May 30, 2014

"X-Men: Days of Future Past"

X-Men movies exemplify the dominant Minority Supremacist ideology of our age. Mutant superheroes are oppressed by the boring normals, except for the few enlightened members of the uncool majority. Not surprisingly, Bryan Singer's X-Men movies are vastly popular with the teenage masses, who of course are all members of a talented minority, right? I mean, if you can't trust Bryan Singer, boys, who can you trust?

The latest X-Men comic book movie Days of Future Past is a time travel flick set in 1973, much like 2011's pretty good X-Men: First Class was set in in 1962. And I liked X-Men: First Class quite a bit because it was a reboot after Brett Ratner had trashed the continuity in 2006's X-Men: Last Stand, so it stood alone better than most. This new one devotes a lot of effort to patching over problems in the continuity, so it puts the franchise back in good shape, although it may not make for the most scintillating stand-alone flick. And whenever it runs into a problem it just throws some more movie stars at it, such as Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellen, which is not the worst strategy. 

X-Men movies wouldn't have worked well as a franchise before the Web era since you really need to look up online before you go what all happened in the last movie and who all the teeming mutant freaks are again. I'm not really into doing my homework before a movie so I enjoyed the first one back in 2000 the most. 

Also, I, personally, I find 1962 cooler than 1973. And the previous film let Michael Fassbender as the vengeful Magneto, a mutant supremacist, hog tie and stomp James McAvoy as the nice Dr. Charles Xavier. 

In this one, McAvoy gets more emphasis and he's somewhat cooler -- he's supposed to resemble a 1973 British rock star fighting his heroin addiction in his country estate -- than in First Class. Unfortunately, Fassbender, who may be the top male star to emerge in this decade (although Andrew Garfield is terrific in the otherwise pointless Spider-Man reboot), doesn't get much to do other than to wave his hands around, although at the end he gets to deliver a rousing speech to Richard Nixon on the necessity of Mutant Supremacism.

A message from Mrs. Sailer

My father and I,
Cabo San Lucas, 1986
Today was a very good day in the first iSteve fundraising drive of 2014. I want to thank everybody who has made a sacrifice to help me out. 

My wife got home from work about 8PM tonight and I gave her the encouraging news as we ate dinner off paper plates. The reason we've been eating all our meals off paper plates for the last year or so is that the old dishwasher died and they don't make dishwashers anymore small enough to fit under our kitchen counters. The kitchen counters and cabinets are 63 years old. Dishwashers hadn't been invented yet in 1951, much less standardized in size at one inch larger than our counters can contain. 

On the other hand, the linoleum is only, I believe, 34 years old. Indeed, the kitchen floor seemed to be back in style around 2005, but at that rate won't come back into fashion again until maybe 2030.

Unfortunately, even a good day of fundraising doesn't put much of a dent in the fact that I owe my frugal, hardworking, and patient wife a kitchen that can accommodate a dishwasher so we don't have to drink solely out of Big Red Cups like some kind of frat house or perpetual Toby Keith video. (The neighbors are wondering how many kegs we go through per week). 

She's made a lot of sacrifices so I can write for you full time for the last 14 years. (For instance, she never complains about driving a 16 year old car with 237,000 miles on it.) Now that I think about it, I never mentioned to her when we got married in 1987 that when it came to all that "for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health" stuff, that I was going to spend 1998 fighting cancer and then, when that was over, decide to spend the 21st Century as an unpopular writer. 

So, I need to make more money so I can get my wife the remodeled kitchen she deserves. Therefore, I'm going to keep asking for your contributions. The various ways to donate are described above to the right. The Google Wallet method may look daunting but is actually pretty simple.

As usual with my money transfer method attempts, something has stopped working: in this case the VDARE link as of the wee hours of Friday morning. I have hopes it will be fixed soon, and will let you know.
Once again, let me thank everybody who has donated so far.

The Clippers Challenge: Piketty v. "Forbes 400"

I like lists, so I've been a fan of the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans since it started in 1982. Economists, however, have been reluctant to include this data in their analyses. Personally, I think they mostly don't want to risk peeving the extremely rich, who could be nice friends or very nasty enemies.

But Thomas Piketty, for example, claims he is very much against looking at the Forbes 400 data on methodological grounds. He doesn't believe there is really so much churn among the superrich. Like people who write to tell me that Forbes undercounts the secret wealth of the Rothschilds, Piketty believes there are large numbers of hidden Old Money billionaires out there. Matthew Yglesias sums up Piketty's argument:
Piketty's interesting point on entrepreneurial wealth turns out to be that the famous Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America (and similar lists in other media outlets) is probably mistaken. 
Not just mistaken, in fact, but systematically biased to overrepresent entrepreneurs and underrepresent heirs and heiresses. This isn't a matter of ideology (though Piketty does think the publications in question are ideologically biased toward valorization of entrepreneurs) but of the limits of data. After all, the task of estimating the net worth of a major entrepreneur is relatively straightforward. Mark Zuckerberg is rich because as the founder of Facebook, he owns a lot of shares of Facebook stock. ...
But consider Zuckerberg's hypothetical future grandchildren. These grandchildren will, presumably, inherit a lot of money. But it's also reasonably likely that they won't play a management role in Facebook. And the prudent thing for them (or the creators of their trust funds) to do would be to hold a diversified portfolio of wealth rather than a large block of Facebook shares. They would be broadly invested in domestic and foreign stock markets, probably own a bunch of real estate, and maybe include some alternative investments (a hedge fund here, a commodity index there). 
Tracking it all down would be possible, though perhaps difficult, in the course of a contentious lawsuit in which someone has the power to issue subpoenas. But a merely curious journalist has no real way of finding out how the holder of a diverse portfolio of inherited financial assets is doing. 
In other words, we are almost certainly overcounting entrepreneurs among today's super-rich and undercounting the descendents and past entrepreneurs. And a generation or two from now we are very likely to underestimate the wealth of the descendants of today's entrepreneurial billionaires.

Okay, but if say, Zuckerberg has 3 children and they have 3 children each, that is 9 heirs to divvy his fortune up among.

The average member of the Forbes 400 has, last I checked, 3.6 children. Rich men tend to have children with a couple of wives over the course of a lifetimes. Heiresses probably don't have as many children as male heirs, but it seems likely that today's great fortunes will be divvied up an average of 3 to 10 grandchildren. If heirs marry heiresses, then wealth would be combined, but that doesn't seem all that common these days.

Another way to approach the question of Hidden Rothschild (or whomever) Wealth is too look at trophy purchases. Are scions of ancients fortunes buying up the Los Angeles Clippers or homes along the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach? Are they building their own personal golf courses? Golf courses are visible from the air, so they show up on Google Maps. I'm more or less familiar with most of the personal golf courses in Southern California, and they tend to have been built by rich guys you've heard of like Bob Hope, Walter Annenberg, and Jerry Perrenchio.

What about bidders on the Clippers?
Ballmer, who was chief executive of Microsoft for 14 years, beat out other bidders that included Los Angeles-based investors Tony Ressler and Steve Karsh and a group that included David Geffen, Oprah Winfrey, Larry Ellison and executives from the Guggenheim Group, the Chicago-based owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

You've probably heard of Ballmer (#21 on the Forbes 400), Geffen (#68), Ellison (#3), and Winfrey (#168). Ressler is an old Mike Milken guy who teamed up with Leon Black; he's now married to actress Jami Gertz. He's not on the Forbes 400, although Black is #85. I don't know who Steve Karsh is, but Bruce Karsh is an L.A. billionaire who is #296 on the Forbes 400 list, so "Steve Karsh" is likely a typo. Other reports have Bruce Karsh teaming with Ressler and retired basketball player Grant Hill.

It could be that Piketty would respond that only tawdry arrivistes wanted to overpay for the Clips (who don't even own their own arena). As a Southern Californian, perhaps I'm not aware of real old money. But Los Angeles has had a fair number of rich people since it became accessible by railroad in 1887. For example, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle's co-author, is the great-grandson of Edward Doheny, the original for the I-drink-your-milkshake oilman in There Will Be Blood who was involved in the Teapot Dome scandal 90 years ago. But a lot of dramatic and mundane stuff has happened to Old Man Doheny's money over the years. 

So this suggests a methodology to test Piketty's assumption that he is justified in ignoring Forbes 400 data: track the purchasers of trophy properties in the 21st Century and the donors of trophy gifts such as art museums and concert halls.

Are they typically Astors and Vanderbilts or are they Ballmers and Geffens?

May 29, 2014

Nicholas Wade defends "A Troublesome Inheritance"

From the Huffington Post:
By Nicholas Wade

In Defense of A Troublesome Inheritance
Posted: 05/29/2014 6:02 pm EDT Updated: 56 minutes ago  
Three attacks on my book A Troublesome Inheritance have appeared on The Huffington Post's blog this month. For readers puzzled by the stridency and personal animus of these compositions, I'd like to explain what is going on. 
The issue is how best to sustain the fight against racism in light of new information from the human genome that bears on race. 
My belief is that opposition to racism should be based on principle, not on science. If I oppose racism and discrimination as a matter of principle, I don't care what the science may say because I'll never change my position. As it happens, however, the genome gives no support to racism, although it does clearly show that race has a biological basis, just as common sense might suggest. 
Many social scientists, on the other hand, have long based their opposition to racism on the assertion that there is no biological basis to race. I doubt they personally believe this and suspect that they oppose racism on principle, just as I do. But they believe that other people, less enlightened and intelligent than they, will not abandon racism unless told that everyone is identical beneath the skin. 
So whenever someone points out that race is obviously biological, defenders of the social science position respond with attacks of whatever vehemence is necessary to get the inconvenient truth-teller to shut up. 
For many years this tactic has been surprisingly effective. It takes only a few vigilantes to cow the whole campus. Academic researchers won't touch the subject of human race for fear that their careers will be ruined. Only the most courageous will publicly declare that race has a biological basis. I witnessed the effects of this intimidation during the 10 years I was writing about the human genome for The New York Times. The understanding of recent human evolution has been seriously impeded, in my view, because if you can't study the genetics of race (a subject of no special interest in itself), you cannot explore the independent evolutionary histories of Africans, East Asians and Europeans. 
The attacks on my book come from authors who espouse the social science position that there is no biological basis to race. It is because they are defending an ideological position with a counterfactual scientific basis that their language is so excessive. If you don't have the facts, pound the table. My three Huffington Post critics -- Jennifer Raff, Agustín Fuentes and Jonathan Marks -- are heavy on unsupported condemnations of the book, and less generous with specific evidence. 

Here's Jennifer Raff's effort. Read the comments, especially by Chuck (from whom I borrowed that Darwin quote in my last column).

Here's Agustin Fuentes' piece, and here's a picture of Professor Fuentes, who looks like he should be playing goalie for Argentina's World Cup team.

And here's Marks' piece in the HuffPo.
Despite their confident assertions that I have misrepresented the science, which I've been writing about for years in a major newspaper, none of these authors has any standing in statistical genetics, the relevant discipline. Raff is a postdoctoral student in genetics and anthropology. Fuentes and Marks are both anthropologists who, to judge by their webpages, do little primary research. 
Most of their recent publications are reviews or essays, many of them about race. Their academic reputations, not exactly outsize to begin with, might shrink substantially if their view that race had no biological basis were to be widely repudiated. Both therefore have a strong personal interest (though neither thought it worth declaring to the reader) in attempting to trash my book. 
It would try the reader's patience to offer a point-by-point rebuttal of the three reviews, so I will address just the principal arguments raised by each. Let's start with Raff, who asserts, "Wade claims that the latest genomic findings actually support dividing humans into discrete races." In fact, I say the exact opposite, that races are not and cannot be discrete or they would be different species, but it's easier to attack an invented statement. 
By denying the existence of race, social scientists are intimidating biologists from pursuing this path. This is particularly exasperating given the fallacious nature of the belief that race must be denied if racism is to be quelled. The geneticist Theodore Dobzhansky observed, "People need not be identical twins to be equal before God, before the law, and in their rights to equality of opportunity." Unlike identical twins, we are not all clones. We exist as different races by virtue of our evolutionary histories. The recovery of this history is a legitimate subject of scientific inquiry, and from this advance of knowledge unimagined benefits may accrue.

Read the whole thing there.

More Clippers lunacy

From the LA Times:
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to buy Clippers for $2 billion 
Former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer won a frenetic bidding war for ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, with his $2-billion offer setting a record price for an NBA team, The Times has learned.
Ballmer, who was chief executive of Microsoft for 14 years, was chosen over competitors that included Los Angeles-based investors Tony Ressler and Bruce Karsh and a group that included David Geffen and executives from the Guggenheim Group, the Chicago-based owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, according to three individuals familiar with the negotiations. 
One of the individuals with knowledge of the negotiations said the Geffen group bid $1.6 billion and Ressler at $1.2 billion. 
The sale price is almost four times the highest previous NBA franchise sale price -- the $550 million paid earlier this month for the Milwaukee Bucks. It is second only to the Dodgers' 2012 sale for $2.1 billion as the highest price for any sports team in North America. 
The tentative deal still must receive the blessing of her husband, Donald Sterling, who has waxed and waned on the question of whether he would allow his wife to sell the team he has controlled for more than three decades.

Don Sterling got $2 BILLION for selling the Clippers? Uh, hey...I don't want any black people in my house! Make me an offer!
That's basically the same price as Guggenheim (with Magic Johnson as the frontman and Mike Milken on the phone) paid for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012, which has prevented 70% of Dodger fans from watching their team on cable TV this year due to demands for much higher fees from cable companies.

So, expect a similar Greed Squeeze on Clippers fans now that the Evilest Man in the World no longer owns the team. I mean, it's not like the former CEO of Microsoft understands anything about exploiting market power to earn quasi-monopolistic profits.

The biological construct of race in America

We are often told that in America white and black are "folk" categories that don't match up with underlying scientific genetic reality. But, the rise of genome testing offers a new perspective on that. 

I've thought of another way to phrase the data I brought up in this week's Taki's article.

According to a recent Stanford study of 23andMe genomic data, the average self-identifying African-American is about 80% black by genes and ancestry, while the average self-identifying white American (non-Hispanic) is about 0.05% black. 

So, the average African-American is roughly 1,600 times blacker genetically than the average white American.
Score +1 for folk anthropology, score -99 for academic cultural anthropology.

Stanford v. Harvard

From the NYT:
America’s ‘It’ School? Look West, Harvard 
Riding Technology Wave, Stanford Rises to Top of Some Measures 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — In academia, where brand reputation is everything, one university holds an especially enviable place these days when it comes to attracting students and money. To find it from this center of learning, turn west and go about 2,700 miles. 
Riding a wave of interest in technology, Stanford University has become America’s “it” school, by measures that Harvard once dominated. Stanford has had the nation’s lowest undergraduate acceptance rate for two years in a row; in five of the last six years, it has topped the Princeton Review survey asking high school seniors to name their “dream college”; and year in and year out, it raises more money from donors than any other university. 
No one calls Duke “the Stanford of the South,” or the University of Michigan “the public Stanford,” at least not yet. But, for now at least, there is reason to doubt the long-held wisdom that the consensus gold standard in American higher education is Harvard, founded 378 years ago, which held its commencement on Thursday. 
“There’s no question that right now, Stanford is seen as the place to be,” said Robert Franek, who oversees the Princeton Review’s college and university guidebooks and student surveys. Of course, that is more a measure of popularity than of quality, he said, and whether it will last is anyone’s guess.

A few comments:

- Climate, scenic beauty, spaciousness, and even perhaps architecture (Harvard's campus is surprisingly unprepossessing, at least relative to Yale, Duke, or the U. of Chicago) give Stanford's campus a big edge over Harvard's.

- Fashions change immensely slowly among colleges. I visited Stanford in the mid-70s and concluded: Why go anywhere else? But that logic apparently took about another four decades to sink in nationally.

- The history of Stanford is entwined with the history of Silicon Valley and both are entwined with the history of those "pseudosciences:" IQ testing and eugenics.

- One obvious way to Fight Inequality is for America's most fashionable name brand schools to enlarge their freshman class sizes significantly. Yet, almost none of them have bothered, preferring instead to become more elite as ever more applicants fight over a stable number of openings. Stanford would be particularly well set to expand significantly because, besides its vast endowment, it has a staggeringly large campus of over 12 square miles that provides more than an acre per undergrad.

World War T meets Gladwellism


Panhandling grinds on

This is my dog Barney in about 1975. He was a good dog.

Barney isn't particularly germane to my thanking those of you who have donated to my first fundraising drive of 2014, but these occasions are a fine excuse for posting random old pictures.

I'm informed that up through the end of 2013, my postings come to about 6 million words. That's a lot, but it doesn't compare to your 40 million words of comments. Thanks.

For all those of you who haven't donated yet, please refer to the Panhandling instructions to the upper right.

20 highest paid soccer players by race

One of the reasons soccer is so globally popular is that it's a pretty white sport, much whiter than American football (the NFL is only about 30% white, even less if you exclude all the white soccer-style placekickers). For example, here is Forbes' current list of the top 20 highest paid soccer players in the world (salary plus endorsements):

1. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal, white (might be tiny bit black through Cape Verdean great-grandparent) -- generally speaking, Ronaldo looks like Tim Tebow.

2. Lionel Messi, Argentina, white

3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden (Bosnian father and Croatian mother), white (often accused of being a Gypsy by opposing fans, but at 6'5" looks pretty Balkan to me)

5. Radamel Falcao, Colombia, substantially white, father appears part black, perhaps some Amerindian too, judging from his hair

6. Gareth Bale, Wales, white

7. Wayne Rooney, England, white

8. Sergio Aguero, Argentina, white or mestizo

9. Yaya Toure, Ivory Coast, black

10. Fernando Torres, Spain, white

11. Robin van Persie, Netherlands, white

12. Franck Ribery, France, white (converted to his Algerian wife's Islam) -- face got smashed up in an accident when young, so a little odd-looking.

13. Steven Gerrard, England, white

14. David Silva, Spain, white father and East Asian (Japanese) mother

15. Frank Lampard, England, white

16. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany, white

17. Mesut Ozil, Germany (3rd generation Turkish German), white (looks like Bogart's costar Peter Lorre)

18. Philipp Lahm, Germany, white

19. Kaka, Brazil, white

20. Luis Suarez, Uruguay, three-fourth's white, supposedly one black grandfather, could be a little Amerindian.

I'm coming up with the Top 20 being, very roughly, approaching 85% white by ancestry, 10% black, and the rest Amerindian or East Asian. Nineteen of the top 20 highest paid players are at least half white.

Back in 2010 I looked through ESPN's list of the world's Top 50 soccer players and came up with fairly similar proportions, a little less white than the 2014 Top 20 highest paid list, but still much whiter than the NBA or NFL, and probably whiter than MLB.

FIFA could change the rules to make soccer more a test of explosiveness and sprinting ability, like American sports, which tend to favor blacks of West African descent. But, the world seems pretty happy with soccer the way it is.

As I wrote in 2010 before the World Cup semifinals between Uruguay v. Netherlands and Germany v. Spain:
When people go on about how much they love diversity, what they mean is that they want about an 80% white majority and 20% colorful minorities to spice things up, roughly what high level soccer delivers -- not the opposite. (But the opposite is what everybody will eventually get.) 
Much of the glamor of the World Cup stems from it being a mostly white sport. 
Do you think up-and-comers like the South Koreans would be fascinated by the World Cup if it were traditionally dominated by, say, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Pakistan, and Bolivia? Would SWPLs in the U.S. love soccer if it were associated in their minds with "Kinshasa" rather than with "Barcelona"? 
Look at what's happened to interest in track & field over the decades as East Africans have come to dominate the endurance races and the West African diaspora the sprints. (People don't believe me these days when I say that the Olympic running races used to be a really big deal. Who'd ever be interested in people running?) 
The rules of soccer could either be more favorable to men of West African descent who are great at sprinting but lack endurance, the way the NFL and the NBA are, by making the game more amenable to sprinters by having more times outs (great for TV commercials) and substitutions. Or soccer could be made more amenable to highlanders with less speed but great endurance such as East Africans, Mexicans, Bolivians, Rif Mountain Northwest Africans and the like by preventing players from wasting time whenever play stops. But the rules are set in such a way that whites predominate in soccer.

And nobody's in a hurry to change.

May 28, 2014

Diversity: How the Swiss manage

From PLOS One (via HBD Chick):
Good Fences: The Importance of Setting Boundaries for Peaceful Coexistence 
Alex Rutherford, Dion Harmon, Justin Werfel, Alexander S. Gard-Murray, Shlomiya Bar-Yam, Andreas Gros, Ramon Xulvi-Brunet,
Yaneer Bar-Yam mail

Published: May 21, 2014
We consider the conditions of peace and violence among ethnic groups, testing a theory designed to predict the locations of violence and interventions that can promote peace. Characterizing the model's success in predicting peace requires examples where peace prevails despite diversity. Switzerland is recognized as a country of peace, stability and prosperity. This is surprising because of its linguistic and religious diversity that in other parts of the world lead to conflict and violence. Here we analyze how peaceful stability is maintained. Our analysis shows that peace does not depend on integrated coexistence, but rather on well defined topographical and political boundaries separating groups, allowing for partial autonomy within a single country. In Switzerland, mountains and lakes are an important part of the boundaries between sharply defined linguistic areas.

Switzerland, unlike, say, most of sub-Saharan Africa, has a lot of topography. Mountain ranges tend to reduce intercourse between the two sides, and lakes make better political borders than rivers. Moreover, the Swiss tend to be fairly cooperative so the people semi-isolated between a mountain range and a lake, say, get along pretty well with their neighbors. People who don't want to adopt their neighbors language or religion can move a relatively short distance to an area more suitable to their predilections.
Political canton and circle (sub-canton) boundaries often separate religious groups. Where such boundaries do not appear to be sufficient, we find that specific aspects of the population distribution guarantee either sufficient separation or sufficient mixing to inhibit intergroup violence according to the quantitative theory of conflict. In exactly one region, a porous mountain range does not adequately separate linguistic groups and that region has experienced significant violent conflict, leading to the recent creation of the canton of Jura. Our analysis supports the hypothesis that violence between groups can be inhibited by physical and political boundaries. A similar analysis of the area of the former Yugoslavia shows that during widespread ethnic violence existing political boundaries did not coincide with the boundaries of distinct groups, but peace prevailed in specific areas where they did coincide. The success of peace in Switzerland may serve as a model to resolve conflict in other ethnically diverse countries and regions of the world.

So, in Switzerland the internal boundaries have largely been worked out by the locals over the centuries, but in Yugoslavia they were imposed by the half-Croat, half-Slovene Tito to keep the Serbs down. Tito's plan worked pretty well for a long time, but eventually led to fighting and ethnic cleansing, such as the expulsion of Serb residents from Croatia in 1995's Operation [Desertless] Storm.
I wrote about Switzerland back in 2000 for VDARE.

SPLC attacks Nicholas Wade's "Troublesome Inheritance"

The good old Southern Poverty Law Center is out to get Nicholas Wade:
Troublesome Sources: Nicholas Wade’s Embrace of Scientific Racism
By Jon Phillips on May 28, 2014 - 3:25 pm, Posted in Academic Racism, Extremist Propaganda

In the ongoing on-going War on Racist Sexist White Men, the SPLC is the gold standard source since it's run by poor Southern blacks. As we all know, it was founded in 1957 by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and fought on the front lines during the great victories of the 1960s Civil Rights era. And, thus, the SPLC is legendary in the history of the Sixties.

Oh, wait, no ... that was the SCLC, not the SPLC. Funny how their acronyms are so similar. Must be a coincidence. *

The SCLC is Rev. King's Southern Christian Leadership Council.

The SPLC wasn't founded until 1971, after the triumphs of the Civil Rights Era. Its founders were Morris Dees, member of the Direct Marketing [i.e., junk mail] Association Hall of Fame, and Joseph R. Levin Jr. The SPLC's current president is J. Richard Cohen, and its endowment is $281,100,000.

Here's Charlotte Allen's amusing article on Morris and his SPLC, "King of Fearmongers."

* It's also an utter coincidence that the acronym SPLC is likewise reminiscent of the acronym of the younger, edgier Sixties civil rights organization SNCC. There's no evidence whatsoever that the SPLC makes money off the confusion of the affluent elderly.

NYT: "If You Work in Silicon Valley, Odds Are You’re a White Man"

At the time of the 2012 election, I pointed out that the Obama Coalition was a fissiparous mishmash of the fringes of American society that could only be kept from turning on each other by constant demonization of the core of American society -- Straight White Married Gentile Men -- as the embodiment of all that is wrong with America. 

From the NYT:
If You Work in Silicon Valley, Odds Are You’re a White Man
MAY 28, 2014

Claire Cain Miller

It’s good to be a man, particularly a white or Asian one, in Silicon Valley. 
Otherwise, not so much. 
The tech industry has been known to have a serious diversity problem. But on Wednesday, we got a peek at just how bad it is. Google released statistics about the make-up of its workforce that showed that while men and Asian people are overrepresented, women and black people are drastically underrepresented as compared to the overall United States workforce. ...
Read more about Google’s demographics on The Times’s Bits blog.

Now, if you go there, you find Claire Cain Miller's headline is inflammatorily distorted:
Of its United States employees, 61 percent are white, 2 percent are black and 3 percent are Hispanic. About one-third are Asian — well above the national average — and 4 percent are of two or more races. Of Google’s technical staff, 60 percent are white, 1 percent are black, 2 percent are Hispanic, 34 percent are Asian and 3 percent are of two or more races. 
In the United States workforce over all, 80 percent of employees are white, 12 percent are black and 5 percent are Asian, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This last set of data probably lumps most Hispanic workers into white, but in any case whites are somewhat underrepresented at Google and Asians are vastly over-represented, just like you and I imagined.
Let's not be surprised that Silicon Valley reporter Claire Cain Miller has messed up again. She's responsible for three recent anti-white man fiascos in the NYT: GoldieBlox, Glimpse, and Github, in each of which she got played by some adventuress to promote her career as part of the War on Silicon Valley Bro Culture.


Whatever happened to Cocker Spaniels? They were the most popular breed of dog in America about a half century ago, but you seldom hear of them anymore. Here's me and my puppy Topper in about 1965. This is one of the few pictures from that era in which I'm not pointing a toy gun at the camera.

That reminds me that my first fundraising drive of 2014 is going on. I am most thankful for my readers' generous support over the years and would direct you to the instructions on donating in the side column to the upper right.


Seth Rogen plays a new father whose pleasant domestic life with his lovely wife and extremely cute baby is disrupted when a loud college fraternity, headed by Zac Efron, buys the house next door. Torn between wanting to still seem cool to the kids and getting them to turn the damn music down so they can get some sleep, the couple eventually launches a maniacal plot against the bros.

Neighbors is consistently mildly amusing, although not as funny as Rogen's This Is the End last year. One problem is that Rogen isn't really cut out for playing the over-the-top fat guy in the tradition of John Belushi, John Candy, and Chris Farley (although he's probably going to live longer). Nor is he a surprisingly graceful fat guy in the tradition of W.C. Fields, Jackie Gleason, and Kevin James. Rogen's more the voice-of-reason type of lazy guy who makes other people around him funnier. 

The funniest thing I've ever seen Rogen to do was a joint interview with Barbra Streisand on Dr. Phil promoting some movie they made together. Not surprisingly, Streisand is a tad megalomaniacal, and Rogen egged her on and quietly undermined her, directing attention to her elderly diva mania, apparently without her noticing. (I presume they'd plotted it beforehand, but who knows?)

Rose Byrne, a generically pretty Australian actress, plays Rogen's wife. She's given lots of opportunity to be funny in long conversations with Rogen, but her Down Under accent keeps reminding me that this would be more amusing if her role had been played by Rebel Wilson, the fat, blonde, and remarkably malicious Australian comic actress. Perhaps Wilson's getting over-exposed, but I've only seen her in her jaw-dropping cameo as the hostile roommate who evicts Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids and as the self-confident Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect.

One question is why Seth Rogen's character, a schlub with a lousy cubicle job whose main source of workday satisfaction is smoking a joint with his loser buddy in the alley, has a starlet-looking wife. The simplest explanation would be that he'd recently inherited a few million from his Nana, which is hardly unbelievable these days. But, as Thomas Piketty points out, bequests never seem to come up in movies, even though inheritances were a rich source of drama in 19th Century novels.

How white are blacks? How black are whites?

From my new Taki's Magazine column:
Denunciatory reviews of Nicholas Wade’s book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History have typically fallen into two general categories: 
Well, nobody believes that race has no biological reality and is just a social construct, so the first half of the book, while accurate, is unnecessary. 
Race has no biological reality and is just a social construct! 
It’s characteristic of the dumbing down effect that race has on intellectual discourse that it occurs to so few that race can be a biological reality that has been constructed by social decisions. 
Advocates of the dogma that race is merely a “social construct” point to the artificiality of the traditional American “one drop of blood” rule for defining blackness. Yet it’s likely that the one-drop rule itself helped construct the American genetic reality of a bimodal distribution of black and white genes, in contrast to the more evenly blended Latin American populations.

Read the whole thing there.

May 27, 2014

WaPo: SB massacre fault of Seth Rogen's "Neighbors"

In the Washington Post, movie reviewer Ann Hornaday explains that the Santa Barbara slaughter was the fault of white men.
In a final videotaped message, a sad reflection of the sexist stories we so often see on screen 
Video: Following her column about Hollywood’s influence on alleged Santa Barbara shooter Elliot Rodger, The Post’s Ann Hornaday received swift and divided feedback on social media. Here is her response to critics. 
By Ann Hornaday, Published: May 25  
As deranged manifestos go, the final YouTube video made by suspected Isla Vista, Calif., mass murderer Elliot Rodger was remarkably well-made. Filmed by Rodger in his black BMW, with palm trees in the background and his face bathed in magic-hour key light, the six-minute diatribe — during which he vows revenge on all the women who rejected him and men who were enjoying fun and sex while he was “rotting in loneliness” — might easily have been mistaken for a scene from one of the movies Rodger’s father, Peter Rodger, worked on as a director and cinematographer. 
Indeed, as important as it is to understand Rodger’s actions within the context of the mental illness he clearly suffered, it’s just as clear that his delusions were inflated, if not created, by the entertainment industry he grew up in. With his florid rhetoric of self-pity, aggression and awkwardly forced “evil laugh,” Rodger resembled a noxious cross between Christian Bale’s slick sociopath in “American Psycho,” the thwarted womanizer in James Toback’s “The Pick-Up Artist” and every Bond villain in the canon.

As Rodger bemoaned his life of “loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desire” and arrogantly announced that he would now prove his own status as “the true alpha male,” he unwittingly expressed the toxic double helix of insecurity and entitlement that comprises Hollywood’s DNA. For generations, mass entertainment has been overwhelmingly controlled by white men, whose escapist fantasies so often revolve around vigilantism and sexual wish-fulfillment (often, if not always, featuring a steady through-line of casual misogyny). Rodger’s rampage may be a function of his own profound distress, but it also shows how a sexist movie monoculture can be toxic for women and men alike. 

Uh ...
How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like “Neighbors” and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of “sex and fun and pleasure”? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, “It’s not fair”? 
Movies may not reflect reality, but they powerfully condition what we desire, expect and feel we deserve from it. The myths that movies have been selling us become even more palpable at a time when spectators become their own auteurs and stars on YouTube, Instagram and Vine. If our cinematic grammar is one of violence, sexual conquest and macho swagger — thanks to male studio executives who green-light projects according to their own pathetic predilections — no one should be surprised when those impulses take luridly literal form in the culture at large.

U.S. World cup soccer team by ethnicity

While the U.S. women's national soccer team is traditionally extremely white, the U.S. men's World Cup team generally likes to load up on black and part-black athletes (even though not many African-Americans concentrate on soccer), while not being very welcoming of Mexican-American players (even though many do focus on soccer). For example, in 2010 I wrote:
By my calculations, the team is 57% non-Hispanic white (13.0 players), 33% black (7.5), and 11% Hispanic (2.5). 

This pattern is not all that dissimilar to other American professional team sports where blacks and mulattos are over-represented and Indios and mestizos are underrepresented, even though Mexicans and Central Americans have a much stronger soccer culture than African-Americans.

I'm not going to pretend I've got fully scoped out the latest team of 23 players that's just been announced (e.g., veteran World Cup star Clint Dempsey looks kinda black, but that never seems to come up in articles featuring his parents), so I'll defer to your expertise in the comments. So far, I can say that among the three Spanish-surnamed players, Omar Gonzales is of Mexican ancestry (and is 6'5"), Nick Rimando is half-Mexican, half-Filipino, and Alejandro Bedoya is descended from a couple of generations of Colombian soccer players.

The U.S. squad often gets praised by other World Cup coaches for its athleticism. Its results in the World Cup are usually okay but not stellar, about as good as Mexico's.

Burke and Wordsworth v. neocons and neolibs

Here's a nice highbrow interview by Jonathan (not John) Derbyshire in the UK Prospect with Yale English professor David Bromwich who writes on philosophy of foreign policy for the New York Review of Books and the like. 

In college, I wrote a term paper on Edmund Burke's (1729-1797) influence on the maturing Wordsworth (1770-1850), especially on Wordsworth's long poem The Prelude. So I can see where Bromwich is coming from. Wordsworth moved from the far left when he was first in France during the Revolution to the stodgy right when he was old, while Burke moved from the mild left during most of his career (arguing for conciliation of American revolutionaries and prosecuting Warren Hastings for exploiting the natives under the East India Company) to the far right under the mental stresses of the 1790s. But peak Burke (1790's Reflections on the Revolution in France) had a notable influence on peak Wordsworth (1805's The Prelude).
Temptations of empire: a conversation with David Bromwich
by Jonathan Derbyshire / MAY 22, 2014 / 6 COMMENTS 
JD: One can read these essays, I think, as an attempt to provide a genealogy or diagnosis of America’s failings since the end of the Cold War. You argue that this is partly a failure of “moral imagination”.  
DB: But the phrase “moral imagination” comes from Burke, from a passage in the Reflections on the Revolution in France. He’s talking about the “wardrobe” of moral imagination and it’s knowing, so to speak, how to use clothing from that wardrobe that allows us to know that the Queen of France ought not to be subjected to humiliation. I think the best sentence that I can find to define the moral imagination comes from Shelley’s “Defence of Poetry”, where he talks about what he calls “love”: “a going out of our nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action, or person, not our own.” It’s that identification of ourselves with something quite radically not our own that I take as definitive of the moral imagination—as opposed to what people now like to call empathy (I feel for you because you’re just like me and I’ve been there) or what I call energetic fantasy, the idea that you and yours, your people, are out to do good for the world and therefore ought to be supported. This sort of fantasy is, I think, deep in the doctrine of American exceptionalism, which has stolen on my country over the past twenty years with a grip that now baffles and disturbs me very much.

I think a real test of moral imagination in foreign affairs is to be able watch the great "Because we live here" scene from Milius's Red Dawn and be able to see how it applies both to the Wolverines in Colorado and to America's enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan.
JB: There are stronger and weaker versions of that exceptionalism aren’t there? One of the interesting points you make is that, over the last twenty years, what happened to American exceptionalism was that “being exemplary”, as you put it, got confused with being “evangelical”. And that’s something new. 
DB: Absolutely. There is a famous statement about the exemplary status that America might have in the world of moral conduct by Lincoln in his speech on the Dred-Scott case. There he says that the idea that all men should be created equal was meant by those who signed the Declaration of Independence as a standard maxim for a free society, which should be “constantly looked to,” “constantly laboured for” and “constantly approximated.” That’s the way Lincoln talks about it. It’s in that setting that he says the United States ought to be exemplary. Lincoln was an anti-imperialist. He made a big speech against the Mexican war of 1847. ...
I find this [concern about action] also in Wordsworth. This is not unique to my reading of him—you’ll find other critics sensitive to this train of thought or feeling. A poem like “Nutting” and even elements of the Prelude are full of the evidence of something equivocal about action, something to be concerned with even after you’ve committed yourself to the action. Of course, the mentality of empire goes absolutely in the opposite direction—one conquest must lead to another. ...
JD: There’s an environmental aspect to this as well isn’t there? You see it in the green conservatism of someone like Roger Scruton, who derives it from Burke’s notion of “stewardship” and of having obligations not only to future generations but also to nature. 
That’s a fair connection to draw. You get it from Heidegger as well as Burke—the idea of “letting be”. This idea is utterly alien to the progressive ethos of modernization which liberalism shares with what we might call corporate or business conservatism. And to reject that means to become a radical with allies in surprising places. One of the things I’ve realised in the last eight or nine years is that my thinking runs much more parallel to that of certain consistent “right-wing” libertarians than it does to my former liberal friends, who are utterly progressive, without a second thought about backing the latest advance in computer science or whatever. And it was liberals who wrote the legal justification for drone warfare. ... Some of the sharpest critiques of American imperialism under Bush-Cheney and now under Obama have come from Patrick Buchanan. In some ways he’s a very bad man, but he’s a consistent anti-imperialist. When I say this to liberal friends, they say, “How dare you read this man!” 
David Bromwich’s “Moral Imagination: Essays” is published by Princeton University Press (£19.95)

Supreme Court re-endorses IQ

As we all know IQ is a hoax and a useless concept of no validity. Except ...
Court Rules Against Florida I.Q. Rule in Death Cases

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that Florida had adopted too rigid a cutoff in deciding who is eligible to be spared the death penalty on account of intellectual disabilities. 
“Florida seeks to execute a man because he scored a 71 instead of 70 on an I.Q. test,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority in a 5-to-4 decision. He was joined by court’s four more liberal members. 
When the court barred the execution of people with mental disabilities in 2002 in Atkins v. Virginia, it largely let the states determine who qualified. ...
The case, Hall v. Florida, No. 12-10882, arose from the 1978 murder

So this case is 36 years old -- even for a death penalty case that's a long time.
of Karol Hurst, who was 21 and seven months pregnant when Freddie L. Hall and an accomplice forced her into her car in a supermarket parking lot. She was found in a wooded area, where she had been beaten, sexually assaulted and shot. 

How high of an IQ do you need to know you shouldn't beat, sexually assault, and shoot a seven months pregnant woman?

By the way, then Hall and his accomplice killed a cop. (You can kind of see why the State of Florida has been trying to execute this guy for 36 years.)
There was significant evidence in school and court records that Mr. Hall was “mentally retarded.” Before the Supreme Court’s decision in the Atkins case, a trial judge found that there was “substantial evidence” that Mr. Hall “has been mentally retarded his entire life.” 
After the Atkins decision, Mr. Hall challenged his death sentence, relying in part on the earlier state court determinations.

Well, Mr. Hall may not understand "Thou shalt not kill," but he's still managed to win a Supreme Court case.
The Atkins decision gave states only general guidance. It said a finding of mental retardation requires proof of three things: “subaverage intellectual functioning,” meaning low I.Q. scores; a lack of fundamental social and practical skills; and the presence of both conditions before age 18. The court said I.Q. scores under “approximately 70” typically indicate retardation. 
A Florida law enacted not long before the Atkins decision created what Mr. Hall’s lawyers called an “inflexible bright-line cutoff” requiring proof of an I.Q. of 70 or below. In 2012, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Hall could be executed because his I.Q. had been measured at various times as 71, 73 and 80. 
The court returned Mr. Hall’s case to the lower courts for a fresh assessment of his condition. “Freddie Lee Hall may or may not be intellectually disabled,” Justice Kennedy wrote, “but the law requires that he have the opportunity to present evidence of his intellectual disability, including deficits in adaptive functioning over his lifetime.”

I wrote about the Supreme Court's 2002 IQ decision:
Analysis: IQ defenders feel vindicated 
Several IQ researchers, accustomed to having their field of expertise ignored or denounced as racist and fraudulent, were bemused by Thursday's vote by six Supreme Court Justices to ban the execution of murderers, in effect, who score poorly on IQ tests. 
As staunch defenders of the much-maligned concept of the intelligence quotient, these scientists found vindication in the Supreme Court's embrace of intelligence testing, though they cautioned that the Justices' understanding of the complex subject was simplistic. 
The IQ experts were particularly amused that newspapers that routinely condemn IQ tests as biased and meaningless were quick to endorse intelligence exams in this case. The New York Times, for example, editorialized, "[I]nflicting the death penalty on individuals with I.Q. scores of less than 70 who have little understanding of their moral culpability violates civilized standards of justice." 
Linda S. Gottfredson, co-director of the University of Delaware-Johns Hopkins Project for the Study of Intelligence and Society, said, "Just about the only time I see journalists and liberals take IQ seriously is when it meets their ideological predilections. For example, they treat IQ as real when anyone claims that early intervention raises it, but not when evidence goes the other way. And so it is with crime. We are told we must not link IQ with crime, unless low IQ can be used to roll back the death penalty." ... 
More controversial among the IQ experts was the Court's assertion that the "deficiencies (of the mentally retarded) do not warrant an exemption from criminal sanctions, but diminish their personal culpability." 
Psychometrician Chris Brand, a consultant with the Woodhill Foundation and a one-time staff psychologist at a British prison, agreed. 
"My inclination is to say the low IQ do know murder is wrong, but that their grasp and control of their own actions is rather slight when temper or sex are roused or drink is taken," he said. 
On the other hand, the death penalty is seldom applied in crimes of passion. It's more likely to be demanded in aggravated cases where the murderer showed logical foresight, such as by killing his robbery or rape victims to prevent them from identifying him. 
Some of the IQ experts were skeptical of whether avoiding aggravated murder required much in the way of sophisticated powers of reasoning. (All agreed, however, that individuals with scores below 50 suffered profound limitations.) 
Richard Lynn, a professor emeritus of psychometrics at the University of Ulster, suggested, "An adult with an IQ of 70 has the mental age of the average 11.5 year old child, and these will certainly know that killing people is wrong." 
Gottfredson suggested, "Most individuals below the 75 IQ level understand the basic rules of society. They know that hurting other people is wrong. They are not uncivilized. I have a mildly retarded brother and he is very aware of moral standards of right and wrong." 
Some IQ experts were concerned that the Supreme Court's ruling would make the low IQ appear as morally less than fully human by officially labeling them as inherently less able to comprehend basic ethical rules such as "Thou shalt not kill." 
This is an issue of surprisingly broad social importance. The intelligence researchers noted that while IQs below 70 or 75 are extremely rare in the kind of circles that modern Supreme Court justices travel in, they are much more common in other social settings. 
The researchers said that the majority of low IQ individuals do not suffer from medical problems such as Down's Syndrome. Gottfredson noted, "About 75 percent-80 percent of mental retardation is called 'familial,' because it mostly just represents the unlucky combinations of genes that are passed in the normal manner from parents to children. Only a small proportion of mental retardation is due to organic problems, such as chromosomal abnormalities or brain damage. This is just like height. Most very short people are perfectly normal." 
The stereotype that most low IQ children are what obstetricians often callously refer to in their notes as FLKs - "Funny Looking Kids" is not true. Elite members of American society tend not to realize this because when an extremely high-IQ person, such as a Supreme Court justice, has a retarded child, it's generally due to organic causes. 
As children, these "familial" low-IQ individuals fit in well on the playground, where they may be indistinguishable from their higher-IQ friends. They are normal, except that they run into problems when they need to do the higher-order, abstract thinking that a modern society rewards. ...
Finally, the Court's decision officially designates that a much larger fraction of the African-American population is of diminished moral capability compared to the white and East Asian populations. About 2 percent-3 percent of whites or East Asians don't exceed 70 on IQ tests, vs. 10 percent-12 percent of American blacks (and more than 20 percent score below 75). 

The Mona Lisa v. The Lady with an Ermine

From The Economist's Intelligent Life:

When a work of art is considered great, we may stop thinking about it for ourselves. Ian Leslie weighs the evidence 
From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, May/June 2014 
In 1993 a psychologist, James Cutting, visited the Musée d’Orsay in Paris to see Renoir’s picture of Parisians at play, “Bal du Moulin de la Galette”, considered one of the greatest works of impressionism. 
Instead, he found himself magnetically drawn to a painting in the next room: an enchanting, mysterious view of snow on Parisian rooftops. He had never seen it before, nor heard of its creator, Gustave Caillebotte. 

Caillebotte's not exactly unknown. Here's Paris Street - Rainy Day, which is given a pride of place at the Chicago Art Institute second only to Seurat's Sunday in the Park with George painting.

That was what got him thinking. 
Have you ever fallen for a novel and been amazed not to find it on lists of great books? Or walked around a sculpture renowned as a classic, struggling to see what the fuss is about? If so, you’ve probably pondered the question Cutting asked himself that day: how does a work of art come to be considered great? 
The intuitive answer is that some works of art are just great: of intrinsically superior quality. The paintings that win prime spots in galleries, get taught in classes and reproduced in books are the ones that have proved their artistic value over time. If you can’t see they’re superior, that’s your problem. It’s an intimidatingly neat explanation. But some social scientists have been asking awkward questions of it, raising the possibility that artistic canons are little more than fossilised historical accidents. 
Cutting, a professor at Cornell University, wondered if a psychological mechanism known as the “mere-exposure effect” played a role in deciding which paintings rise to the top of the cultural league. In a seminal 1968 experiment, people were shown a series of abstract shapes in rapid succession. Some shapes were repeated, but because they came and went so fast, the subjects didn’t notice. When asked which of these random shapes they found most pleasing, they chose ones that, unbeknown to them, had come around more than once. Even unconscious familiarity bred affection.

A psychological truth very near the basis of conservatism: familiarity breeds affection.
Back at Cornell, Cutting designed an experiment to test his hunch. Over a lecture course he regularly showed undergraduates works of impressionism for two seconds at a time. Some of the paintings were canonical, included in art-history books. Others were lesser known but of comparable quality. These were exposed four times as often. Afterwards, the students preferred them to the canonical works, while a control group of students liked the canonical ones best. Cutting’s students had grown to like those paintings more simply because they had seen them more. 
Cutting believes his experiment offers a clue as to how canons are formed. He points out that the most reproduced works of impressionism today tend to have been bought by five or six wealthy and influential collectors in the late 19th century. The preferences of these men bestowed prestige on certain works, which made the works more likely to be hung in galleries and printed in anthologies. 
The kudos cascaded down the years, gaining momentum from mere exposure as it did so. The more people were exposed to, say, “Bal du Moulin de la Galette”, the more they liked it, and the more they liked it, the more it appeared in books, on posters and in big exhibitions. Meanwhile, academics and critics created sophisticated justifications for its pre-eminence. After all, it’s not just the masses who tend to rate what they see more often more highly. As contemporary artists like Warhol and Damien Hirst have grasped, critical acclaim is deeply entwined with publicity. “Scholars”, Cutting argues, “are no different from the public in the effects of mere exposure.”

For example, art history textbooks generally are biased toward the art displayed in museums near where the professor lived. For example, the art history textbook I read at Rice U. featured numerous paintings from the Art Institute, so when I moved to Chicago, I was preconditioned to be wowed by the collection at the Art Institute, which I was.

On the other hand, in the very long run, scholars have less of a say than other creative artists in what remains of interest. The current high reputation of Norman Rockwell, for instance, has much to do with the appreciation for Rockwell offered by Spielberg and Lucas.
The process described by Cutting evokes a principle that the sociologist Duncan Watts calls “cumulative advantage”: once a thing becomes popular, it will tend to become more popular still. A few years ago, Watts, who is employed by Microsoft to study the dynamics of social networks, had a similar experience to Cutting in another Paris museum. After queuing to see the “Mona Lisa” in its climate-controlled bulletproof box at the Louvre, he came away puzzled: why was it considered so superior to the three other Leonardos in the previous chamber, to which nobody seemed to be paying the slightest attention? 

Probably The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, the Virgin of the Rocks, and Portrait of an Unknown Woman or St. John the Baptist.
When Watts looked into the history of “the greatest painting of all time”, he discovered that, for most of its life, the “Mona Lisa” languished in relative obscurity. In the 1850s, Leonardo da Vinci was considered no match for giants of Renaissance art like Titian and Raphael, whose works were worth almost ten times as much as the “Mona Lisa”. It was only in the 20th century that Leonardo’s portrait of his patron’s wife rocketed to the number-one spot. What propelled it there wasn’t a scholarly re-evaluation, but a burglary [in 1911].

But it's not really true that the 1911 burglary is what first made the painting famous. Long before, Napoleon chose to hang the Mona Lisa in his bedroom, while Walter Pater's florid 1893 appreciation of the Mona Lisa is perhaps the most famous bit of prose about painting.
Duncan Watts proposes that the “Mona Lisa” is merely an extreme example of a general rule. Paintings, poems and pop songs are buoyed or sunk by random events or preferences that turn into waves of influence, rippling down the generations. 

Personally, I'd prefer Leonardo's Lady with an Ermine, in part because it looks finished. That there's no background looks like a conscious choice to highlight the luminous foreground. But Lady with an Ermine has been mostly been in off-the-beaten-path Poland (it currently resides in Krakow) for the last couple of centuries (when it hasn't been packed off to safekeeping elsewhere), while the Mona Lisa has been in the Louvre. Virtually all the ambitious artists in Europe went to the Louvre and studied what was on display.

On the other hand, the unfinished aspect of the Mona Lisa no doubt contributes to its appeal. It's fun to theorize that Leonardo was more challenged by the Mona Lisa than by the Lady and come up with reasons why that might be so.

Of course, the point is also that we are talking about two Leonardos. For over 500 years, Leonardo has been thought a magus.

May 26, 2014

"Building a Bigger Action Hero"

From Men's Journal, an article that's fairly informative, even though it's written in such a way that you can read it to support whatever you want to believe. 
Building a Bigger Action Hero 
By Logan Hill  May 2014 
A mere six-pack doesn't cut it in Hollywood anymore. Today's male stars need 5 percent body fat, massive pecs, and the much-coveted inguinal crease – regardless of what it takes to get there. 
You simply don't get your name on a movie poster these days unless you've got a superhero's physique – primed for high-def close-ups and global market appeal. 

That's overstated: Comic actors don't have to be ripped. More interestingly, the late Paul Walker was popular with the global downmarket fans of The Fast and Furious franchise while looking like more like an old-fashioned sportsman than a modern professional athlete.
Getting there takes effort, vigilance, and the dedication of the elite athlete: high-intensity training, strict diets, supplements, and hormone replacement. If that fails, there are always drugs. 

Or maybe the drugs are part of the plan from the beginning. Especially if the actor changes body shape from role to role rather than spending 5 or 10 years building a body in the gym. An action movie star body can look silly in regular clothes -- e.g., when I ran into Jake Gyllenhaal at the yogurt shop when he was all pumped up for The Prince of Persia, he looked ridiculous in normal suburban guy wear.
Today's actors spend more time in the gym than they do rehearsing, more time with their trainers than with their directors. 
Acting skill – even paired with leading-man looks and undeniable charisma – is not enough to get you cast in a big-budget spy thriller or a Marvel Comics franchise. "A decade or so ago, Stallone and Van Damme and Schwarzenegger were the action stars," says Deborah Snyder, who produces husband Zack Snyder's films: 300, Man of Steel, the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie. "Now we expect actors who aren't action stars to transform themselves. And we expect them to be big and powerful and commanding."
There is an easier way to go from flabby wimp to sinewy screen predator. Sometimes a superhero's journey begins with the needle prick of a syringe full of human growth hormone (HGH), testosterone, or steroids. 
"In Hollywood, the drug of choice is the drug that makes you look good," says Strike Back's Winchester. "It's like the drug scene at a boarding school – it's all available." When actors ask about steroids, trainer Steve Zim tells them about the hair loss and zits, and "that usually ends the conversation in one second." 

So, your favorite actor isn't on steroids.
Steroids also produce rounder, water-retaining muscles instead of the lean, mean bodies currently in vogue. Testosterone and HGH are far more common, particularly for older actors, since lower levels of testosterone can make it impossible to retain muscle mass. "Over 40? I encourage getting tested," says trainer Bobby Strom, "but there are some trainers who just go right to the testosterone, like they're putting you on a multivitamin."  
Zim has seen the benefits of hormone therapy firsthand. "These people who look younger and fitter – a lot of them are using growth hormone and testosterone; the size comes from the testosterone, the virility and the youth come from the growth hormone." 
On set, actors swap tricks of the fitness trade – and the phone numbers of trainers and doctors who will prescribe testosterone or HGH, no questions asked.

In the credits for X-Men: Days of Future Past is the name of "Mr. Jackman's Trainer," so if you need to score some heavy-duty stuff, well, there you go.
There are dozens of hormone-replacement clinics in and around Hollywood, and their business is booming. But there are significant risks: Hormone therapy accelerates all cell growth, whether healthy or malignant, and can encourage existing cancers, especially prostate cancers, to metastasize at terrifying rates. 
Testosterone supplements can lower sperm counts. For many, the risk is worth it. 
So who on a movie set would be most likely to take a risk on something unproven that could cause bodily harm? The stuntmen, of course. Several actors we spoke to say the stunt guys introduced them to performance-enhancing drugs. It makes some sense: If you're asked to body-double for Ryan Gosling without the benefit of his trainer and his personal chef, you'll be tempted to take a shortcut, too. And if you're jumping off buildings, battling ninjas, or swinging a battle-ax at ogres all day (or, worse, playing the ogre who gets bashed in 20 consecutive takes), you'll see an upside to HGH's accelerated recovery time. 
Stuntmen often work for day rates, so every day they can't work is a day they don't get paid. "The stunt guys are partying hard, in their thirties or forties looking 20, 25," says one action star. "They're taking massive hits and bouncing back up again. I asked, 'What are you guys doing?' " According to the actor, a stuntman told him, "Steroids to get a build, insulin injections to get the cut, then HGH." Stuntmen talk about drugs as a calculated risk that's worth the advantage, so long as they get regular colonoscopies and screenings for prostate cancer. It's easy to see how an actor – especially one who relies on his brawn or his ability to throw a convincing punch – might seek that same edge.

I finally saw the first half-hour of Michael Bay's sardonic Pain and Gain with Mark Wahlberg, the Rock, and Anthony Mackie as three Miami personal trainers. Wahlberg voice-overs:
I have no sympathy for people who squander their gifts. It's sickening. It's worse than sickening. It's unpatriotic. ... If you're willing to do the work, you can have anything. That's what makes the U.S. of A great. When it started, America was just a handful of scrawny colonies. Now, it's the most buff, pumped-up country on the planet. That's pretty rad.
I have a theory that 1970s-style jogging makes people liberal and 1980s-style weightlifting makes them conservative.

Who is on the Wrong Side of History now?

From the New York Times:
Established Parties Rocked by Anti-Europe Vote 

LONDON — Members of the European political elite expressed alarm on Monday over the strong showing in European Parliament elections by nationalist and anti-immigrant parties skeptical about European integration, a development described by the French prime minister as an “earthquake.” 
In France, Britain and elsewhere, anti-immigrant parties opposed to the influence of the European Union emerged in the lead. In France, the National Front won 26 percent of the vote to defeat both the governing Socialists and the Union for a Popular Movement, the center-right party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy.  
In Britain, the triumph of the U.K. Independence Party, or UKIP, which won 28 percent of the vote, represented the first time since 1910 that a nationwide vote had not been won by either the Conservatives or Labour.  
“The people’s army of UKIP have spoken tonight and delivered just about the most extraordinary result that has been seen in British politics for 100 years,” said Nigel Farage, UKIP’s leader. ... 
Official results released overnight showed that populist parties strongly opposed to the European Union also trounced establishment forces in Denmark and Greece and did well in Austria and Sweden. The results, a stark challenge to champions of greater European integration, left mainstream political leaders stunned. ... 
With the political landscape redrawn across Europe, some politicians, notably Nick Clegg, the British deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, the junior coalition partner, faced calls from their own party members to quit. The Liberal Democrats finished fifth in Britain and lost nearly all their seats at the European Parliament. ... 
In Paris, the victory by the National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, prompted Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, to acknowledge: “It’s an earthquake.” 
“We are in a crisis of confidence,” Mr. Valls added. “Our country has for a long time been in an identity crisis, a crisis about France’s place in Europe, Europe’s place in our country.” 
President François Hollande of France called an emergency meeting of senior ministers after his Socialist Party finished a remote third. ...
European Parliament ballots often do not reflect voting patterns in national elections, which favor traditional parties. But in Britain, Mr. Farage, the U.K. Independence Party leader, depicted his triumph on Sunday as the harbinger of greater prominence in next year’s national elections, saying that his followers could hold the balance of power if neither the Conservatives nor Labour win an outright majority. 
“We will go on next year to a general election with a targeting strategy and I promise you this: You haven’t heard the last of us,” he said. 

Here's a detailed Inside Cricket analysis in The Telegraph of what the rise of the UKIP portends in the next General Election in the UK.
Ukip have torn up the map 
After their success in the local elections, Ukip are poised to wreak havoc in 2015. Robert Ford and Ian Warren explain where and how the battle will be fought.  
Nigel Farage scored a spectacular triumph in the early hours of Monday morning, leading Ukip to the first nationwide victory for a new political party in almost a century. Coming on top of Ukip’s success in the local elections, it was hailed as heralding the age of “four-party politics” in England. Mr Farage had shattered the mould of British democracy, and thrown next year’s general election – already set to be the closest and most unpredictable for a generation – into turmoil. 
These claims may seem exaggerated. But the more you look at the data – the further you drill down into how people actually voted on Thursday – the more you can see that predictions that Ukip will fade away are a case of wishful thinking. It is now crystal clear that the party really does have the potential to cause chaos in 2015, affecting all three parties in unforeseen and unpredictable ways. 
To see why, it helps to understand what matters most about these results, at least in terms of the general election. For, while Ukip’s European triumph has stolen the headlines, their less dramatic advances at local level will ultimately be more important. 
The real currency of elections, after all, is not votes, but seats. Before their breakthrough last year, Ukip had won only a handful of local council places in their 20-year history. They now have more than 300 councillors, enough to make them a significant presence in town halls up and down the country. 
Why does this matter? Because Britain’s first-past-the-post system poses a huge challenge to any new party, whose support is usually spread evenly over the country. As the Liberal Democrats have learnt, national popularity counts for nothing at Westminster unless you can win locally. So parties like Ukip must try to convince sceptical voters that they are a viable option in constituencies where they have no track record of success.

Thursday’s results were a powerful response to this challenge. In many seats, Ukip activists can now argue on the doorstep that they are the dominant force in local elections, and a strong presence on the council. That will help convince voters that returning a Ukip MP is a logical progression, not a leap into the unknown. 

Here in the U.S., the bipartisan establishment and the dominant media have largely succeeded in stifling debate over immigration, but that shows how America is becoming less of a democracy. In most of the rest of the world, patriotic parties are ascendant, as is only natural following the Globalists' disaster of 2008.