24 November 2022

The 2022 Turkey Awards

An annual tradition for over two decades (in various formats)! This is my list of ridiculous people from 2022 (so far). Pass me one of those rolls, please:

And just as last year, I'm not inviting the mostest ridiculous of them all to this feast. I'm still trying to decide, for insurance purposes, whether he's better characterized under the DSM (pick your favorite edition) as a narcissistic sociopath or sociopathic narcissist — remembering, of course, that I'm not a licensed mental health professional (merely a former commanding officer who had to make such decisions, with the advice of licensed mental health professionals, regarding fitness for military service), so that's a statement of opinion and not of fact. But please, please sue me for defamation, you arrogant POS — I could use the forthcoming sanctions.

20 November 2022


Everybody's favorite pre-holiday-meal event: A root canal, especially when one hears "uh-oh" from the resident and supervising dentists.

The turkey is brining already for the annual Turkey Awards. Not a John Madden Memorial Turducken, but a rather different kind of mutant…

12 November 2022

Beware K. Rex

Road debris sucks. That is all I have to say about yesterday's attempted grocery run.

  • Karenosaurus Rex has just as much respect for gender and pronoun as she does for any UndesirableNot so very long ago, I disparaged (the clientele of) Karens' Breakfast Nook.

    This was a mistake. Not because the clientele (epitomized by Karenosaurus Rex — pictured to the right — who really doesn't get the linguistic gender dysphoria because it's not in good 'murikan English) has improved its behavior, but because I've been rather snootily informed that calling the restaurant(s) Karens' Breakfast Nook was too, well, declasse. Too working-class, too… common. So from now on, it will be Karens' Bruncherie. The menu won't change, though; neither will its affordability.

    The clientele's parking ability on neighborhood streets, overpriced vehicles, and Klan-sheet complexion have not improved. I have seen one Asian customer in the last three months (a preteen accompanying a very caucasian couple, possibly an adopted kid), but five minutes later on my way back down the street they were seated inside — unmasked — and not outside where the public could see them without really looking. Which may have been intentional.

  • Fortunately, I'm not in Georgia, so there's a decent chance there will be no more election commercials, no more nonsense other than vote tallying, for a couple months. Dammit, some antiscience nutjob from east of the mountains — currently he's just suppressing education as a local school board member — has just declared he's going to run for Governor in two years. Maybe he's hoping for an early endorsement from Ms Frowny (who got roundly whomped by a septuagenerian, but at least we've got about five years to find a replacement).

    But Georgia is going to matter. At present, the anti-MAGA party can suffer no voting defections from their little club in the Senate, which in turn means kowtowing to two… what is the modern economic-focused equivalent of a Dixecrat, anyway? It needs all 50 to get to a tie, allowing Vice President Harris in her role as President of the Senate to break the tie (although she must be physically present to do so, which is going to prove Really Interesting as the presidential campaign ramps up starting in January 2024). And with the backlog of Senate-confirmable nominations at present, that's going to have long-term effects.

  • Then there are the continuing claims by self-identified conservatives that Big Tech is biased against them, epitomized by their fundraising e-mails getting blocked by spam detectors. Well, guess what, assholes: That's what the spam detectors are supposed to do with spam. Unsolicited requests for money epitomize spam, notwithstanding how "important" it is. But then, I haven't been able to get my name off the various Heffalump fundraising lists for four decades because I have a presumably-archconservative affiliation (mind the mineshaft gap).
  • It's rather pleasant to see a careful, well-considered piece advocating for more Black (and other melaninically-enhanced persons, too, one presumes) voices in publishing. Especially because the article focuses not on "author opportunities," but on the C-suite — or whatever its equivalent is at small publishers where "top management" actually engages with authors instead of playing golf with Important Benefactors. Probably at an Exclusive Club with a carefully-hushed history of various "exclusions"…

    Whispers that "They'll still be ultimately controlled by white hedge-fund managers and white inherited ownership," while ultimately true, are not the point here. Until people wake up and realize that the entertainment industry is — with few exceptions — a plantation economy (just look at so-called professional sport, not neglecting college football and basketball!), Ms McGilchrist's article will just have to outline a path to achievable progress. And not nearly fast enough; one wonders if this recently-blocked proposed merger would have been "necessary" if any of the control persons or top managers had, over the years, not been a close match for photocopier paper.

  • And some day, achievable progress in respresenting disability isn't going to be as hard, or as unsatisfyingly impaired by compromises.

05 November 2022

Remembrance of Futures Past

So, if you're an eligible US citizen, vote on Tuesday. Which is, and will be, a dry run for the next Presidential election. On 05 November 2024.

Remember, remember, the fifth of November
The gunpowder treason and plot
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

The past of four-century-old English history (wound up in bigotry and based on rewriting history). The past of to-be-four-years-old US history, 06 Jan 2021 (wound up in bigotry and based on rewriting history). Hopefully not the future of US history (wound up in bigotry…). Keep in mind, though, that the soundtrack sneaked in above celebrates a totalitarian regime repelling the attack of another totalitarian regime₀ so I'm not optimistic.

  • Nor am I encouraged by the way American entertainment and sport so easily forgets about its own problems (which are all too easily traced to entitled bigotry, just like in other areas of "employment"). I was around at the beginning of Title IX; I was around as women were being slowly, grudgingly, and still-incompletely brought into the officer corps; I've seen this shit before and it rather pisses me off that nobody has learned from it, predicted its recurrence, or taken steps against those who perpetuate it (starting with removing the entire Board of Visitors at all three military academies, or better yet just closing them down on the ground that what they perpetuate is more bad than good).
  • Then there are other aspects of "business as usual," like data leaks from data brokers who don't trumpet that they're data brokers. Just remember: Information that you don't give away can't be sold, hacked, consolidated, or otherwise misused. This is a great big hint on the appropriate reaction to birdnoises that Birdpoop should emphasize "verified" accounts
  • …and sometimes you really, really just want them all to lose. Like in spats between misbehaving monopolists. The fundamental question one must ask is how much of the revenue at issue is, will, or might even be contemplated to, end up in the pockets of those actually providing the content that these two misbehaving monopolists in content distribution are profiting from. On the basis of their past conduct and present disclosures to investors, just about as much as my on-pitch contributions at the World Cup starting later this month.
  • Distributing the money doesn't get any easier for other aspects of music, either. The particularly delicious bologna being sliced with a microplane here will, no doubt, have some chunks of garlic that catch and attract undue attention. But it's still a link sausage, isn't it? Waiting, perhaps, only for the appearance of the Harry Fox Unfaithful Agency to really confuse things.
  • We could also argue about tweaks to fundamentally broken award systems in the arts that constitute an "emergency nose job" for a patient with septic appendicitis and multiple GSWs (mostly self-inflicted). The fundamental blindness of the "entertainment industry press" (echoed in subset the "publishing industry press") to the often-outright-and-overt bigotry embedded in the rules of the "competition," ranging from the "it's too soon to judge" problem to considering a film to be 'murikan if most of its financing and studio sponsorship came from the US, even if every single second of the film was shot overseas (like these Best Picture nominees, none of which concerned 'murika on screen).

30 October 2022

Game of Thrones

Since it's Election Season, and that means incessant election commercials, I thought it time to deal with our local Game of Thrones problem:

Rain is coming (it's Seattle).

Including the White Walkers — a plurality of whom are 2020 election-deniers (can't determine whether it's a majority because four of them have just refused to give a direct answer when queried). In a state that is already 40% non-White, which doesn't account for the pale-skinned-non-European-ancestry subsets… or the substantial number of mixed-race residents in rural areas who don't state that.

Consider, too, the vicious, often personal, attacks on citizens as unworthy, because they're not Just Like Me, while carefully ignoring their own… difficulties with their resumés. Sadly, that's coming from just about everyone — it's worse with the White Walkers, but unacceptable from most candidates regardless of party… or their own ethnicity.

And the gerontocracy problem is just making things more annoying. This is unofficial, but it's a useful rule of thumb: If you were eligible to vote when the US Embassy in Tehran was occupied (by a group of reprehensible totalitarians opposing a reprehensible totalitarian), or personally remember — not have seen later, studying for some class — broadcast news coverage of the evacuation of the embassy in Saigon, let alone the assassination of Dr King, you're too old for major elective office. (And that includes me, in all three dimensions; I distrust members of m-m-m-my generation because, well, it's my generation and I know them.) GTFOOTW, and gracefully accept that you're suitable as an advisor or advocate — maybe, if supported by an exceptional staff, as a restricted-subject-matter appointed-and-confirmed department leader — but no longer for general elected office.

But whether or not you agree with me, vote. I voted early (but since I no longer live near Chicago, there's a decent chance I'm not voting often)… and my ballot included nobody Just Like Me. Admittedly, I didn't have such a choice — as one obvious distinction, I didn't vote for any men, and there weren't any military veterans in any race I was eligible to vote in (for which I did not withhold my vote — as I've explained before and repeatedly, I abstain for offices that require a professional license or supervise elections — which would have added one veteran out of seventeen line items). Which is, indeed, the ultimate point of this screed:

Tribalism inevitably leads to bad government.

Just Don't Do It (a certain out-of-state apparel vendor's branding consultants and lawyers can Just Bite Me).

27 October 2022

Reflux-Inducing Link Sausage Platter

Even more than usually indigestible!

  • So, I hear that there's going to be a Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special with a Special Guest Appearance by Kevin Bacon! Let's see, now… it's a fan-service thing, focusing on noncentral characters, for television, sort-of-between films in the main "continuity" stream. What could possibly go wrong (Bacon Number: 2)?
  • Recent research indicates that ten percent of Americans over 65 may have dementia. Applying this to the current (117th) Congress, and presuming that the subset "power-hungry megalomaniacs successfully elected to the Senate and/or House" is reasonably congruent with the study group, (rounded down) 6 Senators (of 64) and 12 Congresscritters (of 126) suffer from some form of dementia.

    Based on their conduct and general foolishness, I suspect that's a significant underestimate. It is, however, further proof that my generation (and the prior generation) needs to GTFOOTW — because the two critical behaviors that decay first, in virtually every form of dementia, are decisionmaking under (especially time-) pressure and ability to assimilate facts in an unfamiliar context. I can't think of a better description of a representative's very job… well, except for getting elected. So perhaps never mind.

  • And now for consideration of residential apartment rents (a bizarre mixture of Ricardian and non-Ricardian). This sort of thing is bad enough for living spaces (disclosure: former Greystar tenant!), but consider the analogous problem of publishers using secret algorithms to set compensation for authors… on even-less-verifiable data; commercial publishers do not get full access to e-book sales data, and historically have refused to consider library-lending data (indeed, the big commercial publishers all have longstanding in-house practices, often embedded in their preacquisition cost-sales spreadsheets, that rigidly tie anticipated library sales to a logarithmically-decreasing proportion of traditional-channel sales).

    One wonders if this arose in certain discovery (no endorsement of analysis intended). Because if it didn't, somebody screwed up.

  • Which leads into how authors, about a dozen years from now or so if this follows virtually every other change in distribution of the arts since the rise of vinyl records, need to start establishing their merch. At least those authors who expect to make a living solely from/directly related to their writings. Application of this sausage to the preceding sausage is left for those with tenure and waaaaaaaay too much time on their hands.

I can't believe you read the whooooole thing…

22 October 2022

Nobody Reads the Saturday Blogs/Blawgs

Except spooks, the clinically obsessed, and the terminally deluded. If, that is, there's any real distinction among them.

  • Sometimes even the trust-fund kids recognize that there's something wrong with trust funds. "It’s not a rich kid’s place to say what the [wealth] tax should be" — but it appears to be some rich kids' place to say that there should be one. The frustrating thing about the trusties is that the majority of their fortunes tends not to come directly from the efforts of those who initiated the fortune through some kind of effort (criminal or otherwise… all too often criminal or at least quasicriminal; one of my undergraduate classmates was a future tobacco heiress, and I find it both amusing and disturbing how the NYT piece refuses to engage with the two companies in its profile subject's family past), but through passive capital appreciation on capital that was essentially removed from several measures of risk.

    But there's a disturbing undercurrent in there. Ms Engelhorn quite rightly doesn't want the responsibility for determining who is "deserving of" a portion of her fortune, through targeted foundations and such. Leaving aside the scale issues — and the irony of that as a "problem" for situationally-aware trust-fund kids should be pretty obvious — it reflects a sadly-well-earned distrust of even democratically-elected governments to do so wisely and consistently themselves. (The less said about how the ultimate trust funds — those behind organized religion — mismanage matters, the better. Some "vow of poverty," eh?) Admittedly, there will be lacunae in any system; there will always be unanticipated circumstances, it's sort of the definition of "unanticipated." But that's a bug… not a feature.

  • Here's a question no one is asking: After Mr Bannon serves his sentence (which, sadly, is not a felony-level sentence), will he demand to have his voting rights restored? If so, will he use the same program and method as all of the great unwashed accused of voter fraud for "voting while ineligible" when the eligibility rules are incoherent (and generally happen to be anything other than northwest-European-ancestry palefaces)?
  • A pleasantly perceptive piece on culture wars and reification of the "canon" in, of all places, the LA Times rightly decries the subtext in comparing diverse contemporaries to the "predominantly European, predominantly male[,] and all white" canon. (Sorry, I couldn't resist inserting an Oxford comma fer lulz there — and because this is an excellent example of its proper use.) But the silence on both axes of suppression of Other voices does the piece little credit. Many voices were/are suppressed at their sources by not being allowed to speak; others were/are suppressed via conscious and unconscious decisions (and accidents) of what to preserve, thereby preselecting the material that we do (and can) study now. Consider, for the moment, that an entire and immensely profitable publishing category would not exist as we know it if Jane Austen had not sought out, and been able to afford, vanity-publishing deals in the late 18th/early 19th century — no Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility means no Bridgerton, no Regency-Romance-as-we-know-it. There might be something somewhat like it; there wouldn't be what there is.

    Which leads one to wonder how "original-meaning originalism" might differ if it paid as much attention to imposing meaning based on the speeches of Crispus Attucks as it does for the speeches of Aaron Burr (and the paltriness of the "discernable record" of the former is precisely my point). In short, source credibility and availability matter to the conclusions one draws… or how midcentury pandemics might have looked had Dr Fleming kept only the parts of his lab notebooks that fit his preconceived notions, and to whether an "invisible man" is something referring to Ralph Ellison or H.G. Wells — or both.

21 October 2022

Link Salad

No link sausages today, just a link salad — although this is not an homage to my late friend Jay Lake and his "link salads."

  • Madame, may I suggest a salad of mixed greens including a perhaps-less-than-farm-fresh head of lettuce? Or would Madame never send to know for whom the lettuce wilts, because perhaps — just perhaps — it might be Madame?

    So sad. No salad for the former PM. I suppose that if she did have some salad, she would eat, shoot, and leave (coincidentally similar name there, for a book at its core about the conflict between certitude and ambiguity, isn't it?).

  • Unfortunately, neither Ms Truss nor the Tory party leadership as a whole will be held accountable. Not to the public at large, not to the electorate, not to their own party, not to each other. Nobody has told the party's bag man that he's unwelcome to throw his hat back into the ring for leadership a couple of months after he resigned before he was pushed.
  • That certainly makes more sense than pondering which part of government is responsible for ensuring a healthy economy… which rather assumes its conclusion, that some part of government really has control and not just influence.
  • It makes much more sense than authors — and more often transferees — histrionically screaming about idea theft as a copyright infringement when it can't be. I suppose it beats being the property of Rabbi Löw, the creator of the Golem (not Gollum).
  • Others are now starting to ask with some frequency about the "safety concerns" at stores trying to unionize. I still say it's that managers don't feel safe in their assholery if there's a union grievance process to counteract the management handbook (a/k/a the undergraduate business-administration curriculum in the US). Notice that we don't hear about that chain closing stores for "safety reasons" in, say, actual war zones that are not under sanctions… places in which, typically, the fact of "having a job" justifies just about any abuse. (It's called Stockholm Syndrome. Or is that Helsinki Syndrome?)

16 October 2022

Dear Ms Frowny:

…because there's nothing positive and smily about any of your campaign ads. Not even the ones in which you extoll your "virtues" as a caregiver for your wounded-in-Iraq husband (at least not to those of us who have a clue of any kind about either being a caregiver to the disabled or the systems for obtaining assistance). But you've gone over the line — on the facts, on the ethics, on the bigotry.

Some people who took out student loans for their law degrees had families, or disabilities, or really disadvantaged backgrounds (and, BTW, Ms Frowny, do you have a clue of any kind how much a bachelor's-degree-plus-law degree costs in this state, that has only one public law school, itself producing only 170 or so lawyers annually — less than the number necessary to fill in-state government law jobs coming open)? More to the point, not a lot of them will be eligible for any of the student-loan relief… unless they took those government jobs, or other public-service jobs, or ran into medical or other circumstances that pushed their incomes below $125k for individuals/$250k for married-filing-jointly. And exactly how are "taxpayers making less than $75k a year" going to be harmed when the lawyer handling their divorce, or their DWI defense, or whatever, can either charge them less or just be there because monthly student loan payments decreased by half a car payment a month? Meanwhile, Ms Frowny, your undergraduate degree is from a school whose annual undergraduate tuition is almost 20% higher than that for the UW's law school, and approximately three years of UW undergraduate tuition, which leads to other… questions…

The disability card isn't going to help you, either. I'm not going to participate in a dick-measuring contest for whose family-member disability/ies has/have been more difficult to overcome (besides: I've had to be the mohel who ended more than one of those contests, and no anesthetic will work on my sarcasm). And I'm not married to a disabled vet…

Then there's the bigotry. The ardent and overt antiintellectualism. The identifies-with-rural (although Pasco isn't exactly East Podunk, having grown from East Podunk in the 1930s to a city supporting a nukular plant with big-city nukular technicians and engineers) against the evil citydwellers in Seattle (which has always been the place through which the rural folk got their stuff to market… and the place that trained most of the doctors and nurses and therapists and other providers to help those with disabilities). The implicit Nordwesteuropäer über alles in your appearance, in the backgrounds of your ads, in your rhetoric, in the subtexts of what you criticize and what you support… in your apparent unfamiliarity with the demographics of the next-county-to-the-west-but-still-east-of-the mountains.

The Heffalumps need to remember that being "the party of Lincoln" also means being "the party of Andrew Johnson, and Warren G. Harding (not to mantion Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge), and Strom Thurmond, and Tom Reed, and Jeff Fortenberry, and any McCarthy." Which is not to say that the Jackasses don't need to get my generation out of the way, so that we don't end up with William O. Douglas again (gee, someone else from the east side of the mountains). But I'm getting really bored hearing attacks on professionals coming from those with professional degrees…

12 October 2022

Cabot Cove Is Now Safe

…from America's most-prolific unapprehended serial killer. Really, now: Occam's Razor — buttressed by pop psychology — indicates that the one person around all of those murders, with their pseudoclever methods and plausible-only-to-desperate-writers motives, is probably the real killer. Sadly, the demise of Dame Angela will also lead to the failure of a highly entrepreneurial pie shop that was extremely creative in dealing with supply-chain and hazardous-waste-disposal challenges and, quite possibly (hopefully?), the demise of online solitaire vendors as the Queen of Diamonds is no longer a playable card. I suppose it beats the narrative incoherence (and, thus, contempt for the audience) of a Disney film unjustly praised at IMDB, though.

  • Then there's the shrieking from certain subsets of Tech Bros (VC Bros is more accurate) that regulating AI development will stifle innovation. Of course, if the the innovation in question focuses on monetization without regard to direct consequences or misuse, that might be a good thing. On second though, no "might be" about it; remember when the Internet was supposed to enhance research and not just enrich bored, bigoted white guys (most of whom can't program well enough to set up an accurate spam filter)?
  • Then there's the matryoshka-doll problem of book titles as trademark-law designations of origin, in which the commercial layer is almost entirely ignoring — and when it is not ignoring, is intentionally denegrating — the inherent conflicts among "artistic process," "artistic product," "critical evaluation," and "branding on behalf of transferees of the preceding three aspects." What Prof Wilkof's piece inadvertently points out is another lacuna: The absence of artist/artistic control over how their wares are marketed in the first place… because lurking underneath the particular problem with The Miniaturist that inspired his essay is the control distinction between the substance (which belongs to the author) and the marketing materials like the title and cover (which belong to the publisher). Even the publishing category belongs to a transferee… and sometimes, so does the author's name (or, at least, attribution).

    In short, trademark law is an ill fit for the arts, because its commercial-representation-is-all-that-matters perspective is inappropriate for the arts. Even their commercial aspects: The most-highly-commercial brand identifications in the arts, like "Republic serial," either depend upon unlawful monopolies or are misnomers like "xerox" (derived from the process name "xerography")… or inherently deceptive, in that most 1940s-1950s film serials were not actually created by Republic, any more than The Miniaturist was created by Ecco or Orion (or in the US).

  • When ideologues misrepresent books, things get much more interesting… like neoconservatives "adopting" Orwell as a prophet of neoconservatism. One wonders if this kind of willful misinterpretation — which is almost always motivated at least in part by financial considerations — might somehow edge into a tarnishment cause of action under the common law of trademark. That, of course, further exposes the "commercial speech" problem, and anyone who claims that there's a non-Jacobellis shorthand description for that is probably selling something (which is rather the point).

    But it's much, much too early today to try to resolve any intentional fallacy that is amplified by trying to simultaneously determine the intention of a writer and of a transferee.

  • Conversely, there's always cultural ignorance combined with the need to remain genteely appropriate for publishing. Even the Grauniad falls prey to this problem; I've listened to a few of the news broadcasts, and "get lost" is nowhere close to an accurate representation in our context of what's being chanted by a bunch of teenaged Iranian girls in theirs. Even if the literal meaning of what was being chanted was indisputably "get lost" (umm, no, based on repeated playing of the audio). The converse is that I can successfully use "bloody" and evade American profanity filters, but go back a century and across the pond and… not so much.

    Or maybe the girls just want the mullahs and ayotollahs to watch more bad, self-indulgent television originating with the Great Satan, in the hope that the fanboy arguments would distract them from repression. I think that's a futile hope; nothing can distract theocrats from repression. Even if "lost" translated backward the same way.

06 October 2022

Back From Aldebaran

Well, the aliens took me away in their UFO, and they… did their reputed thing. I begged them to keep me for at least a few weeks, but they were cruel: They returned me the same day.

  • They returned me just in time to suffer through more election campaign lies (bonus for that last one: a blonde woman — perhaps unintentionally and certainly obliviously — epitomizing the dumb-blonde-mean-girl stereotype and blaming someone else for problems that don't really affect her anyway; I dare her to play the disabled-vet card with me…). Bastards.
  • But then, I'm proud to live in and have grown up in a community where even pillars of the Heffalump Party have historically welcomed refugees (even more than Martha's Vineyard could conceive, because we kept them around in our schools and medical clinics and grocery stores). The dissonance with Ken Burns's most-recent project is more than a bit much while there's a war sidling up to ethnic cleansing going on in Ruthenia: Never Again isn't for any one group.
  • Maybe, though, we didn't keep them in our schools quite long enough, because many of them were pretty good students (or at least worked at it without complaining). Precisely the kind of role models we need for kids who want to — or at least should — aspire to something other than "good manufacturing jobs." And for this, I directly blame the lower standards of the education profession when it stopped being "for women only" (that's right, they lowered standards to let in teh mens… in significant part, to help keep men on their draft deferments during Vietnam while simultaneously letting women start handling slide rules and other advanced/nonclerical instruments of destruction, but that's a complex, multifaceted argument). More to the point, ask yourself this: Out of all of the high school teachers you had, how many were, or struck you as having been, National Merit Scholars? How many went to truly selective colleges? How many, regardless of which college they were attending, teach the subject matter of a core-curriculum degree in which they earned academic/Latin honors? We don't encourage high performance in the classroom by keeping high performers out of the classroom — something that the US military learned a long time ago that has not been assimilated in precollege education (public or private).
  • Sometimes it's ok for a publisher to abandon a paywall (although that request for an e-mail address remains a bit disquieting). At least we don't have to ponder the lying in sales "statistics" endemic in other parts of publishing, or the fundamental lack of respect for "originalism" found in government officials who reject the object of Founder-fanboys' affection: Voltaire and claim "immunity." Or maybe it's just another reflection of the cultural disjunctures between "publishing" and its actual (not to mention unserved potential) readership — no sex, please, we're Upper-West-Side Manhattanites.
  • That's just a mild example of class warfare. There's always the overt example of Eton, and one wonders how the arrogant SOBs of the Ivy League would appreciate a similar analysis? Especially the, say, J.H.s of the world?

29 September 2022

Pre-Alien-Abduction Link Sausage Platter

…which will/would sure beat suffering through four election-season commercials.

  • An unintentionally borderline-rage-inducing piece I heard last weekend on NPR exposes one of the real problems with the arts in this country in particular (and the West in general). Maggie Rogers' particular music is not particularly to my taste; but I was stuck in traffic while a mishap was cleared, so I got to hear this little snippet of an interview after listening to the setup:

    Rogers: …I was with a close friend of mine in the music world who the other day was like, "Do you ever wonder why it all happens?" I was like, "Yes, it's all I've thought about for years."

    Sanneh (interviewer): Your success or why your life is where it is?….

    Rogers: I think I'm really at the beginning of thinking about this question in general. When I think about this question, I really I was afforded the time, effort, resources, energy, and love from my parents to be able to really explore what I was passionate about. That was the greatest privilege or gift. There weren't people in my family who were specifically interested in music.

    (foofery/deflections omitted for clarity, obvious transcript artifacts corrected) And this from a former NYU student being interviewed by an NYU faculty member. No blame to or criticism of either individual, but—

    What does this focus on a child of comfortable living, who attended a (rather expensive!) private university in N'yawk, as an implied "proper" pathway to the performing arts say? The contrast with Mr Sanneh's story of his own, less-privileged background in the arts (as a stage assistant for his musician-father, decades ago) is equally instructive, because the real distinction between Mr Sanneh's music and Ms Rogers's music (to date) is that Mr Sanneh has long built some external context into his; Ms Rogers is too young, too much a product of less… experiential diversity. But one step removed, it makes one wonder what we're missing — what Maggie Rogers has missed — 75km north of her Colonial-chic-worshipping hometown on Maryland's eastern shore, in Baltimore (perhaps by going to Peabody/Hopkins instead of NYU?). Presuming for a moment that there's only some "small proportion" of a given population with an opportunity for greatness/acclaim/a real living in the arts, aren't we all better off increasing the size and diversity of that population? Too many don't have the "time, effort, resources, energy… from [their] parents" to even try (let alone tolerance, support, or, as Ms Rogers puts it, "love"). The distinctions were clearer — at least visually — between the execreble Pat Boone and those whose works he "covered"; but that's just all-too-typical laziness.

    So through no intent, these two further irritated me sitting in needless traffic (and, BTW, according to a later news report the driver who caused the mishap was arrested "on suspicion of driving while impaired"). And made me think about the full context of Mozart (which is very much not a pretty tale), of Proust (ditto), of Faulkner (not quite as bad but carefully sanitized), in contrast with those we don't and can't know about. "Progress in the useful Arts and sciences" does not come only from the parental top economic quartile.

  • This problem is also subtly, unintentionally, and only implicitly reinforced by complaints from old white men about "the brutal realities of modern publishing" that don't draw in the "spent the 70s as a PhD student at Oxford" context. One wonders how many equally-talented graduates of the University of Leeds even had the same opportunity…
  • Then there's the "death of utopian fiction" problem that occupied me — from a radically different perspective — several decades ago now. I could glibly claim that hopeful utopian fiction died at Ypres and not be far off… in English, anyway. But my perspective, and research agenda, is quite explicitly and intentionally on the works of the Moderns (and Postmoderns) and not the Victorians, so of course my opinions will be different from Prof Waffle's! Which is very much the point upon which the preceding two link sausages are already impaled.
  • After impaling them, we'll roast all three over the fire of unenlightened self-interest epitomized in TechBros and vulture capitalists "working together for the future" while suppressing anything not consistent with their immediate, unenlightened self-interests — and anyone not themselves. One wonders what Bernard Marx and D503 would have to say about this. (That their self-awareness would not have been sufficient to really explicate matters is the very sharpest bit, rather like an individual stockyard worker.)