Archive for December, 2012
18 Dec 2012

Gagging on the Media

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Barack Obama performs masterfully for the purposes of the national media.

The Other McCain speaks for the rest of us in the too-frequently-nauseated portion of the Nation after days of emotionalism, bloviating nonsense, and crass exploitation of the Newtown murders by the lamebrain media.

    Special coverage of Our Nation’s Tragedy will continue, right after these advertisements for laxatives and car insurance.”

Networks pay millions of dollars a year for the services of news anchors who can pretend that what they’re doing is anything other than a carnival sideshow to sell the advertiser’s product. News for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Read — these lucrative televised spectacles inspire less cynical scoffing than they deserve. Nothing like a national tragedy to boost ratings, after all, and you know full well that the correspondent now peering grimly into the camera will be chuckling merrily with his colleagues as soon as the Breaking News Update is over. And why shouldn’t he chuckle? He’s getting paid handsomely to report this tragedy, and charges his travel expenses on the company AmEx card.

People who say they hate “the media” usually mean they hate TV news, a hatred shared by those of us whose medium is the written word. …

TV sucks, it is by its very nature an anti-intellectual enterprise, anathemic to rational discourse.

My problem is that watching this stuff — or at least having the TV in the room tuned to cable news while I’m typing, so that the chatter goes on, even though I seldom actually watch it — is more or less a professional obligation. Every blogger is a media critic of sorts, although in the hyperpartisanship of the Obama Age, liberal bloggers only criticize Fox News, whereas we conservatives are expected to aim at Liberal Bias.

News flash: Fox News sucks, too.

Even without liberal bias, TV news sucks. For a couple hours today, I suffered through Fox News Channel’s lachrymose coverage of Our Nation’s Tragedy, until the goopy emotionalism became too much and I switched the channel over to MSNBC — I Watch, So You Don’t Have To™ — because I’ve met Bill Hemmer, I like Bill Hemmer, and I didn’t enjoy my embarrassment at Bill Hemmer’s participation in this Plastic Grief Festival.

Change the channel and hate those MSNBC guys. It just feels better to hate them than to wriggle with psychic discomfort watching Fox.

TV is very much about emotion, and the show-biz aspect requires that the performers attempt to exemplify the appropriate mood, conveying by their expressions and posture and tone of voice how we’re supposed to feel about what is being reported. When they’re reporting mass murder, the anchors and correspondents and commentators are required to convey compassion as if they’ve got a monopoly on caring.

This display of empathy is annoying to any reasonably intelligent viewer, who understands that he is watching a performance, and that the people putting on this show are doing so because they are paid for it.

Chuck Todd and Chris Jansing don’t care more about shooting victims than you do. They’re just getting paid to act like they care more than you do. This is show business, after all.

Today is Tuesday, and the great minds that offer several times an hour solutions to all our country’s problems have yet to inform those of us in the viewing audience why Adam Lanza wanted to take out his personal aggressions on first-grade school children.

The media pretends to offer rational commentary, but what it really delivers is uncritical popular culture at the lowest common denominator level. News readers command high salaries, and obviously think that they deservedly occupy prominent positions of grave responsibility, but they get their jobs on the basis of having an agreeable voice, a symmetrical face, or a becoming chin. They are typically embarrassingly ill-informed and their customary perspective on behavior and emotional display is objectionable and vulgar in the extreme.

18 Dec 2012

Falconry Season in Qatar

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In Qatar, you can buy falcons at a shop in the mall.

Condé Nast Traveller has an interesting photo essay illustrating the centrality of the sport of falconry to Arab culture in Qatar.

In the US, falconry is so buried under a preposterous and massively burdensome regulatory regime that only an infinitesimally small community of total fanatics can participate. (There are something like 4000 licensed falconers out of an American population of 300 million.) In the United States, you can go right out there and buy a horse any time you like and take him home, but not a falcon. Unlike horses, you see, raptors are sacred and they all really belong to our federal government and various international conservancy committees. You must have special permission at both the state and federal level to borrow one of their birds. You are required to take a federal exam, sign up for a multi-year apprenticeship under a licensed falconer, and open your home to federal inspection to even possess your first hawk, and your choice of falcon is restricted to only 2 (in some regions, 3) species until you achieve a more advanced license level.

Can you imagine a dog ownership regime that would require federal licensing and then would allow you only to own a chihuahua or a Golden Retriever until you had been a licensed dog for two years? Then you become a “general dog owner” and can own two dogs at the same time, including such more interesting breeds as poodles, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds. You would need to be licensed for five years before you could be a “master dog owner” and own three dogs at the same time or be permitted to possess the more exotic and desirable salukis, borzois, and Akitas.

It’s different in Arab countries, where falconry is a far more prominent and mainstream sporting activity.

Hat tip to Sari Mantila.

17 Dec 2012

“Хоббит” (“The Hobbit” — USSR, 1985)

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No time to get out to see Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit, Part 1” (2012)? Here is a (generally unknown) Russian language filming of “The Hobbit” from 1985. The casting, production values, and music are not quite competitive, but it is fun to hear the dialogue in Russian.

Hat tip to Leah Librescu.

17 Dec 2012

“An Adorable Little Town”

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My old TVR two-seater sits in front of our Newtown manse one Xmas season back in the 1980s

We commonly look backward in imagination trying to visualize dramatic events that occurred in our home neighborhoods in a distant past, long before our own lifetimes. It rarely occurs to us to imagine bad things happening in future times, after we are gone.

In my case, it seems to be the future that you have to worry about.

In 2008, a Mexican illegal immigrant, Luis Ramirez, died as the result of a beating at the hands of white teenagers. The altercation occurred on the same block where I grew up in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. I had personally ceased living there decades before, when I went away to college. My father also eventually moved away, to take up residence on a farm I acquired in Central PA, and we sold his house early in the 1990s.

The latest mass shooting occurred on Friday in Newtown, Connecticut. Karen and I moved to San Francisco from Newtown in 2001, but we had lived there for twenty years.

We moved to Newtown in July of 1982, from Redding Ridge, where we had been renting a small house located on a dirt road bordering several miles of uninhabited watershed property. I had a couple of pools of the Aspetuck River to call my own and fly fished for trout nearly every day during the season.

Redding Ridge was a very nice high-end suburb, but it was indubitably a suburb, and back then Newtown still seemed, by comparison, authentically the country. Newtown (the second largest town in land area in Connecticut) had plenty of open land, working farms, and included the headquarters of the local hunt.

Karen and I had been riding weekly at an equestrian center in Southbury, and one day near our home we helped recover a lost horse and made the acquaintance of several people from the Fairfield Hunt. Newtown was where aspiring equestrians wanted to be, we thought, and we concentrated our house searches there.

As soon as we started house shopping in Newtown, we came upon a white elephant property which seemed ideal for us. It was the sort of thing you refer to architecturally as “a remuddle.” The original house dated back to 1712, but had been enlarged in the 1820s, then later Victorianized. We owned a lot of books and needed and desired a lot of room, and this house had over 5000 sq. ft.

Newtown is what was referred to historically as a “hill town.” The original colonial settlers established themselves on hilltops because the local valleys were swampy and malarial. Newtown had been founded in 1710 as the product of what might be referred to as “agricultural sprawl.” The original settlement site in Stratford had been completely divided up, and the grandsons of the original settlers of Stratford Colony (founded 1639) needed more land for new houses and new farms, so new settlements were established in the remoter, inland quarters of the original colony, each built as a parish around a new Congregational meeting house.

Newtown was too far from Manhattan for convenient commuting but, by the early 20th century, the Connecticut hill towns were able to attract summer visitors from the city with cooler temperatures and New England quaintness.

Newtown never became a major historical site. Rochambeau’s French Army marched through town on its way from Rhode Island to Virginia during the Revolution. Charles Goodyear allegedly invented his process of vulcanizing rubber while resident in Newtown, and the game of Scrabble was later invented there.

Mr. & Mrs. Clarence Narramore, the last aboriginal descendants to own our house, added an additional pair of wings to the house in 1929 and (one week after the Crash) opened for business as a tourist hotel and family restaurant, serving chicken and steak dinners for $2. The inn and the original 16-acre home farm survived up into the early 1960s.

The old house had on the order of twenty-odd rooms (depending what you counted as a room) and in some portions definitely reeked of antiquity.

We lived there from 1982 to 2001.

When we took up residence in Newtown, Karen was working for an IT consultancy in Stamford, and I was commuting into the city on Monday and coming home on Friday. In the end, both of our businesses were sold. Lowell Weicker became governor and introduced the income tax, and the economy of Connecticut went to pot. The income tax cost Connecticut its competitive advantage in the Tri-State region, and (at least for a while) people stopped starting service companies in the readily-commutable lower coastal towns. By the late-1990s, both Karen and I were involved in new start-up companies and doing an exhausting hour and 45 minutes each way commute to Manhattan.

The fields and farms which attracted us to Newtown were all subdivided and covered with new subdivisions. The local roads were choked with commuter traffic, and our taxes which had been roughly $2000 a year in 1982, with a new sewer assessment, were now more like $10,000.

The fox hunt and the fields we had once ridden over were long gone.

The quaint colonial town aspect of Newtown had become, in our eyes, an ironic hollow shell.

The truth of the matter was that Newtown was a bedroom community. Its residents were typically an exhausted set of far-commuting executives, pushing the outer envelope of possible commuting distance. They got home at 7:30 or 8:00 (if lucky) on week nights, and staggered off to bed. Life consisted essentially of Saturday and Sunday morning and afternoon. The cynical boosters and looters making up the town’s political leadership set could do anything they pleased. Nobody else had the energy to go out to weekday town meetings. Taxes went up 10-12% per year, good times or bad, and development just kept on rolling. Newtown had no retired old people. The taxes were too high. If you retired, you sold your house to the next commuter and moved to some low tax Sun belt location.

ABC News spun the story depicting Newtown as “an adorable little town,” the sort of place where psychological disorder and violence seem unthinkable. In reality, I expect for many Newtown is the scene of a characteristically desperate American struggle to retain some of the characteristic amenities of rural and small town life while making a decent living.

Places like Newtown are often high-pressure environments in which people live in something somewhat resembling the country, but with all the same anonymity and anomie characteristic of the big city. Residents commonly rapidly come and go. Most of us barely knew our neighbors. And nobody really had the time to develop a community social life.

I expect places like Newtown are even less agreeable for children and teenagers. They can’t go anywhere without a car. There isn’t much of anything for them to do. And, the ethos of upper middle class competitiveness, materialism, and compulsory achievement broods over all. You obviously don’t hear about shooting massacres very often, but the usual vandalism expressing adolescent bitterness and resentment of adult authority can be seen everywhere.

16 Dec 2012

Gun Control Didn’t Work in Connecticut

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As liberal politicians and the mainstream media try to use the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut to prove the need for more gun laws, World Net Daily notes that Connecticut already had gun control laws.

The state of Connecticut already has certain gun-control laws in place, at least three of which the shooter broke, as he could have only obtained the weapons through illegal means.

According to news reports, Adam Lanza, 20, shot his mother Nancy Lanza dead at their family home before driving to the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where he gunned down more than two dozen people, 20 of them children, and then killed himself.

The Associated Press reports Lanza brought three guns into the school: a Glock pistol, a Sig Sauer pistol and Bushmaster rifle, which the New York Post further reports was a semi-automatic “assault rifle” chambered for a .223 caliber round, matching casings found at the crime scene.

Lanza, therefore, if you count theft, murder and breaking and entering – since CBS New York now reports it likely Lanza broke into the school through a window to circumvent a locked-door and intercom security system – would have violated a half-dozen laws in his crime, including the following gun-control statutes:

First, Connecticut law requires a person be over 21 to possess a handgun. Lanza was 20.

Second, Connecticut requires a permit to carry a pistol on one’s person, a permit Lanza did not have.

Third, it is unlawful in Connecticut to possess a firearm on public or private elementary or secondary school property, a statute Lanza clearly ignored.

Fourth, with details on the Bushmaster rifle still sketchy, it’s possible Lanza may have violated a Connecticut law banning possession of “assault weapons.”

Of course, these laws were violated because Lanza did not own any of the firearms in question, but rather stole them, and he clearly had no regard for the law in committing his crime.

The Associated Press reports the weapons were registered to Lanza’s first victim, his own mother, according to a law enforcement official not authorized to discuss information with reporters and spoke on condition of anonymity.

14 Dec 2012

West Virginia Xmas Display

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12 Dec 2012

2012

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12 Dec 2012

New York Times Reviews First Self-Published Book

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Suw Charman-Anderson, in Forbes, notes a watershed moment in the world of books and readers. For the first time, a book self-published by its author has broken through traditional barriers and gained the attention of important establishment book reviews.

[T]his week, the New York Times, one of the most important source of book reviews, published a long and enthusiastic review of a self-published book, Alan Sepinwall’s The Revolution Was Televised. Based on his TV criticism blog, What’s Alan Watching, Sepinwall’s book:

    analyzes a dozen “great millennial dramas” that have forged a new golden age in TV: bold, innovative shows that have pushed the boundaries of storytelling, mixed high and low culture, and demonstrated that the small screen could be an ideal medium for writers and directors eager to create complex, challenging narratives with “moral shades of gray.”

But the New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani wasn’t the only mainstream book critic to write about Sepinwall’s book. USA Today carried an interview with Sepinwell at the end of November, Time published a review of its own, The Huffington Post carried a review, so did the New Yorker.

Sepinwall got the kind of coverage that most traditionally published authors can only dream of. To some extent, this might just be reviewers reviewing another reviewer, a little bit of moral support from your friends, except Sepinwall’s friends have very big megaphones. But at the same time, it illustrates that the idea of a division between ‘traditionally published’ and ‘self-published’ is becoming a ridiculous construct with no meaning whatsoever. …

The reasons that self-published books don’t get reviewed boil down, I think, to the lack of infrastructure. A traditional publishing company can get to know different reviewers and send them the books that they think will go down best with that person. And the reviewer works on the assumption that what he or she is sent by the publisher has to be at least half-decent and thus worth opening. This whole process works because it’s mediated and because of the assumption that a third party stamp of approval for a book guarantees minimum levels of quality. …

[R]eviewers depend on publishers acting as winnowers, sorting out the wheat from the chaff, and at least attempting to make sure that they are sent books they are actually interested in. It’s this weeding out process that’s missing in self-publishing.

This is bound to be only the first instance of what will before very long become normal.

Technology has made self publication and book distribution easy, inexpensive, and available to anyone.

Even successful and well-established popular authors like Barry Eisler as far back as 2011 have found the economics and creative control offered by self publishing to be irresistible. (Eisler was interviewed here about his at-the-time astonishing decision to dump his relatively prestigious print publisher and move off into the new frontier of electronic self publication.)

12 Dec 2012

Dilemma

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11 Dec 2012

George Will Has Lost Touch With Reality

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George Will
, on ABC News recently, did everything but sing Hallelujah to the river gods as civilization appeared ready to slide another long mile downstream, with the Supreme Court announcing its intention to intervene in the culture wars conflict over Same Sex Marriage in the grim immediate aftermath of the 2012 election.

While Supreme Court watchers ponder how justices will come down in the debate over gay marriage, ABC’s George Will said Sunday on ABC News “This Week” it’s clear where public opinion is headed.

“There is something like an emerging consensus,” Will said, noting voters in three states recently endorsed same-sex marriage initiatives. [emphasis added] “Quite literally, the opposition to gay marriage is dying. It’s old people.”

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Why, I wonder, is George Will apparently surprised that young people are so commonly successfully-brainwashed subscribers to establishment community of fashion articles of faith, like the principle that no mere theory should ever be allowed to stand in the way of immediate individual personal gratification, or the even more important principle that Equality is the utmost supreme value transcending all other values?

It always looks exactly this way in every culture wars battle. Young people care nothing for theories and tradition and everything for fashionable opinion and being nice.

But Mr. Will overlooks a couple of important considerations.

Young people inevitably grow older and gain experience and most of them recover from the illusions with which they were indoctrinated during their school years. Time is not really on the side of the progressive left. Conservatives and sane rational people do not just grow old, die off, and become extinct, leaving behind a Saturnalia of progressive fantasy. What really happens is that each generation of dummer jungen gradually matures, turning from radicals and fashionistas into sober and responsible burgesses, tax payers, and adults. The gleeful supporters of free love and transgressive sex turn into censorious grey-haired married couples with children of their own.

In the end, you simply wind up with the repetition of the comedy of a society always divided nearly evenly between the party of the young, the radical, and the stupid and the party of the adults.

We have a serious problem in America in having allowed too many important institutions to fall into the hands of an unworthy and only-superficially-intelligent intelligentsia. But we do not need to despair.

George Will obviously spends too much of his time in the fantasy cocoon of media culture. He has succumbed to believing in the left’s narrative of the grand march of Progress, of the inevitable and irreversible movement of society in the direction of coercive egalitarianism, materialism, and statism.

George Will has forgotten the first thing any conservative ought to remember. Magna est veritas et prævalebit. (“The truth is mighty and it shall prevail.” The Revolutionary Convention may renumber the calendar and change the name of the months to “the windy one” and “the rainy one,” an infatuated majority of supreme court justices may decide that the intention of the framers guarantees the sacramental equality of sexual perversion, but History will go on, and absurdities, grotesqueries, and the wild excesses of human folly and obsession over time typically fall of their own weight. Later generations laugh at the Victorian sexual pudeur that once installed skirts on piano legs, and succeeding generations will similarly marvel at the extravagantly bizarre positions so many in our own era were driven to by the current dementia founded upon egalitarianism.

There has never, in the entire history of the human race, been any society or culture that regarded homosexual attraction as a basis for lifelong monogamous relations or which looked upon the sterile couplings of members of the same sex as worthy of the dignity of recognition as equivalent to normal marriage.

Today’s moral breakdown and intellectual disorder may possibly lead to the official proclamation of such absolute nonsense as the new law of the land, but the left’s fools and demoniacs can never possibly in the long run succeed in establishing permanently so preposterously-based an institution as Same Sex Marriage.

11 Dec 2012

Indianapolis Zoo Uses Walrus For Recycling Propaganda

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Naturally embarrassed.

10 Dec 2012

Famous Wolf Bites the Dust

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The late Wolf 832F

Jezebel joins the New York Times in mourning the untimely death, this Wyoming hunting season, of fashionista Wolf 832F, widely admired for her successful career as wildlife runway model, her spectacular fur coat, her $4000 tracking collar, and her world-wide fan club.

[T]he New York Times reports that 832F, the very photogenic alpha female of the park’s semi-famous Lamar Canyon, was shot and killed on Thursday beyond the park’s boundaries thanks to state-sanctioned wolf hunts in Wyoming.

The wolf had been fitted with a $4,000 GPS collar as part of the park’s wolf-tracking program. Based on data gathered from the collar, researchers knew that the pack rarely ventured outside the park boundaries, and when they did leave Yellowstone, it was only for very short periods of time. 832F was considered among scientists and photographers to be something akin to a “rock star” in the lupine world (a photo of 832F snapped by wildlife photog Jimmy Jones appears in the current issue of American Scientist), and her sudden death has further stoked a debate about the wisdom of state- and federally-sanctioned wolf hunts in the northern Rockies.

Jezebel aptly proposes commemorating her death by watching CJ on West Wing discuss a similar case (3:10 video). Apparently it was just not possible in time to arrange for Elton John to sing Goodbye, Yellowstone Rose!

10 Dec 2012

Ivy League Schools Cracking Down

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Bloomberg
reports that Ivy League colleges everywhere are taking swift and vigorous action to suppress student misbehavior.

Harvard and Cornell universities have joined Yale University and Dartmouth College in cracking down on out-of-control behavior as drinking, hazing and sexual harassment endanger students and tarnish Ivy League reputations.

Harvard faculty voted last month to require registration of parties and ban drinking games, and Cornell ordered fraternities to have live-in advisers. This fall, Dartmouth began security checks at Greek houses and Princeton University banned freshmen from joining them.

The moves are the latest effort to regulate campus behavior since rules controlling students — known as in loco parentis — were abolished in the 1960s. Disobedience crested last year for Ivy League schools, which cost more than $50,000 a year to attend. A Dartmouth hazing article detailed rituals involving bodily fluids. A Cornell student died of alcohol poisoning, and Yale was hit with a discrimination complaint after fraternity members chanted “No means yes! Yes means anal!”

“Colleges have been in an arms race to prove to students that they’re cool and give more freedom than the others,” said Lisa Wade, head of the sociology department at Occidental College in Los Angeles. “Now, maybe the pendulum is starting to swing the other way.”

College students have come to equate the absence of boundaries with fun, said Wade, who studies the casual sex culture on campuses. That, combined with large amounts of alcohol easily available on campus, can skew students’ sense of what is acceptable or even normal.

There seems to be a tidal pattern about this sort of thing. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, when students were really riotous and disorderly in lifestyle and behavior, university administrators went home and hid under their beds, allowing student mobs to occupy administration buildings and even to shut down Yale a month before examinations and graduation.

Today, when students are meek and mild and cause little trouble, bold, brave deans react to every little contretemps that hits the newspapers the way the German Occupation reacted to the Warsaw Uprising.

09 Dec 2012

Belgian Sharia

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The election of Islamic Party municipal councilors in several towns in Belgian is provoking controversy, as the newly elected officials do not bother to conceal their intentions to use democratic means to overthrow democracy and turn Belgium into an Islamic state operating on the basis of Sharia law.

video: December 12, 2012

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