Quotulatiousness

November 16, 2017

QotD: Carrier cynicism

Filed under: Britain, Media, Military, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

If you are a follower of UK defence matters, then it seems to be traditional that you must be find a reason, any reason, to naysay and be downbeat about something good. The recent sailing of QUEEN ELIZABETH (QEC, and of course, not yet an HMS), is a good example of this. There were tweets and moans aplenty about an aircraft carrier supposedly without aircraft, about it being empty for years across a barren flight deck with tumbleweed and adrift deck hockey quoits the sole occupants, and of course that’s assuming a 17-year-old hacker hadn’t somehow taken charge of the ship using its SHOCK HORROR Windows XP system that’s not actually connected to the internet to somehow do something bad. This is without mentioning the near orgasmic levels of excitement the media wound themselves up into with the prospect of the vessel running into the side of the dockyard or being stuck under the Forth Bridge.

In reality the opening days of the QE’s sea trials could not have gone better for the Royal Navy and the MOD. An outstandingly effective PR operation managed to secure a great deal of national media coverage of this event, and most of the main papers had photos of the ship at sea. Some highly astute programming ensured that a pair of Type 23 frigates and a pair of Merlin helicopters were immediately available to ostensibly provide cover, but arguably in reality provided the nation with several years of stock footage of British carrier groups at sea. Within a couple of days the first landing was achieved, thus slaying the ‘but she’ll have no aircraft’ argument, and the internet is awash with glorious photos of the biggest warship ever built outside of the United States of America at sea. To top it all off, some sharply pointed jibes towards the Russians by the Secretary of State for Defence managed to elicit a strong reaction, suggesting the Bear is not as thick skinned as it wishes to portray itself to be.

Sir Humphrey, “Some Brief Thoughts on QUEEN ELIZABETH sailing”, Thin Pinstriped Line, 2017-07-03.

November 14, 2017

“…the Mount Rushmore of Canadian television for grown-ups”

Filed under: Cancon, Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 05:00

I stopped watching much television on a regular basis by the time I was in my late teens, so I’m certainly not qualified to talk about what shows might qualify as the greatest Canadian TV, but Colby Cosh points to Justin McElroy’s NCAA-style tournament bracket of Canadian TV (English language only) as perhaps the most accurate representation we’re likely to see:

The bracket provides for an interesting overview — necessarily short-sighted, and skewed toward shows that an online audience has a chance of remembering — of Canada’s English-language television history. McElroy made the choice to organize the “tournament” in thematic quadrants, which created an immediate problem in the small 16-show version of the bracket. Literally all the best English Canadian programs for adult audiences have been comedies, and were packed in with each other in the early rounds.

This is still a bit of a problem in the expanded version, and I am cross with McElroy for setting it up this way, but it is his baby. And when I think about it, I admire the way he made pretty indisputable choices within the comedy category. His original four comedy invitees to the tournament were SCTV, Corner Gas, The Kids in the Hall, and Trailer Park Boys.

That’s… pretty much the Mount Rushmore of Canadian television for grown-ups, isn’t it? I have a special fondness for SCTV, which is part generational and part parochial: if I peep over the top of my desktop Mac right now, I can look down at the plaza where they shot the walk-and-talk sequence in Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas’s “Play It Again, Bob.” And I could go have lunch in the restaurant where they wrote it, too.

SCTV’s capture of an NBC time slot, its (now widely acknowledged) out-competing of Saturday Night Live, and its monumental role in the imaginations of today’s influential comedians make it a special Canadian treasure. And it has aged pretty well: people of all ages still laugh at “Count” Floyd Robertson, I think.

[…]

These shows all did what is often thought to be nigh-impossible for Canadian TV: they found devoted, permanent international fans. Nearly all the shows in the other brackets are mere schlocky Canadiana, of no enduring interest to anyone else on the planet. The Degrassi franchise is perhaps the major exception — and even it might be called schlocky Canadiana, if we’re being frank with one another. Its reputation in the U.S. depends heavily on the social-realist adventurousness that the Canadian broadcast environment permitted: for Americans it seems to be almost like watching another country’s weird porn.

However, no mention of the great shows of Canadian [content] TV would be complete without at least a tip of the hat to one of the worst TV shows ever made.

November 10, 2017

QotD: Dissing model railroaders

Filed under: Media, Quotations, Railways — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I hate it when nonmodelers talk about model trains.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3264325/My-favourite-tracks-ones-trains-says-Rod-Stewart-Singer-reveals-books-second-hotel-room-models-play-tour.html
http://www.therichest.com/expensive-lifestyle/money/rod-stewart-model-train-collection/

I’m not a lover of rock music so when Model Railroader did a writeup of Rod Stewart’s layout a few years back, I said who? Then I read the article and said wow, that’s great work. Especially when it was obvious that Mr. Stewart did the work himself. A great model railroad isn’t something you can just buy, no matter how rich you are. It’s a labor of love that involves developing real skills and tens of thousands of hours of painstaking work. Most model railroads are never finished and disappear when their builders pass on, making them more or less ephemeral works of art.

To call what Mr. Stewart does, “playing with trains” is a direct insult. Nobody says about even the crappiest painter or sculptor that they are just “playing with paint” or “playing with clay.” The same for all sorts of hobbies Yet the tone that you get when you admit to modeling trains is almost always the same. Somehow building model train is playing with toys and you are doing something childish. Somehow the idea that trains come in “sets” never seems to go beyond the train around the tree.

Which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Model railroading involves a great number of skills that most hobbies don’t have. For instance, you don’t get too far before you realize that your favorite prototype train is just not being made, or isn’t being made in your railroad’s paint scheme. So you get out the saw and cut up that train set locomotive and add other parts, ending by repainting the engine in your colors. Now you want a spur track on your railroad to service an industry. You might need to learn how to make your own track. That industry, well that might involve digging into historical archives to figure out what the building did before it became a shopping mall. As for how the railroad looks, those train set trees and vacuum formed tunnel get old fast, so you learn how to form hills and rocks, filling the hills with trees, that look like trees. You research that stuff too. In fact model railroading involves researching, photographing and studying far more than just the trains because the train need a reason to run and country to run through.

Almost no other hobby than model trains gets the kind of ridicule that model railroaders do. Some of that is, unfortunately, self-inflicted as model railroaders aren’t above poking a little at each other. Still, I’m not sure what causes the stigma that goes with small trains. Yet no other hobby requires the number of skills that model railroading, if done well does. You work with more kinds of tools, frequently through magnification than just about anything else. I’ve seen hobbyist machinists for instance talk about having to deal with “small parts” that were larger than a typical modeling project.

J.C. Carlton, “Rod Stewart And His Trains”, The Arts Mechanical, 2016-03-17.

November 8, 2017

Nancy Friday, RIP

Filed under: Books, Health, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the 1970s, one of the most controversial books was Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden, drawn from interviews with a large number of women about their sexual fantasies:

My Secret Garden exploded on to bestseller lists around the globe in 1973. The work was shocking, deeply sexy in parts and proved that women had erotic imaginations just as men did, and that they, too, masturbated just as men did. It heralded the innocent dawning of what later became known as the sex-positive feminist movement. My Secret Garden came at the beginning of a wave of overtly sexual content written by women. Also in 1973, Betty Dodson penned what was to become the world’s bestseller on masturbation, Sex for One. My Secret Garden didn’t have the gravitas and respectability of say, Shulamith Firestone, but as author Susie Bright, the original “Sexpert” in the 1980s and 90s, says, “it sold millions and millions of copies and was a big wake-up for America’s puritanical, sheltered girls and young women”.

Of course, Friday was attacked by many. Like Dodson, her work was dismissed for being not scientific enough or for being too personal, or too much like soft porn. But an even bigger issue was that she wasn’t, Bright recalls with glee, “the tiniest bit politically correct”.

There is something quite secret about My Secret Garden. All Friday’s interviewees, who talk about fantasies ranging from being sex workers to being urinated on, talk anonymously. One interviewee explains how, when she has sex with her husband, her fantasy is imagining “the bed practically torn apart and us ending up on the floor wet and sticky and happy”. The reality though is that, “All he’s really doing is lying on top of me and thrusting away.

In 1996, Friday told Salon: “I would no more go to a consciousness-raising group and talk about my intimate life with my husband than fly to the moon.” In that same year, while discussing sexual harassment in the office on Bill Maher’s Comedy Central talk show Politically Incorrect, she claimed that men suffered from harassment as much as women.

H/T to Kathy Shaidle, who commented:

This was a very important book, although some will scoff at the idea. I was always struck by the fact that the only two male fantasy “objects” who were named (possibly for overly cautious “legal” reasons; one is clearly Leonard Cohen but not called that) were Mr. Spock and Sherlock Holmes…

The wide-spread (and I believe disingenuous) surprise that greeted the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey was no surprise at all to me. Friday was denounced as “no feminist” for revealing women’s rape fantasies, and she was decidedly non-p.c. in other respects. Whenever anyone dismisses this or that “evidence” as “simply anecdotal,” I think of this book in which anecdote is all, and more revealing and true than any “experiment” or “survey.”

QotD: The second coming of SF’s depressing and neurotic “New Wave”

Filed under: Books, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Back in the mid to late 70’s the “New Wave” was in full force. Downbeat endings, “black and gray morality” (which can be good if handled well, at least as a change-up from more clear cut items) or worse “black and black.” Those were the tone of Science Fiction.

Then, fairly close to each other, two movies came out which took an entirely different approach: Lucas’ Star Wars and Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The rogue was given back his heart of gold. The callow youth could be the hero of the piece, not ground down by the world weary cynics. Heroes who are actually heroes fighting bad guys who weren’t so “sympathetic” that you couldn’t tell hero from villain.

It was a refreshing change. And the result was that, for a time, it became OK to have good guys who were good guys. Bad guys who were actually bad and not just “oppressed” or “victims of their backgrounds”. You didn’t have to wonder who to root for.

Today we’re kind of in a similar position. One of the best selling series, for young people is The Hunger Games. Black and Very-Dark-Gray morality, little really to choose from in the sides, and (no spoilers) that’s shown pretty clearly in the ending. And in printed SF? So much “humanity is a plague” stuff. Bleah.

David L. Burkhead, “Star Wars and the Human Wave”, The Writer in Black, 2015-10-21.

November 3, 2017

QotD: Perhaps we were lucky that Firefly got cancelled when it did…

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

This cult classic made the list not for being overtly “conservative”, but mainly for being “not liberal”. The universe of Firefly is some other solar system with “dozens of planets and hundreds of moons”. Some of these are closer than others to the “core” planets, which are under control of the “Alliance”, a plus-sized, technologically-advanced and repressive system of government. The outer planets and moons have less technology, and even less law, i.e Alliance control, but subsequently greater freedom. Firefly producer Joss Whedon, a stereotypical Hollywood lefty, somehow (inadvertently?) imbued Firefly with a heavily libertarian sensibility, which may not be exactly conservative, but it definitely isn’t liberal. Progressive fans of the show may be tempted to fantasize about the Alliance being an oppressive right-wing government, but that would make the “Browncoat” rebels rat bastard commie revolutionaries, and that makes no sense. The Browncoats are not interested in destroying civilization and putting a new one in its place, rather, they just want to be left alone. Their motto can best be described as “Don’t Tread On Me”, not “Workers of the World, Unite”.

Almost every science fiction fan, to a man, bemoans the fact that Firefly was yanked after only 11 episodes, and their dreams are filled what could-have-beens. I, however, take the contrarian view that the cancellation of Firefly was A Good Thing, a blessing in disguise that helped preserve it when it was still a quality show. For it would not have continued a quality show. I believe that Joss Whedon’s perverse Hollywood lefty views would have eventually seeped into Firefly the way a dead rat behind the baseboard will stink up the entire kitchen. A similar thing happened with Battlestar Galactica, as Jonah Goldberg argues in this Commentary article from 2009.

“Whither Conservative TV Shows? [OregonMuse]”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2016-03-19.

October 30, 2017

QotD: Responding to “do my homework for me” requests from students

Filed under: Humour, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

There is one certain kind of email interview, however, which I’m going to single out for attention. Just recently, I got an interview request from a high school student which was clearly nothing more than the questions he received as part of a assignment, and he thought he could fool me into answering them for him. Now, this wasn’t the first time I’ve received such a letter, so even though I’m answering him the rest of you smartass students need to listen up as well: Listen, kiddo, I didn’t just fall off of the fucking turnip truck. Don’t let my spectacular bod fool you; I’m old enough to be your grandmother, and I was probably outwitting teachers before your parents were born. I’ve been around the block more times than you’ve masturbated, and if you think you can trick me into doing your homework, you need to be slapped harder than I’m willing to give you for what you can afford. It’s bad enough when adult reporters try to get me to do their work for them, but it reaches a higher level of impudence when the person who thinks he can outwit me isn’t even as old as the last bottle of wine I drank. So cut that shit out; if you want to interview me come up with some proper questions, record it, then write the damned paper yourself. The practice will do you good, and one day you’ll thank me when you become an actual writer rather than a fucking stenographer whose “craft” consists of parroting whatever moronic propaganda the cops are shoveling out at press conferences in the late 2020s.

Maggie McNeill, “Not Last Night”, The Honest Courtesan, 2016-03-17.

October 27, 2017

The revival of the paranoid style in social media

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

During the Clinton presidency, the conspiracy theorists were limited to the reach of their printed-and-mailed newsletters and fringe radio to spread the word (because so relatively few people were online yet). By the time George W. Bush was president, the paranoia had gone digital but had switched sides … now it was the left’s turn to fret about shadowy quasi-governmental organizations amassing arms caches and plotting to throw everyone into prison camps. Then Obama was elected, and the far-right conspiracy theorists re-emerged, bringing in the racist fringe to spice up the crazy. Now Trump is president, and both left and right are free to get their total paranoia on. This is a wonderful example of the type:

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

October 26, 2017

Bonus quote-of-the-day

Filed under: Africa, Cancon, Media, Military, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In an article in the Globe and Mail, Lee Berthiaume (Canadian Press) reports that “The Trudeau Liberals may have promised to ramp up Canada’s role in peacekeeping, but new UN figures show there were fewer Canadian peacekeepers in the field last month than at any point in recent memory … [and] … The revelation comes as Canada prepares to host a major peacekeeping summit in Vancouver next month, raising fears the country will be badly embarrassed unless the numbers start rising – and fast … [because] … The intervening year [since the Liberals promised 600+ blue beret wearing peacekeepers] has instead seen a steady decrease in the number of Canadian blue helmets and blue berets deployed around the world, from 112 peacekeepers in August 2016 to 68 last month.

This is risky for Canadian soldiers because the Trudeau regime is not exactly famous for making sound, well though out, carefully crafted plans ~ witness the small business tax fiasco and democratic reform, just for examples. It is possible, even probable, that rather than be embarrassed in public the Liberals will react, as cornered rats often do, and commit troops to a dangerous, hopeless, worthless mission just to avoid yet another political humiliation. Canadian soldiers may soon find themselves in some rotten hellhole with orders to not, under any circumstances, shoot at a child soldier, not even in self defence, or do any harm to a person of colour … because the Liberals know that the media will be watching ~ platoons of journalists will be deployed, each more anxious than the next to win some prize by being the first to report on a Canadian killing a black child.

Ted Campbell, “Cornered?”, Ted Campbell’s Point of View, 2017-10-25.

October 25, 2017

Climb aboard the invective treadmill!

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle tries to point out the urge to call everyone you don’t like a “racist” or “white supremacist” runs you the same trust risk that the boy who cried wolf did:

It’s the inverse of what Steven Pinker has dubbed “the euphemism treadmill,” where we try to find nicer words for something we don’t think is very nice, and find that the new words quickly take on all the old connotations. So “toilet,” turns into “bathroom,” then migrates onward to “rest room.” Only we still know there’s a toilet behind that door, and whatever words we use about it, our feelings don’t change.

This is why attempting to change how Americans feel about illegal migrants by changing the terms we use to describe them is a project doomed to failure; whether they are “illegal aliens” or “undocumented immigrants,” the political realities remain the same. People who feel negatively toward “illegals” feel just as negatively toward “undocumented immigrants.”

The invective treadmill works in a similar fashion, only in reverse.

[…]

During the 2016 presidential campaign, I found myself confronted by a curious problem: Many of my readers simply didn’t take it seriously when I pointed out that Donald Trump was, if not an outright racist himself, at least happily pandering to people who were.

“The media calls every Republican racist,” my conservative readers replied. “They said it about Mitt Romney, they said it about George Bush, so what’s different about Trump?”

They were right. Other columnists had accused Romney and Bush of being racist and pandering to racists. I pointed out that Trump’s racist appeals were different, and much worse, than anything that earlier Republican presidential candidates had been accused of. But it didn’t do any good. The media had cried wolf to condemn garden-variety Republicans; labels like “racist” had been rendered useless when a true threat emerged. We shouted to no avail as Trump coyly flirted with hardcore white supremacists, something no mainstream party had done for decades.

Indeed, it seems to me that critical race theorists have gone to “white supremacy” precisely because the increasingly broad uses of the word “racism” have made it less effective than it used to be at rallying moral outrage. The term still packs some wallop, but less than it once did, because it is now defined so broadly that a Broadway musical could sing “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” White supremacy, on the other hand, is still clearly understood as beyond the pale.

But if we indiscriminately apply the term to everything from the alt-right white nationalist Richard Spencer, to anyone who thinks that football players should stand for the national anthem … for how long will white supremacy still be considered beyond the pale? What happens if people accused of racism start shrugging off the epithet — or worse, embracing it? And when another Richard Spencer comes along, how will we convey how dangerous he is?

The new “movie plot threat” – The Revenge of the Return of the Bride of the Sex Trafficking Mafia

Filed under: Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The rising moral panic over sex traffic gets a well-deserved takedown by Lenore Skenazy:

We are in the midst of a massive mommy moral panic. Across the country, mothers are writing breathless accounts on Facebook of how sex traffickers nearly snatched their children at Target/Ikea/the grocery store.

While at Sam’s Club, one such post explains, “a man came up to us and asked if the empty cart nearby was ours.…He was an African American with a shaved head.…It seemed like an innocent encounter.” Innocent, that is, until the mom and kids headed to Walmart and there was the guy again, “feverishly texting on his phone but not taking his eye off my daughter.”

It could only mean one thing, she wrote: “I have absolutely NO doubt that that man is a trafficker looking for young girls to steal and sell.”

And I have absolutely no doubt that she’s wrong. This is what security expert Bruce Schneier has dubbed a “movie plot threat” — a narrative that looks suspiciously like what you’d see at the Cineplex. The more “movie plot” a situation seems, the less likely it is to be real.

But it sells. A Facebook post by Diandra Toyos went wildly viral after she said she and her kids were followed by two men at Ikea. “I had a bad feeling,” she wrote. Fortunately, she “managed to lose them.”

Which, frankly, is what one does at Ikea, even with people one is trying not to lose. Nonetheless, the post ricocheted through the media. CBS told viewers that while experts found the scenario unlikely, “that doesn’t mean Toyos didn’t have reason to be concerned.”

Actually, it does.

October 23, 2017

Today I learned a new word: Pigmentocracy

Filed under: Africa, Business, Health, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the Guardian, Afua Hirsch writes about the recent Nivea skin cream video to explain why the ad is so controversial:

“Now I have visibly fairer skin, making me feel younger,” declares the Nigerian actor Omowunmi Akinnifesi in an advert for a new face cream. The ad, for the global skincare brand Nivea, was only ever intended to reach a west African audience, but predictably – has Nivea heard of the internet? – it has been watched and shared millions of times around the world including in the UK, where most of us live in blissful ignorance of the fact that some of our most popular brands openly promote the idea in other markets that white is right.

Nivea says the ad was not intended to offend, but offence is not the point. The global market for skin lightening products, of which west Africa is a significant part, is worth $10bn (£7.6bn). Advertising has a long and unbroken history of promoting and normalising white beauty standards, and if Britain built its empire as a geopolitical and ideological project, the advertising industry commodified it. Soap brands such as Pears built a narrative that cast Africa as dark and its people as dirty, the solution to which – conveniently – was soap. Cleansing, lightening and civilising in one handy bar.

These days the marketing has become much more sophisticated. Ads speak of “toning” as code for whitening. Lancôme, which a few years ago got in trouble for using Emma Watson’s image to market its Blanc Expert line in Asia, emphasised that it does not lighten, but rather “evens skin tone, and provides a healthy-looking complexion … an essential part of Asian women’s beauty routines”.

[…]

Shadism, pigmentocracy – the idea of privilege accruing to lighter-skinned black people – and other hierarchies of beauty are a complex picture in which ads such as Nivea’s are only the obvious tip of an insidious iceberg. Celebrities with darker complexions, such as the Sudanese model Nyakim Gatwech – nicknamed Queen of the Dark – and actors such as Lupita Nyong’o, are so often discussed in the context of having achieved the seemingly impossible by being both dark and beautiful, that they become the exceptions that prove the rule.

It is often observed that light-skinned black women are more likely to become global superstars, the Beyoncé-Rihanna effect. They are, however, still black women and therefore not immune from the pressure to lighten – most recently by fans following a new Photoshopping trend of posting pictures of whitened versions of their faces and remarking upon the improvement.

In countries such as Ghana, the intended audience for the Nivea ad, and Nigeria – where an estimated 77% of women use skin-lightening products – the debate has so far, understandably, focused on health. The most toxic skin-lightening ingredients, still freely available, include ingredients such as hydroquinone, mercury and corticosteroid. It’s not unusual for these to be mixed with caustic agents ranging from automotive battery acid, washing power, toothpaste and cloth bleaching agents, with serious and irreversible health consequences.

October 22, 2017

Interview With Pär Sundström from Sabaton I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Europe, History, Media, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Great War
Published on 21 Oct 2017

Learn more about Sabaton: http://www.sabaton.net/

Sabaton is a Heavy Metal band from Sweden. Battles and events during World War 1 inspired them to do multiple songs about them and Indy is talking with bass player Pär Sundström about the process.

October 20, 2017

QotD: Culture wars of the 20th century

Filed under: Books, Liberty, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

[Libertarians have] always been strong on analysis and criticism. We have our philosophers and economists and historians, and these are among the best. We aren’t wholly without our novelists and musicians and artists. There’s you. There’s Heinlein. There’s Rand. There are many others.

But we haven’t so far put cultural production at the top of our list of things to do. It’s been treated as barely even secondary to uncovering and explaining the workings of a natural order. So far as this has been the case, however, it’s been a big mistake. There’s little benefit in preaching to an audience that doesn’t understand why your message is important.

The socialist takeover of the English mind during the early 20th century was only in part the achievement of the Webbs and J.A. Hobson and E.H. Carr and Harold Laski and Douglas Jay, and all the others of their kind. They were important, and if they hadn’t written as they did, there would have been no takeover. But for every one who read these, there were tens or hundreds who read and were captured by Shaw and Wells and Galsworthy and Richard Llewellyn, among others. These were men who transmitted the socialist cases to a much wider audience.

Just as importantly, where they did not directly transmit, they helped bring about a change in the climate of opinion so that propositions that were rejected out of hand by most thoughtful men in the 1890s could become the received wisdom of the 1940s. They achieved a similar effect in the United States, and were supplemented there by writers like Howard Fast, and, of course, by the Hollywood film industry.

More recently in England, the effect of television soap operas like Eastenders has been immense and profound. Their writers have taken the dense and often incomprehensible writings of the neo-Marxists and presented them as a set of hidden assumptions that have transformed the English mind since 1980. No one can fully explain the Labour victory of 1997, or the ease with which law and administration were transformed even before them, without reference to popular culture.

Though I’ll say outright that she’s never been one of my favourites, there’s no doubt that Ayn Rand was a great novelist and a great libertarian. And there’s no doubt at all that her novels did more than anything else to revive libertarianism in America — and perhaps even in England. But what I’m talking about at the moment isn’t long didactic novels where characters speak for three pages about the evils of central banking. What I do believe we need is good, popular entertainment of our own creation that is based on our own assumptions.

I think the most significant objective propagandist of my lifetime for the libertarian and conservative cause in England was the historical novelist Patrick O’Brian. I’ve read all his historical novels, some more than once, and I don’t think he ever sets out an explicit case against the modern order of things. What he does instead is to create a world – that may once have existed largely as he describes I – that works on different assumptions from our own. If this world is often unattractive on account of its poverty and brutality, its settled emphasis on tradition and on personal freedom and responsibility has probably done more to spread the truth in England than the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Ideas combined.

Sean Gabb, quoted in “Wayne John Sturgeon talks to Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance”, Sean Gabb, 2013-08-26.

October 19, 2017

Richard Florida oversold his “creative class”

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

Rick McGinnis reviews the latest book by the much-celebrated Richard Florida … which walks back a lot of what his last book pushed:

With his new book, The New Urban Crisis, Florida concedes that he might – just might – have overstated his case. The gaps between the rich and poor have increased, particularly in the case study cities that Florida described and, later, championed as an advocate of his pet theory. The so-called creative class has transformed cities, mostly by colonizing the most attractive districts, aggregating most of the wealth around them, and increasing house prices exponentially, driving the less fortunate classes – Florida’s “service class” and an equally distinct and diminishing working class – into insalubrious neighbourhoods, often at the city’s fringes.

To be fair, it was a case well sold, and it made Florida a star in his field, ultimately landing him at the head of something called the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. The idea of some sort of vaguely defined creative class as a benign invasion, reviving run-down areas once home to workers or industry with their peculiar and mysterious social, cultural and economic alchemy, had a lot of appeal to the sorts of people who run cities – politicians, developers and realtors, mostly.

The vagueness of what constituted the “creative class” no doubt helped sell Florida as an urban visionary – it could be stretched to include everyone from gallery owners, photographers, and art directors to claims adjusters, funeral directors, and tax collectors. In Florida’s theory, as one critic noted, “distinctive spatial and political proclivities are bunched together, purely on the basis of educational attainment, and with little demonstrable relationship to creativity.” Much of the good press was probably helped by the fact that journalists had pride of place in the creative class.

[…]

There’s a sleight of hand at work with Florida’s theory, as the middle class that he bemoans as disappearing has actually been largely absorbed by him into the very elastic borders of the creative class, where vast armies of white collar workers find their home alongside tiny numbers of arts bureaucrats and musicians. His fetish for IT workers in particular seems curious, since many of the jobs being done in vast, architecturally praised tech campuses are, in basic function indistinguishable from the sort of grinding desk labour done on vast office floors in skyscrapers by men in gray flannel suits, 60 years ago.

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