Category Archive 'New Yorker'
29 Aug 2019

New Yorker Critic Condemns Renoir as a Sexist Dirty Old Man

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Pierre-Auguste Renoir, La baigneuse endormie [The Sleeping Bather], 1897, Winterthur.

The New Yorker rather outdid itself in the “PC Assaults on Civilization” Sweepstakes this week with Peter Schjedahl‘s smackdown of Renoir.

Targeting Renoir as problematic, sexist, and prurient seems not only Philistine, Puritanical, and just plain unkind, it seems to constitute a downright fascistic rejection of la douceur de vivre.

Roger Kimball identifies precisely what is so fundamentally wrong here in the Spectator.

Schjeldahl’s judgments about Renoir are a fastidiously composed congeries of up-to-the-minute elite opinion. There at The New Yorker, everyone will agree with Schjeldahl about Renoir or — the more important point — about subjugating him to the strictures prevalent among the beautiful people circa 2019. What made Schjeldahl’s essay notorious were not his particular judgments about Renoir’s art or character but rather his imperative anachronism. ‘An argument is often made that we shouldn’t judge the past by the values of the present,’ Schjeldahl writes, ‘but that’s a hard sell in a case as primordial as Renoir’s.’

Is it? As Ed Driscoll pointed out at Instapundit, Schjeldahl’s essay is sterling example of what C.S. Lewis described as ‘chronological snobbery,’ the belief that ‘the thinking, art, or science of an earlier time is inherently inferior to that of the present, simply by virtue of its temporal priority or the belief that since civilization has advanced in certain areas, people of earlier time periods were less intelligent.’ If, Driscoll observes, we add the toxic codicil that those previous times were ‘therefore wrong and also racist’ we would have ‘a perfect definition of today’s SJWs.’

Exactly. Driscoll goes on to quote Jon Gabriel, who has anatomized this process under the rubric of ‘cancel culture,’ a culture of willful and barbaric diminishment.

‘Cancel culture,’ Gabriel notes, ‘is spreading for one simple reason: it works. Instead of debating ideas or competing for entertainment dollars, you can just demand anyone who annoys you to be cast out of polite society.’ It’s already come to a college campus near you, and is epidemic on social and other sorts of media. not to mention through the so-called ‘Human Resources’ departments of many companies. Wander ever so slightly outside the herd of independent minds and, bang, it’s ostracism or worse.

There are many ironies attendant on the spread of ‘cancel culture.’ One irony is that, despite its origins in the effete eyries of elite culture, the new ethic of conformity exhibits an extraordinary and intolerant provincialism. The British man of letters David Cecil got to the nub of this irony when, in his book Library Looking-Glass, he noted that ‘there is a provinciality in time as well as in space.’

    ‘To feel ill-at-ease and out of place except in one’s own period is to be a provincial in time. But he who has learned to look at life through the eyes of Chaucer, of Donne, of Pope and of Thomas Hardy is freed from this limitation. He has become a cosmopolitan of the ages, and can regard his own period with the detachment which is a necessary foundation of wisdom.’

It has become increasingly clear as the imperatives of political correctness make ever greater inroads against free speech and the perquisites of dispassionate inquiry that the battle against this provinciality of time is one of the central cultural tasks of our age. It is a battle from which the traditional trustees of civilization — schools and colleges, museums, many churches — have fled. Increasingly, the responsibility for defending the intellectual and spiritual foundations of Western civilization has fallen to individuals and institutions that are largely distant from, when they are not indeed explicitly disenfranchised from, the dominant cultural establishment.

Leading universities today command tax-exempt endowments in the tens of billions of dollars. Leading cultural organs like The New Yorker and The New York Times parrot the ethos of the academy and exert a virtual monopoly on elite opinion.

But it is by no means clear, notwithstanding their prestige and influence, whether they do anything to challenge the temporal provinciality of their clients. No, let me amend that: it is blindingly clear that they do everything in their considerable power to reinforce that provinciality, not least by their slavish capitulation to the dictates of the enslaving presentism of political correctness.

RTWT

25 Aug 2019

New Yorker Headline: “Penn Law Professor Wants to Make America White Again”

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Amy Wax, a professor at Penn Law, has gravely jeopardized both her career and personal reputation, tip-toeing around the edge of the Overton Window, by questioning the absolute equality of mankind’s cultures.

In Nazi Germany, when somebody got this far out of line, they’d get a visit from the Gestapo. In the Soviet Union, it would be the N.K.V.D. rapping on the door. In contemporary America, the New Yorker sends a professional apparatchik like Isaac Chotiner to assassinate by interview.

RTWT

If a politician with a history of anti-Semitism says, “The Jews control a giant chunk of Hollywood,” and he starts ranting about that, do you think that the proper response is to say, “Well, let’s investigate exactly how much power Jews have in Hollywood, and, if it’s true that Jews have a lot of power in Hollywood, we should let this person rant about how much power the Jews have in Hollywood, because, after all, it is true?” And so anything that is true can’t be racist. What do you think of my example there?

Well, here you go with the “racist” again. I mean, is it true? Are there a lot of Jews in Hollywood? Yeah, there are. Let’s start with that—there are a tremendous number of Jews, out of proportion to their numbers in the population within the universities, within the media, in the professions. We can ask all of these questions, and you know what? They admit of an answer. But essentially what the left is saying is: We can’t even answer the question. We can’t. Once we’ve labelled something racist, the conversation stops. It comes to a halt, and we are the arbiters of what can be discussed and what can’t be discussed. We are the arbiters of the words that can be used, of the things that can be said.

I can tell you, and, once again, this is just from the mail I get, from the e-mails I get, from the people I talk to, that kind of move is deeply resented.

I’m just trying to make a point about how something could be true but still racist or used in a racist manner. Not that I think that everything you said is true.

Once again, you’d have to define racism. You’re basically saying any generalization about a group, whether true or false—and we know it doesn’t apply to everybody in the group, because that’s just a straw man—is racist. I mean, we could do “sexist,” right?

We could.

So, women, on average, are more agreeable than men. Women, on average, are less knowledgeable than men. They’re less intellectual than men. Now, I can actually back up all those statements with social-science research.

You can send me links for women are “less intellectual than men.” I’m happy to include that in the piece if you have a good link for that.

O.K., well, there’s a literature in Britain, a series of papers that were done, and I need to look them up, that show that women are less knowledgeable than men. They know less about every single subject, except fashion. There is a literature out of Vanderbilt University that looks at women of very high ability—so, controlling for ability—and, starting in adolescence, women are less interested in the single-minded pursuit of abstract intellectual goals than men. They want more balance in their life. They want more time with family, friends, and people. They’re less interested in working hard on abstract ideas. You can put together a database that shows that. The person who has the literature is a man named David Lubinski, and he shows that intelligence isn’t what’s driving it. It is interest, orientation, what people want to spend their time doing.

Now, is that sexist? We can argue all day about whether it is sexist. We can argue from morning till night. And it is sterile. It is pointless. Let’s talk about the actual findings and what implications they have for policy, for expectations.

[Wax sent links to two studies whose lead author is Richard Lynn, a British psychologist who is known for believing in racial differences in intelligence, supporting eugenics, and associating with white supremacists. (She also shared the Wikipedia page for “general knowledge,” which cites several of Lynn’s studies.) David Lubinski, a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt, clarified that his research was about the life choices of men and women and did not address claims such as women being less intellectual than men.]

Professor Wax, throughout the interview, is trying to identify the Progressive restriction of speech and thought as a serious national and academic problem. Chotiner, throughout the interview, is looking for some damaging quotes he can use to hang her.

06 Aug 2019

Like a Celibate Writing About Sex

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Nathan Heller

Leave it to the New Yorker to assign appraisal of some automotive-think books to a Jewish nerd who doesn’t know how to drive and who is afraid of cars.

Was the Automotive Era a Terrible Mistake?

For a century, we’ve loved our cars. They haven’t loved us back.

According to Heller, the triumph of the internal combustion engine was just another expression of toxic masculinity. He looks forward approvingly, from his Blue perspective, to a future of self-driving cars. No more autonomy. No more individualism. What could be more Blue State? What could be better?

You kind of wonder if the New Yorker would have given John Ruskin space for a column on making love to a woman or assigned Helen Keller to review Impressionist paintings.

Come friendly bombs and fall on Brooklyn!

08 May 2019

Save Our Freedom to Drive!

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Prices will be going on on pre-emissions Beetles and people will be reprinting the old John Muir Fix-That-VW-Yourself Guide.

Our Corporate Overlords are rapidly developing driverless cars, and advanced thinkers are already talking about banning driving a car yourself altogether.

The New Yorker recently reported that a new group has been created specifically to defend the Freedom to Drive.

Safety has long been a central argument for the adoption of driverless cars. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, ninety-four per cent of serious crashes are due to human error, and some thirty-five thousand Americans die in traffic-related accidents each year. Autonomous-vehicle makers claim that, by seeing more and responding faster than human drivers can, their cars will save thousands of lives. According to this logic, not adopting autonomous-vehicle technology would be irresponsible—even unethical. “People may outlaw driving cars because it’s too dangerous,” Elon Musk said, at a technology conference, in 2015. (“To be clear, Tesla is strongly in favor of people being allowed to drive their cars and always will be,” he elaborated later, on Twitter. “Hopefully, that is obvious. However, when self-driving cars become safer than human-driven cars, the public may outlaw the latter. Hopefully not.”)

Perhaps it was inevitable that a nascent right-to-drive movement would spring up in America, where—as fervent gun-rights advocates and anti-vaccinators have shown—we seem intent on preserving freedom of choice even if it kills us. “People outside the United States look at it with bewilderment,” Toby Walsh, an Australian artificial-intelligence researcher, told me. In his book “Machines That Think: The Future of Artificial Intelligence,” from 2018, Walsh predicts that, by 2050, autonomous vehicles will be so safe that we won’t be allowed to drive our own cars. Unlike Roy, he believes that we will neither notice nor care. In Walsh’s view, a constitutional amendment protecting the right to drive would be as misguided as the Second Amendment. “We will look back on this time in fifty years and think it was the Wild West,” he went on. “The only challenge is, how do we get to zero road deaths? We’re only going to get there by removing the human.”

[Meredith] Broussard [a former software developer who is now a professor of data journalism at New York University, and author of the recent book, “Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World”] has a term for the insistence that computers can do everything better than humans can: technochauvinism. “Most of the autonomous-vehicle manufacturers are technochauvinists,” she said. “The big spike in distracted-driving traffic accidents and fatalities in the past several years has been from people texting and driving. The argument that the cars themselves are the problem is not really looking at the correct issue. We would be substantially safer if we put cell-phone-jamming devices in cars. And we already have that technology.” Like Roy, she strongly disputes both the imminence and the safety of driverless technology. “There comes a point at which you have to divorce fantasy from reality, and the reality is that autonomous vehicles are two-ton killing machines. They do not work as well as advocates would have you believe.”

Rather than create a constitutional amendment, Broussard argues that drivers should resist laws that would take away their existing rights. Although steering wheels are legally mandatory, the SELF DRIVE Act, which passed the House in 2017, would allow autonomous-vehicle companies to request exemptions from tens of thousands of other regulations. (The Act died in the Senate, but driverless-car companies are urging Congress to take it up again this year.) According to Broussard, the best way to protect the right to drive may be simply to defeat laws that would legalize autonomous vehicles. “We can challenge the notion that autonomous vehicles are inevitable,” she said. “They are not even legal right now.”

RTWT

Those driverless cars will all be equipped with Internet connections telling the companies that built them and the government exactly where you are and allowing either to disable your vehicle at will. You will need Big Brother’s permission to go anywhere.

Automobiles are already far too loaded with safety features; stripped of conveniences like spare tires, dip sticks, and vent windows; and calculatingly contrived to deny their owners the ability to make repairs themselves.

Our freedom of choice has been incrementally removed year by year. Next they will taking away our Freedom to Drive altogether.

Join the HDA:

09 Feb 2019

The New Yorker’s “Centrist” Candidates

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I could support any of these three myself.

24 Sep 2018

They Never Give Up

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Steven Hayward saw it coming.

I Told You So

I’ve been saying all week that you could expect another late hit on Brett Kavanaugh over the weekend, and right on schedule, we have the New Yorker story, which, as Paul and Scott have already noted, is pretty thin gruel. But it was absolutely necessary for the left to come up with a story like this, for several reasons. …

[O]ne thing that is true in virtually all cases of sexual predation (think Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein) is that there is a pattern of behavior, and usually several other women stepping forward. This trait was conspicuously absent until now. We know that the media—and no doubt large portions of the Democratic establishment—have been trolling feverishly to find another woman with a story. This is the best they can do—a hazy, indirect, recovered memory?

I think this entire late gambit has been one huge bluff by the Democrats, intending to intimidate Republicans into dropping Kavanaugh. I don’t think Dr. Ford has any intention of testifying before the Judiciary Committee this week, and I expect come Wednesday we’ll get a self-serving announcement attacking Chairman Grassley and the Senate Republicans for “bullying” and creating a “hostile environment” in which Dr. Ford cannot “safely” tell her story. At that point, Grassley should call for an immediate committee vote to proceed with the nomination. This latest story in just another attempt to keep the intimidation fires alive. Fine: I say let’s call the bluff and request that Deborah Ramirez, the source of the new allegation, present herself for sworn testimony before the committee.

RTWT

14 Sep 2018

Too Bloody Real

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22 Jul 2018

The African Perspective

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An Igbo with his slave.

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, in the New Yorker, has news for Ta-Nehisi Coates and all the other noisy SJWs denouncing European Civilization and America for the sin of Slavery: Slavery existed in Africa long before the European Reconnaissance and has continued right down to the present day, long after Slavery was abolished in America and everywhere else in the Western World. Africans, unlike Americans, are proud of the slave-owning ancestors and despise complaining slave descendants.

There is no Atlantic magazine in Nigeria, TNC!

Down the hill, near the river, in an area now overrun by bush, is the grave of my most celebrated ancestor: my great-grandfather Nwaubani Ogogo Oriaku. Nwaubani Ogogo was a slave trader who gained power and wealth by selling other Africans across the Atlantic. “He was a renowned trader,” my father told me proudly. “He dealt in palm produce and human beings.”

Long before Europeans arrived, Igbos enslaved other Igbos as punishment for crimes, for the payment of debts, and as prisoners of war. The practice differed from slavery in the Americas: slaves were permitted to move freely in their communities and to own property, but they were also sometimes sacrificed in religious ceremonies or buried alive with their masters to serve them in the next life. When the transatlantic trade began, in the fifteenth century, the demand for slaves spiked. Igbo traders began kidnapping people from distant villages. Sometimes a family would sell off a disgraced relative, a practice that Ijoma Okoro, a professor of Igbo history at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, likens to the shipping of British convicts to the penal colonies in Australia: “People would say, ‘Let them go. I don’t want to see them again.’ ” Between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, nearly one and a half million Igbo slaves were sent across the Middle Passage.

My great-grandfather was given the nickname Nwaubani, which means “from the Bonny port region,” because he had the bright skin and healthy appearance associated at the time with people who lived near the coast and had access to rich foreign foods. (This became our family name.) In the late nineteenth century, he carried a slave-trading license from the Royal Niger Company, an English corporation that ruled southern Nigeria. His agents captured slaves across the region and passed them to middlemen, who brought them to the ports of Bonny and Calabar and sold them to white merchants. Slavery had already been abolished in the United States and the United Kingdom, but his slaves were legally shipped to Cuba and Brazil. To win his favor, local leaders gave him their daughters in marriage. (By his death, he had dozens of wives.) His influence drew the attention of colonial officials, who appointed him chief of Umujieze and several other towns. He presided over court cases and set up churches and schools. He built a guesthouse on the land where my parents’ home now stands, and hosted British dignitaries. To inform him of their impending arrival and verify their identities, guests sent him envelopes containing locks of their Caucasian hair.

Funeral rites for a distinguished Igbo man traditionally include the slaying of livestock—usually as many cows as his family can afford. Nwaubani Ogogo was so esteemed that, when he died, a leopard was killed, and six slaves were buried alive with him. My family inherited his canvas shoes, which he wore at a time when few Nigerians owned footwear, and the chains of his slaves, which were so heavy that, as a child, my father could hardly lift them. Throughout my upbringing, my relatives gleefully recounted Nwaubani Ogogo’s exploits. When I was about eight, my father took me to see the row of ugba trees where Nwaubani Ogogo kept his slaves chained up. In the nineteen-sixties, a family friend who taught history at a university in the U.K. saw Nwaubani Ogogo’s name mentioned in a textbook about the slave trade. Even my cousins who lived abroad learned that we had made it into the history books. …

Are you not ashamed of what he did?” I asked.

“I can never be ashamed of him,” he said, irritated. “Why should I be? His business was legitimate at the time. He was respected by everyone around.” My father is a lawyer and a human-rights activist who has spent much of his life challenging government abuses in southeast Nigeria. He sometimes had to flee our home to avoid being arrested. But his pride in his family was unwavering. “Not everyone could summon the courage to be a slave trader,” he said. “You had to have some boldness in you.” …

The British tried to end slavery among the Igbo in the early nineteen-hundreds, though the practice persisted into the nineteen-forties. In the early years of abolition, by British recommendation, masters adopted their freed slaves into their extended families. One of the slaves who joined my family was Nwaokonkwo, a convicted murderer from another village who chose slavery as an alternative to capital punishment and eventually became Nwaubani Ogogo’s most trusted manservant. In the nineteen-forties, after my great-grandfather was long dead, Nwaokonkwo was accused of attempting to poison his heir, Igbokwe, in order to steal a plot of land. My family sentenced him to banishment from the village. When he heard the verdict, he ran down the hill, flung himself on Nwaubani Ogogo’s grave, and wept, saying that my family had once given him refuge and was now casting him out. Eventually, my ancestors allowed him to remain, but instructed all their freed slaves to drop our surname and choose new names. “If they had been behaving better, they would have been accepted,” my father said.

he descendants of freed slaves in southern Nigeria, called ohu, still face significant stigma. Igbo culture forbids them from marrying freeborn people, and denies them traditional leadership titles such as Eze and Ozo. (The osu, an untouchable caste descended from slaves who served at shrines, face even more severe persecution.) My father considers the ohu in our family a thorn in our side, constantly in opposition to our decisions. In the nineteen-eighties, during a land dispute with another family, two ohu families testified against us in court. “They hate us,” my father said. “No matter how much money they have, they still have a slave mentality.

RTWT

08 Mar 2018

The New Yorker Meets the Brown Marmorated Stinkbug

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Brown marmorated stinkbug (Halyomorpha halys).

The New Yorker lavishes its prose upon the brown marmorated stinkbug.

The species is not native to this country, but in the years since it arrived it has spread to forty-three of the forty-eight continental United States, and—in patchwork, unpredictable, time-staggered ways—has overrun homes, gardens, and farms in one location after another. Four years before Stone’s encounter, a wildlife biologist in Maryland decided to count all the brown marmorated stinkbugs he killed in his own home; he stopped the experiment after six months and twenty-six thousand two hundred and five stinkbugs. Around the same time, entomologists documented thirty thousand stinkbugs living in a shed in Virginia no bigger than an outhouse, and four thousand in a container the size of a breadbox. In West Virginia, bank employees arrived at work one day to find an exterior wall of the building covered in an estimated million stinkbugs.

What makes the brown marmorated stinkbug unique, though, is not just its tendency to congregate in extremely large numbers but the fact that it boasts a peculiar and unwelcome kind of versatility. Very few household pests destroy crops; fleas and bedbugs are nightmarish, but not if you’re a field of corn. Conversely, very few agricultural pests pose a problem indoors; you’ll seldom hear of people confronting a swarm of boll weevils in their bedroom. But the brown marmorated stinkbug has made a name for itself by simultaneously threatening millions of acres of American farmland and grossing out the occupants of millions of American homes. The saga of how it got here, what it’s doing here, and what we’re doing about it is part dystopic and part tragicomic, part qualified success story and part cautionary tale. If you have never met its main character, I assure you: you will soon.

RTWT

IMHO, ground zero is Fauquier County, Virginia. At our home in Hume, we had them throughout the year with a short timeout resulting from the arrival of the first hard frost. They seemed to wake up again, though, right after Christmas. On a typical day, I would collect about 100 stinkbugs using a Dyson hand vacuum. They are here in Central Pennsylvania, too, just not in the same prodigious numbers.

One tip: Taigan puppies will eat stinkbugs!

01 Jan 2018

This Morning

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HopperNewYear

17 Nov 2017

A Selection of the 30 Most Disappointing People Under 30

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Bess Kalb chooses, in the New Yorker:

Will Heller, twenty-six
After a month at a Zen silent-meditation retreat, Heller went back to his job at Goldman Sachs as a commodities trader in oil and gas.

Victor Chen, twenty-eight
Chen used an app to hire a person to pick up and deliver a Chipotle burrito to him every night for twenty-two consecutive nights.

Joanna Feldman, twenty-two
Misquoted E. E. Cummings in her rib-cage tattoo.

Rebecca Meyer, twenty-nine
Since earning her M.F.A. in fiction from Columbia, Meyer has been at work writing her début novel in her sprawling Chinatown loft, which was paid for in full by her parents. She has written sixteen pages, and they’re not very good.

Haley DiStefano, twenty-seven
DiStefano is known for posting pictures of her eight-thousand-dollar Cartier bracelets on Instagram, accompanied by the hashtag “#ManicureMonday.”

David Saperstein, twenty-six
Shared an article about fatalities in Syria accompanied by the comment “So many feels.”

Oksana Iyovitch, twenty-four
Iyovitch purchased a Scottish Fold kitten after seeing a picture of one on the Twitter feed Cute Emergency. Tried to return the cat to the breeder when it “got too big.”

Tim Harris, twenty-seven
Started a Bay Area “summer camp” where exhausted tech bros can “unplug” for two thousand dollars a weekend.

Lizzy Balanchine, nineteen
Bad dancer.

Max Kaiserman, twenty-five
Shared upward of two Bernie Sanders-related Facebook posts daily from March through July, then continued to post anti-Hillary articles after she secured the nomination.

Bess Kalb, twenty-nine
Kalb started a screenplay, talked about it to at least thirty friends and family members and two Uber drivers, and then never finished it.

24 Oct 2017

The Urban Establishment’s Nightmare

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