Quotulatiousness

October 4, 2017

Camille Paglia on the cultural influence of Hugh Hefner and Playboy

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

In the Hollywood Reporter, Jeanie Pyun talks to Camille Paglia about the late Hugh Hefner and his once-mighty Playboy empire:

Have you ever been to a party at the Playboy Mansion?

No, I’m not a partygoer! (Laughs.)

So let me just ask: Was Hugh Hefner a misogynist?

Absolutely not! The central theme of my wing of pro-sex feminism is that all celebrations of the sexual human body are positive. Second-wave feminism went off the rails when it was totally unable to deal with erotic imagery, which has been a central feature of the entire history of Western art ever since Greek nudes.

So let’s dig in a little — what would you say was Playboy‘s cultural impact?

Hugh Hefner absolutely revolutionized the persona of the American male. In the post-World War II era, men’s magazines were about hunting and fishing or the military, or they were like Esquire, erotic magazines with a kind of European flair.

Hefner reimagined the American male as a connoisseur in the continental manner, a man who enjoyed all the fine pleasures of life, including sex. Hefner brilliantly put sex into a continuum of appreciative response to jazz, to art, to ideas, to fine food. This was something brand new. Enjoying fine cuisine had always been considered unmanly in America. Hefner updated and revitalized the image of the British gentleman, a man of leisure who is deft at conversation — in which American men have never distinguished themselves — and the art of seduction, which was a sport refined by the French.

Hefner’s new vision of American masculinity was part of his desperate revision of his own Puritan heritage. On his father’s side, he descended directly from William Bradford, who came over on the Mayflower and was governor of Plymouth Colony, the major settlement of New England Puritans.

But Hefner’s worldview was already dated by the explosion of the psychedelic 1960s. The anything-goes, free-love atmosphere — illustrated by all that hedonistic rolling around in the mud at Woodstock in 1969 — made the suave Hefner style seem old-fashioned and buttoned up. Nevertheless, I have always taken the position that the men’s magazines — from the glossiest and most sophisticated to the rawest and raunchiest — represent the brute reality of sexuality. Pornography is not a distortion. It is not a sexist twisting of the facts of life but a kind of peephole into the roiling, primitive animal energies that are at the heart of sexual attraction and desire.

What could today’s media learn from what Hef did at Playboy?

It must be remembered that Hefner was a gifted editor who knew how to produce a magazine that had great visual style and that was a riveting combination of pictorial with print design. Everything about Playboy as a visual object, whether you liked the magazine or not, was lively and often ravishing.

H/T to Kathy Shaidle for the link.

August 22, 2017

An unwelcome kind of “how to” article

Filed under: Middle East, Railways — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

R.G. Edmonson on a recent innocuous “how to sabotage a railway” article distributed through Inspire, a quite westernized publication for Al Qaeda supporters and sympathizers:

The Middle East Media Research Institute recently translated a complete how-to guide for making derail devices for use on railroads and transit systems. (via Trains magazine)

These step-by-step instructions, design guidelines, and templates look like any from a how-to-magazine. Then you realize it’s a how-to derailment instruction guide courtesy of Al Qaeda.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Middle East Media Research Institute, the information came out Aug. 13 and 14 in a recent issue of Inspire, Al Qaeda‘s glossy magazine. Institute officials say the terrorist magazine urges attacks by “lone wolf” operators on rail and mass transit system, and provides detailed instructions for making a concrete device to derail trains.

According to the institute’s translation, Ibrahim Al-Asiri, the chief bomb-maker for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, “we will be focusing on targeting means of transportation … Jihad groups and organizations may have the ability to target international means of transportation. As for the Lone Mujahid, his abilities may be limited to targeting internal means of transportation of a country.

The translation of Al-Asiri continues, “O Mujahideen, it is time that we instill fear and make them impose strict security measures to trains as they did with their Air transportation. Continue to bleed the American economy to more losses, increase the psychological warfare and make it worry, fear and weaken much more.”

Translators say Al-Asiri said that “the large numbers and numerous types of means of transportation will always set an environment of looming danger everywhere.” The attack will lead to more extensive and costly security measures, and the loss of rolling stock could force some companies into bankruptcy.

August 1, 2017

Justin Trudeau and “the uncritical puffery that is passing for political journalism”

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

In the Washington Post, Jen Gerson says that the hero worship from the US media is making it harder to hold the Prime Minister to account for his actions:

As a Canadian, I’m not surprised that the American news media and the Internet are saturated by swooning profiles. The Rolling Stone cover story “Why Can’t He Be Our President” was only the most recent example. Shortly after Trudeau was elected, Vogue fawned: “The New Young Face of Canadian Politics” — despite the fact that he was neither new nor particularly young. Business Insider noted that he looked like a “Disney prince.” Vanity Fair seems to have a Trudeau vertical. US Weekly: “Canada’s New Prime Minister is Super Hot.” He even inspired the quintessential BuzzFeed piece: “Literally Just 27 Really Hot Photos of Justin Trudeau.” CNN’s headline sums up the trend: “Justin Trudeau, ‘the anti-Trump,’ shows U.S. Canada’s progressive, diverse face,” which was a particularly impressive take, considering Trudeau is a white man and the son of a previous Canadian prime minister — making him pretty close to the embodiment of a nascent hereditary political establishment in Canada.

Please stop.

Although Trudeau has proved to be a powerful public relations coup for my country, the political erotica now streaming from the southern border is embarrassing, shallow and largely misses the mark. Trudeau is not the blue-eyed lefty Jesus, and the global affection for him — and for the progressive politics that he and this country seem to represent — presents a puerile and distorted vision of Canada and its political culture. Worse, the uncritical puffery that is passing for political journalism only makes it harder to hold the man to account.

[…]

The most stinging truth about Trudeau is that he hasn’t done much at all. He came into power an avatar of youthful Canadian optimism and has squandered one of the most extraordinary honeymoon periods any politician has had in recent memory. The best that can be said of his accomplishments is that he has tripled his promised deficits, promised deferred tax increases on the wealthy and almost legalized marijuana — although it will be up to the provinces to sort out that mess.

Trudeau promised Camelot and delivered, well, Ottawa.

Ottawa is okay. It’s better than some places and worse than others. Next to the swamp of Washington, the Rideau Canal is idyllic. But let’s not valorize the man who happens to preside over it during a time of national embarrassment for the United States. Canadians have rewarded Trudeau with mediocre poll numbers, typically hovering at between a 50 percent and 60 percent approval rating.

Yes, he’s the poster boy for Brand Canada, and a good one. Perhaps someone who is charming and affable is precisely what Canada needs as key alliances and treaties such as NATO and NAFTA come under threat. But his real talent lies not in government but in showmanship. At least on that front, that Trump and Trudeau have something in common.

July 29, 2017

“By the standards of foreign Trudeau profiles, though, Rodrick’s effort isn’t notably weak”

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

Sad, yes. Pathetic, also yes. But not “weak“:

What a tetchy neighbour Americans have in Canadians. When they ignore us, we mope. And when they notice us, they had better get everything right. We do not suffer errors gladly. Stephen Rodrick’s complimentary profile of Justin Trudeau, in the current issue of Rolling Stone, is a classic example — and some of the complaints, coming not least from Canadian journalists, are certainly well earned.

The “Royal Canadian Mountain Police”? The “Liberty Party”? Those are alarmingly basic errors (though God knows Rolling Stone has published worse). “For Trudeau,” Rodrick ventures, “listening is seducing.” What on earth? “For Trudeau, running is swimming,” he might as well have written. “Cooking is yellow.”

By the standards of foreign Trudeau profiles, though, Rodrick’s effort isn’t notably weak. It at least contains a memorable anecdote: the PM’s motorcade jogs onto a dirt road so he can throw an unwanted ice cream cone out the window without being caught littering on camera. Only … you know … there was a reporter in the car. Did no one have a garbage bag?

Much of the online reaction seems to be less about the article itself and more about the very notion of fawning over this guy at this point in his career. That makes good sense. Non-partisan Canadians who pay attention know that Trudeau isn’t half the change agent he said he was. Key transformational platform items have been abandoned (electoral reform) or are in significant peril (everything to do with First Nations). At this point it’s a stretch to call Trudeau a huge change from Stephen Harper, let alone (per Rolling Stone’s headline) the “free world’s best hope.”

The thing is, though, that was always a ridiculous notion. Rodrick’s piece isn’t so much different from what Canadian journalists have written, as it is late to the party.

Much more of this and I’ll be forced to add a new tag for sycophancy.

July 16, 2017

Woodworking magazines and the lack of safety equipment in photos

Filed under: Technology, Woodworking — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I’ve bought hundreds of woodworking magazines over the years, and in almost every one of them they show machine tool operations where the blade guards have been removed “to clearly illustrate the task”. I understand that reasoning, but the cumulative effect of literally thousands of well-posed, clear, and dangerous practices is almost certainly to lessen the background awareness of new woodworkers to safe use of the tools. When I first got into woodworking, I was buying at least half a dozen magazines every month (ShopNotes, Woodsmith, Popular Woodworking, Fine Woodworking, Woodworker’s Journal, etc.) because I hadn’t touched a real woodworking tool since I was in middle school (and I hated shop at that time anyway), and I knew I needed as much help as I could get.

If I hadn’t been a safety wuss, I’d likely have internalized the “common wisdom” that everyone always takes off the blade guard of the table saw — because they so rarely showed up in the magazine articles and when they did, they made the photo less helpful because of the area of the work they obscured. Overheard conversations at woodworking shows often included comments about throwing away the stock blade guard as soon as possible … and not to replace it with an expensive after-market item, either.

Paul Sellers, who generally works with hand tools, has also been irritated by this and his latest blog post takes the magazines to task:

I thumbed through recent issues of wood mags and though I have known it for years, I thought it might be good to tackle the giant issue surrounding machine safety as some woodworking magazines don’t always project the right image. In fact some give the impression that no safeguards or safety equipment is necessary at all, the exact opposite of what the woodworking machine industry teaches altogether. My concern is that the woodworking magazines get most of their support from amateur woodworkers looking for guidance and inspiration. This advertising sector caters to the amateur woodworker industry with only a little crossover into professional realms. Thumbing through the magazines I was not really considering safety at all, just looking for content of interest to me, but I soon became conscious of the lack of safety equipment being used, which started my inbuilt alarm bells started ringing page after page. See if the images below don’t cause the same sense of concern for you.

[…]

So here we are, five images spanning a few pages with not a face shield in sight and only one pair of safety glasses between four of the five images. Then we have zero regard for any dust protection issues and that is of great concern to all woodworkers. Now I know you can say to me that all woodworkers know about machine dust, tablesaw kick-back issues, noise that causes partial impairment and even permanent hearing loss and so on. Of course that is not really true at all. The people in the pictures are all professional-level woodworkers, authors, editors and so on. Evidently they don’t feel the image they convey with regards to safety is questionable. If that is so, why would we expect the amateurs and those brand new to woodworking to be conscious of dangers that are often less obvious and even well hidden.

The trip mechanism in my brain asked the question, why is it that something so unarguably dangerous as machine woodworking is presented with such passivity toward safety and with no need to show industry standards for normal health and safety protocol put together by professional bodies of the woodworking industry itself? Yes, I know all the reasonable arguments. “They are just posing and not really working.” “The machines are not switched on, perhaps, therefore there is no need to wear any safety equipment. Why would you?” Well, actually, in a couple of the images, the tablesaw is running and there is no need for anyone looking in, to believe that the others are not either anyway.

Image 1:

a: The man has no safety mask on at all b: There is no blade guard over the blade c: The man has no safety glasses on. d: The man has no protective dust mask or respirator equipment.

The dangers ever present in this scenario are: 1: He is breathing harmful dust as he works with the machine no matter how good any dust extraction is. 2: Even though there is a riving knife in place my experience has shown that the wood can still close over on the rear upthrust of the blade and and kick-back the wood at his upper body and face. 3: There is no doubt that the small offcut is a missile waiting to catch. The drafts and movement of wood often cause an upthrust on small pieces and can deliver them to the rear upthrust of the blade once detached as shown. 4: The dust from tablesaws is of course extremely fine and circulates in the atmosphere even with the best dust extraction in the world. This dust is some of the most harmful to the whole respiratory system, eyes, nasal passages and throat.

I use a tablesaw sled similar to the one shown in the photo above, and to use it I have to remove the blade guard on my saw. I’ve considered adding a plexiglass strip over the blade opening for quite some time, to provide at least some protection against offcuts being kicked back from the back of the saw blade. I always use hearing protection when using any of my power tools, but I don’t always add a dust mask unless I’m doing a lot of cutting over a short period of time. Perhaps I should reconsider that.

This is the real McCoy. My friend Chris gears up every time, as I and others do.

So why do the editors allow poses that include the faces? As far as information goes the faces or facial expressions give nothing to the reader and are inconsequential. Mostly it’s to do with presenting the acceptable image that down plays the essentiality of safety to its core audience. In my view it is of little value to put a little disclaimer in the corner of a page if the images send another message that woodworking without protective equipment is perfectly safe. No one is exempted from responsibility in this. Not the authors, the photographers, the editors or the publishers. They all have responsibility for promoting unsafe practices. Even with safety equipment things go wrong in a split second. We can take care of our lungs, eyes and faces with very low-maintenance equipment.

My advice to any new woodworker wanting to compliment their work by using machines for dimensioning stock would be to find courses tailored to specific machines. Good online material is available from recognised institutions too. You must be careful of course, as looking for information based on good experience can be hard as some things are based more on opinion than experience. Look for experienced teachers and organisations with the right background. Generally these are information based but then you must put into practice what you are taught and by experience you will gain the experience you need to anticipate potential issues. No one else can substitute for your individual responsibility.

June 22, 2017

The Netflix tax is dead (again) – “This thing was a turkey, and Trudeau was right to wring its neck.”

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

Chris Selley rejoices in the demise of the so-called “Netflix tax” proposal, but also pours scorn on yet another proposal to prop up Canadian print media organizations:

Justin Trudeau wasted little time last week rubbishing the Heritage Committee’s so-called “Netflix tax,” and no wonder. If you’re determined to raid people’s wallets to fund journalism they’d rather not pay for and Can-con programming they’d rather not watch, you’re far better off doing it shadily than with a shiny new tax on something people love. The sound bytes winging around in the idea’s favour were, in a word, pathetic: “it’s not a new tax, but an expanded levy!”; “we already tax cable, why not Internet?”; “we already subsidize magazines, why not newspapers?”

Good God, why any of it? This thing was a turkey, and Trudeau was right to wring its neck.

Newspaper publishers and union bosses remain undaunted in pursuit of unearned public funds, however. “Canada’s newspaper industry unites to advocate for Canadian Journalism Fund,” proclaimed a headline at News Media Canada, the publishers’ lobby group. They’re savvy enough to propose tying subsidies to employed journalists’ salaries — 35 per cent to a maximum of $30,000 per head — rather than just cutting cheques. That might fend off Executive Bonus Rage, but it won’t fend off sticker shock: the suggested eventual cost is a whopping $350 million a year.

As a taxpayer I would much rather subsidize Canada’s journalists than Canada’s legacy media companies — but I would sure as hell rather subsidize neither. The more beholden to government a country’s journalists, the less free its press. Magazine writers in this country know their publications get a top-up from Ottawa in the form of the Canadian Periodical Fund. That’s not ideal. But under News Media Canada’s proposal, we would know our jobs literally depended on government largesse. I’ll take a hard pass on that.

Publishers’ and union bosses’ claims of unanimous support notwithstanding, many unionized journalists, and many of your non-unionized friends here at the National Post, hate the idea. It risks narrowing Canada’s already remarkably narrow spectrum of acceptable ideas and arguments. It risks — no, guarantees — alienating the very consumers we need to attract. In the case of some legacy media outlets it would simply extend the runway for business models that everyone knows will never fly again. In any event, the sums being bandied about wouldn’t solve the crisis as a whole unless the solution was permanent and ever-greater government dependency. I’m amazed to see how many journalists, including some very nearly pensionable ones, support the idea.

March 23, 2017

QotD: The Economist

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

When I was living in a very remote part of the world I used to read The Economist from cover to cover, though it arrived two months late (communications in those days were not yet instantaneous). It made me feel that I was well-informed, if only in retrospect, despite my isolation. It was my window on the world.

Even then, though, I thought that it was dull and self-congratulatory, characterizing itself as of “the extreme centre.” I noticed that its reports at the front did not always coincide with the economic data at the back and that its prognostications were frequently belied by events — as, of course, most people’s prognostications are. Nevertheless, it managed to convey the impression that the disparities, insofar as they acknowledged them at all, were the fault of the events rather than of The Economist, and that the world had a duty to be as The Economist said it was and as it would be. The anonymity of the articles was intended to create the illusion that the magazine spoke from nothing so vulgar as a perspective, but rather from some Olympian height from which only the whole truth and nothing but the truth could be descried. It is the saving grace of every such magazine that no one remembers what he read in it the week before. Only by the amnesia of its readers can a magazine retain its reputation for perspicacity.

I found its style dull, too. How was it that correspondents from Lima to Limassol, from Cairo to Kathmandu, wrote in precisely the same fashion, as if everything that happened everywhere was fundamentally the same? Walter Bagehot, son-in-law of the founder of The Economist and its most famous editor, was a brilliant prose stylist and a wonderfully witty literary critic, among many other things; but The Economist has long been about as amusing as a speech by David Cameron. Its prose was the literary equivalent of IKEA furniture, prefabricated according to a manual of style; it tried to combine accessibility with judiciousness and arrived only at portentousness.

Who now reads it, and what for? I suppose there is a type of functionary who does not want to be caught out in ignorance of the latest political developments in Phnom Penh, or the supposed reasons for the latest uprising in Ouagadougou. The Economist is intellectual seriousness for middle management and MBAs. To be seen with it is a sign of belonging to, and of identifying with, a certain caste.

Theodore Dalrymple, “From Boring to Baffling”, Taki’s Magazine, 2015-08-01.

February 15, 2017

From the Golden Age of SF to the Chalk Age of today

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Here’s an interesting contrarian take on the history of SF: that the “Golden Age” of Campbellian SF was actually the end of the true Golden Age … the era of the pulps:

Here’s the Great Myth of the Golden Age of Science Fiction:

“Science Fiction sucked until the coming of John W. Campbell and the Big Three — Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein. Together they swept away the puerile garbage of the Pulps and brought about Science Fiction’s Golden Age.”

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, utter tosh. Bunk. Hokum.

It’s horseshit.

The coming of Campbell and co. did not save or elevate the Fantasy and Science Fiction genre. Before them, it was already popular and widely read. In addition to the Pulps, there were novels, radio serials, and (eventually) cinema serials.

Nor was F&SF at that time a literary ghetto, a genre thought fit only for teenage boys and pencil-necked geeks. Men and women, adults and children — all read the Pulps. Some F&SF magazines were aimed solely at the adult audience.

It took the twin assaults of Campbell and the Socialist-Libertine wing of the Futurians to turn the mainstream off of SF. And, despite periodic attempts to revive SF, it remains a ghetto today.

January 31, 2017

MSM bias is baked-in, and has been for generations

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In last week’s Goldberg File, Jonah Goldberg talked about the default left-leaning mainstream media (that’s most of the media):

I agree with pretty much all of the right-wing criticism of the mainstream media these days, or at least the intelligent stuff, of which there has been plenty. What the MSM still fails to appreciate is the degree to which they’ve spent the last 40 years — at least — presenting news as unbiased and objective when it was in fact coated with, saturated in, and bent by all manner of confirmation biases, self-serving narratives, assumptions, and ideological priorities that leaned left. No, it wasn’t all “fake news” (man, am I exhausted by the ridiculous misuse of that term), at least not most of the time [insert outrage over Duranty’s Pulitzer, Janet Cooke’s and Steve Glass’s fabulations, and of course that time Dan Rather climbed the jackass tree only to hurl himself down, hitting every branch].

I would even go so far as to argue that most of the time liberal bias isn’t even deliberate. Maybe because I’ve been reading so much public-choice theory and psychology stuff of late, I tend to credit conspiracy theories less and groupthink more for the wayward state of the mainstream media (though Mark Hemingway makes a good point about Plowshares’ sub rosa complicity in pushing the Iran deal). Still, the more you get to know elite “objective” journalists, the more you can appreciate that they are trying to do it right. But it also becomes all the more obvious that they live in a social milieu where the borders between the Democratic party, liberal activism, and liberal experts are very, very fuzzy.

For instance, last week I wrote about that ridiculous article in the Washington Post accusing David Gelernter of being “anti-intellectual.” Much of the Post’s “reporting” hinged on a lengthy, catty quote from a member of the Union of Concern Scientists. As I noted, the Union of Concerned Scientists has always been a political operation. It’s a classic example of an outfit that liberal journalists invest with non-partisan authority so they can pass off partisan views as “science” or some other objective expertise.

In 1985, the editors of National Review wrote:

    The Union of Concerned Scientists, except for the publicity it commands, can be dismissed. It has been a scandal for years — a letterhead with a few distinguished names acting as shills for a membership of left-wing laymen (anyone can be a Concerned Scientist, just by paying the membership fee).

Countless activists-in-experts-clothing organizations run on some variant of this model, from the Women’s Sports Foundation to the National Resources Defense Council.

Reporters routinely call experts they already agree with knowing that their “takes” will line up with what the reporter believes. Sometimes this is lazy or deadline-driven hackery. But more often, it’s not. And that shouldn’t surprise us. Smart liberal reporters are probably inclined to think that smart liberal experts are right when they say things the smart liberal reporters already agree with.

For these and similar reasons, liberal ideas and interpretations of the facts sail through while inconvenient facts and conservative interpretations send up ideological red flags. Think of editors like security guards at a military base. They tend to wave through the people they know and the folks with right ID badges. But when a stranger shows up, or if someone lacks the right credential, then the guards feel like they have to do their job. This is the basic modus operandi for places like Vox, which seek to explain not the facts or the news, but why liberals are right about the facts and the news.

December 20, 2016

The pursuit of “fake news” may lead to unexpected destinations

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

At the Adam Smith Institute blog, Tim Worstall looks at the ginned-up outrage over “fake news” in the media:

The comment page of The Guardian is a useful place to watch the latest alarum and mass delusion to which we humans are distressingly subject take form. The one so taking form at present being the outcries over the false news which so obviously won the election for Trump (or Brexit, The Italian referendum, Beppe to be, Le Pen and, well, select from whatever will annoy those who write the Guardian‘s comment pages).

The truly astonishing thing about it all being the alarming lack of self knowledge on display. Because of course fake news is nothing new at all, indeed it’s been a standard tactic of various on the left for some time now.

[…]

And closer to home here think of the UK Uncut saga. The story about Vodafone and the £6 billion tax bill. There never was such a bill, there was no deal to cut it and yet that isn’t what our media has been telling us, is it? Richard Brooks, the originator of the story in Private Eye, has actually explained to us how the figure was reached. If tax law was different then more money would have been owed. We’re sure that’s true but there’s a certain promulgation of not quite an entire and whole truth to move from that to an insistence that £6 billion was owed, no? Or the campaign about Boot’s tax avoidance, something they achieved while obeying every jot and tittle of the law about what people should not do to avoid tax.

At least one of the perpetrators of that little, umm, piece of truthiness, has openly agreed that it was all about creating the narrative, exact details were not the point.

Or even the continued wails that inequality is rising to unprecedented levels. Global inequality is falling and within country inequality is nothing at all like the levels of the historical past – we’ve welfare systems explicitly designed to make sure that it isn’t. The spread of food banks – is this evidence, as claimed, of massive need? Or evidence of an always extant need now finally being met?

We’re going on a length here because this is an important issue. Yes, indeed, there is fake news out there. But what is going to be uncomfortable for a lot of those complaining about it is that a close examination of “truth” is going to leave an awful lot of supposedly established facts about our modern world looking terribly exposed.

November 20, 2016

Canada’s new “national bird”

Filed under: Cancon, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Apparently we needed a new national symbol so we’ve been given the “Grey Jay” as our new national bird. I’ve never seen one, as far as I can tell, and its normal range doesn’t extend into southern Ontario. Blue Jays are quite common around here, but I didn’t even know there was a Grey Jay until now. They’re apparently also known as “Whiskey Jacks” in the west and I’ve at least heard of that term from a Stan Rogers song. Colby Cosh is, as you’d expect, unimpressed:

Congratulations to the grey jay, Canada’s new national bird! Canadian Geographic magazine made the big announcement on Wednesday, having completed a two-year search for a suitable representative avian. The big news was greeted with a national chorus of… well, to be honest, it did sound suspiciously like a “meh.” For my part, I needed a minute or two to establish that the grey jay is what I was raised to call a “whiskey jack”.

But I did recognize it. I fear many Canadians, perhaps most, will not. I grew up north of Edmonton, adjacent to the boreal forest, and my nature-loving father made a point of bundling me into snow pants and dragging me into the woods from time to time, usually on some slender pretext. The whiskey jack is a northern bird — one of the characteristics that recommended it to Canadian Geographic is that it lives in Canada almost exclusively. On a map of Canada, the range of the whiskey jack is a band that covers almost the entire surface, with gaps where all the people happen to live.

That a species is seen only in the bush is probably no reason not to choose it as the national bird. The magazine wanted a bird that is not already the official avian emblem of a particular province, and this all but eliminated more obvious, popular, and attractive choices, such as the loon, the snowy owl, and the black-capped chickadee. The rather plain and uninspiring whiskey jack thus seems to have been the bird of destiny from the outset of the selection process, which involved an online vote and an expert panel.

But wait. Where does Canadian Geographic actually get the authority to choose a national bird for Canada? If you read carefully, you find that it doesn’t claim to have any. It made its choice, and says it is going to ask the federal government to endorse that choice formally.

Well, any other magazine or newspaper might do as much. The real answer to the question is that some sly editor cooked up the whole rigmarole in order to sell magazines.

November 18, 2016

Scott Alexander – “You are still crying wolf”

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

Donald Trump is President-elect, but he didn’t get there by pandering to white supremacist and racist voters, but you’d never know that by how his campaign was reported in the media. Scott Alexander says that the media still hasn’t learned its lesson and is still crying wolf:

Back in October 2015, I wrote that the media narrative of Trump as “the white power candidate” and “the first openly white supremacist candidate to have a shot at the Presidency in the modern era” were being fabricated out of thin air. I said that “the media narrative that Trump is doing some kind of special appeal-to-white-voters voodoo is unsupported by any polling data”, and predicted that:

    If Trump were the Republican nominee, he could probably count on equal or greater support from minorities as Romney or McCain before him.

Well, guess what? The votes are in, and Trump got greater support from minorities than Romney or McCain before him. You can read the Washington Post article, Trump Got More Votes From People Of Color Than Romney Did, or look at the raw data (source)

We see that of every racial group, the one where Trump made the smallest gains over Romney was white people. I want to repeat that: the group where Trump’s message resonated least over what we would predict from a generic Republican was the white population.

Nor was there some surge in white turnout. I don’t see official numbers yet, but by eyeballing what data we have it looks very much like whites turned out in lower numbers to vote in 2016 than they did in 2012, 2010, and so on.

Of course, the media quickly responded to all of this undeniable and freely available data with articles like White Flight From Reality: Inside The Racist Panic That Fueled Donald Trump’s Victory and Make No Mistake: Donald Trump’s Win Represents A Racist “Whitelash”.

I stick to my thesis from October 2015. There is no evidence that Donald Trump is more racist than any past Republican candidate (or any other 70 year old white guy, for that matter). All this stuff about how he’s “the candidate of the KKK” and “the vanguard of a new white supremacist movement” is made up. It’s a catastrophic distraction from the dozens of other undeniable problems with Trump that could have convinced voters to abandon him. That it came to dominate the election cycle should be considered a horrifying indictment of our political discourse, in the same way that it would be a horrifying indictment of our political discourse if the entire Republican campaign had been based around the theory that Hillary Clinton was a secret Satanist. Yes, calling Romney a racist was crying wolf. But you are still crying wolf.

I avoided pushing this point any more since last October because I didn’t want to look like I was supporting Trump, or accidentally convince anyone else to support Trump. But since we’re past the point where that matters anymore, I want to present exactly why I think this is true.

I realize that all of this is going to make me sound like a crazy person and put me completely at odds with every respectable thinker in the media, but luckily, being a crazy person at odds with every respectable thinker in the media has been a pretty good ticket to predictive accuracy lately, so whatever.

(more…)

November 16, 2016

QotD: Foodie self-righteousness

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

… asking people to “eat local” who live in northern climes where “local” means “nothing green” for six or seven months out of the year, and do not get to spend a few months each winter in Sicily teaching a cooking class, is pretty rich. A food writer who is telling other people how they could eat, if they wanted to, is doing a great public service. A food writer who is telling other people how they should eat (just like me, except without my access to ingredients) is just obnoxious. You can’t possibly know how they should eat, unless you have spent some time living their lives.

It is well to remember that people who spend time professionally writing about food have quite a bit more time in their day for acquiring and cooking food than most people. They also have more resources and recipes at their disposal. And you know, they can move to California to enjoy the produce.

Nor is it just the tyranny of localism; it is the list of ingredients that you ought to like, and the list of ingredients that you shouldn’t, and what the hell is wrong with you troglodytes and your Twinkies? Now, personally, I hated Twinkies before Hostess went bankrupt, and I’m sure I’d hate them now, along with Hostess cupcakes, Ho Hos, Devil Dogs, Snowballs, and whatever other tasteless cake substance they’ve filled with that disgusting white goo that tastes like rubberized confectioner’s sugar. I also despise anything made with canned cream-of-whatever soup, detest marshmallows in any form, and would rather eat paste than Cool Whip. You know what these are? Personal preferences. They are not signs that I have achieved a higher level of food consciousness. There is no such thing as a higher level of food consciousness. There is stuff you like to eat, and stuff you do not like to eat.

Megan McArdle, “Dinner, With a Side of Self-Righteousness”, Bloomberg View, 2015-03-27.

November 8, 2016

QotD: Media bias

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

The strongest bias in American politics is not a liberal bias or a conservative bias; it is a confirmation bias, or the urge to believe only things that confirm what you already believe to be true.

Emma Roller, “Your Facts or Mine?”, New York Times, 2016-10-25.

November 7, 2016

Rolling Stone and the Nicole Eramo lawsuit

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

The jury decided that Rolling Stone magazine and the writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely did defame University of Virginia associate dean Nicole Eramo. Tim Newman comments on the (to him, satisfying) outcome of the case:

As soon as that story was published it got torn apart on the internet. Crucially, those tearing it apart were not just the red pill/manosphere/PUA sites either. Plenty of moderate, mainstream sites cast serious doubts on the story and I read a few of them.

Common sense would have told you there was something seriously amiss. From memory, “Jackie” recounts being thrown onto a glass-topped coffee table so hard that it shattered beneath her and then raped where she lay. You don’t need to be a practicing rapist to know that any guy who did that would be risking serious injury to himself: there are arguments over the involuntary circumcision of males, but I don’t think they cover rapists going about their business in lakes of shattered glass. She would also have sustained major damage had she been subject to those levels of violence: lacerations, fractures, bruising which she could have shown to the police and would have needed hospital treatment.

It was bullshit, but that wasn’t what made people angry. Lots of stories in the media are bullshit and nobody cares. So what made this one different? It was because those who supposedly supported “Jackie’s” version of events and abused those who questioned it wanted it to be true. For them, it was a better outcome that she had really been raped than for the story to have been fabricated.

[…]

So have they learned their lesson? It would appear not:

    In a statement, the magazine added: “It is our deep hope that our failings do not deflect from the pervasive issues discussed in the piece, and that reporting on sexual assault cases ultimately results in campus policies that better protect our students.”

Those “pervasive issues” being complete fabrications which exist only in the minds of a handful of mentally disturbed students who were cynically exploited by some of the worst people ever to infest academia and journalism anywhere.

I hope the lawsuits keep coming and they are sued out of existence.

H/T to Jeff Scarbrough for the link.

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