar motive, though.

* "She received her Ph.D in both French and Italian from Stanford University in 2011". Both? Like, she got two Ph.D.s? No, Stanford has a single department of French and Italian.


 

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Open Relationships

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.04.15

A president asks: Has there recently (or ever) been a post about non-monogamy? I'm curious about how the Unfogged community views people in "non-traditional" relationship structures, whether they be monogamish, non-monogamous, polyamorous, relationship-anarchical, whatever.

It's always hard to know whether things that seem normal and comfortable to you are still freakish and off-putting to those in the mainstream, or whatever. And similarly, with a nod towards what I think is Dan Savage's position, to what extent do people in non-monogamous relationships have an "obligation" to be "out" about their relationships so as to make it more accepted?

Heebie's take: This has come up in the past, with then-Bitch arguing on behalf of her self-described happy, open marriage. But not in a long time!

First, I find the idea fascinating and am endlessly curious about people that can make nontraditional structures work, although I do not think I'd have the constitution for it. I think open relationships can be abused in a last-ditch "this relationship is failing so here's a hail mary", which is probably usually a bad idea, but that's not the fault of the structure qua structure. Open structures can be done thoughtfully and well, although they create problems for the couple to navigate as a team, obviously.

(I think the bad version often goes:
Person A: I want out of this relationship but I'm also protective of Person B's feelings.
Person B: I'm terrified of this relationship ending, so I'll do anything to keep it alive.
Both: why don't we essentially let Person A out of the relationship, while pretending not to.)

I'm agnostic on Dan's argument about there being an obligation to come out - it's cheap for me to put a huge burden on those in nontraditional relationships, but I also know that that's the kind of burden that gay people endured in order to get the momentum rolling on the gay rights movement. No idea, except it seems extraordinarily personal and to come at a huge personal cost. But having a secret boyfriend or girlfriend is also hard.

I have other questions, but I have to go proctor a final, so I'll chime in the thread when they're all at work.


 

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No Gestapo In Bastrop-o

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.04.15

I'm feeling pretty goddamn peeved at my state right now.

1. The Dallas shooting - as best I can tell, they successfully baited two people into committing suicide-by-cop.

"This terrible incident reflects the need for such conferences."

Right. Go fuck yourself.

2. Greg Abbott is fucking crazy, but this is pandering to delusional paranoid fucknuts. I'm trying to tell myself that this unhinged panic is a sign of the deteriorating rightwing coalition, but it's not sticking.


 

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ATM: TWBC

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.04.15

A president writes: Are these always presidential? I can't remember. This one will be amusing if it's presidential because 1) you will all guess immediately who we are and 2) it is the least salacious thing ever posted on unfogged.

The background: we live in a relatively large apartment (but with no yard because we'd have to be tech barons to have a yard) with the world's best cat. TWBC gets very clingy when we leave in the morning, leading us to believe she might want a pal. The original thought was to get a kitten but we went to the shelter and saw all kinds of very sweet puppies and the other president gets all stupid over puppies the way I do over cats and anyway we had thought, when we got TWBC how cute it would be to have a cat and dog that were buddies, like in some goddamn children's movie. We dismissed this idea because dogs are so much higher maintenance.

I'm generally out of the house at 8:30 and back by 5:30. The other president works slightly longer days governing his country or whatever. So the question is/the questions are: 1) Is this realistic, ye who have had dogs? Is an urban non-yarded 40-something lifestyle compatible with dog ownership? 2) If so, is there some magical breed we should know about at the intersection of "down with living in the confines of an apartment" and "not awfully barky" and "won't eat the cat"? A beagle would obviously be the cutest combo but they bay, and maybe don't turn up at shelters much. 3) If we do this, should we get a non-threatening tiny puppy for the cat's sake or a dog because it'll be so much less effort? or 4) Should we just go with the simplest plan and get TWBC a catfriend?

Heebie's take: Dogs are the worst! But I understand that other people actually feel differently. In theory I like dogs - I like the idea of loyalty and companionship. I just don't like to touch them, or to touch anything that they touch, or the noises that they make. And the commotion. I do like taking dogs for walks, though. Anyone want to give a better answer than that?

Also, if you get a dog, you may become the type of person who says that their schedule is especially constrained, because they have to get home for the beloved dog and you'll have to deal with eye rolls.


 

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Games

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.03.15

Last night we played games with friends. Have you played games along the lines of: "The town goes to sleep. The murderers wake up and identify each other. The murderers go to sleep." etc, and then the town debates who to kill? It was a formalized, marketed version of those games, (One Night Ultimate Werewolf Board Game).

What made it great is that there were many more roles than just cops, murderers, and villagers. Each of these rolls either scrambled information or provided extra information or verified was someone else said, and so the logical sequence that could be extracted through discussion was a lot more intricate and necessitated actual factual collaboration and high-speed deduction, and less "gut feeling he's lying"-based. Also, the liars then have to spontaneously come up with false explanations that fit a much more extensive base of facts, which I loved. The game was only one round long, as opposed to other versions which have multiple rounds narrowing down suspects.

Highly, highly recommend. I had so much fun.


 

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