July 31, 2005
Used Bookstores in LA
Question for Los Angeles folk: anyone know a good, fairly large used bookstore in the city? I've got to sell a few tomes in advance of the DC move, and I;d like to do it somewhere with a decent selection. I've been kinda stymied in the search for a decent story, but there's gotta be at least one. Help on this would be much appreciated.
The Peculiar Institution
The Claremont Review of Books, conservative though it is, is an interesting journal, particularly if you want a window into what Republican intellectuals are thinking and rationalizing. But this is a bit odd. Here's the last paragraph of Victor Davis Hanson's (sadly lame) essay on politicized universities:
The signs of erosion on our campuses are undeniable, whether we examine declining test scores, spiraling costs, or college graduates' ignorance of basic facts and ideas. In response, or academic leadership is not talking about a more comprehensive curriculum, higher standards of academic accomplishment, or the critical need freely to debate important issues. Instead, it remains obsessed with the racial, ideological, and sexual spoils system called "diversity". Even as the airline industry was deregulated in the 1970s, and Wall Street now has come under long-overdue scrutiny, it is time for Americans, if we are to ensure our privileged future, to reexamine our era's politicized university.
Standard, right? Now it gets weird. The back cover of the journal generally sports an excerpt of some feature article. This issue, Hanson gets the honor. But there's a slight change. Italics are mine:
The signs of erosion on our campuses are undeniable, whether we examine declining test scores, spiraling costs, or college graduates' ignorance of basic facts and ideas. In response, or academic leadership is not talking about a more comprehensive curriculum, higher standards of academic accomplishment, or the critical need freely to debate important issues. Instead, it remains obsessed with the racial, ideological, and sexual spoils system called "diversity". Even as the airline industry was deregulated in the 1970s, and Wall Street now has come under long-overdue scrutiny, it is time for Americans, if we are to ensure our privileged future, to reexamine our era's peculiar institution, the politicized university.
Notice the addition? The "peculiar institution", by the way, is another term for "slavery".
So does the White House, which orders two dozen of each issue of The Claremont Review of Books, believe that today's universities are a modern equivalent to the enslavement of black people? Does Victor Davis Hanson? Why was the final paragraph of his article changed to include the comparison?
Inquiring minds want to know.
I got nothing, I've been podcasting Left, Right and Center all week. Did a segue into Le Tigre's self titled album and worked out to some old Eminem, but that's about it.
The Truth About The Truth About Hillary
From Joe Queenan's review of The Truth About Hillary:
What I am saying is that if Klein purposely set out to write the sleaziest, most derivative, most despicable political biography ever, he has failed both himself and his readers miserably. ''The Truth About Hillary'' is only about the 16th sleaziest book I have ever read. Though, in fairness to the author, reading creepy, cut-and-paste books is my hobby.
Which isn't to say there's nothing of note in there. Ed Klein, you should know, has found himself a new angle:
to my knowledge, Klein is the only journalist who has shed meaningful light on the extent to which her career has been shaped by friends, roommates, short-haired colleagues or rivals with weight problems.
Monica Lewinsky is fat. Bill Clinton has long been a member of the clean-plate society. Evelyn Lieberman, the former White House deputy chief of staff, is reputed to be ''a little overweight.'' Mrs. Clinton herself has long battled a tendency to beef up, but in perhaps the most astonishing revelation in the book, ''several of her Wellesley College classmates, who played sports with Hillary, described how she looked in a T-shirt and shorts,'' and according to them, ''she had a tiny waist, slim legs and ankles, and small buttocks.''...the implication is clear. Hillary Clinton does not merely view the world through the asexual, unmaternal, left-leaning eyes of a poorly groomed woman who was surrounded in her youth by manipulative pinkos who were playing for the other team. At some level, Hillary Clinton feels most comfortable in the company of fat people.
The obvious conclusion is that Hillary Clinton, in a ploy of Machiavellian subtlety, deliberately overcame her small buttocks and thin ankles and put on a few pounds in a cunning attempt to curry favor with fat voters. And in a nation that is looking increasingly chunky, this alone could insure her victory in the 2008 presidential elections.
Now that's journalism.
What is the Meaning of Life, Oh Gene?
Lance Mannion writes:
And that was Rodenberry’s most progressive idea. In the future he envisioned, everybody mattered. Everybody had an important job. Nobody was redundant. Nobody was a mere cog in the machine. What were all those people doing on the Enterprise, anyway? By the mid 1960s it was possible to see how computers would come to be able to do many jobs that people then did but do those jobs faster and more reliably and with fewer errors, with the bonus that the computers would not need to be paid.
But that's not true, is it? I mean, what of all those ensigns who, every time they were thrown in with the landing party, quickly got phaser'd out of existence? They were human plot fodder, getting mulched up so viewers at home understood the gravity of the situation. I guess in that sense, they mattered, but it seems a rather crummy purpose in life. Hell, if meaning means I gotta get blasted by a Klingon, I'm all for giving my job to HAL.
July 30, 2005
David Brooks, Bobos in Paradise: As mentioned below, I'm really enjoying it. Yes, I know his examples sometimes don't hold water and his sociological brush is broad enough to use Australia as canvas, but it's still fun, he still has fascinating thougts and ideas, and he still brings a better, more incisive eye towards a certain subset of people than most anyone else writing about them. Other books of this sort suffer from an unrestrained contempt towards their subjects or a desire to lionize. Brooks, I think, likes living this life, but is nevertheless a bit ashamed at its inconsistencies and oddities, and the tone that that his conflicted indulgence results in is delightful. Since I'm a Bobo in good standing, I'm loving the book.
Chris Matthews Kennedy and Nixon: Yeah, that Chris Matthews. Before he ran an inconsistent television show, he apparently wrote books. More surprising yet, they're pretty good. This one focuses on the troubled relationship between the two presidents when they were rising political stars. They had an affinity for each other because they were both, basically, bloodthirsty. Kennedy won Congress using an array of dirty tricks and bribes that make DeLay look like a choirboy. As for Nixon, his red-baiting was legendary and actually provided the template for McCarthy's later perfection of the form (the Wisconsin Senator actually cribbed whole speeches from Nixon). He was a nasty, lying campaigner and an absolute workaholic. The two of them, in the end, were the same sort of folks. It's just that Kennedy's looks, charm and money allowed him to get away with his tactics, even be admired for them while Nixon went down in disgrace. In some ways, that's a much more profound judgment on Americans and how we treat criminals from different classes than it is a verdict on either man.
Rodney Stark's The Rise of Christianity: A sociologist's study of what sort of conversion rate Christianity needed to explode as it did (the answer? About 40%.) and what sort of conditions allowed it to maintain the growth. I'm not too far into it, so that's all I know for now.
What's on your nightstand?
It's Not Me, It's You
Lula, whose government is now so rife with corruption that the populist is facing impeachment, has apparently decided on a new public relations strategy. Protesting innocence and offering exculpatory evidence is for losers, the new breed of angel-pure, Latin-American leftists simply tells the citizenry that they're a bunch of scumbags and should stop being so goddamn hypocritical:
As his government and his reputation collapse around him, Mr. da Silva in Brazil has taken a similar tack. He initially contended that "as regards its electoral behavior, the Workers' Party did what has been done systematically in Brazil." But he has since abandoned those excuses in favor of protestations of innocence and personal integrity.
"Among 180 million Brazilians, there is no one, neither man nor woman, with the authority to lecture me about ethics, morals or honesty," he said in a speech here last week. "In this country, the person who can debate ethics with me has yet to be born."
There's also a dangerous geopolitical aspect to all this. A few short years ago, Lula was a hero, a hope. He was a Democratically elected labor leader who promised populism without authoritiarianism. But, to the Brazilian people, he and his promises are failing. And when hope in democrats gets dashed, resignation towards dictators reemerges:
Frustration has reached dangerous levels in several countries, with sometimes violent street protests. The shift from authoritarian governments to democracies, many had hoped, would squelch the kind of corruption that predominated when dictators ran the affairs of state to the benefit of a small clique of insiders and threatened whistle-blowers.
Yet successor governments across the political spectrum, whether free-market advocates like Mr. Toledo or self-proclaimed leftists like Mr. da Silva, have proved even more susceptible. With once-closed economies having been opened up and corporate profits at record levels, the opportunities for graft and bribes are larger than ever.
So widespread is the disgust that last year another regionwide poll found that a majority of Latin Americans would prefer a return to dictatorship if it would bring economic benefits. Despite improved economic indicators since then, the ranks of the poor have continued to swell, as has the resentment of those who are pocketing the wealth of the nation for their own benefit.
Incidentally, what's all this fuss over cage fighting? I mean, not my cup of tea, but if a bunch of wannabe-warriors want to step between chicken wire and beat the consensual crap out of each other, who cares? I'm glad that they have fewer deaths than boxing, I'm pleased that the cage prevents whiplash, but in the end, when people want to do stupid shit outside the eyes of regulation, there's not a whole lot that can be done to stop them. Indeed, if you really were concerned about safety, you wouldn't criminalize or shun the sport, you'd try and usher it into some sort of more regulated, more codified system where the rules could be normalized, best-methods for safety could be observed, and competent referees could keep an eye on the action.
When I was 15, I went to the Southern California championships for wrestling. It was my first year on varsity, I was a sophomore. In my first match, my opponent, an older, lumbering, heavier guy, flipped me. Generally, I did well with bigger dudes, but this guy just flipped me. The problem was, he landed on my throat. I couldn't get any air. Couldn't cough or gag, couldn't talk or scream. I tried to tap out, but the ref didn't see. So I started trying to shove my fingers in his eyes. Thankfully, the ref called me pinned before I passed out. It was damn scary though, scariest thing that ever happened to me.
That was in a high school sanctioned sport, but even so, the ref wasn't watching for the tap. These ones are. But what if one forgets? You want safety, normalize the rules, like they did in New Jersey and Nevada, make sure the competitors know their exit strategies and the referees are watching for when they run towards the door. That keeps people safe. Our disapproval, lawsuits against the promoters...the farther you drive this underground, the more dangerous it'll get, the more brutal it'll be, and the more people will be hurt or killed.
Don't you wish some of our leaders still thought like this?
Medicare's history suggests that tough problems in health care can be solved, but only after long struggle, and only with visionary and effective leadership from the highest reaches of our political system. Johnson pulled out all the stops for Medicare. He told Vice President Hubert Humphrey on March 6, 1965: "I'll go a hundred million or a billon on health or education. I don't argue about that any more than I argue about Lady Bird buying flour." He added: "I may cut back some tanks. But not on health."
To be fair, we do now have a Republican party that wants more tanks, more health, free cake and ice cream, subsidized trips to amusement parks, and lower taxes. But were the crunch ever to come, or were it ever to be recognized, you know exactly what'd go first. Last year we beat back an assault on Medicaid. But as the budget gets worse, if housing pops, if the economy turns south -- it'll revolve right back up to the chopping block. And the guy with the axe ain't no LBJ.
Will the Real David Brooks Please Stand Up?
What's happened to David Brooks? I mean that seriously -- no snark. What's gone wrong there? The other day I picked up BoBos in Paradise at a used bookstore and it's great. Funny and light-hearted and incisive in a way that really rings true, at least for me and my crowd. It's got great one-liners ("At that point, it had not yet become unfashionable to get sick and die") and chapter-long meditations, like the opening riff on professional weddings, that are actually intellectually provocative.
And then...what? His last column was on the difficulty of taking kids on airplanes. Not the laws of it, not the sociology of it, just the fact that kids misbehave and parents are at a loss. Way to cover new ground, David! His political columns skim hackery a few times before sinking into party-line talking points.
This guy was good. He was funny and personable and insightful. What happened? And where do we find another one?