In modern times, “truthiness” — a “truth” asserted “from the gut” or because “it feels right,” without regard to evidence or logic5 — is also a key part of political discourse. It is difficult to imagine life without it, and our political discourse is weakened by Orwellian laws that try to prohibit it.
After all, where would we be without the knowledge that Democrats are pinko-communist flag-burners who want to tax churches and use the money to fund abortions so they can use the fetal stem cells to create pot-smoking lesbian ATF agents who will steal all the guns and invite the UN to take over America? Voters have to decide whether we’d be better off electing Republicans, those hateful, assault-weapon-wielding maniacs who believe that George Washington and Jesus Christ incorporated the nation after a Gettysburg reenactment and that the only thing wrong with the death penalty is that it isn’t administered quickly enough to secular-humanist professors of Chicano studies.
Everybody knows that the economy is better off under [Republican/Democratic]6 presidents — who control it directly with big levers in the Oval Office — and that:
President Obama is a Muslim.
President Obama is a Communist.
President Obama was born in Kenya.
Nearly half of Americans pay no taxes.7
One percent of Americans control 99 percent of the world’s wealth.
Obamacare will create death panels.
Republicans oppose immigration reform because they’re racists.
The Supreme Court is a purely political body that is evangelically [liberal/conservative].8
All of the above statements could be considered “truthy,” yet all contribute to our political discourse.
5. Wikipedia.com, Truthiness, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truthiness (last visited Feb. 28, 2014) (describing the term’s coinage by Stephen Colbert during the pilot of his show in October 2005). See also Dictionary.com, Truthiness, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/truthiness (last visited Feb. 28, 2014).
6. Circle as appropriate.
7. 47 percent to be exact, though it may be higher by now.
8. Again, pick your truth.
Ilya Shapiro and P.J. O’Rourke, BRIEF OF AMICI CURIAE CATO INSTITUTE AND P.J. O’ROURKE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS, Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus [PDF], 2014-02-28
March 5, 2014
March 4, 2014
In the New York Post, Kyle Smith discusses the comedians of the 1970s and their modern day successors:
As Chevy Chase might have put it on Saturday Night Live, Harold Ramis is still dead. And with him has gone the finest era of comedy: The ’70s kind.
Ramis was as close to the king of comedy as it gets, as a writer, director and occasional sidekick for Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Back to School, National Lampoon’s Vacation and Groundhog Day.
Taking off with the movie M*A*S*H in 1970 — a huge hit that grossed $450 million in today’s dollars — and its spinoff sitcom, ’70s comedy ruled from an anti-throne of contempt for authority in all shapes. College deans, student body presidents, Army sergeants and officers, country-club swells, snooty professors and the EPA: Anyone who made it his life’s work to lord it over others got taken down with wit.
When the smoke bombs cleared and the anarchy died, comedy turned inward and became domesticated. It also became smaller.
The Cosby Show and Jerry Seinfeld didn’t seek to ridicule those in power. Instead they gave us comfy couch comedy — riffs on family and etiquette and people’s odd little habits.
Now, in the Judd Apatow era, comedy is increasingly marked by two worrying trends: One is a knee-jerk belief, held even by many of the most brilliant comedy writers, that coming up with the biggest, most outlandish gross-out gags is their highest calling.
H/T to Kathy Shaidle for the link.
March 3, 2014
At The Register, Lester Haines fights the killjoys in public health journalism to bring forth the revolutionary booze-and-bacon diet:
“Bacon is particularly problematic,” doomwatched the Daily Mail, a noted proponent of the “if it’s tasty it’ll kill you” school of scientific killjoyery.
It gets worse. Scientists have indicated that bacon also reduces fertility, while a daily consumption of of more than 20g of processed meat in general — “equivalent to one meagre rasher of bacon” — is a surefire shortcut to the hereafter.
Or so they’d have you believe. Among the amazing powers of bacon is its ability to cure hangovers. The negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption are well known — impotence, cirrhosis of the liver, maudlin pub musings, alcopop-fuelled teen pregnancies, the Saturday-night reduction of British city centres to vomit-spattered warzones, and so forth — but booze too has extraordinary properties.
In fact, it benefits cardiovascular health, fights asthma, provides immunity to Mike Tyson and, critically, wards off dementia and makes you clever.
So, here’s the thing: if bacon can be used to combat the negatives effects of alcohol, while alcohol can prevent you from losing your marbles as a result using bacon to counter the downside of alcohol (something we have dubbed the “Baco-Booze Harmonious Feedback Loop”), then you are in a position to exploit the increased intelligence alcohol confers.
March 1, 2014
Let us go back. Why did I waste two hours, or maybe three, reading those idiotic manuscripts? Why, in the first place, did I answer her opening request the request, so inherently absurd, that I meet her in her father’s office? For a very plain reason: she accompanied it with flattery. What she said, in effect, was that she regarded me as a critic of the highest talents, and this ludicrous cajolery sound, I dare say, in substance, but reduced to naught by her obvious obscurity and stupidity was quite enough to fetch me. In brief, she assumed that, being a man, I was vain to the point of imbecility, and this assumption was correct, as it always is. To help out, there was the concept of romantic adventure vaguely floating in my mind. Her voice, as I heard it by telephone, was agreeable; her appearance, since she seemed eager to show herself, I probably judged (subconsciously) to be at least not revolting. Thus curiosity got on its legs, and vanity in another form. Am I fat and half decrepit, a man seldom noticed by cuties? Then so much the more reason why I should respond. The novelty of an apparently comely and respectable woman desiring to witness me finished what the primary (and very crude) appeal to my vanity had begun. I was, in brief, not only the literary popinjay but also the eternal male and hard at the immemorial folly of the order.
H.L. Mencken, “Scientific Examination of a Popular Virtue”, Prejudices: Second Series, 1920.
February 25, 2014
We assign 20 extra IQ points to anyone who speaks with a British accent, redistributing them from the people who speak with Southern accents.
Dave Weigel, “Shut Up, Piers: Thank goodness Piers Morgan Live is dead. Finally.”, Slate, 2014-02-24
February 23, 2014
What is one to think of a man so asinine that he looks for gratitude in this world, or so puerilely egotistical that he enjoys it when found? The truth is that the sentiment itself is not human but doggish, and that the man who demands it in payment for his doings is precisely the sort of man who feels noble and distinguished when a dog licks his hand. What a man says when he expresses gratitude is simply this: “You did something for me that I could not have done myself. Ergo, you are my superior. Hail, Durchlaucht!” Such a confession, whether true or not, is degrading to the confessor, and so it is very hard to make, at all events for a man of self-respect. That is why such a man always makes it clumsily and with many blushes and hesitations. It is hard for him to put so embarrassing a doctrine into plain words. And that is why the business is equally uncomfortable to the party of the other part. It distresses him to see a human being of decent instincts standing before him in so ignominious a position. He is as flustered as if the fellow came in handcuffs, or in rags, or wearing the stripes of a felon. Moreover, his confusion is helped out by his inward knowledge very clear if he is introspective, and plain enough even if he is not that he really deserves no such tribute to his high mightiness; that the altruism for which he is being praised was really bogus; that he did the thing behind the gratitude which now assails him, not for any grand and lofty reason, but for a purely selfish and inferior reason, to wit, for the reason that it pleases all of us to show what we can do when an appreciative audience is present; that we delight to exercise our will to power when it is safe and profitable. This is the primary cause of the benefits which inspire gratitude, real and pretended. This is the fact at the bottom of altruism. Find me a man who is always doing favors for people and I will show you a man of petty vanity, forever trying to get fuel for it in the cheapest way. And find me a man who is notoriously grateful in habit and I’ll show you a man who is essentially third rate and who is conscious of it at the bottom of his heart. The man of genuine self-respect which means the man who is more or less accurately aware, not only of his own value, but also and more importantly, of his own limitations tries to avoid entering either class. He hesitates to demonstrate his superiority by such banal means, and he shrinks from confessing an inferiority that he doesn’t believe in.
H.L. Mencken, “Scientific Examination of a Popular Virtue”, Prejudices: Second Series, 1920.
February 17, 2014
I listen to the strangest assortment of music.
No, I’m not trying to tell you I’m a hipster, bustin’ a moby at the table saw while only listening to totally deck obscure artisanal free-range amazeballs beats. That would be so midtown. I just find myself interested in odd things.
Sippican Cottage, “I Like Puddles Pity Party’s Early Stuff. You Probably Haven’t Heard Of Them”, Sippican Cottage, 2014-02-16
Unwanted telephone canvassers are a pain, and there aren’t many ways to end the unwelcome interruption without being rude. Amy Alkon has a new method she’s been trying out: I don’t think I’d have the nerve to pull this off, but it seems to be working for her:
I have a new tactic, and it’s fun. I turn it into a sex call. I started out asking the woman, “Are you wearing any panties” and then got into whether or not she was bucking the trend to go back to the full bush.
February 16, 2014
Ant O’Fearghail has developed a useful model to help you determine if a particular situation is caused by climate change or if it’s just ordinary weather:
February 15, 2014
I remember a friend of mine, buying a couple of cheeses at Liverpool. Splendid cheeses they were, ripe and mellow, and with a two hundred horse-power scent about them that might have been warranted to carry three miles, and knock a man over at two hundred yards. I was in Liverpool at the time, and my friend said that if I didn’t mind he would get me to take them back with me to London, as he should not be coming up for a day or two himself, and he did not think the cheeses ought to be kept much longer.
“Oh, with pleasure, dear boy,” I replied, “with pleasure.”
I called for the cheeses, and took them away in a cab. It was a ramshackle affair, dragged along by a knock-kneed, broken-winded somnambulist, which his owner, in a moment of enthusiasm, during conversation, referred to as a horse. I put the cheeses on the top, and we started off at a shamble that would have done credit to the swiftest steam-roller ever built, and all went merry as a funeral bell, until we turned the corner. There, the wind carried a whiff from the cheeses full on to our steed. It woke him up, and, with a snort of terror, he dashed off at three miles an hour. The wind still blew in his direction, and before we reached the end of the street he was laying himself out at the rate of nearly four miles an hour, leaving the cripples and stout old ladies simply nowhere.
It took two porters as well as the driver to hold him in at the station; and I do not think they would have done it, even then, had not one of the men had the presence of mind to put a handkerchief over his nose, and to light a bit of brown paper.
From Crewe I had the compartment to myself, though the train was crowded. As we drew up at the different stations, the people, seeing my empty carriage, would rush for it. “Here y’ are, Maria; come along, plenty of room.” “All right, Tom; we’ll get in here,” they would shout. And they would run along, carrying heavy bags, and fight round the door to get in first. And one would open the door and mount the steps, and stagger back into the arms of the man behind him; and they would all come and have a sniff, and then drop off and squeeze into other carriages, or pay the difference and go first.
Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog), 1889.
February 14, 2014
Readers who are all too familiar with popular works on anthropology may be interested to learn that some recent investigations have involved a completely novel approach. The ordinary anthropologist is one who spends six weeks or six months (or even sometimes six years) among, say, the Boreyu tribe at their settlement on the Upper Teedyas River, Darndreeryland. He then returns to civilization with his photographs, tape recorders, and notebooks, eager to write his book about sex life and superstition. For tribes such as the Boreyu, life is made intolerable by all this peering and prying. They often become converts to Presbyterianism in the belief that they will thereupon cease to be of interest to anthropologists; nor in fact has this device been known to fail. But enough primitive people remain for the purposes of science. Books continue to multiply, and when the last tribe has resorted to the singing of hymns in self-defense, there are still the poor of the backstreets. These are perpetually pursued by questionnaire, camera, and phonograph; and the written results are familiar to us all.
C. Northcote Parkinson, “Palm Thatch To Packard Or A Formula For Success”, Parkinson’s Law (and other studies in administration), 1957.
February 12, 2014
Megan McArdle gets to the source of so many writers’ problem with getting the writing done:
Over the years, I developed a theory about why writers are such procrastinators: We were too good in English class. This sounds crazy, but hear me out.
Most writers were the kids who easily, almost automatically, got A’s in English class. (There are exceptions, but they often also seem to be exceptions to the general writerly habit of putting off writing as long as possible.) At an early age, when grammar school teachers were struggling to inculcate the lesson that effort was the main key to success in school, these future scribblers gave the obvious lie to this assertion. Where others read haltingly, they were plowing two grades ahead in the reading workbooks. These are the kids who turned in a completed YA novel for their fifth-grade project. It isn’t that they never failed, but at a very early age, they didn’t have to fail much; their natural talent kept them at the head of the class.
This teaches a very bad, very false lesson: that success in work mostly depends on natural talent. Unfortunately, when you are a professional writer, you are competing with all the other kids who were at the top of their English class. Your stuff may not — indeed, probably won’t — be the best anymore.
If you’ve spent most of your life cruising ahead on natural ability, doing what came easily and quickly, every word you write becomes a test of just how much ability you have, every article a referendum on how good a writer you are. As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good. Before you take to the keys, you are Proust and Oscar Wilde and George Orwell all rolled up into one delicious package. By the time you’re finished, you’re more like one of those 1940’s pulp hacks who strung hundred-page paragraphs together with semicolons because it was too much effort to figure out where the sentence should end.
Most writers manage to get by because, as the deadline creeps closer, their fear of turning in nothing eventually surpasses their fear of turning in something terrible. But I’ve watched a surprising number of young journalists wreck, or nearly wreck, their careers by simply failing to hand in articles. These are all college graduates who can write in complete sentences, so it is not that they are lazy incompetents. Rather, they seem to be paralyzed by the prospect of writing something that isn’t very good.
Update: I just added this comment on the Facebook link, and realized it should have gone into the original posting. “Do read the whole linked item … I just grabbed a small section that talks particularly about writing. If you suffer from “impostor syndrome” or have experience (either side) with “helicopter parenting” or if you are (or work with) Millennials, there’s something in this you should read. (It’s excerpted from her new book, which I’m adding to my “must obtain soonest” list.)”
February 11, 2014
Thanks for calling the National Security Agency. Press 1 for a blanket denial. Whatever you heard, it’s not true. Press 2 to hear a transcript of every call you’ve ever made. Press 3 to confess. If you haven’t done anything, that’s OK, the NSA treats everyone like a criminal. Press 4 to have your tax money used to violate your privacy. Press 5 to hear these options again.
Gregg Easterbrook, “Are the Chiefs real or opportunistic?”, ESPN Tuesday Morning Quarterback, 2013-10-29
February 8, 2014
The problem of the Ministry of Defence is that in peace time the three armed forces have no one on whom to vent their warlike instincts except the cabinet or each other.