February 24, 2010
PC in the strangest places
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I was reading the comments to a Chronicle of Higher Education article about Amy Bishop. Talking about the tenure process, one man noted that the politically correct culture of academia weeds out political dissenters like conservatives and Christians well before they'd ever be up for tenure. He says:
As Marc Bauerlein has powerfully written in the pages of The Chronicle, political discrimination in the humanities and social sciences against anyone is not politically correct begins with the search committees, and the initial drawing up of candidates for positions in the first place. Open conservatives, and open Christians, have little chance making the short-list. There is real prejudice against them. The result is that I don't think there are a lot of oppressed secret political dissenters among the untenured faculty in the humanities and social sciences (though I know one or two). The system eliminated most of them much earlier in the process.
It's interesting to read an obvious insider confirming what those of us who've suffered under ultra-liberal professors already knew. But then, in the very same comment, this guys notes that:
I'm reserving my sympathy for the three senior faculty-members who were killed, two of whom were African-American and one an Indian-American, and their families, who must be so terribly distraught.
What the? Why in the world is the ethnicity of the victims relevant to this guy? I've read some unhinged conservatives who are almost gleefully calling it a "racist" rampage, but that's it. Most of the evidence points to the fact that this woman was a sociopath and a time bomb (not to mention a pipe bomber).
It's like he realized how un-PC his original comments were and quick had to write something PC to make up for it. So really, that comment makes me think that academics have gotten so politically correct that it's somehow worse to them to kill African-Americans or Indian-Americans or Latin Americans or anyone other than plain ole garden variety white people. I guess I shouldn't be surprised as it's the logical progression from hate crime legislation that states that killing someone for one reason is somehow worse than killing them for another. It's Murder Plus!
February 17, 2010
Give the people what they want
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So, right now, for us, NBC isn't the network that brings us the Olympics. It's the network that prevents us from watching the Olympics. And we hate NBC for that.
Exactly. NBC is doing what so many other unsuccessful marketers do: they're giving us, showing us and telling us what they want to instead of giving us, showing us and telling us what we want.
What NBC wants to do is deliver expensive ads to a big prime time viewing audience. And that is exactly what they're doing. If they get that big prime time audience, that'll be evidence of their "success".
What we want to do is watch the Olympics, but NBC has clearly decided that if they show the Olympics, it'll mean fewer people will watch their prime time Olympics show.
You'd think there would be some common ground between the desire of viewers to watch the Olympics and the desire of NBC to provide an audience to advertisers. I'd argue that the more live events NBC shows, the stronger ratings they'll get at night. People aren't hermetically sealed into cubicles all day. We're online. We're watching TV. We're talking. If something incredible happens at (god forbid) 3 pm Eastern time, people who can't watch it live are going to hear about it from those people that did and want to see it later that night. It's piquing their interest. The live, hardcore audience that NBC desperately wants to screw are exactly the same people that they should be catering to because they're the folks that are going to talk about the Olympics and get other people interested in them. One passionate Olympics fan is worth dozens of slick ads.
I know it's revolutionary thinking for marketers, but if you give the people what they want, you might just get what you want.
February 15, 2010
Is America a Christian nation?
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I was reading this long article on Texas Christian Conservatives and their efforts to influence school curriculum today. They basically believe that America was explicitly founded as a Christian nation. One Texas school board member says:
“Textbooks are mostly the product of the liberal establishment, and they’re written with the idea that our religion and our liberty are in conflict,” he said. “But Christianity has had a deep impact on our system. The men who wrote the Constitution were Christians who knew the Bible. Our idea of individual rights comes from the Bible. The Western development of the free-market system owes a lot to biblical principles.”
I think he's completely wrong, but also somewhat harmless. Another board member states:
students should be taught the following principles which, in his reading, derive directly from the Declaration of Independence: “1. There is a fixed moral law derived from God and nature. 2. There is a Creator. 3. The Creator gives to man certain unalienable rights. 4. Government exists primarily to protect God-given rights to every individual. 5. Below God-given rights and moral laws, government is directed by the consent of the governed.”
To me, this isn't an exclusively Christian belief anymore than the Golden Rule is. All of the world's major religions have a sense of moral good. Basically, I think this whole "we're a Christian nation" stuff is just a backlash against some overly zealous interpretation of the separation of church & state. People get pissed when the Ten Commandments are removed from courthouses and signs like this have to be displayed next to a Christmas tree and this is what happens.
Unfortunately, it's not harmless. One of these board members also protested having a Hindu open a U.S. Senate session with a prayer because “In Hindu [sic], you have not one God, but many, many, many, many, many gods. And certainly that was never in the minds of those who did the Constitution, did the Declaration when they talked about Creator.”
Sometimes I'm shocked by how little people who want to rewrite history actually know about history. People didn't come to America to evangelize. They came here to practice their faith without being persecuted. They had no vast concept of "Christianity" like we do today. Catholics, Puritans, Quakers and Anglicans weren't some part of a common happy Christian community. When the Pilgrims landed in 1620, they were only eight years removed from the last Englishman burned at the stake for heresy.
What I mean to say is that a Puritan and a Catholic back then would have felt they were just as different as a Baptist and a Hindu do now. As such, the founding fathers took religious freedom seriously. And it wasn't just for Christians. The words "God" or "Jesus" aren't in the Constitution. That's not just coincidence.
I actually think the framers would be comforted by the chart below:
To me, it's a perfect illustration of their vision for America - which wasn't a nation bound by a common religious identity, but rather a nation founded on ideas. In the words of Rufus from Dogma:
I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. Life should malleable and progressive; working from idea to idea permits that. Beliefs anchor you to certain points and limit growth; new ideas can't generate. Life becomes stagnant.
Imagine how stagnant America would be if she really was a Christian nation exclusively settled by Christians throughout the years. Everything from our culture to our economy has benefited from the kinds of freedoms that attract the best and brightest all of colors and creeds. That's the kind of "city on a hill" that Ronald Reagan so famously described.
February 12, 2010
Lazy journalism, global warming and the Olympics
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The future of the Winter Olympics is uncertain and I fear that no amount of green tech will be able to save the snow. Vancouver's efforts to make the current games sustainable have been laudable, but global warming is turning out to be a formidable competitor.
While I'm sure there are some people in Washington, DC, who wish that Olympics organizers would airlift their snow away, this isn't a sustainable solution. Don't get me wrong--I love the Winter Olympics and even built a "luge" track in the backyard as a kid one winter. In the near future the international community will just have to rethink the way it holds these games. Indoor Winter Olympics anyone?
It's "reporting" like this that's killing journalism. It takes about one minute to go to Wikipedia where you'll discover that Vancouver's average low temperature in February is a balmy 35 degrees. It doesn't take a respected East Anglian climatologist to tell you that there's not going to be snow if it doesn't get below freezing. Another quick search on the Vancouver Olympic website would show you that Olympic officials obviously realized this because all but two of the outdoor events are actually being held up in the mountains in Whistler. In any case, this isn't the first time the Winter Olympics have been threatened by lack of snow. And,
global warming climate change or not, it won't be the last. It's the weather. It happens.
What shouldn't happen is such lazy, opportunistic "journalism". It's garbage. You don't read garbage, you put it in the trash where it belongs.
February 11, 2010
If a picture paints a thousand clicks
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With all due respect to Bread (who clearly have 3-4 of the wussiest love songs of all time - if I were to make such a list), sometimes a picture also paints a thousand clicks.
Playing around with some web traffic stats, here's a few interesting tidbits.
This is traffic to a fish fry blog I write for. The traffic spikes you see are on Fridays. In one sense, it's obvious that people search for fish fry content on Fridays, but in another sense it's interesting to know that people don't plan their fish fry adventures more than a day in advance.
Here's a snapshot of US traffic to this website. As you can see, during this time period, most of our traffic came from Wisconsin & Minnesota. Is that because of where we're located or because of my rabid Brett Favre hatred? The analytics say it's a little bit of each.
Finally, the chart above gives us some pop culture insight. Looking at this traffic searching for words around "ugly sweaters" I can pinpoint exactly when hipsters start planning their ironic Ugly Christmas Sweater parties and bar crawls. Basically, while some people shop the day on Black Friday, these folks start scouring the web for info and ideas for their parties. Imagine how thrift shops could use this information to figure out how to best stock their stores. If you've got ugly sweaters out in early November, you're just wasting space. Hipsters don't plan!
February 09, 2010
The best of the charts
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I was having fun looking at Wikipedia's lists of number one songs throughout the years and decided to figure out what year had the absolute best huge hits. After careful consideration, I narrowed it down to four main contenders:
Classics: "The Sounds of Silence", "Good Vibrations", "Paperback Writer", "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'", "You Can't Hurry Love", "When a Man Loves a Woman", "Summer in the City", "Cherish"
Personal Favorites: "Good Lovin'", "Strangers in the Night", "Wild Thing", "Paint It Black"
WTF?: "Ballad of the Green Berets", "Winchester Cathedral", "My Love"
Classics: "Me and Bobby McGee", "It's Too Late" / "I Feel the Earth Move", "You've Got a Friend", "Maggie May", "Theme from Shaft", "Joy to the World"
Personal Favorites: "My Sweet Lord", "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey"
WTF?: "Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)", "Want Ads", "One Bad Apple"
Classics: "Billie Jean", "Come On Eileen", "Beat It", "Every Breath You Take", "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)"
Personal Favorites: "Down Under", "Say Say Say", "Islands in the Stream"
Classics: "Sweet Child o' Mine", "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", "Faith"
Personal Favorites: "The Flame", "Never Gonna Give You Up", "Need You Tonight"
WTF?: "Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car", "Don't Worry, Be Happy", "Groovy Kind of Love"
I think my favorite year is 1988, just for the sheer weirdness of the charts that go from utter cornball schlock like "Kokomo" to GnR. If you want consistency, it was hard to find a really bad number one song from 1983. If you want classics then it's 1966. But I'm going to settle on 1971 for the wide variety of classic styles (everything from sensitive 70s singer songwriters to funk) and the inclusion of not one, but two, cheesy songs from ex-Beatles not named John Lennon. Oh sure, there's some Osmond nonsense cluttering that chart, but hey, every rose has its thorn, baby!
February 08, 2010
The cultural death grip of the Baby Boomers
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No offense to my Baby Boomer friends and family, but sometimes I just can't wait for you all to, um, fade away and take your death grip on popular culture with you.
Watching The Who at the Super Bowl last night was embarrassing. Half of the band is dead and the other half are in their mid-60s. Roger Daltrey is 65. 65! Without Keith Moon, the band apparently had to settle for Nigel Tufnel on drums.
Don't get me wrong. I love The Who. My older Boomer siblings made sure of it. But their hour upon the stage has long since passed. The same goes for The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and the like (as an aside, is anyone else grossed out by Clapton's T-Mobile ad? At this point, I don't want to think about him "getting off" on anything. Keep it in your pants, Grandpa.)
The Who haven't released an album in over 30 years. They're not creating anything new anymore. They're just an oldies band. And maybe that's fine for the Super Bowl. But that's because they're "safe" now (like playing "Shout" at a wedding), not because, as a commenter on Althouse asserts, music somehow peaked in the 1960s:
I think the problem is that there hasn't been a really original innovation in popular music since the 1960s. Teenagers are still listening to Led Zeppelin and the Beatles because music today is really very little different from the music of the 1960s, whereas the music of the 1960s was very different from earlier music. So 1960s music still sounds very good and mainstream to modern ears.
Until someone comes up with a fundamentally new popular music genre that captures the popular imagination like 1960's music did, those 60's acts will continue to have mass appeal.
I don't know why the 1960s was so different, but my best guess is a combination of the introduction of the electic guitar with all it could do and the cultural changes. Maybe someone needs to invent some new musical instrument.
The 1960s were so different to you because you were young then. The music of your own coming of age is always going to seem more powerful and important to you than anything you hear before or since.
What I resent about the Baby Boomers is that so many of them feel the need to tell the rest of us that our coming of age just wasn't as important as theirs. They want to play their cultural soundtrack over our lives. I remember Boomers being pissed that college students weren't marching against the first Iraq War and then again for the 2nd Iraq War. It was as if they expected us to relive their youth instead of living ours.
Kids still listen to The Who and Led Zeppelin because they were good. College students also listen to Nirvana and Pearl Jam today, but you don't find Generation X claiming that music peaked in the grunge era. I feel sorry for a lot of Baby Boomer music fans because they've missed out on two generations worth of great music. If Eddie Vedder is rockin' the Super Bowl LVI halftime show in 2022, I only hope I'm making fun of him rather than claiming that there's been no musical innovation since "Ten".
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But what does this mean for Brett Favre?
February 05, 2010
On the Super Bowl
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With the precise, "tremendous machine" of the Colts going up against the wild & crazy Saints, this year's Super Bowl match up reminds me of The Simpsons. Why? Well, in the classic episode where Homer meets his fugitive Mom we find out that Ma Simpson was radicalized by the long, wild and carefree locks of Joe Namath, while Abe was content with the "high and tight" style of Johnny Unitas. (see the bit starting at 2:50 in the clip below):
Now, Drew Brees is no Broadway Joe, but you gotta admit that Peyton Manning looks like he goes to Johnny Unitas' barber.
To me, the Colts are a likable team, but they're boring. They'll probably win, but they won't act like it's any big deal. If the Saints win, they'll lose their minds. It'll be a blast.
So, who do you think will win? Who do you want to win?
February 02, 2010
Look at all of that garbage
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I quite like this Business Week global warming article. I like it because it acknowledges the existence of other climate changes in recent history: the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age, and the Year Without Summer. Imagine, climate change not caused by mankind!
There's a subtext to the man-made global warming movement that global warming is the result of mankind's hubris. We're going to destroy the world because we thought we were bigger than nature. But isn't this an extremely arrogant attitude? Does mankind really have the ability to alter the earth's climate? Or is it hubris to think we have that power?
One of the things that irritates me the most about global warming activists is how they've co-opted the whole environmental movement. When you talk about saving the environment, the assumption is that you're talking about global warming. I don't believe in man-made global warming. But that doesn't mean I don't believe in conservation, developing alternative energy sources and cleaning up our messes.
Why aren't we using our energy (pardon the pun) to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? At least we understand the problem and can reasonably do something to solve it. I guess it's easier to get attention and money buy saying we're going to destroy the Earth than by saying "Hey, look at that all of that garbage!"
I think of it like this: cleaning up the garbage patch is like cleaning your room. You do some work, get your hands dirty and maybe make a trip to Ikea to help you organize your crap so it doesn't happen again. Done. Our approach to alleged man-made global warming is like burning your house down because you're afraid it's built on an ancient Indian burial ground.
"Why are you burning down your house?"
"Because it's built on an ancient Indian burial ground."
"Really? How do you know that?"
"That's what the records say."
"Oh. But why are you burning down your house?"
"Because the spirits of the ancient Indians might harm me and my family."
"Why do you think that?
"Well, some people say they've seen ghosts."
"Oh, that's a scary observation. What do the ghosts say they will do?"
"They're ghosts - they don't say anything. But people say they'll kill my family if I don't destroy my home and leave this place to nature."
"So you're burning your house because it may or may not be built on an ancient Indian burial ground that may or may not be haunted by ghosts that may or may not try to kill your family?"
One of these scenarios makes sense. The other is close to madness.