Weekend Linkage

Paleo Retiree writes:

  • By over-protecting our children, are we driving them crazy? Jonathan Haidt thinks so.
  • My wife and I enjoyed this Brendan O’Neill conversation with Jonathan Haidt.
  • The very smart Stuart Schneiderman responds to the American Psychological Association’s distaste for “traditional masculinity.”
  • Milestone du jour: The Alt Right becomes tabloid fodder.
  • Is the Obama administration to blame for all the financial-provider deplatformings that we’re witnessing these days?
  • Who could have predicted this development?
  • Although being a writer never made much financial sense, it makes even less sense now.
  • Loyalty-oath alert: Do we have any right to expect writers to be moral?
  • From Joel Kotkin: “Trends in American and to some extent European mass culture are beginning to look almost Stalinesque in their uniformity.”
  • On the ridiculousness of M.F.A. programs.
  • What is France’s gilets jaunes movement really about?
  • DNA co-discoverer James Watson gets Watsoned for a second time.
  • Sorry to report that I didn’t love ancient DNA specialist David Reich’s new book. Tons of fascinating and up-to-date information, sure, but Reich and/or his editor is ‘way more fascinated by the geeky detective work that goes into scientific discovery than I am; where reading about fresh science goes, I’m more of a “just tell me what you think you now know” kinda guy. And Reich’s determination to wrap up his very un-PC findings in cheery PBS-style platitudes is more than a little ridiculous, however understandable in a “Please keep my funding coming!” way. If you want to sample Reich’s mind and info without committing to a long book, there are lots of presentations and speeches by him on YouTube.
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Wither the Yellow Vests?

Fenster writes:

The American press has had a herky-jerk relationship with the Yellow Vests.  The media avoided much mention of the protests when they first occurred, presumably banking on them fading away quickly.  Then, when it became apparent that coverage could no longer be fairly avoided, stories began to appear.

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More on Sokal Squared

Fenster writes:

You’ll recall the so-called Sokal Squared dust-up: three academics who were able to publish a series of outrageously fake articles in peer-reviewed critical studies journals.  Fenster wrote about it here when the story broke.

For many inside academe the hoax had the desired effect: it was seen as exposing not only the weaknesses in the peer review process but also the inanity of the critical studies field as a whole.  Unfortunately for some it also reverberated outside higher education, putting all of academe in a harsh light just at a very brittle time.

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Weekend Linkage

Paleo Retiree writes:

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Pinkerian Pollyannism?

Fenster writes:

Here in the Wall Street Journal we find more cheery optimism about the world.  This  could all be true.  It could possibly just be Pinkerian Pollyannism.  Or perhaps it is both.

As with disease, poverty is being eradicated not through technological miracles but basic rules of growth: Invest more in your human and physical capital, open yourself to markets and trade—that’s right, globalization is good—and incomes will rise.

This is the WSJ so it is no surprise that the happy measuring is mostly about money. And there the author has a point: even if a lot of wealth has been transferred from the US to the formerly developing countries things are inarguably better there, and worldwide measures built on economics will look good.

The author makes a small genuflect to things not going quite so well in the US:

(I)n the U.S., life is improving more slowly than in poorer countries, and in some places it is getting worse.

A small genuflect, too, to non-economic factors:

Money and well-being aren’t the same . . .

but this line is followed immediately by:

 . . .but Mr. Kharas and Mr. Hamel note that moving from poor to middle class does correspond to a big jump in happiness.

I would rather have the optimistic view be correct. But as with Pinker I sense a pleading quality to this kind of argument: “if you would only grasp how much better things are getting you would stop all that caterwauling”. Alas, I don’t think things work that way.

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Notes on “Roma”

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

In “Roma,” writer-director Alfonso Cuarón rationalizes chic aesthetic loop-the-loops by pretending to social consciousness. The movie concerns an indigenous maid who serves a white Mexican family. Though critics have compared it to Italian Neorealism, its canned “poetic” content suggests nothing so much as a coffee-table book on the picturesqueness of poverty. It’s difficult to determine whose tone-deafness is more embarrassing, Cuarón’s or the critics’: Both are so eager to find nobility in brownness that they fail to detect the whiffs of condescension emanating from Cuarón’s conception, in which the maid is repeatedly compared — favorably, I suppose — to the family dog. What to make of the weirdly numbed manner in which Yalitza Aparicio’s Cleo is presented? Cuarón provides her with few qualities aside from the doggy attributes of steadfastness and loyalty. The charitable take is to assume that Cuarón is attempting to approach Cleo from the outside, to appreciate her as an other without diminishing her by interpretation; this is how Kurosawa treats the native woodsman in the great “Dersu Uzala.” But Cuarón has little of Kurosawa’s intelligence or wariness; ultimately, he’s a splashy filmmaker who’s good at “dazzling” set-pieces and swooshy kinetic effects. Here, he allows these predilections to take precedence over his heroine; Aparicio is so mobbed by style, her performance scarcely has room to breathe. Trudging nobly through the movie’s sets and locations, blankly reflecting our preconceptions back at us (she has nothing else to give), Cleo starts to seem like a pretext for Cuarón’s painstaking recreation of his childhood Mexico. If there’s something gross about the way that Cuarón asks us to take his arted-up vanity project as a courageous social statement, there’s something even grosser about the way that the critics have encouraged us to flatter ourselves by condoning it. By accepting this dum-dum thing as art we’re supposed to prove that we care about the people who tend our lawns and scrub our bathrooms. I think it’s more accurate to say that we prove our willingness to use them as moral tchotchkes.


  • While watching “Roma” I repeatedly recalled Suzana Amaral’s 1985 “Hour of the Star,” a movie of similar bent that actually bears comparison to things like “Umberto D” and “Nights of Cabiria.” These days, no one talks about “Hour of the Star.” I think it makes “Roma” look pretty silly.
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Weekend Linkage

Paleo Retiree writes:

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