December 9, 2006

Charles C. Mann replies about 1491

I read your blog fairly often so was quite surprised to see you talking about my book. I'm sorry you thought I was being "slippery" in not specifying more often when I was talking about the area north or south of the Rio Grande. You probably saw an artefact of my struggle with terminology. Problem is, the way we divide things up now (splitting the area north of Colombia into North America and Central America) doesn't fit very well with how things were then, when you had a bunch of related, highly urbanized societies in a region extending from about the Honduras-Nicaragua border to the American SW, and then everything else. In earlier drafts I tried saying when referring to the not-as-urbanized places something like "the area north of the Rio Grande except for the Southwest," but this was shouted down by my editors. I tried not using that kind of label as much, and hoping the reader would catch on to what area I was talking about, but obviously that didn't work for you. My apologies .

No, I should apologize. I was rushing to feed the blog beast after a spell of computer troubles and I posted something quick and dirty about an impressive book that Mr. Mann had clearly worked on for years, a topic where experts hold conflicting views, which he rightly refused to oversimplify.

I would say, though, that you're not quite right about Cahokia. Cahokia was by far the biggest of the mound cities of the SE and Mississippi Valley, but there were many thousands of these places--ten thousand is the estimate I've heard most often. Most of them probably held 3-10,000 people, so they weren't huge places. It's as if the moundbuilders went straight past urbanization to suburbanization, skipping the cities and going right to the strip malls. A lot of these places are just a few miles apart, and presumably would have had maize fields between, exactly the sort of situation that most urban historians think would have led to cities.

The other thing is... ten thousand of these places. If you do the math, 3K x 10K = 30M = far more than the total number of people supposed to be north of the Rio G (<20m).>

Another interesting topic would be the population of California Indians -- how dense can a population in a pleasant climate but fairly dry get without agriculture? We know the Northwest Indians were pretty thick on the ground due to fish, even without farming, but California Indians didn't leave a lot of relics behind.

I would argue with you a little that urban life was MORE feasible in the New World than the old because of the lack of pathogens. A lot of archaeologists think that it was LESS feasible because of the lack of draft animals, which made communications and infrastructure-creation much harder. It seems to me that the situations were so different that it's hard to make useful comparisons. Mesoamerica was almost freakishly urbanized, with some geographers claiming it was the most urbanized place on Earth in 1000-1400. But the second most urbanized place was China, which was absolutely swimming in disease. You can look to Africa for insight, as you do, but the situation is muddy. In Sub-Saharan Africa you certainly had major cities--Great Zimbabwe, Ingombe, Mbanzakongo, Loango. But there weren't as many packed in as Mesoamerica, that's for sure. A good book on this is Chris Ehret's Civlizations of Africa.

The Yucatan Peninsula is a horrible place -- not just hot and humid, but the limestone soil means that water sinks into the ground almost immediately. It's completely flat, with no rivers or lakes, and covered with low scrubby trees about 15 feet tall. Looking out the back window of a hotel room on a beautiful beach in Cozumel, I had a hard time shaking the feeling that I was an astronaut in some Twilight Zone episode who had landed on a planet where the beach was wonderful, but the rest of the planet was just a cheap backdrop slapped together in some alien movie studio. And yet the Mayans built extraordinary urban centers like Chichen Itza and Tikal on this unpromising landscape, while North American Indians, blessed with a temperate climate and rich soils, rarely created cities.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

"Casino Royale:"

From my upcoming review in The American Conservative:

James Bond is the most popular English fictional character since Sherlock Holmes, the hero of 23 movies raking in four billion dollars at the global box office. The essence of his screen appeal has been the paradox embodied in the medieval word "gentleman:" an individual of refined manners, educated in the arts of conversation, dress, and cuisine, whose profession is violence.

The English gentleman was the outcome of a project lasting a millennium and a half to mold the anarchic barbarian chieftains who conquered Dark Ages Europe into the upholders of civilization. Like the Japanese samurai, they were gentled by learning aristocratic culture, without, of course, demeaning themselves so low as to have to get a job that didn't involve killing people.

Ian Fleming's 1953 novel Casino Royale introduced a rather grim Bond. The charming but deadly gentleman Bond who had such an impact on popular culture was largely invented in 1962 by the director of "Dr. No," Terence Young. A public school boy, Cambridge grad, twice-wounded WWII officer, wit, bon vivant, and ladies' man, Young had everything except directing talent. He ended his career helming the seldom-seen epics "Inchon" for the Rev. Moon and "Long Days" for Col. Gaddafi.

What he did excel at, however, was teaching a young Scottish proletarian, a former milkman and coffin polisher named Sean Connery, how to act like Terence Young.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Mel Gibson's upcoming movie about the collapse of Mayan civilization in pre-Columbian times, with an all-Mayan cast speaking Mayan, looks from the previews like nothing in Hollywood history. (Here's a review of an unfinished version.) Perhaps it was inspired by the Eskimo movie "Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner"? (Here's my review of that 2002 film made by Inuits.)

As usual, my concern with Mel's movies is that his great theme -- pain -- is one where a little goes a long way with me. I suspect he became interested in Pre-Columbian Indian civilizations because pain was such a central theme in their cultures too.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Polygamy: Gary Becker vs. Nicholas Wade: A common theme here at iSteve is how intellectually Aspergery so many economists are. The thinking of a lot of famous economists seems to be vaguely autistic in the sense that they seem disconnected from so many obvious facts about human nature. Here, for example, is Gary Becker, who, oddly enough, won his Nobel for is work on family life, making a case for polygamy:

"While the ferocious opposition to polygamy seemed strange even in the 1970's when I first wrote about this practice, it is much stranger now in light of developments during the past couple of decades. These developments include a successful movement to legalize contracts between gays that allow them to live as married couples, even though there is ongoing emotional debate about whether such couples can legally be considered "married". ... If modern women are at least as capable as men in deciding whom to marry, why does polygyny continue to be dubbed a "barbarous" practice?

In other words, Becker just doesn't get it about why people don't like polygamy, even though the real reason is easily expressed in economics terminology: Monogamy is a cartel formed by males to reduce male vs. male competition for wives to more of a matter of quality than of quantity. The ability of a culture's males to cooperate with each other is correlated with the overall quality of life in that culture. But Becker doesn't seem familiar with that common argument.

Here it's expressed by the NYT's genetic reporter Nicholas Wade in his book Before the Dawn:

"The novel arrangement of pairing off males and females creates a whole new set of social calculations. Most males in the society now have a chance to reproduce since they possess socially endorsed access to at least one female. So each male has a much greater incentive to invest in cooperative activities, such as hunting or defense, that may benefit the society as a whole.

The pair bond takes much of the edge out of male-to-male aggression. It also requires that men trust one another more, and can have some confidence that those who go hunting won't be cuckolded by those to stay to defend the women."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

"Stranger than Fiction"

Will Ferrell plays a boring IRS auditor who does everything by clockwork, always taking the 8:17 bus every morning to work, never showing any emotion or thinking about anything besides his dull job.

One day, he notices a well-spoken lady's voice in his head narrating what he's doing. When she (Emma Thompson, playing a prestigious author of literary fiction who has been trying to write her novel "Death and Taxes" for a decade) announces that he's unaware of his impending death, he goes to see a professor of literature (Dustin Hoffman), who has no problem accepting that his visitor is a character in somebody else's story. Eventually, with Hoffman's help, Ferrell tracks down Thompson, who admits she's about to kill him off in her ending.

In the only funny scene, Ferrell gives Thompson's unfinished manuscript to Hoffman who reads it and enthusiastically tells him that it's a masterpiece, and that any other ending would ruin it, so he'll just have to die for the good of literature.

One obvious challenge in any story where a character is supposed to be a literary genius is, as Nabokov argued, that the author must present persuasive evidence that the genius really is a genius. This is hard to do when the actual author isn't a genius, which, unfortunately, hot young screenwriter Zach "The-New-Charlie-Kaufman" Helm most evidently is not. The prose style of the lengthy narration from the novel by Thompson is deeply mediocre, and the plotting is singularly lacking in invention.

For instance, Thompson struggles throughout the film to come up with an inspired way to kill off poor Ferrell. Eventually, she achieves a breakthrough, which turns out to be that Ferrell will be ... hit by a bus. Hit by a bus? That's the most hackneyed form of death in the English language at present. Google lists 365,000 examples of "hit by a bus." In one of them, a reader asks, "Why do managers always say something like 'In case you get hit by a bus, I want to make sure you and Fred are inter-changeable'?"

Second, the movie, directed by Marc Forster, the man behind such mediocrities as "Monster's Ball" and "Finding Neverland," is intentionally lifeless. It was filmed in Chicago, a great-looking town with many idiosyncratic landmarks, but the settings were so generic and lacking in local color I thought it was another one of those productions where Toronto is supposed to stand in for Chicago to save on the exchange rate.

This was a "creative" decision on the part of the filmmakers to emphasize how boring and uncreative Ferrell's IRS agent is. But the film just ends up looking phony. For example, there is no "8:17 bus" in Chicago. You simply go down to the corner and wait. Some days, depending on the vagaries of the weather, traffic, and politics, three buses show up one right after another, and other days, no bus comes until 8:45, and then it's full. In the real Chicago, stuff happens.

Third, the movie is redolent of the smug contempt that people with creative jobs have for people with non-creative jobs, whom the creative types imagine must be automatons.

"Stranger than Fiction" isn't an awful movie, but Zach Helm sure isn't Charlie Kaufman.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

"Teachers who work 15 to 16 hours a day:"

The New York Times Magazine runs another article about how to achieve the mandate of the No Child Left Behind act by closing the race gaps in American schools. In "What It Takes to Make a Student," NYT staffer Paul Tough visits some of the handful of charter schools where black or Hispanic students score above average and makes a list of what they need to succeed. My favorite: "Teachers who work 15 to 16 hours a day." That sounds like something Mao would have called for during the Great Leap Forward: "My plan for backyard steel furnaces is guaranteed to succeed if the peasants work 15 to 16 hours a day!"
I don't doubt that a handful of superstar principals and teachers can make a big difference, just as a great basketball coach can win with fairly short players. In 1964, after many years as an also-ran, UCLA's John Wooden won the NCAA championship with a team with nobody over 6'-5." So, did Wooden resolve to continue to shatter the stereotype that height matters in basketball? No, he then took his prestige as a coach who could win with a small team, went all the way to New York City, and landed the best big man of the decade, 7'-2" Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).
In contrast, Adolph Rupp of Kentucky won four national titles while recruiting 80% of his players from his home state. "Rupp's Runts" in 1966 were so short that they had to use 6'-4" Pat Riley, the future NBA coaching legend, for the opening center-jump. Rupp believed a good coach could win with undistinguished talent. But in this year's movie "Glory Road," Rupp is the bad guy who loses in the title game to the wave of the future, coach Don Haskins, who scoured the country to bring talent to El Paso.
Similarly, schools also routinely transform their flash-in-the-pan reputations for working wonders in to the long term capital of better students.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Charter Schools:

A reader writes:

As you know, I'm on the board of a new charter school in XXX, so this is an issue close to my heart.

High-performing charter schools are frequently accused of achieving their success by taking only the cream of the public-school student crop. But in NYC at least, that's not an option: students are assigned by lottery. There is a degree of self-selection, since you don't get *into* the lottery unless you apply. But there's no qualification for entry other than city residence; from that pool of applicants, the actual enrolled students are chosen strictly at random. The school I'm involved with is 25% special ed, and most of the school is reading well below grade level. I don't think that's the cream of the crop.

There's a bunch of charter schools that have achieved remarkable results with underperforming student populations. So: how do they do it? My own view is that the lion's share of success is due to three factors:

- Disciplined environment. High-performing charter schools take discipline seriously. As a consequence, they don't have the cultures of disorder and even violence (property crime, stabbings, even rapes) that you read about in some regular urban public schools. It's kind of obvious that an atmosphere of chaos makes pedagogy difficult if not impossible. This is a relatively low bar to clear in that what it takes to impose discipline isn't that complicated - it just requires willpower and a relatively free hand.

- Longer school day and year. At our school, the day starts early, ends late, there are classes many Saturday mornings, there's a shorter summer, and there are fewer holidays. That adds up to roughly 50% more class time than at regular public schools. It also means less time for the kids to be getting into one kind of trouble or another. Again, it's kind of obvious that more time in class should get better academic results, particularly if you're dealing with students who start out behind.

- Committed, competent staff. High-performing charter schools have the flexibility to hire and fire pretty much at will, so they can get rid of time-servers and incompetents, and they have school cultures that get teachers to put out a lot of extra (largely uncompensated) efforts. Again, we're talking about clearing a low bar: getting rid of worthless teachers is easier than hiring superstars, and may result in a comparable benefit in terms of better instruction.

On top of all this, each charter layers its own "special sauce" - one school has an "east Asian" theme, and teaches all the kids Chinese and karate; another has a music theme, and has all the kids in an orchestra; another has a purportedly afro-centric curriculum; another teaches Latin; the head-of-school at the school I'm involved in is big on civics and debate - but the particularities of the special sauce don't seem to matter much in terms of outcomes; the sauce is really there to create a sense of identity and mission for the school, which makes it easier to get staff and students to put out more effort for the sake of the team with which they identify.

At bottom, what I think accounts for the success of these schools are all very simple things and are, generally, more a matter of ending really bad practices than of implementing really extraordinary ones.

I *hope* that this is most of what it takes, because if great teachers are essential to producing decent students from underperforming populations, then there's no way to scale the success of these schools, and they are much less interesting (see below). An open question in my own mind is to what degree the deterioration in the quality of education across the board in America is simply due to feminism: highly intelligent women now have many more economically- and socially-rewarding work alternatives to teaching, which in turn must have meant a dramatic decline in average teacher quality.

There are very good questions to ask about the results that these schools deliver, but I don't think the question of whether they are selecting for better students is a key one.

Here are the two that I have been focused on:

- How lasting are the effects? If you have a longer school day and year, you can spend a lot more time teaching to the test, and not have that devour *all* classroom instruction time (which over time is self-defeating), as is happening under the pressure of NCLB at some regular public schools. That will clearly deliver better test results.

Will it result in longer-term gains? More generally, students who may succeed in the highly structured and supportive environment of a high-performing charter school may not function so well once that structure and support are withdrawn, as is the case when students graduate to high school (unless they go to a similarly highly-structured and supportive charter school for high school) or to college and/or the workforce. Charter schools have probably gotten big enough as a phenomenon that we can study the high school, college and early workforce performance (GPA, dropout rate, employment rate, average income, income trajectory, etc) and compare it to similar populations educated in mainstream urban public schools. I would expect the comparison to be positive; the question is *how* positive, how big the return is once you look out 10-15 years.

- How scalable is the model? To the extent that charter schools depend for their success on excellent teachers, the model is not very scalable at all, because there is no plausible mechanism for massively increasing the supply of quality teachers. (The supply could be modestly increased by better pay and working conditions, which charters can provide - high-performing charters tend to pay a better annual salary than the regular public schools, albeit on a per-hour basis they are generally paying *less* because of the longer work day and year); even more important is the freedom from the ed-school cartel and restrictive union rules that productive people tend to chafe against.) To the extent that charters can succeed with average-but-competent teachers, scalability is more plausible, but you still have to ask the question whether charters can succeed without outstanding principals/heads-of-school. You don't need as many of those, but I'm more confident that you can't build a high-performing charter without one. Even if we have (or can obtain) an adequate supply of really outstanding people to run these schools, can the model be scaled financially? Charters frequently brag about doing more with less - achieving great results while getting less public money than the regular public schools. But anecdotally I can tell you that many of the high-performing charters I'm familiar with get significant resources from the private sector, from foundations and/or from sugar daddies with a charitable impulse.

Someone needs to do a study of how significant those resources are, to determine whether the charter model is financially scalable.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The Polonium Puzzle

After I mentioned the pulp fiction-sounding name of the man who lunched with the spy the day he was poisoned, Russian radiation expert Professor Mario Scaramella of Naples and Bogota, a reader points out:

The name of the villain in Ian Fleming's "The Man with the Golden Gun,” played by Christopher Lee in the 1975 James Bond movie, was “Francisco Scaramanga!”

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The art of golf course architecture

From the Wall Street Journal:

'That Was From the Artist's Green Period'
Just because players don't wax about aesthetics doesn't mean great golf courses aren't high art
by John Paul Newport

... [Golf] architecture buffs, wisely, don't bother addressing the high-art question, even though they do occasionally throw around the A-word (as in "the art of golf course design"), and some course designers do self-consciously attempt to incorporate age-old artistic motifs into their work. I say wisely because defining art is slippery. Have you ever tried to read an article in a learned art journal? I have, several times, and can only conclude that people who write about the subject professionally are a lot smarter than I am, because I hardly understood a word.

One writer who has boldly ventured into the art-golf waters is Steve Sailer, a blogger and film reviewer for American Conservative magazine. In a most entertaining essay last year (available at, he made the case that golf courses are one of the world's "least recognized art forms" and might even be thought of as the great WASP art contribution of the 20th century. Unfortunately, he contends, golf architecture has never received its artistic due for various cultural and sociological reasons. (One example: Cutting-edge art is usually thought of as anti-bourgeoisie, and golf is anything but.)

The article also reprised what for me has always been one of the most intriguing notions about golf's appeal, and which I think bears on the art question: namely, that at a subconscious level the game connects us (men especially, I suppose) to our evolutionary past as hunters. We stalk golf courses that themselves often resemble our primordial hunting grounds in East Africa: grassy savannahs with scattered stands of protective trees and abundant watering holes (read: water hazards) that attract prey. In one study Mr. Sailer cited, people in 15 nations were quizzed about what scenes they would most like to see in paintings; the collated responses in 11 of the countries pointed to landscapes that looked very much like golf courses, viewed from elevated tees. [More]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Environmental Impact of Immigration

A reader writes:

If we allow the millions of illegal aliens to remain in this country, what will be the environmental impact of this? You can not build a shopping center nor a housing development nor a dam in this country without doing exhaustive environmental impact studies. Would one way of delaying or even stopping the granting of amnesty to these illegals aliens be to file a lawsuit in federal court demanding that environmental impact studies be done on the effect of the amnesty on the environment?

Certainly laws opening the borders further would be more destructive of the American environment than just about any other law with much chance of passing. Does anybody know whether the environmental laws could be applied in this situation to force a massive environmental impact statement analysis? Certainly, the pro-open borders forces intend to use environmental impact statements to slow construction of border fences.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The Derb is on fire

John Derbyshire writes in NRO:

[Borat] illustrates the tremendous power of folk memory. Sacha Baron Cohen (who is an observant Jew) has said, in an interview, that he wanted to make some points about antisemitism.

Nothing wrong with that. I have expressed the opinion somewhere that we have entered an age in which antisemitism will again drive large world events. It is a great and terrible force.

But where is it located? According to SBC, it is located among East European villagers, super-genteel middle-class Americans, and redneck southern Christians. This is precisely the folk memory of the Ashkenazim. The enemies are mean, stupid, persecuting peasants of the Old Country, exclusive country-club patrons, and Klansmen.

Could anything be more wrongheaded? Jews are indeed in peril in the world today, but not from any of those sources. SBC is the Jewish equivalent of those Irish Americans I used to (and still occasionally do) get into arguments with, for whom nothing at all has happened since 1846.

He has not noticed the modern world, preferring instead to stay in the warm cocoon of his grandparents’ stories about brutish muzhiky, great-uncle Irv being kept out of Yale, and tobacco-spitting good ol’ boys sneering at pointy-head Jewish perfessors. I don’t think I have ever seen this odd phenomenon so clearly illustrated. I am sure SBC had no idea he was doing this.

Shallow Sentimentality on Immigration. One thing that you can’t help noticing about the immigration discussions is that pretty much all the real analysis — the spreadsheets, the projections, the number crunching — is on the restrictionist side.

The other side has... what? Well, it has the kind of silly feel-good twaddle illustrated to perfection by James Poniewozik’s essay in last week’s Time magazine. The piece is supposed to make some contribution to the immigration debate, but what does it actually tell us? “Here is a Hispanic person. Her father was an illegal immigrant! Yet she is really nice!” Well, that's great; but how does it help us in sorting out a sensible immigration policy? I don't doubt for a moment that America Ferrera is a wonderful person. Here is a different story, about an illegal immigrant from Ecuador who is not so wonderful. Here is a story about the fiscal problems here in my home county, twelve hundred miles from the Mexican border, caused by illegal-alien criminals. These are my property-tax dollars being spent, and I don’t have a lot of dollars.

Where does any of this get us? With big social-political issues like immigration, what is needed is for us to think things through, not to swoon over happy-face stories like Ms. Ferrara’s, nor for that matter to bristle at grim-face ones like Mr. Pillco’s. Yet practically everything published by the supporters of illegal immigration is just shallow sentimental swooning of the Time variety. Perhaps sentimentality is all these people have to offer. They sure don't seem to be long on real analysis.

Most insulting of all is the subhead on the Time piece: “On TV, the immigration wars aren’t as simple as politicians make them sound.” Let’s see: Who, exactly, is reducing this vast and momentous issue to simplicities: the author of the Time piece, with his cheery little anecdote about one immigrant, or serious analysts like our own Mark Krikorian, who has spent years patiently crunching the numbers to try to find out what will be the consequences for our nation of importing 100 or 200 million third-world immigrants? The argument is not about one immigrant, this Ms. Ferrera. It’s about tens or hundreds of millions, including some Ms. Ferreras, some Mr. Pillcos, and everything in between. Can we have that argument, please?

The great English immigration-restrictionist Enoch Powell had a slogan he tried to include in everything he said or wrote on the topic: NUMBERS ARE OF THE ESSENCE. Precisely. The Time essay has given us a number of one. Its information content, as regards what are and what are not sound immigration policies, is an even smaller number: zero. Immigration policy is a branch of mathematics, not weekend work for employees of the Hallmark Card Company. [More]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Feminism killed the Neanderthals?

Neanderthal Women Joined Men in the Hunt
By NICHOLAS WADE Published: December 5, 2006

A new explanation for the demise of the Neanderthals, the stockily built human species that occupied Europe until the arrival of modern humans 45,000 years ago, has been proposed by two anthropologists at the University of Arizona.

Unlike modern humans, who had developed a versatile division of labor between men and women, the entire Neanderthal population seems to have been engaged in a single main occupation, the hunting of large game, the scientists, Steven L. Kuhn and Mary C. Stiner, say in an article posted online yesterday in Current Anthropology.

Because modern humans exploited the environment more efficiently, by having men hunt large game and women gather small game and plant foods, their populations would have outgrown those of the Neanderthals.

John Hawks isn't convinced, however.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

More from The Joy of Curmudgeonry

Deogolwulf writes:

Monday, June 06, 2005
New Report Finds Britain is "Hideously White"

All socially aware people have long suspected it, the line-up at the upcoming Live 8 concerts has highlighted it, but now a report to be released today by the Committee on Racial Affairs has confirmed it: Britain is “hideously white”. The report found that up to 91% of the population of Britain is white. “This can’t go on,” said Dr Donald Watkins, who co-authored the report. “I find it offensive that in this day and age so many people in Britain are white. It is a disgrace.”

Institutions, such as the BBC, have been reprimanded before on precisely this issue. The new report, however, makes it clear that the problem is not confined to institutions: the problem extends all the way down into wider society. Indeed, the hideous whiteness of institutions is an accurate reflection of society at large.

As Prof. Tetherton, a sociologist at the University of East Anglia, explains, “Because 91% of the population is hideously white, it means that the institutions naturally tend to take on the same horrific hue. If we are serious about tackling the problem, we must eradicate it at the root. Only this way can we create a freer, more equal society.”

Chris Martin, of the popular beat combo Coldplay, was unsurprised by the findings: “Most of my teachers at school were white, most of the people in my street were white, even my parents were white. I think it’s disgusting. [And my wife, I just noticed, is the whitest woman in the entire world.] People don’t seem to realise just how offensive it is. And when you consider that most shareholders are white, well, then we know we are dealing with the most unspeakable evil.”

The report comes after weeks of mounting pressure on the government to make known its understanding of the extent of the problem. “It seems there has been a lack of will on the part of politicians to tackle this issue,” said Emily Burton, spokeswomen for the independent think-tank Totalitas. “But now the government cannot ignore it.”

The report also places greater pressure on the organisers of the Live 8 concerts to change the racial constitution of its performers. “The thought of old white people playing guitars makes me physically sick,” said one activist. [More Joy]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Everybody in the high-IQ sliver of the blogosphere is talking about Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute's call for libertarians to dump their relationship with the Republicans and team up with the Democrats as "liberaltarians."

Funny how the libertarians waited until after the election to debate whether they should jump on the Democrat's bandwagon...

Do you imagine Stanley Greenberg and Ruy Teixara and the other serious Democratic pollsters and electoral strategists are sitting around clinking champagne glasses together over the possibility that the tiny fraction of the electorate that is libertarian might come over to the Democrats' side? Me, neither. As Stalin might ask, "How many divisions do the libertarians have?"

Libertarians are much more prevalent in the far right edge of the Web's Bell Curve than they are in the voting booth.
My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

"Diversity without Community"

My cover story "Fragmented Future" in the January 15, 2007 American Conservative is a long one. Here's an excerpt:

As an economics major and libertarian fellow-traveler in the late 1970s, I assumed that individualism made America great. But a couple of trips south of the border raised questions.

Venturing onto a Buenos Aires freeway in 1978, I discovered a carnival of rugged individualists. Back home in Los Angeles, everybody drove between the lane-markers painted on the pavement, but only one out of three Argentineans followed that custom. Another third carefully straddled the stripes, apparently convinced that the idiots driving between the stripes were unleashing vehicular chaos. And the final third ignored the maricón lanes altogether and drove wherever the hell they felt like.

The next year I was sitting on an Acapulco beach with some college friends, trying to shoo away peddlers. When we tried to brush off one especially persistent drug dealer by claiming we had no cash, he whipped out his credit card machine, which was impressively enterprising for the 1970s.

That set me thinking about why we Americans were luxuriating on the Mexicans's beach, instead of vice-versa. Clearly, the individual entrepreneurs pestering us were at least as hard-working and ambitious as we were. Mexico's economic shortcoming had to be its corrupt and feckless large organizations. Mexicans didn't seem to team up well beyond family-scale.

In America, you don't need to belong to a family-based mafia for protection because the state will enforce your contracts with some degree of equality before the law. In Mexico, though, as former New York Times correspondent Alan Riding wrote in his 1984 bestseller Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans, "Public life could be defined as the abuse of power to achieve wealth and the abuse of wealth to achieve power."

Anyone outside the extended family is assumed to have predatory intentions, which explains the famous warmth and solidarity of Mexican families. "Mexicans need few friends," Riding observed, "because they have many relatives."

Mexico is a notoriously low trust culture and a notoriously unequal one. The great traveler Alexander von Humboldt observed two centuries ago, in words that are arguably still true, "Mexico is the country of inequality. Perhaps nowhere in the world is there a more horrendous distribution of wealth, civilization, cultivation of land, and population."

Jorge G. Castañeda, Vicente Fox's first foreign minister, noted the ethnic substratum of Mexico's disparities in 1995: "The business or intellectual elites of the nation tend to be white (there are still exceptions, but they are becoming more scarce with the years)… By the 1980s, Mexico was once again a country of three nations: the criollo minority of elites and the upper-middle class, living in style and affluence; the huge, poor, mestizo majority; and the utterly destitute minority of what in colonial times was called the Republic of Indians …"

Castañeda pointed out, "These divisions partly explain why Mexico is as violent and unruly, as surprising and unfathomable as it has always prided itself on being. … The pervasiveness of the violence was obfuscated for years by the fact that much of it was generally directed by the state and the elites against society and the masses, not the other way around. The current rash of violence by society against the state and elites is … simply a retargeting."

And these deep-rooted Mexican attitudes largely account for why in Harvard professor Robert D. "Bowling Alone" Putnam's "Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey," Los Angeles ended up looking a lot like it did in the Oscar-winning movie "Crash."

Of course, the winner-take-all entertainment industry contributes to Angelenos feeling wary around each other. I once asked a Hollywood agent why there are so many brother acts among filmmakers these days, such as the Coens ("Fargo"), Wachowskis ("The Matrix"), Farrellys ("There's Something About Mary"), and Wayans ("Scary Movie"). "Who else can you trust?" he shrugged.

Still, what primarily drove down LA's rating in Putnam's 130-question survey were the high levels of distrust displayed by Hispanics. While no more than 12 percent of LA's whites said they trusted other races "only a little or not at all," 37 percent of LA's Latinos distrusted whites. And whites were the most reliable in Hispanic eyes. Forty percent of Latinos doubted Asians, 43 percent distrusted other Hispanics, and 54 percent were anxious about blacks.

Some of this white-Hispanic difference stems merely from the Latinos' failure to tell politically correct lies to the researchers about how much they trust other races. Yet, the LA survey results also reflect a very real and deleterious lack of cooperativeness and social capital among Latinos. As op-ed columnist Gregory Rodriguez stated in the LA Times: "In Los Angeles, home to more Mexicans than any other city in the U.S., there is not one ethnic Mexican hospital, college, cemetery, or broad-based charity."

Due to the rapid national growth of the Hispanic population, America as a whole will become, like Los Angeles, a less trusting, less cohesive society, sapping political, economic, and cultural life.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 7, 2006


For a long time, there has been a need for a Wikipedia of Data.

Back in 2004, the Laboratory of the States website showed the value of the concept by inputting several hundred sets of numbers for the 50 states and then allowing users to try any correlations they wanted. I found it very useful in devising my Affordable Family Formation theory of Red State-Blue State voting. For example, that's where I discovered that housing inflation by state from 1980-2004 was very closely correlated with voting in the Bush-Kerry race.

Laboratory of the States lacked the glossy interface necessary to catch on with the public, however. A snazzy-looking website called Gapminder ("Our Vision: Making sense of the world by having fun with statistics!") came along recently loaded with data by country and with some excellent graphics for analysis.

My first thought was, "Man, we have got to load the Lynn-Vanhanen IQ by nation data into this." But, I've never found a way to add data to Gapminder.

Now, a new website called is positioning itself to be the Wikipedia of data, allowing the public to load in their own data sets, then produce correlations and graphs versus other data already in Swivel.

Meanwhile, Swivel will be automatically checking the correlations of all the data it has, thus producing a few new valuable insights and, no doubt, a boatload of false positives, some of which will turn into new examples of conventional wisdom of the abortion-cuts-crime ilk. For example, today Swivel is featuring a graph showing that the crime rate in America has been negatively correlated with the popularity of wine. So, Steve Levitt was wrong -- it wasn't abortion that drove down crime in the 1990s, it was the resurgence of wine-drinking!

A reader writes:

Swivel won't exactly be the new youtube, but it is very fun and could be useful. Right now though, it's a bit hard to operate. They're going to need to figure out how to find a good way to search through the various graphs. Also, I couldn't get the graph mashing function to work on the few I tried. So there are still kinks.

Note: From Swivel's Terms Of Service:

According to their TOS, if you submit anything, you grant to Swivel, its affiliates and their assignees a perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, sublicensable, royalty-free right to use, reproduce, display, perform, adapt, modify, distribute, make derivative works of and otherwise exploit such User Submissions in any form and for any purpose, including without limitation, any concepts, ideas or know-how embodied therein.

So, bye-bye to your intellectual property rights in anything you post there.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The bizarre reigning definition of "racism:"

A reader comments, in response to Malcolm Gladwell expressing the elite conventional wisdom, "To call someone a [n*****] is not as a bad as arguing that black people have lower intelligence than whites:"

I've wondered many times why social scientists always define racism as the belief in innate racial differences. Even when I was a liberal, I used to think things like, "Racism is supposed to be about hatred. Ordinary people constantly talk about how hating others is so terrible, but when it comes to scholarship, the topic is always framed in terms of nature versus nurture. What about the situation where a guy loves blacks, but thinks they are naturally faster sprinters than others. We want to get worked up about this guy? We want to call him a racist?"

Now, I wonder if there is something else going on. One thing I do know about social scientists (since I am one) is that, as the disciplines have gotten more specialized, they know nothing about biology. Perhaps they have feared that if the connection between biology and behavior were allowed to be studied, the day would arrive when they would look like phrenologists. By delegitimizing the field, they could always be looked to as the experts. Their reputations and jobs would thus be preserved. I don't know if I'm right, but something smells fishy to me. Or maybe defining racism in terms of nature-nurture is simply designed to provide more direct arguments for affirmative action programs.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

"Hideously white:"

When I quoted below the parody "New Report Finds Britain is 'Hideously White'" from the brilliant Joy of Curmudgeonry website, I didn't realize that Deogolwulf hadn't made up the phrase "hideously white." From the BBC News in 2001:

BBC director-general Greg Dyke has described the corporation as being "hideously white". Mr Dyke did not say the corporation was racist but acknowledged that, like the Metropolitan Police, it had a problem with race relations. He admitted the organisation's management structure was more than 98% white. And he said it was unable to retain staff from ethnic minorities and questioned if they were made to feel welcome. ... Mr Dyke said: "I think the BBC is hideously white."

The situation is similar in American media enterprises that aren't so big and rich that they have to have an affirmative action plan.

Steve Gilliard points us toward an article in the New York Observer by Lizzy Ratner called "Vanilla Ceiling" on the editorial and writing staffs of New York glossy magazines:

Still, the results of the survey revealed a world that looks little like the streets of New York, where nearly 65 percent of the population identified itself as nonwhite in the 2000 census.

Of the 203 staffers and contributors listed on the Vanity Fair masthead, six—or less than 3 percent—are people of color.

At Condé Nast Traveler, the swank travel monthly, 11 of the 85 staffers and contributors listed on the masthead are people of color. Of those 11 staffers, three hold editing positions and two are contributing editors, while six hold lower-masthead positions as researchers and assistant editors.

The New Yorker doesn’t publish a masthead, but based on conversations with sources and available published information, the magazine has a pool of some 130 editors, critics, copy editors, fact checkers, editorial assistants and outside contributors—of whom 11 are people of color.

At Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone, four members of the magazine’s 73-person editorial staff are people of color.

Six members of New York magazine’s 90-person team of editors, writers, contributors and editorial assistants are not white. ...

At Forbes, an estimated seven people out of a pool of 116 editors, writers, reporters, editorial assistants, copy editors and bureau correspondents are people of color.

And the non-glossy Nation lists eight people of color among its 99 writers, editors, editorial-board members and Nation Institute fellows.

Awhile back I tried to explain to Jared Taylor that his white ethnocentrism wouldn't fly in the U.S. for the paradoxical reason that whites remain so dominant in many of the top jobs in the more desirable industries that no sense of white solidarity could emerge because the top people see themselves as engaged in clawing their way to the top over other whites (for example, 99% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 94% of Hollywood screenwriters are white), and so they look upon minorities merely as tokens or as props they can use to engage in a little moral one-upmanship over their white rivals.

Of course, some media outlets, especially big city newspapers, have strict affirmative action plans. This means that their staffs instantly become hostage to the minority editors and reporters if they even dream about deviating from the line of political correctness.

In either case, honesty about race is the worst policy for the self-interested.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 6, 2006

Hawk repellent?

This evening, shortly after dark, I was stepping into the enclosed backyard where Fred, my older son's large white rabbit, lives, when a gray shape suddenly swooped down out of the night sky and a white shape shot across the lawn inches ahead of it and took refuge in the dense star jasmine bush.

The hawk (or perhaps an owl, but it looked more like a hawk) landed on the roof of the house behind us. I threw lemons at the predator, but when it took flight again, it landed on the telephone pole in the backyard and peered down hungrily. Eventually, it tired of the lemons flying past and took off for parts unknown, but I fear it will be back for Fred.

I can't imagine anything smaller than an eagle could carry off Fred, who weighs several pounds. A few years ago, I saw a hawk struggling to lift a squirrel it had killed off a San Fernando Valley sidewalk, and certainly a big bunny weighs multiple times more than a squirrel. (That hawk finally gave up carrying off the squirrel after about 100 crows came from all around to squawk menacingly at the hawk's encroachment on their suburban turf.)

In a fair fight, face to face, the bunny would stand a good chance against the hawk, using the claws of its powerful hind legs to slash downward at the bird. Still, the hawk could do a lot of damage to Fred with its talons in one of its dive-bombing runs. The rabbit, who has pink eyes not suitable for bright conditions, spends sunny days deep in the bushes, but at night he likes to come out and frolic on the lawn. I had never heard of local hawks attacking at night, but this one clearly does.

So, tonight Fred is in the house, but he chews through all the lamp cords and aggressively poops in front of the door of his mortal enemy, Whopper, the little bunny who lives in my younger son's room. I want him back outside soon.

So, does anybody have any advice for preventing bloodshed in the backyard?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 5, 2006

The Joy of Curmudgeonry

Dennis Mangan points us to a website where "Deogolwulf" delivers aphorisms in the style of G.C. Lichtenberg:

A Little More Lichtenberg
“That one can convince one’s opponents with printed reasons, I have not believed since the year 1764. It is not for that purpose that I have taken up my pen, but rather merely to annoy them, and to give strength and courage to those on our side, and to make it known to the others that they have not convinced us.”

Here are some of Deogolwulf's own:

Fewtril #140 It should not pass our notice that almost all of our so-called iconoclasts are not so bold as to smash the idols of this age, in whose presence they are wont to grovel, but rather are only so bold as to make great play of pulverising the already smashed idols of another.

Fewtril #126 It is hardly to be hoped that one can speak with knowledge and insight without being accused of ignorance and bigotry.

Fewtril #122 In the great scramble to be offended, it is essential that one might find any innocuous thing utterly vile and offensive, lest one be outdone by more inventive souls.

Fewtril #117 The principle that controversial or objectionable views ought not to be suppressed, but rather shown to be wrong through reasoned debate, is usually defended only when a man is under the impression that those views have little reason in their favour. So much for magnanimity!

Fewtril #107 The scepticism of intellectuals means that they are wont to look suspiciously upon any idea that does not first flatter them into believing that they are central to its realisation.

Fewtril #105 It is good to spend an hour or two wondering how many of the faults and follies of the world have arisen and flourished because of the desperate attempt by fools to eschew what they believe fools believe.

Fewtril #79 I often get the feeling that many of those laymen who profess to be Darwinists have hardly the foggiest understanding of the theory of evolution through natural selection. It is as if the belief in it comes to them not through its scientific role in helping them to understand the natural world, but rather through its social role in helping them to appear no-nonsense and hard-headed at dinner parties.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

So, why isn't Van Nuys "vibrant"?

Van Nuys es very nice,
But it´s not paradise

En Van Nuys court celebrities can plead no contest or guilty,
A student steals his teacher´s car for prom but didn´t get too far,
A strip mall fire rages on Valerio, while Letty bumps la raza on the stereo,
"20 pegaditas, no corridos!"

Los Abandoned

The screening for Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" that Disney invited me to wasn't until four days after the film goes into the theatres on Friday, so I tracked down the Latino marketing firm that Gibson hired to promote his film to Hispanics. They kindly sent me an invitation to a screening last Thursday at a small multiplex in a Hispanic section of South Central LA.

Driving around South Central, I started mulling over again why Mexican-American neighborhoods in Southern California are so dreary. Why aren't they fun? Sure, there's lots of private drama, like the song lyrics above depict. One reason journalists call Mexican-American neighborhoods vibrant is because they often have warm memories of Spring Breaks in Mexico, and assume that Mexican-American parts of town must be like that. Granted, Cancun isn't exactly representative of Mexico, but Mexico isn't an unfun place. So, what's wrong with the vast Mexican-American swatches of SoCal?

Suddenly, traffic slowed, pedestrians were everywhere, cops were directing traffic, people were waving signs trying to entice me to park in their yards for only $10, there were beautiful girls on every corner, and a brass band was playing an exciting fanfare. "Hey, now this is pretty doggone vibrant!" I thought.

Then I figured out what was going on: I was at the University of Spoiled Children and it was the night of USC's annual "Beat UCLA" pep rally in preparation for the #2 ranked Trojans polishing off the Bruins on their way to the national championship game.

Well, that didn't work out for the Trojans any better than the "Apocalypto" screening did for me, which was postponed a week due to a defective print.

But I did figure out one reason why Mexican-American neighborhoods are so dull: Mexican culture and Anglo town planning just don't jibe at all. Social life in Mexico traditionally revolves around the plaza, the town square, the zocalo, or whatever you want to call it, with a bandstand, places to walk around, and cafes under the arcades of the encompassing buildings.

In contrast, as Gertrude Stein said about Oakland, the problem with Los Angeles from a Mexican point of view is that there's no there there. There's no focal point. Downtown LA has a pleasant little plaza next to the Olde California touristy Olvera Street. But, the scale is miniscule -- it's the same plaza that has been there since the mid-19th Century. There's nothing like Times Square in the rest of LA, and the San Fernando Valley is worse, with zero focus.

In many Mexican villages, the big weekly social event is where the boys line up around the edge of the plaza and walk around clockwise, while the girls walk around counter-clockwise (or vice-versa), and everybody gives everybody the eye. Back in the 1970s, this was reproduced in cars on Cruise Night every Wednesday on Van Nuys Blvd. and was popular among both Hispanic and white teenagers, just like in George Lucas's Modesto, as depicted in "American Graffiti." (This is another bit of evidence that whites and Hispanics were less culturally separate in the past in LA than at present.) But the Van Nuys merchants complained and the cops shut it down.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The War Nerd in The American Conservative

Gary Brecher reviews Showdown with Nuclear Iran by Michael D. Evans and Jerome R. Corsi in the new Dec. 18th issue of The American Conservative (not on line).

On the claim that Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon is a "proxy army" for Iran, Brecher unloads:

If there's anything that recent military history shows clearly, it's that nobody, not even a superpower, can create a proxy army that will really fight -- and Hezbollah proved pretty clearly that they can fight.

America and the USSR tried creating proxy armies all through the Cold War years. The only time it worked was when the locals had their own reasons to want to fight. In those cases, it's just a matter of sliding the cartons off the C-130's and cracking 'em open. Local warlust will do the rest.

But when the locals are only fighting because some foreign power pays them, they're worthless. I hate to bring up painful memories, but anybody remember our old pal ARVN -- the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam, aka South Vietnam? We poured so much blood and money into the South Vietnamese Army that it still hurts to think about it. …

The Soviets tried the same technique in Africa and Afghanistan, with the same results. It's hard to believe now, but back in the 1970s people thought the USSR was going to take over Africa because those Soviets were funding so many proxy wars. All those African safaris got the Russians were tropical diseases and a huge cash drain. …

That's exactly what happened to our worst-ever proxies, the Contras. They were supposed to be our Latin American version of the Colorado kids in "Red Dawn" -- freedom-loving rebels who would overthrow the Sandinista commies. Instead they spent your tax dollars on fast boats and clothes -- they were the only insurgents in history who dressed like extras on "Miami Vice." And as for how they behaved, it was more like Tony Montana, who would happily talk about how "I keel a Commyunis' fo' fun!" but then lose interest after the coke money started flowing.

So let's drop the nonsense that Hezbollah is just a stand-in for Iran. You can tell stand-ins by the way they fight, or rather don't fight. …

It wasn't Iran that made the Shi'ites of southern Lebanon so tough. It was Israel. Before Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, the Shi'ites of southern Lebanon were the quietest, most peaceable tribe in the whole crazy country. There's no faster way to turn submissive peasant-types into kamikazes than by grabbing their land, and that's what Israel did, declaring a "security zone" in southern Lebanon. It was Israeli occupation that turned those Shi'ite peasants into the best soldiers in the Middle East, not Iranian cash. Cash just makes Contras; occupations make fighters.

If you want an ultra-painful example of that, just compare the Iraqi army before we occupied Iraq -- a bunch of cowards who were surrendering to news crews -- to the hardened insurgents we have to deal with now.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The "R" Word

Malcolm Gladwell asserts a viewpoint that I think is pretty common among the media elite today:

Defining A Racist

… I propose three criteria:

1. Content. What is said clearly makes a difference. I think, for example, that hate speech is more hateful the more specific it is. To call someone a [n*****] is not as a bad as arguing that black people have lower intelligence than whites. To make a targetted [sic] claim is worse than calling a name.

Let me propose two criteria. You are more likely to get smeared as a "racist," the more your statement is:

1. True.
2. Important.

As you know, the white-black intelligence gap has been studied to death over the last several generations. Legitimate questions remain about whether it's changing in size, and how big a role, if any, genetics plays in it. But there is no scientific question whatsoever about its existence.

The most comprehensive investigation of the size of the white-black IQ gap was carried out by Philip L. Roth of Clemson and colleagues in a 2001 article, "Ethnic Group Differences in Cognitive Ability in Employment and Educational Settings: A Meta-Analysis," in the academic journal Personnel Psychology. They looked at 105 different studies covering 6,246,729 individuals and found an overall average difference between whites and blacks of 16.5 IQ points, or 1.1 standard deviations. The 95 percent confidence interval runs merely from 1.06 to 1.15 standard deviations (in other words, there is strong agreement among the 105 studies).

As for its importance, the white-black IQ gap is highly relevant to a broad range of social issues, such as education, voting, and much else that you aren't supposed to think about.

There is a lot of hate in this world, and, increasingly, much of that hate is getting directed at people who tell the truth.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

David Lynch's "Inland Empire"

The popular surrealist director David Lynch ("Elephant Man," "Blue Velvet," "Twin Peaks," "Mulholland Drive") is back with "Inland Empire," a film noir nightmare in which Laura Dern is "a woman in trouble."

The basic structure of the film is promising, resembling the setup for a complicated Tom Stoppard play. Dern plays a classy Hollywood actress married to a jealous Polish millionaire. She lands a big role in a Southern Gothic film about adulterous lovers and the husband who will kill them if he finds out. Her leading man is a Colin Farrell-type star notorious for sleeping with all his leading ladies, especially the married ones. Not surprisingly, you soon can't tell whether the love scenes depict the characters in the film-within-a-film, or whether the stars are rehearsing a little too realistically in their spare time.

Considerately, Lynch has characters clue the audience in on what will happen, such as a sinister Polish hag who visits Dern in her LA mansion and tells her that her upcoming romance film is actually about murder, or maybe she just forgot, but who can remember, she asks, what comes before what, whether it's today, yesterday, or tomorrow?

The director (Jeremy Irons) reveals that the new movie is actually a remake of a Polish movie, based on a Polish Gypsy folktale, about adulterous lovers that was begun in the 1930s but never finished because the two stars were murdered, presumably by a jealous husband. And there's suppose to be a Gypsy curse on the whole proceedings.

Then, Dern somehow becomes, like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse 5, unstuck in time (or maybe she's just crazy) and is soon encountering scenes both from the unfinished Polish movie and from the private lives of the doomed Polish actors.

So far, so good. A half hour into the film, my hopes were high. But then … the story never develops any momentum. And it just goes on and on and on forever and a day. You know the last ten minutes of "2001," where the astronaut keeps walking into strange rooms, staring in puzzlement at different versions of himself? Well, multiply that by 18 and you'll grasp what this three-hour disaster is like: Laura Dern walking into scores of rooms and staring in horror at what she sees. But there isn't much that's all that horrible to look at, so the film doesn't even offer the amusements of a horror film. The soundtrack consists of endless minor key chords and thump-thump heartbeat-like percussion, which is pretty creepy for awhile, but gets old eventually.

Lynch himself seems to get bored with this, and keeps introducing characters that don't fit into his already overstuffed four-level structure. Dern re-emerges as a foul-mouthed skank who apparently lives in Pomona, in the "Inland Empire" east of LA, and is married to a man from Poland (which was an inland country, except for the controversial Danzig corridor, when the original movie was made between the wars -- see how the Pomona-Poland Inland Empire theme all fits together!), who runs off to join a Baltic circus because he's good with animals. And then there are scenes from a Polish sitcom starring a stiffly dressed bourgeois family with the heads of rabbits, which I guess is tied into the recurrent theme of being good with animals, which also pops up in the ten minute monologue by a Chinese homeless lady sitting on the star-engraved sidewalk of Hollywood Blvd., who talks at vast length about her friend in Pomona who is retiring from turning tricks to stay home with her pet monkey.

This isn't as random as it sounds because every damn thing in the movie is foretold earlier. For example, in Dern's second incarnation, as the whore, she delivers a long monologue to a Hollywood private eye (who looks kind of like, rather improbably for a shamus, Matthew Yglesias) in which, in the course of talking about some guy she once knew, she mentions that he had a one-legged sister. About an hour later, as I was walking out early, about 170 minutes into this ordeal, up on the screen -- well, what do you know! -- there's suddenly a one-legged woman.

To be honest, I'm often a big admirer of films constructed in this manner. I imagine that if I sat through "Inland Empire" again, I could explain why, say, "Repo Man" is art while "Inland Empire" is an obsessive-compulsive nightmare / snoozeathon, but no way in hell am I going to subject myself to it another time.

Like Peter Jackson's interminable "King Kong," what's being debuted in the theatres is the three-hour Director's Cut. Hopefully, someday there will be a two-hour Editor's Cut of "Inland Empire."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer