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December 17, 2020

I did a thing today with Yale sociologist Phil Gorski; I think that will be up soon, and when it's up, I'll post it here.  In the meantime, some bread and circuses for the masses.


Fun story about a weird, weird treasure hunt.


Brian Eno doesn’t like headphones or Walkmans:

Something that kind of disappoints me is that most of the new technology from the ’80s onwards has been about the atomization of society. It’s been about you being able to be more and more separate from everybody else. That’s why I don’t like the headphones thing. I don’t want to be separate in that way.

I think one of the great drivers of the mess that we’re in now is the increasing atomization of society into more and more individuals and fewer and fewer communities. I want to see ways of communities being built again. Now, of course, the internet has created new types of communities. But unfortunately, it’s done it in connection with social media, which has meant that there’s this sort of … it’s like a very intense form of masturbation. Where everything is self-referential and it’s possible to create communities that are so sealed off from everybody else that they become convinced that the whole world is clearly how they see it.

And here's a good survey of Eno’s oeuvre 




Good piece on Adorno, especially this part:

Fascism, the studies argued, is not a sublime evil or a pathology for which there is a simple remedy. It is something far more unsettling: a latent but pervasive feature of bourgeois modernity. …Fascism could never be addressed or defeated if it was seen merely as liberalism’s other, an exotic pathogen that had come from the outside. It was composed not of rare elements but of the base metals that are the building materials of our common world. In a 1959 lecture, Adorno declared, “I consider the survival of National Socialism within democracy to be potentially more menacing than the survival of fascist tendencies against democracy.”


And another related piece, on Frankfurt plus Birmingham plus Paris: A nice guide to the development of “theory” in the humanities.  Not sure I can buy the author’s argument that theory’s neologisms are by and large beautiful, however.  Useful, yes!  Analytically salient, you betcha!  But not, no thank you, try again tomorrow, beautiful.


Great piece on M.R. James:

His tombstone gives, in addition to the dates of his birth and death and his two beloved provostships, those glorious lines from Ephesians announcing the hope was no longer a sojourner but a member of the household of God and a fellow citizen with those departed saints in whose company he had spent so many blissful hours in life. There is no indication that the grave has ever been haunted.


I don’t know much about the author—anyone enlighten me about this “Alvaro de Menard”?—but the data gathered in this piece—as much as I understand it—is remarkably grim for the social sciences.  Even the “best” field, economics, has only about 2/3rds of its studies replicable.  And this point is especially damning: “The replication crisis did not begin in 2010, it began in the 1950s. All the things I've written above have been written before, by respected and influential scientists. They made no difference whatsoever.”  This is really disturbing, if you care about quantitative social science.  I admit I do care about it, but I also am already skeptical of it, so this isn’t as upsetting to me as it may be for some others.


This is very true:

Over nearly a half-century, no other person—including people wielding official power as legislators or prosecutors—has done as much to illuminate the modern presidency and help shape understanding of the nine people to hold the office during his career as Woodward, wielding only a journalist’s unofficial powers of curiosity, notepad, and recorder.…This makes him a great vehicle for understanding the culture and psychology of Washington, the interplay between government and media, and the ways these have changed in recent decades. Publicly, within the news business, there is almost universal respect for Woodward and his astonishing career. Privately, when reporters shoot the breeze among themselves or with sources, it’s not uncommon to hear grumbling about how his books don’t follow conventional journalistic rules of the sort that would apply to daily newspapers.

So, a good article.  Also for this sociological insight:

Woodward’s career overlaps with two related trends in Washington culture. One is the now commonplace tendency of once-anonymous senior governmental officials to capitalize—with both money and media attention—on their public service tenures. The other is the blossoming of journalism, at least in the Washington context among the best-known journalists, into a profession with high social status.

Ouch.  Also this earlier piece by the same author: "The people saying mean things about Trump aren’t lurking in the shadows. They are well-known names whom Trump recruited to work by his side.”


What a gift. Czeslaw Milosz, reading his poems, so amazing.


Be well, everyone.  Listen to a bit of Milosz's reading before you go to bed tonight.  It will help you have good dreams.