Thursday, January 11, 2018

Three Quick Reads

Two perspective-shifting writings (and one merely interesting read):

Bannon's brutal ouster from Trump and Breitbart circles should frighten Americans is a perspective-flipping short observation on Bannon's fall from Cheri Jacobus that will leave you wondering how you missed the essential point in all this.
Finally, dropped by the Mercers, and by extension and formally by Breitbart, Bannon is now a man without a country, friends or home. That conveys an ominous message: Do not criticize this American president or you will be destroyed.
The Good War: How America’s infatuation with World War II has eroded our conscience by Mike Dawson and Chris Hayes. Graphic novel treatment (not a long read, though) of an insightful look at attempts to stir post-Vietnam America into loving war again via the relentless recharging of WWII nostalgia. Even if you're anti-war, you'll almost surely come away conceding that you've been manipulated by this (among other things, it's yet another reason to dislike Stephen Spielberg).

Less perspective-bending, but still interesting, and including tie-ins to provocative questions of marketing, taste, and economics: How an Underground Fashion Label for Nerds Got Cool, a look into a high-tech hipster clothing company:
Pants tough enough to deal with anything became Outlier’s signature play — trousers “for the end of the world,” as the folks at GQ put it. “We were trying to solve a specific cycling problem,” Burmeister says. “How to not look like a cyclist but still perform.”

They started going to textile conferences — Outdoor Retailer, then in Utah, was a big one. They wanted to find out where big companies, which they assumed used all the best stuff, got their supplies. But it turned out that the big companies of the world actually used the best cheapest materials.

As for the actual best, well, “we found that there was all this stuff nobody was touching. We were stunned. Like, nobody is using this? Nobody is using this?” Burmeister says. Military fabrics, equestrian fabrics, industrial fabrics — they were all for sale, or had been. They found, for example, a doubleweave with Cordura-grade nylon on one side and a softer nylon/polyester blend on the other. It seemed like it would make really great pair of jeans.

A postscript to yesterday's posting on miracles: The James Randi Educational Foundation archived many of their communications with would-be dowsers and telepaths as they negotiated testing conditions. It makes amusing reading.

But there was one particularly odd exchange with "ELAINE McGUCKIN, Asteroid Prophet". Uncommonly terse, Ms. McGuckin simply wrote in to predict the demise-by-asteroid of two towns: Oban, Scotland, and Bowen, Queensland, Australia. The predictions were made in 2004, and while both towns are still standing, there was a large meteor crash just off the central Queensland coast in 2016, and in 2015, Oban was the site of an unusual meteor shower. Of course, this is how cold calls and much other flimflammery works: we ignore contradictory evidence (i.e. the towns are fine) but marvel at any that might be construed as confirmative. Still, kinda weird....


vhliv said...

The Good War is a great critique. I would say that while it doesn't do so explicitly it touches on the moral bankruptcy of the older Baby Boom generation. From the outset the "Greatest Generation" cult was a way to paper over just how unprepared the baby boomers were for undertaking the responsibilities of government, just as they were in fact doing so. In the process one of the most salient aspects of what Tony Judt referred to as the postwar "Christian Democratic" consensus was covered up. After all the generation that grew up in the Depression and then served in World War II, actually had very little to do with the policy decisions that brought the remarkable prosperity and optimism of the 50s and 60s.

One of the reasons for the collapse of Democratic dominance in Congress can be traced back to the fact that by the late 1970s the pragmatism that had guided the postwar Christian Democratic consensus had atrophied into ideological divisions with little vision. The social safety net became something one was either for or against, and ironically it was the rightwing critics that seemed to be looking forward because the Dems were in effect becoming the true conservative party doing their best to maintain existing social safety net by referring backwards to what had been before it existed. And the Baby Boomers picked up right where their parents left off.

Jim Leff said...


I'm a fan of oversimplification. I think you can gloss over these streams by parsing it as rich kids (boomers) and very rich kids (post boomers). Increasingly less hold on reality, less clear-eyedness, more petty ideological squabbles and "isms".

Meanwhile, the usual corrupting influences, e.g. Industrial/military complex, find creative ways to whip up emotion to suit the hawkish agenda, come what may.

Remember that even the Greatest Generation had no interest in rescuing Europe until the war came to us. These guys are always beating some drum or other.

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