The “Is Ta-Nehisi Coates too French to be a man of American letters?” Open Thread.

Callin’ it early: TNC appears to be in French class. Or writing. Or some shit. HE IS NOT ON HIS BLOG WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM.

For the Horde!

(Don’t forget: I’m super busy with actual-work-type stuff right now – if you get stuck in moderation, I’ll fish you out as soon as ever I can!)

Standard FYI clause: My rule of thumb is that I wait for 2 hours after Ta-Nehisi would usually open a thread (roughly noon, EST), and if none is forthcoming, I put one up here.

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200 Comments

  1. So, because I’ve been a blogging fool all last week, I didn’t notice there was nothing to do at work.
    I am now finished being a blogging fool (though there is taper off) for the time being and oh wow, there’s nothing to do at work.

    So I went shopping.

    Reply
  2. Mais non, mon ami. C’est impossible.

    Meanwhile: Did y’all see this? I am thankful as the day is long that Bill Moyers is back on my teevee, and I’m not just saying that because he put U.-Va. profs on two weeks in a row.

    This is hilarious, incisive stuff, the best parody I’ve seen in a while (not counting Stephen Colbert, of course).

    http://www.flackcheck.org/lincoln-campaign/

    “I’m George B. McClellan, and I approved this message.”

    Reply
    • Of course, I left out the connecting sentence: “No, I’m saying that because this past week he brought FlackCheck to my attention.”

      Sorry…

      Reply
  3. So I have the WHOLE WEEK OFF to work on my own project, and I’m DESPERATE for distractions, and there’s no OTAN.

    Comfort me with Apples. Or a Nook.

    Reply
    • Would you like links to fashion?
      Downton Abbey?
      The Voice?
      American Idol?
      Game of Thrones?

      Reply
      • Tell me more about The Voice.

        I can’t remember which show I watched after the SuperBowl – was it “The Voice”? (I don’t have any TV access) It was phenomenal to see someone get up there and surprise me. (Was that Jesse something-or-other?)

        How did that go?

        Reply
      • Persia

         /  February 21, 2012

        I believe what you actually mean there is “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

        Reply
        • Sorry, I don’t watch that one.

          (I can’t watch everything. I’d go mad.)

          Reply
          • David L

             /  February 21, 2012

            It’s better than Idol, IMO. It can’t decide sometimes whether it’s a serious reality-talent competition or a parody of one but they’ve had some pretty incredible performers and personalities. It makes me wish there was a bigger stage to propel the winners and runners-up onto than a tour of pride events and vodka ads.

            Reply
          • Persia

             /  February 21, 2012

            David L is correct. It’s the best reality show on TV. Seasons 2-3 are available on Netflix watch instant, just sayin’.

            Reply
    • David L

       /  February 21, 2012

      They’re not quite apples, but I have some leftover pineapple chunks from the fruit plate I did at the potluck. You’re welcome to them, because I can only eat a couple before the sugar content starts to make me queasy.

      Reply
    • If I had a week off I would finally be able to catch up on Justified for realsies instead of so slow.

      Reply
  4. caoil

     /  February 21, 2012

    I have no opinion! Uh, based on the fact that I’m neither American nor French! Except for the French-Canadian part. Um. Anyway.

    I am still collecting music this week, and probably will through the weekend – just don’t expect results from me on Sunday, as it’s Oscar Night (and although it’s not likely to be a particularly interesting broadcast as I have no horses in this race, eh, I’ll still be watching). So send away!

    Reply
    • Darth Thulhu

       /  February 21, 2012

      Found some YouTubes of stuff I like. To where should I direct? Direct message on Twitter or something else?

      I’m headed in for evening shift at work now, but will be free to forward late tonight.

      Reply
      • caoil

         /  February 21, 2012

        DM me on Twitter if you like, but you can just email links to me on gmail. tindomiel is my username there.

        Reply
        • No it’s not! It’s @kiranmartin!

          Reply
          • caoil

             /  February 21, 2012

            Ha! Emily’s right, @kiranmartin for twitter (though Darth may be following me there already, not sure), and tindomiel when one is using gmail. Let us have too many of the names in too many of the places! Lucky I’m not dragging any of my 5 other email addresses into this. ;-)

            Reply
  5. Here’s how I’ve spent Mardi Gras so far–edited 3 pieces for the Rumpus, waited for the windshield repair guy so long I missed my Popeyes window, and ate far too many jellybeans as a result. And I’m going to the other job in less than an hour. Yeesh.

    Reply
  6. David L

     /  February 21, 2012

    Work potluck for Mardi Gras today. I had enough gumbo, crawfish etoufeé, and jambalaya that I think it’s oozing out of my ears.

    Also, I can climb stairs again. And, if suitably warmed up, my range of motion is close enough between my two knees that it annoys me that I’ll start bending the good knee to the limit of its range of motion and then wonder why my right knee hasn’t kept up.

    Reply
    • I…I don’t know what to say about this generosity.

      Reply
      • Sorn

         /  February 21, 2012

        I..uh..er..believe we should call it the..uh..Matlock Generosity: (in my best impression of Ted Kennedy impersonating mayor quimby).

        Reply
    • SWNC

       /  February 21, 2012

      Ooooh, I’m jealous of your potluck-y goodness. At chez SWNC, we’ll be having a low-key Mardi Gras, but there will be jambalaya and Abita, oh yes.

      And to get y’all in the spirit:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mw4gy-nLRCQ&feature=related

      Reply
      • David L

         /  February 21, 2012

        No Abita on school district property. However, there was enough alcohol left in the cognac-and-bourbon sauce the head of the department brought in to top his bread pudding that it’s really compounding my postprandial sleepiness and the slight goofiness of my good mood today. And I can blame someone else for it.

        I used to do programming homework while tipsy when I was in college. Now, I have a spoonful of slightly-boozy sauce and I can’t possibly focus on work.

        Reply
  7. Sorn

     /  February 21, 2012

    Hi all. Just poping in to say hi. That, and since I’ve quit smoking it’s been harder to focus some days as opposed to others. This is one of those days. Also, if you want a good read with things civil war related pick up Drew Faust’s book on Hammond:

    Reply
    • Persia

       /  February 21, 2012

      Congratulations on quitting, though, it’ll pay off in the long run.

      Reply
    • SWNC

       /  February 21, 2012

      Hi, Sorn! Good on you for quitting. My mom has been off cigarettes for about a year now–the longest she’s managed to quit in 50 years of smoking. She’s the toughest person I know, and it’s been *hell* on her. I admire anyone who can do it.

      Reply
    • k___

       /  February 21, 2012

      Good job on quitting, seriously, that must be so tough.I know few who’ve done it successfully.

      Reply
    • Darth Thulhu

       /  February 21, 2012

      Hey right back attcha. My mother was never able to quit cigarettes, and for the while she was unable it wasn’t going to happen for my dad either. He only managed to quit well after her passing, and it still wasn’t easy.

      Kudos on the good fight.

      Reply
  8. Well, I live in New Orleans, which means I’ve already had it up to here with Mardi Gras. Went to some good parades earlier, but yesterday and today was my quiet time.

    Reply
    • I don’t live in New Orleans, and can’t imagine the cacophony! Hope your quiet time is a success.

      That said, I will jump on top of your post to shout to the rooftops, I HATE MARDI GRAS.

      But I hope everyone *else* has lots of fun!

      Reply
      • I don’t hate Mardi Gras, but I’ve only been here a couple years. Apparently there are many old-timers who just get out of town for two weeks.

        I don’t live on a parade route, but somebody was having their own little parade down the street this morning. Aside from that my quiet time has been quiet.

        Reply
      • helensprogeny

         /  February 21, 2012

        I am indifferent to Mardi Gras. Does that help any? I’ve never celebrated and I’ve never understood the fuss. (I suspect this just may have something to do with having been raised Fundamentalist Baptist – just a guess, mind.) But yeah, hope everyone for whom it *does* mean something has a good time.

        Reply
        • SWNC

           /  February 21, 2012

          Speaking just for myself, I will take any excuse to have a party. Mardi Gras? Cook up some gumbo and throw Dr John on the stereo! March 14? Pi(e) Day Potluck! Independence Day? Break out the grill! Mid-Autumn Moon Festival? Mooncakes! (I take a very pantheistic approach to holidays.)

          Reply
          • helensprogeny

             /  February 21, 2012

            I approve of any excuse for pie.

            Reply
            • caoil

               /  February 21, 2012

              Seconding that.
              And if anyone would like an additional excuse for pie, may I recommend the following, which I did with several friends a few years ago. Buy/rent the movie ‘Waitress’, which is already chock full of pie, and then bake several different kinds of made-up-name pie (we were presented with “We Love Our Neighbours” pie, for example) to bring to said movie viewing. Then partake!

              Reply
              • Bookwoman

                 /  February 21, 2012

                I would like to add that this movie has Nathan Fillion in it.

                Reply
                • I just discovered this morning that I will have to see that stupid Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter thing, because Alan Tudyk is in it.

                  Damn it!

                  Reply
                  • Likewise. I also just found out he’s in Suburgatory, which means I have to watch a sitcom. I do not watch sitcoms. I have an internal conflict.

                    Reply
                • caoil

                   /  February 21, 2012

                  Yes. That is most definitely a selling point.

                  He’s my birthday twin! Same day, month, year, same country. Different province, though, and I think that makes me just sliiiightly older. But still.

                  Reply
                • helensprogeny

                   /  February 21, 2012

                  OMG. Now I must watch.

                  Reply
              • I really, really liked that movie. It wasn’t perfect, but it was very, very nice. So I liked it a lot!

                Reply
                • caoil

                   /  February 21, 2012

                  I did too. I still have trouble watching Jeremy Sisto in L&O sometimes because I saw him in this first!
                  It makes me very sad when I stop & think about the screenwriter/director and the films she could have made after it.

                  Reply
          • aaron singer

             /  February 21, 2012

            As a Jew, I love that all of our holidays revolve around food.
            Hanukkah? Eat fried foods.
            Purim? Get drunk and eat cookies.

            Reply
        • I’ve never gotten the point of Mardi Gras either…or of New Orleans, for that matter. Weird, since I love Treme.

          Reply
          • Bookwoman

             /  February 21, 2012

            I’ve only been there once, not at Mardi Gras time, and thought it was a charming city with delicious food. Neither my family nor I are into drunken revelry, so other than for one dinner, we stayed away from the hordes on Bourbon St. It was a lovely vacation.

            Reply
            • taylor16

               /  February 21, 2012

              I enjoy drunken revelry, but I found Bourbon Street to be a bit much when I was in New Orleans (not on Mardi Gras).

              I love New Orleans. The food, the drinks, the carefree atmosphere. And I was there in April both times, around a Jazz Festival. So the weather and the music was also lovely.

              I’ve never had even the slightest desire to visit during Mardi Gras, though…

              Reply
  9. Things I find horrifying: a (hypothetical) design for raising brain-dead chickens hooked up to machines on the philosophy that

    it is time we stopped using the term ‘animal’ when referring to the precursor of the meat that ends up on our plates. Animals are things we keep in our homes and watch on David Attenborough programs. ‘Animals’ bred for consumption are crops and agricultural products like any other. We do not, and cannot, provide adequate welfare for these agricultural products and therefore welfare should be removed entirely.

    WRONG SOLUTION.

    Reply
    • All that equipment looks expensive.

      Reply
      • That too.

        Reply
      • Darth Thulhu

         /  February 21, 2012

        So is the super-silo many animals are raised in now.

        It’s all about standardization, mass production, and long product life. If they can demonstrate a system that works, they can justify the capital expense when selling it as a one-time investment guaranteed to yield decades of “crops” to the relevant “farmer”. Then they can work on models for pigs, cows, and hippopotami.

        Only snag would be if consumer revulsion lead to boycotts. Trying to get sufficiently revulsed now.

        Reply
    • Sorn

       /  February 21, 2012

      You’re probably going to hate me for saying this, but I’ve seen chickens (in a non-commercial pen) peck and eat each other.

      Raising brain dead chickens attached to machines certainly isn’t humane, but short of finding a way to grow meat in a peatry dish, is there a solution to the problem of providing meat for so many people that doesn’t involve some sort of inhumane treatment?

      Reply
      • Eat less meat, eat better meat. No reason we need to provide enough meat to satisfy average American meat consumption.

        Reply
        • Sorn

           /  February 21, 2012

          There aren’t many good choices here, when it comes to farming and the production of meat in a society that doesn’t know where it’s meat comes from. Large scale free-range beef production comes with environmental hazards, soil erosion, over-grazing, and the accompanying re-population of the western united states by sagebrush. Pig raising is likewise a hazard, even in the best of conditions where the pigs are slopped with the best feed and the pens aren’t over crowded pigs produce a lot of shit, and that pig-shit is often toxic when concentrated in high amounts. Farmers love it for the nitrogen it provides, but too much of it can render soil unfertile. My dad used to haul it in the summer time, when teachers need more money to make ends meet. As middle and high-school students in Eastern Montana, we could always smell the pig-farm before we could ever see it.

          Likewise even non-meat solutions like the rasing of sugar-beets, alfalfa, or even wheat, especially in the arid regions of the trans-mississippi west, come with their own unique hazards. In arid country, labor intensive crops like alfalfa or sugar-beets require irrigation, and that irrigation, can lead to soil erosion and alkalai seepage rendering large tracts of land unsuitible for agriculture. Likewise, intensive wheat farming if not done in fallow strips can lead to soil erosion. The saturation of fertilizers, not to mention pesticides, in ground-water can render it undrinkable. Many people seem to think that “organic” farming is the solution to issues concerning sustainability and the environment, but the truth is that farmers can’t produce enough food to feed an ever expanding population if they use farming methods from the 19th century. I didn’t mean to come across as snarky but when issues concerning food production come up it’s hard not to say that the problem is bigger than we think it is, and every solution comes with potential problems in other areas.

          Reply
          • You’ve clearly thought a lot about this (me too) but I want to flag two things. One: Eat less meat and we need less grain/non-meat farming not more, since so much grain goes to animals. Two: no one is suggesting 19th C farming methods. There’s been some R&D in small-scale low pesticide ‘sustainable’ farming and there should be more. Quickie example before I go to class: intensive rotational grazing isn’t really a 19th C method, and in modern farming often uses solar-powered electric fencing and other kinds of useful tech.

            Reply
          • k___

             /  February 21, 2012

            There’s some interesting thinking on this coming out of the Netherlands. Some of it is thoughtful and pretty utopian, like MVRDV’s Pig City project: http://www.mvrdv.nl/#/projects/181pigcity A lot of other stuff is designed to boost efficiency and limit animal suffering (a lot of which is exacerbated by transport conditions) by building different agriculture/agribusiness modules right near each other, you can find some info by googling “agropark”. I combined some of it with Temple Grandin’s work for a design project that I sadly didn’t complete, my health has really been going down the tubes this semester… bleh.

            Some of it’s definitely got the creepy feeling to it, though. I saw one concept that would have chickens raised on a conveyor belt, which would simply start up and whoosh them straight into an abattoir for harvesting when they were old enough.

            Reply
    • That is scary. But why bother to remove their brains? It sounds suspiciously like trying to reduce their suffering.

      Reply
    • Is the point of the project to show the absurdity of the current way we treat animals, rather than a serious idea?

      Reply
      • It’s a design project, so probably partly? Hard to say. The interview doesn’t go that direction. My original post is definitely way too OMG TECHNOLOGY PANIC. But there is a strain of pro-tech thinking that argues for a more rigid separation between charismatic nature (‘animals’ who live in our houses and get their lives narrated by Attenborough) and utilitarian nature (agriculture), and dealing with utilitarian nature in utilitarian moral terms — i.e. reducing suffering per se regardless of how weird/unnatural/gross/whatever it appears to a casual observer.

        I don’t like that idea, partly for practical reasons (natural systems are time-tested, artificial ones have unexpected choke points) and partly for reasons related to a sort of underlying neo-Aristotelianish philosophy about flourishing and the good.

        Reply
        • k___

           /  February 21, 2012

          Yeah I don’t agree with this at all, I tend to agree with the whole “anthrosphere” line of thinking that by now, there really is no dividing line between city/country and human/natural spheres of influence. It’s ALL nature, and it’s ALL technology.

          Reply
    • I really want to make a chicken/Matrix joke here, but I can’t think of one. Besides, a joke is probably not appropriate anyway.

      Reply
      • It’s begging for a joke, but I can’t quite come up with on either.

        Needless to say I don’t find this to be an inappropriate time for such a joke, but I am pretty bloody-minded for a bleeding-hearter….

        Reply
  10. neighbors73

     /  February 21, 2012

    Bah. It totally feels like Monday. We had a good weekend. It would have been my Grandma’s 96th birthday on Saturday, so I was sad a lot of that day, but it’s okay.

    IT’s gloomy and awful here. Yesterday, I took NeigbhorsJr and his buddy up to campus to rollerblade—because there are long ramps and pristine, sloping sidewalks. And because it’s always amusing to watch people at U of C watching other people having fun while they scurry around working too hard. Hah.

    Reply
    • It IS gloomy and awful isn’t it?! What a contrast to yesterday. Damn I wish I’d taken that walk yesterday. Stupid Midwest.

      Can you tell us something about your Grandma?

      Reply
  11. Watching Sullivan defend Pat Buchanan is excruciating. “Intellectual honesty”? Are you kidding me?

    Reply
    • watson42

       /  February 21, 2012

      I run very hot and cold with Sullivan because he’ll say these crazy things and then loudly protests his blind spots. I hadn’t been reading him for a while and then just this morning I clicked over, saw the post about Pat Buchanan and thought, “This is why I don’t read Sullivan anymore.”

      Reply
      • helensprogeny

         /  February 21, 2012

        This was almost identical to the reaction I had. Ever since his tangle with TNC, I just can’t quite get there with Sullivan. Something broke for me during that discussion that hasn’t yet been fixed – and now with the whole R. Paul flagwaving and the Buchanan defense, well, it’s not getting any better now, is it?

        Reply
        • Sullivan sucks. Cut the cord.

          Reply
          • taylor16

             /  February 21, 2012

            I only read him when I’m linked there on recommendation of someone I trust. Otherwise, I ignore him.

            The strategy has suited me well. I really don’t get what all of the fuss over him is about.

            Reply
            • Darth Thulhu

               /  February 21, 2012

              I take it you’ve never been a conservative. As one who has been, he opens up new dimensions to old worlds with regularity.

              Reply
        • It’s funny, I never got into Sullivan at all. Because I first heard about him within the gay community, where the general consensus is that gay conservatives are not worth your time. Also they spread nasty rumors about him. It does seem a little unfair, but there it is.

          Reply
          • Darth Thulhu

             /  February 21, 2012

            The endless backbiting is definitely one of the less appealing parts of gay culture. Sullivan mirrors it in return, too … don’t know that I’ve seen anyone else savage the HRC half as thoroughly as he has.

            As for Sullivan’s interaction with gay culture, his advocacy of marriage these past three decades has certainly proved out over the hatred and opposition of other gays. Let the haters hate, he got something worthwhile and effective done.

            Reply
        • chingona

           /  February 21, 2012

          I’ve realized that I mostly enjoy him as an aggregator of a more diverse array of opinions than I would otherwise read, on a pretty diverse array of subjects. More often than not, I find his own writing aggravating, not particularly insightful, or even deliberately obtuse. Anytime he gets close to a subject I care about or know something about, it’s painful. And his blind spots are enormous.

          Reply
    • chingona

       /  February 21, 2012

      My reply accidentally ended up lower down. Basically, I agree.

      Reply
    • Sorn

       /  February 21, 2012

      You know in his own way his last statement struck me as similar to something TNC might say. Although to be fair, TNC is usually more nuanced when he says it, and instead of applying such a statement to bigots in real time he usually applies them to long-dead slaveowners.

      You know what I despise about part of contemporary liberalism? Its self-righteous reduction of all of human life and personality and complexity to where someone is a sinner against group discrimination – or not. People are complicated. Complication and diversity of opinion, if backed up by knowledge, fact and a sense of humor are what make good TV.

      The sentiment is fair, even if we should recognize that Pat Buchanan could be quite deficent in the fact department, Andrew’s point about the tendency of our current age to make racism into a moral sin, rather than a failure of understanding, is a good point.

      Reply
      • It’s word salad designed to deflect criticism from an honest-to-God racist. Pat Buchanan isn’t someone who makes nuanced, interesting points about race that some people construe as insensitive. He’s a person who just flat-out says that people of color are inferior to white people. Contemporary liberalism has plenty of room for people who do the former. I don’t have to make room for the ideas of some piece of shit racist to prove that I am capable of engaging with arguments that I might find uncomfortable.

        Reply
        • Sorn

           /  February 21, 2012

          I know this, and I’m not defending Pat Buchanan. What I am saying is that the recognition that racism often stems from a failure to understand another person’s point of view, and not, as some would have it, from a moral failing, is a valid point. Even though I disagree with Sullivan’s use of it to cover Uncle Pat, it’s a valid insight into people, and I would say, relevant concerning the discussions we’ve just had concerning Jeremy Lin, and others.

          Reply
          • But how does that relate to “contemporary liberalism”? This is kind of a perfect example of Sullivan’s hand writing checks his ass can’t cash. He thinks he’s just unleashed some big, grandiose insight about Liberals when all he’s really done is let escape a wet fart. Liberals are the ones who understand point-of-view racism, which is why we call out the dog-whistle shit. People like Pat Buchanan think that the only racism that exists is the kind that wears a white sheet, which is why he thinks it’s perfectly okay to go on teevee and say that spics are stealing our shit.

            Reply
            • Sorn

               /  February 21, 2012

              I have to go, and I’m sorry to cut this short, because It’s a great conversation, but two points. The first is that you’re right it’s not a big insight concerning “liberals” it’s been said so often that it’s passe and innacurate on some levels, but it does apply more broadly to people who fail to understand that racism isn’t a crime, it’s a failure of understanding, and that when the failure to understand what racism is, that it comes in multiple forms, get the better of us it can lead to the intolerance of tolerance. South park covered this as did more recenlt the atlantic.

              http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/02/can-educators-ever-teach-the-n-word/253345/

              It’s a good insight that people can reach a point where in an effort to be tolerant of “groups” they lump people into categories and become intolerant of individuals. I don’t think it applies to Pat Buchanan but it’s a valid point.

              Reply
    • Defend him against what, exactly?

      He’s not been silenced. He can still say whatever he wants. And if he has fans, he’ll be able to reach them using an alternate media stream. There’s podcasts/vimeo/vokle and the like.

      Reply
      • cofax

         /  February 21, 2012

        Word, word, word.

        Buchanan is NOT being silenced, or censored. He’s been held to account by a private employer for things he said that contradict the employer’s desires (if not express policies). And he’s quite welcome to follow Juan Williams over to Fox and peddle his racism there.

        Reply
        • taylor16

           /  February 21, 2012

          Exactly. Pat Buchanan (like everyone) has the right to say whatever he wants … freedom of speech, fuck yeah!

          But his right to say whatever he wants does not mean that people can’t disagree with him or that his private employer can’t fire him for what he says.

          Sheesh. I never understand why this is apparently so hard for people to understand.

          Reply
          • cofax

             /  February 21, 2012

            It enrages me in particular when politicians get it wrong.

            Case in point: Sarah Palin squawking about how she’d been silenced when people challenged some of her more outrageous statements. A Vice-Presidential candidate who does not understand that freedom of speech applies to freedom from government control, not freedom from criticism by members of the public and the press! Shameful.

            Reply
  12. ugh. fuck last week and this week forever and ever.

    Reply
    • Ian

       /  February 21, 2012

      Right now I am stabbing both weeks with a poisoned spear.

      Reply
      • You’re a good friend is what you are.

        Reply
      • So the shelving unit I bought to file the unclaimed copies by the copier was some assembly required.

        NO WHERE on the Quill website did it mention this fact.
        I wish I had known this before buying it.
        I also wish the ENTIRE OFFICE wasn’t in conference calls right now. It makes hammering a dicey proposition.

        Reply
    • Darth Thulhu

       /  February 21, 2012

      ugh. fuck last week and this week forever and ever.
      That’s an awful lot of nightmarish tentacle sex, sir. Like, literally an infinite amount of it.

      I’ll see what I can do.

      Reply
    • Dex

       /  February 21, 2012

      Sorry to hear that you’re having a rough time. These past two weeks for me have been more like the opening to Tale of Two Cities.

      Reply
  13. Neocortex

     /  February 21, 2012

    This is inspired by the comment thread on TNC’s “Writing is a Practical Skill” post.

    I really dislike it when humanities/social sciences people act like their fields are the only ones that develop critical thinking, creativity, and the ability to be a good person and citizen. Seriously, these things all exist in sciences and engineering – whether you’re learning the material that will allow you to question sexist and racist pop-pseudoscience, designing low-cost tools to make humanitarian demining more safe, discovering why SOPA is a terrible idea, evaluating the body of evidence on climate change, or figuring out how to create a building that captures a certain artistic vision while being livable and not falling down. I suspect that people get confused about this because we don’t teach most of the tools of sci/eng until college – reading and writing have gritty mechanics too but we learn them in elementary school, and by college we’ve advanced to the creative parts.

    I also really dislike it when sci/eng people act like we’re the only ones who have market-useful skills. Particularly since some of us don’t (I suspect that international relations or media studies are more marketable, on the whole, than astronomy).

    I would really like everyone to acknowledge that both STEM fields and HASS fields develop critical thinking and creativity AND that both develop practical skills.

    Reply
    • Everyone’s an asshole.

      Reply
      • Ian

         /  February 21, 2012

        You know who’s an asshole? The guy who baked a donut that looks exactly like a Boston cream but didn’t pump any filling into it and then sold it to my local cafe, from which I bought said donut believing in my heart it would be filled with delicious white sugary cream. But it wasn’t. So that guy’s an asshole, and I don’t care how well he can write.

        Reply
  14. chingona

     /  February 21, 2012

    It is ridiculous. “I don’t hate the guy and here’s why” would be one thing, but the idea that he was “hounded” off the air or the idea that he contributed in any way to public discourse is just unbelievable. Yes, poor Pat, he was only able to get paid to spew white supremacy and Nazi apologism for several decades. The humanity!

    Reply
    • Wow, man, this is outstanding! I think you’ve introduced me to her music in the past, haven’t you? I love, love, love this.

      Reply
      • dmf

         /  February 21, 2012

        glad you liked it, seemed to fit in with the tnc on the left-bank theme, don’t remember if i have added her here before but than i wouldn’t trust my memory these days, ah middleage

        Reply
        • Dex

           /  February 21, 2012

          I keep meaning to thank you for all of your random musical linkages.

          Reply
          • Ian

             /  February 21, 2012

            Me as well. For some reason (probably the lone singer with a Spanish guitar thing) I watched this and then listened to Atahualpa Yupanqui all morning:

            Reply
            • dmf

               /  February 21, 2012

              my djing days are long behind me but I have some sense of the ee wavelength (tho I push it sometimes) and am pleased to please.

              Reply
      • You caught today was Death Cab for Cutie day over at my blog yes?

        Reply
  15. chingona

     /  February 21, 2012

    From @FakeAPStylebook

    To avoid further controversy, people of Asian descent should only be described as “Linscrutable.” #Linsanity

    Reply
  16. Persia

     /  February 21, 2012

    Okay, Horde, I have to confess: I do not understand all the adulation behind David Foster Wallace. He seems like a thoughtful guy, his writing is fine, but…what’s the deal? Is it just because his writing doesn’t hit me the way it does some others, or is there some kind of white-guy maverick adulation going on?

    Reply
    • Sorn

       /  February 21, 2012

      I didn’t understand it either. His writing seemed too pretentious for me I didn’t get him.

      Reply
      • I’ve never read him. I blame my exhusband and a bunch of pretentious abusive assholes that I knew growing up who were all into him leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

        Reply
    • SWNC

       /  February 21, 2012

      I am right there with you. I don’t get it either. (I don’t get the Franzen love, either.)

      Reply
    • dmf

       /  February 21, 2012

      ha, his essays were pretty good but the novels are unwieldy monstrosities for the reader, except for a generation of over-educated writers who were struggling with various insider problems relating to realism, much like a lot of modern painting that was done in reference to other paintings, This is one of the downsides of masters of writing programs and such.
      I bet most of his books sold have never been read thru.

      Reply
    • i think it’s because it isn’t hitting you the way it hit me. and that’s no slight to you, compliment to me, or anything at all other than the observation that i–and a tremendous number of people that i know–found his insights to be rather astute.

      but it’s worth keeping in mind a couple of things: 1) a lot of the people i am referring to in the “people i know” category were students of his, at our small liberal arts college, so there was a lot of incentive to take our time with his literature and give it a lot of chances. and 2) i think his depth of thought is much more interesting than his style, which mostly grates on me.

      like dmf said, his essays are his best work.

      Reply
      • Yeah, I hope it didn’t come off as a diss to anything, Wallace himself included. I just don’t get it and was wondering what others thought.

        Reply
  17. cofax

     /  February 21, 2012

    This guy Brian Dettmer makes amazing sculptures out of books. WOW.

    Reply
    • Bookwoman

       /  February 21, 2012

      OMG. I want one of those.

      Reply
    • Sorn

       /  February 21, 2012

      It feels like murder says the aspiring historian.

      Reply
      • Bookwoman

         /  February 21, 2012

        Nah, Take it from a person in the rare book biz: the kind of books he’s using are very common, and it’s not like he’s doing this on a mass scale.

        Reply
        • dmf

           /  February 21, 2012

          maybe you could help me out, I have never understood the value of early copies of books that are still widely available in other printings, haven’t changed in terms of content, and were machine printed so not in the hand of the author, what’s the power of attraction going on there?

          Reply
          • Bookwoman

             /  February 21, 2012

            Some people want to read or own a book in its original state, so to speak. To have the same paper, typeface, binding…*feel* of the book as it was when first printed. It’s about the book as object, since as you rightly point out, the content is often unchanged.

            I’m one of those people who has passed up buying a book because I didn’t like the quality of the paper or the way it was printed (generally cheap paperbacks fall into this category). It’s also why I don’t own an e-reader, at least not yet.

            Reply
            • dmf

               /  February 21, 2012

              thanks my guess was that they felt that it somehow brought them closer to the author but I hadn’t considered the possibilites of the kind of object relations you are raising here.

              Reply
              • Bookwoman

                 /  February 21, 2012

                Yeah, some of us inhale deeply and fondle the leather of our books. As vices go, it’s a pretty good one: sometimes pricey, but you never have a hangover.

                Reply
          • LizR

             /  February 21, 2012

            Bookwoman may be able to answer this better than I can, but part of it that there’s sometimes variation between different printings and editions. For really nuanced literary analysis it can be interesting to see what changes different authors and editors make to a text at different times (and who was driving the decision making at what point in the process). When people produce the “authoritative” edited version of a text they have to compare lots of different editions and printings. Sometimes the changes are subtle, but sometimes they have a huge impact on meaning – the famous example is the guy who wrote an entire book analyzing Melville on the basis of a single word that turned out to be a misprint in his edition.

            Sometimes historical or literary value and novelty can get blurred – I have a professor who made a bunch of money buying up copies of a book on the day that the publisher ordered all the copies be returned to them and destroyed. (I can’t remember the reason they were returned, I think it was either because of a massive mistake in the printing or a lawsuit ordering that some of content be redacted.)

            There are also books that have value because of their physical structure, either because it’s relevant to the history of craft or because the structure has artistic merit. Early books can also have unique prints (sometimes hand drawn paintings) that have way more value than the book itself.

            At the same time as the stuff that has historical, literary, and artistic value, there’s also kind of diamond thing going on, in that early copies of some books are just rare, and if rich people get interested in rare stuff they will spend a lot of money just to say that they have it. This why first editions and printings command much higher prices than second printings and editions, even if for historical purposes it’s most interesting to look at them together as a progression.

            Some of this is just cache and some of it is objects that have legitimate historical value, and some is a mix of the two. I touched a Gutenberg once, and while I’m not sure that I would say the experience was worth several million dollars, it was really cool to actually touch something that was so key to the history of western civilization.

            Reply
            • Bookwoman

               /  February 21, 2012

              Actually, you answered much more fully than I did!

              You’re absolutely right about textual analysis, etc., and there are some collectors who care about that. But most “issue points”, as they’re called, are of interest to collectors solely in determining which edition/printing/issue came first.

              Illustrated books are whole ‘nother smoke. Edition comes into play, but also quality and condition of the prints (and rarely, original artwork), hand-coloring, etc. In the ’80s and ’90s there was a huge market for prints taken out of these books, so many intact books were ‘broken’. Thankfully, the market has changed, so that complete copies are now usually worth more than the aggregate sum of the prints.

              A lot of the rare book world also involves the thrill of the chase. Many collectors form a collection, get to a point where there’s nothing left to collect (either because they’ve got it all in their field or because they can’t afford the great rarities), and so they sell and then start all over with another topic.

              Reply
              • LizR

                 /  February 21, 2012

                Oh that’s interesting about the market having changed for prints! The preservation librarians at my place of employment are still really worried about print theft, maybe because even if the whole book is now worth more, thieves still have a much better chance of getting just the print out of the library without getting caught.

                Reply
                • Bookwoman

                   /  February 21, 2012

                  And they’re right to be worried. There have been a number of recent cases of people, usually well-known and trusted by library staffs, who’ve managed to steal very valuable maps and documents by razoring them out and hiding them in special inside coat pockets. You can’t do that with a large folio volume!

                  But in the legitimate market, where intact volumes of (especially) botanical and other nature prints used to be routinely broken up, the practice has really decreased, thankfully.

                  Reply
      • LizR

         /  February 21, 2012

        http://tkmarnell.host22.com/stacks/comics.php?p=stacks3

        I was a history major too and have felt that feeling, but enough time spent looking at a library or archives budget kills it dead.

        Reply
    • LizR

       /  February 21, 2012

      Oh my god I want to try doing that so badly, you have no idea. I love making tunnel books, but my least favorite part is creating content and lining it all up – this way you just carve in and see what comes out. I wonder if he buys multiple copies and practices to see what page arrangements look the best, or if he just digs in.

      Reply
  18. So I may start participating in a movie review blog for a local city site. Upside: get out of the house more and go see movies! Downside: Seeing movies I would otherwise NEVER bother with. Hm.

    I am hoping for a division of labor in which I go see big summer popcorns and autumn heavies, but no comedies whatsoever.

    Reply
    • Do you get comped for the tickets?

      In which case, all I see is upside.

      Reply
      • Darth Thulhu

         /  February 21, 2012

        The potential drawback is having to watch horrible movies. If this is a commitment to writing one review a week, it is entirely possible to be watching mediocre-to-terrible films two weeks out of three. Films that one would never subject oneself to otherwise, free ticket or no free ticket.

        Reply
    • Think of it as a learning experience! Some of my favorite reviews are of movies that have been hated with foaming-at-the-mouth passion.

      Reply
  19. I know I was young when Whitney was in her prime, but this is the first I’;m hearing of rumors that she was gay. For those older than me–any basis? or is this rewriting her history posthumously?

    Reply
  20. David L

     /  February 21, 2012

    I just made the mistake of reading comments on a local news story about a new publicly-funded health clinic opening. There are a long string of people writing invective about how it’s in an “upper-middle class neighborhood” and will attract “criminals” and “drug addicts” from East Austin.

    I looked up the official state statistics on the elementary school that’s just across the street: 99.1% economically disadvantaged. This seemed like a good fit for subsidized health care, so I didn’t understand what the fuss was about. Then I noticed another number on the demographic report and suddenly, everything made sense: the majority of the school’s population is non-Hispanic whites. It’s pure and simple racism of a sort that I didn’t think was still discussed publicly anymore, and, once you notice that it’s there, only barely coded as such.

    Reply
    • dmf

       /  February 21, 2012

      I’m sadly out of touch with local politics as our so called local news is all crime reports and local business (including college sports) boosterism neither of which I care to take in, is this the case nationwide?

      Reply
      • David L

         /  February 21, 2012

        I dunno how localized it is, but the number of people posting posts makes me think that either someone leading the opposition has gotten really good at stirring up racial resentment and getting people to express it without crossing the line into explicit racism or these sorts of attitudes are a lot more widespread than I thought.

        This area is in the transition zone between Austin and your standard mostly-white, well-off, right-wing Texas suburbs in Williamson County. It’s within the City of Austin, but is also the first neighborhood across the line into a suburban school district (the Austin district is responsible for the school across the street whose stats I cited, but the nearest school in the other district isn’t too similar–also majority white, also majority economically disadvantaged.) If there isn’t something specific about this neighborhood, then the geography makes me think that it’s really huge.

        Reply
    • selenesmom

       /  February 21, 2012

      If the neighborhood is so upper-middle-class, I suggest they hold an auction and raffle off a car to raise money to upgrade (and relocate) the health clinic.

      Reply
  21. dmf

     /  February 21, 2012

    earthquake in the biblebelt, anyone well versed in signs and wonders? i’m sure this has an election tie in that i don’t have eyes to see

    Reply
    • Ian

       /  February 21, 2012

      If the worst that He can do is a 4.0, I say bring it on.

      Reply
    • selenesmom

       /  February 21, 2012

      I don’t believe that earthquakes are signs. If God is all-powerful, then He can make His intentions perfectly clear by, say, causing hail to fall and spell out the exact letters on the ground SANTORUM HAS IT ALL WRONG, SAYS ME, YOUR CREATOR. No need to have everyone wondering what Japan did wrong.

      Reply
      • I think this is my favorite response ever. Even with the bad grammar, but the Almighty would surely use colloquial English, right?

        Reply
        • LizR

           /  February 21, 2012

          It might be like a babel fish, or the Tardis, in that everyone who reads it understands it in their own language. In this case, since the creator would be conveying exasperation reminiscent of a parent who has reached the end of their patience with their children, it comes across as “says me,” to some, and “because I said so,” and “no, he’s really got it wrong, shut up and eat your f-ing green peas,” to others.

          Reply
      • Ian

         /  February 21, 2012

        You know that and I know that, but every time there’s a decent earthquake near Anchorage this one family calls our info line and leaves the phone off the hook while they pray like mad. Those are some creepy voice mails.

        Reply
  22. Tell me what I’ve missed.

    Reply
  23. socioprof

     /  February 21, 2012

    Obama is offering more Emily-bait:

    Here he is tonight, singing Sweet Home Chicago, spurred on by B.B. King, and another Chicagoan, Buddy Guy:
    http://www.politico.com/politico44/2012/02/obama-sings-again-115150.html

    I love it!!!

    Reply
    • He’s killing me here. KILLING ME.

      Also, this is the closest I’ll ever get to Obama myself – I’ve met BB King, and presumably, he shook hands with the President with the same hand he used to shake mine.

      /swoon

      Reply
      • More like four degrees of separation for me – know someone whose spouse went to the same high school (but at a different time). So – friend – spouse – teacher – Obama

        Reply
  24. wearyvoter

     /  February 21, 2012

    So, here’s my Mardi Gras–started training tonight at the seasonal test grading job. Feel like I’ve been dragged through a knothole. (Not grading NCLB stuff or anything like that.) I’m visualizing the paycheck that supplements the day job. That should get me through. In other news, Kraft has an evil new product that won’t ever supplant Nutella, but it works well on Wasa crisp bread.

    Reply
  25. BTW, in case some of you haven’t seen this yet – PBS is letting you see the entire documentary here:

    http://www.pbs.org/tpt/slavery-by-another-name/watch/

    Very well done.

    Reply

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