February 19, 2010

Figureskaters v. Halfpipers

From my new column in Taki's Magazine:

The sportswear of Olympic events range from Fabulousity Uber Alles (figure skating) to revealingly narcissistic (diving) to trimly functional (gymnastics) to overtly Lebowskian (halfpipe snowboarding).

To a man from Mars, figure skating and the halfpipe wouldn’t seem all that different—in both, competitors are primarily judged on gracefully executing aerial rotations—but their clothes demonstrate that they are wildly different in what kind of young Americans they appeal to.

Although Fred Astaire demonstrated that a man can dance perfectly well while well-dressed, male figure skaters typically pursue sparkliness over taste and even sanity.

In contrast, the 2010 American snowboard team espoused a uniform carefully designed to look like they found their clothes at the bottom of a trunk in Kurt Cobain’s mom’s attic: hooded flannel shirts and torn baggy jeans.

The snowboarder uniforms are actually made out of Gore-Tex with the slacker designs (including the rips in the supposed denim) merely printed on them. But neither authenticity nor aerodynamism is the point. The point is that they are not tight-fitting like the figure skaters’ outfits.

Read the rest there and comment upon it here.

Correction: My reference to an "opera aria" in a video I linked to of Vitaly Scherbo and another gymnast was inaccurate. A reader points out:
The piece in question is not actually from an opera. It is the "Panis Angelicus": the text is an ancient Catholic Latin hymn of praise to Christ present in the Eucharist. The text's opening words are "Panis Angelicus, fit panis hominum," which means "Bread of Angels, become the bread of men". The musical setting is that by Cesar Franck, who was one of the great composers of organ works and other sacred music in the late 19th century.

February 18, 2010


Men's figure skating should have a rule that the skaters can't wear any styles of clothes that weren't worn in dance scenes in Hollywood musicals by either Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, or Jimmy Cagney.

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

Blonde Buttkicking Babes of the North

After winning the Women's Downhill ski race yesterday despite an injury that left her skiing primarily on one leg, Lindsey Vonn, the American champion, broke into tears during her interview until her husband interjected something like, "That's enough crying, Lindsey. Today is a good day," and led her away from the cameras.

Vonn is a big, super-strong, ultra-competitive beautiful girly girl. And that's not too uncommon in the Winter Olympics. The Winter Olympics are always being criticized for all the blue-eyed victors, but a high degree of sexual equality in sports and physical labor is a long-standing cultural attribute that increases the farther north you go in Europe, and among Americans from Northern Europe.

The buttkicking Nordic babe has a more than 1000-year-long history in North America from Leif Eric's ferocious sister Freydis Ericsdottir, who took the lead in battling the Skraelings for Vinland, down to Elin Nordegren Woods running amok with Tiger's golf club last Thanksgiving.

I think it has something to do with the lack of Jersey Shore / Silvio Berlusconi-style strutting machismo the farther north in Europe. If an Italian superbo is laying on the bronzer, hair gel, and pinky rings as symbols of his masculinity, then an Italian women feels impelled to lay on the long fingernails and other excesses of femininity. In contrast, if a Swedish man is uncontriving about his masculinity, it frees up Swedish women to be uncontrived about their femininity.

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

February 17, 2010

National Merit Qualifying Scores by State

From the Washington Post, here are the scores by state on the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) required to make the first cut in the National Merit Scholarship program. (To convert from the three part PSAT score to the traditional two-part SAT Math plus Verbal scores, divide by 3 and multiply by 20: e.g., Arizona requires a 210, which is like a 1400 on the SAT.) It's a good indication of the number of upper middle class residents by state.

For example, Washington D.C. always trails all 50 states on average National Assessment of Educational Progress scores for public school students, but it ties with Massachusetts (which leads NAEP scores more often than any other state), Maryland, and New Jersey for first on this measure with a 221 (the equivalent of a 1473 on the post-1995 SAT). Montana usually is close behind Massachusetts on the NAEP, but only requires a 204 because it lacks much of a native, childbearing upper middle class. In contrast, California, whose white students do relatively poorly on the NAEP on average, does well on this measure, requiring a 218. The lowest scoring state is Wyoming at 201. I would guess that's about 2/3rds of a standard deviation behind the top four states.

Alaska 211
Arizona 210
Arkansas 203
California 218
Colorado 213
Connecticut 218
Delaware 219
Washington D.C. 221
Florida 211
Georgia 214
Hawaii 214
Idaho 209
Illinois 214
Indiana 211
Iowa 209
Kansas 211
Kentucky 209
Louisiana 207
Maine 213
Maryland 221
Massachusetts 221
Michigan 209
Minnesota 215
Mississippi 203
Missouri 211
Montana 204
Nebraska 206
Nevada 202
New Hampshire 213
New Jersey 221
New Mexico 208
New York 218
North Carolina 214
North Dakota 202
Ohio 211
Oklahoma 207
Oregon 213
Pennsylvania 214
Rhode Island 217
South Carolina 211
South Dakota 205
Tennessee 213
Texas 216
Utah 206
Vermont 213
Virginia 218
Washington 217
West Virginia 203
Wisconsin 207
Wyoming 201

I haven't quantified this, but I would assume that Blue States average higher scores than Red States on this measure, although Texas does well at 216.

In general, Texas does fairly well on most tests of educational competence, and it's encouraging that such a huge state seems to perform relatively well both for the average and for the elite. It would be interesting to know how far back this goes in time, since Texas does not have a historical reputation for educational attainment the way Massachusetts does.

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

February 15, 2010

Unemployment and the I Word

From my new VDARE.com column:
The March issue of The Atlantic features Don Peck’s long, well-researched, and deeply depressing cover story "How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America." Peck reports:
“[Men have] suffered roughly three-quarters of the 8 million job losses since the beginning of 2008 … In November, 19.4 percent of all men in their prime working years, 25 to 54, did not have jobs, the highest figure since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the statistic in 1948.”

The implications, as Peck documents, are baleful:
“… this era of high joblessness is probably just beginning. Before it ends, it will likely … leave an indelible imprint on many blue-collar men. It could cripple marriage as an institution in many communities. It may already be plunging many inner cities into a despair not seen for decades.“

Despite the gravity of the unemployment problem, there has been almost zero discussion in the Main Stream Media of the role of immigration policy in how we got here—and how changes in immigration policy could help get us out of this jam.

After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) responded to Scott Brown’s election by announcing he was fast-tracking a bipartisan jobs bill, eight Republican Senators released a joint letter to Reid with their suggestions. Sen. Jeff Sessions, who did so much to save America from the Bush-Kennedy-McCain amnesty bills of 2006 and 2007, and his seven colleagues recommended a half-dozen commonsense steps for reducing unemployment among American citizens by more effectively enforcing laws against illegal immigration.

Keep in mind, these Republicans’ letter didn’t even mention anything about legal immigration—such as imposing a temporary moratorium until the employment problem clears up.

Of course, none of the Patriotic Eight’s illegal immigration reforms made Reid’s bill, which turned out to be the usual Official Bipartisan Consensus of spending increases and tax cuts. (As of Sunday morning, that bill’s progress had stalled due to squabbling.)

And almost none of the press coverage about unemployment mentions immigration.

Read the rest there and comment upon it here.

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

"The Dönme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular Turks"

In The New Republic, in "The Other Secret Jews," Adam Kirsch reviews The Dönme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular Turks by Marc David Baer.

A number of years ago, a friend in Istanbul mentioned several times that many of his friends and acquaintances in classical music, cinephile, and other high culture circles in the Turkish capital were crypto-Jews. I had no idea what he was talking about until I did some research into the Donme (or Donmeh or other variant spellings), and discovered that they were the descendants of followers of the Jewish False Messiah of the 1660s, Sabbatai Zevi (spellings vary), who after Zevi's apostasy, had publicly converted to Islam but had continued to worship Zevi, and remained a small, relatively endogamous elite who played key roles in Turkish revolutions and subsequent life.

For example, the foreign minister in Turkey's most recent Kemalist party government, Ismail Cem, was a Donmeh. (Perhaps a certain amount of the former neocon ardor for Turkey as the Good Muslim Country, which was so rudely interrupted in early 2003 when the Turkish parliament voted to not allow the U.S. to use its big base in Turkey to invade Iraq, much to the surprise and dismay of Paul Wolfowitz, had to do with Americans and Israelis being used to dealing with Turkish diplomats with many of whom they felt culturally compatible.)

The Donme are fascinating in an Umberto Eco sort of way, so, back in 2006, I wrote four long blog posts about them. The Donmeh are representative of how in the realm of the old Byzantine Empire, things are lot more, well, byzantine than we poor dumb Americans assume. We think of Muslim lands as uniformly Islamic, but there are millions of people there who are only vaguely Muslim, like the tens of millions of Alevis in rural Turkey and the ruling Alawi minority in Syria, not to mention the 50,000 Gnostics in Southern Iraq who believe in "planetary archons," and the Lucifer-worshiping Yezidis in Kurdistan. Then there are the Samaritans of Israel and the Druze, who won't tell you what they believe. There are people in the Middle East who worship a sword stuck into the ground and others who worship a large black dog. If it sometimes seems as if the U.S. government doesn't have much of a clue what we are dealing with over there, well, one reason is that it doesn't.

Kirsch's review confirms the history of the Donmeh I reported, but when he gets to recent generations after Kemal's revolution, he more or less announces, "Nothing to see here, folks, just move along, nothing to see. This topic is much more boring than it sounds. It's purely of antiquarian interest."

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