February 18, 2006

How to improve Men's Figure Skating

Watching biathlon, which combines cross country skiing and rifle target shooting, it occurred to me that the way to make men's figure skating a little less twirly is to combine it with that ultimate regular guy sport, paintball. Each competitor would get one shot at the rival of his choice:

Scott Hamilton: "And now Plushenko's going to try his quad toe loop. Here he goes --"


Scott Hamilton: "Johnny Weir has shot Plushenko!"

Dick Button: "Right between the shoulder blades at the top of his jump. Plushenko did a complete face plant in the ice."

Plus, aesthetically speaking, large random splashes of paint could only improve the competitors' costumes.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Total Gnarlosity

The women's snowboardcross final was even more entertaining than the men's final. Various insane crashes left American Lyndsey Jacobellis and her mass of blonde curls all alone 100 yards from the finish line, the gold medal, and a pleasant lifetime of Mike Eruzione-level minor celebrityhood. So, what does she do on her next to last jump? She tries a showboating trick where she grabs the board and poses sideways in the air ... and crashes, letting the Swiss girl who was a mile behind zip past her.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

"Something New"

reviewed by me in the new issue of The American Conservative (now available to electronic subscribers):

During an Academy Awards season when we're pestered to pretend we admire liberal fantasies like "Brokeback Mountain" (in which he-man Heath Ledger plays the straightest gay ever), it's refreshing that the unheralded "Something New" honestly explores a genuine social issue -- the dire marital prospects of the upper middle class black woman -- with insight and no political axes to grind.

"Something New" is burdened with perhaps the most forgettable title since the straight-to-landfill 1979 Joe Mantegna film "To Be Announced," yet it proves one of the more acutely observed romantic comedies of recent years. It's not exceptionally funny, but as a lively social study, "Something New" is a small but worthy addition to the genre pioneered by Jane Austen.

Kenya McQueen (played by Sanaa Lathan) is an offspring of the traditional black high bourgeoisie, that reclusive and starchy class from which Condoleezza Rice emerged. Armed with a Stanford degree and a Wharton MBA, she's up for partner at a Big 4 accounting firm, and has just bought a house in Baldwin Hills, the black Beverly Hills. All she's missing is a backyard garden to relax in during her few hours away from the office … and a boyfriend. Like so many affluent black women today, she can't find a black man of comparable status...

The script by Kriss Turner, a black woman who writes for Chris Rock's sitcom, is also admirable for how it handles the career subplot. Making partner depends upon how well she handles a major client's CEO, who is paying for a pro forma "due diligence" analysis of an acquisition he passionately wants to make. Most movies would concoct a bogus "social conscience" plot twist for the heroine to wrestle with, such as her shocking discovery that the target firm clubs baby seals. Instead, "Something New" offers a realistic problem, the kind of test of personal integrity that happens far more often in business: Kenya unearths evidence that the target firm would be a disastrous investment, but that's the last thing her client wants to hear.

This film won't be around much longer in the theatres -- not surprisingly, it hasn't found much of an audience -- so you might want to see it while you can.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

February 17, 2006

Racial differences in reaction times

Arthur Jensen has been studying reaction times for decades to see if they correlate with IQ. He has a book coming out on the topic, but I think it's safe to say that he has found that whites tend to have faster reaction times than blacks, although blacks tend to be faster at moving. Various people have argued that this is why blacks are not found as race car drivers or in other sports requiring fast reaction times.

Still, I remain skeptical. I want to focus on a particular athletic skill: deciding not to swing at a bad pitch in baseball. With a baseball from a big league pitcher coming at you from 60.5 feet away at 90 mph, the amount of time the batter has to decide whether or not to swing is tiny.

Taking a look at the all time leaders in bases on balls, the biggest ethnic difference that stands out is how few Latin players get a lot of walks. The most walked Spanish-surnamed player of all time is Rafael Palmeiro at #28, followed by Edgar Martinez at #36. The only other Latins are #88 Bernie Williams, #90 Roberto Alomar and #93 Rod Carew. (#75 Keith Hernandez, who was born in San Francisco, is usually not considered a Latin player. Ted Williams and Reggie Jackson were part-Latino, but culturally American.) This would appear to be a cultural, not a genetic, shortcoming in Latin players, since free-swinging Latins come in all colors.

In contrast, African-Americans are well represented at the top with #1 Barry Bonds, #2 Rickey Henderson, and #5 Joe Morgan, and 25 of the top 100. I would very roughly estimate that African-Americans represented about 10-12% of all big-leaguers since 1901, so they are likely over-represented among walk leaders.

Now, some of that may well be related to greater home run power among African-Americans. For example, Barry Bonds set the single season walk record in 2004 with 232 because pitchers are scared to throw it down the middle to Barry now that he has Incredible Hulkified himself. But, Bonds got as many as 151 walks in a season back when he was a normal slugger. And Henderson and Morgan had only moderate power (although a lot of power for men of their small stature).

African Americans on the top 100 list include non-power hitters like Tim Raines, Willie Randolph, Ozzie Smith, and Jim Gilliam.

So, I don't seem much evidence for significantly slower reaction times among blacks from this evidence.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

How to tell Slovakia from Slovenia

One of the puzzlements of the Winter Olympics is how to distinguish among the small nationalities of central Europe. Americans have a hard enough time remembering that Switzerland and Sweden are different countries to deal with Slovakia and Slovenia. So, as a public service, I present an email from a Slovak-American reader who delineates the huge differences between the two Slov-countries:

Slovaks and Slovenes get confused all the time. But both groups are, in fact, very similar: both are basically Slavic-speaking Catholic peasant peoples with no history of political independence before the 20th century. The main difference is that Slovenia is more prosperous, since it had the good fortune to be part of Austria for centuries, whereas the Slovaks were stuck with the Hungarians. Even their flags are very similar.

Lots of both settled here in Cleveland during the heyday of Ellis Island immigration (with the Slovenes also getting a healthy number of anti-Communist refugees after WW II).

Well, that clears that up.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


The crash-prone four man races down a winding track full of jumps (like a downhill motocross track) lived up to my hopes for more mano-a-mano competition than is normal in the Winter Games.

In snowboardcross' early rounds, with the top two finishers advancing, typically one snowboarder would grab the lead immediately and keep it all the way to the finish line, which was a little disappointing. Unlike a running race where the frontrunner often comes back to the field as he runs out of gas, there's no disadvantage to being in first place in snowboarding since it takes no more energy. Moreover, the leader gets to pick his line and stay out of tangles. But the guys fighting for second place would often bump and go flying, which was fun.

In the gold medal final, however, Seth Westcott (great name for a man from Maine) trailed the Slovak for most of the race, but blew by him on a late turn and then held on to win by inches.

Girls snowboardcross will be on TV Friday evening.

Diana Moon's Letter form Gotham says:

The Winter Olympics vibe used to be one of European elegance and glamour (Jean-Claude Killy, Alberto Tomba) mixed with dazzling Nordic competence. Now it strikes me as heavily stoner. Am I the only one to think this?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The World's Twirliest Boy Contest

If next week's Women's Figure Skating final is the competition to decide the World's Top Princess, last night's Men's Figure Skating final is more like the World's Spinniest Boy fight.

Once again, Matt Savoie of Peoria somehow emerged with his dignity intact, dressing like a wandering Russian lyric poet of the 1840s, which is a more artistically evocative look than the usual drag queen-in-training costumes. Most of the other skaters hadn't gotten the memo about how "lyrical" is not the same as "flamboyant." Silver medalist Stephan Lambiel's outfit of zebra stripes in front, flaming orange tiger stripes in back, and blue sleeves was particularly painful to look at. [Results and video here.]

Easy winner Yevgeny Plushenko was less objectionable looking than most, but I don't quite get why the judges were so mad about him. It seems like this vaunted new high tech scoring system is taking us back to the quasi-rigged scoring of the 1970s and 1980s, when the consensus favorite usually won if he didn't screw up too embarrassingly. In the 1990s, upsets became more common as judges penalized drastically for falls. But, in 2006, they only deduct 1 point for falls, which doesn't seem like enough.

Particularly egregious was the pairs competition in which the Chinese silver medal-winning team attempted a quad spin throw that practically maimed the poor girl. They had to stop the music for five minutes while she recovered. It was brave of her to continue at all, but penalizing them less than 1% for such a catastrophic failure that they had to stop the competition is hardly enough.

I thought the best performances in the Men's long program were by American Evan Lysacek and and super-limber Canadian Shawn Sawyer, who can lift one skate over his head like the best girl skaters.

Speaking of super-bendy guys, I went to the Nissan L.A. Open golf tournament on Thursday. Opening rounds are placid affairs, but John Daly remains an amazing show. John looks like he would wear about a 54-Large suitcoat these days (if ever wore a suit), but, even though the grip-it-and-rip-it man will turn 40 this spring and must be 50 pounds overweight, he is still the double-jointed prodigy of long-hitting he always was. He winds up on his backswing like a watch spring and then uncoils so fast he hits the ball astonishingly hard. Daly combines flexibility, strength, and an elegant short game, with the worst mental resources in all of golf, a golfing Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbin's scatterbrained pitcher in "Bull Durham").

The Thursday crowd at a golf tournament is made up of hard core golf fans. It looked over 90% male, unlike the weekends when it might be 20-25% female. Something that I might not have remember except from the comparison of coming home and watching the Twirliest Boy competition is this: Although golf is not a contact sport, and thus is not considered a very tough sport, almost no effeminate men play it at all. In 35 years of playing golf at public courses in major urban areas, I've never been in a foursome where I thought one of the men even might be gay. That's rather remarkable.

Of course, the golf course is a lousy place to meet girls. Michael Blowhard asks why straight single men insist on spending their time where single women are scarce on the ground:

Are arty and "aesthetic" activities inevitably suspect in the eyes of straight American boys? If so, why? And my own favorite question: Given how much easier it is to find eager and willing girls if you have some arty interests, why don't more straight American boys come to their senses? Are they, like, gay?

Well, no, but it does seem like Americans are particularly inept at meeting the opposite sex. We seem to think it a matter of principle not to do what the opposite sex likes to do.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

February 16, 2006

The power of iSteve.com!

In response to my recent call for more violent, destruction-prone Winter Games events, the International Olympic Committee has hastily added snowboardcross. The AP reports:

Carnage on Ice Comes to the Olympics

Figure skating, it most definitely is not. The newest entrant into the sport-or-not-a-sport debate on the Olympic program is an often- dangerous, never-genteel free-for-all down the mountain by a bunch of kids on snowboards.

It's called snowboardcross, a series of four-person races in which, according to the rules, intentional contact is forbidden. "Unintentional" contact, on the other hand, is as common as snow on the mountain.

And it's what many people tune in to see, says America's biggest snowboardcross star, Lindsey Jacobellis. "There's crashes," she said. "The kind of carnage people like to watch. I know that's a horrible thing to say, but people really watch to see the crashes."

The carnage begins Thursday when the men take to the hill. Jacobellis and the ladies go Friday.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Meeting all your Danish Dozen Muslim riot photo needs

RiotPorn blog has all your Danish Dozen cartoon riot photos -- The world champion South Korean rioters appear to be taking the week off, so furious Muslims dominate the blog at present.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The long reach of affirmative action

It's a widespread myth that racial quotas only apply to college admissions. Far more important in the big picture is the omnipresent threat of lawsuits against employers for using hiring procedures that have "disparate impact" by race. The fear of a discrimination lawsuit if a company doesn't hire in proportion to the racial makeup of the eligible workforce makes for an enormous amount of gamesmanship, as this nightmarish article by Anne Fisher in Fortune makes clear:

Job hunting online gets trickier

New federal guidelines meant to standardize how employers track data on the diversity of their job-applicant pool are taking effect starting today for jobs at federal contractors -- and similar rules will kick in later this year at U.S. companies with more than 50 employees. And resumes and search approaches that worked perfectly well before may no longer do the trick.

In the new system, federal regulators will be checking to see that companies are keeping diversity data on all applicants, according to a new, more uniform definition of "applicant."

According to this definition, an applicant must "express interest" in the job, whether by sending in a resume, applying on the company's site, or whatever other means the company requests, says Gerry Crispin, founder and principal of CareerXRoads and a long-time Internet job hunting expert.

That "expression of interest" must show that he or she has all the qualifications for the job listed in the company's job description (not just some or most of them) -- and those qualifications must be specific and measurable...

To comply with these new rules and get the most diversity, employers will have an incentive to keep the pool of applicants for each job relatively small and as random as possible. To make sure you're considered now, you'll have to:

Follow the company's instructions. "If an employer says that, to apply for a given job, you must go to their web site and enter a certain code number, then do that," says Crispin. "Otherwise your resume will never be seen."

Spell out your qualifications clearly. "Pay very close attention to the specific qualifications an employer lists for a particular job, and make sure your resume contains those exact words," Crispin says.

For instance, if a job description includes the words "three years of credit accounting experience," put "three years of credit accounting experience" on your resume. "Don't just list a credit-accounting position with the dates you had it and assume someone will figure it out," Crispin advises. This may mean you have to rewrite your resume for each job opening you apply for.

What if the job description includes the words "three years of credit accounting experience," but you have six years?

Keep your resume up-to-the-minute current. "The rules allow companies to pick a random pool of applicants by searching the job boards for 'most recent' qualified applicants," Crispin notes. "In those cases, no one will even look at a resume that is more than two or three weeks old." Yikes. ...

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the new rules will actually increase diversity in companies or just create extra work for everybody. Either way, if you're looking for a new job, you can't afford to ignore them.

Okay, everybody clear on that? Aren't you glad your government is making it more confusing to find a job?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

February 15, 2006

Was Cheney drunk, or just old?

A Texas hunter is undecided:

Texas hunters have gradually become pretty safe, largely because each generation looks at the last and things "Damn, how did they survive that long doing what they did?" I went through this, hunting with men in their 80s who were nearly deaf back in the 1970s, holding their drink while they shot. They cast aspersions on my manliness and sexuality because I used earplugs. Remember, they were deaf, and by mid-morning, pretty drunk.

Their kids (my parents and friends their age), drank a lot less, kept a close eye on their parents (who swung loaded guns around any way they felt like, while drunk, in very small, very crowded blinds), and were usually sober until late afternoon. They would put their fingers in their ears when they weren't shooting to try to protect their hearing.

And I noticed that the close watch that they kept on their parents was very similar to close watch my friends and I would keep on them. People my age tend not to drink while hunting, or drink very little, we actually identify targets, we don't get a chuckle out of blasting a sleeping owl or other endangered species with a 12 gauge (yes, we actually avoid timber rattlers), and we have had far fewer accidents than our parents, and we certainly don't have a list of hunting-related maimings and deaths like our grandparents do (or did, as most of them have passed at this point).

So, Cheney is 65 or so. He grew up in the West, which is about 15 years behind the rest of the country (when I was dragged to Brokeback Mountain, I kept thinking that it looked a lot like Montana or Wyoming in the late 1980s in the scenes from the '60s, and I was not the only one who made the comment afterwards). Thinking of him as I would someone in their '80s now, I would just expect that he has no understanding of gun safety at all, regularly does things that would make my friends and me hit the ground and/or start shooting at him, and just wound up getting unlucky, because that is what happens when you screw around with guns without paying attention for long enough. He didn't have to be drunk, but the fact that the Secret Service kept anyone from speaking with him does suggest that he had been drinking.

Not having the license tag was just stupid, but it seems in keeping with the way Cheney has lived his life.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

That WaPo article on the evil Eurocentrism of the Winter Olympics

A reader writes:

Well, you're always saying that reporters can't do math, and it's true. Toss in a Washington Post Style reporter trying to moonlight as a sports analyst for the Olympics, and you have Paul Farhi's mess of a piece, "Where the Rich and Elite Meet to Compete".

Where to begin? In his effort to fit all the data into his Winter Games-exclusive/Summer Games-inclusive theory, he repeatedly ignores muddying facts. For example, Farhi writes that "only 17 countries have ever amassed more than 10 medals during the past 19 winter Olympiads. Only 38 countries have won even one medal...By contrast, the all-time list of summer winners is long and deep, extending to athletes from 143 countries, including such places as Tonga, Paraguay and Burundi."

Overall, 12,964 medals have been awarded during the Summer Games, compared to 2,054 for the winter. So athletes from 143 countries have won summer Olympics medals, and athletes from 38 countries have won winter Olympics medals, a 3.76 to 1 ratio. But the number of medals awarded is 12,964 medals to 2,054, a 6.31 to 1 ratio. So Mr. Farhi's outrage on the diversity of medal winners in the winter Olympics vis-a-vis the summer appears to be displaced.

But it's even worse than that: Farhi's 143 number is totally wrong. The actual number is 114.

Check out this wikipedia page: Many of the "143" countries that Farhi claims have won summer olympics medals were actually combinations of countries that won back in the era when team sports could include members from two or more nations....

When you make all the adjustments, the real count between summer and winter Olympics-medal winning countries is 114 to 38, not 143 to 38. 114 to 38 is a 3 to 1 ratio; Again, when you consider that the overall number of medals awarded in summer Olympics compared to winter Olympics is 6.31 to 1, Mr. Farhi's inclusivity/exclusivity theory weakens considerably.

Mr. Farhi also seeks to present the summer and winter games' big six historical winners as totally different groups, in both quantity and diversity:

"As always, the biggest delegations, and the big winners, will come from a familiar pool. In the history of the winter competition, dating from its inception in 1924, competitors from only six countries -- the Soviet Union/Russia, Germany (East, West and combined), Norway, the United States, Austria and Finland, in that order -- have won almost two-thirds of all the medals awarded. The Summer Games have medal hogs, too, but nothing like winter ones. The top six in the summer -- the United States, the Soviet Union/Russia, Germany, France, Britain and Italy -- have swept up slightly more than half the medals since the modern games started in 1896."

But there isn't a huge difference: by his own math, the big six all-time winners in the winter games have won "almost two-thirds of the the medals awarded" (it's actually 65.04%, 1,336 medals out of 2,054). So let's call that 65%. Are the summer games' top medal winners really "nothing like winter ones," as Mr. Farhi claims? Hardly -- as he writes, the top six all-time winners in summer games have taken "slightly more than half" of medals awarded. It's actually 51.22%, so call that 51%. Are 65% and 51% really so far apart? Not really...

Basically, the track events in the Summer Olympics are pretty much open to anyone above the hunter-gatherer level. Other than that, it's not a terribly level playing field. Even the field events in track & field are dominated by a fairly small number of powers.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Mental illness isn't always the same as craziness

The brain is a complicated organ, and it can, from time to time, just like other organs, get sick. It doesn't mean you're insane. More typically, the emotions are affected, not the senses or reason. What we call depression today was called a nervous breakdown neurasthenia at various points in the past. Sometimes it's caused by something obvious, such as losing a loved one or loneliness, other times, we don't know what sets it off. It's seldom permanent.

Benedict Carey's NYT article "West Wing Blues" demonstrates that mental problems can happen to even the most successful people. And, often, they can fight back:

As a young man, Abraham Lincoln experienced bouts of despair so profound that friends were concerned he might commit suicide.

Ulysses S. Grant, the general under Lincoln who later rose to the presidency, often avoided social occasions and retreated into alcohol.

All told, almost half of American presidents from 1789 to 1974 had suffered from a mental illness at some point in life, according to a recent analysis of biographical sources by psychiatrists at Duke University Medical Center. And more than half of those presidents, the study found, struggled with their symptoms — most often depression — while in office.

"What is hopeful about this is that it is evidence that people can suffer from depression or other mental problems and still function at a presidential level, if not at their best," said Dr. Jonathan Davidson, who, along with Dr. Kathryn Connor and Dr. Marvin Swartz, cataloged symptoms from presidential papers and biographies, and identified those disabling enough to qualify as disorders. They reported their findings in the current issue of The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

The authors acknowledge the hazards and uncertainties of diagnosing from such a distance. But the lifetime rate of mental illness they found in these 37 presidents is identical to that found in some surveys of the American population.

In some cases, they included problems not usually thought of as mental disorders: William Howard Taft, the 27th president, for example, suffered from difficulty breathing while asleep — most likely because of a disorder known as sleep apnea — and often dozed off during important meetings.

In most cases the disorders recall the men: the indefatigable Theodore Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson showed symptoms of the manic energy that characterizes bipolar disorder; Richard Nixon drank heavily through the Watergate period; and Calvin Coolidge plunged into a pit of depression after his teenage son died of an infection.

TR would more reasonably be considered a hypomanic, that lucky state where you have consistently excellent energy, confidence, and happiness. I'm not aware of him ever suffering a full blown manic attack. He didn't suffer from depression until the last two years of his life, until after the death of a son in WWI.

The report also serves as a caution against judging troubled souls too early. "To contemporaries well acquainted with Madison, Hayes, Grant and Wilson," the authors write, "it must have appeared that, as young men, these individuals were doing very little with their lives."

From the abstract:

Eighteen (49%) Presidents met criteria suggesting psychiatric disorder: depression (24%), anxiety (8%), bipolar disorder (8%), and alcohol abuse/dependence (8%) were the most common. In 10 instances (27%), a disorder was evident during presidential office, which in most cases probably impaired job performance.

He didn't make it to the White House, but billionaire H. Ross Perot was obviously roaring through manic-depressive cycles during his extraordinary run for President in 1992. Early in the year he suddenly announced he intended to be elected President as an independent, and by the spring he was actually leading Bush and Clinton in the polls. Then, his mood collapsed and he went into seclusion for the entire summer, muttering paranoid nonsense about government operatives disrupting his daughter's wedding. In the fall, he re-emerged as energetic as before and won an impressive 19% of the vote, the most for a 3rd party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt. It seemed to me that Perot was too manic-depressive to be President, but few in the media ever brought it up.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Do male figure skaters design their own costumes?

If not, who deserves the blame for designing them? Their crazy aunts? Blind people? Little Richard? Shouldn't there be mandatory deductions for wearing one glove in the style of Michael Jackson, having the word "Exit" scrawled in red on your back, or wearing a shirt that appears to have been slashed to ribbons by an outraged bobcat? In contrast, little known Matt Savoie of Peoria was the soul of dignity, both sartorially and choreographically.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

February 14, 2006

Are Russian male figure skaters as gay as American ones?

A Russian reader writes:

I am not quite sure about gayness in figure skating. While it may be somewhat so in male solo skating (although I do not know any gays among recent Russian top male skaters - Kulik, Yagudin and Plushenko are all married, and two of them look pretty masculine to me), it doesn't look like that in pairs and dancing. Male skaters have to be strong enough to lift their partners, and so they appear to be quite manly. Also most of those Russian male skaters are known to be married. Of course that doesn't exclude bisexuality, but I didn't hear about that either."

I don't know much about about Russian skaters, but this could well be. There's a systemic problem with American culture -- due to never having an aristocracy, the aristocratic art forms like ballet (and figure skating is kind of an offshoot of ballet) just look gay to American males rather than elegant and aristocratic. So, American males don't much go out for those kind of arts and sports, unless they really are gay, whereas in Russia, a Baryshnikov isn't given trouble for going into ballet. (Of course, the other two all-time greatest Russian ballerinos, Nijinsky and Nureyev, weren't straight, so it's all pretty relative.)

(The highly masculine Canadian skater Elvis Stojko was, to my mind, the most exciting male skater ever, but he didn't get good marks from American and Canadian judges who told him he should get more in touch with his feminine side. He replied he didn't have a feminine side.)

In my 2003 American Conservative article "Decline of the Metrosexual," I wrote about this dynamic:

The aristocratic and religious arts that make up the high culture of Western Civilization were part of a thousand year project to restrain and redefine the unbridled masculinity of all those Conan the Barbarians who poured into the old Roman Empire at the beginning of the Dark Ages. The aptly named Vandals and their cohorts were slowly converted into knights, who were supposed to know not only how to fight, but also how to appreciate the finer forms of music, painting, sculpture, theater, dance, conversation, and dress.

Inevitably, the arts attracted a higher proportion of male homosexuals than did fighting, hunting, or plowing. But nobody particularly noticed because all attention was focused on matters of class. If you wanted your family to move up in society, you (or your children) needed to learn something about the arts.

We Americans claim to be a classless society, so the social pressures to study the traditional aristocratic arts were always less in America, and are declining even more. Ballet schools, for example, need male dancers to partner all the little girls who want to be ballerinas, but they've given up on finding enough American boys. Instead, they try to recruit lads from immigrant families from more class-ridden lands that are attracted to the old snob appeal of ballet.

With the decline of overt interest in class, sexual orientation has become a driving force in the arts.

A reader writes:

Here's another data point for your aristocratic thesis. I used to compete in ballroom dancing and when I started dancing as a young man I was presented with a very pleasant environment, with very few men with talent around, which allowed me to punch above my weight class because most American boys and men felt that dancing was a threat to their masculinity. As my partners and I climbed through the ranks, we started to travel internationally, for both training and competitions. When you're in Europe, especially in Russia and the Ukraine, you see that dancing isn't seen as a threat to masculinity. Throughout Europe one finds a long history of folk dancing. The whole cultural vector there is different than in the Anglosphere, though the UK has long been thoroughly infected with dance fever.

There are of course a lot of homosexuals in the dance world, but so much the better for heterosexual men. If I had to guess I would say that the proportion of American dancers who are gay is higher than the European cohorts because the Europeans are drawing from a larger pool with a broader cross section of men.

If you want a reality check on this thesis catch the PBS America's Ballroom Challenge special that is running right now and notice how all of the American champions (with the exception of the American Smooth category which is a uniquely American style of dance) that are competing are recent Russian émigrés. Alternatively, watch ABC's Dancing with the Stars and notice how many of the professional dancers are from Russia/Eastern Europe.

Another reader writes:

I haven't found any statistics on this, and I've found few printed references of any sort to it, but the piano attracts an extraordinary number of homosexual male practitioners. (Not homosexual female practitioners, for some reason.)

The Liberace Effect? I have no idea, yet I was interested to find confirmation of the fact in Joseph Horowitz's The Ivory Trade (Summit Books, N.Y., 1990). Horowitz quotes pianist Jeffrey Swann as mentioning (p. 137) "something that isn't written about but which everyone in music knows: that - compared to, say, violinists - there are an awful lot of homosexual male pianists. In Texas, when I was growing up, pianists were expected to be gay."

Vladimir Horowitz (no relation to Joseph) once said that "there are only three sorts of pianists: Jewish pianists, homosexual pianists, and bad pianists." (He occupied the first two categories.)

As for organists, The New York Times on June 30, 1996 mentioned the high number of gays in the organ-playing world. I have seen this with my own eyes (I speak as a wholly hetero organist myself). But I suspect it's confined - like notions of dancing sissiness - to Anglo-Celtic societies. I've never heard of French or German organists being disproportionately homosexual. Quite the contrary, I can think of several womanizers in their ranks, for whom little matters like congenital sightlessness mattered not a whit.

In 1984 Presidential candidate Jesse Jackson was asked how he could claim to be running a "Rainbow Coalition" open to homosexuals when he spent much of his time campaigning in black churches. He answered, "Lots of black churches have gay organists."

This pattern is visible in rock music as well. For example, singers and keyboard players (e.g., Elton John or Little Richard) are more likely to be gay males than guitarists, especially electric guitarists. In America at least, keyboard players across a variety of musical styles are more likely to be gay than other instrumentalists (besides electric guitarists, possibly drummers and saxophone players tend not to be gay).

Overall, the number of rock stars who died of AIDS was quite small (Freddie Mercury of Queen being almost the exception that proves the rule), despite a lot being heterosexually promiscuous and more than a few being junkies. In contrast, both male figure skating gold medalists from the 1970s Olympics died of AIDS.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Please, dear God, not VP Condi Rice

The news that Cheney's shooting victim suffered a heart attack today due to a pellet migrating to his heart should make us think seriously about who might become a new Veep.

The package deal the GOP offered voters back in 2000 sounded pretty good: "Sure, Bush Junior is a bit of a nimrod, but he'll have steady old Dick Cheney around to keep him from messing up." Bush has performed as advertised, but something -- and we still don't know what -- went wrong with Cheney.

So, if Cheney has to go, Bush would still need a minder. But that's not the role that Condi Rice played during her disastrous four years as National Security Advisor. Instead, she was Bush's enabler, his morale bucker-upper. You know that combination deer-in-the-headlights / furtive look that Bush gets when he starts thinking, "Holy crap, I'm President of the United States and I'm a complete tool. Okay, stay calm, don't let those bastards see me sweat"?

Well, Condi's job was to make the President's frightening spells of self-awareness go away. She treated Bush the way Mr. Salter, the editor of the Daily Beast, treated his boss, Lord Copper, in Evelyn Waugh's Scoop:

"When Lord Copper was right he said 'Definitely, Lord Copper'; when he was wrong : 'Up to a point' . . . . "Let me see, what's the name of the place? Capital of Japan? Yokohama, isn't it?' 'Up to a point Lord Copper.' 'And Hong Kong belongs to us?' 'Definitely, Lord Copper'."

At this point, I'd guess that the best Veep / minder for the President would be his brother Jeb, but that's mostly a reflection of the sad state we're in.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Texas hunting accident statistics

Another Texas hunter sounds off:

Hunters like me cringe when we're around people like Cheney. He's a rich old coot who's used to having his own way, and won't take direction from his lessers. He hunts maybe a dozen times a year at best. He doesn't practice. So he is a hazard when he's armed. Frankly, someone in his Secret Service detail should have been hounddogging him to prevent exactly such an occurrence.

He's lucky he was hunting birds and not deer.

But as to being drunk - I doubt his doctors let him drink, given his health problems.

As to the hunting stamp issue - I didn't even know there was such a thing as a upland game bird stamp. That's because residents can purchase the super combo license that lets you take all game. Nonresidents can't buy the super combo, but they may not have heard of this stamp. Since Cheney used to live here, he probably didn't realize there was a change in the law.

And here's Doug Pike in the Houston Chronicle with some numbers to back up the iSteve readers' contentions that contemporary hunters don't mess up like this very often at all.

What happened in South Texas over the weekend doesn't happen often. In 2004, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department logged just 29 hunting-accident reports statewide among more than 1 million-plus licensed hunters who spent tens of millions of hours in the field with loaded firearms. (Reporting is required by law from medical personnel who treat gunshot wounds.)

Hunting-accident rates have been reduced since Texas initiated mandatory hunter education in 1988. The 2004 rate of 2.7 accidents per 100,000 licensed hunters is the lowest since state officials started keeping track in 1966, and is a vast improvement over the 12.6 rate that first year.

About two-thirds of hunting accidents occur among dove shooters, and quail hunters run second at barely 20 percent. The most commonly noted hunter error is shooting outside the safe firing zone, which is what happened in Cheney's situation.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Around the Web

Dennis Dale's Untethered offers another set of elegant reminiscences of an inelegant past straight out of "Repo Man," growing up in a SoCal neighborhood mutilated by ill-considered civil engineering projects.

Udolpho has resolved to make his blog more like everybody else's.

The War Nerd recalls the good old Danes of 991 AD.

Diana Moon's Letter from Gotham points toward the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine's performance rating table for the demands of different sports. American football comes out hardest at 56, then ballet and bull fighting at 55, then hockey at 54. I suspect football is slightly overrated because players get to concentrate on one position with specific skills. However, U. of Texas QB Vince Young's running and throwing performance in last month's Rose Bowl would have to rank way up there. Boxing is only a 51, mostly because of low scores for intelligence and creativity. (But did you know that Muhammad Ali invented his Rope-a-Dope strategy against George Foreman in Zaire in the middle of a round?) I'd guess boxing was the hardest sport in the world 50 years ago, but it doesn't attract quite as good athletes anymore. The sport I pursue the most at present, hiking, came in last at 11.

Political shooters: Adlai Stevenson accidentally shot and killed playmate Ruth Merwin when he was 12 or 13. Former Mexican President Carlos Salinas shot and killed a teenage servant girl when he was a little boy.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Is Brokeback Mountain "slash fiction" for women?

An anthropologist reader points toward the book by evolutionary psychologists Catherine Salmon & Donald Symons called Warrior lovers: Erotic fiction, evolution, and female sexuality, and asks:

Reading your comments on Brokeback Mountain: I haven't seen it, but I wonder if you've run into the phenomenon of "slash" fiction (widely available on the web, mostly non-commercial, and sometimes in violation of copyright laws)? Slash involves taking male buddies from popular fiction -- Kirk/Spock, Holmes/Watson, Starsky/Hutch (hence the "slash") -- and writing stories in which, in the course of their adventures, they find out that they're more than just good friends, and wind up having graphic sex together.

"Slash" is about 100% written and read by women -- some lesbian but most straight. In fact it follows romance novel formulas very closely. One member of the buddy pair is more sensitive and feminine -- physically a man, emotionally a woman -- while the other is a conventional romance hero. With Kirk/Spock, it's Kirk who's the sensitive one and Spock who's the cold, emotionally distant hero who discovers his true feelings at the end. Part of the appeal is that the guys end up having sex not because they're gay, but because True Love conquers all.

Gay men aren't any more interested in "slash" than straight men are in Georgette Heyer. [Who?] The real parallel to "slash" among straight men is girl-on-girl pornography, where women combine ultra-feminine bodies with implausibly guy-like appetites for casual sex. Presumably these women inhabit the same male fantasy land where hot babes are interested in cool guy stuff, like martial arts and field-stripping automatic weapons, instead of boring girl stuff, like relationships and feelings (whatever those are).

Both slash and girl-girl porn tell us a lot (maybe more than we'd like to know) about the chasm between male and female sexuality. but, apart from the physical activities, they have nothing to do with real homosexuality. It's funny how many reviewers are so clueless about human sexuality they can't figure stuff like this out.

Another reader points out that a similar phenomenon exists in Japan, where it is called Yaoi.

This might explain why the whole movie seems to be taking place in some alternate universe.

If you're looking for a film set in what's recognizably our own space-time continuum, you could do a lot worse than the insightful romantic comedy "Something New" about an affluent black woman who, unable to find a black man of her class, reluctantly tries dating a white guy. Over the years, in response to my "Is Love Colorblind?" article, I've gotten hundreds of emails from well-educated black women just like the heroine. The "Something New" screenplay rings quite true.

A reader writes:

I think that more than anything else, what slash and girl-on-girl porn represent women and men (respectively) trying to dispel their anxieties about the opposite sex.

I think that most men are secretly (or openly) afraid that women don't like sex and only view it as a bargaining chip to get what they want out of males (companionship, emotional and physical support, or babies). Women are afraid that men only want them for sex and thus view emotional support of females mainly as a chore that they perform in order to get sex, or in order to have her give him children (in other ways, the same way men worry about women and sex).

Girl-on-girl porn "proves" that women want sex, because if they didn't, why would lesbians bother having sex with each other, instead of just cuddling all the time? Similarly, if gay men get all "girly" around each other and think about love, commitment, and relationships, then that "proves" that men are interested in such things - because if they were just ploys to get sex, gay men would have no reason to do these things amongst each other, because they can easily get sex from each other.

So heterohomophilia (a term I coined for heterosexual fascination with homosexuals of the opposite sex) is, I think, as much about dealing with insecurity as anything else.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

February 13, 2006

More on the Winter Olympics

An Indian-American medical student writes:

the interesting thing about the winter Olympics is that a lot of California skater guys are deciding on a whim to enter ice speedskating, and then instantaneously find themselves at highest level of the sport, blowing away the poor Dutch guys who have been training since the age of 2 because they are the only ones who care about the sport. It's a big indicator that speed skating is probably not very competitive, because as you like to say the demographic base of the sport is not very big.

But that's what I like about the Winter Olympics. The Summer Olympics are filled with ultra athletic, freak genetic specimens: over 6 feet tall, massive jaw due to too much endogenous or exogenous growth hormone, ripped with muscles, veins popping out of their neck, bench pressing 300 pounds... and that's just the women.

The winter Olympics are less competitive, and thus most of the people you see are more normal sized with muscular but more typical body builds. Also many of the Winter Olympic events emphasize technique over brute power which tends to be the prized virtue in Summer Olympic events.

There aren't many Indians in the Winter Olympics, but then again there aren't many Indians in the Summer Olympics either.

The old football player Herschel Walker, who was a genuine genetic marvel even in football for his combination of speed and strength, volunteered to be a pusher on the four man bobsled about 15 years ago, but most of the other American bobsledders didn't want him. They might not win any golds, but at least they, a bunch of regular guys, got to go to the Olympics, and the last thing they wanted were rich football players like Walker and Willie Gault, the Olympic sprinter and wide receiver on the famous 1985 Chicago Bears team, taking their places.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Let's play "Spot the Fallacy:"

On the LA Times op-ed page, Jody Kent of the ACLU denigrates LA County sheriff Lee Baca's call, in the wake of last week's jail race riots, to be allowed to use racial segregation to prevent racial violence:

Race walls won't end jail riots

Despite what you may be hearing, race is not the issue. Sure, racial tensions carry over from the streets and into the jails. If a major fight breaks out, street gang and all other affiliations are pushed aside and inmates join with others of the same race. If they don't, they can expect to be targeted and attacked by members of the group they abandoned.

But segregating inmates by race doesn't solve the problem. It does nothing to identify the problem inmates who create the violence and mastermind riots in the jails. Those high-risk inmates feed off the racial tension and magnify it...

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-3 decision that former inmate Garrison Johnson was right. Johnson, who is African American, had filed suit after being repeatedly segregated in California's detention facilities. The high court's decision recognized that housing inmates by race is a Band-Aid solution. In fact, the court said, racial segregation can make enemies out of people who might otherwise get along.

The proof that violence can be avoided without segregating inmates by race is in two small programs run within the 21,000-inmate L.A. County system. Inmates housed at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood are enrolled in focused programs designed to give war veterans, drug offenders and domestic abuse offenders skills they can use when released, and the privilege of those classes provides a reason not to fight. Inmates are not divided along racial lines, but the most violent have been weeded out and are held elsewhere. The result: Racial violence is not a problem among these inmates.

So, the solution for racial violence in jail is to keep the "most violent" out of jail! Why didn't anybody think of that before? Thank God for those razor sharp minds at the ACLU.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer