Tuesday, August 30, 2016

People who are enchanted are the real tough cookies

 Enchanted (Walt Disney, 2007), via Decider.

David Brooks is interested in "Making Modern Toughness". I guess he figures the world needs toughness, but the toughness they used to have back in the day lacks the lightness and sophistication of the kind of toughness we would want for the current era. It was thickened with cream and egg yolks and people didn't value the natural character of the ingredients. We're looking for a toughness that makes more use of infused oils and techniques like steaming and sous-vide cooking and a sense of terroir.

When I ask veteran college teachers and administrators to describe how college students have changed over the years, I often get an answer like this: “Today’s students are more accomplished than past generations, but they are also more emotionally fragile.”
That rings true to me.
Pause to note how David Brooks apparently has a standard operating procedure for dealing with veteran college teachers and administrators. "Can you describe for me, please, how college students have changed over the years?" How many has he interrogated, one wonders, and do they constitute a random sample? What percentage of the responses is "often", and how does this frequent answer differ from others?

Monday, August 29, 2016


And it's been 11,482 days since the American people learned anything worth knowing from one of these masked kabuki events in which some of the nation's least informed journalists demonstrate their "toughness" and "savvy" by asking a president or presidential candidate essentially the same questions they'd be asking Carmelo Anthony at the half (either "How do you feel about the last 45 minutes?" or "What secret thing do you plan to do during the next 45 minutes that you would never tell me but I'm asking it anyway?"). No, I just made that number up.

Sani ol-Molk, Anoushirvan Khan and the courtiers, 19th century. Via Iran Chamber.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

State-of-the-art psychiatry

Image via Never Yet Melted.
TRUMP: A lot of people don't realize this, but I am actually the Emperor Napoleon. I didn't know it myself until quite recently when I got a message about it from the transmitter in my upper left wisdom tooth. I said "Are you crazy? That would mean I was like well over 200 years old!" But on reflection I saw it was true! How else can you explain what's been happening to me?

BAD MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL: This kind of talk suggests the candidate may be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

GOOD MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL: It's irresponsible to say you can diagnose someone's mental health without examining them in person. Many candidates say grandiose-sounding things. Mr. Trump could have all sorts of reasons for claiming to be Napoleon.


GOOD MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL: I'm going to have you decertified. I know some very powerful people.

More at On the Media. And from Mr. Chuck Todd via Tom Boggioni. And one last howl of rage from me:

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Goodness gracious, great balls of Brooks

Hillary's probably more like President Fictional Beyoncé. Come to think of it, that sounds pretty good to me.
Brooks's title, "The Art of Gracious Leadership", makes me imagine a President Jacqueline Kennedy, because I don't think anybody in history has been more frequently described as "gracious", or to make it completely clear, President Fictional Jacqueline Kennedy, because I feel sure the real Jacqueline Kennedy must have had a good deal of toughness behind the wispy voice and the mask of her cheekbones, and an impatience with bad taste that I bet she wasn't always able to graciously conceal.

Maybe President Fictional Dolly Parton:
CHUCK TODD: President Parton, your approval numbers have frankly been in the basement for weeks, don't you think it's time to show more leadership and cut Social Security or something?
PRESIDENT FICTIONAL PARTON: Honey, do you need a drink? Estelle, get Mr. Todd another drink, please, honey! This is such a nice visit, Chuck, I'm just thrilled you found the time to stop by.
TODD: What makes you think you can work with Congress to do what the American people want, whatever that is. Aren't they suspicious about the possibility that you may have had cosmetic surgery?
FICTIONAL PARTON: I'd be so glad if you could offer me some sage advice on that stuff, Chuck. I'm such an airhead myself, sometimes, honestly. We should totally have a longer visit sometime where you can share some of that super-attractive masculine wisdom and I can just sit at your feet drinking it in. How's Mrs. Todd? Honey, I love that girl to death! You should have brought her along!
Indeed, Brooks's beef today is that Hillary Clinton, or Fictional Hillary Clinton, as the case may be, isn't gracious enough to be one of those people in public life that we really admire, so that, sadly, he's unable to really admire her, much as he would enjoy it if he could.

But luckily he has plenty of sage advice as to how she could improve her graciousness numbers, and possibly one day even win some esteem from Brooks himself.

It all starts with experience:

Friday, August 26, 2016

All Trite

Pretty maids all in a row. Traditional costume, Corbi, via Pure-Romania.
I can't believe Hillary used the word "dog whistle" in that speech (she had nearly as hard a time saying "alt-right" as Trump does saying, "LGT...................BQ" or "African................American", but that's OK). That's almost as great as it would be if Obama advised everybody to pay more attention to the thinking outside the Village. I'm also enthusiastic about the new way she's using the mic, trusting it to carry her voice and speaking actually somewhat softly, intimately, which can make you work a little to listen to her.

Not that I'm one of those who criticize her for bellowing in those primary rallies on the ground that women sound "shrill". I really don't like that style from men, either, even if it's Teddy Kennedy or Howard Dean. Especially if it's Teddy, come to think of it, because as everybody knows Dean couldn't do it right, but Teddy sounded like an authentic authoritarian, even when he was preaching love between my brothers and my sisters a-a-all over this land.

Rather, I'd say one of the unexpected little benefits of finally having a woman reach this stage of the campaign is that she can experiment with these stupid conventions. When she lowers her voice to tell you, in effect, "I realize what clowns these people are and at the same time I'm telling you they're seriously dangerous," and you understand it's for real.

The EpiPen is mightier

Image via Wikiquote.
The weirdest thing about the latest drug outrage, the 400% rise in the price of the EpiPen epinephrine delivery system from Mylan, is the way the CEO, Heather Bresch, who just happens to be the daughter of Senator Joe Manchin ("Democrat"-WV), seems to want to take offense at it in her CNBC interview, as if it were something done to rather than by the company—

Heather Bresch: Look, no one’s more frustrated than me. I’ve been in this business for 25 years…
Sullivan: But you’re the one raising the price, how can you be frustrated?
Bresch: My frustration is there’s a list price of $608. There is a system. I laid out that there are four or five hands that the product touches and companies that it goes through before it ever gets to that patient at the counter. No one, everybody should be frustrated, I am hoping that this is an inflection point for this country. Our health care is in a crisis. It’s no different than the mortgage and financial crisis back in 2007. This bubble is going to burst.

You hear how she glosses over her own responsibility? "You're the one raising the price," says Brian Sullivan; "There's a price," replies Bresch, essentially denying it.

It just raised itself! When nobody was looking! The Invisible Hand is angry because humans have scorned the sacred laws! Thanks, Obama!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Summer vocation, continued

Auguste Rodin at work, filmed by Sacha Guitry in 1915. I bet David Brooks would be wondering why he looks so crabby instead of "radiating joy" and never holds any press conferences. Image via Hyperallergic.
So, picking up from where I left off yesterday, Brooks ("Why America's Leadership Fails") is back in his depressive phase. On Friday he was all
But America’s economic success is like our Olympic success, writ large. The nation’s troubles are evident, but our country has sound fundamentals.... the biggest threat now is unmerited pessimism itself, and the stupid and fearful choices that inevitably flow from it.
Now he's like

We’ve clearly had a failure of leadership in this country. The political system is not working as it should. Big problems are not being addressed.
A failure in respect to what in particular? How should the political system be working? Which big problems does Mr. Burkean Modesty wish to see addressed? It's funny, in Friday's happy column, he had ten paragraphs of actual facts, more or less accurately reported, to back up his cheerful assessment, but for today's gloom not a word to explain what's making him so upset all of a sudden. It "clearly" happened, but he's not telling us what it is. He's like a pissed-off spouse: "If you ever thought about anybody but yourself you'd know what it is."

He can't describe it, but he wants to join the debate on where it came from: